Singing about the Home Health Aide

It’s been a quiet couple of weeks. We spend a lot of time sleeping or watching movies/TV on Netflix. We’re also eating poorly, since neither of us feels like making “real” food. My parents generously threw some money into our bank account, which we are using for some bills–and some eating out. Otherwise, we’d starve, I guess.

Last week I did something new. Well, it really is something old, but something I’ve not been doing for a while. A friend of mine pointed me to a website, “SingSnap.com”, which is essentially online karaoke–but you record your singing and share it with the community. He told me about it almost 7 or 8 years ago. At that time, I couldn’t get it to work right on my computer and I was busy doing other things, so I never really followed through on trying it out. (If you decide it would be fun, go there and look for “KnottyKitteh” to hear my recordings.)

I sang my first solo when I was 9 years old, singing “O Come All Ye Faithful”. I was actually singing long before that since my whole family is musical. I sang in high school, both in the usual “just sign up for the class” choir as well as the audition-only group. Once out of high school and on to the rest of my life, I sang all the time at home, and with a group when one was available. That mostly meant church choirs (since I had not ascended to Buddhism yet, lol). When I moved to Rochester NY, I started with the choir at the local Catholic church but due to personal pressures, withdrew from them. But I did get an unexpected benefit: I could walk into the church a little before the service and the organist and I would plan a solo for me to sing during Communion. I sang Schubert’s “Ave Maria” often; also did the Bach/Gounod “Ave Maria”, and Franck’s “Panis Angelicus”.  It was also at this time that I discovered the Rochester Oratorio.

The Oratorio performs in a variety of venues, including the Eastman School of Music’s auditorium when they perform with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. They also sing at the Hochstein, various churches, and in government buildings for Christmas time. When I was with them, we also sang at the Geneva Opera House, in Geneva NY which is considered to be a premier opera house.

I have to tell you that I went to my audition, I sang for the maestro (and the pianist, and a couple of other people) and then awaited his decision. I will never forget what he told me that day: “With a voice like yours, you should be singing.”

And I did, until asthma pretty much removed the ability to commit to that kind of singing. But I still sang at home, I sang with my children (who both have excellent voices!). I tried singing at the UU church we attended in Manassas VA and struggled with the effort it took. I finally had to stop and I explained to the director that the effort to sing and the fact that I was obviously not singing up to what had been my level of achievement combined with the figurative slap to the face that I couldn’t sing like I had made the choir into something that I dreaded, rather than enjoyed.

And then, a few years later, I ended up where I am now: disabled, in pain and without much to sing about. I have not sung consistently in over 8 years. I miss it. The few times I try to sing, I realize that I cannot hit the notes, cannot sustain them…it isn’t worth it. But! Then I remembered this site and I went over to take a peek. I signed up, and have discovered that while I may not have the voice I used to, I still have a voice that I can use to sing. So almost every day, I spend a couple of hours singing and recording. I’ve discovered that I am focused enough what I’m doing, concentrating on the words and timing, that I don’t notice my pain. It totally distracts me from the anxiety and depression I’ve got. I am now having “music therapy”, and I tell you, if you like to sing, try this out. It won’t hurt. It might even help.


Turning back to the fibromyalgia part of my life. I’ve complained (on here) about my inability to take care of my self and my house. Taking a shower exhausts me for two days; washing the dishes means that I won’t have the energy to cook anything. So Beloved and I have applied for In Home Health Services (IHHS) to get an in-home care provider. It will be someone who can come and clean, take out the trash, bring up the laundry and groceries. (Side note: Beloved has fallen *hard* down the stairs [stepping off the 2nd step, thinking he’s on ground level. Oops] three times in the past 8 weeks. He’s become phobic, and who can blame him, about carrying things down, since that’s when it occurs.)

This care provider will also give me a shower and wash my hair–and truthfully, I have no nudity taboo, so that’s not a problem for me. This person will give Beloved foot care, which he needs because of the problem he has with the heels splitting. With our charming, 31 inch square, coffin — AHEM– I mean, shower stall, he cannot bend over to clean adequately from the knees down.

I feel stupid, having to have someone else do the things that I should be doing, that I have been doing all my life. I am grateful beyond words that I can have someone come and do it…but…so I’m doing a little bipolar dance about the topic.

We have applied and had the home inspection to determine if we are eligible, and how much we are eligible for. So the IHHS person came today to give us our orientation for getting a home health aide. They have approved about 22-ish hours per month, for each of us, so it’s about 45 hours per month or about 11 hours per week, which is totally awesome. It’s up to us to find and hire a care provider (or in our case, possibly two, more on that in a moment), then train them to do what we want. We will track and submit their actual time for the county to cut a paycheck.

We had already discussed that Beloved has a person in his group therapy who will clean houses. She is, in fact, the young lady who came several months ago to clean our bathroom and kitchen. I don’t remember if I told you. Anyway, we would like to offer her the chance to have a steady and set income. It would be at an hourly rate less than we paid her, but if she’s willing, I would be very relieved. I know that she will clean to my (my mother’s, if we’re going to tell the truth) standards. So then we would hire a second person to come do the personal care for Him and me.

I am hoping that having the basic tasks done, including my personal care, will allow me the energy and fortitude to do other, perhaps more enjoyable, things. I won’t have expended my small store of spoons (Spoon Story) and that would be an amazing, amazing thing. That possibility is what keeps me from trying to argue with someone that I don’t “really” need help, that I can do it (if I just stretch a day’s worth of chores across a week). And that is something worth being thankful for–and I am!


So there we are, caught up on events. Appointments this week include trips to the headshrinkers for both of us, then Beloved’s usual Friday funfest of group therapy followed by game group therapy.

My physical therapy was re-approved, so I’ve got a few days to do pool therapy; Beloved is also scheduled for his sessions through the middle of May. (My last swim session is on the same day — and time — as his re-evaluation, at which time he will request more physical therapy. Stupid arrangement…you get about a week’s worth of visits, with two evaluations (before and after) and then you get to wait some indeterminate amount of time while insurance decides if it will pay for more. And while you’re waiting? Any forward progress you might have made waves “bye-bye”. I can’t think of ANY injury or health issue that requires physical therapy that only needs 5-7 visits to be “healed”.)

Nothing major on the horizon, except of course for the decision about my LTD insurance benefits…fingers still crossed and noting that 2 weeks of what we hope is only 8 weeks has gone past.

Namaste!

A Kinder and More Gentle Life

I never promised any regular posting–which is good since I let all kinds of time slip past me these days. We all agree, Beloved and our two housemates, that time does not move in the same way here as it did in VA. It goes fast and it goes slow and we’re never really sure exactly what time it is. The days are long and short; it seems like we have several days before we have to be somewhere and then suddenly, somehow, another week has passed. So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

We are still getting used to the Life Pacifica. We are very gradually losing the frantic and hassled outlook on life. There’s something about living near the ocean that lends itself to a more natural pace. Life in VA was lived under the direct influence of Washington DC, with all of the characteristics of that blighted place. Too many people, too many of them so sure of their superiority, with the attendant arrogance in their attitude when dealing with anyone else. Too much hurry to get to the next thing, no matter what it was. No time for anything that wasn’t tied to the need, the driving urge, to move up the food chain–and the very well defined food chain of the citizenry.

If you make a lot of money, it’s not a bad place to live. If you don’t make a lot of money (in this case, we’re only talking about 50-60,000 dollars income per year. Only $50,000? Might as well be $500,00  or $50 million for those who don’t make it), anyway if you don’t make a lot of money, you’re totally screwed. You have to pay what you can for rent, never mind where you end up living–and then commute to work, which is another soul-searing, humanity killing part of living in the area. It’s not healthy and it’s really not meant to be for humans.

I tell you this so that you’ll understand that after more than 10 years of *that*, it’s taking me a while to let go of old habits and return to living in a better way, a more healthy way. Beloved and I still laugh about “rush hour” here, a daily occurrence that any driver in NoVA would sell his soul to be able to have–it might back traffic up for 2 or 3 extra minutes’ drive time. Not the 2 or 3 extra HOURS a bad day’s commute can give you back there. When we eat out, the wait staff is unfailingly polite and generally kind. There is no rush to get us out of the place, we can sit and talk without disturbing the routine.

I generally end up fumbling something when checking out of the grocery store. The people in line behind me wait patiently, without rude comments or flashing evil looks. And when I apologize, I get the same answer each time: “No worries, it’s okay.” And they MEAN it. They are genuinely willing to wait without letting me know that I have so inconvenienced them that I probably shouldn’t be allowed to even continue breathing.

Have I mentioned that we have a visible homeless population? (I won’t say sizable because I don’t know how many there truly are–but  it seems like a lot because as I tell people, we “don’t have homeless people in Northern Virginia”. Well, we do–but they are shamed, ignored, made to move on and generally pushed by the cops to go away and disappear.) So anyway, even the people who are asking for money are polite and kind about it, and if you tell them you don’t have anything to give them, they thank you and tell you to have a nice day. Not like the people who hang out at the metro stations and call you names if you don’t cough up some change. Not that I really blame them for having that kind of attitude, since the only thing worse than living at the poverty level in NoVA is living IN poverty there.

Money was a major factor for us deciding to come to the West Coast. We knew that there would be other benefits, like organic food and a steadier climate but the costs of living were the big reason to make that big a change. We hoped that it would be a slower and easier way of life but as I said, it’s taking a while to really accept that it is precisely that. I am trying to shed Virginian habits and become a true California Girl. I should remind you, or tell you if I haven’t, that I was conceived just down the coast in Monterey. My first assignment in the AF was also in CA, down way south at March AFB, Riverside — about 45  miles east of L.A. It has been like coming home. There was never any doubt that I belong here, that I will spend the rest of my life here. VA seems like a dream sometimes…

I have been mostly medicated for pain for a month. I still have yet to meet with the Pain Management Team and set up the full plan for dealing with my pain. It’s mostly focused in the degenerative arthritis in my spine. This means I cannot stand or walk for more than about 15-20 minutes at a time without having sciatica and neuropathy. It’s annoying to realize that I am being more active, doing  more–and it’s not seldom-used muscles that are giving me trouble. It’s a part of my body that exercise will not diminish the pain, that I can do much about at all. I wrote in my last blog that I had finally got to see my PCP. Well, she got things rolling for me on several levels. I have new wrist supports; I have seen the therapist and will soon be showing my ability to deal with an electric wheelchair (having determined to be a better match for me than a scooter for mobility assistance); I have had my lady part visit with the Women’s Health specialist at the clinic. I have an appointment for my hands (which hurt and are swollen more mornings than not) and I’m waiting to find out when I can get a new MRI for my back. The MRI and the hand clinic are both in San Francisco, at the central VA medical facility and I will coordinate the appointments so that we only have to drive down once to do them both. I am also waiting for a local appointment to get my eyes checked for the first time in almost 3 years. (I need new glasses…)

It is all progress, especially after losing healthcare insurance coverage before I was able to get into the VA system. And the VA medical care here is WAY better than what I was getting in Virginia. I call my care givers by their first name–which levels the playing field and makes me a part of a healthcare TEAM instead of being low man on the totem pole when it comes to making decisions about my care. The people all seem to be genuinely concerned about the care they are giving and view it as a service to veterans. I did NOT have that opinion of the staff at the Fredericksburg clinic. So anyway, let me update you on my meds, because except for the pain, it all seems to be working well. I am taking Vicodin 5 mg for pain, which is the limit dose because they are so afraid of addiction–and there is a real problem with it, so I understand that. I take Lasix for the swelling in my hands and ankles. I take loratidine for allergies; trazadone for sleep; gabapentin for the neuropathy. I take Venlafexine for depression and Hydroxyizine Pamoate for anxiety. The two psych drugs really do work well. The Hydroxizine used to was an antihistamine, but it’s being prescribed for lots of Vets with PTSD. It’s gentler than the “–zepams” (Valium, Xanax, Clonazepam) and doesn’t seem to have bad side effects. Now you know.

Beloved is also getting his health back in order, thanks to the ACA and expanded Medicaid. He is in physical therapy for his physical ailments, which means he gets to get into a pool kept at 92 degrees and do therapy twice a week; he has adjustments and stim/TENS with heat once a week. He reports that it’s making a difference after only 3 weeks of going. He is also getting his mental health in order, with weekly sessions with the psychologist, as well as two different group therapies, one for anxiety and one for bipolar disorder. He will finally get to see his psychiatrist on April Fool’s Day. No hidden meaning there, I’m sure! Beloved does agree with me that no matter how bad any one day may be, we are truly happy to be here and are content with the decision to move. No regrets…

Odds and ends:

We received a surprise gift of some money from Beloved’s godmother–she died from cancer and while that’s sad, we were glad to receive the bequeathed check. We have used it to get some things that catch us up to pretty much where we had hoped to be before we spent an extra week in the motel and had a rental car for 3 weeks which ate up our savings upon arrival here. Beloved has been very, very sweet, getting things to make the kitchen easier for me to work in and for him to help me with meal preparation. The single biggest improvement for us has been the appearance of new computers for both of us. Our old machines were ummm well, old. Mine was almost 7 years old, which in technology is practically another era. So we’re trying to get used to Windows 8 — after 4 years with an HTC Evo smartphone, I find it’s not that difficult. I am just not real thrilled at how we are moving more and more towards icons instead of words. Indicates a greater level of illiteracy in the general population, never a good thing.

We’re trying to make it to HUUF (the local Unitarian Universalists) more often. Went this week to find out that Starhawk (The author of “The Spiral Dance” and a Pagan celebrity) was going to lead OUR fellowship in the Spring Equinox ritual. As I said on Facebook, I knew we lived in a cool place; I didn’t realize it was that cool!

The weather has turned beautiful. The days are just cool enough to merit a light jacket, but sunny and it’s great to be out of doors. We live in a teeny tiny little village that has no lights so the night sky is amazing and awe-inspiring. I can see the moon from my window (when it’s out). It was raining this morning, but that’s cleared off and the sun is out. We’ll have temperatures between 45 and 60 degrees all week. This steadiness and constancy in the temperature means that when the weather changes, it’s not the sword-stabbing pain in the long bones of my legs like the extreme and sudden changes in VA caused. I can live with this!

I am both amused and grateful for how much organic food the local Costco carries. We get our apples there (Gala and Fuji); coconut oil is less than $25 for a gallon of it. We’ve discovered KettlePop organic kettle popcorn and are working on the 4th bag I’ve bought (A 20 oz bag, which for popcorn is a BIG bag!) I bought a case of Amy’s Organic (Vegan) chili–added grass fed pastured beef to it, of course. Organic produce, meat, snacks, cereals and a lot of other things that people who eat organic will look for, like chia seed, hemp oil, and etc. They have an amazingly wonderful organic vanilla ice cream from the local dairy (Humboldt Dairy brand) and it comes 2 half gallons in a box. NOM.

Beloved has two pans that look similar–they are both heavy cast aluminum, and the overall shape is almost square. The pan itself is what is different–it looks like a maze piece, with a “W” (or “M”) shape making the pan what it is called: The “All Edges” pan. We have one for brownies and one that is slightly larger and deeper for lasagna. I can report that they work very well, especially for the lasagna–they came with matching spatulas that fit precisely in the “tracks” of the pan and each piece you lift out is a work of art. Well, mine is anyways because I make kickass lasagna. Just saying. We’re having a conglomeration pasta dish today–left over meat sauce, with ricotta and mozerella cheeses mixed in, some sliced chicken sausage and of course, fresh grated Parmesan (both mixed in as well as laid on top). Baked for 50 minutes and then run it under the broiler to toast up the aforementioned Parm cheese.

We have the super duper bread maker from Breville, home of our super duper convection oven. It will of course make bread, but it will also make jams/jellies. I am looking forward to trying it out–and we’re going to have to, soon because we’re running out of bread and I’m not buying any more. If I can only restrain myself from eating it hot out of the maker, with butter dripping down my chin. Probably not…

The continued political and religious assaults on women is starting to really annoy me. It’s not about abortion or birth control; it’s about relegating half of our population down into second class citizenship. And once you can establish a lower class, you can throw anyone who isn’t “your type” down there: gays, immigrants, people of color. I like the meme that defines homophobia as “the fear that gay men will treat you the way that you treat women”. (Although frankly, you’re just not that cute.) Now I have to wonder if that concept needs to be expanded upon. Are men actively seeking to subjugate, limit, entrap and otherwise deny women equal rights because they’re afraid that if we women get those rights, we’ll treat them the way they’ve always treated us? If we can make our own choices for reproduction (or the prevention thereof), we will become as sexually indiscriminate and promiscuous as so many men are? Will we redefine ourselves, seeking our own kind of beauty and not pandering to the trophy status ideal? Will we be able to pursue a lucrative career, possibly shutting them out of promotion opportunities based on our superior abilities (and not on how well we can suck dick, as you all seem to think any successful woman MUST do)? Will we refuse to take on other people’s ideas, including yours, of what makes us women? Will we decide that being an unpaid housecleaner/cook/maid/nanny/sex object is no longer our dream? Will we stop needing men?

I can only hope so. And there’s nothing wrong in NOT needing men. The shame and the wrongdoing come from the necessity to “have a man” in order to be considered a “real woman”. More and more females are choosing to pursue their dreams–and their dreams don’t include that infamous “Mrs.” degree. I kinda suspect that this is the part that makes those men seeking to control women go crazy. I’m not even going to ask why a man wants to control a woman. No, the deeper and more meaningful question is this: What is about you, as a man, that makes you so afraid of females that you must ensure their total enslavement as necessary for civilization to go on? Are you afraid that women will take over and treat you in kind? And the gays? Will they do that too? And anyone who is “not you or your type” is a threat to this part of you.

As with the rape culture (dear gods, why did we even have to come up with this term?), the onus must be placed on the correct and originating source in order to actually fix the problem. In the rape culture, we HAVE to teach our females to protect themselves, but we NEED to teach males to NOT rape. That simple. The force that stops a rape shouldn’t have to be the victim. The perpetrator should never commit the crime. Likewise, in the war on women, we women are only reacting to an offensive (in every sense of the word) attack. We either have to so utterly triumph, so completely overcome the attack that the offender is smashed and defeated, unable to retaliate or launch another attack…or this will never end. Not from our side of it. The males who are firing the volleys, suggesting and enacting legislation to control women (and gays, and immigrants and etc) are the only ones who can end this war without the utter destruction continued attacks will eventually bring about.

What is it within you, Rand Paul? Paul Ryan? What is it within all of you men, elected representatives to your state or Federal governments that requires these outrageous and frankly insane attacks against 50% of your constituency? What is it within you, you pastors and ministers, that makes you act in a way that will drive someone, ANYONE, away from the Christian message of love and forgiveness for all? Why do you take Paul’s words (“A woman should learn in silence, don’t let women speak from the pulpit”) over the words of Jesus who instructs his followers to “love one another as I have loved you”?

And can we please get this settled before we blow up our own country with this ludicrous and dangerous divisiveness?

So I rambled off topic, sort of. I just ramble. Going to halt this one here so I’m not competing with “Gone With the Wind” or “War and Peace” for length. Life is good, life is sweet, even with disabilities and I hope your life is blessed and happy and peaceful. Namaste!

The Only Constancy is Change

Let’s see if I can do this more or less chronologically.

Went to see the headshrinker AND my PCP in Fredericksburg on September 11.  (Note: while I was not old enough to actually BE a hippie, I am a product of the drug era.  When I hear PCP, I immediately think about the stuff they used to lace pot with…not Primary Care Physician.)  The psychiatrist was a nice but nervous man.  We discussed my issues and he prescribed the full dose of Efexor I’d be on and refilled the clonazepam.  Still think I should (eventually) get that changed because I STILL don’t think it does that much.

My PCP walked in and it was like…a completely different doctor.  I suspect a bit of an ass reaming about the massive med changes he had made.  He was pleasant, he smiled, he LISTENED to us (this time) and expressed his anger at having his direct order to have me admitted to Richmond for psych eval “over-ridden” by “someone”.  He got to see the psych notes (apparently I was not allowed?  Or maybe they just weren’t entered before I was kicked out) and didn’t understand why I had been discharged literally within hours of getting there.  (Rather than the normal 24-48 hour evaluation period.)  That was an interesting piece of news and he also indicated that the drugs I was given in Richmond were actually prescribed by the staff psychiatrist.  So I really have NO idea who the guy in the blue scrubs that grilled me about being in their ER was.  No name, no way of filing a formal complaint.  Oh well.

So anyways, we talked with the doctor and guess what?  He ended up doing what we had asked for, 2 1/2 months prior: gave me my Vicodin, acknowledged Beloved’s wisdom in cutting my neurontin dose ummm in half of what he had prescribed.  (Beloved had told the nurse what drugs I had stopped taking, what dosages I was taking — and was told that the doctor was unhappy that he had not “consulted” with them before making those changes.  He is very smug to have been right…as he should be.)  We talked about the move, he said I can call in my next appointment in October and all was happy happy joy joy.

Well, except for this: I had gotten my fasting blood sugar test (finally) done.  The nurse called us about 2 days later to say that I had an A1C of 6.4.  Now when Beloved told me that, my first thought was “A1C?  Airman First Class?  WTF?”  But that’s the technical term for that particular blood test.  Over a 7 scored and you’re diabetic.  Anything below 6 is normal.  Between 6 and 7, you’re “pre-diabetic”.  So I am officially pre-diabetic.  No finger sticks, no insulin yet.  Just watch the diet, try to exercise.  Stuff we’re going to do anyways.  And probably a fasting blood sugar test done at least once a year, maybe twice to keep tabs on it.  Not really surprising, as geriatric onset diabetes (Type 2) runs in the family, from both sides.  And I could linger at that 6.4 for as long as the rest of my life, if I really do manage it with diet.  My grandfather, while actually diabetic, did manage his with diet.  His son, my father, has to do the multiple finger sticks and takes insulin, but is also on VA healthcare because of his exposure to Agent Orange.  So his may be worse because of that; no way to ever know.

We’re not getting a lot done in the way of actually packing or getting rid of stuff for our move.  We’ve got the suitcases and carry on luggage now–Pelican cases for anyone who knows what they are.  Look it up, for those who don’t.  Beloved’s parents are taking a lot of our furniture (they are also moving, this upcoming weekend) because they will be in a smaller place and our furniture was bought specifically to fit within a smaller apartment.  Once that is out of the house, it will be easier to go through our stuff.  Or at least that’s what we keep telling each other.  I am feeling very overwhelmed but I always do, and I HATE to move…and I do some of my best work at the last minute.

My in-laws bought me some clothes.  My mother-in-law knows that the way you dress affects the way you feel and I have not been dressing like I feel very good.  It’s a sign of illness when an animal stops grooming itself, and frankly, humans are no different.  So I found clothing that I chose specifically with an eye towards the weather in Eureka (able to be layered, sweat pants, that sort of thing) from a place called “The Woman Within”.  They have a website and they also do catalog sales.  Except for the two sweat pants / matching tops sets, everything is 100% cotton.  (Sweats are 60-40 cotton-polyester.)  I had to watch the sizes carefully as I have lost 2 inches of height somewhere along the way (degenerative arthritis in the spine will do that, you know) and now I have to shop in the “Petite” section.  Sigh.  I got 2 turtlenecks, 2 sleeveless t-shirts (shells), a v-neck, short sleeved t-shirt, 2 skirts and the aforementioned 2 sweats sets–and I don’t know how much the shipping and handling added, but the merchandise added up to just at $125.  Not bad.  If you’re looking for clothing that real women wear (not designer, let me tell you), then I’d recommend them.  Usual prices aren’t bad, and a lot of what I got was on sale for less than some of the thrift store clothing I’ve bought.

We’ve spent big portions of September either recuperating from the various hospital trips, or going to see someone’s doctor and having to recuperate from that.  We spent a great deal of today making phone calls and getting things done.  And in the course of that, we’ve had more good news in a single go than I think we’ve had in quite a while.  While I’m happy about that, remember: distress or eustress, it’s all still stress.  So it was overwhelming for both of us.

I spoke to the company that manages my LTD (Long Term Disability) benefits with some questions I have had…turns out that fibromyalgia is NOT limited by the policy that my former employer had with this company at the time of my disability.  Which means that there is no limit of just 2 years for pay out.  In fact, they can end up paying me for another 15 years, or until I turn 67 and would “retire” anyways.  WOW.  Income, steady income for the next 15 years.  As long as my primary diagnosis remains fibro (and it will, it’s not going away) and my doctor keeps me on medical treatment for it.  And that will also remain permanent, since the pain won’t go away without narcotics.  And the insurance company’s “Any Occupation” review board (as opposed the medical board that reviews the doctor’s notes) will determine whether I can work in any occupation (hence the name) besides the one I was in when I became disabled.  And since I am on narcotics (and barely drive any more), who is going to hire me?  No one, that’s who.  I will just have to be careful to have the doctor document fibro stuff every time I go see him and the fact that I am *still* not able to hold down any meaningful job due to the limitations of fibro and the meds I am on for it.

I spoke to the airline and found out how to get handicapped assistance from curb to gate (both ways) when we fly out.  Easier than I thought, and the agent I spoke to was pleasant and helpful.  Checked the airline’s website and determined that medical equipment (read: canes and CPAP machines) do NOT count as carry on luggage and will be allowed on board in addition to our bags and carry ons.  YAY!

I got an answer from the minister at the Humboldt UU fellowship, replying to the email I sent yesterday.  I explained what was going on, who we were, and so on…  Always good to have people waiting to greet you in a new place if you can and we are really looking forward to attending services there.

Beloved made his own phone calls as well.  Found out that the utility deposits in CA are not going to be completely onerous (well, except for AT&T landline/DSL which requires their money upfront) and will be on the first bill.  Found out that CA is VERY generous in Social Services (which I think we will qualify for, and with the letter from VA, may not require the year’s wait for those services to kick in).  They have SSI AND something called “SSP” which, if we are eligible, could add quite a lot to our income.  If we get both of those, we may not then qualify for CA Fresh (their version of SNAP), but hey, we’d have enough extra money to afford our food.  Also, they figure eligibility differently than VA, removing rent and utilities from the income amount–which may also then put Beloved back into being eligible for Medicaid.  THAT would be a great blessing, since we’re both a bit concerned about his lack of insurance at this time, with no coverage until Medicare kicks in NEXT August.

He also made a call to our cell phone carrier and FINALLY got the 3-4 year old SNAFU figured out and straightened out.  Got us $80 credit for a line that we had tried to turn off like a year ago–but had somehow become the “primary” line and couldn’t be shut off…so we’ve been paying like $40 a month more for that line all this time.  Not as much as one could hope for, but way better than NO refund.  And part of clearing it up and getting things correct included changing his phone number–so the lucky duck already has his Eureka telephone number!  I’m mildly jealous, but not enough to merit changing MY phone number with the bazillions of people who have it and with whom I MUST stay in touch, for emotional or financial reasons.  Bad enough I’m going to have to do it eventually, and sooner rather than later.

And I actually cooked dinner for us.  It’s kind of sad that I have to admit said accomplishment is a major one for me.  I have not yet made it into the kitchen and whipped it back into shape…it’s winning the war of wills at this point.  I do have a deadline of sorts: my in-laws are also taking some of our kitchen appliances, and that means I have to wash and ready them for departure when the furniture goes.  Which means, I hope, that I will be forced to organize the modern art display of carefully stacked dishes into a real STACK of dishes, not an artistic arrangement that could be sent crashing down with just one nudge on the wrong piece.  Which, if all goes well, will then lend itself to at least being rinsed in the dishwasher (that for some reason, even though it is brand new, still does NOT actually wash the dishes clean).

We’re going to a friend’s house for their “we got married in CA and you couldn’t be there” party on Saturday.  And Sunday, if he got permission (from the Navy), my son and his family–or just the family if he didn’t–will come over for a little bit so that I can see them before we go West.  They will also be taking some things back home with them.  Jay, tell them what prizes they have won.  Well, Bob, they’ll be taking home this box of Legos!  (Most of them were mine, some of them were my son’s and he’d be glad to have them back.)  I am also going to let my daughter-in-law pick and choose through the kitchen stuff I won’t be taking…things like the really huge Tupperware bowl, crystal bowls from Germany, etc.

My daughter will be coming down one Tuesday (her normal day off) to see us before we leave.  No granddaughters, but really, we’re not set up for it and this way, we’ll all be able to talk without chasing the toddler or dealing with a crying baby.  She promises me lots of pictures and I keep poking her about getting Skype.  So that’s one area of stress that has been relieved and I’m very glad that it has.

I’m also getting polite and chatty emails from my mother–and as long as they stay that way, without politics or religion…we’ll keep talking.  Another source of stress, dismissed.

Now if the house would just empty itself and my suitcase pack things up without my actually having to do anything.  I am clenching my teeth a lot, mostly from the stress–which ends up giving me headaches.  Not helpful.  By my latest assessment, I need to: empty out my jewelry armoire, sorting out what I want to keep from what I will give away; sort my clothes into going and going to the thrift store.  AND I need to go through every box that holds my shite and sort it out: trash, give away, sell, take.  Oh gods, if I keep listing things I shall go mad.  One thing at a time, one step at a time.  It’s really all I can do.

Oh, and we bought the tickets.  So come hell or high water, clean apartment or not, with or without all that shite being done…we are leaving on November 1.  Flying first class (wowee!!) to Sacramento.  ANOTHER source of stress…gone.  And that was a major one, so I am very glad to actually have them in hand, so to speak.  And we’ve got the handicap assistance set up, so I won’t have to call the nice lady back.  That works for me.

Looks like the light at the end of the tunnel is NOT an oncoming train, but really the other end of the tunnel.  Dear gods, I hope so.  The ride has been a lot more than I bargained for, and way more than I ever wanted.  Or as the meme I saw today said, “I don’t just ride the crazy train, I motherfucking drive it!”.

Our life has been on hold, for health reasons, for money reasons, for time reasons.  And frankly, it’s still on hold until November 1, when I step off the plane in CA.  Or maybe Nov 2, when we actually get into Eureka and can put our toes into the Pacific Ocean.  I am looking forward to that life very much and I will do whatever it takes to get there.  Now if I could just figure out some way to take all our friends and family with us, it would be perfect…but that’s just my “how life is supposed to be” talking, and that is apparently what I’m supposed to be letting go of now.  (Having learned about letting go of things, and of words…)

I am cautiously optimistic, preferring to keep some little piece of hesitancy just in case (because “just in case” has happened way too many times in the past few years to be ignored).  But I will acknowledge that things in general seem to be…going in a direction that leads directly West.  Which is where we want to be.

Namaste!

I Found It!

So once again, I am not blogging as often as I want to.  Time slips past me like quicksilver and I lose track of it like it doesn’t matter.  And it doesn’t, not so much.  Not like I have to be anywhere.

Let’s see…what has been happening?  Late April (or early May, I don’t remember), I got my packet from the Veteran’s Administration (VA), telling me I had been accepted for health benefits.  These should be lifelong and should forever take care of the health insurance question.  It does mean that I have to go to a VA facility for healthcare, but I am so okay with that.  I called and set up my first appointment, getting their first available appointment: 17 July.  Think they’re a little backed up?  Oh well.

It’s going to be an interesting appointment.  First off, I have to find out if I am actually eligible for some level of disability from the VA.  Oh, not that I got some injury while in the AF but for a much more convoluted and fascinating reason.  You see, I lived in Saigon for the Tet Offensive of 1968.  My father has disability from the VA because he was exposed to Agent Orange.  By association, and by living in Saigon at that time, it is entirely possible that I was also exposed, and therefore may have health issues that would be caused by it.

(Side note: the general scientific consensus is that Agent Orange, and Round Up, the weed killer that is also from Monsanto and contains one half of the ingredients of Agent Orange, cause a lot of diseases, including autoimmune diseases.  Fibromyalgia has just been characterized as autoimmune rather than neurological.  I think I have a decent case for disability…)

So we will have to decide if I am eligible for any disability, doing whatever testing is required to substantiate that.  Which leads to my second question: would the VA pay for my fibromyalgia blood test?  It lets them make the actual diagnosis for themselves.  It would give me concrete evidence to submit to the SSA for my SSDI appeal and it would change my LTD from 2 years’ payout for a “self diagnoses disease” to a 5 year pay out for a proven and doctor/lab verified disease.  And if somehow the test is negative, then we can begin trying to find out what else it could be, because I am really, really sick with something.

And in the meantime, as we’re doing all this testing, I want to keep all the medicines I’m on, so will the VA write scripts for all of my meds?  It’s only 3 pain meds and 2 fibro meds…

(Insert explanation: Beloved actually forked out the money for a “no insurance” doctor visit for me.  The doctor doubled down on the Vicodin, going from a 5 mg dose to 10 mg and added Neurontin, which makes a huge difference.  Pfizer finally agreed to give me the Lyrica for free as part of their “help the community and those who need it” program.  One problem: I had been taking it as 2 150 mg tablets, one in the morning, one in the evening.  They sent me 300 mg tablets, that I take at night.  Problem with that?  Apparently taken in the large single dose, it makes me…um…high as a kite.  So my choices come down to this: Insufficient pain management and a missing fibro med making me unable to function, OR pain management and both fibro meds and I’m in better shape emotionally and mentally, but am still essentially unable to function in a meaningful way.  Guess which I have chosen?)

I will also be asking the VA about dental work, since I need that done, too.  I’m not going to abuse these new benefits, but I am going to get all that I can and am entitled to have.  And I don’t have to go far for my appointment–it’s about 25 miles from me, which is closer than our PCP is.  Oh well.

Beloved was once again denied LTD from his insurance company, with only legal recourse at this point and we lack the funds to file a claim in court.  So it was a possible source of income that won’t be incoming and we’re adjusting for that.  Now let’s talk about some of the other adjusting we’re doing based on actual and potential income.

We got to talking about our costs, the money we have or will have, the money we can expect to have for the rest of our lives and how to best live on that extremely fixed income.  We acknowledged that living here in NoVA is extremely expensive and that we are not going to be able to afford this apartment for very long if last year’s increase is any indication–our rent went up $25 last lease signing.  That’s not a lot, true…but in 4 years, that makes an additional $100 and trust me when I tell you that our income is NOT going to keep up with that–and the concurrent increases in the cost of everything.

So Beloved said to me, “Okay, we’re retiring.  That’s essentially what this is.  We don’t go to work any more and we’re on a fixed income.  We’re retirees.”  I agreed.  He continued.  “So if we could live anywhere in the entire US, where would we go?  Hawaii is out as is Alaska…both of them too far from anyone we know and AK is TOO cold for you.  So what does that leave us?”

And we looked, discarding this state or area by virtue of its climate–both meteorological and political.  (Which included VA for the political reasons.)  And once we had done that, he says, “That pretty much leaves us with the West Coast.”  Yup.  We also agreed that SoCal was OUT of any discussion, but he asked me, “Where would we go?”

Well, WA is not bad politically, but a little cold for me.  And OR didn’t have a lot to commend it to us.  I’m sure that the people who live there (all 12 of them, HAHA!) or the other people who might want to move there think it’s great, but we didn’t find anything that made us go WOO HOO.

So Beloved says to me, “Ok, we’re looking at northern California.  What is there, which city seems like the place we’d want to live?”  And I went, “EUREKA!”  which in Greek means, “I found it!”.  It also happens to be nearly the only city on the northern coast of CA once you get past San Francisco.  He and I looked at where it was on the map and I began to do my Internet Search-Fu to find out about it.

And everything I found?  Began to suggest more and more that it was ideal.  Short story? We’re moving to Eureka in November, come hell or high water.  Long story?  Let me tell you what I found out.

Eureka is called a city, but has a population of only 35,000 with a weekday swell to 45,000 with the commuters (whose commute averages about 15 minutes.  Anyone who lives in VA would KILL for a 15 minutes commute).
Eureka is the only deep water harbor between San Fran and Coos Bay, WA.  That means SEAFOOD.  Fresh caught, freshly available, WILD caught.  Oyster farms.  Salmon.  Tuna.  SEAFOOD.  SCORE!!!
Eureka is in Humboldt County, home of many, if not most, of the organic foods available everywhere else in the US.
Eureka has a cost of living that is between 30 and 40% cheaper than Northern Virginia.  Rents are lower, utilities are lower, food is cheaper and is not taxed.
Eureka has a public transit system that runs 6 days a week.  They also have a free “to your front door” ride available if you have documented disabilities that prevent you from walking to the bus stop, or if  you’re unable to stand for more than 15 minutes at a time.  We are, I believe, eligible for this service.
Eureka has a steady climate.  The coldest temperature ever recorded was 24 degrees; the hottest, 84.  The average temperature, year round, is 65 degrees.  There are two seasons: dry and wet.  So yes, in the “winter”, it rains.  And rains.  But there’s only 3 days per year that actually have a hard frost and almost no snowfall at all.  Part of my ongoing issues with fibro is the weather, here in NoVA.  It changes every 15 minutes or so.  And that fluctuation in barometric wreaks havoc with my joints and causes more pain on top of the fibro’s blessings of pain.  I look forward to “steady”.
Humboldt County is also home to the largest farms for medical marijuana.  Which may prove to be useful to both me and my Beloved for pain management and anxiety, in that order.

Everything I have found out about Eureka makes me more and more eager to go.  The only sadness I have at moving is leaving my friends and family behind, although I’ve asked everyone if they want to move with us!  I will probably never get to see my family again except on Skype…ditto for the friends.  But we talked about that quite seriously and have reached this conclusion: we CANNOT continue to live here, on the very edge of poverty, one car repair or major purchase needed from falling over into poverty, never to get out again because of the increasing costs in this area, while waiting for the 2-4 visits per year from the family members and friends.  Yes, costs will increase in CA, but since we start from a much lower place, we will have to time to prepare for those higher costs over a greater period of time.

Eureka has a large artistic and creative community.  I have found a wood working class for Beloved, and there are watercolor painting classes that I am interested in.  If we want to go back to college, we can–either in the community college, or in Humboldt State University.  We can go to the beach whenever we want, and even if the water’s a bit cold, I can get back into salt water.  I have missed living near water and look forward to seeing the waves crash as the sun sets on the Pacific.  It will be even better having my Beloved with me.

We intend to sell or get rid of all most all we own.  We will only take those things that are too expensive to replace once in CA, or that are irreplaceable AND wanted.  We are also traveling to CA by plane, first class.  Beloved is a large man and would require two seats in coach…so we’re allotting money to go first class and avoid all the crush that coach entails.  It also means that we can take two suitcases each, weighing up to 70 pounds.  For an additional $100 per bag, we can each take one more bag, up to 100 pounds.  That’s a grand total of 480 pounds of personal belongings that will go with us on the plane.  We also get a hot meal, bigger seats, and booze. Well, maybe not the booze, but it really doesn’t matter.  It’s a special start to a new life out West.

The opportunity for better living, better food (all organic), SEAFOOD, steady climate…means that perhaps this is the chance I need to take to end up recovering enough of my health to go back to doing some of the things I used to.  Or at least not being chained to a computer desk because I cannot do anything else.  I want to be healthy, but the conditions and our situation here are not conducive to that.  I need to go some place else, and I think I have indeed, found it.

So there we are, and even though this hurt to type it out, I wanted to let you know that things have been happening with me.  Hoping that they all turn out good!

Namaste!

Time Flies, Not to Be Confused With Horse Flies

Not only has the New Year arrived, it’s 2 1/2 months old already.  For those who were wondering, yes, Beloved and I stayed home and had our own quiet celebration.

We did go over to his parents’ house on New Year’s Day, for one last visit with his sister.  And remember that pork loin I thawed out?  Well, I made pulled pork–but either it was going bad and I didn’t realize it, or (and this is the theory that Beloved puts forth) the marinade it came in was so high in salt…I got really, really sick.  Not quite like food poisoning, because I didn’t vomit.  At first.  Let’s just say that by the time I was finally feeling better, I was clean as a whistle top to bottom.  With no desire to have BBQ pork for a while!

And then, we got the flu.  Fortunately it wasn’t a bad case for either of us, but it did extend out for a couple of weeks of just feeling “off” and kinda yucky.  Lots of naps, lots of liquids and lots of staying home.

We were both getting pretty desperate about the money situation.  Beloved cashed in his 401k…and those were the best two days of retirement…HAHA.  No, we’ve lived off that for a while now.  But without any apparent money coming in, we were really trying to figure out when we’d need curtains for the car because it would be our new house.

Before the panic set in completely, we began to get mail from SSA.  Well, first mine–“denied”.  Which we expected but it was still not a good thing to see.  And I immediately appealed it, which involved going to the lawyer and filling out forms (again).  When we told her about the long term disability benefits (or the lack thereof, for both of us), I thought we’d have to peel her off the ceiling, she was so mad.  “Give me the letters from your insurance companies and let me handle this, under my letterhead”: LAWYER very prominent on the top of the letter!  Hopefully that will work out because gods know we could use the income.  And while we’re working that back and forth, I get a phone call from Social Services saying that Beloved has been approved for Medicaid.

Now I had also been denied for that, with the reason being, denied for SSDI.  So, logically, IF he is approved for Medicaid, might that not also mean that he is approved for SSDI?  Long story short (too late, I know), the lawyer calls us to verify that Beloved is indeed approved and we have income again!

Did you know that there are two kinds of stress?  The one that you’re all familiar with: death, taxes, divorce, losing a job, bad work environment, etc.  That’s called “distress”.  Then there’s the other: “eustress” and it’s things like birthdays, parties, weddings, birth of a child, promotion, pay raise.  One is bad and the other is good.  EXCEPT that they both cause exactly the same physiological effects on your body.  So we went from the depths of despair to the heights of hope…and needed anti-anxiety meds and a nap.  Just saying.

Knowing that he is approved and has already begun to receive benefit payments helps my Beloved immeasurably.  He has OCD and it really manifests in numbers–and he is particularly stressed when money doesn’t work right, so not having an income for almost a year really hit his particular disabilities on the nose.  It doesn’t help that he also feels that it is his job to take of me, and not having an income was stressful for him because of that as well.  (And it works out, because I feel that my job is to take care of him.  It’s a cycle of love and caring.)  And he is hashing out those numbers, to see if we can afford to replace my poor old car.

She’s been a good car, can’t ask for better…but she’s old, the “check engine” light is on and the transmission seems to be slowly dying…ack.  We’ve found the car we want and when all the money comes in (our magical phrase for “someday”…when ALL the money comes IN!), we will just be able to get it.  Since it’s the last time (at least for our foreseeable future) that we can actually get a car without having to figure a car payment into the little budget…it makes sense to buy as great a car as we can now.  So we’re getting (when the money comes in, when the money comes in….say it enough to make it true!)…a Honda Insight (hybrid).  It’s roomy enough for us, has great features and the best thing?  Gets 46 miles to the gallon.  Makes it much more affordable to visit kids out of state, even if gas does go up to $5 a gallon.

Having that car will also alleviate some of Beloved’s stress, since he’s driven clunkers all his life and is all too aware how they can blow up at the least convenient time.  (Not that there’s a convenient time to blow up, mind you…)  To have a vehicle that does not have a payment, that has a great warranty from the dealer PLUS an additional warranty from our insurance just for having them cover our new car…that gets great gas mileage, and we fit in…seems like a really good thing to me.

So there may be a light at the end of the tunnel, we may have reached the top of this hill we’ve been struggling up for so long.  It seems that way, and in a superstitious way, I don’t want to say those things as a definite sentence.  Let me live with the reality, when it does materialize completely, for about a year and then I’ll look back and point to this spot and say, “this is where it turned around”.

Being off the Lyrica has been a problem.  I have the Cymbalta, and I am trying very hard to eke out the remaining Vicodin, because the free clinic doesn’t give out narcotics.  But my pain is not being managed well…so I spend a lot of time sleeping.  A regular day runs like this: get up about 9 am, play on the computer, eat something, back to bed for a nap by 3 or 4.  Sleep anywhere from 2 to 6 hours, depending on the weather and how busy we’ve been, up again and play on the computer, eat something and back to bed for the night between 1 am and 3 am.  Not exactly the day schedule the doctor suggested, but there we are.  And with the current change between winter and spring…owies for the changes in air pressure (each new front coming in).  I’m obviously more tired, I am foggy-er and not really able to keep track of things very well.

I am updating my application for VA health benefits with this past year’s income information, since we made too much in 2011 for me to be eligible.  I suspect that I will be eligible this time around…and there’s a VA clinic in Fredericksburg…so we’ll go get some food at Waffle House and then hit the VA for meds and doctor visits.  (Fingers crossed for this, otherwise it’s free clinic until I am approved for SSDI–and the other alternative I can’t even think about– or get insurance because I’m back to work.)

Oh!  I did get a new dishwasher at the beginning of the year!  YAY for my apartment complex manager!  She is so awesome–and it really is a NEW one, not someone else’s older but still working model.  Now if I could just get the damned dishes done…  We have been talking about making changes in the kitchen, to more genuinely accommodate the reality of my disability.  The large cabinet on wheels that seemed like such a good idea?  Not so much any more so it’s going to a new home.  That will free up space in the room so that Beloved can move around in there without bumping into it.  Since he’s having to do more cooking (if only for himself) than we had anticipated, making room is essential.  We’ll rearrange the pantry, get rid of dry goods that we’re not really going to eat, and clear off the low counter that serves as a work space for a person sitting on a chair.  We will replace the big, mostly unmovable-even-though-it’s-on-wheels cabinet with rolling carts.  One will live in the laundry room, the other will live in the kitchen–but it’s not as big as the current cabinet.  There is storage space and work space on the cart (we’ve picked out one we like at the Tarjay) and so one will be dry good storage and work top, the other more of a portable bar, with the booze, mixers, coffee and teas and etc inside and the coffee maker, coffee grinder and tea pot on top.  (We’re also going to get maintenance to turn the washer and dryer to face the door that is currently beside them.  Beloved cannot contort himself safely or adequately to load either machine, so if they are turned 90 degrees to the left, he will be able to open the closet door and do the laundry!)

Hopefully we can actually accomplish this before summer’s done?  HAHA.  Oh, and I have gotten some more ceramic knives.  LOVE THEM!  Will be getting rid of the rest of my knives except one, to have a pointy metal blade where the ceramic cannot be used.  Which isn’t that often.  Let me tell you, these knives are amazing.  SHARP!  Like lethally.  They cut slices of tomato that you could read through, chunk up chuck roast (for goulash) like cutting through soft butter…cut soft bread like a serrated knife.  Yes, I recommend them for everyone!  Run out now and buy yourself some ceramic knives!!! NOW!! LMAO

They certainly make it easier for me, with the hands that hurt and the arms that ache…to do kitchen prep without as much effort.  I’m glad to have them on those times when I can get in the kitchen and do stuff.  (The plan for today is to make that aforementioned goulash.  The meat has been marinating in SML (Schlitz Malt Liquor–don’t judge me, I actually like it) and spices, especially paprika.  Gonna brown off some onions and carrots, then add the meat and cook it to tender yuminess.  With the rain, an excellent meal indeed.  Even got some refrigerator (aka “whomp”) biscuits I could throw on top and make “dumplings” out of.  NOM.)

On the family front: my son has sold his soul for 3 more years of Naval duty, but is coming off the boat…he will now be a teacher, stationed in NY–so a little closer than GA was.  The Lizard is puffing up nicely as the new baby granddaughter grows for her debut on her sister’s birthday–two children with birthdays at the end of May.  There goes any Memorial Day weekend trips unless they are birthday trips!  With a new car, we will be able to go see her much more often…looking forward to that.

So that pretty much brings you all up to date, and I’m getting a little tired of typing for now…Keep dry and I’ll talk to you all soon.  At least, that’s the plan.

Namaste!

A Lull in the Holidays

So Christmas has come and gone already.  I’m not really sure where December itself has mostly disappeared to…I know that we spent a lot of time getting paperwork to the requesting company or governmental department.  I also managed to work up an abscessed tooth, so ended up at the free clinic in Fauquier County.  It wasn’t what I was expecting–no overt “poor”-ness, the staff was amazingly kind and helpful (and they are all volunteers).  As they took my health history, they of course asked for medications I’m on–and the first question out of the nurse’s mouth as I began to list them was “Do you need any refills?”  Not yet, but that’s something I’ll be doing soon, as things are beginning to go low–and I need another doctor’s note to appeal the insurance company’s decision to stop paying Long Term Disability (LTD).  Since my health is “self-diagnosed” (no actual blood test or MRI/X-Ray to prove I have it) I have to KEEP proving I have it.  Like it’s just going to go away because they won’t pay beyond the end of the month.  I wish.

So let’s see…what has been going on?

Black Bear Bistro runs a weekly contest–Chef gives a particular kind of meat and then asks for recipes using that ingredient, serving it as one of the specials on Friday night.  The week before Christmas, he said “duck breast”.  I said, “brine in throwback Dr. Pepper and then smoke, serve it with a cranberry salsa and sauce it with a Dr. Pepper/bourbon reduction”.  He said OH YEAH! And I won the contest that week–and the prize?  Getting my recipe made up as dinner for free.  Needless to say, we went to BBB and had it.  Apparently it was very popular that evening.  I know that when they brought mine to me, a man sitting nearby said, “Mmmm what is that?” and then he ordered it.  And it was amazing.  I don’t know what kind of a contract Chef made with the smoke demons, but anything that man makes that comes off the smoker is just beyond words.  Moist, tender, smoky….and I like smoked foods, so I’m a sucker for anything he cooks that way.  (Note: if you like ribs, get the half rack.  It comes and you can just pull the bones out, like playing Jenga–and when you’re done, the HALF rack leaves a pile of meat about the mass of a softball–it’s at least 2 cups of meat. NOM!)

And then we hit the holidays…

We went to Beloved’s parents’ house on Christmas Eve, and Ri and Froggy (and my son, BB!) met us there for the Polish custom of “vigil”.  It’s a tradition where you begin about 6 pm (we started earlier to accommodate Froggy’s 9 pm bedtime) and then eat until midnight when everyone goes to Mass.  MIL made a special (Polish) mushroom soup, and we had pierogies–about 4 different kinds.  So we ate, and ate well.  No one went to Mass, but Beloved and I did spend the night to be there for the Christmas festivities in the morning.

We obviously didn’t have money for presents, but I made 3 kinds of candied nuts and some peppermint bark as a sort of gift.  I made Buttered Rum Almonds, Toffee Pistachios and Ginger Cashew Toffee.  All three were very popular, and MIL ate most of the cashews.  I think FIL like the almonds and the pistachios, so that works out well.  I made enough of the peppermint bark that there was some still at home for Beloved, who has nommed it all down.

Since his parents have been helping us so profoundly the past 4 months, they had warned that it would be a “small” Christmas.  Well, if it was their idea of small, I’d be completely overwhelmed to see what a big one would be.  I had given them a list of gift ideas, links to things on Amazon that I liked…I think they bought almost all of them.  Beloved had also given his list, but included some things that he thought I would like–which they also got.  And we both got gift cards with a generous amount on them.  They gave both of us a Kindle Paperwhite, and it’s wonderful.  I am really enjoying it.  Beloved gave his (old) Kindle to his father and I gave my old one to his sister.  So 4 people got Kindles that day–and his mother was not unhappy because she got her iPod, HAHA! So my haul for the day was 4 shirts, a cotton terry bathrobe (long in length and with a hood, used for actually drying myself off after a shower); a ceramic santoku knife, a couple of specialty chocolate bars (one with chilis and cherries, the other with pieces of ginger), 2 gift cards, a USB Nintendo 64 controller/game pad so that I can play N64 on my computer (and I’m using the heck out of it, playing Ocarina of Time); a framed picture of one his sister’s costume designs that she says “got her into graduate school”.  She gave a different one to each of us, so Beloved and I have to figure out where to hang our two pictures.  And of course, I got the Paperwhite.  WAY more than I expected, WAY more than they should have done–I was totally prepared not to get any gifts at all.  So to get that much was overwhelming.

MIL made a turkey dinner since the sister missed Thanksgiving with us, so we ate that Christmas evening and stayed another night there.  Wednesday, we took said sister and all our booty and headed home.  It was 24 hours of doing nothing, hanging out, reading our new Kindles or in Sis’s case, her new book (the first of the “Hunger Games”–she got the trilogy).  We did go out for Mexican food for dinner, but other than that, we spent our time being complete couch potatoes.   M- & FIL came out to our house to pick her up early Thursday evening.  We made dinner out of the turkey dinner leftovers MIL had sent home with us.  Friday, we ran errands in Warrenton–dropping off the bank statements for Social Services, faxing the lawyer the SSA paperwork I still have to fill out and send back, depositing the last LTD check in the bank and getting the rent check.

Between being out of our own home for 3 days and then having Sis over (while great to see her, and pleasant to be able to offer her the chance to de-stress) and then running errands, we were “done wore out”, as they say. Saturday and Sunday have been sent doing as little as possible, sleeping and playing on the computer.  We both need it–and the weather changed, so I was in bad pain for Friday and Saturday.  With the help of my Beloved, who analyzes everything, we managed to abort a migraine yesterday for me–but he insisted I take a muscle relaxer and they tend to make me…high.  So I made sure I did not do any driving!  LOL

It looks like we will have a quiet, just the two of us kind of New Year’s.  This year has gone by in a blur–and not necessarily because it was going that fast, but because I was so “out of it” for great portions of time.  Don’t remember much of February or March… When you don’t have a schedule, when you’re not having to go to work, it’s very easy for the days to slip by, one after another and then it’s a week gone, then a month and before you know it…seasons change and you have no idea what happened the past 60 days.  It’s part of the reason I am very careful to check the bottom left corner of my computer screen–time, day of the week and the date prominently displayed.  Or I’d completely lose track of “when” it is.

Of course we had visits from Ri and Froggy, since they got here the first week of December.  Froggy is 14 months old, thinking about walking but crawling very well.  He’s a happy, easy going child, like his father was—and seems to remember us (fondly) each time we see him.  Skype has paid off!  Now if I could just get my Lizard to install it so I can see the EG once in a while.  On the other hand, having a mobile baby here meant a certain amount of rearrangement to child-proof and protect the technology from little fingers.  That has had the unexpected benefit of opening up more space and making the main room feel larger.  I suspect that when we are completely done, and things are where we want them, we have the furniture that we want, etc… it’s going to be unique and very different from anything I’ve ever lived in before.

We already have the bed in the living room–and super smart engineer-minded Beloved made the point that we need walk space all the way around it, so why not put it down by the patio door, where we also have to have walk space in the same pattern?  We regain about 65 square feet of usable space that way.  Might not seem like a lot, but when you’re only talking about a 13 by 24 room, you’ll take all the usable space you can get!  That also puts our desks down at the end with the windows, no one is sitting in the pathway to the patio, and we can arrange our desks together better than if they were across the room from each other.  (As they would have been with the bed in its current position.)  Now if we could just get the boxes sorted and taken care of…

Still working on the hellhole of a kitchen.  I am running dishes through a dishwasher that needs replacing since it doesn’t really work the way it’s supposed to.  So it gets clean what it gets clean, the rest I try again and then I’ll hand wash.  It is reducing the amount of things to hand wash to a stack that’s not so completely overwhelming.  I know the knives and wooden things never go in the dishwasher, so I’m okay with doing those…but there are some things that just will NOT come clean in the machine and I’m going to have to do them manually.  Sigh.  I HATE to wash dishes.  Really HATE.  I’d rather do almost anything instead of washing them, so it’s VERY easy to find something else to do and let them go another day.  Did I mention that I’ve got a bit of problem keeping track of time?  Can’t put it off any longer, but doing it in clumps of energy rather than making myself insanely in pain doing it all at once.  And I’m rediscovering counter tops….

Also trying to do more cooking.  We had eggs, sausage and whomp biscuits (canned) for breakfast yesterday; dinner was (premade) Jamaican Jerk chicken breast and sweet potatoes (Beloved also had some white potatoes, mashed up).  It’s quinoa and sausage for breakfast today, and I’ve pulled a marinated in mesquite pork loin out of the freezer to thaw.  Not sure if I’m actually going to roast it, or just make BBQ sauce and braise it (boil it in the sauce, basically) and make pulled pork.  If I do, I’ll get Beloved to make some rice to go with it.  We need to go grocery shopping soon…but not today.  I expect the stores to be busy today with people preparing for tonight…

I guess that’s about it for now.  Have a safe and Happy New Year this evening–do not drink and drive!!  And may your New Year be joyous and blessed!

Namaste!

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.

Namaste!

Pride or Honor?

This is going to be about some of the effects of fibromyalgia that aren’t physical, that cannot be handled with a pill or a hot shower, and are just as real and enduring as the disease itself.  It’s about…Social Services.

I’ve told you that we’re poor, that we have no income at this point and are living on the kindness of strangers and the dutiful assistance of his parents.  We are waiting for the approval and subsequent pay out of long term disability benefits, and of course, both of us have entered the fun house of the SSDI application and approval system.  So what do you do when you have no money and there’s none scheduled in (at least in your name alone rather than on someone else’s check)?

You take your pride off and put in the closet, then go down to Social Services to ask for food stamps–or as they call them now, “SNAP” (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).

Pride cannot be eaten; will not pay the bills; is not acceptable tender for purchasing groceries or filling the car with petrol.  And the definition of pride is “a feeling of pleasure from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is associated, or from qualities or possessions”.  Very different from honor, which is “honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions: a man of honor.”  Pride is an emotion and while sometimes it can be appropriate, it is still about ego and a sense of self-importance, HOW you feel, while honor is WHO you are and has nothing to do with pride except that you can be proud that you have honor.  Am I making sense?  I hope so because my dearest Beloved is a most honorable man, a man filled with honor and … he’s proud of that, rightfully so.

So going to take a hand out from the government, even though we’ve both paid our taxes for years and therefore have some right to ask for this help…it vexes him.  It’s very hard for an honorable man, used to working to pay his way, to have to ask someone else to foot the bill.  As grateful as we are for the parents’ help, he doesn’t like asking them either and not just because of the required song and dance about how we’re destroying their retirement money (well, it’s not quite as blatant as that, but it does require a certain level of request and demur), but because he wants to pay for things himself.  And he’s not a stupid man, my Beloved; he KNOWS what people think about those that they perceive as being slackers on the dole, and he doesn’t want to be looked at that way.  I get that.

And me?  I have no pride, at least not where the practical matters of my next meal exist.  I will take anything they want to give me, sign up for any program that will ease the financial (and associated emotional/mental) stress.  Now either this makes a much better Buddhist than I thought I was, or maybe I’m just too stupid to be proud but either way, I had no problem going down to the county office for Social Services.  I see nothing wrong or shameful in it–although I also know what people think about the “slackers on the dole”.  Frankly, I don’t care.  They don’t know me, they don’t know what’s going on in my life, they have no idea why I need help and it’s not actually any of their business since I am not bilking or defrauding the system.

It was not a particularly onerous chore.  The office was not packed with “welfare moms” and their ahem…the best term I’ve ever heard for it is “crotch fruit”… babies you keep having so that you get mo’ money.  Nope.  On the other hand, it was a poignant sign of our economy that the people who were in the office were a good cross section of our population: white and black, latino; older, younger, ONE child, 3 “tweens”; singles and married.  Not one good stereotype-able kind of person.  No one in rags or dirty, just regular people…like us…who need help getting by.

The staff was professional and polite, even kind.  The lady who interviewed us explained things carefully, told us about other services we can apply for and gave us that information in printed form so we can follow up on it if we need to.  She made sure we understood how food stamps work–just like a debit card actually–and how to set up the card for first use.  Because we have no income at this time, they expedited the process so we walked out of the office, SNAP in hand.  Oh snap!  I did not think we would be able to get it that fast, figured like most bureaucracy requirements we’d have to wait at least a week.  And I did like the fact that both the staff member on the phone when I called to see if I needed an appointment and the receptionist who greeted me at the office each immediately asked if there were children in the household when I asked about food stamps.

And the other clients who came in as we waited?  Didn’t stare at us like we were aliens–beyond the normal glances we get, since we are both somewhat notable (Beloved is a large man and I have long silver hair, which apparently catches the eye).  Spoke quietly to the receptionist, spoke politely and pleasantly to their case processors as they left.  There was a sense of camaraderie, that we’re all in a common boat.  True enough.

The amount we receive per month will be more than sufficient to get groceries, even the (expensive but worth it) organics we are trying to eat.  Of course, as we do get some income we will report that and adjustments will be made–but in the meantime, we won’t starve.  We might still end up living in the car, but by gods we’ll have great meals if we do.

So what’s the “take away” of this blog?  That fibromyalgia may so incapacitate you that you cannot work, that you will have to apply for permanent disability and that while you are waiting for that extremely bureaucratic process to wend its way through the required maze of hoops and challenges to see who gets voted off the system…you may have to ask for public assistance, aka Social Services.  Don’t be ashamed of it if you must.  Don’t go hungry or get your utilities shut off because you’re too proud to ask for that help.  Get rid of any pride that stands in the way of your ultimate well being–and go, with honor, to your county Social Services office.  There is no loss of honor in being strong enough to admit that you cannot do it all on your own, that you are strong enough to accept help both when it is offered and when it is needed.  You don’t have to be proud that you are on public assistance, but you can certainly keep your honor by using it the way it is meant to be used, not abusing it and letting go of it when things change for you and you no longer need it.  Pride is what you feel; honor is who you are–and is the more important of the two, any day of the week.

Namaste!

The Politics of Fibromyalgia

Before I begin, it is important to know that I have always been willing to talk about religion or sex with anyone, at great length.  But politics?  I thought it was boring, and almost more importantly, I NEVER told anyone who I had voted for, figuring that was between me and the lever I pulled.  Part of this may have been the fact that for years I was a dutiful but woefully uninformed voter, performing my civic duty because it was a part of my American freedoms.

That has changed.  I am married to a political beast, someone who follows the politics and knows the issues.  And feels that I should also.  Damn.

So what does this have to do with my fibromylgia?   Quite a lot actually.

Let’s step back to 2008, when our only choices were “the black man” and John McCain, who I would have been okay with, but he is old and could die in office and his running mate?  Is that crazy woman from Alaska.  You betcha.  Being uninformed but dutiful, I chose what I perceived to be the lesser of two evils.  I strongly support the NOTA: None of the Above option for voting, even as I realize that it won’t work in this country.  But having to pick one of two, I did.  And you’ll notice that I’m still being a little cagey, not coming right out and saying it.  Let’s see if I can: I voted for Barack Obama in 2008.  Not because I believed in him, or his plans…but because frankly, I figured someone would assassinate him and Joe Biden was an acceptable replacement.  Don’t be horrified, other people voted for reasons just as poor, all through the years of our country’s existence.  At least that’s slightly better than I voted that way because my husband told me to.

In 2008, I did not know my Beloved and was not diagnosed with fibro yet.  As I said then, and still believe today, I had nothing but admiration for a man who so willingly drew a bull’s eye on himself–and his wife and daughters.  I knew then that he had strong courage and the (apparent) conviction of his actions to so obviously put himself in harm’s way.  There are too many in our country who thought he should be dead, who still wish he would die.  For being black.  SHAME ON YOU!  I acknowledged the uniqueness of his color in the parade of Presidents, but I never thought it made him ineligible for the position, nor somehow prevented him from doing at least as good a job as anyone of them ever had.

I’m afraid that my opinion of politicians has never been very high.  Too many of them are “professional politicians” which I consider to be an oxymoron.  I believe you should have had a REAL job, one that doesn’t involve voters, or lobbyists, or government at all, BEFORE you take any office and try to run the city/county/state/country.  How can you know what the “common people” want, if you’ve never been one?  I have also always had problems with the rich kids buying their way into government (at any level) like it’s a game they play, like being CEO of Daddy’s company isn’t enough, so they have to be a Senator…or President.  Or the rich daddy buying the path for Junior to be groomed and carefully placed, carefully mentored up into being a Senator … Governor … or President.  Too, too many politicians are lawyers.  I hold with Shakespeare: “First, kill all the lawyers.”  Why do they become lawyers?  So that they will better know how to get around the loopholes that the lawyers who made the laws left for their own kind to abuse.

Anyway.  You get the picture of my views on the political scenery in America.  But you should also know that I have lived overseas–in a war zone, in a country with an absolute monarch, in a country with a dictator, in a country with socialist democracy.  And I’ve always been glad to come home, back to the US of A, to America.  I still think it’s the best thing going, government-wise, than so many alternatives.  I am a patriot, I believe in my country, for better or worse.  I served in the military and have a son who is fourth generation military service…we are proud to be Americans.

Back to the fibro part of this.  So I meet Beloved, we have a whirlwind romance, get married…and get sick.  Both of us.  If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that we’ve been ill for almost 2 years now, in differing amounts and degrees of the word.  Sometimes, I’m the one in worse shape and sometimes, he is–fortunately, we don’t seem to cycle through our very bad phases together, so that at least we can take care of each other.  I have been out of work since January (and fired when my FMLA ran out in March); he hasn’t been to work since February and is on “personal medical leave” which means he’s an unpaid employee who still has (thank all the gods!) health insurance.  My short term disability benefits were our only income until they expired at the end of July.  I am still waiting for the processing (and please, all gods!) and approval for my long term disability benefits.  The time frame on that is a minimum of 4 more weeks from today.

We have retained the services of a lawyer (not ALL of them are bad)…and have applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).  Approval time: 4 months minimum for Beloved, probably not less than a year, possibly TWO for me.  We have also applied for short term income assistance from the Social Security Administration (SSI) which takes 60 to 90 days to be processed.  We are going to apply for food stamps (SNAP) once we sell (cheap) his non-functioning and unused BUT an asset of a truck.  Anyone want a 98 Ford Explorer that need about $1000 worth of work?  Its Blue Book value isn’t enough to pay for the repairs.  Sigh.  I still owe on my car, but it’s also still considered an asset.  And they don’t give SNAP (don’t give a snap?) if you have assets.  Sell the cars and then you can buy food.  But we can’t get to the store to buy it…never mind, that becomes too much like the old song about the hole in the bucket.

Fibro.  Yeah.  No income.  No ability to work.  And the current economic reality is that it would take a while to get a job, even if we were applying.  Neither of us is capable of doing the job that our skill sets cover due to our disabilities.  (And side note here: I am NOT disabled, I HAVE a disability.  Important distinction for the mind to make.)  I cannot, for the life of me, think of a job that will let me come in when I wake up, no matter what time that is, work for an hour or so, maybe as much as 3, and then go take a nap for 3 to 6 hours and then come back to work for another 2-3 hours.  Will let me take off whenever I need to go to the doctors, or when the weather makes me unable to function, or when I’m just wandering in my fibro fog.  And pay a living wage.  If you know of one, comment here so that I can go find it.

So what are the politics of fibro?  Applying for social services that the Republicans want to cut or destroy completely.  Relying, heavily, at least through February 2013 when his leave expires, on medical insurance to cover the cost of–at a very bare minimum, if they didn’t pay for the fibro meds too–my pain pills so that I can have some quality of life.  Not to mention the doctors, the medical equipment that helps my (wrist splints, a cane, ankle braces…and the possibility of a wheelchair and or scooter).   The distinct possibility that both of us will be on Medicare (as part of SSDI) with Medicaid paying for the things that Medicare doesn’t cover–and again, the Republicans want to scrap the programs.  The need for a vehicle that is well made, well protected–and gets better gas mileage than my beloved purple PT Cruiser, checking in at about 20 MPG, 23 or so highway.  And that need includes such invisible things as a lower price because it’s made here and we don’t have to pay for the transportation costs from Japan or Germany.

We need government services, we need government help.  We aren’t “welfare abusers” who are looking for a free ride, who will take advantage of our food stamps to sell them for drugs or whatever else.  We have both worked hard for years and now, being ill, prefer not to become an onerous burden either to our children or to our parents.  We also prefer not to live in the street.

I refused to watch much of the RNC.  Stupidity and lies just make me angry.  Maybe that’s why I haven’t been involved in politics before.  But with the increasing attempts by the Republicans to take America back to the 1950’s, with Dad being the sole breadwinner and Mom cooking the bread…I have begun to listen.  I recognize that the attacks on women’s reproductive rights are NOT the main issue; it’s a symptom of that greater problem, putting women back into the kitchen and shutting them up–and shutting them out.  It’s about denying half, HALF of our population, basic human rights.  It’s the same old story with women cast as the villain this time instead of “The Black Man”.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all (BEINGS) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness..”  What if a woman’s idea of happiness is to be a CEO?  A firefighter?  A fighter pilot?  A mother who stays at home because she CHOOSES to?  How does it serve our country to deny anyone the right to pursue their dream, whatever it may be?  Who are you to decide that someone else should not have the same rights as you enjoy?  I don’t care who you are; neither money nor position nor gender, not who your family is or was, not what your religion says is right, NOTHING gives you the power to remove another’s choices.  Or to reduce or remove their right to basic healthcare, a home, security from the fear of being poverty-stricken and ill, to remove their hope.

I didn’t watch a lot of the DNC.  But I did watch Mrs. Obama’s speech; Mr. Clinton’s speech and then, Mr. Obama’s speech.  One of the things I have learned over the past 4 years is that Barack loves Michelle.  There is NO doubt in my mind.  They touch, freely and often, even in the public eye.  They are glad to see each other and certainly have each other’s back.  Just watch them.  And their girls adore both of them, which is reciprocated.  Most of the married politicians I have watched look uncomfortable with each other and any touching is for photo ops and as limited as possible.  (Hate to say it, but Bill and Hillary come to mind.)  There is an honesty in that relationship that speaks well of the state of their marriage.  He wouldn’t cheat on her not just because he loves her, but because she would kick his ass.

I appreciated her talking about their life together, how it started–even as I recognize the political machinations of “we’re just like you, we started out poor” to appeal to the mobs.  On the other hand, Mr. Romney can’t say that, unless he’s going to lie some more.  And his wife always manages to look like she smells dog poo on your shoes.  And I’m sorry, but you just DON’T wear a $1000 t shirt and try to pretend that you’re just “one of the people”.

So Michelle Obama talked eloquently (she’s a lawyer, too, remember?) and yet her emotions were real, she was not just reading words off the teleprompter.  She loves her husband and she believes in him–and in what he’s doing.  Which makes me believe that they had a lot of late night in bed conversations about him becoming President — and that it was as much her choice as his.

Bill Clinton spoke the truth.  I could be a cynic and say it was for the first time ever, because when he was in office I knew that he did was politically expedient, not necessarily what was right.  But it was a most formidable rebuttal to the Republican’s accusations, lies and distortions.  Now I know that there was also the same level of political spin, but why lie when the truth is a much more worthwhile response?  And Mr. Clinton is a powerful, motivating speaker.  A very successful keynote speech, directly addressing the issues the Republicans would have you believe that Mr. Obama has been failing at.

I was glad that Michelle got to introduce her husband when it was his turn to speak.  And did you notice the hug and her telling him “You’ll do great”?

But it wasn’t his speech, or Mr. Clinton’s, or even Michelle’s, that has solidified my choice for President.  It was the contrast between those two conventions.  RNC was mostly, almost totally a white audience, many of them elderly or (apparently) not a means because the clothing was…shall we say, not dressy?  Clean jeans do not a dressy outfit make, unless of course that’s the very best you can do.  Everyone looked angry or unhappy.

The candidates and their wives looked like they wanted to be almost anywhere else…and the men LIED.  If you can’t convince someone to vote for you based on what you’re going to do, I guess you have to lie about your opponent.  Oh, and if you’re not going to tell us what you plan on doing in the White House, should you be elected…that makes my Mom radar go off.  It’s Little Johnny, asking Mom for her sheets and some pans, some cookies and clothespins–and when she asks why, he won’t tell her.  She has to discover later, for herself, that he’s built an elaborate trap and has an angry cat scratching through her sheets trying to get out.  What is it that you’re going to do, that you can’t tell me ahead of time?  Must be something bad for me.

Even watching the RNC over my shoulder as Beloved gather intel against them made me angry.  The whole thing, the expressions on faces, the tone (and the lies, dear gods, the lies) gave off an emotional feeling of anger and bitter resentment.

So I watched more of the DNC.  An audience that was as diverse as our nation truly is.  I saw signs for this or that “for Obama”–Brazilians, Latinos, and Muslim Americans.  I saw old and young, and the overall clothing level was…not jeans and t shirts (not even $1000 ones).  People dressed like they cared where they were.  The audience looked happy, not angry.  People were excited, hopeful…glad to be there, believing in this choice rather than voting for Romney just to be voting against the Black Man in the White House.

And the clincher for me was the language of each party.  Republicans are very much “us versus them”…”we’ve got to get ours” and “you’re on your own” (because if you’re poor, it was a choice and too bad).  Republicans want to divide, want to keep us separate, want to go back to the Man on top and everyone else back in “their place” which is not equal to The Man.  And if you think that money is not a huge part of this for them, just Google “Koch Brothers” and be appalled.  There isn’t enough room in this blog for me to talk about them, but you need to know what they are doing.  A great deal of the Republican plans are actually THEIRS.  This is two old, white men, trying to destroy our country so that they can make another billion.  Sigh.

Let’s go to the language of the DNC.  “We are in this together”.  “YOU made this”.  “We’ve come part of the way, and have more to go and we can do it united”.  Yes, the community organizer is EXACTLY what we need in the White House.  America is not you and me and him and her–it’s US.  Yeah, it’s US!  That’s part of our name and it should be our guiding thought for our government.  The speeches at the DNC did not rely on grandiose rhetoric and empty meaningless phrases; they talked specifically about the things that we care about.  Healthcare, social services, jobs here at home instead of outsourcing.  Mr. Obama admitted and addressed the fact that while we have made progress, there are still those out in our country who haven’t seen any benefit–but that if WE are strong, if WE stand UNITED, WE can continue on this path, to bring America back to the power and prestige she used to have.

He doesn’t want the same old answers to our problems.  Einstein said that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result was a sign of insanity.  Well, the Republicans, by that measure, are insane.  Or as Mr. Clinton said, “We left him a total mess, he hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in.”  That just won’t work.  We need different answers, and Mr. Obama has some of them.  Not all, no one can do that–but he’s got enough new ideas that it’s worth following him.  He doesn’t deny that we have a long way to go, but as he said, it took a while to get where we are and that’s not going to change overnight.

I listened to him and I heard that he has a plan–and what it was.  The Republicans tell us to “wait until after the election” to find out what they plan on doing for the nation.  It’s probably an angry cat, trying to scratch its way out of the restraining sheets.

So what does my vote have to do with my fibromyalgia?  It’s in my own self interest to vote for someone who will ensure that I get my SSDI for years, who will make healthcare possible for me because I need it.  But I am a patriot and I will also be voting for the candidate who believes in America, believes in a strong, UNITED STATES of America, who is a community organizer at the national level.  I will vote for the man who is inclusive, who agrees that people who love each other should be able to marry, regardless of their gender; who wants to make the US a manufacturing nation again, instead of a service economy, who wants to stop outsourcing jobs and wants to train workers for the new jobs that are coming.  I want a strong country, I NEED a strong country so that I can continue to live in the land that I love–and still have food and medication.

Final note: you don’t have to agree with me.  I don’t expect you to.  But I do expect you to vote in November.  And if you do agree with me, it’s even more important that your voice is heard, that your vote is added to the total count because otherwise, we’re headed for a country that will fall apart in a war between those who have more money than they could ever spend and those who have no money at all.  And I don’t want my country to die that kind of ignoble, useless, wasteful death just because some old white guys think billions of dollars isn’t enough for them and they want more.

VOTE!

And, as always, Namaste!