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