Sunday, March 16, 2008

Down the Garden Path

Dear Mom,

The other day I was working at Timi's nursery and a tree service guy came by asking if she needed any mulch. They are very interested in dumping chipped wood wherever you'd like it out here so they don't have to burn gas taking it many miles to dump. Burning gas eats into their small profits. She pointed to her vast piles and said no thanks but I might want some. They delivered to my house and it was the nicest pine mulch you can imagine. apparently the tree was dead and it's lightweight and the pieces are consistent. If I remember correctly it ages to a pale grey color.

I've wanted a path from the front to the side door, there's little to no grass because it's heavily shaded. It's always a mess; if it's dry outside you bring in gritty dirt, if it's wet you bring in mud.

I had a pile of bricks I got last year so I made the borders yesterday and started filling in the path this afternoon. I called Timi and asked her how I could get a bunch of liriope (monkey grass) very reasonably, maybe really small ones. She could do better than that. A lady she's consulting with on landscaping has a boatload of the stuff she wants taken out. She likes it where she has it but it gets really big really quickly. Happy me, happy her. I just need to go dig up a bunch sometime this week.

Weird, I keep getting what I need when I need it. I spruced up the gravel garden a bit this week, but am not planting anything that I can't take in during a freeze. It's nice getting some of the heavier work done early in the spring before it gets too hot.

What a nice day.

I love you,


Monday, March 10, 2008

Dirtgoddess is Restless

Dear Mom,

The Zinnia seeds I started 4 days ago are up and going gangbusters. I don't seem to be able to do anything wrong with plants but forget to water them. That's kind of a nice feeling.

Think I'll start some Texas Star Hibiscus, I've got a bunch of seeds but they're getting old so I don't know what the germination rate is. If I plant 50, I'll find out. They look rather a lot like marijuana plants, kind of amusing really.

Been working on the Llano Master Gardener site a lot today, it's my baby. Last year when I started the classes I felt sort of adrift, if I hadn't had Timi to kind of hold my hand I would have felt a little lost at first; you know how it is when you don't really know anyone. They're a real friendly group and I would have made friends in time, but being Timi's friend helped a lot, she was one of the founding members 2 years ago. I'm glad we have the website to make sure new trainees get more information up front, and it emphasizes the fact that we're all just here to have a good time and hopefully to contribute something to the community as well. A couple of weeks ago at the Officers' meeting some were a little nervous that we wouldn't get more than a dozen trainees. As of today there are 27 and one or two more that would like to join. We think that 30 is about the maximum class size we can handle and still teach effectively. I'm still knocked out by the quality of the speakers we're getting, it's amazing. If the current MGs attend the classes there are benefits; we get to learn stuff, the trainees feel more comfortable and it counts for our Continuing Education requirements for each year. And we get to go on the field trips! Yay!

Note that I say "we" as though I'm an Officer. No, indeed, they were smarter than that. At a meeting I didn't attend they voted me Web Director. An officer can only hold a post for 2 years officer can quit. Smartybutts. Oh, well, since I'm the only one who can do this, it's a moot point. I'm really hoping someone in the new class can do web design and can take the baton if I get sick of it or can't do it anymore.

Don went to town today to get mom's meds and went shopping at Miiller's Meat Market and brought home some lovely pork steaks which we seasoned and put on the grill. That and lima beans and coleslaw made for a lovely dinner. Right now we're cubing and packaging the cooked pork into 6oz. packs for future meals. Yum. He also picked up a small boneless peppered ham to slice and package tomorrow. Lots of meals, lots of home-made fun.

I need to gather some links for the upcoming ezine due on the 15th. Don's in the other room making ominous computer-building sounds. God only knows...

I love you,


Friday, March 7, 2008

Food and Flowers

Dear Mom,
There's just something so beautiful about the foods we love. There should be more food pictures, that's what I say! So, to put my money where my mouth is (!) here are some of my favorite alternatives to traditional foods, and quite delicious they are, too.

I've long suspected that oats give me problems and found that Bob's Red Mill carries Rolled Barley that's just about the same thing, only better in my estimation. We get all of our baking supplies and grain products from Bob's, they're wonderful. I've always liked oatmeal, but I pour the whole oats into boiling water and immediately take it off the heat to cook very lightly and not get "gloopy". If anyone stirs it or cooks it more and makes it pasty, I can't eat it. I can only eat it if the grains are separate and firm. Well, the Rolled Barley is exactly that texture and I love it.

The Cherry Pancakes were made using our standard pancake recipe, with 1 cup Garbanzo Bean flour (no it does not taste like beans) and 1 cup brown rice flour. Half a bag of frozen cherries was chopped into it and Don made the pancakes and tossed the rest of the cherries in a blender with a little water, sugar, vanilla and thickening-tapioca starch. Heating it just to boiling made a fabulous cherry syrup. Outstanding!

I'm desperately allergic to corn and have been craving fried grits forever so we got some Millet Grits. I made up a pot and made little patties fried in butter and oil. Once again, I outdid myself in tastiness and ingenuity. Ow, my arm hurts from patting were really good.

I took these pictures in case I ever have time to start an Alternative Foods blog or website. There are lots out there, most people with serious sensitivities are looking for help and when they find it, they're motivated to share. Me, too.

I started some Zinnia seeds today, they'll look great in the raised bed in my Gravel Garden. NeeCee knows I'm dirt-hungry so this morning she gave me some packets of seeds. Last year I planted some Zinnias that she gave me and people in their cars slowed down to look every day. It's a nice feeling.

I love you,



Dear Mom,

Just a rather ordinary day, spending rather a long time in "the chair"-the dentist's chair, this morning. Replaced a filling and have another one to get done next week. Then I hope I'll be done for awhile.

I asked him if there was a way to get my front teeth straightened and he got real animated. Yes, there are a couple of ways to go about it. He can put custom veneers on my teeth or do orthodontia, either way costing about $6,000. I have resigned myself to being satisfied with my crooked teeth. It's a bit of a disappointment, though, I had braces for 4 years and retainers for 2 and they moved back over time. He said now they're finding out that retainers are forever-too bad they didn't know that back then, 35 years ago. Ah, well... I do think that if I ever had the money to do it I would not get them in that very white color everybody seems to want. I kind of like the color of natural teeth, that creamy ivory color. That's the color of my crowns and filling and I'm quite fond of it.

I took the homeopathic Arnica with me to the dentist, took it right away and once since then and have had no problem with soreness at the injection site. That really gave me a fit the other times I went. Once again, though, I was extremely tired this afternoon and took a nap. The dentist said his wife does the same thing, she's a dentist at the same office and she's exhausted after any procedure in her mouth.

Don made a nice brisket stir-fry for dinner and then made a chocolate cake this evening. What a good boy! *smile* Then we did the dishes and settled down to play with our respective computers. It's so nice having someone who shares your interests (and who understands your quirks). Don just loves it when I 'geek out' on something, he's soooooo tolerant-and proud of me. He's been getting into trouble for his geeky propensities his entire life and now he can settle down, stop feeling picked on and enjoy the rest of his life. That's all we really need, room to breathe and someone to love us the way we are-how simple is that?

I love you,


Thursday, March 6, 2008

Flowers by Mail

Dear Mom,

What a nice surprise! The 10 African Violets arrived today and I'm more than pleased. Each little plant so perfectly wrapped for shipment that they were clean and fresh-looking right out of the box. The company that sent them, The Violet Barn packs them in fiberglass insulation so they're guaranteed even for winter shipping. Here they are just 4 hours after unwrapping from their little newspaper sleeves after they'd been watered and had some fresh air. Today the buds that were already on them are starting to open. Perfect for a flower nut with serious Spring Fever.

I found out our Postal Carrier is an African Violet aficionado, so that opens up an opportunity for a new gardening buddy! How's that for an extra bonus? Through a series of 'life issues', she lost most of her plants. The same thing happened to me so I can relate.

Here are the babies in all their petite glory. That's like saying, "What a cute little kitten, I'll just take him home, he won't eat much..." Right. They'll each get to be 10-12" inches wide. Twelve (I have 2) African Violets can take up a lot of space-I used to have about 30. First you have to get all the colors, then the fancies, then the minis, then the trailers. And *then* there are those beautiful variegated...*sigh* It's a sickness.

One for which I hope there's no cure.

I love you,


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Tennessee Waltz

Dear Mom,

One of the best features of the Internet is YouTube, especially since the explosion of videos featuring musical artists. I go on Artist Jags, one night indulging in Ray Charles, another Etta James, another Bonnie Raitt, and John Lee Hooker and Nora Jones and.... There's no way in a lifetime you could see these artists and the many performances they've staged. One of the hallmarks of a wonderful talent is that they are the biggest fans of their peers. To watch B.B.King perform with and appreciate Eric Clapton or Chet Atkins and Doc Watson in a duet, this is heavenly.

If you don't see anything else, watch Bonnie Raitt and Nora Jones singing "Tennessee Waltz". They've taken a standard waltz and made it a serious blues tune-and a woman's wailing, stark-souled blues tune at that. It's as old as life and as new as your first broken heart. They make you feel it just like the first time.

a href="

I feel a Billie Holliday-A-Thon coming on.

I love you,



Dear Mom,

When I get anxious, I get this adrenaline rush all over. It's very annoying. I think I know where it comes from. I've never heard of this before, but I can give myself an adrenaline rush on purpose by deliberately thinking of something that worries me. I'd like to stop it, but I have to admit my body likes it. I may give up caffeine someday and see if I can retrain myself. I figured out how it started, almost 10 years ago.

When I was 42 I had a hysterectomy. Immediately I had surgical menopause, and couldn't find a hormone replacement that I could tolerate. For a year I had about 5 hot flashes an hour. Background: two glands in your body produce estrogen, the ovaries and the adrenal glands. When deprived of estrogen your body will do whatever it takes to get it. It quickly finds out that with anger, anxiety or irritation, your adrenal glands will pump a lot of adrenaline and a little shot of estrogen. But you're suddenly in a state of "flight or fight" with no physical outlet, your body is sure that it's in danger. The end result is a hot flash, but your body's been through hell, your adrenal glands are tired and shortly another cycle begins. Exhaustion sets in quickly and you can't get enough rest because-you guessed it-you're having hot flashes.

The upshot of all this is that once you're body's trained itself to do that to you, you can approach it logically to understand what's going on. I think it's possible to retrain your body not to react to emotions like that, but it might be a real effort. It's really not very good for you.

I love you,


Monday, February 18, 2008


Dear Mom,

OK, sometimes I love to shop, but only for things I really want and I shop my
way, which means online.

Don and I have been enjoying the plants I brought in from outside. I didn't
want to bother with a greenhouse, but I wanted to save some of my plants.
Then we got a couple of half-dead African Violets from Wal-Mart. Now for a
back-story. Don loves plants, but denies any involvement when it comes to
caring for them. He's been after me to get some houseplants, but I resisted
so far. Years ago in Florida I had about 30 African Violets, they're very
addictive. As soon as you have every color you can imagine, then there are
the Miniatures, and the Trailers, and the Chimeras, and the Variegated....

These two plants have done so well I went to this website, "The Violet Barn",
and ordered the "Seller's Choice" collection of ten different standard-size
African Violets. The total was $67.00, shipped, and in winter! Not bad.
Take some time to go through the site, it's big and deep, and contains a lot
of their lives, there's even a love story.
When grown right, these babies can be big-up to a foot wide. They're shipped
kind of small, though, as they're very brittle and prone to breakage. Oh,
no! A broken leaf? Uh, won't that make lots of new plants? *grin*

Never mind, they'll soon be bigger than I want them to be. Don's promised to
hang some grow-lights for me when the sun doesn't come in the south-facing
window later in the year. That's why they've been so pretty, they really
need a little sunlight or grow-lights to bloom like this. The blooms are as
nice as I've seen on show plants. Unfortunately, once or twice this winter,
I let them get dry and they were a little too close to the window and got
cold, resulting in some leaf damage.

Just got a confirmation on my order and they'll be delivered next week. Can't
wait. I have plant fever really badly and spent part of the day grooming my

I love you,


Friday, February 8, 2008

I Hate Retail

Dear Mom,

Worked at the Bluffton Store today. It's a funny thing, I kind of hate retail.

The reality of retail sales is that you make a huge investment of your time and funds, work like a mule to get it started, usually go into debt to finance and stock, continually wrack your brain to attract customers, open your establishment...and wait. Wait for people to decide they want what you offer, trickle in to see (or taste) what you've got, decide if they feel like paying your price, then decide whether to return. In the meantime, you worry.

The jobs I've had involving retail sales are the only ones where I watched the clock, hoping against hope it would move faster so I could go home and get something tangible accomplished.

I really enjoy the kind of work I do now, housecleaning. I get to work, the client is happy to see me. I work hard with no breaks. Sometimes I talk and visit with them while I'm working, which makes the work go faster. In many cases I become very close with my clients and provide an outlet for them; they can discuss things they don't normally talk about with friends and family. They provide the same outlet for me. By the time you've worked for them for a short while, they seem like family and you do to them, too. They pay your for your much-appreciated time and work, and treat you respectfully. Then you go home to your real life, with no worries.

The work is hard and I never have to 'exercise'. I'm healthy and fit.

I love my job.

I love you,


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Please Forward Responsibly

Dear Mom,

Today I cleaned for one of my two Tuesday ladies. I managed to get her house cleaned and solve some computer problems for her. She's got several friends who send her forwards and is being inundated with stupid emails, sometimes several hundred a week. It's gotten where she hates to pick up her mail. I wish people would stop doing all that unnecessary forwarding of huge files. It's much easier and more responsible to send a link to a website where they can see the same thing without clogging up their mailbox. Or even worse, sending a picture of another kitten doing something inexpressibly cute, taking 15 minutes to download to someone on a dial-up connection. I have been known to plan revenge upon irresponsible forwarders.

Her grandson has been taking care of her computer, scanning and defragging, etc. whenever he comes over. Her Norton (!!!!akkk!!!!) anti-virus ran out several months ago and she's been surfing on a fast connection with no anti-virus since then(!!!!double-akkk!!!!). I downloaded and installed AVG Free Version for her, scanned and defragged and ran a virus scan. It caught one Trojan horse. Don says that means I should install Spybot Search and Destroy and Spyware Blaster, too. I'll do that next time.

This evening I got her a GMail account and we talked her through downloading and configuring Thunderbird so she's good to go. Now she can inform her close friends and relatives of her "good" address and let the rest wonder why she doesn't pick up their emails anymore.

I love you,


Sunday, February 3, 2008


Dear Mom,

I enjoy watching people carefully and listen to what they really say, not interpret them through my own opinions.

I like the fact that people will tell you what's on their minds early on in a conversation. You'll often hear within a few minutes of talking what's most bothering them; a problem that hasn't been solved, a personal struggle with another family member, etc.. They just can't keep it out of their conversations unless they've taught themselves to be very self-disciplined about what they reveal to casual acquaintances. Even then, the concern will leak out, it's just a little harder to pick up.

This propensity appears again when you compliment a person on something practical or creative they've done. Within seconds they'll point out the one thing that's not perfect. A master quilter's eye will be drawn like a magnet to her one mistake on a prize-winning quilt, she'll even point out the invisible flaw to viewers.

People are pretty predictable, and they'll bust themselves every time.

I love you,


Friday, February 1, 2008


Dear Mom,

The euphoria you get when you succeed at learning a new skill on the computer is an interesting feeling. It's not quite like anything else. It's very like the feeling of accomplishment one gets from academic endeavors. You find a subject that appeals to you, find the avenues to research it, organize and process the information and then act on the knowledge you have. It's a process that's uniquely satisfying. It's the mark of a self-motivated person, one that passive people rarely experience.

It's a little lonely too. Hardly anyone you hang out with shares your enthusiasm for learning an obscure little skill that makes your task easier. Usually it's a task you've assigned yourself and no one cares whether you've done it or not. Ah, the pain we geeky-types endure! I feel so lucky to usually have my geek sitting right beside me to share a picture, a joke, a video, a skill, ask a question or just roll my chair over to grab a kiss.

One thing I've noticed about "working" on the computer; the difference between it and other forms of entertainment is that when you're through, you've produced something instead of passively absorbing what's been fed to you. That's it, being productive instead of absorbent. Makes some people seem like paper towels, doesn't it? I know some thicker-picker-uppers, how about you?

I love you,


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Land of Meat and Granite

Dear Mom,

I've often made the observation that I've apparently landed in a state that suits me. Texas suits me in every way. I love to eat and I love meat. These people "do" meat, they understand it and Texas barbeque is the world's best. My favorite meat market is Miiller's in Llano. I never thought you could get quality meat for such a great price but they've changed my mind. Yesterday I shopped there and got a lot of stuff; a 15 lb. box of bacon ($31.50), 10lbs. assorted pork chops ($1.49 lb), 5 lbs. Polska Keilbasa ($2.99 lb.) and 5, 1lb. packages of ground beef ($2.49 lb.). Not a bad haul for $77. We buy smart and save a lot of money by cooking. Besides, there aren't any restaurants where you can get good home cooking.

Don got right to work on the bacon. He likes to take 8 slices, that's how much we like for breakfast for 3 plus snacks, cut them in half and wrap them in wax paper, then pack them into gallon freezer bags and freeze. That way we had 22 packages of bacon for breakfasts or to season meals. He's a good influence on me. I also got many wife points for bringing home lots of meat. The great thing about going to a real meat market is that they'll package things any way you like. The one-pound packages of hamburger and the pork chops were ready to throw in the freezer. The sausage we put in a freezer bag, to be taken out as needed.

I love rocks. Llano county is located on the Llano Uplift, what has been called "a pimple of granite in a sea of limestone". There are quarries and granite works here and many buildings are faced in the local granite, one of the prettiest in the world. The granite around here is Texas Pearl, Texas Pink and Texas Red. There's also a variety of granite here found nowhere else in the world, it's called Llanite and it's breathtakingly beautiful. A friend of ours owns and operates Granite Time in Marble Falls. It's on 218 right next to the Health Food store on the way to Wally World. What a great place! He gave me the full tour and it was fascinating. He gives tours to schoolkids, Boy Scouts, church groups, etc. and he's very good at it. By the way, if you're interested, the granite vases are absolutely wonderful and the Llanite vase is spectacular. He also makes granite lamp bases that are priced according to size, a bit more than the vases. He ships the vases all over the world. My tongue was hanging out.

Meat. Rocks. Does it get any better than this?

I love you,


Monday, January 28, 2008

Deer One

Dear Mom,

There are three types of people in Central Texas, I'm told. People who have hit a deer, people who have hit another deer and people who are about to hit another deer. When I first moved here 3 years ago it seemed like an exaggeration. Poor innocent fool...

The haze of innocence lasted quite a long time, a whole year. Then my husband and I hit a deer in our van on the way home from dinner at a remote resort restaurant. Think of the name "Canyon of the Eagles" when you're trying to visualize remote. The stupid thing almost flew into our vehicle, only the fact that the van has a high front window kept it from going through it. I was in the passenger seat and can still see its startled eyes looking into mine accompanied by a resounding thunk. Fine. One expects wildlife out in the boonies. That was during a dry year and the deer were sparse. Later, with more normal weather I found that our neighborhood only has fewer deer than most because a lot of large dogs are unfenced. In surrounding neighborhoods, herds of deer wander about, making gardening and driving a headache.

The last one my husband hit a couple of weeks ago made him feel kind of bad. For one thing the stupid creature staggered off. For another, it was deer season and he didn't have the tools to dress him out.

Deer are make consistently poor life choices and are good to eat. Deer One, and Two and Three, so far.

I love you,


Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Survey Says!!!...."

Dear Mom,

I was reading a blog about personal finances and one author referred to a savings method as 'snowflaking'. The basic premise is that, just as debt can 'snowball', you can also add to your assets by adding small amounts every day when possible, and never spending money foolishly, 'snowflaking', so to speak. Snowflakes add up to snowballs, and you can have an asset snowball just about as easily as a debt snowball. Accumulating assets makes you feel great, debt makes you miserable.


One thing that the author does is take online surveys for cash and recommended a few that had proven trustworthy and paid cash. I've signed up for and taken pre-qualifying surveys for four of them so far. The amounts are very modest, but since I'm at the computer often and spend no time at all in front of the TV "wasting my time", why not try it?

I was leery of receiving spam, so I set up a new email account to handle just the surveys. Gmail has great spam filters and I'm happy with their service so I set up with them, then installed Thunderbird. Why Thunderbird? Don and I were setting up an email account for a friend and the process of getting a gMail account with Thunderbird was absurdly easy. And it's just fun and kind of cool to have more than one email client. You do have to give a lot of what I used to consider personal information to the survey sites, but so what? What do I have or know that anyone would use, and for what purpose? I have *so* gotten over paranoia.

On occasion I've taken online surveys and then they want your email address to send you the results. This is not a good idea, they're asking for your email address and offer you something you want, like to find out "how smart are you?" or "how do you stack up in the bedroom?" or some such silliness. As soon as I find out what they want, I close out the window by clicking out the window, not by clicking a "no, thank you" or "don't email me", those are just a ploy to get you to give them information.

It will be interesting to see how this comes out. I was careful to use only those sites recommended by real people who "field tested" them. Do I see a snowflake?

I love you,


Friday, January 25, 2008

Thanks, Cowboy

Dear Mom,

Had a pretty nice day at work, though it's been really slow as it's winter. Business in a convenience store is a lot better during fishing season.

We did have a little excitement, don't know if it's the kind I'd like. A guy came in and asked where the bathroom was and I told him. The owner said he had been in before and had (ahem) trashed the bathroom and then left without buying anything. This time he went in, came out and left so she went in right behind him and came out really mad. He'd done it again. I followed him out to the parking lot where he was going to get into a truck being driven by his buddy, with the engine running. I stopped him and told him the owner would like to speak with him, and *now* would be good. I was also standing in front of the truck so he didn't have much choice. He went inside where she chewed him out and made him flush the toilet again. He stomped out saying he'd never come back in there again. I said "Good!" to his back as the door closed.

Don said he thought I did the right thing, unless he had decided to beat the crap out of us, in which case it would have been the wrong thing. Can't say I disagree, though. We get tired of people deciding they need to use the toilet and see us as a porta-potty. They could at least buy something. A couple of months ago two women came in and used the toilet, at the same time. When they left it was...well, I hope they received the medical attention they obviously needed. The lady on duty at the time spent at least three hours and half a bottle of Clorox cleaning the place up, and she couldn't eat her dinner that night. The next day the bathroom still stank so I sprayed every surface, including the walls, with a disinfectant solution. That finally got all of the smell out and we felt much better.

On the other hand, a very different incident occurred when I was on graveyard shift in another convenience store. On the graveyard shift, fairly often when the bars let out the drunks stop by on their way home; some of them use the bathroom. I'll spare you the details. One night, a (real) cowboy came in and asked where the restroom was and I told him. He went in and came out again, then wandered around the store for a bit like he couldn't decide what he wanted. Then he came up to the counter and looked around. I said, "You don't really have to buy anything." He said, "Oh, yes ma'am, I do. I was raised better than that." He bought a $1 scratch-off lottery ticket and politely took his leave. Thanks, cowboy.

I didn't check the bathroom.

I love you,


Monday, January 21, 2008

A Day in the Life

Dear Mom,

As the primary caregiver of a severely needy Alzheimer's patient, the tendency is to focus on the negative aspects of the situation. Make no mistake, though, there's a real upside to balance the downside(s). Mom is no longer able to get up and move around, which has resulted in a much lower likelihood of being injured in a fall. This was a huge consideration in the past, as Alzheimer's patients are notoriously anxious and tend to relieve anxiety by moving, anywhere, everywhere, out the door and down the street. I have a friend who is sure she didn't sleep for more than 30 minutes...for 3 years. I cared for her husband 2 afternoons a week so she could leave the house. There were times she was sure she was becoming psychotic from lack of sleep.

Mom also doesn't indulge in as many self-destructive compulsive habits as she used to. Removing her oxygen cannula (nose-hose thingie) and picking holes in her skin when she gets bored has slowed down quite a bit. She doesn't walk anymore, her advanced condition has pretty much fried her wiring so we move her in the wheelchair, though she's able to stand up and hold onto the walker when moved from the bed to potty to wheelchair. We get her up in the morning, potty, medicate, breathing treatment and feed. Twice a week the Hospice nurse comes to check her out and three times a week she gets a bath by the Hospice Aide. Baths are time-consuming and physically demanding, this has been a real blessing. Then we sit her in the recliner until lunch, wake her up to take her to the kitchen to feed her, then back to the recliner until dinner. By then she's waking up and starting to get antsy, it's called "sundowning" in the caregiving world, characterized by increased agitation and confusion, etc.. It used to be the time she really had to be watched, she would pace until she became exhausted, disoriented and ran the real risk of falling. Now she hallucinates and talks to dead relatives, long-grown children and the TV. After dinner it's back to the recliner for the evening. Meds-including a mild sedative-and breathing treatment at about midnight, then to bed until the next morning. She's not able to get out of bed by herself anymore. We've been encouraged to sedate her all the time but have resisted so far. When she's sedated she's disoriented beyond what's necessary and her legs don't work at all. There will come a time when she's bed-bound and that will be another set of problems to deal with, until then there are decided advantages to keeping her vertical.

She's still interactive, though that's rather a subjective term. When I wake her up in the morning, she responds appropriately "Good morning, dear", says thank you for anything that's done for her, whether she likes it or understands it or not. Conversation is mostly incoherant babble, but we pretend we understand what she's saying, mostly she's aware that her speech is nonsense and she gets embarrassed. She's not combative or abusive, the worst way she'll chide you for something she hates is a terse, "Thank You!" to which I tersely reply, "You're Welcome!". As I hope I've made clear, it's far less than a living hell.

Most days, one of us works while the other stays home to do the mom-duty. Some days are downright peaceful, for which I'm thankful. Some days are an endless battle to keep her from harming herself, interspersed with too much to do, and lots of laundry. There are several hours at a time when she sleeps and I can study or write or play on the computer. I've had 3 days off in a row and have really enjoyed them. The weather has been cold and yucky so there's nothing to do outside, I have a tolerant and patient husband so I don't have to cook or clean unless I want to, we're equal partners in this deal so we each are capable of doing any of the above duties and chores.

We're very lucky in that we're both "stay-at-homes", preferring our own company to most anyone else's. Our friends like to come and see us and hopefully don't mind that we don't get out to see them. It's kind of like having all of the advantages of being hermits with options...

So that's it-a day in the life of full-time caregivers, at least our version.

I love you,


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Relaxing and Remembering

Dear Mom,

So far, (middle of the afternoon) I'm just vegetating, taking a well-deserved day off. I might even take a nap. I can do that now, since I've started a more regimented sleeping pattern, I'm not so paranoid about sleep. One thing that interfered with being able to take a nap was the light, my eyes just keep snapping open. So now I wear the sleep mask Don bought me a couple of years ago and have managed a couple of really nice naps in the past weeks.

I got your computer packed up and sent yesterday morning. Included was a tower with OS, monitor, keyboard, mouse, UPS, and headset. I can't wait until you get them. You can call me as soon as you get them and we'll talk you through it. Everything's insured, the worst thing that can happen in transit is something will get broken and they'll have to pay us a lot more than we invested in the thing, most of the parts being cheap or free except for the LCD monitor, which was about 1/2 price from the Goodwill Computer Store in Austin. That's including a kick-butt OS with all the bells and whistles, and every time you turn the machine on you can upgrade all the software on the machine with two clicks. None of those upgrades are security patches, there's just no way for viruses to harm your computer with Linux.

It was so nice to talk to you today. I think that now, rather than being intimidated, you're really excited and ready to get started. I'd love to come see you, but at this point, travel is contraindicated, if you catch my drift. If you were in trouble, I'd be there in a minute; travel for fun is not in my financial plans, or practical, from a mom-point-of-view. Turns out the boy forgot to put a couple of things in the boxes and we need to order a gadget for you so we'll be shipping them Express, too.

One thing that's really exciting is the Skype program, essentially free long-distance. If any of the people you normally call (who have high-speed internet) will install it and get an inexpensive headset, you'll be able to talk to them free.

And our family are a bunch of talkers, bigtime. We once timed how long it took us to say goodbye to company. Remember when everyone "walked you out to the car"? We averaged 45 minutes to an hour, more if we knew we wouldn't be seeing them for a long time. And when we got the car doors closed, we held hands and one last hug through the window-and waved them down the street.

I love you,


Teeth and Vinegar

This is for Thursday, January 17th, (posted Sunday)

Dear Mom,

Today I went to the dentist to have a comprehensive exam, all the x-rays, etc.. As predicted, he sat down with me and outlined a "care plan". I've been babying the back molar because it was cracked and had a large cavity under the filling. He tried to get me to go to a specialist in Austin to get checked out and perhaps get a root canal, I told him that was not within my financial ability. We settled on grinding it down in preparation for a crown, putting in a build-up filling, placing a temporary crown and waiting for 4 weeks. If there's an infection in the root, it will hurt by then and I'll have it pulled. If not I'll end up with a new tooth. He had a cancellation so he was able to do it today, which saved me a trip and possibly the tooth, as waiting would have given it an opportunity to crack some more.

Now, all I need is another crown and a filling. Years ago, a very good dentist "made" me half a tooth with filling material and it's held up well, but it's about to give it up. I'm sure I'll end up taking care of the rent for the dentist this month. He sort of danced around the subject, but the advice he gave me boiled down to, "We did a lot in there, it's really going to hurt". So I'll be careful to take my ibuprofen/acetaminafen cocktail with due diligence. It really works.

I do place a high priority on my teeth. It's just impractical for me to get the root canals the dentist recommended. I have $1000 to pay for a tooth, I don't have $2000 (each). It's just too much, and my earning capability is limited. I'm hoping this 2nd cap works out. And then I have to go for a third. And a filling, and a cleaning. This will go down in LisaHistory as the Year of the Teeth.

As far as I can see, there are definite family attitudes about teeth. Don-and his daughter Lily (who is 27)-recommended that if your teeth are bad "just pull them!". Lily's mother let her teeth go and had them all pulled at a young age, early 40's, popped in dentures and never looked back. Don will let a bad tooth go and then have it pulled. His mother did the same thing and so did his dad. I don't understand it, but that doesn't mean it's wrong, I guess. Lately I've been wondering if I should invest some of my mouth just made that decision for me. My mouth really doesn't feel too bad this morning, maybe there won't be as much aggravation from this one. I know you have all your teeth but one and grandma did too. That's pretty impressive. I'm surprised that I'm needing so much work but I am a self-confessed "power chewer" so that may be a factor. I love hard, crunchy food and my teeth probably weren't up to it. It's interesting your teeth broke too, and just a bit earlier than mine.

I think also that because of my sensitivities I was probably malnourished at a very young age, I avoided a lot of things as a child and as a teenager lived mostly on coffee and cigarettes for years, not a healthy diet by any means. For most of my life eating resulted in intestinal pain, landing me in the hospital a couple of time for a full GI series. I only ate what didn't hurt, and that wasn't much. Now that I know what bothers me, a whole world of food is nutritious and great-tasting and the battle-of-the-bulge is on. And mostly, I feel good, really good.

At the Llano Master Gardeners meeting, we had a talk by a guy who is an apple grower and he was touting the benefits of the theories of a physician, Dr. D.C. Jarvis, in his book, "Folk Medicine", who advocated taking a couple of teaspoons of apple cider vinegar and a couple of teaspoons of honey in a glass of water two or three times a day with meals. It makes your system more acidic, which helps your system fight infection, metabolize your food better, and discourages disease. It provides a lot of micronutrients, supposed to make your body achieve it's ideal weight and fight the effects of stress. I tried it once but got the solution too acid and it bothered my stomach. I'll try it again and see if I like the results, the solution is very pleasant to drink so there's no downside. The four pairs of jeans I tried on before work this morning were too tight. This is very annoying.

I love you,


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

New, Improved Purse

Dear Mom,

For many years I've been battling HPS, Hideous Purse Syndrome. In the supermarket where I used to work, the women employees weighed their purses to see who had the heaviest bag. I came in second, and the winner had several children for whom to carry stuff, I didn't. Perhaps it's best I didn't win, I suspect First Prize was an anvil.

Three weeks ago in a tizzy about getting to an appointment on time, I couldn't find my car keys in the Hideous Purse, again! I dumped the contents onto a towel on a spare bed, found the keys, threw the absolute essentials back in and raced to the appointment, five minutes late. Twice I've been through the pile, to find a small item I wanted. The towel was still sitting there this morning and I tackled it. Went through the pile, tossed everything I don't need or use, found some business cards, phone numbers---and money, Yes!

I Googled the search string "organize+purse" and found this wonderful idea called a Butler Bag, invented by a woman who had been fighting purses all her life, like most of us. She had a bad experience involving two screaming babies, a long line and a dysfunctional diaper bag. The handbag she designed, a simple good-quality leather purse with a few compartments, costs...are you ready? $110-for the small one, $165 for the larger one. Did you hear the *thunk* when my jaw hit the floor? I made a box with compartments out of a Bob's Red Mill corrugated cardboard box to fit in the nice leather purse I found in my mother-in-law's closet last year.

My purse is many pounds lighter, I've given up the idea of getting a new one and my mood is vastly improved. After one day, Hideous Purse Syndrome is a fading memory.

I love you,


Monday, January 14, 2008

Financial Expert

Dear Mom,

I hate dealing with money, but the thought of hiring someone to handle it for me sounds crazy, that would be spending money I'll never see again, now wouldn't it? And out of the little I have the fee would negate any gains. Besides, money managers think that money is the be-all and end-all of life, and that's not a balanced attitude. I'd as soon go to a psychiatrist to help me with my personality foibles; those people got into the business they're in because they're *really *not* well*.

I'll keep reading and studying, and trying to save a little. Sometimes I feel so insecure...but I'm sure I'll be working until I'm dead, at something or other.

Don's influenced me in a bad way, I never balance my accounts. I check my balance online because I rarely write a check, I use my debit card for almost everything. I do justify all the entries against my receipts to make sure nothing's been entered without my knowledge, possibly pointing to a misuse of my account. I can view my purchases, cancelled checks and deposits online. But over and above that, I finally figured it out; I have what they say I have, and not a penny more, so I don't worry about it.

So that's my current money strategy; Dopey.

I love you,


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Face Building

Dear Mom,

When I was about 35, my face started sagging a bit, of course. I'm violently allergic to cosmetics so I knew makeup would never be an option. I did some research and came upon the concept of facial exercise. It only makes sense. On any part of the body where there are working muscles, the overlying skin is healthy and tight, like the forearm or the calves. The muscle underneath nourishes the skin and provides proper drainage to carry away the by-products of metabolism. Collagen is the "glue" that anchors skin to the underlying tissues. Collagen can only be induced to grow by exercising the muscle beneath it.

I came upon a review in the newspaper about a book called "Face Building" by Reinhold Benz. He had seen a TV program about a ballerina and was admiring her body when she turned and her face was old, but her body was perfect, no evidence at all that she was well over 50 years old. He did his research into anatomy and developed a facial exercise program that received a lot of publicity at the time, but people lost interest because it required discipline. You can't throw money at your face, it doesn't care, it will just keep falling-and wrinkling-unless you tighten the musculature underneath or surgically remove and tighten the skin.

So I decided to experiment, doing the exercises three times a week for rather a long time. When I hit 40, I still had no wrinkles and my skin was stuck tightly to my face. At 45, I still had no wrinkles or sagging. Now and then when I slack off for a month or two my face gets lumpy and I start to develop some tiny lines, like now, but I've gotten spoiled, I know I can get rid of them in a couple of weeks. I'm 51, and still have no wrinkles.

My only cosmetics are baby wash for cleansing and dollar-store hand lotion and vaseline for moisturizers.

The past year has been busy and nerve-wracking and at times I just forget to do the exercises. I'll make this year's New Year's Resolution to stick to my facial exercises and see just how well they work if done more often. My neck's beginning to sag so that will be a particular concern. Stay tuned for updates, in a year or five I'll let you know how it goes. Perhaps I'll end up being a good advocate for facial exercise.

I love you,


Friday, January 11, 2008

I'd Like To Buy A Molar...

Dear Mom,

I've been having my first real dental work in years over the last month. I had a very tender molar and knew something was up so I called the first available dentist and got an appointment. Sure enough, the stupid thing was cracked in several places, just waiting to crumble on me. I had it ground down, a temporary crown put on and waited 3 weeks for the permanent crown. Total price tag? !Eight*Hundred*Eleven*Dollars! If I had needed a build-up filling it would have cost $187 more. During the interim between the diagnosis and installment of the temporary, I shopped for price all over the place and my dentist's price was competitive.

I clean houses. When I think about the relative value of an item, my frame of reference is very basic. Eight hundred dollars is a lot of toilets.

I went to the dentist yesterday and had the permanent crown put on. It's my first one and I'm thrilled, it feels like a real tooth. Just the tiniest bit tender but no pain and I didn't need to be numbed up, they just lifted the old one off and cemented the new one on. He took a look at the other one that's tender and said he could see just by eyeballing it there are two cavities and a crack in it. I sort of suspected that, it felt just like the other one before it blew. If I don't need a root canal, I'll have the other one crowned in a heartbeat, no whining this time. They said I did a superb job of keeping the temporary crown clean so I take it my dental hygiene is adequate. I have an appointment for a complete exam next week so he'll tell me all the extensive work I really need done, I'm sure. He said we can set up a 'dental plan' for the future. Right.

I think dentistry is a real racket, but it's one where we have no choice, so there you go. Crap. I'm real motivated to take good care of my teeth anyway, and no more almonds! My days as a "power chewer" are pretty much over.

I Love You,


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Value of Time

Dear Mom,

My favorite line when referring to the value of time is; "There's no luggage rack on a hearse".

Time is all we have that's truly ours. We were born with it and we have an unspecified amount of it until we don't anymore. No amount of money can buy it, but we can lose it by doing what we hate and people can steal it by lying to us or using us. We have to maximize the time we spend doing what we like (and hopefully find a way to get paid for it.) Choosing how to spend time, and giving time to people I care about is a pleasure and a privilege.

I don't have to be slapped hard to stop giving, all it takes is the expectation that the time given is someone's by right and that makes me start backing away so that person can get on their own feet. If they follow and demand more, it's time to run away.

I hope you don't think less of me, but I give nothing to charities. Organized charities, that is, with bureaucracies, staffs and budgets. I think that the 'business' of charity is just that, business-not charity, and I will not be blackmailed into giving to people who spend a lifetime doing as they damn well please and then whining about it. Besides, most of the people who administer the "charity" do so either for a generous salary, political gain, public recognition, socializing or all of the above.

I'm in decent shape only because I live a disciplined life. I would be in a hospital bed within weeks if I didn't behave, and then they'd finish me off by feeding me wheat, corn, milk and nightshade vegetables. When I see people collecting for charity I'm tempted to ask them how much they think anyone ever rounded up for the Lisa Fund.

It's my time, I'll try to use it wisely.

I love you,


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Caller ID

Dear Mom,

Cleaned two houses today, a new client in the morning and Timi in the afternoon. The new lady was referred by Melissa and she's very nice. When I walked in I asked her what she needed. She said, "Honey, whatever you do is just fine with me." We chattered like magpies just about the whole time. When I left she said, "This is the first time we've met, right? I feel like we've known each other for some time." I did too, she's that easy to talk to. Went home and had a nice grilled cheese sandwich Don made for me and went on to the second house. Kinda draggin' by the end of the day but sitting in front of the computer listening to Bonnie Raitt and Nora Jones singing "Tennessee Waltz" fixes me right up.

When I was a kid we had a rule at the dinner table, we didn't answer the phone while we were eating. If the phone rang, we just let it ring. For the short period of time we were sitting at the table, people could just wait to talk to us. If it was important they would call back.

I don't know how or when it started, but generally speaking when the phone rang I knew if the call was important and, over time, was fairly accurate in "guessing" who was on the other end. It became a game we started to enjoy. At the dinner table if the phone rang, everyone looked at me and I would try to guess who it was or if it felt important enough to answer the phone. There seemed to be one restriction, though; if I didn't know the person calling, I couldn't guess who it was. If it was someone I knew, I could almost always say who was calling. A sense of urgency or emergency about the call would make me very uneasy and I'd say, "Go ahead, pick it up" and Dad would go answer. He thought it was cool that I was usually right and we never thought anything of it. The ability faded with time, it never impressed me much.

Years later I recounted the story to various people who got a little excited and told me it was a sign of psychic ability. Had I investigated my abilities? Had I done research and found out how to develop this talent? They told me they'd really 'gotten into' this kind of thing and would give anything for a bit of natural psychic ability to develop and utilize. I still wonder why, it just seemed quite natural and fun at the time. One thing does impress me a little, though.

We had Caller ID-in 1964.

I love you,


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Wake Up!

Dear Mom,

The other day I was talking to a friend about something that escapes memory for now. I was jabbering away and asked, "So guess what I did?" She laughed, rolled her eyes and said, "Good Heavens, what now?" I really enjoyed that, having a reputation of doing something different, something just outside the comfort zone, something fun. You have to eat, brush your teeth, go to work, sleep and so on, every day. Why not spice it up, just a little, just for today?

For more years than I can count, I've had this hate/hate relationship with sleep, and the hate part is because I've been a wimp. I'm always trying to cater to others' sleep schedules and it's not working, it's never worked and it NEVER will work. Wake up, Lisa, literally wake up. And quit whining.

I love to stay up late but also love to get up early, but the problem is deeper than that. The fact is I hate to sleep, period. As a very small child I realized that it's very difficult for me to stay still. In school it was physically painful to sit in the same spot for any length of time, still is. I never planned on going to college, sitting in a chair or at a desk one moment longer than necessary was out of the question. On days when I spend too much time in front of the computer, I hurt all over. When I stay in bed for too long, I hurt all over.

But whatever happens, I always wake up at 7:00am. My eyes snap open, I have a surge of adrenaline and I'm ready to get up. If I've stayed up until 4:00am, I set the alarm for the number of hours I think I need to sleep...and my eyes snap open at 7:00am. I have to keep forcing myself back to sleep until the alarm goes off. I'm always tired. This is not working.

I've just come across Steve Pavlina's excellent advice on "How to Become an Early Riser" and have decided to try his method, which is basically a good take on "Just Do It". He advises against setting an early bedtime, focussing on getting up without fail at the same time every morning, and going to sleep that night when you get sleepy.

So, here's what... I'll set my alarm clock for 7:00am every morning for 30 days---and just do it. After that I could change my mind to get up somewhat earlier, but it's a start.

I love you,


Monday, January 7, 2008

Grilled Cheese

Dear Mom,

Several years ago I realized I was going to have to give up wheat and milk, at the very least, in order to be healthy. Thank goodness at the time there were a few, a very few items for specialized diets available in health food stores. Other than that, a person with multiple food sensitivities was pretty much out of luck. The medical community vacillated between prescribing dangerous drugs and sending sufferers to psychiatrists. What else could they do with therapies that simply didn't work? For one thing, they could have listened to their patients, but that's another subject, one that will keep me ranting for hours.

For most of my 42 years at the time, I realized my body didn't work all that well, but conventional wisdom was that if you ate your bread and drank your milk, you'd be healthy. I was dying. Standing in front of the refrigerator with tears running down my face, wondering what to eat that wouldn't hurt all the way through my gut. When I was empty hours later, I had a short period of relief, then had to eat, starting the painful cycle once more.

Fortunately I found a diet, the Blood Type Diet, that gave me a guide to what the sensitivities were, so at last I had the time and mental clarity to find my particular sensitivities and adjust for them. The up-side was that I had plenty of opportunity to practice my new-found knowledge and skills. You have to eat, and often.

Bread. Bread was a huge concern. Everyone who has to give up wheat or gluten has this period when they go a little crazy. No wheat means no bread, no cake, no pasta, ever. Thank goodness I found out that wasn't entirely true.

Every day there is more information, more support, more community. You don't feel alone or lonely in your quest to stay alive and maintain your quality of life. I googled "special diet" today, found another blogger on Blogger writing about her 'adventures in restrictive diet'. She's an author and a pretty cool lady. I wrote to her and she wrote me back after looking at our sites and blogs. Very gratifying.

Now they sell Ezekiel Bread and soy cheese slices at HEB in Marble Falls. I can have something I never thought I could at the beginning of this journey, a grilled cheese sandwich...anytime I want.

I love you,


A Small Scar

Dear Mom,

Every morning when I wash my face, I see it, that tiny white scar just to the left of my nose. No one ever notices, of course, but it sets into motion memories that are now in shorthand, a snippet of memory that replays almost every day.

When I was very little, before I started kindergarden, childhood diseases and their management were a bit different. There was an immunization for measles, but not chickenpox. Very young children who got chickenpox generally had a very brief, flulike period, then broke out in extremely itchy, small red pustules. It's a very annoying disease for small children,
but not very dangerous. As one grows older the disease is increasingly dangerous, affecting the lungs, brain, heart or joints. Mothers were often proactive, making sure their kids got it at the "right" time, about 3-to-5-years old was best.

I remember when you found out that Mary and Louie Davis had chickenpox, I was about 4 and Daniel about 2 1/2. You took me over to play with Mary for the afternoon. I don't remember if you took Daniel, but you were so pleased when I broke out in spots a couple of weeks later. Daniel got it too and he had it worse than I did. Poor baby scratched himself raw because there was no way to explain to him that he shouldn't. I helped you put socks on his tiny hands and then you put them on mine before we went to bed so we wouldn't scratch too much. I tried, I really did and you were patient, but I couldn't stop picking off the spot next to my nose, so there's a little white scar there.

It's a little marble of memory, a thing in itself that rolls through my head, comes to a stop and reloads, ready to roll again tomorrow.

I love you,


Saturday, January 5, 2008

Computer Club

Dear Mom,

Today we went to the HLLUG (Highland Lakes Linux User Group) meeting at the Lakeshore Library. Don is the co-host, I guess you'd call him. Lee Parmeter is the "Chief Instigator" and our Fearless Leader. He won't let us call him anything more serious than that. We had a great time hanging out with our geeky buddies. We were very pleased Charlie Beierle came, he doesn't always make it due to Judy's medical priorities. Melissa Manning came with her husband, John Hibbs and her mom, Dodie came, too. Melissa brings food and great company, she's become a Member In Great Standing, at least with me.

I was so excited, Charlie brought his XO machine, a very special laptop computer. It's a unique design implemented by the One Laptop Per Child organization, founded to bring a simple, inexpensive laptop computer to the children of the world. When the preliminary designs were in place and the software was in development, the US Govt. was given the opportunity to buy them for American schoolchildren. They were rejected. A number of other countries took the offer and have bought them for their school children, but for political reasons some have not. OLPC offered a give-one, get-one purchasing opportunity, where you could buy one and donate one between November 12 and December 31. Charlie got one. I love him for it. So far, only one US city, Birmingham AL, has bought them for its students.

We have a wonderful Hospice volunteer, Peggy Couch. Instead of the usual hour-per-week she's used to volunteering, she's offered to sit for 4-or-5 hours once a month so we can go to the computer club meeting together. I think the Hospice people don't know quite what to do with us or for us; we need so little that we can't provide ourselves. We give them very little trouble, anytime they want to come for checkup or bath is fine with us and they can drop in any time unannounced. We're fine emotionally and they don't have to deal with conflicting egos, anger issues or misunderstandings. We are all on the same page; it's about helping mom to die without undue distress. In essence, it's simple, isn't it? It's great to have a nurse here twice a week to check mom's vitals and assess her current state. She gives me lots of advice about what's normal and expected for this stage of Alzheimer's.

What I really like is the 3-times-a-week baths provided by Linda, who's been giving her baths since she was getting Home Health for her other problems. Bathing is time-consuming and physically demanding for me. And if mom senses that I'm becoming annoyed, she "locks up", becoming very stiff (literally), stubborn, and unpredictable. My own attitude can bite me, bigtime. She almost always gets banged up by throwing out her arms and hitting something hard, or just deciding to sit down...with nothing underneath her. That's my very favorite thing, and the reason I end up with a backache or injury, trying to take all her weight or keeping her from hitting anything on the way down to the floor. I love the bath lady.

I'm off again tomorrow, don't think I like that, but Don needs to work, too. He'll be putting in carpet for NeeCee, so he'll have some pretty sore knees for a couple of days. Time to do the deep housecleaning, again.


Friday, January 4, 2008

Remembering Grandma

Dear Mom,

Well, apparently the Garlic Tea worked. I don't seem to have a cold, although Don assures me I'm still quite aromatic. Just to be contrary I think I'll take one more dose. Perhaps not, tomorrow we'll be going to the Linux Computer Club meeting.

Today I worked at the Bluffton Store and for a change Nee Cee didn't go anywhere, she just did some things around the store and we got to visit more than usual. I was reminiscing about Grandma, she was pretty cool (for an old lady, I thought at the time). She'd visit for several months in the winter, having a daughter who lived in Miami was a wonderful thing. I have no idea how old she was when I was 10 or maybe 11, but she did something very cool, do you remember what it was? I was still attending Catholic school and was wearing those dorky uniforms, with white socks and saddle oxfords. Skinny as a stick, my little legs were covered with long dark hair, how I hated it! I thought I looked like a monkey, though no one ever teased me about it, the class was full of Cuban girls so I looked like everybody else. Still, I hated it.

One day Grandma waited until you went to the grocery store, took me into the bathroom and shaved my legs for me. Even though it was a Saturday, I put on my uniform and socks and looked at myself in the mirror. My legs were beautiful, smooth and shiny with lots of lotion. When you got home you almost had an aneurysm, little girls did *not* shave their legs back then. Grandma stood up to you and so did I; those hairy legs were history. That Christmas I got an electric shaver. I can't remember a present that thrilled me more than that Lady Sunbeam, before or since.

I wish I had had an opportunity to know her better before she got so ill with emphysema and didn't visit anymore. She had rather a reputation for being difficult, but we know where that comes from. A lot of women have raised children by themselves, but not many raised 8 children (who lived) and cared for a dying husband, too. I heard a good poem on "The Writer's Almanac" called "Donna Laura" by Maria Mazziotti Gillan. That's what got me started thinking about Grandma. In case you'd like to read it, it's here;


Click on "listen" to hear it.

I love you,


Thursday, January 3, 2008

Garlic Tea

Dear Mom,

Wouldn't you know it? A few days ago I was contemplating my great good luck in not catching the cold that's been sweeping through these parts. Well, guess what? I did something so stupid it almost defies description.

I have this personal rule; never, ever touch my face when I'm outside the house until I come home and wash my hands, preferably twice. The day before yesterday I stopped at the grocery store to do the weekly shopping. Shopped, checked out, loaded up and headed home. My nose itched and I rubbed it, really well, and immediately thought, "What have you done? How many things have you just touched that how many other people touched? Wonder where their hands have been?" *sigh* I should have known something was up because yesterday morning we were making breakfast and I didn't want any sausage with it. Not wanting any meat is a "marker" symptom for me. Sure enough, last night, about 24 hours later, I was sneezing, eyes swollen and watering, nose running rivers and I had a very low fever. At this particular time, I cannot afford to be sick for weeks, just the prospect makes me cringe.

Time for the big gun; Garlic Tea. I read about it a long time ago and have used it on occasion, and not used it when it would have done some good. It's a time-tested remedy and I believe in it. Here's the procedure;

Crush and mince two cloves of fresh garlic or put them through a garlic press and place in the bottom of a large mug. Pour in boiling water, broth, or anything else (but it must be boiling) to taste, cover with a saucer to keep the volatile oils from escaping. Let steep 10 minutes and drink hot or very warm. That's a good first dose. Be aware this strong dose will make you feel a little odd and woozy but it's rather pleasant considering how you felt before. I was hungry too so I adapted it by making a serving of Ramen soup and pouring the cooked noodles and boiling broth over the garlic cloves in a bowl. It's better to have some food in your stomach anyway, sometimes the garlic can be irritating at high doses.

I took a shower, went to bed and slept 9 hours. So far I feel a little tired but for the moment don't have an active cold. For additional doses I'm drinking at least 2 cups today, preferably 3, with just one clove per cup. Fortunately I don't have to work today because Don says I really stink, he kisses me quickly and runs away. I never agreed with kissing much when you have a cold anyway but he makes a valid point when he says by the time you know you have a cold, you've already passed it on to whomever you're in the habit of kissing. Be aware, this only works at the very start of a cold, it will not knock it out if you're already well into it. One thing it will do is help to prevent bronchitis and sinus infection and reduce the time spent getting over the cold or flu.

Having a calm, restful day, taking it easy, "wandering around behind the little animals".

And no, I don't smoke. Anything.

I'm working tomorrow, hope I don't stink too badly. I just kissed the dog on the top of her head. She turned away from me.

I love you,


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Nuts and Podcasts

Dear Mom,

I'm not used to just bopping around, not having something specific to do, but today was one of those days. Timi called to say she needed to cancel her housecleaning, so Don and I just hung out, doing stuff together. Our friends Melissa and John gave us another big box of pecans to shell and we got right on it, cracking and shelling almost 3 pounds of pecans. I've been warned not to eat too many 'ingredients' for wonderful stuff like Banana-Nut Pancakes, Butter Cookies, and Chocolate Brownies. We've even been known to add nuts to stir-fry dinners.

Yesterday I stopped and did the grocery shopping at HEB on the way home from work and had an attack of Poor Pitiful Me. I was hungry. Probably 90% of the food that's in a supermarket consists of things I can't eat. I watched people walking around, many of them looking mildly annoyed at all the choices available to them and wondered, "How annoyed would you be if you couldn't eat wheat, corn, milk, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, peanuts, sunflower seed (and oil), and some mystery ingredients that are still affecting your skin, to be placed on the no-no list?" Fortunately, half a bag of Sweet Potato chips on the way home mellowed me out. There are still a few on top of the fridge. Melissa introduced me to Dole's Fruit Gels. They're little cups of fruit in Jello, but they don't have corn syrup, they're made with sugar. The reason she likes them is because they're thickened with ingredients other than gelatin. She's a vegan and gelatin is an animal product.

It's difficult to find snacks or any kind of portable food that doesn't contain any of the ingredients that are toxic to me. I sent an email to Dole telling them that I like their product and why. Their response was quick and there are some coupons in the mail. I have cheated a bit in the last few days, but it's really not worth it, I have rashes on my hands and arms and feel mentally compromised, it's very hard to concentrate on anything.

Don and I have often discussed designing and maintaining a web site for people with food sensitivities, including our recipes and discoveries we've made in dealing with limited diets. The problem is, I just don't have any more time. Setting up the site itself would involve a lot of forethought as to how extensive it should be, what should and should not be included, possibly writing another blog to keep the content fresh and interesting, all kinds of decisions to be made before even beginning the design, the designing itself and then the maintenance. All the while maintaining 3 sites of my own, our site, two ezines and a blog. Oh, and working and taking care of mom, I almost forgot. Fortunately, there are many good sites on the web for people with food sensitivities and I've looked at a lot of them. Unfortunately, if you need them, there aren't really enough.

Don's done something awful to me, he's ordered a web cam. He thinks we're going to start podcasting, that's creating little mini-TV-type shows on the internet. He thinks we're going to receive it in the mail, get all excited and talk about how cool it would be to have our own podcast, then I'll knuckle down and learn how to do it, being the fixated geek that I am. Au, contraire, mon frere. When it comes, he can just take it out of the box and start reading the manual. Oh, yes, well he did just build you a computer and fix the sound on my computer and order some headphones so we can talk via I hear UPS at the door?

I love you,


Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Not Too Much To Ask

Dear Mom,

Today, New Year's Day, I was out and about at 8:00am on my way to work for my lady in Marble Falls. I was reflecting on another New Year and what it may bring. On the way, I had the oddest feeling I had stepped into a Twilight Zone episode, you know the classic, "All The People Have Disappeared, Leaving Only Buildings and Parked Cars". Then I realized, a whole lot of people were still in bed, with upset stomachs and aching heads. Poor suckers, I bet they think they had fun last night. I went to bed a bit after midnight, woke up and went to see one of my very favorite people, Dixie, a friend and client. Now, is my head screwed on straight, or what?

Worked fairly hard, did the grocery shopping and came home to a delicious dinner cooked by Don. Last night we had a pot roast with carrots and turnips. Tonight he added three cups of beef broth from cooking a beef brisket, a large can of green beans, simmered all of the above a bit more and presto! home-made Beef-Vegetable Soup. Served with crackers, followed by candy, it was lovely. The aroma when I opened the door was heavenly. Once in awhile I catch a commercial on TV that mentions the dreaded "cooking odors". Excuse me? Are you talking about House Perfume? I'll never buy a bottle of perfume or room deodorizer unless it comes in Bacon or Onions in Butter...or Cranz's Icebox Cookies...or...

I've been thinking a lot lately about mortality, but in a good, and I hope healthy way.

Just for the record, in the unlikely case that it really happens, I had a deja'vu concerning my future-or lack thereof. I was wide awake and just for a second felt that I was in the passenger seat of a car in traffic, I looked up and saw headlights quickly approaching the front bumper, took a startled deep breath and then...nothing. There was no pain or fear so it wasn't a bad experience in the least. Who knows? I just wanted to write it down.

The same thing happened almost 4 years ago when I was still living in Florida. Don and I had gone through a pen-pal-type friendship, something of a courtship (but never really seeing ourselves together), then to hoping once we straightened out our personal lives, maybe sometime meeting somewhere. From there, once our lives were going in the direction we had hoped, we started to consider meeting, then really considered it seriously, then since I was going to move anyway, perhaps my coming to Texas would be an option. But we were terrified, only "losers and nutcases" did that sort of thing. I had another "moment". Don and I were walking down the left side of a street in a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood with our arms around each other's waists, perfectly quiet, perfectly content. The next time I talked to Don I had made up my mind; I said, "I'm coming, you ready?". He said, "What?!", an octave higher than usual. "Uh, yes!". I rented the U-Haul, drove to Texas, and set up my house. Eight months later we married.

I had another moment like that about 2 years ago. When Don and I first lived together and then got married, for awhile neither of us could believe our luck in finding each other. Then something happened that was deeply moving for me and I hope it comes true. We were lying in bed, I swear I was awake, with my head on his chest, his arm around my neck. I closed my eyes, opened them and there he was, with lots more wrinkles and a pure white mustache. I think we'll know each other as old people. That's the wish of my life. And it's not too much to ask.

I love you,


Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

Dear Mom,

Fairly ordinary day, Don went to town to run some errands and I cleaned the house and did laundry.

Mom was absolutely horrid, she's been running her mouth, pulling out her nose hose and peeling off her bandages for days. She's been really hyped and this morning was very lucid and proceeded to tell the Hospice nurse how mean I am. I agreed wholeheartedly so she had no more ammo. The nurse explained to me "people with this condition really don't know what they're doing". I said, "Uh-huh, that's why she always waits until you've been out of the room for at least 5 minutes, takes out the hose and pulls her bandages off." It's OK, she made me pay later. No, a person would not sit in a dirty diaper just so the caretaker (me) would have to clean it up, tell me it's not true. This was while I was trying to get the floors mopped so I could finish dinner. She needed an emergency shower and the potty chair, the bath chair and other parts of the bathroom needed a Clorox treatment. I enlisted Don's help to cut turnips and carrots for the pot roast while I finished mopping and he looked put out because he needed to finish the ezine. That "attitude" changed right smart. To mess with me this evening would be a bad idea.

OK, rant over, for now.

We're trying to get the sound working in PCLinuxOS, but it's not cooperating and we don't know why. That's the OS on the computer we're giving you, and the one I'm working on now. Not only do I want you to have sound, of course, but I want to be able to talk to you with VOIP, which would be so cool. Imagine having a "telephone" tutor while you're first trying to understand how to use a computer! I'll be working on the text-tutorial I'm putting on the desktop to show you the very first steps in using a computer. It's odd, for about a week I've been using the Linux box almost exclusively and it's very disorienting when I switch back to Windows to do something in particular or go find a picture or document that's in my Windows machine .

We're just about finished with the ezine and we'll post tonight right after midnight. Then it will be the New Year. I have a good feeling about the coming year, the last few have been so wonderful it's a bit hard to describe.

I'll "start as I mean to go on" and get to bed and to sleep quickly, mainly because I have to work fairly early tomorrow. My Tuesday lady, Dixie, may have to go into the hospital to see what's been wrong with her lungs for the past few months, so she wants me to help her put away her Christmas decorations. Scary stuff.

The pot roast was wonderful, I'm stuffed and happy and the ezine is finished. What more could a person want?

Happy New Year to you and Beth and Daniel, this promises to be the best one yet!

I love you,