Thursday, March 31, 2011

Day 29 of 365

One of my favorite things about spring and summer is that I get to hang my laundry on the clothesline.

I love clothes hanging on the line in a nice neat row. I love the smell of clean clothes when they come off the line. And of course I love saving electricity.

I love hanging clothes on the line so much that when we were a young married couple and our dryer went out, we went 5+ years without a new one. Not an easy feat in Idaho. We hung clothes outside in the spring, summer, and fall, and inside during the winter. Sometimes inside during the winter it took a couple days for things to dry, but we were okay with that. Even now that we have a dryer again, we sometimes put things inside on drying racks during the winter months.

Last summer I missed my clothesline. I had torn my rotator cuff and there was no lifting my arm. My daughter and husband attempted to hang things a couple times, but their version of clothes hanging neatly on the line wasn't the same as mine. And as we learned, if they aren't hanging neatly they come out wrinkled. Which means ironing. Which means using a shoulder that's not working. So our days of hanging clothes on the line were rare.

But I'm hoping this year will be different. I've now had surgery on both shoulders. (Still can't lift them above my head yet, but they're coming.) The weather is getting warmer. (Not quite warm enough but almost.) And I have a new clothespin bag. (One I made myself.)

With our wind here, I'm not sure how it's going to hold up. But I will soon find out.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 28 of 365

I don't go out much anymore. I'm usually in the house all day, every day, with no one to talk to. But I'm okay with that. Actually, I like it a lot.

After several years being sick and still working, it became exhausting having to be "on" all the time. I had to work hard at keeping up a good front. Some people knew I wasn't well and would ask about how I was doing. While I didn't want to admit how bad things had gotten, sometimes the lack of spark in my eyes gave it away. So working was double exhausting - having to work while sick and in pain, and having to keep faking happy as long as possible. It wore me out.

Now being home all day by myself is a good thing. At one time I probably would have been bored or felt alone or even antsy without being part of the outside world. Not anymore. Now when I'm not feeling well, I don't have to hide it. I don't have people asking how I'm feeling and I don't have to push myself beyond what I know my body is capable of (even though I do sometimes, by choice). When my fingers are swollen, I don't have to wear shoes with laces. When my back or knees are bothering me, I can sit down. When I'm just trying to survive the day and nothing is on my mind but getting through the pain and I don't want to talk to anyone about anything, I don't have to.

But once in a while I have to leave the house to go to the doctors or get groceries. I try and make all the stops I need in one day so I don't have to go back out. Today was a grocery day. I also hit Target for some cereal.

I planned on picking up some Special K there since it was on sale for $2.50 a box. I usually never pay over a dollar a box for cereal, but we ran out a while back and I was missing my morning cereal. Like in most cases, I came out with more than what I had originally went in for.  I usually take my coupon binder in with me when I go to Target because they have such great clearance or price cut deals that match up well with the coupons I have. Like today.

My take:
Purex Crystals $2.99 minus a $2 coupon
3 boxes of Special K $7.50 minus a $2 coupon
4 trays of Meow Mix cat food $1.56 minus $1 coupon
Zantac 24 count $7.59 minus $5 coupon and $2 Target coupon

Before the coupons, the price was $19.64
After coupons, the price was $7.64 + $1.06 tax

Total cost of all items was $8.70. I used a $5 Target gift card that I got free from a cat food offer a few weeks back. Leaving me $3.70 to pay.

$20 worth of items for $3.70. It pays to leave the house sometimes.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day 27 of 365

As a teacher, you wouldn't expect to have to attend students' funerals.

As an elementary teacher, I didn't have much experience with that. But as a high school teacher, the number of students my husband has lost is in the double digits. Most of the deaths occurred while the students were in high school or just graduated from high school. And usually from car accidents.

One death was different. Ross Aaron Clevenger. And this death hit my husband hard.

Ross was a different type of student. He was funny, yet was serious about his schoolwork. He loved to skateboard. He loved it so much that he, along with some other students, approached the city council to get help in building a skateboard park. They agreed to match funds and a city skateboard park was built. 

Ross went off to college and then joined the service. He was called to active duty in early 2006 and was deployed to Iraq in September. He came home on leave in January 2007 before returning to Iraq.

A month later he was dead. He was 21.

Sgt. Ross Aaron Clevenger of the 321st Engineering Battalion was killed Feb. 8, 2007, when a roadside bomb heavily damaged his armored vehicle in Iraq’s Anbar province west of Baghdad.

His funeral was held at the Marsing High School gym and he was buried with full military honors.

So it is in Ross' name that I continue to do work for the Quilts of Valor Foundation. The mission of the foundation is to cover all those service members and veterans touched by war with Wartime Quilts called Quilts of Valor. I've been again working on presentation cases (in this instance pillowcases), which is the "gift wrap" for the quilt.

More information about Quilts of Valor can be found at

Monday, March 28, 2011

Day 26 of 365

My mom called this morning and talked a LONG time about lots of things. When she called, I'd been thinking about what I was going to take a picture of today. (She suggested I take a picture of the phone since I spent most of my time there this morning.)

Every morning one of my first thoughts, and sometimes the only reason I get out of bed, is to figure out what I'm going to post for the day. So when she called, I didn't have it figured out yet. I thought about the hail that was still on the ground from last night's hailstorm. But by the time I got off the phone, it had melted.

A little later I was making a pot of chili for dinner and when I opened the can of tomatoes, the cat came running and started bawling at me. When we feed her wet food now it's always a pop-top can, but she obviously has that "the can opener means food" signal ingrained in her brain from 5 years or so back when we had to use the can opener. Bawling cat picture? Nah.

Kevin from Idaho Power had read my Day 23 post where I had written about tracking my power consumption. He posted a comment on the blog about Idaho Power having an online option where customers can see usage by the day and even by the hour. I created an account on their website today and now see where our high spots are during the day and week. I considered taking a picture of the charts that are displayed, but do I really want others to know when during the day we use the most power? Probably not.

When checking on my chili (it smells delicious), I realized I still had some chocolate left over from making the caramel apples. And I had fresh strawberries in the fridge.

When you have chocolate in the house and fresh strawberries in the fridge, there's only one thing to do. And I did it.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day 25 of 365

I never liked caramel apples. They are sticky, and messy, and hard to eat.

But a couple years ago I discovered Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory's caramel apples. Caramel-chocolate-Butterfinger caramel apples, actually. The flavors were great, but the best part was they cut the apple for me. No more sticky, messy, hard to eat caramel apple.

I like replicating foods I've eaten elsewhere. In fact, I own the Top Secret Recipes books of cloned recipes from places such as Outback, Chilis, Cheesecake Factory, IHOP, Taco Bell, etc. Several of the recipes I use again and again. And the IHOP pancake recipe is my only go-to pancake recipe anymore. My thought is, why go out when you can make it cheaper at home?

So my latest attempt at a recipe was recreating the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory's caramel-chocolate-Butterfinger apple. I wasn't able to find it in my Top Secret books or on the internet, so I tackled it myself.

I used Golden Delicious apples and had some leftover Wilton chocolate and white chocolate candy melts left over from Valentine's Day. I picked up a bag of caramels and a king size Butterfinger.

I scrubbed the apples well to get the wax off of them. I dried them, put popsicle sticks into them, and put the apples in the fridge for 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, I combined the caramels and 2 tablespoons of water in a pot over medium heat. I cooked until completely melted, stirring almost constantly.

When the caramels were melted, I dipped the apples into the caramel, almost completely covering them to the top. I put the caramel covered apples onto a heavily buttered plate to cool, and back in the fridge they went for another 15 minutes. I melted the chocolate candy melts (you could use a bag of white chocolate chips) in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds or so. I then dipped the cooled apples into melted white chocolate, then rolled them in crushed Butterfinger. Back in the fridge again.

I did a different batch, too. I did a chocolate/white chocolate one. That one I dipped in melted caramel, cooled the apple in the fridge, dipped in white chocolate, cooled it in the fridge, and dipped it in milk chocolate candy pieces ( you could use a bag of chocolate chips here too), and cooled it in the fridge.

They looked almost too good to eat.

I let them sit at room temperature for a bit, then  used a knife to cut straight alongside the stick on both sides. I then cut the halves into smaller, more manageable slices. Yummy!

While I didn't have an "official" recipe, I'm happy with the way they turned out and they were just as good as the expensive ones at the chocolate shop.

If you like replicating recipes, I can highly recommend the Top Secret Recipes line of books (even though my apples weren't found in the books).

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day 24 of 365

I'm a bit obsessed about our power bill. We run all electricity, no gas (our city doesn't even offer gas), so everything - lights, TV, water heater, stove, dryer - all wind up on our power bill. I'm so obsessive about keeping control over our power output that I've been tracking our average daily kilowatt since 2005.

Our Idaho Power bill's monthly statement includes a chart of average kilowatt per day for every month for the prior year. It compares the current month to the same month the year before. I've been taking it a step further, though. Back in 2005  I started tracking the number each month and inputting it into a spreadsheet. Then when 2006 rolled around, I plugged that number into the spreadsheet and had the formula tally the difference between the two months average daily use. Sometimes it was higher, sometimes it was lower. Every year after that I've continued to plug numbers in. I can see at a glance which months we use more or less, and have formulas in to give us 6 year totals of ups and downs.

The reason I track it so closely is purely financial. We have "level pay", so our bill is the same amount every month no matter what power was really used during the month. But the power company does audits of the level pay and readjusts it if you used too much or paid too much. So I like to see that readjustment number go down. There's nothing worse than a higher readjustment - especially with my income gone.

When a month is higher than the year before, I make sure we watch our use. When I see a month we've been higher a couple years running (like September), we watch our use even more. Since we've been working on lowering each month's daily average for the last six years, now it's becoming quite a challenge to see a month show up lower.

Again, I'm not really a "green" person so I'm not doing the kilowatt tracking for environmental reasons. But I started thinking about what life would be like living "off the grid", without electricity. At one point in my life, I was considering moving in that direction. I remember as a teenager visiting a home in Northern California with some folks who built their own house out of logs that they cut from their land. They grew their own food (even made their own cheese) and raised chickens and goats. They had no indoor plumbing and no electricity.

I wonder what it would be like to create your own power. I've heard of people putting in solar panels, but how could wind power play into creating electricity? When we did our cross country traveling we saw many old farmhouses with windmills. When we were driving back from our little Spring Break getaway today we also saw a couple of wind farms off the freeway. Just how feasible would it be to produce your own wind power nowadays?

It's surprising how just one picture can get my mind wandering.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Day 23 of 365

How much money is your health worth?

If you count the money spent on health-related costs for me over the last year, it'd be over $100,000. If you consider the toll it took on my family, the costs would be astronomical. If you count the cost that one day's activities - driving a few hours to a casino and gambling a bit - it might be close to $1,500.

The time spent winning the $1,500 I was so excited about yesterday was a bit detrimental to my system. Just sitting on stools and chairs with not-so-comfortable backs, standing, walking, and pushing buttons has done a number on my joints. Achy, swollen, hot joints.

And I'm doing my medication routine. I'm taking my chemotherapy drug and my injectable drug, but my lifestyle is not one I wish to keep. Granted, I just started the injectable and I need to give it time to work. But at a time when I should be so excited about getting something like a nice chunk of change, I'm having to focus on my health while at the same time trying to ignore the pain. I've been prescribed pain medication, but after many, many months of being in a drug induced stupor, I use them sparingly.

I'm frustrated (again) and I wish my life (and body) was different. So again I have to focus on the picture of the day to get me moving forward. The need to find something positive and good in the world allows me some brief respite from my own health problems.

Gambling problems? Not so much.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Day 22 of 365

Today appeared to be the perfect storm. Either the stars were in direct alignment, or the supermoon from this weekend carried over to the week, or maybe it was just plain luck.

My hubby is on Spring Break this week and our daughter had a couple days off, so we'd been looking to get away for a couple days. Since he's working on his book, he wanted to take his materials with him and seclude himself in a hotel room for a couple days. We were wanting to head to the mountains, but the snow just keeps coming and I'm not the most confident snowy road driver, so that plan was nixed.

Our second choice was the nearest gambling town, Jackpot, Nevada. We had received an offer earlier this month for comped rooms, some comped food, and some free gambling money from one of the hotels there. We're not big gamblers. In fact, I was in my mid-30s before I ever stepped into a casino. So a secluded room, time for writing, and a little time for some penny slots seemed like a grand idea. We even took a couple hundred dollars, just in case. We figured that amount would be adequate in case we wanted to gamble more or stop somewhere else along the way.

Adequate. Actually, it wound up being more than enough. Much more. Even with time set aside for writing my husband and I both hit several jackpots on penny slot machines. We kept cashing out and tucking the money away. When we got to the room and counted the money - all $1,500 of it. On penny slots. In one day. Staying in a free room, ate free food, and used their free cash. $1,500!

The clouds rolling in during our drive must have been a sign of the perfect storm we were about to enjoy. A gambling perfect storm of sorts.

Day 21 of 365

My husband is writing a book. Well, more like composing ideas and stories for a book. He's a high school teacher and has years worth of stories of what really goes on in a high school. By the time he retires in a few years, I'm sure he'll have many more. He's had the book idea in mind for a long time, but only recently has starting putting ideas down on paper.

He could easily write an autobiography of his life. Although he was born with Cerebral Palsy, he isn't confined to a wheelchair. He does walk with a limp and doesn't have use of the right side of his body. If you were to see him, you would think he'd had a stroke. (He gets that assumption from people a lot.) Despite his disability, he was very active in athletics as a kid. Played baseball, basketball, and football, and when he physically couldn't maintain the level of performance needed to play on a high school team, he still remained in athletics. He became basketball manager and was voted "Most Inspirational". He was also "Handicapped Student of the Year" for the State of Idaho.

He went on to college and continued being involved in athletics. He was involved with the athletic training department for Boise State University's football program and was the Equipment Manager for the basketball team. Graduated from college and got a teaching job.

That was almost 25 years ago. Since then he's been teaching at the same high school, has been named Teacher of the Year, has had a fellowship with our state senator back in Washington DC, served with the National Council of Social Studies, and has been on our city's Planning and Zoning Committee and our City Council.

While there are many people who have fought adversity, his life story is unique in that it is his. And maybe someday he'll write it. But right now he's working on his career life story. But he's not a writer. To use education-eze, his oral language proficiency exceeds his written language proficiency.

So it looks like I'll be the editor-in-chief as he pursues his latest adventure. To ease the burden of having a one-handed person typing hundreds of pages of text, (and me having to re-edit all of it) I bought him some micro cassettes. He now has hours of tape to tell his story.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Make a Tote Bag from an Upcycled T-Shirt - Day 20 of 365, Tutorial Tuesday

I had to stop and get some groceries today. Not too much, just some staples - fruit and veggies, yogurt, bread, eggs and some milk. I usually shop at the same few stores every time I make a trip to town. Fred Meyer, Target, and Walgreens.

But all along the way I seem to pick up too many plastic bags. A bag for the bread. A separate bag for the eggs. Yogurt gets its own. The prescription gets its own. Film to be developed? Another bag. We have a system for re-using the bags, but it seems lately they don't last like they used to. My husband uses them to take his lunch to work (then of course throws it away) and we double bag the kitty litter with them. Sometimes we use them for the garbage we create when cooking dinner or something, but otherwise they just sit there being stored. And for some reason we never seem to remember to take them back to the store to be recycled.

I see folks using cloth bags more and more these days, but then I read about how they harbor germs and that people don't wash them enough. I'm not a "green" person at all, but I've been wondering how to reduce our output of trash - including those plastic, not-so-strong bags.

Being the sewer that I'm becoming, I started looking up how to make the bags. Since we've traveled a lot, we have a lot of t-shirts. And being the big gal that I am, I don't always fit into the shirts we've bought. To solve the plastic bag problem and the "I can't fit into this shirt but don't want to get rid of it" problem, I turned several t-shirts into grocery sacks.

Hem the bottom, cut out the collar, cut away the sleeves, and you've got yourself a grocery sack.

I don't know how long they'll last, by I'm anxious to find out.

DIY Grocery Tote Bag from an Old T-Shirt
Need a tutorial to show you how to make your own t-shirt grocery bag? Got it!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Day 19 of 365

My newly planted strawberries are getting the spring rains they were hoping for. Today is just a cloudy, cool, drizzly kind of day. One of those days you don't want to go outside. One of those days when you just want to sit somewhere warm with a nice fuzzy blanket and a good book. Or one of those days when you want to do some baking.

Blueberry muffins have been one of our favorite morning treats for Christmas. Part of our Christmas tradition is that we always have muffins and juice for Christmas morning breakfast. We usually have three or four different types of muffins. Some years it's poppy seed or lemon or apple or bran or banana muffins, but blueberry muffins are always in the mix.  I used to buy them from the store's bakery but was always dissatisfied with their texture and flavor. Then I went to boxed mixes in order to try and find the best. One year we even went so far as to buy every flavor of every brand and did a "taste test" before Christmas so we could choose just the right muffin.

Skip ahead 20 years and I finally got it figured out. Homemade all the way! Make up batches a couple days before Christmas, freeze them, and warm them Christmas morning. A while back I found a perfect - absolutely perfect, to-die-for blueberry muffin recipe and now there's no looking back. I found it on and it's called, "To Die For Blueberry Muffins". I follow the recipe exactly except I use frozen blueberries instead of fresh.

So on days like today when it's cool and raining and I feel like keeping warm, I turn to baking muffins and breads. Today blueberry muffins sounded like a good choice, so I mixed some up. I couldn't wait for them to cool all the way - I had to dig right in!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Day 18 of 365

I was watching Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network late last night. He was visiting a place in Baltimore, Maryland that made Coney Island dogs with homemade Coney Island sauce. Now, I've been to New York, and even New York City, but never to Coney Island. But watching that episode made me want Coney Island dogs. AKA chili dogs for us Westerners.

I'm not a big hot dog fan. If we do have hot dogs, they have to be all beef and grilled until they're charred. (Must be remembrances of camping long ago.) These Coney dogs on TV were not grilled, not charred, but smothered in sauce and onions and mustard. Yum? Yep, yum.

So after today's NASCAR race (my chosen car won!), I attempted to make Coney Island dogs. I looked up several recipes online, but couldn't find any 5 star ones. I did find a few that had some ingredients in common - ground beef, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, chopped onions, tomato paste/sauce, celery salt. I decided to make my own concoction using those ingredients. Being that I'm typically one who always follows the exact measurements in a recipe, I was heading into uncharted territory. I threw in a bit of this, a bit of that, a lot of that, and?

Less than half an hour later we had yummy Coney Island dogs.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Day 17 of 365

Didn't have to dig in the dirt, didn't have to bend over, didn't have to go out in the cold wind or get pounded by graupel. (Graupel is like snow hail. It's not hard like hail, but is more like a snow pellet consistency.) I got to sit in my warm sewing room with the TV in the background and sew away. A perfect day.

Pillowcases for Quilts of Valor was my day's project.

The pillow cases for Quilts of Valor are for wounded soldiers. The cases are used to hold the soldiers quilt and are often used to transport medical and personal items as they are transferred to another hospital or home. I came across someone on quiltingboard. com that is collecting them so I decided to make some. I used the "sausage" pillowcase method that I watched here on YouTube. They go together quite fast and are easy to make. Doesn't take a lot of brainpower, just foot power!

I'll send them out on Monday and figure out a new project for tomorrow.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Day 16 of 365

"The new phone book's here! The new phone book's here!" says an excited Steve Martin in the movie The Jerk. If you haven't seen that scene before, it can be found on YouTube here.

I wanted to jump for joy today while saying, "The new strawberries are here, the new strawberries are here!", but I didn't (jump that is.) And we finally had a break in the weather today. It's looking like it might rain again this afternoon, but I (we) were able to get some planting done ahead of the storm.

Thank goodness for husbands sometimes! Even though he dug all the holes and helped me plant fifty (that's 50) strawberry plants, I sit here at the computer now barely able to move. My back is shot. I took loads of breaks, made sure I was careful while leaning over the strawberry beds, but it appears it still was not enough.

But in a few months I should be able to eat my favorite fruit. Delicious, sweet, bursting with flavor strawberries. As for now, it looks like a bed of dirt. But my back can attest that there are 50 bareroot strawberry plants waiting for the spring rain.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Day 15 of 365

From a commercial that plays multiple times a day:

 "With rheumatoid arthritis, it seems like your life is split in two. There’s the life you live and the life you want to live."

I agree with that.   

"Fortunately there's Enbrel.  
Enbrel can help relieve pain, stiffness, fatigue, and stop joint damage."

Sign me up! 

"Because Enbrel suppresses your immune system, it may lower your ability to fight infections. Serious, sometimes fatal events including infections, tuberculosis, lymphoma, and other cancers, and nervous system and blood disorders have occurred."

Just how desperate am I?

Pretty darn desperate. I had an appointment with the rheumatologist today. We are definitely starting this new injectable medicine - today. Blood work numbers were higher than they've ever been. My pain, swelling, and stiffness is keeping me from being functional. (Barely functional is where I'm at.) I post my pics every day, but usually what is seen in the picture is one of the only things I am able to accomplish for the day. I have more bad days than good right now, but I am really trying to keep positive and move forward. But some days it's just so darn hard!

So the first injection? In my right thigh. Did it hurt? It did sting. It takes 15 seconds for all of the medicine to inject, so that's a downside. The upside is that I may see relieve within two weeks.

And what does that $500+ single shot look like?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Day 14 of 365

Dick and Jane and my new camera are life long buddies.

My  new camera, my pretty blue new camera, needed a bag. A small bag. Something I could fit in my small purse. Being that I'm doing a picture every day for a year, I figure I can't take all my pictures of things around the house so I need to travel with my camera always. The other day in the mail I got what I thought was a free camera bag, but it wound up being some kit that can protect your camera in the water. I typically don't take my camera in the water with me, so it wasn't going to work.

I posted a few days back about having collected Dick and Jane fabrics and that I was trying to figure out what to do with them. On the quilting board that I visit it was suggested I do a bow tuck bag (something I'd never heard of but was very nice looking) or an apron or a quilt. I may still do any or all of those, but I came up with something that I needed (not just wanted) and am happy with how it turned out.

I originally made the bag out of some vibrant fabric I had, but then decided I should use my Dick and Jane fabric. I made a second bag and altered the pattern I had found on the internet a bit so that it provided a little more padding. Don't want to injure my pretty new blue camera!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day 13 of 365

Today is an anniversary of sorts.

One year ago today I had my knee replacement. One year ago, I had bones cut, my kneecap removed, and metal and cement put in its place. Because of my young age (44), the doctor had been trying to put it off as long as possible, even though it had gotten so bad I was having to use a cane. Younger folks have a tendency to be more active and wear replacements out earlier, making them more likely to have a subsequent replacement. So in younger patients they often try and put the surgery off and then use a more conservative procedure where not as much cement is used. That was the plan for me. However, once the doctor got into the surgery, the extend of damage required him to take the approached used on older folks and use lots of cement.

So now I might have 10 years - maybe 15 if I'm lucky - on this new knee before going through this again.

But that's not what I'm thinking about today. What I'm thinking about was the hope I had going into the surgery last year. The hope that the excruciating pain I had before surgery would go away. (It did.) The hope that I'd be able to walk without a cane again. (I can.) That I'd be able to get up and down as I worked in the garden. (I still can't.) But the pain is better. Much better.

Heading into that surgery, I was hoping for a better life. I would never have expected that the knee surgery wouldn't be my only surgery of the year. That two shoulder surgeries would still follow. And that a year later, I'd still be doing physical therapy (although it's shoulder PT).

And here and now, today on this anniversary day, I am still hoping for that better life.

But I know that hoping isn't going to get me there. I have a new knee and two new shoulders, but becoming the bionic woman isn't necessarily going to give me that better life. Worrying about what I cannot do won't get me there either. Focusing on what I can do? It might get me closer. What I can do is write. And document. And spend my days doing for others. And show that I have lived through the picture I take each day.

So I gave myself an anniversary present today. I purchased a new camera.

These last two weeks of pictures have been taken on an old, old, digital camera. One of the first digital cameras to come out, I'm sure. So now to prove to myself I am committed to this new life, this writing, this documentation, this doing for others, I am putting my money where my mouth is. It's a pretty blue Panasonic Lumix. Has a great zoom, video capabilities, and more that I have yet to discover.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Day 12 of 365

Today was a good news, bad news kind of day.

Good news at physical therapy. I'm progressing so well I don't have to go out to PT anymore.
Bad news - I have to do physical therapy at home.

Good news at work. I went in today and everyone was happy to see me.
Bad news - because of the supplemental levy not passing and the legislative funding, some teachers may be out of a job next year. Me included.

Good news at the doctor. No more surgeries for a little while.
Bad news - if I can't put both arms behind my back in six weeks I have to go back. (Frozen shoulder.)

Good news in the mail. Got a free camera case.
Bad news - bills came too.

The best news? That I can walk, I can talk, and I can drive. I'm an independent, living, breathing, person who is working on becoming a more appreciative, grateful person. A person who, after a long 18 months in a pain-induced, drug-induced stupor, is climbing out of the hole. Is fighting her way to the top.

And who finds joy in making and decorating cookies to share with others. Today's beneficiaries of my cookies were the physical therapist office and work. Sharing my work with others is a step in the right direction.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Day 11 of 365

Other than being in labor for 26 hours and winding up having an emergency c-section, my first pregnancy was uneventful.

That was until the nurse came in a few hours after our daughter was born and told me she was having seizures. Lots of seizures. Seizures they couldn't get under control. Seizures they couldn't handle at that hospital. Within 36 hours of my daughter being born, she was in an incubator, hooked up to tubes and lines, and in an ambulance on her way to another hospital, in another city, to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. And there I was, still lying in a hospital bed, unable to follow because I had a c-section.

She spent 10 days in intensive care. Most of it was in a drug induced coma. To stop her seizures she was given enough phenobarbital to keep her from waking up. Enough phenobarbital to keep her brain still as they searched for answers to the cause - was it an infection or brain injury? They were preparing us for the worst (severe brain damage) but helping us find the positives (she opened her eyes and nursed on day 8).

Day 10 she was sent home with a prescription of phenobarbital. They had given her such large doses to keep her in a coma she was now addicted. It took several months to wean her off.

We kept looking for those positives. Could she make sound? Yep. Could she crawl? Yep. Could she walk? Talk? Yep. Yep. Doctors were surprised at her progress. While they never found out why she had so many seizures, they were pretty confident she was going to have some type of brain damage from them. When it became obvious that she was "good to go", the pediatric neurologist shared that in cases like hers only 1 in 100 babies turns out "normal".

Our miracle baby. Now she's on her own, has a job, an apartment, and calls home every day. She comes home every few weeks and helps us out around the house with odd jobs. Is sometimes a pain in the behind, but mostly not.

Which brings me to today's picture. A couple in California had a premature baby that did not make it. Calling All Angels is a service project where they are giving back in memory of their child by donating blankets to a NICU for premature babies.

In memory of those parents around me in the NICU so many years ago, those parents who had children who did not survive, I am donating a quilt. A little girl quilt. I've been working on it for a week or so, and it's now ready to go.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Day 10 of 365

I grew up with Dick and Jane. And Sally, and Mother and Father, and Spot, and ...

I was one of those "advanced" students. Teachers didn't know what to do with me. I'd finish my work, then they'd give me more work. Harder work. I was considered a self-starter, independent. So most of my time in elementary school was spent working on worksheet after worksheet and workbook after workbook. Boring, and sometimes just a little too hard. But when I got to read Dick and Jane it was easy. I could read the same words about the same characters again and again and it was comforting, relaxing. 
When I started teaching 17 years ago, I never thought about Dick and Jane. Schools had moved on to other things, and those who grew up with Dick and Jane rarely talked about it because they were too busy teaching.

But now that I'm out of the school system, I've thought about Dick and Jane again. Maybe it's nostalgia, maybe it's looking back over my career and the changes that have been made in the way reading is taught. Maybe it's questioning the system. Or maybe I just have more time to think than I used to.

While perusing the sewing and fabric section of ebay a few months back, I came across Dick and Jane fabric. I didn't even know it existed! However, it was a bit expensive for my tastes. Since then I've been keeping an eye out for it. I've been buying some here and there - only if I can get a good deal on it. And today, my latest shipment arrived.

I pulled out my other pieces, and it looks as if I have enough for a quilt. Or a tote bag. Or even both. Oh, the possibilities!

I'm glad Dick and Jane are back in my life.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Day 9 of 365

It all started with the cat.

Kitty. Putty. Sissy. Depends on who is calling her.

Every year, my daughter asks for a new calendar for Christmas. She used to want Harry Potter, but for the last few years it has been a cat calendar. Now that she's living on her own in a different town and we have Kitty-Putty-Sissy staying here with us, we decided to create a calendar of her cat. A different picture of the cat every month with some cute caption.

The month of November I spent going through our pictures of the cat and finding ones that would match up for different times of the year. Her in the leaf pile in the fall, in the rose garden in the spring. I decided for December the cat should be under the Christmas tree. I waited until we put up the tree, took a quick picture of the cat under it (no presents under the tree yet), and took my film to a one hour photo.

When I picked up the pictures an hour later, much to my surprise the picture showed the cat under the tree with presents around her. Wait - are those our presents from last year? Yep. We have gone the entire year without needing to get film developed. An entire year of less than 24 pictures worth taking. What the heck happened?

Now, we're a family that traveled a lot when I was working. Been to all 50 states, cruised to Hawaii twice, cruised to Alaska three times. Sun Valley every year. Arizona for Spring Training. Las Vegas or Florida or Texas for Christmas. And during all those vacations, took lots and lots and lots - thousands - of pictures. Some days I would go through an entire roll of film. We have dozens of scrapbooks filled with pictures of the beautiful places we've been.

Except now that we're home, not traveling, we have nothing? Nothing to note, nothing worth capturing?

And that's what got me started thinking about this picture a day thing. A take-a-picture-every-day-to-see-that-you-have-lived kind of thing. I cannot and will not believe that my/our everyday life is not as important or noteworthy as any place we've visited. In our vacationing life, we have taken pictures of race cars, of baseball stadiums, of signs in gas station windows. And we must now have pictures of our real, non-vacation life. Daily pictures that might help me find the good in the day, that might help lead me back into the land of the living instead of the land of the existing. Thus began the documenting of my days.

And how's Kitty-Putty-Sissy doing? Today, she's hiding her eyes from the sun and sleeping away. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Day 8 of 365

So today I realized I do have to risk getting TB or lymphoma and start taking these crazy-expensive medications.

Yesterday, I had gone grocery shopping, to the drug store, Staples, physical therapy, and got a haircut. I kind of knew that was too much to cram into one day, but I did it. Today I attempted to do some work in the garden. We decided to plant strawberries this year, and since they've already been shipped, I needed to hustle to get the ground prepped. We're putting them in a terraced bed that we've used before for planting, so there isn't all that much to do to get the ground ready. Had to dig up some chives and a couple of peony roots, then had to take out some extra soil that overflowing into the lower terrace. I didn't quite get to do all that needed to be done. I dug a couple of the chives, tilled the soil a bit with the hoe, but that's about it. Thank goodness my daughter was here today - she had to do the rest. I probably spent a total of 15 minutes work; she spent at least 3 hours. My body just gave out.

Bending over picking up the chives hurt the back, raking hurt the shoulders, sitting down to take a break hurt the knees. Now tonight  I'm so close to popping myself a pain pill, but since it wasn't in my plans, I won't.

It is frustrating. Frustrating that my body has worn out. Frustrating that pain infuses each and every day. Frustrating that my life is not the same life I've known. But my mind is clear. And some days that's all I have.

In frustration, I headed into my sewing room, my haven of quiet, for an hour. I've been putting together some Concentration/Memory games made out of fabric. Today I finished up the ocean/beach themed ones, and made a little cloth carrying bag for it. I may put them on Etsy later, but for now, here's what it looks like:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Day 7 of 365

Finally got my car back today so I could make a run to the grocery store, the drug store, Staples, and of course, physical therapy.

The rheumatologist is starting me on some new injectable medication since my Methotrexate isn't doing the trick. I have to give myself shots weekly of this medication. Unfortunately, a couple of the possible side effects aren't pretty. I could get TB or lymphoma. In fact, I had to have a TB test and chest XRAY before being prescribed the medication.

I'm not thrilled about taking this new medication, but I'm getting in the desperate phase. I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis a little over a year ago. I knew I had a more general type of inflammatory arthritis several years back and was taking medication for that. However, with this newer diagnosis came more aggressive treatments. I've had blood work monthly, testing my inflammation level (among other things) and my numbers have always been high no matter what medication I've been taking. As the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis have increased over the last few months - the stiffness, the pain, the swelling of the joints - it's become clear we do need to take a different course of action.

In prepping to take it, the rheumatologist's office gave me information about getting some help with prescription costs because it's a pricey medicine. 

I picked up this new medication at the drug store today. Thank goodness I qualified for the prescription assistance. For one month of this medication it cost $2057.09. One month. Four shots. Can cause TB or lymphoma. Over $2000. I'm in shock. Such shock I don't even know what to say about that right now.

On a happier note, I also made a trip to Staples for some rebate items. I spent $38.12 on two packs of 500 sheet copy paper, one pack of 500 sheet bright colored paper, and two packs of pull and seal 100 count envelopes:

Total cost was $38.12. I can submit easy rebates for all five items. After rebate the copy paper is $1 per pack, the bright colored paper is $3 per pack, and the envelopes are free. $5 (plus tax) for $38.12 worth of supplies. Not bad.

And a better deal than injectable arthritis medicine.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Day 6 of 365

I have a TV in my sewing room and sometimes it's on and sometimes it's not. I think I'm watching too much TV right now, though. Entertainment news channels, CNN, and even NBC, CBS, and ABC have been running all this about Charlie Sheen right now. And then all the comics reaction to his rantings and ravings. And then the other comics doing impersonations of his rantings and ravings. When does it stop? Yes, I could turn the channel, but then I wind up seeing it on some other channel. Or, running into one of the Real Housewives shows. Is there anything left to watch?

Marcus Welby at 9 AM everyday - I am there. I just started watching Glee a few weeks ago. But my absolute favorite is The Office. Funniest show I've ever seen. (But I also said that about "Whose Line is it Anyway?" when it was on.) I began watching The Office when I was recovering from knee replacement surgery last year, but thanks to reruns (and now my own personal collection of every season) I'm all caught up. I heard today that they just wrapped filming on Steve Carrell's final episode. I'm interested in seeing where the show goes without him.

Even though I complain about TV, I really don't pay all that much attention to it - it's usually just noise in the background. Today I started working on a quilt to send to "Calling All Angels", a very sad but inspiring story. They need the quilts by the end of March, so I'm going to have to give up the Charlie Sheen story and get myself moving. I accomplished quite a bit today on the girl's quilt. I have the individual blocks together, but now need to put the rows together and go from there.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Day 5 of 365

I think I just got a free pass today.

I've been watching Nascar these last three weeks, and they keep talking about this "free pass" thing. As far as I can tell, it happens during a caution flag, and has something to do with pit road (or not). Ok, so I don't have a clue what it is, but when they talk about it, they make it sound like a good thing.

My free pass today? Well, I have no car until Wednesday so am at home with nowhere to go. Thought about maybe taking a walk (I really have to psych myself up to do that and conditions have to be perfect - no rain, no wind, not too cold). Even thought about walking to the post office to take my flag quilt top and coupons (see days 3 and 4). But I get up this morning and here's what I see. 
Here it is March, and my tulips are coming up, and we've got snow. And it seems to be to be a sign that I don't need to walk to the post office. Instead I stuck a ton of stamps on my envelopes and walked them across the street to mail them in our mailbox in the very slushy, wet, heavy snow. And it's still snowing.

So today will be spent in the house. No one is home, the cat is asleep, no tv, no radio, and it's very quiet outside. Looks like I have a free pass to read, to sew, to do whatever I want.

Monday's a good day for a free pass.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Day 4 of 365

After having hubby back home after him being away the last couple days, I realize how much less I get done when he's around. And how much less sleep I get (his snoring). I did get some biscuits made for breakfast, clipped the coupons from the Sunday paper, and watched NASCAR with him.

My biggest project of the day was going through my coupon binder and finding all the expired coupons I had. With me living with my daughter for several weeks while I recovered from shoulder surgery I didn't need to grocery shop. Hubby stayed here at home and mostly lived off our stockpile, so boy, did I have a pile of expired coupons.
I usually can't bring myself to toss them (although I admit I sometimes do). Today I divided them into food and non-food piles, bagged them, and have them ready to go out the door tomorrow to the Krazy Coupon Lady's Overseas Coupon Program in Boise. From there they go overseas to military families, where they are allowed to use the expired coupons in the commissary and PX/BX.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Day 3 of 365

Finally got a good night's sleep last night.

After a couple mornings up at 5 am, it was nice to be able to sleep in a bit. I've started trying to get myself into a routine upon waking up and it seems to be helping my back get moving a little better in the mornings. I go straight from bed to the lift chair.

Yeah, I'm young for a lift chair, but when I had my first rotator cuff repair back in July, it was where I slept. And with my knees and back the way they were/are, having the chair help me out was a good thing. It's not all that comfortable, is very noisy, and appears to be on its last legs. But for me in the mornings right now it works just fine. Being able to sit, then have the chair slowly move my legs up and tip me back - wow. I can feel it working on the back. I get the chair to recline me back as far as it will go (which isn't far), and sit there for a while. It hurts - bad - for about five minutes, but then after that the pain subsides. By about 20 minutes, I'm ready to get up and get some breakfast. Unfortunately, it doesn't help my hands, or shoulders, or knees, but having some relieve on the back is greatly appreciated. Of all the things going on, the back is the hardest to deal with when it hurts so much. So any relief I can get I'll take, even if it's just for a few minutes in the morning.

I did spend quite a bit of time in the sewing room today, working on folding and refolding fabric. I could see where it could be considered physical therapy for a shoulder. Arms up, down, over, across. The shoulders got a workout.

But there's something about fabric for me. I love the colors and patterns. I can't get enough. And I love to make things with fabric. But I think I spend more time organizing and reorganizing it more than anything. And I spend so much time starting projects before my last ones are finished.

However, I have one project getting ready to go out the door. I made a flag quilt top and haven't done anything with it. Haven't quilted it, haven't even picked out a backing. But when I was visiting, I came across a lady whose daughter will be returning from Afghanistan in September with eight others. The mom was wanting patriotic quilt blocks so that she could present a quilt to each returning soldier. So instead of a quilt block, I'm sending my entire quilt top. It's heading into the mail on Monday, and I feel good about being of service to others.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Day 2 of 365

Back again for Day 2 of my year-long picture-a-day project. Woo hooo! (Said with enthusiasm like Vicki from Real Housewives of Orange County.)

I do watch those Housewives shows on Bravo. And being on leave of absence from my 17 year long career, I now (temporarily?) consider myself a housewife, staying home taking care of things. But watching those shows makes me wonder what a housewife really is nowadays. Off the top of my head I can't think of any of the women on those shows who stay home and take care of the kids. They have a clothing or jewelry line, or are working on a book, or trying out a singing career. And not many of them are "wives". They're single or divorced, and some have had no kids or spouse ever. But, boy, do they bring the drama. How does that make you a housewife? I thought a benefit of being a housewife was the lack of drama - unless you count leaky faucets (which I dealt with this week) or sick kids.

As part of my housewife-ly activities today, I made M & M cookies. I was at Walgreens earlier this week and picked up a bag of M & Ms on sale with the intent of making them for hubby to take, but he opted for us to keep them at home. I don't know that in all our years together (that's 27ish years) I've ever made M & M cookies. Guess that housewife in me just couldn't resist this week! They're mighty yummy. I found the recipe here.

And my multiple pincushions from yesterday? I decided to put them on my new Etsy page.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Day 1 of 365

So the last 18 months have been rough.

First there was a back injury that make it difficult to do most daily activities. Then came the Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis. Total knee replacement surgery was next. Then, a root canal gone bad requiring gum surgery. Took a year's leave of absence from work to help expedite my healing. Broken finger. Torn rotator cuff in my right shoulder and subsequent surgery. Followed by torn rotator cuff in my left shoulder and subsequent surgery. I've spent 17 of the last 18 months (including this month) in physical therapy and have taken more pain medicine than a person should. Back issues still plague me, my knee doesn't bend completely, I still can't raise both arms above my head, and the chemotherapy medication I'm taking for the rheumatoid arthritis isn't improving my condition.

And I'm 45 years old.

Despite the fact that I have more bad days than good and my body is failing me, I am thankful.

I'm thankful for my family. For my husband who is now the breadwinner for the family. For my daughter who let me come live with her for my last surgical recovery. For the cat that climbs up on me when I'm not feeling so great. For the roof over my head. For the view of the river I have from my living room window. For being able to, on some days, do something that will benefit others. Collecting coupons to send to military families. Blankets for babies in the hospital. Cookies for my physical therapists.

But over these last 18 months I haven't felt so thankful. Out of work, in pain, struggling to get through each day.

But today that is going to change.

For the next year, I have a goal. A picture goal. A take-a-picture-every-day-to-see-that-you-have-lived kind of goal.

Every day, I will take a picture of something I did, created, saw that was interesting (or even boring), somewhere I went, or anything else I decide to capture at the time.

I don't know where this will lead me, but hope it will lead me back into the land of the living instead of the land of the existing.

My first picture? Some pincushions I've been working on these last couple days. I made eight, (what can I possibly do with eight?) but these four are my favorite.