Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Oberweis Chocolate Peanut-Butter Ice Cream

I really want this right now.

Beware of instant mashed potatoes

I have been doing really well on my low sodium diet and have been writing things down and keeping track. Today I even started writing down calories and fat content, just so I can see what I am eating on paper. I've lost several more pounds in the last couple of weeks and it's all going well, however tonight I cheated without even knowing it!

I made tilapia with Mrs. Dash's lemon pepper and that has no sodium. The tilapia only has 94 mgs in one filet, and only 95 calories. I made frozen string beans that have 0 mgs of sodium and 25 calories per 3/4 cup. I also made a spaghetti squash. It's the first time I ever made a spaghetti squash and it was delicious and I am going to be making that again often. Spaghetti squash is only 45 calories per cup, and about 12 mgs of sodium per cup. Doing well, right? I decided, since I am practically starving my hubby lately, to make some instant mashed potatoes to go along with everything. I put everything on my plate in portions, and then put about a half of a cup of mashed potatoes in the middle (I made them with fat free milk and no butter or added salt so thought I was still doing good). I had the info for the all of the stuff I ate from the box labels, but I keep my instant potatoes in a Tupperware container and had thrown away the box some time ago. I decided later to look up the nutrition content of instant potatoes online and I almost fell off my chair! 666 mgs of sodium amd 350 calories in one cup of instant mashed potatoes without adding anything else! So, since I had half, it was about 333...then add about 30 mgs for the sodium in the milk and about 175 for calories.

I guess now I am going to have to peel and cook potatoes from scratch from now on. I am being forced to turn into Suzy Freakin' Homemaker!

My little niece turned 2 this month

My youngest niece turned two this month and her birthday party was this past Saturday. She is a little dolly. She is all girl, very quite and feminine despite having a very active and outgoing older brother, who is going to be 4 soon.

Here in this photo she is in her jeans and a cute little shirt, but for her birthday party she had on a denim skirt, sweater vest and a flower-print blouse underneath and then she was wearing those cute little tights that little girls wear.

When the candle was lit on her cake, and everyone started singing "Haaaapy Biiithdayyy to yoooooo!" she hung her body over the side of her chair and tried to hide from all of the weirdos! LOL! But cake made her sit back up in her seat and she soon forgot about the crowd around her. (It was delicious cake.) Last year she was in a high chair and couldn't hold a spoon well yet and this year she fed herself and made her piece of cake and ice cream disappear in no time flat! She opened all of her presents with great interest and let her mom take each one to put aside without making a fuss about it. She is such a sweet little thing.

I remember when mine were that little and it seems so long ago. Kids grow up way too fast.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Is this normal forgetfulness?

Sometimes I feel like I am losing it. I am not stressed out, I have no big problems, I am not depressed, I am not overworked, I get enough rest, and I have a comfortable life. So where is my mind going?????!

I have been quite forgetful lately. Someone can tell me something and five minutes later I will forget. But you would think that I wouldn't forget what furniture I've had in my own house for more than 30 years!

Yesterday evening my husband was trying to figure out how he can fit a table into my office (he wants to share my office to be closer to me -- his computer is now downstairs. It is pretty lonely and dank down there in the basement.) The table he now has his computer on is very wide and sticks out too far. So, I was trying to think of something else he could put it on. I asked, "what about that old drop-leaf table that was in my bedroom when I had my computer in there?" He said, he thought I got rid of that. I said "no, I don't think I did." He said maybe you gave it to J #2 (our middle son) and his fiancee. I said "no, they took the old one with the chrome legs." He said then that I probably threw it out and I told him I wouldn't throw something like that away. He then insisted that it was probably at J & W's place. I insisted that they have the table with the chrome legs, and another round table in their dining room.

So, I called J #2 and he said they didn't have the drop-leaf table, but have the table with the chrome legs and I LOVE being right and relayed that tidbit of news to hubby and gloated. However, that did not solve the mystery of where my damned drop-leaf table was. Then while I was talking to J #2, hubby says "It's in your bedroom with a television on it." OH MY GOSH! I go to bed and watch "Everybody Loves Raymond" EVERY SINGLE NIGHT from the television that is sitting ON THE DROP-LEAF TABLE. I also have the dvd player on it, and a collector doll, and that is where I lay the controllers EVERY STINKIN' NIGHT. What is WRONG with me???

A country of salt addicts

Because of my recent medical problems, my days of eating out have come to a screeching halt. I have been told to keep my sodium intake under 2,000 mgs per day. At first 2,000 mgs seemed quite generous to me since the average daily allowance for a healthy adult is 2400 mgs of sodium per day. I thought I wouldn't have to change my diet all that much, until I started reading labels! A one cup serving of Campell's Vegetable Beef soup, for example contains 810 mgs of sodium! One 12-oz bottle of V-8 is 900 mgs! Canned green beans and most other canned veggies, 390+ mgs in a 1/2 cup! Macaroni and cheese, 1756 for ONE serving!

"Lean Cuisine" and "Healthy Choice" entrees are somewhat better with only about half the sodium as regular frozen entrees, however, they are between 500-900 depending on what type of entree you are getting and that is half of my allowance for the whole day in one measly, unsatisfying boxed serving.

Restaurants are the worst. People in this country are poisoning themselves with salt and don't even realize it! I know I didn't till I started having problems.
Burger King Original Whopper with cheese, no mayo...1410 mgs of sodium
Burger King Medium Fries. . .590 mgs of sodium
There's your daily allowance dumped into your system in one sitting.

I checked the nutrition contents of foods from numerous fast food places and restaurants via this website: Calorie-count.com. It gives you the nurtritional information on many, many kinds of foods, fast food menus, and restaurant and bistro menus.

The only option I have is to start doing more of something I detest...cooking from scratch.
I found many varieties of Mrs. Dash that are very good, and am learning to use spices instead of salt when I cook. I am actually starting to taste the flavor of the food that the salt was covering up, and you realize that it's all quite delicious once your tastebuds start waking up!

I don't know what I am going to do on trips and vacations where I must eat out. The only place that has a halfway decent menu that I can choose from is Eat-and-Park and the items I can have are mostly from the Senior Menu. At 52, I am not yet ready to start using old people's options, but when it comes to my health, I guess I will have to. I can also choose from breakfast menus and ask for poached eggs and toast with Promise spread instead of butter or margarine. I have found that Brummel & Brown yogurt spread is the best fake butter and the lowest in sodium, but no restaurant is going to have that.

Here is what I can have at Wendy's...
Baked Potato with nothing on it
Packet of ketchup
iced tea
salad with no meat, dressing, or cheese

At Denny's I can have
2 Poached eggs
a piece of toast
one strip of bacon
fruit cup

Burger King I can have
plain salad no meat or dressing
packet of ketchup
little cup of strawberry applesauce
ice tea


Olive Garden

(Chili's Awesome Blossom, which I used to LOVE, has 4,600+ mgs of sodium!!!)

Anyway, go to the link I provided and see for yourself. You will be shocked at what you are eating. Most people consume 4,000 to 6,000 mgs of sodium easily each day, and are feeding it to their children, and don't even know it.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Things I am most afraid of

Over the years, the list of things I am afraid of has grown shorter and shorter. While I hope I am still around to see my kids get married, and to see my grandchildren grow up (if I ever have any), I would not say I have a fear of not seeing those things happen.

My fears are far more irrational. I fear deep, empty spaces. I can't think of the name for that right now, but I just don't like looking at empty tanks, deep gorges or pits of any sort. I remember when the man-made Wolf Lake near where I grew up was under development and seeing the deep pit of sand before the water was allowed to flow into it from the adjacent lake was quite eerie to me.

I don't like centipedes and their hundred wriggling legs. We have those in our basement sometimes and SHIVER, shit are they creepy! I hate trying to kill the little sons-o-bitches when they come upstairs once in awhile. There is no way to catch the suckers. You have to get a huge shoe and hope your aim is good and your hit is on the mark the very first time or they are gone into your cabinets or under the counters somewhere to lurk and come back out again when you least suspect it.

The huge exhibit "The Mechanical Man" exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is also creepy. It looks like the top of one of those water tanks and you have to go inside it to watch a film. Everyone sits in a semi-circle and there is a screen in the middle. I felt weak before going inside, but actually being inside was worse. I felt all cold and clammy after about five minutes and had to leave. I couldn't stand it.

I have never been on an airplane. My husband, kids, mother, father, sister, brothers and their families have ALL been on a plane, including my little great nieces and nephew who are all ages 5 and under. I wonder if I can go my whole life avoiding it. I would love to see Europe and Australia someday, but I never will if I can't overcome flight fright. 911 did nothing to help matters. I know that there is more of a chance of dying in a car crash than an airplane crash, but just the thought of all that weight just hanging there mid-air gives me the willies.

Natural gas that is piped into homes for heating and cooking also makes me very frightened at times, particularily when hubby is working on the stove, furnace or gas fireplace. Our stove recently had a problem and the burner wasn't coming on for the oven. He got right in there with tools and a flashlight and kept turning the ignitor on and off, on and off. I went to the far end of the house while he was fooling with that (as if that would do any good if the house was leveled from an explosion!)

My fears as a child were even more irrational than they are now. Like I said, I have mellowed with age. I was afraid of the stupidest things. Like open car hoods. It looked like a mouth opening to me. It didnt' help that my father once found a bird in his engine, so naturally I thought the car ate the bird somehow. It was all oily and nasty looking. I now know that the bird must have climbed up inside and got stuck and died, but a little kid can't reason that way.

One day when I was about three-years-old, the people next door had to take their toilet outside for some reason. I was outside playing and I went around to that side of the yard and looked over the fence and saw the toilet sitting there and knew it didn't belong there in the grass and started bellowing my head off! I ran inside and sacrificed playtime because of my unreasonable fear of displaced toilets.

I was afraid of other things that most children are afraid of, imaginary monsters under the bed, ghosts looking in the windows of my bedroom, possible vampires or werewolfs getting into my room somehow, or the boogerman who lived under the ground who might just reach up and grab me if I was bad. But the thing I was MOST afraid of that has stayed with me to this day is a fear of DRAGONFLIES. I hate them.

Dragonflies are the most frightening-looking creatures to me that I have ever encountered. I am talking not about the thin, pale-blue pretty ones with the dainty wings. I am talking about the big, fat dark ugly ones that are about the size of a sparrow with the huge-ass wings and the really huge eyes. SHIVER, SHIVER SHIVER, just thinking about them...and even looking at the above image takes my breath away! When I was little, one landed on my chest and all I could do was scream "get it off get it off get it off get it off!!!!!" My sister and I used to take the clothes off the clothesline and bring them inside and fold them. While digging through the basket, once in awhile we would find one of those suckers attached to an article of clothing and would make me almost pass out in fear! I am still that way. If I am outside swimming in our pool, and one of those things comes hovering overhead, I dive underneath until it is gone. I know I am bigger than it is, but it doesn't matter. I am terrified of them!

If I had to choose between flying in a plane, walking in the bottom of an empty swimming pool or lake, sitting through a show of the Mechanical Man at the museum, I would choose all of the above before I would consider letting anyone put a dragonfly on me.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Why I chose the name "Stardust"

When choosing a name to use in the Blogosphere, it wasn't really a hard decision for me. I knew it had to be "Stardust." Why? Well, there are several reasons why I love this name.

First of all, "Stardust" is my favorite song of all time. I've loved it since I was a small child and played with my mother's alarm clock/music box that played this tune. The music box was small, dark mahogany-colored and the music box part wound with a tiny crank that was on the back of it with the winder and alarm switch for the clock. I wound that little box so many times I wore it out. I would love to find a music box again that plays that song, and if anyone knows where I can find one, please let me know! I might just get two of them and give my mom one. I have my favorite performers who have sung this song . . . Louis Armstrong, Willie Nelson, Julio Iglesias, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles. . . but my all time favorite performer of "Stardust" is Nat King Cole.

Another reason I like the name "Stardust" is because it's the stuff everything in the universe is made of. We are stardust because we are made of the same elements that stars are made of. The elements themselves (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, etc.) are synthesized, cooked up as it were, in the nuclear furnaces that are the deep interior of stars. These elements are then released at the end of a star's lifetime when it explodes, and subsequently incorporated into a new generation of stars -- and into the planets that form around the stars, and the lifeforms that originate on the planets. One day our own sun will expand and explode, and will at that time engulf and incinerate the first three or four planets of our solar system . . . and a nursery full of new stars will be born. In that sense, nothing really dies, we just return from whence we came. Starstuff.

My final reason for picking the name "Stardust" is because I love astronomy and am sort of an amateur astronomer. I keep track of the NASA news, and Space.com. I read those sites every day and study the images and find them absolutely fascinating. Like I say in my profile, if I could live life over again I would become an astronomer. One of my favorite missions was the Stardust Mission.
Stardust is the first U.S. space mission dedicated solely to the exploration of a comet, and the first robotic mission designed to return extraterrestrial material from outside the orbit of the Moon.

Supernovas: When Stars Die

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Digging holes to China

One of my fondest childhood memories was digging in the dirt, under our mobile home I lived in with my two brothers and sister. On a hot summer day, sitting on the edge of the concrete in the shade of our humble abode, we'd use old spoons or some improvised digging utensil to dig down deep into the rich, black, moist soil and heap it into piles until we reached sand.

We had seen Bugs Bunny on Saturday morning cartoons, tunnel down through the Earth with a shovel or a spade, and come out in the Orient. . . upside down, no less. We had also seen this on other cartoons and television shows, and we wanted to see if we could do it, too. Our imaginations went wild with possibilities of how long it would take, and wonder if we would be upside down too if we were successful to burrow our way through the center of the Earth.

Reaching the sand was exciting. That meant we were making progress. However, after an hour or two of scraping and scooping, we grew bored and began to pick up the moist sand in our hands and squished it all together in a big lump. We started to make things from the wet balls of sand like sand "snowmen" or pretend to make peanut butter cookies and dirt pies. Kids nowdays don't know how to have fun anymore. We had a blast.


I love to dream while I am asleep. They are like little movies your mind makes up while you are unconscious. Two nights ago I had an "action" type dream and then last night it was kind of interesting but boring at the same time and all I can say is it is because I talked to my daughter before going to sleep and I miss her very much.

The night before last, I dreamed we were preparing for a tornado that was approaching and we were trying to figure out where to hide. We were in our house, but it didn't look like our house. My husband was shouting orders to get under something, and as we were climbing in closets and under tables the walls of the house were blown away...whole. They were flying away in whole sections, leaving the rooms exposed and despite all the wind blowing us, our hair, papers around...everything else stayed still. Nothing really happened. Just a lot of excited yelling over the sound of the roaring winds.

Then last night was a really weird one. My daughter was the center of this one. We were at her apartment and it looked like she lived in an Eastern European neighborhood...real shabby and run down. I was trying to talk her into moving back home, telling her that the life she was living was no kind of life where one can be happy and she was arguing with me that she was fine. Her apartment was psychedelic colored and very 60s-ish. She had long hair parted in the middle and had on jeans like in the 60s. She went out with friends while we waited at the apartment, then we went out to sightsee for awhile, and then when we got back, she still wasn't back yet. So we played with her cat, Doggie, who didn't look like her cat at all, but a big furry poofy dog. M's friend came back, but no M. Eventually, she came back and acted tired and said she wanted to take a nap, and she did as we sat there and watched her sleep. (That's what usually happens in reality when we visit...she relaxes and goes to sleep...and we wait for her to wake up to go out and do something together or to eat.) Anyway, in the dream my husband and I were pacing around trying to decide if we should just go home or not.

I haven't had a dream in a long time, so glad to have something to add in my dream journal the past two nights. :-)

Doggie and M...
sleeping during one of our visits.
(Mary dressed Doggie up like a little Polish lady. Doggie must have liked it because she didn't try to push it off.)

Eating healthy is expensive!

Now I know why there are so many overweight people in this country. I have found since being on this diet the cardiologist put me on, that healthy food costs a small fortune. I went to the store yesterday and bought 2 green peppers, 2 cucumbers, a box of cherry tomatoes, a butternut squash, a spaghetti squash, two little yellow squash, a package of green onions, a little package of sprouts, an 8 oz block of Swiss cheese, an 8 oz block of Cheddar cheese, an 8 oz block of Monterey Jack cheese, three cans of Campbell's low sodium chicken broth, a can of low sodium split pea soup, low fat coffee creamer, a small box of Vanilla Wafers, a roll of paper towels, generic aluminum foil, and two containers of bleach and it came to $78.05!

My husband went to Sam's a couple days ago and got the fish I am supposed to eat instead of red meat or pork...or mystery meats. He got a 3 lb package of salmon, a 3 lb package of cod loins, a box of oranges, a box of spring greens (salad), a bag of jelly beans (not good, but an impulse buy for himself), a gallon of orange juice, a bag of tortilla chips and the total came to $87!!!

So, that's $165 for food in just a couple of days...and it's mostly fresh so will have to be replaced soon. I wonder if this can be covered under our medical insurance! (Just joking, of course they would never cover food plans prescribed by a doctor even if it is going to save them big hospital costs.)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Working at home "challenges"

I am still getting set up for my work-at-home job and I hope this isn't a precurser of what is to come. I received a phone call a few days ago from Carrie at Human Resources saying that they received my paperwork but needed two extra things (there is always SOMETHING ELSE!) So, I gave the documents to my husband who faxed them from work for me, and he got verification that they received the documents. I thought all was well and good until I received an email from the company about my computer verification survey that I wrote about HERE.

Two days ago, I received an email saying that I didn't meet their computer requirements since I didn't have Internet Explorer and SPak2. I guess the second survey didn't cancel out the first one that I interrupted to see if we had Internet Explorer. I sent a third one, and gave Carrie at HR a phone call to let her know that I do indeed have Internet Explorer 2 and Service Pak 2 and that I sent the survey a third time. Carrie was quite impatient and said that if it doesn't go through again, to give her a call then. Otherwise it would be fine. Well, then I get ANOTHER email from their Tech Support saying that I need to fill out a WHOLE NEW SURVEY. Oh my gosh, these people are beginning to really annoy the hell out of me and I haven't even started working for them yet!

I filled out the newest compatibility survey, sent it on it's way and we shall wait and see what happens next. If this setting up is this much of a pain in the ass, I wonder what training will be like???

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Unfortunately they were right

Unfortunately, the weather forecasters were right and we have been getting a winter storm like we haven't had in awhile. It started snowing in the wee hours of the morning and has been coming down steadily all day long. The wind is what makes it really bad, otherwise it would be no huge deal because we Chicagoans are used to snow, and wind...but together they can make traveling miserable. O'hare cancelled more than 400 flights today. M was supposed to be on one of those flights to come for an audition and to visit us. I am sad we didn't get to visit her. We haven't seen her since the end of November. Damned weather!

Fortunately, though...everyone has made it home from work safely, though it took a lot longer than it usually does for them. The streets are snow-covered and slick. The plows get the roads cleared and the wind blows the snow right back over again. Our middle son, who is a semi-truck driver started out to the terminal to pick up his rig today and turned around and went back home, called his Driver Manager and said he was not driving in this mess today. His DM was a little ticked, apparently because lots of drivers were calling off, and my son said that was not his problem...safety first! Trucking companies don't care if a driver dies, or if a truck gets wrecked. They can hire a new driver and buy a new truck. Drivers must look out for themselves and too many don't and end up rolled over on a slick ramp or crossing over a median and killing someone or themselves...or both sometimes.

Snow is supposed to continue late into the night, with strong winds causing near white-out conditions in many places. All this is headed to the northeast to those folks in New York who are already buried in several feet of the white crap. They are shoveling snow off their rooftops. I am glad I don't live there.

Can't wait for springtime when I am able to open the windows and let the breezes of the fresh air flow into the house.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Snow on the way

Well, the weather forcasters are calling for some mighty nasty weather tomorrow and from the looks of the radar I can't see how this one is going to be wrong since it spans across many states and is moving northeast like a big wave covering the land.

They say we could get between 3-8 inches of snow by tomorrow afternoon, with 25-35 mph winds (sometimes gusts to over 40 mph) which will cause much blowing and drifting and blizzard-like conditions. I am glad I don't have to go out, but my son and husband do have to go to work. I am trying to talk them into reporting off, but both say they can't do that. They will have to plow through and get there when they get there. I just hope they can get home sometime tomorrow night.

I was a bit skeptical at first, thinking how the news media always blows things out of proportion and exaggerates the tiniest bit of news and can make something normal into something bigger than it really is, but when my daughter's flight to Chicago was canceled, then I heard that 90 other American Airline flights to Ohare have been canceled, I knew that this was probably going to be a big storm. Airlines just don't cancel flights and lose all that money for no reason. I am really disappointed because I was really excited to see M again, even for a day (she was coming in for an audition and we were going to spend the day with her before she had to go back home.) Now we won't get to see her until May. :-(

The wind is picking up. I hear it howling around the eaves. I can feel a bit of a draft from the window that is near my desk. As the English say, "roll on, spring!"

Happy 28th Birthday #1

Our oldest child turned 28 today and boy do I feel old!

I wrote about the birth of our youngest, our daughter on her birthday, so will write here about our oldest.

He is quite different from the other two. He is more of a loner, and an intellectual which can make it difficult at times because we don't know what the hell he is talking about. I know he would like to have in-depth discussions about Hume, Socrates, the complex philosophical problems of the world, but we aren't all that educated in those things, mostly the basics, but getting into the meat of philosophy...well...I am more on the level of Everybody Loves Raymond.

The day I went into labor with J #1, it was right after a huge snow. We lived in the city of Chicago at the time and our car was buried from the plows going by and pushing snow halfway up the side of the vehicles that were parked on the street. It was so cold, too.

We drove to the hospital and I was taken up to the Labor and Delivery department while my husband filled out insurance information. I was given a skimpy gown and hooked up to a fetal monitor. His little heart was beating so fast that it sounded like a race horse galloping down the home stretch. Labor progressed slowly. I was getting tired. The doctor broke my water but still things went slow. They wouldn't let me go home and wait because I was considered high risk after losing two babies already. So, I had to wait in that uncomfortable hospital bed, and was poked and probed every half hour.

After 20-something hours of this nonsense, the monitor showed that the baby's heartbeat was slowing. I began to get worried because this is what happened with our first one and no one paid attention to the monitors. But this time, nurses were alert and started to become worried, also. I could see concern on their faces. They called in my doctor and he arrived fairly quickly. He did an examination of how the baby was positioned and said he was "transverse" and instead of turning around completely, he was sideways in the womb. He could have tried to turn him, but giving my history of placenta problems, and cord problems, they decided to do an emergency c-section.

I was given a spinal anesthesia which numbed everything from the boobs down, and our son was born within minutes. He was a tiny little thing, only 5 lbs. He had a very big head, and very big feet. I was astonished by how big his feet were for such a tiny baby. He kind of cried a weak cry, and didn't open his eyes at first. They showed him to me and wisked him away. Because he was low birth weight, they wanted to take him to Neo-natal ICU for awhile for observation.

He was fine. But I wasn't. I got a headache from spinal fluid leaking out of the place where they inserted the needle for the anesthesia. Those spinal headaches are the worst, and it made it difficult to hold J when they brought him to me. But I was so happy...I had a LIVE baby. He was very sweet, very quiet.

He remained a quiet boy for the most part throughout his childhood. He was/is very inquisitive, and explored things on his own. He was always interested in how things worked, and how they were put together. He read books by age 3 and could do math around the same time. He was also interested in planets and space. As he grew older his interests expanded to history and other areas of science. He played soccer, was on the chess team (played chess by age 3) and took a liking to music at a young age. His first grade teacher at the Lutheran school he attended sparked his first interest in learning to read music by giving her class piano lessons each day.

In fifth grade, he was then in a public school in a new neighborhood we moved to. They have a very good music program in our town and encourage kids to participate even if they aren't going to be musicians. He came to us and said he wanted to play the Trombone. So, we went to the information meeting, and found out how much it was going to cost, and said...ok. He was very gifted at playing, and loved it. We ended up getting him a professional model trombone and later an even better one with an F attachment. He went on to play in the high school 250 member marching band and was in the audition only Wind Symphony. He was in many music festivals and seminars.

He decided to go to a university to get a degree in Music Performance and was nearly finished when he decided that he would always have to struggle as a musician, always compete and maybe not make that much money, so he switched fields to Computer Programming and earned a Microsoft Certification in C++ programming. He decided then that he didn't like that! So, back in school again for Physics. He finally finished his Bachelor's in Physics, which is a very difficult subject with all the advanced Math and Science required, lab work, etc. He is now working on his certification to teach Physics in the public schools here in Illinois.

Can't wait for him to finish so he can move back out on his own so hubby and I can have our house to ourselves before we are too old to care.
click on image to enlarge

J #1 and J #2 playing chess at ages 5 and 4.

Yes, the middle kid is also multi-talented. :-)


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Recycling, is it bullshit?

I have posted on another blog a video by Penn & Teller about Recycling being bullshit. Is it bullshit? I never stopped to think about it before.

Recycling started out small here in my town. In the beginning, the village gave us these little dark blue bins that we were told to put only cans and glass into (but not colored glass). Our garbage collection bill was raised by $3 a month. We didn't fuss much about it because we were doing our part for the environment. Then they asked us to add paper and plastic to the recycling bin AND the village threatened to impose a fine if caught throwing any of these items in with regular garbage. We were recently given a large brown bin on wheels for recyclables and there was also an increase in fees at the same time. Grass clippings and yard waste have to go into brown bags with special stickers. These garden waste stickers cost $2.50 each. We were then told that we have to buy stickers for our regular garbage, and those stickers are $1.35 each and we can only use one per 30-gallon trash bag. On top of this, the village charges a regular garbage disposal fee and that has gone up to accomodate the cost of recycling.

I watched the Penn & Teller video (and have since read criticism of recycling programs) and wonder now if I am not just one of many, many suckers who are falling trap to something that might just be big business and nothing much to do with environmental issues at all. Does it all come down to what it usually does for most everything, the Almighty Dollar and a way to take more of it away from us?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Nothing is ever easy

I went to the bank and had paperwork notarized for my new work-at-home job yesterday morning, and then went to the post office and sent everything via certified mail to make sure it is received. I was relieved that I got the dozen sheets or so of forms filled out and on their way and thought all I had to do was sit back and wait to hear the final approval on things. Then I get an email from them saying I have to do some computer verification survey to make sure my computer is "compatible" for this job. I figure, this is a newer computer, all the latest software, so no biggie. Wrong.

I started doing the survey thing and followed step-by-step instructions which required me to shout questions to my husband who was in the livingroom trying to watch television. The questions were quite technical having to do with our operating system and computer components. I get to where I am almost finished and then the question "Do you use Internet Explorer"...no is the answer to that because we get too many pop ups with Explorer and we got a virus once using that. We use Mozilla with a firewall. Well, not good enough, we have to have Internet Explorer for me to be able to work for them. So, I had to stop what I was doing and bellow for the hubby who came in and tried this and that to download Internet Explorer. This went on for about 45 minutes or so before he realized we already have Internet Explorer and an icon was never added to the desktop is all.

So, once that was figured out, I had to start the survey ALL OVER AGAIN. I hope this company isn't going to be as big of a pain in the butt to work for.

Friday, February 09, 2007

I travel to many places though the writings of my friends

In September 1996, I started a hobby that has enriched my life tremendously. My daughter, who was independent studying for her high school education during that time, joined International Penfriends Association to find friends to write to in other lands so that she would learn about different cultures and places while perfecting her writing and communication skills. This proved to be a valuable part of her education that one does not get in most public school systems, and even the best school systems do not allow time for this kind of freedom to expand and explore. She started getting letters from Germany, Netherlands, Russia and other far-off places. I would look at her letters, the photos of her new pals she was writing to, and the stamps her new friends used on the envelopes of their letters. Being interested in anthropology and world cultures, and having a love for people, I wished that I could write to pen pals, too. That was when my daughter showed me that they had a category for various age groups! So, I paid my $20 and joined! It's one of the best things I have ever done in my life.

After sending in my fee, I received a list of twelve names, and my name was also added to lists that were sent to twelve other people. My first penfriends were Myriam from Belgium, Elaine in England, Caroline in Scotland, Rose in Uganda, Susanne in Sweden, Marijo in France, Diane in Wales, Joyce in Australia, Ria in Netherlands, Ruth in Brazil, Shari in Japan and Anne in Norway. More than ten years later I am still writing to Myriam, Elaine, Caroline, Rose, Susanne, Diane, Joyce, Ruth, and Shari! (Susanne and her husband came and stayed with us for a few days in 2005.)

It didn't just stop with those pals. We pass around in our letters to one another what is called "F.B.s" or Friendship Booklets where we put in our address label or write in our name and address and a short list of interests along with our age. These are just little booklets made from post-its or cut pieces of paper. When the Friendship Booklet is full it is sent back to the first person on the list. In the meantime, while they are circulating, we can take names from the booklets of people we would find interesting to write to, or from a country we don't have a pal from yet and write to that person telling a bit about ourselves and ask if they would like to be penfriends. I accumulated 83 pals that way! That was a bit much to keep up with, but eventually some people get bored with the hobby and just stop writing. Three of my penfriends have died. I now have about 43 pals from 24 countries and about 40 of those I have had for eight to ten years. I recently acquired three new pals from South Africa, Netherlands and Norway.

The countries my current pals are from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Japan, Australia, Canada, Germany, Hungary, South Africa, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Uganda, Brazil, New Zealand, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Switzerland, Austria, India and Israel. I hear all about their families, their neighbors, their neighborhoods, their politics, weather, likes and dislikes, worries and concerns, loves and interests, foods, television programs, books and authors, artists, where they travel, cultural events and so on. I keep scrapbooks of photos they send me of themselves and their familes and the postcards they send and brochures and interesting articles, etc. Some of us who can afford it exchange birthday and xmas presents and the gifts are usually something from that person's land that is unique and interesting. I especially love when one of my pals in Dorset , England sends me things about Thomas Hardy. And Rose in Uganda sends me brilliantly colored postcards of African tribes and of wild animals that roam near where she lives. My pals in Aussie have sent me wonderful books of the Coral Reef and my Icelandic friends send books and photos of the Aurora Borealis or otherwise known as "the Northern Lights." I could write a book about each one of my penfriends, and maybe one day, I will.

One thing that I have come to learn is that we aren't all that different when you get down to basics. We all want our kids to be happy, we want peace on earth, we just want to live our lives and enjoy the time we have on this planet. Too bad people spend so much time warring and fighting when they could be really learning from each other and enjoying this only life we have.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Lizard burps and farts!

Miller, my Bearded Dragon has been eating lots of canned crickets, green beans and fruit, plus her dry processed food pellets and snacking on dried meal worms. But she has not been drinking her water and she had gotten bloaty and her tummy was HUGE!

She hadn't pooed in a couple of weeks. Beardies usually go every two or three days, at least. I tried giving her digestive drops and no go. Today she was swelled up like a water balloon and I was contemplating taking her to the vet, but last time I took her in it ended up costing me $225 and though I thought she was dying, it was only that she was about to lay eggs. That was when we still didn't know that he was a she and the vet didn't catch that one either even after paying all that money!

As the evening wore on, she looked quite uncomfortable, and I picked her up and she felt almost hollow inside, but her underside was huge and her skin tight like a drum. I put her back in her tank and she started making tiny burping noises, then would swallow after each one. She was breathing fast as if she was in distress. I had to think of something to help her out because I was in distress watching her be in distress. I filled a plastic tub full of real warm water like the lizard guidebook says to do. I then put her into the water and she didn't fight me like she usually does when I try to give her a bath. After being in the water for only about 2 minutes, this HUGE blast of a fart came out of her and made bubbles in the water as if a balloon were deflating! Oh my gosh did that STINK! Then she pushed out a log that was the size of my thumb! She shyly looked up at me afterwards like Mom, get me out of this stinky water and give me a shower.

She seems fine now but really tired from all that ordeal.

Last time we had a lizard crisis was when she gulped her green beans too fast and they stuck in her throat and I had to pry her jaws open while my son looked in with a flashlight and plucked the pieces out with a pair of tweezers! Then I had to blow into her face to get her breathing again. (No lip contact, I wasn't about to give mouth-to-mouth to a lizard!)

You would think that a lizard would be no trouble at all, and she usually isn't but she sure has some weird emergencies!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Working at home!

I just received word today that I have been accepted to work for an at-home scoring company! It's a project-by-project basis just like the scoring company I am already hired at, also on a project-by-project basis that I have to drive an hour and a half to get to. The one stipulation of both companies is that I cannot work for another scoring company at the same time. I will have to choose one or the other. So, ummmm, is that a difficult choice? Not at all! I may have to turn down one of them if I am in the middle of a project with the other. But at least I can work for one if the other one doesn't have anything at that time.

I still have to fill out paperwork, gather my degree information and fill out some forms, then get it all notarized and in the mail. Once they receive that and verify everything, I can start training. After training then I will start working on the project. I can work between the hours of 8a.m. -10 p.m., but have to get in at least 8 hours of work each day, five days per week.

This is really awesome to land an at-home job that is for a large company and I hope it works out. The icing on the cake is that it is $2.00 more an hour than the other place pays and I don't have to use a large portion of money on gasoline. And I can stay in my jammies and work if I want to!
:-) I am glad my Masters Degree that I worked so hard for is being used for something!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Superbowl Sunday

I usually don't watch football, but since the Bears were playing, I agreed to go along to a Superbowl party my son asked us to that his best friend was throwing at his place. This friend happens to have a projection television and my husband was all excited about that. So, we traipsed out into the bitter cold , bringing along a couple of bean dips that I couldn't eat and some 2-liter bottles of pop I couldn't drink and headed over there for the evening. We are friends with my son's friend's parents, and since we hadn't seen them in awhile, I was glad they were going to be there to prevent sheer boredom on my part. My son's fiancee was also there, but was interested in the game because if the Bears had won, she wouldn't have had to start work till noon tomorrow. Unfortunately, she has to get up early tomorrow because the Bears played so crappily. :(

Billy Joel came out to sing the national anthem and did a pretty bad job of it. His voice is awful now and he looks like a grandpa! He used to have this big fro of a hairdo back in the 70s, but now it's nearly completely gone (and so is his voice)!

The first play of the game was exciting. Kick off and then a touch down, immediately by Chicago. But that was about the only exciting play Chicago made. The rest of the game was poopy. It started to rain and the ball kept slipping out of the players' hands. Players kept dropping the ball and then all scrambling to throw themselves on top of it each time it got away. It looked more like a game of keep away!

The halftime entertainment was crappy, too. Of all the great entertainers, bands, etc out there, who do they get? The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, and he comes out in an Aunt Jemima scarf around his hair so as not to let the rain get his shellacked hairdo wet. I don't know if it was the rain that made him sound so bad, or if he just sounds bad now. He was trying to do a Hendrix thing and turned out sounding like car parts being put through a metal processor. I was waiting for one of the dancing girls to slip in the puddles that were forming on the slick stage platform. Not that I wanted anyone to get hurt, but falling on a tushy would have added a big of zip to the act.

The best part about the Superbowl were the commercials. My favorite one was the the Blockbuster rabbit and guinea pig learning how to use a mouse. I also liked Rock, Scissors, Paper and the Beard Comb Over. You can find all these clips here at this LINK.

Even though the game sucked, we still had laughs, and a nice to catch up with old friends, and to see our son and fiancee who we don't get to see much anymore! (If you read this J&W, we are waiting for a visit!)

Saturday, February 03, 2007


Whatever happened to good television? What happened to the programs that actually entertained? I don't even bother turning the television on when I am home alone because all that is on are judge shows, soap operas with stories that go round and round in boring vicious circles, reality cop shows, reality slut shows, greedy game shows, or sports. News media monopolizes most channels today that focus on the negatives and the warring and all of the crap that goes on in the world. My husband is a tv-a-holic, but it is something that I can live without.

Studies show that more and more people are depressed each year. With all of the problems of the world, and too much reality television, it's no wonder why the Psychology and Psychiatry professions are so lucrative. Not that it would be the answer to serious depression, but what would help us all is to bring back the variety shows. When I was a kid my family and I watched Ed Sullivan Show which featured many of our famous artists from Nat King Cole to the Beatles. And there was also Hollywood Palace, which was another popular, long-running Saturday night variety show of the mid-to-late 1960's, originating from the Hollywood Palace Theater (formerly the El Capitan) on Hollywood Boulevard. There was a revolving guest host, usually a singer or comedian, each week. My mom, dad and sister and brothers would gather around to watch these programs together and we really enjoyed the hour of real entertainment. Other shows like Lawrence Welk, Laugh-In, Carol Burnett and Sonny and Cher were just a few of the others programs that entertained and made us feel good.

Today, we have the Comedy channel (which isn't for young children most of the time), and there are shows and sit coms that come and go, but there are few programs on the boob tube where we can find singing and dancing, clean family comedy, and shows that inspire family values. That's why I like Everybody Loves Raymond...it's family oriented and "real". But, alas, that series has ended and I don't watch television enough to even know if there is anything like it on right now.

I must be getting old if I am longing for the good-old-days.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Half a day in the cardiology department

My husband and I had to get up while it was still dark to make it to the hospital at my appointed time to have the chemical stress test my doctor ordered. Leaving that early in the morning reminded me of going on vacation when we would leave before the morning rush. To my husband it was nothing different for him, since he leaves the house by 5 a.m. every single weekday (and sometimes on weekends.)

When we got to the hospital I have to give information all over again that I just gave to someone on the telephone yesterday. I guess they have to ask again, and again, and again. I should just type up a sheet of my information and make copies next time. It will save a lot of question and answer sessions.

They first took me back and started an I.V. which is no fun because I have no veins. (Well, of course I have veins, but no good ones for poking.) One nurse tried and tried and no go. Then she bellowed for the "expert" I.V. nurse and she got it into the side of my left hand by my thumb...ouch! However, that vein collapsed. So, they take it out and slap my other hand and tie that plastic thing around the top of my arm as tight as they can get it and finally she found a potential place to poke again. This time it stayed, but it was on the side of my hand again below the thumb. I wasn't going to complain because I just wanted it to be over with.

Then I was told to go back into the waitingroom and wait some more. Lucky my hubby was with so I could have someone to talk to. They eventually called me back and did an MRI echo scan of my heart. That was no biggie, except that my arms fell asleep! This machine moves around and takes pictures of your heart in "slices" while you lay there on a sort of tray-like bed thing with arms above your head. My arms were tingling by the time it was half over and then totally went to sleep on me like your leg does after sitting cross-legged too long. At least during this part of the ordeal you can even leave your clothes, and it was relaxing listening to the machine hum. I almost fell asleep. I have been tired from this sinus infection and not sleeping well. Funny that I got groggy on a hard tray in a cold room!

From there it was back to the waitingroom, but about one minute later they came to get me and take me to what looked like a mini-emergency room with a row of cart beds lined up with curtains for privacy. Had to get undressed and put on one of those open-backed gowns that are so lovely. Then I laid on the cart, shivering while they attached a bunch of electrodes to my chest , While she was busy doing that, another nurse came in and I got to answer questions all over again again, yes...the same questions I was asked about three times already. I think they do that to try to catch inconsistencies in what you tell them or something.

The drops of Dobutamine are started. I was ok at first then my heart started going faster, and I started feeling out of breath as if I was jogging! Weird! More drops, faster breathing and pounding heartbeat. I started feeling dizzy and my scalp was tingly and I told the nurse and she said that was a "normal" side effect. It would have been nice to be forwarned! Then they said I still had a ways to go before my "target" rate of 148. They put in more Dobutamine, and faster my heart went and then chest pains! And I felt like I was going to pass out, even with laying down and I started getting nauseated which they had warned me about. Now, there was a whole team of people around me by that time and one nurse tried to chit chat it up with me to try to distract me or something but I wasn't in the mood for their little chit chat games. Just get the damn test done and get it over with! Afterwards, they had to give me something to slow my heartrate again and that took awhile. I was then sent back to the scan room to have another scan after the stress test was done. Holy cow, that was the strangest experience I have had in a long time!

The medical people can think of the darndest torture tests to put people through. I am waiting for someone to make the Star Trek Tricorder a reality and none of us will have to endure stuff like colonoscopies, angiograms, myleograms, and other uncomfortable invasive testing. They can just wave their little tricorders over our bodies and results and diagnosis will show up on a little screen. Hey, cell phones came from Star Trek ideas, why not tricorders?

The initial results of this is that my heart is not pumping efficiently to my legs and arms. I will find out more on Monday after the cardiologist analyzes the images and talks with my doctor. I did get diet instructions from the cardiologist...low sodium, no table salt, low fat, no red meat or pork (or sausages, hot dogs, bologna and other "mystery meats"), no pop, no caffiene. I have to eat small portions, and eat breakfast, fruit or yogurt mid morning, lunch, fruit, jello or yogurt mid afternoon, dinner and low fat snack for dessert. Lots and lots of water, and green tea.

On Monday, depending on what they find, the doctor will tell me what to do for cardiac rehabilitiation to strengthen the heart muscle and get circulation going in my arms and legs. This all sounds so exhausting already, but I am going to give it a good try because I would at least like to get the mail without getting out of breath or go hiking again and other things I used to enjoy doing.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Me lately

Doctor crap

I hate going to the doctor and try to avoid it even if I am having problems. Well, sometimes problems force one to go even when they don't want to. I have had this cold for too long, and then I have this ongoing thing with leg/feet swelling, especially that my right leg swells up like a damn balloon and then recently have been getting strange chest pains...and I get extremely out of breath just doing laundry. So, reluctantly I made an appointment for yesterday morning.

Dr. did find that I have a pretty bad sinus infection and gave me some Biaxin and cortisone nasal spray, but I knew that wasn't the end of it. It never stops with an office visit. Things always evolve into lab work, xrays, urinalysis, and this time, a chemically-induced stress echocardiogram that is expected to keep me there for four to six hours!

It's stinkin' cold outside and what do I have to do? The first visit I could find no place to park close to the entrance of the huge clinic where my doctor is. I had to park about a distance of a block and a half away and walk in. Then wait, wait wait. . . .they are never on time. I was finally called into the office and waited, waited, waited some more and began feeling awful so had my head leaned back against the wall and my eyes closed (my eyes are really bugging me with this thing). Dr. knocked and came in and said "hi, how are. . . .oh, you don't look so good." I thought to myself, "no shit Sherlock!" but kept my sarcasms to myself. Do they read the charts to see why a patient is there before entering the room?

Anyway, he didn't like my swollen leg, or that I was having chest pains and ignored them, and that I seem to be retaining lots of fluid...so, the sinus infection was quickly diagnosed and prescription written, but he said I needed a bunch of tests and needed them all done this week.

So, today I had to traipse out in the cold with my sinus infection to have blood work and other lab stuff done...and again I had to park a zillion miles away and walk in the bitter cold. And, tomorrow, I have to get up before the light of day to get to the hospital to have the chemical stress test done.

When the cardiology department from the hospital called with instructions and to explain what was going to be done, the woman said that they would give me an IV and drip this medicine into my veins to make my heart race. OH BOY...WHOOOPEEEE I am looking forward to that! (Couldn't they just have my husband come in and aggravate me for a few minutes intead?) Then they will do an echocardiogram with my heart pounding. They reassured me that there will be full staff present "just in case". "Just in case of what?" I asked nervously. The person I was setting this all up with said in a sweet voice, "well, there could be a little problem if we can't get your heart rate back down, or if you have a heart attack". I have thought about canceling this off and on all day, but I look at my swollen feet and legs, and think I am just going to have to do this thing.

Credit card fiasco!

Our goal this year is to pay off all of our stinking credit card debt so we can be rid of these financial parasites once and for all. For two days, I spent too much time and had too much frustration while using up my daytime cell phone minutes trying to sort out a problem that was caused by a lack of communication (and brains) on the part of National Geographic Chase Mastercard (our account with them is now closed and they are forever on our list of shitty shyster companies.)

NGCM has been paid off with zero balance for a couple of years, yet we keep getting these checks in the mail with a letter encouraging us to transfer our other credit card balances for a "great low fixed rate". So, my husband finally decided to take advantage of this offer and wrote one of the checks to pay off another card that had a higher interest rate (though we have been with that company for many years and have had no problems.) This should have been a simple exchange between the two credit card companies, but NO. Idiots work there, or National Geographic Chase are a bunch of scam artists.

A couple of weeks passed, and we got a letter in the mail from Chase saying that they were not going to honor the check because the amount we wrote the check for was over our limit and they were charging us a $39 overlimit fee, BUT, they were NOT going to honor the check! How can we be charged an over-limit fee when we hadn't been approved to charge any money?

The first person I talked to, Clint or whatever he calls himself for customer service calls, informed me that they did not honor the check because it was $30 over our limit...THIRTY DOLLARS. I told him that was scammish, and why didn't they just honor the check, inform us that we were over since they were going to charge an over-limit fee anyway. He said it is against "company policy." I then asked him why when a person goes shopping, and uses their plastic credit card and goes over, they honor the purchase price owed to the store the merchandise was charged at, and then bill the cardholder for an over-limit fee. He avoided answering that question and was like a damn parrot saying "company policy, company policy, company policy . . .squawk!" until I asked to speak to a supervisor. He asked me to hold. I know that most likely he did not go get a supervisor. My son did telephone work in a customer service department of a company, and when a customer asked to speak to a supervisor they ask the person to hold and just get their co-worker in the next cube to come take the call and pretend to be a supervisor, so in reality there are NO supervisors. This was obvious by the way the bitch who claimed to be a supervisor exhibited zero amount of professionalism.

I repeated my complaints to this "supervisor" and she got shitty with me! She said "well, it's your fault for not knowing what your exact limit is." I asked her why they didn't honor the check when we are talking about a mere $30...they were still going to charge us the $39 no matter what, so why not accept our business. The money they would have made in interest was far more than $30 they wouldn't approve. She said in the bitchiest voice possible, "mam, you should have checked your limit...company policy says...yadda yadda yadda." I told her she worked for a SCAM company and told her I don't know how she can live with herself with working for comany that takes advantage of people. She started to say something else and I just told her to cancel the credit cards and DO NOT send us any more checks. She said she had no control over that. So, my plan if I get anything from them at all in the mail, I am going to mark it "return to sender" unopened and let them pay the return fees.

My husband is also going to write an irate letter to the president of the company (just to make himself feel better because most likely it will get no farther than the stupid and irritating customer service representatives who don't give a shit about me or the company they work for.)

The nightmare worsens. I then decided to check out the account we were trying to pay off and saw that they had added the amount of this payoff check that was denied instead of deducting! Not once, but TWICE! I then called that credit card company. I got a girl (or a woman with a girl's voice) who didn't speak very good English and I could hardly understand her and she could hardly understand what I was trying to ask. I told her about the denied check, and asked why the math was messed up on our account...it showed that we were OVER LIMIT by $4,500 when if they received two payoff checks amounts we should have overpaid, not charging anything! She said to call the other company and find out why the check was returned twice and I tried to explain that they had to have tried to put the check through again, that the other company would not just deny it twice. She insisted I phone the other company again, which I did even though I didn't want to get stuck talking to that bitch again. I luckily got someone who was polite and listened, (though she also said there was nothing she could do about "company policy"...) I tried to make her understand that they denied the check and no money was transferred, therefore the account was always at 0 so why the over-limit fee when no money was involved. I could not make her understand, but I did find out that it was the company of the account we were trying to pay off who resubmitted the check and caused the $4,500 over-limit error on the amount we were trying to PAY OFF!

I called the company that we were trying to pay off again. I finally got someone who understood, and he said there were TWO returned check fees of $29 but he was going to take one off. (The other $29 we will pay since we wrote the check for overlimit and it's not that credit card company's fault...we will try to get that reimbursed from the asshats who caused the problem in the first place...PLUS the unfair $39 for nothing fee.)

This intelligent customer service rep realized there was a huge math error with all this check business, and as of today all is well. But it took two days to straighten things out.

So, watch out when using those checks to transfer balances. My husband and I think that if you write the check to the limit, or go over a little, they do not like that and will not honor the check. They want you to still have room to charge on at the regular interest rate. Shysters!