September 27, 2009

My Crazy Life

I'm living a crazy life right now. Not only have I been dealing with teaching the teen how to drive, I'm stuck with a husband in a wheelchair.

In the early part of August my husband had an accident. He broke his clavicle in three places, his ankle in three places, and his big toe. He's in a wheelchair because you can't use crutches with a broken clavicle.

He's had two surgeries since. The first put his shoulder back together. The scar is nasty and big.

The second surgery put his foot back together. He was in a cast for the first two weeks but they decided to put him in a boot for the remainder of his healing. He hates the boot and never wears it unless we have to leave the house. He says it irritates him.

The Xrays are my husbands. The clavicle is pretty obvious, but I still really don't see what's up with the foot. I suppose the doctor knows what he's doing.

Anyhow, he's slowly recovering.

Needless to say, he is home from work. He can't do what he does for a living from a wheelchair. Between having him home and dealing with every aspect of home life and keeping it all together I'm going crazy.

The wheelchair will hopefully be traded for crutches in two weeks. Since this occurred, we discovered our home is NOT handicap accessible or friendly in any way, shape, or form. If anything were to happen to us in our golden years we would have to make some major changes around here or move.

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July 23, 2009

Driving with a Teen

Saturday, July 18, marked the official end of class instructed Driver's Education for our teen. She scored an 86 in class. (Is that good enough? I am beginning to think: NO!) Now we have to complete the required 50 hours of her driving with us before she can get her license.

So far we have ticked off about 10 hours. In those 10 hours I think my heart has stopped at least twice. The first incident occurred turning off a major thorough fare onto a rural road. I told her way before the turn what she had to do: Slow down enough to execute the turn but do not stop unless there is oncoming traffic.

There was no oncoming traffic but there were vehicles coming up behind us. She took the left turn at about 40 mph. The truck almost flipped. My heart stopped beating for an instant.

I explained to her what she did wrong. Do you know how annoying it is to hear "I know, MOM, you don't have to tell me!" I try to give her constructive criticism and I get that. All along, I am sitting in the passenger seat wondering if I wet my pants and checking to see if my heart started beating again. Well, at least she knows what she is doing, yeah right.

In the same driving session, we arrived at our destination. I told her to park. Her first attempt failed. She was over the line and crooked. I let her do it her way that time. I told her to back out and try my way.

I explained, for a straight in spot you should pull out a bit left or right then swing in between the lines using the center of the hood and the lines as your guide. Sure enough she did it my way and parked just fine. Then she proceeded to accelerate rather than brake and drove up over the curb and almost into a light post.

This was the last straw for me. I took over the wheel and vowed my husband would ride shotgun for the remainder of her hours with us.

Stay tuned for my next installment: Driving on the highway

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June 11, 2009

Driver's Education

My teen has begun driver's education. Woe is me. We were going to do self-taught but decided to put her in the school classes at the last minute. We found out that insurance companies offer discounts to teen drivers that take the classes.

Having a kid in these classes ride in a car with you is trying on your patients. The other day she was telling me about her friend taking her driving test, which she failed the first go around. She said one thing she did not do is signal when she turned into a parking space.

My lovely teen pointed out to me I do not signal when I park. I said, "I do when there is a car behind me." Her response, "NO, you don't ever signal in a parking lot! You're supposed to." I told her again that I do, but she must not have seen me or noticed.

Now she watches every move I make when I am driving. Considering this, I am doing everything from signaling when there is not another car in sight, stopping completely at every stop sign, and putting my hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel.

For the last year or so, I have been enlightening her on specific traffic laws. For instance, there is a little known law that requires you to have your headlights on if your windshield wipers are on. I did not know about the law until I heard it on the radio. Apparently, the DJ was pulled over and got a ticket for it. So, I guess it's a good thing to know.

I hope I can survive driver's education. We are coming to the end of the second week with two more to go. She is getting her learner's permit next week. God, help me!
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May 29, 2009

The 2009 Spelling Bee

Do you remember your first spelling bee? I kinda do. It was nothing like the 2009 event won by 13 year old Kavya Shivashankar. She won a whopping $40,000 and a huge trophy. I think I got a ribbon and a cookie.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is an annual event. It has been running for 82 years! Check out some of the past champions and their winning words. I was looking over the list and my jaw about dropped as I perused the winning words.

Kavya Shivashankar won the 2009 spelling bee with: Laodicean, which means indifferent or lukewarm, especially in matters of religion. How interesting! I mean, ironic, with all the religious turmoil everywhere.

Since I have two girls, I am always interested in expanding their horizons. The oldest is going to driving school this summer, so she has lost interest in a lot of what I have to say outside of driving.

Now, the little one I still have tuned in. We have been working on writing and spelling. I know words like cat and dog are not spelling bee quality, but it is a start. Everyone has to start somewhere.

The other day my youngster brought me a letter. It read: NO ME HONOMO GO. There were also some cute little drawings of a couple of creatures holding hands and walking on a beach. I asked her to read it to me. She said, "Mom, take me to the pool please!"

So, with the illustrations I could have, maybe, gotten that. I really think I have a future spelling bee winner on my hands.

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May 21, 2009

Dealing with High Blood Pressure: The Continuing Saga

A few posts back I mentioned I have high blood pressure. On Tuesday afternoon I went for a follow up and got my blood test results. The doctor was impressed with how healthy I am. He said, "I wish my blood looked like yours".

He thought my tests would come back indicating I have high cholesterol. Nope, don't have it. Both my good and bad cholesterols are perfect. I don't have diabetes or anything wrong with my kidneys, liver, and (get this) my thyroid is perfectly within normal range. So, there you have it, I'm as healthy as a horse.

This is mind boggling information. "How come my blood pressure is off the charts"? I asked him. He said he did not have a clue.

I'm beginning to think I might be a freak of nature.

I'm working on losing the weight he wants me to drop because that's all there is left to do. I'm not that over weight. Sure, I'm not within those chart guidelines. But, I'm not 20 years old and I've had two kids.

Then we started going through the changes he wanted to make in my medications. He's taking me off the Procardia and increasing the dosage on the Prinzide. While he was writing this up, I asked him if he could prescribe a new inhaler for my asthma. I had a horrible attack over the weekend and no inhaler (long story, I won't go into it here).

He asked me what I had been doing since my inhaler ran out. "Oh, I've been taking Primatene", I said. "I need something faster acting though. The pills are not cutting it".

He about fell out of his chair.

Primatene has Ephedrine in it. Ephedrine makes your blood pressure go up. Well, of course I knew this. However, I never considered it a contributing factor to my high blood pressure since I only take it when I need it.

He cursed Primatene and stated he cannot believe it is still being sold. He said it is the worst drug ever!

When I got home I threw the Primatene in the trash.

I'm to continue monitoring my blood pressure at home. He wants to see me again in a month. The way I see it, the Primatene is the culprit of my high blood pressure.

The moral of the high blood pressure story: Tell your doctor everything. You never know if one small thing you are doing is causing your body harm. Given my background, one would think I should know this. I guess not. Live and learn...
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May 13, 2009

Adding Related Posts Widget to Blogger Blogs

While doing some SEO research I found that having related posts at the end of your blog posts is a good thing to do. It helps keep readers at your site longer. It gives readers additional posts to peruse on your subject matter. Among other SEO things, It also looks kind of cool.

My blog buddy Peter from St Vincent's Hospital Darlinghurst - Male Nurses asked me about my related posts widget in a comment recently. I thought it might be prudent to post how I went about adding the widget to my blog.

First, the SEO blog I found commenting about related posts explained how to get it done at Wordpress. Apparently that platform has the widget as an add-on. Blogger does not. Well, luckily, I'm pretty good searching keywords. I plugged "related posts blogger" into my Google search bar and came up with plenty of resources.

The first few did not work for me. Either I did not get the code in right or the instructions left me in a daze. I found this post: Related Posts Widget For Blogger to get the job done for me. Use the second set of instructions. The first did not work.

You will also need to host the little plus image on your own image hosting site. I use Photobucket and it's proven to be very reliable.

Once you get your related posts up you will not be able to view your work in the preview mode, it must be saved and you have to click a post to see it. Ensure you download a copy of your template before you start chopping away at it. Just in case you make any mistakes.

If you are still afraid of messing with your template html, you can always make a dummy template account and play with the html at your will. I did this and I'm loving messing with my templates regularly. It's especially beneficial for making those little changes you need to make but are not quite sure about.

  1. Create a dummy blog by clicking "Create a Blog" on your dashboard.
  2. Name your tester blog anything you wish. I call mine Template Tester.
  3. Once your test blog is live, go to your main blog and copy the entire template html from the Layout tab: edit html section.
  4. Once you have copied your entire template html, take it back to your test blog and paste it into the same html section on the test blog.
  5. Click preview and if everything worked out correctly you should see your main blog's template before you.

At this point you can make any alterations or additions to the template html without worry.

For the related posts widget, remember your test blog does not have any posts. You will need to make up a few posts and tag or label them so you can view your related posts widget in action.

If you like everything you've done to your blog's template in the test blog, copy the entire html code and paste it over your main blog's html. Preview the template to ensure it's there then save it.

Double check your widget is there by clicking a post.

Important note: Related post widgets will not work unless you have your posts labeled.

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May 6, 2009

Check Out FairShare to Combat Plagiarism

I've been reading about plagiarism and checking many of my articles for copies on the Internet. Since I've been working on Shared Reviews, I've found many "writers" don't have any scruples when it comes to copying. I came across an article on Associated Content about an alert tool that may help combat plagiarizers:

Using FairShare to Detect Plagiarism of Your Web Content
If you're a Web content writer, you know how upsetting it is to find that your articles have been plagiarized. It's expensive to use commercial plagiarism checkers and time consuming to set up individual Google Alerts. Want a better way?

FairShare limits you to 5 feeds. I can't get it to work on my yahoo home page, but it works beautifully on my Google reader. If your putting your stuff online and are afraid of plagiarizers, FairShare is easy to use, automatic, and free.

I will continue to use CopyScape and Google Alerts, but you can never be too aware when it comes to plagiarism.

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April 29, 2009

Swine Flu Reeks Havoc

All schools in our district are closed until May 11 due to the Swine Flu epidemic. We heard this yesterday while watching AFV (America's Funniest Home Videos). Apparently, there are three suspected cases in our school district alone.

The Swine Flu claimed the first US victim in Texas yesterday, a 23-month old baby. The child traveled with family to Brownsville, TX from Mexico and died in Houston. Read "Toddler in Texas Becomes 1st Swine Flu Death in US." The Swine Flu gripped Mexico first claiming about 159 lives.

The past weeks San Antonio has been celebrating Fiesta, which is a big party that brings masses of people together for a week and a half long celebration. I've heard many relatives of San Antonio residents come in from Mexico for Fiesta events. Additionally, many San Antonio residents travel to Mexico to work, shop, visit family, and vacation. This leads me to believe the Swine Flu will only spread around here.

Up until the Texas death, most of the cases here have been mild.

After reading reports about this, my concern levels have risen. I started looking in to what we can do to prevent the disease from passing our doors. Swine Flu can live on surfaces for an extended time after placement and spreads hand to mouth.
  • Wash your hands frequently with antibacterial, hand sanitizing soap
  • Avoid letting people invade your personal space-keep them further than arm's length away
  • Do not interact socially
So, the kids and I are going to be hermits for the next week and a half. My poor husband has to go to work. I told him to get a face mask, not to touch anything, and avoid all of his co-workers. He told me that's impossible. If he comes home coughing, feverish, or otherwise ill, he will be banished to the garage.

Curious as I am, I wanted to know how this Swine Flu darkened our path. It comes from "intense exposure" to pigs. Pigs can get the flu. (No wonder those creatures always look like they have snotty noses.) However, you can not get Swine Flu by eating pork.

How do we get rid of this?
  • The disease must be prevented in pigs through vaccine-they're working on this strain.
  • Transfer to humans from pigs must be prevented-this has to do with environmental and cleanliness conditions at the pig farms.
  • Passing the flu from human to human must be stopped-wash your hands and avoid sick people.
Now, I was wondering if this ever growing situation could be some sinister plot gone array. I'm thinking germ warfare. There is a lot going on in the world today.
  • The borders of Mexico are exploding with stories of horrible acts by drug-Mafia types.
  • We still have situations overseas here, there, and everywhere.
Well, I'm not going any further with my list. Unless you live under a rock, you know what's happening.

Know this, we are on the verge of a pandemic. All people need to protect themselves and their families from contracting Swine Flu.

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April 24, 2009

My High Blood Pressure Follow-up Appointment

Yesterday afternoon I went for a follow-up appointment for my high blood pressure. The doctor prescribed another medication besides Procardia. He wants me off Procardia. I am glad because Procardia costs about $40 bucks a month, even with our insurance.

He gave me Prinzide. It's an ACE inhibitor combined with a diuretic. The generic form of Prinzide (Lisinopril, Hydrochlorothiazide) is only $5 a month.

I have to get some blood work done tomorrow morning. I will be fasting tonight. No coffee for me in the morning...I do not know how I'll go without it, but you can be sure I will have some when I get home.

The doctor and I were discussing my medical history. It's a long one. I won't bore you with all the details. I will mention about ten years ago I was diagnosed with mild hypothyroidism, which I had gotten under control taking prescribed medications and herbal remedies. I was able to eliminate the prescription after a time. Maybe hypothyroidism never goes away?

Well, as I am, I quit taking the supplements that were keeping me in check. I really need to stop doing that. After I post this, I'm pulling out my supplement bible to figure out what it was I was taking...

He is thinking my thyroid is acting up again and causing my blood pressure to flare. This would be best I think. Of course we will not know anything until I get my blood work done.

I did a little hypothyroid search before writing this post and I don't think my thyroid is the case. I do not have any of the noted symptoms. Okay, maybe I'm a little irritable sometimes...

The doctor will also be checking my Cholesterol, kidney and liver functions, screening for diabetes, plus a few other things that escape my memory. (Darn Vampires!) Wait, memory loss is a symptom of hypothyroidism too!

He told me he wants me to drop a few pounds. I think I look pretty good, but whatever. Hmmm, unexplained weight gain is a symptom too!

Shesh, can a thyroid malfunction cause a person's blood pressure to go that high? I guess we will soon find out.

He gave me the standard spiel of cutting salt, caffeine, and monitoring my diet for good and bad stuff. I don't know if I can handle cutting out my coffee. I quit drinking sodas years ago and coffee is all I enjoy.

I have to monitor my blood pressure at home for the next few weeks. I've been doing that anyway, but now I have to keep a record for him.

As soon as my ankle is healed, I will be returning to my walking regimen and I am going to increase my exercise routine. By the way, he said my ankle looks really good.

I'm not going to let this high blood pressure stand in my way.
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April 20, 2009

If There's a Matchstick, I'll Trip Over It

Yesterday I lost my footing and tripped. I felt my ankle go and I went down to the ground to pull off my shoe. The pain radiated up my leg to my hip. I began to cry. I rarely cry.

First, I was wearing shoes. I think this was a mistake on my part since I usually wear sandals. In fact, I always wear sandals. I just happened to put on my shoes so I could help my husband cut down a dead tree. I will never wear shoes again.

My husband proceeded to help me into the house. He was asking me what happened and I could not really say anything except there may have been a matchstick in the driveway that tripped me.

He wanted to take me to the emergency room. I hate going to the emergency room, especially on the weekend, I refused.

This morning my ankle is three times it's normal size and black. I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I crawled because I could not stand the pain when I walked. This morning I slid down the stairs on my rump because stairs and a hurt ankle don't mix. I wish I could crawl around downstairs but the wood floors hurt my knees.

I broke my ankle marching in the Battle of Flowers Parade when I was a teenager. I think tripped on one of those round yellow bump things in the road. All I can really remember was tripping. I marched the rest of the parade in pain. When I got home my father saw my ankle and rushed me to the emergency room.

My ankle looks pretty much the way it did back then. However, this time I hope it's only a sprain.

I'm waiting here for the clinic to open so I can get an X-ray done...

UPDATE: We went to the clinic. The doctor was more concerned about my blood pressure than my ankle! I do have high blood pressure. She said this was too high: 245/180. I explained to her I was, and have been, in an incredible amount of pain. She said she would give me a point or two for pain but not this much.

They gave me a dose of Clonidine to lower my BP. I was told at this point they would not release me until my BP went down.

Then she looked at my foot. She said, "Ouch, that looks painful!" Then she started pushing on it! I about jumped out of the chair.

She then told me it looks broken but they would take X-rays to be sure. I had to wait for X-ray because there were two ahead of me. It didn't matter much since I could not leave anyway.

I sat and waited, and waited, and waited. Finally the nurse came back to take my BP. 193/130. The doctor made me take another dose of Clonidine.

X-ray came to take pictures of my ankle. I was returned to my cubical to wait. My husband and little girl joined me there. Why should I have to sit there by myself? The little one was not too pleased to be there. In the waiting room there was toys to play with.

My husband was upset about my BP being so high. He wanted to know why I hadn't gone to see the family doctor to refill my BP meds. Well I have a reason, it may not be good for some but I have one, he retired.

The doctor came back with good news about my ankle, it's only a sprain. This was a relief. I could not imagine wearing a cast for weeks on end.

I still had to wait for the second dose of Clonidine to take effect and have my BP checked before I could leave. The nurse came back with a pair of crutches and a splint for my ankle. After he got me fitted and braced I was told I had to wait a bit longer, 20 minutes.

In a small cubical, with an impatient child, and a worried husband, 20 minutes is like an eternity...

The nurse came back and took my BP. 166/113. He left.

The doctor said since there was improvement, I could go. She prescribed Procardia, which I had been taking before my doctor retired. Really, I wanted a new doctor closer to home anyway. She referred me to another doctor up the road. She warned me I could have a stroke or heart attack with BP that high.

I realize my heath is important. I take pretty good care of myself. I take vitamins, exercise, and eat right (for the most part). I don't understand the high BP. I guess it's not for me to understand. I just have to take care of it.

Before I get chastized for not going to the doctor for the BP, I have been feeling pretty good. I monitor it at home and it's been high but not like what it was at the clinic.

Perhaps the sprained ankle was a warning sign. Thanks to it I'll be heading to another doctor for a follow-up...

Here's my poor ankle, this is after three days of ice and elevation. Granted it is a lot better than it was.

Here you can see the difference in size, still three days. I wish it would just go away.

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April 14, 2009

Try Something New

The past weeks I've been talking about change and trying new things. As you know I got a new computer; so I've been on a rampage trying something new on it every day. Vista isn't so bad, I guess. It has a few oddities, but I'm getting used to it.

Recently I've been trying to teach my teenage daughter how to cook. It's not that I have not been trying to do this for years (I have), but this year she's taken a real interest in the art of cooking. In light of this revelation, we've started trying new and different recipes from all the books and card collections I inherited from my Nana.

Once a week we will be cooking up a new (old) dish for family night. In honor of this, we created a new blog: Family Night Dinner Ideas. I know what your thinking, "Didn't you just start a fish blog?" Well, yes, I did. But like My Fish Tank Adventures, the recipe blog will be a family collaboration.

Speaking of family, we had a wonderful Easter celebration. I hope yours was everything you wanted it to be. For the celebration we tried a new recipe from the old collection. I have to talk about it because it was a real winner everyone enjoyed. It was also something new for us.

The dish was Baked Cheese & Tomato Fondue. We served it as an appetizer, but I think it could be a nice side dish too. If you're planning a party, you might like to try it.

Try something new every day, it keeps life interesting.
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April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

Who is the Easter bunny? They say he's been around since the 1600's and roots out of Germany. He migrated to America in the 1700's with German settlers. Like Santa Claus, he sure gets a lot done in one night.

Of course Easter is a time to celebrate the Resurrection. It occurs during spring and is connected with a time of rebirth and renewal. Easter is many things to many people, the same yet different.

Easter is a grand time in our home. We will be celebrating this day with family, reflecting on life, hunting Easter eggs, and breaking bread together.

I hope each and every one of you have an enjoyable Easter!

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April 10, 2009

My Old Dictionary

I pulled down my old dictionary and the cover pulled from the spine when I opened it. The sound it made was similar to a favored pair of pants ripping at the seam when they're exhausted (or the caboose has widened too much).

The old dictionary belonged to my mother. It was a gift to her from my grandparents when she got her Masters Degree. Though I have a newer dictionary, I prefer to use this one.

When I open the book the soft thin pages feel like silk between my fingers. The aroma that rises from it's pages is indescribable, not musty or fresh. I can see a faint tinge bordering each page. It darkens in the top corners.

If I were a detective, I could pull out my spyglass, brush, and fingerprint dust to expose the identities that made their discoveries here. I think of the little hands that held this big book and used it to learn. I wonder how many of them made it big or did nothing at all? If I were a detective, I could tell you.

This old dictionary has certainly seen better days. It worked during it's prime in my mother's classrooms. It molded and enhanced many minds in it's day. It retired to my mother's bookshelf and rested there until I filed it next to my dictionary.

I will continue to use this old dictionary because it likes to be used, whether or not it's spine is broken.
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April 1, 2009

You May have Noticed...A New Background?

Noticed? Noticed what? Okay, I've changed the blog once again. I mentioned in the last post I could not stand the spread. I did not even want to visit my own blog. So, I changed things up a bit. I put up this background by following the directions from Blogger Templates and Blog help in the post: How to add a background picture in blogger.

I was thinking about using a pyzam template, as I had in the past, but I could not find one I really liked. Additionally, the pyzam templates are full screen images with a tiny, I think 660px wide, blog area. Knowing this, and hating messing with width adjustments, the background idea came up.

I was working on the fish blog template. Like Inspired, it had some real formatting issues. I understand all computer monitors are different so I want to have my blogs look right per the monitor viewing it. I remembered the new blog I built for SR fit just right in the old monitor and it seemingly adjusts for the new monitor perfectly. However, I found only a few of the static Blogger templates do this.

I grabbed my texture from GRSites and hosted it on Photobucket, then I followed the background image instructions linked above.

This new computer has really got me wanting to do a whole bunch of different things...I wonder if I have time for it all?

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March 30, 2009

Poof! I got a New Computer!!!

A few posts back I was talking about visualizing to get what you want. I've also mentioned before, I really need a new computer. It finally happened, I got a new computer!

First, I'm embarrassed to say, my old computer is a 1g RAM with a 40g hard drive. This was suitable for a good long time, until I started playing more and more with what I do here online. I found opening several tabs, working, and maintaining my sanity quite difficult.

Second, I celebrated a birthday last week, and to my surprise, my office transformed into everything I have been visualizing except the new computer. My husband bought me new chair and a new shredder, which I was totally enthralled with. Then I was taken out to dinner, even better since I did not have to cook!

For years I have told everyone who gives me anything, "I really prefer you give me cash." This year instead of jewelry, perfume, and anti-aging creams and lotions, I got cash.

The next day, my husband and I were talking and he asked me if I wanted to go shopping to spend some of my loot. I said, "well, I could use some new shorts for summer and possibly a new swimsuit." We packed up the kids and went to Best Buy.

I was thinking okay, I suppose you need something here. We looked at the computers while we were there. To digress a bit, I have to say, did you know the PCs there don't come with any pre-loaded software aside from Vista? No word program, money, or games, which I thought was rather cheap since you're paying so much upfront already.

We proceeded to WalMart for my clothes. We ended up in electronics and found a smoking deal on a new computer. It's an HP with 5g RAM and 500g hard drive. It also has a huge 20 inch monitor. The software package included everything I would need, including a bunch of games.

My husband told me to get it, so I did!

What a difference a few gig makes. I'm not quite used to Vista yet, old XP habits die hard. I had some issues getting FireFox to install, but I'm finally there. This week I'll be busy transferring files from the old nag, which the teen inherited. (She's pleased since she will be upgrading from an old Acer with only a 512mb hard drive, I can't remember the RAM on it. Let's just say it was bad and still ran Windows 98.)

Visualizing works! It also helps to tell every family member you have you prefer cash gifts or gift cards.

A final note: Since I have this new monitor I found my blog rested to the left of the screen. I changed some of the alignment to center it and adjust automatically to what monitor was viewing it. Please tell me if my adjustments messed up viewing the blog, centered it, or did nothing. I see it as spread way apart, but centered. I'm trying to fix that spread, but in the meantime any input would help. Thanks!
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March 20, 2009

Spring Cleaning and Planting time!

March 20 is the first day of spring this year. Spring Break is upon us so my teen will be home and underfoot this week. Though we're not going anywhere, we do have plans to get some things done around the house.

Every spring I like to purge. I started my spring cleaning a little early this year. I cleaned out my closet and donated 3 huge bags of clothes to Ronald McDonald House. The teen will be doing her closet this week. I'm sure here clothes will be a bigger help to the charity since hers are more stylish.

After the closets are finished I'm going to rearrange some of my planter beds. The yard is in desperate need of attention since we've had little rain. I'm looking to plant a few trees in the center of the yard. We found out recently there will be a house built across the street. We want to keep our view as natural as possible and trees should block the building nicely.

Okay, the truth is, I want big, fast growing, thick trees. When we moved here we knew a house would go up on that lot eventually. We've seen what's been popping up in the neighborhood. People are moving to the country, leveling the lots, and making our quaint area like city plats. It's crazy.

I'm thinking about planting Austrees . They are not indigenous to our area, but they look like exactly the effect we want and they're supposedly non-invasive. We're still doing research on them.

I've also thought about planting a run of Oleander, which is indigenous. However, I don't think these bushes will be enough for blockage. We have several established in the yard already and they seem stubby and short, but the flowers are nice. One big benefit of the Oleander is the deer don't eat them.

I wish the people who built our home would have left more trees in the yard. There are still remnants of stumps and roots where they leveled the lot. We've been working on clearing those, what a pain.

I hope everyone doing spring cleaning and planting this week enjoy it as much as I do.

Happy Spring to all!
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March 17, 2009

Social Security Administration Observations

Yesterday I went to the Social Security Administration to get a replacement card. My Social Security card was accidentally torn. This will never happen again, believe me. Why you cannot laminate these paper beauties is beyond me.

I have a few observations about my visit:

  1. It is against the law to kill, kidnap, abuse or otherwise harm a Social Security Administrator while they are performing their duties. Funny, I thought it was illegal to do this period. Well, just so you know, this warning is posted on the wall.
  2. Make an appointment if at all possible. This will cut your wait time down to one hour. If you try calling in advance for information or to make an appointment, expect the direct line to be busy. Call the 1-800 number so you can speak to the computer and get nowhere.
  3. If you walk in and wait, your estimated wait time is well over 2 hours, even if they tell you it will be approximately 90 minutes. And, whatever you do, don't leave the room once you check in (even to use the restroom). If they call you after you've checked in and you don't respond, you will lose your turn. Also, consider bringing your own seating as there are not enough chairs to accommodate everyone.
  4. Don't bring your kids. Children cannot sit and wait patiently for hours on end. The Social Security Administration does not provide entertainment for kids nor do they appreciate your children using the water fountain as their personal sprinkler toy.
  5. Don't bother bringing your camera to take candid images of your experience. This is posted on the entrance door: "No Cameras or Photographs Allowed!"
  6. Even though there are several service windows, only one will be open at any given time. You will, however, see many Social Security Administrators conjugated beyond the walls and wonder why they are not assisting people.
  7. You cannot obtain a Social Security card for any person other than yourself, if they are not infants or incapacitated, even with their identification in hand. You must apply in person. Three "customers" tried to do this while I was waiting.
  8. Proper identification is your state issued driver's license or identification card, military ID, green card, or passport. Your library card does not qualify. If you provide ID other than the above accepted, you will be turned away and have to return for another long wait time. This happened twice during my visit.
  9. Even though there is a television in the waiting room to help pass the time, don't expect it to be on.
  10. The Social Security Administration has a security guard to keep people in line and assist you. However, they are uninformative and allowed to ignore you while they play on their cell phones and surf the Internet on their provided desktop computer.
  11. When you visit the offices, don't be shy. Expect to gain some lifetime friends, or perhaps a new partner, when you conduct business there. With the tight quarters, limited seating, and long wait time you will become too close for comfort and have your personal space invaded.

Of course, before I went to the office in person, I had an online encounter with the Social Security website. Posted everywhere in the office are signs telling you to conduct most of your Social Security business online to save time and hassle. Sadly, you can only get a new card in person. Here's some of my online observations:

  1. The website has links that give you 404 messages.
  2. The pdf links to forms are as slow as molasses.
  3. The office locator does not allow you to directly zoom or expand the map and the written directions are rather sketchy.
More about the office locator, I live outside of San Antonio, which is a fairly large city. When I plugged in my zip code the office locator said my local Social Security office was in Seguin, which is over 100 miles from my home.

In San Antonio there is only one office to get a new Social Security card. This office is located downtown in the center of the city. It is also over 75 miles from my home-not very convenient. I would think Social Security, as big as it is, would have more service centers especially in a city the size of San Antonio.

I searched the office locator with several different zip codes hoping to find an office closer to me. I had no luck plugging San Antonio zip codes, only the downtown office popped up. You can only search for offices by zip code, by the way. But they do have a link for you to look up zip codes if you need to, and you will.

Finally, I went outside of the box and plugged in some zip codes from surrounding towns and found an office about 35 miles from my home.

In the end, my business with the Social Security Administration is done. I can expect my new card to arrive in the mail in 4 to 6 weeks!

Wait, I just had a funny thought, you can go to the office of Vital Statistics where you were born, or died, and get a certified birth or death certificate immediately. Why can't Social Security cards be printed immediately?

Also, in the office, they have signs posted about identity theft prevention and to guard from throwing your Social Security card in the trash. I can expect my card in the mail, regular mail, that is placed in a box that sits unguarded on the side of the road. What's to prevent someone from pilfering my Social Security card from my mailbox? I mean, if they'll dig in the trash to steal an identity, surely they'll steal mail too.

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March 13, 2009

Ellen Wants 1 Million Twitter Followers

I watch Ellen almost daily and, like many, she's jumped on the Twitter bandwagon. She's looking to get 1 million Twitter followers. I'm sure if anyone can do it, she can. As of this post @TheEllenShow followers are over 120,000.

I don't usually do posts at this time of day, I should be cooking dinner. As a matter of fact, I haven't posted this many times in one week in a long time. I guess playing around with the blog's back end so much lately has made me post crazy.

I've been playing around on Twitter myself, not actually tweeting. I'm reading and following tweets to see what exactly Twitter is all about. So, I get it that Ellen is intrigued with it.

I've learned quite a few things about networking, marketing, and surviving on the Internet from various Twitter-ers. I suspect I'll learn more before it's all said and done.

If you're on Twitter, let's help @TheEllenShow get to 1 million by following. Good Luck Ellen!
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March 11, 2009

Follow Directions: the Answer is Boots

In junior high I had a teacher I loved. We played Pente during our free time and learned critical thinking, problem solving, and how to be better students effortlessly under his direction. This teacher really knew his stuff and how to get kids to learn and follow directions.

One thing that has always stuck with me was something he did, or should I say, said. He was teaching us how to follow directions. We all know how to do that, right? He went to each student and whispered in their ear. Then the student would say something back. He would either tell the student to stand or remain seated.

I watched as student after student was passed and most remained seated. I could not wait for him to come to me as I knew I would have the correct response. Finally he came to my desk. He leaned into my ear and said: "Say just what I say. Say boots...without shoes."

You know what I said? I said, "boots!"

Teachers like this are hard to forget. They really make learning fun and interesting.

I've been examining a few things about my blogs and doing some problem solving, critical thinking, and following directions; just as my teacher taught me many years ago. One thing I found very, very interesting was my page rank on Inspired plummeted to a big fat ZERO. Okay, so I know this blog will probably never be on top, but it was hovering between 2 and 3, which I considered fairly respectable for what it is.

During my examinations I found Inspired was not verified and did not have a sitemap. (These were things I was sure I did when I started this blog almost two years back.) Given these two factors, this blog has not been on the crawled for who knows how long. Well I've done verified and mapped it, again.

If you have a Blogspot blog, I would check if you're verified and have a sitemap submitted in the Webmaster tools of your google account dashboard. It's easy to do, just follow the directions.

To be doubly sure it gets crawled I added Meta tags. Do I know what Meta tags are? No. But I have them as supposedly they give spiders pertinent information about your blog.

I would have never known about the fall in page rank had I not been messing around with the newer blogs I've been building. Revisiting all you learn in the beginning certainly helps keep you on track in the end. Really, all I had to do all along was follow directions.
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March 4, 2009

Building a Niche Blog

I've been working on building a niche blog. Like I don't have enough things going on already. I decided to buckle down and work my affiliate marketing endeavors to maximize my online earning potential.

My first decision, after deciding to build this niche blog, was which platform to go with. Everyone in affiliate marketing seems to promote Wordpress as the best platform. I decided to stick with Blogger.

I'll tell you why.
  • I already have an account with Blogger.
  • I already know how Blogger works and how to set it up.
  • I figured this would be the easiest and fastest way to get the blog started.
I did do a little research prior to making my decision. The research showed Wordpress would work better for a SEO blog, which is what the new blog will be wrapped around; however, Blogger indexes slightly faster. Another major factor is Blogger is part of Google: Google is a search engine, Google has taken over FeedBurner, Google has AdWords, plus my above mentioned reasons.

Second I had to decide the niche. Previously I talked about niches in my post on Inspired about branding. At that point in my blogging and web writing, I did not have a niche blog. Well, I built Squidoo to Do for Me and You, which you can consider a niche blog. Now I'll be diving in a bit further with my new blog: My Fish Tank Adventures.

I chose fish-tank-aquarium-care as my URL (not my first choice but doable). Fish tanks and aquariums are well searched topics, about 200,000 and 3,000,000 respectively according to Google AdWords, which is good for me.

I just happen to know a thing or two about fish tanks, aquariums, and fish in general-content won't be hard for me to put up. I'm also an affiliate for Finally, I found a couple of good clickbank items I can post on the site in hopes of generating an income from Clickbank in addition to Pepperjam Network..

Lastly, building My Fish Tank Adventures will be a family affair. My oldest has aspirations to become a Marine Biologist or Oceanographer some day. The little one just loves fish. My husband and I combined have 30 +++ years experience with aquariums. This said, I probably won't have to come up with all the content on my own.

This should be a fun niche blog to keep up. Since I plan to continue my online endeavors, I had to build it for the experience of creating a targeted, niche, branded blog.
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February 26, 2009

How to Make Things Happen: Visualize

I've been creating change in my life and making things happen. I've always followed simple rules, beliefs. One is you can make things happen if you see it as a fact already, visualization. How they say, if you see it, you can be it.

I'll give you an example. The past year my husband has been itching to get a new motorcycle. All his buddies at work have bikes and ride together on the weekends. They tell stories of their adventures and really make owning a bike like nothing else. You know, Live for the Ride.

Last year the group went to Sturgis. This year they're going to Daytona Bike Week and Pike's Peak. So my husband has been moping about.

We really couldn't afford to make a purchase like this. I also have some trepidation about bikes. But I want him to be happy. So I told him, just start looking. So he did. The last year he's been scouring the cycle magazines, the Internet, and various bike shops.

He found a bike he really wanted, a Honda Shadow Sabre. They will discontinue the model, I think 2008 is the last, according to the dealer we spoke to. So he really gained interest in it. I guess it has something to do with how the bike runs and looks. Possibly it's because of the nostalgia of it. Who knows?

Anyhow you can see it here.

Then he decided he really wanted the exact model with the flames and all. Well, it does look cool. By this time, about 6 months ago, I'm thinking, isn't it a little early for a mid-life crisis? And, shouldn't you be wanting something like a Corvette?

His obsession with getting this bike became more intense when a local bike sale shop got one in on their show room floor. The bike is a 2007 model with only 200 miles on it, just like new.

He started visiting the bike on a regular basis. I said, if you really want this bike you should make it happen, create change in your life to make owning the bike a reality. Visualize yourself getting the money, going to the shop, and buying the bike. Then see yourself riding it.

He did. Now the bike is sitting in our garage. I've been warned by some of the other wives of this man group, you better get used to your husband being gone all the time. Personally, I don't see that happening, he put a sissy bar on it for me.

So, you can make things happen if you visualize.

Here's the new toy: - Motorcylce/Motorcoss Helmets, Boots, Pants and Jerseys at sale prices.

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February 20, 2009

Can Negativity Squash Hope?

I was reading an article by David Servan-Schreiber about hope and healing that got me thinking. Is positive belief and hope enough? Can negativity squash hope?

The article started out telling a story of an HIV positive man who escaped AIDS much longer than expected. When asked of his treatment protocol he said he took natural supplements, ate right, and exercised. A doctor told him he had many patients following that regimen die. Then, sure as sunset, the man died. His hope and determination were squashed by some neggie nelly nay sayer, a doctor no less. At the end of the article Schreiber said patients should help themselves and instill hope in their bodies. This will do more than medicine alone.

Many years ago I had an experience with a negative person myself. My husband had bladder cancer. He went in for surgery and came out beautifully. His doctor was very optimistic about his recovery and survival.

My husband's ex-wife was a floor nurse at the hospital. She butted her head in his care when she found out he was in recovery, not her unit or specialty. I found her checking his IV and administering medication to him. My husband asked me to have her removed. After a heated discussion with the staff she was barred from initiating any care to him.

When he was moved to a private room she showed up for a visit. She walked in and told me, "we need to talk." I walked into the hall with her. She said a lot about nothing and then spouted out, loudly, "you know, he's going to die!"

I'll never forget that moment. I felt my chest get heavy and my heart sink into my stomach. I told her to leave. Thankfully she didn't come back. However, she planted the negative seed.

My husband heard her words. We did not discuss the conversation except he told me to ignore her. But I guess her statement was one he could not ignore himself. Less than a year later he was gone.

Growing up my parents taught me to think positively. They told me: "Think can do and keep not out of your life." I get it now, but then I thought they were bonkers.

Positive thinking is the mainstream for success, health, and happiness. Every day I see something that reminds me of the power of positivity.

Hope and positivity go hand in hand. When confronted with something, or someone, negative we should turn tail and make it positive. Difficult? Yes. Impossible? No.
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February 14, 2009

One Way to Celebrate Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is a holiday made for lovers. Couples celebrate the day exchanging tokens of love. Many couples have chosen this day to celebrate their love by getting married.

One legend, as told on the History Channel, said Valentine's Day was initiated when a priest named Valentine was put to death for performing secret marriages. As the story goes, in about 270, Claudius II had banned all marriages in an effort to recruit soldiers into service. Unmarried men were allegedly more inclined to sign onto service. When Claudius discovered Valentine's disobedience he ordered Valentine's death sentence.

Today my husband and I have chosen to celebrate Valentine's Day, our love and commitment to each other, by renewing our vows.

We decided to do this in honor of Dad. For the last two weeks I've been in a frenzy trying to put this together. Getting dinner reservations for 10 is not an easy feat on the most active couples dining night of the year. I could not get the exact restaurant we wanted, but I did get second best.

Organizing the venue: As luck would have it, for 20 years San Antonio has hosted a free Valentine's Day Mass Wedding. This will be their 21st year performing the ceremonies. Last year they held the ceremonies at the Arneson Theater on the Riverwalk because of construction at the courthouse. They will be using the venue once again this year. Frankly, I think they should use it from here on out.

The Arneson Theater is a beautiful spot located in La Villita on the San Antonio River. Spectators sit on one side of the river on rock and grass seating to view whatever performance is happening on the stage across the river.

Couples will gather and line the spectator seats while the officiant performs the ceremony. You can see images of 2008 Valentine's Mass Wedding on San Antonio (TX) Daily Photo.

Have a wonderful Valentine's Day!

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February 11, 2009

Alpha Inventions: Blog Traffic Generator Update

I really meant to post this last Wednesday to follow up my post about Alpha Inventions. I get wrapped up in things sometimes. I can't help myself. I also tend to put the cart before the horse and wonder why I'm not getting anywhere.

Anyway, about Alpha Inventions, my blog traffic showed a significant increase according to my report from statcounter. I'm talking triple my normal hits. I did not get comments, except from myself and my normal commentators. My blog stats are back to norm since I did not resubmit my blog or post anything new. I think, as I mentioned in the post, this is key.

I believe Alpha Inventions is well worth looking into if you're looking to increase your blog traffic.

In light of this information, and my minimal testing, my SR friend had another blog traffic generator suggestion: Condron is hauntingly familiar to Alpha Inventions. You submit your blog URL and you are exposed to a multitude of various blogs. I played around there and found a couple of interesting reads, just as I did at Alpha Inventions.

I think both sites are good for blog exposure, traffic, and a swift kick to keep your blog updated. I think they're both pretty good for sparking a post topic idea or two also--for when my mind goes blank.

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January 26, 2009

Good Girls, Bad Girls, and Joyrides

A great blogger I follow, Swubird, posted The Getaway recently. I comment to him a lot about various similarities in my life to some of his posts. Today I am going to reveal a little about myself that is not widely known.

In my youth I was a "good girl" with bad tendencies. Secretly I always wanted to be a "bad girl". My badness was only revealed to my closest friends.

Once my three girl friends and I planned a weekend joyride during hush-hush sessions. Our boy friends would be camping that weekend. We talked and decided it would be great fun to surprise them at their campsite.

My best friend planned to stay the night. We decided we would hook up with our other friends and in the middle of the night we would go see the boys. It all sounded simple enough. However, the campsite was not within walking distance and not one of us had a car or a license to drive.

We schemed a plot to sneak out my sister's car, a Camaro. Brilliant!

The weekend arrived and my best friend came over. We went for a swim and discussed the exit route for our joyride. After dinner I stole a set of car keys from the bar where the extra keys were stored. We said our good nights and retreated to my room to execute the plan.

My friend and I would have made excellent burglars. We sat in my room and timed the air conditioner so we knew exactly how long it ran. (The noise from the AC would cover any noise we might make during our escape.) I informed her of the stair that squeaked if you stepped on the wrong side of it. We also decided it would be best if we crawled across the living room floor to exit out the patio door instead of the front door, which made a racket when you opened it.

Our escape went off with out a hitch. We made it out the back door and through the gate to the driveway where we found the Camaro was blocked by mom's car.

Feeling quite a bit of adrenalin we decided to take mom's car. I sneaked back into the house to retrieve the keys.

When I returned, I slipped into the driver's seat and turned the key to on. I moved the gearshift to neutral and we pushed the car out of the driveway and down the street a ways.

I looked toward the house and saw it was still quiet. I started the car and slowly drove down the street.

Once we got off my street, we turned up the radio and tuned it to our favorite station. Cruising through the city we did not see one other car. We went to pick up the other girls.

Down on Rosewood our two friends sat waiting for us on the curb. I turned off the headlights and inched the car up to them. I rolled down the window and whispered loudly, "you girls need a ride?" They laughed and jumped in the car.

I headed to Pat Booker toward FM 78. Once there we would be home free because 78 was rarely patrolled at the time. We were on our way.

I am a good driver. Technically, I've been driving since the ripe old age of 3. My dad would let me steer the car on family road trips. Also, I was preparing to get my hardship license the next year so I could drive my grand parents to doctor appointments. I had experience, but apparently not enough.

Our joyride took us down 78 to a few crossroads and eventually to FM 1103. I was not familiar with this road and followed the limits until one of my friends said, "this road is fun, go faster!" So, I did.

We cruised up and down hills. It was fun, almost like being on a roller coaster. We were laughing, singing with the radio, and talking about the guys. We were cruising about 70 mph when I hit some loose gravel.

The car fishtailed and the road turned into a sharp curve. I managed to slow it down but I couldn't get complete control of the car. The next thing I knew we were in a ditch. We were all okay.

The week before there had been a deluge of rain. The dirt banks by the ditch were mud. We assessed the situation and figured if I accelerated enough, and they pushed from behind, we could get the car out.

"STOOOPP!" The girls screamed. I stopped and got out of the car. My friends were mud from head to toe. The rear tires were dug into this mud, which was more like quicksand at this point.

My mud-soaked friends and I decided to walk back to the main road where we hoped we'd find some help. After walking about a mile we saw a truck coming. We began flailing our arms and signaling for them to stop. Of course they went on. Who picks up strangers in the middle of the night?

We kept walking. A few minutes later the truck we tried to call down returned. They saw the car and figured it was ours.

There were three good 'ol country boys in the truck. Fate would have it they had a winch on the grill. They pulled the car out.

Beaten, we headed back home. Our joyride lost it's appeal and dawn was on the horizon. Once I was back on the main road, we hit the car wash to see if the car had been damaged and to spray off my mud-soaked buddies.

The car was physically okay but caked with mud. I sprayed down my friends and we began cleaning the car. I thought we did a pretty good job.

There was a knock on my door. Sleepy eyed I opened it to find my dad glaring at me. "Do you know what happened?"

"What happened to what?" (It's always good to answer a question with a question.)

"Come with me." I turned to my friend and said I'd be back. I followed my dad downstairs and out the front door. My mom's car sat in it's spot glistening in the morning sun. I thought WOW, we really cleaned that baby up good! Then I saw a clump of grass and mud plop down on the drive way. The entire under carriage was caked with it.

Dad asked me to explain the grass and mud to him. I looked him in the eye and denied knowing anything about it. He believed me.

You see, I was daddy's little girl. I was also a good girl.

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January 21, 2009

Increase Your Blog Traffic and Connect with Alpha Inventions

I came across something posted by a friend of mine in the SR forums. It's a blog traffic generator thing called Alpha Inventions. You know how I am, liking to check things out sometimes (okay a lot), so I submitted this blog. You can submit your blog at

My first impression is Alpha Inventions is it's really nifty. The creator, Cheru Jackson, developed it as a way for blog readers and owners to connect faster, get blogs more traffic and exposure.

I sat on the site for quite a time just reading blogs as they flashed before me. I will have to work on my speed reading skills because you only have a few moments to browse the blog unless you click it.

Alpha Inventions is a blog traffic generator. They also encourage you comment on blogs you read when you're there. Personally I had all I could do to just stop a blog I became interested in, let alone comment. As I become more accustomed to it I'll get comments going.

The submission process is swift. You just enter your blog URL and click Notify readers about my blog. Alpha Inventions is free but you can donate if you wish (you get a bonus if you do).

I'll have to check my stats next go round so I can see if I gained any traffic from Alpha Inventions. Since I've been slow posting lately, I don't know how well it would help me. I think it would be really good for the blogs I follow though. Check it out:
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January 19, 2009

Roofs and Toilets

The weekend was full of chaos for my brood. We've been spending a lot of time at mom's house doing various tasks she can't do and dad didn't get to address. This weekend involved finishing up a roof patch.

In reality the roof needs to be completely redone. A temporary fix became necessary as the shingles lifted and scattered through the yard. We're looking into roofers and will not call the same company that did this one because of the shoddy work we saw. As the roof was being taken care of, another problem came to light.

When my sister-in-law was in for dad's funeral she had her ex replace the toilet in the hall. This was a good thing, which needed to be done.

First, I must say the toilet issue has been looming for years. The old toilet was somewhat functional but proved to be a heated issue when she came to town. My husband and brother-in-law have been trying to get a new toilet in there and always hit a brick wall with it.

Let me tell you this, they just don't make toilets like they used to. Mom has this thing with new fangled objects. (I'll probably be posting more about these oddities, so bear with me.) As we all know, toilets of recent years have become water savers. Mom believes the new toilets won't get rid of the waste deposited in them. We've been trying to convince her regardless a new toilet was necessary. We failed.

My sister-in-law succeeded. Of course my husband and brother-in-law were upset that mom never let them take care of the toilet issue. I said, "who cares as long as there is a new toilet in there." Another point I mentioned is they did not have to do the deed. This saved them from a day of work better spent on other pressing issues. I swear my voice fell on deaf ears.

So, the new toilet failed over the weekend. Investigating the guts of this contraption, we found there are specialty parts in it that may never be replaced without being special ordered. That said, Saturday night we were trying to get a plumber out for emergency service. The lines backed up. Why? Because the water saving toilet did not have the oomph to pass waste to the sewer.

Okay, so mom was right. A lesson to the tune of $275 was learned. At this point the toilet is working. We'll see what happens with it when we go back to work on the laundry room.
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January 5, 2009

Dear Dad...

I haven't been around. In the midst of the Holiday hustle and bustle, my Father-in-Law passed away. He died Christmas Eve morning in his home. He was 74 years old.

Dear Dad,

When we first met I knew I had to be a part of your family. Your sense of humor, strength, and finesse entered my heart and will live there for eternity.

I remember you asking me to dance that night. I took your hand and you led me to the floor. We danced as your son watched, beaming as if to say, that's my Dad!

When your son and I became one, you accepted me for who I am. You took my daughter as one of your own. You never once blinked an eye.

I wish we had more time to talk. I will miss your stories and the laughter we shared. I will also miss your Manhattans--I never could get those just right.

I hold you in my heart for who you were and how you led your life. I will strive to live out my life as you did yours: Open arms, giving, and fun filled.

Know this, I love you and I will never forget you.

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