Saturday, December 02, 2017

The Never-Ending Supposed Nursing Shortage in Hospitals

Last night I spent the night at the hospital. My mom had just undergone heart surgery and, as I always do with my family members, I stayed with her all night.

Throughout the night, other patients' family members would drift in and out of their rooms like silent ghosts, making forays into the nearby kitchen or in an attempt to get the attention of a nurse.

As usual, the hospital was understaffed. Hospitals always are. And it's not a particular hospital: It is every hospital I've been in in the last 15 years.

And yet, the cost of care hasn't declined.

Hospitals have discovered that they can use family members as assistant nursing staff.

To encourage this, they keep their staffing minimal. Woe to you if you don't have someone who can take care of you all through the night and part of the day, because you will only see your nurse at the beginning and end of her shift.

You may be told that you're not allowed to get out of bed, but you are treated as a nuisance if you page the nurse to help you in any way. Want water? Get an eye roll. Want to go to the bathroom? Get a resigned sigh.

Hospital rooms have become holding cells. Nurses are no longer there to help you in any real way.

I discovered this the hard way in 2005 when I made the mistake of going in for my neck fusion without any family members or friends on hand. I had assumed nursing care was of the same caliber it had been in the early 90s because, until then, I had been remarkably healthy.

When I woke from my surgery, I found that I could barely breathe. I knew how the problem could be easily solved, so I asked for Benadryl. That's all. Just Benadryl.

For two days, they withheld the antihistamine because it was not important to make sure I was comfortable. Every time I asked if they'd been able to get a release from the doctor to give me Benadryl for the swelling, they told me they hadn't heard back from him. No attempt was made to make it a priority, as I battled to breathe but I was too weak to make a fuss.

Occasionally someone would check on me and slap down a tray with a glass of gingerale onto the sticky table next to me. I'd gasp a request for Benadryl, and they'd disappear with insincere assurances.

I was told that I would not be released until I was better. So on the second day, I called a friend and told her to come get me. "Have they released you?" she asked. "They will or I'll walk out anyway," I wheezed.

A nurse asked me, suspiciously, if I really was feeling well enough to leave. "I'm great," I gasped enthusiastically. I won my release from prison, my friend retrieved me, I went home and took 2 Benadryl, and collapsed into bed. My last thought was that I would rather die at home and take my chances. I went to sleep with the full realization that I might not wake up again. But I woke up completely better. All I'd needed was the antihistamine.

After that, I vowed I'd never let anyone I care about go through the same thing.

Apparently, I'm not the only one. Last night proved it to me.

As is always the case these days, most nurses will say hello at the beginning and end of their shift. Other than that, I was the one to raid the kitchen for Mom when she was hungry. I was the one to help her get up to go to the bathroom. I was the one to get her water. I was the one to get her a new gown. I was the one to get up and get help because the nurses all but ignore the "call" button.

At 4:30-5 in the morning two of the nurses stood outside Mom's room to complain bitterly about the hospital, their pay and their benefits. I was so exhausted I slept through it but it woke Mom up, and she went to the door and politely asked them to move off. After that, she couldn't get back to sleep. We were up for the duration.

When we found out that the hospital wasn't going to be serving food until 8AM, I went down to the Dunkin' Donuts franchise on the floor of the hospital and got us food and coffee. When you've been awake for 3 hours already, and neither of you had eaten much the night before, you get hungry.

No one could get my Mom's meds right. Despite a complete list of her meds that was entered into the computer at the beginning, and despite repeated requests, we were given the endless runaround again. We were also told the hospital pharmacy was completely out of one of her meds. Having thrown out all the expired stock some time ago, they never replenished it. And despite knowing she was on that particular medication, no one thought to check to see if the pharmacy even had it until it was too late.

My father almost died due to a hospital's usual neglect.

Years ago I was with my dad overnight at the hospital. He is a quiet, gentle man and very stoic. When he began to tell me he was in pain, I knew it was serious. At first I kept hitting the 'call' button. But, as usual, we were ignored or a bored voice would come over the tinny speaker asking what was wrong and assuring us that someone would eventually get to us.

After some time of watching my father in agony, I flew out into the hall, flounced up to the nurses station, and had a complete meltdown. An aggravated nurse then accompanied me, reprimanding me all the way, telling me that pain was to be expected.

But when she got in the room and pulled back the sheets, she stopped talking. Then she hit a button and called a Code Blue.

Dad was bleeding out.

Because I was there, Dad was spared that night. That doesn't make me a hero, but it still makes me very, very angry.

Every time I've complained about one of these instances, the answer is always the same. It's a one-time nursing shortage. This "one-time nursing shortage" has been going on a very long time. It is no more genuine than a politician.

All those silent family members last night proved that we've all received the message, loud and clear. Like a good Marine, you leave no one behind. And like a battlefield, there is too much that can go wrong in hospitals now. The only one that cares enough to make sure your loved one is taken care of is you.

We must pity people without a social network.

If there ever is a large-scale health emergency, we're all doomed to die slow and agonizing deaths, stacked like cordwood in our local hospitals.

There will be no one to help, due to that "one-time nursing shortage."

Monday, October 23, 2017

The NEW Media Pinata: Opioids

I am so sickened by the media's new idée fixe: Opioids. The think they have all the answers.
If it were up to them, people in the end stages of cancer wouldn't be given opioids because they might become addicted. People who are in excruciating pain and doomed to live with it could also be addicted. From their viewpoint it's so much more noble to suffer than live a life worth living.
I have twice been in the kind of pain that, if it had continued, I would have welcomed death. I understand pain. I'm blessed I don't have it to that degree, but I get it.
However, many of these anti-opioid crusaders are enjoying the latest hysteria without considering the cost to others.
And in the midst of all this obscene rabble-raising comes an interesting new angle: Look over here! This obscenely wealthy family is making a ...wait for it... PROFIT on opioids! Maybe we can gin up the masses on THIS new factoid.
And so Esquire now has an article out on the Sackler family out of Brooklyn. It's pretty interesting reading, actually. But the appeal is an obvious one. Since most of the media has socialistic leanings, they see the wealthy elite as boogeymen. They would, in fact, be very surprised to discover you may not. But just in case, they will attempt to manipulate you through envy, if you're not merely aghast at the concept of someone having more money than you.
The real issue is appallingly simple: Do we allow doctors to make decisions on our well-being and medications, or do we give that power to others? CVS has already make a power grab, here. They are now going to be overriding your doctor and allowing you only so many opioids per week in many cases. 
Insurance companies are meeting over the so-called 'opioid crisis' also, seeing this as a great excuse to deny payment in this category. And as we all know, insurance companies only have our very best interests at heart. 
They say Americans consume the majority of opiates, and that may be true. But there are 323 million people here, as opposed to only 65.6 million in the UK, and 67 million in France. So even if the percentage of the population using opiates remains the same, the US will outdistance most other countries. Anyone who's taken statistics knows to dig into figures like this.
This is manipulation.
This is unethical.
This is ginning up the masses, and it has consequences.
Many who are in pain and denied opiates are turning to heroin. I knew a Vietnam vet who had to take morphine daily. He's passed on now, but he had every reason to need it. He'd lost a leg in the war, and his severed, mutilated nerves were never at peace.
We need to stop non-medical interference with opiate prescriptions. 
The answer is to leave this up to the medical professionals. Not their hospital administrators. Not the insurance companies. And not the pharmacies.
Some day the tables will turn. Some day the American public will say they are tired of Big Brother.
Some day the pinata will get tired of being the punching bag.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Close-mindedness of the Modern Conservative

The title is just scraping the top of the archaeological dig. If I had time, I'd dig down to the history of conservatives in the USA. How the conservatives were behind the original Black Lives Matter of the 1800s. How conservatives were conservative in the system they followed but were never closed to ideas.

I am blessed to still know some true intellectual conservatives, but many of them are falling to the wayside of emotions. Irrational, emotional thinking is what the majority of us despise in the modern liberal but now it's their turn to do exactly the same thing.

I am a conservative-leaning moderate. I sympathize. I want to offer advice to these friends the very best way I know how: Through reason.

We've all seen parents give in to a screaming child. But we also know that grown adults shouldn't behave the same way. But we've also seen that government officials sometimes give in to interest groups if their tantrums are loud enough.
We all know the shoulds and shouldn'ts. We shouldn't carry grudges. We shouldn't direct hatred of an idea to the hatred of the person who mentioned it. We shouldn't try to be louder than the next guy: If our ideas are good enough, we should win the argument. In other words, we should try very hard to not be the people we despise.

And when it comes to healthy adulting, we should not allow ourselves to take an issue so personally that it brings us to tears...unless that issue directly affects us. For instance: If you hear of a white kid shot by a black cop and it's obviously an injustice, do you:
  • A) Write to government officials and news outlets demanding accountability
  • B) Go on to Facebook and get into heated arguments with others, start crying, and unfriend everyone
  • C) Do as Obama did and, before all the facts are in, declare that the white kid could be your son
We all know which answer we should choose. But do we choose that? Are we striving to be the people we should be?

I see self-styled conservatives saying and posting things that are - well, there is no other word for it - foul. They post memes that are inappropriate, disgusting, and hate-filled. Those of us who are Christians distance ourselves from such people when we should confront them with kindness, and I am guilty of that just as everyone else is.

The question is: Can you be a true conservative if you are an extremist who loves the fight more than justice? Are ideas no longer important? Is it now only a question of who the biggest bully is? You might eat someone's lunch, but in the court of public opinion... you've lost.

I was recently unfriended and blocked by a Christian who writes for The American Spectator. I had truly admired him. It saddens me, because he is still friends with the people who post garbage memes like this:

But I was never given a chance, never told how I offended the man. I had just been in a discussion of how the recent racially-charged Dove ad was offensive to myself and so many others, and I suppose that must have triggered him, even though I tried to keep it civil as my friends duked it out online.

According to Christian standards, he was very wrong. He should have discussed this with me and we could have rectified the situation. Or at least so I hope. I have another Christian friend who is black and a liberal-leaning moderate. There are times she has to unfollow me because my friends get on her nerves. The Dove discussion also enraged her. I get that. But she always tells me with love and gives me the courtesy of an explanation.

Recently a couple of friends had a dust-up and my friend Todd reached out to his combatant and invited him out for drinks. That is how a true conservative should behave. 

That is how we all should behave.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Races, Terms, Origins

"I don't consider myself a Native American," says a caller to a conservative radio show who may or may not be anything but a white man living in Alabama. "Instead, I'm fine with being called American Indian. In fact, I embrace it!"
Except...Native Americans really are NOT American Indians. Americans of Indian descent are American Indians.
Likewise, I'm Native American, because I was born in America.
African Americans may or may not be black Americans and black Americans may or may not be of African descent.
We need better terms.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

The Big Brothers / Big Sisters Problem: When the Underprivileged are Overprivileged

When my kids were no longer a daily part of my life, I succumbed to Empty Nest Syndrome.

I moped a bit. 

When you've spent a large portion of your adult life reinventing yourself as a parent, and that role is suddenly removed, you find yourself adrift without purpose for a while.

And so a well-meaning friend suggested Big Brothers / Big Sisters.

Before I begin my complaint, let me be clear: I know of some success stories. But I don't believe that my experience was an exception. Rather, I believe that theirs is the exception. As my story unfolds, you may come to agree with me.

When I went in to the offices of BB/BS, I was very excited. I filled out the applications, went through the screening process, and was accepted. In a couple of weeks, I was called to interview my first prospect: We'll call her Keneesha.

I met the caseworker at the home of Keneesha and her siblings. All 8 of them.

Keneesha was 6 years old, and painfully recalcitrant. I hesitate to use the word 'shy' because the caseworker and everyone in her family assured me she wasn't. But she was having a bad day, apparently, and refusing to talk to me. Her sister "Kendra" did all the translating. 

Their mother sat idly by, saying very little. I found that curious at first, but came to understand why, later. "Lola" was a pleasant enough woman and seemed to be a good mother. She was busy with her brood of 8 and cash-strapped, as the father of most of the children was in prison and couldn't pay child support. The father of the 2 youngest was living with them but working a minimum wage job. 

Lola was, frankly, tired. I imagine she was tired all the time. And Lola needed a baby-sitting service, which is where BB/BS came in. All of her children were enrolled in the program.

As I sat on the couch in their living room, trying to connect with a child that refused to connect with me in any way, I became aware that Kendra was animated, helpful, and willing to step out of her shell. So later I asked the caseworker if Kendra had a Big Sister assigned to her.

"Welllll," said the caseworker, hesitantly. "We usually don't like to pass over one sibling in favor of the other."

"You saw how Keneesha wouldn't have anything to do with me," I argued. "But Kendra is a gem! If she doesn't have a Big Sister, I'd like to work with her."

The caseworker reluctantly said it was a possibility but she'd have to check with the mother first. Lola readily agreed, and the match was made.

We were carefully warned to initially buy the children no gifts at all. As the relationship built, you could buy them an occasional trinket only. BB/BS was aware that people can be taken advantage of, and they wanted this to be about the mentoring of a child and not the enabling of a family. I was fine with that, but still planned inexpensive outings that Kendra and I would go on. I looked forward to our first trip, which was to the park.

However, when I picked up Kendra, she had transformed from a happy, helpful child into an older version of Keneesha. Initially I put it off as the nervousness of being with a total stranger. But as this continued over several visits, I expressed my concern to the caseworker, who urged me to keep trying to connect.

So I did.

I tried humor. I tried exciting her interest in new things. BB/BS gets a lot of corporate sponsorships. Companies will give them free tickets to major events, so we would get regular emails letting us know what concerts or events had free tickets that were up for grabs for us and our "Littles." These children were being treated to better experiences than children who weren't in the program, and they were, frankly. being spoiled by it.

One day when I picked up Kendra for one of our outings, I had very special news that I'd been waiting for a week to spring on her. "Kendra," I said excitedly, "I got us tickets to Jack Hanna's Wild Kingdom next month!"  

"Ah," said Kendra, with her usual lack of enthusiasm.

 What would it take to impress this kid? I'd already taken her to a couple stellar concerts, got her backstage with the band, they took pictures with her and signed the autograph album I bought her. I'd taken her to regular parks, a water amusement park, the beach, and other events. Some of these jaunts were on my own dime, most were sponsored by the BB/BS sponsors.

"Look, Kendra," I said, frustrated, but keeping my tone in check. "What IS it? Why aren't you more excited? Don't you know what it is?"

"Of course I do," she replied dully. "My Big Sister from last year took me to that."

And that's when it hit me. These children from the BB/BS program are, for the most part, living a more glamorous, more exciting life than the children of everyday people who are not enrolled. These supposedly underprivileged kids are actually overprivileged. 

Lola knew what she was doing. Her 8 children were all being taken to Disney World, Busch Gardens, water parks, concerts, events, and more while she got to stay home and not lift a finger as we chumps spent our own energy, money, time, and gas to ferry her children about like royalty. And the kids were so used to it that they were, quite simply, jaded.

I called the social worker and asked when she had been planning on telling me that Kendra had a previous Big Sister. That's when I found out she'd had a chain of them. I assume they grew tired of being a combination of chauffer and royal court jester. 

Certainly *I* had.

I quit.

But although the problem is obvious (and currently being ignored by BB/BS) the answers are easy...though not fun... to implement.

Different tickets and outings need to be rated. Say that an "A" trip is to a major amusement park. Whether or not a corporate sponsor or a "Big" has sprung for the outing, each "Little" only gets one or two "A" outings a year.

Now say that taking in a local ballgame is a "B" trip. That child can have up to 4 "B" trips. They can have unlimited "C" trips to the library, parks, the beach, and other less-costly alternatives.

Additionally, the "Littles" can't just use the "Bigs" for fun. The "Bigs" should be expected to help the "Littles" with homework and other issues. Since "Littles" often come from less-than-ideal circumstances, there are issues like anger management, education, career goals (and more) which a "Big" may be able to help with.

Limiting the fancy goodies that these "Littles" get would force the program to be more about developing genuine mentoring relationships. It also would encourage the "Littles" to not take so much for granted. And finally it would free up the corporate sponsorships and monies to be used more wisely. And isn't that ultimately what Big Brothers / Big Sisters was supposed to be all about? Teaching responsibility and preparing children for the world?

If we want to solve the problems of the Entitlement Generation, if we want to fix the problem of self control in our youth, if we want to truly encourage enlightenment, it must start with our charities and in our homes.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

12 Facebook Etiquette Rules

I have a couple people I care about that struggle with Facebook etiquette. Today I thought to google the topic and didn't come up with much that wasn't generic. Most of the advice is beginner level.

So in order to address the more genuine issues that I see people deal with, I decided to put together a little guide.

This is written with great love and respect for many of you that miss social cues in print. If you follow these simple rules, it may help you to avoid antagonizing people unnecessarily.

1. Limit your comments on a friend's post. This is difficult for people with OCD or Aspergers (and sometimes difficult for people who don't have either!) but it must be reigned in. If you post something and then another thought strikes you, it's often wiser to edit your original comment rather than create an unnecessary string.

Why? Because anyone who's liked or commented on that post will get a 'ding' on their phone or computer every time something new is liked or posted. Many people don't mind hearing when someone has something new to add, but endless 'dings' going off can be highly annoying. It also floods the feed and makes it difficult for people to follow everyone's contributions.

There are two exceptions:

1) Don't alter your comment if people have responded to it and changing the comment will change what they would've written. And 2) If there is an ongoing 'conversation' you're having with someone. But be careful that you...

2. Don't hijack a post. This means that if you suddenly get into a long public discussion with one person, it's best to take that private and use the messaging feature. Another way to hijack a post is to start talking about something else entirely, like your pet cause of the moment.

There's an exception to this: I have a couple friends who will occasionally hijack a post to run an ongoing comedic dialog between each other. It can be very entertaining and it's done for fun only - there are no vicious digs or off-color jokes. But you have to use your discretion: Maybe your ongoing discussion with someone could be of interest to other readers who aren't contributing...or maybe it isn't. If you aren't able to tell the difference, don't engage in this.

When a friend posts something, it is only OK to comment on that particular subject. For example, if someone posts a picture of their dog, it isn't OK to post something in the comments section about Donald Trump.

If you are unable to distinguish social nuances, ask someone who is more socially aware to weigh in on what's being posted.

3. Post what you want on your page but be cautious when posting on others. You may think that scatalogical joke is a hoot, but that doesn't mean you should post it on your wife's page. She may have all types of 'friends' in her list that include colleagues, children and acquaintances. Consider her audience. If in doubt, ask yourself if you would stand in a public square with a microphone at a large event and say the same thing.

4. Avoid ad hominem attacks. People may disagree with you for a variety of reasons, but none of those reasons may be that they're wicked or stupid or going to hell. Don't be accusatory in your responses.

5. In fact, when discussing controversial issues, you'll get your point across more effectively if you avoid all these:

6. If in doubt, see your 'opponent' as a beloved family member and treat them accordingly. And please note that you really shouldn't be seeing anyone as an opponent unless you're running for office.

7. Don't be quick to unfriend someone. This is seen as very insulting and is usually unnecessary.

If you have ties with each other and they irritate you, it's better to unfollow them. You can do that by gong to their profile page and look at their cover photo. At the bottom of that cover photo are 3 buttons. Click the 'following' for the option to unfollow. That means their posts won't show up in your news feed and you'll only have to see what they post if you go to their page.

If they are annoying you on your posts, you can always choose to exclude them from the posting. You do this by limiting your audience. You can choose "friends except..." and then designate whom you want to keep in the dark on this.

8. Don't post personal tirades. There are a couple different types, but they all make you look nuts.

A) The "Look at Me Look at Me" post. This is when someone posts something designed to get them attention, like "I don't want to live anymore!" or "Check out this bikini on me - is it too tight?"

B) The "I Hate This Person for a Good Reason" post. This is when you post a lot of personal information about a recent spat you had with someone, whether you name them directly or not. This only makes you look like a jerk and a little unbalanced. The exception is if the encounter was actually funny and it's not really personal. Again, if you lack the social ability to communicate this effectively, then avoid it entirely.

C) The "This is You" post. Here you post something bad, then flag your 'friend' and say publicly "This is so you, Bertha!" This doesn't mean that you can't post something bad and simply flag your friends on it. People may be interested in that post for a variety of reasons. But to specifically tell the world that your friend has that issue is uncool.

9. Don't constantly hype yourself or your products. If you sell Mary Kay, post about it very rarely. Instead, create a Mary Kay page and invite friends to join it so that they can see your specials there. It's OK to list what you do and who you work for on Facebook, though it's not necessary. Just don't use your friends and family as your client base. They will grow to resent you.

10. Don't engage in chain posts. Remember that people will hold you responsible for anything you post. An example of an unsubstantiated chain post is this meme. And any post that says you have to repost it to either get something or avoid some type of eternal damnation is also a no-no.

11. Don't attempt to introduce trends unless you are a fashionista. I recently had a friend who kept trying to introduce the little-used term 'enemedia' into all my posts so he could instantly nullify any news source that was reporting stuff he didn't like. That falls under an ad hominem attack and made him sound very childish, too. You will lose respect and ultimately lose your message while everyone ignores you because they think you're just plain silly. Perhaps you'll have a great point to make, but your attempt to denigrate others makes you look like a fool.

12. Do your best to not make it sound personal. If you are disagreeing with someone, it's best to not say "you" too often and avoid sounding accusatory. You don't want to look like you're trying too hard to pin them down - that falls into the 'sore loser/winner' category. You may be right, but you look so wrong. Here's an example:

"You did this yesterday, Tim!" as opposed to "I know some people who do this and I find it aggravating."

In summary: These rules can be encapsulated into the Golden Rule: Do to others what you want them to do to you. And if in doubt, ask a friend.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

An Answer to Dennis Prager: Why I Don't Support Trump Fully

I adore Dennis Prager. He is America's rabbi, a kind and thoughtful conservative with an ever-present twinkle in his voice as he shares his thoughts and common sense solutions across the fruited plain on a daily basis. In a column earlier this week, he attempted to explain those of us who will not fully support Trump.

Prager muses that we must not believe that America is in a civil war. He genuinely believes that we feel there isn't much of a difference between conservatives and liberals. And, to a certain extent, he is correct. Many of us have come to view them as two sides of the same coin.

Gone are the days when Ronald Reagan actually stood for something. Gone are the days that we knew where a Republican remained, firmly anchored, with few exceptions. Gone are the days that a Democrat was a mere Democrat, instead of a socialist masquerading as a Democrat, as we saw in Bernie Sanders.

And this is where I must disagree with Dennis Prager, as much as I adore him and his mensch deliberations.

Those of us who find Trump distasteful are not merely the pearl clutchers of the left. We are not the RINOs of the right. We are classic Reaganites, who find churlish behavior distasteful.

We scorn the obvious pandering to the Common Man, who is below what we should all aspire to be. Instead of a President who is a statesman, we have a President who speaks to us in 4th grade grammar, as linguists report. We have a President who is a narcissistic bully, continually self absorbed at the expense of our country. He is not anxious to live up to his promises and, frankly, we are concerned he even remembers them.

We listen to his disjointed sentences and they remind us of loved ones in early stages of dementia. We watch Melania Trump repeatedly flick his hand away and we sympathize - we would do it, too. He repulses us at a core level, and one that is not easily ignored.

We still agree that he was a better choice than HRC or Bernie. But that's not saying much. We wish we'd been given more options. We rejoice in his choice of Neil Gorsuch because we are Constitutionalists. But we shudder at his immediate withdrawal from moving the embassy to Jerusalem, as he promised he would do (repeatedly). And we tire of his groupies who will go to great lengths to excuse away every awful or pitifully stupid thing he says or does (i.e. "covfefe"). We would far rather have an honest discussion than a dishonest glossing over of the ugly facts that remain in front of us all on a daily in-your-face Twitter feed.

Something needs to be done, Mr. Prager. And hopping on the Trump bandwagon will not achieve what needs to be achieved. These issues need to be addressed. Someone needs to speak for sanity and adult values. Trump can fire many people, but he cannot fire Mike Pence. It is time for Mike Pence to stand up to him. It is time for you, Mr. Prager, to also call it for what it is. You are better than this, and you should expect better from our President, too.

Sunday, May 28, 2017


So I'm in a thrift store and suddenly notice that something near me smells weird. It kind of smells like burning, and then when you think about it, it kinda smells like poop, too.

The only person near me is an old lady, looking at yarn. "OK," I think. "Obviously she needs to change her diapers or something."

But as she moves off, and I continue through the store, I still occasionally smell it. "Must be something in this area like plastics that are reacting to other plastics," I decide.

But on my way home, I smell it again!

Now I know it's something to do with me. Freshly showered, fresh clothes, and I'm sure I didn't step in anything. Is there something wrong with my sense of smell? Being a scientist's daughter, I immediately start a medical run-down. Could be epilepsy! Some epileptics experience weird smells just before they go into seizures.

But that's not likely.

What else has changed? Is it my breath?

I cup a hand in front of my mouth. Nope, not my breath.

Wait a moment. I'm wearing a brand new necklace.

I pull the beads up. They don't smell funny. I turn the necklace around to the artsy wooden clasp, sniff the clasp, and almost pass out.

It's me. The woman who hugged everyone at church this morning.

I'm The Flaming Poo.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Reupholstering Scam

I'm currently taking a class in reupholstering and my guinea pig is a very old family chair passed down for generations.

It's been reupholstered at least three times before this one. Given that each upholstery job has a lifetime of 35-40 years, this chair is a minimum of 105 years old. It has the wounds to show for it. The wood underneath is brittle and pockmarked from all the nails, tacks and staples from past jobs.

Sadly, it is a beautiful, ornately carved mahogany piece that my grandmother refinished in an antique style cream finish in the late 70s/early 80s. I am now facing the decision to either repaint it and do the same antiquing again, or to strip it and completely refinish it.

But in the meantime, I've been carefully deconstructing it.

First step: Turn the chair over and see what's underneath.

This was a very bad sign. It meant that at least the very last reupholsterers were crooks. This webbing is probably original to the piece, although it may have gone back to the prior upholstery job in the late 50s to early 60s. It was dry rotted and appeared that the more recent reupholsterers (circa 70s/80s) just tacked a black fabric over it to conceal their laziness, instead of removing and replacing it.

Upon removing that webbing, I saw:

The original springs, which did not appear to have been retied. To add to my suspicions, once I turned the chair over and continued gutting it, I found the seat still had fabric underneath it that was from an upholstery prior to the 50s/60s job, which I knew was a deep rose velvet.

Here's a swatch of it: It's a nice silk fabric in a shade halfway between turquoise and robin's egg blue. It's possible it's the original upholstery. Because it was covered over, instead of removed, the color was preserved and it's in great condition:

I happen to know, from old family photos, that this chair was  originally a rich, dark mahogany. The blue would look lovely with it, though it would also look great with a cream finish.

I already purchased other upholstery to go with it, so at this time I won't try to find a similar upholstery. However, the laziness of others has created a time capsule that allows me to see how my wealthy great aunt decorated many, many years ago.

The lesson to take away from this: IF you hire someone else to reupholster a piece for you, you must insist on photos taken throughout the process. It's the only way to ensure you're getting what you paid for.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Rose by Any Other...Printing

This artwork is fascinating to me, from a marketing standpoint. 

It's meant to subconsciously evoke nostalgia for the 60s/70s, a time when rose, almond, and lilac scents were the rage. 

At that time, printing mistakes were very common. Standards had lowered, more things were mass produced. Printers at that time ran a very real risk of mistakes because there were no computers to make sure each printing run was precise. 

There would be an initial run to place only the background color (rose), then the next primary color (beige) and finally the outline of the rose (black). 

If things weren't properly aligned, the outline would fall way off the parameters of where the rose would be. In order to keep things as inexpensive as possible, they would still release the item, because it was costly to do yet another run.

For more about shampoos/conditioners of the 60s/70s, please see Shampoos of Ages Past.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Garage Sale Tips & Thoughts

My daughter and I just finished a garage sale. In Florida, you're pretty crazy to have one from May through mid-October ...and if you do, more power to you and pass the Gatorade! So the next one we'll have will be in late November/early December.

Everyone in Florida knows that as the host of the garage sale, you remain in the shade with a fan going (unless it's the dead of winter) so we escaped a great deal of the heat.

But the sun reaches its apex in Florida at 2, and as we were breaking down the sale we had to keep going inside to recover, drink fluids, and, in my daughter's case, lay on the cold, hard terrazzo like a dead fish. I lay on a bench, staring at the ceiling, feeling the cool wall masonry against my hot flesh as we discussed the badly concealed crack in the ceiling.

But we had a chance to sit together, make money, visit, laugh, and eat junk food. It was a wonderful bonding experience, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. I learned more about my daughter's strong work ethic, enjoyed her sense of humor, and heard the little things that we sometimes forget to share with each other when we're in a rush.

We've had garage sales off and on since the kids were little, and each time I learned a little bit more. My daughter and I discussed what makes them easier, and I'm going to share some of these tips with you.

1. If you can, label everything in advance. Do this at night when you're watching TV. Marker fades in the sun, but permanent marker is a bit better. You can make paper tags by cutting strips of brightly colored paper, threading it around a handle, and stapling it. They also sell garage sale stickers at the Dollar Tree. And you can use printer labels - just cut them in half.

2. Clean, paint and repair everything before you put it out. Would you want to buy a stranger's rusted wine rack? A chair encrusted with cat hair? A cracked end table? The item's condition usually makes all the difference in a sale - we found this out through trial and error.

3. Costume jewelry is a big crowd draw. NEVER put the good stuff out. Shoplifters come to garage sales, just as they go to department stores. Put out the stuff you're OK with going missing. If in doubt, make sure you look in all possible places for marks. Anything marked with a precious metals mark shouldn't go out. And if you have a piece of costume jewelry with a name printed on the back, look up similar pieces to see if it's smarter to sell it on Ebay. Instead of throwing them in a basket, take the time to buy those tiny pill bags they sell at CVS (for people who take a lot of vitamins or meds daily) and bag each one individually and pin it to a cork board. It allows for more table room and the display makes it easier to look over.

4. Reasonably priced furniture is also a big attention-getter. People see it as a bigger, more important sale and worth stopping for if they see you have big, important looking pieces. As with the jewelry, research it if it's old before you put it out. Craigslist is a good alternative for older, more expensive pieces. Put out the stuff that would be great for college kids or someone with a starter home. Pieces that sold well for us:
  • An old cream leather recliner with pen marks on the side from an overly creative kid ($40).
  • A bistro wooden table with two matching chairs ($45).
  • A small solid wood, dark mahogany colored end table originally purchased from Target with a cracked seam (obvious but repaired) for $5.
  • A mission style coffee table reproduction, metal feet and rack underneath it, in faux hammered distressed... $8.
5. Things that don't sell well:
  • Lamps
  • Most electronics (new or old)
  • Collectibles: You have to find that person who collects the particular item you're selling. Everyone else will think you're crazy for charging what you're charging.
  • Glassware, such as goblets, tea cups, etc. There are exceptions here, and matched sets sell better than unmatched ones.
  • Office supplies.
  • Wicker baskets (every thrift store is awash in them) unless it's collectible wicker (and then you should be selling it on Ebay).
  • Silk flower arrangements.
6. Things that sell moderately well:
  • Old tools (even rusted).
  • Kitchen items like pots/pans, mixing bowl sets, casserole dishes.
  • Linens and patchwork quilts that are still in their packaging or are in excellent condition.
  • Sports items like hand weights.
  • Things that can be used 'on the run' because of our busy lifestyle (like insulated beverage holders).
  • Adornments for the home, such as curtains.
  • Craft items.
  • Inexpensive accessories like scarves and purses.
  • Got lots of makeup bags from your Ispy subscription? They sell like crazy at $1 each. But don't put out anything that doesn't weather the sun well - no cosmetics, unless it's in powder form and unused (they go fast).
7. Make sure you post on Craigslist and/or your local Facebook garage sale group each day you have it. I took down the Craigslist post the next day and reposted it to stay at the top of the feed. Write a listing of the better things in the body of the post, and take lots of pictures (you're allowed up to 24). I'll post some photos below which really got great responses. Don't have them reply to your email. Put your cell phone number in there and say that texts and calls are OK. I got a lot of interest from people who otherwise wouldn't have driven by the neighborhood.

8. Ask friends and neighbors to donate tables to the cause, and invite them to sell their stuff at your sale. This is a great way to expand the sale, you can truthfully write "Multi-Family Garage Sale" in your Craigslist posting, and your neighbors will be much happier with all the traffic coming in and out of the neighborhood.

9. Consider putting out a large, clean cooler with ice and drinks. You can buy the drinks inexpensively in bulk from Costco or Sam's Club, and resell them to thirsty customers at a profit.

10. People are jerks. Be resigned to the fact that you WILL have that one woman who wants a $100 item for $1. Just politely say no or negotiate. As my daughter put it, someone will always be butt-hurt that you didn't give them what they wanted. So what.

11. But some people can be awesome. One man walked up to us and said "Who's in charge here?" My daughter and I pointed to each other. "OK, I pick YOU," he said to me. "Now. This is labeled $2." I resignedly waited for the rest. But instead he said " about I give you $2 for it?" We all had a chuckle and thanked him and his wife for stopping by. 

12. The general rule here in our area is: Price it reasonably. Put the price on it that YOU would pay for it if you were the customer. The old fashioned way is to overprice it and expect everyone to dicker with you. Unless you live in an area with a large immigrant population, don't do it. Americans don't like to dicker - we see it as rude. 

13. Take care of yourself. Wear sunscreen, sit in the shade as much as possible, have lots of electrolyte infused beverages on hand, and make sure you have a fan. Agree in advance to protect your home. Don't let anyone in there for any reason - whether it's to use the bathroom or get a drink of water. You don't know these people - they could be predators casing out your home. Be wary of people who ask too much personal information.

14. If they ask if you have something additional which wasn't put out: YOU. DON'T. HAVE. IT. Why? Because if it wasn't put out, you're not sure you want to sell it yet. Don't be pressured into making a rash last minute decision. ALSO: You don't want people knowing what is in your home that they might be interested in.

And, of course, it's always better if you have someone next to you who can laugh for hours afterwards about the woman who brought up a couple pricey items and then imperiously demanded that you accept only $2 for both of them.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Beware of Mom

So Mom and Dad show up on my doorstep this morning. "We were just making sure you're not dead," says Mom dramatically. "I've been calling and texting you for over a DAY and you haven't answered."
"Give me your phone," I say. Mom hands it over. "Well THERE'S your problem, Mom," I say. "You've been texting my old work cellphone."
Somewhere there's the man who replaced me, hiding under his desk in fear and trembling in the dark, trying to understand why he's getting death threats from someone he doesn't know.

Metal Scrappers

Yesterday I advertised on Craigslist: "Two huge metal sheds for scrap: You supply the labor." This was taking a risk, of course. Most people know what a metal scrapper is like.

Within minutes, my phone was blowing up. First come/first served, so I immediately took the ad down once John responded that he would be there in less than 2 hours.

Sure enough, he arrived within two hours, girlfriend in tow. At 10 AM, booze was wafting out of her very pores and both looked like they'd lived under a tree in the hot sun for many years. They drove a rattletrap car.

My daughter advised me to keep an eye on them throughout the entire process, so I put on gloves and waded right in, helping to clear out debris and haul off metal.

He put his wallet and things, including a ring box with a solid gold Marines ring, on an outdoor window sill. I opened the box at one point, thinking it had come out of the shed. "Oh thet's MINE," he said. "I brung it with me."

"Were you in the Marines?" I asked. "My brother was! That looks like HIS ring." He waffled around and said he was dishonorably discharged. I was quite certain he'd never seen the inside of a barracks. (Yes, I'm sure that wasn't my brother's ring - in case you're wondering).

During the day, John alluded to my customized bike (I've had three neck fusions so it's rather odd looking). "Got a need fer thet?" he asked. "Yes," I said firmly, explaining why.

Later he asked about my lawnmower and something else of value.

Putting two and two together, I knew they were (at the very least) opportunistic scavengers. And his constant inquiries about what he could take had me on edge.

Last night I locked the gate in front of them.

Today they came back to finish the job. As they were getting ready to dig in again, I said casually "OH, by the way: If you see a cop car, don't freak out. My boyfriend's a cop and he may just stop by for a minute."

You've never seen white trash move so fast.

I consider that a creative prank and not a downright lie.

Friday, February 17, 2017

A True Work of Art

I look at the framed print at Salvation Army. I could use the frame. I ask the nearby worker "This says it's $35 but these ones here are similar and you're only asking $15. Can you come down a bit?"

The worker puffs out his chest. "Well now," he says, self importantly. "This here's a real work of art. I collect art, ya know. Why the matte alone is worth at least $100. I know because I had a similar one made for me recently. And it's acid-free, you can tell by looking at it. It prevents foxing. You know what foxing is?" Yes, I assure him, I know what foxing is. I also know you can't tell a matte is acid-free by looking at it, but I don't mention that.

"And it's in perfect condition," he adds.

I point out all the scratches that I'm planning on painting over.

"So," I say, ignoring everything he just said, "can you mark it down or not?"

"The manager will have to do that," he says.

"So could you get her for me?" I ask politely.

"Oh no, I'm wayyyy too busy for THAT," he says.

"OK, where is she?" I ask. He gestures to the woman at the counter, so off I go. I say to the woman "Can you come down on this at all?"

"How about $20?" she suggests.

"Perfect," I say. "By the way, that bald guy who works for you is pretty weird."

"TELL me about it," she says, rolling her eyes. "I can NEVER get him to SHUT UP."

"Duct tape works," I suggest.