Thursday, August 6, 2015

August and Mayhem

Another fall is approaching and it can't get here soon enough! It's August. It's hot. Weather in two words. I could go on to say it's dry and we have brown patches in the lawn threatening to swallow up the entire "once green water soaked June lawn" or I could just say "It's hot!".

It's that time of year when I go into "maintain" mode. By the end of July, I've already had my share of summer so arriving at August is just two much more of the same thing, heat!

July bought us our movie theatre shooting, the extended crash of the oil industry and the sight of more housing with "For Sale by Owner" signs gracing the dried out lawns.

The movie theatre shooting was broadcast nation wide and the parking lot at that theatre could be described as a parking lot for mobile uploads to news stations across the country. A silly story started around that Westboro Baptist Church would be here to picket the funerals of the two women killed. This bit of news reporting was done by Tracie Wirtz again and again on our local station with the WBC logo displayed behind her during every broadcast. The problem with this was immediately after the shooting, Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) made a statement that the shooter was not a member of their church and they did not intend to get involved. This was NOT broadcast over the television. The only thing broadcast was comments on a Twitter account that is not a representative of WBC but someone posting nonsense to stir up the locals and that it did.

Postings on Facebook by every gun totin, peace lovin, god fearin individual were united to form a line against these WBC members that were supposed to show up to picket the funerals of the two women killed at the theatre.

My comment on the page belonging to KATC chiding the reporter on what she was selectively reporting was immediately deleted. I'm assuming she knew exactly what would happen with her reporting. It would have created a wonderful cache of news for the next day's reporting. The media sucks much of the time.

This weather has inspired me to repair, paint and change some things in this house. As long as the air conditioner continues to cool me off, this house with it's chores is where I will be.
Stay cool...only two more months of this stuff!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Sorting Out The Insurance Mess

Where to start? Health insurance for everyone? What a concept huh? And along came a bill that attempted to improve those chances. I was beside myself. I was happy for all those folks that couldn't get medical care.  And then the chaos ensued.
The rollout of President Obama's health care overhaul was a fiasco. The web site was plagued with glitches. Sign up day found millions of people stuck in the fog of the web, floating or frozen, trying to find their way to choices for insurance.
Eventually, after much scolding from the right wing body of our government and Fox News, better known as Faux News, and much heart massage the web site breathed new life.
I breathed a sigh of relief. All is well. 6 million people have health coverage. The left wing of the government broadcast the glee of the citizens that finally had health insurance. The right tried so many times to reverse the decision and get rid of it that they became a joke among the citizens of the USA and still no one told the newly insured their policies would be paying minimum reimbursements to the physicians; the fly in the ointment.

I was still under the impression, and loudly defended the passing of a bill that would regulate the insurance companies and make health care affordable to so many. I was ashamed of the states under GOP governorship that would not accept the Medicaid Extension which would have covered the folks making less then 20,000.00 a year. Oh yes. There is a minimum amount one has to earn in a year to qualify for subsidy. Subsidy is the larger portion of the premium that the government will pay on your policy leaving the insured a small monthly premium.

One could still buy 'outside' the market place but there would be no subsidy offered to those. The cry went up immediately about the high cost of premiums from those whose income was over the limit and did not qualify for the subsidy. Those premiums were going to be steep. People who had insurance didn't understand why their companies were suddenly cancelling their policies and offering them different policies. The truth is those policies held by a lot of workers were the junk policies that had a  ceiling on payments. Once that was reached, your insurance was cancelled and with a pre existing condition you could not buy another insurance policy elsewhere. Insurance companies then and now ruled.

What you ended up with on this Affordable Care Act was the very poor without any help because they didn't meet the minimum income requirements, the middle bunch with subsidy and the upper level with very high premiums. A lot of people fell through the cracks because the governors of the Republican states refused to take the Medicaid Extension money offered by the federal government to cover their constituents earning less then minimum wage requirements. This was an attempt to scuddle the whole ACA sometimes known as "Obama Care".

When having a conversation with people about insurance, many would use the words "Obama Care" to refer to their insurer. I tried not to smirk. I patiently explained there was no insurance company called "Obama Care". That was a bill passed to force the insurance companies to compete for the business of the uninsured. The bill instructed the insurance companies they could NOT refuse anyone based on a pre existing condition, they could not cancel a customer based on that customer passing a ceiling on health care. The insurance companies could no longer sell junk insurance policies. Some of the policies being sold prior to ACA (Obama Care bill) did not cover pre natal care, and drugs; had no ceiling on out of pocket expenses causing many insured to go bankrupt even with these policies. The insurance companies would also cancel a policy if a buyer got sick thereby reducing the fees they had to pay for that person's care. By doing this they could offer the remainder of their clients insurance at a cheaper rate. Works out great unless you are the one that got seriously ill. You were then suddenly NOT covered. 
Folks only found out after being admitted for open heart surgery or cancer treatment, these junk insurance policies only paid a small amount. They had no idea and assumed they were covered for these major illness. Bankruptcy ensued.

When the cry went up and people reminded the President of the promise that they could keep their prior insurance, he relented. Those polices had to adhere  to the mandates of the ACA and rates increased to the consumer who blamed this on Obama Care/ACA. Check your policy. Make sure you have catastrophic coverage. Make sure your insurance doesn't have a "cap" on coverage. Check to see if the limit of payment on health care for a cancer diagnosis is more then 50,000.00. That amount won't pay for the first week of cancer care. Read the fine print.

Having said all of this, I now have a problem. Recently an acquaintance kept complaining of her "Obama Care' insurance not being accepted by her doctor. I patiently explained there was no "Obama Care" policy. What I wasn't realizing was this is what her doctor was calling it. What he meant was he was not accepting any insurance policy sold through The Market Place. Frankly, I did not believe her. I truly thought she didn't know what she was talking about. My research began.
I was appalled at what I discovered.
She had told me that her doctor said "Obama Care is for poor people." Buy yourself a policy on the private market." Translation? He was not going to get the compensation and reimbursement  from that policy as he would from a private insurance. The "Obama Care" he insisted on calling it pays a bit above the pay rate of Medicare. Saying he wouldn't take her "Obama Care" insurance was his political way of expressing his dislike of the ACA.  Her insurance carrier was Coventry, not Obama Care but it was bought through the Market Place. He said he had never agreed to see "Obama Care Insurance Co." patients (meaning he didn't sign an agreement with Coventry Insurance Company since there is no such thing as an Obama Care Insurance Company.
Again I was stunned at his instructions to her and still was not going to believe her until I did a little research.
I did. I did some research and I'm not done yet on collecting information on this. In retrospect, after researching, this doctor was not in favor of the bill. It was a political response on his part. He could just as well have told her he had taken his limit of Medicare/ACA patients at this " time."
What I have discovered so far is I didn't know much about what was going on with the ACA's effect on the insurance companies.
The reason doctors are not taking patients with insurance bought through the Market Place is..their reimbursement is only a little more then  what Medicare pays them!  Most doctors limit the amount of Medicare patients they take every week/or year as the reimbursement is a mear pittance of what a private policy pays. In order to see a large amount of Medicare patients, they have to up their scheduling of patients in order to recoup the difference in insurance reinbursements and that's why you see your doctor for a quick 15 minute visit and then you are out and the next patient enters the exam room. It's not because the doctor doesn't care about the patient but that he does care about his income.

*to be continued.  I will be talking with medical people on Monday. I want to know if they are turning away people here that bought their insurance from carriers that service this part of the state through the Market.
In searching for information in the ACA bill to determine if it specifically says the reimbursement to doctors will be sliced I found this article.

I have now spent more hours researching the refusal of doctors in seeing the patients who bought their insurance from carriers offering it from The Market Place. Basically, what it amounts to is what has always been going on. Doctors only accept a certain amount of Medicare patients in one period either weekly/monthly or yearly. The buyers of Market Place Insurance are riding along in that same boat. Doctors are only going to accept a certain number of patients paying lower rates at any given time. You might have to shop around as do Medicare patients. Most doctors DO take Medicare patients but they set a limit on how many. One internist here will take one new Medicare patient a week.

Doctors who are saying they never signed up to be a provider for The Market Place consumers are unaware of the three tiers of an insurance company. There is the private insurance policies, the Medicare insurance policies and the Market Place policies. When that physician signed up to be on the physician's list of the private insurance policies he/she was automatically accepting the Medicare patients too and then along come the ACA/Market Place patients who were given the same participating physicians list.
When the ACA/Market Place patient contacts one of the physicians on this list, they are told "NO, I didn't sign up to be on that list" and there the confusion lies with the policy holder and the doctors. The doctors didn't realize they would automatically be listed because they were on the private and Medicare vendor list.

Legally you can force a physician to honor his arrangement, though unknowingly but who wants to see a physician you have taken to court?

I feel that the doctor that saw the person I referred to earlier was taking his shot at bashing the ACA. He could have done better explaining to her his objection, which I'm sure was based on monetary considerations. Since this event, Coventry Insurance Company is no longer covering the state of Florida.

One more event: A friend signed up with United Health Care under the ACA. United Health Care is recommended by AARP. Their Medicare Insurance polices are stellar. Their private and ACA policies are so difficult for physicians to work with that many doctors will not accept them and the ones that do have hours and days of work getting people to answer the phone and deal with pre approvals. I fear Coventry was much the same sort of headache for the doctors.
A perfect storm brewed when the acquaintance referred to earlier contacted a doctor that was biased and an insurance company that was incompetent.

None of this blog addresses the shortage of physicians in the future, the cost of hiring outside source to keep up with billing, the extra staff required to get pre authorizations on the tests ordered by the physician.

A single payer system would have alleviated much of the problems encountered by patient and physician. It has been lobbied against  by the physicians and insurance companies. Their income would have been greatly affected but how does a doctor justify 340.00 for a 15 minute visit? A single payer system would have put an end to these outrageous charges.

Better minds then mine have been addressing the health care issues of this nation. I'm just an observer trying to sort it out.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Gloomy Saturday

Carrie is off to spend the weekend with her dad. Plans were made to go fishing today. She texted me last night telling me she had to go to bed early as she would be getting up at 0600 hrs. to head to the "point" to fish.

I got a text from her at 0700. She said "back'. "Why?" I asked. "Rain" she texted and as I sit here on my sofa, laptop spewing these words onto my blog, I note the skies have darkened and the rain is approaching. A few more minutes and the sound of rain beating down on concrete rings clearly into the house.

Rain, rain and more rain. It's predicted to rain throughout this weekend. Thankfully it dampens down the heat and perks up the flowers but also causes the grass to require mowing every three days!

I can now hear thunder rolling the clouds but it's very distant and a nice backdrop to the pelting rain. The huge branch on the maple tree that I can see through the floor to ceiling window in the front of the house is dipping down with the onslaught of the wind and then whips back to it's original height as the gust of wind passes on by.

I enjoy a good storm as long as it is not destructive.

The sound of thunder is now louder and closer. I don't know if that means the storm is directly overhead and moving along but while the noise erupts the rain has slacked off.

Painting has again been cancelled. I did get the front door painted between the bouts of rain last week. I started early in the morning and for two days, dry mornings allowed me to finish that project.

It might be time for a nap or for me to get up and get moving before I fall asleep.
I'm done!

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Way It Was...and Is and Is Again

 The following is a comment copied from a commenter on another website discussing the oil bust and the economy related to it.

"In the mid-1950s we had the Suez crisis and there was worry over the supply of oil. Just about 10 years later a glut of oil caused a decrease in the "posted price" which formed OPEC
In 1973 and then in 1979 we had dual oil shocks, by 1986 we had the biggest bust since the depression.
In 1990 we had the Gulf War and a short but sharp oil shock, by 1999 again we had crashing prices
In 2008 we had $4 gas, now 7 years later "The Boom is Over!"
Two morals of the story:
First, capitalism WORKS. It isn't the fastest way, but it worked each time.
Second, for those of us in the industry if you live on the edge financially you will not know if dinner next year will be chicken or feathers. So put away in the times of plenty for the times of lean. Busts only last 3-5 years historically, and when the next boom hits if you last the bust you are most in demand. "

We are hunkered down and waiting. The husband did his last job in December. We spent part of January and February traveling then back home to do some remodeling. Back on the road again in April and back home again to do landscaping.

Our days are lazy. I asked the husband if he was distressed about not working. He replied "No!, it's a relief."

I'm very grateful that he can relax and not worry about working. Those years of saving money and being frugal has enabled him to enjoy this downturn in the industry.

We were waiting for "it" and "it" finally arrived once again. Yes, we have been here before. A few times we have been here. Each of those times were scary. Though savings have always been important to us, it wasn't until this bust that we felt we were really ready to go without a paycheck.

I ran a total on how much money we need a month to meet our obligations to utilities, insurances, cable, internet and phones. All three vehicles are paid off as well as the house. Still and yet, without the house or vehicle payments, it is never cheap to live is it?

Tomorrow is our anniversary. 37 yrs. together. Who woulda thought? If the weather remains crappy, we will postpone our trip to New Orleans and roaming the streets to listen to some jazz.

I'm done here.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

TMI (too much information)

I'm a news junkie. The daughter is not. She knows my habits and when she is stymied by a conversation regarding current events and her friends are in a discussion on this, she will make a phone call to me to find out what she has been missing. She doesn't want TMI, but just a brief outline with the high points that will bring her current on an ongoing event that has been ongoing for months and months. She wants to get back to her Netflix and Red Box movies ASAP.

She might have the right outlook on this. I may have to scale back on all the news stations I channel surf looking for clues as to what the real story is. It's amazing to listen to different channels and after doing this for many  years, one can pick up the subtle innuendos  that causes the viewer to develop an intended slant on what is being reported. It's all about conditioning and propaganda.

I can now determine what news station my friends listen to by their contributions to conversations. In my daughter's case, being uninformed leaves her with much peace and contentment.

TMI. Definetly can be a bad thing.

Friday, May 29, 2015

A Reprieve

It has been two years this February that I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I can still remember the numb feeling, the brain going into neutral and the rest of the conversation with the doctor something I do not remember. Many tests followed and another cancer was found. Colon.
Because of having two unrelated cancers, my chemo was administered for a whole year. Hair was lost, many days were spent resting as the effects of the chemo caused exhaustion.

Immediately after the breast cancer diagnosis a colonoscopy was ordered and the colon cancer was found. Surgery was scheduled immediately to remove the tumor in the colon. The breast surgery came a year later after the chemo was completed. As soon as the chest wall was healed, 30 rounds of radiation followed.
It was a very long exhaustive year. One year from the the diagnosis date, a PET scan was done to look for "hot spots" indicating tumor cells forming elsewhere in my body. Clear! and a sigh of relief escapes as the doctor gives me this news.

Because of so much lymph node involvement I was told I would be kept on a "short leash" for a long time.

This past Tuesday, three tests were scheduled. My fatalistic attitude on my health issue causes me to prepare for the worst. An ultrasound of the right chest wall, a CT scan of the abdominal and pelvic area and a bone scan from head to toe kept me at the hospital all morning. Now the wait to hear the results.

Yesterday (Thursday) my oncologist called. I missed her call and had to call back and wait to have my message relaid to her and wait again for her phone call.
"All clear" she sang out. Have a good weekend. I didn't want you to worry about the results all weekend."

All clear! Again my fatalistic brain elves nudge me. Though I was prepared for bad news, this good news only buys me a little more time. I'm not naïve enough to believe that this is all it does. It will be back. "When" is the big question but for now I have a little more time to stash my diagnosis to the far corners of my brain and continue on with my life.

As a fellow cancer patient told me "I don't want to know too much. I don't want to "own" this cancer. I just want to live with it."

I understand her statement clearly.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

To The End

Cinco De Mayo is on May 5th. It's also the day that my brother  in law passed from this earthly existence. The year of 2015, 05/05.

It was just last Easter that I collected my daughter and two of her children for the long trip to North Carolina to see Ray. Three years ago he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Surgeries and procedures followed and I didn't want to wait much longer before I visited. It was Easter, 2014.

I just made another trip to North Carolina to see him again. I knew his time was drawing near. I didn't make it for Easter but two weeks later then last year.

I was able to help my sister care for him. Some days he was awake and alert; some days he slept the day away in comfort. I questioned him often about pain which he denied. I would hear him sing out "Oh Me" and my sister would respond with "Oh My". He would know by this that she was close by and that's what made him comfortable. Once, while standing by his bed, he opened his eyes and very clearly said "You have pretty teeth!" I laughed and told him "It has cost me a lot of money to keep these teeth." He smiled and stayed awake to chat with us for a while.

My sister was happy caring for him. She wanted to spend as much time as possible with him knowing that as the time got closer he would be moved to a Hospice center. I had to make this trip for a number of reasons, the first two being to make sure my sister was not feeling trapped by caring for him 24hrs a day/seven days a week. I also wanted to satisfy myself that he wasn't in pain; that he was comfortable.

Two weeks after my  leaving North Carolina, Ray passed on quietly surrounded by his family and friends and his wife. I won't be going back for the services. I felt it was more important to spend some time with him while he was alive.  As I sit here thinking of him, knowing my sister is preparing his services, I know I made the right decision.

Rest in peace brother in law. You were loved by many.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Hello! I've Been Gone for A While

Remember that room we were remodeling? Well, it's finally done. It was partially done for a few days now but there has been little touch ups that needed to be finished but I can say now without hesitation..'its' done"!
It's done and I'm exhausted. The construction mess on the patio had to be delt with and that is where I have been for the past two days. In order to clean up the patio, the little house storage area had to be cleaned. The husband had unloaded the office stuff willy nilly into the storage house. When I opened the door to take a look, I kept my gasps as quiet as possible. I'll deal with this later and "later" came today. The husband informed me it would take a week to clear it up. I work fast.
Gathering all the plastic tubs, I lined them up on the kitchen counter and labeled them. Electrical, Plumbing and another for paint and sanding. As I sorted, each container received it's share. I hauled those back to the storage house and arranged them on a shelf. Some things went directly into the big garbage container I had parked outside the door. Before long it was tidy and it was time to go next door to the part of the storage house that held all the tools.
Sawdust was inches thick on the work bench and the floor was littered with everything from tool boxes, opened and disorganized to the husbands work boots and hard hat. There was no room to walk. My first goal was making a path through this mess. The miter saws got picked up and placed on the work bench that had been cleared of the sawdust by using the leaf blower and me holding my breath while dust filled the air.
The tool boxes were heavy so they got slid across the floor to line the walls. Wood and drills and circular saws were joining the bigger tools on the work bench.

By this time I was staggering around in exhaustion. It was time to go in the house, get in some pajamas and take a long break. I couldn't go anymore even though more work needs to be done on that part of the storage house, tomorrow is another day.

Before heading into the house, I passed through the side gate into the front lawn where the husband was busy cleaning flower beds and planting flowers. I have been so busy in that office that I haven't taken the time to walk outside and admire the bright red flowers and the pink azaleas that have been blooming.
I'm looking forward to having a more restful weekend and to the following week. I have much to do but nothing that needs a 'rush' to do.
I'm tired. I'm exhausted. This has been a workout but one that I'm sure hasn't hurt me except for the hamstrings that are sore from climbing a ladder for a week.
I didn't need a gym pass to get exercise. I need to do more of this to built stamina and strength.

I'm done and I'm ready for some couch time!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Tape, Mud and Sand

I see daylight. From my seat on the sofa facing the windows to the front yard, I see the very beginnings of a daybreak on a Wednesday morning. I've been up since 0400 hrs. It just happens that way sometimes and today was one of those "get up early or lie in bed with thoughts racing through my brain on my chores to do today".
First stop was the kitchen to perk a pot of coffee and then to the laundry room to start the washing machine after unloading the wet clothes left there overnight to wash. Into the dryer they went and back to the washer to start another load. Housework done and it's time to head into the office and start sanding.

We are remodeling a room. The office looked tired and old. The ugly paneled walls that had been painted over many times were coming down. The room was never a quality finished room. I think it was an after thought on being a room that would be used as a liveable space. Originally it should have been a utility room entered from the carport via a door and used to store yard equipment or paints or brooms, etc. The builder flipped it around and put the entrance in the back off of the patio and finished it with some of the cheapest material possible. The best part is the 1/2 bath attached to that space. A toilet and sink grace it's own little space which makes it the handiest room when little guests are playing in the back yard and have to have a potty break. I can close off the rest of the rooms into the house and leave one door open when having an outdoor party. The little 1/2 bath is used by the visitors, both large and little.

For years we have talked about refinishing that room. In the past we had put up chair rail and wainscoting and new door casing and a fiberglass exterior door with floor to ceiling glass to let some light into a room without windows.

Last week the husband began demolition. As usual I thought this would be an easy job only to find out the ugly paneling had been installed before the ceiling so the paneling had to be wiggled out and down to get each piece out. Wainscoting and door trims had to be removed. Two days later we were on our way to buy sheetrock.
1/2 inch sheetrock is not a light haul. We wrestled sheetrock for two days. As it went up, I took note of all the cuts and seams in it. This was a big concern to me as I would be the one taping and mudding and sanding each seam to get a flawless finish before painting could be done.

There is no big rush, I remind myself. We are not on a schedule. The husband doesn't have to worry about being called out on a job. The oilfields have crashed which is why  we determined this would be the perfect time to get some projects done around here.

Three days after finishing the sheetrock installation, covered in white dust, I'm almost finished with the final sanding of all the walls. I see some light at the end of this tunnel. It will be a huge relief to finally have this room redone. It's past due.

My break is over and it's time to get back to sanding. I should be done before the husband makes it out of bed this morning and by that time I should be ready for a nap!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

If I Don't...............

My winter routine: One eye open and with blurred vision, I try to focus on the cable box at the foot of my bed. Initially I can make out blurred blue. Eventually the blue shimmies and shakes and settles into numbers that my brain can translate into the time. It's time to roll out of bed from my Restoril induced sleep. I've had my six hours of unconsciousness.

Swinging my legs over the side of the bed, my feet find the shaggy green throw rug as I rock forward, the momentum carrying me to a standing position. I let this stance register to the rest of my body that it will be moving soon.
Quietly I wobble around the end of the bed and aim toward the door. I wouldn't want to wake the husband and ruin his 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep. I can exit the bedroom door without a sound. I've had a lot of practice at doing this. I'm very familiar with my bedroom. Do not attempt this with any hopes of success in motel rooms. I've had to crawl out using my iPhone flashlight accessory to navigate the unfamiliar room, the suitcases and the shoes left abandoned in the rush to relax after a long day of driving.

I got this. I'm well on my way down the "T" shaped hallway and into the kitchen. Rote like, I put on a pot of coffee and retreat to the bathroom. Morning absolutions finished, I slip through the pocket door and into the living room, grasp the remote control and delve into the morning news. A few minutes of news, I break for the coffee pot, morning meds and more news.
The husband will remain in bed until ten-ish which totally endears himself to me. I don't need conversation and the stress of having to be nice to anyone at this hour. It's good enough to just sip and watch the news channel though comprehension in full will take another cup of coffee.
Soon I will tidy up the kitchen and make the bed after the husband appears. And that's just about the total of my days activities!
My excuses? It's cold outside. I'll do something when it warms up.
If I don't get a plan and a goal for some daily activity ....if I don't..........

Friday, February 20, 2015

Does Anyone Believe

So much in the news to talk about and what do most people remember? BC Brown (Bobbi Christina) and her medical condition. Does anyone still believe that this young lady is alive? Found face down in a bathtub full of water, no heartbeat nor breath, she was probably clinically dead but unpronounced when they found her. The paramedics arrived and did CPR until they could get her to a hospital where she was put on a ventilator. I've been expecting for days, the family to finally accept the fact that she isn't coming back and allow the doctors to remove her from the ventilator.

I remember watching the news reports when Michael Jackson was found and transported to the hospital. He was already gone too but it took hours and hours for the hospital to announce his death.

..and the other big story is the death of Kayla, the aid worker killed in Syria. I've noted this before but will again on this blog. She voluntarily went to a country that was a known  antagonist of the USA. After being captured, her family thought she should be rescued by the USA by either trading a prisoner/terrorist or by ransom of money they requested.
My feelings on this? If you voluntarily go into a country at war, you do it without expectations of being rescued by the US government. In addition, maybe they should be required to sign a formal paper releasing the USA from any responsibilities in your rescue should you be captured.

I feel the same about those climbing mountains that need rescued and endangering the helicopter pilots and the rescue squads that have to go get them. Before leaving on that trek, they should be required to have a rescue team "on call" should they become stranded on that mountain and require their services and of course at the expense of the climber.

There are plenty of places here in the USA that could use aids to help the children, the homeless and the ones in dire need of health care. Why go to a hostile country?

I started this post almost a week ago and am just now getting back to it. Since I started this post, BC has now had a tracheotomy done and reattached to a ventilator. Intubation is done on a temporary basis. The airway is accessed through the mouth and hooked to a ventilator. This is temporary; a trach is long term. Apparently her family is insisting on keeping her breathing.

And on the health beat around here, the husband has not been felling up to par. I believe he has a case of the nasty stuff going around here right now. Aching, nauseated and tired, he has spent the week stretched out on the sofa beneath a fuzzy blanket, awake watching TV or quietly snoozing. I've tiptoed around the house letting him dictate when I cook or clean. Rest is the best medicine usually.

Myself? I'm feeling scandalously fine. I skated through my 3 month check up with the oncologist. My tumor markers were not increased at least for now. I questioned the Nurse Practioner if I could have the mediport removed. Her answer was not comforting. She 'suggested' I might want to keep it in for a while longer which translates to "you're gonna need it for chemo again'. She didn't have to bluntly say this; it was there non the less.

We are in a run of frigid temperatures for the deep south. Frigid to us is temperatures somewhere in the 40's. We have no desire to go anywhere and we haven't for the past week. The husband because of being ill and me because there wasn't really a need for me to leave the cozy warmth of my house.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

And The People You Meet

Yesterday was another long day being hauled down the highway. The husband's job was driving; mine was looking. You can only look so long at identical clumps of sage and miles of soft tan earth before hypnotically you begin to dose off. Huge yawns kept reminding me that I don't sleep when someone is driving. I want to be awake to witness any major calamity which could endanger my health. I try to keep my driving instructions to myself as the husband has voiced his displeasure, loudly, any time I interject my views. So far, so good. He has been event free which probably comes from all those millions of miles he has logged alone in this truck going to and from all those rig jobs. Amazing? Yes, I don't know how he has done it without me riding side kick.

Yesterday's drive provided another view of a burned vehicle complete with fire trucks and rescue vehicles. A van, unrecognizable in color as the paint was totally burned off of it was only smoldering by the time we got to the scene. This incident didn't slow us down as it was in the west bound lane while we were in the eastbound lane. I can't help but wonder about the people that have lost their vehicles to flames while on a trip. Do you just give up and go home? Rent another vehicle and go on? I'm afraid my vacation mood would have abandoned me at that point.

A few miles down the road we stopped for gas. A young couple, in separate  vehicles had stopped to get gas. The young lady, wearing a T shirt and tattered jeans, arms full tatted to the elbows was handling all the finances. Her husband, a young man in his early 20's was standing beside the truck he was driving, pulling a tall, painted dull black homemade trailer. He looked exhausted. Their trip had taken them from Alaska, down through Canada and to Mississippi where they had spent a few days with her family. The last leg of their journey was to New Mexico where she has been stationed in a branch of the military. He had mustered out a year ago and was following his wife to her new post. The young man was not happy. The trip across the frozen heaved roads of Alaska and Canada, he said, was the worst part of the trip. The credit card they carried, was the second worst part as it had failed to allow them to make charges on the last stops. They still had many miles to go before their journey ended. It might be time for them to get a room and a good night's rest but depending on her leave time, that might not be possible for them. I too was ready to get a room. Another 100 miles down the road and the Best Western Sunday House Inn in Leesville, Texas is where we ended yesterdays' trip. We are very close to San Antonio and most of the sage and sand is behind us while Luling is in our future. Stopping for some BBQ at the City Market is a must once again.

This morning, I'm in the lobby of the hotel waiting on the breakfast room to open. I didn't set my watch forward yet. I thought it was 0500 hrs. so I quietly and in the dark, made my way to the bathroom where I could turn on the light and slip into a pair of black leggings, a bright red sweater and run a brush through my hair. No makeup. I'll attend to that after coffee.

I made my way to the hotel lobby only to discover the coffee shop wouldn't be open for 2 hours!!!

Coffee sat in big urns on a black granite top table along the back wall. Paper cups and lids lined up neatly against the wall, creamers, both flavored and plain were contained in black wire baskets. Perfect!

A cup of coffee, heavily creamed, a desktop computer and I'm in business!

As I sipped my coffee, a man entered the front doors. He sang out a "good morning" which I returned to him as I swung slightly in my chair to the right to greet him. Dressed casually in a golf shirt and a pair of faded blue jeans, his full head of hair, dark at one time, interspersed with a light dusting of grey, I thought George Clooney had just appeared. The gentleman drove a white Mercedes, a few years old, visible through the double doors. He was checking out.

As he walked to the coffee urns, I asked "Do you have a long trip?"  He was very cordial and filled with energy at this early hour. He stopped and said he was on his way to Houston after having left California yesterday. When I mentioned Lafayette, he said he had spent a lot of time there. His job was in safety containment which supplies a service to people that work in mines, tanks, rigs, etc. He is a diver that has spent time hovering at depths in the ocean awaiting the workers who might get in distress so he can rescue them.  His job takes him to nuclear power plants and other areas of danger where breathing could be endangered. There was 5 of them and he is the only one left for his company. He was trained in the military as a diver. I should have asked if he was a Navy Seal.   Most interesting conversation with him.
His final question as he headed for the door "Are the crawfish in season?"
I laughed and assured him they were and they were nice this year. "I'm gonna have me some mud bugs!" he said as he moved through the double doors to his car.

Our journey today should get us home. I'm ready to be home for a while. This has been a long trip but a perfect time to be traveling. Gas prices remain low; 1.89 and 1.65 with California prices averaging 2.25/gal.

I have my sights set on New Orleans for a day trip before the heat of summer returns but that's a few weeks away.

I have one more hour to kill before the dining room is open. I'll spend some time catching up on reading the news online!
..and I'm gone.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

February 6th, 2015, Lordsburg, New Mexico

We left San Diego and the sea; the sea of sea lions, surfers and bikini clad women and plunged eastward into desert, cactus and sand. It's warm. We are talking in the 80's. Stopping in Casa Grande for an hourl, we visited one last  time the husband's childhood friend. Around 1500 hrs. we were back on the road and heading toward Tucson. We knew we wouldn't be driving all night and planned to stay in Bowie, Arizona but finding no accomodations, we continued on to Lordsburg, New Mexico where you find us at this moment.

Upon arrival we approached a Best Western Motel for a room. The only rooms available was "smoking" rooms. I so remember a time when the husband and I would be overjoyed to be staying at a hotel that had "smoking' rooms. That time has come and gone. We drove on. Though tired and road weary, we drove on. We found a beautiful room at a Hampton Inn and as I crawled out of that truck, I had to lengthen the legs and stretch a bit to be sure my legs were still functional.

Travel broadens one doesn't it? I've learned a lot on this trip. The landscape, the food and the hotel habits have been most educational. The televison experience is something I'm still researching. I've found that the hotels in Texas, maybe not all, but the ones I've stayed in will have Fox News on their lobby and breakfast room TV. When quesitoned about this, I was told they had a contract with Fox and the TV had to be on that station. Later I found, if I wanted to change it I would have to poll everyone watching and if NO ONE objected, I could change the station. We stayed in that Holiday Inn in Casa Gande for 10 days. We then moved to a Holiday Inn Express in the same town as all the rooms at the big Holiday Inn had been reserved for the Super Bowl Game. Again the same thing. Fox News. The remote was left close to the TV and the breakfast room was empty as I was the first one to arrive there for coffee. I looked around the room, took a poll and when there was no one that objected, I quickly changed the TV channel to anything but Fox. I did this every morning that I stayed there.
Our next hotel was a Best Western Inn in Mission Bay, San Diego, California. The TV station there was tuned to a cartoon channel. At least they were being neutral!

I'm now in New Mexico at a Hamilton Inn. The hotel is beautiful and the breakfast room is well appointed. Paisley clad  sofas line the walls with mini tables in front of them. The center is dominated by a long black granite island with bar stools on each side and electrical receptacles to plug in one's laptops and  the best part is the TV on the wall at the end of this island is not tuned to Fox. No contract here in New Mexico?
I suppose this state doesn't garner a lot of electoral votes. If we don't make it home today, Ill  have another hotel to review.

On another note, I'm hopeful we can buy a bag of chilis. Deming and Hatches are on our route; two towns that are known for their green chili. We like to pick some up and roast them at home, package and freeze them for future meals.

I"m hoping our passage gets us to Luling, Texas for one more meal of BBQ. We plan our traveling on arriving at our favorite places to eat? Yes we do!

This trip has went well. No unexpected adventures and I'm ready to be back home. We have plans on some house renovations so I'm gearing up to be in "house mess" mode for a while.

We have miles and miles of sand and cactus to travel today. I don't mind and truly enjoy the different lands to see. We have San Antonio as our goal and anything beyond that will be gravy.

I'm off to repack, reload and hit the road!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

San Diego 2015

The road trip from Casa Grande to San Diego displayed desert scenery for the first part of the trip and  large green fields of crops for the remainder. Row after row for as far as the eye could see, crops irrigated and grown out of desert landscape proves what a lot of water willl do for an area.

We encountered one slow down on the interstate when an auto was on fire. We waited while the fire truck and police arrived. The flames were out, the paint had melted off it and the tires were gone. Someone isn't having a good  day.

By 1500 hrs. we were checking into our room in Mission Bay. Driving in this area has it's good points; roads are wide and well kept, downside; lots of traffic and the roads are not east/west or north/south. Tricky intersections make it a drive around town that will keep you on your toes. Cars parked beside the road leave  inches of clearance keeping in your lane while squeezed from the lane beside you by huge tour buses and the local MTA buses.

The architectural views are stunning. Most of the homes and buildings are a soft white which works well for thel light in this area. Spanish tile decorates the roof tops and the homes are tiered on the hill sides allowing everyone a view down the streets to the bay. Have I menitoned the streets? Oh, not the conditon of them but the steepness of them. At times the nose of the truck was pointed skyward, the other side of the road not viewed as it dropped away so steeply, one never got to see it until the nose of the truck reached the summit and propelled itself down the other side.

The airport is in the middle of the downtown and watching commercial jets skim the tops of the office building was another treat. Driving to the center of town, a loud roar filled my ears. I looked up to see the rivets holding the metal sheeting together on the underbelly of a big jet plane. Oh my! I'm viewing a plane crash, I thought. A few seconds more and we were driving past the big fence that seperates the street traffic from the airport runway! A plane had just landed.

Our trip so far has taken us to Pacific Coast Beach. It's February and the first days of that month. Seeing folks strutting the beach shirtless while the young women lay out on blankets catching the sun and surfers paddling out to catch a wave is such an uncommon sight for us. Though we live in Louisiana and the winters are usually mild, they aren't this mild!

Walking through the sand, we reached the pier and walked along watching the people on their surfboards and wet suits diving through the waves and paddling out to find a good wave to ride back on. A couple standing on the pier had caught a huge lobster while the young man standing beside us was trying to catch a fish. He had helped the couple with their lobster but had warned us that keeping a lobster caught there entailed a five hundred dollar fine. We were just there to watch. Apparently he was a local.

Yesterday found us at Balboa Park. It's huge and a must see for tourists and locals alike. Many museums, art galleries and manicured gardens with miles of walking so wear a good pair of shoes.  Lunch was at a little roadside "walk up to order at the window place" on University Street called Carnitas Snack Shack. Order your lunch, take a ticket and go to the open air seating in the back and a waitor/waitress will bring your food to you. The sandwiches were great and much to much to eat at one meal. We got to go boxes and had the remainders for dinner last night.

It's time to go back to the room with coffee for the husband, get a shower and wander around again today! I'm gone.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Casa Grande on a Saturday

Saturday morning and I''m in the business room of the hotel using their desktop computers to update my blog. I am traveling with my iPad and cell for internet connection and connecting with the iPad is a slow process here. Using the facilities computers makes this project much quicker.

Yesterday we drove around town noting all the new growth in industry here. The roads are phenomonal after the pot hole infested roads in Lafayette. Unaltered blacktop provides a smooth ride around town and it appears the whole town just got a fresh coat of that stuff. The city coffers must be healthy. Strange what one notices while
traveling. Temperatures were in the 50's with a brisk wind and I was cold. Today the temperatures are expected to be in the low 70's. It's warming up a bit here as that artic blast creeps eastward.

I'm the early riser in this relationship and thankfully this hotel has it's own restaurant. Not just a coffee shop but a restaurant where breakfast can be ordered along with a buffet. I can hide out here and sip coffee until the husband wakes.

 Yesterday lunch found us at Little Sombreo's across from what was once the huge white grand High School which is now City Hall. Little Sombreo's was a favorite hangout for those students attending the High School and one of those places we have lunch every time we come here. (Casa Grande).
A huge cheese crisp with green chili's and a taco and a cherry Coke; lunch was a treat.

The Falconers of Arizona are holding their convention  this weekend. A roped off area of the grounds have falcons and their owners gathered; a beautiful white owl sits on his perch, his speckled white coat, furry feet and golden eyes  stare back as he swivels his head in semi circles allowing one to get close for a good view. Birds make me nervous. I don't like to get too close but viewing from a distance is interesting. I've heard white owls are sacred to the Native Americans. I'll need to Google for more information on this.

The parking lot is dominated by huge rigs from CBS sports; the photographers wander the hotel with huge cameras. The football pro bowl is this weekend in Phoenix; next week the football Super Bowl so it's a busy place around here. Casa Grande is a bedroom community, meer minutes from Phoenix  and all the motels have been reserved for these games.

Friends were seen, beer was consumed and dinner out with a portion of the family last night and plans in progress for this evening. We are usually busy when we get here. The husbands family is huge and he likes to allow time to see everyone of them.

I'm off to have some breakfast and wait for a phone call from the husband alerting me that he is up and ready to start his day. Mine started hours ago!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Day 2, Snow and Go

Thursday Morning, Jan. 22, 2015 at 1819hrs.
Woke up to a wet cold morning. We spent the night at a Holiday Inn in Ozona, Texas. This town has taken a major down turn related to the oil crisis. At one time, securing a room at this Inn was impossible. Travel trailers on the side  of the road used  an extension cord leading to a house that has rented that minute space to a oilfield worker; the trailer parks now have spaces for rent. The job cuts are noticeable here.

Gas has been at 1.67 to 1.99 a gallon on this trip. We expect to spend 200.00 in gas for this trip from Lafayette, La. to Casa Grande, Arizona. Usually this would easily be 600.00 prior to this oil field bust. 

Since we have decided to watch this bust from the sidelines, we are doing some traveling and what better time for a long trip with these gas prices.

Listening to CNN this morning, proclamations of layoffs with American Express are starting. More co lateral  damage. People enjoying these low gas prices will hesitate to revel as their jobs are impacted. 

We are heading for Las Cruses today where we will spend the night. The weather is wet and cold with lots of fog wrapped around the ground cover. The sagebrush and century plants are a bright green against the soft tan sand of the desert. Across the buttes stand rigid against the sky, miles and miles of wind turbines spinning  their 3 arm salute. Knowing that they are generating wind energy does little to quell the sadness I feel on their marring of the natural landscape of the desert.

The highway is flanked on either side by the cuts made through the buttes enabling this road to have a straight shot, no curves to slow the need for high speed travel. I enjoy seeing the different layers of the earth in these cuts.
My imagination wanders. Wagon trains, cowboys and Indians used to  hunt, live and fight to live here. Years before 3 armed windmills and miles and miles of asphalt, the wagons slowly crossed this desert. When I get a little uncomfortable riding mile after mile in this truck, I simply place my self in an unheated, no shocks and no cell phone covered wagon. An instant cure for self pity.
I'm off to watch the rain, gently splashing the windshield and hoping it this moisture continues in this form. Driving in rain much preferable to snow!

And later in the afternoon, the flurries began. The flakes were small and occasionally not the soft fluffy kind. Pings on the windshield attested to the ice mixed with the snow. The desert was white which is something I have never experienced. Sand trucks were loaded and ready for the snow forecast for this evening. The cars and trucks off the road and down embankments was a silent testimony to last night's weather and slick roads. 

We arrived in Casa Grande and moved into our reserved room. The husband contacted his sister and neice and we spend the remainder of the evening sipping on Fuzzy Navels and Screwdrivers. Tomorrow starts the round of visits to family members! Are we having fun yet? It IS nice to be on the road with no real set schedule on being anywhere at any time!
Signing off from Casa Grande, Arizona!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Your Fingers and Toes Won't Fall Off

Long held beliefs and fears are difficult to change.

Getting into the swing of the husband and his retirement (which just means he is between jobs and home since this oil field slump) I was tired of looking at green walls. The temperature had zipped up to a lovely 50 degrees from the below freezing temps that had been gracing our huddled homebound bodies.

Where to go? A day trip. What better place to visit on a warm sunny winter day but a Leper Colony! To say the husband is a bit squeamish when it comes to anything pertaining to an unhealthy condition would be a huge understatement. Seeing skin that is not intact, blood, guts and gore he quickly grabs the remote control and switches the TV to the weather channel. So what do I suggest? "Oh honey, lets go to Carville and tour the Leper Museum." I think he was watching for my head to do a 360 degree swivel. He declined.
A little nagging and cajoling, and we were on our way. 
The drive was lovely. We stopped in Baton Rouge for a snack. Boudin balls and meat pies, just yummy and we were on our way again.
The sanatorium sits close to the highway, a lovely old planation home it's centerpiece. Long covered walkways, used by the patients for recreation on rainy days , lead from one building to another and the complex is huge. A soft yellow stucco used on the walkways softened what could have been very stark and harsh effect of this sanatorium.
Arriving at the guard gate, the husband expected me to be satisfied with gazing at the buildings from that viewpoint. I wanted to go in. The National Guardsmen at the gate requested driver's license to gather information on the form required to enter. This facility is now the National Guard headquarters for Louisiana. The Museum is open to educate people on leprosy or what is now called Hansen's Disease.

The husband parked beneath the Live Oaks and there he stayed. He refused to enter the building. The fear, the stigma of the lepers remains that strong in many people yet. I didn't expect the museum to be much but I was amazed at how many artifacts collected and displayed. This was a huge hospital at one time; doctors and nuns staffed and cared for the patients. Not one staff member ever contacted leprosy from the patients. It is not considered contagious. By 1940 a medicine has been discovered that halted the progress of the bacillum and if caught early, damage to the periphery could be eliminated.
"Your fingers and toes do not fall off" said the guide. "The body absorbs the bone in the fingers and toes." It's a neurological condition.
I wandered from exhibit to exhibit after watching a short film. There were relics from the operating room, the morgue and the registries of purchases to keep the facility operating. Another room held a 4 foot tall spindle with patient charts. Photos covered the walls, much to read and see but eventually I made my way back to the front door and out into the sunlight.

The husband still parked beneath the big oaks, watched and shook his head as I made my way back to the truck. I was surprised that he let me back in or didn't have a disinfectant spray to use on me.

Two patients remain on the grounds and are seen by a doctor and a nurse daily. When the facility was closed after finding the disease wasn't contagious, many of the patients that had lived there all the lives did not want to leave. They were allowed to stay, while some of them returned to their families. Baton Rouge houses 15 of them that chose to leave and had no family to return to. They live in a retirement /assisted living home.
Why doesn't he find this interesting? There are only two places in the USA that house these patients. The states that primarily produce these patients are Louisiana, Texas, California, Florida, New York and Hawaii. There maybe a few other states. I can't remember everything the guide mentioned. The museum is kept open and free to the public to educate them and alleviate the fear of this disease. Now to just get people to enter the door into this information center huh? Though I shared all this information with the husband, he clearly was not interested and remains skeptical and fearful.

Our day trip proceeded to the casino and dinner. We waited out the rush hour traffic and arrived back home at 2100 hrs.
I thoroughly enjoyed my day; the husband only enjoyed part of it; the blackjack tables.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Doom and Gloom, The Decline of 2015

It's that time again. It was a good run. Years and years of unlimited amount of work with excellent income lulled them into a false sense of security. Those that were lulled were the "30 and under" group that hadn't lived through a cycle of life in the 'patch'.  The 'patch'. Everyone that works in the oil industry is familiar with that word. No questions raised on what that word means. If you're in the patch, it goes without saying, you're involved in the oil industry in one of their many operations that are inherent to the recovering of oil and gas.

The early years of the husbands experience in the patch was when we moved to Wyoming in 1978. The boom was on, housing was overpriced, it was bitter cold and workers were scarce. The husband climbed 60 ft. into the air on ice encrusted derricks to handle pipe going in and coming out of the hole. After all, being a derrick hand paid an extra dollar an hour. This was his training ground for the job he eventually captured, never to return to being a 'roughneck'.

This new couple were in the 'struggle stage' of their relationship. Most of us have been there unfortunately. Few young folks get the order of a relationship right. It should go something like this.
1. college leading to entry level job
2. starter home and car
3. savings
4. children
I actually know a few couples that follow this order. I know many more that were like me so the struggle is on.
We had once a month "dinner outs." We saved what little we could and moved up from the 25ft. travel trailer to a 35 footer and then into a 14 X 72 footer on a lot we purchased and finally into a house. We had a plan and a goal. And then the bust hit.
Weekly visits to our house by friends that were in the 'patch' to report their layoff notices. Every week it was more and more until finally we received our notice. We moved from our house back into the big mobile home while we listened to the news of the black hole of unemployment, houses left abandoned, armed guards surrounding the banks, suicides in the prairie from owners of rigs that had lost everything and the futile effort of people trying to find any job to survive. The new subdivisions built when the boom was on, were now streets of huge homes with broken windows and hugged with yellowed weeds waist high. Street after street, it looked like the lower Ninth Ward after Katrina, devastated not by water but by the economy. Waiting time to rent a U Haul to leave town was 3 months.

We watched and listened and we learned. This was our first rodeo but it wouldn't be our last.
We didn't waste time. While we still had savings, we loaded up the 35 ft. travel trailer, hooked it to the truck,   and headed to Arizona. Eventually we ended up in Phoenix. We both secured jobs and spent off times roaming the desert, site seeing all over the area and waiting.

One year passed and one day a phone call came in. "Would you like to return back to work?" The husband was happy to be back in his field and back to the 'patch'. We loaded up and drove back to Casper, Wyoming where we collected all our furniture from storage, loaded it all up and headed to Morgantown, WV. I was devastated. I wanted to stay in the Rockies. The company thought I would be excited about going back to my home state. I said "I've always known the way back and if I had wanted to be there, I would have been!"
A beautiful state, WV, but a state that has always struggled to provide employment for their native sons and daughters. The mountainous area and the lack of roads have always deterred manufacturers from establishing any industry there as the expense to truck in and out is a long and cost prohibitive endeavor. Most of the industry there is sited on the rivers that border the state; the Ohio and the Kanawaha.  I was happy to leave soon after high school and only wanted to return for vacation visits but here we were back. Twenty two months later found us on the road to Mississippi. That tour lasted one year. Transferred again, it was 1990  and this time to Lafayette, La. which is where you will find me today. 
Between Mississippi and the first years here, I spent in college. I was officially out of the 'patch' and into a hospital as a Registered Nurse. One of us would be non dependant on the 'patch'.
We bought a house and paid it off in 9 yrs. Security. Paying off the house was my first priority. New cars followed but never incurring huge debt. 8 months and the new car was paid for. The memory of the bust was still fresh and raw for me.
As the years passed, we continued to save money, living without extravagant spending. When we could have moved to a bigger more exclusive neighborhood, we chose to stay in this house in this nice neighborhood, neither of us needing to impress anyone with a bigger home and fancy cars.
The husband worked for Baker Hughes for over 20 yrs. Eventually he went on his own as a consultant. The client would call and offer him a job that was up; he either chose to do it or declined. I have never seen him decline a job. He charges by the day and the money was excellent as was the all expense paid rate. He always said "I'll take these jobs now. This won't last forever."
His clothes were seldom unpacked. He would get a call and be on the road to the next location, to be gone a week to thirty days and sometimes even longer. Many Thanksgivings and Christmases and anniversaries were spent on the rig site.
Times were good for us and this boom was going to be ridden to the end and we would be ready when it happened.
It has happened. The bust is here as we knew it would be.
Utilities and insurance and food; that's the extent of our bills. The savings are hefty. We can now relax and do some traveling. We had a plan. We followed the path that helped us get to our goal. We are there.

The young folks that we tried to caution on their lifestyles lent a deaf ear. They were clueless. Big homes, bigger trucks and Escalades for the wife, the money was rolling in.
This is their first lesson. It will be a tough one but one they need to learn.

We are on the sidelines watching this one roll out. Hang on, it's gonna be a rough ride.