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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Agent Orange is Deadly.

Oh my!  Two posts in two days!  The world must be coming to an end! No, I'm just trying to keep the ball rolling, because if I don't, it will be months before I get back to my blog.

I did some reading of back posts, and I can see I need to catch my readers, all two of you, up on what has happened in the past few years.  

I did post that I had retired from nursing a little more than a year ago.  Difficulties in finding a job that I could do with my health issues, plus dealing with hubby's health issues and multiple surgeries convinced me that it was time for me to retire.  

Dennis had been having some chest pain issues, and at the urging of myself and our daughter, Becky, he finally agreed to go to the emergency room.  From there, within a few minutes, he was in an ambulance, heading for Stormont-Vail hospital in Topeka.  Soon after that, he began a series of surgeries.  

First it was a carotid bypass.  As a nurse, I've seen some pretty disgusting things, but when the surgeon brought a section of Dennis' carotid artery in a petrie dish, and proceeds to poke a paper clip tip inside it, I almost lost my lunch.  It wouldn't even begin to fit inside that artery, which should have housed several paper clips. It would have been fascinating, were it someone else's.  But my Dennis's?  Not cool at all. He was 100% blocked. Anyway, he survived that surgery.  But then we found out, there would be more surgeries.

The next surgery was five cardiac bypasses.  All at the same time. His cardiac arteries were over 90% blocked. He was a ticking time bomb. When he came out of recovery, and we went to see him in CICU, he had tubes sticking out of every orifice, a large one running down his throat helping him to breathe.  I saw a panicked look on his face, and tears running down his cheeks. I felt so helpless.  What could I do for him?  He couldn't talk, because of the tubes.  

Later, when all the tubes were out and he could talk, he told me that he was having such intense pain.  They "cracked" his chest and bone pain is so terrible.  He also said he had "Nurse Cratchet" who took care of him the first night, who wouldn't give him any pain medication.  He swore he would always watch his weight and diet, so he wouldn't have to go through that ever again.  He did pretty well..for a while.

Next, we found out he had prostate cancer. So the prostate came out. Unfortunately, the cancer had spread to the bladder, but just on the outside.  Frequent PSA tests have not shown any spread from there, thank God. He is in remission.

The next thing was his thyroid. He was having a lot of symptoms that looked like thyroid cancer.  He grew very anxious, and kept making cryptic remarks about what I should do after he was gone.
Depression set in to a point.  He often says, "I knew when I went to Vietnam that I might get killed, but I didn't know my own country would be the cause.  Agent Orange is killing me."

The bills kept coming in, he was trying to drive the truck, and yet he had doctor appointments every week, sometimes up to three times a week.  It was impossible for him to make a living. 

With the help of Becky, our daughter, and her husband, we applied for VA benefits.  After a ton of paperwork, and multiple trips to Junction City, and Topeka, and collecting doctor's signatures for over six months, he finally got 100% disability.  That has made such a difference in our lives. 

Not long ago, he had his right shoulder replaced.  After over 35 years of not being able to raise his arm up over shoulder height, his muscles are slowly beginning to limber up. A little.

Now, he is scheduled for bilateral cataract surgeries next month. That will be a piece of cake, compared to what he has already been through.

We still have money problems from time to time. But we are able to eat well, we can go to our grandkids' games, and we are planning a short vacation soon, something we haven't done since about 2005, when I had my own health crisis.  

But that's a different story.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Lesson One - The Spirit of Jefferson Library


I met the Spirit of the Jefferson Library when I closed.  A sudden chill resulted in goose bumps on my arms, and I felt a waft of foul air pass in front of me.

The day started with a sudden storm, dumping almost an inch of cold rain.  The wind blew eddies around on the street, picking up fallen autumn leaves and creating little tornadoes that swirled around.  After the storm ended, the library smelled dank and sour.  Buckets sitting around on the floors began making music as rain drops, having soaked through the roof and ceiling fell into the buckets, strategically placed during prior storms.

The patrons didn’t make much fuss about the drips. After the first drop fell on them or the table, they calmly moved a few feet away and quietly resumed their reading or studying.  A few minutes before closing time, they closed their books, filled their book bags, and left for the evening.

I re-shelved the last book and started toward the desk to retrieve my purse.  I gasped as the lights suddenly went out.  I looked around toward the front door, believing it was a patron playing a trick on me.  It was dark, but still light enough that I could see that no one stood by the front door. 

“H-hello?,” I called out, looking around me in every direction.  “Is anyone there?”

Dead silence. 

“The library is closing,” I continued, while edging toward the desk and the phone.  “If you need a book, please come back tomorrow during regular library hours.”

A book slammed to the floor from the shelf directly behind me.  I screamed and whirled around.  The book lay opened, its pages parted in the middle.  I could see a passage in the book had been circled in red permanent marker.  I picked the book up and carried it to the desk.  Flipping a light switch to the on position, I was horrified to find it didn’t work. Maybe a bulb burned out.  

I grabbed a flashlight from under my desk.  A quick glance around with the light revealed no living person in the room with me.  I used the light to read the passage in the book.

“This place is not your home. You must leave at once.  Staying here may result in your death,” the passage read. 

Oh my goodness.  My heart was beating so fast and so hard, it felt like it was going to climb up my throat and jump out of my mouth.  My stomach felt queasy.  I was sweating profusely.

Suddenly, an apparition in old clothes, like someone from another century, appeared in front of me. The odor of death was all around me. The ghost didn’t say a word.  He just extended his long raggedy arm and pointed to the front door.

I obeyed.  I called the library the next day and resigned.  No one seemed surprised or argued.

The Spirit of Jefferson Library may still be there today. I know I won’t be.

F2K Starts Another Session.

F2K is the name of a free fiction writing class I take whenever I feel a need to awaken my muse.  It is a favorite class at Writers Village University, and once writers take it once, it becomes an addiction.  This session, which started the first week of September, has a stellar cast of writers, both published and unpublished.

I usually use the class to help with my current work in progress, A Door In Time, which I have worked on over a spread of almost ten years. A young adult novel, it starts out in the current year, and takes three teenagers from Wichita, Kansas back in time to 1887.  Without their electronic toys, cell phones, I-pads, computers, cars, motorcycles, and other inventions, the kids go through a culture shock.  The farm family who takes them in also goes through cultural trauma as they try to decide whether the kids are actually witches and warlocks practicing their beliefs.  It makes for some delightful fun.

This session of F2K, however, I am introducing a new short story, currently under the working title of The Spirit of Jefferson Library.  It's about a ghost, living in a public library, who does not like the intrusion of living humans in his inner sanctum, the library.  The librarian, who at first is terrorized by the hostile spirit infesting her library, begins to feel sorry for the misplaced ghost, and tries to help him find some answers and closure, so he can rest in peace.  But getting the ghost to cooperate with her is quite a challenge.  He fights her at every turn.  I'm hoping this story will be a good one.

The nice part about F2K, is the quality and quantity of feedback that storytellers receive, and give to each other. It can be difficult in many cases, to get the advice of seasoned writers and readers, and in F2K, the feedback is part of the lesson, and is required of each writer.  The storytellers are taught what constitutes good feedback, and how to give it, and receive it, gracefully and respectfully.

Starting out, the class offers some orientation to the website, and allows the students a chance to get acquainted and meet the mentors.  The assignment is to write an introduction of the author in the voice of one of the characters they have invented.  The rest of the class, then, must respond with their criticisms and praise, to the character, not the author.  This can be confusing to some students.  The assignment has a word count limit of 500 words, which can also be difficult for more "wordy" writers.

Each student, besides submitting their own author introduction, is required to offer feedback to at least four or more students, and the mentors and their assistants do keep track of those figures.  At the end of the course, all those who have submitted every lesson and the assigned critiques, will earn a certificate of completion.  In years past, there have been contests, too.  The last lesson is when a complete short story of fifteen hundred words or less will be submitted and the mentors and classes will vote on the "best story" for each classroom, with a champion over all the classrooms.  That keeps the competitiveness sharp.

So, for the rest of tonight, I will be doing my feedback for Lesson 2, which is on the senses, all eight of them. What?  Yes, for our lesson, we acknowledge eight senses: sound, smell, taste, feel, sight, time, space, and unknown.  We write some sentences for each sense, and a paragraph that includes all eight senses, and we also take a story by James Joyce and identify the senses in as few sentences as possible.  The story is over 11,000 words, so it is a challenge.  The Holy Grail of this lesson is to find one sentence in the story that holds all eight senses.

I guess I'd better get at it.  I'm always glad when this lesson is over.  I don't mind writing the sentences and paragraph, but I am definitely not a James Joyce fan, and I'm not alone in that feeling. After tonight, the rest of the lessons are fun.  I will share my lesson one assignment in a separate post.


Monday, April 25, 2016

Insurance Woes

This has been an extremely frustrating and stressful week.  We are having almost daily weather threats.  So far we have been very lucky that none of the tornadoes have hit our town, but our sympathies go out to friends and family in the way of the storms around us, who are having damage.  We desperately need rain for the crops and our flower and vegetable gardens here, to fill our ponds and lakes, and replenish our river.

Dennis has been frustrated by delays in getting his shoulder replaced.  He has fought his severe pain for many years, and now that it is within "view", the tiniest of delays have become almost insurmountable in his mind.  We are hoping that at the latest, his surgery will take place in early June.

I have been enjoying my job with the local library.  I am working independently under the supervision of the head librarian and the library board.  I know that sounds confusing.  I took a few days of training, mostly in the computer program and the process for interlibrary loans and processing new materials.  I am in charge of ordering and maintaining the children's library section.  I read to the pre-school and kindergarten age kids on Friday mornings.  That is fun, most of the time.

My major problem right now is that I am without health insurance at the moment. We had shopped around before Dennis retired, and signed up with Blue Cross Blue Shield with a reasonable policy.  I told them I wanted it set up on an automatic debit card payment plan every month.  I thought everything was set.  The insurance company had my information and were actually paying claims.  Suddenly, everything went south.  My first indication came when my pharmacy said my insurance claim for my much needed diabetic meds was being declined by Blue Cross and Blue Shield.  They said I was not covered.  What?  My blood pressure rose about 50 points.

After calling the company, it seems that the automated payments were not going through.  I remembered that the bank had changed our debit cards recently and there were new expiration dates on them. Why we hadn't heard from the insurance company about this, I have no idea.  But they cancelled my insurance plan.  Now, to get my medications, I have to pay full price. OUCH!

I will be calling again tomorrow to see if I can get that decision reversed.  In the meantime, please keep us both in your prayers.  Dennis, for a successful surgery, and me, that I can get insured.  The Good Lord has always answered my prayers for most important things.  I know he will help me now.

Thank you for reading my rant. Have a wonderful week.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Kansas City Royals 2015 World Champions!

Congratulations to the Kansas City Royals Team and fans! I watched the team win the World Series back in 1985, and it was a sight to behold!  But I had even more appreciation for it this year.  I didn't get to watch all the games, due to some technical problems with my internet and tv, but I did get to stay up to watch the last game from beginning to end. It was awesome!

On the other hand, I was very disappointed in the way the newspapers flailed the Mets for losing the series. The headlines were horribly insulting and sounded very "sour grapes". Royals fans have had their ups and downs, with many seasons being more losing than winning, but I've not seen the bitterness and just plain meanness displayed by the Eastern papers.

Teams need their fan support.  The Royals, the Chiefs, and our Kansas collegiate football and basketball teams, as well as teams in other sports will have our support, always. Win or lose. Because it's the way we believe. 

Retiring From Nursing: But Not From Life

As of midnight, Halloween night, I am no longer a registered nurse. I enjoyed my 24 year nursing career. It gave me a feeling of identity. I loved helping others. I miss that feeling of being knowledgeable and being the "go to" person in our family for health care advice. My daughter, Becky, has taken over that role, and she is even better at it than I ever dreamed I would become.

But, even though I am no longer able to practice nursing, that doesn't mean my life is over. Not by a long shot! I am now volunteering for church activities, school promotions, and civic affairs. I have, per hubby's request, discontinued my sales of costume jewelry, home scents, and other direct marketing products. He believed all that lifting during setting up for parties and events and taking it all back down to be hard on my already damaged back, and I agree.  Online sales have not been sufficient to keep me busy, so I am retiring from all of that business.

What I am focusing on now, is my art and my writing.  I remain President of the Clifton Art Buffs, a post I have held for over 12 years.  I am excited about the possibility of getting back into my oil painting and watercolors, which I have neglected for many years. My difficulty is in finding a place to do my painting where I can leave my work set up. My kitchen table offers a central place to work, but requires taking everything down and putting it away at mealtime.  My basement is too dark.  But I plan on fighting these obstacles and doing the work I love regardless of the inconvenience.

My writing is much easier to manage, because all I need is my laptop and a good supply of paper and ink for my printer. I have a young adult novel that is close to completion of the first draft, at any rate. I want to finish it before the end of the year. That will be my focus, to finish that first draft by the end of this year. So, if you don't see me on Facebook as much as I was, that is why. I still check Facebook almost daily, but I wait until after my other chores and duties are done. 

My dogs are very supportive. They are content to lie on the floor at my feet or on the loveseat beside me while I write. They guard the door and let me know if anyone is at the door, or if a cat or squirrel is outside in the yard. They are very good at their jobs. 

Dennis is gone most of the week in the truck. When he is home, if we aren't gallivanting around doing shopping or errands, he is glued to the tv, while I am on my computer. It all works out very well.

Anyway, I need to get back to my story, A Door In Time. Hopefully, you will get to read it on your Kindle or in paperback form soon. That is my goal.  I might even create a series of Door in Time novels. That would be fun. Catch you later!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Memory Lane has changed for this Living Fossil!

Tonight I tried taking a trip down memory lane. But my memories are a lot different from present day reality.  I went to bingo.

Back in the early 1970s, my mother in law loved going to bingo, and to keep her company, I usually went along.  She  usually drove her car.  I drove by myself tonight, but I thought of her as I drove. It felt a little strange.

First I stopped at Walmart to pick up a couple of things I forgot on my last trip to town. As I was leaving, my daughter in law stood just outside the door visiting with a mutual friend. We talked for a few seconds and she complimented me on my outfit. I thanked her and told her I was going to bingo. Then I asked her to come with me.  She seemed happy to be invited.  She had a little shopping to do, so I told her I'd go on ahead and she could meet me at the Legion hall.

I drove to the Legion and parked in front. I was surprised to be able to park so closely, because years ago, when I went with Georgia, my mother in law, we sometimes had to park in the next block and walk, it was so crowded.

I walked in the door to the hall, and immediately noticed a big difference.  Before, the sturdy cardboard cards, with little red plastic windows over the numberswere all piled on top of a few long tables, which overflowed onto the floor.  Women and some men, sorted through the pile, searching for those favorite cards.  My mother in law, usually watched for certain numbers or sets of numbers in the corners of the cards. For instance, the card with all fives in the corners, 5, 15, 65, and 75, would be a huge favorite of hers. All threes, fours, twos and ones were also favorites. Next she would make sure she had at least one of every number from 1 to 75. She played between 8 and 12 cards every game. The cards cost $1 for the first card, and 50 cents for each additional card.  The games paid around $10 to $25 per game. 

Now, there were no tables in the hallway, and the cards were now paper, three cards to a sheet or more, some in pads of several thicknesses, some were single sheets of various sizes.  The sheets were $1 for the small single sheets, and $13 (gasp) for the larger sheet pads.  There was also a white sheet with all the games for the evening listed, like a program. I bought at least one of each, and found a place to sit, where I could spread out a bit, with room for Jackie to sit when she arrived. 

I also bought a purple ink dauber bottle for a dollar.  Gee, this is costing a lot more than I had expected. But looking at the program, I see the games pay out $30 to $50 for the regular games, and the jackpots were $950, $450, and $300.  Definitely better payouts..if you win.

I read for a while, checked my cell phone for messages, made a to do list for tomorrow, and then started reading in my paperback novel again. Jackie arrived about 15 minutes before bingo was due to start.

It was a little confusing at first, trying to figure out which cards are to be used for which games, what the special games actually were, and learning how to daub the numbers without soaking the page below the top level..but we soon were comfortable with it. We had some great help from a friend of Jackie's. Several people from our hometowns were there, so we did have some support of sorts.

We didn't win anything tonight, even though I just knew I was going to win that $950...NOT!  LOL!

We did get invited to come back by  our friends and even asked to ride with one of them, so will think about that prospect. Since I have retired, I'm becoming quite the hermit, and I start thinking of my two shih tzus as human.  So it is time to get out a little more.

I may start going to the convent to go swimming too.  Haven't decided about that yet.  

Anyway, the culture shock is starting to wear off, and I'm already thinking of how to make my next bingo experience more comfortable and more profitable.  Here's to Memory Lane!  Even with the changes, it was good to revisit.  Night all!