Tuesday, May 24, 2022

[Wo]Man plans...

Ugh.  So.  I've felt like utter hammered dog shit for the past two weeks.  I'm starting to surface from that (probable CFS attack).  Finally.  Just in time.

Last week, my mom had an appointment with one of the specialist testing centers in town.  Biopsy.  Ten years after she noticed the onset, but still.  And they made an appointment for her for this week--Thursday, at 8:30 a.m.  My mom's about forty minutes from me, and I'm about twenty from the office she needs to go to.   So, I made plans to help: I offered to go up and visit, and pick Mom up on Wednesday and have her spend the night here, then I'd take her to her appointment.  The pixie offered--demanded that we use--her room for Grandma to sleep.  Mom has accepted, and I got busy. 

With my eleven year old daughter's help, I got the house mostly clean over the past two days.  (Yes, my son helped, too, but not nearly as much, and had his own chores to deal with outside.)   All that hasn't been cleaned is the master bedroom and bathroom.  Oh, and the imp's room, but that door shuts.  And will be shut, and will not be opened.  

Then, this morning, I got a phone call: the office had set Mom up with a PET scan.  At 8:00 a.m.  Tomorrow.  Mom got them to reset it later (10:00 a.m.).  My aunt will be bringing my mom here after her scan, and she'll stay overnight, and then I'll take her to her Thursday appointment.  Then, I'll take her home.  

This is something that is...really, really overdue.  Mom said she'd found the lump right around the time the pixie was born, and just...didn't do anything about it.  Didn't mention it until it...well, surfaced.  Just before one of her sisters was diagnosed, and had hers dealt with.  

"Oh, I'm a Medicare patient...they don't care.  They won't do anything about it."  Or "Oh, I'm fat.  They won't care.  They won't do anything about it."  Always something.  

Always a victim.  

My mother has never believed in being proactive.  In pushing for proper treatment.  Mom's always been passive.  I've never understood that.  Never had much tolerance for it, either.  Not for the past thirty years. 

I think I may finally understand where the disconnect between her approach and mine lays, after more than two decades of trying to figure it out. 

I grew up immersed in theology formed by reading nothing but the Bible and the Book of Mormon (yes, I grew up RLDS).  I've read both books for myself, more than once.  It's formed a lot of how I think--well, that, and a few key pieces of fiction.  

I took a lot of things to heart that most of the rest of my family either disregards, misunderstands, or simply missed.  My philosophy roots in the parable of the talents: God gave me a mind, and expects me to use it.  He gave me abilities.  I have no right to not use them.  Refusing to do what I am capable of makes me a lazy servant.  

I'm pretty sure Mom's philosophy roots in the parable of the lilies of the field: they toil not, nor do they spin.  She sits and waits...for what, I don't know, considering I've seen a lot of different signals that she's flat ignored over the past two decades.  But she sits and waits, passively, for blessings.  

She's waiting on praise for having been clever enough to hide her talent from thieves by burying it instead of putting it to work.  

I've got helping Mom to worry about this week. Yes, there are other things I need to be doing, but not the mental or physical energy to focus on more than one thing in front of me at a time.  Right now, it's doing this.  Other than doing this one, small thing (taking her to her appointment), there is not a damn thing I can do, but I will do this, and will find out after her appointment if there's something else I can do to help. 

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Idiot cord cat toys

 I've been knitting for...really, a long time.  Thirty years.  

I don't use a lot of patterns, really, and I knit in the round.  A lot.  Mostly because I detest sewing by hand.  

What I don't do is post patterns.  Mostly because I don't use them--I just...sort of fly by the seat of my pants, use basic math, and...make what I want.  

I make a lot of sweaters...a lot of ear-warmer headbands (since I absolutely despise hats)...and a lot of tiny projects--coasters and cat toys, mostly.  

Cat toys, in particular, are a spectacular use of tag-ends of yarn from projects: any time you've got a few yards left, but not enough for anything useful, you can always use it to make a cat string.  

No, don't give the cats the plain yarn--the fuzzy idiots will eat it, gag, choke, actually manage to ingest it, but not digest it, and have long strands hanging out and freaking them out, triggering a thunder-run from the litterbox, with yarn-connected turds still hanging from their butts...connected by yarn...which you'll have to corner and flatten the fuzzys and pull out.  

Seriously, it's funny long after the fact, but not funny in the moment to either you or the cat.  

No, a good cat string is either a long chain stitch crochet (which they don't eat as readily)...or a knitted idiot cord.  

I've done both, but I prefer the look of the finished knitted cord.  The cats prefer the knitted cord, too, but I think it's more because of the way it feels.  

How do you make an idiot cord?  You need: 

A tag end of a skein of yarn...

a set of double-pointed needles

What you do is simple: you cast on three or four stitches.  Then you slide your four stitches to the other end of your needle (the dangly next to the slip knot closest to the point), then join the round.  And knit across.  Then slide the four stitches to the other end of the needle, transfer the needle to your off hand, and...knit across again.  You're never flipping the cord--it's just three or four stitches, knit in the round, over and over.  

When you get to the last three or for inches of yarn, bind it off.  If your cat-string is less than about three feet long, tie it in a knot.  And tie it again.  Keep tying it.  Turn it into a round-ish ball of knotted string.  

You have a knot-mouse.  My cats love theirs.  Frequently lose them, too.  Then, as soon as they get fished out of whatever piece of furniture the cats have lost them under, the cats lose them again.  

Mind you, my cats are ten years old.  They're not kittens anymore...but they certainly act like kittens when they find one of their knot mice.  

If it's between three and five feet, and you have a spare gun-cleaning rod, you can thread one of the tail-ends of yarn through the loop, and knot it a couple of times.  Kitty string on a stick!  Fun for them, fun for you!  

If it's longer than five feet, tie a knot-mouse in one end, then...drag it around.  It gets funny, while they're chasing you through your house, pouncing at the knot (and most often missing) and gets you some exercise.  

Catnip spray just makes it more fun for all...if your cat likes that stuff, that is.  Mine do.  

And you don't have to try to chase down fuzzy idiots trailing indigestible yarn from their butts, embedded in turds they're running from.  

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Baby care

I know there's a lot of parents worried about the current formula shortage--they've got infants, and either can't or have chosen not to breastfeed.  

I am not going to speculate about why there's a shortage.*  All I'm doing is sharing a temporary work-around: emergency baby milk replacement.  I read about it a long time ago, and I went hunting for a recipe I'm pretty sure most moms can manage.  

It starts with evaporated whole milk, and adds Karo syrup...and that's it.  Ingredients that you can keep on hand (just rotate as needed), for emergency situations.  And if this doesn't count as an emergency...well.  I wouldn't want to think of what does.  

No, it doesn't have the same nutritional profile as formula--it's lacking some key vitamins that babies need.  However, there are liquid vitamins out there for babies.  There's nothing preventing the vitamins from being dropped into the homemade emergency formula.  They're easily available on Amazon, and may be available in local pharmacies (I wouldn't know, as I've never looked).  

No, this is not something affecting either my immediate family or me: my youngest is eleven years old, and neither of my kids used formula.**  I breastfed both, partially because it was better for them (and for me***), but also because it was simpler, and much cheaper.  Much.  I fed my oldest for eighteen months before he self-weaned when I fell pregnant with my youngest--and she nursed for thirty months (or two and a half years).  I enjoyed cuddling them while feeding them, partially because it was the only time my oldest would cuddle, and I never begrudged the time or effort at all.  

Hell of a lot less effort than preparing and then cleaning and sanitizing bottles...

I'd be willing to bet there's a lot of moms out there right now that chose to use formula who wish they'd chosen to breastfeed instead, right now...and a lot of moms who can't getting really frantic.  And all of them are likely getting pissed about news that truck-loads of formula have been shipped to feed infants of illegal aliens down on the border...whose mothers almost without exception breastfeed.  

*I have my opinions, but I'm not going to start conspiracy theories.  Nope.  Not at all. 

**The hospital added powdered formula to the breast milk they were feeding my imp--it triggered the onset of a nasty case of acid reflux, and exacerbated his symptoms something fierce.  That was the only experience either of my kids had with formula.  

***Breastfeeding is very good for moms: each six months spent breastfeeding reduces chances of breast cancer.  It helps shrink the uterus following delivery, reducing the risk of later complications; helps moms burn more calories and drop back to pre-baby weight (mostly) faster;  and also reduces the risk and severity of baby blues, by triggering the brain chemistry to boost mood-boosting hormones. 

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Busy week done

Less busy (but still busy) week coming up.  

On the one hand, I seem to be through the chronic fatigue attack: I am no longer feeling like utter death warmed over.  On the other, I seem to need double the recommended maximum of sodium as my daily minimum for proper function,* and the PVC palpitations are not going away.**

I have an appointment with a new primary care doc on Tuesday morning.  Tuesday night is my imp's spring band concert, with a newly-repaired (and very much improved) trumpet.    

As it turns out, his trumpet was in dire need of care when we got it: the person who owned it before him drank soda between measures he/she was playing, and gummed up the internals something fierce.  Now that it's basically been rebuilt, it sounds a lot better...the imp says it plays easier, and he sounds a lot better than he did.  His teacher's not unhappy with him.  (The saxes and clarinets, on the other hand...)

Other than that, there's not a lot going on this week, and only one appointment Monday morning of next week, to finish up the recommended maintenance on the Subaru.  

Oh, funny story from last week: Friday morning, the imp told me he'd used up his color pencils on maps in History, and assignments in Spanish, and needed a new package.  If he'd told me Thursday night, I could have added that to the Friday morning pickup...but no.  

So I had to run in Friday morning, and get colored pencils.  While I was there, I decided to see about foam pillow forms to make a set of dining chair pads (we REALLY need some), impulse bought a dress for my pixie, and...found jeans that fit me.  In the junior's section (not the kids--the teens).  I got one pair to test fit and comfort and quality.  And wound up going back later and getting three more.  Yeah, they're skinny-fit (not my preference), but they're not more holes than cloth, not tissue-paper thin, and they fit both my figure and my height (they're supposed to be capris, but still).  

Incidentally, Walmart finally got the planners (and had some of my preferred brand that has fountain pen-friendly paper) in stock for next school year in, which is a life saver: my current planner ends in June, and the kids have their well-child visit in July.  

And since (between ME/CFS brain fog, hypothyroid brain fog, and a suspected case of ADHD) I suffer from CRS,*** I definitely need that calendar/planner.   Because I can't keep track of the damn appointment cards. 


*I have been using an electrolyte replacement water enhancer for the past week and a half, and am losing water weight and feeling better.  With every 30 oz mug of water (and I drink 3-5 of those daily), I'm having 220 mg of sodium plus what's in what I eat. That's...a lot of sodium consumed every day.  

**PVC palpitations are harmless, according to my research, but truly annoying.  I'm not sure if they're triggered by GERD, stress, perimenopause, or something else entirely, but they hit worst in the couple hours after I've eaten.  And they hit with a feeling like you've just started down on an express elevator. 

***Can't Remember Shit

Monday, April 25, 2022

Busier than I'd like, this week.

I spent last week--pretty much all of it--feeling utterly flattened.  I'm still working on recovering from that, but I'm starting to feel a little better, at least.  

So.  This week is looking busier than I'd like it to be.  I've already gotten some of it handled, but...yeah. 

We've been having...issues...with the breaker that the heat pump is on.  We didn't notice, at first, because cold weather means we don't use it.*   But as things started warming, we switched over to using it, and...snap goes the breaker.  

To be fair, it was a 40 year old breaker, and was due replacement, but...part of the fun was finding an electrician that would show up.  First one didn't.  At all. So, we shopped around and found a new one that scheduled to come out this morning at 8:30.  

They've been out, looked it over, called around to their suppliers to find a replacement, went and got the replacement, then came back and slotted it in.  Done, paid for,** and gone.  

Tomorrow, I need to get the Subie's oil changed, and schedule any maintenance it needs done.  I've put just over 70K miles on it in the eight years we've had it.  

(No, I don't drive much--why do you mention it?)

Wednesday and Thursday, I have to make a trip to the opposite corner of town.  Wednesday, I have to go get a Holter monitor applied, and Thursday, I have to hand it back over.  Mostly precautionary, but there it is.  

Friday, I've got the regularly scheduled grocery pickup.  

Sprinkled in through all of this is the fun catch-up housework I let drop last week...when and as I can get to it.  In five minute bursts.  I have the kitchen mostly caught up--I'll probably work through most of the house, picking up and de-cluttering as I go, over the rest of the week, as I'm up for other things (grabbing coffee, water, food, or Gatorade...which I guess I'll be drinking at least one per day for the foreseeable future).  

Oh, and laundry.  I'm a week behind on that, too.  I have a lot of clean stuff to sort and put away (towels & sheets), and other stuff to sort (I sort the imp's clean clothes because if I don't, it won't get put away, and I can pull stuff that's worn out/stained/ripped and/or outgrown at the same time).  

Next week, I've got a new-patient visit with the same nurse practitioner that acts as GP for everyone else in my family, because I sincerely dislike the doctor that replaced mine, and do like the one taking care of my kids. 

Granted, we're still looking out for good people to do other repairs for us,*** and those we'll take as they have time to come to us.  But that's actually a lot easier than running errands when I've been beat this flat with autoimmune problems. 

*We have a propane fireplace insert heater that takes care of most of the house, with radiant heaters in all three bedrooms, and smaller ceramic heaters that we set low to prevent other areas from freezing (with varying levels of success). 

**Cost less than I was expecting, too.  And I don't begrudge the hours, plural, billed, considering they had to drive to the other end of town to go get the breaker...in a large pickup...towing a trailer...with current gas prices.  

***We had one of the recent storms pull the cap off our gutters in the front, and we think it bent the hell out of either the guttering edges, the fasteners, the cap, or all of the above, and need an expert to come in to fix it.  And last week, the gutter guy's wife/receptionist/booking agent was in the hospital when we called.  We also need some serious repairs to the carport--probably to the extent of a full rebuild.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

I hate my body.

So.  Easter weekend.  The kids had Good Friday off from school, so Grandma picked them up from school Thursday, brought them and their stuff here, grabbed their overnight bags (packed the evening before), and took off with them.  Friday morning, I picked up groceries from the curbside delivery as usual, then ran in for a bone-in pork shoulder.  Which...I totally mis-timed Saturday, and had to change how I'd planned to cook it.  Instead of using my crock pot, I ended up using my off-brand instant pot (which is still my favorite ever Christmas present).  Took the instant pot and roast up to my mom's for lunch and a visit. 

It turned out tender and tasty...but a little dry.  Damn it.  

Then Sunday was Easter: Odysseus took the kids to church, then brought them home to change out of their nice clothes into something warmer because springtime in Missouri means random cold fronts, and we went over to his mom's for lunch.

I was already feeling about half-dead by Sunday morning, thanks to all the activity Friday morning and Saturday, then compounded by the chilly, wet weather that moved in.  So, yeah, I wound up with an autoimmune flare hitting me; then combined that with a ton of really rich (but tasty) food for lunch, that I didn't salt enough.  So.  ME/CFS flare, plus gallbladder unhappiness, plus not enough sodium to offset all the cold fluids I drank to try to soothe the mildly upset stomach...

...and then, add in a couple of months of more stress and fear over my sister's health...

...and my usual symptoms of low blood sodium refusing to resolve...

I wound up with tachycardia (very fast resting heart rate), plus confusion, plus shortness of breath (probably partially caused by the tachycardia), and a NEW symptom showing up of my heart skipping a beat, then racing faster...which scared me, which boosted my already borderline bp...

Yeah, I tried everything I could think of: I ate two handfuls of sodium/potassium salt, chewed one baby aspirin and swallowed another, took a celery seed extract (which I think may have made things worse, as a diuretic).  Nothing helped.

So I woke Odysseus up and asked him to take me to the ED.  At 12:30.  

They drew blood, and talked to me, put me on a saline drip (first a liter, then another half) and I sent him home at around 3:30.  

Turns out that after two handfuls of sodium/potassium salt, my sodium levels were still below the threshold (129, with 135 being the threshold of normal), potassium levels were barely over, and thyroid levels were really off.  As in: my T4 was a .59 (bottom of "normal" range is .65), and my TSH was 9.75 (TOP of normal range is 6.65).  

The whole "heart skipping a beat" thing?  Turned out to be stress-related premature ventricular contractions.  PVCs.  EKG showed my heart has no damage; cardiac enzymes were "beautiful" according to the ED's attending doc* (the main one).  

They put in an order for a Holter monitor (24 hr heart rate monitor thing that I go in to have applied, go about my business for a day, then go back for them to take off and analyze), and kicked me loose around 5:30.  Got home at a quarter 'til 6, with my heart rate starting to slow, but still tripping over itself.

I crashed, but only slept until around a quarter 'til 10. Could not sleep longer, could not nap...still felt like shit, but less so.  Drank Gatorade, ate salty food, felt better. But still felt awful.  Went to bed early, read, drank more Gatorade, went to sleep.  

Today's not as bad, but I'm still mildly freaked out.  And tired.  And frustrated, because my thyroid's low again, I'm still having weird symptoms (some that it's too high, some that it's too low), can't take Aleve (GERD symptoms), can't take celery seed (still cautious because of blood sodium levels), and my joints are hurting.  

I've had to shift my new-patient appointment for my new doc's office around because the whole Holter monitor thing?  Yeah, the hospital set the appointment for me, and it's at the exact same time.  And I was right--new doc wants to see the results after that test.

I'm still waiting to hear back from my endocrinologist.  Who actually called back for clarification of exactly what I'm taking (because she couldn't quite remember and it hadn't gotten put into my file), was going to call back after the nurse got the clarification, with further instructions...but didn't before the office closed for the day. 

In the meantime, I need to clean out the bottom of the pantry (again) so the electrician (coming first thing Monday) can get at the breaker box.  And get the dog food re-positioned so it can be shoved more out of the way without risking spilling.  

And...yeah.  Gutters.  Gutter guy's been called, but his phone's dead, his wife's got the chargers...and is in the hospital (I feel for her...and pray it's nothing serious).

And we need to make plans for getting the carport rebuilt.  

And I'm still feeling...kind of flattened.  Not as bad, but yeah.  

I really, really hate my body.  But to be fair?  It hated me, first. 

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Such bullshit.

As y'all know, I've been spending the last several years researching ways to mitigate ADHD and help my imp function in a world that doesn't really make allowances for neurodivergence.  ADDitude has been one of my main, go-to resources for quick research into "this issue has popped up--how do people with/parents of people with ADHD manage it?"  

Normally, I don't begrudge the "don't feel bad your kid's not normal" essays; however, this one is utter bullshit.  

Rejecting norms is a shit idea.  Utter shit idea.  Most social norms are based in courtesy, and this idiot is rejecting acting with courtesy--and teaching her children to be courteous--in public.  Let me go through bit by bit: 

She argues that public meltdowns don't merit stern responses because her children are different.  

While this is true when the child's under two years of age--before they can communicate in anything other than a meltdown that they've had enough--it is the parent's responsibility to teach children self-control.  The only way you can do that is to stomp down on instances where they don't demonstrate that.  

Doing anything else is teaching them that they don't have to control themselves, and it...snowballs.  

I'm not saying you beat the shit out of your kid for a public tantrum, but you do have to set expectations--and hold kids to them--so that they learn how to comport themselves.  I am raising future adults, not perpetual children.  Not ferals.

It's like potty training: you have to teach them to hold in their shit until it's an appropriate place to release it.  That place is never in public.  

She also argues that, since her children are different, she doesn't even try to keep them corralled at restaurants.  She argues that, since they're neurodivergent, they won't sit still, and she's okay with them crawling under the table, running around, and being feral.  

Okay, bitch, don't get unhappy when somebody trips your crotchfruit for running around and fucking up their meal experience.  

My son's ADHD AF (I'm sure you can figure out that last acronym).  Yes, his preference would have been scrambling around and being a noisy nuisance.  That's why I always asked for a booth, and stuck him in the corner! It is totally inconsiderate of others to allow your feral crotchfruit to be noisy in a restaurant. 

Fast food places...are a little different--it varies by venue.  

Her third assertion...well, it depends.  The whole "kids should be seen and not heard" thing is, admittedly, extreme.  But you do need to teach your kid volume control: how to use an indoor voice, where an indoor voice is appropriate, and where it's okay to be loud (i.e., outside).  You also need to teach your kid when it's appropriate to speak: as in, not over the top of anybody else, not two or three of you at once, and do not interrupt an adult.  Ever.  Unless they're on fucking fire.  

Her fourth assertion, again, depends on the venue.  Yes, kids roughhouse.  Yes, it's healthy for them to roughhouse.  It's fine in your home if you're okay with them breaking your shit.  It's fine outdoors, at a park, or somewhere it's safe for them (and those around them) if they roughhouse (here's a hint: sidewalks and other areas near streets and parking lots are not safe places for them or anyone else).  

It is not fine for them to roughhouse over at someone else's house (without permission).  It is not fine for them to roughhouse in indoor public venues.  The grocery store is never a good place for a kid to chase down and tackle their sibling.  Nor is Walmart.  They're endangering themselves, others, and goods you never had any intention of buying, and you're failing your responsibility to teach them courtesy.   

I am unconvinced that the unwritten playground rules actually exist the way she asserts--however, she does discuss issues that again, are safety issues.  And a matter of courtesy.  Don't do things that will hurt others.  And most ADHD kids simply aren't aware that the actions that float into their heads as "could be fun" could also be harmful to others.  My ADHD kid is fine with being told the rules, especially if you also explain that not following the rules could cause others to be seriously hurt.  

I am also unconvinced, anymore, that there even is a "no screens in public" rule.  I have not seen a toddler without a phone in their hand in a store anywhere in the last six or eight months, unless they're asleep on Mom's (or Dad's) shoulder.  

That doesn't mean I allow mine to monopolize my devices...or be addicted to their own.  Their devices can come along on the ride, and even in the doctor's office, but not in a store.  I use shopping as time to teach the kids things: how to shop, how to read labels for things they're allergic to, how to figure unit cost, and consider whether they'll eat all of whatever before it goes bad (i.e., sometimes the bigger package isn't better), how to pay attention to their surroundings so they don't run into people...and so that they can be alert and not a target for predatory individuals.  

The next assertion--that shoes don't have to match and hair doesn't have to be brushed--is again...iffy.  No, hair doesn't have to be brushed.  However, it also doesn't have to be long.  It must be brushed if it is long.  There is no negotiation about that, sensory issues or not.  It's a health issue.  Same with matching shoes: kids don't need that many different pairs.  Mine have a pair of boots, a pair of tennis shoes, and a pair of sandals.  There's sometimes an issue finding the shoes at all, but there's no "I can wear one of each kind."  Again, that's a health and safety issue.  

I don't mind the whole "I don't complain about my kids" thing.  However, other moms that do may be looking for "oh, yeah, mine do the same thing--here's how we handle it."  And if you just nod, smile, and change the subject, you're not helping.  

Then again, the author of the article clearly doesn't manage her kids' behavior, so she may not have any helpful input.  

She's right that her kids' behavior in public isn't a reflection on her parenting; however, where she's missing the point is that her own reaction to her crotchfruit's public behavior (or lack thereof) is a reflection on her parenting.  

This woman is raising the next generation of public drains, and doesn't care.  Her kids are happy now, and how dare the rest of us imply there's something wrong with them!

Thing is, I do get where she's coming from: parenting normal kids is a hard, unrelenting, thankless job.  Neurodivergent kids make it more difficult; where normal kids tend to pick up on unspoken social cues, neurodivergent kids need those cues not just spelled out, but explained, and you have to stay on them all the time to learn self control.  And it takes...not just more effort, but more time with more effort expended for far less results.  

Those results do happen, though, and they do build...if you love your kids enough that you don't give up, and let them go feral because it's easier.   

You can't give up on your kids.  If you love them, you have to teach them how to fit within the rules in public.  They can relax and have their come-aparts at home.  It's a fucking courtesy to others thing.  And it's a being accepted by their peers thing.  

It's a growing up thing.  

You cannot let them remain children forever--the world won't permit that, and you won't be there forever to try to cater to it. 

Friday, April 8, 2022

Budget: medical

Years ago, before my other half started his current job, we had a doctor's appointment for the kids--just your standard well-child visit.  Went well, like they always did: kids healthy, growing like weeds, Imp screaming at the doctor to not touch his bits (and yes, he used the medical terms, and yes, the doctor thought that was excellent), and we were out.  Went to pay at the window, and the admin assistant asked for our insurance card, and I declined, saying we'd be paying cash. 

Our insurance (yes, we had it--it came out of the account right at the top of the month, and cost around half my monthly paycheck)...didn't cover doctor's visits.  Just catastrophic stuff.   

If they'd tried billing the insurance, it would have gotten kicked back to me, and I'd have paid $125 per kid for the office visit; as cash pay, it cost $80 per kid.  

Makes sense, right?  

The gal doing the billing blinked at me, and asked if I wanted the bill mailed, and I said no, and pulled out my checkbook...which shocked the crap out of her.  "Uhm...you're going to pay right now?" 

"Well...yes.  I budget for this."  

"I have never even heard of that.  Why do you budget for doctor's office visits?"

"...because I know they're coming up, and know I'll need to pay y'all promptly so you can keep the doors open and the lights on?"  

"Wow."

That doctor first went cash, then retired when Obamacare really came online.  Odysseus has been with his current job for more than five years; I still budget for office visits (the copay, specifically).  

You don't want to know how many people pay their copay with what is clearly a credit card.  And bitch about the copay every time (I see a lot, especially at the endocrinologist's office).  

But yes, medical is another line on the budget that needs to be...close to the top.  Above "stuff I want" but below "stuff my family needs."  It may not be stuff, but it is both an expense and a need.  

The "expense" part will vary with age and health--you've got to figure that stuff out for yourself.  But you need to figure a lot of different things into that: your insurance costs (if it doesn't come out of your paycheck before you even see it), your office copay for each visit (yes, you're going to need to do math: what's the base copay, times how many people, times how many times per year).  A couple of visits to urgent care or the emergency room per person per year (you likely won't need to use it, but it's better to have it in reserve for the possibility).  Your prescriptions...and a few extra bucks set aside for an "uh-oh, need a course of antibiotics" situation.  Any vitamins and/or other supplements you take.  Over the counter meds like NSAIDs, acetaminophen, antibiotic ointment; supplies like bandages (wraps and sticky), disinfectants (alcohol and peroxide are an absolute must, as is bleach), hygiene supplies (soap!  shampoo!  toothbrushes/pastes! laundry- and dish-detergent!).  

Hey, how's your vision?  Yeah, you're going to need to budget for that, too.  And start socking away money to cover glasses--just in case--even if you don't need them currently

A lot of this is, quite honestly, ongoing small costs.  Preventative maintenance.  You pay the small costs up front so you don't incur enormous ones.  

Budget for them.  You need a line item in your written budget for "medical."  Be honest, and be thorough.  

It's a lot less stressful to know you've got the money to cover those things than to not think about them and have them pop up in your face just before you've bought groceries.  

Or worse, just after you've bought that thing you wanted that could have paid for the sudden, unplanned medical expense, instead. 

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Budgeting: needs & wants

I've written about building a budget, here.  I've written about getting out of debt.  I've written about meal planning to help cut what you spend on food...

Now, I'm going to write about other spending, and something you need to think about now, before the pressure comes on as your purchasing power goes down and your salary doesn't go up at the same rate.  

A lot of people have strong difficulty differentiating between need and want.  You hear people talking about how they "need" this or that thing...and you're left scratching your head, because really?  You need that brand new iDevice that just came out and doesn't work any better than the iDevice in your hands?  You need an iDevice at all, when the Other Kind sometimes work simpler/better/faster, and are almost always less expensive?  What, does your livelihood depend on the iDevice's superior artistic rendering programs?  (Yeah, I strongly doubt that for most people.)  

What they have are powerful wants.  And a complete and total lack of ability to delay gratification.  

A lot of these children are going to either have to grow up fast, or they're going to shatter over the next few years as they slam against The Gods of the Copybook Headings as they follow the gods of the marketplace at full speed with their eyes closed. 

Utilities: these are needs.  You need the water on, and the lights and heat working.  These are absolutes, and come out of the top, right under your house.  

Groceries: You need food.  You need dairy, meat, fruit & veggies, and starches.  I'm certain everyone knows that you're best served by fresh; however fresh is fucking expensive, with "certified organic" and "non-GMO" (a bitch-post in and of itself) the most expensive.   A lot of the time, even processed frozen can be cheaper, either by straight-up unit cost, or by the fact that the bits you don't eat have already been tossed.  Canned...isn't quite as good for you--some nutrients are lost during the cooking process.  However, there's a lot less lost than most people realize, and some that are made more bio-available by the canning process.  Beans are cheap; so is rice.  Together, they do comprise complete protein, if not with all of the nutrients available in meat.  

Coffee's a necessity.  For some.  If it is for you, budget for it.  And do make it for yourself, at home.  It's so much better, both for your budget, and in flavor that way.  Hell, I'm a coffee snob, and I buy 2 lb bags of whole bean coffee at a time, and still spend less on coffee in a month than a lot of people do in a week.  

You want convenience food.  You want goodies, candy, cookies.  You don't need them, and they go at the bottom of the list, and do not go in the cart unless they fit within the dollar amount you have to spend for that grocery trip. 

You need to be able to communicate from home--some people require robust, fast internet connections for work from home.  Some don't.  But communication itself is a must, since emergencies happen. 

What isn't a necessity is any type of cable, or subscription entertainment.  In fact, I've labeled all of ours as "wants"--everything from Amazon Prime to streaming subscription television to (yes, including) Kindle Unlimited (although that one is going to be the last one cut).  As for entertainment...yes, there's still broadcast TV, and some of the stations are re-running old series that are far more entertaining than the newer ones; there's also free streaming entertainment services that run on ads.  Very much like broadcast television always was.  

Now.  I want to make a specific note that you do not need to cut everything right now.  What you need to do is start figuring out what category everything you pay for falls into: need, or want.   Then start prioritizing those wants: the higher the specific one is on the list, the longer you hang onto it.  

Have a plan.  Write it down with your written budget, and pay attention.  When you start having trouble...start cutting out the wants.  Immediately. 

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Budgeting: food, again.

Things tend to domino, don't they?  You get home from work, and just...want to collapse.  You don't want to think about anything.  But...you're hungry, maybe you've got kids and they're hungry, and...fuck it, let's get burgers (at $6+ per person, if you're lucky), or Mexican, or a pizza...

And suddenly, the weekly food budget...yeah.

You get the idea.  

So.  What do you do?  

Plan ahead.  Sit down when you're not wiped out, and plan out a few days' worth of meals--at least the main dish.  Set up themes, if you want.  

I don't work outside the home anymore.  I don't have the ability to, what with a few autoimmune issues taking turns wiping me out at random, unpredictable intervals.  My current, full-time job is as a mom and a home economist.  

One of our biggest budget busters for a long time was...food.  I'd shop, and I'd impulse buy, and the food would...not get stored properly or eaten in time.  Because I'd not planned for it.  I had never, in my life, even considered planning menus.

FlyLady actually got me started on that.  Yes, the housecleaning/decluttering/organization guru.  

(It's easier if you get started with shining your sink and doing your dishes...because a clean kitchen--or at least, clean enough--is easier to work in.)

I started sitting down on Saturdays to plan.  And I started with a couple of days of meals, then a week...and then it stretched out.  I started shopping with a list, and sticking to it (made much easier when I got to know the store(s) and ordered the list so that I was going in a straight line, picking up what I needed instead of having to hunt, wander, and go "oh, that looks good!").   

It took a while, but I've gotten things shaken down pretty well, now.  And what I spend in Walmart and Sam's Club has fallen drastically (and could probably be reduced a little further).  Between menu planning, keeping track of my pantry inventory, and (since the covidiocy started) doing curbside pickup, I've trimmed the grocery budget down from a couple hundred dollars a week to about four hundred or so a month.  

Yes, part of that is because I live in Southwest Missouri, and my costs are lower than most other places; however, the rest of it is because I'm not buying stuff we don't need, it's not going to waste...and we're not grabbing fast food or whatever because I don't have anything planned.  

So.  What does my menu look like?  

A standard week: I plan Sunday suppers to feed my other half lunch for the rest of the week at work--chili or tacos is really common for three seasons.  Monday, we do burgers and fries (sometimes Johnsonville Bratwurst patties, sometimes ground beef)--and during the summer, all burgers are done on the grill and we do chips or fries in the toaster oven, so we're not running the AC so hard.  Tuesdays are pasta: sometimes, it's homemade spaghetti; sometimes, I'll do pasta alfredo; sometimes I take last week's leftover spaghetti sauce, and make pasta bake; sometimes it's just a sandwich and macaroni.  Wednesday is classic, American family fare, and varies by the meat I pick: for example, last night, I did baked roundsteak, mashed potatoes, garlic butter asparagus, and rolls (for three of the people in the household).  Thursday's usually Mexican or Greek flavored--varied by meat (beef, pork, or chicken)--Friday's pizza (take-and-bake) and movie night, Saturday's leftovers from earlier in the week, a potato & smoked sausage foil packet, or a Zatarain's rice box (Jambalaya with cheese, or dirty rice).  

I usually use my planner for this, and then copy it to a dry erase calendar on the fridge.  What ends up written on the calendar is usually just one word: burgers, pasta, meat source, meat source, pizza, rice/potatoes/leftovers, chili/tacos.  

But I have the plan in place.  And if something I had planned doesn't seem like it's going to work out ("that doesn't sound good" or "I can't be on my feet long enough to make what I had planned" or "who the fuck ate the [ingredient] and didn't tell me it was gone so I could get more?"), I can still use the basic idea and just...adapt.  

As my health improves, I can do more with less prepared food bases (as in: starting with flour or cornmeal or uncooked rice, rather than using a mix), which costs a lot less.  I have mixes and easy convenience things on hand (both of which cost more money, but cost less in my personal energy budget) for when my health doesn't permit me to do a lot.  

Planning meals is one of the biggest things I've learned to do to help keep our spending down.  We do still eat out, once in a while, but it's mostly for celebration of birthdays and such.  And with spending less here, we can put that money in other places where it's needed.  Or even have a little slack for fun stuff. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Budgeting: debt

Nothing fucks you over like debt.  Nothing.  Because you're not just paying back what you borrowed, you're paying that back plus interest.  

And interest rates...have to go up.  They must.  Because the federal government in all of its infinite wisdom turned on the fucking printing press, and put too many dollars out there to chase the same amount of goods there's always been.  Raising the interest rates removes some of those dollars from circulation, but...unless they really jack the rates up (hint: they might have to, even if they don't want to), prices won't go back down.  

So.  Debt.  Most Americans owe multiple types of debt: consumer debt (credit cards, cars, store credit, gambling), medical debt (insurance helps, but a vast majority of people don't have enough savings to cover deductibles and out-of-pocket costs), student debt, mortgage debt.  

The mortgage debt is the only really acceptable debt to be carrying.  The right kind of mortgage is fixed rate, and costs no more than a quarter of your monthly take-home pay.  Total.  Thirty years is okay, fifteen's better.  

Everything else...doesn't just add up, but multiplies.  It builds.  

Pay that shit off before you do any fun stuff.  You will not be able to afford to keep carrying it as the economy keeps getting ratfucked by politicians that have no concept of consequences.  

I do not have any debt.  I managed to get through college and grad school without accruing any student debt whatsoever,* and only carried a small credit card for a little while.  We owed on a car for a little while.  I do have experience with debt.  

What my experience taught me is that I don't like debt.  I don't like owing money, and paying back more than I borrowed in the first place.  In fact, I hated it.  I hated how it shrunk the cash available to use on other things I needed--not wanted, needed.  

And I don't think our consumer and/or medical debt ever exceeded about ten grand.  

The average American owes around twenty or thirty grand, spread mostly between student debt, car loans, and credit cards.  

Median income is only about forty grand per household, in this area.  

I used to listen to a lot of talk radio, back when I worked on campus--AM talk radio, not NPR.  It helped keep me sane in lefty-land, knowing that I was not alone in seeing that the emperor was naked.  And this was when we still had a little bit of debt--a grand or two left on a 10K car loan, and a couple hundred on one credit card, and a hair more on another.  And I hadn't changed the station after Rush Limbaugh's show went off, and...Dave Ramsey came on.  

I sat and listened for two hours, until the next show came on.  

It was a revelation.  I already knew how to budget, but I had not even considered what life would look like without payments.  

And I sat down and thought about it.  We had a house that we'd just bought, and our mortgage payment was a bit less than what we'd paid in rent, and having a little extra was...nice.  I looked at my budget, and considered what I'd have to plan with if we paid off that little bit of debt we still owed.  

Ramsey's plan is stupidly simple: pay it off.  Pay it all off.  

He lays out baby steps on how to tackle the utter mountain that most people have in front of them--starting with saving a basic emergency fund of a thousand dollars in the bank that is not touched for any reason other than a true emergency: your washing machine or dryer abruptly die, your transmission goes out and needs rebuilt, you have to go to the emergency room for something (even with insurance, those cost).  Then, look at your debts, and lay them out.  Which one's the smallest?  Don't look at the interest rates, or the minimum monthly payments, yet, just the individual debts.  Which one of these things has the smallest number of digits to the left of the decimal?  Which one's next?  And so on, until you've got the list arranged from smallest to largest.  The next step is that you pay the absolute minimum payment on all of the debts...except that smallest one.  You pay extra on that until you've paid it off.  Then roll that into paying off the next one.  

You don't get to eat out, or do fun stuff that costs money, or anything like that while you've got debt--you just pay it off.  Ramsey says that once it's paid off, you will feel like you'd lost a ton of pressure and dead weight off your back.  Like you can breathe again.

He's right.  

I am not kidding.  

My household does not have any debt.  We do have a credit card--one, singular, solitary.  Not multiple ones.  We pay it off every month.  

Dave Ramsey advocates that people never, ever have a credit card--however, he and a lot of his listeners/fans have been addicted to their credit cards as much as any alcoholic is their tipple.  They cannot have just one, because it snowballs.  

We've never been addicted to credit cards.  I do not advocate even "just one that we pay off every month" for anyone who has been addicted to consumer credit.  At all.  

However, for us, it has been an invaluable tool: our bank limits our debit card purchases to $500/day unless we call to make special arrangements.  I don't have an issue with this--it protects us from having someone steal our card/number and cleaning us out.  However, sometimes...making a larger purchase is a little harder than I'd like for it to be, because fewer places are taking even local checks.  

I managed to get through college, then grad school without borrowing money--and we paid cash for a second, accounting degree, for my other half.  We could not have done the latter without having been debt free. 

We have no payments where we're paying interest.  None.  We own our cars and our house outright. There's no car payment, no house payment.  

That money goes into savings.  We save up for things.  We saved for several years to put a new roof on the house--if we'd had payments on, say, a car or student loans, we could not have put the new roof on the house, year before last.  There's a couple of other repairs (nowhere near as major) that we're working on saving for.  We'd be a lot farther away from being able to do them if we owed money on credit cards, cars, or student debt. 

We would not be able to keep the kids in the school they go to, if we were paying interest because we had debt.  

Debt is bad, m'kay?  Get rid of it.  

If you don't make a real effort now, it's going to be a lot harder, later.  


*I managed to get my undergraduate degree paid for by a full Pell grant and Vocational Rehabilitation.  I got a graduate teaching assistant position that paid for my grad school tuition and a grant that paid my fees.  Without those...neither of my degrees would have been able to pay for themselves, and I'd have been screwed.  And a lot of people in college don't have any more of a chance of their degree paying for itself because they've been actively lied to all their lives, that "any degree will boost your income."

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Budgeting.

One of the not-nonsense bits of advice that the otherwise blithering idiot gave in the article about how to manage inflation was starting to budget.  

Granted, said lettered twatwaffle gave absolutely no advice on "how to," so I thought I would.  

Building a budget is simple.  

You start with your monthly income.  Your budget HAS to fit into that.  It's not a "would be nice if," it's a must.  You are not the federal government.  You are not your state's government.*  You are not your county's government.  Nor yet your city's.  YOUR budget MUST work.  

Next, pull together everything that must come out of your budget: your housing costs, your utilities (electricity, gas/propane, water/sewer/trash), your communications (phone service and/or cell phones, internet).  Those go at the top.  Those are the "must cover."  Next comes food.  I'll have a paragraph or ten covering that a little later.  After food comes debts--and if you have any, you're going to have to work hard to dump those as fast as possible.  TRUST me.  Then, and only then, comes extras: entertainment, fun stuff, stuff you don't need but do want.  

Note that I didn't mention retirement--a lot of people with full-time jobs have their options of investing in a retirement account to come out before they ever see that paycheck.  That is a good idea, but if you have debt, that's going to need to wait.  So will saving for your kids' follow-up education.  Those are nice, but right now, our economy is pushing "niceties" off to the point of potential impossibilities.  If the wheels don't come entirely off, you might be able to catch up after we dump the dead weight on the economy.  

Why did I put housing, utilities, and communications first?  You need shelter.  Which includes cover (housing), warmth, and water (both in utilities).  You need communications in case of emergency and for your ability to keep bringing in your income (a lot of modern jobs require both a means to contact you and a secure, fast internet connection, given the rise of the work-from-home jobs).  

Food...is an absolute.  I don't need to tell most of you that.  However, a lot of people are wasting a lot of money within their food budget: some of y'all eat out.  That's stupid, right there.  You have a kitchen--equip it (with second-hand pots and pans, if you must), and use it.  

Those who do cook still tend to waste a lot of money--through buying nothing but brand name ingredients, buying (and forgetting) a lot of fresh produce, not using menu-planning, using bad shopping habits...all sorts of issues.  

I don't skimp on name brands where there's a qualitative difference.  I get Veg-All when I make pot-pie filling.  I get Rotel rather than off-brand diced tomatoes and chilis.  Those are non-negotiable, because the qualitative differences make up for the difference in cost.  That said.  There's little to no qualitative difference between brand name and store brand dried pastas, and the store brands in other canned veggies are often higher quality than some of the name brands: more veggies, less water.  Same with frozen veggies.  I like Walmart's brand of deli sliced meats and cheeses better than I like a lot of the name brands.  And we recently found out that Walmart's brand of refried beans beat Old El Paso's refried black beans (my previous preference) flat where taste is concerned...for less than half the cost. 

I do cook with a lot of meat, but I also cook with planned leftovers a few times a week--leftovers from chili feed my other half lunch at work for several days to a week; same with leftovers from tacos (either as tacos, or as taco casserole), pasta bake, or beef or pork roast (sandwiches, anyone?).  

Whole roasting chickens are cheaper than boneless, skinless chicken breast; leg quarters are cheaper still by unit cost (and tastier than chicken breast, with a higher vitamin/mineral load). 

Least processed ingredients are often cheaper than more processed: I can make biscuits from scratch a lot cheaper than I can buy canned biscuits, or already-made frozen ones.  I can make a whole lot of other things from that bag of flour, too--cookies, cakes, muffins, gravy...the list goes on.  A bag of cornmeal's a good thing to keep on hand, just like flour is. A bag of cornmeal costs about the same as four good cornbread mixes, and makes a hell of a lot more cornbread.

Eggs are going up, but they're still one of the cheapest sources of animal proteins out there.  Best price, if you can store them, is to buy the boxes of five dozen eggs rather than go a dozen at a time.  You'll use them.  Trust me--once you start cooking at home, you'll use more eggs than you ever thought you would.  

Dried beans are cheaper than canned ones, and you can make them taste pretty decent with the application of spices and bouillon.  All it takes is planning.  But do plan to also serve rice or cornbread with the beans--they don't contain complete proteins.  

And you are going to need to start buying a little extra, here and there.  Build up a pantry so that you can cook, and that you don't have to shop for everything all the time.  Canned and dry goods are awesome for building a pantry, especially if you don't have/don't have room for a freezer.  

I feed my family of four fairly cheaply, buying as little processed as possible, planning, and cooking from scratch.  Your location's going to influence your specific food budget--my location's in the middle  of farm country.  

I'll be talking specifics on paying off debt--and making recommendations--in another post.  But it's as important as keeping a tight reign on your food budget.  Interest rates have nowhere to go but up, at this point; so, too, will your debt payments.  Pay them off.  

Your fun-budget is going to be shrinking.  Let it.  Your needs come before your wants, and there's lots of fun stuff to do that don't cost, or don't cost much.  

Shelter (housing and utilities), communications (the ability to keep the income coming), and food are going to have to be your main worries.  Needs before wants.  Always.  

Building a budget is fairly easy.  It's the sticking to it that's hard.  


*The various levels of government--almost all of them--are flat fucking broke because they don't keep their outgo below their income...which they steal from us without providing even the bare minimum of services promised. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Oh, how precious. Bless her heart.

Some condescending twatwaffle with an advanced degree in economics (big surprise there) has made the observation that inflation hits incomes less than hers a lot harder than it hits hers.  Some of her recommendations do make a lot of sense, but the tone she adopts...wow.  And the assumptions.  

And then again, some of her assumptions and recommendations are fucking wrong.  

First off: her claim that inflation hits lower income families harder.  She starts this with household incomes of $298K.  Almost every household in Missouri makes a lot less than that.  Hell, households in our area in the middle class make what she pegs as the top of the poors: $50-60K.  

(Paraphrasing here) Ohmyghod! I have to spend a full percent of my income on gas and oil changes!  How do you poors deal, having to spend a whole 3%, and that's for the rich poors--the rest have to spend up to 9%!  Maybe you should...I dunno, drive less?  I know!  Take public transport!  It costs less than taking your own car!  Oh, wait...not all of those moronic poors live in an area where they can, and they'd whine at me.  I'll just...mention if you live in the city, you could sell your car.  

Okay.  Addressing this mess.  First of all.  She uses "median income" for the top of the poors...but her tone implies she truly sees them as top of the bottom.  And she's in the clouds.  

Second...Where the fuck is her head?  It's just that we're paying such a huge chunk of our income for movement that's pissed all of us off.  It's watching inflation rise, when a lot of people don't understand how and why it's hit, but they know damn well who to blame.  Gas has almost doubled in price since they installed the current illegitimate regime.  And we all know who did that.  And we all know why our gas prices have gone up--the fuckup in chief turned us from an energy independent nation to...this.  Because reasons, you fucking peasants!  

Third...it's not just our travel and maintenance costs we're worried about.  And she should be a lot more worried, since she's supposed to understand how the economy works.  Diesel has gone up farther and faster than unleaded gasoline.  

I am worried, but I live in the middle of farm country.  There will be things it's harder to get my hands on, but I also know where to go for meat, milk, eggs, and other, similar goods.  And (unlike her ilk) I know how to take flour and turn it into food.  

Speaking of which...she's also mentioned food inflation...in passing.  And by gum, those poors are going to be facing spending up to 15% of our income on food!  And then...then she starts talking some sense, but interspersed with utter bullshit.  She points out that a lot of people will eat out a lot less (true), and that learning how to build a budget will help people a lot (also true, but nowhere does she recommend any resources for people to learn to budget).  

And then...then, there's this.  

When it comes to food, don’t be afraid to explore. Prices for animal-based food products will certainly increase.  Ukraine and Russia supply a significant amount of corn and barley to the world market, mainly to feed livestock for human food. Meat prices have increased about 14% from February 2021 and will go up even more. Though your palate may not be used to it, tasty meat substitutes include vegetables (where prices are up a little over 4%, or lentils and beans, which are up about 9%). Plan to cut out the middle creature and consume plants directly. It's a more efficient, healthier and cheaper way to get calories.

And stay away from buying in bulk — you usually don’t save any money by buying more. Sure, there may be great deals, but most consumers wind up falling for the tricks that entice them to spend more — things like offering free samples, which often leads to impulse buying, or placing discounted big-ticket items near the entrance. If you absolutely must buy in bulk, try to do it with a friend, so you can split some of the costs and ensure everything gets eaten or used.

 I'm...just going to go point by point.  

First.  "Prices for animal-based food products will certainly increase."  Um, I hate to tell you this, bitch, they already have.  "Ukraine and Russia supply a significant amount of corn and barley to the world market..."  Idiot, they don't supply near the amount of grains to feed critters that The United States does.  And what's more, we don't buy any of it to feed our food--we produce enough.  The belligerents over in Europe are feeding...Europe.  And China.  

Second.  You cannot stay healthy if you "cut out the middle creature and consume plants directly."  There are amino acids, vitamins, and minerals that you do not, and cannot get from plants.  Stuff that your brain relies on for proper function...

Oh.  I see.  She's vegetarian/vegan.  That makes so much sense.  

"...stay away from buying in bulk--you usually don't save any money by buying more."  

She must not be married.  Or have kids.  Or be able to do basic calculations regarding fucking unit costs.  Maybe some things you don't save more, but there are a lot of things we buy in bulk where we see a significant savings over time.  

And yes, that does include meat, thanks--I know how to fucking use a fucking freezer.  The only place where she's right (and that's only sort of) is where fresh produce is concerned.  It's why I don't get fresh produce from Sam's Club (unless it freezes well, like mushrooms, or we'll eat it daily, like apples).  

Some of this twit's advice is so far off base that I don't think she gets us "poors."  At all.  Ahem:

If you’re one of the many Americans who became a new pet owner during the pandemic, you might want to rethink those costly pet medical needs. It may sound harsh, but researchers actually don’t recommend pet chemotherapy — which can cost up to $10,000 — for ethical reasons.

I will admit that I have some similar blinders: I did not know there were people who did chemo for their pets until fairly recently.   In my neck of the woods, when a pet gets hit with the big C, our debate is whether to take the pet to the vet when their quality of life falls too far, or...take them down into the pasture and do it ourselves.  

The rest of her advice...she advises to not buy things we need (furniture, etc.), and to just "learn to make do." 

Weird, weird advice.  It's like she doesn't realize that we poors have known how to bargain shop, second-hand shop, and make do for a long, long time.  

Huh.  Maybe she's just scared that it'll get bad enough to affect her.  And is whistling in the dark.  

It's really her and her ilk that won't have any idea what to do.  The rest of us?  Yeah, we know how to do this shit.  We're not scared--we're fucking pissed.  

Edited to add: 



Monday, March 21, 2022

Canned spinach

Spinach is awesome.  It's delicious, and has a lot of vitamins and minerals the body needs.  I love the stuff fresh, frozen, raw, cooked...

Canned spinach, on the other hand...*shudder.*  It's...limp, slimy, the flavor's weird as hell, and just ugh.  

I need more of it.  And feta.  Because damn if I didn't just come up with something really freakin' tasty.

Background: I love spanikopita.  I can't have it anymore, but I absolutely love the stuff.  It's literally my favorite way to eat spinach.  I doubt I could make phylo dough with gluten free flour and have it...ya know...work.  So.  

No more spanikopita for me.  

I had two cans of spinach in the pantry.  See, I love canned mustard greens.  And I had that in my Walmart cart for curbside pickup, and they ran out (I asked for four cans, they had two), and subbed in canned spinach, instead.  It's all green, right?  Right?  

One thing spinach has going for it is relatively high levels of iron.  Lots of different nutrients--it's actually really nutrient-dense, even in canned form.

Even if it's really gross.  

My mom used to do something with canned spinach and scrambled eggs that I loved when I was a little girl, and was never able to replicate properly.  Still haven't been able to, but I approximated, and potentially improved on, it today.  

Take your can of spinach and drain it.  Drain it more than that.  Okay, now dump it out of the can into a really fine-mesh sieve or colander, and squeeze as much liquid out of it as you can.  Dump it into a hot skillet with a little bit of olive oil, and let it start warming up.  Hit it a couple of times with Cavendar's Greek seasoning blend while it's warming.  

While that's going on, crack a couple of eggs in a measuring cup and add a splash of whole milk.  Whip it together like you'd do for scrambled eggs, and then pour it into the spinach.  Start mixing all of it together.  Add about a quarter cup of crumbled feta cheese to the skillet, and really start working the stuff together.  When the eggs are set and cooked, taste it.  Add a little more salt or Greek seasoning if needed (some brands of canned spinach use less salt than others).  

I added a little bit of balsamic vinegar to my bowl just before I dug into it.  

I think Mom may have used more eggs, but I'm really not sure.  This honestly would have done well as a pie, or folded into puff pastry, but...yeah.  Wheat allergy.  

I'm not sure what you'd call this, but, recipe's below:

 [Recipe name goes here]

  • 1 can of spinach (WELL drained--almost dry, if you can manage it)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp of milk, more or less
  • 1/4 c feta cheese 

1. Spray a skillet with olive oil cooking spray, start heating it.  2. Squash all the canning liquid out of the spinach that you can, then dump it into the skillet and break it apart to start it warming.  Season.  3. Mix two eggs with a little milk like for scrambled eggs.  4. Scramble the eggs and spinach together.  5. Add feta cheese, mix well into scrambled eggs and spinach.  

Serve hot, with balsamic vinegar, if you want, or without if you don't.  

Takes about five or ten minutes to prep and cook.  Might serve two, might not.  Depending on how much you like it and how hungry you are.   

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Finishing up

I am way too stressed to even think about writing (which would, ironically enough, probably lower my stress levels...go figure), so I'm working on a few different craft-type projects this week.  Most of them finishing things I'd started, some of them planning the next project.  

My sister's in a different hospital, getting different care.  So far, it's been better, but I don't know more than that--she forgot her phone charger, and the one I tried to arrange for her (hospital's an hour and a half from me)...didn't fit her phone.  

So I'm working on projects when and as I can, trying to distract myself (yes, I need to clean up after myself--including sweeping--since I've left fabric and batting fragments where the cats can get their paws on them for play-time).  

Last week, I made two potholders (all the ones I'd had were in really sad shape), and an apron.  Designed and made the apron.  Here: 

I'm actually...not terribly disappointed by the apron.  I had a cute little half apron made from the seat of a pair of jeans, a strip of fabric as a belt around the waist, and eyelet lace trim around the outer edges.  I'd use it more often, but my tits catch a lot of mess when I'm cooking, and I need an apron that covers those...as much as possible, at least.  (WHY won't they shrink as I lose weight???)  So, I had...three or four pair of worn-out jeans, and a couple of worn-out flannel shirts.  I decided to try making a version I'd be happier with.  I started with the worst worn on both flannel fabric, and jeans-butt. 

It's not perfect, but I think I can fix the things about it I'm less than happy with, and I learned a lot for the next project.  I have one more shirt, and two more seats. 

I'll definitely know better than to use single-fold bias tape, too.  I'm...not THAT good at sewing, and I wound up having to go back over several places where I missed catching the outer edge on the wrong side of the project.  

This week, I'm planning to finish the quilt I'd started for my own amusement that was promptly claimed by my imp because he liked the colors.  I finished the quilt top a couple of weeks ago, when my sister went into the hospital the first time, and I was waiting on news on tests ordered by a gastric specialist...that turned out to be a dick.  

The quilt top is twin-sized.  The plaid is from an old sheet that I'd cut part out of to make another apron from, a month or so ago (still needs finished--I need to scotch-guard it for my other half).  The navy blue is from a shirt Odysseus had ripped at the elbow, and the green and burgundy are from dollar-each fat quarters from Walmart.  The border's made of muslin, also sourced from Walmart.  There's a twin-sized tan cotton sheet as the bottom layer, and a twin-sized piece of cotton batting in the sandwich.  

I need the kids' help to pin the sandwich together, this afternoon.  And then I will need their help getting it situated so that I can start sewing the sandwich together.  

Yes, I am planning another quilt.  I had a lot of fun putting this one together.  It may be one for the pixie, or it might be one for me.  I haven't decided yet.  

One of the things I'd decided I needed was more bobbins.  And at least one more bobbin shuttle.  My sewing machine had two shuttles with it, and five bobbins.  One of the bobbins...won't work with the bobbin winder.  The poor little thing is about an eighth of an inch too short.  Which left me with four bobbins.  

So, I ordered from Amazon, and got another shuttle and five bobbins.  And all five are the right length.  I've checked all of them against the bobbin winder, and just used one of the new bobbins (loaded with upholstery thread) and the new shuttle (to test to make sure it actually works with my 124 year old Singer...and it does) to mend the flap of my messenger bag/purse.  The zipper'd turned loose of the fabric a while back, and I now have that sewn back down.  Was a massive pain maneuvering the purse, but it's done.  And I'm pretty happy with it.  

Now for the projects on the planning board:

Last weekend, Odysseus took the imp to Walmart, and found...the perfect flannel for a pair of pajama pants for the kid.  Bright, hunter's safety orange.  Got three yards (I need just over two, so there will be extra flannel left over for other projects...).  Got thread to go with it, too.  The imp wants those pants like four weeks ago, but has graciously agreed that it would be better to finish his quilt, first.  I'm going to make the kid help me with his pants--he's going to help me trim the extra fabric off the end of the folded up piece waiting with my sewing machine, and he's going to help me pin the pattern pieces to the fabric (no, I won't be letting him cut).  

I had a friend ask me if I was still knitting, along with the sewing.  Yes.  Yes, I am.  I've got two projects on needles right now--a purple scarf in moss stitch, and a shrug in bright turquoise.  I can carry the shrug project around, at the moment, but the scarf...is getting kind of big for that.  

As for projects in planning stages...I've got a lot of yarn to use up, too: enough in burgundy wool blended with acrylic for a sweater for me, and enough in a sort of light gray for a sweater for Odysseus.  I've got enough in various other colors for smaller projects like ear-warmer headbands or wrist-and-hand warmers (not gloves--I refuse to try to knit fingers with worsted weight yarn). 

I have a ton of partial skeins of yarn in acrylic yarns that I'm planning on doing stripe-afghans with.  The kids actually really like bundling up in afghans on the couch when they're cold, and they keep swiping the ones I try to make for my library.  I figured if I make enough for them in the family room, they might leave mine alone. 

Might.  

No guarantees. 

Thursday, March 10, 2022

SON of a...

So.  Last week, my sister was hospitalized.  She is unable to keep down anything.  Not even enough water to survive long term on.  Has been having this issue since Christmas.  They ran tests from the time she got there Wednesday until the weekend, when the weekend attending physician (different from the one admitting her...and from India..and I will discuss this further, later in the post)...decided to discharge her.  Saturday.  No, Sunday.  No, we'll keep her overnight and send her home on Monday.  

On Monday, the attending doctor that admitted her last week came back in, and said, no, they're not sending her home.  Because she'll die (duh).  He wanted to keep her in, and keep working on figuring out what's going on.  Yesterday, they did a gastric emptying scan, testing for gastroparesis.  I don't know what the results are.  I'm not sure they were explained to my sister or mother today.  

And yesterday's attending is not there today.  The shit doctor from the weekend is there, again, today, and is sending her home.  Today.  Right fucking now, if sooner isn't possible.  

I'm trying to get his name.  At the very least, I will be filing a complaint against him with the hospital.  

She still isn't able to eat or drink without it coming back on her.  

Back to the whole "doctor from India" issue...I have seen many doctors from many parts of the world.  Almost without exception,* the ones from India and the ones from the Middle East have not given a damn about female patients' health.  

Differing cultures.  Differing values.  Differing civilizations' values.  

In the past, I had a specialist whose medical training was in Damascus.  He didn't listen, talked over me, ignored my symptoms, and...I fired the bastard.  I took my chances with my (then-good, American trained, GP).  A year later, she referred me back to the specialists...and asshole Syrian doctor was gone.  Despite there being only a few trained endocrinologists in a two hour radius, he wasn't able to get people to consent to having him as their doctor.  No patients?  He left...or was fired by the hospital system that employed him. 

My current doctor is from India.  And is not aware of a lot of background on most of my physical issues.  Nor does she really listen, or consider how medication she'd like to prescribe is likely to interact with things I'm already taking...or with my other medical issues.  

Those are the two most recent examples.  There were a lot more stretching through my childhood and adolescence.    

And then, there's my sister's experience.  The one from the weekend--and today.  Asshole is sending her home.  She cannot keep food or water down--the only thing keeping her hydrated is her IV.  He...doesn't give a shit.  I am trying to get his name before she's discharged.  I want to leave a comment on the hospital's Facebook page, and on their website, like right fucking now, complete with the words "medical malpractice."  I want to find out how to file a complaint against him with the state medical board.  I want him to know, today, that he will not go unnoticed in his actions.  That there are consequences for this. 

I also want the name of the doctor that took care of her during the week.  He needs credit for being a fucking human being, and a doctor.  

Because this other guy?  I don't care what his academic credentials are, or what letters he has after his name, he isn't a doctor.  You can't violate the Hippocratic Oath and still be considered a doctor.  Not really. 

Sending home a patient who's been vomiting everything she eats or drinks for over a month?  That is...doing harm.  And not passively, either. 


*My mom swears that she's known a few, but I honestly cannot remember them, even with her prompting me.  And her memory is worse than mine, so she may be wrong

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Home stretch...

I've been doing a little bit of sewing on most days.  I didn't yesterday because of getting too close to the wall, but most days...well, I've finished one pair of pajama pants, I'm still waiting on my other half to try his on so I can finish them (lacking the waistband elastic, at this point), and I've got most of a twin sized quilt mostly pieced together (just a block quilt--I've got all the 6" blocks sewn into 9-block blocks, and those sewn into the long strips, and one long seam sewn, with three to go).  I'm going to need to make a border, but I need to finish the top, then lay it out and cut the border pieces to fit.  I'm happy enough with it--it's a good first quilt for me (not perfect, but "perfect" is the enemy of "good" and of "functional")--and my son has already claimed it.  

And my brain is starting to come back online.  I have been...below optimal thyroid dose...for a while.  Probably since before the appointment in October, just not as bad, since it takes a while for the body to clear out/use up T4.  My doc boosted it last week, but it'll take a while before the fog finishes lifting.  So I haven't managed any writing, really, at all.  

Still can't think well enough to write, either.  Not even editing.  I've got ideas, I just...can't get them out.  

Give me a few more weeks for the thyroid increase to improve things, and I'll be fine.  

In the meantime, I'll do what I can, as I can.  Right now, that seems to be cleaning, cooking, and making things.  

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Ugh. Christ is not a club.

I've been reading more and more people are turning to God and faith.  This, being a good thing, is not where my current issues lie.*

No, I've been reading a lot of long-time so-called Christians using faith and Christ as a club to beat on the new kids. Granted, there are areas in which a lot of these new believers are in need of correction; however, this is not the way to do it. 

People: it is above your pay grade, and mine too, to say "if you don't believe x, and show it in y way, you will go to hell." 

Yes, that means I'm not saying you will go to hell for telling people they're going to hell for this, that, and the other minor thing, like not being exactly the same flavor of Christian you are.  That means I think you are breaking the third commandment.  

Seriously: if you say "When you do [insert whatever peeve any given individual has that may or may not be mentioned in the Bible], you're making Jesus cry/going to hell," you are professing that you know the mind of God better than anyone else anywhere, and you are putting words in his mouth.  THAT right THERE is breaking "Thou Shalt Not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain..." (Exodus 20:3) 

Specifically, last night I read a social media post from some dipshit that's got a lot of stuff biblically right, but this...damn.  Said dipshit was pushing that there's no biblical support for Lent, and that practicing Ash Wednesday and Lent is a sin.  Because of course they have to be based on pagan holidays, of course, because most holidays are.  And if you practice Lent, you're going to hell because it's not biblically supported.  

Dipshit clearly doesn't understand either his Bible or history in general, much less the history of the Faith.  

First, let's take that whole "no support" claim.  I have no idea about Ash Wednesday, considering I was raised RLDS** and not Catholic or Episcopalian or Methodist.  However, Lent itself--and the timing therof, is pretty damn clear to me.  

Before Christ went to Jerusalem for Passover that last time, He went into the desert alone.  40 days of prayer and fasting--no food at all, which is a miracle He didn't die, right there, just not one that most people think of as a miracle.  Remember, folks, He was made flesh, with all the weaknesses thereof, including the physical necessity of food, water, and shelter.  And at the end of it, He faced temptation to turn from his path, which He rejected.   

Lent is us, acknowledging that while we cannot go to those extremes, we can suffer some of what He suffered, while in a season of prayer and contemplation of the gift of forgiveness and grace he gave us, ending in the Easter season.  Lent is us, removing some of that which we put between ourselves and God, and trying to move closer, in the hopes that we will feel some comfort during this season which might carry through for a while.  Lent is us, reaching.  Praying.  

Second.  The whole "holidays are pagan."  

Dude is a dipshit.  Some holidays have pagan timing in their roots, yes.  Mostly in the timing, rather than the symbology.  Christmas,*** in particular, comes to mind: yes, it was timed to preempt Yule celebrations; however, the symbology of Yule itself is not pagan/anti-Christian.  Every culture celebrates the turning of the year with the return of the light.  This is a human thing, a hope thing, a faith thing, not a pagan, following-other-gods thing.  Judaism has a longer celebration of it than most other European pre-Christian cultures, and some of that bled over when the very early church was emphasizing similarities between the Christian faith and whatever pagan flavor they were trying to persuade from a path of blood and conquest and death into a path of cooperation, coordination, coexistence, and life.  

Easter, however many similarities there are with pagan holidays, is not a pagan holiday.  It was the End of His life, and beginning of our grace: at the end of Passover, He was crucified, died faster than most of those crucified ever did, was dead and buried, then He rose to bring us word of our forgiveness, and tell us that He would return for us, though we knew not the day.  That's one of the reasons that the timing of Easter changes a little from year to year: it's timed to the end of Passover.  

Were it the other holiday with a similar name, it would be timed with the equinox celebrations.  Not the end of Passover.  

The Lenten season leading into Easter...maybe this wasn't something commanded for us to do,**** however, there is biblical support for it, it isn't pagan, and anyone who judges others for how they reach toward His Comfort...

Well.  Remember what He said about the Pharisees?  It seems that may apply.  It may not, I don't know.  I don't profess to know the mind of God. 

That's way above my pay grade, and y'all ought to be thankful it is.  I know I am.



*Actually, no.  That's not quite right.  I hate that so many had turned away in the first place, or had never been taught faith.  

**Think Mormon, but split off before the whole polygamy thing ever got started.  

***The shepherds with the flocks in the fields in Israel, lambing time, and other parts later in the life of Christ indicate He was born right before Passover.  NOT near the winter solstice.  

****The only things we were commanded to do were to gather together in His name, and to partake of bread and wine in His remembrance.  Oh, and to love one another, not use Him as a club because "you're doing it wrong!!!"

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Two doctors

I have an endocrinologist, and a general practitioner I see routinely.  And I am about ready to drop the damn GP.  

This week has been...yeah.  Monday, I had to go to the lab for blood work.  I went in around 3-ish because the endocrinologist wants blood work done right before I take my thyroid meds (and that would put me around three hours off my schedule did I go in first thing in the morning).  And...there were different phlebotomists in the lab, not the usual one.  Three pokes, and no blood.  They missed badly enough that I just had the needle marks without any bruising.  

Because I was freezing.  More on that in a little bit.  

So I went back yesterday, after having tripled my liquid intake (one cup of coffee instead of three, three 30 oz mugs of water instead of my normal two before that time, and a 20 oz bottle of Gatorade to keep my electrolytes from crashing), pulled out my flannel lined jeans (yeah, they're too big--but they're the smallest size sold in the men's department at Walmart), a warm shirt, and a pair of yoga gloves.  Kept my coat around my shoulders.  Was still chilled (give it a minute), but they got me.  Phlebotomist on duty got a good vein in my elbow--third one that managed that little trick in the past fifteen years--and they the blood pulled for both my endo's requested tests and my GP's.  Who I'm scheduled to see next week (remember that bit--it comes into play later).  

I got a call first thing this morning from the endocrinologist's office, telling me that my TSH was high, and T4 was low.  Duh...freezing, remember?  I can't get and stay warm.  There are other symptoms, but I'd already known I was low.  I actually mentioned the increase in low thyroid symptoms at my appointment in October.   

I'm not surprised, either--I'm taking things that interfere with the thyroid meds, and can't stop taking them.  I'm taking Quercetin/Bromelin intermittently to support my immune system (natural antihistamine) and get it to stop freakin' attacking me.  And that interferes.  So does Aleve.  So does the celery seed extract I take to support the Aleve (acts as a mild diuretic and reduces inflammation a little in the joints because it's a diuretic).  

There was a strident tone to the nurse speaking with me...which says it's probably a little worse than they want to admit.  Which means that yeah, they probably should have bumped me up in October, when I complained.  

Thyroid hormones out of whack also contribute to extra inflammation and joint pain...and bump up cholesterol.  

Which...leads to my annoyance with my other doctor.  

I got a call from the GP's office a little bit ago.  I've said before (more than once) that I will not take statins.  Will not.  The cost/benefit analysis with my issues and family history indicate that statins are a really fucking bad idea.  They cause fatigue and joint pain--both of which I'm already suffering from, and don't need made worse.  They also cause cognitive decline in a certain segment of the population.  Three out of three of my relatives who were prescribed and stayed on the statins developed early onset dementia.  And worsening mobility.  And...

Just.  No.  

Beyond that.  There are certain reasons my cholesterol might be high.  First of all, I'm still losing weight.  Second, I have high inflammation in my joints, which drives up cholesterol by itself--cholesterol is one of the means by which the body tries to repair itself.  Third, my thyroid levels are low, which drive it up.  

The GP's office--with whom I have an appointment next week, mind you--called about half an hour ago, pushing statins again.  I will explain, again, why I will not take statins. But I will not explain it a fourth time. 

I like the NP the kids see better than I like the twit that took over for my other doctor.  She listens