Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 Goals

It is the time to look back on the year and see if the goals that we set were actually met. This has been an unusual year as I was struggling with physical problems virtually all year. Nevertheless, it was a good year and here are the results:
I. Physical
A. Eat real food--mostly done and I lost 32 pounds.
B. Rest when tired--I am learning to listen to my body and stop when I need to rest.
C. Dental cleanings--twice yearly cleanings done and no dental work needed.
D. Yearly physical--not done but due to my illness, I saw more doctors than I care to remember.
E. Gyn exam--done.
F. Mammogram--will be done Jan.18.
G. GI doc—done January 14 colonoscopy--done and that was just the beginning of my GI tests and exams...
H. Optometrist--not done; on the list for 2011.
II. Spiritual
A. Church and Sunday School--not done as much as I would like mostly because of illness.
B. Bible chapter each day--done.
C. Spiritual book--done.
III. Professional
A. Complete 19th year at TMH--done.
B. Continuing Education hours--done.
IV. Financial
A. Pay off house—done!!
B. Increase emergency fund to $8,000--done.
C. Resume 403b contributions--done.
We also saved almost $40,000 toward new vehicles when we need them.
V. Personal
A. Monthly haircut--done.
B. Spring and fall clothes--done. I've had to buy several new clothes because of my weight loss. (Oh darn...)
C. Read good books--I read and listened to several good books but the old saying of "So many books, so little time" is so true.
D. Go birding--We were able to go on a couple of brief birding trips but I was too sick much of the year to do more than watch the birds at the feeders.

Next on the agenda is to set goals for next year. How about you? Do you set yearly goals?

Sunday, December 12, 2010


This past year has a difficult year for me physically. It has been a year that has made me ever more aware of suffering in the world. Around us every day there are people who are suffering physically and mentally; they go about their lives doing the best they can. This year has made me so very aware of the need for kindness, gentleness, and compassion.

I have insurance and a loving husband and daughter. But so many these days do not. How could I have paid my $35,000 hospital bill if I did not have insurance?? How would I have been treated if I had no job and no insurance? Even if I were to find a doctor to test, diagnose, and treat me, how much more worry and stress it would have been if I had to find a way to keep the bills paid. There must be a better way to provide healthcare.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Handling the Holidiays

Over the years, I have learned that I am not a big holiday person. I do what I can do without stress, and just don't do anything more. Part of the situation is that I work at a hospital and we are extremely busy with people being sick in the winter, people partying and ending up in the ER, and people trying to use up their insurance before the end of the year. (I worked the ER the weekend after Thanksgiving and it was a madhouse with broken bones, heart attacks, and abdominal problems...) Add to that the fact that hospital workers get sick too and many want to take vacation time to be with their families and we end up short staffed at a very busy time. So my Christmas decorations are in two plastic bins and are easily set up, JMM makes Christmas dinner, and gifts are simple. I enjoy beautiful Christmas music, avoid crowds, and love my family. Sweet and simple and works for me.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Yesterday I cleaned out the pantry shelf where I keep all my cooking spices. I know you are supposed to throw them out after a year but I hate to waste perfectly good items. I always put the date purchased on each jar so that I will know how long I've had it. The winner for the most out of date spice was some cumin that I bought in 2000. There were a couple of 2006 which were tossed also. The shelf is now nicely organized with the items that I use most often up front and the rarely used ones to the back.
Next on the clean it out list is the canned goods shelf.


My dear JMM was the chief Thanksgiving cook this year; I was the organizer / supervisor. And it was lovely. Over the years, I have developed a no fail turkey and dressing recipe, baked Garnet yams from Whole Foods, canned corn, cranberry sauce, and pecan pie from Goode Company. It was delicious and there are plenty of leftovers. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it gives first place to being thankful for our blessings.

That brings us to Black Friday during which I go nowhere but stay home and put out my Christmas decorations and address the few Christmas cards that I still send out. I like to do my Christmas shopping online but will probably venture out to a few select stores next week. This is my stress-free holiday plan.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


I had an upper GI endoscopy Thursday morning which shows clearly that I have gastritis. The doctor took some biopsies and cultures and will have the results on Monday. It is most likely H. pylori causing the gastritis but we won't know for sure until Monday. In the mean time, I eat my tiny portions of food, take omeprazole and Maalox, and wait for Monday. Seems like I have been waiting for one test or another result for almost a year now.
In an odd turn of events, it looks like JMM is developing gastritis also. He has been miserably uncomfortable with bloating, nausea, and a feeling of a knot in the stomach. How well I know these lovely symptoms... We.ve got to get him to a GI doctor Monday.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Expenses! Savings!

The last quarter of the year is always very expensive:

Homeowners Insurance: $3250
Property Taxes: $5700
Homeowners Association: $1200
Auto Insurance: $636
Propane fill-up: $300

I have a separate savings account where I save $450 from each paycheck so that when these things come due, the money is there. This account is not my emergency fund because these are not emergencies, I know they are coming and know I'd better get ready for them. I also I have savings account for a new vehicle; my van has 127,000+ miles and JMM's truck has more miles on it. It shouldn't come as a shock that eventually one of us will need a new vehicle and I want to have the cash so it won't be an emergency. Like the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared!!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Humbling Experience

Every year Houston has an Internation Quilt Festival at the Geroge R. Brown Convention Center. It really is a quilting extravaganza. I only go every 5 years or so because it is so huge and so crowded and seeing the quilts on display is a sorely humbling experience. I am in awe of the creativity and craftsmanship of the quilts. I love to just wander through them and marvel at the colors and patterns. Even the quilts that are not to my taste can be admired for the craftsmanship.
There are about 100 women there for every long-suffering husband patiently waiting while his wife looks at long-arm quilting machines or picks out fabric or books. JMM went in search of a quilt rack for my quilts and found a nice one for $139. It will be shipped to us as he did not have the one we wanted there at the show.
One of the nicest things now is the ability to use your cell phone to locate the people you are with at such a huge event. There is no way to stay completely together and so when we got separated we would just call each other and arrange to meet on Aisle 1700 or whatever. I get very anxious when I can't find JMM or DD and cell phones nicely solve the problem. As time went on, it got more and more crowded and since I don't like crowds, said enough and came home. Nice to go but nicer to come home.

A Brief Birding Trip to the Coast

JMM and I headed out for a birding trip early Friday morning. In fact, it was a little too early and very little was stirring in the chilly morning air. But by the time we were getting near Freeport, birds were everywhere. The highlight of the trip was a gorgeous osprey who had just caught his morning breakfast fish and was cooperative enough to land where we could watch him. So beautiful. We also saw many more brown pelicans than in recent trips; lots of white pelicans too. One of the most beautiful sights on earth is to watch a groups of white pelicans in a row just skimming the tops of the waves; how they do it is just a miracle. Lots of Royal Terns and Laughing Gulls, one lone Herring Gull. The sun shining on the tiny waves was so bright you couldn't look into it. I felt as if I were receiving an infusion of pure beauty.

Unfortunately, my energy levels collapsed shortly after we crossed the bridge at San Luis Pass and we couldn't check out our favorite spots on Galveston Island but had to turn back and come home. I think our future birding trips will either go another route to Galveston or we will turn back before the bridge.

On the way back, it was hawks on the telephone poles that kept our attention--Red Shouldered. Red Tailed, and a couple of Kestrels.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Election is over...finally.

My candidates didn't win--nothing new there. That's what happens when you are the only Democrat in Fort Bend County, Texas. Wish the winners all the best as usual. That's it until 2012. Really, I will not listen or read about the 2012 election until 6-12 weeks before it. Then I will read up on the issues and candidates, make a decision, and vote during early voting to avoid the crowds. I think all the news organizations have to keep things stirred up to have something to report on and I just won't subject myself to it. (NPR has been election obsessed the past several weeks. )
I do try to remember to pray for those in authority over us and of course, render unto Caesar what is Caesar's (not much choice there).

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

No Whining Day

No whining today. I am going to make this a good day.
I had the ultrasound this morning at 9 am. All went very smoothly and I was out by 9:15. Went to Whole Foods and bought a pork tenderloin to make for dinner this evening. I also bought 2 garnet sweet potatoes which are so good.

So far today, I have many things to be thankful and happy about:

1. I have access to good health care and the insurance & money to pay for it.
2. I have a good means of transportation—van, lift, & scooter.
3. I have a dear family that I love with every molecule of my being.
4. I have access to and money to pay for good, nutritious food. I am able to eat small amounts.
5. I have faith that God cares for me.

Monday, November 1, 2010


For the first time in my life I am dealing with depression and anxiety attacks. Life being life, I have had my good times and my not so good times but this is different. The depression stems, I am pretty sure, from this year long ordeal of not knowing what is causing my GI problems. The anxiety attacks hit me like a wave and I don't know what triggers it. I feel a flush of heat and a feeling that I need to run away. I manage to keep my composure and go on with what I am doing but the feeling of anxiety lasts about 15-30 minutes and then I am calm again.

My family doctor gave me a prescription for Xanax 0.25mg to help get me through all the tests.
I have had several tests and I have an ultrasound scheduled for 11/2 and an EGD scheduled for 11/11. The Xanax puts me to sleep for 2 hours and I wake up feeling calm.

I am continuing to work 3 days a week and one weekend a month. Besides the money and insurance, it gives me some structure and distraction from all this.

I didn't intend for this blog to be a health blog but that is certainly what is going on in my life right now.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Weather Wonders

The Texas Gulf Coast is well known for its heat, humidity, and mosquitoes but the past two week have been some kind of weather miracle. We have had 2 weeks now of low humidity, cool nights, and warm, sunny days. Amazing. (We do still have mosquitoes though...life is seldom perfect...)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Open Enrollment Time

It is open enrollment time at my place of employment. I've been reading through the benefits package and trying to make sence it all.

There are certainly changes in the health care plans available but the one that impacts us is the spousal insurance. For the last 19 years I have carried JMM on my insurance policy at a nominal increase in the price of the policy. Now it will cost an additional $100 per pay period since he is eligible to have his own insurance at his place of employment. So I have to figure out which would be the best plan for us 1) keep him on my policy 2) each of us have a separate policy 3) move me to his policy. Time to make a spreadsheet of costs and benefits.

The deductible on my insurance drops by $500 if I do a Personal Wellness Profile and a Biometric Screening. This is height, weight, waist circumference and glucose and lipid levels. My weight is within acceptable levels as are my glucose and lipid levels. These are confidential and are not required to get insurance but as I said will drop my yearly deductible. I definitely plan to do this as it costs me nothing and will save me money.

Trying to figure out the Flexible Spending Account is always a challenge since my crystal ball is a bit murky. Have to total up 1. Prescription co-pays for a year. 2. Dental co-pays and I need one bit of dental work 3. Eye exam and new lenses for one of us. 4. Deductible. (BTW, over the counter drugs are no longer eligible for FSA reimbursement.)

Well, back to the spreadsheet and the crystal ball.

Sticker shock!!
Health insurance for me & JMM currently $183.44 per two week pay period. New premium for the two of us: $333.76
New premium for me only: $70.27

Next step: Find out how much JMM's health insurance would cost for him alone and how much for both of us.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Chair

I bought a new chair for the bedroom. I love it--the style, the colors, the fabric and pattern--and it is wonderfully comfortable for sitting and reading. However, it has made the room look rather dowdy. Obviously such a chair needs a good reading lamp and a small table beside it. And the curtains on the window don't coordinate with the colors on the chair. And if we are going to have new curtains then the spread on the bed will need to be replaced...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Feeling better

If you are as sick and tired of my GI troubles as I am, skip this post. However, I think that I have solved another part of the problem. I have noticed that the less dairy products I consume, the less unpleasantness I have (to put it delicately). So I am going dairy-free and taking Lactinex. Lactose intolerance is not the whole problem but certainly has contributed.

I have requested some cookbooks from the library on cooking dairy free. We shall see how this proceeds.

Retirement plans

I've decided not to retire just yet. Financially, we could manage if I retired now but in all honesty, the income from my job allows splurges and pleasures that would not be as easy as now. Also, I am physically doing better; I think I have solved another piece of my GI problems--lactose intolerance. The third reason I am staying in the work force is that I am really good (she said modestly ;) ) at what I do. I've been at it long enough to know when something isn't right and should be looked into and I know the people I work with. So it looks like I will be staying with my MWF and one weekend a month schedule.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


When we are young, we think we can fix things or that if we do all the right things, life will be what we want it to be. We think that people will change or they will at least come to their senses. And it is true that sometimes we can fix something, sometimes virtue is rewarded, and occasionally people do change. But mostly, things are what they are and must be dealt with.

There have been several people in my life that I kept waiting for them to come to their senses and get their lives together—none ever did. They just were who they were for whatever reason.

Sometimes charity helps but for all the efforts of agencies and programs and aid, mostly the destitute stay destitute for various reasons. Life is difficult and it is a struggle and sometimes that’s just what it is and how it is.

(On a personal note, I am coming to terms with health issues; I continue to try to figure out what is going on, but maybe it is just time to accept that this is my lot and just deal with it. )

Friday, September 17, 2010

What Recovery??

15 Shocking Poverty Statistics That Are Skyrocketing As The American Middle Class Continues To Be Slowly Wiped Out

Approximately 45 million Americans were living in poverty in 2009.

According to the Associated Press, experts believe that 2009 saw the largest single year increase in the U.S. poverty rate since the U.S. government began calculating poverty figures back in 1959.

The U.S. poverty rate is now the third worst among the developed nations tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, on a year-over-year basis, household participation in the food stamp program has increased 20.28%.

The number of Americans on food stamps surpassed 41 million for the first time ever in June.

As of June, the number of Americans on food stamps had set a new all-time record for 19 consecutive months.

One out of every six Americans is now being served by at least one government anti-poverty program.

More than 50 million Americans are now on Medicaid, the U.S. government health care program designed principally to help the poor.

One out of every seven mortgages in the United States was either delinquent or in foreclosure during the first quarter of 2010.

Nearly 10 million Americans now receive unemployment insurance, which is almost four times as many as were receiving it in 2007.

The number of Americans receiving long-term unemployment benefits has risen over 60 percent in just the past year.

According to one recent survey, 28% of all U.S. households have at least one member that is looking for a full-time job.

Nationwide, bankruptcy filings rose 20 percent in the 12 month period ending June 30th.

More than 25 percent of all Americans now have a credit score below 599.

One out of every five children in the United States is now living in poverty.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


I started recycling when I was still in high school. (I graduated in 1965.) The local Audubon Society had a monthly paper and can recyling drive. You notice that plastics were not included and that is because there was relatively little plastic circulating back then. It is hard to imagine time before plastics but it is true--milk was in glass bottles or waxed cartons, shampoo came in a glass bottle, tooth paste or powder in a metal container. I wonder how many pounds of materials I have recycled over the years--tons I am sure.
We still recycle--paper, metal, glass (not much), and plastic. We do not have curbside recycling out in the country where I live so we have two large (plastic) trash cans--one for plastics and one for paper--and a (plastic) bin for metal. All the recycling goes into these containers and once a month I take it all in to the recycling center in Houston. They also take any electronics we need to dispose of as well as used motor oil. It is not a lot of trouble because it is simply a habit we have done for decades.

Over the last year or so I have been using my own tote bags when I go shopping rather than use plastic bags from the stores. There are two problems that I have encountered with this--the first is remembering to take them inside the store with me, so many times I don't think about bags until I am in the check out line and my totes are still in the van. Have to work on that. The second problem is some of the checkers are stymied by someone wanting to use their own bags. They want to put the groceries in the usual plastic bag and then put the plastic bag into my tote. I suppose they think of me as a little old lady in her dotage that must be accomodated.

Reusing items is the second leg of reducing the amount of garbage that we generate. I find it so simple to reuse printer paper--just turn it over and print on the other side. It is very seldom that I need a good copy printed only on one side. Clothing or household items that I don't want or use are dropped off at the Goodwill center. Another way to reuse is composting. Actually most of our food waste goes to our local raccoon population which is fine with me. I love to see Mama Raccoon leading her brood of babies to our goodies.

The third leg is simply reducing the amount of stuff that we buy. I am by nature and necessity a frugal person. I believe in planning ahead, giving thought to what is needed, and buying quality that will last. I don't like clutter and the easiest way to be clutter-free is to not buy the stuff in the first place.

That's how we reduce our garbage output--Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Nothing new, just habits.

Taking care of those pearly whites

I had my twice a year routine dental cleaning done Tuesday morning. It got me thinking about how fortunate we are today to be able to take such good care of our teeth. My mother had a full upper set of dentures and partial lower dentures before I was born. It was very common for people of previous generations to have dentures. I’m sure my mother had dentures because when she was growing up they were too poor to see a dentist until it was too late to do anything but pull the tooth. My father must have been blessed with very strong teeth because as far as I know, he never once saw a dentist and had every tooth still intact when he died. His teeth were stained from coffee and cigarettes but still there and functional. I, on the other hand, have always been rather fanatical about taking care of my teeth—regular brushing & flossing and twice a year cleaning. I am convinced that good dental health promotes general good health. We are fortunate also to have dental insurance to help defray the cost of maintaining those pearly whites. (Speaking of which, I detest bleached white teeth.)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Wonderful book for anglophiles (and anyone else who likes a good story). Wry humor, well drawn characters. As usual, I loved listening to the audio; I think it just adds to the pleasure of the story.

Roses Update

All three of the buried Daybreaker roses are still alive. Frankly, I am surprised. I am still whacking back the morning glory vines from the smallest one but even it is still alive. We have had so much rain the past couple of days that it is useless to spray them with fungicide right now. I hope next weekend to finish trimming the dead wood off them and get them properly sprayed and a lightly fertilized.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Time to Retire???

The plan has been to stay in the workplace until 66 but I am reconsidering. This past year of ill health has been a real struggle. I am physically better in many ways and my employer has worked with me to decrease my hours to Monday, Wednesday, & Fridays plus one weekend each month. The thing is I am tired; my days off are mostly spent resting from the work days. I will be 63 in December and perhaps I should just call it quits then. I wouldn't necessarily need to start drawing Social Security or to draw from my 403b and JMM will still be working to provide health insurance and benefits. So why not retire?? I think the thing that is holding me back is concern that something might happen to keep JMM from working. Life experience has made me very leary of not having my back covered. It seems to be that when one thing changes, a whole cascade of things happen...usually not for the better.
I am just in the beginning stages of looking into this and seriously thinking about it. Anyone have any suggestions?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Neglected roses

Since I have been sick all year, I have totally neglected my roses. They didn't get pruned on Valentine's Day, they didn't get fertilized, or sprayed at all. To make matters worse, JMM planted some morning glory seeds near them intending for them to go up the pillar of the back porch but what they actually did was flow over the 3 Daybreaker roses. It looked like kudzu taking over the world. Sunday, I saw one tiny rose bloom peeking out from under that tangled mass of vines as if to say “Help me!!” So I have been spending a few minutes each morning before it gets too hot whacking that mess back. I have the middle rose bush one cleared off and today I watered it and sprayed it with fungicide. Tomorrow I will start on the largest of the 3 bushes; it will be difficult because I can’t get my scooter around to the front side of it but I will figure something out.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Whiz of hummingbirds

I have no idea what a group of hummingbirds is called but a "whiz" of them seems quite appropriate. These weeks of late summer mean the hummingbirds are gathering here on the Texas Gulf Coast getting ready for their fall migration to South and Central America. It also means that we refill our 3 hummingbird feeders very frequently. (I've never believed all the news items about how much sugar Americans eat because the numbers are bound to be skewed by all the sugar used by those of us who have hummingbird feeders...LOL). No matter how many feeders we put up, the little jewels spend all their time chasing each other away. I have also learned that they are curious--this morning my husband was eating cereal on the porch near one of the feeders and one little fellow came down almost face to face to check out who was too close to his feeder. I'll try to post a picture but they are really too fast for me. Darling little flying jewels!!
We are in the process of greatly expanding our butterfly / hummingbird garden. It is too late to be of any use to this year's birds but I hope to attract more next year. We have had great success with salvia for the hummingbirds; so much more salvia will be going in. Butterfly weed, Mexican heather, and that dratted Bee Balm are all going in the new area too. (I call it that dratted Bee Balm because it is so invasive but the bees, butterflies, and hummers love it so I just have to keep whacking it back.) Spanish lavender does well here although the English lavender does not; the bees love it and so do I.
That's what's going on around here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Missing Bloggers

First it was JW and now Morrison. I miss you guys and hope life is treating you well.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Healing, I think

My on-going GI problem has been decidedly better this week and with this improvement has been an improvement in my mood and outlook. After all the doctors, MRI, CAT scan, changes in diet, and medication, it seems that time is being the healer. I am convinced (although I have no proof at all) that all this was brought on by a long time food allergy. As soon as I stopped the food my allergy symptoms vanished but by the time I put the clues together, I am conveninced that my GI tract had been damaged. I doubt that things will ever go back to what they were before but there is enough improvement and I now know how to cope with the remaining symptoms. With this improvement and coping skills, I am not so paralyzed with depression. One day at a time.

Friday, August 20, 2010

My Niece

is 57 years old and is newly diagnosed with cancer. It is in her lungs and brain. She has started radiation and will follow with chemotherapy. She is being treated as an outpatient. What concerns me is that she lives far away from any of her family and there is no one to take care of her during the radiation and chemo and afterwards. Her husband has CHF and is in poor health himself. I suggested that she come to MD Anderson here in Houston for treatment but she adamantly opposed this. Since I can't go there and she won't come here, I am thinking of seeing if she will let me hire a home health assistant to come to her home a couple of hours a day.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Good Things about August

1. Sunflowers and zinnias are a riot of color
2. Too hot to cook means salads and melons
3. The Perseids meteor shower
4. Planning the winter birding trip
5. Getting wet in a pool, river, or lake
6. Summer reading

"Whilst August yet wears her golden crown,
Ripening fields lush- bright with promise;
Summer waxes long, then wanes, quietly passing
Her fading green glory on to riotous Autumn."

- Michelle L. Thieme, August's Crown

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

America Goes Dark

is the title of Paul Krugman's column in yesterday's NYT.


It's an excellent article on how cities are literally turning off the streetlights to save money, how teachers and policemen are being laid off, and roads & bridges falling into disrepair. We are all aware of how strapped for money state and local governments are because they are caught in a bind between The Great Recession and the requirement to balance their budgets. I go along with him up to a point. He focuses on the need to increase taxes on the richest 2%. Fine, OK, go for it, increase taxes on the richest 2%, let the tax cuts expire. We will pay more in taxes but we'll survive. What I don't understand is his completely skipping the elephant in the room--What if we weren't funding wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? What if that money was available for lights and education and roads or research for cancer? We are pouring borrowed money into a neverending sinkhole. What's next--Yemen, back to Somalia??
Because we are borrowing the money to pay for the war and have no draft, we feel none of the need to bring these wars to an end.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


I have been watching the PBS series Liberty! about the American Revolution. What makes it so special is that it is taken from letters and documents of the time. The beauty of the language and writing is in such stark contrast to the vast verbal wastland of today. We certainly have the quantity of writing, texting, blogging today but are in sore lack of quality. I wonder if historians of the future will be so overwhelmed with the volume of communication today that they will just conclude that we really didn't have much of consequence to say at all.
Anyway, the series is great and I learned so much.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


I spend a lot of time listening to the radio. Sometimes it is just on in the background. Sometimes, like during and after hurricanes, radio is essential to know what is going on. When I was growing up the cool radio station was KILT which played all the new rock music. (All the really good music ended about 1970 though ...) My mother listened to the local station in Galveston but I can't remember the call letters for it.
Ever since I discovered Pandora, whenever I want music that's what I'll have on. But for general radio listening, I love NPR. The Diane Rehm Show is a daily favorite, Talk of the Nation and Marketplace are usually interesting, All Things Considered covers the news of the day, Ira Glass's This American Life almost always has a different perspective on life today, and Science Friday is always interesting but since I am at work when it is on, I get the podcast.
What I don't like on radio are the hate mongering sensationalists... so I don't listen to them.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bible Reading

When I was growing up my church encouraged reading through the Bible in a year. This can be done by reading 3 chapters each day and 7 chapters on Sundays. I have done this several times (although it generally took me longer than a year). But I found that I was reading just to get my chapters for the day done. I wanted to focus more on content by reading just one chapter per day; the problem with that was that I didn't want to leave the New Testament for as long as it would take me to read through the Old Testament one chapter a day. So my solution was a 3 day alternating cycle. Day #1 Old Testament. Day #2 Psalms / Proverbs /Prophets. Day #3 New Testament. I usually pick out one verse from the day's chapter for my thought for the day. I have been using this system for several years and it seems to suit me quite well.
Today's chapter was Isaiah 3.
Tomorrow's chapter will be Revelation 18.
Friday's chapter will be Joshua 20.

Monday, July 26, 2010

This rubs me the wrong way Part II

From the Wikileaks documents we learn that the Pakistani's have been aiding the Taliban. What a shock, who would have thought???...

As Rod Dreher says in his blog at Big Questions Online, " I get angry at the thought that American service members are fighting and dying in a war that may not be winnable, and that our allies the Pakistanis may be secretly waging against us, despite being the recipient of more than a billion dollars a year in aid to fight the people they actually appear to be helping."

U.S. Unemployment by county through May, 2010

Think your job is secure?


Think again.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Why I continue to work

I have been asked on numerous occasions when I am going to retire; other times people are surprised that I work after all I am 62 and I use an electric scooter because I can't walk. I am married and my husband works and brings in a good salary. Why not retire?

Back in 1987 my husband lost his job. We had to sell our beautiful home with a pool and spa for exactly what we owed on it losing every penny of equity we had built up over the previous 12 years. We lived on severance and savings for the following year while I finished my Pharmacy degree and my husband began his training for a new career. I supported us for the following 2 years while he finished. He was without work for 3 years total. Now fast forward to 2007--husband is able to keep his job only by transferring to a totally new department. I have watched several mass downsizings at my own place of employment. So if there is one thing I have learned for sure over the years is that no job is secure and that has never been so true as it is today. So why do I work? So that if one of us loses their job, we still have an income and health insurance.

I can stretch a dollar as far as anyone but frankly there is a level of income below which it is exceedingly difficult to live even a modest life. Then there is the whole health insurance debacle; I have health problems and need to see doctors. I cannot imagine how much stress it is to be sick and not know how your are going to pay for health care.

The new financial reality is no joke and it is not optional. If you have a job, keep it, upgrade your skills, and (you know what I am going to say next, don't you) pay off all debts and get an emergency fund in place yesterday.

Finally, the last reason I keep working is that I want to die like Daniel Schorr--fully engaged with the world and doing work that I think is important until the end of my days.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


JMM and I went to see it today. JMM really liked it; I thought it was pretty good--better than I had expected. The special effects were excellent, story and acting good--maybe a little too much shooting, car chases, and fights, but hey, it's a summer action movie so to be expected. The thing I have against it is purely personal--pseudo-science talk annoys me to no end. Taking something that is false and wrapping it in scientific language to make it sound believable just grates on me. If something is fiction that's fine but leave off the science talk. It reminds me of the late night radio show where people call in with their paranormal experiences. (Maybe if I'd ever been able to levitate anything, I'd think differently about it.) Anyway, if you need a summer action movie with some good plot twists and turns, it may be a dream come true for ya'.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Another day, another test

Abdominal ultrasound. If a CAT scan and an MRI hasn't told me what the heck is going on, I don't have much hope that an ultrasound will either. But then I have had my hopes up too many times only to realize that nope, that's not it either.

Frankly, I have been surprised how being ill and trying to find out what is causing it just takes over one's life. For one thing it is time consuming to go to multiple doctor's offices, find a parking place & go in, wait in the interminable waiting rooms and exam rooms, then drive home again or back to work. Then there is the time spent on the phone trying to get something scheduled or talk to the doctor's nurse or waiting for a call back.

And finally, there is the emotional toll. I have never been so depressed in all my life. I think I could deal with most anything if I just knew what it was.

I am extremely fortunate that I have excellent health insurance and access to medical care. I flat don't know how on earth people deal with serious illness and a financial nightmare of poor or no insurance at the same time.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lemon Pound Cake with Lemon Glaze

I made this Sunday and oh my, is it ever delish!!

Lemon Pound Cake with Lemon Glaze

3 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease 16-cup tube pan. Dust pan with cake flour; tap out excess flour.
Sift flour, baking soda and salt into medium bowl.
Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl at medium speed until fluffy.
Gradually add sugar.
Add eggs 1 at a time, beating just until combined after each addition.
Beat in lemon juice and peel.
Mix in dry ingredients.
Mix in sour cream.
Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour 30 minutes. Let cake cool in pan on rack 15 minutes. Cut around cake in pan. Turn out cake.
Carefully turn cake right side up on rack and cool completely.

Lemon Glaze

1. Melt ¼ cup butter in microwave
2. Sift 2 cups powdered sugar in large bowl
3. Add butter to powdered sugar
4. Add 2 tablespoonsful lemon juice
5. Add 2 teaspoonsful lemon zest
6. Stir until smooth and creamy
7. If too thick add a few drops milk, if too thin add a little more powdered sugar.
8. Drizzle over cake.

Monday, July 19, 2010

This rubs me the wrong way

I hear on the news this morning that we will be giving Pakistan half a billion dollars for hydroelectric dams, drip irrigation system, and infrastructure. This was followed by a segment on how we need to rein in the budget by not extending unemployment compensation to the unemployed here in the US. Seems to me that my tax dollars could be used for some infrastructure here at home even if we don't extend unemployment compensation. And then there is always the question of how much of that $500,000,000 will end up in some one's private Swiss account--80%?90%?? And finally, there is the question of isn't the House of Representatives supposed to have something to say about how our taxes are spent??

Update: Well, it looks like the aid to Pakistan was part of the foreign aid in the budget approved by the House of Representatives. Still, don't like it. I suggest it is time to give a long look at all the countries that I am sending my taxes to.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

My Yard Scooter

Because of my neuromuscular problem, I have never been able to amble around our 4 acre property. JMM built a lovely brick path to the patio under the live oaks so I have been able to enjoy some of the loveliness but have been restricted to where my little scooter could take me. Well, that is about to change because we are getting a little utility vehicle. This morning we found what looks just perfect:


The one we are looking at has a roof to provide some shade from the hot Texas summer sun. We are debating the merits of the battery vs. the gasoline engine versions. The battery would be quieter and less smelly than the gasoline, but then there's much to be said for a good solid powerful Kawasaki engine too. Decisions, decisions.

The ones we were looking at cost $5,000--$5200. We will, of course, pay cash for it. When we make the final decision, I'll transfer money from savings to checking.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hopeless in the face of such ignorance


When I saw the picture of that billboard, what I felt was just utter hopelessness that people could be so ignorant. It was a desecration of the people who were transported in cattle cars, starved, gassed and burned. To compare President Obama's desire for adequate health care for Americans, for financial reform to prevent another 2008 financial meltdown, and to have a workable, enforceable immigration policy with gas chambers and firing squads is just incredible ignorance. My response to the ignoramuses: You lost the election, get over it. The representatives were elected. If you don't like them, elect new ones. Your hatred makes me ill.

Summer Camp

I only went to camp once when I was growing up. It was a church Bible camp. I think it was called Peach Creek Bible Camp but I'm not sure. There was no air-conditioning and it was soooo hot!! The heat and being afraid of spiders was the down side. But the up side was the boyfriend I met at camp. It was a sweet little romance of walking along the creek and sitting together at the evening Bible study. We wrote to each other a few times after camp but that ended after a month or so. I heard nothing further from him for years until I got a letter from him from Viet Nam. He had been drafted and his wife had sent him a Dear John letter and he just wanted someone to correspond with. I wrote back that I was now married and my husband was also in Viet Nam. I never heard from him again. I hope he made it back alive and in one piece.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Habits that keep you broke

These were on Yahoo today:
1. Paying only the minimum on your credit card. (Surely this cannot come as a surprise to anyone.)
2. Buying a brand new car. While I theoretically agree with this, we buy new and drive them forever; my husband's previous vehicle lasted 14 years.
3. Smoking. Well, duh!
4. Keeping a drafty attic. Insulation is good. The most energy saving thing we have added to this house is the solar screens. They really do help keep the rooms cooler so the a/c runs less.
5. Ignoring your student debt. If you want to really go suicidal, figure out how much money you have paid out in interest on those loans. Same principal as #1.


I would add one more:
6. Short-term thinking. Not planning past the next paycheck. Set goals--what do you want to have accomplished in 10 years, 5 years, 1 year? What are steps are you taking to get there today?

Summer Fruit

Here in Texas the peach crop is coming in and just walking into the grocery and inhaling the scent of those peaches is enough to waft one into Heaven. Love peaches in pies, cobblers, or ice cream but love them even more just as God made them--juice dripping from mouth to chin to shirt.

Cantaloupes are beginning to come in also. I only eat cantaloupe in July and some in August when they are at their juicy, sensuous best.

Looking forward to luscious grapes in another month or so.

What's your favorite fresh summer food?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Debt is a problem

Personal debt and government debt is a world wide problem. Here is an interesting interactive from The Economist:


Take a look at the Britain's overall debt as a percent of GDP or Japan's government debt or Switzerland's personal debt levels. Wow, we aren't the only ones who have gone crazy!

I have been reading recently about Britain's recently presented budget which essentially cuts 25% and greatly increases taxes (including a VAT of 20%). Hmm, paying more and getting less; wonder how that's going to play at the local pub?

So far Texas has been able to get by with no personal income tax and only 8.25% sales tax. Of course, there are property taxes which for us have been stable for the past few years.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Afghanistan (Again)

The good thing about the firing of General McChrystal is that at least people are thinking about Afghanistan and our presence there. I wonder how much longer we will continue to pour money and lives into it. At a time when budgets at home are being slashed and taxes increased, we continue to pour billions into Afghanistan. I wonder if half the money and men that have been spent in Iraq and Afghanistan had been spent instead on securing our borders, real homeland security, and making sure we knew who was actually in our country, where they are, and what they are doing, if we wouldn't be a lot better off.

We are being terribly naive in thinking that we can go into a culture completely different from our own and enlighten them about the really, truly right way to govern themselves. As for being there to train the Afghan Army, I just can't believe that given the history of Afghanistan, they really don't know how to fight.

We should begin the withdrawal yesterday.

Lunar Eclipse

So many times we are in the wrong hemisphere, or the wrong place on the hemisphere, or there is cloud cover obscuring the view, or (most likely) I sleep through it. But this morning's lunar eclipse was clearly visible and JMM woke me up to see it. Lovely. What a beautiful world.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I am beginning to have some hope that my GI problem might at long last be solved. I had an ERCP yesterday that cleared stones and stuff from my bile duct. So far, I have not had any abdominal pain or discomfort at all, even after eating. I have lost a 24 pounds since last December because of the discomfort. I'm glad to have lost the weight but it has been a pretty awful way to do it. So far, so good; just keeping my fingers crossed that the problem is solved.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


I saw the sweetest thing this afternoon. Bandit and I were out under the trees and I was busily trying to identify a bird (turned out to be a tufted titmouse, 4 of them). I was so intent on the bird book that I din not notice the mama raccoon and her 5 babies as they were on their way to the tree with their feeding tray until they were about 5 feet away from me. All 7 of us just froze in place when we saw each other. Then zap went the babies up the nearest tree just like mama taught them. Mama moved quickly to behind a tree a little further toward the woods and one by one the babies went down the first tree and up the second where they softly chattered to each other, I suppose calling out to be sure everyone was accounted for. Then quickly everyone moved off into the thick underbrush. Just darling. (I was glad to see that Bandit had sense enough to leave mama and baby raccoons alone!!)


JMM and I have talked for a couple of years about keeping bees but never did anything about it. We have decided that we will attend the County Beekeepers Association meetings and get things ready for starting next spring. The next meeting is Tuesday, July 12 at 7:30 PM. I love watching the bees on our flowers and am never afraid of them as so many people are. We have Beekeeping for Dummies-- JMM is reading it and I want to read it also. JMM has ordered a video which is supposed to be very informative also. I'll see what is available from the library too. However, I anticipate that we will learn more from the Beekeepers Association and from our own experience than from books or videos. This should be an interesting experiment.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Two Good Books

I finished Daughter of Fortune by Isabelle Allende and it was fantastic. It is the first book by her that I have read but I can guarantee that it won't be the last. The reader's voice as I listened to it on audio CD added so much to it. Excellent!!

If you have watched the Cadfael series, you are familiar with Ellis Peters monk Brother Cadfael. My husband told me that the books were much better than the television version but I since I loved the television series, I didn't believe him. Well, I was wrong. I have downloaded A Morbid Taste for Bones on my i-Pod and oh my, it is excellent.

I do love good books.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


I am a big believer in staying out of debt. But, IMHO, it is impossible to stay out of debt without savings accounts. Why? Because stuff happens. If you've got a car, it is going to need repairs, general maintenance, and something is going to leak, squeek, fall off, or break and this means money. Same goes for houses, pets, and children. That's even when the big stuff like illness, job loss, or divorce doesn't happen. Everyone needs an emergency fund. Since I am a bit hyper about being in control of my finances, I have 4 savings accounts. The first one is my General Emergency fund--I used to keep $5,000 in it but with the jobs situation & the economy being what they are, I have increased that to $10,000. The second is my new vehicle fund--my van has 120,000+ miles on it and while it still runs perfectly, eventually it will have to be replaced and along with it, I will need a new lift for my scooter installed in the new vehicle. I want to have $25,000 in that fund to be available when needed; I am at $11,000 now. The third savings account is my HIP fund (Homeowner's Association fees, Insurance, & Property taxes). Since our house is mortgage free, we have to have the money to pay our homeowner's insurance and property taxes when they come due. These come to $11,000 per year; so I put $450 per paycheck into that fund and ouila, when I need to pay it, the money is already there. The fourth area of saving is our combined retirement accounts. I am perfectly able to work now but this is not always going to be the case so my goal is to have $1 million in retirement funds; we currently have $730,000.
If you spend everything that comes in, life becomes a series of emergencies and no sooner than you get one emergency paid off than another crops up. This is no way to enjoy life. Even a small emergency fund is better than no emergency fund at all. As Dave Ramsey says, Christmas is not an emergency, it comes every year. My point is that the more things you can be prepared for, the fewer real emergencies you will have. And this preparation can only be done by living below your means.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sampler Quilt

I pieced these blocks 20 years ago but never put them together into a quilt. They are all hand pieced; I could not do the tiny stitching that I did in piecing these blocks today. I think a simple border around each block will set off them off nicely.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Good things in life

Watching nature--birds, flowers, bees, butterflies. The nice thing about this is, nature is as close as my back porch--don't have to go anywhere, just sit down, be quiet, and watch.

Good books. I am becoming especially fond of good audio books. A good reader just brings the book to life.

Eating out. I know it is fashionable now to love to cook but I don't, so there.

Cats. Affectionate, quiet, each unique personality, do not require walks (but do require litter boxes...)

Quilting. I love putting colors, fabrics, and patterns together. I think everyone needs some creative activity.

Cleaning something out. I don't mean the everyday stuff like dishes and dusting and bathrooms. What I like to do is clean out and organize something. I recently cleaned out and organized the back closet. Next I want to go through all our old videos and give the ones we'll not watch again to the library and organize the others.

Comfortable clothes. What a blessing it is to not wear pantyhose and pointy toe shoes!!

Haircuts and manicures and a massage. Oh my, what a luxury!!

What are some of life's good things for you?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Butterfly Garden

I took some pictures of the flowers in our butterfly garden. The salvias were lovely but have faded with the heat. Fortunately there is plenty of Black-eyed Susan, Butterfly Weed, and Verbena. I'm not quick enough with the camera to get pictures of the butterflies; we had several lovely swallow-tails yesterday and always the little yellow sulphur butterflies. Anyway, here are some of the flowers:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Does anyone remember learning shorthand?? I took a semester of it in high school along with typing. Those were the prerequisites for a secretarial job (just in case teaching or nursing didn't work out). I was never really proficient at it but learned enough to help me take notes in my college classes. About all I remember now are words like "and", "the", and "of". There's an article in the WSJ about a woman who runs a web based transcription service for people who want old shorthand documents transcribed.


Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

As the oil in the Gulf spreads, as the birds and dolphins die, as the economic consequences unfold, as government and BP executives are blamed, isn't there somewhere we are forgetting to look for the ultimate responsibility for this disaster? Don't we want cheap oil? Don't we want to rid ourselves of goverment regulation? Why would we want to spend tax dollars on safety inspections or disaster preparedness? Hmmm, where, oh where does the blame really belong?
(While we are thinking about where to look, let's consider where we are currently pouring our nation's talent and treasure and if it is possible that we are not using it wisely.)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

42nd Wedding Anniversary

Where did all the years go?? The Army, VietNam, back to school, baby, careers, loss of parents, houses and jobs, travel near and far, good times and not so good times but all of it knowing we were in it together for the long haul. It's been a good journey and I'm thankful for a good partner to share it all with.

So how did we celebrate? Gone birding, of course. Brazos Bend State Park this morning, Pappasito's for lunch, and a long afternoon nap. Perfect.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

25 Questions

This is the best summary that I have read recently as to why I have continued to assert that the recession is far from over:

IMHO, the tough times are just beginning. As I have said on numerous posts, do what you can to maintain at least one income stream and more than one if you can, get out of debt with gazelle intensity, and do everything you can to maintain your health.


I am slowly, very slowly getting better. I went to the gyn yesterday for my yearly exam; she said something that resonated with me. She said that the longer we are sick, the longer it takes us to get back to where we were. I had just thought that once the ERCP was done-->problem fixed-->right back t0 going full at things again. Not. I was sick for 6 months and now less than a month post procedure so it is no wonder that I am just now feeling well enough to get anything done. I still have several doctor visits scheduled--next being a follow-up with the GI doctor on Friday. I am very thankful for the medical attention that I have received but I have seen more doctors this year than in the previous 10 years combined and am looking forward to not needing to see one for at least 6 months...

Monday, May 24, 2010

WTHIPO List Update

When we were scraping every penny that we could get together to pay off the house, I made a list of things that I wanted to do When the House Is Paid Off. It helped me remember that I was not saying "No" to these things, just saying "Not Now". The house was paid off in February and I am slowly making my way through my WTHIPO list. Here is the updated list:

1. Replace dishwasher--done
2. Replace cracked window--done
3. Window blinds & valances
4. Living room furniture
5. Tile in laundry room
6. Ceiling fans in bedrooms--done
7. Electric logs in fireplace
8. Repair wedding ring
9. Repair grandfather clock
10. Yard scooter
11. Refinish sewing machine cabinet
12. Linens--sheets, towels--done
13. Carpets cleaned

We are saving for a new vehicle so the WTHIPO list is going slowly but that is fine with me. Not sure what will come next on the list.


I've discovered Chico's!! I was ranting and raving about how I couldn't find clothes that both looked good and fit me and my sister-in-law suggested that I try Chico's. I have found it so frustrating to shop for clothes that I had to force myself to go today because I really need clothes. Anyway, as I went in the door, a young woman introduced herself and asked if she could help me. (This is light years away from the mall stores with miles of racks and not a sales person in sight.) I explained that I needed pants and tops with a light summer jacket and that I hated clothes shopping and was no good at putting things together and I would very much appreciate her help. Well, we got on like a hand in a glove, like hot fudge on a sundae, like well you get the idea!! We went around and she got a feel for what I liked; then she whipped up pants, tops, jackets, belts, jewlery that was just what I wanted and liked. I was in and out in under an hour. She has my e-mail address and will sent me a note when something is in that would suit me and sales coupons. Christie at Chico's, I love you!!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Oil Spill

I am so horrified at what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico that I try my best not to think about it. Offshore drilling is risky, dangerous work; I know this because DH was a petroleum geologist working for first Pennzoil and then Conoco. He has spent many weeks on offshore rigs. Drilling at the depths that are being done now is unknown territory; experience is very limited. However, from what we've read and from DH's experience, it is for certain that BP ignored glaring warning signs because to stop the drilling would have cost millions of dollars. Well, as it turns out, BP's best option would have been to stop everything before it got to the critical state. BP is to blame, our government's regulatory and inspection agency is to blame, and all of us oil-addicted drivers and disposable everything consumers are to blame. However, it is the living creatures of the ocean and marshes who are going to pay the price and I can hardly bear to think about it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A New Season

I had planned to keep working 4 days a week until I was 66 but it is looking like I just physically can't do it. My employer was very cooperative when I cut back to 4 days a week. Now I have requested 3 days a week and they are once again working with me on it. They are even letting me keep my benefits and insurance. I am quite relieved. DH is still working full time and wants us to switch to his health insurance just in case I have to quit altogether.

As Ecclesiastes 3:1 says "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven." It looks like this is the time for more rest and less work.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

An Ordinary Day

Today I did my housework, went to the grocery, napped with the cats, and will cook dinner. It was just what I needed--an ordinary day. I'm tired of coping and working and coping with work. I work Wednesday and Friday and then will have a week of vacation. I want them all to be ordinary days--lunch or dinner with my DD, maybe a movie--just ordinary days.

Since it has been an ordinary day, I'll tell you about ordinary things--we've had lots of rain recently and the corn fields are gloriously tall and green. The baby swallows from both the front porch nest and the back porch nest have flown--6 fledged babies. There are caterpillars on the salvia and milkweed, the black furry kind; we counted 9 of them--I wonder what kind of chrysalis they will make and what kind of butterfly they will turn into.

I watched a Netflix DVD yesterday--Summer Hours. The story was interesting but the movie dragged; maybe 2 stars. I am still listening to Out of Africa; I love it but don't like it on my i-Pod because I have so much trouble getting it to where I left off.

Quotation for the day:

"We are all in this world together - people , plants and animals - and we had better make the most of our opportunities. We are all here for some purpose: I believe that it is to live a good life, individually and collectively. That means for us humans to do as little harm as possible, to other humans, to animals and to the whole environment, and to do as much good as possible. To live simply, not elaborately; to consume the least possible, not the most possible. If you have any religion, let it be helpfulness, love and unity. We will then fulfill the purpose and take our part in the great plan. It is as simple as that."~Helen Nearing (1904-1995)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Forget diamonds, it's morphine that's a girl's really best friend

What a week this has been! A trip to the ER and 4 days in the hospital (where I gained a true appreciation for morphine). My GI problem includes (but is not limited to) a closed bile duct. I had an ERCP on Wednesday for a temporary stent but have to go to the big medical center hospital later where a robot will place the permanent stent--> I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to that... On the other hand, with enough morphine, it may not be so bad after all.
I am feeling better but I feel like I have been beaten up. Who would have thought that 4 1/2 days in bed would leave one exhausted??

Sunday, April 25, 2010

12 Week Reading Challenge

Calling all Bibliophiles!! I am challenging myself to read 12 good books in 12 weeks. Anyone is welcome to join in the challenge and post your progress. I was re-reading Honey for a Woman's Heart and there were so many books mentioned that I started a list and from there decided to challenge myself to read 12 of them. Your reading challenge will be different--fiction or non-fiction, new or old, long or short--just post your progress and a thumbs up or down about each book. Have to see which are available from our local library and which I may have to get through Interlibrary Loan, and if all else fails get used from Amazon.com.

Here's my list:
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
Something by Van Reid
Kristen Lavranhsdatter by Sigrid Undst
Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi
Number the Stars by Lois Lowery
The Ark by Margot Benary-Isbert
Scarlet Music by Joan Ohannesson
Something More by Catherine Marshall
A Beacon at Alexandria by Gillian Bradshaw
Rowan Farm by Margot Benary-Isbert
The Journal of Hildegard of Bingen by Barbara Lachman

I'll be starting my challenge today, April 25, 2010 with Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen. Join in the challenge or just post what you reading.

The Latest Quilt

I promised that I would learn how to add pictures to my blog when I finished the quilt and here it is. The pattern originally was an Amish Cross but I had so much trouble with the tiny pieces that I modified it out of all recognition as an Amish Cross. It is a lap size quilt.
The current project is a set of placemats and napkins. I bought the fabric last fall but never got around to making them. I prefer to think of them now as being early for next fall rather than late from last year.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I'm tired of angry people.

Somewhere along the way civility seems to have lost out to anger. Respect loses out to rudness and I am sick of it. I suppose it is more mentally taxing to listen to what someone else has to say and give a rational, reasoned, courteous response.

Quote for the Day:

“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.”
~ St. Basil quotes

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My Fair Share

It's April 15 and my taxes have long ago been filed and the small refund deposited and used to finish paying off our house. We are not among the 47% of my fellow countrymen who paid no income tax. You know what? That's fine with me. I use the services and believe in paying for goods and services received. I use the interstate highway system, I am protected by the military, my food and medicines are monitored by the FDA, and on and on. I am also willing to pay for the common good such as public health and education. I do not begrudge the 47% who paid no taxes at all but I do wonder about the economic policies that have led us to where 47% of our people are too poor to pay taxes. And I also think that when people do not pay they become less inclined to care how the money is spent. That's why I think that a bill should be sent to every American household for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan each year. If we really believe in the wars, we should be willing to pay for them in cash and with our own children.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

I loved this book. I love the scope and breadth of it as much as the detail and intricacy of it. The people were real and the story just enveloped me. I could listen to the readers voice all day. Well worth reading (or listening to).

Friday, April 9, 2010

Dangerous Words

When I was a young mother, I learned that it was tempting fate to utter the words, "No child of mine will ever..." because it was almost guaranteed that the child would whatever it was. Now I am learning that it is just as tempting to fate to say the words, "When I am old I will never..." I used to listen to my elders talking about their various ailments and doctors and I thought to myself "I will never sit around talking about my latest bodily malfunction." Well, I had no idea that falling apart really consumes a lot of your mental energy and time and that one spends so much time, thought, and effort in trying to figure out what is wrong and how to fix it. I will spare you the details of my 4 month GI adventure involving a trip to the ER, a colonoscopy, various over the counter medications, and an on-going relationship with the GI doc's nurse, Linda. I think in a previous life Linda was a defensive lineman for the Packers because absolutely nothing gets past Linda--you want to talk to the doc--you have to get past Linda, you want a prescription--Linda again. Anyway, I was so miserable Tuesday night I googled my symptoms and ouila, there it was: symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. Since Wednesday morning I have been skirmishing with Linda for a prescription, I have met all her requirements but so far she has not deigned it necessary to call me back. However, in researching this on the Internet, I found that probiotics were helpful so yesterday I started on Phillips Colon Health capsules twice a day. I am amazed--it has relieved my symptoms by about 80%. I still want the prescription but at least I am not so miserable while I dance to Linda's tune. Life is looking better.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

In the News--Health Care Reform, Housing, and Social Security

Health Care Reform: Unless you've been in a coma for the past few days, you are aware that Congress has passed & President Obama has signed the Health Care Reform bill. It is way too much for those on the far right and way too little for those on the far left. Those of us in the middle are waiting to see how it all works out. IMHO, the insurance industry has needed reforming for a long time and I am tempted to think that a single payer system would be a lot more efficient. However, that's not what our elected representatives have given us so we shall see in a year or two how this all turns out. In the meantime, take care of yourself--eat right, get some exercise, brush & floss, rest, do a good deed--You really are responsible for taking care of yourself no matter what kind of health care system we have.

Housing: Because the housing bubble burst, some people owe more on their homes than the house will sell for. Some call this "being under water"; I call it "having been stupid and paying too much in the first place." Now some in the government think that the banks should decrease the principal owed on the house to a level that it would sell for. I wonder if these same government officials would be in favor of a plan to force people to sell their houses when the value of the house goes over the amount of the original loan?? That's why we have contracts. I pledge that if you provide me with a service I will pay you a certain amount. We both agree, spit, cross out hearts, and sign a bloody contract. I am opposed to nullifying contracts because things didn't turn out the way one planned. Contract law is what keeps order in a society.

Social Security: We are paying out more than we are taking in. This comes as a big shock to anyone??? There will have to be changes made--remove the cap, up the rate, and up the eligibility age. I suppose we are in for a huge legislative fight over this too. In the meantime, pay off your house, get out of debt, save for a rainy day--this is news to anyone???

Quote for the day:
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. Annie Dillard

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

I was so disappointed by this book. I really anticipated liking it because I usually like books set in the 1930's and 1940's. The World War II era home front of Britain and America is usually of great interest to me. So what went wrong? I was willing to overlook the general wordiness of the book--you know, painting a scene with a hundred words when a skillful use of five words would have been better. But what a just couldn't deal with was the unremitting depression of the story and the lack of a clear conclusion. (I realize that part of what the book is about is the lack of clarity in wartime but I still want a story to have a beginning, middle, and conclusion.) The depressing aspect is that the author spends a great deal of time getting you to know and care about the characters but you know that every one of them is either going to die or be bereaved. I was thoroughly put out with the doctor who decides to leave his practice and go to London because he lost a patient during childbirth. Then there was the doctor's wimpy wife; maybe there will be a sequel where she grows up. Anyway, it was a disappointment. Others may like it but I give it a thumbs down.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

They are back!!

The hummingbirds arrived yesterday!! We've had a feeder up for about 2 weeks now just waiting for them. Yesterday morning I was sitting at the table when I heard the familiar buzz and there he was--beautiful little jewel!! JMM put up the second feeder because there will be more coming through. Before the summer is over we will have 4 feeders up. Good thing I bought a 10 lb. bag of sugar.

All is well--the swallows are back and building their nest under the eaves of the porch and now the hummingbirds. I am so thankful for these beautiful birds.

Sleep Study

I have an appointment tonight for a sleep study. I have used a CPAP for the past 4 years and it has helped me so much. Now it is time to do a re-titration to make sure that it is still at the correct setting and check out a couple of other sleep problems that I have. It is not as easy as hopping into bed at the sleep center for a good night's sleep. To begin with, there are all the wires attached to your scalp, chest, and legs. These are annoying enough on their own but, oh my, what a problem it is if you need to get up and go to the bathroom as I usually do in the night. The technician has to detach the wires from the monitor, bundle them up so that you can carry them with you, and then reattach them once you get back to bed. Then there is the not-sleeping-in-my-own-bed problem of pillows and temperature and light and someone watching you while you sleep. It's a wonder that anyone sleeps at all during a sleep study.

However, I must say that having the CPAP which allows me to get a good night's sleep is worth every bit of it!

Friday, March 19, 2010


I watched a really good Netflix movie this evening, Defiance. It is the true story of Tuvia and Zus Bielski who led a group of Jews into the forest of BelaRussia for 3 years during the Nazi invasion and occupation. By the end of the war, the group numbered 1200. Amazingly, after the war the brothers immigrated to New York City where they operated a trucking company for 30 years. Just an amazing story.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I am leaning toward making the curtains for the living room and dining room myself. I just don't want to spend the money that it would take to have custom draperies made. I've made curtains before and it's not that hard. I will make simple lined rod and pocket curtains. I will get the measurements today, look for hardware at Home Depot, and check out fabric at Cloth World.

BTW, I can cross the ceiling fans off my WTHIPO list. They were installed yesterday and if I say so myself, they look perfect. The WTHIPO list item for April will be replacing the cracked window.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Sham Recovery

Robert Reich and I have our differences but he is right on the mark about the "recovery":



Oh my, Spring has arrived and my garden is in shambles. I never even got around to pruning the roses much less ordering any new roses. JMM has been out this morning pulling weeds. He left one giant thistle just to see how big it will get. Our three gorgeous plumeria are dead from the unusually long hard freezes we had this winter. The lavender is fine and we did put in 6 more; I'm tempted to turn the whole bed into lavender since it thrives in our climate, requires little care, attrracts bees and hummingbirds, and smells devine. Roses and lavender--heaven on earth. Got to get my gardening act together.
The goldfinches are gone but we have seen the first barn swallow. No hummingbirds yet but one feeder is filled and hung so that any hungry hummingbirds on their way back from Guatemala can refresh themselves.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Census Irritation

We received our census form today. Essentially there were 4 questions :
1. Names
2. Age / Birthdates
3. Are we of Hispanic heritage?
4. What race are we?

I really wish that 1/2 of the information collected was not about ethnicity/race. I think it is irrelevant; we are Americans.

The Good Wife

I am absolutely hooked on The Good Wife. What a great show! The characters are multi-dimensional and the situations are real. (I do however have a problem with how thin and perfectly coiffed everyone always is though.) Each episode leaves you wanting to find out what happens next.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spring Decorating

Now that the house is paid off, the decorating that has been on hold can commence. New blinds and draperies are in the works. I'm like the birds that are busily making there spring nests. There are so many things that I want to do. This weekend we are going to Home Depot for ceiling fans for 2 of the bedrooms and look at blinds for the dining and front rooms. Draperies are a little trickier--I even considered making them but am very hesitant knowing how long it takes me to get projects finished. I may end up making them once I see the cost of custom drapes though. There's paint and wallpaper projects for the kitchen and laundry room and I'd like to tile the laundry room--putting utility carpeting in the laundry room was not a good idea. Then there is furniture for the front room and a desk for the guest room. I've been patiently waiting (well maybe not so patient but waiting anyway) and now I am getting to make things pretty.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Possum in the Potty

I get home from working the evening shift around midnight. I usually let one of more of our 3 cats in or out and then go to the back to change clothes, brush my teeth, and go to bed. One of the cats will lead the way from the kitchen, down the hall and to the bathroom. On this particular night, as we were heading down the hall when Misty came to the bathroom, she looked in and came to a full stop then abruptly did a U-turn and came back toward me. Something was in the bathroom. Having one mighty hunter cat in the family leads one to be cautious in entering a room where the catch of the day might have been brought in—small snakes, birds, frogs, all have been brought inside in the past for proper admiration. Cautiously I peeked around the corner and there was a wide-eyed plump possum looking calmly back at me. She wasn't frightened, more like curious, as if to say “Well, look who else has come in from the cold; Isn't it nice and warm in here?” Oh dear, how does one get a possum out of one's bathroom?? So off I go to get JMM to figure it out. His solution was to open both front and back doors (and let in the very cold wind that was blowing which was probably why the possum wanted to come in side to begin with). He then got the broom and ushered her toward the open back door. She felt the cold wind blowing and decided that the laundry room would be much nicer and off she ambled to the laundry room which he had not remembered to close off. Behind the washer seemed like a nice cozy place for a plump possum to settle in but JMM used the broom to usher her out and into the dining room where she could go out the front door. Nope, too cold out that door also. So back we go to the kitchen. Now you might be wondering where the cats were in all this. They were every last one of them sitting on the island in the kitchen watching the people following the possum round and round. I could see what they were thinking: “What fun!! It isn't usually this lively when she comes home from work!!” After a couple of trips round the kitchen, through the dining room, and back again, I was able to block the exit from the dining room and Madam Possum went out the front door into the cold. She never seemed particularly frightened so I think she was the possum that lived in our tomato jungle last summer so that she was used to us. She obviously wanted a warm place and maybe thought there might be fresh tomatoes inside. Finally we were able to close the doors and head off to bed. I do hope Madam found a warm place out of the wind too.
In case you are wondering how she got inside in the first place, JMM confessed that he had left the back door open after dark while he went upstairs to work on his stamp collection.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Managing Paper

Remember when it was touted that computers would make us a paperless society? Ha! I don't know about you but around my place of work and at my home, keeping ourselves dug out from under the influx of paper is a never-ending task. Here are a few of the things I do to manage the paper flow.

1. Don't put the mail down--sort it directly into where it needs to go. Most of it will go directly to the recycling bag, some directly to files, and a very few to my desk to be acted upon. The thing with paper is that it grows while you sleep--you go about your business for a few days and what was a 2 inch pile has now overrun your desk, your counter tops, and every flat surface in your house.

2. Have a filing cabinet or drawer with labeled hanging folders. (No, you are not allowed to pile papers into the drawer and close the drawer. They will multiply there until you can't get the drawer open.) I have red folders for Income Tax (blood red...), yellow for insurance folders, 12 blue monthly folders, moss green folders for warranties, and bright green folders for Social Security, voter registration, employment benefits, etc.

3. The files must be cleaned out periodically. This is what I have been doing today--cleaning out my files and wondering where on earth all this paper came from. There is a fine line in determining what to keep and what to put through the shredder. I keep this year plus the previous 9 years Income Tax; if the IRS wants more than that, they'll just have to send me to prison. I keep the papers in my monthly folder for a year. Health papers are a puzzle though; what if I have to list all my doctor, dentist, and optometrist visits in my last 25 years or be denied insurance coverage? I have no idea if I went to the dermatologist in 1997. Anyway, since I have current insurance, I just keep the previous year and figure that if I ever needed to purchase insurance, they would find one way or another to either turn me down to begin with or just take my premiums and not pay my claims.

What are your best ideas for taming the paper monster??

Thought for the day:
For anything worth having one must pay the price; and the price is always work, patience, love, self-sacrifice - no paper currency, no promises to pay, but the gold of real service. John Burroughs

Thursday, February 25, 2010

My Inheritance

My parents were never wealthy. In fact, they were in dire poverty during the years of the Great Depression; I have never experienced anything near the desperation that they lived through during those years. Through their own hard work and values they were able to give me a middle class childhood and youth, a college education, and a priceless inheritance. My inheritance included:
1. A love of reading and learning
2. The knowledge of how to live a good life by making the best of what you have. Cooking, sewing, gardening
3. A spirit of perseverance and a work ethic
4. An example of debt free living
5. A spirit of independence, taking care of my family, not being dependent on others

As I get older, how I have come to appreciate my parents and the inheritance they gave me.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Olympics

It seems like a waste of time and money to me. But then I've never been any good at sports and not interested in watching them either. I don't understand why someone would spend years and years of their lives on an activity that 3 people in the entire world every four years get a medal for. The rest of the competitors get nada; OK maybe they get to teach skiing or skating to a bunch of snotty kids for a living but really all that time and effort and money to teach at the local ice rink?? Then there are the injuries not just the injuries during the Olympics which are widely publicized but all the life altering injuries that don't get publicized in the years of training. Finally, I don't really admire people who are so totally focused on themselves which I suppose you would have to be to beat out everyone else in the world every fourth year. Not my cup of tea. Just my opinion, everyone else seems glued to their televisions.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Quilt Saga

Well, the world's slowest quilter has finished quilting the much modified Amish Cross quilt that was begun about a year ago. I have sworn off small piece patterns forever after this one. I need to trim and bind the edges and when I do I promise that I will take a picture of it and learn how to post it to the blog. I have had so much trouble with this quilt that while I am pretty pleased with it, my main feeling is one of relief. As always, there are several new quilts percolating in my mind but my next project will be to re-bind my Irish Chain quilt--the edges are quite frayed. Then there are the placemats and napkins that I bought fabric for last fall--no one need know that they were supposed to be for last fall instead of next autumn...

Thought for the day:
Old quilters never die, they just go to pieces.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My Cats

One of these days, I'll get more computer literate and post pictures but in the meanwhile, I'll just tell you about my three furry friends.

LuckyDuck is the oldest (age 7) and biggest (weight much more than it should be). And while by rights as the eldest and biggest he should be Head Cat, he is the most mellow cat I have ever known. He is one big, black furry peacenik. He was dumped on my Aunt's back porch one cold, rainy November day when I just happened to be visiting. I brought the tiny thing inside and fed and warmed him; when we left I took him with me and named him Lucky because he would not have survived the night if I had not been there to bring him in. He loves to lie belly up in the sunshine and does not like to be too far separated from his Cat Chow bowl.

Bandit is Mr. Personality, Head Cat, and as far as he is concerned, ruler of the universe. He just moved in with us about 5 years ago telling us how very fortunate we were to have him move in. We, of course, concur. He pushes LuckyDuck around until LD has had enough; LD will bat him with a massive paw, fluff himself out to an enormous size, and hiss like a fury whereupon Bandit decides it is in his best interest to back off. The thing is Bandit loves LD and wants to snuggle up with him and 99 times out of 100, they co-exist most peaceably. Bandit is the mighty hunter and has brought us birds, mice, and small snakes; most generous, he wants us to share in the joy of his triumph and announces loudly and proudly his kill. He used to be a wanderer but since last year when he was gone for 8 days (We assume he was lost in the woods.), he has stuck close to home.

Our third cat is Missy who JMM snatched out of a tree when she was a tiny kitten. We think she was the only survivor of her litter. She was very frightened the first two years that we had her and lived in the attic, coming down only for food and the litter box. JMM wanted to close off the attic so that she would have to spend more time with us but I insisted that she needed a place where she felt safe and would join us when she was ready and she has. She rarely goes to the attic unless we have company. Missy is a retriever and loves for me to toss a little ponytail hair band which she will retrieve for me. She is a very finicky eater and has always been rather bony thin. She is one of those cats that have grown prettier as she has grown and filled out a bit.

So those are my three companions with whom I share my electic blanket on these cold winter nights.

The Shouldas

I get very put out with myself when I get a case of the shouldas. You know, you should have exercised more, saved more money, kept house better, eaten nothing but healthy food (whatever the current trend in what's healthy), been more active in church / community, etc. One of the nice things about getting older is that more often one just says, "Be Gone!" to the shouldas. But occassionally, I do get caught up in the shouldas. I find myself comparing myself to others who are more successful than I in various areas. Then I think about the price that is paid for that success and realize that I have succeeded in areas that I was willing to pay the price but not in others where I didn't think the result was worth the cost to me. I have to remind myself that I have limited time, limited energy, and a finite budget and I want to be selective with each of them. I have to balance a need for activity and community with a need for peace and rest. I need to balance kindness and generosity with frugality and thrift. There are always more good things to do and be part of than there are time and resources to do them. It is a matter of balance.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Color on a gray day

We are in the gray days of winter lately. Gray skies, gray landscape. But there are jewels of color outside too--we have a flock of 50+ goldfinches around the sunflower and thistle feeders. Occassionally there is a flash of red and a cardinal has landed. The little brown & rust colored sparows and the tiny titmouse add their colors. And once in a while a great squawking blue jay clears out everyone but himself while he loads up on sunflower seeds.
Inside I have a pastel pink cyclamen blooming and my Christmas cactus is loaded with buds to bloom in a week or so.
The gray days make a nice background for the bursts of color. I think it is important to see beauty; often we see only the gray but the color is there for the looking.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Running around in the rain

JMM is taking 2 days of vacation with me this week while I am on vacation. Yesterday we had errands to do in spite of the rain. If there is one thing that sets me on edge, it is freeway driving in the rain in rather heavy traffic. No one seems to remember that you need to slow down and give yourself some extra room in case you need to come to a quick stop on rain slicked streets.
But we needed to take care of several items all in one trip.
First stop was the bank to get the back up hard drive out of the safe deposit box and then to Fry's to get a TurboTax CD on sale; this afternoon is income tax time. I am anticipating owing this year since we reduced our 403b contributions to finish paying off the house. (Yes, we have both reinstated our full 403b contributions.)
Next we drove to The Scooter Store to pick up my scooter. It is just like taking your car to a mechanic about that little odd noise the car is making and it won't make the noise when the mechanic is present. So, I am still ill at ease about my scooter just stopping on me and no one seems to know why. The battery is good, the wiring and connections are good, but the thing just stops every once in a while.
Lastly, the grocery store--$126--because I did some stocking up to replenish some depleted items. It was nice to have JMM with me; I just tore the grocery list in half and we each did half. And of course, it is nice to have help loading and unloading all the groceries.
Finally, safe and sound home!
For dinner I made Cajun Chicken Pasta which I found on PW's wonderful blog. http://thepioneerwoman.com/
If you've never spent the day at her blog, well, give yourself a treat and mosey on over. Be sure to check out the cooking section for good recipes for those of us who cook for unadventurous eaters.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Applesauce Raisin Spice Cake

Applesauce Raisin Spice Cake

2 ½ cups sifted flour
1 ¾ cups sugar
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup oil
1 ¾ cups applesauce
3 eggs
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9X13 inch pan with non-stick spray.
Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and spices into a large bowl.
Add applesauce, oil, and eggs beating at medium speed for 2 minutes.
Stir in raisins and nuts.
Turn into prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes.
Cool before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
½ cup butter
1 8 oz. cream cheese
1 lb box powdered sugar
½ tsp vanilla

This and that

It is another cold, wet day and I am glad to able to stay home on vacation.

I took my electric scooter in to The Scooter Store Monday and they called today to say that they can't find what is causing it to stop abruptly. Great, just great. I told him to keep it another day and to carefully check all the connections because something is wrong.

About a year and a half ago I had Sirius radio installed in my car. What a waste of money!! It sounded like a good idea but turned out that there simply wasn't anything that I cared to listen to on at the times that I was commuting to work. Finally today I decided not to waste any more money on it and canceled it. Frankly with internet radio these days, Sirius days are numbered.

I made an Applesauce Raisin Spice Cake this afternoon and iced it with Powdered Sugar/ Cream Cheese icing. Yikes, is it ever seriously good!! I'll post the recipe.

Have you ever watched Foyle's War? If you haven't, you are in for a treat. It is set in Hastings, England during WWII where Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle solves crimes while dealing with the difficulties of a country facing invasion, bombing, and scarcity. Excellent series; be sure to start from the beginning. I'm on a Foyle's War marathon while on vacation.