Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Mid-Winter Funk

One reason for the funk is that I am flat out tired. For those of us who work in hospitals, the period between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day is just beastly. We are always just barely staffed but during this period we are even more short staffed because of people being out sick or taking PTO. This is the same period that the hospital is at 90-100% occupancy from winter illness or from people using up their benefits before the end of the year to have procedures done that should have been done earlier in the year. Last night we didn't finish the last OR case until after 9PM and the pharmacy queue was over 100 and backed up well over an hour for most of the shift. I have this evening and two more. Blah.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

An Eye for an Eye

and a tooth for a tooth...and we all end up blind and toothless. Everyone seems to know that old saying except the Palestinians and the Israelis. I'm coming to the conclusion that they are like Charles and Diana--they deserve each other.

Now that I have offended everyone, I think I'll go back to my cooking and quilting.

Quotation for the day:

"Almost anything is easier to get into than to get out of." ~ A. Allen

Stop the Stupidity

Yesterday's column in the NYT by Bob Herbert was one that I truly wish I had the talent to write. It says so much of what I think:

We have been so stupid for so long and it is well past time to stop the stupidity. As I said in one of my posts around election time: I want serious people coming up with real plans to solve our real problems.

Thought for the day:

The challenge is in the moment, the time is always now. - James Baldwin

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Goal 2009 Update #2

Wednesday was payday and today I made the January 1, 2009 house payment plus $4400 extra principal. That brings us to $76,000 to go in the next 11 payments. We can do it if we both stay employed, stay healthy and uninjured, and with the grace of God.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Well duh

There's been a push recently to re-write home loans which had adjustable rate mortgages with the idea that the buyers would be able to keep the house and it would not go into foreclosure further glutting the market and further depressing home prices. What the process seems to have overlooked is that the buyers most likely could not afford the house in the first place. Frequently there was no money down and the buyers could just barely afford the payments with both husband and wife working. Once the rate adjusted up and/or there was a job loss, illness, or divorce, the mortgage payment was just too high to keep up with. Now the stats are showing that after the re-write to a lower, fixed rate, 37% of the re-written mortgages are 30 days or more past due. This evidently is news, a surprise to some. I don't see why--they couldn't afford the house to begin with. While I am on the subject of surprises, it seems to come as a surprise to many that life isn't always rosy, doesn't go the way we want it to, and just plains sucks sometimes. This may explain why so few have an emergency fund, have a fall back plan for when something goes wrong, or even supplies for a few days when there is a hurricane coming. I guess there is some benefit in being a pessimist--our surprises are generally pleasant ones--when things go right.

The 48 Hour Day

I have decided that since as we get older the days just whiz by that what we really need to do is count each 48 hour period as one day. I mean really it seems like I just get off the exercise bike and all of a sudden it is the next day and time to get back on it. Same with laundry and dishes. Now if as I propose, the day were 48 hours there would be some time to do other things—not necessarily useful things but nice things like naps and the internet. There would be less rushing about trying to get things done. An added benefit would be weight loss if I could just stretch my 3 meals into 48 hours…but I don’t think that one is going to fly…

Thought for the day:

" Looking foolish does the spirit good. The need not to look foolish is one of youth's many burdens; as we get older we are exempted from more and more. " John Updike

Sunday, December 21, 2008

How to make Beans and Rice

2 cups dried beans (I usually use pinto beans)
2 Tablespoons oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery (optional)
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper (optional)
2-3 cloves garlic minced
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1/2 pound Kielbasa sausage chopped into bite size pieces

Soak the dried beans over night in a large pot of water. The next day drain the beans into a colander and rinse them thoroughly.

While the beans are in the colander, heat the oil in the large pot and add the onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic. Saute for 3-4 minutes.

Remove from heat and add to the pot the beans and enough water to cover 2 inches above the beans and vegetables. Stir and return to heat. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to where it is just simmering; cover with pot lid and simmer for an hour. Stir every 15-20 minutes .

Add the Rotel tomatoes and sausage. Bring back to simmering and cover with lid; cook for another hour or until beans are soft.

Serve over rice or with toasted garlic bread or cornbread. Great for a cold night.

This is a very forgiving recipe. You can add more are less of any of the ingredients depending on what your tastes are or what you have on hand. Makes great leftovers.

Thought for the day:

There is only one corner of the universe you can change, and that is yourself, but in changing that corner, you change the universe. Chinese proverb

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Morbid fascination with the Madoff scandal

I did not have any money under Madoff's management but I have a morbid fascination with the unfolding story. I keep reading everything that comes my way about him and his business scam. I know that there are other Madoff's out there but he just seems to epitomize the financial industry's culture of greed and lack of ethics. The trainwreck of individuals who have lost their life savings and are now essentially destitute continues to draw my attention. I'm sorry about the charities and institutions he has hurt but it is the individuals who are wiped out that I keep shaking my head over. They may have thought that they were well diversified only to find that the fund manager had turned everything over to Madoff. I suppose part of what keeps drawing me to this is the knowledge that for all I know my mutual funds (despite what Fidelity or Vanguard may say) may be managed by someone just like him.

Thought for the day:

~ The greed of gain has no time or limit to its capaciousness. Its one object is to produce and consume. It has pity neither for beautiful nature nor for living human beings. It is ruthlessly ready without a moment's hesitation to crush beauty and life out of them, molding them into money. ~ Rabindranath Tagore

Busy Day

I am not happy when I mostly sit around twiddling my thumbs. I like to accomplish things and today has been a very productive day.

First of all, I am so proud of JMM for saving us $1500+ by repairing the roof. We had minor roof damage from Hurricane Ike and our insurance deductible was greater than the cost of the repair. JMM bought a new extension ladder so that he could safely get onto and off of the roof and a bucket of tar shingle adhesive; after the storm, he had gathered up the shingles that had blown off so he didn't even have to buy more shingles. Over the last month, he has gradually replaced or repaired all the shingles that had blown loose. Now we once again have a nice tight roof and have spent less than $200 to do it. Yes!

My activities today have not been quite so spectacular but were needed:
Laundry is done.
Grocery shopping is done.
The house is neatened. (I'm not sure if neatened is a word but it should be.)
And most of all I have solved the problem of how to cut my triangles so that when sewn together with a 1/4 inch seam, I will have a 2 1/2 in square. (It's not as easy as one would think.) So now I can begin cutting out the rest of my Amish Star quilt.
Cooking is under way:
I am making stuffed wieners and corn for dinner and baking a chocolate cake for dessert.

I am reading a very interesting book--This Republic of Suffering by Drew Gilpin Faust. It is about death and the American Civil War. The book explores what was considered a Good Death, how do you bury that many people, what is the obligation of the living to the dead, mourning, and much more. If the same proportion of the population that were killed in the Civil War were to be killed today, it would mean 6 million U.S. citizens would have been killed by their fellow citizens.

Thought for the day:

~ Hell has three gates: lust, anger, and greed ~ Bhagavad Gita

Monday, December 15, 2008

Goal 2009 Update #1

I have re-worked the numbers and it looks like our regular house payment + $4600 extra principal will allow us to pay the house off by December 31,2009. Today I balanced the checkbook and paid all the bills. We are on track to be able to pay the January house note + the $4600 extra principal. I know the old saying that "There's many a slip 'tween the cup and the lip." but things are looking positive for January 1 house payment plan. Yes!!!

Thought for the day:

"Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy."

Thich Nhat Hanh

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Greed and corruption

This week's news has been chock full of stories about political and business corruption. The governor of Illinois wants to sell Barak Obama's recently vacated Senate seat to the highest bidder and a hedge fund manager was actually running a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme. Yawn. Politics and business corruption, who would have thought it... You simply cannot read world history and not realize that people are not innately virtuous. All that can be done is to have a nation of laws, a free press, law enforcement, an independent judiciary, and as Professor Moody in the Harry Potter series says, "Vigilance, constant vigilance!" against the forces of evil.

Though for the day:

~ There is no fire like passion, there is no shark like hatred, there is no snare like folly, there is no torrent like greed. ~ Buddha

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Good News

I got a 2.5% pay raise. There was a time not so long ago that a 2.5% raise would have me wondering what I was doing wrong and if there was something I could do to improve. Not today!! With what is going on in the economy today, I am thrilled to be employed much less getting a pay raise.

This will help us accomplish our goal of having the mortgage paid off by December 31, 2009.

Thought for the day:

"Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them -- every day begin the task anew."

Saint Francis de Sales

Psalm 101:3

"I will set no vile thing before my eyes."

Today's chapter included the verse above. It has me thinking how much we do set before our eyes that is vile, ugly, or degrading. I am 61 years old and there's not much I haven't encountered one way or another over the years but I must say that when I go into the break room at work and the television is on Maury Povich or his ilk, I am flat out embarrassed. I think that people are desensitized by the constant vulgarity until they don't know what is vulgar and embarrassing.

Then there is what we set before our ears. Music used to be beautiful, now it is often violent, ugly, and profane.

I can certainly understand why parents choose to homeschool their children to protect them from the external culture.

Thought for the day:

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."

Helen Keller

Monday, December 8, 2008

We don't seem to have a president.

Obama doesn't become the actual President for another 6 weeks so he isn't our president. GWB seems to have abdicated. (I suppose this could be taken as a blessing.) The country is sprialing toward an out and out depression and the president is more or less comatose. Now instead of being oblivious to New Orleans after Katrina, he seems to be oblivious to the whole country. IMHO, Obama is keeping the nation together with his almost daily cabinet announcements, economic and foreign policy announcements, and plans for economic restoration. At least, he is doing something. I watched part of an interview with GWB (can't remember who was doing the interview) but he seemed so out of touch that I wondered if he were drinking again. Never have I so anxiously anticipated getting past January 22.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Library

I've been in love with libraries for as long as I remember. The Rosenberg library was my second home when I was growing up in Galveston. It was to me a massive building surrounded by live oak trees with a big statue of Mr. Rosenberg sitting on a chair right in front. I never had the nerve to climb up on the pedestal and sit on his lap but many others did. The children's area was upstairs and I think I knew every book up there. Laura Ingalls Wilder and Maud Hart Lovelace were my best friends. It was a cool quiet place. I took stacks of books home regularly.

When I was in junior high school, instead of P.E. I had the enviable position of library assistant for that period each day. It was heaven; when everyone else was getting hot and sweaty, I was in the library reading (and eating a forbidden Twinkie) with my friend Lois. We stamped in and out books for the classes that came in for a library period. I did the same thing one year in high school. Just give me library instead of P.E. any day!!

I've had several paying jobs at libraries. I worked one year at UH while I was in college. And one summer I had a wonderful job at my beloved Rosenberg library in Galveston cataloguing in the Archives; it was like being turned loose in Galveston's family attic. The last library job was at the church library. That job was very frustrating because the pay was for part time but the work was never-ending and then there was a lot of bickering among the volunteer staff.

Now it is so convenient to use the library on-line to request books and they are sent to the nearest branch. One can read and learn and enjoy to heart's content. And it is free!!

Thought for the day:

"The greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being."

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama

Saturday, December 6, 2008

How to make Veggie Soup

This is a very forgiving recipe both in terms of ingredients and cooking time. Very tasty, nutritious, and inexpensive.

¾ lb stew meat cut into small pieces
½ onion
2 Tbsp oil
2 Tbsp barley
Fr. Mixed vegetables—about 16 oz.
½ small cabbage slices very fine
Small can tomato paste
Garlic powder

Salt, pepper, & garlic powder stew meat. Toss to coat with flour. Brown meat and onion in oil.
Add 1 ½ quarts water and barley. Simmer 1 hour stirring every 15-20 minutes.
Add frozen mixed vegetables and tomato paste. Simmer 1 hour stirring every 15-20 minutes.
Add cabbage and simmer 30 minutes.
Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Excellent with any type toasted bread.

Thought for the day:

"Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime,
Therefore, we are saved by hope.
Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history;
Therefore, we are saved by faith.
Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone.
Therefore, we are saved by love.
No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as from our own;
Therefore, we are saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness."

Reinhold Niebuhr

Monday, December 1, 2008

Medical Exams

I have such mixed feelings about routine medical exams. It isn’t the financial aspect that bothers me; I have good insurance and a flexible spending account for various deductibles and co-pays. And I certainly have no hesitations about going to a doctor when I am sick or hurt. It’s all the routine exams that I wonder about—yearly physical, gyn exam, dermatologist, colonoscopy, dentist, optometrist, neurologist, etc. All of this (other than my CMT which no one can do anything about anyway) even though I am perfectly healthy and happy.

I know that there is great benefit in catching things early but quite frankly one could make a career of going to various doctors for routine exams. What is the reasonable thing to do? I think I will see a doctor when I am sick or hurt, have dental cleaning done 2 times a year, and have one routine exam. 2009 will be the year for the routine dermatology exam.


I am not much of a shopper and frankly if the economy getting better depends on me going to a mall, we are in deep doo. I wear scrubs and LL Bean and that’s it; I buy my scrubs at a shop owned by an Indian family; they treat all their customers like royalty even when I am just buying a $34 set of scrubs. The rest of my clothes and shoes come online from LL Bean because I know they will fit, they are well made, and if for some reason I want to return it, there’s a return label enclosed. I go into a family owned quilt shop every once in a while depending on what my quilting project needs. I used to buy a lot of books but now that the library has such a great system for putting books on reserve, I just keep books coming from the library. I don’t mind the weekly grocery shopping because I like to pick out the fresh produce and meat. I like to plan meals for a month at a time, then make a weekly shopping list and put it in order of the aisles in the grocery so that I don’t have to keep running back and forth. This inclination against shopping is certainly nothing new to me; I grew up with homemade cooking and homemade clothing. I have never understood the pleasure that evidently others get from shopping; there’s so much I’d rather do than drive to a mall, look for a place to park, walk from store to store, and spend money for stuff. Why would anyone rather be at a mall than home? Beats me.

Thought for the day:
Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around."
Leo Buscaglia

Sunday, November 30, 2008

One major goal for 2009

Our aim is to get the house paid off in 2009. We have no other debt so everything can be focused on paying extra principal on the house. We owe $82,000 as of December 1 and by paying an extra $5200 each month, we can pay it off in 12 months. Both JMM and I have stopped our 403b savings for this one year in order to accomplish the goal. As long as we are both in good health, are fully employed, and live our usual frugal lives, we can do it. We paid off the mortgage on our previous house and there is just nothing like having no rent and no mortgage!! If we are able to do this, we will have paid this house off in 5 1/2 years. I'm excited about it!!

Thought for the day:
"Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving." - Kahlil Gibran

Saturday, November 29, 2008

One foot in each of two futures

and I have no idea which one is real.

I am a long time fan of Dave Ramsey and his type financial advice. When I listen to Dave, I feel secure--I know what to do: pay off debt, live frugally, save and invest for the future. I can do this; I'm familiar with it.

But then I read The Automatic Earth or Sharon Astyck and I feel like I've stepped off a cliff. In this future, I'm lost. Farming, keeping livestock, milking goats? Uh, I'm lost. Maybe food storage like the Mormons?? What about transportation, lighting, fuel??? The days following Hurricane Ike gave me a taste of the isolation and lack of access to food, electricity, and fuel. And I am here to tell you, it is not a pretty option.

Which one is the real future? I don't know but I sure hope it isn't the second one.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday; in all honesty, it’s the only holiday I even like. It centers on being thankful for life’s blessings with family and friends. The best Thanksgivings are the ones where everyone contributes something to the meal and there is lots of talk and laughter. I don’t like Christmas at all with all the commercialization and the whole gimme mentality. I’m not religious enough to get into Easter and resent the commercial attempt to turn it into a mini-Christmas. I do enjoy watching a good fireworks display on Independence Day; I usually work evening shift and get to watch the fireworks in Hermann Park. Birthdays and anniversaries are fine with family. Am I a grinch? Fine, so be it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Another Weekend Financial Rape

The administration's financial wizards decided it would be best to plunder the national treasury to the benefit of their friends at Citi Group over the weekend and present it Monday as a accomplished feat. I'd say Unbelievable but unfortunately it is completely believeable.

On a personal note, in order not to be worried, upset, and depressed all the time, I am limiting the amount of time I listen to the news. I am spending more time on domestic issues--cooking, quilting, reading things that are uplifting, loving family, and being thankful for my blessings.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Last week I finished a small lap quilt. It turned out rather well even if the stitches aren't as small and even as they used to be. I get such pleasure from putting fabric together to make something beautiful and uselful. There is one very old quilt which is very special to me. It is too old and too heavy to be used much today but that quilt is where my love of quilting began.

Actually, it began in the garage with the wooden quilting frames hanging on ropes from the ceiling. The metal clamps at the corners of the frames held them together and could be loosened to roll the finished portion of the quilt under and allow the quilters to reach the unquilted portions. The garage was cool in the summer mornings and that was nice in the years before air conditioning moved everyone inside all the time. The quilt top was made of squares of fabric left over from skirts and nightgowns and blouses. The filling for this particular quilt was a World War II woolen Army blanket. The back of the quilt was larger pieces of fabric pieced together. My friends and I played jacks on the cool concrete floor of the garage under the quilt while our mothers quilted and chatted and smoked. That quilt was much too thick for me to learn how to quilt on but that is the first quilt I remember and I still have it.

There were many other quilts for me to learn on. I learned how to piece the fabrics together into interesting patterns with colors that complimented each other. I learned how to make the corners and points come together. I learned to make my own patterns. My early quilting stitches were "long enough to catch your toe in" but gradually I learned how to rock the needle back and forth through the quilt with my thimble. How grown up I felt when I could sit at the quilting frame and quilt.

I've made many quilts since those days in the garage. Today I buy fabric because there are no scraps left over from home made clothes but it is still fun to pick out the colors and patterns to go together. Many pleasant hours of my life have been spent in the company of other quilters, quilting and chatting. And it all started in the garage under a quilting frame.

The Economy and the Bailouts

The talk about the economy is unrelentingly bleak. We have seen our 403b accounts shrink by 1/2 for JMM and 1/3 for me. Mine has been somewhat protected in that 1/2 of mine is in an annuity which guaranteed a 3% return this year. The annuity is invested in ING Stable Value which is good unless it goes under. Other than the 403b losses, we are really doing just fine. We all have jobs. JMM, FM, and TSM. None of us are in immediate peril of losing our jobs. We are all in good health and able to work. This time next year the house will be paid off and we will have no debt. If we remain in good health and employed, we will have time to pay cash for new vehicles and build a CD ladder of $20,000 each month before we retire at 66. Three things are of utmost importance: 1.) Do everything we can do to remain employed. 2.) Stay absolutely focused on the financial plan. 3.) Do everything possible to remain in good health.

Are people turning into mindless robots?

Sometimes I think so. Here are 3 recent examples:

1. Hurricane Ike blew through our area a couple of months ago causing roof damage to many homes in our subdivision. Within a few days numerous roofs had various patches of blue plastic sheeting covering the damaged areas. A few days later the designated moron who inspects our subdivision for deed restriction violations sent letters to the homeowners apprising them that the blue tarps were in violation of the architectural control regulations for the neighborhood. Mindless robot #1.

2. I presented the woman making sandwiches in our cafeteria with a salad bowl to put my sandwich in so that I would not slide off the flimsy foam plate that the sandwiches are normally served on. In utter astonishment, she said "I can't do that!!" I explained that it was very simple, you just lift the sandwich off the cutting board and place it in the bowl (along with the pickle slice) which she did. It was all I could do not to say, "See, I knew you could do it!" but in keeping with my view that the world needs more kindness, I refrained. Mindless robot #2.

3. A blank stare and (almost) "Does not compute" was the response from the WalMart checker when I gave her the cloth shopping bags to place my groceries in instead of the usual plastic bags. Really, she was stumped until JMM told her to scan the groceries and put them into the cloth bags. Mindless robot #3.

Makes me think of the scary movie back in the 50's where the people were put into pods and turned into mindless robots.

Anyone run into a mindless robot lately?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Everyday Courage

When we are young, we think of courage as something brave people do on the battlefield or hardy people do to cross a glacier. These things do take courage but they are not the only kind of courage. Actually, I have begun to think that there is a lot of courage all around us but unrecognized, unspoken everyday courage. Like the good dishes that are pulled out of storage for the holidays, there is the spectacular courage of Iwo Jima or expeditions to Antarctica; then there are the everyday dishes, that are just there everyday so that we hardly think of them at all. Every time I get my hair cut, I come right up to every day courage. (No, I’m not afraid of scissors…) I mean the woman who cuts my hair. Her husband has been sliding into dementia for the past few years. He is just a shadow of the person he used to be and she misses him very much even though he is right there. She now has to do everything—her work is their main income, she has full responsibility for the house, yard, bills, meals, car repair and for him. He is still able to feed and toilet himself but she knows full well that it is just a matter of time until he won’t be able to do those things. Yet, I’ve never seen her despair—she does her work, takes care of him, and talks about her extended family, holidays, my family, what’s going on around. She’s not alone; there are so many other caretakers just keeping on keeping on bravely, with everyday courage. There are parents of terminally ill children, there are the elderly who are alone. I think there is more everyday courage going on than we can imagine.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wondering about the bailouts

Let me say first off, I don't know if the bailouts are a good thing or not; I am not coming at this with a particular point of view. But I am wondering about bailing out Ford, GM, & Chrysler. JMM and I have had 1 GM and 1 Ford vehicles in the last 35 years; the rest have been Toyotas and my current Honda. I am so happy with my Honda that I will probably continue with Honda. I am all for having an American automobile industry but my buying habits won't support it. If people won't buy the product, maybe we shouldn't bail them out. I don't know but I do wonder.

The second bailout is the re-structuring of all the deliquent mortgages. I can understand that some people were taken in by shady lenders and I know that life sometimes throws you some curves which may leave one struggling to make a mortgage payment. But I am wondering how much good re-structuring these loans will do in the long run. Will people who have been bailed out continue to make poor decisions and take equity out of their house to pay off credit cards for stuff they really can't afford? I don't know but I do wonder.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Two E's

The Economy and the Environment, like two ends of a see-saw. While the world economy was soaring, the environment was plummetting. The question is, now that the world economy is tanking, will the environment get a respite from the pillage and plunder? I wish I knew. While people have stopped buying stuff which is good, they are losing their jobs which is not good. To have a good economy, do we have to plunder and destroy the earth and its creatures? Perhaps we need to change the definition of good economy. A good economy cannot be one that consumes itself. Maybe a good economy is where there is enough--enough creative work, enough nourishing food, enough clean air & water, and enough clean energy--and that if these are not present, the economy is not good.

A good step toward answering the question of what is enough is a step toward the mirror while answering the Quaker queries:

Do I look for and see the face of God in all creation?

Do I spend time in nature listening for what I might learn?

Have I mourned the loss of species and the harm done by pollution, and am I aware of my part in these losses?

Do I endeavor to change my personal as well as societal practices as an epression of hope for the future?

Thought for the day:
"Ye have no time but this present." George Fox

So long, Leon

I've known Leon for about 8 years now. When I first met him, he was about 20 years old and had fled with his parents from Bosnia several years before. Although his English was flawless, he was very quiet and had big blue eyes that seemed to take everything in. He was a newly certified technician and was very conscientious about his work. Not long after he came to work with us, he told us that he was going to school in the mornings before working the evening shift. A couple of years later, he asked if I would write a letter of recommendation for him as he had applied to pharmacy school. He was accepted into pharmacy school and he had to switch to working the night shift so that he could go to school days. It is the gift of strength that the young have that allows them to work nights and go to school days. When he wasn't working or in school, he was studying; too busy to talk much. But then Leon graduated from pharmacy school and passed the state board exam and it was like Leon exploded--it turns out he has a great personality and sense of humor and loved to talk to everybody. It was an amazing transformation and he has a girlfriend. Two weeks ago Leon gave his resignation. He is taking a supervisory position at a neighboring hospital. And he says that he will be starting a weekend MBA program. We had his going away party yesterday. So, so long, Leon, you're what keeps America great and I'm glad that I've known you.

The problem with not having grandchildren

is that there is no one to know what you are doing wrong with your computer and to patiently show you how to fix it. So in the absence of grandchildren, we elders must help each other. Thanks to Ronni at I know what is wrong with my comments and how to fix it. I will be working on this later this weekend and hope to have comments available to more readers.

Monday, November 3, 2008

48 Hours

In less than 48 hours the two year campaign will be over and the new President and the new Congress will be in controll. Or at least in as much controll as a democratically elected government can be. What I expect from them is that they tackle the hard problems: less nation building abroad and more nation building at home. I want to see us out of Iraq and a plan to get out of Afghanistan. I want to see regulations that will prevent a repeat of the financial collapse. I want to see a major effort to end our dependence on oil, foreign or domestic and the development of renewable energy sources. I want serious people doing serious things that have been well thought out.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The only one who remembers

Both my parents died 30+ years ago and my Aunt who was the last of her generation died last May. My oldest brother died 5 years ago. I have a half-brother who is more or less the family ne'r-do-well still living but we have not been in touch for many years. I have the oddest feeling of wanting to see him only because he is the only one who remembers the old days, who remembers the people and the houses and the times. I don't suppose I will but it is so odd to know that no one remembers. Has anyone else experienced this?


I came home from work so exhausted mentally, emotionally, and physically Friday night that even after taking an Ambien to help me sleep, I woke up with a tension headache. I won't go into the details. Saturday morning not much better but by Saturday evening, I had calmed down enough to relax and read. What helped me was the beauty and peace here at OakMeadows. When we bought this property, I was less than enthusiastic but JMM had a vision of what this chest high with weeds, rutted property could be. He has worked hard to turn that vision into a lovely reality. The work week had left me feeling torn apart, fragmented. I didn't begin to recover until I stopped all the urgent weekend must get done list and went to the oak tree to sit and watch and listen. Watching the breeze flow through the grass, watching the butterflies, watching the clouds and above all, listening to the quiet sounds. The wholeness of the beauty and quiet enveloped me and made me part of it.

Thought for the day:

And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What the world needs

More of

Less of

Now repeat in front of a mirror.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Coming to Terms with Things

OK, the world is going straight to hell--> the economy, global warming, peak oil, and Sarah Palin seriously running for VP. Add in rising unemployment, two wars, and screwing the next generation. It's a real mess.

And while the world is going straight to hell, I am sitting under an incredibly blue October sky in the shade of a 100 year old oak tree muching still warm from the oven banana nut bread and watching the butterflies in the garden.

Since I've already done the only thing I can do to straighten out the mess--voting to throw the lot of them out, I may as well come to terms with things as they are and enjoy the pleasures that come my way.

Thought for the day:

The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; and the realist adjusts the sails. William Arthur Ward

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Life is full of surprises.

Things that I never thought would happen.

1. I never thought I would grow old. It just never occurred to me. Old people were old and I was not.

2. I never thought that I would have a career. Growing up in the 1950’s, I assumed that I would maybe teach for a couple of years and then stay home, have kids, and be a happy homemaker. Well, I did teach for a couple of years and I did stay home for several years but I didn’t like teaching and was bored and broke staying home.

3. I never thought I would miss my parents for the rest of my life. You’re supposed to grieve and get over it. But I still miss talking or writing to my parents.

4. I never thought I would enjoy cooking—and sure enough, I never have…

5. I never thought I would love cats. We were dog people until JMM and TSM went to the animal shelter and brought home this tiny bit of white fur that purred in my hands. Turns out I am a complete sucker for anything that is warm and purrs; who would have guessed.

6. I never thought I would do a blog. Well, for most of my life, there weren’t any blogs so I guess this isn’t too surprising.

7. I could never have imagined having such a loving marriage for 40+ years. I loved JMM when I was 17 and have loved him more every year. The same goes for my precious daughter; I have loved her more than life itself for over half my life. What a blessing to have shared my life with these two.

8. I never thought of myself as an artist but I think now of my quilting as an artistic expression.

9. I never thought I would vote a straight Democratic ticket but early voting starts tomorrow and I can hardly wait!!

10. That’s it—the rest of my life has been carefully and thoughtfully planned for and successfully carried out…LOL To tell the truth, most of the time, it’s just been winging it.

Thought for the day:
When you are 20, you worry what others think about you.
When you are 40, you don't care what others think about you.
When you are 60, you realize that others were never really thinking about you in the first place.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Government by Lay-away

Boomie at has a post up about lay-away making a comeback. Those in my generation remember lay-away but for those who grew up with credit cards, it was a system by which if you wanted to purchase something, say a dress, you went to the store and picked out the dress, put a portion of the price down, the merchant kept the dress while you made monthly payments (usually 3 to 6 months); when the payments were complete you took the dress home. There was no interest charged. You got the merchandise only after it was completely paid for.

I was thinking that this is a concept whose time has come (back) only now we will put the government on a lay-away plan. You want a bailout? No problem, just $100 billion a month for 7 months and you've got your bailout!! Want a war? Great, $100 billion for 10 months (or if you are in a hurry $200 billion for 5 months) should cover a moderate sized war. There are some great possibilities here.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mad Men

We've been watching the television series Mad Men on Netflix DVDs. I have really mixed feelings about it. It is extremely well done--good story lines and the acting is just the best. I remember the fashions, the hairstyles, the furniture, even the avocado telephones. I remember the prevalent haze of cigarette smoke and I remember the way women were treated. But I don't remember it as unremittingly unhappy as it is portrayed and I don't remember the alcohol everywhere, all the time. I wouldn't want to go back to the limitations on women that was the norm in the early 1960s; I have certainly benifitted from educational and employment opportunities and most of all from the ability to control my own fertility. The availability and acceptability of birth control has made all the rest of the improvements in women's lives possible. But there is something about the show that I just don't like--not everyone drank, smoked, and was unfaithful to their spouse--and Mad Men makes it appear that they did.

Sirius Radio

I have a long commute to work and like to have something to listen to on the way. Sometimes I have a good book on CD but many times I have nothing but the radio to listen to. They say that television is a vast wasteland but I am here to tell you that if television is a wasteland, talk radio is a vast cesspool. Today my dear daughter took my van to the Car Toyz store and had a Sirius radio installed. I registered and activated it online. I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to having a selection of commercial free stations to listen to--music, news, NPR, Martha Stewart, and even Oprah!!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

How about a nice guillotine?

I am beginning to identify with the French peasants of the 18th century. Perhaps a few lopped heads would have these and the other CEOs who have raped our financial system thinking twice about landing their golden parachutes and finding themselves on the steps to the guillotine.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Social Network

Maintaining relationships in today's fluid culture is difficult. We move often and work/commute long hours. Previous generations had extended family relations which was sometimes a good thing and sometimes not so good. JMM and I have moved many times and for the last 20 years I have worked full time. I have no family left with which we have any relationship at all. We do maintain family relations with JMM's brother and sister and their spouses. DD lives half a continent away and depending on where her career takes her, most likely she will continue to live at a distance. So it looks like if I am to have a social network, I will have to make it myself.

It is easy with my long commute & work hours and fatigue from CMT to just withdraw but quite frankly, it is lonely and boring. There are several avenues that I want to look into: There is a new Episcopal church which is close to us (well as close as anything is out here in the cow pastures). I also want to see if there are any book groups or nature groups.

We shall see how this progresses.

Thought for the day:
"We can do no great things; only small things with great love." Mother Teresa.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Tina Fey

Since this blog is a Palin Free Zone, I'll let Tina Fey do the honors.

The Wall Street Financial Meltdown

I did our quarterly financial statment today. While it wasn't pretty (our retirement accounts are down by $36,000), the meltdown didn't wipe us out by any means and we won't be needing any of it to be withdrawn for another 5 years. Our debt on the house (our only debt) dropped by $14,000 which certainly brings a smile to my face. We have good health, good jobs, and a deep & abiding love for each other; we live quietly and have modest expenses. I am very displeased with the way that mortgages and other forms of credit were freely poured out with no regard for ability to repay which caused this mess in the first place but I am not overly concerned with our situation.

Now for what I more concerned about: Our nation has developed an "I want what I want and I want it right now" mentality. Get it now and pay for it (maybe) later. We squander our resources and shackle ourselves with debt to worship at the altar of More. We do it not just as individuals but as a nations--useless wars and foreign interventions. Don't we have enough to do at home? Couldn't we husband our land and water? Couldn't we tend our poor, sick, and elderly? Couldn't we provide a loving, nurturing education for our children? Wouldn't we then be in a better position to help others?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Dealing with Health Insurance Companies

I had to spend time yesterday on the phone with United Healthcare. They paid for my mammogram but rejected the radiologist’s fee for reading it. Just the usual insurance company harassment; they are betting that a percentage of people will just see the bill and pay it. I took the time and trouble to call them, tell them that it was absurd to pay for a mammogram but not the reading of it, and get them to agree that it should have been paid and that it will be paid.

JMM and I are in good health, are well educated, and have health insurance. How do people who have major health problems cope with the onslaught of bills and insurance paperwork?? How about people without health insurance at all??

The American public is so screwed by our healthcare system.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Secrets of the Universe (and other nonsense)

Secret #1
Evidently much of the financial meltdown has been brought about by believers that for a mere $20,000 investment, they can have revealed the secrets to making millions in real estate. Dave Ramsey frequently rails against the late night television hucksters selling tape sets on how to do this and the family FBI agent tells me that it is rampant. It is very hard for me to understand how someone could really believe that with no money, bad credit, and no real possibility of paying off loans, there is a “secret” way that they can buy a home or several rental houses and make millions of dollars. I guess it takes more belief/gullibility/stupidity than I have.

Secret #2
One of my co-workers tells me that there is a secret society that really runs the Federal Reserve and actually extends its reach to run the world economy. Much past this and I tell him that I have too much work to do to listen to his conspiracy theories.

Secret #3
The book The Secret and many others like it tell us that the secret is to believe and it will happen. The universe smiles on those who believe. But what if different people believe opposite things—does the universe get confused??

Secret #4
When I was a child, the church said that if I believed, my legs would be made strong. Obviously I didn’t believe enough to cure my genetic CMT. The good thing about this was that I learned early to be skeptical about the powers of belief.

Now I am all for having a generally positive attitude but reality really needs to be given some consideration. The old saying that "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't." is still sound advice.

Thought for the day:
Almost anything is easier to get into than to get out of." ~ A. Allen

Friday, September 26, 2008

Riot On!!

Call me crazy but I am delighted with the uproar over the Wall Street bailout. It seems that Americans are waking up from the stuporous state we have been in these past years. Riot On!! Whether or not the bailout goes through, I am overjoyed that massive numbers of people are slapping their representatives around and giving them an earful of just how fed up they are.

Now maybe, just maybe, people will be awake enough to notice the cost of what is going on in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Pakistan. One of the few times I’ve really agreed with Charlie Rangel was when he proposed a military draft. As soon as all the mamas and pappas see that their little Gap clad darling may be sent to get his arms or legs blown off, there would be massive resistance to it.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Stock Market Turmoil

The stock market is in major turmoil. It’s like Enron on a global scale. It may get better or it may not. There may be some temporary fixes which will come from the taxpayers but where the end of it is, no one knows. On a personal level, I have stopped all my 403b contributions and will use that money to finish getting the house paid off. Half of my retirement funds are in a fixed rate annuity but who know when that company will go under. But rather than living in fear of the future, I am enjoying today. Good job, good family, good health, good food, water, and electricity. Life is good.

Thought for the day:

To live content with what you have;

To seek elegance rather than luxury,

And refinement rather than fashion;

To be worthy, not reputable,

and wealthy, not rich;

To listen to stars and birds,

babes and sages with open heart;

To study hard;

To think quietly,

act frankly,

talk gently,

await occasions,

Hurry never;

In a word to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common

–This is my symphony.

William Henry Channing

Thursday, September 18, 2008

After Ike

I haven't abandonded Ruminations; I didn't have power until Monday and today is the first day that internet service is up.

We are exceedingly busy at work with so many hospitals down everything funnels to the ones that are open. Dialysis patients are in critical need and so many centers still have no power so we are getting some very sick HD patients. Everything from burns from generators to wounds from downed fences to heart attacks and the emotionally traumatized.

I'll get a post up about Ike later.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Waiting for Ike

Hurricane Ike is slowly making its way to Galveston. Those who were wise have left the island and the other coastal areas. It has been over 40 years since the Galveston area has taken such a big storm. In that time, many houses have been built where none should have been allowed. There will be much loss of property.

We are as prepared as we can be. Food and water, windows boarded, gasoline for the vehicles and generator, water in the big tub. Now we wait--for the wind & rain and for the electricity to go off.

Quote for the Day:
Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones.
--Phillips Brooks

Monday, September 8, 2008

In the Twilight Zone

The old television show from the 1960’s bears a remarkable resemblance to this year in politics. The conventions, the ads, the talking heads all full of sound and fury but only about the inane, the absurd, and the inconsequential. Somewhere in another universe someone must be discussing our need for a rational energy policy to get us past our imported oil addiction, or about how we can fund Medicare much less provide adequate healthcare for all our citizens, or about if we are going to be in a perpetual state of war with one country right after (or even simultaneously with) another, or about how many digits are in the national debt—10? 20?. But these are not the topics of discussion—we are bogged down in sex and religion. As the old into music to the show went da da da da …

Another TZ moment this morning: A taxpayer funded bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with a $9.4 and $14 severance package to their respective former CEOs. da da da da

I really feel like I'm just not in the same universe with these people.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

My Mother's Business

My Mother’s Business

My mother grew up during the Great Depression. Her family was poor before the depression but truly destitute during the years just before the war. She left school after the eighth grade to work wherever she could find work. During World War II she worked in a shipyard as a welder and always said it was the best job she ever had. She ate in the shipyard cafeteria the best food she had ever eaten and had any needed medical attention. She met my father who was a merchant seaman; they married right after the war and I was born in 1947. During the 1950’s it was the norm for married women to be homemakers and not work outside the home. Even though my father earned a good living as a seaman, the years of poverty had left her wanting to be able to bring in her own income. She decided that she could become a beautician and open her own shop. No one in the family supported her aspiration. She was told that she couldn’t do it and that it would never be profitable and to forget about it. My father’s work often took him to ports on the other side of the world and he would be gone for 3-4 months at a time. So while he was gone, she enrolled in beauty school and by the time he came back, she was a licensed beautician. He decided to humor her and built a small addition to our house where she opened her little shop. While doing the practical hours of beauty school, she concentrated on those women who were older and worked outside their homes too. The little shop was successful and profitable from the very beginning because many of her beauty school clients came with her to her new business. I grew up with a steady stream of regular customers in my mother’s shop who were more like extended family than customers. You could tell which day of the week it was by who was sitting under the hairdryer—If it was Mrs. McCleese, it was Wednesday, no doubt about it. I asked her once why she was so determined to have her own business. She told me that my Grandmother had kept the family from starvation by starting her own business sewing men’s shirts in the logging camps of East Texas. I think my father was surprised at just how profitable the business was and was rather proud of her. About 10 years after she opened the shop, my father had a stroke and was unable to work for the rest of his life. That little shop in the back of the house made all the difference in the world in how they were able to live their lives comfortably. I was very fortunate to have a mother who was determined to have her own business.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

My kind of garden

I read quite a few blogs written by avid gardeners who grow vegetables to can or freeze and I am in awe of them. How lovely to be able to go outside and pick a fresh salad or berries from the bushes!! I am, unfortunately, not one of them.

Last summer I bought a 99 cent package of Mexican sunflower seeds. JMM scratched up an area in the flower bed, scattered the seeds, patted them down, and we both forgot about them. A month or so later we had 3 foot high sunflower plants with beautiful orange flowers with bright yellow centers. They bloom whether you water them or not. And best of all, the butterflies just love them. We have Monarchs, Gulf Fritallaries, and an unknown yellow & black butterflies on them all the time.

Speaking of the garden, the late summer hummingbirds are beginning to arrive. We have 4-6 of them; it's hard to count when they are zooming around so fast. All are Ruby Throated hummingbirds as far as I can tell. Amazing that something so tiny can travel so far in migration and be so beligerant when we take the feeders down to wash and refill them. They will actually dive at us and scold us when we come too near their feeders!!

"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)

What I just cannot stand

Animal suffering or abuse. I can't even read about it. This morning's newspaper had an article about polar bears swimming farther and farther as the Artic ice melts. I couldn't read it. Friday night on the radio there was a segment about increased poaching of elephants for ivory because of increased demand from China. I couldn't listen to it. Humans seem determined to destroy the larger wild animals if not directly then by habitat destruction.

There seems to be little that I can do other than love and care for the creatures that come into my life here at OakMeadows--raccoons, frogs, hummingbirds, and of course, sweet cats. I can lessen the amount of meat that I eat and make sure it is not factory farmed. I can donate to the Humane Society and The Nature Conservancy. I can vote to elect people with strong environments ethics. If I didn't focus on what I can do, I would truly despair.

Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws ofsupply and demand. It is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy." - Wendell Berry

Monday, August 18, 2008


I have been watching the building of the new house next door with interest. It is fascinating to watch the sculpting of the fill dirt, the preparation and pouring of the foundation, and now the framing of the house. What is immediately apparent is that every last one of the workers is Hispanic. They are there shortly after sun-up and work until 5 or 6 pm. They are working in 95 degree heat with 90+% humidity. I don't know how they do it. Most of us would be in the ER with a heat stroke by noon. In all probability most of them are not here legally.

I remember the Texas Medical Center after Tropical Storm Allison ravaged us. Who cleaned up that horrible, stinking, toxic mess?? You got it--there were Hispanics lined up to be hired as day labor right on the corner of Fannin by the Neurosensory Building every morning at day break. And from what I read, Hispanics moved into New Orleans to work as day laborers in cleaning and re-building there after Hurricane Katrina. Recently, I read about the raid on the kosher meatpacking plant in Iowa where hundreds of Hispanics were working in the most disgusting conditions. (Needless to say, nothing happened to the owner of the plant but that is another post.)

OTOH, there are really bad people who come into this country illegally to profit from drugs and gangs who commit all kinds of horrible crimes. These people deserve the full force of our criminal prosecution. But I do think that the majority of the "illegal aliens" that conservative talk show hosts rant about just want a job and a place to live and some beer to drink on the weekend. I also think that we need to remember that unless we were brought here as African slaves, every last one of us have an ancestor who looked around where they were and said "This place sucks: I'm outta here." and left to come here. I know good and well that if I had been born in a dirt floor hut in Central America, I'd have come North or died trying.

Immigration is complicated and we need legislation so that we would know who is here. We also need the legislation that would protect those who choose to live and work here.

You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out he hates all the same people you do. Anne Lamott

Saturday, August 16, 2008


We are aggressively paying off our mortgage. We have been here at OakMeadows for 4 years and have paid extra principal payments all along. The house is the only debt that we have--the 2 vehicles are paid for and the credit card gets paid completely each month so we are able to focus on the mortgage. The plan is to be mortgage free by January, 2010. (But since when do plans go exactly the way you want them to...) We had 2 big expenses in August--We replaced our old dead television with a new 42" flat screen and we filled the propane tank for the year so we will have much less to pay extra with the September payment. I debated with myself about the television but since we have no reception and no cable out here, Netflix is our weekend entertainment and it is lovely to see movies on the larger screen. (I refuse to spend what it costs to go to theaters these days.)

I have always been a generally frugal person because I work too hard for my money to waste it and because I am just not a shopper. Shopping is an activity that has to be done occassionally--groceries weekly and clothing a couple of times a year, cars and appliances have to be replaced, etc. But shopping as a pastime just would never occur to me. My parents were of the Great Depression/World War II generation so I grew up with frugality is just normal. I never felt deprived--we had a good, paid for home, food, a paid for Chevy, and my mother was a super seamstress. There are people who are more frugal than I am; I can appreciate their activities but try to balance what I would save with how much time and energy it would cost me.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


As much as I try to avoid and deny it, I have periodic bouts of depression. I am in one now. A big part of it is from dealing with CMT. CMT makes everything difficult. Imagine wearing a thick pair of stiff gloves all the time, every day; imagine not having muscle control from your knees down. It is exhausting just getting the daily chores done. But what I think is bringing on this round of depression is that I am realizing that it is never going to get better; I am always going to be tired and things are just going to get more difficult.

Because in my work every day I see so many people with diseases so much more debilitating--cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, ALS, I tend to trivialize my CMT and thank my lucky stars that I am dealing with CMT and not something much worse. But the fact is that I am struggling to keep living a relatively normal life with an abnormal body and it is not easy.

There are so many things I want to do that I simply do not have the energy to do. I am having to find the most efficient ways to do things to conserve what energy that I do have. On days that I work, I have a pretty good morning routine and I will just have to stick with it and not try to add other things in. On days that I don't work, I have to try to get all my shopping or cooking done before noon because I am finding that I pretty much collapse if I try to keep going.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Tropical Storm on the way

It looks like Galveston will be getting Tropical Storm Eduard tonight or tomorrow. We certainly need the rain but since it will go in north and east of us, we may not get much. It is a minor storm now but may (or may not) intensify as it gets closer to the coast. Since we don't have television reception here at OakMeadow, we are spared the non-stop warnings and precautions. So much of what passes for news now is just sensationalization. I guess they have to say something to fill up all the hours of news time but I don't have to listen to it.

I've been through some doozies of hurricanes and have a very healthy respect for them. One of my earliest memories is being carried by a National Guardsman through the swirling water of Hurricane Audrey; then there was Hurricane Carla which put 3 feet of sea water into my parents house; then there was Hurricane Camille when I was in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I deliberately chose not to live on the coast because of the possibility every year of being flooded by a hurricane. We are far enough inland that rising tides are not a concern; torrential rain, winds, and tornadoes are always possibilities. Life is not risk free; you limit your risk and go from there.

As I have said before, I am appalled that people have built houses right on the beach with nothing but a small sand dune between them and the Gulf. When a hurricane comes along, as it inevitably will, and destroys their house, all the reporters will be out sympathetically interviewing the people who have lost their homes. Well, duh, what do you expect when you build there???

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Loss

I am mourning the loss of a beautiful view. For the 4 years we have been here at OakMeadow I have be able to sit in my rocking chair and look across a 2 acre field to the trees along the creek. It is a lovely, restful view but the owners of the property have started to build their house. Now I will look out and see a house. I'm sure it will be a beautiful house but there is no comparison to a field and trees. I think I shall move my rocking chair to the opposite corner so I won't so often be reminded of the lost view.

This brings me to think about all the ugliness we inflict upon ourselves. We cut down a couple of trees to put in another strip shopping center. Like the world needs another gas station, nail salon, dry cleaners... We pave over acres for malls and movies and big box stores. All that was pretty is paved over. There's always money for cutting down and paving over but precious little for preserving or for parks and trails. We are like Esau who sold his inheritance for a mess of pottage.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Economy

I spent $58 to fill up my van with gasoline and $132 at WalMart for groceries. There were some extras--replacement for garden hose, big bag of birdseed for the feeders--but there usually is something extra. We can afford $50+ for gasoline, $100+ for groceries, $750 to fill the propane tank but it must be a real challenge for people in the $40-50,000 range in addition to housing and children and near impossible if there is an income interuption such as job loss or medical problems.

OTOH, I see people who can least afford it making one foolish decision after another. Buying junk food from vending machines, smoking, lottery tickets, doing as little as possible at work, not getting an education, credit cards and payday loans. But it is not just lower income folks, the middle and upper middle income groups can be just as foolish-->You want it??-->just put it on a credit card. Bigger house-->no problem-->bigger mortgage. Live right up to the limit. Assume everything is going to be rosy--you or your spouse will never get sick or lose a job so there's no need to save for a rainy day. The idea of saving up for something, well, it just would never occur.

There's several sides to today's economy. Yes, food and energy costs are up but for a long time many Americans have had really unrealistic expectations of what they can afford.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hot, hot , hot

It is baking hot outside. It is always hot in July, August, and September but it seems worse than usual this year because of the lack of rain, because it turned very hot by the first of June, and because it doesn't cool down much at night. It was 80 degrees before the sun came up this morning. The water level in the stupid (man-made) lakes is way down. What a waste of water and electricity. I look outside and wonder how the trees and shrubs survive; quite a few of them wouldn't if it werren't for Joe watering them. I wish there were a way to drain water from our shower, sinks, and washer to our trees.

I wonder if we will have a hurricane this year; we haven't had one since 2005 when Katrina took out New Orleans and was followed by Rita. According to Global Warming, hurricanes will be both more frequent and more severe. They are probably right but even if not, because of the tremendous build up of population along the coast, subsidence, and the draining of the coastal marshes, the damage caused by any hurricane is increased by several orders of magnitude. Joe and I are just incredulous at all the houses along the West End of Galveston Island.

My portable clothesline came and I was pleasanttly surprised that it was fully assembles and I only had to unfold it and set it up. Although I plan to use it in the garage (because the stupid subdivision won't let us have outside clotheslines), I refer to it as my solar clothes drier. My next solar projects are a solar charger for my scooter and a solar oven.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


I don't think that I will ever retire unless I become physically unable to work or if the job market for hospital pharmacists dries up. The future is, of course, unknowable so I may not be able to continue but I will make my plans to continue. There are two main reasons for continuing to work--one financial and one personal. The financial is simple: It takes a lot of money to maintain a comfortable, interesting life; it has been my experience that having money seldoms makes a situation worse. The second reason is that I flat find staying home boring. I can enjoy being at home for several days at a time but after that I want to go somewhere and do something. I enjoy homemaking to an extent but not as a total life.

Deciding not to retire has a couple of benefits. First of all, I don't have to feel pressured to live ultra-frugally both now (in order to retire later) and in the future when I would ber living on a fixed, limited income. Now this is not to say that I will not continue to save for a rainy day but it does replace the negative pressure with a more positive knowledge that the rainy day fund is there if needed. Another benefit is that not retiring encourages good practices of both mental and physical health. Lastly, not retiring gives "permission" to enjoy the here and now as long as debt is not incurred and the rainy day fund continues to grow.

I know this is not an option for people who do hard manual labor or who have physical disabilities that cannot be accomodated in the workplace. It is also not a good plan for those who have jobs they find boring or who work in unpleasant situations. And finally, it is not for those who find homemaking the calling of their lifetime.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

To Work or Not to Work, That is the Question

I read a lot of blogs written by Happy Homemakers. They love cooking and cleaning and making their homes an inviting haven from the outside world. Many of them have small children and it is natural that they center their lives around hearth and home. Among the elderblogs that I read, there are a few Happy Homemakers; most are retired or out of the workforce for one reason or another. I love my home, I love my dear family, I love our OakMeadows land but....I confess, I am your basic Worker Bee. If I were not paid well or if I were mistreated at work, I may not feel the same way. I spent years at home when DD was small and I consider that time well spent; I flat don't see how women with small children manage to be back on the job 6-12 weeks after having a baby. Sheesh, I didn't get a night's sleep until DD was 3 years old. As DD grew older, I grew tired of being dependent and wanted to know that I could take care of myself. So I went back to school and became a Pharmacist. There are irritations and sometimes I want to chunk it but the thought of being without an income gives me an anxiety attack. Yes, not working would give me more time to quilt and cook and read and clean but I don't much like to cook, I can hire the cleaning done, and I can quilt & read on the weekends. At 60 I am fortunate to have the choice to work or not to work. For now the answer is Work.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Fit, Fat, or Forget it

Losing weight. Most everyone wants to be physically fit, trim, and thin; most everyone is actually physically unfit, flabby, and fat. Is this national obsession just a means to pick our pockets with books, DVDs, Jenny Craig & Weight Watchers, gym memberships, and talk shows?? Or is it our national desire to have it both ways—eat whatever, whenever and still be healthy?

We/I know what is healthy and we/I flat don’t want to do it. I want my Cokes and Cheetoes and I don’t want to exercise. But I do want to be healthy. People didn’t used to be so fat; yes there were some fat people but not in such proportions. Why? I think it is the prevalence of junk food and massive portion sizes. A big part of my overweightedness is my life long addiction to Cokes. Although I have never smoked, I know how smokers feel—I love the taste of, smell of, bubbly feel of Cokes, Cokes calm me down and help me think, it’s part of the daily ritual, how could you ever not have a Coke with pizza?? Or should I even be ruminating over weight?? For Heaven sakes, I’m 60 years old and other than my CMT, healthy. Why not just forget the whole thing?

Quote for the day:
Middle age is when you have a choice of two temptations and choose the one that will get you home earlier. Anom.