Thursday, December 31, 2009

What a year!

I was shot, mugged, and covered in hives of a truly Biblical scope. Frosty went to Jesus. I handed out hundreds of Bibles, discovered that God has called me to evangelism, and started a regular program of Bible Study. I cared for my husband, managed a business, and learned to take better care of myself. I took Ron to a family reunion. I was attacked by an evil stray cat. I learned I love Chicory coffee, and Foodtown grocery stores.

As I started the year, I was just getting back on the bus again after a long hiatus. Ron was recovering from an allergic reaction to an antibiotic, it was a battle to get him to eat at all.

In January, I made the decision to deny myself access to a message board forum. I realized the forum was causing me a lot more stress than joy, and decided that I didn't need the aggravation. I haven't regretted the decision. I took Ron to a couple of doctors, with unsatisfying results.

February, I had a nasty gallbladder attack. Once I got over that, I had some struggles "Coming to terms" with the whole bipolar label and all that implies. Ugh. I can see why people don't say they have the illness. I did have some serious quality time in the garden.

March, I worked up a good "Things I love to do" list and began actually doing the things whenever I began feeling depressed. Now, it's almost a reflex. "I'm getting depressed, what 'things I love' are possible right now?" I battled a pretty nasty depression "He's only 54! It's not fair. The best years of his life, I was sick with undiagnosed, unmedicated bipolar disorder. I finally get fixed and how he's circling the drain? Cruel."

I did find plenty of motivation in my music: "You always say you wanna follow me
But when I call you're never around
Talk is cheap it's time for action
This time I'm gonna pin you down
I wanna see your faith on the line
You've got to take it to the limit
'Cause my love is all you need
Take it to the limit
And by my side you'll always be
I could provide everything you lack
But you keep tryin' to carry the world on your back
I wanna see your faith on the line
You've got to take it to the limit
'Cause my love is all you need
Take it to the limit
And by my side you'll always be.
You talk in circles
But you can't see
You'll find your freedom
When you start trustin' in Me
I wanna see your faith on the line
You've got to take it to the limit
'Cause my love is all you need
Take it to the limit
And by my side you'll always be- Take it to the Limit by Whitecross

I lost Frosty. God took him in such a way that I knew I had to let him go. It was so awful saying goodbye.

April, the H1N1 flu hit the fan. I was attacked by a truly VICIOUS stray cat, necessitating a course of antibiotics. Ron had carpal tunnel surgery, which went fine. Dear old Chuck gave us a ride to and from the hospital.

May, I started handing out Bibles, and had a good month overall. My biggest problem - Ron feeding the cat too many treats.

June, we took Ron's internet wheelchair and went on a family reunion cruise. We had a great time, the wheelchair worked great, and I even wrote Western Safety a fan mail. Every day's an adventure. I bought myself a smoker and a wok. Both have gotten plenty of use. We had so much fun on the cruise, we did a little trip to Galveston.

July, I expanded Garden Bed 1. I battled the heat, and caregiver burnout.

August, I don't even NEED to look at my blog archive, August I had the spectactular Lexapro reaction. Hives of a truly Biblical nature. Oh, I was probably sicker than I've ever been in my life. It was about 2 months before I healed, that included over 80 grams of steroid cream and a course of oral steroids. I learned I'm OK with Solu-Medrol. I found a good primary care doc. I stopped the Lexapro, and learned that if I stop Risperdal, I will have full blown hallucinations. Ron slowly regained a few more food flavors. He says nothing is a "10" anymore, but they are enjoyable now.

September, I had some psychotic issues (seriously), and Doc increased my Risperdal. I slathered on square feet of steroid cream daily. I sliced the end off a fingertip. Ouch. No typing for quite a bit after that. I read a lot of inspirational romance novels. I handed out lots of Bibles and found $60 lying on the ground on my birthday.

October: Old "Sparky", my computer, finally died. God really laid it on me, that I need to pray for those who've "Done me wrong". Ron bought me a new computer.

November: mainly annoyance with Swine Flu hysteria, deepening my spiritual life.

December: Mugged! I learned I will FIGHT when someone tries to take my Bible. I am delighted I got to keep "Little Buddy". Thank God the thug didn't bleed on me, when I hit him! I tried another antidepressant and learned the pharmacist is right, I'm allergic to all antidepressants in the SSRI category. Ah, well.

So, overall, a challenging year. I learned a lot. I pray next year will be easier!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Would you fight for it?

I learned something interesting yesterday during my mugging. When someone tried to take my Bible from me, I fought for it.

While thug boy is now on my prayer list, and I'd be happy to GIVE him a Bible, I figured if he stole my Bible, he'd just throw it away. Yesterday, I learned that God's Word has such value to me, that I'm willing to fight for it. God's Word has sustained me through the worst times of my life, and I wasn't willing to let that boy take that comfort away from me.

So I fought, punching him in the face, to protect my Bible. You and I both know he'd have thrown in away if he'd gotten it.

I've learned a valuable lesson: When someone tries to take my Bible from me, I'll fight for it.

When the bag ripped and the Bible fell on the ground, he ran away like it bit him!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mugging fail

Today I got mugged at the bus stop. "Highway robbery or "mugging" takes place outside and in a public place such as a sidewalk, street, or parking lot" - per Wikipedia.

Yup. First, I'll tell you what happened.

This morning I did my Bible Study. I had a nasty headache and decided to take my fake Excedrin. I took it. I had a "feeling" I shouldn't take my backpack today, so I didn't. I took a black canvas tote bag instead.

I put my Bible, a bottle of Diet Dr Pepper, 10 bags of "driver candy", and my fake Excedrin into the tote bag. I wore my cheap MP3 player around my neck. I had cash, but it wasn't in the tote bag.

I guess I should explain the whole concept of Driver Candy. In 1992, I was working at Target. I was a cashier, and my scanner was broken. That meant I had to type in every single UPC code by myself. All those digits! AAAAGH. People were getting in my line because it was "short", until they realized I had to hand-code each item. People were VERY annoyed.

I was tired. I was starving. A nice young man - about mid 20's, moved forward and placed a few large bags of Peanut M&M's on the counter. I commented on their tastiness as I rang them up.

"Hold out your smock" he instructed. I was wearing an ugly smock with 2 large pockets. I held it out, baffled. He tore open a bag of M&M's and filled up BOTH pockets. I almost cried for joy, nibbling happily on my treasure as I worked my way through the rest of that horrible day.

I have NEVER forgotten that man's kindness. I realized the best compliment I could give the man was in duplicating his actions.

A few years back, I started buying assorted wrapped candies, bagging them out, and handing them out to cashiers and drivers I encountered. People love them; especially during the holidays.

I really enjoy doing it for bus drivers, so I like to leave the house with about a dozen bags or so. My Days Out involve several bus transfers. I like to give a bag to EACH driver.

Hence, 10 bags of Driver Candy in the tote bag. I walked off down the street and headed off to the bus stop.

I've gotten complacent. I grew up outside a big bad city; and I've always lived in the suburbs of some large city. I remember the safety classes and all "Be observant". "Notice your surroundings".

However, years of "What a nice, quiet neighborhood" had numbed my instincts. I have lived in some BAD areas. My favorite was the apartment complex. I saw a drug deal and told management "You have a drug dealer living here".

"Which one did you see?" they laughed. Oh, boy. In that environment, I NEVER let my guard down. The worst I saw there, other than the drug deal, was a very poorly endowed flasher (I laughed at him and he drove away).

However, everyone talks about my beautiful, quiet, subdivision. I just assumed bad things don't happen here.

So, when the 2 young men approached me rapidly, from behind, I just assumed they were residents, in a hurry. They seemed agitated, but I turned my back. I made a POINT of not noticing them, as I got out my paperback.

Then "Red" struck, snatching my tote bag off my arm. I fought him for the bag, and he asked his companion for help. His companion refused. The bag was on my left shoulder, I fought him with the left arm as I began giving him a Right Hook to the left eye. POW, POW, POW.

We battled, and I have to say I was winning. "You idiot!" I chided him "All I've got in here is some candy!" Then the handles tore off the bag and he bolted. Everything fell out of the bag except for a few bags of driver candy. He must have been furious when he searched the handle-less tote bag.

I'm glad I got my Bible. I'm glad he didn't bleed on me. I'm glad he'll have a nice black eye tomorrow. I'm glad he didn't have a weapon. I'm glad his cohort didn't jump in to subdue me. Things could have been very bad.

I know God protected me. It's been a challenging year. First I get shot in the leg with a BB gun, carrying Bibles. Now mugged.

After thug boy ran away, I called the police. I gave them a report and waited on the nice officer to come out. I gave my report and he offered to drive me home. "I'm going out, like I planned." I told him. "You're very brave" he replied. "After something like that even I would want to go home!"

"I need to get back up on this horse and ride it!" I replied. The nice officer gave me a ride to my destination and I went off on my Day Out. I knew, if I went home, I would probably never ride the bus again.

I don't want that to happen. I do have some pepper spray now. I have decided I need to be a lot more alert at the bus stops. I need to pay attention.

That may mean, putting my book away if someone approaches. Not listening to my MP3 player.

I continue to Thank God that it wasn't any worse, and thug boy and his cohort have now gone onto the prayer list.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Don't tell them what to do!

It doesn't matter where I was at the time, but a few incidents came up recently.



I believe I have already blogged about one incident, where an obviously mentally ill person got very upset at me for taking my medication. She had a physical disability in addition to the obvious mania. I had gotten dizzy from medication and stumbled getting into the vehicle. Since I don't "appear" sick she asked me what was wrong. I believe the exact question was "You aren't SICK [contagious] are you?"



No, I told her, my medication had me a little dizzy. She asked me what I took and I told her. "For Bipolar disorder". She proceeded, in typical http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mania fashion, to tell me manic-depression was a "made up illness" designed to "Get you hooked on their drugs. You're addicted to those drugs!"



Uhm, how many blog entries have I bitched about horrible side effects? How many times have I typed out my resentment at losing brain function, just to have a functional mood? How many compromises between mood and function? Noting a theme here of LOSS OF FUNCTION on the meds that are not addictive, and possibly damaging to my health. I also resent being termed an addict - I'm only addicted to caffeine.



I just kind of cringed in my seat as she expounded on the theme: A Good Christian would fast and pray, throwing away the evil (life-restoring) pharmaceuticals. I nodded wisely as she flung her hands around, gesturing wildly, one word falling over the next, thinking to myself "You're manic. You need the exact drugs you disparage".

I know, with absolute certainty, God needs me exactly the way I am. He cannot use me otherwise! If I could drive, I wouldn't be handing out Bibles at the bus stop!


In another situation, a person felt called by God to hand out tracts. Another person denigrated that desire, calling it "A waste of time". Why? I have heard many stories of people getting saved by reading a tract at home. But many would-be "Evangelists" believe God has to be shoved down someone's throat, kind of like pilling a cat:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RC9TndFmo60


You saw how well that worked! [laugh]



Everything I have read in the Bible says that Jesus had a lifestyle witness - the way he lived His life was so compelling, people had to follow him. In our case, being mere humans, we should live a life so compelling, so unusual, that people just have to ask "What's your secret?"

We should be praying for our enemies and those who persecute us (Matthew, chapter 5), we should be happy when we're weak, because that's when God can use us! (See 2 Corinthians 12:9-10) We're only passing through, and it's our actions we take with us when we die.

Are we making Jesus proud, or embarrassed? He told us not to judge: Matthew 7:1 (Judge not, lest you be judged). The Apostles told us not to judge: James 4:11, and let's not forget, Jesus himself said "I do not come to Judge the world, but to SAVE the world." (John 6:44)

Don't be ashamed if you have an infirmity of some sort, God makes every tool for his purposes (me). Sometimes, God may need an odd-looking tool the world would deem "useless" or "Worthless". We may be making a huge statement, just sitting there.

Many times, I have seen people gape at me and my husband, wondering "What's their secret?"

Jesus. The Jesus of the Bible, not the one humans make him out to be. I sure wouldn't follow that guy!

God bless you and take care, I'm praying for you.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

How I do it

I'm fully medicated so I might not be clear and concise. However, that's just the price tag of being medicated.

I was thinking today about the time I spend with God - how I do it, how I manage it... where I rise and fall.
First, let me introduce you to my tools.
My pocket size NKJV Bible - it has a read your Bible in a year plan in the back. It is very well loved, waterstained, and marked up. I have a simple cover, index cards with Bible verses, and other items stuffed into the carry pockets.
"Read your Bible in a Year" tract
"Morning and Evening" devotions by Charles Spurgeon
A few rather sad paperback books; picked up at thrift stores:
The One Year Book of Bible Readings; based on the Living Bible "To my friend Kirk, Love Beth"
and Daily Light from the Bible KJV "To my Grand-daughter Tasha, Read this book daily, it will give you the strength that you need to face the many different challenges that are a part of everyday life" - after reading that flyleaf inscription, I had to buy it. It is a cherished family member.

NIV hardback One-Year Bible - it is about 5x7. I bought it with Christmas money from Grandma.
God's Daily Promises, NLT-

First thing in the morning, I get up. I pray, asking God to give me a clear head to understand what He wants to show me for the day. I also ask Him to take care of "them" - them encompassing a wide gamut. I read the morning reading from Morning & Evening; and Daily Light from the Bible (they each have an AM & PM portion). I read the other devotions - just one per day. I read the Old Testament part of the One-Year Bible.

During the day, I read the portion from the NKJV Bible I carry, the section in the back, and the chapters from the "Read Your Bible in a Year" tract. I usually cover that spot waiting on a ride of some sort; but if the trips are good I may miss it. Still working on that - I do like having some Biblical Meat at the bus stop.

I pray whenever I feel led to pray. It often isn't very articulate, but the Bible says the Holy Spirit can work through us. I envision myself opening a channel to God, and focusing strongly. If I have a request, I make it. I try to be very thankful for all the good things, and I will often phrase it like that: Thank you for all the good things in my life. When I urinate, I even thank God for healthy kidneys!

In the evening, I cover the evening portions of my books, the NT/Psalms portion of the One-year Bible, and re-read the daily devotions for the other books.

I forgot to mention I often light incense when I am at home, praying and doing my Bible study. It makes the experience more pleasant. I am well aware God doesn't need a ritual, but I enjoy it.

I give God the good times if at all possible, my medication causes a serious IQ drop. I do my best to focus my energies, the best of Heather, on Him and he often allows that healthy energy to carry on into my other activities.

The more time I spend with God, the closer I feel to Him. I feel the time spent makes me a better child of His, a better wife, and a better all-around human being. Time well spent!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Called to Evangelism by Christ Jesus

"For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any 2-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12

"No one can come to Me (Jesus), unless the Father who sent me draws him...'They will all be taught by God.'. Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from Him comes to me." John, 6:44-45

My Mom talks about my "Ministry". I don't call it that... I'm just a saved sinner handing out Bibles to everyone. But if my "ministry" had a theme verse, it would be the above two. I don't tell people they're going to hell. I don't order them to repent. I don't preach salvation - but I put a "You're Special" salvation tract (either English or Spanish), a handwritten note ("I'll be praying for you daily!"), a Footprints bookmark / 10 commandments bookmark / and a "Read Your Bible in a Year" tract into the Bibles I distribute. People love the add-ons.

To my knowledge, I have not led one person to get saved. I've handed out Bibles to homeless men living under overpasses, scary looking thugs with gold teeth and baggy "draws", every bus and cab driver I meet, shoppers, people at bus stops, scantily dressed women, and every Child of God I encounter.

I can tell when someone should get a Bible - the Holy Spirit kind of gives me a little "bump". I get out the appropriate Bible (living in Houston, I carry both English and Spanish), and say "I'd like to give you something!" and give it to them. Sometimes, I have to show them the REST of the Bibles before they'll take it. Virtually the same thing happens every time: I get a big grin, a "Thank you!", and if they're waiting at the bus stop, they start reading it then and there. I also put them out with a "Please take one" notice at work, and work has hundreds of people. Work has "eaten" over 100 Bibles to date.

As long as I've got a couple bucks in my pocket, I'll keep bringing them. I've been screamed at, reviled, thrown out of a grocery store, and shot in the leg with a BB gun (fortunately the velocity was pretty slow and it bounced off) as I carried a couple dozen Bibles to the bus stop.

My only regret in THAT case was not being able to give the thug a Bible, and tell him I'd be praying for him. Whenever I'm about to run out of Bibles, He always sends me more. The stories can be very interesting! The time I left the house with $40, and when I got to my destination I had $60. The time I found $60 lying in a parking lot, flat and face up, on my birthday. The check my Mom sent me that enabled the purchase of 20 Bibles and 50 New Testaments.

God wants me to do this, and I won't stop 'till I'm dead. I am called to evangelism by Christ Jesus, and I consider it an honor to serve.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Chicken Little Fact Check.

Today, at work, a grown man was almost in tears at the thought of "Swine Flu". About 4 people have died in the last month in Harris county.

You know what I find a lot more alarming? 1191 people will die today, of smoking. Yet it's legal.
Over 118 people will die today, in a car wreck. Yet, I got into a car not once, but twice today!
232 people are going to be killed by alcohol, yet my husband drinks, and so do all my loved ones.
Up to a thousand people died today of obesity related complications, and I still filled the vending machines with fattening goodies!
29 people were murdered today, and I still left the house.
Eleven, out of every 100,000 women, die due to childbirth in America, yet women are still having babies.

It's all about perspective. Here's my source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_preventable_causes_of_death#Leading_causes_in_the_United_States

I hate to see someone of average intelligence fall into the Chicken Little trap due to "News Poisoning". If the media covered all the choking deaths, no one would ever eat! Eleven people a year die in America, due to dog attacks! Where is the outrage?

Come on people.... yes, you're going to die, but you're a lot more likely to die of cancer.

Friday, October 23, 2009

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble

No one has said it, but I'm a tremendously picky person when it comes to religion. I realize that. I've been church shopping.

I thought it would be pretty easy to find one near our home. Silly, silly, Heather.

I had a choice of a few near our home. One looked promising, until I investigated the website. Red flags came up. 1. They believe in KJV only. That's an issue for me, because KJV is at a 12 grade reading level. Many people don't read at that level, especially my evangelism market. I hand out the NEW KJV - which is approximately 7th grade reading, Bibles, and ESV (8th grade level) New Testaments. I would have no problem handing out the "God's Word" translations (Good News), as that was my first Bible. They're at 5th grade level. I don't think the version matters - as long as you're picking up the Bible and reading it on a regular basis! For me, that translates to NIV and NJKV generally, although I do like the ESV, God's Word, and other versions. About the only version I don't love is the KJV!

The second red flag came up when I read the about the pastor page. Another page was marked "First Lady" so and so. Why does this bother me? Well, I'm getting out the misprinted NKJV paperback Bible I keep by my computer. Parts of Romans have been eaten off in the printing press, other sections were just miscut. It is a handy consult Bible, but I'd never give it away, it's too messed up. If I wanted to read a Bible when I was ill, I'd use this. Same with bathtub reading.

I will digress - I once read a lovely article on how to dispose of a Bible. The thought of sending one to a landfill with dirty diapers and all is just horrifying to me. It's God's love letter to me. One article suggested burning it, while saying a prayer of thanks for all the comfort it brought you. Lovely. If I ever trashed a Bible, that's how I'd do it. My personal favorite carry around Bible is waterstained from a water bottle leak - but it's completely readable so I plan to read it until pages fall out. Back to original subject:

The apostle Paul. What titles did he claim? He was one of the greatest evangelists of all time.

Romans: Paul, a bondservant of Jesus. A bondservant is little better than a slave, back then.
1 Corinthians: called to be an apostle
2 Corinthians: Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God
Same for Galations, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy
Philippians and Titus: Bondservant of Jesus Christ
1 & 2 Thessalonians, simply Paul
Philemon: a prisoner of Christ Jesus - he also refers to himself thus in other books.

James - the brother of Jesus, also referred to himself as a bondservant.
So did Peter.
Jude - bondservant.

What example have the apostles set for us? That we are servants of Jesus. Servants. Not carrying regal titles, but simple friends and servants of Jesus.

No wonder the title "First Lady" puts my hackles up. I found that on not one, but two websites. No thanks. I have enough drama in my life without attending a church with a "First Lady". UGH. I just find the concept abhorrent and revolting.

"God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble". Actually straight out of 1 Peter 5:5b-6 "Be clothed with humility, for 'God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.' Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time."

God opposes the proud. So do I, apparently.

It's a shame, they were right on the bus line.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

As we forgive our debtors...

Oh, that little line in the Lord's Prayer. God's been laying it on me recently: I need to give up my grudges.

I carry bitterness in my heart towards various people: a woman who broke a commandment, people who swore I could depend on them and let me down when I reached out, an officer of the law who not only stole from my husband, but lied on the accident report - then came and said the accident was "All your fault because you let him out of the house." - I'm sorry. I didn't know my husband had to be LEASHED. I needed that money to pay the rent! Give me 10 minutes with that man - and immunity from criminal charges!

However, God provided, as He always does. I cannot carry around the anger and bitterness - it will affect my walk with Jesus. I'm sure Jesus is tired of watching me lug this backpack of resentment, hate, and bitterness. I lug it, and He asks me if He can take it. I yell at Him. He shrugs and walks with me, watching me grunt and heave the monstrous thing onto my back.

I told God, I can't do this on my own... and unlike some stories I've read the feelings haven't just evaporated. No warm cuddlies here! It's more like running a long-distance race. I'm struggling and heaving and I don't even see the finish line, but I know it's there... I just have to run to that pole.... now to the sign.

He laid it on me, that one thing I need to do is begin praying for them, daily. ALL OF THEM. By name.

Lord, take care of A., please forgive me for treating her badly. We both sinned.
Lord, take care of S. You know I had so many issues with her, it's so easy to clutch that hate... but I can't do that, You want me to be better than that! Help me to see her as Your daughter, because I don't think I can love her any other way.
Lord, take care of that thieving repairman we trusted for years. Hey, howya doing, and the numbers never added up until we took away his key. Please help me to forgive him and redeem him from his sins, if it's Your will.
Lord, please take care of A & T. They both sinned... but we allowed them to hurt us. Please help me to forgive them, myself, and Ron.
Lord, please take care of the people who gossiped about me after Ron's accident. I am so ready to repay evil for evil but gossip is a sin, and I'm not to do that.
Lord, please take care of Officer B - the one I mentioned. I don't know how he could do what he did. I know Ron has forgiven him. I just relive that moment where he blamed ME for the accident, not a careless driver, I want to get out of that moment and move on. Help him to know You, if it's Your will. If it's Your will, please hold him accountable on Earth, too, for his theft and deception. You can make anything work for good, and in this case You allowed other people to rescue me in my hour of need. Thank You for teaching me humility and trust. Help me to see this man as Your child, precious in your sight. You died for him, too.
Lord, please help me to forgive those who said hateful things about me and gossiped to Ron's caregivers after the accident. They did it out of fear, You have shown me that. Ron was very scary at the time and they were trying to protect me when they did what they did. Please help me to forgive them for letting me down when I needed them. You did a wonderful job of providing for my every need, Lord, every single one. Had I depended on them, they would have saddled me with a tremendous burden of obligation and duty I never would have escaped. Help me to remember that they did me a favor. I don't believe they are saved, Lord. Please guide them to You.
Lord, please help me to forgive all the mental health professionals I saw, who simply couldn't see I had bipolar disorder. I suffered for three decades, Lord, and I know You cried with me everytime. Thank you for allowing me respite from my illness, with such affordable medications! I will always thank you for the third element, Lithium. Please allow me to see that it was Your will I remain the way I did for so long. All I see is decades of misery, but You saw it as a time of trial that tested and refined my faith. I guess I needed all that misery to become who I am today. Help me to forgive them.

Hopefully, as I continue down this path I will learn to truly forgive them. Now, it's something I know I need to do - like taking my vitamins. I hope God will fill my heart with love and compassion for these people as I pray for them on a regular basis.

It's not an easy thing to do.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I was battling another depression recently and decided to knit and watch "Ghost Whisperer" tonight. I experimented with a variation of my pumpkin pudding (not horrible, not delicious).

As I sat there watching the actress bring "closure" to all the families, it dawned on me that I, also, have some things to say. Why not say the public things?

So what do I plan to do? First, I have to say that while I woke up depressed, after 3 lithium total today I feel great, a little draggy but "good" overall. I know, that as a child of God, He has plans for me and I'm not to meddle with them. So I don't.

I do have a blue flash drive. I keep it on my computer desk. I will be writing letters for people.

I would also like to create a slideshow with photos and the tune "Don't you forget about me".

I would want people to know, that while I carried burdens, Jesus was with me every step of the way. I would like the "Footprints" poem put in the bulletin. I would want people to know that I loved my life and I LIVED it a thousand percent.

I really only got my sanity a few years ago, but how I've enjoyed interacting with people! I've loved my husband, my family, and freinds. While I complained about it more than once, I loved my body too. It has served me WELL.

I've loved blogging my thoughts and feelings, and I've loved everyone who's responded. I love God and I am honored He chose me to hand out Bibles to everyone I meet.

When I die, I don't want flowers. Send the money to an evangelism program, like Open Doors, Gospel for Asia, or the Gideons. I'm gone - I don't need tokens to know I was loved.

If you are craft-inclined, knit or crochet a Linus blanket for a child in need. Donate teddy bears to the fire department or paramedics to hand out to children. Buy a case of paperback Bibles and hand them out, or leave them out in the breakroom with a "Please take me home!" note.

I don't want a circus-styled funeral. Fax a notice to Yellow Cab and Metrolift - "Heather ___ has gone to Jesus, memorial service ___ at ____". Put up a note at work - in fact, print this up also. Rent a hall, get some cake (chocolate and vanilla!), and fill up a punchbowl. Hand out sodas if you want. Show my slideshow, maybe read a poem or two. Read the Bible Passage "We live by faith, not by sight" - one of Paul's passages about "Away from the Body, at Home with the Lord". Emphasize a salvation message and the fact that I got saved at age 8. While I never lived a perfect life, my sins are forgiven me through grace.

Please. If you want to cry, cry, but realize I am home.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Not bad for cell phone posts! I guess I was tweeting the last week? I dunno. Glad to be back online! Yeee-haw, what a fast horsey I've got now!
Doc doubled dose on Risperdal. It works and wont make me fat or goofy. Doc said - Very proud of (my) weight loss-. Now w-mart 4 pills.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Odd but true - watching -I didn:t know I was pregnant- on TLC makes me cry over poor Mom, who didn,t know she could hurt me with alcohol while pregnant.
Day Out. Mall, bunless burger, sporting goods store (cute t-shirt/NEUTRAL jacket). Cute baby-cat @ store but said no. Rain-med jacket ROOMY! Nevr gets old.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

No computer. Maybe thursday? I would rather wait on an awesome job. Really tired but mood OK.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Laid up w/a nasty migraine for 29 hours. Now i need to catch up on chores and get eating again! Tomorrow w/b better.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pc acting up. good day - handed out all the bibles and then some! bought more. hearing things and wierd thots..called doc 4 nu pill -2 cor 12:9-ten/hugs h

Monday, September 28, 2009

This is MY town!



Today as I rode the bus downtown, we crested a small rise and the city spread out before us.




A vision somewhat like the one above. As I viewed the skyscrapers, looked around at my fellow bus passengers, I thought the same thing I always do:


Damn, I love this town.


I first visited Houston when I was about 10 and I loved it; but never gave it any further consideration. I later visited with my husband in 1994 and was hooked.


"Everyone" said that Houston had a lousy economy, but I found far cheaper apartments, nice sounding ones. The jobs were plentiful and paid just as well as the ones in Northern California. I gleaned all this from reading the paper. As we rode around, we'd see "Free Rent" and "We LOVE our residents!" banners outside apartment complexes. Let's just say I never saw THAT


I actually used to take the bus, on Sundays, two towns over to purchase a Houston Chronicle, which I then read cover to cover. Sadly, I'm a hypocrite. I don't even have a subscription! I bought books on everything Houston and longed for the day when my husband would decide he was ready to move.


When I finally gave up on "persuading" (nagging) him, God was able to work it out. We moved just a few months after I turned my dream over to God.

I love this town. I love the bus routes; and the bus drivers who make it all possible. I love my walk home from the bus stop, and the lovely stand of pines that always fragrance my air. I love the fat black cat in my driveway and my bed. I love the caring animal hospital that enabled my beloved Frosty to go out with a smile. I love walking along the Seawall in Galveston, and the kind and friendly people everywhere I go. I love my strip mall doctor, and the world-class medical center just 20 miles away. I love that when I mention "The Farmer's Market" people ask "Which one?" I love that I can go crosstown, to a completely different milleu, in about an hour. I love my disabled bus pass and the freedom it gives me. I love my psychiatrist and my pharmacist, who keep me running steady. I love the greenery. Life is rampant here. I love that a downtown bus, can, at one point, pass a goat ranch before the end of the line. I love the Postal Workers who smile at my blind husband as he fills the vending machines from his wheelchair.
Damn, I love this town.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Depression Action Plan

I considered titling this "Lest I forget" but I thought some might be confused and think it related to the date. Regarding the date, I'll be praying for the families.

I got kicked in the head with a NASTY depression today. Even an extra dose of my beloved lithium didn't cut it. I sat around, beating myself up for every mistake I've ever made, and wallowing in misery.

I finally realized, I need to do NICE THINGS for myself. I am failing myself. I need to have a plan, that I act on, when I realize I'm getting depressed.

Today, things were a bit complicated because I'm a little mixed. I want to shop, spend money, and talk a lot. I have been burning up my keyboard posting on message boards. And I'm depressed. Not fun.

So, even though I knew it was coming (I have been manic for at least a week), it still caught me off guard and I suffered needlessly. Not to mention, Ron had all the fun of watching me struggle.

* Realize I am getting depressed.
* Eat, and take another lithium
* Stay on eating plan - easy to eat "pity carbs"
* Choose at least a few items from the following list, and do them immediately:
Drink a nice cup of brewed tea - I love tea.
Drink a Diet RC if at work, or use coffee machine hot water tank to brew a teabag.
Make a plan of fun things to do on next day off.
Take a walk
Play with cat
Post on message board
Work in garden - hard to do at present due to remaining hives.
Do not allow myself to brood on "failures" or "things I haven't done"
Get active, do something I find fun - need to work on list
Make a Day Out and go shopping, even at Dollar store.
Consider stashing $20-$40 for emergency fund - maybe go to tearoom or something on the cash, if I'm strapped at the moment.
Eat a delicious bunless burger - out of the freezer or go buy one.
Fire up the smoker and cook something - that's always fun for me - don't beat myself up over landscaping.
Knit something fun and brainless, in happy colors
Get myself another drink (tea or soda).
Make some lunches for the week - cut up cheese and veggies for snacks.
Call my aunt.
Blog
Take a nice hot bath (not currently with hives!).
Mental note: Buy myself some nice bubble bath on my next Day Out
Look at Frosty photos and remember my sweet baby.
Consider volunteering at animal adoption center - work with cats.
Read a cute inspirational romance novel: Note to self - get a new debit card, call the number, and sign up for monthly delivery!

Just a few ideas, I'll post more as they come. Who knows, this might help someone else. :)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

It all goes back to bad DNA and my disability

I was out for a bit with a finger injury. I have the dubious track record of two "avulsions" in one month - completely ripping of bits of skin, bleeding like a "mofo" and enduring the healing process. It was very fun trying to keep the steroid cream off the last one.

Anyway, I told Ron, it was just a bad month. I'm healing. I'm going to have some ugly scars. Not happy about that at all!

Part of me thinks I should try to eradicate them, upping my vitamin E intake and buying that "Mederma" cream - but I'd have to wait on the cream until I stop using the steroid stuff. I still need to use that daily, but not the 3x a day I needed.

The other side says, well, just wait and see. My husband is blind and the worst of the scars are on the backs of my upper thighs. I don't think a stranger would ever see them - I dress pretty modestly. I use the old high school rule, a couple of inches above my knees. Any more than that and I will only wear it around the house.

But I look at the mottled skin; I'm sad, I'm ANGRY. At whom? I couldn't tell you. My doctor? He didn't do anything wrong. Forest Pharmaceuticals? Well, they have fishy marketing but I assume they use good manufacturing practices. If they didn't, I saved the bottle. If the FDA wants it they'll get it. The Pharmacist? She's a wonderful lady who exhibited genuine horror at my condition. It's not her fault.

No, it goes back to Bad DNA and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. There's no way to know if I'd be "safe" with Lexapro. I tell people, Monday I was fine, Tuesday I'm allergic. I could have hit my head when I fell at work - I didn't. I could have fallen OFF the dock, I didn't. I didn't know the half of it when I told my companion "It's my medication". It is... which goes back to my condition.

I have a condition. It could kill me if I don't take my meds. It could kill me if I do!

As my husband says, sometimes you just gotta suck it up.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

video

It's good to see Ron enjoying his food again.

I hit the wrong button...

And deleted some replies, but I am interested in "a dialogue".

One last thought for today. I know I am blessed.

I complain about mental illness, brain damage, hives, and a disabled husband. Sometimes I feel like I'm carrying an unfair load. I wish someone would focus on spoiling me rotten for a change.

But I am blessed. I have a home, in a safe, quiet neighborhood. No one's going to beat down my door in the middle of the night and take my husband away, or drag me off to a rape/torture camp. I am safe. If I had children, they'd be safe.

I have food security. I know where my next meal's coming from and my biggest food concern is losing weight.

I have an abundance of fresh, clean water... something at a premium in Mexico! I can drink water right out of the tap without walking miles to get it.

Our government is not out to "get" us. No "official" is going to take my husband's business away just because they can. We get to keep what we earn, after taxes.

While I'm probably in the low-income bracket for Harris county, I have electricity, my own personal computer, my very own low-def television, an MP3 player, and hundreds of paperback books.

I live in a pleasant climate. I have plenty of jackets and coats when the weather turns, and plenty of affordable, cute clothes to wear. I make enough to provide for my needs and enjoy my hobbies. I get paid at the end of the week and I still have money in my pocket.

I'm not worried about my safety or the safety of those I love. I know they're fine.

Compared to so many people, I am incredibly blessed. I never allow myself to forget that, even when I'm whining. :)

On Race

A question was asked recently, why, in my other post, I would have been angrier if the woman was white.

First, let me tell you about the first black person I ever met. She was a professional, very polished and educated. She ran the daycare center. I attended every day. I greatly admired her, and she was the first stable female figure in my life. She was the same, day after day, a huge change from my family. My sister moved on, had her own life... my mother, but the teacher didn't.

She was probably the first woman I ever trusted. So, in my book, all black people were "cool". I attended a very affluent school district on the east coast. Our area was an international magnet, and we had many children from various cultures. It was pretty awesome, one of my best friends was a Cambodian girl. The boy down the street was Spanish. Leo spent every other year in Peru. All these children were from the upper crust of their societies, and I assumed all other cultures were similar.

It wasn't until I was in my late 20's that I actually met a ghetto thug. It was a shock. Ron had grown up in a very poor area of Houston, and was once beaten up for "trying to act white" (he read a book for pleasure). He tells me of being bullied into lower grades, so he wouldn't make the other blind, "black" kids "look bad".

I don't care about anyone's color. Are they kind? Are they ignorant? Are they a Christian? Those are the questions that matter to me.

However, I do see "whites" as having had far more opportunities than most. If WE exploit a system designed to help people in need, stealing resources from truly hungry families, we are beyond the lowest of the low.

I can't think of a word vile enough to convey my disgust. I hate THEM - the users, the exploiters, the willfully ignorant... regardless of color.

Color is irrelevant. My husband is "black", my brother in law is Chinese, I tan VERY easily - we all come from God. Jesus died for all of us.

About me

What do I value?

It's an interesting question for me, and I've been thinking about this - so I thought I'd share a little of my philosophy.

Why am I here? I don't know. I do know that God has given me this life, that I am the only one who can do the job He's set me to do, and I can only do it with the burdens He has given me. God needs me like this.

I DON'T see myself as a martyr! Martyrs are dead! No thanks! The closest I ever got to martyrdom was the day that kid shot me with a BB gun. My disabilities are mixed blessings, and I do enjoy my unique outlook on life.

Overall, I'd say I'm VERY happy with my life. I enjoy my life and my hobbies. I enjoy my days out, exploring my city. I enjoy the time spent in my garden, even when it's so hot and sunny it takes my breath away. I can even say I enjoy my marriage. It can be a little challenging at times, like any relationship, but I married an interesting man.

Would I change him? Well, I'd make him happier. He runs a little depressed, but he's got a lot of disabilities. I guess anyone would be depressed. If I could make him able-bodied, I would.

I hope he enjoys being married to me. He says he appreciates me and loves spending time with me, so I'd say he does. That's good. I think if we could go back and have a do-over, we still would probably end up married.

What about my flaws? Do I see myself as some saintly, persecuted, suffering martyr? No. I'm lazy. Disorganized. I am a terrible housekeeper. Ron calls me his "snail" because I "leave trails everywhere I go." The yard needs to be mowed, my garden beds need edging, and I've got a pile of clean clothes I need to fold and put away. Instead, I'm on the computer. Why? Well, I like to have fun, too. I'd much rather blog than do laundry or mop the floor.

I would rather die than make Ron feel I am going "above and beyond" for him. I don't do much for him that I didn't do before, and very little I wouldn't do for an able-bodied husband. Would a "normal" guy clean the toilet now and then? It would be nice, but that won't happen with Ron. Then again, I don't have him judging my housekeeping either, so I'd say it's a win. I really don't see helping him as that big a deal. It's just what I do.

Do I get tired of it? Yes. Sometimes I bitterly resent him. I'm human. Does he go out of his way to be a butt pain? No, just the opposite. He hates to ask for help, so I try to give it cheerfully.

I'm resentful and envious of "normal" people. I've never been able to get in a car and just drive. No. I have to wait at the bus stop because I'm "special". I don't want to be special. I want to be waiting at the repair shop bitching about the cost of a new alternator. I resent the fact that I can't depend on my own brain - that I have to take medication in order to be a reliable, pleasant person. "Oh, wow, I can't imagine not being able to drive, Heather!" Yeah, it sucks.

I want to be consistent without medication. I don't want to have to think about how much medication I have left. I'd like to eat without wondering if I should take another lithium, while I'm at it. I don't want to think about mental illness. I don't want to have it.

I don't want to wonder if I'm manic, depressed, or mixed. I want to hear something without wondering if it's a hallucination. I want to do something because I want to do it, not because my brain is compelled to it. It's awful! I have this horrible THING jacking with my brain at every opportunity, and the medication I take to manage it almost killed me!

I whine. I hate the load I carry and I complain bitterly, the whole way. Why did I have to have FAS and Bipolar? One wasn't enough? I had to have both? Why couldn't I have married a man without disabilities? Why did I have to choose a man who's so much older than his time now? Why, oh, why, did he have to take that damned antibiotic last year? Why? My FATHER has more energy than my husband!

I don't know. But I do know, God needs me exactly like this, in these circumstances. This is the only way I can do the job He's got for me. I'll do my best to be the woman He wants me to be, but it doesn't mean I want this.

I'm doing my best.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I'm healing, but it'll take a while

The above photo was taken today, the lower photo was taken 5 days ago.


The needy and the greedy.

She wasn't white. If she had been, I would have been even angrier.

We went to Walmart today, my husband and I. He's on Social Security and Medicare, and I could be, but have chosen not to. I have "enough" - I have never gone hungry or had a serious worry about losing my home, so I think I should save the money for the "deserving".

My husband is very limited in his ability to support himself. I keep him out of a nursing home, active, and occupied. I save the taxpayers a lot of money as a result. I feel fine about that. We only take what we need. Years ago, I was offered food stamps when I had to apply for Medicaid. I refused. "I'm not hungry, I don't need them. I have enough to eat." The social worker was baffled. As soon as I got insurance, I turned off the Medicare, even though it was "cheaper". Currently, I'm uninsured.

I don't generally see myself as feeling "entitled" to anything other than closed-captions when I watch TV (due to my audio processing disability), and the use of the "Sit and Shop" wheelchair at Walmart if no one else is using it. My husband sits in the chair, I push it, and we shop together.

We're at Walmart. We pay for our own groceries as we always do. We pay for our own prescriptions, our own utilities, etc.

As I get into a short line, I notice a woman in front of us. She is well dressed, better than I am, in fact. She's wearing leather pumps and a nice suit. I'm wearing drawstring pants, a baggy t-shirt, and old slip-on shoes (due to my rash).

She has a car alarm keychain, a late model Toyota. It has the logo on the ring. She has a full keyring as well. She's wearing gold jewelry and her hair has been styled professionally, and recently. I'm overdue for a haircut.

She piles milk and various food stamp items onto the conveyor belt, and pays for them using the "WIC" card. Then she piles on premium brand diapers, wet wipes, expensive pacifiers, and various other items. She pulls out a roll of $20's and pays for them.

Had she bought basic brands, she could have covered the cost of the groceries. Ron wondered aloud why the transaction was taking so long, as the customer jabbered at the cashier in Spanish.

"Food stamps" I told him, as she glared at me.

Silly me. I thought welfare benefits were for the needy, those at risk of having hungry children without help. Not selfish, greedy people who only care about "What they can get" for having children.

God will rebuke her, in His time. Me, I have nothing to hide. I don't take what I don't need and I never will. Even if it means she has nicer hair, and a fancy car, while I ride the bus.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

"Sensitive System"

When I told Mom about my drug reaction to Lexapro, she made sympathetic noises and mentioned I'd always had a "sensitive system". It's aggravating, but true.

Compazine makes me manic.
So does Sudafed, and just about every antihistamine except Benadryl.
Corn, wheat, rice, any nut or nut product, chocolate, shrimp, sardines, coconut, and sugar alcohols give me migraines. Those are just the triggers I can think of off the top of my head.
I have to read labels before consuming something.
I have antacids in the medicine cabinet, along with a hefty stash of phenergan, an anti-nausea drug.
As a child, I caught just about every virus that came along.
I got my first pimple at age 9.
Major problems with cold sores until I hit puberty.
I've had migraines since toddlerhood.
I can't consume aspartame.

It's aggravating. I'd love to just go out and eat anything with no repercussions. I'd love to take a tablet without wondering what price I'll pay.

I'd love to have a day where the cat can rub against my legs without aggravating my hives and making me shriek in pain. I'd love to have a day when I'm not dragging with fatigue and dreading a 4-hour workday.

I'll be SO GLAD when I'm over this. This has taken more out of me than any other ailment I can remember.

Anyone need half a bottle of Lexapro?

Adverse Event

I'm still pretty miserable, it's going to take time to heal. I did feel like I got an adequate night's sleep. I woke up and took some benadryl, scratched a little and went back to sleep.

I decided to report my "adverse event" to the FDA Medwatch program. Why? Well, they already know the product can cause a rash, perhaps people on lithium are more prone to it? Maybe this batch was bad, and has caused others suffering. I have the medication, and I'm happy to send it wherever if they want to test it. I want to prevent other people from feeling like this if I can help it.

Also, when I contacted my pychiatrist he didn't really know how to treat it. He suggested benadryl, which I have been using. However, the most helpful thing has been a course of steroids, 40 mg prednisone, 20 mg am and pm. Also a steroid topical cream. I'd love it if Forest would put out a memo to the doctors, stating that a protocol of oral and topical steroids is helpful should this event occur. If my doctor had known they'd work, I'd be feeling a lot better right now!

I think that's the best reason of all to report an event, to prevent it from happening again, and to help alleviate suffering SHOULD it happen to some unfortunate person. I have no interest in money, it won't make me better. Knowing I might help prevent someone else from hurting brings me more comfort.

Depression can and WILL kill, sometimes you have to take a risk. A rash and case of hives is nothing compared to death or permanent disability from a failed suicide attempt.

It's the price tag, sometimes. I just hope no one else ever experiences what I have in the last week. I'll heal, but it's going to be a while!

I think the worst part of it, once I get past the physical misery, is not being able to shave my legs. UGH.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Hive(s)

It was horrible. Last Tuesday, as I sat on a stool at the loading dock, I fell over. One second I was talking to a forklift driver about gardening, the next I was falling onto a heavy duty metal cart. Fortunately, I caught it with my right thighbone. The femur is the toughest bone in the body, which is a good thing!

If I'd hit my head, I would have had to go to the hospital. We came home and I viewed my injury in the mirror. I have a spectacular bruise the size of my entire hand, and I also noticed some odd looking black dots on the backs of my thighs. I took a nap.

When I awoke, my skin was on fire. The hives began on the thighs, and worked their way down. I have hives on my feet, hands, arms, and legs. I have a few on my torso!

Here's a "better spot" that was fairly easy to photograph: http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/vbxA0--MaIdmy_X6-jlyzw?authkey=Gv1sRgCMPQ9tX9z_nDmQE&feat=directlink

You know how I feel about seeking medical attention, I waited a week. Finally, I couldn't take it for another minute. We went to that "new" doctor I'd found on a Day Out and he was great. He took one look at me and started writing on his prescription pad. Since he's a strip mall doc who deals with uninsured, I only spent $35 for 160g of steroid cream and a 5-day course of prednisone. He also wrote me a refill on the cream.

He was very kind and compassionate. I'd go back, and I'd take Ron. That's wonderful - everyone needs a good doc they can depend on.

Right now I'm doing my best to pamper myself, rest, and heal. More to follow.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Litter

A couple in Humble, Texas, was having fertility problems. She is a type one diabetic and had had thyroid cancer. They weren't conceiving.

They underwent fertility treatments and she became pregnant with sextuplets. Doctors said, with her medical history, it would be very unsafe to try to carry the pregnancies to term. She consulted her church (Mormon) and they said "Don't reduce the number of children you're carrying."

A choice like that is very personal, and I do feel should be left to the couple. Jon and Kate Gosselin chose not to reduce. From what I understand, Kate was in excellent health (other than fertility issues). Kate's story had a delightful ending, six beautiful, healthy, children running around the house, in addition to her firstborn, twins. When it comes to "outcome" - Kate beat the odds. She made the right choice, anyone watching the children on television would agree. Yes, I know she's getting divorced, I'm only focusing on the health of the children here.

Kate wasn't a type one diabetic thyroid cancer survivor, though. Big difference.

As soon as the Humble couple decided to keep their children, they set up a blog and website so "people could have the opportunity to help us" with their children. Um. I don't like that. It smacks of... I don't know, selling the kids? The word "pimping" was used.

The Houston Chronicle has had ongoing articles on the couple. Many "posters"/commentators (the Chronicle has the ability, on most articles, to make personal comments about said article), voiced extreme objections to what they saw as the drive for money and "pimping out the kids". I'm inclined to agree.

Yesterday, the Chronicle ran an article. It seems Mrs. Humble did not beat the odds. She delivered at 23 weeks. One child is already dead. The others face a grim outcome. Children born weeks later ( at 25 weeks, another well known family in the Houston area, the "Conroe Triplets") are deaf, blind, and have severe developmental delays. At 5 years old, they barely know their own parents.

The Humble family tried to beat the odds, and lost. Now we taxpayers will face millions in medical bills. It is doubtful the children will ever be self-supporting. Each child (assuming they survive) will spend months in ICU, specialized home care, disability checks, special ed, eventual group home placement.

Last night, the Chronicle ran a story, strong emphasis on grieving parents struggle. The responses were so hateful the Chronicle deleted everyone's comments, dropped the story, and hasn't run any updates today.

The most common comment referred to the children as the "litter". While I agree with the term, I would never say it!

You know I have chosen not to have kids, they wouldn't be healthy. Primary reason. Also, I'd be a lousy parent... I have a serious medical condition. It would not be fair for the child to have 2 severely disabled parents. Who knows, maybe, if I didn't have "whack" DNA, and I did have a non-disabled healthy husband, I might have considered it.

Every adult who's sexually active has to make these choices. Do I want kids? Some who say yes, decide "How many kids do I want?" If you're a member of certain religious groups, procreation is a duty.

Which leads me to the fingerpointing. It would be easy to blame the "Humbles" for choosing to keep their children. But imagine the excitement, they wanted one, maybe two children; and now they'll have six! It must have felt like winning the lottery. I can't blame them for wanting children to love. They knew their lives would be filled with sacrifice the instant they signed up for parenthood. Unlike many couples, they underwent painful, expensive, and degrading procedures in order to get their children.

I don't blame the Humbles. I blame the Mormon church for "counseling" them not to reduce, knowing the mother had medical problems in addition to an extremely high risk pregnancy. Sadly, I doubt the "Church" will pick up the tab for the cost of caring for the children, or the funeral for the child(ren) that didn't make it.

Way to go, "Church". I'm sure Jesus is very proud of you for dispensing such "good" advice.

Edited to add, another child has died. The three girls seem to be OK, but the mother is worried about the surviving boy. Here's a link to their blog: http://stanseljourney.blogspot.com..

Monday, August 3, 2009

You can grow a balcony garden, 5-12 hours of sun!

If you have full sun, you can grow just about anything you want, in a pot. Do you want a rosebush? You can do it? How about a small tree, or a cucumber? Yes!

Let me tell you about some of the things I've grown in pots. First of all, you need to select a pot. A tomato plant, for instance, would like a 15-20 inch pot. That will be enough for you to get plenty of fruit! Cherry tomatoes, in particular, do very well. I have grown red pear, yellow pear, and Matt's Wild Cerry in pots. They all did VERY well, with more than enough for 2 people! When purchasing your supplies, you will want to get a tomato cage in addition to your pot, mulch, and potting soil. Ideally, (as mentioned in my other article), you can get ahold of some compost too.

I have grown them with drainage in the pot (styrofoam peanuts were my favorite), and without. They did well for me, either way.

What about other plants? Well, I have grown full-sized rosebushes EASILY. Reine de Violettes is a personal favorite. It is a gorgeous purple-flowered rosebush, with very fragrant flowers. Cramosi Superior, Double Delight, Katy Road Pink, and Marie Pavie also did very well! I've grown a few dozen in pots, and I can't really think of one that did badly. Do a little research, find out what does well in your area. Don't be afraid to ask a homeowner "What is that lovely rose?", they will probably be happy to tell you.

Bulbs do FANTASTIC in pots, with the exception (for me, at least) of freesia. I always had good luck with hyacinth and narcissius in particular, my husband loves fragrant flowers. You could even grow sweet peas in a pot, if you wanted. Just make sure you give the tall kinds something to climb (like a tomato cage).

If you are going to use a tomato cage, make sure you put it in when you plant the transplant. Otherwise you could hurt the plant.

Flowers? You betcha. What do you like? You can probably grow it in a pot if you have the right amount of sun and the proper climate. I adore marigolds, and I've grown them in everything - the corner of a tomato plant pot, to their own 4 inch pots (took a lot of watering in Houston, though!).

You can buy your own seeds and start them (you can google "starting seeds" for more info), or buy an already-started plant at the nursery. Either way works and if you're having fun, it's the right decision for you.

I just loved growing my own cucumbers (15 inch pot), tomatoes (15 inch to 20 gallon pot), watermelon (20 gallon pot, and boy was it good eating!), canteloupe, and other "impossibilities".

I had so much fun growing my own plants on a balcony, I can't stand the thought of someone thinking they can't. I even grew an orange tree! It was quite happy in it's pot, and I made sure it was a variety suited to container culture.

I always used plastic pots and they worked well. Clay pots dry out too quickly in Houston. I was able to buy some awesome 20 gallon pots (about 2 feet in diameter) from a local nursery when I asked. The pots were very affordable and have lasted for years.

I only have one rule of thumb I learned from a book. Make sure the pot is about 1/3 the size of the plant's finished size. Say I want to grow a 4 foot rosebush. I would need a 15 inch pot minimum. Say I want to grow some 2-foot high greens (kale or collards), I would want the pot to be about 8 inches. Got it?

Now, go have fun!

You can have a balcony garden - partial shade

Third floor balcony garden, 2002. I'm growing roses, an orangetree, herbs, and leafy vegetables.


You can have a balcony garden! This photo (leafy greens) was taken in 2000. I had no direct sun at all, but I still managed to grow some sugar snap peas, leafy greens, and bulbs.


Ron loves fragrant plants, and really enjoyed the fragrance of the bulbs. They grew quite well. I'll cover some simple, fun, ideas a little later on.

So, let's assume right now you have a balcony area. It doesn't get much sun, maybe 1-4 hours of direct sun a day. What can you grow?

Well, if you like to grow your own food, you can grow quite a bit. Any kind of lettuce, mesclun mix, or leafy green will do well. Someone recently asked me, "What leafy greens? I thought all leafy greens were lettuce?" Well, you can grow mustard greens (if your climate isn't too warm), beets, kale, collards (excellent in hot and cold climates), swiss chard (actually related to beets), and salad mix veggies, the kind that come already mixed in the seed packet.

What will you need to do? Well, you'll want to start by getting a pot. Depending on what you grow, various pots will do. I've used everything from a paper pot to a 5 gallon bucket. For a salad/green veggie type plant, you will probably want about a 6-8 inch pot for each plant, and if you want a salad mix that you can reach in and trim, you'd want a window box pot (about 30 inches long and 6 inches wide). A window box pot would also be good for beets.

You'll also need a bag of potting soil. I like the moisture mix for Houston, it's very warm and drying out is a real danger. If you live somewhere that's more temperate, you can seek out a basic potting mix. Ideally, an organic mix with some compost. Also ideal, you can also get ahold of a bag of compost, to mix in with your soil. If you know an organic gardener they would probably be happy to give you a bucket of compost if you ask. If you live in a warm/hot climate, also get a bag of mulch. You want something that is a small shred of wood, that will be easily tucked around your plants in their pots.

While you're at the garden center, see if you can find some transplants, small plants in six-packs ready to be planted. Since we're assuming you have a mostly shady area, you want shade lovers or the leafy greens I mentioned. If you can't find the transplants, get some seeds that look interesting and say they will work with your light level.

If the pot isn't very large, you don't need to worry about putting in gravel. I did it both ways and never noticed any difference. The most important thing is to make sure it does have drainage holes. Some pots require you to poke your own holes. Once you've done that, you'll fill it up with your soil. If you have compost, add in a handful for every 3-4 handfuls of regular soil.

You want to fill it up about 3/4 of the way, and water it in. It may take a while for all the soil to get damp. You want the soil to be completely moist. Add more soil if you are planting seeds, until the level comes up to about 1.5 to 2 inches below the top of the pot. If you have a transplant, add a handful or two of soil and water.

Take the transplant out of the pot. The green side goes up, the dirt part goes down. You want to hide all the roots and soil that you see, until it's at about the same level as it was in it's first pot. Dig a hole, and put the plant into it. Does it fit? You may need to take out or add some soil to make it work. Give the plant a GOOD drink now. If you have the mulch, put a small around on top of the soil, about 1/2 inch or so. That will kept keep the moisture level even.

If you bought seeds, you can do a couple of different things. The easiest is to put a few seeds in the pot and set it out. They should sprout and do well. It is better (say you want swiss chard) to only put a few seeds into the pot (say 8 inch pot), cover lightly, and follow the directions on the seed packet. Don't put a lot of seeds UNLESS you are planting a window box with the salad mixes I mentioned earlier. I planted mine pretty thickly (one or two pinches of seed, scattered on top of the soil) and it was nice and full of plants. It was easy to trim and regrew quickly.

Water the plant when the soil gets dry down to about 1/2 inch. Give it a good drink, until you see water coming out of the bottom. If you forget to water and it wilts, put lots of water in the pot and see if it will recover. Often they do.

I have grown lots of salad greens and they always did well when treated this way. You can get a good organic fertilizer and give it a light dose once a month or so.

Congratulations! You have a balcony garden, even in partial shade! :)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Garden bed adventures

I've had some fun and excitement digging up my garden beds. While digging up garden beds 1 and 5, for instance, I encountered a bag of trash, styrofoam cups (the environmentalists aren't kidding when they say they don't break down), shingles, and large chunks of concrete buried in the yard.

Garden bed 5 also produced a long metal chain, leading to a large dog collar. I found out years later the first homeowner bred pitbulls in the yard for 10 years. As a result, my soil had "unusually high" fertility, and I have a marked reluctance to grow root crops.

Garden bed 3 had the cursed pear tree. I kept cutting it off at the roots, it kept resprouting, and sending annoying invaders into beds 2 and 3. I finally dug a massive hole, crawled underneath the stump with my portable folding saw, and sawed at every root I could find. It was a horrible, messy, sloppy job. I made a blood offering to the garden when I sawed my hand by mistake. It took me years to get rid of that thing, and when I finally did I rejoiced.

However, the expansion on garden bed 1 is taking the cake. It has an impermeable layer of hardpan that was so dense, I thought I had another concrete chunk in my garden. The concrete was easier to handle! I have battled this for hours now, and currently I have a 1 foot deep by 4 foot wide hole, filled with water. I see a few bubbles now and then but that's it.

Here's a link to hardpan info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardpan

So, what to do? The rest of my expansion went very well. I dug out the bermuda grass (I layered black plastic "contractor" garbage bags on top of the soil to solar-kill as much as possible), and threw that away. Then I dug out one layer (about a foot deep) of soil, placing it into my large wheelbarrow. I mix it up, pull out obvious offender roots (bermuda-weed), and add amendments like gypsum, greensand, a small amount of balanced organic fertilizer, and organic matter. Today, it was landscaper mix (finely shredded wood with a little bit of perlite), composted cotton burrs (oh, the STENCH!), and composted manure. Oddly enough, the cotton burrs smell worse than the manure. I mix that all up, then loosen the soil in the bed, to a depth of another 12 inches or so. This is called "double digging". I like to do it just to make sure that I don't have any concrete/shingle/dog chain surprises in the bed, too.

I add all the above amendements to the existing soil, about 2 feet down, then I add in the top layer of soil. It's nice and fluffy, rising above the edgings (love that Emerald Edge, it's the only stuff I use now). When I finish, I water it, and add a nice thick layer of mulch. When I stir up the soil, I'm also stirring up plenty of weed seeds. Why let them sprout and ruin my day with weeding?

The first 12 square feet went very well. THIS, however, wins my "most troublesome soil" award. It's a freaking swamp out there, and if I stick my hands in the water and dig at the soil, it's dry. Dry and hard as a rock.

My solution? I'm going to let the swamp percolate for a while yet, and hopefully penetrate the hardpan today. I need to break that layer, if water can't get through what about the poor plant roots?

I'm DEFINITELY adding some sand to the mix!

Monday, July 20, 2009

"Coming to terms with medication"

Today I'm not up, or down. Ron's playing James Taylor, who's also bipolar. "Fire and Rain"

Not up or down. Today, I'm baseline - babble-speak for a normal mood, as it were. Today, I realized that an average mood for me, is going to be exhausted.

I love a properly medicated mania. Housecleaning, yardwork, I'm full of energy. It all gets done. Then I get depressed or baseline and I hardly have the energy to wipe my butt.

I'm not whining today; I met a waitress who "Didn't like" what lithium "Did to her" and is now running around unmedicated. She had a pretty good mania going, I was a little envious.

Now Ron's playing "Gloria" - which we feel also describes someone with bipolar disorder. I think of the homeless guy under the overpass "They said I was bipolar, and gave me pink pills (lithium), but I didn't like them so I stopped." Now he's an alcoholic, living under an overpass, begging for beer money.

God's always giving me examples of why I need to remain medicated, if I'm ever foolish enough to forget the horrible mixed episodes, wanting to die at the same time I felt like I drank a whole pot of coffee, and literally bursting out of my skin with pain. Let's not forget the hallucinations and delusions either... really quite scary.

It's awful to feel invisible bugs on my skin, hear laughter that isn't there, or my personal hatred, the music that doesn't exist. I hear it fairly often even on the meds, but I'm not interested in increasing my doses right now.

It's a hard balancing act, when it takes four tries to spell "balancing", and keeping the moods at a reasonable level. Dull roar, kind of. I wanted to talk a lot and do a lot last time I was manic, but I didn't spend all my money. Good balance. Depressions; where I have to make myself do things I enjoy but I can still do so.

I'm not average, I'll never be average (can't spell average either today). I'm OK with that. I accept that I will have to make some significant sacrifices in order to manage my illness. I don't like it. I think it's sad, but then I've never really been able to rely on my brain anyway.

But even on a bad day, I'm going to make sure that some of the energy I've got is going to fun things that bring me joy. I deserve that, even if it means that sinkful of dishes remains unwashed.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Caregiver burnout

I just googled "caregiver burnout". The first website was a "hired help" agency. The second, also commercial in nature. It advised me to "stay involved in hobbies".

I like this site, I'll quote from it:
Providing care for a family member in need is a centuries-old act of kindness, love, and loyalty.
caregiving – if they come at all – are intangible and far off, and often there is no hope for a happy outcome.
Know your limits. Be realistic about how much of your time and yourself you can give. Set clear limits, and communicate those limits to doctors, family members, and other people involved.
Accept your feelings. Caregiving can trigger a host of difficult emotions, including anger, fear, resentment, guilt, helplessness, and grief. As long as you don’t compromise the well-being of the care receiver, allow yourself to feel what you feel.
Confide in others. Talk to people about what you feel; don’t keep your emotions bottled up. Caregiver support groups are invaluable, but trusted friends and family members can help too....
activities that give you pleasure even when you don't really feel like it. Listen to music, work in the garden, engage in a hobby…whatever it is that you enjoy.
Pamper yourself

I think it's time to find a caregiver support group.

I'm not a drug addict

I recently realized a sore point, and I decided to "get it out".

Discrimination is alive and well. I can see why so many people are so secretive about hiding their mental illness.

Imagine this scenario: You go to the hospital. You HATE hospitals. You don't fear them but you really hate everything they represent, sickness and debility... crises, expenses, death. But you feel lousy enough that you finally head on into the ER.

You're in agonizing pain. They want your medical history. You give it. Drugs taken, Lithium, etc. Medical conditions: bipolar disorder and fetal alcohol syndrome. You can almost see the switch in their head.

They get brusque. You go to the chair and wait.

Someone comes in, you're scared. They examine you and you tell them the whole meds/bipolar thing. They go away. Finally, someone comes back. They draw blood and go away. You never do see a doctor... and when you see the medical assistant they tell you "Don't worry, we'll get you your pain meds. What do you want?" What do I want? I want a diagnosis and treatment! I don't want freaking pain meds! I am at EXTREME risk of drug addiction, the LAST thing I want is dope.

They tell me (notice I'm switching from third to first person), what do you want? I tell them, I want to stop the cause of the pain. I don't want dope. They scratch their heads and look at me, then they go away.

If I'm lucky, they might actually run some diagnostic tests and send me home. If I'm not, they tell me "Go home, here's your prescription for the pain meds". I DON'T WANT DOPE!

I get very, very tired of being treated as a drug-seeking drama queen everytime I go to the hospital. Yes, I understand half of the people with bipolar disorder ALSO have drug and alcohol issues, but half of them don't.

I am ONLY mentally ill, I am not a drug addict. I have made many sacrifices to be a contributing member of society and I am tired of being stigmatized because you don't like my "label".

If fact, it's a damned good thing I DO take my pills or you'd be in trouble!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

When did I know?

Before I start this, I need to say my mood is fine; I'm just contemplating.

As I checked the mail today, I saw the sporting goods catalog. They featured a handgun, on sale.

Three years ago, almost this time, I got another catalog. I saw the shotguns were "only" about $100. First thought, I could afford that. I found the page irresistable.

That gun would make suicide so easy. I was enthralled by that gun, enchanted, and mesmerized. I couldn't stop thinking about that gun. No more pain, for the cost of gun and shells! I could end my pain - that day! I couldn't stop thinking about the gun or planning my suicide.

I battled it for about 2 weeks, and decided to see my doctor. The rest is history. I was diagnosed and eventually received proper treatment. I'm not suicidal anymore, even when I cycle depressed.

In fact, I can predict that a "basic" depression will run about 2 weeks, followed by a 1-2 week mania, then about a month of baseline mood. Currently I'm manic, just a little mixed (some depression symptoms at the same time). Today, not fun. I had hallucinations. UGH. I hate them!

Hearing music that isn't there! Trying to sleep and the music is playing and it's IN MY HEAD. Fortunately, as I tell people, they have pills for that. I took it, then I got to sleep. I hardly have any hallucinations now... no more invisible bugs crawling on my skin, just sometimes I smell BBQ smoke when I shouldn't, and I hear music rarely.

I'd probably be "better" if I took a larger dose, but I hate the thought. I don't mind a minor tremor or two, in exchange for fewer side effects and lower prescription bill. Ron would be furious if he read that, but it's true. I hate being "expensive".

So, when did I know I needed help? The glee I felt when I turned the page in the catalog "Oh, Boy! A gun!" internally, not even vocalized in my mind "That would do the job." I had it all planned out, when I wasn't plotting how to get up to "suicide overpass" which is used fairly often. It's a massive drop, that kills on impact, then the cars'll getcha too.

However, no one'll die until God wills it. Even a jump from height may not be fatal - if God says "You're not done". That was about the only thing that kept me from making a serious attempt.

In Junior High, I realized I needed help - the thought waking up another day was so unbearable, I'd rather die. I got help.

Now, things are better. I'm planning a trip to the garden center and a new expansion on my intensively planted garden bed. Even "sick", I think I still manage to have as much fun, if not more, than the average person. Thanks to my medication.

I never, ever, allow myself to forget "Before".

Friday, July 10, 2009

Message from God

I've been reading my Bible since I could read, nearly 30 years. I've been running depressed lately, I injured my dominant wrist, and feeling very unappreciated by my husband. Was it really him? The depression? Hard to say, but today he did say he wants to "repair" our relationship.

I have a couple "Read the Bible in a Year" tracts. I hand most of them out, but I kept 2 for myself. With all my programs combined, I probably read it 3-4 times a year, actually.

Occasionally I get redundancies... a chapter I read yesterday, on program 1, is on the menu for program 2 today. That happened to me this week.

First, I need to talk about the book of Job. I hate the book, actually. I find it incredibly depressing. Job was a very good man, the Bible says "He was blameless and upright, he feared (respected) God and shunned evil (Job 1:1). God and the Devil are talking, and God says "No man in the world is more devout than Job" (1:8). Satan replies, he's under your protection. Take away his things and we'll see how good he is! (1:10-11) God allows this to happen, he loses all his herds, his servants are killed, and worst of all, he loses his children.

What does he do? He tears his robe and shaves his head (signs of mourning and culturally expected for a man in his situation), and WORSHIPS God! (Job 1:21) The Lord gives, the the Lord takes away, Blessed be the name of the Lord! The next verse continues "In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong".

Wow, I wish I could be that strong! I'm not, and I admit it! It gets better. The Devil and God have another talk, and the Devil says, you never affected Job's body. I bet, if I were to torment him, he'd change his tune! "And the Lord replied, he is in your hand, but spare his life" (Job 2:6)

Bad enough he is bankrupt, bad enough he lost all his employees and his children, now he is afflicted, in the Biblical sense of the word, with horrible boils "From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head" (2:7). He looked so awful no one even recognized him.

Even his wife "left" him, saying "Curse God and die!" (2:9). Ouch. He replies "You speak as a foolish woman speaks. Shall we accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" In all this, he DID NOT SIN. (2:9-10)

He goes off to mourn, and 3 friends of his come to visit. For a whole week, they are silent, sitting on the ground. Job curses the day he was born; he wishes he were dead. Then his freinds start in on him. "If you were really a good man, God wouldn't have allowed this to happen to you." This goes on for 34 chapters, Job's rebuttals "I've done nothing wrong" and his "pals" saying, you suffer because you're a sinner! Some companions.

God finally steps in and tells Job "You're a tiny gnat in the scheme of things, you have no concept of why I've allowed this to happen". Job repents, he realizes God is in control.

Then, in a very interesting twist, God orders the "buddies" to make a sin offering, because they have offended Him greatly. It's often those who claim to be the "True Believers" who end up inflicting the most harm. He tells them, I won't accept your sin offering. You must give the offering to Job, and ask him to pray for you. If you do this, THEN I will forgive you."

Think about it. Job has already lost all of his posessions. He's lost his servants, his children. He's "lost" his wife - I'm sorry, anyone who tells you to curse God and die... Hm. His companions come by to console him, and end up making self-righteous speeches and calling him a sinner! God scolded him, and NOW... NOW... he has to make a sin offering for them (kill 21 cattle and burn them in a ritual fashion), while praying for them!

I probably would have given those guys the finger, and told God, sorry, I can't do it. However, even JESUS orders us to pray for those who persecute us... Matthew 5:44 "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." I would like to bold the last but between my wrist brace and my lousy mouse, it isn't happening.

How does Job react to this Divine order? Job 10:1 "God restored Job's losses when he prayed for his freinds. Indeed, God gave him twice as much as before!"

When we can break the cycle of hate, and pray for our enemies, God can open up the doors of heaven and rain down blessings on us. It doesn't mean He will, but He can.

I only had to read the verse a few times before I put it together. I hope you find this beneficial!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I had a lot of fun today. I drank 3 powerade zeros when I got home, during and after my shower!
Out. 97 degrees. Sunny. ack!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Price Tag

Today I got toxic. I wasn't surprised. It's been exceptionally hot (heat index in mid 100's), humid, and sunny. I've been outside quite a bit. I'm probably a bit dehydrated.

On top of that, while battling a horrendous depression, I upped my lithium. Ugh. The two circumstances collided today and I'm still reeling.

Queasy! Queasy! Belching! Cramps! Gastric issues! Ugh! Lots of sighing and groaning, lots of pepto onboard, and out came the Powerade Zero and Kitchen Basics Chicken Stock - both wonderful products. I'm resting and trying to coddle myself.

I've been drinking, and drinking, and drinking some more, because the kidneys eliminate Lithium. I need to get my levels down. The toxic and therapeutic doses run awfully close together, it would be fascinating, if one day, they could develop a portable meter like my glucometer (blood sugar meter). I could stick my finger, or pee on a stick, and see my lithium level.

However, the depression's vanquished for now. I'm hanging tough and skipping tonight's dose. I don't need it, for certain!

And like I told Ron, this is just the price tag that comes with managing my illness. It could be far worse.

10% of us end our own lives. Some cancers have a better survival rate!

What would I be willing to accept, in the way of side effects, if I had "cancer"? Well, this is just as serious.

My hair may be a bit thinner, my hands get stupid sometimes, and God knows I have a lot of nausea, but it's a price I'm willing to pay.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Photo time!

Sorry it took me so long. http://picasaweb.google.com/RCHeather/June2009##

I'm feeling better now.. whacked it with lotsa lithium. Which comes with it's own baggage. :p
Bad day - deppression kicking me hard. i took xtra lithium.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Where's the Sacrifice?

Today I had a drug interaction. I took a chromium supplement with my lithium, and the chromium magnified the lithium side effects.

I walked around stupid all day, running into walls, running over my feet with my hand-cart at work, and hardly able to articulate my thoughts. It was pretty awful, I was happy to come home and go to bed.

So grateful that I COULD just go to bed. So grateful I don't have a child depending on me!

I took a nap for a few hours. When I woke up, I still felt fairly crappy. As I looked at my clock, I realized it was PILL TIME. I had to take more of what had made me ill, or risk getting "sick".

Days like today I can see why people give up and stop their bipolar medication. It's hard to take the long view when you forget to pull your underwear down in the bathroom, and you have to stand up again, battling dizziness, to do so. It's hard when people stare at you or you can't communicate a simple thought to a co-worker or your spouse. It's hard when you forget what key opens the stockroom.

And yet, I got up and fixed some food. I cooked the meat that had the sell-by date of today. I put that up in the fridge, did the dishes, and cut up some cheese for a snack. I peeled some grapefruit and added that to my cheese plate. Did I mention I was queasy, too?

I sat down and watched my "monster movie" as I ate my cheese and grapefruit - it's an excellent snack, I'm glad I decided to "try" grapefruit. It's good for my fasting blood sugars too.

Anyway, I ate my food and took my pills. Why? Because I told my husband: I can be stupid, or I can be scary. I don't want to be scary. No one avoids me when I'm like this... they all seem very patient and understanding. Ron thanks me for the "sacrifices" I make.

Gee, let's think. I'm giving up Bad Thoughts, Delusions, Hallucinations, feeling out of control, feeling like I could never depend on my own mind, my husband in fear of me, pissing people off because I was just so damned grumpy, attitudes, picking fights with strangers, and suicidal depressions. Where's the sacrifice?

I thank God every day that my illness got so bad. Taking my pills is the easiest thing I do every day. I know what to expect if I don't!

Spanish Bible Handout

Today was my all Spanish Handout.  I thought it would be interesting, but never could I have dreamed how odd it would get.  I had trouble ...