Monday, February 28, 2011

We have lost a great 'Queen Bee'

A community said goodbye today to a very nice woman.

Catherine Monk was. It's not one of those things you say of the dead. It's true.

I shared a nanosecond of time in the Richmond County Daily Journal's newsroom back in 2006 and 2007.

When I arrived to interview in late 2005, Catherine had a serious medical condition. It was almost certain that she would not return to work. After all, she had went to the rehab floor of the hospital. People didn't leave that floor.

Catherine defied that prediction. She returned to work.

Her mobility had left her, but she could work the phone better than any journalist I had met. In general, you don't want a reporter to sit in the office, but Catherine was different.  Why? She knew her community. She worked in the community for around 50 years before I ever joined the staff. She was a living archive of both the community and the newspaper's history.

I didn't get to know Catherine too much on a personal level. I was too busy working through that transition of the old age of newspapers and the changes beginning to surface in the industry around 2007 — smaller budgets and staffs to create the same product. Those who did go to lunch with her always returned with a smile on their face.

She died last Friday after an extended illness.

Her friend and former colleague Tom MacCallum wrote a touching story about her life.

This comment stuck with me the most:
“She represents one more loss of figures from the earlier years of the newspaper, when it was published in the afternoon, and when its writers and editors were totally woven into the community they served,” (Jeff Holland) said.
The Journal like so many community newspapers are a training ground for journalists. Reporters come and go much to the annoyance of some local leaders, who become part of a reluctant on-the-job training for them. Catherine did not. She worked in the community for more than half a century. Her experience helped a lot of reporters, editors and writers — and especially her readers.
Catherine will be missed.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

30 days

It seems like a long time, if you are waiting for something to happen. As in, I'm planning a trip to visit family in a month.

It seems like a short time, if you are trying to complete a goal. As in write a novel in 30 days.

I'll let you know how this all turns out - in 30 days.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A new day

I love how one day there is snow every where. I enjoy how it clings to the trees. A few times it looked like the trees were crystal from the snow and frost.

This was on Friday. It snowed a little more throughout the night.

Within a few hours this morning, there was little trace of the snow. The sun had melted it.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, February 25, 2011

A day for reading, mourning

Author L.K. Madigan died on Wednesday. The Portland writer's name was Lisa Wolfson. She announced in January that she had pancreatic cancer. It is a heartwrenching post.
Despite being diagnosed with cancer again, she said she is "so lucky."
I’m not angry about the diagnosis. How can I feel angry when I had this gift of time? I’m not even afraid of dying. We all die, and I made my peace with that a long time ago.
She was 47.

When I saw the news of her death on GalleyCat, they also provided her advice for aspiring writers. She talked about books on writing and then wrote:
It’s good to read those books, but don’t feel guilty if your process is different than what they advise. The main thing is to WRITE. Some days it might be 2000 words. Some days you might tinker with two sentences until you get them just right. Both days belong in the writing life. Some days you may watch a “Doctor Who” marathon or become immersed a book that is so good you can’t stop reading. Some days you may be in love or in mourning. Those days belong in the writing life, too. Live them without guilt.

If you want to pick up a good book, pick up Madigan's Flash Burnout and The Mermaid's Mirror. Today, is one of those days she talked about for mourning.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thankful Thursday: @MermaidHel

One of my great finds in Texas was stumbling upon the Twitter feed of @MermaidHel.

It's really author and editor Helen Ginger.  But, as you'll see on her Web site, she mentions most people ask her about her days as a mermaid.

I don't know how Helen does it all. She blogs. She edits. She writes. She tweets. She is one busy woman.

She has a weekly ezine called DOING IT WRITE! It's a free newsletter about writing, publishing and contest information. Check out her Web site on how to subscribe.

The information Helen provides is useful, helpful and entertaining. I am very thankful Helen is blogging, tweeting and writing.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A few tactile prompts

I have several boxes of material to help my memoir in progress. They are filled with papers, Velcro, a worn Scrabble game, a football and an assortment of toys.

The objects have traveled from Georgia to North Carolina to Texas to Colorado.

Why keep these things?

Just holding one item can take me back to a very different time in my life. I purged some of the items in Texas, because I realized I didn't need a dozen bank boxes filled with documents and mementos to help me finish a memoir. I cut the boxes in half with my shredding and recycling efforts.

Some of the items I kept to spark a memory and to keep me focused include:
  • Mail — my late husband Jimmy received a large assortment of cards and letters from friends and strangers. The strangers were primarily nice folks, but there were a few prison inmates in the box. 
  • Medical bills — the bills and the notes I scribbled on them tell the story of my struggle to keep track of insurance payments, co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses for hospitals, emergency rooms, nursing homes and ambulances. 
  • Small items — toys and special gifts provided to Jimmy remind me of the people who loved him so much whether it was a special beaded cross or a bag of snowman poop. They are reminders that he was loved. 
The items I kept evoke an array of emotions — sadness, rage, happiness and fear. It's crazy how just holding one piece of paper can not only remind you of an event, but also take you back to that moment. These little things are a great help while writing.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Group tells candidates: You can't participate in forum

A local business organization is hosting a mayoral candidate forum in Colorado Springs. Ok. That's normal. 

Six mayoral candidates will speak at a forum. Normal. 

Three mayoral candidates aren't invited to participate in the forum. Hmm. Not so normal.

The local newspaper reported this about the decision:

“While your campaign undoubtedly contributes to citizen engagement, at this time it appears to us that it has not reached sufficient critical mass to include you on the panel that evening,” Robert Todd, chairman of Middle Market Entrepreneurs, which is organizing the forum, said in a letter to the three candidates.

Two of the three candidates are calling for a boycott of the forum. Wow.

There are nine candidates for the strong mayor position. More candidates equals more research for voters. The variety of forums around town generate news stories and provide more details for voters to digest. I think that's a good thing.

I'm shocked by the idea of eliminating candidates from a forum. And, trust me, I don't know any of the candidates. No one has knocked on my door asking for a vote. I only see Ukraine artists and carpet cleaners, who want to argue with me when I say I'm not interested.

The whole situation makes me wonder about the group hosting the forum. I know it's the organizations right to determine the limits of their forum. But, I wonder why any group should bother hosting a mayoral election, if it doesn't invite all the candidates?

What's the point?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Happy President's Day!

I saw a post on Facebook on Sunday that said:
"Oh great, tomorrow is President's Day and I didn't get Barack anything!"
I laughed. I didn't get him anything either.

Our family gets a break from work on President's Day.

I hope your family gets to enjoy the day.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Not sure this counts as writing

Over the weekend, I completed tax returns.

I doubt that counts as #amwriting time.

It didn't feel like it.

Today, I returned to real #amwriting.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Write short

Write short.

I like that advice. I wish I had followed it more when I was a print journalist. It took me a while to realize that not every action in a city council meeting required a full story.

Since I left newspapers three years ago, a lot has changed in the number still printing and in how subscribers read.

For example today, I do not subscribe to the entire week of print editions. I get a weekend paper edition of my local newspaper. I follow the newspaper's coverage through Twitter, Facebook and a special app on my iPhone during the week.
  • With Twitter, I can see tweets about new stories and link to the newspapers Web site.
  • By hitting a like button or typing a comment, I can interact with other newspaper readers on Facebook. 
  • At the newspaper's Web site, I can answer poll questions or comment on articles. 
  • Through the newspaper's app, I can Tweet, post a link on Facebook or email the article to friend.
Reading is a lot more interactive than it used to be. I try to keep up, but sometimes am overwhelmed by the amount of information I can access through the Internet and my iPhone.

I fell in love with the 140-character Tweets when I accidentally found Twitter several years ago. Now through my list of followers, I have my own personal news feed where I find information on writing and health care issues.

I also like that Tweets make me write short.

If you are on Twitter, follow me @StacyWrites. I'll be brief. Twitter makes us all that way.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Girl Scout Cookies

We received our first delivery of Girl Scout cookies on Tuesday. It took less than 12 hours for me to open the box of Samoas.

We anticipate receiving a case of Do Si Dos soon. The box is in transit via the U.S. Postal Service.

Every year, I love getting Girl Scout cookies.

I love  helping a Scout reach her goal — a special camp or a fun trip.

I love that you can only get the cookies once a year.

I love that the cookies are so yummy.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Write Brain: I'm sitting on a weapon

My chair is a weapon. It can be as I'm fighting with an intruder at my house. I hurl it at my attacker. He keeps coming at me, so I crawl back to my chair and roll it over his foot.  I use the chair to smash a window for an escape route.

Roll it over his foot? OK. So, I'm not much of an action hero. This is why attending free programs like the Pikes Peak Writers Write Brain sessions help me.

On Tuesday, Ian Thomas Healy spoke about writing better action by using cinematic techniques, because people read a scene like they watch a movie.

As a writer, he suggested you think like a director, script writer and stunt coordinator as you work on your action scenes. You can't have an action scene without violence, he said.

And, how does this help my memoir in progress — a story involving a mute, completely paralyzed man, who spells out his thoughts letter by letter, and me, a hapless caregiver and wife,  dealing with a messed up health care system?

No, my story doesn't include fights, shootouts, chases or battles in the sense that Healy shared. The fact my late husband couldn't walk or talk limits these action scenes, but I can utilize Healy's tips in my writing.

The meat and potatoes of action is one character vs. another. Check. I've got that.

To create your action scenes, Healy shared a worksheet to plot them out — details such as time of day and whether there are bystanders involved as well as the goal of both hero and opponent.

Healy's tips on action will be helpful as I write:
  • If you aim for realism, he cautioned writers to think about the consequences of fights, shoot outs, chases and battles. Are there bystanders? Is there property damage? Will the character have to deal with the consequences of this action?
  • On point of view, he cautioned you to not "head hop" while writing a large battle scene. Focus tightly on your hero. You can write it so that your hero is aware of other action in the battle, but you can't write every soldier's action.
  • Cover is important to a character. Seeking cover to get a break from the chaos of a shootout, can give characters time to interact and move the story along. While my characters aren't reloading guns, they do need to take cover from the healthcare drama to recharge mentally.
  • Role playing games like Dungeons & Dragons and GURPS have great reference manuals on weapons. This goes back to the realism point. If your hero is in a shoot out, does his gun's clip match the number of shots he fired without reloading?
  • An action engagement or sequence needs to resolve some issue in your story. Just because the action looks cool is not sufficient to include it in your story. 

So, now I've retrieved my chair from the street and vacuumed up the broken glass. I'm realistic, so I deal with the consequences of my action scene. My computer remained intact throughout the fight, because I wrote it that way.

I roll the chair up to my desk, open a new Word file and write.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Political signs are popping up

I guess they are a necessary evil — political signs.

They are popping up around Colorado Springs. I saw my first ones right after Christmas.

This will be my first city election and this one is a doosie! Last year, residents voted to change the city's government to include a strong mayor. The mayor gets paid a full-time salary of $96,000.

There are a nine candidates running for mayor as of Monday. The city has a list at its Web site here.  Candidates had until 5 p.m. on Monday to withdraw their nominations, so that could change a little bit. There are 16 candidates for the at-large council seats, four for the District 2 seat and two for the District 3 seat.

That's a large pool of candidates. Imagine how many signs you will see all over the place? I've already seen signs for mayoral candidate Steve Bach. During one of the snow/road condition reports for a local TV station earlier this year, one of the political candidate's signs was in the background throughout the entire live report. I'm sure the candidate would have liked it better had I recalled his name after seeing his sign for the almost two minute report. It was probably Bach's sign, because his signs were out early.

I hate political signs. They clutter intersections. They dot landscapes. They are often linger long after elections.

Signs aren't the only way candidates are connecting with voters. There are Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and Web sites. One candidate found me on Twitter, because I have a Colorado Springs location listed on my account. Candidate Web sites are listed on the city's candidate list.

The Gazette newspaper does a great job of covering all the ins and outs of the election and the candidates on the ballot. The number of candidates has fluctuated already this year as some announced, but decided not to run for office.

Being a city council member is a big deal, especially in a town the size of Colorado Springs. And, it doesn't pay as good as jobs in much smaller cities. The strong mayor position pays less than some city managers get in small rural towns. Well, maybe not in Colorado as the pay here seems to be below other areas of the nation.

The election will be here before we know it on April 5.

And, hopefully by the end of that week, all the political signs will be removed.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Parent proofing the house

This weekend, we began our initial efforts to baby proof the house. My hubby says we could just put Bubble Wrap on everything. I know that's not possible, so we've been trying to hit the obvious spots that need corner guards, electrical outlets or cabinet closures to prevent little hands.

I posted on Twitter and Facebook asking for baby proof ideas. The couple responses I received included moving pots and pans to upper cabinets and putting non breakables low, so baby could play.

Looking at out kitchen, I never realized how many pots we have. We have a variety of latches to install on cabinet doors. We'll see how this works. We don't have enough upper cabinets to store all of our pots and pans.

I could barely contain my excitement when we found the electrical outlets above. To the left is the new outlet cover. To the right, is the old version that I feared I would have to use throughout the house. While the old covers did the job, I also feared electrocuting myself as I tried to remove them. The new outlet covers are a thousand times easier to remove. I don't believe the baby could do it, but thank goodness I can.

We purchased foam corners for the coffee table and a foam guard to place around the stones in front of the fireplace. They are sitting in place for now. I'm hesitant about putting the double adhesive or Velcro down on the stone. I'm sure I'll lose that hesitation when the baby makes a beeline for the fireplace.

Baby falls, etc. are inevitable as he begins to navigate his world inside and outside of the house, but I hope all these gadgets will help ease those falls. They make me feel better.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Nursing homes: How I learned to cope

I've had nursing homes on my mind recently. I think it was something my mom said about a family friend. After several decades of providing care in her home, the friend moved her almost centenarian mother into a nursing home.

Nursing homes aren't the first choice, especially if you can provide in-home care for a loved one. Sometimes, in-home care, especially for family members with dementia can be overwhelming physically, mentally and financially.

My personal experience with nursing homes was when my late husband moved into one at 33 following a catastrophic stroke. I was 30.

Nursing homes can be scary to both the people living in them and to those visiting. It's not independent living. Residents have to wait their turn sometimes. Group activities can be as daunting to a new resident as staying in a small room. And, goodness, throw in a roommate! It can be uncomfortable at times.

Here are a few things I learned along my journey as a caregiver:
  • Be realistic. Understand that it will be an adjustment for the entire family when a loved one moves to a nursing home. It isn't home and there are a lot of people living under one roof.  
  • If you or your loved one is having a difficult time adjusting, speak to the facility's social worker. Be sure to bring up any issues at the care plan meetings — those monthly or quarterly meetings where you meet with nursing and medical staff.
  • Get involved in the patient or family council meetings. Here, you will meet other family members. You can discuss things that are going well at the facility or discuss things that need improvement. Some facilities also offer special programs for family members, too. These groups are a great way to remind yourself that you are not alone.
  • Get your rest. You need to rejuvenate, so you can be a better visitor.
The most difficult lesson I learned in a nursing home setting it that problems will arise. It's inevitable, but between you and your family member you'll figure out the right way to resolve the issues.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Egypt is free

Friday was a great day.

Egypt is free.

That's what Egyptians were saying in the streets.

It was a happy day for everyone around the world.

The glass is half full.

Egypt is free.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Pure genius: Puppy Bowl

My husband introduced me to the world of the Puppy Bowl following the Super Bowl last Sunday. I couldn't believe it.

The Animal Planet show features several puppies playing, frolicking and sometimes making touchdowns on a miniature football field. The day included Puppy Bowl VII. A description from the Web site:

The biggest event on all fours is back! Puppy Bowl returns for its 7th consecutive year with an all-star, all-adorable cast that's ready to mix it up on the grand gridiron of Animal Planet Stadium.
It was difficult to look away from the pups playing. It had it all — commentary, referees, penalties, chicks (real chickens) and a  sort-of touchdown.

Our dogs Mauly and Eddie didn't seem interested at all, but their humans couldn't look away.

I was amazed by the brilliance of the show. It was simply perfect.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thankful Thursday:

I'm a recovering caregiver.

It's difficult to describe what happens to a person when he or she becomes a caregiver. I know lots of people like to be all stoic and all "that's what you are supposed to do," but it's not all black and white.

There are many spouses who are caregivers. I fell into this category when my late husband had a brain stem stroke at 33 and I was 30. Other caregivers are children who oversee and provide care to their elderly parents.

Sometimes, these adult children are still raising their own families. The term sandwiched describes this group of folks. I had never heard that term until a couple years ago. I lived through that when I was a child and my mom took care of my Pa for several years before he went to live in a nursing home.

Sometimes, friends and neighbors become caregivers too — helping folks out, who have no one or no one close by to check on them.

I discovered the Web site: long after I was a caregiver through Twitter. Last year marked the fifth anniversary of Jimmy's death. I find comfort in that site, because it's a community of people, who have a shared experience with me. They know what I went through. I know what they are going through.

At the top of the Web site it says, "insights ~ information ~inspirations." I agree. I find all three of those there.

The site's creator Denise has a column called "Ask Denise:  How Can I Help you?" Her post on Feb. 6 included ways to help the www.caregiving .com site.

Some background she shared: is self-funded, which means revenue generated from the site keeps the site going. In the past, I have tried to find investors but without luck. I operate the site out of the corner of my living room (isn’t that amazing!). My vision for has always been to feature the voice of family caregivers. I hope the site feels like a place where you can come and tell your story (through a blog or a comment or an online support group), no matter how upsetting or unsettling the details are.
Denise has a great list of ideas to help out the site, which helps out so many people. I plan to see how I can help, because the site is truly something caregivers (even recovering ones) can be thankful.

If you use Twitter, please follow them @caregiving. Lots of valuable tips through their Tweets.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What are your turning points?

There are tons of books on writing memoirs. I've read a few and bought a dozen more. I've also read hundreds of articles on the craft.

Last Friday, I enjoyed a post on the Writers' League of Texas' Facebook page. It was by Linda Joy Myers, who is speaking at an upcoming one-day conference on memoir for the Writers of Southern Nevada.

Since the writing funds are low, I can't jet to Las Vegas to attend the conference:  Telling Your Story:  The Craft and Business of Memoir Writing. If you can't attend, hop on Facebook and like the Writers' League of Texas page.

Myers sums memoir up well on her guest post:

A memoir is a story, which means it has a structure, and uses fictional techniques to bring a reader into the world you are creating; a memoir needs one or two major themes as the focus.
And, better yet. She breaks it down into turning points.
Your turning points are the emotional hot spots that you will capture in your memoir.
I've been struggling to organize, reorganize and rewrite parts of a memoir in progress. Others have WIP — works in progress. I apparently have a MIP — memoir in progress. 

After reading the post by Myers, I began jotting down about 15 turning points for my MIP. Then, I compared those to my current outline. Some items overlap. I came up with a few new ideas too.

Myers also delves into the important fiction techniques that a memoir writing needs such as a narrative arc, scenes and chapters and the "show, don't tell" method of writing. She provides a few key tips to remember when working on our narrative arc. 

I really appreciate her final statement that :
One scene at a time, one story at a time builds your memoir into a book!
She had some very good tips. You can find plenty more at her site.

The WLT post reminded me of why I am always searching social media sites for writers and writing groups. This piece was a great nugget of information. Now, off to write.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Seriously, he didn't know the salary?

Colorado's newly elected Secretary of State Scott Gessler plans to not moonlight for now in his job to serve the people, who elected him.  It makes sense.

He applied for the job, right? Yes, from all news reports the Republican ran for office and unseated a Democrat to take the state's post to oversee elections.

So, why was he making news about it in January? It wasn't about his initial efforts to do his new job. No, he was making news because he wasn't happy with his paycheck of $68,500 a year. He wanted to make more money for his family, so he wanted to continue work at his old law firm, which specializes in election issues.

Insert a Homer Simpson, "Doh?!" or another cartoon character's favorite Say what?! expression of disbelief.

I get that Gessler wanted to make more money. Sure, a lot of people are taking on second jobs in this economy. But, didn't he know how much the state position paid when he registered to get his name on the ballot?

I'm new to Colorado, but I think that information is public. Just like any new employee, he should have asked about his paycheck, benefits, etc. before he sought out (ran a statewide campaign to get elected) and accepted the job.

Gessler sought an opinion from the Attorney General on the issue, but decided on Feb. 1 to drop the issue. People had wanted Gessler to disclose the clients he worked for in his second job. He realized that wasn't a good idea. According to reports, he may seek other work. The glitch with this first moonlighting job was the focus of the law firm, which does business with his state elected office.

It will be interesting to see how this all works out for Gessler and other Colorado state officials. Some statewide officials do work second jobs to supplement their income. And, looking at the salaries of some state offices, they do seem a bit low. Compare Gessler's salary with Colorado Springs' new strong mayor. The new mayor will make $96,000 to oversee a city of 400,000. From everything I can find, the current mayor makes around $6,000 for a part-time job that is most likely full time.

I agree that Colorado salaries for a state office seem low. I've seen city manager's in small, rural towns make more than $100,000. But, the size of the paycheck isn't really the point in Gessler's story. He should have fully considered his salary when he sought a statewide office.

I mean really, did he not know?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Brilliant or lazy?

This toy was a Christmas present from Santa Claus.

St. Nick delivered it minus the batteries.

I haven't installed them either. With all the buttons, flaps and popping balls, it makes enough noise to entertain the baby.

So, I'm wondering: Am I lazy or brilliant not installing the batteries?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Great news that Kelly will go into space

Mark Kelly may not realize it yet, but he's a national figure for caregivers now. The news on Friday that he will return to space warmed my heart. I'm glad he's returning to work. It's one of the most difficult things a caregiver can do.

After the horrific shooting of his wife, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in January, he added caregiver to his role as husband, father and astronaut.

His decision to return to work has been very public. After the initial chaos of the shooting, there were questions about whether he would command NASA's Endeavour's final flight in April.

Most spouses make this decision quietly after conversations with their spouses, families and often a human resources person at work. The HR guy tries to be gentle as he mentions, "You have no more paid time off."

A caregiver's love, care and support does not change, but they return to work after the initial traumatic brain injury, stroke, accident or disease that changed their life. A health care emergency has a way of creating a new normal (or abnormal) for families.

After my late husband Jimmy had a brain stem stroke, I was blessed to have a job that allowed me time off after the initial stroke. The time was valuable in helping me cope with the day to day changes. My employer's management and co-workers were supportive. After my husband moved out of ICU and into a rehab facility, I returned to work.

My husband wasn't happy. He wanted me to be there every day and I could not. Thanks to my job, I had the cash to drive to visit him in a city about 90 miles away. Not everyone can do what I did. I met women, who couldn't afford gas money to make the trip. They saw their spouses less frequently than me.

By being able to move his wife from Tucson to Houston, Kelly was able to be closer to work. I think that's great for both of them. She gets excellent rehabilitation services and care, while he returns to some of his everyday duties.

I'm a stranger to Mark Kelly and I applaud his decision. It's difficult to look at the big picture when a loved one's health is compromised. Brain injury recovery can take months to years for improvement. While I'm certain her husband will be missed at her bedside, he will return. Her therapy will continue in his absence and he'll be happy to be reunited with her.

Other strangers were not so thrilled. He was called selfish, detached and twisted to name a few.

There are differences between Kelly and some caregivers. He's most likely not worried about how to put gas in his car to visit her.

But, in many ways, he is like everyone else. He is a caregiver. He wants his wife to heal, but he can't do that for her. Her body will heal on its time. He can't change that.

In America, we like stories to end neatly — the boy gets the girl or the superhero saves the city from a bad guy. In health care, the path to the ending is long and sometimes messy.

As a former caregiver, I don't think Kelly should be criticized for incorporating work back into his schedule.

I know people say, "It's space. It's dangerous."

I say it's his job and he's doing what most caregivers do. He's returning to work. He's making contingency plans to take care of his wife. Let them live their new life in peace.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tired of the health care debate

I am tired. It's not exhaustion brought on by the flu or a cold. I can afford to buy over the counter medications for whatever symptom ails me or I can get a flu shot. For a small co-pay, I can visit my doctor's office for a tune up.

I am tired of all the crap about health care reform.

A Florida judge ruled this week that the legislation — specifically the part which requires everyone to have health insurance coverage — is unconstitutional.

Another federal judge in Mississippi, threw out the case on the constitutional issue. 

I get the concern over the Florida judge's ruling. If the government can require citizens to buy health insurance, why not make them buy California wine or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

My whole issue with health care reform is that we are all paying for it one way or another. Sure one person may want to invest in a big screen TV vs. the weekly deduction from his paycheck for health insurance. But, what happens if that guy has a medical emergency?

Go to the ER? Yes, and he will receive treatment. Eventually, he might be able to get help from some government agency or indigent funds from the hospital. Where do those funds come from? Well, everyone else. You pay for others medical care through your increased health insurance premiums or through taxes.

If the person without insurance doesn't have an emergency, maybe they just feel bad and eventually are diagnosed with cancer. The ER doesn't help in that case. Then, the person has to beg physicians and pharmaceutical companies to provide them reduced cost services or for free to keep them a live.

It all makes my head numb. A lot of people don't believe they need health insurance. After having a serious medical emergency in my family, I can't imagine life without health insurance. It saved a life and saved us financially.

This is why the health care debate gets so heated. There are people, who say I will pay out of pocket for medical expenses, or say they will deal with an emergency if it arises.

Then, there are people like me — who sees the value in it. Who believes that we pay for all those uninsured anyway, so why not have an organized system to handle this?

I'm not saying the health care overhaul passed in 2010 is perfect, but it's a start.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A surprise in one border town

Look really close and you can see it? Once redeemed, these coupons are sent to an address in Del Rio, Texas.

Most people don't know about this border town on the Texas-Mexico border. My sister knew about it, because we lived there. So, when she began earnestly couponing, she noticed that many coupons are sent to Del Rio.

Del Rio is a growing. Some joked that "You don't have to go out of town as much since we got the Home Depot and the Super Wal-Mart." That was good since, it was more than a three hour drive to San Antonio. It was a long Texas drive, too.

Many people know of the community as a safer border town with Mexico. During the mild winter months, there is a growing population of Winter Texans. The summer heat can be brutal, but the winters are nice.

The town is also home to Laughlin Air Force Base, which churns out a substantial number of Air Force pilots. The good weather there offers a large number of training days.

The U.S. Border Patrol has a substantial presence there. New agents are assigned to the Mexican border, so they often end up in places like Del Rio for a few years or for their entire career.

Lake Amistad, which shares its waters with Mexico, is nationally known for its bass fishing. The number of professional tournaments seems to grow every year as more anglers discover the lake.

My sister visited, because we were there. During her last visit to help after our son's birth, she asked for one excursion. She wanted to see this address where coupons go after they are used. This was her third visit, so she had already made all the traditional tourist stops.

We missed this famous address on our first pass in the industrial park. All the metal buildings looked the same. We had to turn around and drive by a second time to find the correct building. We paused in the road and stare at it just for a second and then we left.

Life did not change that day, but it did made me smile to drive by that building with my sister. I think of that day when I see the address on coupons in the Sunday newspaper. It reminds me of the many surprises that you can find while living in towns like Del Rio, Texas.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Ah, Trader Joe's

A couple weeks ago, an article in the local paper squashed a dream — that a Trader Joe's might show up in Colorado Springs one day. Well, it definitely won't be a reality for two years anyway. The paper said the company reported Colorado wasn't in the company's two-year plan.

I sort of saw that coming. While on Christmas vacation, hubby and I stopped at a Trader Joe's in Des Moines, Iowa. We were looking for Trader Joe's Marsala and Piccata sauces. My hubby had tried to find them last fall while on a work trip to Los Angeles, but they were out.

While in Des Moines, we asked for help. The clerk investigated. She found out the sauces were discontinued. This explains it. We last purchased the sauces in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Hmm. Are you spotting a trend?

Hubby and I discovered Trader Joe's in Cary, North Carolina. Then, boy and girl move off to Texas for work and marriage. There are no Trader Joe's in Texas. None.

So, we stop at one every time we are in the neighborhood or every time we can figure out how to drive by one on a road trip. On our honeymoon, we stopped at one in Santa Fe. A work trip took us to Albuquerque. Months later, we returned to the Albuquerque store on our way to the Grand Canyon.

We hoped there would be a Trader Joe's in Colorado. Alas, there wasn't one. Then, on our way to Iowa for Christmas:  Score! We discovered there was one in Des Moines. We also considered an alternate route through Nebraska, which is home also to Trader Joe's.

The folks in Des Moines crushed our hopes for our favorite sauces and also dashed our hopes for a store in Colorado. While the local paper suggested there could be some issue about the state's alcohol sales law (grocery stores don't sell alcohol here), the Des Moines staff had a different theory. They (as in the manager and a greeter, who roamed the store) said there were distribution issues with the mountains, etc.

We would most likely complete about 80 percent of our shopping at Trader Joe's, if we could. They have reasonable prices. We are always been impressed by the quality. We are generally pleased with the Trader Joe's products. We've had about 95 percent success rate with their products. No joke!

We are thankful for Trader Joe's.

Even though it is not in our neighborhood or our state, we enjoy stopping and shopping at a store as we drive by. We regret we cannot stock up on frozen items, but we fill up on a few pantry items every time.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Read. Write. Repeat.

Last year, I read something and bought a book. I can't remember what that something was, but I have a book in my hand A Three Dog Life : a memoir by Abigail Thomas as proof. Proof that something prodded me to purchase this book.

Last week, a friend and I discussed my efforts to write a memoir about being a caregiver for my late husband. I was 30 and he was 33 when it all began. I worked and tried to live while he tried to survive in hospitals and nursing homes. As I tried to encapsulate my subject, she said, "You need to read A Three Dog Life."

I told her I would check that out. I wrote it on my "check with the library" list I have begun at my desk. This year, I decided I should utilize the library more, because there are too many unread books on my shelf.

Later, I wandered over to my bookshelf in our makeshift office/guest room. I found it on my top shelf. Aha. I remembered.

When I purchased the book, I visited Abigail Thomas' Web site. I even shared one of her writing assignments to the weekly writer's group I attended in Texas. The ladies and men stared at me. In my stages of wimpy pregnancy and short attention span, I put the book back on my shelf. It was later packed and moved several states.

Months later I rediscovered it at my friend's suggestion. I'm glad I did. The front cover includes a blurb from Stephen King, ".... This book is a punch to the heart. Read it."

It punched me in the gut as I read it. I could relate too well with her efforts to change and live following  her husband's accident. Reading her story reminded me of some details I had forgotten about mine.

Now, back to the computer to write.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Praying for Egyptian people

We are so blessed in the United States. We have elections. Candidates are sworn into office. They serve.

Another election cycle comes around and we repeat the process.

Sometimes, we re-elect a candidate and other times they are thrown out of office. The process isn't awash in a sea of people taking to the streets. Rather it is an orderly process of folks driving down to the polling site and casting a ballot. We only run into trouble when there are hanging chads.

In Egypt, things are a lot different. People have been protesting their government for a week. Men are shouting as TV reporters are filming on street corners that their President Hosni Mubarak should leave his post.

While Mubarak goes by the title president, it isn't at all like the type of president we are used to here in the states. When you see phrases like "ruled with an iron fist for three decades" in multiple news reports, you realize: NO, it's not the same.

The military is out policing the streets as thousands are out protesting. The military spokesman insisted on Monday they are not there to "deploy 'violence' against the people."

I pray that is true. The protests are growing bigger. Today, Feb. 1, there are calls for "million-man" marches in Cairo and Alexandria. I'm guessing they will meet that goal. All the social, political and economic grievances of the people are difficult to thwart.

Mubarak tried to squash the protests on Saturday announcing that he would get rid of his previous cabinet. He appointed a vice president and tapped a few men to work on the reorganizations, but it has done little to stop the protests.

Foreigners including more than 500 Americans have left Egypt. But, Egyptian families are left amid the chaos which has included looting, citizen patrols and checkpoints and prison breaks. Good news is that almost 2,100 escaped prison inmates had been arrested.

I know many people don't like the way our country goes from time-to-time. There is an ebb and flow to our political system. We're very fortunate we have a system that allows our input in a peaceful way.

While we're going about our normal day, we can pray for the peace and safety of those protesting in Egypt and hope the resolution improves the nation and its people.