Joy to the World

If you know me, you know I’m Lactose Intolerant.

I’m SO lactose intolerant, I’ve been known to swear at cows. It’s has been an issue with me since I was 20, and without letting on how old I am, let’s just say I’ve learned to live with for some time now.

People like me can eat anything Vegan, thankfully that’s pretty popular around the Pacific Northwest. Also anything Kosher listed as Parve. There’s a great market in Poulsbo that has nice Vegan and Kosher sections.

Over the years, the soy world has made great strides, and you can get amazing soy products beyond just soy milk that taste (to me) just like the real thing. Granted, I haven’t tasted the real thing in so long, I’m probably not the best judge of that.

But I’m talkin’ really good soy milk, soy ice cream, soy cream cheese, soy sour cream, soy cheese. There’s even a German product that’s soy whipped cream, in the fancy dispenser squirty can just like the real thing. They even make a really good soy yogurt that — while no more than about five flavors — at least taste really good.  Sure, you have to stir them up to make sure there aren’t any tofu clumps that might turn you off, but that’s fine. Tofu has no taste, you understand, so if there are clumps it’s just your own mental state that might take issue. Since I have serious texture issues with things like Tapioca or Rice Pudding, I stir the yogurt.

For the most part, I don’t miss all the old dairy stuff.  Milk, ice cream, milk-chocolate, cheese . . . Okay, the cheese is an issue when eating out, but you just deal with it and find other menu items to enjoy.  (And can I just add – seriously, people, you don’t need a pizza with extra cheese, with more cheese stuffed in the crust. You may never poop again) But I can order a take-and-bake pizza (Papa Murphy, I adore you) sans cheese, bring it home and add soy cheese, and enjoy a great pizza.  The teenagers behind the counter have even stopped gaping at me when I order a large Canadian bacon and tomato, no cheese.

“Whaddaya mean, no cheese?”

“I mean please don’t put cheese on the pizza, thank you.”

“But I don’t . . .I mean, it’s pizza.”

And I can use soy ingredients to make my own version of Ranch salad dressing, my favorite. Soy milk can be substituted for regular milk straight across in any recipe, and there’s even a to-die-for soy pudding now.

The one thing I’ve been really frustrated with are those Yoplait Light Yogurt commercials, where the woman is telling her friend all the wonderful things she’s eating and still losing weight. Yogurts that taste like Lemon Meringue Pie, Boston Cream Pie, Red Velvet Cake, Raspberry Cheesecake.

Soy yogurts don’t come in those flavors.

Well during my internet travels, I’ve come upon several cow-swearing sites that claim we can eat regular yogurt, so long as it contains Active Live Cultures – because those little buggers are digesting the lactose for you. Plus, like cheese, during the creation of the yogurt, the lactase enzyme is removed, only unlike cheese, they don’t put it back in.

Unwilling to risk it, I got my sister to try a regular yogurt, she’s intolerant too but she has a higher threshold than I do.

And she really misses yogurt !

So she did.  She ate one, and we waited.

And waited a bit more.

The next day, she ate another, and we waited.

We did this for a week, she’d have a regular yogurt once a day, and low and behold she didn’t get sick!

So I decided to give it a shot, and while it still surprises me, I didn’t get sick.

Now we’re buying those Yoplait Light flavors every week, having one a day (occasionally a second one as an evening snack, since hell, they’re only 100 calories) and neither of us has gotten sick.

And damn, these things are great!  They seriously do taste exactly how they claim, which is probably all due to chemistry and science, but who the hell cares, they’re Yummy!

Now if only I could figure out a really tasty milk-free fudge. . .

Diary of Madness Day 14

Last night we found another posting she could apply for. I had to tweak a cover letter to highlight some good experience she had several years ago that would make her look more attractive for this particular position, but we climbed back on the roller coaster. I spent the night drifting to sleep with visions of her having an interview and getting this job, and day dreaming of how happy a Christmas we could have if she’d get hired before the holidays.

Naturally, I know better, but I can’t help it. Neither of us can. Some days you get SO tired of feeling depressed, dejected and utterly ruined, you find yourself more than willing to grab hold of ANY distraction or glimmer of hope.

We were out to dinner last weekend, using a gift card she had from that bastard who let her go, having a cocktail on his dime – and a waitress we know stopped by our table to chat and catch up (we hadn’t been there in a while).  We told her our news, that my sister was again unemployed and trying to get health care coverage to continue her post-cancer care, and she told us her news – – seems the boyfriend she had all summer finally moved in, and life for her was looking rosy as hell. He was going to support her, she was going to be happy again after a long, dark time. Only, as he was between contract jobs for the Navy, and temporarily without medical insurance as he waited for the next assignment to start up, he winds up in the hospital with acute renal failure.

Now SHE is supporting HIM, waiting at two bars, being his girlfriend and nurse, and making payments on his $350,000 hospital bill.

All three of us realized we couldn’t recall the last Merry Christmas we’d had.

And still I sit here gingerly grasping this thin line of Hope that my sister will get an interview for this posting, and get the job.

Remember the last one I mentioned? How it was only a few miles from where I work, and it would be a perfect set up for winter carpooling?  Well this one’s even better. It’s two miles from our house. And it’s a government job, of sorts, working at our local VA Home and Care Facility. Excellent pay and benefits, and two miles away from home.

Naturally I can feel the hot breath of Fate as she laughs against the back of my neck – the bitch – but I need something to cling to, so I’m pulling my sweater up around the bare skin and not giving her the time of day.

The job closes on the 7th, only a one week posting and they’ll still probably get 400 applicants. But this will get us through the weekend still riding that wave of hope. At this stage in the ride, you grab at anything that gives you a happy weekend.


She returned from the employment office in a good mood – seems the recruiter not only liked her resume for this job, but he has another posting from October that hasn’t been filled, he feels she’s perfect for. He’d like to tweak her cover letter himself and send it to this job, so we now have slightly more hope.

And Fate could really use a breathmint.

And don’t call me Shirley

RIP Leslie Nielsen.

Amazing, talented, wacky man. You probably think of Airplane, or Naked Gun, but for me, Forbidden Planet is the first thing to come to mind.  If you’ve never seen that, get over to Netflix and order it right now.

I’ll wait.

To be Thankful For

So, I thought ahead and took this week off from work – which was actually only 3 days of annual, because we get Thanksgiving and the day after anyway, but I had time to use up and I though “Hey, this’ll be fun. I’ll take this week off, and we can play and have fun before Thanksgiving.”

Monday, it started to snow – no big deal, we had the new SUV, we’d be set.

Monday afternoon, the wind started to blow.  And I don’t mean it was breezy – I mean we had gusts up to 70mph and below freezing temps. We got home from our appointments and errands, thankfully we were hungry enough to make dinner early – just got comfy on the couch to listen to the massive gusts of wind when . . .

The power went out.

Now, it’s not that big a deal – our house runs on natural gas, so we had heat, we had hot running water, and we had a stove top to cook food. We were just a tad bored because no matter how many (battery operated) candles we turned on, it wasn’t enough to read comfortably by, and in the dark I couldn’t write, so we turned on the transistor radio until we were bored enough to just call it quits and go to bed.

The wind continued – gusting so violently it was beginning to get nerve wracking.  Then, at midnight, the power came back on !  Oh happy – BOOM!  Just as we were looking out the back window, the fuse box on the pole behind our house exploded violently (although I’m not sure an explosion can be non-violent)  I was sure I could see a tree branch on the wires coming/going from that pole, and there were sparks and cinders coming off.

So like a good (read: scared) citizen, I called the power company, waited on hold for ten minutes, then told the operator what I’d seen.  About ten minutes later, we decided we should call the fire department, since these cinders were massive and glowing and floating away on the wind.  My sister called 911 and we told them what we could see. Thirty minutes later, the power went off again, but during the night I saw a fire truck come down with a spotlight and look at the branch. Apparently they determined it was no immediate threat, because nothing was done. They drove off and the wind continued to blow.

By morning, the wind had stopped, and by the light of the day, this is what we found.

The house behind ours is a rental, and the occupant is on vacation.  We spent all day Tuesday without power, and then after dark we noticed crews pulling up with massive trucks. My sister and I pulled two dining room chairs into the kitchen in front of the large windows, got comfortable with some hot tea and munchies, and watched the men work for three and a half hours. It was entertaining, although since we couldn’t hear what they were saying, we had to make up our own dialog.

We called the kitchen windows our Flat Screen, dubbed the dialog of all the men working, even added some sound effects, a plot, a few sub plots…. after they finished, we went to bed and they drove a block down to the next tree down.

By 5 am, we had power again!

And that is my Thanksgiving Story for 2010.  Hope you have a happy one, too.

Diary of Madness Day 4

Still no phone call. Mostly we’ve written them off, but we want to believe there’s still hope. I’m on vacation now through Thanksgiving, so we’re determined to enjoy ourselves, even though she has a doctor’s visit on Monday with her oncologist that I’ll have to pay for – don’t wanna even think about how much that’ll cost.

I realized the other day, because of the way things have gone down lately, this will be our third Christmas with her unemployed. Still, as depressing as that is, at least it’s not like last Christmas, when she was still having Chemo for the Breast Cancer.  Whenever I get really down, I try to recall where we were one year ago. That year, we spent the day before Thanksgiving in the ER, then Christmas Eve sitting in the Chemo room.

So I guess on the grand scale of grand scales, things could be worse, eh?

Damn that jackass and the trail of slime behind him.

Diary of Madness day 2.5

One of the things I resent the most is being back on that emotional roller coaster you’re forced to ride while waiting for “the phone call.”

My sister applied for a job last week that closed on Friday, the 12th. When she applied, she had to go through the agency the Unemployment office uses, because they were pre-screening applicants for this job, which isn’t unusual.  So she went there on Tuesday, dressed as if she were being interviewed, because that’s good form, and asked if she could apply for the particular posting.

Well after showing her resume to the recruiter, he was more than happy to have her fill out the actual job application, which she did. He told her he was quite impressed with her qualifications, then he gave her the name of the woman my sister could expect a call from, for an interview. He was certain she’d get a call, because she was perfectly qualified for the job.

Was he shining us on with bullshit?  I dunno.  He had no reason to. They usually come out and tell you if you don’t qualify for something, and he wouldn’t have had need to give her the name of the company hiring, or the woman in charge. If he wanted to shovel some shit, there’s easier ways.

We assumed she wouldn’t get a call until after Friday, seeing as how the job hadn’t closed until then – but we really believed she’d at least warrant an interview.  It was a job right up her ally of expertise, a perfect fit.  And it had the added benefit of being within a few miles of where I work, so winter weather carpooling would be a breeze. Great job, good benefits, excellent pay.

We spent the weekend with our fingers crossed, feeling really hopeful.

But that’s just the opening of the roller coaster ride. Where you’ve strapped in and they finally start the ride, and you’re pulling out of the loading bay full of anticipation and apprehension.

I honestly expected her to get a call yesterday, for an interview. I kept telling myself “she’ll call me any second now, saying she’s got an interview.”  “Any minute now, she’ll send me a text.”

As the day wore on, I started working it out in my head. “Okay, so the woman is busy today going through all the applications she was sent, maybe she won’t call till Tuesday.”  But as the day wore on, I got more and more depressed. The ride wasn’t going well, all the twists and turns.

Of course I got home last night to that issue I exploded about already – her boss claiming she’d been “Fired” instead of Laid Off.  As it turns out, a friend of ours is an HR legal professional who says his reasoning is illegal, so she’s helping us write up a rebuttal.  So last night she and I didn’t discuss our fears that she’s not getting interviewed for this great job – we had other things to be furious about.

Now today, as I’m waiting for our friend to examine the rebuttal letter I’ve worked up and get back to me, all I can think about is WHY didn’t she get a call for an interview ?  Was she passed up because of the thousand other qualified candidates? Did they even pick yet? Are they interviewing already and all hope is lost – or is there still a chance she’ll get a call later this week?

My sister and I aren’t voicing our fears yet, or discussing our depression, so it won’t quash that last vestige of Tinkerbell-light, waning inside. I want to believe there’s still a chance, that she could get a call “any second now” and have an interview scheduled.  I keep telling myself it could still happen. But this is the part of the roller coaster ride when I’m reaching for a barf bag.

If she doesn’t get a call by Friday, we’ll both be utterly dejected and have a pretty shitty weekend. There hasn’t been another job posted anywhere that she even remotely qualifies for. Even those few “seasonal jobs” were met with thousands of applicants, the vast majority of which were horribly overqualified, just like her.

Last night on the news, 500 people showed up for one advertised opening.

The roller coaster is twisting and turning, and going upside down.

I don’t like rides that go upside down.

May the Fleas of a Thousand Camels make Nests in his Armpits!

Diary of Madness, Day 2

I’m furious.

I got home last night to find my sister was having to fill out a form from the Unemployment office to explain why her rendition of events differs from her (now former) employer.

Seems HE said she had been Fired!

For the record – my sister was called into her supervisor’s office a Friday just a few weeks ago, and told – out of the blue – that she was being replaced.  They’d hired another person after having joined with a new partner, and while she had wanted to hire an additional person to do the added work, the boss had decided to simply save money by replacing my sister with someone else.

She looked at her supervisor and asked “Was it something I did wrong?”

“No,” she was told “In fact, I like you a lot and love your work. You do a great job, and I’m really upset about this, but it’s out of my control.”  She followed with “we don’t have severance here, so can you please stay for another two weeks?”

That’s what my sister put down on her application for unemployment. That she had been “laid off/replaced.”  because that’s what she was told.  She wasn’t “Fired”, they assured her.

So today in the mail (well it was Saturday’s mail that she’d walked out to get Monday) there’s a letter from Unemployment saying her account and her boss’s account differ, and she’s required to explain why before any benefits can be paid out.

She was in the middle of filling out the form, answering “No” to all the questions of: Were you ever reprimanded?  “No” to: Were you ever written up?  “No” to: Was it ever explained to you what you were doing wrong? When I walked in carrying Monday’s mail, with a letter from Unemployment.

After she explained to me what she had and what she was doing, I had her open the letter I was carrying – seems that was a copy of what her exboss had filled out – and I got even angrier.

He checked the boxes: Fired and Other – then explained, and I quote “Cynthia was unable to perform higher level tasks outside her normal duties and had to be replaced.”  then in another line wrote “We needed someone to perform higher levels outside her duties and could not afford to hire another person, so Cynthia had to be replaced with someone who could do her job as well as these higher level functions.”

Each time, he has checked the box: Fired.

Well FUCK me till Sunday – but there’s a whopping huge difference between Fired and Laid Off !  I’m furious because this asshole has made my sister so upset. She’s devastated to be given the label “Fired” and it’s understandable.  She asked her supervisor, Point Blank, if it was due to her work or her personally – and she was assured, to her face, that it was not.

Hell, they even gave her a Goodbye card, and two $25.00 gift cards.  They signed things like “Best of luck.” and “We’ll miss you very much”

How many people do that after firing someone?

It might be semantics, sure, but it’s important semantics. It’s a personal affront, regardless of distinction.  This asshole had to say she was Fired in order to NOT take a hit on his Employment Insurance Premiums as a boss – well Eff that!

She’s filled out the questions for Unemployment, explaining her side and what she was told. I’m going to fax it from work so it gets there quicker than snail mail, and when I do, I’m going to add a little note further explaining her side of the story.   We don’t want the Unemployment Department thinking she was trying to pull one over by telling a lie – regardless of what her boss said, she was told she was being Laid Off.

Big difference.

Really big difference.

He’s made my sister emotionally upset, she’s depressed and feeling like a loser right now, and that’s bullshit.

May his dingus shrivel to a useless husk.



Diary of Madness

If you’ve been around here a while, or know me in any way, you’ll recall that I live with my sister. We’ve been roomies for a long while now, and it’s not as unusual a situation as you might think. There are plenty of adult siblings who room together, among those who get along, of course. There are even adults who share households with a single parent (and I’m not talking about those who’ve moved back in with Mommy and Daddy – but there are certainly a growing number of those as well).

With all due respect to the alternate life styled among us, my sister and I consider ourselves Domestic Partners. We both own our house, we share all the bills, we’re best friends so we socialize together – even our Mother refers to us as “an old married couple.”  Our names are on both of our checking/savings accounts, and we have a separate shared account for a hobby business we both run on the side.

The only thing we lack, aside from the obvious, is health care.  I have it, she – thanks to her a-hole former employer who saw fit to lay her off two weeks ago – does not.  And I can’t add her to mine as a “spouse or domestic partner” because we’re not gay.

Again, no offense, but that sucks.  In every respect other than sex, we’re domestic partners. Both of our names are on our banking accounts, our mortgage, the titles to our cars. We share the bills, we share the duties, we share everything. Where she falls short, I pick up, and where I’m lacking, she handles it.  I could only add her if she were legally disabled, and she’s not.

Why am I saying all this? I mean, what do you care, right?  It’s a strange arraignment, to be sure. Not your standard fare. But over the years I’ve come to find we’re not so strange after all.  More and more of you are living in a unique setting aside from the typical marriage of man and woman – even aside from a sexual partnership. Women living with their widowed mothers, men sharing a house with their cousins, sisters and brothers, friends mutually helping each other.  Even full-on families sharing a house out of financial need and charity. The list is growing.

The reason you’re getting an earful today is because my sister is out of work again, and we’re back on the roller coaster of madness.

It makes me queasy.

People don’t seem to get it, why it should bother ME if my sister has lost her job. After all I have a job, a very good job, with medical benefits and the works.  But if you stop and think about it domestically – what if your wife lost her job, and her medical benefits, and you couldn’t add her to yours?  What if your husband was laid off, and you couldn’t add him to your medical plan?  Now add some medical issues to that laid off spouse, that you’re going to have to pay out of pocket for.

In every outward respect, we are domestic partners lacking the benefit domestic partners are given.  If my sister were my lover, I could legally add her to my medical plan.

We live modestly – we might even survive – unless her health care becomes a serious issue. She’s been cancer free for a few months now, but she’s on daily prescriptions and has routine doctor visits. There’s lymphodema starting up, which is a side effect of having had lymph nodes removed, and she’ll need to see a specialist in a week or so – which we’ll have to pay for out of pocket.

She’s applied for unemployment again, but they’re trying to deny her. We have forms to fill out, and hoops to jump through.  She’s also applied to DSHS for health care, but we haven’t heard back about that yet.  Fingers crossed there.

And if you’re thinking Obama-care will come and save the day – think again.  It’s not “free health care for all.”  It’s really just a mandate that requires everyone to purchase health insurance.  So when that takes effect, if she’s unemployed still, she’ll be forced to pay a fine every month she’s unable to pay for her own health care plan.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’m not alone, neither are you, and sometimes we need to vent. Maybe not every day, maybe several times a day, I don’t know how it’ll work.  Any post I make regarding these issues will have comments opened, so feel free to vent, share, commiserate or feel free to ignore my Diary of Madness.  If I help no one but myself, it’ll have been time well spent!

Hello darkness, my old friend

Every weekday morning, I’m up at 5:30, and leaving the house for work around 6:10 or so. Now that we’ve fallen back for daylight savings – or the end of daylight savings, or whatever that really is – it’s dark when I leave the house. My workday ends at 3:30,  and already it’s getting dark.

By the time I’m home, usually around 4:00, it’s dusk for sure. Relax for a few minutes, unwind, and it’s dark outside.

I dunno about you, but when it’s DARK outside, my brain says “Okay, it’s late, you’re in for the night.”  There’s no going outside to work on a project in the garage, there’s no desire to run errands or go shopping somewhere, and no energy to putz around or play with anything like I would during summer.

It makes me feel limited, like I’ll only have time to get stuff done, play, explore, shop, whatever – during the weekend, which makes me think the weekend is FULL with no time to relax and enjoy myself. Maybe that’s not an issue with everyone, but for me, if I perceive my weekend is full and booked and all-too-busy, I end up getting nothing done. Internally I feel disorganized, scattered, overwhelmed by the idea that there’s so much I want to do and so little time to do it, which results in getting almost nothing actually DONE.

Then the week starts again and the darkness at the start and end of my day, and the Winter Rut deepens.

Sometimes I like the darkness – especially when it’s really cold, if there’s snow outside, or a serious chill or wind storm – the darkness is comforting, enveloping, a warm blanket at the end of a busy day.

Other times, like this past week, it’s depressing, intrusive, oppressive and just puts me out of sorts.  I had a million things I wanted to get done this weekend, and accomplished one of them.  The darkness wasn’t only to blame, there was a lunch date with friends that had already been put off two weekends in a row – there was an equipment snafu that I didn’t have time to fix, and there was some seriously blah weather.

Today, instead of working on some of those unfinished issues and equipment snafu’s, I’m sitting on the couch watching football, feeling a tad ill, slightly anxious, and wishing it was Friday already.

Thus has been my weekend.  I’m hoping my sister will get an interview call on Monday, so I’ll spend my day on pins and needles waiting to hear from her about that – the results of which will set the mood for the rest of the week. But I have high hopes.

You gotta have hope, eh?

And Rum.  You gotta have rum.

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