If you're wondering where I've been lately, I have been outside working to bring my yard into compliance with the desires of my "neighbors."  I use this term exceedingly loosely because there is nothing truly neighborly about them.  Mind you, I wouldn't care if they went about their lives and let me go about mine.  What I object to is that they never come to see if they can help, they just cowardly tattle to the teacher (in this case the City of Houston) when I don't meet their OCD, anally retentive, control issues sense of what things could be like.  

To be honest, I don't many of them by name. What I do know is that most of them arrived in this neighborhood after I did.  When I arrived in June of 1957, most of this area was still woods, open fields, or farm land.  I heard coyotes howling at night.  there were bats swooping out of the sky to eat the mosquitoes, lightening bugs, and yes the odd rattlesnake in our yard.  What do you expect?  Immediately behind our house were acres of piney woods.  I reckon I learned to dispatch a rattler to meet his maker with a garden hoe by the time I was 6.

These people can call in anonymously and get me in trouble -- threats of liens and big bills from the city to clean up my land.  Let me make it clear.  I don't have 2 or three junked up cars sitting out front.  It's just that we had a drought last summer, which allowed bermuda grass (where the heck that came from, I have no idea) and some weeds (ditto -- I know I didn't sow 'em) that got GASP över nine inches tall!  Some weeds, not a whole yard full.  The grass was about three inches tall.  We have been battling to get the yard in shape ever since last fall when the drought and pine bark beetles took out six of the large pines which were living here when I arrived.

I cannot describe how seriously the stress of the threat, along with the hours of physical labor, has impacted my health.  I'm not supposed to be out in the sun.  So I found shaded areas where I could work.  We do not have thousands of dollars to spend on this project, so my husband and I are doing it mostly by ourselves.  My brother did provide some money to pay for tools and maintenance supplies for them, and for some temporary labor.  The latest purchase today was a 48"two man crosscut saw.  We needed this to cut up the REALLY big logs.  These are 6-8' lengths of loblolly pines, all upwards of 55 years old.  Some of them were probably in the 75-100 year old range.

What I can tell you is that every joint in my body aches, and I am so tired that I fell asleep outside several times over the last couple of days while working.  I have chopped two or three brush piles into mulch.  What looks like a huge brush pile reduces to about 1 cubic yard of mulch.  I did this with a set of pruning shears.  I have also sawn up, with a bow saw, about a dozen or so branches 3-6" in diameter.  We did find a bargain on a chipper/shredder which takes anything up to 1-1/4"diameter, so I spent a few hours feeding that as well.  Anything over 6" and under a foot in diameter gets the chainsaw.  My husband does that. Anything over a foot is gonna get the crosscut saw.

There's another solid week, two weeks of work to be done, and I'd appreciate any prayers you care to offer for the strength to keep on keeping on.  I was barely walking this morning.  I worked until the bottom dropped out of the clouds and then I came inside.  I gotta admit that I didn't get as much work done today, because I hurt so badly every time I pull the pruning shears shut to cut a limb that I have to stop and will the pain away.

I have decided a couple of things.  One, I am going to find the money to put privacy screening -- like they have on tennis courts -- around my backyard.  I have a couple to the south of me that have been calling the city on us for forty years.  Complete assholes the pair of them.  She's a nosey gossipy pretentious cow whom I have done my best to avoid since her family moved in around 1960.  He's so compulsive he went outdoors in very hot weather to mow his 1 1/2"buzz cut lawn to 1/2"one year and had a heart attack.  I don't want this for my husband.   They also violated the city's water rationing last year to keep their freaking lawn green!  I resented this because when I went to take a shower I was lucky to get water at all.  Did I call the city on them?  Noooooooo.  Nor on the other neighbors who were also violating the restrictions.  I'm not the kind of person who tattles, snitches or looks for ways to make life difficult for other people, even when they do it to me.  However, when I take all these sawn up pieces of my old friends the trees to create bed edgings, I am going to place some in this pattern facing their plate glass window: n9m.  Maybe I'll make it a recurring pattern.  They steal my Meyer lemons every year anyway.  

Behind me is another jewel of a neighbor.  He came to the fence to talk to my husband one day.  He wanted us to cut down all the yaupons that make up our back hedge "because they drop leaves in my yard."  "It sure would help me out," he says.  When my husband told me, I gave a few minutes thought to remembering what he'd done to help us out.  Since I came up empty, I let my husband's answer to them stand "Feel free to cut off the branches on your side of the fence.""  This OCD also wanted us to cut down a pine tree in OUR YARD because it dropped needles on his yard.  We offered to rake them up, but he said no, that tree was going to come down in a windstorm some day, and it should come down.  He'd pay for it.  This exchange occurred while we were cutting down the dead trees and that was one of the two living pines left.  Then he started in ragging us about the pine logs two days after they were cut.  Since he's not my boss, or my father, or anyone whose opinion about anything means a damn to me, I ignored him..  Privacy screen him out too!.

To the north, the neighbors aren't so bad.  Her grandfather was a pain in the ass when he lived there, but we made our peace with her mother, and she and her husband, while they have some annoyingly noisy dogs seem to be pretty good hearted live and let live people.  

The other thing I decided is that modern Americans are woosies that our Founding Fathers would be ashamed of.  I have a deeper appreciation of those brave souls who entered the deep woods, swamps, and such over Carolina, Virginia, Georgia way and hacked down all those trees by hand and made them into log cabins, tool sheds, barns and the like.  It's damned hard work!  And I didn't have to take down the 90' trees by hand either!   I'm trying to imagine what would have happened in 1730 if someone had called all his neighbors together and said "Let's implement something called deed restrictions that mandate everyone having a St. Augustine lawn in front of their cabin, and not letting any weeds get over 9" tall on their land nor having any undergrowth over 9"tall.  Oh and no dead, decaying vegetable matter such as leaves or pine needles or fallen twigs."    I swear I hear laughter and calls for commitment to the state asylum for the insane!

On the bright side, I got to watch a number of lovely songbirds flitting about my trees in my little glade on my NW corner.  Lizards, skinks, anoles, and even a bunny live in my overgrown area.  Not a pet rabbit, but a wild one.  I haven't seen much of him while I've been working ;  I think he's afraid of us.  My husband put out some rabbit food for him though.  Sadly, my bees have departed, probably as a result of the heavy spring rains.  I have a clematis virginia, known also as Virgin's Bower Flower on my north gate, in full, luscious bloom.

I've also made a couple of vine birdhouses when I take a break.  One-and-a-half really, but I'll get it finished.  Now I have to get in bed before I fall apart. 
 
 
If you have been reading my blog, or any of my pages, or my Facebook page, you know that I have SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythmatosis).   What you may not realize is that this is primarily "a woman's disease," as 90% of the patients are women.  Most of them are 15 -45, the childbearing years.  For some enlightening information about pregnancy and lupus, please read this study in Japan about pregnancy outcomes and lupus  .

Women of color, across the board have higher rates than white women.  I once had a former Texas benefits evaluator tell me that "lupus is a made up disease by people who are too lazy to work."  To me, it was clear he was referring to Black women.  Black women have higher death rates from breast and cervical cancer, higher rates of STD's and teen pregnancies, higher infant mortanlity.  SOURCE:  Debunking the myth.  Black women, Hispanic women, Native American women all have higher rates of lupus.  Black women have more severe outcomes more often.  Poor women without health insurance have a harder time getting the help they need to treat lupus.  SOURCE:  Lupus Fact sheet

For some information about lupus symptoms in general, please read this article about two lupus patients.  

My diagnosis was originally made by a gynecologist to whom I had gone for a simple pap smear.  At the time, I had health insurance.  I no longer have health insurance, and my best option for pap smears is Planned Parenthood.  Read one woman's story about not affording to go anywhere but Planned Parenthood.    

Please make yourself aware of two FACTS:
1.  NOT ONE TAXPAYER DOLLAR GOES TO ABORTION.  That has been prohibited since the 1970s.
2.  Abortions are only 3% of their services  FACT SHEET HERE

Finally, let's talk about SOCIAL SECURITY and Disability and Social Security Supplemental Income.  I worked from age 15 until about 40.  I've been fighting to get SSDI so I can get Medicare to cover my lupus medications.  First they told me I ought to be able to work (in 1995) because I am educated.  Know many employers who want employees who fall asleep on the job, or who miss work frequently because they cannot drag themselves out of bed and stay awake long enough to bathe, dress, and get to work?  Or who catch the flu and the miss weeks because the immunosuppressant drugs they take for lupus don't fight the flu well and leave them with bronchitism pneumonia and a lupus flare in which their joints swell and cause agonizing pain?  If so, please send those employers my way!  I'd love to work, use my brain again for pay.  Of course, it has to be low stress and pretty free of deadlines, because stress makes my lupus worse, and I never know which day I'm going to wake up and be unable to stay awake -- which makes it difficult to meet those deadlines.  See this blog for another person's perspective.

The next time I applied for SSI/SSDI  they told me my $3000+ savings account made me ineligible for  SSI and I no longer had enough qualifying quarters for SSDI.  I appealled and they told me I wasn't disabled!  NOIT DISABLED?  I cannot shop without either my husband pushing me in the wheelchair or an electric cart.  Some days my knees hurt so badly the 8' from my bed to the toilet  has me in tears.    I cannot stand in lines for more than 30 seconds without the knees and hips begging me to sit down. That's not disabled?

Now their story is that we cannot prove I was disabled WHILE I STILL HAD ENOUGH QUALIFYING QUARTERS.  THEY have the 1995 records with the doctors names, but OOPS  I can no longer get those records because the doctors who made the disagnosis, and who treated me, destroyed the records 10 years after my last visit.  I'm SURE those records are in the SS records;  they just demand that I produce them, knowing I can't.  

So now I'm still 5 years too young for SS and Medicare.  What if they raise the retirement age?  First how will we tap into our retirement accounts without penalty to pay for medical expenses?  I will NEVER see my SS money that I paid into the system all those years I worked (sometimes at 2-3 jobs at a time!).  I WILL NOT LIVE LONG ENOUGH!

Let me repeat that  I WILL NOT LIVE LONG ENOUGH!  I can no longer take Methotrexate because my platelet levels drop too low and I am in danger of bleeding to death internally.  The prednisone I have been on for over a year now will, according to my rheumatologist "take five years off your life."  It also induced Type II diabetes, which is implicated in heart disease, even if I didn't have the extra clotting factor from lupus.   The Hydorxychloroquine (Plaquanil) no longer controls the disease by itself.  I also cannot take aspirin, NSAIDs like ibuprofen.  So I take ginger and turmeric for the constant pain.  Some days it works, some days it doesn't work so well.  I need Ben Lysta, according to my rheumatologist, but she's not going to administer it.  It's about $2000-$3000 a pop.  I think it's once a month.  I tried to get onto a drug trial, but the diagnoses (both of which I think are wrong) the county hospital gave me of non-alcoholic cirrhosis and heart failure keep me out of the trial.  I need a liver biopsy to rule out the cirrhosis, and an echocarcdogram for the heart failure.

My only hope is Obama's health care plan, because I could not be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions.  If I cannot afford the private health insurance or the high risk pool insurance, I could, as I understand it, get Medicare without having to be on SS, SSI, or SSDI.  So think twice before you pull the lever for someone who wants to repeal Obamacare;  that lever pull will be a death sentence for me and many others with my illness or others like it.  Of course, it you want to be a good, compassionate Christian, you can send me money at PayPal to help with my medical expenses. Leave a comment on this website and I'll send you my email.  They are. or would, if I were seeing the doctors I need to see and taking the meds I need to take run from $3000 in a good year for routine meds and visits and tests to upwards of $24,000 if I had to be hospitalized.  My brother is currently supporting us and paying our medical expenses.  He's nearing retirement age.  He spent years paying for our mother's needs because her SS didn't cover the utilities, food, out of pocket medical expenses.  Now he has us, and his own family.

SO please look into your heart and see if you want to pull my plug by voting to kill "Obamacare
 
 
I went shopping yesterday with a friend. Normally, I ride the electric carts or someone pushes me in my wheelchair.  However, my friend and I figured we could get my wheelchair out of my car, but probably not back in.  So I decided to rely on the kindness of the stores.  At Bed, Bath and Beyond, there is no cart to ride on, not even a manually operated wheelchair.  So I toughed it out and trekked through the store leaning on a regular shopping cart.  At the end of a circuit of the store, my knees were killing me.  The next stop was Randall's, who, God bless them, have several electric carts available for shoppers.  Here, the only problem I encountered was other customers.  You see, like many stores now, Randall's had some moveable stands in the aisles.  The problem was that one of them was placed right by the product I was shopping for..  You may also not realize that a  pair of bifocal wearing eyes has to be positioned just so to be able to read the labels on the shelves.  Unfortunately, that position is more or less right in the middle of the aisle.  Between my cart and the freestanding displays, I was blocking traffic..For the first minute or so, I was alone on the aisle, so there was no real problem.  Then along comes a woman with her cart, in a hurry.  She walks up right in front of my cart, purses her lips and stands there, waiting for me to get the hell out of her way.  Now, for my shopping purposes, it would have been better if I could have pulled forward.  No, I had to put down my shopping list and coupons and back the cart up since she was firmly planted in front of me and clearly not in the mood to back up herself.   Once I moved, she sort of flung her hair, huffed and pushed past me, making her displeasure at having to wait on me abundantly clear.  I wanted to wheel around and run my cart up her ass!  OK so she's gone.

I moved back into position and resumed my interrupted shopping task.  The next person comes up along the aisle behind me.  Oddly enough, I didn't see her as soon as she pulled up behind me.  Instead of saying "excuse me"  she must have stood there a bit waiting for me to move out of her way.  Since I was consulting my coupons and the labels on the shelves, I was unaware of her presence until she coughed.  Sort of the disabled shoppers version of having the person in the car behind you honk if you don't jackrabbit forward as soon as s light turns green..  Again, I put down my list and coupons, interrupting my task again and move out of her way.  For the next fifteen minutes, I experience this sort of thing at least a dozen times, including a time that someone had gone around me and was now purusing the shelf in front of me as someone again comes up behind me and eventually loudly clears her throat.  The woman in front of me seems completely oblivious to what is going on, so I turn around in my seat, and smile sweetly and say "I'll be happy to back up and get out of your way, but you will need to back up and give me some room so that I can."  She looked at me like I had just pointed a gun at her and demanded all her money and the groceries in her cart.  I won't even attempt  to describe the incident with the woman on her cell phone.  The point of this is that what would have taken me a maximum of two minutes to do ended up taking over 15, because every woman who came down that aisle clearly expected the disabled person to get out of their way.  Only one woman who came down the aisle was at all polite to me, saying "no no, I was looking at something, you're fine." when I said "Oh, sorry, let me get out of your way."  Strangely enough, the few men who came down the aisle were exceedingly polite.  One of them, as I stretched to reach a product, took it down from the shelf and said "Is this what you were trying to get.?"  On almost every aisle, this scene was repeated.  On the frozen foods aisle, a woman barged up and opened a door that was clearly blocked by my cart, slamming it into my cart while she reaches in through a 2" crack and tries to extricate an item that's wider than 2"!  At least she didn't glare at me.  She didn't even meet my eyes, just stood there, holding on to the selected item, until I moved out of her way.  

One of the advantages of a liberal arts education, is that one learns about the behavior of rats left to breed uncontrollably in a closed cage, and how they react to each other when resources such as food and water become artificially scarce.  My friends, we have become a society of such rats.  I am convinced.  What was scarce during my shopping trip was not food or water, but time.  Everyone is in a hurry, and the weak are just climbed over by the strong.

Of course, it goes beyond my shopping trip last night.  It is in our social policies and practices, where the poor, the poorly educated, the traumatized young, the disabled, the homeless, the mentally ill are seen as inconveniences and blamed for their situation. While nobody is yet crass enough to say it, the body language and the attitude is clearly that we should just die and get the hell out of the way of the strong.  How dare we hope for financial help.  We should just get jobs and quit feeling sorry for ourselves.  You know what?  I don't feel sorry for myself.  I feel frustrated by people who don't acknowledge reality.  There aren't enough employers willing to make enough concessions, and many of the ones who do make concessions offer inadequate pay as the price for making those concessions.  Why?  Well, there are plenty of healthy rats they can hire!  Healthy rats who will do the jobs of 2-3 rats and take their stress out on....the unhealthy rats like me.  The employers are also in a hurry to get their work done, get their product out on the shelves and sold, under pressure to maximize the benefit for the cost.

When I look out at the wider world, I see the same thing happening in other nations.  I can't help but think it has something to do with the population growth.  If you look at it, Earth is a "closed cage."  Now while I grant that God has the power to suddenly make its surface double in size, He has yet to take any steps in that direction. I am the kind that asks "What does He want of us?  We were commanded to love Him, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to be stewards of earth."  I don't think He wants us to be a society, or a world, of rats, scrambling over each other to make sure each of gets "MY ___"  (money, food, water, dream estate, etc).  To me, the real signs of Christian commitment are how one treats the less fortunate, the sick, the elderly, the disabled,, the damaged -- regardless of whether they have served in the military or not., whether they are "just like me," belong to the same political party, race, age group, economic class, etc.  Perhaps it is also time to ask ourselves if God really wants us to breed without limit and overwhelm this earth to the point that we live in a constant state of war over water and food.  Forget oil.  You can live without oil.  Humans did so for thousands of years.  You cannot however,live without clean water to drink, food to eat and air to breathe.  Think about it, and get back to me. And be warned, the next time I go shopping and am treated the way I was yesterday?  I won't get out of your way.  I'll make you wait, because my time is just as valuable to me as yours is to you, and I am worth every bit as much as you are -- mobility impairment and little electric cart and all.  I am God's child just as much as you are, and while you may not love me (and I