Monday, January 31, 2011

No binkie: It's tough on everyone

We tried to go cold turkey, but I've slipped a few times.

Several weeks ago, I picked up the baby book again.

Ignorance is bliss. I didn't realize I was doing anything wrong until I read the book.

Did you know that my son should have dropped his pacifier months ago? The book outlined all the problems he could face, if he kept the binkie.

So, I told my husband. "We need to stop giving it to him."

We had become as attached to the wonderful Soothie as Enzo. He cried before bed. It stopped with the insertions of the Soothie. He cried in church. Stopped with the Soothie. It worked every where we went. We had spare Soothies just in case we lost one or we needed a clean substitute for one that rolled across the parking lot.

On the first night, Enzo cried 23 minutes before he fell asleep. It seemed like a really long time that's why I kept track.

Enzo was fast asleep, but my bliss was shattered by the book. I discovered I was putting him to bed too late and feeding him too much throughout the night. So, in addition to taking away the binkie, I also weaned him off feedings in the middle of the night. That first night was a long one as I left soothing him without food or the binkie. My crying son is proof that no, he doesn't believe me when I say, "Don't worry sweetie. It's OK."

I succeeded two out of three times. My son was very upset. I wanted to cry. My husband needed to sleep. So, I gave Enzo the binkie once in the early morning hours.

The next night, he cried around 33 minutes before he drifted off to sleep for the entire night. I didn't get up once.

The third night had mixed results. I caved in once and gave him the binkie. It didn't stop his crying, so I took the binkie away. I haven't used it since.

I have noticed an improvement each day. Enzo tends to sleep longer, but hasn't reached that magical 12 hours of sleep a night-mark referred to in the book. We're getting there slowly, so I think I'll put the book away.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

You may not be able to live without two cents

Two cents can be a matter of life or death.

Type in "two cents makes man lose insurance" into your search engine. You'll get a page of results. Last week, the story of Vietnam Vet Ronald Flanagan of Thornton, Colorado made news in Denver and then across the United States.

His wife mistakenly shorted the monthly insurance payment online by two cents. The couple pay $328.69 monthly for insurance coverage. Mr. Flanagan has multiple myeloma, cancer of the bone marrow.

His insurance company dropped their coverage, because they had not paid their full premium — again it was short by two cents. After the news coverage of the dropped policy, the company decided to reinstate Mr. Flanagan's coverage.

One news report had the company's spokesman standing firm about their initial reaction to drop Mr. Flanagan.
"We followed the normal procedures that were in complete compliance with the law and with regualtions. (sic)"

I understand policy and regulation. This story illustrates how policy and regulation don't give any wiggle room to real families. The news reports say that the Flanagans received a bill noting the two-cent shortage, but don't indicate that the couple paid it. They paid their regular monthly bill. There was no indication  on the statement that the two cents was overdue. They paid dearly for this two cent mistake.

Mr. Flanagan's wife had to halt a bone biopsy procedure, because they had no insurance to pay for it. The procedure was stopped. And, news reports as of Jan. 26 said he was working to get back on the stem cell transplant list now that his coverage has been reinstated.

This illustrates that without health insurance you don't get service. I know a lot of people who oppose the health care reform passed in 2010. I know some people, who say, "You can get care if you need it."

Mr. Flanagan illustrates the point that no you can't. He needed medical treatment and the services had to be stopped, because he had no insurance.

I'm happy Mr. Flanagan was able to get his coverage reinstated and wish him many healthy years ahead. His story reminds us all how important health insurance is and how many cannot live without it.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

What do you say? Are there any words?

I know two caregivers who lost a spouse this week. I feel for both the women. I have been there. I pray both will find comfort during this time of grief.

Each will have to figure out what to do with her days like so many before them. For many years now, both their lives have revolved around nursing home visits, illnesses and emergencies. Their nights will most likely remain the same. Each had become accustomed to living alone without her spouse.

One major change is there will be no planning the next day around a visit to the nursing home. The immediate days following a loved one's death are busy. The most challenging day is the one after all the activity ends and everyone leaves. The caregiver is left to find a new normal.

Losing a loved one is difficult. Everyone deals with the loss in his or her own way.

I never really know what to say, but know that when I lost a loved one — the words people managed to say did comfort me.

Friday, January 28, 2011

So happy I waited

It may seem silly, but I'm happy about these little boots. The tag says they are good in -10 degrees. Well, that's if  you have good circulation and you don't stay out too long.

Nope, I'm not going to over think this one. I looked at shoes that claimed to protect your toes at these temperatures for $49.95 and some for $99.95. I really wanted something to romp around in the snow like to check the mail or to have in the car in case of an emergency.

I found them for $8.74 on clearance. It was a miracle I found my size.

Now, it just needs to snow. I'm ready.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Springs Bargains

Do you see all those coupons in the newspaper and not know what to do with them? Are you looking for a good deal around town? Do you want to do something inexpensive with the family? The Springs Bargains Web site may answer all your questions.

The site says it is "Uncovering a mountain of deals in Colorado Springs." I've found that to be true. My mother used to wait for the weekly newspaper to get the grocery store inserts to make her weekly list. You don't have to do that now. Springs Bargains offers a look at deals at area grocery, big box and drug stores. It also provide deals at area restaurants and many found online.

In addition to the online version, I look for Tweets, Facebook postings and a daily e-mail.

It's interesting to see how a few coupons and a whole lot of information can provide you with food staples and toiletries at a very low cost.

I'm still a newbie at this whole coupon practice. I struggle with finding coupons that have meaning to our family — for products we use — vs. coupons trying to entice us to purchase a new product. Sites like Springs Bargains help, because it shows you how to use coupons with store specials to get a really good deal on a product.

There are links to coupon resources. Strategy and tip posts include ones like "what to make with what's on sale."

I enjoy reading posts and comments alike. The discussion often points to immediate deals such as which area Target had the best after-Christmas selection and discounts. It creates a very helpful network.

The Web site has saved me both time and money and for this I am thankful.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

One day I'll share my work with them again

I miss the ladies and the men.

I miss the time we spent together sharing our stories — real and make believe.

I miss the quick write sessions at the end of the meetings that could be serious or hilarious.

I miss the projects that bound us and our work together in books.

I miss the Creative Writers Groups of Del Rio.

I knew when we left Texas in July that this group could not be replaced — from the poets to the memoir and fiction writers.  They were my friends.

I hope to find a group similar to the writing gang that still meets weekly at a very busy library on the Texas border. I haven't found it yet, but I will keep trying.

I keep writing, because one day I will share again with them my work.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Like it or not: State of the Union more accessible

President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech is tonight at 9 p.m. EST. The annual address by the president to the United States Congress is a big deal.

It is an opportunity for the president to share his game plan for the nation. He hits on topics that are important to the public. He may also do what leaders should do — take a leadership role to push forward an issue that he feels needs to be addressed.

Every year there is much debate about the State of the Union. Sunday's talk shows were filled with lots of back and forth about the State of the Union. The Republicans will provide a response following the president's remarks. Newscasters will analyze the number of applause and ovations given during the speech.

This year, several politicians spurred by Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado will mix it up and sit next to someone from across the aisle. Traditionally, Republicans sit with Republicans and Democrats sits with Democrats. I think Udall has a great idea and a number of congressional leaders have stepped up to say they will sit together.

For some, the State of the Union is the same old politics as usual and not worth wasting two hours of their lives to watch it. It's also a time to flip over to cable channels, because your regular network programming has been interrupted by the president's speech.

 News junkies like me may find some of the ways the White House is involving the public in the conversation interesting. The White House blog on Jan. 21 mentioned multiple ways that individuals can watch the speech and ask questions about it. No press corps ID required. This is technology and interaction at its best. There is a State of the Union page.

The fun continues through Thursday:

  • After the president's speech, you can ask White House officials questions via Twitter, Faceboook and online. 
  • On Wednesday, you can Tweet questions to Press Secretary Robert Gibbs before he holds his post-State of the Union press briefing. 
  • On Thursday, the president will answer questions live on YouTube.
  • On Thursday, policy experts will answer questions at various times throughout the day — topics on the economy at 11:30 a.m. EST, foreign policy at 1 p.m. EST, education at 3:15 p.m. EST and health care at 4:30 p.m. EST. 

These events really go a long way to get people involved and to keep people informed.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cooking for my baby

I'm not the family chef. That's my husband.

I have tried recently to cook for my son. He's still eating the pureed food. I have a tiny "Today Show" problem i.e. I watch too much of it.  One of my Today Show finds was Baby Love. I saw the interview with Norah O' Donnell and Chef Geoff Tracy. The wife (a reporter) and the hubby (a chef) created a cookbook of food for your baby.

I ordered the book almost immediately. I'm apparently old school, because I never dreamed of looking for a Web site until I sat down to write this. There are several recipes available online.

I bought fruits and vegetables right away. I cooked and messed up almost immediately.

The carrot recipe was simple, but I seemed to have made a mistake on my cooking time. They weren't as smooth as I would have liked them to be. I later used them in a meatloaf recipe from Jessica Seinfeld's Deceptively Delicious.

I also tried a broccoli recipe, but then wavered about the use of milk. Then, I realized the recipe was for a child about two months older than my son. Seriously, I'm not a sleep-deprived mom. I should have noticed this. 

I made the basic apple recipe. I made the apple and blueberries recipe. I discovered I can rock the applesauce. I was successful with the butternut squash recipe too, but decided I would wait a few more months before I worked on anymore vegetable recipes.

I believe there are a lot of baby food recipes available online for free. I like making my son's food, because I know exactly what goes in it. It's easy — just a few basic ingredients. It also costs a whole lot less. I don't have those tiny glass jars or plastic containers to recycle after he eats either.

Since I make his fruit dishes, I buy jars of organic vegetables and meat/vegetable combos. I know it's time to work on my vegetable skills, because I saw carrots on sale the other day and commented:  "Gosh, I could buy two pounds for less than two jars of baby food carrots."

It takes me more time than the Baby Love authors to do the work, but I think it's because I'm a little disorganized. The book details that organization is key. While Chef Tracy uses a melon baller to speed up his work, I use one of those apple-slice gadgets.
If I use organic apples, I just wash them, slice them with this thing (you still need to ensure the seeds are removed) and throw them in the pot.

On Monday, I made two batches of applesauce after I threw a lasagna in the oven. I survived. My family survived.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Really, do you have to say that?

I don't know why I bother reading comments on news articles. Many don't move the conversation forward, they just drag it into the gutter.

On Friday, I was reading an article about Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords leaving the hospital for a rehabilitation facility. There were four comments when I looked at the article on The Hill.

The first comment was a well wisher.

The second comment wanted to criticize Giffords' political party. I don't understand what the commenter was talking about that the party had defended Giffords' shooter?!

I believe the comment about the party had "accused innocent others" was a reference to Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, etc. I'm not a fan of Palin or her rhetoric. I understand she's not responsible for the shooting. Palin's map with cross hairs became part of the story, because the victim Congresswoman Giffords complained about Palin's map way before she was shot. No conspiracy, just plain old fashioned reporting.

A third commenter called the second one a moron. "God save you (sic) damn soul."

I grew up writing for newspapers. Years ago, the only way you could share your comment was to write a letter to the editor, sign your name to it and most likely receive a verification call. I've had my share of conversations with people who wanted to submit an anonymous letter.

My favorite line: "If you have the balls to say it, but your name on it." I often convinced the writer to use their name. When I wasn't successful, I tossed the anonymous letter in the trash.

Today, that's not so much the case. The Internet has made the conversation more immediate and accessible with the comment section at the end of stories. There are still ways to moderate the conversation, but it's pretty much the wild west — whatever is said is posted.

There seems to always be a Negative Nelly ready to jump online and post a comment. A new industry is coming to town, but one commenter says that's not good enough. The wages should be higher. The local high school offers a new after school program to help teen moms stay in school. No, no that just encourages teen pregnancy, because it makes it too easy.

I think there should be a "Count to 10 rule" for online comments. This way people might think twice (or at least read their comments) before they hit the post button. A glass-half full girl can dream, can't she?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

This happens all too often

The stories of heroics and bravery on the day of the Tucson shootings, which killed six and injured 13, will continue to amaze me. Everyday people do extraordinary things when called to act.

Sadly, it doesn't surprise me that a few people did something they were not supposed to do following the shootings. The hospital that treated the wounded had to fire several employees for accessing the shooting victims' medical records. CNN reported on this on Jan. 12.

Three clinical support staff members and a contracted nurse at University Medical Center in Tucson have been fired "for inappropriately accessing confidential medical records," a spokeswoman for the hospital said Wednesday (Jan. 12) in the article.

Just because a person works at a hospital, does not give him the right to access your information. Hospitals take this seriously and that's why three staffers and a contracted nurse lost their positions at the University Medical Center in Tucson.

When my husband and I updated our wills recently, we also created an authorization for release of protected information. In this document, we each outlined the people we wanted to have access to our medical records protected until the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA.

It may sound like a silly document, but a lot of strange — although well intentioned folks — will appear during a medical crisis. Do you really want your Aunt Betty's cousin Silda to be talking to the doctor about your medical condition? It can happen. It can be as easy as Silda being in the room at the same time the doctor arrives to give you an examine.

Most friends and family will give you your space. The release form is just a way for you to make sure your medical information is in the right hands.

Hospitals and medical offices all have procedures in place to protect your medical information. Those procedures obviously were not followed at the Tucson hospital and people lost their jobs.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Can won't be taken out with the trash

I should be embarrassed, but I am not. Some people say it is broken, but I do not.

This trash can once served as my clothes hamper. Then, it returned to its intended purpose as a garbage can when my husband and I joined our households 1,451 miles away from our "dating state."

When we combined our households, it broke. I'm not sure when or how. The silver rod mechanism which opens the lid through the foot pedal broke. You could tap you foot on that pedal all day, but it wouldn't work.

It didn't strike me to mention this to relatives when they visited. We had one batch and no one mentioned it. Maybe they were trying to be polite. A second batch of relatives visited and my brother-in-law mentioned it. "Your garbage can doesn't work," he said.

Simple and sort of true, I thought. "It does work," I laughed at him as I opened the lid with my hand. Sure the foot pedal didn't work, but lifting the lid certainly did.

We could buy a new one, but it's not a priority. There was a discussion before our last move about whether we should trash it or not. We decided to keep it. The can sat in storage with our household belongings for four months.

When we moved into our new home, the can still worked. You just lift the lid.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Bakerella

I'm working to reorganize my blog and decided on Thursdays, I would share my thanks to a blogger and/or Web site that has impacted my life

My first thought was of Bakerella. What can I say about those cake pops? Those cupcakes? Any recipe on her site?

I first discovered @bakerella on Twitter. One day I was downsizing my Twitter list and revisited the Web site.  I unfollowed @bakerella at that time, but signed up for the free e-mails so I would get every delicious post!

I have always had a sweet tooth, but to find the Bakerella Web site while pregnant was nothing short of a miracle. I had an urge to eat and to bake. Bakerella helped me do both.

I made the basic cake pops and almost cried. They tasted like this great "cake ball" I had been ordering from a woman in Alabama. I wrapped up the pops and sent them to my husband's office. They were devoured.

I made some Oreo truffles, but they were not devoured. I think my effort to be a little more healthy during the pregnancy by using fat-free ingredients didn't work. Lesson learned. I made them over Thanksgiving and Christmas with regular Oreos and cream cheese. They disappeared.

I also made a simplified version of some Easter cupcakes I saw on Bakerella's site.

If you want more than the Web site offers, there is also a book: Cake Pops:  Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More Than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats.

It's difficult to go wrong with a recipe from the Bakerella site. When you make something, you just want to share it.

And, that's why I want to say thanks. The Bakerella site has provided inspiration, useful tips and many smiles for all the whimsical treats.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Can we talk?

Seriously, can we?

I attended a discussion Tuesday night about how our characters talk. Author Laura Hayden spoke at the Pikes Peak Writers' Write Brain program. The event was a great introduction to the organization and its people.

With an intimate venue, Hayden demonstrated how a little context, character descriptions and narration can completely change the meaning of dialogue.

Later, we tossed out our own dialogue lines and character descriptions. Once shuffled, the random pairings created a few quandaries. Hayden asked us to "make it work." Through narration, imagination and skillful writing, several volunteers shared their examples using the random prompts and they made me want to know "what happens next" in the story.

Hayden offered a great check list of things to consider when writing dialogue. A few of my favorites include:

Did I write exactly what I meant to say? She suggested allowing someone else to read your work out loud. This might help you pinpoint a problem area where your intention did not make it to the page.

Does the dialogue move the plot forward?

Is it evident by the speech pattern or tone who is speaking? Is the dialogue in the character's voice?

She also mentioned that it's okay to speak in incomplete sentences.

Dialogue is difficult for me and I needed this session. As a former journalist, I transcribed and framed quotes into stories. Sure you outlined the narrative, but you didn't create the dialogue.When I write fiction, it's a bit unnatural. I must create the words, the mannerisms and the language a character uses. It's a struggle for me, but I'll do my best to make it work.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Stacy's Law: If you have 20, it'll take 30

We have a recurring conversation in our family about when we need to leave the house. It's really about when we want to arrive at a location.

If we travel by plane, I like being at the airport two hours before the flight. It's a trait I picked up from my father. My husband is not impressed.
This conversation has played out more than once during our relationship:
Hubby (extreme sarcasm): Boy, I'm glad we're at the gate TWO HOURS before the flight.
Me: I know  it's great.
The intent is not to necessarily be at the gate, but to give yourself extra time just in case something weird happens. For example, there are wrecks, construction and traffic jams that can snarl traffic on the Interstate. If you plan ahead and target an early arrival, you hopefully won't miss your flight. 
When we lived in Texas, we went to the "international," regional airport about an hour and a half early. The airport was not open. The doors were locked. The staff was either not there or just not answering the door. Oops. We waited in the car. I get reminded of that story every time we discuss when to leave our home to catch a flight.
The airport scenario is an extreme. On a weekly basis, we discuss when to leave our home for church. The church is about 10 miles away. In theory, it should take 20 minutes to get there. It all depends on the volume of traffic, whether you hit all the red lights and how other drivers are feeling that day. If they are dodgy and squirrelly, you might as well count on a 30-minute drive.  
We have Murphy's Law, but I like to call this phenomenon:  Stacy's Law - the reality that when you give yourself 20 minutes to get somewhere it will inevitably take you 30 minutes to get there. 
This happened on Sunday. We left right at 10 a.m. or right around there, because I had to run upstairs to grab the teething bracelet for the baby. We arrive at 10:17 a.m. in the church parking lot. Had we left at 10:10 a.m. I just know we would have arrived in the sanctuary during the morning announcements. 
Would anything happen if we were late? No. We would still be greeted with a smile and the ushers would have helped us find a seat. But, I am much happier when I am early.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Celebrate Dr. King, service today

Today, Americans remember Martin Luther King Jr. It's the 25th anniversary of the national holiday in his honor.

I love to visit the King Center's Web site to listen to Dr. King's words. If you have time, listen to his speech in the intro.
My favorite line:  "... everybody can be great, because everybody can serve." The line is attributed to his "The Drum Major Instinct" speech.
I know not everyone likes Dr. King. He was human and not perfect, but he dreamed we could have a color blind society. While that may be impossible, King and those working with him in the Civil Rights Movement made great strides. They put their words into non-violent action.

The King Center's Web site has links to ways people can get involved and help. The slogan for the day is "Remember! Celebrate! Act!:  A Day On, Not a Day Off."

Our family plans to spend the day together and outdoors — if the weather cooperates. We have been looking for ways to serve in our new community and hopefully those opportunities will take shape soon. 

I'm glad we celebrate and remember Dr. King's legacy and his sacrifices.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Trying to be crafty

At first glance, it looks like a purse that's crying out for a round, bamboo handle.

It's isn't.

I had this bright idea to make rather than buy my son a new "lovie." It's one of those soft, small, cuddly blankets that helps him go to sleep. He likes to touch it to his face and then instantly falls asleep.Well, that's my dream, but the lovie does soothe him.

I found a free pattern on line on how to make one, but it requires a sewing machine. I decided the most economical way (short of breaking down and buying another one) was to dig deep into my past and crochet one.

The baby and I strolled our way into the yarn aisles at the local Jo-ann's. I didn't know what I was looking for as I touched, talked to and squeezed skeins of yarn. We chatted with a few ladies, too. I never could find a proper orange yarn to help the woman looking to make a scarf for a granddaughter.

I found a cozy yarn from Bernat. Once the baby went to bed, I began. Then, I began a second time. On my third try, I just went for it as hubby and I watched TV. I fell into the same pattern I have in the past — uneven edges. It went out. It went in. It went out again.

I stopped after more rows the next morning. I decided to wash it and see if my son likes it, before I waste any more yarn.

I also did something I should have done before I did a single stitch on my purse-shaped mess. I pulled out one of the "learn to crochet" booklets I've had for 15 years. A refresher course is always welcome. I completed a few of the exercises. My stitches weren't perfect, but they looked very similar to the pictures in the instruction book.

I hope to have a decent lovie for my son one day — maybe even before he graduates from high school.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Confession: I read entertainment news

My name is Stacy and I read entertainment news. I'll watch it on TV, too, but the majority of my entertainment diet comes from my iPhone.

I know it's difficult to understand.

There are lots of things I should be focused on such as my family, the state of America, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the economy, the job market and the state of affairs around the world.

I know tidbits about all of these things. I listen to NPR reports. I watch CNN. I love The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I read newspapers and news and political web sites online.

For all of the good and especially the bad in the world, the confused, the conflicted and the unexplainable — this is why I read entertainment news. It's nonsense and a break from reality.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Life changed, so we changed our diapers

We use cloth napkins in our house. We have paper napkins and paper towels, but don't use them much. The cloth napkins were put into circulation when we researched whether or not to use cloth diapers before the birth of our son. 

My husband began the conversation about cloth diapers, because he was reading about all the tons of trash generated each year from disposable diapers. This landfill nightmare became my diaper nightmare as I researched the issue. 

The days of the white pre-fold cloth diaper with large diaper pins and noisy plastic covers were over. I ordered a sample set of the gDiaper — a hybrid diaper. It’s a hybrid, because it has a cloth cover, a plastic inner liner and a compostable and/or flushable insert. 

It’s an interesting concept, but I quickly discovered an expensive one. The inserts cost about double the price of a disposable diaper. When you add in the cost of those cute cloth gDiaper covers, well you may have saved the environment, but you’ve broken mom and dad’s piggy bank. 

Hubby came to the rescue on the topic by finding a cloth diaper class. We arranged a private class and met at a Jack in the Box. She educated us on the subtleties of cloth diapering — the Chinese prefolds, which require a water proof cover to hold in all the liquids, to the modern all-in-one diapers, which include a water repellent cover and all the fabric absorbing materials on the inside. The sheer volume of options gave me a headache.

While some people herald cloth diapers as a less expensive alternative, I wasn't completely sold on the idea. Cloth diapers were an investment plus the time and energy (for the washing machine and Mom) to wash and dry them. There was also the question about what brand would work best for our baby. Would he be skinny or have chunky legs? I couldn't really know until the baby arrived.

So, I guessed. I found a diaper I liked and purchased them from the company's seconds store online. I paid around $12 for each diaper vs. the $17 to $20 full price at various stores. The diapers were supposed to fit 8 to 18 pounds. I had newborn disposable diapers as a backup. Everything I read, suggested using disposable diapers at night or at least part of the time, so you don't get overwhelmed. 

We had a plan. Then, the plan changed as we decided to move to another state.

Our house was sold the week we delivered our son. We moved when he turned six weeks old and we weren't sure about our laundry situation. I packed the diapers with our household goods. 

By the time we were reunited with our own washing machine, the baby had outgrown his cloth diapers. We chose to stick with disposables instead of investing in more cloth diapers. The cloth diapers were passed on to another family, who has been using cloth diapers and were expecting a second child. 

The cloth wipes are used in our daily diapering routines. They are useful in a variety of ways.

While we didn't make it in our quest for cloth diapers, it certainly was a learning experience. Many people use cloth diapers successfully, but as our circumstances changed it wasn't part of our parenting experience.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Status updates before murder?

Recently, there were two deaths. The news articles indicate it was a murder-suicide. The reporters did all the standard reporting. They searched public records including property ownership and police reports. They spoke to neighbors and friends.

They also did what is part of the new standard. They searched Facebook.

Initial reports talked about the condolences posted on the woman's Facebook page. Then. They reported on the woman's final post.

Her status:  "just walked in on my husband in bed with another woman. Real nice."

The post is relevant to the crime, because it was posted at 3:10 p.m. and the 911 call about shots fired at the home was made less than 30 minutes later.

Maybe I missed the report where it mentions that another woman was in the home. It just made me wonder if the wife's status was true. Either way, it puts an asterisk on the husband, "a decorated Iraq War veteran" — rightfully or wrongfully. 

The whole situation is sad.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sorry economy, but I can't recommend it

I heard a story Monday on NPR about a court ruling that could cool the waters on people looking to buy foreclosed homes. There were doomsday predictions that this could hurt the economy, etc. I don't care. I'm still raw from our experience of trying to purchase a bank-owned property.

After being able to sell our home quickly in Texas, we mistakenly thought we would have an easy time buying a house. It's a buyer's market, right?

The housing market in our small Texas town and Colorado Springs were drastically different. Our need for location and price range, of course, played a crucial role in our search area. We were disappointed by what we quickly began calling Legoland. No disrespect to the toy, but we were sort of shocked at the uniformity of houses and communities.

After the initial shock (a few weeks of looking at houses and not liking them), we embraced a key element of the uniformity. We could look at dozens of a floor plan we liked in a multiple locations. We eventually, settled on a short sale; but continued to look.

Then, we found a house with everything we were looking for. It was a VA-bank owned property. We outbid (yes, we were in a competitive situation) another couple and planned to close in less than a month.

During the title work, a problem arose about a typographical error. It was corrected after the home was initially sold. It was not corrected during the foreclosure process. And, we thought everything was in line to have it corrected by our closing date. Repairs required by the appraiser were completed a day or so before the closing. We were ready to own the house.

The VA had a different game plan. Apparently, they never intended to close on the date we agreed in our contract. In fact, they weren't sure about that typo either. We received a call 30 minutes before our scheduled closing.  Yes, that is minutes.

We played the what if or maybe game for the two weeks. We contacted our Congressman's office seeking help to purchase the home. We were trying to purchase a government owned property and we asked:  Does the government want to sell it? We discussed legal ramifications and title policy provisions.

We tallied up the expenses for the home already paid including bank appraisals, house inspections, and radon tests. We also ordered a location drawing for the property to make sure the property lines and fences were in the correct place. We scrambled to figure out what to do about the appliances we purchased for the home. Like most foreclosures, it was stripped of appliances and fixtures. We also had to spend two extra weeks in a hotel and pay to have our belongings remain in storage.

We would not have spent a dime on this house or invested our time had we known it wasn't really available for purchase. We were reimbursed for about $1,100 of the expenses. We were not reimbursed for our lost time — about nine weeks, if you count the additional time it took us to find and move into a home — our frustration or our anxiety.

I hate to think what might have happened had we bought it and invested our time and money into it. What if the previous owners had come back, claiming they were illegally foreclosed upon? Would they own the house or would we?

I don't like to be bitter, but will admit the attempt to buy a bank-owned house was a rough experience financially and emotionally for me. I don't encourage others to buy a foreclosure property. I have a very specific reason for this. While many people are able to buy foreclosed homes and get good deals, that was not our story.

We eventually found another home. We're happy. Life goes on and we won't be in the market for a new house for a long time.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Treasured nuggets

As a journalist, I looked for that one little nugget — that quote — that summed up a story or pushed it along. If I were lucky, the quote might be outrageous and push it over the edge.

Everyday people are more likely to provide a great quote than a politician. Politicians are often more guarded. The invention of Twitter has provided a valuable resource for quotable information. Without a filter of a handler or a public relations expert, many politicians and celebrities are just letting go in 140-character outbursts.

Occasionally, there is a Joe Biden-like gaffe. Tweets that fall in substantive issues are actually pretty good. My Twitter (@StacyWrites) is my own personally news feed. I tailor the people I follow to the topics I am interested in:  health care issues, writing, politics and life in general.

Twitter users love to share their favorite quotes. I love it too. I save them and consider their meaning (if they have one). I may post them on my computer or save them in one of my quote files.

I'll share some of my favorites:

"Hell there are no rules here - we're trying to accomplish something."  - Thomas Edison

"You may all go to Hell, and I will go to Texas." - Davy Crockett

 "Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve." - Martin Luther King Jr.

"Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. - Henry Ford.

He who returns from a journey is not the same as he who left. - Proverb
The most wasted of all days is one without laughter. - E.E. Cummings

Monday, January 10, 2011

A day without sun

The sun did not shine on Sunday.

I woke up and it was cloudy and gray. You could see the snow clouds all around. Within a few hours, it began to snow.

Most people don't expect the sun to always be out, but I do. 

When we moved to Colorado Springs, there were references that the city boasts 300 days of sunshine. I've found that to be true. Since my arrival in July, I have seen the sun every day that I have been in town. No joke. Up until yesterday (Jan. 9), I saw the sun even on the days it snowed. 

During Christmas, we traveled to Iowa. There was snow on the ground and it snowed on Christmas Eve. It was overcast and gray during the entire trip. I don't recall seeing the sun a single day.

I'm not a snow person. As a Georgia native, I can't say I love it. I'm not a beach person either, but I sure enjoy having the sun as a constant companion. I appreciated the sun in South Texas too. 

This morning, it was a treat to see snow on the Front Range and on Pike's Peak. It has been warm this winter — warmer than normal temperatures. While I'm grateful for this, it has left Pike's Peak a little barren. 

I enjoyed waking up to the sun this morning. It is beautiful outside.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Working on my story

Voice: What are you doing?

Me:  Well, I'm trying to write my story.

Voice: Looks to me like you are reading blogs and news sites.

Me:  It's research.

Voice: What's your story about?

Me:  Cough. It's about ...

Voice:  You have already lost me. You hesitated. 

Me: I didn't hesitate. My throat was dry.

Excuses. Ah, they are easy to come by. First, it was difficult to write what I needed to say (and some days it still is). Then, it was the whole having a baby thing. Later, it was packing up our house, moving to another state and searching for a new house while living in a hotel with a baby and two dogs.

Today, those pesky details are resolved and it's time to write. While I keep working on a memoir manuscript, I signed up for a personal essay class. I want to brush up on my skills in this shorter format.

This will be the first class I am taking through the WOW! Women on Writing. There are plenty of writing programs and classes available online. I have taken classes through MediaBistro and had positive experiences with the program, the instructor and my virtual classmates.

The WOW! class "The Art of Truth:  Writing Your Life Into Short Creative Essays" seemed to fit everything I was looking for — short course length, a good outline of the class, weekly assignments and instructor feedback. It is reasonably priced as well.

On Saturday, I received my copy of Courage & Craft: Writing Your Life into Story by Barbara Abercrombie. The online essay instructor Melanie Faith suggested it along with a handful of essays to read for the class.

My son allowed me to read a few pages of the book. He sat beside me on his fuzzy, blue blanket beating plastic balls together and randomly turning toward me letting a string of drool moisten the corner of the pages. I enjoyed every word and then ... well, he tired of this exercise and we moved on to a nap.

I can't wait to begin the class. While I feel 100 percent that I have a book-length memoir waiting to get out, I know that many episodes in our lives are really magazine articles and not books.

I have a lot of writing to do, so for now I'm saying goodbye to the Voice (the Internet filled with all its advice, tips and distractions). I just need to sit, butt in chair and write.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


I'm at a loss.

Like many, I'm wondering why?

Why did a man killed six people and injure 12 — including Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords today?

Pray for those who are deceased and those who are injured. Pray the injured will be healed.

Friday, January 7, 2011

New representative says it best

I don't want the health care reform law repealed.

It has nothing to do with the federal deficit. It has nothing to do with my politics — liberal, conservative or in between.

I believe that we all pay for health care costs. We pay into Medicare when we work. Our state and federal resources (our tax dollars) pay for Medicaid. Our insurance premiums are impacted by our co-worker's husband's medical crisis. The non-insured also influence our premiums. When the non-insured don't pay for medical services they receive, those costs are passed along to those who have insurance.

I know many Congressmen and Senators hated the health care bill that passed. Citizens did too. I know that the bill in its current form is less than ideal, but it is something.

I wish congressional leaders would use their energy to make a more workable bill instead of trying to kill it completely.

The theatrics of it all make me angry as people's lives are at stake. It's not being dramatic to say that. It's just a fact.

I read a story on Huffington Post by Jason Linkins which mentions that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is trying to get those opposed to health care reform to drop their government health insurance.

Freshman Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) said the bill needs to be repealed because it’s “an economy-crushing, job-killing bill.”

Linkins noted the response from Grimm on the call by Schumer to drop government health care was pretty clear:

“What am I, not supposed to have health care?” he said. “It’s practicality. I’m not going to become a burden for the state because I don’t have health care, and God forbid I get into an accident and I can’t afford the operation. That can happen to anyone.”

I think Rep. Grimm candidly explained the need for health care reform. Too bad he plans to vote to repeal it.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Are you smarter than ... other parents in other school districts?

While searching for a home in Colorado Springs, we knew the reputation of the District 20 school district. The problem:  we didn't want to live in that area of town.

On January 4, the Education News Colorado  web site reported a great breakdown of Census information on Colorado districts on parental education. The article by Nancy Mitchell mentions that "higher parent education levels tend to produce higher academic achievement."

School districts like Boulder Valley, Cheyenne Mountain District 12 and Academy District 20 topped the list with the highest levels of education. It's informative to read the Education News' story and search for your child's school district.

We don't live in those districts, but hopefully we'll be able to bring something to the table to help our child in his Falcon School District 49. This school district fares well in the parental education levels. We'll also resort to good old fashioned "being involved" in our child's life and in his school to help him succeed.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Updated wills are priceless

My husband and I updated our wills today. Signed, witnessed and notarized. It's official.

I wanted a new will for Christmas. In 2010, we had a baby and moved to another state. Either one of those is reason enough to update your documents. Both in the same year, made it a necessity.

I know a lot of folks don't like to think about their death, but it's important. You love your family, so take steps while you are alive to make sure everything is in order in case you become incapacitated or worse die. 

Parents with children need to outline who becomes guardian of their children when they die. Google your state's policy on what happens to orphaned children. Not pretty. If you don't have a will outlining your wishes, your child could spend time in foster care as a ward of the state as a judge decides his fate. Do you want that?

We are on good terms with our family and it was somewhat comical the tone and direction of some of the conversations regarding the baby's guardian. Oh my! Writing it down will avoid fights.

Take time to contact a lawyer to update your legal documents — a will, power of attorney and your health care directives (whether you want life prolonging treatment or not). If you cannot afford a lawyer, investigate one of the online services or a software program to create a will.

At minimum, talk to your family about your wishes. It can be a tough conversation, but it is necessary. Everyone will be thankful that you did.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Surprised? I'm not

The story about the Navy captain and his so-called humorous videos on the USS Enterprise doesn't surprise me. Maybe it should. U.S. Armed forces officers are supposed to be aware of plain common sense and decency.

I don't understand fully why it took this long for the videos aired while the ship was deployed in 2006 and 2007 for war operations in Iraq and Afghanistan just made it into the public arena. With thousands of men and women on the ship, the delayed release of the videos offers my only surprise.

The videos are profanity laden. Everyone can use their own judgment on that. I can give language a pass. I don't care about that, but the other stuff — anti-gay slurs, simulated sex acts and a shot of two female sailors in the shower together — that doesn't get a pass. This behavior has no place on a naval ship, in a war zone or in a workplace. A naval ship is a workplace with very tight quarters and no place to escape such actions, especially one promoted by a leader and a boss.

I'm glad Capt. Owen Honors was relieved of his command of the USS Enterprise. I think the statement from Adm. John Harvey, commander of the U.S. Fleet Forces Command said it all.

"While Capt. Honors' performance as commanding officer of USS Enterprise has been without incident, his profound lack of good judgment and professionalism while previously serving as executive officer on Enterprise calls into question his character and completely undermines his credibility to continue to serve effectively in command," Harvey said, reading from a prepared statement today, Jan. 4.
Difficult decisions need to be made to make the armed services a reasonable place to work for all people — no matter what you sex or sexual orientation.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Ah 15 minutes and 20 cars

People were downright giddy before it began snowing on Dec. 30, 2010 in Colorado Springs.  Snowfall has been minimal this season. I'm new to the area, so I thought Mother Nature was being kind to this Georgia native.

The snow quickly turned roads into an icy mess. As evidence of this video captured by Ian Smith, a college student. He filmed and narrated — with a little profanity and a lot of shock at the pure chaos — as some 20 cars slipped and slid down a street.

Despite the number of vehicles crunched together at the top and bottom of the hill, drivers continued to travel up and down the street. Most were not successful. The video is clear evidence of that.

This citizen journalist was interviewed by lots of local and national media outlets. I should have known the pile up was national when I began getting text messages like "Were you near that crash?"

According to an article in The Gazette newspaper, Smith is also trying to promote his music due to all the attention. We are living in a "reality TV" world. He graduates from college in April. Hopefully, his 15 minutes will give him an edge in the job market.

Anyone watching the video, most likely will wince in pain. There was nothing anyone could do, but literally let their vehicles take the crashes from all the new vehicles trying to climb or travel down the hill.

If anyone needs proof that we are not fully in charge of our lives, watch the video again. It didn't matter if you had four-wheel, all-wheel or front-wheel drive. It was all pretty useless against the elements — at least on this day.

Safe driving. I plan to do my part and stay home when it snows.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Oh cookies, where did I go wrong

Today was cookie day.

We decided to test one of my mother-in-law's recipes for chocolate crinkles. I'm still carrying around a few of those cookies on my hips from Christmas.

The recipe was followed, but this is what I made - flat, crispy cookies.

Later, when I used the store brand peanut butter mix, these cookies turned out fine.

I'm stumped and have several dozen crispy cookies.

Neither recipe indicated I should change anything due to our high elevation. I need to research this before my next baking project.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A list filled New Year

If the first day of the year is any indication, 2011 may be the year of lists.

My inbox has been flooded by sites making lists for 2011. The list typically includes 11 tips, tidbits or resolutions.

There must be something to this list thing, because I have read most of them. I couldn't read them all, since I've been making my way through my "to do" list.

Here's to a Happy New Year and a year filled with useful lists.