Tuesday, December 31, 2013

30 Days and Counting

Well, that was a long break.  Longest I've taken in quite a while.  It's been hard, when the only thing I can really think to blog about is my dad.

My dad, who is still on a ventilator, and whose magical "30 days in ICU" coverage is about to expire.

Just like that, the financial security he's worked so hard for is gone.  His wife is talking about selling the house, except they've (mostly he's) hoarded so much stuff that it's not likely the place could be made sellable. Between cats, cigarettes, and junk, I can imagine just how bad it is.  Plus, it's not a great area.  Their mortgage is paid off, but refinancing won't touch this--at 14 days, they were already over 200,000 dollars in medical bills.  I don't say "medical costs" because we all know there's a big difference between what that shit COSTS and how much they BILL.

Medically, he's not improving as much as I wish he would.  They've still got him zonked out of his gourd with Versed, and still have him tied to the bed to keep him from tearing things out. Apparently, he keeps squirming down to the end of the bed, which has caused a large friction sore on his leg where he keeps pressing it against the railing.

What a mess.

I haven't told anyone in the family, and that's by request.  I'm not happy about it, and yet I can totally understand.  The fear that certain relatives would descend upon his wife and take what they can while he's incapacitated is not unreasonable.  Fact is, I'm the only child of his he wanted informed.  There's a reason for that.  I'm torn, I admit--part of me wants very much to tell people so they'll have their chance to make peace, if that's the way they want to go.

Except they can't--he's drugged to insensibility and on a ventilator.  There's no communicating anything, no making peace.

I'll find out in the next few days what happens next.  After the 30 days in ICU expires, he's got coverage for 45 days in a long-term care facility.  The nearest Veteran's place is 2 hours from his home.  What a total cock-up.


 Spent Christmas day and the day after in Sturbridge, Massachusetts.  Had Christmas dinner at the Publick House, then hit Higgins Armory Museum the next day.  Today is Higgins' last day ever--they close their doors for good tonight.  That is a tragedy, it's devastating.  If you never got there, you missed something amazing and magical.  There's never been another Higgins-type place in the States, and there likely never will be.  Thankfully, we got there early--the crowd was amazing, and the power went out in Worcester ten minutes after we left.  Imagine if we'd shown up late and had the power go out!  That would have broken our boy's heart.

I nearly cried in the gift shop.  Higgiins wasn't just a museum, it was an amazing mix of classroom and training, history and play, and the people who've worked there have really put themselves into it fully, and they're hurting.  I'm hurting for them.  And I'm hurting for the grandkids I don't even have yet who won't ever get the chance.


In addition to Higgins, we spent a little time in the Old Burying Ground in Sturbridge.  Would have spent more time, but it was 20 miserable degrees.  Who knew it got so cold in Massachusetts?  My first time there in the winter.  Now I know why I've stayed away.  I actually managed to hit my stride and warm up while photographing, but hubby wound up frozen to the core and hiding out in the car with the heater blasting.  I don't blame him--usually it's me, but when outdoors, I get that cold, then BURN of the extremities (Reynaud's, I believe it's called), which actually serves me pretty well in some situations.

On our way home, we hit two more cemeteries--East Norwalk and Mill Hill, though Mill Hill was a mistake--we'd meant to hit Pine Island, but missed.  Both cemeteries were for genealogy/family history purposes, as my mom's ancestors were original settlers in Norwalk.  Got a lot of good pictures, and even more bad ones.  Sad we missed Pine Island, but it turns out we're related to half the folks in Mill Hill, too.  Stopped in Philly on the way home for Pat's King of Steaks (our boy finally had one, after years of eating hot dogs there, and he loved it!), then wound up in traffic hell on the 95--all southbound lanes closed, they detoured us at a snail's pace in a huge loop out and around the accident.  Had to stop in DC for hubby to hit his office for something, then home.  Didn't get home until after midnight.


Here are some graveyard and road pics:

I figured her out, but it took some work!

Sturbridge Old Burying Ground

Frigid beach near Norwalk

Pretty nice for a rest stop parking lot near Hackensack.

And that's about it, I guess.  Well, except for a HUGE thumbs up for the folks in Utah who've managed to get married this past week!  Yes, the governor and his skeezy new AG will drop millions into fighting "gay marriage," but they are totally on the WRONG side of history here. Congratulations to my friends who've been married, and to my friends who've performed the marriages.  You're blazing new trails my friends.  Love you.

Monday, December 16, 2013

To What Purpose?

Here we are, 12 days out, and my dad is still on a ventilator.  Vague promises of weaning him off, but fact is, he's still having food jammed down a tube.

Did I tell you they knocked out one of his teeth while intubating him?  His wife was very concerned, didn't know where the tooth had gone.  Feared he may have swallowed it.  Which is probably the case.

Things sort of blend together, so I don't know if I mentioned he's been moved to a long-term care facility. Step-mom doesn't think he's being "warehoused."  But then again, she thought he'd be home last weekend, too.

She wants to call today, in ten minutes, in fact, so I can "take part" in a meeting with doctors and nurses.  I have no idea what use I may be.  Considering they've got that crap-assed "VOIP"-type phone service, all cut-outs and blank spots and echos and voices cancelling each other, I get the feeling this is going to be a total wash.  What do I ask (provided they can hear me)?

Are you warehousing my father?

How many tens (or even hundreds) of thousands has 12 days of ICU already chewed through?  Have you bankrupted him yet?

Is he ever going to be able to be HIM again?

Is he going to go home in anything but a wheelchair or an urn?

If his lungs look good, his heart function is improving, and his color improved, why do you still have him sedated out of his gourd and on a vent?

What were the results of the CT scan you performed two days ago?

Really, that last one is the only one for which I can imagine getting a real answer.

He is never going to recover from this--it goes against everything he's cobbled onto that bullshit facade of his. That "I'm healthy as a horse (hack, hack, hack), I don't need to see a 'mechanic,' I'm the strong one in this marriage/family/neighborhood/town" crap.  And it is crap, and I've always recognized it as such.  But I had no idea he had a umbilical hernia so large it affected his pants size (I have one, too, but mines about the size of the end of my thumb, and I've had it for 16 years).  Apparently, NO ONE knew he was diabetic. I'd asked about it, but he always made it sound like diabetes was something that happened to sloppy fat people (like me), not to strong, healthy guys like him.

Except, it turns out, my dad is weighing in at over 250 pounds. And, while he likes to brag he's 6+ feet tall, fact is, he is not.  Closer to 5'9.  I was struck by how NOT tall he is when I saw him back in 2003.  I can't imagine he's gotten taller.

Just got off the phone.  It's sounding like the ventilator may be a "forever" thing.    It's already been 12+ days, and he's still at 20/60%.  So it's time to look at a tracheostomy.  While the doctor did say that doesn't necessarily have to be a permanent thing, fact is, he sounded like he was talking permanent.

Thankfully, my medical jargon filter is still mostly intact.  Here's a refresher.

What a mess.  Apparently, "Lungs look good" was something they said to my step-mom to reassure her that the didn't find any clots or cancer.  Fact is, his lungs look like utter trash--severe edema, and the nether regions utterly worthless, at least right now.  "Air space issues," the doctor said.  He's on Lasix, and I did ask to make sure that the Lasix is entirely for the edema and not for blood pressure problems.  It is.

Here's a little something about Lasix and pulmonary edema, if you're curious.

In the blink of an eye, huh?  Just two weeks ago, he was, in his own mind, strong as an ox.  Now his wife is having to bend his arms and legs and they're working to keep him safe from bedsores.  He hasn't been able to speak for almost 13 days.

His wife says he smiled when he heard my voice.  That's something, isn't it?

If you're still smoking, stop.  Because this is what you have to look forward to.

I don't see how he's going to survive this.


Back to a little bit of regular blogging--we bought an incredibly sad, ugly tree. It's not as hideous as the Charlie Brown trees, but it's pretty sad.  But it was cheap, and cheap is important right now.  Maybe decorations will perk it up.

Our trip to Higgins for that one, last time (they close forever December 31st) is going to be . . . miserable.  Hubby's boss wouldn't let him take an extra day (even though he's got "use or lose" leave out the backside), so we're going to have to drive for 7 hours, stay one night, hit Higgins the  next morning, then drive BACK another 7 hours.  That sounds like pure hell to me.  We'll be taking the dog and, because it's so cold in Massachusetts, we'll have to take turns going out to the car and running it to keep him warm.

Doesn't that sound fun?

Prepping for the "pre-surgical" appointment for my biopsy.  They moved the physical up by 2 weeks, not happy about that.  Gearing up for the "statins and metformin" battle.  Because doctors aren't happy if they can throw drugs at you, and the more often they can make you come in, the more money they can get from the HMO.  Do I sound jaded?  That's because I am.  I am so close to canceling this biopsy entirely.  Four physician copays plus the surgical center copay, Plus any scripts.  

Plus anything that goes wrong.

I'm scared to death that this guy's idea of a biopsy is different from mine.  Markedly different.  He wants to put me under with Versed.

Same stuff they're using to keep my dad sedated with the ventilator.

And the final bit of fun?

I think that root canal is failing.  In fact, I feel pretty confident of it.  And our insurance won't cover a "retreatment" until 12 months have passed.

So I'm likely losing that tooth.  After sinking 500 bucks into it.  Let's hope it doesn't take the other teeth around it with it when it goes.

Oh, and one last, funny thing.  I think I got "out-atheisted" at the Christmas tree lot last night.  Guy handed us our ugly tree, and I said, "Merry Christmas."  Because hey, no skin off mine and I felt pretty confident of my audience--North Carolina hills tree farm?  Guy paused for a moment, and then said, "Happy Holidays to you, too."

Hmm.  Either I miscalculated, or he's been told not to offend anyone by being non-specific.  Either way, I felt I'd been outdone.

So hey, Fancy Festivus, huh?  Snappy Saturnalia, too!  Yummy Yuletide!

Or whatever does it for you.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Positivity Diminished

My step-mother's optimistic predictions of "home by the weekend" have fallen hard by the wayside.  My dad's been transferred to a "long-term care facility" that specializes in weaning people off respiratory assistance devices and getting them moving again.  My dad is still intubated, still on a ventilator.

And still sedated, though he appears to watch television for long periods.

My step-mother is now making "five or six weeks" noises.  But fact is, she has no idea.

On the bright side, he hasn't had a smoke in nine days.

On the not-so-bright side, their home is a hoarder's paradise.  Like stacks so high you have to shimmy along the wall in some rooms.  I have no idea how this is going to work out.  But if he recovers enough to come home, he's going to utterly lose cohesion.  At least if she goes through with her plan to call in a cleaning company before he comes home.

Let's hope their long-term care insurance is as good as its promises.


Speaking of health care and the like, I'm a hair away from canceling the biopsy for my arm.  The stinking hoops they're putting me through for a BIOPSY.  They want full blood work (CBC and CMP) an EKG, and they want to knock me out for it!


Which means another appointment with the orthopedist (35 bucks), an appointment with my PCP (25 bucks), the surgery center (100 bucks), another appointment with the orthopedist (35 bucks), then ANOTHER appointment with the orthopedist (35 bucks).  

Plus, the PCP's office made me move up my appointment by two weeks so that they'll have time to "refer me to a specialist," should anything be wrong with  my bloodwork.

A specialist?  How about a screw all y'all, this whole mess is OFF-alist?  

I hate to sound all crotchety and stuff, but it's a racket.  I'm tellin' ya.  I've had 42 medical appointments in 2 years, and most of it has been utterly unproductive and unhelpful.  

And devastatingly expensive.

I don't imaging this "pre-surgical physical" is going to go anything but badly, because I WILL not then schedule a 'regular physical' afterwards.  Blow me--a CBC, a CMP, and an EKG?  That is ALL you need from me for a year.  It's your job to advise me, but it's MY job to decide what to do with that advice.  And maybe, just maybe, what I want to do with that advice is . . . nothing.

Let me go to hell the way I want to.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

We used to have a name for this

Back when we were young and uncouth and terribly lacking in tact.  


My Dad isn't dead.  But he's 76 years old, been in ICU (listed as "critical") for six days now, and he's still intubated.  Talking to my step-mother, I discover that he's been winded and struggling for a long while now--a couple of years, at least.  He'll almost certainly try to pin this on something other than smoking, because that's what addicts do.  I know, I was one.  He'll blame it on the bug bombs, he'll blame it on some respiratory bug.

If he ever gets the chance to talk again, that is.

His eyes are open sometimes now, but she says he seems to be pointedly refusing to look at her. Maybe embarrassment, maybe fear.  He's painted himself the strong champion of the relationship, and maybe finding himself in the role of her last two husbands who died long and hard in hospital is more than his ego can take.  That he's intimately familiar with just how horrible that was for her (and them) is hanging him up.

Or maybe he's not as with it as she thinks he is.  She did say that one tear came out of his eye yesterday.

She's suddenly talking about how she thinks he'll be home for the weekend.  I'm not sure why she's that abruptly and wildly optimistic--nothing the doctors have said would seem to call for it.  And if he DOES make it home, fact is he's a 76-year-old man who has chain-smoked for 65 years,  is now 70 pounds overweight, has a heart that's only pumping at a fraction of capacity, and has been suffering from undiagnosed diabetes for who knows HOW long.

The only way this works is if he gets it in his head to redirect himself and make a new start.  And that's if he ever recovers enough to get home.  He's a determined guy when he sets his mind to something, but convincing him that not smoking and not eating whatever he desires is something he WANTS is a whole 'nother animal.  I can see him going down in a Zippo blaze of menthols and Philly cheesesteak.

Cross your fingers.  It won't help anything, but it'll make me happy to think you cared enough to take that moment. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

I think my Dad is dying

He's in hospital, congestive heart failure, heart attack, and wildly uncontrolled (and, until now, undiagnosed) diabetes.  If he dies, the whole family, who has not just written him off, but has actively hated him, will descend upon his widow like a swarm of blow flies.  I can't even post to Facebook about this because there are family members who might see it and then make it their special task to head down there and turn things upside down.

And I can't afford to get down there.  I spoke to him the night before they took him in, and he sounded so awful.  I was pleading with him to see a doctor--a "mechanic" as he calls them.  Had him talked into it, I thought, he spoke of the new little clinic down the road and how he'd been wondering how they were.  That night, he found himself so winded that he was turning blue.  My step-mom called an ambulance, and he's been unconscious since.  Intubated, on a ventilator, in ICU, critical condition.  They knocked one of his teeth out intubating him.  His wife sits with him, reads his beloved New Yorker to him.

They say his heart's pumping at about 10% capacity.

My Dad is going to die.  I'm not feeling at all optimistic.  And if he does, I have no way to get my little family to Georgia to help my step-mom.  No way to get down there to keep her safe from them.

Unless we cancel Christmas.  We'd planned on spending one night in the cheap little motor lodge in Sturbridge, Massachusetts so that our boy could go to Higgins Armory one last time before it closes forever (at the end of this month).  We have scrimped for that, planned to drive the 400+ miles just so he could have that one last trip.  It's THE Christmas gift for all of us.  One night in a cheap  motor lodge, one day at Higgins Armory.

I could cry more, but I fear my heart would flip into full arrhythmia mode.

What I wouldn't give for a "Secret Santa" this year.  Just one with three round-trip train tickets to Atlanta and a few bucks to keep us fed on the way.  I don't know how to ask for help, I don't know how to ask people to give.  But man, it is shaping up to be a miserably bad Christmas.  A devastating one.

I love you, Dad.  Please come back from this.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Chronicling the Dead Keeps my Mind off the Living

I've been doing all things grave-y lately.  A lot of family history stuff, including scanning old family photos and letters.  I've probably said this before, but I'm going to say it again:

Mark your photographs!

Seriously!  We have stacks of unmarked photos that we'll NEVER really know who they were. We've had a little luck comparing them with records on the LDS Family Search site, but most of them are of folks whose identities are lost.  DON'T do that!

Here are a couple examples:

Zero clue, probably taken in Camden or Philly, 1930s, maybe?

Zero clue--we all agree the lady down front right looks like she could be related.

And my husband's side of the family is no better.  Most of them are more easily traced than mine, but they, too, have a crappy habit of not marking photos:

Mormon Missionaries, one of whom is a relative 
So we know where it was taken, but not who it is.

And then there's this amazing gem:

An actual tintype.  It's not in good shape, I had to "fix" her cheek in Photoshop because a chunk is missing.



In addition to the family history thing, we've been visiting local cemeteries.  Some of the stones, especially the hand carved ones, are really wrenching.  All backward letters and misspelled words and heart.  So much heart.

Plus, I've been cataloguing some English and Welsh cemeteries as I come across the headstones online.  I started in Herefordshire, hoping to come across something related to my husband's family, but got caught up in the history of it.  I now know that the Caroline Spooner was the largest Barque ever built at Aberystwyth.  That's "A-bur-uh-stew-uth."

If only someone would pay me to archive stuff like this.  Because I'm good at it, I love doing it (I do it for FUN), and it's important.  Except most folks don't think it is important.



Speaking of cemeteries, headstones, and the like, I've been noticing how, even in death, women are marginalized, they're minimized, they're lost to history because, so often, their "maiden" names are not included on the headstone.  So Margaret Griffiths gets married, becomes Margaret Davies, but her headstone only reads "Margaret Davies," or worse "Margaret, wife of Hugh Davies."  

Like she's just an aside, an afterthought.  As though she never was anything but an extension of the man she married.  Descendants run up against brick walls when trying to trace the women in their family's history.  Maybe, if they're lucky, they'll find a church record or census that relays the woman's birth name, but, often as not, that doesn't happen. 

That's got me thinking just how incredibly sexist the whole idea of "maiden name" versus "married name" really is.  Like a woman belongs to her father until some man takes her, renames her, and turns her from "maiden" to "matron." The historic meaning of "maiden" makes this glaringly obvious.  


A big "I wouldn't piss on your face if your teeth were on fire" shout out to those teabaggers on Capital Hill who have, once again, decided to slash my husband's transit benefit.  That's another 50+ bucks a month gone, though they've INCREASED the parking benefit (which we don't receive).  In other words, they're doing what they can to reduce ridership on mass transit so they can then claim that mass transit, which isn't supposed to "turn a profit" anyway, isn't turning a profit.  So they can slash mass transit funding.  So their buddies in the oil industry make more money off the increased number of cars on the road in an already devastatingly traffic congested area.

And they think we don't know what they're up to.  These are the same guys who squeal about some dead birds at wind farms, while protesting the fines levied against British Petroleum for oil spills that killed millions of birds and fish.

Luckily, they're going to give my husband his first raise in four years.


Mmm hmm.  You can torch your damned teeth any ol' time, guys.


Still wandering around with a temporary crown in my face.  Which has the other side, where I have no molars, raw and sad because that's where I've been chewing.  Scared to death that, despite all the assurances that we have enough credit with the dentist's office to more than cover this, I'm going to go in on the ninth and be told I owe.

We have no money.  Seriously, none.  Which is why I was so careful to confirm, repeatedly, that this would carry no out-of-pocket cost to us.  But I'm scared.  Scared I'm going to utterly explode on them if they try to hold my permanent crown hostage in return for payment they said wouldn't be due.


I'm going to close with a picture of a tree.  Because we live in a place with great trees.  Trees that dwarf and put to shame those sad, scraggly things in Utah.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving, Don't Forget the Headshot!

So, it's Thanksgiving, and what's going through my head?

Well, it goes something like this:  If the zombie apocalypse goes down in a Walking Dead fashion, then we'll no longer play Taps at funerals.  Instead, we'll play DOUBLE TAPS!

Get it?  Instead of firing rifles into the air as a salute, we'll fire into the dearly departed's head.

Ew.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Hey, I didn't get to sleep until after 4 am last night.  Because of my rededication to genealogy/family history.  We were hugely into it back in the late 1990s, and we've really thrown ourselves back into it.  I think photographing cemeteries did it, really.  Made us want to take another look at our own dead folks.

And boy, has genealogy changed in the past 15 years!

I confess, I am a little bothered handing our family information over to the LDS Church, considering the craziness they get up to with this stuff, but then I remember my husband and my sister were both baptized into that church decades ago.  Any "baptizing for the dead" insanity they were going to indulge in?  They already have.  And they ARE an amazing source of information, and they're generous with it, too.  So score one for the Mormons.

Now, if we could just get people to stop listing dubious connections borne of wishful thinking when it comes to recording familial connections!  I swear, I scream every time I come across yet another child born three years before his parents or another woman bearing children in her 70s because, hey, close enough!

Here, here's someone we can't ID.  Gentleman was probably from the Philly area, appears to be a WWII shot?  I say Philly because this picture was in with my family's stuff, and my family is mostly from the Philly/Camden area.


Homemade pumpkin pie this year--made from a real, live pumpkin, even!  It wasn't hard, prepping the pumpkin, and I think it's going to be the very best ever.  Hubby made one of his amazing homemade cheesecakes, too.  Here's a pic of last year's:

I expect this year's to be at least as good!


Back to the genealogy?  I've discovered a treasure trove of truly bad names in my husband's family.  Here are a few:



Not a lot else to say--busy day!  I hope everyone out there has a marvelous and wonderful and peaceful Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Filibuster THIS, Babe!

So.  Dentistry.  Amazing, we allow people to do that to us.  Am I the only person who stares at the ceiling in the dentist's chair and thinks "what the hell am I doing, it is insane, it is absolutely against human nature to sit here calmly and allow this!"

I went in for a "consultation" this past Monday.  Even though they couldn't see anything untoward on the x-rays, and the tooth had stopped hurting a week earlier (but still felt "odd"), the "make it hurt with chemical cold" test showed the tooth wasn't responding the way it should.  The doctor's claim that the nerve was "dead or dying," however, proved to be a bit misleading.  If a "dead or dying" nerve can cause that much damnable agony through a half-gallon of novocaine, then I cringe to think what a "live and kicking" nerve could do.

The dentist (a very handsome guy who looks and sounds like Gaeta from BSG) really wanted to do a root canal.

Not really my dentist, but pretty danged close!

He kept saying he didn't want to push, but fact was, he pushed.  I had them running back and forth to the front desk, ensuring that this wasn't going to cost me a dime (that available credit needed to cover it entirely).  And that was the consensus--my available credit more than covers it.  

So I agreed.  Mostly because I want to use that credit before they decide I don't actually HAVE it.

He said he could do it right then.  Which was a little shocking, considering it took three months just to get an initial appointment in this place.

Things turned difficult pretty quickly.  Like is often the case, my roots were curved.  He said "maybe we should send you to an endodontist," and I said "No money for that."  So we forged forward.

This wasn't my first root canal (I had one about 7 years ago), but it was my most painful.  One canal "blind," partially calcified and the nerve hard to get to.  Office didn't have the right sized file (he needed white, and they didn't have it, though they ordered one asap)..  Long story short?

Four-and-a-half hours of drilling and x-rays and mouth wide open.  And pain.

Holy shit, pain.  Absolutely, by far, the worst dental pain I've ever suffered, and I've suffered a lot.

Four-and-a-half hours, and he couldn't finish.  Other patients being shuffled off onto other dentists so he could put that much time into it.  I wound up going home with a cobbled together temporary filling and two scripts--one for antibiotics (which are thrashing my belly) and one for Vicodin, which is of zero use. Not sure why folks get hooked on it, unless they're taking superbly high doses.  Made an appointment for yesterday to (hopefully) finish, and spent three days eating soft, mushy things because I don't have any molars on the other side to chew with.

Back yesterday, finished up.  Another three-and-a-half hours.  Same dentist because I requested it--I'm sick of the "fast food/assembly line" dentistry where I get a different doctor every time.  I like this guy, even if he did burn my lip twice.  He listens, he pays attention, he actually reads my file, and he put a hell of a lot of effort into this--more than most dentists there would have.  He's new in the office, and, honestly, I think he's a poor fit--the other dentists come across as employees (which they are--this is a "one main, older dentist running a stable of fresh-out-of-school dentists" situation), whereas this guy comes across as a dentist.  He'll have his own office sooner rather than later, I'm thinking.

That his name is a Doctor Who reference?


So now I have a temp crown for two weeks, during which time I'm not supposed to eat on that side of my head.  Gonna make Thanksgiving interesting.  On the "bright" side, it does make me eat a LOT slower.  Ever gummed a Builder's Bar?  Takes a while.

Hopefully, this root canal will take.  If it doesn't, I'm going to feel super-stupid having blown that credit on a root canal instead of an extraction and bridge.


Our latest foray into cemetery photographing took us to an old Civil War era graveyard.  Came across something I'd like to discuss.  A "road to hell" thing.

Don't do that.  If you're not an expert on repairing old headstones, don't whip out the damned GORILLA GLUE and do THIS.  Whoever did this made no effort to mask the lower half of the stone or even to remove the excess before it set/bonded.  There's no getting it off now without chipping away at the stone.  I'm sure the person who did this thought they were doing a good thing, but fact is, they were screwing up.  The road to vandalism is paved with good intentions?  In this case, definitely.

Photographing these cemeteries has put me out on various family history and gravestone sites, which has, in turn, reawakened my interest in our own family's history.  I've discovered a lot about my own family, including stuff I had no idea about.  Like my Great-Grandfather Philip dying in the state penitentiary of TB, which explains why Great-Grandma remarried.  And what Philip did to wind up in prison?

Explains pretty much everything about Grandma Mary's psychological makeup.

Great-Grandfather Philip

My little sister hit basic training camp two weeks ago.  I got my first letter from her a couple of days ago.  She wrote so small I had to put on my old lady reading glasses to make sense of  it.  She is MARKEDLY younger than I am.  In fact, I am literally (and I mean "literally" LITERALLY) old enough to be her mother.  Her writing will get bigger as her inability to read that small print comes on with age, I'm sure.   Anyway, she's in basic training, Army.  I'm not at all happy about it, would almost certainly have tried to talk her out of it, had I any advance warning, but she sprung it on me after the fact--she'd already enlisted.

Enlisted.  A Specialist.  I'm hoping she shoots for Officer Training.  With a six-year enlistment, she should make the most of it.  I also hope she stays safe.  As a woman in the military, she has more to worry about from her male counterparts than from any enemy combatants.  Our military members rape and abuse female soldiers with impunity.

I'm only just getting to know her, and I like what I'm finding.  She's smart, practical, pragmatic, and funny.  She (along with her siblings) comes from our dad's second marriage. Her mom was "the other woman" (or ONE of the "other women," actually) in my mom's marriage.  She loves her mom, and so I don't ever say anything, but recently her sister (my other little sister) went nutty on our dad's newest wife--the one he left their mom for, calling her a slut, a whore, a homewrecker, etc.  It was all I could do to keep from saying, "Yeah, sucks, doesn't it, when some other woman gets involved with your mom's husband and destroys the marriage?"  

Glass houses, but fact is, it's not my little sister who lives in that glass house.  I'm not going to smack her for not recognizing that her own mother did to my family exactly what the new wife did to hers.  She's not likely to see the parallels at this point in her life.  Maybe in 20 years.

I have no hard feelings . . . mostly.  I do have to compartmentalize, though--bitter past experience has left me no love for women who knowingly dally with married men.  I don't tend to use terms like "whore/slut/tramp/slag," but when I do, I am, without fail, referring to women who have sex with other women's husbands, knowing they're married.

Anyway, my beautiful little sister.  I hope this works for her, I hope she gets out of it what she's looking for.  I hope she's safe, happy, and comes out of it the person she wants to be.


Not much to say, politically, except this:

Came across a particularly silly Utah name today.  It would be silly regardless of gender, but this was a man's name, and that made it all the more ridiculous.  The name?


I know, right?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

If it Weren't for Bad Luck . . .

Trying to be positive.  Trying to be upbeat.  Trying to view this as "good news" rather than another damnable disaster in an endless series of them.

How about the "good news" first?

I was poring over the bills from my dental crown appointment last July.  After some head-scratching and math-doing, I came to the conclusion that our dentist overcharged us by $518.50. The math goes something like this:

Practical upshot?  Our dentist owed us $518.50.

Hubby didn't want to go along with it.  He figured that the "contracted fee for procedure" only meant that the dentist couldn't charge US any more than that, but that supplemental insurance could be nailed for as much as they could get.  

I disagreed.

So, after spending the morning on the phone with both insurance companies, neither of which was a lick of help, I insisted we head to the dentist's office.

I walked in calm and friendly, stating I had an issue with charges from my last visit.  Hubby and I were quickly brought to the billing office, where a lovely Russian woman, their head of billing, took a look at my paperwork.  She pulled up the account and immediately said "We owe you money, you have a credit here."  But then, as she dug deeper and deeper, her tone changed.  She kept saying things like "Oh, my," and "Oh, no."  And then she said, "I'm going to have to call to confirm your insurance, but it appears we owe you a lot of money."

$579.00, to be exact.

After hassling much longer than was pleasant with our insurer (who, on the first two calls, denied I have any dental plan at all), it was all hammered out.  With our lovely Russian billing manager asking if we wanted a check or credit.

Of course, I wanted a check.  This would pay off a credit card.  This would pay for our boy's promised keyboard AND the mandolin.  Only one problem.

There's something wrong with my upper left first bicuspid.  Something really wrong.

The pain started just a few days before this windfall.  It was an unfocused, all over face pain (as dental pain often is), with the pain searing through the maxilla, the TMJ, and often down into the mandible and through the ear.  It wasn't a constant pain, but rather a sometimes thing that seemed to be triggered by cold, whether it be food or outside temperatures.  I've suffered a like pain before, and had an ENT chalk it up to stress and throw muscle relaxants at me.  I've been pretty solidly stressed, so I decided to sit on it.

And then I found the source of the pain.

I stuck a finger in my mouth and ran it along the upper gum.  When I got to the spot right under the cheek bone and right above that bicuspid and pushed, there was a sharp, searing pain down through the tooth and up through the cheek.  To confirm (because I just had a crown done two teeth farther along), I tapped each tooth with my fingernail.  No problem with the two molars and second bicuspid, but when I tapped that first bicuspid, I was once again treated to wowser pain.

Understand, this bicuspid has a history.  Back in 2004 (a few dentists and 2,000+ miles away), I broke it almost perfectly in half.  I had been eating a treat and came down hard on a large chunk of walnut shell.  The tooth snapped.  It was my first time (and, hopefully only) seeing the inside of a tooth.  All pulpy and stringy and dentin-y.  This happened the night before my family was hopping a plane for SoCal and Disneyland.  Our flight was scheduled to leave at 7:30 am.  The tickets were bottom-of-the-barrel, no rescheduling, no refund-types.  And so I climbed on that plane with a broken-in-half bicuspid and off we went for the very worst vacation of my life.

And that wasn't because of the tooth. The tooth was just icing.

I couldn't see a dentist while there because our insurance swore they'd nail me with "out--of-network" charges that we couldn't afford.  They didn't consider a broken-in-half bicuspid a dental "emergency."  And so I took my Ibuprofen every six hours and I tried not to whine too much.

When I saw my dentist, his first words were "This has been open for over a week?  This is a root canal, I'm sorry."

My answer, of course, was that we couldn't afford a root canal, so if that was the only option, he was going to have to pull it.  

His name was Michael Blamires, and he decided to do his best to patch the tooth, creating a second point and protective cover with resin.  He told me that he couldn't make any promises, that, with the tooth having been open for over a week, it would probably develop an infection or decay from the inside out.  He said I might get five days, I might get a year.  Hopefully, enough time to save up for a root canal.

That was nine years ago.  So, thank you, Dr. Blamires.  You did a truly amazing job, and I've sung your praises to every dentist I've met since.  

Now, not being a dentist myself, I'm not sure it's the bicuspid, and I'm not sure I'm looking at a full root canal with crown and build up.  But I probably am.  And if I am?

That $579.00 will almost cover it.

I'm trying to look at this as a stroke of luck, since the tooth was hurting and suddenly, BAM!  I have almost 600 bucks of credit with the dentist.  But it really does feel like just another kick in the ass.  Another case of life thumbing its nose and making even my good luck bad.  


Speaking of bad luck, remember how suspicious I was of the whole "car only needs to be inspected every two years" thing?  How I called the DMV to confirm, kept asking, "I know that's true for the emissions, but the safety inspection, too?"  And how happy I was that the DMV confirmed?

And was wrong, it turns out.

Hubby stepped out last Saturday morning to take our boy to Hapkido and there it was.  A giant orange sticker on the driver's side window, letting us know we had 48 hours to get the car inspected.   That's 48 hours from 3 am Saturday morning.  That threw the day's plans into disarray as we scrambled to find a inspection station that would see us.  We found one, dropped the 16 bucks.

And then dropped the $140 for the new battery.

Yeah, it's great that we had $140.  We'd been planning on using that to treat ourselves to a meal in Shenandoah National Park.

Again, I guess it's "lucky" we had the cash.  But barely keeping our noses above water somehow doesn't feel "lucky."  It feels endlessly exhausting.


So, have you been following the Obenshain vs Herring debacle in Virginia?  Are you as tiredly unsurprised by the smug, grinning gall of the republicans?  Changing the rules for counting provisional ballots AFTER the election and ONLY in heavily democrat Fairfax County?  I wish I could say I was stunned, shocked, or otherwise caught off guard, but fact is, the moment they said we were trucking toward a recount, I said "Oh, well, we already know about republicans and recounts.  Let's see what scuzz-baggery they pull out of their sleeves."

Never ones to disappoint, the republicans pulled THIS CHICANERY.

Not sure what they are, but I refuse to believe they're Americans.  If I believe that, then I have to wonder what on earth I'm doing here.


I've spent the past couple of weekends photographing cemeteries to record the headstones.  I find it incredibly rewarding, strolling through cemeteries, sitting down and poring over stones (or photos of them) and deciphering them.  Some are very old--1700s.  You know me and my "I don't want dead folks to be forgotten" hangup.  So this is satisfying.  I feel like I'm doing something worthwhile. Plus, I've come across some wonderful historical things that make my day--like the woman who freed her slaves in her will back in 1855, or the guy who died during one of Lysander Cutler's raids in Louisa County.  I already knew Lysander from his role in Second Manassas at Brawner's Farm. It was amazing to find that link there in that tiny little cemetery out at the end of a dirt road.

Here are some pics--not of individual headstones, but of the cemeteries in general:

Some might call it "ghoulish" or assume I've some dippy Goth thing going on, but that's not it.  I love cemeteries because they're beautiful.  They're home to the last, loving tributes to people who AREN'T anymore, people who WERE, and that makes them incredibly special.  They're history, memory, and love all wrapped up in a wonderful natural setting.  If you have a good digital camera, a pen and notebook, and an afternoon, take the time to hit your local boneyards.  Photograph each stone with an eye for clarity of inscription and shape of stone.  Then hit Find-a-Grave and go to work.  A lot of those stones are already photographed/catalogued, but your picture might be better, it might be clearer or be from a different angle that will help folks trying to decipher them.

Do it.  These stones aren't forever, and some are fading fast.  And please, don't use shaving cream or other harsh chemicals to highlight the inscriptions.  Instead, try water (or snow, if it's winter), light, mirrors (to redirect sunlight and play up shadows) or, as a last resort, talc or fine-ground flour. Not talcum baby powder (which has stearic asid in it), but pure talc.   I've never used anything, but I've seen some amazing results with these techniques, so you should look it up if you're interested.


And that's about it.  Here, have some interesting Utah names:

  • LaReta
  • Ranada
  • Ensign
  • Eris
  • ADonna
  • Rulon
  • JoOnna
  • Winda

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Life and Death

So, we have this lovely pond/flood retention area not too far from our place.  It's an amazing spot, attracts herons, ducks, geese, birds of prey, is full of "spring peepers" and bull frogs, and even has its own fox.

Oh, did.  Hang on, let me start again.

We HAD this lovely pond/flood retention area not too far from our place, read above.  About a month ago, authorities came in and bulldozed/backhoed/shredded to bits this pond, tearing out all the vegetation and hollowing out deep pools with strips of land between them.  And then went in the hundreds of perforated "pipes," a couple of inches in diameter and three or so feet tall.  And then hundreds of little plants (that I'm assuming are inside those pipes now), along with "scare geese."  You know, like scarecrows, except these are tin FOXES meant to keep the birds away.  It works.  These black, tin foxes keep this area absolutely free of birds.

The irony, of course, is that they destroyed the habitat needed by the real fox so they could put in fake ones.

I also find myself wondering how our peepers and bullfrogs will fare.  I'm not sure these pictures truly capture the scope of the devastation here--everything is gone.  Maybe something better will sprout in its place, but right now I'm feeling like they leveled something lovely and replaced it with a pale imitation complete with tin wildlife.


I came across some bit from a rather popular celebrity the other day.  I've had precious little use for the woman or her words since she spewed a wave of anti-Palestinian invective years back.  Using a thousands-year-old religious tome to draw modern political boundaries is, in all ways, ridiculous, regardless of the tome. Laughable. To (rightfully) decry the horrors visited upon your own people while visiting horror upon those whose lands you illegally occupy?  Hypocritical and sickening.  To support the destruction of homes, the theft of land, the occupation and oppression of a people while calling those who dare fight back "terrorists?"


To then proclaim yourself a champion of girls?  A hero dedicated to empowering young women?  A spokesperson for organizations seeking to address such issues as education, clean water, sanitation, health, livelihood, and agricultural/food security?  Through a system of "empowering" youth?

Are you kidding me?  Been to Gaza lately?  Taken a look at the merciless clearing and "settling" of Palestinian lands, in blatant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention?  Considered the money raked in by Israeli companies who flout international law by exiling native peoples and then exploiting that stolen land for profit?  Ever put yourself in the shoes of the Palestinians, who have seen their homeland stolen, their homes bulldozed, their families torn apart, their groves and orchards uprooted in favor of illegal settlements (don't let anyone tell you that the Israelis "made the desert bloom."  Contemporary reports and photographic evidence show that Palestine was "blooming" just fine before occupation)?  When those children eat fish sullied by sewage spewed into the water by a treatment plant bombed by Israel's military (a plant that can't be repaired or rebuilt because Israel won't allow the materials needed to be imported), do you champion THEM?  When Gazans are told they cannot farm the land, and are shot for attempting to do so, where is your concern over issues of food security?  When yet another West Bank neighborhood is leveled to make way for yet another illegal Israeli settlement, do you step up and publicly decry the attack?  When Palestinians die at checkpoints because sadistic soldiers won't let them through for medical care, where is your activism?  When Israelis sneak into Palestinian villages in the night and drop off trailers, knowing they can then claim the land under those trailers due to apartheid laws (yes, APARTHEID--look it up, it's not about skin color) that crush one race and glorify the other, where is your charity, your indignation, your humanity?

When a native population is exiled, driven from their homes, and barred from returning, while another people, with no ties to the land, is granted "right of return" to a land they've never BEEN, where is your OUTRAGE?

Where is your support for the power of Palestinian girls?

Maybe, someday, this woman put an ounce of unfettered thought into the whole "stealing something, then spraying violent indignation at anyone who calls us on it" way of being.  Maybe, just maybe, she'll jump off the bandwagon and see just how ridiculous it is to think that theft, genocide, murder, oppression, apartheid, and exile can be excused by a thousands-year-old mythology book that proclaims one group "God's Chosen" over all others.  It's garbage when Muslims justify violence with the Q'uran, it's puke when Christians justify hatred and prejudice with the Bible, and it's no different when Jews justify "Zionism" and apartheid with their holy writ. It's MYTHOLOGY, kids.  It's the 21st Century, can we stop killing people over ODIN?

And before anyone pulls out the "anti-Semitism" card, don't.  Judaism isn't the problem (any more than any other religion being used to justify dominance over another).  Jews aren't the problem. Judaism is a religion like any other, and Jews are people like any other.  It's the Israeli government, the Israeli military, illegal settlers, and the world's tacit support for an apartheid occupation.  Saying that those who disagree with Israel's policies are "anti-Semites" is like calling those who opposed South Africa's apartheid "anti-white."

Or "terrorists."


Here, let's lighten the mood, huh?

I love that, which surprises me.  Often, it's not so amusing when people "mess up" a beloved piece of art (and this is one of my favorites).  But I love this, find it light-hearted and funny.  In case you're curious, here's the real deal:

The composer's name was pronounced, they say, "Pax-uh-bell."  Who knew?


Spent last Sunday exploring and photographing a couple of old cemeteries.  It was wonderful, amazing, and the history associated with them was fascinating.  Hey, this is Virginia--you can't get away from the history.  We went to one cemetery, where we found the grave of a young man who died at Louisa, Virginia in August of 1862.  A little checking found that he probably died during one of Lysander Cutler's raids on the railroads.  We learned all about Lysander Cutler last year at the Second Manassas anniversary re-enactments at Brawner's Farm.  I also found the will of of a woman buried there--she died in 1855, and, in her will, freed all her slaves.

The second cemetery wasn't in nearly the good shape the first was, sadly.  Yes, the first also had headstones down (not a surprise, when you have headstones as old as 1777), but the second had a pile of broken and damaged stones just laying in a neglected heap at the back of the church, and areas completely overgrown by wild blackberry, honeysuckle, and poison ivy.  It was sad to see.  Today, we're going to another graveyard to take more pictures.  See, once I have the pictures, I go to work cleaning them up in Photoshop, then uploading them to Find-a-Grave and other historical sites.  No, I don't get paid for it, but it feels important--these stones are deteriorating at a devastating rate, and if they aren't catalogued, they'll be lost forever.

First Cemetery

Second Cemetery


One last thing before I sign off--a new batch of funny Utah names!  Remember, none of these are made up--at least not by me!  These are honest-to-goodness names real, live people have been saddled with.  I included "Jereece" to show that it's not all old folks with "Mormon" names--Utah has some fancy, kinda new, kinda wow bad names, too!

  • Verald

  • Veraldine

  • Zenda

  • Thello

  • Jereece Shintyl

  • Virl Effie

  • Adair (that's a woman)

  • Borman

  • Vanetia

  • Doan

Friday, November 1, 2013

No Woman, No Drive, No Racism, No Fat Shaming

So, last night was Halloween.  Or "Hallowe'en," as I used to type in my more pretentious days. My boy went dressed as "Heimskr," a monk from Skyrim:

While his father tossed together a last-minute/stuff-laying-about-the-house Abe Lincoln (yes, we do have the gear around the house to make a fair Abe Lincoln):

And me?  I went as the photographer.  Or maybe I was "The Invisible Mom."  I'm not much for having my picture taken, and last time I put on Halloween makeup to hand out candy, I scared kids.  Felt really bad about it.

Anyway, a lot of cute costumes last night, but one "set" I found really troubling.  Understand, I live in a very racially diverse area--in fact, while whites do make up the largest group, we are not the majority.  We have Puerto Ricans, Brazilians, Nigerians, Mexicans, Indians, Egyptians, Argentinians, Pakistanis, Lebanese, African Americans, and Italians just in our little neighborhood.  So when a little WHITE girl shows up dressed as Scarlett O'Hara, surrounded by her little WHITE friends in BLACK FACE?  Spouting lines from Gone With the Wind like "As GOD is my witness, I'll never be hungry again!"


Creative?  Manipulated by parents?  Or just bad, bad form?  Is there a difference between "black-facing" a generic "I'm a black person" and "black-facing" a specific character?  In other words, is there a difference between treating a race as a costume and dressing up as particular character or person?

I think maybe there is a difference, though it just occurred to me today, and I haven't had a lot of time to think about it.  Deep thoughts for so early.


Ooh!  Speaking of deep thoughts, I've been meaning to post this for a few days now:

Steer clear of the comments section--for all the big promises of improved comments and abuse control, fact is, Youtube comments are still a cesspool of stupid and hate.  Between the hateful threatening and the "don't comprehend satire" contingent, the comments are particularly bad.

Anyway, comments aside, this is brilliant.  What a brave guy--does a great Marley, too.  I've known a number of Arab men in my life (been married to one, in fact), and a few of those guys have been Saudi.  There was a disconnect in those Saudi men I've known--there had to be. Because, while going to college in the States, they had American girlfriends who drove their cars and drank their beer and lived with them in what could only be considered astoundingly "sinful" situations.  I say "disconnect" because these guys didn't stay in the U.S. and marry their girlfriends. They didn't go back to Saudi champions of change, tireless heroes pursuing freedom for their wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters.  No, they went back and drifted with the tide of Saudi normality without, it appeared, a second thought.

So this guy, this Hisham Fageeh, appears to have spent a lot of years here in the states.  And he appears to have gone back to Saudi with an idea or two in his head about what's needing a change.  He's a comedian/actor, but he's certainly gotten himself a crossover political satire hit on his hands with this one.  I don't know that I'd call him an "activist"--that's probably not his intent.  But I would call him a smart guy with a sharp eye for the ridiculous and the courage to poke fun at it.

I hope it doesn't land him in hot water.  He's a funny guy.


And now, to the other extreme--young folks with no readily apparent redeeming qualities whatsoever:

The above images?  A young woman by the name of Rachael Sacks.  A wealthy young woman whose sole contribution to this world appears to be self-aggrandizing snobbery.  Here's her dissertation on self-love and superiority:

Astounding.  It's the sense of entitlement borne of someone else's labors that really galls.  She comes across as a spoiled, shallow, low-on-talent creature who expects to be cared for by daddy while she uses her shocking snobbery as an "in" to a writing career she's clearly not talented enough to pursue.  Not yet, anyway--maybe a few more years in school will polish up that rocky presentation.

Or at least that's the impression she gives with her writing.  Perhaps it was all satire and we completely missed the joke.  Were she my child, she'd be figuring out how to finish school on her own dime waiting tables evenings and racking up the student loan debt from her crappy studio apartment.  Like real people do.  

Yeah, I said it.  Like "REAL" people.  Because she's not real--she's a caricature.  A joke.  A doll representing every crappy stereotype.  She gives the racists all the ammo they need, and she almost certainly doesn't grasp that.  I'm all for giving kids a good childhood and all the advantages possible, but clearly this girl's been given too much for too long.    


One last thing, hopping back to Halloween.  Some woman.  Some mean, awful, stupid, judgmental, jeering, fat-shaming woman in Fargo, North Dakota was threatening to hand out the following letters to kids she deemed overweight:

Okay, let's get this out of the way right off--this isn't about "helping" children who may (or may not) have weight problems.  Not even a little.  It's about a lot of things, which I'll go into, but it's not about sincerely wishing to be helpful.  What is it about?
  • Control:  by handing this out, this Halloween Hag holds, in her hand, control over the children who come to her door, their parents, and, quite literally, their holiday experience.
  • Self-image:  by passing judgment on (and putting down, let's face it) children she deems inferior, she can feel better about herself.  It's an time-honored tradition--wanna feel better about yourself?  View another group as inferior to yours, and act accordingly.
  • Meanness:  yes, just plain, old fashioned cruelty.  No explanation required.
  • Self-aggrandizing:  appointing herself the arbiter of who is and isn't acceptable, she increases her own perceived importance and authority.
  • Did I mention just plain meanness?
So this note is for the Wicked Witch of Fargo, North Dakota:


Ah, shoot--one more "one more last thing."  I started to post it on Facebook, but didn't feel like possibly offending someone whose friend had just committed this very offense, so I'll post it here:

You know, akin to "Vaguebooking" is the hyper-self-righteous "Snarkbooking," which is that sideways, judge-y, ultimately deniable way of dressing someone down for something without actually having the stones to do it honestly. You know, like I post "Hey, folks, I'm really desperate for a good poultry dish!" and someone responds with a Tofurkey recipe or starts squealing about "animal rights" and the cruelty that goes into a good roasted chicken (yes, honey, that one's for you)?  Or I post that I'm in desperate need of a good, yet affordable, new plasma TV and someone posts, "Why not get a library card instead?  Works for me, I haven't watched TV in 324 years!"  Yeah, I'm glad it works for you, Snotty McSnotface, but that's not what I asked for--if I'd been in the market for bean-curd-meat-mimicry, paperbacks, or whatever else, that's what I would have asked about.  I get how satisfying it can be to condescend and push lifestyle choices masked as helpfulness, but when I ask about a particular brand of spark plug for my car, don't post a link to the local shop peddling solar-powered Vespas.  Seriously.  Just save it--I promise, you don't sound anywhere near as cool as you think you do, and you're not being even a little bit helpful.  Thanks.

And that, my friends, is that.  I hope you had a wonderful Halloween!