« September 2009 | Main | November 2009 »

8 posts from October 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Health Care Reform - It's About Time

 Before the shot-1958

Since health care reform is on everybody's mind these days, I thought I would share with my readers the black and white of it all.  Let me tell you why - because I am sick of all the political banter going on between the Republicans and the Democrats.  I don't know where the Republican's are coming up with all their scare tactics but they have no basis whatsoever with regards to the actual content of the Health Care Reform Bill.  As for the Democrats - they aren't much better as they have a tendency to sugar coat the content as well. 

Instead of listening to all the political banter, go online and read the bill for health care reform.  You'll find it is exactly what this country needs.  Politicians went through the same crap when Social Security and Medicare were on the table.  



In 1935, FDR signed the Social Security Act.  Under the 1935 law, what we now think of as Social Security only paid retirement benefits to the primary worker. A 1939 change in the law added survivors benefits and benefits for the retiree's spouse and children. In 1956 disability benefits were added.

Keep in mind, however, that the Social Security Act itself was much broader than just the program which today we commonly describe as "Social Security." The original 1935 law contained the first national unemployment compensation program, aid to the states for various health and welfare programs, and the Aid to Dependent Children program. 

Where would we be today if we had let the Republicans in Congress shoot it down like they tried to do, claiming the Democrats were Socialists?  Every time the Democrats create another Federal program, the Republicans call them Socialists.  Knock it off you guys - there's too much hot air in Washington and it's about time you start representing the interests of the people and get the party affiliations out of it entirely.



Harry Truman, who became President upon FDR's death in 1945, considered it his duty to perpetuate Roosevelt's legacy after his death. So, in 1945, he became the first president to propose national health insurance legislation. After Congress rebuffed his request, he reiterated his appeal after his surprising victory in the 1948 presidential elections.  Congress continued to oppose the measure. In 1950, he signed the Social Security Amendments, which provided federal funds to states for vendor payments for medical care of poor aged called old-Age Assistance; it became the foundation for the Medicaid program.



In 1965, President Johnson signed the Medicare program.  Where would we be if not for that? My mother could not afford healthcare if not for Medicare.

So here we are in 2009.  It's time.  Do NOT believe your representatives.  Do NOT believe what you hear on television or read in the newspaper.  Believe the black and white.  Now I know it is daunting to read the entire bill, but the summaries are worth reading.


Kids insurance

This country needs a federal health insurance program.  I am relieved that we finally have a President who has made this a priority.  It is important that the greedy insurance companies start having to own up, as well as the providers who commit insurance fraud.  It is precisely this behavior of greed and fraud that put this country in the position it is in today.

Just so you know, I don't believe what anyone says in the news.  I check it myself if for no other reason than to know that I am making an educated decision and can understand the argument.  It isn't always easy getting to the bottom of the issue, but it sure is worth the effort.  Another thing ... your Representatives know that 99.9% of the American people they represent are not going to check up on them, their voting record, or the bills that they submit before Congress.  They know that most people will listen to whatever they say on television, on YouTube videos, or in the newspaper and believe it all as "truth."  Because they know this, they lie, they twist the facts, they even throw in some crap for good measure.  Just remember that the next time you go to the polls, or argue an important issue with your friends, your neighbors, your family.  I banter back and forth with my Republican brother all the time.  I love him to pieces, and he is entitled to his opinion.  I'm just not agreeing with him as often as I used to.  Maybe that's because I am more informed.  Or, at least I think I am.  


Remember when you were a child and your teacher taught you about spreading rumors.  She would whisper something in the first child's ear, who would then tell the next child and so on and so on.  By the time the story got to the last child, it was completely different, sometimes containing bits and pieces that were never in the original story.  I never forgot that lesson.  



So, just because your representative says it's so, doesn't make it so.  Just because Pres. Obama says it's so, doesn't make it so.  Get to know your Representatives.  They are there for "You!"  Then, read the black and white yourself and then make your own decision.  That's what I do.



Read the bill by clicking HERE.

It is 2,324 pages of good information.  It is 2,324 pages of what this country needs in the way of health care reform.  It is 2,324 pages of help for those of us who do not have health care, cannot afford health care, and who need health care.  It is 2,324 pages of insurance for my family.  It is an "option" for those of us who otherwise have none.  It doesn't take over the current health care system.  It just becomes another option - and one that is necessary for families and individuals without health insurance.  It is a choice.  I support it completely.



Here is the Open Congress Summary

This is the House Democrats' big health care reform bill. Broadly, it seeks to expand health care coverage to the approximately 40 million Americans who are currently uninsured by lowering the cost of health care and making the system more efficient. To that end, it includes a new government-run insurance plan (a.k.a. a public option) to compete with the private companies, a requirement that all Americans have health insurance, a prohibition on denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions and, to pay for it all, a surtax on households with an income above $350,000.

Read the bill, or at the very least glance through it, and you will know why I support this bill from cover to cover.  Why?  Because every American deserves the right to good health.  Every American should have access to professionals who can help them live a healthier life and be healthy.  Every American deserves to be covered and not turned down because of pre-existing conditions.  Every American should be able to live their life without worry that a catastrophic illness or injury could devastate them financially for the rest of their lives.



Be active in your community.  Get involved.  Ask questions.  Piss off a few politicians.  Speak up.  But before you do - do the intelligent thing - understand the issues.  Understand how this bill relates to past bills like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.   Understand the arguments between our political parties and representatives during those times that the bills were before Congress.  You might be surprised to find that Democrats were called "Socialists" and Republicans were called "Pig headed" just like today.  Nothing's changed.  But, we can change things by being informed.  



Remember, I grew up in a very involved, very Republican family.  My father ran for U.S. Senate and Congress back in the 60s and he was very involved in politics.  My dad got us involved in the thick of every discussion and every argument.  It was his nature.  Maybe that is why I do my research, because I want to understand the issues.  When American's depend entirely on what they read in the paper or hear on the news, they are at a sore loss for the real and honest information.  



My father used to say to me "If it is important to you, check it.  Research it.  Understand it.  If you discover that anything I've told you is wrong, then you better come back and tell me so that I don't continue to make a fool of myself."  I used to laugh when my dad would say this to me, but I took it seriously and I am glad I did.  I sure do miss my dad.  He was a good man. 



Wednesday, October 21, 2009

You Ended Up Here?


I gotta tell you, there are times I look at my stats and laugh at who ends up here.  Some of them I just can't figure out.  For instance, someone in the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington DC wants to know how to make a shower curtain.  Now I wonder who this could be?  I wonder if my story on making shower curtains helped this person?  I wonder if they saw my colorful, spotted material and thought "Yes!  That is exactly what I want to make for my bathroom!"  Or, did they look at the fabric and think "You've got to be kidding, right?"  Who is this person?  Were they on their lunch break and looking for information on how to make a shower curtain?  Or maybe they were looking for shower curtains when they should have been typing up a bill on health care reform.  Maybe that's the problem with politicians.  They spend too much time on Google looking for instructions on how to make shower curtains and not enough time figuring out how to make the country a better place to live.


But here is the funny thing.  He or she is not the only person in the world who wants to know how to make shower curtains.  Apparently hundreds of people every day search Google for information on how to make shower curtains and they end up right here on good ol' Raisin Toast.  I can't believe how many people need shower curtains:

Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, doesn't just want to know how to make a shower curtain, this person wants to know how to make a "cool shower curtain."  

I had a visitor from Bronx, New York at the Albert Einstein College Of Medicine looking for information on how to make shower curtains too.  Someone from the Johns Hopkins Medical Institution in Baltimore, Maryland also wants to know about making shower curtains.  Seems to me like there are a lot of medical professionals in search of shower curtains.  Why is that?  There seems to be a rush for information on how to make shower curtains in this country and I get the distinct impression from Google that they don't want to buy them.


And how about stripping wallpaper?  They want to know how to strip wallpaper in:

Royal Oak, Michigan
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
Reading, Pennsylvania
Auburn, Indiana
Southaven, Mississippi

and that is just on the first 2 pages of my stats.

Richmond, Virginia wants to know "How much does it cost to strip wallpaper?"  Well, Richmond, I'll tell ya - the cost of a spray bottle, some water from your spicket, a putty knife, 6 rolls of paper towels, a step stool or ladder, and enough time to pull your hair out.  Oh, and you'll need a radio to drown out the cussin' in the background.  You don't want to frighten off your neighbors.  They might end up having to drive somewhere and we all know how bad Virginia drivers are - about as mixed up as the chaotic roads.  I'm sure I'm going to get some hate mail about Virginia drivers now.  Oh dear.  You forget I used to live in the DC, Maryland, Metro area.  It seemed like every bad driver on the road had a Virginia license plate.  Sorry guys, but it's true.  That's part of the reason why I live in North Carolina now - so I can complain about the South Carolina drivers.  JUST KIDDING!  Anyway, did you strip your wallpaper?

Wellington, New Zealand just wants to know "how to strip."  I kind of would like to know that one myself.  If you find out, let me know.  On the other hand, maybe not.  Been there.  Done that.  It's not all it's cracked up to be.

And somebody in Stockton, California wants to know "What goes in a witches brew kids imagination." Hampton Park, Victoria, Australia, on the other hand, wants to know "What is a witches brew?"  Do I know?  I have no idea Hampton Park.  Sorry about that. 

Brooklyn, New York wants to know the recipe - "what do witches put in their magic brew?"  Don't know. Maybe "Ask.com" would know.



Someone in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada wants to know how to publish their own cookbook.  Did my story on publishing a cookbook help you - person - in Medicine Hat?  

and someone in Cherokee, Oklahoma wants to know too.  And so does someone in Olympia, Washington. And Honolulu, Hawaii.


Some visitors I can't figure out.  This person was looking for "sketchbook elephant in the room" and ended up in my story about Pablo Picasso.  Did they find what they wanted? Probably not.  My story wasn't exactly about Pablo Picasso.  Well, sorta.  Well, maybe not. It wasn't about an elephant in the room either that I recall.


Memphis, Tennessee wanted to know what an oak tree leaf looks like.  Don't they have oak trees in Tennessee?



Someone in Olney, Maryland wants to know how to make storyboards in Photoshop.  My question to you is - Do I know you?  I know a lot of people in Olney, Maryland.  I grew up there.  Our restaurant burned down there in 1978.  I have memories from Olney.  Some good.  Some bad.  Some very bad.  Like the time some lady in a red car cut in front of me and stopped dead on Georgia Avenue.  I rammed right into her.  I was 8 months pregnant and I was not happy.  Instead of getting angry I think I passed out.  That was after the medic arrived.  I told the police to keep the bumper to my car but they didn't.  Memories of Olney.  How about this - the first guy I ever kissed used to work at the Olney Fire Station and the Giant Food too.  I was 15.  I was hormonal.  It was Olney, Maryland. Or how about the time that this first boyfriend turned the light red in front of the firehouse for 5 minutes just to back up traffic and show off for me?  And how about the time my brother was driving his car around the bend on Georgia Avenue in front of Tanterra and his car got struck by lightening.  Or the time I had a head-on collision with a 4-point buck and had green gunk all over my windshield and a caved in front end.  Just a few hours after the accident, somebody had already come along and cut off the deer's head.  What kind of person does that?  Someone in Olney no doubt.


Somebody in Saint Charles, Missouri wants black shutters with a yellow house.  I do too. 

A poor soul in Birmingham, Alabama is "afraid of getting their driver's license" and I suppose wanted to see if anyone else had the same dilemma.  

Los Angeles, California wants to know about "the best low luster polyurathane paint."  I wonder if he found the information he or she needed here on Raisin Toast?

In Louisville, Kentucky they're looking for a sunroom sofa.  Sorry Louisville, don't have one.


And in Pompano Beach, Florida - you there in Pompano - did you figure out how to $%#!! your Mac computer?  I'd really like to know.

Tampa, Florida wants to know about "racism in South Carolina in 1964" and they spent quite some time poking around Raisin Toast.  I wonder if they found out what they needed to know?  If you watch that movie "The Secret Life of Bees" or read the book, you'll find out what it must have been like back then. 


In Fort Lauderdale, Florida someone wants to know "what does big round orbs mean in a picture?"   

Stoke-on-trent, Stoke-on-trent, United Kingdom wants a picture of spaghetti on toast.  Okay, one order of spaghetti on toast comin' right up.

Kiev, Kyyivs'ka Oblast', Ukraine was looking for "House of my dreams."  Makes you wonder doesn't it?  I mean, Google can search the internet, but it can't read minds.  A little more information here.  Did you find the house of your dreams here?  If so, let me know.  Ours might be on the market soon.

Kochi, Kerala, India wants to know "wordings for raisin toast for marriage."  Don't you mean "how to give a toast at a marriage?" or something like that.  Wordings for raisin toast?  I'm so confused!

Central District, Hong Kong wants to know about "hammering a cookie dough."  

Charlotte, North Carolina wants to know "another word for high school."  How about - uh - "high school?"

Moscow, Moscow City, Russian Federation is looking for "my dream room"  I wonder if that was Vladimir Putin searching on Google for his dream room?  Ya think?


Red Deer, Alberta, Canada wants to know "does bootcamp screw up your mac?"  I don't know.  I really don't know.  But thanks for stopping by!

Newport, Michigan wants to know "How long should I wait to see the doctor if I think I have swine flu?" How about not wait at all.  My best advice to Newport is see your doctor, silly, if you think you have the swine flu.  By the time you figure it out you might otherwise be dead.  Hope that answers your question.

In Greenbrier, Tennessee they did a search for "wedding chest love never fails."  Hmm.  I'm still thinking about that one.

Ludvika, Dalarnas Lan, Sweden asks Google "What did you do to me?"  I don't know honey, you tell me.

Singapore, Singapore and Long Beach, California want to know "another word for visual."  How about:  adjective: visual defectsopticalopticoculareyevisionsight. Or, a visual indication that the alarm worksvisibleperceptibleperceivablediscernible. Noun: the speaker used excellent visualsgraphicvisual aidimageillustration,diagramdisplayshow and tell.  There you go Singapore and Long Beach.  If you need another word - look in a "Thesaurus." There are a bunch of them online, but maybe you knew that already.  Or, maybe you didn't.  Or maybe you just thought I was smarter than a thesaurus.

Bangalore, Karnataka, India wants some "crazy gals."  Yep, we've got at least one here.

Raleigh, North Carolina wants to know "what is needed to publish a cookbook?"  Well, I'll tell ya, Raleigh - I think you might need recipes.  Good recipes.  Lots of recipes.  Maybe some graphics or illustrations.  And a publisher or a printer.



Rosedale, Maryland wanted to find a "poem for mother in law passing."  I can show you mine. I wrote it for my mother-in-law just before she passed away this past May. 

Reykjavík, Gullbringusysla, Iceland did a search for "raisin toast."  Well, I have some good news, Iceland - you found me.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

R-E-S-P-E-C-T - Thumper's Way


Growing up, my father used to tell me "You lay down with dogs you'll get up with fleas.  Choose your friends wisely and stay away from the dogs."  Believe me when I tell you, I've gotten mixed up with quite a few dogs in my life, and I'm still itchin'.  It's difficult, I know, as a child especially, to feel completely isolated when just about everyone you meet is a "dog."  And that is the problem in this country.  Literally and figuratively.  Respect.  We don't teach our children respect, and if we do, we don't follow through by example.  Well, I am trying to teach mine, and it isn't easy.



I believe that we are born with an innate desire to be superior and to want to be noticed, even at the expense of others.  We've all done it.  We see someone on television, we hear about someone, meet someone, become "friends" with someone, or have a member of our own family who we feel is - well - you know what I'm getting at - stupid.  ill informed.  uneducated.  mean spirited.  vulgar to a fault.  dirty.  something.  And then the disrespect starts.  We start to talk to others about this person.  We might start by talking to our parents, or our siblings, or our best friend.  We might even start to spread rumors about that other person.  All in an attempt to elevate ourselves.  It is our way of saying to the world "I am not like this."  "I am okay."  "I do not have these issues."  "I find this behavior disgusting."  And we talk about others behind their back to massage our own ego, our own need to feel validated and "respected."  In many ways, talking disrespectfully about others is merely an attempt to scream out to the world "Please don't talk about me in that light."  "Please see me as something else better." 

It is human nature to want to be validated.  Recognized.  Respected.  That is why humility is so difficult for most of us.  We can't see past our own egos so that we "see" the other person for who they really are.  Our brother.  Our sister.  Our mother.  Our father.  Our friend.  Our neighbor.  A stranger on the street.  Even the bully around the corner.



When we go to the grocery store with our child and we see someone who looks disheveled, obese, different, do we talk to the person we are with and say "Look at that?"  "Can you believe that?"  Or do we try to pray for them?  Say hello?  Help them?  If you were to go shopping and you noticed a mother or father abusing their young child and the child was screaming and crying - would you go up to the parent and yell at them?  Shove them away?  Assault them too?  Walk away and talk about them? Or would you go up and calmly and respectfully say "I want to help," and then touch the parent on the shoulder and say "It's going to be okay, let me help you calm down" and then proceed to help that parent by understanding that they are human and probably have a lot going on in their life right now.  Really.  And then hug the child.  Smile.  Stroke the child's hair and tell them it's okay.  Would you do this?  I have.  Why?  Because as hard as it is to show it sometimes, I believe in the power of respect.  I believe in trying to understand others.  I believe in compassion.  I believe that we all deserve respect because we were given this life by God and we should respect it, not torment one another with abusive words and behavior.  

Let me say I am guilty of all the things I've written here.  I am guilty of them all.  I have said and done things in my life that I am not proud of.  I won't make excuses.  Ignorance is not bliss.  I learned.  I still make mistakes and errors in judgment. But I want to be remembered in this life for having been a good person, a good mother, wife, daughter, friend, neighbor, and stranger.  And, I want to be forgiven for the mistakes I've made, the errors in judgment that I've made, the times in my life I have tripped up.  We all deserve a chance to make good in this life.  I am trying my best to teach my children about respect, too, and I am starting by shutting them down when they talk disrespectfully about anyone else.  



For instance - take last night.  Sarah was doing her homework and Bob and I were helping her put together her Excel spreadsheet for a class she is taking.  Her teacher in this class is an accomplished woman and who doesn't take any crap off of anyone.  Sarah began to say things about her that were not very nice.  She was being a typical teenager.  I don't fault her for this, as most if not all of the kids in her school do it constantly, but I turned to her and I said "stop."  "Stop right there."  "Would you say that to her face?  Would you say to your teacher the very things you just said to me, and say them to her face?"  "Then hush.  Zip it up.  Your teacher has earned the right to be teaching your class.  She has earned her degree.  She has raised her children to be a doctor and a lawyer.  You are 15, and you have not earned the right to judge her.  Nobody has that right but God.  So you show her the respect she deserves and you keep your mouth shut.  You be a better person."  Sarah apologized and I hope she understood.  And then I thought of something my father used to always say to me, "Be a leader, not a follower."



Easier said than done I know.  We all want to be followers.  Why?  Because we all want to feel like we fit in.  We want to feel as though we aren't a square peg shoved into a round hole.  That's why.  We want to feel like others approve of us, so we go with the flow.  Funny, how when you come face to face with a rebellious soul who doesn't want to conform, rather than taking the high road with their behavior, they rebel and take the back road.  They fight.  They show disrespect to everyone and everything.  They treat others like trash.  Yep, that's their way of not "fitting in."  The problem is that they're going in the wrong direction.  If anyone really wants to rebel - be a good person.  That will stand tall right in the face of humanity.  Anyone can be a jerk, but how hard is it, really, to be a good person?

I've told my children over and over again.  "if what you want to say about someone else is something you won't say to their face - then keep your mouth shut.  Nobody said you couldn't think those things, but show some humanity and shut your trap."  And "even if you did say it their face, if it is meant to be nothing more than hurtful, and anything less than constructive criticism, then keep it to yourself."  I think this world would be a better place if more people kept their big mouths shut.  This world is filled with enough verbal vomit, and believe me, I've contributed my share, but at least "try" to be of value in this world.  Try to be a good person.  Try to keep your mouth closed if it will hurt others.  Try to be respectful of others.  Try to teach others by example how to reach out and lift up rather than tear down.



So there you have it.  Be a respectful person, not a back stabber.  Don't be the smile you give a friend only to trash them behind their back.  We can all be better than that.  Try to fill your space on this earth with song rather than verbal vacuous.  And if you do slip up, and we all will, at least have the humility to say you are sorry and stop.  If you have a friend who enjoys this kind of talk, then kindly say "let's talk about something else" and change the subject, or if you are bold, simply say "that really isn't very nice, let's talk about something else."  There are ways to express yourself without being ugly.  There are ways to elevate yourself without tearing others down.  And that is what we all need to learn.  Be aware of your words.  Be kind and thoughtful.  No matter what sludge you have behind you, plant flowers going forward.

We need to be conscious of our words and our actions.  We need to respect the lives of others regardless of what we think of them or they of us.  Michael Jackson wrote a song that said it all - Take a look at yourself and then make a change.  I think I will.  How about you?


Sunday, October 18, 2009

No More Dancin' Around


As you all may know, my Big Bear got laid off over a year ago, and life as we knew it kinda went ... how many ways can I say this and still sound decent?  You know what I mean.  And as a result, although my readership went up, my comments tanked - because you all can read me like a book and I think you know when my "voice" isn't my own anymore.  I just want to finally tell you what I've really been feeling this past 13 months.  No more dancin' around the issue.


Before September 15th, 2008, life was good.  For 16 years (that was our entire marriage) we had been financially secure, happy, grounded, and on an upward mobile career path - both of us.  Even as Bob was the main provider in our family, we were doing just fine.  We had made good, solid decisions about 5 years into our marriage that we were no longer going to depend on credit to purchase what we wanted.  We were going to pay off everything, right down to the automobiles and the mortgage, and eliminate anything that could possibly interfere with our security.  If we couldn't pay cash for it (with the exception of our home) we weren't going to buy it.  Isn't it funny (not really) how when you avoid credit, you ruin your credit score.  What kind of ridiculous system is that anyway?

We got close to achieving that goal.  It took years, but we got real close.  We paid off our credit card debt, we paid off our automobiles, and we paid off most all of that incidental debt as well.  Bob is in the tech industry - you know - the one that turns your computer into a dinosaur every 2 years as new technology emerges.  We have been on that roller coaster our entire marriage as Bob was laid off nearly every 2 years as companies changed their focus or there were acquisitions and mergers as in the case of Compaq and Hewlett Packard.  


Still, even as lay offs happened across the industry every 2 years or so, we moved on.  We were secure.  We had faith, and our faith proved to be good to us as Bob always found another position in an upward mobile career path the entire way.  I had faith in God.  I had faith in Bob.  Bob had faith in the industry and in his career path - and God too by the way.  

It's funny now that I think about it, but ever since Bob got laid off from Bell Atlantic Internet Solutions (his 2nd experience with company layoffs after our marriage, the first being with GE Information Services where he had been employed for 12 years), I have been telling him this ... "when you hit 20 months, it is time to start sprucing up your resume and sending it out.  Test the waters.  See what's out there."  Why? Because "every day over 2 years that you have your job is one day we're livin' on borrowed time."  And boy did that ever prove to be right on the money too.

Family picture on Easter 2003

Before we moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, we lived in Woodbine, Maryland, and we had a neighbor who was riding that same tech wave.  In the 8 years that we lived in our home in Woodbine, Bob and Joel were laid off just about every 2 years or so (by different companies) but on the same 2 year cycle.  They kept their eye on each others career.  If Joel got laid off, Bob knew he would be next, and vice versa.  They networked together and within a few months, both were employed again and on another 2 year cycle.  And so the story goes.  Every day over 2 years was borrowed time.  We knew it was just a matter of time before the company would start laying off people.

Geneva2003 (7)

Nevertheless, we were doing well.  When Bob's parents moved in with us in November 2001 and we ended up being a family of 8 living in a 4-bedroom house, Bob got laid off about 4 months after they moved in with us.  But, we had a lot of savings and a lot of equity in our home, so Bob actually took 4 years off from looking for a permanent (if you want to call it that) job to help me in the care of his parents.  


Instead, we started a landscaping business "Vaughn Lawn and Landscapes" and we had ourselves 2 zero-turn radius Kabota mowers, a Kabota tractor, and a lot of landscaping equipment, trailer, the whole bit, to get the business off the ground - and we did.  Together, Bob and I mowed about 30 acres every week or so during the green season.  We'd put on our Boze headphones, attach it to our iPod, and we'd mow acre after acre.  We'd put down lime and grass seed.  We'd aerate and do pressure washing too.  We were proud of our little business and we had a good thing goin' there for a while.


Woodbine Home

Our plan was to build an addition onto our Woodbine home so that Bob's parents, and my mother, would have personal space and bedrooms and bathrooms on the main level.  Going up and down the stairs for all of them was becoming increasingly difficult.

So we paid to have plans drawn up for the addition, and let me tell ya, if we had been able to complete that addition, it would have been magnificent.  But life took a different turn.  God had other plans for us.  



Plans changed when we ended up fussin' with 2 of our neighbors over the location of the addition to the property line and it got ugly.  They didn't want our addition to block their view.  Their view of what? The countryside?  Our side yard?  You'd have to see where the fool behind us built his house (4 years after we had moved into our house) to appreciate that statement.  So we solved that problem after paying off thousands in attorney's fees.  We planted about 70 blue spruce and other variety type Christmas trees along our back property line.  We zigzagged them too when we planted them.  Oh, he has a view alright - a wall of trees.  No longer can he look out his front window and see all of the beautiful countryside.  The addition would have been a lot prettier.  I gotta tell ya, revenge can be sweet - if you do it in a clean, respectable way that is.


Bob's parent's health issues were getting worse year after year.  No need to get into all of that here, just suffice it to say that Bob's father (a serious stroke victim) was having a lot of trouble getting up and down and around, and Bob's mother's Alzheimer's condition was becoming far worse and more difficult to manage.  My mother was fine - or so I thought.



Our landscaping business was thriving quite well.  But then in 2005, just 6 weeks after Bob's mother failed to recognize her husband of 52 years and wondered who the strange man was in her bed, Bob's father passed away.  I suppose he knew that she didn't need him anymore.  It was sad, but the next time he got ill, he came down with pneumonia, and rather than fight, he passed away peacefully in the hospital, just 10 hours after I took this picture of him.  Bob's mother never knew he was gone.



Soon after we got our property tax bill.  Dang!  Put it this way, if you live in Montgomery or Howard County, Maryland, you are paying out the wazoo in real estate taxes.  We knew we had to make a decision because Bob's mother needed to go into a nursing home.  She had become way more than we could handle.  So, we decided to move to Charlotte, North Carolina.  We had friends in Charlotte and the cost of living was far less than where we were living in Maryland.  Where we had lived all our lives.

We put our house on the market and it sold in 9 weeks.   We found a beautiful home in the South Charlotte area that we loved and we found a good nursing home close by for Bob's mother.  Bob did not have a job when we bought this house either.  We had to stop our landscaping business as well when we moved because the requirements for landscapers were different in North Carolina than in Maryland.   I'll bet you can't buy a house without a job now!  



And this is where we made a mistake - I think.  I'm still thinking about this decision and wondering if we made a mistake.  We had made enough profit on the sale of our Maryland home to pay off this house when we bought it, but instead we decided to finance 50 percent of the cost so that we would have the tax write-off and use the rest of the savings for home improvements (of which there have been many).  Everybody told us to mortgage our home for the tax write-off.  I'm sorry, but I've always wondered what the logic is in having a mortgage.  I thought the dream was to own your home.  What's the deal with that anyway?

And that is exactly what we did.  We put 50% down and mortgaged the other 50%.   We put some money in the bank, Bob bought me a new car, (my little Beamer) and we used about a hundred grand for remodeling projects.  From re-plumbing the entire house, to new drainage systems and irrigation.  From new garage doors to new driveways and sidewalks.  From all new appliances to all new toilets and cabinetry and carpet - this house needed an overhaul.  But we loved it when we bought it and we still do.

We never would have believed we'd be facing such difficult times.  But here we are - together with millions plus other people in the US facing the same financial and career dilemma.  What next?  Where is this road taking us?

Together, Bob and I have worked hard to get where we are, and "NO" (I say that emphatically) we have not been living above our means!  We have always been careful with our finances, our home expenses, and our life & home choices throughout our marriage.  We've had fun along the way too, and yes, we've spent money on things we "want" along the way - because at the time, we could comfortably afford them without going into debt.  I don't owe anyone an explanation for how we live, but I will say this ...


I just wanted to get that message perfectly clear - we are not trying to keep up with anyone named Jones.  We have had every right to have lived a good "honest" life and make a good "honest" living.  (and that is more than I can say for many) And, we did it without stealing from Tom, Dick, or Harry or borrowing from Uncle Joe 2 states away.  We have had every right to provide our family, our children, our grandson, and our parents, with the most comfortable home possible.  We have every right to enjoy our hobbies and passions, like motorcycles, painting, and piano.  It makes me sick in my stomach when someone says that we are living above our means or that we are trying to keep up with anyone.  That is crap.  Someone ought to punch you in the mouth for even thinking such horrible things about us.  (And we all know why people do that anyway - to feel better about themselves.  People who mouth off do that for no other reason than to elevate their own ego).  Or that your tax dollars are supporting us.  "Listen up my fair-weather friend - We've paid more in taxes than you ever have earned in income in your lifetime.  Get real and get your head out of the sand."  And the person who said that - and you know who I am talking about - obviously doesn't know us very well and has serious issues of her own - every time you want attention you end up in the hospital.  It angers me terribly to think that anyone who knows us, or doesn't know us for that matter, would make a judgment call that is completely wrong.  People who judge others and then talk about them behind their back are shallow, simple minded, uneducated idiots.  I don't talk about people behind their back - I have enough integrity to tell you to your face that you make me sick.  People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.  There, I've said it.  I feel better now.



Well, in 2007, and long before Bob got laid off, I started this blog about my life and my family.  I've always been a bit of a comic and I love to write, so this was my comic relief among other topics (unlike that angry vent in the last paragraph) I had a strong readership.  I enjoyed all the comments.  I still do.  But something changed over the past year.  I tried to put on a smile and a positive face, but I think you all saw right through it.  Maybe it was my subject matter.  Maybe it was that my humor seemed to fly right out the window with Bob's job.  Maybe it was just that - well - life wasn't funny anymore and I wasn't either.  I don't know what it was, but whatever it was I miss myself. 



I have tried to stay strong this past year, and maybe I have in some ways, but I'll be completely honest here - it has been a painful year for me.  I either sleep way too much or not enough.  I spend most days in my pajamas unless I'm going somewhere.  I rarely smile anymore except at my children.  I rarely laugh, which is completely not like me.  I do, however, wake up every morning and thank the Lord for my blessings in this life, the lessons learned from the struggles and the heartache, and the future that I know will bring much to be thankful for.



I've aged and I can see it when I look in the mirror.  I'm tired all the time.  Sleep seems to be my best friend at the moment.  (And if that makes a particular person feel better about herself because I'm miserable at the moment - get help). 

I paint, but not with the same enthusiasm as before.  The only thing creative that I have done this year that has given me a pick-me-up has been my new palette.  Working with wood has been a nice change and fun too.   It doesn't hurt that I've sold a few too!


Still, I've been in a real slump and a bummer of a mood for about 5 months now.  Actually, I think it was the death of Bob's mother, Geneva, and spending our last dollar on her funeral expenses and driving her to Maryland in the back of the Suburban that sent me over the edge - and I think it shows - in the way I look, the way I feel, the way I write too.  Now, not all my stories have been bad, but I think my readers can tell that I haven't been myself.  I've tried!  It just isn't the same when we feel like our security and our home are at risk.  Our parents are dying, our friends have betrayed us, our eldest children upset us, and we don't know when it is going to end.  

We still have faith.  We still have prayer.  We still have each other.  We support one another totally.  We still have many, many, many blessings and yes, many honest, true friends - and that is my fuel.  That is our fuel.  That is what gets me up in the morning.  That's what takes my footsteps into my studio to paint or to make a few new palettes.



I don't think I am depressed, but I do think I am sad.  Not just for our situation either.  At least we have hope and we have each other. Honestly, I am terribly saddened by the families who have lost their homes, their children, their lives.  I am devastated by the innocent loss of life because of war.  I feel helpless by the needless crime around us, the lives that are hurt, abused, or lost as a result.  I cry when I hear of another child or person who has lost their battle with cancer like Beth's friend Deb.  I feel frightened when I hear of a child that was perfectly healthy one day and dead 5 days later from the swine flu.  I feel unable to reach out to the families who are living in tent cities across this nation.  I want to help.  I want to help a lot.  I want to do more to help those who are far worse off.  And believe me, I know that even in the worst of circumstances right now, we've got it good.



Yes, we are having a bad year.  Yes, we might have to sell a few things - soon - to pay another mortgage payment or to pay the utilities.  Yes, we may even have to move.  But I have faith, and by God I'm not going to crumble without a fight and I'll go down kicking.   I may look like hell, I may feel like hell, and well, that's just going to have to be the least of my worries.



Just know that I'm doing the best I can.  I'm sorry I haven't been the comic relief that I used to be.  I'm sorry that my posts seem to be bland; but they are a reflection of the things that are on my mind - and my frame of mind - no matter how hard I try to hide it.

I hope you won't leave me here alone.  I hope you will continue to comment and continue to be the virtual friend and support that I have really enjoyed these past few years.  One day - soon I hope - I will be back in full swing.  The pictures will be better, the prose will be too.  Promise.  I just didn't want to bring everybody down with me if you know what I mean.  But I suppose I should be honest with you.  I suppose I should let you know how I feel and stop worrying about how everyone else feels for once.  Every now and then I suppose I should look in the mirror and see "me,"  because lately, I don't know who that woman is looking back at me in the mirror. 



Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Raisin Bread - Toasted & Buttered - Yum


I received a nice little package in the mail from my dear friend Beth.  It was a surprise.  When I opened it, guess what I found?  Well, it's not that difficult to figure out because I've got it pictured here.  Yep, Beth sent me homemade Raisin Bread, directly from her kitchen to mine.  I wonder what gave her the idea that I like Raisin Bread?  Ya think? 


So, I admired her work of art.


And I sliced it.


And I sliced it some more. 


And then I toasted it.  Raisin Toast is my favorite. The aroma began to filter through the air ...


And it didn't take long before scavengers arrived in the kitchen.


And they wanted to have some raisin toast.  


They ate it up and they smiled.


And they laughed.


"Hey Mom, is there more?  This is so good." 


"Okay Mom, you know how I feel about eating crust, but I want more toast."

Thank you Beth! - The boys ate all the raisin bread with the exception of 3 pieces that I enjoyed with them.  You're just going to have to make some more and this time take pictures of how you make it.  It was delicious!  You're such a great friend.


Friday, October 09, 2009

Live. Laugh. Love. Repeat.


My sweetie-pie made this on her computer and sent it to me in an email.  Look at that sweetheart smile.  I agree with her message and especially the last one ...

Live, Laugh, Love, Repeat. :)

Hope everyone has a great weekend! 


and Sarah too!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Cat Girl Comes to Town


That's my Cat Girl I'll have you know!  Today was "costume day" at Sarah's high school and she made some silly cat ears with her headband, put on some crazy eyeliner, dressed in black, and headed off to school.  Does she look happy or what?


Peace.  Love.  Smile.  Meow.


I think she looks absolutely adorable.  To think she is wearing a pair of my old black leggin's and my black Harley boots.  Why do children have to grow up so fast?  She is already taller than I am. I might add that she looks a heck of a lot better in those leggin's than I ever did.


And smart, and funny, and cute as a button I might add.  I can brag - she's my baby girl!  And she sure is going to look cute this halloween too, but she isn't wearing this outfit - she's going to be the grim reeper I think and scare all the little kids in the community. 

By the way, please vote for me at Divine Caroline.  I really appreciate the love.

By Parenting

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

What You Should Know About the Swine Flu


Being that this is the flu season and swine flu is on everybody's mind, I thought it was a good idea to highlight this recent story from WebMD and pass it on to my readers.  For those of you who do not receive the WebMD newsletter, I highly recommend it.  This article is long, but it answers your questions about the swine flu and what we can all do to prevent this virus from infecting us and our families.  I've added images throughout to make it more interesting and to help you get through it. 

Most importantly, stay safe, keep your hands washed regularly, and see your doctor if you think you may have the flu, any flu (but wear a face mask when you go to his office and out in public please) - Susan

Swine Flu FAQ

Answers to your questions about swine flu.

By Daniel J. DeNoon
WebMD Feature

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

The swine flu virus in the U.S. is the same one causing a deadly epidemic in Mexico. What is swine flu? What can we do about it? WebMD answers your questions.

Swine Flu Outbreak: Get the Facts

Get the latest swine flu facts and information from WebMD, the CDC and other public health agencies.

Swine Flu Slideshow

Like people, pigs can get influenza (flu), but swine flu viruses aren't the same as human flu viruses. View the slideshow.


What is swine flu?

Like people, pigs can get influenza (flu), but swine flu viruses aren't the same as human flu viruses. Swine flu doesn't often infect people, and the rare human cases that have occurred in the past have mainly affected people who had direct contact with pigs. But the current "swine flu" outbreak is different. It's caused by a new swine flu virus that has changed in ways that allow it to spread from person to person -- and it's happening among people who haven't had any contact with pigs.

That makes it a human flu virus. To distinguish it both from flu viruses that infect mainly pigs and from the seasonal influenza A H1N1 viruses that have been in circulation for many years, the CDC calls the virus "novel influenza A (H1N1) virus" and the World Health Organization calls it "pandemic (H1N1) 2009." The CDC calls swine flu illness "H1N1 flu" and the World Health Organization calls it "pandemic influenza A (H1N1)."


What are swine flu symptoms?

Symptoms of swine flu are like regular flu symptoms and include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Many people with swine flu have had diarrhea and vomiting.  Nearly everyone with flu has at least two of these symptoms. But these symptoms can also be caused by many other conditions. That means that you and your doctor can't know, just based on your symptoms, if you've got swine flu. Health care professionals may offer a rapid flu test, although a negative result doesn't necessarily mean you don't have the flu.

Like seasonal flu, pandemic swine flu can cause neurologic symptoms in children. These events are rare, but, as cases associated with seasonal flu have shown, they can be very severe and often fatal. Symptoms include seizures or changes in mental status (confusion or sudden cognitive or behavioral changes). It's not clear why these symptoms occur, although they may be caused by Reye's syndrome. Reye's syndrome usually occurs in children with a viral illness who have taken aspirin -- something that should always be avoided.

Only lab tests can definitively show whether you've got swine flu. State health departments can do these tests. But given the large volume of samples coming in to state labs, these tests are being reserved for patients with severe flu symptoms. Currently, doctors are reserving antiviral drugs for people with or at risk of severe influenza.


Who is at highest risk from H1N1 swine flu?

Most U.S. cases of H1N1 swine flu have been in older children and young adults. It's not clear why, and it's not clear whether this will change.

But certain groups are at particularly high risk of severe disease or bad outcomes if they get the flu:

  • Young children, especially those under 12 months of age
  • Elderly people are at high risk of severe flu disease. But relatively few swine flu cases have been seen in people over age 65.
  • People with cardiovascular conditions (except high blood pressure)
  • People with liver problems
  • People with kidney problems
  • People with blood disorders, including sickle cell disease
  • People with neurologic disorders
  • People with neuromuscular disorders
  • People with metabolic disorders, including diabetes
  • People with immune suppression, including HIV infection and medications that suppress the immune system, such as cancer chemotherapy or anti-rejection drugs for transplants
  • Residents of a nursing home or other chronic-care facility

People in these groups should seek medical care as soon as they get flu symptoms.

A striking number of adults who developed severe swine flu complications have been morbidly obese. However, obesity itself does not seem to be the issue. The vast majority of extremely obese people suffer respiratory problems and/or diabetes, which seem to be the underlying reason for their severe flu complications.


If I think I have swine flu, what should I do? When should I see my doctor?

If you have flu symptoms, stay home, and when you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. Afterward, throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands. That will help prevent your flu from spreading

If you have only mild flu symptoms, you do not need medical attention unless your illness gets worse. But if you are in one of the groups at high risk of severe disease, contact your doctor at the first sign of flu-like illness. In such cases, the CDC recommends that people call or email their doctor before rushing to an emergency room.

But there are emergency warning signs.

Children should be given urgent medical attention if they:

  • Have fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Have bluish or gray skin color
  • Are not drinking enough fluid
  • Are not waking up or not interacting
  • Have severe or persistent vomiting
  • Are so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Have flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and a worse cough
  • Have fever with a rash
  • Have a fever and then have a seizure or sudden mental or behavioral change.

Adults should seek urgent medical attention if they have:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve, but then come back with worsening fever or cough

Keep in mind that your doctor will not be able to determine whether you have swine flu, but he or she may take a sample from you and send it to a state health department lab for testing to see if it's swine flu. If your doctor suspects swine flu, he or she would be able to write you a prescription for Tamiflu or Relenza.

These antiviral medications aren't a question of life or death for the vast majority of people. Most U.S. swine flu patients have made a full recovery without antiviral drugs.


How does swine flu spread? Is it airborne?

The new swine flu virus apparently spreads just like regular flu. You could pick up germs directly from droplets from the cough or sneeze of an infected person, or by touching an object they recently touched, and then touching your eyes, mouth, or nose, delivering their germs for your own infection. That's why you should make washing your hands a habit, even when you're not ill. Infected people can start spreading flu germs up to a day before symptoms start, and for up to seven days after getting sick, according to the CDC.

The swine flu virus can become airborne if you cough or sneeze without covering your nose and mouth, sending germs into the air. Ferret studies suggest that swine flu spreads less easily by small, airborne droplets than does seasonal flu. But it does spread by this route, and it may begin to spread even more readily as the new virus fully adapts to humans.

The new swine flu virus is a human virus spread by people and not by pigs. The only way to get the new swine flu is from another person.


How is swine flu treated?

Pandemic H1N1 swine flu virus is sensitive to the antiviral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza. These antiviral drugs are most effective when taken within 48 hours of the start of flu symptoms.

Not everyone needs those drugs. Most people who come down with swine flu recover fully -- without antiviral treatment.

But the CDC strongly recommends antiviral treatment for people at risk of severe flu complications who come down with flu-like symptoms. Since it's very important to start these drugs soon after symptoms appear, doctors should offer treatment to at-risk patients if they suspect they have the flu. Doctors should not rely on rapid flu tests (they are too unreliable for definitive diagnosis) or wait for results of lab-based tests (because they take too long).

Early treatment is so important that the CDC suggests doctors offer a Tamiflu or Relenza prescription to at-risk patients. If these patients develop flu-like symptoms, they would call their doctor, and based on the doctor's clinical judgment, the patient could then simply fill the prescription.

Is there enough Tamiflu and Relenza to go around? Federal and state stockpiles are large enough to treat at-risk patients with flu symptoms. But there isn't enough to offer treatment to otherwise healthy people who may have the flu. And health officials have asked people not to hoard Tamiflu or Relenza.

Tamiflu and Relenza can prevent swine flu, but the CDC urges even at-risk people to try to avoid using the drugs in this way. Not only is supply insufficient for preventive use, but preventive use appears to be a major factor in the few cases of drug-resistant H1N1 swine flu that have appeared.

There are situations in which preventive use of Tamiflu or Relenza may be appropriate for an at-risk person who must come into close contact with someone who has the flu. But the CDC suggests that doctors consider a "watchful waiting" approach. In this case, the at-risk person would wait to fill the prescription only if she or he actually developed flu symptoms.


Is there a vaccine against the new swine flu virus?

It's in the works.  Vaccines are being made in large quantities. Clinical tests began in August 2009. Depending on how long federal officials wait for the results of these tests, millions of doses of swine flu vaccine could be ready as soon as September 2009, with more vaccine becoming available each month thereafter.

Although the decision to begin mass vaccinations has not yet been made, federal and state governments are looking at a mid-October launch. By then, 45 million vaccine doses should be available -- fewer than originally predicted, but enough to cover the highest risk groups. Each week after that, another 20 million doses a week will be delivered to states. The U.S. has purchased  a total of 195 million doses.

If swine flu vaccine is in short supply -- nationally or in local areas -- pregnant women and people caring for or living with infants will go to the front of the line. So would health care workers and first responders who have direct contact with patients, children 6 months to 4 years old, and kids 4 to 19 years old with medical conditions that put them at risk of severe flu disease. There are about 42 million Americans in these groups.

If the vaccine supply seems sufficient to meet initial demand, priority will extend to all young people aged six months to 24 years, to people 25 to 64 with underlying medical conditions that put them at risk of severe flu disease, and a larger group of health care workers and emergency medical technicians.

Once there's enough vaccine for these urgent groups, swine flu vaccine will be offered to healthy people 24 and older.

Many questions remain. It's not yet clear whether people will need one or two shots, given three weeks apart, or whether an immune-boosting substance called adjuvant will have to be used.

Spurred by the safety concerns that sank vaccination efforts during the 1976 swine flu scare, federal officials are increasing efforts to track the safety of a pandemic flu vaccine. In addition to beefing up the CDC's vaccine adverse-event surveillance system, health care organizations and the U.S. military will be helping track vaccine safety.


I had a flu vaccine this season. Am I protected against swine flu?

No. This season's flu vaccine does not protect against the new swine flu virus.

Whether or not there's a swine flu vaccine this winter, there will be a new seasonal flu vaccine in the fall. This year, it will be more important than ever to get a flu shot. It may not protect against swine flu -- but it will keep you and others from getting the seasonal flu viruses that kill some 36,000 Americans each year.


How can I prevent swine flu infection?

The CDC recommends taking these steps:

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Or use an alcohol-based hand cleaner if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid close contact -- that is, being within 6 feet -- with people who have flu-like symptoms.
  • Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. That's not easy to do, so keep those hands clean.
  • If you have flu-like symptoms -- fever plus at least cough or sore throat or other flu symptoms -- stay home for seven days after symptoms begin or until you've been symptom-free for 24 hours -- whichever is longer.
  • Wear a face mask (consider using an N95 respirator) if you must come into close contact with a sick person. "Close contact" means within 6 feet. Note: There is no definitive proof that a face mask prevents flu transmission. Do not rely solely on a face mask to prevent infection.
  • Wear an N95 respirator if helping a sick person with a nebulizer, inhaler, or other respiratory treatment. Note: There is no definitive proof that a respirator prevents flu transmission. Do not rely solely on a respirator to prevent infection.
  • People who have or are suspected of having swine flu should wear a face mask, if available and tolerable, when sharing common spaces with other household members, when outside the home, or when near children or infants.
  • Breastfeeding mothers with swine flu symptoms should express their breast milk, and the child should be fed by someone else.


Should I wear a face mask or respirator?

Short answer: Maybe.  Face masks and respirators may very well offer extra protection, but should not be your first line of defense against either pandemic or seasonal flu. 

Every day, newspapers carry pictures of people wearing face masks to prevent swine flu transmission. But very little is known about whether face masks actually protect against the flu.

There's a difference between a face mask and a respirator. A face mask does not seal tightly to the face. Face masks include masks labeled as surgical, dental, medical procedure, isolation, or laser masks. Respirators are N95- or higher-rated filtering face pieces that fit snugly to the face. Respirators filter out virus particles when correctly adjusted -- which is not as simple as it sounds. But it's hard to breathe through them for extended periods, and they cannot be worn by children or by people with facial hair.

People who have flu-like symptoms should carry disposable tissues to cover their coughs and sneezes. When going out in public, or when sharing common spaces around the home with family members, they should put on a face mask -- if one is available and tolerable.

People not at risk of severe flu illness can best protect themselves from swine flu with frequent hand washing and by staying at least 6 feet away from people with flu symptoms. But if swine flu is circulating in the community, a face mask or respirator may be protective in crowded public places.

People at increased risk of severe flu illness -- pregnant women, for example -- should add a face mask to these tried-and-true precautions when providing assistance to a person with flu-like illness. And anyone else who cannot avoid close contact with someone who has swine flu (if you must hold a sick infant, for example) may try using a face mask or respirator.


How long does the flu virus survive on surfaces?

Flu bugs can survive for hours on surfaces. One study showed that flu viruses can live for up to 48 hours on hard, nonporous surfaces such as stainless steel and for up to 12 hours on cloth and tissues. The virus seems to survive for only minutes on your hands -- but that's plenty of time for you to transfer it to your mouth, nose, or eyes.


Can I still eat pork?

Yes. You can't get swine flu by eating pork, bacon, or other foods that come from pigs.


What else should I be doing during the swine flu pandemic?

Keep informed of what's going on in your community. Your state and local health departments may have important information if swine flu develops in your area. For instance, parents might want to consider what they would do if their child's school temporarily closed because of flu. Don't panic,  but a little planning wouldn't hurt.

Here's the advice from the U.S. government's pandemicflu.gov web site:

To plan for a pandemic:

  • Store a two-week supply of water and food. During a pandemic, if you cannot get to a store, or if stores are out of supplies, it will be important for you to have extra supplies on hand. This can be useful in other types of emergencies, such as power outages and disasters.
  • Periodically check your regular prescription drugs to ensure a continuous supply in your home.
  • Have any nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins.
  • Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick, or what will be needed to care for them in your home.
  • Volunteer with local groups to prepare and assist with emergency response.
  • Get involved in your community as it works to prepare for an influenza pandemic.

Items to have on hand for an extended stay at home:

Examples of food and non-perishables

Examples of medical, health, and emergency supplies

•         Ready-to-eat canned meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, beans, and soups

•         Prescribed medical supplies such as glucose and blood-pressure monitoring equipment

•         Protein or fruit bars

•         Soap and water, or alcohol-based (60-95%) hand wash

•         Dry cereal or granola

•         Medicines for fever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen

•         Peanut butter or nuts

•         Thermometer

•         Dried fruit

•         Anti-diarrheal medication

•         Crackers

•         Vitamins

•         Canned juices

•         Fluids with electrolytes

•         Bottled water

•         Cleansing agent/soap

•         Canned or jarred baby food and formula

•         Flashlight

•         Pet food

•         Batteries

•         Other non-perishable items

•         Portable radio

•         Manual can opener

•         Garbage bags

•         Tissues, toilet paper, disposable diapers


How severe is swine flu?

The severity of cases in the current swine flu outbreak has varied widely, from mild cases to fatalities. Most U.S. cases have been mild, but there have been a number of deaths and hundreds of hospitalizations -- mostly in young people aged 5 to 24.

Like seasonal flu, children who get swine flu can have serious neurological complications such as seizures and Reye's syndrome. But as with seasonal flu, these complications fortunately are rare.

Studies of the swine flu virus show that it is more infectious to lung cells than are seasonal flu viruses. But studies also suggest that the swine flu virus is less well adapted to humans and may be harder to inhale deep into the lungs.

Flu viruses change all the time, and the way the pandemic swine flu virus evolved suggests that it is particularly liable to swap gene segments with other flu viruses. But so far the swine flu virus hasn't changed much. That's good news, as the vast majority of swine flu cases have been mild. And it's also good news for the swine flu vaccine, which is based on swine flu strains isolated early in the pandemic.

It's impossible to know whether the virus will become more deadly. Scientists are watching closely to see which way the new swine flu virus is heading -- but health experts warn that flu viruses are notoriously hard to predict.

But there's a lot of planning you can do. CDC officials predict that just about every U.S. community will have H1N1 swine flu cases. It's possible some schools in your community may temporarily close, or even that major gatherings may be canceled. So make contingency plans just in case you are affected. For more information on preparedness planning, see the U.S. government's pandemicflu.gov web site.


Why has the swine flu infection been more severe in Mexico than in other countries?

That's not clear yet. Researchers around the world are investigating the differences between the cases in Mexico and those elsewhere. The data so far suggests that many more people in Mexico had mild swine flu infections than had originally been appreciated. So the disease now seems to have been no more severe in Mexico than elsewhere.


Have there been previous swine flu oubtreaks?

I was vaccinated against the 1976 swine flu virus. Am I still protected?

Probably not. The new swine flu virus is different from the 1976 virus. And it's not clear whether a vaccine given more than 30 years ago would still be effective.


How many people have swine flu?

That's no longer possible to answer, because so many people have become infected that most nations can no longer test everyone suspected of having H1N1 swine flu. The CDC counts hospitalizations and deaths. But instead of misleading case counts, the CDC offers a map showing where flu is widespread and charts showing whether unusual numbers of people are showing up in doctors' offices with flu-like symptoms and whether there are unusually high numbers of deaths from pneumonia and influenza.


How serious is the public health threat of a swine flu epidemic?

The U.S. government has declared swine flu to be a public health emergency. The World Health Organization considers it a global emergency.

It remains to be seen how severe swine flu will be in the U.S. and elsewhere, but countries worldwide are monitoring the situation closely and preparing for worst-case scenarios.

The World Health Organization has declared swine flu to be a pandemic. That means that all nations can expect to see swine flu infections -- and should prepare for them -- but does not mean the virus has become more severe.

The H1N1 swine flu outbreak came at the end of the U.S. flu season. The virus spread across the nation and around the globe in the spring and summer, seasons when flu usually ebbs to nearly undetectable levels in the Northern Hemisphere.

In the Southern Hemisphere, most nations have seen large numbers of H1N1 swine flu cases. Fortunately, there's no sign that the pandemic flu bug has become more deadly, more resistant to new flu drugs, or less likely to be stopped by the H1N1 swine flu vaccine now in production.

Nobody knows how bad the swine flu will be during the Northern Hemisphere flu season. But the CDC is warning Americans to prepare for a bad flu season this fall. It's better to over-prepare and look a little silly if nothing happens than to be unprepared for an emergency.

WebMD senior writer Miranda Hitti contributed to this report.

  • Raisin Toast Blog

  • Subscribe to Raisin Toast

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

  • A Site for You