Tuesday, August 25, 2009

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! :)

2 days in one, again

Yesterday was pretty uneventful.  We went to the warehouse, got our supplies, went to work and stocked.  Jack will be out of town next wee...