Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I wish I could write.

No matter what I do, I can't seem to write.  If I sit with a pen and paper I doodle, make some useless list to add to all the other useless lists I have lying about, or just sit and stare.  At my computer I end up playing some mindless game or reading/looking at random web pages.  I haven't even been blogging lately.  I'm working on it, though.

Friday, May 20, 2011

No internet access

I haven't been able to post lately because I currently have no internet.  Its frustrating, but that's the way it is.  I'll get back to this more often when I have internet again.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Y is for Youth -- Day 25 of the "A to Z Blogging Challenge"

Everything today seems to be about youth. Trying to get a job after 50 is difficult, at best. Nevertheless, I wouldn't trade my experience for youth. I'd hate to have to learn all those lessons the hard way again.

When I decided to make this blog entry about youth, I decided to search for a quote or two to use. Below are a few interesting quotes about youth. They all come from www.thinkexist.com. It never occurred to me when I started looking up quotes about youth that the best one of all would be from Sophia Loren.

"Youth is wasted on the young." George Barnard Shaw

"You can only be young once. But you can always be immature." Dave Barry

"An inordinate passion for pleasure is the secret of remaining young." Oscar Wilde

"It takes a long time to become young." Pablo Picasso

"You are never too old to become younger." Mae West
"In youth we learn; in age we understand." Marie Von Ebner-Eschenbach

"Youth is easily decieved, because it is quick to hope." Aristotle
"There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of the people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age." Sophia Loren

X is for Xyresic Xanthochroid Xanthippe -- Day 24 of the "A to Z Blogging Challenge"

I am a xyresic xanthochroid xanthippe. There, I said it! Its out in the open for all to see. I'm not the least bit ashamed, either.

What, you ask, is a xyresic xanthochroid xanthippe? The following definitions are from my favorite source of obscure words, the Grandiloquent Dictionary (http://www.islandnet.com/~egbird/dict/dict.htm)

Xyresic: Being as sharp as a razor.
Xanthochroid: A blond haired and blue eyed person with fair white skin.

Xanthippe: An ill tempered woman.

Therefore, I am an ill-tempered woman with blonde hair, blue eyes, and fair skin, and I like to think I'm as sharp as a razor. Ok. So my hair isn't completely blonde, it has a lot of red in it, and I do have freckles now, though as an infant my skin was as pale as porcelain. Oh, and some days I don't feel so sharp. But I still think I qualify.

I'll bet you didn't think I'd come up with even one legitimate word starting with X for today, no less three.

Blog on, friends.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for Weddings -- Day 23 of the "A to Z Blogging Challenge"

Weddings are a hot topic these days for many reasons, so I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon with this one. No, I'm not talking about the William and Kate wedding. That is irrelevant to me. I never got the Charles and Diana thing. Why should I care? I am, however, talking about weddings in the form of nontraditional marriages - specifically same-sex and transsexual unions.

Why do I care about this topic? I care because I hear every day about people who truly care for each other who are penalized for their sexual preference or gender identity, especially in the area of marriage. This came to mind when I saw a TV news item about a proposed law in Texas that reverses the right of transgender people to marry using their post-surgical gender on the marriage license. Aside from preventing couples from getting married, this law could be used to retroactively and forcibly annul previously approved transsexual marriages. Shades of California! I hope Texans come to their senses over this travesty.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for Verbivore -- Day 22 of the "A to Z Blogging Challenge"

A verbivore, according to the Grandiloquent Dictionary (http://www.islandnet.com/~egbird/dict/dict.htm) is a person who devours words. I'd say that is a good description of me, as well as many of my acquaintances who love to write. Few things give me more pleasure than finding just the right word for a situation.

I chose this word because, to be perfectly honest, I couldn't come up with a unique topic for the letter V. Since I love words so much, I decided to fall back on my old habit of just looking through lists of words to find the one I wanted, and found verbivore.

U is for Unhappiness -- Day 21 of the "A to Z Blogging Challenge"

I've spent far too much of my life unhappy for various reasons -- loss of loved ones, pain, bad relationships, depression, etc.... I've been working on that, though. My wake up call came many years ago when I chatted daily on IRC. That's Internet Relay Chat, for those of you who don't know. IRC was (and still is, to some extent) text-only chat - No GUI, no premade smileys. A plain smile was :) and the permutations were endless. My personal smiley was @>;^> That is a devillish smile on someone whose nose has been broken (for one too many mischievous remarks), winking, with horns holding up a halo with a bun on top of the head in the middle of the halo. I used ascii codes to color the various parts, too -- red for the halo/bun and the lips, black for the horns and nose, and blue for the eyes.

Anyway, back to my wake up call. I was chatting with a long-time friend on IRC and he told me that I was too negative, that conversations with me were depressing and made people feel bad at times. I logged off and cried for a while. Then I started reading some of the messages I had sent and realized he was right. Almost everything I said was negative. Since then I've tried to turn it around. That's not to say I'm always successful in my efforts to be more positive, but at least I try. If I find myself in Eeyore mode, I stop, take a breath, and look for something positive to focus on.

Monday, April 25, 2011

T is for Time-- Day 20 of the "A to Z Blogging Challenge"

One of my favorite lines is that time is nothing more than a construct devised by mankind in an attempt to define, and therefore control, his environment. One of my friends would tell you that is a "Cleta-ism." Apparently he has made a list of them.

Time has always been one of my enemies. I can lose track of time in the blink of an eye, especially when I'm doing something I enjoy. If I have to be somewhere to be at a specific time I don't dare pick up a book or get online unless I have an alarm set -- and it had better be a loud and/or annoying one.

I semi-jokingly tell people that I have two modes, half an hour early and half an hour late. I like to start the day half an hour early so that, by the end of the day, I am on time.

S is for School -- Day 19 of the "A to Z Blogging Challenge"

Gather 'round and let me tell you a story of someone who changed her own life. At age 28 she decided to go to college even though she had five kids, ranging in age from 2 to 10. The year before she started school the income for her family of 7 was under $8,000. She couldn't find a job that would pay enough to cover child care so she went to college instead. She got very little emotional support in her educational quest. Her husband took an "I'll just let the little lady get it out of her system" attitude. Her father told her repeatedly not to rock the boat in her marriage and if she ever ended up making more money than her husband she should downplay it to avoid bruising his ego. Her children (one in particular) complained bitterly that she wasn't always home any more and stopped baking bread as often.

Despite all the problems she encountered while going to school she gave it her all. She thought she was stupid in high school, until she looked back and realized that she had fairly well breezed through with mid B average. When college started she became a woman obsessed. She, who had routinely resorted to writing excuse notes for school in crayon, set out on a quest for the perfect ink pen. The addiction started simply, with her first trip to the college bookstore, and rapidly grew to include pencils and highlighters, too. Soon everything related to her four classes was color-coded. Specific pencils for math class and specific types and colors of pens for taking notes and matching highlighters for marking her books, all of which matched the folders she had designated for the classes.

When she got a part time job she used color coding in her schedules. One color for classtime, one for work, one for lab time, and one which was rarely used because it was for leisure. It was the only way she could keep things on track. Her time with her kids was often used as study time, with her reading her assignments to the children as their bedtime stories. Not many kids these days know much about Dante's Inferno" (part of the 14th century writer's Divine Comedy") or the many plays of Shakespeare, but hers did.

Maybe that's why my.....er...her kids have such twisted senses of humor.

R is for Research -- Day 18 of the "A to Z Blogging Challenge"

I love doing research. I love it on the internet. I love it in a library. I love it in books. To me, research is like a treasure hunt.

I learned to research when I could barely read. We had a set of encyclopedias when I was growing up. It was old, and one volume was missing, but I loved it. I also loved the huge dictionary Mama bought later on. It weighed about twenty-five pounds. It wasn't just a dictionary. It had a thesaurus, measurement conversion charts, and Spanish-English, French-English, and German-English dictionaries in the appendices. I learned to research using these beloved books.

I would pick a volume of the encyclopedia at random and flip through it until I found something that looked interesting. I would read the entry, and write down the references at the end, then I would look them up and read them. I could entertain myself for an entire day this way.

After we got the dictionary, I expanded my research hobby to use it. I learned words from it that other people my age had never heard of. I didn't know about things my classmates knew, like sex and current trends, but I knew a lot of other things. I learned that the other languages in the dictionary had a lot of similarities to English. Once I spent a whole weekend looking for the longest word in the dictionary.
Hmmmm... I wonder my desire to write has to do with my love of books as a child. Probably so.

Q is for Quiet... and the Lack Thereof -- Day 17 of the "A to Z Blogging Challenge"

I live with my son and his family, and I'm the stay-at-home grandma and live-in babysitter. My son's five kids range in age from 13 to 3, so you can imagine how noisy it can be. The boys, ages 13 and 8, love their shoot-em-up XBox games and the girls' favorite game involves shrieking as they stampede through the house. I call this shrieking havoc.

Not all of the kids live here full-time. The older boy and the oldest girl live with their mothers and spend weekends here. My son has custody of the younger boy, but is very generous with visitation for his mother, so he spends a lot of time with her.

Now this makes it sound like it shouldn't be too loud here sometimes, but that's not the case. The two little girls, who are my son's children with his current wife, are the noisiest of the lot. I always thought when my kids were growing up that they were noisy because there were 4 boys. Now I know that it would have been worse if they had been girls. Little boys yell. Little girls shriek.

P is for Poverty -- Day 16 of the "A to Z Blogging Challenge"

Still catching up.

I am an expert on poverty. Not in the statistical or "official" sense of the word. I have lived it. I have lived it. When I was growing up I didn't really think we were poor except when Daddy's union was on strike or there simply wasn't any work. We always had a roof over our heads and there was always food on the table,even if it was the precursor to food stamps, commodities. At the time I didn't know how hard it was for my parents to provide these things at times. I do now.

Looking back I realize that until I was 6 my parents owned their own little hovel....er... house at the edge of town in an area called Rock Creek. Rock Creek got its name from the fact that it was lower in elevation than the rest of the town and if you dug down a few inches you hit solid rock. I don't know how they ever dug the cesspool we had. The house was one bedroom for the seven of us. My oldest sister got married when I was two and my second sister got married when I was about five. A few months later we moved to a new house, the other side of the cemetary from Rock Creek. Fortunately our landlord/mortgageholder was very understanding. He knew that Mama and Daddy would always pay when they had the money. I think Daddy paid off the house with the money left over from Mama's life insurance when she died.

As for there always being food on the table, it was often beans and potatoes or vegetables from my second oldest sister's garden. To this day I can't stand green beans, even fresh ones with new potatoes, which was a favored staple in our house in the summer. Everyone else loved them, but I always hated them.

Daddy did his part, too. When he was out of work he made a lot of trips to the dump and scavenged metal for recycling. Unfortunately, this meant that our yard often looked like a junk yard, which was in keeping with the house to our west. It was owned by an old man of indeterminate age by the name of Mr. Keck. A lot of people were scared of him, but he was never anything but nice to me. His yard and house were a maze of junk. I don't think he ever threw anything away. I remember the inside of his house as a dark, dank maze of miscellaneous "stuff." I remember once when I was about 16 I asked him for some yellow paint to redo my room and within minutes he handed me a half-dozen partial cans of paint in various shades of yellow and white. I combined them in a clean trash can and painted my room with it. It came out great!

Ok. I seem to have strayed from the topic of poverty. I guess I'll have to write another blog later about my bouts with poverty as an adult.

O is for Open Source -- Day 15 of the "A to Z Blogging Challenge"

This is a little late, but better late than never.

Being geeky, and somewhat anti-Microsoft monopoly, I have a soft spot in my heart for open source operating systems and software. The definition of Open Source, according to http://www.opensource.org is: "...a development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process. The promise of open source is better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in."
For those of you who prefer plain English, here is an explanation.
When you use Windows, you are using a set of programs that you only have minimal control over. The control is decided by Microsoft. "Tampering" with the programming is forbidden by the terms of service. Have you ever read one of those? Many of them look like a lawyer self-destructed leaving a convoluted pile of rules.
Enter open source. Open source, as we know it today, was the brainchild of Linus Torvalds, the originator of linux. Linux itself was designed to emulate Unix, which is generally considered the most stable operating system available. Unix is for larger machines, whereas linux is for smaller computers, like most of us have today.
There are many flavors of linux (known as distrobutions, or distros) available for free online and it is perfectly legal. The different versions may have small nuances different from one another or they may seem like totally different operating systems. Not only that, since the source code is editable you can change and tweak your operating system to do things your way. If you think your changes would be beneficial to a segment of linux users, you can submit your source code for consideration for inclusion in one or more versions of linux. This allows users to fix or augment their favorite distro of linux to suit them without any repercussions.
Linux is not the only software available in an open source version. Open Office is the open source community's answer to Microsoft Office. The following list shows the Open Office programs and their counterparts in Microsoft Office
Base Access
Calc Excel
Draw Visio
Impress PowerPoint
Writer Word
Open Office also contains a module called Math that create and edits scientific formulas and equations.
There are many other open source programs out there. All you have to do is look.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

N is for Nieces and Nephews -- Day 14 of the "A to Z Blogging Challenge"

This one goes back to family again. As you know if you follow my blog, I come from a large family. I am the fifth, and last, child in my family and am considerably younger than my siblings. I became an aunt at age three and again at six, then regularly thereafter. Since i was so close to my nieces' and nephews' age, I often felt more like I was their sister than their aunt. I was, and still am, fiercely protective of them if I feel someone wishes them harm. By the time I was 18 I had 14 nieces and nephews. I hope they all feel they can depend on me for emotional support any time they need it. I don't even know how many grandnieces and grandnephews I have, and I'm already on great-grands.

Did I mention that I come from a large family?

M is for Money (and how I act when I don't have any) --Day 13 of the "A to Z Blogging Challenge"

My son is on to me. He has figured out why I always want to know what he is ordering before I make my decision when we are at a restaurant, whether it's fast food or sit down.
The reason this makes a difference is because I have no income at present so he is paying when I go out to dinner with him. I always want to make sure I don't order anything more expensive than the person who is paying.
The reason for this is clear to me. My parents were nearing 40 when I was born. Their teenage years fell during the great depression and their frugality is firmly embedded in my habits. There are just some things one doesn't do. One doesn't impose one's tastes on others. One doesn't take advantage of other people's generousity.
Back when I was raising 5 kids on next to nothing, I would become phyically ill if I had to spend more than a little bit of money at one time. I've had a friend think that I was going to pass out when I had to pay over $200 for school supplies for myself (in college) and my kids. She said I turned white then green. On the flip side, I can think of times when my husband lost a job and we decided to "go down in a blaze of glory" by throwing a BBQ for our friends.
Don't get me wrong. I have learned how to spend money and enjoy it, but when times are tight my friends claim that old George and his presidential brethern have to put on sunglasses when I spend money, because they don't see the light of day very often once I get hold of them.

L is for Losing -- Day 12 of the "A to Z Blogging Challenge"

My topic for today is losing. No, not losing weight, possessions, confidence, and control over your life. At some point in my life I've lost all of those and more. The following story is true, althhough the names are fictitious.
One of the most painful losses is a friend. I just found out that the person I thought of as my oldest and dearest friend betrayed my son who previously thought of her as a beloved aunt. I don't normally like to air my family's dirty laundry in public, but this time I think I'll make an exception. I cannot reconcile myself to this betrayal because of the hurt it caused to many people. I refuse to hate her, though.
First let me say that I wondered why Dee had suddenly stopped taking my calls and/or returning my emails, and now I know. I hope she feels guilty about her betrayal of at least two people who would have done anything in the world for her. The betrayal was in the form of a denial about an incident that happened many years ago. The worst of it is that it destroyed my son's marriage and tore his three small children away from him.
Many, many years ago, my (ex) husband and I were living with our friends, Dee and Rob. Our son was about 8 and their older daughter, Jenny, was around 13. We adults were watching the movie "Private Lessons" on TV and the kids were supposed to be asleep. Our friends fell asleep and Jenny brazenly came into the living room and sat down to watch the rest of the movie. We asked her to leave the room, but did not feel comfortable trying to enforce it while her parents were in the room, even though they were sleeping through the whole scene. Part of the reason we were reluctant was because of her tendency to blow everything out of proportion if we tried to tell her what to do. We turned off the TV and went to our room, but she turned the TV back on. We tried to wake her parents but they were both out like lights.
As the movie was ending, Dee woke up and became angry at us for allowing her to watch the movie. When we finally convinced Dee that we tried to stop Jenny from watching the show, she turned her wrath on the child. She said many cruel and unnecessary things to her daughter and ended it by saying, "I suppose now you think you will try to teach (our son) about sex the same way she did a young boy."
One day during the next week or so, my husband and Rob were both at work and Dee was sleeping because she had worked overnight. I looked around to do my usual head count and realize that my son and Jenny were missing, so I went looking for them. I won't go into details of the "compromising position" in which I found them. I shrieked their names when I saw them and they dove under the bed. I dragged them out into the living room, lecturing them for all I was worth. That afternoon I told Dee and that evening we told our husbands. Dee and Rob insisted that it was our son's fault because he was male. My husband, whose temper was monumental, wanted to "spank" (for most people it would be called a beating) our son, but I wouldn't let him because I felt the whole situation was orchestrated by Jenny (by her own admission) and indirectly Dee's fault due to her handling of the movie situation.
Back then I guess I thought of that type of thing as falling into the "kids will be kids" category. I probably also thought that any authoities would side with Dee and Rob because it was their house, although in my opinion he was the victim. I also dreaded any contact with Child Protective Services in our town because I knew too much about them and their tactics, but that's another story. I feel badly now that I allowed it to be swept under the rug, but I honestly thought I handled it in the best manner possible.
Fast forward nearly 30 years. My son and his wife were living near Dee and Rob. My son had explained to his wife about the incident, but told her he didn't really blame anyone. Unfortunately, when my daughter-in-law mentioned it, Dee denied that it happened and started making accusations against my son. The next thing we knew, Child Protective Services was in the picture saying that they had a report that my was doing all manner of things to his children. He was able to give enough proof to show that he had done nothing wrong, but the damage was done. Within weeks my daughter-in-law went on a "vacation" with the kids to visit her parents, over 1000 miles away, and never came back. The state she is in awarded her child support based on their "average income" rather than the average income where my son lives, or the income he actually has. Because of the unfounded accusations she made in court during the custody hearing, the same allegations he had already proven to be untrue in another state, he only gets supervised visitation, which is irrelevant because the amount of child support being taken out of his checks leaves him with barely enough money to live on and travel is impossible because of finances. Not only that, but his ex-wife's mother is allowed to "supervise" any telephone contact he makes with them, which means she refuses to answer his calls.

Temporarily out of pocket

Please bear with me about my A-Z Blog..... I don't have internet at present and will have to write offline and upload them as I get the chance.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

K is for Kathy -- Day 11 of the "A to Z Blogging Challenge"

I guess creativity is the most important thing in my life. I like to think it is a family trait. My sister Kathy was one of the most creative people I have ever known. I can sew, but she was a master seamstress. I can bake, but decorating a cake like she did is beyond me. She took creativity to the level of an art form, pun intended.
Kathy and I weren't close when I was young, mostly because I was much younger than her. In fact, because my oldest niece is only three years younger than I, I have always considered my nieces and nephews more like younger siblings and my sisters like aunts.
Fortunately, Kathy and I reconnected a few years ago. She had just gotten a diagnosis of breast cancer and, in her usual way of watching out over others, made a point of calling me to make sure I knew to get mammograms. It's amazing how much our interactions with each other changed as we got older. Although I had railed at my older sister's authority as a child she rapidly became my rock after we reconnected.
Kathy passed away a few years ago -- not from the cancer. She died trying to rescue an elderly man during a Texas Panhandle wilfdire. While her passing was a shock and still saddens us greatly, the actions that led up to her death did not surprise us. She died as she lived, giving of herself to someone else.
I still miss my big sister Kathy.

J is for Jacks -- Day 10 of the "A to Z Blogging Challenge"

I wasn't able to buy my granddaughter a "real" present for her birthday because of the state of my so-called "finances," so I bought her a token gift of a set of Jacks. No, not the old hard ones that perforate your foot if you step on them. I got her a set of oversized, soft plastic jacks. I may may as well have brought her an alien from outer space. None of the kids had any idea how to play the game and I'm not the best one to teach them, either. My coordination has always been less than perfect and. now that I'm old, getting down on the floor means finding a crane to help me get up. My son went online to find out the standard rules for a game of jacks and told them how to play. Within five minutes they had turned a simple game of jacks into a full-contact sport. How could I have thought that they'd actually play a game quietly together?

I really should know better. The three little girls involved are 3, 4 and (now) 6, and their favorite game is to shriek havoc on the house, destroying every room they enter, which is every room in the house. Its a really good thing that they don't have any neighbors too close. If they did we'd have the police called on us regularly by neighbors who thought there was a murder in progress. They are the only people I know for whom the "quiet game" is played at a noise level approximately equal to that experienced directly in front of the speakers at a heavy metal concert. Some days I'm almost glad I'm hard of hearing.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I is for Ideas -- Day 9 of the "A to Z Blogging Challenge"

I give up. Ideas are a writer's bread and butter and I have lots of ideas. Unfortunately I don't always follow up on them. Even when I do the core idea often changes. No matter how thoroughly I outline my thoughts in advance, the story comes out differently, and if I try to force it back to its original form, it balks and becomes awkward. Its like my writing takes on a life of its own. I start out to say something specific but end up saying something else altogether. I can start out to write about going to college and end up with a piece that obsesses about ink pens. I may start to write a funny story and end up with something heart-wrenching. I once started a story about the house I grew up in and it turned into a piece about my mother, which I consider one of my best to date. I wonder if anyone else has this problem.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

H is for Health Care -- Day 8 of the "A to Z Blogging Challenge"

Now I've come upon one of my own personal hot-button issues -- the state of health care in the United States. Unlike many other people, I firmly believe that there should be universal health care in the U.S., even if it has to be administered by the government like Canada's or the U.K.'s systems. Excuse me while I get my handy-dandy portable soapbox out so I can rant properly for a while.

Medical care for poor adults, and for the working poor, is virtually unattainable in most of the U.S.. I know this because I have been one of those effected for much of my adult life. In fact, the lack of a comprehensive medical care system almost cost me my life. Let me explain.

I suffered from severe earaches and headaches from an early age. Some of my earliest memories are of screaming earaches in my left ear -- the kind that cause a child to cry uncontrollably. Mama and Daddy treated them as best they could. I went to the doctor every time I was ill, with the money coming directly out of my parents' meager income. I took enough antibiotics to kill a horse. My parents also used a number of home remedies like warm olive oil in my ear and dry, heated towels on it. The pain always came back and even got worse. Over time the pain expanded to become blinding migraines.

As an uninsured adult, the cycle of pain continued throughout my teen years and twenties, and well into my thirties. In 1988, at the age of 32, I enrolled in the University of North Texas. Fortunately for me, my tuition entitled me to free doctor's visits at the UNT clinic and cheap prescriptions at the UNT pharmacy. I was lucky enough to make a connection with a Physician's Assistant who took more than a passing interest in my health. After treating me for ear aches, sinus infections, and blinding headaches, he realized the pattern to my problems. He referred me to Texas Rehab for my hearing problems -- hearing problems I now know I had from an early age.
Texas Rehab did an IQ test and asked me why I wasn't doing better in my classes, then they did a hearing test and asked me how I kept my grades up as well as I did. They sent me to an audiologist who took one look in my ears and sent me back saying that he wouldn't touch me until I saw an otolaryngologist, so off I went to the ear specialist. Dr. Dunn, my ear doctor, ordered tests then explained that the mastoid bone behind my ear was infected and I needed surgery to remove it and to improve my hearing. This was in December of 1990, He suggested that I wait until after the spring 1991 semester to have the surgery but I told him to do it ASAP because I'd chicken out if I thought about it too long.

I won't go into the gory details about the surgery, but I had it done a week before the spring semester began. The doctor quickly found that the mastoid infection had spread to the base of my skull. Instead of a short surgery. I was under for four times as long as they had predicted because they had to scrape the base of my skull and reconstruct my inner and middle ear. I ended up with a PORP (Partial Ossicular Reconstructive Prosthesis) and a rebuilt eardrum.

When I woke I was told that I would never hear from that ear again, but the surgery had saved my life. If a mastoid infection goes to the lining of the brain there is nothing they can do. Their conclusion was that, if I had not had the surgery when I did I would have had between six months and two years to live. I would have died when my daughter was the same age as I was when my mother died.

I started the semester with a bandage on my head and a new lease on life. Within twenty-four hours I was headache-free for the most part. Within a week I knew that, had I been given the choice, I would have happily traded the hearing in that ear for the relief from pain.

I have subsequently had a second surgery on my left ear. Amazingly, I have nearly as much hearing in it as in my right ear now. Unfortunately that isn't much.

Looking back, I honestly believe that universal health care in the U.S. would have provided the medical care I so desperately needed. My health today would be much better if the problem had been taken care when it should have been. I also wouldn't have had as many emergency room bills I couldn't pay.

I'll put away my soapbox now. Enough ranting for today.

Friday, April 8, 2011

G is for Garden -- Day 7 of the "A to Z Blogging Challenge"

This is a very short blog entry, but there is a followup in a new blog I'm setting up.  I'm starting on a new project that will either be highly successful or provide me with a humility lesson. I'm going to try to grow a vegetable garden this summer. To this end I am starting a new blog called "Giving Gardening a Go." Hopefully it will be a summer-long chronicle of putting in a garden as cheaply as possible. The link to the new blog is http://tinyurl.com/6hrppff

Thursday, April 7, 2011

F is for Family -- Day 6 of the "A to Z Blogging Challenge"

This one is a no-brainer. Most of my blogs have something to do with my family -- what they have done, what they should do, what I want from them, etc.... I know I have a bio related to this blog, but I'll tell you a little more about myself here.

I am the mother of 5, grandmother of 18, and great-grandmother of 1. These numbers will soon go up, as my eldest is planning to marry someone with 4 kids and one grandkid. I also have a number of "courtesy" kids and grandkids, as well as might-as-well-be's. Realistically I guess I'm something of an earth-mother type. I refer to my four sons collectively as "the borg" -- pun intended for the Star Trek fans among you. I am one of five kids myself, the flip-side of my kids. My parents had 4 girls and one boy, allthough two of my sisters are deceased, one due to illness and one due to accident. I already have a piece written about the latter for the appropriate day.

Before I became a mother and then subsequently a grandmother, I was everyone's aunt. This was partly because I was an aunt from the age of three. I've always been around kids in some manner. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting in a room with one or more of my sisters tending to my nieces and nephews. As I got older I became the designated babysitter, as well.

Despite all of this I don't consider myself to be an expert on children or childrearing. Each child is a new and unique experience. The ony thing I would say unequivocably is that kids are exponential. Two kids are twice as much trouble as one, three are twice as much trouble as two, four are twice as much trouble as three, and so on.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for Ego-- Day 5 of the "A to Z Blogging Challenge"

Now I'm going to go hide until the smoke clears from this one.
Hey. Can I borrow a cup of ego? I could sure use some. I've been running a bit low lately. That's not to say that I don't have any ego. I just don't have as much as some people I know, most of them male. Oops! Did that come off as being misandrist? (That's your word for the day, class. Its the opposite of misogynist. Yes, I had to look it up.) Anyway, I didn't mean it in a bad way. Every woman should have at least one at her disposal -- you know, for carrying out the trash and fixing the car. Oh, and to bring home an extra paycheck so she can afford to give him little gifts like hand tools and lawnmowers when he is good. Not too much, though. Wouldn't want to spoil the little man.

Monday, April 4, 2011

D is for Daddy -- Day 4 of the "A to Z Blogging Challenge"

Daddy is 94 now. It boggles my mind to even thik of him being that old. Enough so that I've started asking him to tell me stories about his life, in hopes that I can chronicle some of them for the rest of the family. Anyone who knows my father can attest that getting him talking is easy. Its keeping up with what he's saying that's difficult. Given the opportunity he'd argue with a fencepost... and win!

Daddy's favorite topics are politics, unions, religion, and "rasslin'."

Daddy can talk about politics and unions 'till the cows come home. He's a die-hard democrat and makes sure everyone around knows why. I know that this is partly because of the unions's support of the democratic party. He was a member of the Iron Workers' Union for many, many years. I used to doubt that Daddy was strong or brave, until I realized that he walked on those narrow I-beams high off the ground on a daily basis. I have to admit I agree with Daddy on some things but, instead of being a die-hard Dem like him, I'm a die-hard "don't tie me to any one party" person. I won't even call myself independent or undecided, because those are just pigeonhole. As I said, part of Daddy's Democratic ties are because of the unions. To him they are irrevokably tied together in a neat little package,so his talk of politics and unions tend to be one and the same..

Daddy's next obsession, though probably not less of one than politics and unions, is religion. Daddy is Southern Baptist down to the roots of what little hair he has left on his head. Actually, I come from a family of highly religious people but, as usual, I'm the rebel. Well, I'm one of them. Some of my earliest memories are of the old Calvary Baptist church in my home town, complete with Sunday School every week and old-time tent revivals. You'd think with this upbringing I'd be religious, but I'm not. My break with established religion started when I realized that the kids in my Sunday School class picked on me because I wasn't as afflent as they were. Now I tell people I'm an equal opportunity blasphemer. You name a religion and I'll find something about it that just isn't right.

And on to Daddy's third obsession, "rasslin." That's wrestling to the rest of the world. As a kid I thought everyone watched every wrestling match that was televised. I never LIKED it much, but I watched it because I didn't have much choice. Those were the days before video games, a TV set in every room, and instant entertainment at one's fingertips. I even vaguely remember Daddy taking me to a real live wrestling match in our little town. I don't remember much about it except the crowds and the yelling. Maybe that's why to this day I dislike large crowds. Anyway, nowadays Daddy watches rasslin' any time its on TV. He doesn't care if its broadcast in English, Spanish, or any other language since he's as deaf as a doorpost. He just loves his rasslin'.

When someone expresses concern about Daddy's health going downhill I point out that until he stops arguing and talking about the things that are important to him, I figure he's going strong. Even though I disagree with him on many matters I hope to hear him talk about politics, unions, religion, and rasslin' for a long time to come.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

C is for Coparenting -- Day 3 of the "A to Z Blogging Challenge"

I can't count the number of kids I know whose separated or divorced parents use them as pawns to hurt each other. This is worse than the divorce itself on many kids because they are put in a position of acting as the go-between or feeling as if, by loving one parent, they are being disloyal to the other. There is another way, though. It is called coparenting.
I first learned about coparenting from the best mother I know, my daughter. She has two daughters and one son by two different ex-husbands and somehow works with most of the other parties involved to create a loving, secure family for not only her own three children but their assorted half and step siblings. Not only that, her best friend and her two children have been integrated as part of this extended, or chosen, family. This makes nine children who, between them have four "moms" and two "dads" to turn to. While the fathers don't socialize much with each other, the mothers have all become good friends and frequently "hang out" with each other.
The players in this little drama are:

  The Adults:

    A = My daughter
    B = My daughter's ex-husband number 1, the father of her two daughters -- out of the picture
    C = My daughter's ex-husband number 2, the father of her son (his second).
    D = My daughter's ex-husband number 2's first wife, mother of his first son
    E = My daughter's ex-husband number 2's first wife's current husband, father of their daughter
    F = My daughter's ex-husband number 2's current wife. Mother to his two step children.
    G = My daughter's best friend, mother to the two "extras" in the mix.
  The Children:

    1 = A&B's daughter (17).
    2 = A&B's daughter (15).
    3 = A&C's son (14).
    4 = C&D's son (15), half brother of 3 and stepbrother of 1 and 2.
    5 = D&E's daughter (8), half sister of 4.
    6 = F's Daughter (10), C's stepdaughter. Stepsister to 3.
    7 = F's Son (6), C's stepson. Stepbrother to 3.
    8 = G's daughter (11) -- chosen family.
    9 = G's son (9)-- chosen family.

Naturally, there are conflicts at times between parenting styles but with a little bit of communication they are ironed out. At any given point any of these nine children can call on any of the six adults for help, advice, sympathy, etc . . . . They know that what they say will be held in confidence unless it is not in their best interest to do so. These kids are also allowed to stay at any of the parents' homes as long as the primary parent okays it. It is not uncommon for all 9 of them to spend a weekend together with one or more of the parents. This way all the adults get the occasional break.

I know it all seems complicated, but the best thing about it is that all the children involved feel accepted and loved no matter what they do or which home they are in. I know that coparenting won't work for everyone, and and is rarely carried to the extreme extended family situation my daughter and her children enjoy, but I honestly think that all divorced parents, should work together more.

The most useful sites I have found that explain coparenting are listed below. They give resources and information and there is even a site where you can sign up for an online coparenting class.



There are many other good sources on coparenting online.  All you have to do is look.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for Books -- Day 2 of the "A to Z Blogging Challenge."

Books have always been my best friends, my closest ties to the world. I learned most of what I know about the world from books. Unfortunately, they are also a big part of the reason I don't write more. Then again there are those who say that the best writers are people who love to read.

My obsession with books is so bad (or good?) that, if I realize I have left the house without a book or two I will go back home to get one, even if I'm only going to be gone for a few minutes. Once my husband and I were going away for the weekend and when I discovered my lack of books I made him stop at the first store we came across to BUY a book even though they only had magazines (that I had either read before or I didn't like), and puzzle books. I walked away with a couple of puzzle books even though I really wanted something to read.

I've always admired writers. My earliest aspirations were to be a published author. I still pursue writing in my own way, although it has now moved to the web. I haven't made much at freelance online writing yet, but just seeing the number of views my lists, blogs, and articles get gives me a warm feeling. Not that my numbers are stellar yet, but one can only hope.

In case there are any remaining doubts about my obsession with books, I have created the list, "The Top Five Places to Find Cheap Books," on the List My Five website:


Well, that's about all I have to say right now on the topic of books. I think I'll go read.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A is for ASL

Welcome to my first entry in the "A to Z Blogging Challenge." 

A is for ASL
Background: ASL as a Language

ASL, or American Sign Language, is the most commonly accepted form of communication for deaf and hard of hearing Americans.  In fact, many high schools and colleges now offer ASL as a foreign language option. According to www.signmedia.com, "American Sign Language... meets all of the requirements for human languages - it is a rule-governed, grammatical symbol system that changes over time and that members of a community share."

Learning to Sign: Reasons and Resources

Even if you are not hard of hearing yourself and don't know anyone who is, it is good to know a little ASL. After all, who among us has never lost his/her voice and had to find alternative methods of communicating? Yes, a pencil and paper are a good way, but ASL is quicker if both parties know how to sign. At very least the sign language alphabet can enable you to communicate with anyone who knows it. I, for one, tend to forget my ASL when in a position where I must use it to communicate with someone who is hearing impaired. In fact, the only time I am actually fluent in ASL is when I'm in a bar with a friend who also knows ASL, I've had a couple of drinks, and the bar is noisy. This tells me that I know ASL, but I'm not confident with my knowledge. I'm working on fixing that.

Since I'm currently going through one of my semi-annual bouts of laryngitis, which have been known to last for 12 weeks or more, I figured this was the time to brush up on my ASL and force.....er..... encourage my family to learn some. Since ASL is very difficult to learn from pictures in a book, I went looking online for ASL sites. The first site I hit upon, ASLPro (www.aslpro.com), turned out to be an excellent resource. It has extensive word lists, ASL idioms, a quiz feature, and even an ASL for Babies section.

For anyone who hasn't heard about Signing for Babies, its an awesome way to teach your young child to communicate before they can speak. Since babies are hard-wired for learning, and especially for learning language skills, ASL works wonderfully. I wish I had thought of it with my own kids. I'd rather my little one be able to express his needs than having to resort to the "why am I crying" guessing game.

Speaking of teaching very young children to sign, look at a site named  "Signing Time." There are DVD's books flash cards, and many other products available at the Signing Time website (www.signingtimecom). Also, episodes of the Signing Time show is aired regularly on many PBS stations. It's a good way to learn to sign along with your little one.


I hope you have found something in this that piques your interest in learning American Sign Language.

At very least, the infamous American middle-finger salute (aka "giving them the finger") is not ASL. I can curse at you in many ways in true ASL, but that is not one of them.





Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gearing Up

Ok.  I'm getting ready for the A-Z challenge.  I've already got ideas set out for several of the letters and am working on more even as I'm writing this.  I'm so glad that my nephew has given me a bit of a push to write more. 

Thanks, Don.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

CPAP Tales -- Day 5

I actually had to count the days to determine what day I am on.  I'm already so accustomed to my CPAP that I automatically put it on if I go to lie down for a potential nap.  Of course, I usually do that when I'm having trouble breathing because of the smokers here or because I have to expend so much energy on taking care of my grandkids. Of course I don't do it when I'm here alone with the kids and they're not asleep.  I'd be afraid of what might happen.  Anyway, I know I was already used to a CPAP but this one is totally different than the older one, and not only because they added oxygen.  I am still sleeping amazingly well. 

I know this is probably boring, but I'm trying to make myself write something on my blog every day.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Out Of The Frying Pan

I decided to try a new background.  This one feels right for the moment because I feel like I've jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire as far as my writing is concerned.

CPAP Tales -- Day 4

Ok.  I've decided that my new CPAP truly is my best friend in the world. Normally when I have a sore throat and a cough I don't sleep at all because it turns into a "no air night."  With the new CPAP and the oxygen they have added to it, I actually slept last night rather than propping up and barely dozing or sucking on my inhaler every hour.  I still feel rotten but I'd feel a hundred times worse if I hadn't slept well.

When I got up this morning I didn't think I could consume anything other than ice water and hot tea because my throat was so sore.  By 10:30 my stomach thought my throat had been cut because I couldn't eat. My throat, on the other hand, was convinced that I swallowed a cheese grater with a razor blade chaser. I have never appreciated hot oatmeal more in my life. It soothed my thraot AND my stomach.

Now on to the business of watching my 3 and 4 year old granddaughters until their parents get home. Normally the older one would be going to pre-k at noon, but she has had a fever and we are keeping her home.  Thank goodness for Dora the Explorer. lol...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

CPAP Tales -- Day 3

For possibly the first time in years I look forward to going to bed at night.  This new CPAP has done me a world of good.  I'm not tossing and turning, waking up feeling like I'm choking, etc....  I was fully awake by 8:30 this morning, admittedly because I'm watching my grandkids, and I'm not grumpy or headachey.  Normally I'd be dozing off or trying to find a way to go back to sleep, but that's not the case today.

Not only that, I haven't been drifting off to sleep if I'm reading a book or watching a movie.  If this keeps up, this new CPAP is the greatest thing (to me) since sliced bread. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

CPAP Tales

I think I've had sleep apnea for most of my life. I don't remember a time when I didn't tend to wake up with a headache, usually a blinding headache. I've been using a CPAP since 2003 and for the first few years it helped a lot, but over the last few months it has become painfully obvious that it was no longer working well enough. Because of this I have had trouble staying awake during the days and often woke up with blinding headaches like the ones I had before I got the CPAP. I had a new sleep study done on Tuesday night and got my new CPAP with higher pressure and oxygen on Wednesday, March 24, 2011. Last night was my first night with the new CPAP and I can already tell the difference. The first improvement was that I woke up with very little headache this morning. If that was all the new CPAP did I'd be happy, but its not. I have drifted off into a dazed state or fallen asleep while sitting today. I tried to lie back down this morning and didn't really HAVE to sleep any more like I usually do. I also fell asleep much faster last night than usual.