Houses Die Too (A Poem Inspired by a Discussion on Facebook)

Houses die too,
They have a lifetime of their own.
They are born of sweat and dirt,
Stone and metal and wood.
They are built with arms of sinew and muscle
Or arms of cables and steel.
The first caves were just as much home as any modern building
A welcome and gladdening sight at the end of the day’s work.
A simple one room cottage, a Cape Cod farmhouse,
Colonial or Frank Lloyd Wright, even a McMansion.
Single family, duplex, or apartment building
Someone calls them home.
“In Xanadu did Kublai Khan a stately pleasure dome decree”
Is the unspoken hope for each house we live in.
Even their facades mimic ours,
Their windows are the eyes to their soul.
Silent observers of the cycles of human life,
They become alive through the energy
Of those that dwell within them.
There is no part of our life story that a house has not seen:
Births, deaths, marriage and divorce, college, new job, outsourced;
Love and hate and sorrow and joy.
Child becoming parent, having a child of its own
Parent growing old and becoming a grandparent
Teaching the new children about life…and death.
And then, somewhere, another new being starts its journey.
A house that is not lived in seems scary or sad or should just be avoided
Because it’s not the way a house is supposed to be.
A house should have someone who cares about it, cares for it
So it becomes a monument to the passage of our lives,
A reminder of our own history.
Even the history of our nation is marked by our houses–
The White House, Mount Vernon, Monticello
“The house where Mark Twain was born” or “The Wright Brothers Home”.

But houses die too…
They have a lifetime of their own,
A finite amount of “being here”.
They fall in upon themselves, they crumble brick by brick
Or they die at the hands of developers who seek to replace them
With some other kind of house.
Their story ends, their eye windows are shuttered and closed.
They pass out of sight and out of mind,
To be remembered only as a place where we lived once upon a time
Because houses die, too.

You May Call it “Autumn” But at This Point, I Call it “Falling”

And the stress goes up, exponentially.

Beloved’s employer has officially ended their seven year relationship, but in a strange and random moment of altruism, are making his last day November 1st, so that he/we will have healthcare coverage until the 1st of December.  Not unexpected, just three months earlier than we had hoped for.

Got in touch with the Veterans Administration.  Why yes, we do housing vouchers–but there are so many requests that they are only giving them for certain categories, the highest being “the vet has been chronically homeless for a year”.  I prefer not to be in that category if I can help it.  And Section 8, when I tried applying 6-7 years ago had a 3 year waiting list–and has stopped taking names.  So there will be no governmental help with housing.

No voucher.  And we just received the friendly note from the landlord saying we’ve been here a year and they really like having us here, so please attach two recent pay stubs so that they can requalify us for another year.  I don’t think that my stub from January and Beloved’s from February will be adequate.  Depending on what kind of concession we can get from the manager–who has lost more and more power about local decisions ever since the complex was bought by one of those megalandlord corporations–it is totally conceivable that we will 1) not be given a new lease and 2) will have to move within 30 days.  Please tell me what other housing (that is not someone’s basement for rent) would now accept us.  We need to stay in Fauquier because that’s where all of our benefits are being processed.  If we move back up to Manassas, we stand a very good chance of not getting Social Services because the demand in PWC  is much higher and we don’t speak Spanish.  More important, we don’t want to move back to PWC.  Bealeton is our home, we love it out here.  We have begun to seriously talk about living out of the car and planning on how that would/could work.

Oddly enough, I think I’d prefer it.  It’s almost the ultimate Buddhist move, to give up the attachment to a building to live in.  Sort of makes me wish I had been driving a VW bus or some other large vehicle all this time, as the PT Cruiser is not known for its large, gracious bedroom space.  On the other hand, we are now also seriously considering an RV as a permanent home once we have money again and can actually choose how (and where) we live.  There is an almost mandatory simplicity to living in an RV–there’s a definitely FINITE amount of space, so the endless amassing of stuff is not possible.  And there is an almost mandatory neatness, because everything has a place and it stays there except for the time you are actually using it.  Smaller area makes it easier to clean than even a single bedroom apartment, and since most everything is behind doors, dusting is also easier.  Some of the RV’s we’ve been looking at actually have a central vacuum!  It would also allow us to travel and Beloved might actually get to meet my parents, assuming they stay alive long enough for us to reach the point we have this mythological RV.  It’s something to think about–and for now, offers us a sort of escape to play “what if” and “imagine we had this”.

Tried applying for veteran health benefits.  Of course they use last year’s income to determine eligibility.  Nope, I don’t qualify.  However, I can reapply in January, using the financial numbers for 2012, which were shit, and will probably be approved then.  So theoretically, the longest I may need to go to the free clinic will be 2-3 months.  Now I have no idea what we will do for Beloved if his application to SSDI is not approved before the end of the year.

We actually are going to the lawyer’s office on Monday to fill out a stack of papers for SSDI–they sent them to us.  It’s like having to take tests to enter college.  We have three different “forms” (I use that term loosely since each “form” is about 10-12 pages) to fill out: disability and daily activities of living, pain assessment/description and work history.  They want me to go back 15 years and describe my job (HOW I worked: sitting, standing, lifting, etc) which means we almost get into the grey area of employment known as “stay at home mom”.  I think I may just miss that and get to start with my thrilling career at Wendy’s (where I worked while going to school to become a nurse’s aide).  How do I explain that I have had undiagnosed fibromyalgia since I was in high school and that every job I worked had some level of pain or limited ability that required work-arounds that I figured out without realizing I had this disease?  And that only my (relative) youth made being a nurse’s aide possible–and within 5 years I knew that I had to quit because of the problems it was causing me physically even more than the emotional toll it also took.  (I worked with the geriatric population; in 3 years at the one nursing home I worked at, we had 50 deaths.  Not shocking, just inevitable but still…)

Tuesday is our last visit with our PCP–who Beloved has been going to for 10 years–but he doesn’t take Medicare/Medicaid and so once we don’t have insurance, we can’t afford him.  And once we’re on SSDI, M/M IS our insurance.  Time to find a new doctor, I’m afraid.  We are hoping that he can (lawfully and legally, of course) issue prescriptions that will carry us for a while, especially me.  My two fibro meds cost $120 every 90 days.  And frankly, I’m scared to not have them because I don’t want to go back to being a sad little ball of pain sitting in a chair not doing anything like I was last February.  I guess I could live on Vicodin (which is cheap; go figure that the narcotics are cheap and the useful, specific drugs are not) but I might not get much more done than if I wasn’t…  Thank the gods for the free clinics in the area.  Goodness knows we have lots of time to be able to sit and wait for our turn.

Alternatively: we have started seriously upping our supplements, especially niacin (B3) and Vitamin C and it makes a difference.  Enough of one in my dear that his MOTHER has started taking them as well.  He has already begun backing off some of his ancillary meds because the vitamins and supplements take care of the symptoms so well he does not need…his blood pressure med.  His gout med.  His PAIN med.  (He has rotten knees and a torn up ankle; they still can hurt, but he can dose at need rather than maintenance).  While I feel better mentally with them, I am still having pain so I may always need some sort of pain relief; the nature of the beast of fibro, I suspect.  I would suggest the documentary, “Food Matters”, available on Netflix streaming, which explains all of that.  I’m not selling anything, just saying that it works for us and might work for you.  Stress releases adrenalin, which completely flushes your body of Vitamin C.  So you’re stressed AND sick all the time?  Try mega doses of C.  Niacin is a mood stabilizer, helps with cholesterol and blood pressure, among other things.

We have been told not to take vitamins in mega doses, that we might die…by doctors who had only a vested interest in prescribing the pill du jour to get their kickback from the pharmaceutical companies–who also do not want you taking vitamins because then what can they sell you?  When in fact, vitamins are more helpful.  Even Hippocrates (he of the Oath) said, “Let food be thy medicine”.  If you eat right, get the best nutrients in your food and supplement them where you need to, you can be healthier than our modern industrial medical complex would have you believe.  Modern medicine is NOT about healing.  It’s about treating.  Which is a HUGE difference.  But oh so much more profitable.  And if there’s profit to be made, then the general public is going to be fucked straight up the ass; lied to, manipulated, prescribed to and generally cut out of participating actively and as an informed partner in their own healthcare–by doctors who (mostly) have no interest in helping them get well but in giving them the most expensive (and frequently unnecessary) treatments they can get away with.

Anyway, off my soapbox and back to my own life.   With all of the stress, I am having to take extra doses of clonazepam (anti-anxiety) which makes me sleepy, so at least I’m getting nice long naps.  I also carry stress in mah belly (witness a year and half on GERD medication the last um year and a half I lived with the ex), so I’m back on ranatadine (Zantac) and Tums.  Don’t feel like eating which gets me in trouble with the Beloved Bear who insists that I must.  He’s right, but when you’re this nauseous and money’s limited, what’s the point in eating something that you’re probably just going to throw right back up anyways?  I also have a strange craving for soup these days, dunno why.  Whatever it is, when I do eat it, it is most satisfying.  I don’t really consider it a comfort food, so the desire is even more incomprehensible.

On the lighter side of life, he and I went last night out to Udvar-Hazy NASM for a lecture by my daughter-in-love’s grandfather.  Dino is going to be 91 his next birthday and is still sharp as a tack.  And incidentally, he was a photo recon interpreter during the 50’s and 60’s, including the infamous Bay of Pigs problem we had with Cuba.  It’s been 50 years and they’ve de-classified a lot of the photos, so he gave a very interesting and informative talk about how all of that happened, what the interpreters look for, making picture boards to brief the President.  D-i-l’s mom had posted that it was going to happen, and the tickets were free–and I knew that Beloved would be fascinated.  So I signed us up immediately, which was good since it was, as they say, a sold out house.  Nice change of pace for us, a chance to be out of the house–and we had enough time before the lecture to walk around a little bit, especially to see the space shuttle Discovery in its new home.  Always fun to see the SR-71, which is one of my favorite planes and still one of the fastest badass spy planes ever.

Our dinner party last weekend went very well.  Not quite the menu I had told you about…we started with cranberry salsa (spicy, to have with the cider), then had the fondue (butterkase/red wax gouda) and apples.  The peanut soup was a major hit–I used the Williamsburg recipe as my starting place, but made a sauce that had more of a Laotian kick (tamarind, lime, chili oil, ginger) and was the perfect accompaniment.  Then I had a “complimentary”–a small taste of something that wasn’t on the menu: fresh squeezed gala apple juice mixed with Bacardi and frozen into a sherbet.  That was VERY popular!  Then the actual dinner was beautiful pork chops, butterflied just enough to stuff with a mixture of gala apple pulp (from the previously fresh-squeezed juice), pumpkin seeds, more apples chunks, garlic, fresh thyme, matzo meal (as a binder), an egg.  Rubbed with a South African smoked herb blend, seared and then put into a slow oven.  I also made white and red quinoa (has a texture similar to couscous), served with butter, salt and pepper (also very popular, even though being something new for almost all the attendees) and then made haricot verts (french green beans) “chowed” (stir fried) in a generous amount of butter with a finishing drizzle of balsamic vinegar.  Dessert…ah dessert.  Not a custard, not a pie.  I cut apples into chunks, broke nuts into pieces and then added raisins–and we soaked them in Captain Morgan’s Private Reserve all day.  Then served it up in wine glasses with angel food cake chunks and a little splash of organic cream.  And they ate that up as well!  I was very pleased, although very tired–ended up resting most of Sunday and Monday but considered the cost worth it.

Nothing particularly major on the social horizon over these next couple of weeks, which could be a mixed blessing.  No obligations, but no distractions either.  I can only live one day at a time, making the most of each moment as it occurs and hope for the best in the long run–which has always been the outcome up to this time.  Any good thoughts or positive energy you’d like to send would be appreciated.

Oh, I did hear from the agent handling my long term disability claim, says that it’s at the medical / decision making section and as soon as they have an answer, she will get it reviewed by her manager and we will hopefully (fingers crossed) have an answer (YES answer please!!) by the end of next week.  Makes it a little close for a check this month but it could work out.  I am hoping it will work out.  Otherwise, I’m not real sure where we will get rent from.  Gods bless my father-in-law, who has paid the utilities and my car up to date, so we are not in arrears for those important bills.  It will work out, it always does and I must continue to believe that or there’s no point in living.  And I sort of like being with my Beloved, so…

That brings us up to date.  I will try to post the big events like being able to stay in the apartment or getting my money for the long term disability claim as they happen.  Hold us in your thoughts, dear people…good thoughts, positive thoughts, an open fluid gliding onto the path we’re supposed to be on and the ability to accept that path, whatever it may be.  One minute at a time, we live our life.


Summer Springs into Fall

Amazing what can happen in just 14 days (since my last blog).

Chronologically, more or less: I gave my presentation at the International Day of Prayer for Peace and it was well received.  I consider it a major coup that the local Imam requested a copy of it.  There was a good crowd and we ate well.  I had no hummus to take home–and apparently they “tore into” the curry flavored one.

We had a more or less typical week following that, doing the usual stuff although we were both too ill to make it to the chiropractor’s on Wednesday.  I was finishing up antibiotics for a sinus infection and my dearest got something viral.  Did follow up with our administrative duties, making sure that insurance companies, employers and absence management agents were getting the information they needed to continue to provide disability insurance benefits, health insurance and such.  Oops, they weren’t.  So I got on the phone and started calling doctor’s offices then sat and waited for nurses to return my calls.

I also used the juicer to make pure apple juice from about 4 pounds of gala apples.  Let me tell you…it made about half a gallon which did not last long enough to require a pitcher to store it in.  OMG, VERY good.  I saved the pulp and made apple pudding: the pulp, eggs, cream, cinnamon, honey, nutmeg and a little black pepper, with apple slices arranged on top and then cooked over a water bath.  We took that as our contribution to the feast on Sunday when we went out to Delaplane for the Native American event.  Got to meet a lot of people and hope to meet with them again.  Beloved feels drawn to that path, even though he’s pure Polish.  (So even when we juice, the recipe opportunities from the pulp are intriguing–and at the very least, usable for compost.)

So this week began with a letter from his employer saying we can’t wait for the doctor’s any longer, a decision about continued employment must be made and no later than 10 am on Wednesday.  I spent that day and the next trying to find out what was going on with the situation, since I thought I had gotten things in order the prior week.  Apparently not.  I finally got a call from the PCP’s nurse at like 4:30 pm on Tuesday that said he would NOT send the necessary documentation, it needed to come from one of the other doctors involved.  I’d draw you a picture of me freaking out, but it would not be pretty.  Needless to say, I was in hyper-anxious mode.  Thank the gods for a doctor who WILL answer her cell phone, AT HOME.  And who will be happy to help out with an email, assessing Beloved’s ability to return to work (which is NOT).  We haven’t heard anything from his employer, so we’re hoping that was sufficient.  No news is good news and all that.

But the stress and anxiety of that was enough to trigger a fibromyalgia flare up.  Yay.  Took every pain pill I have, every pain pill I can have and still hurt.  Lost my brain somewhere in the process and spend the rest of the week in a fog, with a massive attack of ADD.  Can I have an ice cream?  Ooooh look, a kitten.  Yeah.  That has finally settled down–and btw, I slept 15, FIFTEEN hours Thursday night.  Laid down for a nap at 5:30 pm, woke up at 8:30.  A.M.  Tired much?

Friday I did get the good news that MY long term disability claim agent has FINALLY received all the doctor’s reports.  I only sent the claims form in to her a month ago.  And Monday she will review them and then send them wherever they go for approval.  (PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE!!!)  So I’m hoping to get a check this month, maybe but next month fer sure.  What small furry animal do I have to sacrifice to get that to go through?  ‘Cause I’ll do it, you know I will!

We have also talked to our landlord to determine the level of necessity for applying for a housing voucher.  Turns out it is very necessary–but if we’re going to use a voucher, we will be moving over to the income controlled section of the housing.  Which is not a bad thing, as we will have to go into a two bedroom apartment–just like the one I used to live in when I was out here with the Lizard, since I met the income requirements at that time.  Now what changes they have made for it to be ADA compliant, I don’t know.  BUT the manager JUST HAPPENS to have one coming available, if this other person does not take it, and it would be available on NOVEMBER 1.  So theoretically, if this all goes smoothly and I am approved for the voucher…I could possibly be moving in 3 weeks.

The only reason that doesn’t make me freak out is because I can’t do it.  Someone else will have to.  And….all we really need is for people to show up with their cars….take stuff and put it in the car, take it about half a mile away and put it more or less in the corollary spot in the new place.  We still have at least half of our shit (you heard me) in boxes, so that’s easy enough–and they all go into the second bedroom for me to bring out and unpack one at a time.  Instead of being piled up in a corner of the living room like they are now.  We can rent the $20 UHaul for the furniture and mileage…will be more getting to and from the UHaul store than it will on the actual move.

So think good thoughts because it looks like perhaps the time of being hung over the precipice by the gods and taunted with the sharp spiky rocks at the bottom of the chasm is done and things will actually improve to the point we can stop eating anti-anxiety meds like mints.

We hit the farmers market yesterday and failed miserably at spending less, but we do have some awesome produce.  The plan is for tomato, bacon and basil sandwiches today at some point.  I also intend to make salsa for my beloved man.  Doing my laundry now and going to tackle the kitchen, a little bit at a time as I can–got to get enough done so that The Man can make meat sauce for pasta as dinner tonight.

Synopsis: still sore, but not as bad.  Head is not as fuzzy or I wouldn’t be blogging.  I feel mostly tired and may end up napping–“he” has already gone to lay down.  I need to put my wet clothes into the dryer, which means I will probably putter around the kitchen for a little before coming back out to the computer and sitting/resting for another little while.

This next week looks rather active.  Our friend is coming over to spend the day tomorrow so I will implore her to do the dishes that require hand washing.  Beloved and I have phone calls to make and hopefully one of them will get me an appointment at the VA for the housing voucher, which we intend to go to DC on Tuesday to beg for.  Wednesday is back cracking day and Friday we have doctor’s appointments.  I am also preparing to cater a dinner party on Saturday night for about 8-12 people.  It is a Virginia themed meal, with VA wines being paired up with each course, made with something that is also local.  My friend is a  major wino…I mean, wine lover and has chosen the bottles.  Here is the menu:

Butterkase (German “Butter cheese” or another very mild cheese) fondue, with apple slices (voignier)

Williamsburg Peanut Soup (chambourcin or Cab Frank)

Pork (loin or chops) stuffed with chopped apples, onions, pepitas (squash seeds) and bread crumbs with (fresh) thyme and garlic
(If I can get a loin, I will ask the butcher to spiral cut it so that it would lay flat, then spread the stuffing on it and roll it up like a pork loin jelly roll.  If I have to buy chops, I will get them thick enough to cut a pocket for the stuffing.  If I have to do chops, I am also considering cooking them in parchment paper)  (Chardonnay)

Sides will be quinoa (cooked in the rice cooker and seasoned with butter, salt, pepper and grains of paradise*; looks like couscous and tastes like sweet corn) and whatever fresh green vegetable I find at the market, possibly a cucumber salad.

Dessert: “Apple Pie” (petit manseng)  Wherein the apple is gala, it’s in a custard and may or may not have a crust.  But if it does, it will be a crust made with vodka or apple brandy because that makes it flaky beyond words.

*Grains of paradise: a spice used a LOT in Colonial America, from Africa, also known as crocodile pepper.  Tastes like pepper, ginger, and cardamom.

My friend has a cider that he wants to share, but says that it will go best with something that is spicy, so I may make hot nuts (every kind BUT peanuts) so that as guests arrive, they can munch on those and sip cider.  Incidentally, I intend to use several different kinds of local apples, so that each course that has apples has something different.  And if I can find VA peanuts, I will make the peanut butter that the Williamsburg soup recipe calls for.

I will get the things done ahead of time that I can, so I am able to meter out my ability to do that day–and make it through the meal.  I also want to make cinnamon almonds to take to our doctor on Friday as thanks for helping us out last week.  Guess I’d better get the damned kitchen clean.  Sigh.

I’m still pleased with the cleaning products I have made.  MIGHT have hit on a good recipe for shampoo, but further testing is required.  I have also started the old-fashioned ritual of brushing my hair one hundred times at night.

And another random thought, as it occurs to me: we have been Skyping with my son and his family, but we do not have a webcam.  Well, Beloved will be putting together his father’s new computer (when it all delivers, tomorrow) and in those boxes, there is a webcam for us.  Guess we’ll be talking to the Froggy and he’ll be able to finally see us as well.  Looking forward to it!

So life goes on, with good days and bad days.  The change in seasons means more change in the weather, which affects both of us deeply (literally–in the long bones of my legs especially).  We are still in a bit of a limbo because no final decisions have been made about our status-es.  Stati?  If my long term disability benefits would kick in, that would be at least some income, and of course the housing voucher is a major godsend if I qualify.  I feel like I’ve hit a bit of a plateau with my fibro meds and not sure that they are as useful as they could be.  Will be discussing that with the PCP the 23rd of this month.

If we didn’t have the uncertainty, we would not be unhappy with our lives.  In fact, things aren’t really bad, other than no income.  Hope to have that solved soon.  In the meantime…we just go on, one step, one day at a time.