Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Soap Box

From time to time, I have expressed my opinions on various political and social issues of the day. This is another.

As usual, I was listening to National Public Radio this morning as I was getting ready for work. I caught part of a story on the immigration law that went into effect yesterday or today in Arizona. The story explained the ruling of a Federal Court judge as to various parts of that law. One part I wasn't aware of (and which was fortunately struck down by the Court) was a provision making it illegal for an illegal alien to work in the US.

I got to thinking about this. Isn't it already against the law for a business or individual to employ illegals? Instead of making life more difficult for the individuals who come here illegally from other countries, why don't the state and/or Federal governments penalize those who hire them?

I've been of the opinion for some time that folks wouldn't be so eager to cross the border illegally if there was less work for them here. Actually, I heard something last year that, after the US entered the recession in 2008, the numbers of illegals crossing into the US from Mexico had declined dramatically--like half or fewer of those who had come in the previous years.

I don't live in an area that has significant problems with illegals. Here in Wisconsin, we do have a large number of people from Mexico who come here to work on the farms in the summer. We also have large numbers of immigrants from Somalia and Laos who live and work here. All these people come here to work--and they get jobs of various kinds, usually jobs that "native" Americans decline to do. If there weren't jobs here, I doubt that these people would have settled in this state. I mean, who would enjoy leaving their tropical home to spend winters in Wisconsin with months of freezing weather!

At any rate, I am of the opinion that "cracking down on illegals," building fences, mass deportations, and enacting laws that infringe on the rights of US citizens will do little to solve the problem of illegal immigration. The people come here to make a better life for themselves. If the opportunity to work isn't there, the illegals would stop coming. How about punishing the employers instead of the employees?

Despite not being a supporter of George W Bush, he did come up with a proposal that I thought might have value: the guest worker program. Unfortunately, that never got off the ground. This idea would provide Mexican workers with temporary work permits so they would be entering legally for a specified period of time to do a particular job. Then they would have to return to Mexico. I think they would have been allowed to become guest workers more than once so they could return again and again to work. To me this is the same as what they are already doing under the table and this plan would have legalized what is already happening.

It's time to be creative about solving the problem of our leaky border instead of relying on punitive and restrictive measures that have failed in the past and likely will fail again.

That's my opinion.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Another wild weekend---

and I'm getting too old to be a wild woman except in my mind. LOL. Saturday Don and I went to Duluth for the wedding party of my best friend's daughter who was married in Colorado last week. So much fun--it was held in the Great Lakes Aquarium and we got to watch the fish swimming in their tanks as we dined. A very unique setting for a party and we loved it.

We couldn't stay for the dancing--I don't trust my knee yet and we had to get home and prepare for the party at our house on Sunday. A couple of months ago I offered my house as a site for an office retreat of sorts and that was held yesterday. It was pot luck so we only had to do the grilling. Before anyone arrived, Don and I were going like dervishes, trying to get a handle on the weed situation. It's hopeless! But we got quite a bit done anyway. The weather was perfect--warm, sunny and breezy--and I think the whole thing went off okay.

Now, I'm relaxing until the end of August when we have 3 couples coming up to camp in the yard and spend the weekend with us. Until then, my duties are to keep on weeding, do a little knitting after dark, and finish the table runner I started after the knee surgery and which is a gift for one of the gals arriving for the August weekend.

Lily moves out next Friday evening--boy, is that coming up fast! Much as I'm looking forward to being an empty nester, I'm feeling more and more sad at the thought that I'm not going to see her daily--only every other weekend when she'll be at the house while her mom is working. Such is life--change is inevitable.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Amazing Day!

As soon as I posted the long comment today about what a hard time I was having getting back into the groove of my work, my attitude changed completely! I got more done today than I have in the 2 previous days combined, and it felt soooo good to be back. I guess I just needed to voice my feelings in order to get over the hump. Thanks for this blogging opportunity.

I'm in a mental slump.

Since I returned to work after the knee surgery, I've not had any energy for work and I don't like feeling like this. I dream of the day 5 months from now, when I'll be finished with this job. It all depends on whether I can get affordable health insurance.

That's really the only reason I'm working at all at this stage of my life, to be insured. Don has the VA to cover him but that doesn't extend to cover me, so I'm still at work. I have a lead on a health insurance plan that's specifically for people between ages 62 and 65 but I'm not sure how many riders will be attached. If it doesn't cover any of my pre-existing conditions, I'm screwed and will have to continue for another year until I can get Medicare.

If that happens, I'll be absolutely crushed, mentally. It'll be really hard to stay on top of things here when I'm so hoping to be at home, doing the things I enjoy and really want to be doing. If that's how it goes, I'll have to cope with it somehow, but it'll be hard. I owe my clients too much to let them down, but it will take just about everything out of me, I think, if I have to continue for another year.

However, I realize that it will be only Don and me in the house. Lily will have moved out to her mother's house and that means less work for me at home. Maybe it won't be so difficult when I'm relieved of Lily's care. She moves out the last weekend of this month, so we'll see if I start feeling more energetic and excited about work after that. I hope so, since I really hate feeling like this.

Sorry to have posted such a depressing thing this morning. I think if I can get it off my chest I may start feeling better about being here. Another thing that's on my mind is my hand. I saw the doc yesterday and now I need to see a surgeon to repair a painful ganglion cyst that developed on the back side of one of my knuckles. It's apparently in a tricky spot and there may be damage to the tendons and if there is, I'm looking at some physical therapy to get it back to functioning.

I've been to more doctors' appointments this summer than in the past 5 years total. On the positive side, none of these conditions are permanent things. All will be repaired and I'll be back to normal--or close to it. And the other positive thing is that I'm able to access doctors and hospitals to have these things fixed. I often think how different--and painful--my life would be 100 years ago or even if I lived in a different country and didn't have access to all the medical treatment we have here.

Thanks for putting up with my pity party. I'll be all right, I know. I come from tough German-Bohemian stock and we are a hardy people who can cope with all sorts of adversity. When life throws a curve in my path, as it will if I have to work another year, I'll have to focus on the positive, make the best of it, and continue on my journey. What else can a person do, right?

In an attempt to end this on a positive note, I checked on the monetary stats yesterday on my caseload. I have to attribute a monetary value to the benefits I've secured for my clients and each year I usually run right around a million dollars in benefits, give or take a few humdred thousands. So, yesterday, with 5 months yet to go in the year, I'm at $825,000! I should top a million easily this year! I always feel good when I look at those numbers which are a very tangible statement that the work I do every day is worth all the effort that goes into it.

Time to get on with the work of the day--I have to get over that million dollar mark!

Monday, July 19, 2010

I had a weekend of parties at my house. And it was all good. Saturday, Lily had a couple of her girlfriends over for swimming, playing and a fancy tea party. Not as fancy as Fancy Nancy likes, but these girls thought it was just fine. We used the bone china cups and saucers with the pretty little flowers on them. We had mini-muffins, PB&J sandwiches cut in fancy shapes, and red jello with blueberries. "Tea" was chilled apple juice. When they were finished, not a crumb or drop was left. What fun for all of us!

Yesterday, I had a crowd of people over for swimming, visiting, and for supper. There was a total of 18 and we had a couple of quite vigorous water volleyball tournaments--my team only won 1 game. :( The weather was stormy looking in the morning but cleared out in time for the party and it became warm and humid--the pool felt very nice when I got in! Dinner was a smash! Don and I did a turkey on the grill--I had brined it overnight and it turned out fantastic. If you've never brined a turkey, don't be afraid to try it. I use the instructions from Alton Brown which you can find here: The turkey comes out so moist and flavorful--mmmmmmm. Only the carcass was left--split pea soup is in my future!

We celebrated 3 July birthdays as well and I used the opportunity to make my favorite from-scratch German Chocolate Cake. I only make it once a year, usually for my husband's birthday so this was a treat.

Jo left home today to spend a few days in Milwaukee with her friends before flying to Austin on Wednesday. Job interview on Thursday and then we'll see. I'm so hoping she gets offered this job--and she is too! Plan B is to get a job serving as she did while she was in college, but Plan A is much better.

I'm hoping this week is a quiet one--my gardens need tending and my body needs some resting! My sewing machine is getting dusty and I hate when that happens! My fabrics are calling out to me--"See me. Feel me. Touch me." I think I'll call my next quilt "The Who" no matter what the pattern. Help! I don't know where to begin!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Gettin' Ready for the Weekend

It's Friday and I am getting ready for a great weekend. The storms should have passed through by now and we're promised a beautiful day for Sunday. Last night I made the first of the dishes for our party on Sunday and here it is--

This salad is made of grated raw beets, carrots, a zucchini and a Granny Smith apple with a handful of raisins and chopped pecans thrown in as well. A splash of lemon juice and a twist of salt and pepper and it's done. It's fine served fresh like this but it'll be better after marinating a day or two. Tonight I'll make that carrot and cumin dish and start the baked beans.

We're having between 15 and 20 people over on Sunday afternoon for swimming and hot tubbing with Don grilling a whole turkey--oh, I have to brine that overnight on Saturday. Wow! There's a lot to be done, and I'm loving it! I think, in a previous life I must have been a caterer since I love having big parties. LOL

Tomorrow a couple of Lily's friends are spending the afternoon swimming and having a real fancy tea party. I've been promising her I would do this all summer and I just realized we have to get this done before she moves out, so Saturday it is. I only have to do a bit of baking and make some fancy PB&J sandwiches for the kids and get out the fancy teacups for them to use and they'll be happy as clams.

Off to work today--as the week's gone on it's gotten better. I'm nearly caught up with the phone messages and emails so by the end of today, I'll be okay. Don's been gone all week, golfing with his cuz, and he'll be home Sat afternoon sometime. He'll be golfed out and will likely want to spend some time in the yard, which sorely needs his attention before the party. I've been trying to get in some weeding every evening and I realized last night that no matter how hard I try, I'm not going to get it all done before Sunday. Oh well, they'll have to accept us as we are, weeds and all, right?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Blue Monday

I'm back to work today--and not too happy about it! I truly enjoyed the 1 1/2 weeks I was home on sick leave and it was very hard to come in today. While I was home, I kept imagining my retirement days, soon to come, I hope, and it felt very good.

I've spent nearly 25 years helping disabled people access the financial benefits they're entitled to and it's been a very rewarding way to spend my professional life. It's the only job I've ever had where what I do on a day-to-day basis makes a real difference in someone's life--like finally getting the money to have a home. I worked with one young man years ago who was struggling to maintain sobriety after years of addiction and failed treatment. He was homeless, illiterate, estranged from his family, uneducated and had a terrible work record. In addition to his addictions, he had medical problems. I was successful in getting him benefits and when the checks started arriving, I closed his case and moved on to working with my other clients. A year or so later, he called me to again say thank you and he told me that in the past year, he'd continued to be sober, had obtained an affordable apartment, was on good terms with his family, and best of all, was going to school to learn to read! This story is only one of many hundreds or possibly thousands of similar ones.

It's time to bring this career to an end, I think, and if my plan goes the way I'd like, I'll be retiring in January. As the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said, " know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived...this is to have succeeded." I like to think that in those terms, I have been a success.

After retirement, I plan on doing some volunteer work--probably taking a few cases pro bono--at the local food pantry and maybe at the county historical society. I also plan on enjoying my home and gardens, devoting time to quilting, embroidery, etc, and being a true grandmother to Lily, not a surrogate parent. Travel is one of my passions that I've rarely indulged and both Don and I want to see some of the world while we can. First is a week on a pristine beach by the aqua blue waters of the Caribbean. Just like this

but bigger.

Friday, July 9, 2010

It's a cat's life

This is Clem, the second of Tessa's cats that we are housing now that she can't have cats in her apartment. During the hot weather earlier this week, he was often found stretched out like this, on the tile in the foyer. Last night I found him lounging in the chair. He's copying me--legs elevated--but he looks a lot "cooler" than I ever did.
I've had a lazy day, copying Clem, I think. Monday I return to work and I want to enjoy every minute from now until then. The knee is feeling better every day--I even forget to take the pain pill, it feels so good. Today, I baked the cakes for German chocolate cake and put them in the freezer. Next weekend, I'll frost them and serve it for dessert for the party we're having. While they were baking and while they were cooling, I had to stay in the house so I worked on knitting that purple sweater. I'm almost finished with the left side of the front and it's going faster than I thought it would. I may be able to actually wear it this fall!

Don was organizing the stuff in the basement the other day and he found the sweater I'd started for Lily last year. I'd done all of the knitting and only had to seam it up when it disappeared. When husband and youngest daughter "clean house" many things go missing, only to resurface months later in some very unlikely spots. I can't criticize since they are helping with the cleaning, right?

More weeding awaits me, and I'll be outside until dark doing that. Does it ever end? Why can't we just stretch out in the cool like Clem and let the weeds do what they want.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Rhubard custard pie for dessert.

A day of leisure?

The horrible hot and humid weather has finally moved on--sorry to those of you in the East :(--and I'm enjoying a quiet morning by myself. Don's at work, Lily's at her mom's and Jo is in her room, busy sorting and repacking her things. I'd forgotten how enjoyeable a cup of coffee can be when sipped and savored in solitude. Mmmmmmmm. When I finally decide I need to get on with the day, I'll start by doing some baking--pie sounds very nice for tonight's dessert.

A few weeks ago Don and I decided that it was finally time for me to have a real sewing center so I've been searching on-line for cabinets that will have the features I want/need. My space is a "nook" in the wall about 6 feet long by 3 feet deep (probably designed to be a closet) and I want a cabinet that will fit in that space. I'm thinking that it should have an extension table in the back that I can fold up when I'm working on a large piece and fold down when I'm not. The whole thing should be on wheels so I can pull it out from the wall in order to raise the extension. I think I should have cabinets and drawers on wheels that will fit under the sewing table on the left and right of my chair. I'll be able to roll them in and out instead of swinging them open out to the sides. I definitely want the option of raising and lowering the machine so the bed is flush with the table top and can be lowered out of sight as well. A power strip where I can reach it would be very nice so I don't have to crawl underneath the table as I do now.

Other than these things, I can't think of what else to have in the piece, so I thought I'd ask you what features you have and/or want to have in your sewing center. There are so many accessories that I can't decide which ones I should have. Please help!

Storage isn't a problem--I have a large closet and 4 hanging sweater bags that I use as shelves to hold my fabric. We saved the 4 small wall cabinets from last summer's bathroom remodel and I'm going to paint them and hang them over the sewing area for more storage. Thought I'd install an under-cabinet light to help light the sewing area. I'm even going to have a design wall area--finally!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Busy birthday weekend

I should just sit around today and simply rest up from all the activity of the past 5 days! I had so much fun with family and we did so much playing--and working! Just a little recap--Friday, picked up Jo at the airport and Tessa came out for supper. Saturday, the niece, nephew and kids came for the afternoon and evening for more partying--in the pool, and with fantastic smoked ribs off the grill for supper. Sunday and Monday, Jo, Lily and I went shopping for a cell phone for her as well as other things she needed. (Now, she's no longer hogging my phone all day!) Both days, I did a lot of sitting with my leg elevated, worked on the knitting I've got going and generally supervised things around the house.
Back to the doc yesterday. Knee is doing fine--the pain I feel is normal after this kind of surgery so I'm relieved.
Yesterday afternoon, Don and I worked together to transplant the azeleas from the west side of the house where they were dying a long, slow death, to the north side of the pool where I hope they will do better.

Today, I hope to move some hostas in there as well as a couple of ferns and some Lily-of-the-Valley. And that bed should be complete--for now. lol
Alas, I won't be sitting around today. I have a huge patch of weeding to do and I hope to make it to the store to order the tile I need to finish the countertop on the new deck. I'll post when I have it finished--next weekend, I hope.
Oh, I almost forgot. I started working on this table runner that I will give to my friend, Elaine, as a thank you for all the times she's let us stay at her house. It's a pattern from a book of runners by "Gathering Friends."

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy birthday USA!

I'm having a terrific weekend. Yesterday we picked up Jo at the airport and it was very good to see her again. It's been 100 days that she's been gone, but it seems to have flown by. She was traveling for about 72 hours and is struggling with jet lag, but seems to be happy to be home. I know she has to be having mixed feelings--glad to be safe at home, yet missing the PCVs and the Krygyz people she left behind. What she'll do now, it's too soon to decide. I've advised her to simply take all the time she needs to recover from the stress of the past month or more before she makes any decisions. She has decided to stay here for a couple of weeks and then she's flying to Austin TX to be with her friends and to, hopefully, interview and obtain a new job. Already, she's doing some on-line testing for a couple of jobs with the State of Texas. If she gets a job and moves there, I guess I'll just have to take winter vacations in East Texas!

I got off the Vicodin yesteray--I only used 4 of the pills!--and have been doing well on Ibuprofen which doesn't mess with my brain so much. Was able to take off the TED and the bandages today and in the heat we have been having, it feels good to be bare legged again.

My neice and nephew and the 2 kids came over to swim and have dinner--They played in the pool for hours and the kids were almost too exhausted to eat. Don and I did ribs on the grill and I think we finally have mastered this dish. They were perfectly done and soooo good. And the girls helped out with the other dishes. A veritable feast with cornbread, baked beans, coleslaw, tomato and mozarella salad, fruit salad and rootbeer floats for desert.

Tomorrow we have a cookout at Tessa's house with fireworks in the evening. Monday, I think I'll stay home and relax.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Yea for arthroscopy!

Here it is. Don't worry, I won't post pix of the incisions or the scars! Yuck!

I had the arthroscopic surgery yesterday and if this post seems a little goofy, it's the Vicodin! Takes care of the pain and a good part of my brain as well, I think. The procedure went well, I'll be on crutches for a few days but the knee seems to be just fine. Love the white TEDs don't you? Thank goodness it's cool here for a few days.

When I stop the Vicodin, I'll be able to sit and knit or maybe do some sewing--I don't think I should use the rotary cutter while I'm legally stoned on Vicodin, do you? I've never cut myself (seriously) with the cutter and even though I have 9 good fingers left on my quilting gloves, I don't think I need to trim my hand to fit. LOL

Jo's arriving home tomorrow afternoon--Don and Lily and I will be there to meet her. I'll be off the Vicodin by then so I'll be ok. Can't wait to see her--she's traveling with another PCV for the entire trip to Mpls which is nice for her. What she'll do when she gets home, other than sleep for awhile, is anyone's guess. I know she's going to be in Austin TX to visit or maybe to stay, but I've cautioned her on making any decisions until she's recovered from jet lag and acclimated a bit to being back in the US. It will be a bigger adjustment than she imagines, and I want her to take all the time she needs.

Maple Leaf/ l'Unifolié

Happy Canada Day to all of you North of the Border to me. However you choose to celebrate, I hope you enjoy every minute of the day. As for me, I will celebrate having Canada for such a good neighbor--couldn't be one better. I don't think George Bush ever thanked Canada, but I thank you for being there for us on 09/11/01, especially the people of New Brunswick who opened their doors and their hearts to all the grounded passengers who were stranded for a few days. Such kindness and generosity is above and beyond, and I would hope that the US would do the same if ever need be.

So, Happy Canada Day! (And I LOVE hockey!)