Monday, March 31, 2008

April Fool. Just a Joke.

And here's another thing that comes from hanging around with a sociopath.

Bane's post about Johnny dying was an April Fool's joke.

Yes. For real.

--But!-- said I. --It's not April 1st yet.

Apparently Bane feels that makes it even more ideal, because then people don't suspect it's an April Fool's joke.

He also thinks no one should have fallen for it, because he did the same thing a couple years ago, but pretending it was himself that died - *posting* as LL to announce his *death.*

There's an odd mix of emotions going through me just now. A part of me is intensely relieved that one of these losses that have been going around actually isn't.

But therein lies the problem. Too many people I love have been experiencing real losses lately. Making a joke of Johnny passing away can be really wounding to them.

Thus my second comment on Bane's post:

...Kill yourself off all you want. Don't kill Johnny for fun.

Especially not when so many of us have real losses on our hands lately.
I'll take my revenge this way, Bane. That heartfelt post I wrote about Johnny passing away? The one I cried over, the one that made me set aside my plans for the day's small tasks, knowing none were important enough to fuss over at a time like this, and how could I possibly keep my mind on them anyway?

I'm going to put that post back to draft now. And leave it there.

Because, hey. It may come in handy sometime. If so, it's already written.

So I won't have to waste my time doing another one.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

I've Never Done This Before, But...

What Kind of Empath Are You?
created with
You scored as Artist

You are an Artist Empath, one who creates their own reality and infuses the realities of others with your energy & emotions. You are poetic and sensitive. You turn your feelings into creations and share them with the world. Everything you touch turns to song and is freed by the color of your eyes. Your spirit dances with the winds and paints delight in the evening sky. (from the "Book of Storms" by Jad Alexander at















Fallen Angel


Friday, March 28, 2008

The News Was Bad

Blogdad Desert Cat has posted about his father's test results. They're in. They're about as bad as could be. His father has an untreatable form of leukemia.

I'm very sad about this. DC has been absorbing all his own grief, and the sorrow surrounding him from all those who love his father.

So I'm going to try to take DC's cue now, and set my sadness aside. It's a natural way to feel, yes. Of course it is. But it's helping no one, and it's adding to his burden.

DadCat still has a life to live. It's not over yet. They've made it out from the city into the country, out on the land DC bought. Momcat likes to garden, and they have their own water well out there in the desert valley. And a brand new kitten too.

They've very much wanted to make it out there for a while now. And because of their son's care and his careful approach to buying that land, then his long hard work to bring in electricity, all the things needed to get it livable - they made it. They're home free.

A peaceful place to be. And that, my friends, is a very good thing indeed.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

And it WORKED! I DID turn 50!

And I've been sleeping it off ever since.

I've no doubt it's due to the huge local pollen spike taking place lately. But I think I'll go along and blame it on this newly acquired Great Age instead. Even if 50 IS the new 30. ;-)

But Walter is headed home, yay! and that'll liven me up a bit. He's going to spiff up the new car for me. He has all kinds of Plans for it. A bigger battery. Think up the best Scooter Transport for it. Many and divers Car Things that, you know, are very interesting to Car People, and happy mostly in the final usage for people like me.

I now have an official recording of my father singing me *Happy Birthday* on my answering machine, and Pepek singing it to me in comments. heh! I told her I said I could blackmail Dad with it, but he wouldn't mind. That makes it a *Publish and Be Damned!* scenario. Plus he said he has no money to pay the blackmail anyway.

For a Serious Scientist, he can be very silly sometimes. And all those times I sang *Happy Birthday* to HIM over the phone don't have a thing to do with it, I'm sure.

You should see his *I'm a Little Flower* dance. heh!


It doesn't actually feel one bit different. I feel the same age today as I did last Saturday.

But it did occur to me that perhaps I'm now, officially on paper at least, a Certified Grownup.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Tomorrow I Will Be 50

And today is Easter. Here I am, thinking about various diverse yet connected topics...about the original story, about death and the return of life.

About today, 2000 years after the events of Easter. A date of celebration, after a date of sadness. Highly likely on the wrong dates, both; and full of pagan symbolism and rituals too. I don't mind that. It's all human to me.

About kids growing up to be adults. I was pretty sure, for a long time, that I wouldn't make to 50. And if I did? That I wouldn't want to keep on going.

Was that the conceit of youth, not wanting to become "old and ugly?" Sure. Partly.

But only partly. Because I knew, as a small child, that my health wasn't right, and would probably never be resolved.

What I didn't know was whether I would have the desire to keep on going through the aftermath.

I do. My will to live is actually far greater now than when I was a child, and when I was a young woman. From very early on the opposing forces of self-destructiveness and survival did battle within me. I'm still here today because the good side won.

I think about that when I see little children with health problems. Fighting strong, so often; yet when some of them reach the losing end of a long-drawn mortal battle, a remarkable maturity and acceptance of their fate often glows out from them. Children of only a few years can give us uncanny examples of courage and love and grace.

I think about that when I see people with long life spans already under their belts, with health problems, and still fighting strong. Still loving life, and loving those around them, and not at all ready to let it go. Not yet. Not time.

That odd sense of a disturbance in the force is still troubling me some. I'm starting to feel, though, that it's turning around. No reason we can't fight back, huh? No reason at all.

So I want to tell you about two particular cases, okay?

First: My blogdad Desert Cat has a very fine set of parents. His father, DadCat, has arthritis and needs strong pain control, just like me. We both get around on scooters too. I don't know DadCat well, he doesn't blog, but I sure do like him. He's pretty bold with his leonine son in comments sometimes, and cracks me up when he's at it.

He's a certified genius who was treated as mentally inferior, below average no less, until early middle age. Then he took a Mensa IQ test.

Suddenly everything became clear. Those early *educators* thought he was *slow* not because he couldn't understand them - but because they didn't have the mental prowess to understand him. ah HA! Ain't life grand?

Momcat has an interesting background of her own. She went through a very hard ordeal in Europe in WWII. She survived and wrote a book about it. She's safe here, and she loves DadCat and she worries about him.

Especially now. He's got a raging case of anemia for some reason the docs aren't sure of yet. But the reasons could be very bad ones. Bone marrow cancer. Leukemia.

Asking this of you - well, I don't do it very often. But could you all send out some prayers, positive energies, good thoughts - however you do those things - could you send them out to DadCat and Momcat and Desert Cat? I love my blogdad. I don't want any of them to suffer.

I know suffering is part of life. But so is comforting people, too. And these particular people are ones that I'm quite sure will feel the power of your messages more than most others would.

The second topic has to do with arthritis. There's a lot of personal backstory about this one, so I'll be way more long-winded.

I was born in the Chicago area, but moved to California as a little baby six months old. Then when I was seven years old, we moved back to the Chicago suburbs. I hated it. All three of us kids did. Although, at this point, I do believe it's high time we forgave my mom. (Her idea, see. She was homesick.)

Mom's paid the price many times over: not only has she patiently endured her childish children's endless complaints, she has Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), as many of you are feeling this winter. I have it too, I've no doubt. I went into a clinical depression that first winter in Chicagoland. Snow? Ice? PLAY IN IT?!? Uh, no.

Soon after my eighth birthday I got my first attack of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA). Back then, the tests were not so very conclusive. Clearly, my big toe joint - although not injured - was red, swollen, hot, and painful. Exactly like RA looks and behaves. It walked like a duck and talked like a duck...But the blood tests (RA factor and sed rate, if I remember right) were negative. False negatives were known to be common, said to be as much as 50% of test results, but still...

So to add to the misery of the JRA itself, I was treated with alternating heavy doses of sympathy, or of mean-spirited, scornful, derisive disbelief, by health care workers, teachers and other school employees, classmates, and family alike. Kinda schizoid, and distinctly unpleasant and alone-making.

I still have RA now, of course, and it's absolutely conclusive, positive test results and all. Too late for the proof I needed back then, but what the hey. I made it through. My current RA doc still calls it *JRA.* Now that I'm almost 50, I've stopped asking him why. I just let myself enjoy the illusion for a second or two. '-)

Rheumatoid arthritis runs in my family on both sides, one way or another. My mother's...aunt, I think?, her own mother's relative - was one of the folks treated with beesting therapy, an old time medical fad that actually probably had some immunological truth to it. Another relative, on her father's side, was terribly crippled by it in middle age, and it eventually killed her.

My father's father almost died from RA in 1958, the year I was born. Since he was dying anyway, they all decided to risk treating him with a brand new medicine: steroids. Cortisone. They saved his life. We have an old home movie of him throwing away his cane with glee.

Either the RA or the steroids partially blinded him. They didn't know, back then, that you have to withdraw from the steroids slowly. If you don't, you can really injure that patient.

His peripheral vision was shot. He still drove, though. ;-)

As a kid I was treated with aspirin therapy, which was about all they knew to do for moderate JRA back then. I took a lot of aspirin, around 13-18 per day, up to my early 20's. Then, after the anaphylaxis episode, I went to Northwestern's allergy clinic. They also had an RA clinic, and the allergy clinic docs sent me there as well.

Both, you see, are immune system disorders. One I call *Immune Gone Wrong:* the immune system attacks harmless pollen and food, so forth.

The other, RA, is auto-immune: one's immune system turns against the very organism it's supposed to protect. It sees a joint and says *That's...that' must be...PNEUMONIA!!!* and brings out the big guns and attacks, with great force, your pneum - middle knuckle of your right forefinger. Gee, thanks.

At the Northwestern RA clinic in 1980, I was treated with some of the earliest nsaids. I think this was all part of the process called *clinical trials.* Unfortunately, one discovery was that nsaids can really eat your GI tract. One morning I woke up throwing up blood.

But all told, that was the worst of my JRA, from age eight until adulthood. Pain? Yes indeed. Emotional agony? You bet. The blood thing? Icky and scary, but over pretty quick. I could walk, see? I wasn't blinded. Not in a wheelchair either. The aspirin didn't provoke the hoped-for remission, but it actually did help the pain.

Now picture this: Not a case of *moderate* RA, but a serious one.

A child not of 8 years old, but 2.

At the age of two, a child that can't walk. Not just because they're already crippled by arthritis - but because they were crippled before they were old enough to even learn how to walk.

So tiny that most any treatment is quite unsafe for them.

Some of those kids become blind. Some stay in wheelchairs forever. Some die very young.

That's what a serious case of JRA does to a child.

One of my old RA docs treated a lot of kids. She had their pix up in her waiting room. They were hard to look at, sitting there waiting for our appointments. Eventually they were moved to a back section of her office suite.

I never asked why, but I always wondered if one of her patients talked to her about the pix. The doc was proud of her work with the kids, and rightfully so. Yet sitting there waiting, it was hard, sometimes, not to feel survivor guilt. We made it, we were adults; most of my fellow patients are elderly. We're not little kids. It troubled me then to think of small children suffering so much, and it still troubles me today.

To my mind, my long-ago great- or great-great-aunt, and her fellow patients, contributed to our understanding of RA immunology. Whether or not the beesting venom did it, she probably was a genuine RA sufferer, and got a genuine positive outcome. What happened to her and others treated with beestings intrigued scientists and laypeople on both sides of the issue. It got them thinking about why that might actually work - or why not.

My grandfather lived through his RA, and his experiences contributed to what we now know about treating RA with steroids. His illness and his positive outcome, and the steroid side effects he suffered, added to the store of knowledge that went on to save many more lives, and treat many more people with a wide variety of immune system disorders.

I'm now taking steroids myself. It's the one medicine, above all, that got me out of bed and functioning again. Do I wish he were here so I could tell him? Oh, you have no idea how much. And his wife, my wonderful grandmother Helen who I loved so much - if I'd taken the Prednisone earlier I could have spent so much more quality time with her before she died. I regret that far more than the steroid side effects I acquired.

Me, I realized just yesterday that my own bout with nsaids added to that store of medical knowledge too. I suddenly didn't mind the puking blood thing. Not a bit! This happened only one day ago, folks. I did the blood thing some 28 years ago. What a comfort to suddenly feel this way today.

So I'm claiming a long family and personal history with RA and JRA here. And I'm bothering you all with this for one reason: I want the research into all forms of RA to continue.

Of the many different things wrong with my health, I haven't quite made peace, yet, with that particular illness. I realize this is not logical - of course I do - but JRA can still fill me with helpless rage. Mine was moderate, okay? Moderate alone was miserable.

I think of those kids with the serious cases and I want it to stop.

So if you're able to, do me this favor: Head over to LL's and put $10 in the kitty for her. She's raising up money for the Arthritis Foundation.

LL has a close personal connection to JRA through a friend. That friend has a daughter, a girl who's now in her teens.

That girl was one of those little babies who got JRA when she was only 2 years old. She's doing better now, she has a life.

The Arthritis Foundation helps fund the research behind the medicine that gave that child's function back to her. If you have $10 to spare, drop it on in for me, okay?

Here's the short *How-To* version:

So go here, and along the right side of the page, you will see a link for “Team LL.” That would be ME. Click that link and you can donate. The minimum donation is $10.
If you'd rather do a PayPal donation, send LL an email, and she'll send you the easy link for that.

Thanks, folks.

Happy Easter, Everyone!

It's not quite the perfectly beautiful day we usually get down here for Easter. A bit cloudy, maybe a rain shower here and there. Sunny in between, like it does.

Yesterday it rained cats and dogs all afternoon. But! Lucky lucky! The morning was pretty and sunny and dry. This was a Very Good Thing.

At 9am I was outside getting the scooter carrier off the Saturn with neighbor Tall D from across the street. All spiffed up, I was, ready to go with my friend H to the bank. The blue boxers were upon me as usual, and a plain gray t-shirt, flipflops. I'd added a necklace and earrings in honor of the mission. (Not in honor of the bank itself, you understand. Never felt that way about banks.)

I'd told H I'd be ready at 9am, come any time, I'll go with you to get the cash. Walking around with large sums of green, you often feel better if you're not alone.

So when H drove up and walked up to me and said, --Sorry, couldn't do it-- I about had a heart attack.

He saw my face and quick quick, he laughed and hugged me and said, --No no, it's okay, I already went, it's all done!--

I about had a second heart attack at that. A happy one, now.

Regular D is Tall D's partner. He came up from across the street.
--Ready to go?-- Regular D said to Tall D. They had some errands planned.

--Hold on. Do you have 5 minutes?-- I said. --I wanna buy your car.--

--Okay. We know. That's good.--

--No, I mean right now. I'm ready. Got the money.--


The errands could wait. heh!

Yes indeed. Folks, I am mobile once again. The lovely guys across the street have the hassle of selling a used car off their plate. Walter and I have the worry of me being immobile off our plate.

And all this came about because of the extraordinary generosity of our friend H and his wife J.

Here's how it happened.

H drove me to Sam's on Thursday. It was the monthly Pain Meds Refill Thursday. It's a bit of a drive, so we had time to talk. I filled him in on the trials and tribulations I was having arranging to get the funds to buy the car, how we'd had another timing setback on Tuesday.

That setback got me depressed enough that I called Walter to cry on his shoulder. He calmly told me he was pretty sure it would work out okay, and maybe it was time to take an extra prozac and just hit the sack for a while. I took his advice and slept and slept, many hours, more than a day. Woke up around midnight Wednesday night, ready to do battle once again.

Feeling better about it was good. Sure. But nothing had changed. The neighbors still needed to sell their car, and I was still carefully, deliberately, suppressing my fears of being without a vehicle. For a person with serious health problems, ones that often require ER visits, being unable to get around at will is not good. My friends were helping me, wonderfully, but what if they just weren't home when something happened to me?

Telling H all this, he understood. We go way, way back, their family and Walter and I. We met them when we bought the house in December 1996, because they lived across the street, same house the Ds live in now.

Here and there, they all three used to work for our little shipping business, especially H. He was full time and on our official payroll.

We've helped each other out lots of different ways back and forth over the years. H and his son Danny were the ones who drove all the way to Indiana to pick up Walter at Deaconess after his triple bypass. And then, brought Walter and came up and rescued me when the Saturn died in Titusville after the Swamp Trip a couple weeks ago.

H has a double bypass of his own, acquired just before we moved here when H was all of 42 or so. When he worked for us, he did more than drive a truck. Delivering furniture is a very physical line of work. He started turning blue on us here and there. Finally I told him I was too worried about his heart to want him to keep working, and talked him into applying for Social Security Disability.

That's a hard thing on a proud, conscientious, responsible, hard-working man like that. Very. But it was the right thing to do. His heart was simply too sick for him to keep on working. Not his fault. Killing yourself working is not good for your family.

I kept H on payroll throughout the year it took for Social Security to come through, paying him nominal sums to keep him qualified to stay on the company's health insurance plan. Having the power to do that for him, for that good man? Priceless. Priceless, people. One of the happiest events of my life.

He'd seen me during some of my own bad health events. He visited me in the hospital when I was in there for Poor Mr. Foot. He'd seen me when I so sick with allergies I was unable to talk, my brain just too befuddled to make words and sentences and push them out of my mouth.

Driving me around on Thursday, he asked if I was scared, being without a car. Yup. You bet. I was trying not to think about it, just be patient and keep trying to resolve the funding. But I was scared for sure, and so was Walter.

Heading back toward home, in between Sam's and the next stop, Walmart, H said --I'm going to tell you something I think you're going to like, okay? I talked to my wife about this. We want to tell you we'll lend you the money if you like, until you get your other money stuff straightened out. You can just pay us back when that happens. That way you'll have a car right away, so you don't have to worry any more.--

I was stunned.

Went through minor crying bouts five or six times.

Wanted to be tough and independent and say --Thank you, but I can't do that.--

I called Walter instead. He told me: --Tell H they just saved me a huge amount of stress and worry, and I'll thank them in person as soon as I get back.--

So I said...--Yes. And thank you both, from the bottom of my heart.--

And there he was, bright and early Saturday morning, walking up with a grin on his face and a huge wad of cash in his hand.

Oh boy! Grins all around. Oh, it felt like Christmas out there on our driveway!

We signed papers and wrote in VINs and odometer readings and counted out $7,800.00. H and Reg D love autos, and happily went over the car's Important Stuff It Has On It. Tall D and I aren't car folks, we like paperwork. I'd already downloaded and printed the Florida forms we needed, application for a certificate of title, all that stuff. Called Geico. Cancel the Saturn, add the Izuzu Axiom, print out the new proof of insurance.

The car was officially mine, but I wanted it properly registered and tagged, and wanted it Now.

So I took the title docs and drove off to the title agency that was open on Saturday, two blocks down from Sam's. Paid some outrageous sales taxes and fees, got my new tag, got a replacement disabled parking placard since the old one had run off somewhere. Got the paperwork finished, 100%.

And then? I celebrated by running errands.

Just a few stores down from the title agency was a little bitty Walmart I hadn't known was out there. Sprite Zero on sale, only $1 a bottle, yay! I only had enough money left for nine of them. But oh, I was a happy camper. Cause there I was, driving my OWN SELF in my OWN CAR once again! Putting bottles of cheap Sprite Zero in it and EVERYTHING!!!

Next came Sam's, Whole Foods, Home Depot, writing checks. The bank had informed me my latest deposit will clear Monday night, so the checks were good.

But the very first thing I did at Sam's was this: I got membership cards for all three of that bunch. H, J, and Danny The Big Giant Kid.

H said he'd gotten J a chest freezer a year ago and there was still no nice cheap good meat in it. A Sam's card would fix that. We used to always get them the cards when the business was going, I can't remember why we stopped.

But if they want Sam's cards again? Oh, yes. They'll get them. Every year from now until the end of never.

Got their temporary membership cards sitting in front of me now, just waiting for the next time H stops by. They can take those in and get their permanent photo cards whenever they like. Meanwhile, the temp cards are sitting there smiling up at me. Little reminders of what truly good people are all about.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Chipper Story for Granny J and Nancy: Part 1

Fellow blogger and serious gardener Granny J said in comments that she wants a chipper too; then fellow blogger and serious gardener Nancy said the same thing. They had some questions about it. So I figured the easiest way to explain is to take pix of it working and post them.

(Granny J, I'm doing the 4 pix per post thing again. It's not that your directions on posting more than 4 weren't clear. They were. At this point it's some sort of mental block on my part. I'll get over it, though. Hopefully, soon.)

The chipper in question is a McCulloch 14-AMP Chipper/Shredder #MCS2001. I bought it through for a grand total of $219.99 including shipping, and it arrived in two days. It's electric. Since I can't use gas power tools (violent petroleum allergies), it must be electric. That's a deal-breaker for me.

So searching out a consumer-type electric chipper was a bit of a project. Surfing about, I saw many readers had great respect for this one. The company has been well regarded for other consumer and industrial power tools for a long time, and make a well-regarded chain saw too.

They do have a 15-amp model of this chipper, the MCS 2003, but consumer reviews were not nearly as favorable for it.

The two biggest drawbacks are: The assembly directions aren't so good; and, you have to stop the machine and clear it of chips from time to time. The first part isn't actually that bad. I assembled mine in about 20 minutes. The second part, I seem to have got the hang of it enough that I rarely jam it any more.

The good news: First and foremost, it's perfectly easy to use sitting down. For someone who can't readily stand up to work, that's a big plus.

It chips grass, leaves, little twiggy stuff, and branches up to 1 1/2" in diameter (or 1 5/8" according to the specs that came with the machine). That diameter thing was a little disappointing at first, but it's about as high as any consumer chipper goes. Having used the thing on lots of my chippings for the last few days, I can say for sure that the vast majority of what I need it for is within that 1 1/2" limit. And word on the net is that it handles bigger branches if you feed them slowly. I think that's probably correct.

The ad-hoc consumer reviews I read on the net tended to be very favorable in many areas, and one is that this thing keeps going and going like that Energizer bunny, rarely needing maintenance or repair. It has no need for chainsaw oil. The cutting blades last forever. I tend to abuse my tools, so this was music to my ears.

Speaking of cutting blades, the machine is put together in such a way that it's virtually impossible to cut yourself using it. For someone like me?...well, that's a good thing. I tend to get too many injuries doing yard work. The much-despised Extreme Safety Features actually do well on this machine, for me at least.

Now I'll take you on a pictorial tour of using this chipper. Get your ear plugs ready...oh, I forgot. Another plus is this unit is amazingly quiet. A sort of hum when you're not chipping, and it gets rackety only when you're chipping big branches. Even at that, it's about as loud as a lawn mower. That's the worst noise level it can achieve. So if you're in a mood to make lots of noise for De-Mope Therapy, you have to settle for what it can do.

Here it is in all its shiny new glory, complete with the garbage bag that collects the chippings. The hopper up top has two feeders, one for leaves, one for little twiggy stuff. I use the leaf hopper but run the little twigs through the branch hopper. That's on the lower right.

Here are some orchid tree leaves going in the leaf hopper. They need to be dry; it doesn't like soggy stuff.

It comes with a big elastic band to hold on your garbage bag.

The air blowing the chips into the garbage bag make it balloon out most amusingly.

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Chipper Story for Granny J and Nancy: Part 2

The ficus branches I'm chipping are quite dry now. They've been sitting in the yard since late January. This makes one thing much easier: breaking the wood. When I'm feeding a branch that, well, branches, I just push it on in the branch hopper.

Once it eats the branch to this point, the *y* part just snaps and both smaller branches keep on feeding into the hopper.

It works that way for the bigger ones too.

This branch is about 1" or so. To keep it from jamming, you need to hold it back a bit, so it feeds in a little at a time. If not, it jams. The machine automatically trips its little circuit breaker and shuts down.

The other thing that makes it jam is when the outflow gets clogged. If you keep the chute into the garbage bag free-flowing, it keeps working quite smoothly.

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Chipper Story for Granny J and Nancy: Part 3

This is the size of chippings I'm getting from the dry ficus. Nice and small! If I put green wood in they're a little bigger. (I use a quarter around the yard to measure stuff because it's just a tiny shiver under 1" in diameter.)

Here are the orchid tree leaf chippings. Not as fine. But if I want them littler, I can just run them through the machine again. Apparently not all home chippers can do that.

Most of the *oversize* branches I had are really just because a branch forked in two. If I'd known when I was chainsawing, I would have cut these a bit differently. No worries, though, I just keep the lopper close by.

Once I cut them in two, I'm within specs again, so I feed the two branches in.

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Chipper Story for Granny J and Nancy: Part 4

When it jams, you unscrew the side screws. See those big black things with a spring under it? That's them, three of them, and made to be easily unscrewed by hand. This unfastens the hopper assembly from the chipper motor. You can take the whole hopper thing off if you like. Or, you can be lazy like me and just sort of tilt it.

Since you've safely unplugged the thing in order to clear it - plus, it really won't turn on by accident, especially when the top is off - you can reach in and clear the jam by hand.

Or, you can do like me, the lazy way, and squirt some air in with your handy-dandy can of computer air duster. Works great! Does it better and faster, both.

If you want to take the whole thing off, you can look inside its nether regions. Yup, all clear in there.

And so is the leaf hopper.

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Chipper Story for Granny J and Nancy: Part 5

Here's my old compost heap, before I started yesterday. There were the same ficus branches both on top, and in a layer under some orchid tree leaves. I took it down three layers yesterday, then decided to let the lower area dry out a bit before I tackled it again. Way too much moldy particulatey stuff.

Here's how I left it yesterday. I think this is the last leaf layer before I hit some big branches.

This is the last big pile of ficus. Two views: one toward the house, showing it from a blue agave...

and a more head-on view. The stack was about six feet high, six deep, and ten wide.

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Chipper Story for Granny J and Nancy: Part 6

I started taking these pix shortly after I answered Granny J's comment in that previous chipper post - say around 4 PM.

Now it's nearing sunset. The datura is opening its flowers...

My triple layer of latex gloves is battered to bits, left -

and right...

And that big ole pile of ficus branches is history.

I still have a bit of cleanup to do, some things that want lopping, and errant twigs scattered about. But you have to admit, it did that job pretty fast, didn't it?

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Granny J! Pepek! Jean! I Was a GOOD Girl!

I wore my mask the WHOLE time I was chipping! Yesterday AND today! Today I even changed it TWICE!!!

boing boing boing! wiggle wiggle wiggle! mmmrrrrrOOOOWWWWRRRRRRRR!!!
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sigh...He's Gone Again

Tonight I'll be back to The Usual Suspects, meaning those lovely Swamp Trip pix will show up here to smile at y'all. But for today? He's gone again. Our lovely neighbor drove Walter to his truck this morning. He's already picked up a load in Miami to take to Atlanta. Gone again.

So I'll indulge in my *Leaving Day* tradition of moping about a bit, and finding some activity to take my mind off missing my Walter.


New Appliance.

Amazingly quiet for its type, but loud enough in the crunch.



Monday, March 10, 2008

Swamp Trip: Check. Home: Check. Walter: Check. Good Thing, Because I'm Up To My Ass in Alligators Again.

Yes! I'm back from the swamp. We had a fabulous time, We took not one but two boat trips, and explored all three entrances to Okefenokee. There were lots and LOTS of nice big alligators, and I have the pix to prove it. The one I almost stepped on is in there too. Mom didn't like that part. But I'll have to tell you about all that a little later.

Walter is home. This is an extremely good thing right now. See, the bad news is, on the way home from the swamp, the poor beleaguered Saturn threw a rod and died. Permanently. The engine is toast. And it took such a beating from the hurricane, the value of the car is not enough to make it worth repairing.

Meaning I'm now without a car.

My mother drives to Florida every fall, and leaves a car here all winter for her snowbird trips. She has Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in a major way. So she saves up the frequent flyer miles she accumulates for meetings with clients (she's a medical writer) and comes to Florida every other week or so in winter. That way she gets enough sunlight to treat her SAD.

When she's not here she likes us to drive her winter car from time to time, so it doesn't sit unused. Apparently cars like to be driven to work right. How handy it would have been if her car were here when the Saturn died. I could borrow Mom's car for my doctor trips and so forth. Take my time, figure out a way to get a loan with our demolished credit, research cars, shop carefully...

But why were we all going to the Okefenokee in the first place? Even with kdad, who rarely leaves his little incubating tissue culture cells alone in his lab, missing his nurturing?

Because it's time for Mom's winter car to go back to Chicago for the season. Her snowbird time is over for the year. Terrible winter or not, she has enough sunlight up there now, and doesn't need to come down here for it.

So we went to the swamp because it was on their way home.

When they told me they were driving home together, instead of just Mom driving that distance by herself, I asked if they might like to go a-swamping. I could drive up separately in the Saturn, we'd do our swamp trip, then they'd head back to Chicago, and I'd head back to South Florida.

Thus, no spare emergency backup car now. Ah well.

But wait!

My wonderful neighbors across the street are selling a 2001 Isuzu Axiom. Keeping in mind, please, that I'm missing the Car Part of my brain, this looks like a good deal to me. It's loaded, and very comfortable to drive. They're the only owners it's had. They are careful and particular about taking care of their vehicles, and it's had its oil changed every 3-4000 miles since they bought it new. Now there's 62,000 miles on it.

It is used, and has some barely discernible dings here and there. It seems to want a new battery, and the neighbor says he can feel a slight wear in the shocks. They seem fine to me, but hey. I'll do the right thing and take it to the mechanic first.

Enter Walter.

Well, he already Entered, in the adventure of Getting A Dead Saturn Home from Titusville.

Having him here to think about a car purchase? Priceless.

Walter thinks it's a good deal too. Add to that: we both have sentimental attachment to Isuzu vehicles because we used them in our old shipping business. We want to buy this car. Walter asked the neighbors if we could drive it in the meantime, just occasionally, and at first they said no - insurance and all, and perfectly reasonable - but then they said yes.

So I'm not without transportation any more.

Now I just need a quick $7,800.

But I've got something in the works for that, too.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Swamp Trip!

All of a sudden, I'm off to see the great Okefenokee Swamp, courtesy of kmom and kdad.

I just adore swamps. I am SO thrilled! This one in particular, a place I've dreamed of seeing since I was a child. Finally, it's on. I've never been there before.

I was hoping to post some nice garden pix, and Part 2 of Walter's story, before setting out on the drive. But, no...instead, busily maintaining my rep as the World's Worst Slowpoke, I'm just leaving the house now. It's a five hour drive. Walter said, as long as I get there before the morning, I'm good.

No stress. I like that. Coming home to a clean house is very nice too.

The hotel has free wireless, and kmom has her laptop, so I may be able to update everyone tomorrow. Till then -


Okefenokee, here I come!