Ramblings of a Redneck Woman

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Apology to AT&T

Posted by Kandy on September 18, 2012

Dear AT&T:

I wish to take this opportunity to apologize now for any PTSD your technician may experience as a result of driving slowly down my road this morning. I was in the process of chasing a food-thieving cat, and glancing out my window saw your technician, in his van, pull over directly in front of my house. Deciding this was an act of Divine Providence, I grabbed a throw blanket off the recliner, wrapped it about my nightshirt-clad body, and ran out the door, where I proceeded to harangue him at the top of my lungs when he made the foolish mistake of telling me he didn’t know WHEN our promised DSL would be going into service.

I’m sure he’s going to have nightmares of a fat woman, wrapped in a furry blanket, hair all a mess and waving in the breeze, holding an equally fat and furry (and struggling) cat, yelling at him that the next time a technician from your fine company comes down our road, they’d better be turning DSL on or risk getting shot repeatedly.

I mean, seriously…he should have known better, right?

Sincerely,

The Mad Fat Woman

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BLAH

Posted by Kandy on September 11, 2012

This quite possibly has been the worst summer I’ve had in a very long time when it comes to depression and mood swings.  That’s why I haven’t been blogging or gaming or any of the things I typically enjoy.  I’m off my Cymbalta…I gained 80 pounds while taking it…quit taking it and lost 40 pounds…I know I NEED to be back on it, but I honestly don’t want to gain those 40 pounds back plus a few dozen more.

Its hard to know what to even type without whining and crying…but writing has always helped me, and while no one may ever read it, I need to get back into the swing of things.  Hard to believe that from 2006-2009, my blogging actually gave us some much-needed “bonus” money.  Its so hard to write now that sometimes those years seem like a distant dream.

My tumor markers continue to rise…they’ve been able to get me in for blood tests, but not to get my CT scan done…they’ve rescheduled that three times now (I’m on the third apt for the same CT scan I’ve been waiting on all summer).  My symptoms got pretty bad over the summer, but the past week or two I’ve been better…almost no nausea and no vomiting at all.  I’m still having daily nosebleeds (multiple ones), all from the right nostril, but other than that and the weekly migraine, things are actually looking up a little.  I’m hopeful that I was just fighting some type of infection and that’s what caused my tumor markers to be out of whack.  My surgeon told me last summer that an infection could make the results “off.”

I almost lost my sweetest cat, Tia, about three weeks ago.  I noticed she had diarrhea one evening, and then she started vomiting…I sat up with her all night, thinking she wouldn’t make it through til morning, but she did.  Got her to the vet, he did all sorts of bloodwork and tests on her, gave her IV fluids and medication, and saved her life, but it was a very close thing…even he wasn’t sure if she’d pull through.  After repeat visits and labs, his diagnosis was that she’d been poisoned.  The night she got sick, I was cleaning and decided to give one of our recliners to my cousin to open the room up a little more (we had 3 recliners, a huge sofa, and a computer table, plus a TV table and two end tables in one small living room…CLUTTERED), and I found a bunch of pills under the recliner…mostly Advil or Motrin (hard to tell the difference) and some white ones that I’m not sure what they were.  Some had been chewed.  When I told the vet that after he’d made his diagnosis, he said even just a little gnawing on one could make a cat deathly ill, and was pretty sure that’s what she got into.  To be on the safe side, I moved all the furniture in the room and vacuumed under it all and under the cushions.  Fun times…and I should have waited for assistance…it took me a couple days to recover from moving it all by myself LOL.

Miss Gilda is expecting kittens…she’s “pinked up” now and eating like a horse…and beginning to defend herself against the feline tyrant, Tia.  Tia is the sweetest cat in the world…to humans.  She can’t stand Perry or Gilda, especially if I make the mistake of holding and petting one of them in front of her.  Gilda is due October 11th…kittens ready just in time for Christmas.  I’m hoping I do everything right and she has a healthy litter…even if its just one kitten, as long as it and Gilda are happy and healthy I’ll be happy and (mentally) healthy myself 😉

That’s about all that’s going on here really other than the same old story of pain, pain, pain…and who wants to hear about that all the time.

I’m going to try to continue blogging and get back into the swing of things and start writing stuff that will actually be interesting again, but Ruby’s 4th birthday is coming up very soon, and I tend to get pretty depressed around then, so I might not be back until Christmas…who knows? 😉

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So I’ve Been a Little Busy (i.e. Distracted)…

Posted by Kandy on August 9, 2012

A lot has happened since the last time I blogged…some good, some bad.  I’m not sure I really want to get into everything, but suffice it to say that I registered with TICA, have a website for my cattery, am working on kittens, took in some relatives who needed a little boost to get where they need to be, my tumor markers are skyrocketing again (from just under 100 to over 1000 in less than a month), the VA made a decision on my claim but I haven’t seen it yet (I strongly suspect they denied it again), and in general, I’ve been running myself ragged.

But…I got a pool.  Its a much-needed stress-reliever, even though we couldn’t really afford the extra utilities its going to run up with our current living situation, but dangit, some things you just have to find a way to afford.  So we’re all pretty much on a diet and sweating to death during the day because I turn the a/c off for the most part to save a little more money.  The pool…it is a necessity.  Trust me on this.  Added bonus: I can exercise in the pool without hurting my knees, back, or abdomen…win/win/win!

I’ll try to keep blogging and stay more current.  Truth is, I’ve been so depressed all summer, I didn’t want to blog, because it seemed every time I sat down to do so, I was whining.

Now I’m off to shower, feed/water cats, scoop litter boxes (not the Cat Genie, it scoops itself…woot!), run some errands with my cousin and her daughter, and hopefully relax in said pool by lunch time.

Happy Almost-Weekend!

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An Honest Review of the Cat Genie

Posted by Kandy on May 8, 2012

Some of you may have heard of the Cat Genie.  For those of you who haven’t, it can be found here.

I’ve been looking at this ingenious litter box for a couple years now, but because of the price, I just kept putting it off.  Finally, in January, I received a nice check from the VA, and I bit the bullet and bought the Cat Genie.

A couple things up front.  Its not cheap.  Think about it…its a toilet for cats…literally.  It has washable litter granules, the bowl fills with water and cleaning solution, it agitates it like a washing machine of sorts, and…IT BLOWS THE LITTER DRY.  Yes, the litter is nice and dry and WARM after the cycle ends (my cats fight over who gets to lie in the nice warm litter box).  The standard price of the Cat Genie, without the cover, is $269.  If you get the added attachments, its more.  I regret that I didn’t buy it with the cover (which by default includes the added higher side walls) because my cats scratch and kick litter.  Then you have to consider the cost of monthly supplies…which when you buy them outright, are pretty pricey.  For instance, a box of litter is $23.99, but is a little cheaper if you buy it in a combo pack.  I need to tell you though, the litter lasts FOREVER.  For those of you who, like me, rely on a septic tank, it is safe for it.  The litter is biodegradable and WILL dissolve in the septic tank, so no worries on that front. 

The litter is actually way cool…it seems to be made of plastic, but since its completely biodegradable, I’m not sure what its actually made of.

The Cat Genie itself looks a lot like a small toilet.  It has a high back which contains the processing unit and the hopper that processes waste.  The website includes detailed measurements and pictures to help you decide if you have the space for a Cat Genie or not.  One reason it took me a couple years to buy one was the space issue.  We live in a mobile home, and there’s not a lot of excess space.  My utility room, for instance, where the litter box was, is rather small.  There’s barely enough room to open the dryer door…when its fully open, there’s only 3-4 inches of space between the edge of the door and the wall.  This wasn’t an issue with the traditional litter box, as the door opens over it.  However, for this reason, I bought the “Tabby Package” Cat Genie, without sidewalls or cover, so that the dryer door would still pass over the Cat Genie bowl.  I didn’t count on the hoses not being long enough for me to put the Cat Genie where I needed to; because the room is so tiny, I didn’t think it’d be an issue.  The hoses are quite long, but would have created a tripping hazard to put the Genie across the room from the washer hookups, as it would make the hose hang loose above the ground.  So we ended up putting the Cat Genie in the kitchen, just around the corner from the washing machine.  I had my concerns about it being in my kitchen, where I prepare food and eat it, but no more.  This thing is CLEAN.  However, in hindsight, I do wish I’d purchased the Tuxedo Package, because my cats love to dig and scratch, and the litter literally ends up all over my kitchen floor.  Once its out of the box, you can’t really sweep it up and put it back in, as dirt and such from the floor WILL damage the inner workings of the Genie…its best to just toss it.  Now, given that I have to sweep and toss quite a bit of the litter granules, I still have 3/4 of a box of granules in the cupboard that I haven’t used yet…after three plus months of use.
Also on the Cat Genie website is a video that shows the cleaning cycle of the box.  Its a good guideline of what to expect, however, the video can not convey the emotions you’ll feel when you actually see this thing in action in your own home.  I mean…ITS JUST COOL!
There are two ways to purchase the Cat Genie. You can buy it outright for the reduced price on the website (I believe there is a sale going on right now, as the price was the regular price when I bought mine), or you can purchase it under the VIC (Very Important Cat) Program.  I chose the latter option, because I didn’t want to be out $300+ all at once.  When you use the VIC Program, you also get free shipping, for the initial shipment and all additional shipments…another plus for buying it this way.  Under the VIC Program, you pay $149 up front, and $33 a month for twelve months.  This pays off the remaining balance of the Cat Genie (at 0% interest), as well as covers the cost of supplies for the next year…a discounted cost of supplies I might add.  If I were to buy the supplies outright, again, it would cost more than it does under the VIC Program.  The shipment of supplies occurs every two months.  My first shipment came in April, and had the two cleaning cartridges, another box of litter granules (which I only just opened), and a very much needed Maintenance Cartridge.  I emphasize this because I’m wiser and more experienced now.  After your twelve months is up, you can choose to remain in the VIC Program (which I will) for a reduced price since you’ll no longer be paying off your Cat Genie.
When my Cat Genie arrived, my youngest cat, Tia, who was about 19 months old at the time, was intensely interested in it.  We had the parts spread all over the kitchen floor, and she stayed with us the entire time my husband was assembling it for me.  Once we poured in the litter, she jumped in and used the box before we could even run a test cycle.  Thank God we had it hooked up right LOL.  She’s such a smart girl.  Eddie, ten months older than her, resisted mightily for a couple weeks.  We discovered he’d been hiding his poop in our bathroom, so I had to start shutting doors so he’d have no choice but to go out in the open or use the Genie.  Finally, he relented and started using it.  Ahhh sweet bliss.  During his adjustment period, I’d left the traditional box down, but had stopped scooping it (as was recommended) so that he’d prefer the clean Cat Genie.  He just took a little convincing…but once he started using the Cat Genie, he continued to do so and stopped hiding to relieve himself.  Did I mention my cats are Maine Coons?  Rather large, rather hairy Maine Coons.  Well, Tia is hairy.  Eddie has the shorter coat that some Maine Coons have…but he still has a LOT of fur.  This is important, and something I didn’t really take into consideration when I read the instructions.  OK, so I didn’t actually READ the instructions…I glanced at them.  Briefly.
You’re not supposed to just set up the Cat Genie and let it go.  Oops.  If you don’t have or use a Maintenance Cartridge, you’re supposed to regularly remove the processing unit, clean the water sensor, and check for hair clogs.  If you use the Maintenance Cartridge as directed, you don’t have to do this.  Oops again.
I’d had the Genie for not quite two months when BAM…a clog happened.  Through much frustration, I managed to clear the clog and thought things were fine.  Clearing the clog was probably more a result of sheer luck than any actual skill on my part.  Three weeks later, another clog hit…and this time the Genie had been processing poop instead of just urine like the previous clog.  Can we say…eww?  The smell…oh my.  I had the back door open and it was still bad.  Oh yeah, I have a really strong gag reflex…lovely.  I also didn’t have a single plastic/rubber glove in my home at the time…and there was no WAY I was putting my hands near the working parts of the Cat Genie to clear the clog and clean up that mess.  Uh uh, not happening.  I actually used gallon ziplock storage bags over my hands.  Justin was laughing at me…but hey, my hands were relatively clean (I still scrubbed them raw in the hottest water I could stand once all was said and done).
Justin hates cats.  He really does.  Well, he hates indoor cats.  He does play with my babies, but he hates the stink of the litter box, the hair everywhere, etc.  Not to mention, he’s allergic.  The fact that he spent an hour and a half helping me clear the clog and clean the Cat Genie…says a LOT about how good it is.  I can’t express to you how disgusting the smell inside that thing was.  There was hair tangled all around some of the parts, that required us to almost completely disassemble the Genie and clean every part, in most cases having to cut away the tangled hair.  It was tedious and unpleasant.
The problem was that I didn’t read the instructions that came with it properly.  Granted, there were a LOT of instructions.  In addition to the setup flyer/booklet, there is also an orange sheet that tells you what to do when something goes wrong (an “Oh CRAP” flyer, as it were), and a complete booklet that covers setup, use, troubleshooting, etc.  THAT is what I failed to read properly.  Oops to the third power.

That booklet includes the nifty little nugget that if you don’t use a Maintenance Cartridge, you need to do X or Y will happen.  Y happened to me in a big, nasty way.  Darn that X.  In the future, when I order a second Cat Genie (which I WILL do when I get my cattery up and running in full), I’ll also go ahead and pay the extra cost of a Maintenance Cartridge, rather than wait for the one that comes in the first shipment.  I also will continue to buy extra Maintenance Cartridges, since you only get one a year.  Its suggested that you use them every 2-3 months.  One cartrige is good for four uses.  My experience now is that with the long haired cats, unless I want to get my hands dirty, I need to run the Maintenance cycle once a month.  Even though you don’t have to clean the water sensor if you use the Maintenance Cartridge, I do anyway, once a week.  It doesn’t actually need it when I do it, but I do it anyway because I never want to go through that again.  Besides, its not hard to do…you remove the processing unit (it literally just lifts off the Cat Genie bowl), pull out the sensor, and run it under hot water, scrubbing with a green pad if there’s any buildup (which there isn’t since I do it so often and use the Maintenance cartridge as well).  Takes less than three minutes.  When I ran my Maintenance Cartridge yesterday, I did remove the processing unit and look down in the hopper with the flashlight, to the spot where all the hair was tangled before…there was a tiny bit down in there, but I ran the Maintenance anyway, and checked again, so I could compare.  The hair was gone.  Problem solved.

My words can’t convey to you what a clogged Cat Genie will smell like…so please, if you get one, heed my advice.  Seriously.  Your nose will thank you later.
All that said, I’m extremely grateful for my Cat Genie.  Its the best cat-related purchase (aside from my lovely cat babies) that I’ve ever made.  I have an extremely sensitive sense of smell, and as previously mentioned, a strong gag reflex.  When a cat goes poopie in the litter box, I’ve literally woken up in the middle of the night to go scoop it because of the smell.  That’s no longer an issue.  It does make noise, but its quieter than my washing machine, and about the same volume of my dishwasher…i.e. it isn’t annoying at all.  In fact, even though I’m a really light sleeper and the Cat Genie is only about ten feet from my bedroom door (which I leave open), it only took me one night to get used to the sound of the Genie cleaning itself.  Its a purchase I HIGHLY recommend…as long as you follow the instructions!  Also, take into account your number of cats and their fur type.  At the time, I had two cats…with really long fur.  Lesson learned.
If you’re wondering about rising water and electric costs, don’t.  We’ve had it four months now…three bills have come in, and we haven’t seen any difference in our bills.  The amount of water used in each cleaning cycle is about what you’d use by flushing your toilet, and its impossible to tell on the power bill.
How long do the cleaning cartridges last?  Well, if you use it on Manual Activation, which I do when new cats are getting used to it, as a box with a little bit of waste in it will let them know that’s where they’re supposed to go, you get 120 uses.  If you put it on Cat Activation, which is what mine is on now that the cats are used to it, you double that.  IF you have an overly curious cat that loves to watch it clean itself while in a precarious position (Perry, five months old), and the cat falls into the bowl, the Genie will stop its cycle instantly, and not resume for the designated amount of time you have it set for on Cat Activation mode (either 10 or 30 minutes) or until you press the button to resume the cycle if you have it on Manual Activation mode.
I’ve also noticed that my younger cats (Tia and Perry) took right to it as soon as they saw it.  Gilda is older than Perry, at 13 months, but younger than Tia was when she first saw it, and she was more reluctant to try it.  Of course, she’s Eddie’s half-sister…and Perry is Tia’s nephew…so maybe its genetics LOL.
One last thing about the Cat Genie…even if your cats are reluctant to use it at first, they will absolutely LOVE watching it clean.  Its free cat entertainment.  Four months later, my cats are still amused by it.  As mentioned earlier, they love to lie in it while the litter is still warm after being blown dry.  If you’re still not entirely sure…let me add this.  Three weeks after we got it, we took a week-long trip to Disney World.  I had people come in every couple days to check food and water for the cats, but they didn’t touch the litter box.  When we came home, we walked into a house that did NOT smell like cats.  At all.  No litter box smell, no mess to clean up.  It paid for itself in that moment 🙂

By the way, due to some feedback I’ve received on this post, I need to add a caveat.  You can not force your cat to use the Cat Genie.  The materials included with the Cat Genie have a section that gives really helpful advice as to how to acclimate your cat to the unit, as well as some owner testimonials, sharing their experience in that respect.  DO read this.  Apparently some folks have tried to bring in kittens and force the box on them, scaring the kittens and making them not use any kind of box in the future.  This isn’t typical…its the result of someone not following the directions or using common sense.  I did mention that I had the traditional box down for a couple weeks before both my cats started using the Cat Genie.  Tia used it right off the bat…Eddie was stubborn.  In Eddie’s case, I had to let the traditional box get dirty and not scoop it for a couple days (as was suggested in the literature) before he decided he preferred the nice, clean Cat Genie.  Perry (five months old) came into my home a couple weeks ago and started using the Cat Genie right off the bat, whereas Gilda, who is a year old and came at the same time Perry did, is only just now starting to experiment with it.  I will continue to leave the traditional box down until Perry is older…a cleaning cycle on the Genie takes about 40 minutes all total, and some kittens, like young toddlers learning to potty train, just can’t wait that long 🙂
And a second caveat…the Cat Genie won’t be for everyone.  I’m sure there are cats out there who just will NOT use it.  It does require some minimal maintenance, and even if you do this religiously, I can see where something might fail, causing you to have to clean up a pretty nasty-smelling situation.  That’s why the company offers a 90-day, money back, no questions asked guarantee of their product.  You’ll know a lot sooner than then whether its going to work for you or not.

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Will It Ever Get Better?

Posted by Kandy on May 4, 2012

Its been four years since Ruby…four years since I found out I was pregnant with her…and almost four years since I found out she wouldn’t live once she was born.  I carried her anyway…for 8 months, doing my best to give her every chance at survival, but in the end, it wasn’t enough.

Some days are better than others…and some days are a heck of a lot worse.

I won’t whine or moan about it…but I miss her…I miss what might have been.

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Why I’m Pro-Life…and Some Other Ramblings

Posted by Kandy on April 18, 2012

I have a hard time deciding what my political affiliation is.  I grew up in the strict Pentecostal religion.  I loved going to my friends’ Baptist and Methodist churches because it was more fun…they actually had youth groups (most of my teen years, I WAS the youth group at my church), they had fun activities, they just had FUN period.  As I approached the age of majority (18 back then), and looked forward to voting for the first time, I started thinking about my views, and realized I was surprisingly progressive.  A liberal even.  One of my best friend’s mother was instrumental in helping me form my views and ideals.  Her older son was gay, and years later we would learn my best friend was too (although I always thought he was, I didn’t want to make him uncomfortable by asking).  I actually cried when we reconnected years later and I learned she’d died early.  Wonderful, wonderful lady.

I digress.  Throughout college, I was pro-choice, bleeding-heart Democratic.  I even registered as a Democrat.  I found myself “in trouble” as we would say back then, and allowed myself to be pressured into an abortion.  Suddenly, things started changing in regards to my World View.  I hated what I’d done, and hated myself.  The bipolar really got bad.

I joined the Army.  I went into a predominately male career at that time…UH60A helicopter mechanic.  My actual MOS was 67T – Tactical Transport Helicopter Repairer.  I was one of the only females in my unit…most of the others were either pilots or medics (I ended up in a Medevac unit).  I LOVED it.  I loved showing the guys that I had balls just as big as theirs, if not bigger.  I was gung-ho on women being able to do anything men could do, and I argued frequently and vehemently that women should be allowed in combat arms professions.  You see, I became a Blackhawk mechanic with the broader goal of one day going to flight school and being a pilot…and while I loved my Blackhawks, I wanted to fly an Apache…and only men could do that.

In August 1990, things changed yet again.  Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.  In less than two weeks’ time, I found myself in Saudi Arabia, living in a hangar at an airfield, discovering what 130 degrees WITH humidity felt like (the airfield was on the Gulf), and realizing just how good we American women had things.  At least we could have a degree of respect, whereas the Arab women couldn’t.  Throughout the course of my time over there, I saw and did some things that were shocking.  I was a Pentecostal girl from a then-small town in Mississippi, and while I had “fun” growing up, I realized just how sheltered my life had been.  I saw blood, I saw gore, I saw burned bodies, I fired a rifle, and it wasn’t always in self-defense.  Combat and its aftermath will do things to you.  Seeing things you never thought you’d see, or worse, things you thought you were prepared to see, only to discover you really weren’t, changes you.  I no longer believed women should be in combat arms professions.  It wasn’t just that a woman might not be prepared…many of us overcame the “weakness” of our sex and did the job admirably (it was at night that the weakness hit me personally, when I’d try to sleep).  The bigger problem was the way the men acted.  If a woman was in perceived danger, the inborn gallantry of the male kicked in, causing him to risk life and limb to “rescue” the damsel in distress, even if it jeopardized more lives or the mission.

I started thinking very conservatively.  I started having a lot of nightmares that I couldn’t deal with very well.  I started behaving in ways contrary to the way I’d been raised (a lot of drinking, mainly, but also I moved in with my fiance…something unthinkable with the way I was raised).  I found myself “in trouble” again, and again, I let myself get pressured into an abortion.  I was 21 years old, technically a combat veteran, and I let myself get pushed around again.  I really started to hate myself.

I lived with my fiance for well over a year, moving to upstate NY to be with him after I discharged from the Regular Army into the NY Army National Guard.  He and I had broken up briefly when I got back from Saudi…I was dealing with a lot and didn’t know quite how to handle it.  During that time, he requested an overseas assignment, to Korea.  We got back together after a couple months, and a year later, he got orders to go to Korea.  We talked about me going with him, but we weren’t married yet, time got away from us, and in the end, he went without me.  Depressed, I moved back home to Mississippi.  After he was gone, I found out I was “in trouble” yet a third time.  This time, I was living with my father and his future wife.  I only had a part-time job because I had no transportation of my own, and was dependent on my father’s generosity to get to and from work.  I was missing my fiance because he was so far away.  I was 22 years old, a nervous wreck, having constant nightmares, dealing with the pressure of living with my father (not an easy thing to do), hating myself, suffering from a very low self-esteem, and frustrated at the inability to find a full-time job like I’d had in New York.  My dad and his girlfriend started pressuring me to have a third abortion.  My fiance pressured me…I guess since he was overseas, he didn’t think the baby was his.  I resisted, and used the valid excuse that I just didn’t have the money.  Then one day a check arrived from my fiance.  Suddenly, my biggest excuse was gone.  I let my dad and his girlfriend take me for the abortion. 

It was the worst experience of my life.  I was sedated, but it wore off completely just as they were starting the procedure.  They hit me with more drugs, but they didn’t kick in until it was over.  I felt, heard, and saw pretty much everything.  The pain was unbelievable.  They’d accidentally let me see the ultrasound they did before the abortion, and I saw the heart beating.  On the way home, Dad got mad at me when he and his lady wanted to stop at a local seafood restaurant and I wanted to stay in the car, where I was lying down in the back seat.  I gave in to his demands and went into the restaurant.  Just after the food came, I passed out.  They got me back into my seat, and insisted on finishing their meal.  I had mine put into a doggy-box for later.  They didn’t take me to the hospital…they took me home.  Once there I went to bed and didn’t get out of bed until a couple days later, when my mom finally came to check on me (I hadn’t been able to take her calls and she got worried…thank God).  I was burning up with fever and almost delirious.  She rushed me to the hospital, and they did another D&C because the abortion clinic had left some tissue and I’d gotten an infection.  I refused to be admitted because I didn’t have insurance.  I swore the doctors to secrecy and told my mom I’d had a miscarriage, because I was humiliated.  The doctors said I should have no problem having children once I’d recovered.  I went home only to pack my things, and moved in with my mom.

Things with my fiance became really strained…I blamed him for the abortion, even though I’d agreed to it.  I blamed my dad.  I even blamed my beloved aunt, who had referred us to that clinic (she was a nurse).  I sank into a deep depression.  I went out on Thanksgiving with my brother and his girlfriend, got drunk, and met someone I’d had a crush on in college.   A week later we eloped.  After the fact, I told my fiance…he begged me to get an annulment or divorce, and he’d come home and marry me immediately.  I didn’t know what to do, so I did nothing.

Looking back, I can’t regret that…had I given in to where my heart was leading me and corrected the “mistake” of my hasty marriage, I wouldn’t have Jared and Katie.  Things weren’t perfect in my first marriage, but I’d do it all over again to have those two wonderful, amazing kids.

I got pregnant shortly after my marriage, and was thrilled.  I was 23 years old, and dying to correct the mistakes of the past and become a wonderful mother.  I miscarried.  I thought I was going to die from despair, and blamed myself for the miscarriage because I’d had three abortions.  A few months later I got pregnant again, and even though I almost lost him twice and ended up with an emergency c-section, I finally became a mother when I was 24 years old.  It was THE happiest day of my life.  I had an amazing son, a full-time job (two actually, AND I was in the Guard LOL), and a decent marriage.  Things were finally going to be ok.

Then I had another miscarriage.  I got over that one a little easier because I had Jared to love and care for, but it still upset me and had me blaming myself all over again.  A little later, I got pregnant AGAIN and experienced a second “happiest day of  my life” when I got to hold Katie, and saw what a beautiful, healthy baby she was.  She was such a GOOD baby too…even though she had terrible reflux, she slept six plus hours a night from the time she was six days old.  She rarely cried, and when she started that adorable baby laugh, it never stopped.  I needed a good baby…Jared had started having horrible health issues when I was pregnant with her.

My marriage fell apart.  I can’t blame him, most of the fault was my own.  We had our issues together…we were both Pisces, and while I don’t really hold astrology in any great respect, the fact remains that we were VERY much alike, and we really shouldn’t have been together.  I brought out the worst in him, and he brought out the worst in me.  Once we divorced, the relationship between us improved.  He’s a great guy, a great father, and I have nothing but respect for him.  At times I wish I’d worked harder at the marriage…divorce is so easy, but in the end, it worked out the way it needed to.

I married Justin a few years after my first marriage went south, and the miscarriage saga started all over again.  Finally, in 2002, we had Rebekah, and I felt like things were going well for the first time in my adult life.  The bipolar was still an issue, as were the nightmares, but things were looking up.  I continued to have miscarriages though, and still blamed myself because of the three previous abortions.  Finally, in 2008, I got pregnant for the last time.  Unlike the other times, when I knew within days of conception, I didn’t find out about this pregnancy until I was eleven weeks along, past the time I’d had miscarriages in the past.  I was afraid to “start over” with a baby at my age (I was 38), but so excited.  I love babies.  I love being a mother.  I always wanted four children.  Life was perfect.  Then two weeks later, I found out the baby would die once it was born…due to a horrible birth defect.  For seven months, I fought tooth and nail for the right to get care for my baby…I fought to save her life…I gave myself insulin shots three times a day…I dealt with the issues carrying her caused for me due to the multiple surgeries I’d had during a bout with liver cancer two years earlier…I dealt with repeated calls from the doctors and even my own family to terminate the pregnancy…I dealt with my “friends” turning on me and claiming I was lying and wasn’t even pregnant…I dealt with it all and I had the most positive attitude I’ve ever had in my entire life.  I struggled to carry a child that I knew in my mind was going to die, but couldn’t yet give up in my heart.

And then she was born…and died…and I never even got the chance to hold her while I was coherent.  Against my wishes, they knocked me out during the c-section.  I didn’t fully regain consciousness for over four hours.  She lived for just under two hours.  For another few months, I maintained my faith, and I tried not to blame myself.  I lived with an oxygen tank for four months until I’d recovered enough from the c-section that I could have another surgery to fix everything that had been damaged while I carried her.  I cried a lot because I’d let them talk me into having my tubes removed so that future pregnancies wouldn’t be an issue.  And, I blamed myself for all the miscarriages, and for her birth defect that took her life.

That’s a very, very brief recap (even though its so long…I’m not good at being pithy) of some of the health issues I’ve had in my adult life…but it pretty much describes the reproductive issues I’ve had.  All total, I was pregnant thirteen times.  I gave birth to four babies.  I had three abortions.  I had six miscarriages. I may very well have had the miscarriages whether I’d had the abortions or not.  We’ll never know.  But I do know that the abortions caused irreparable harm to me…if not proven physically, definitely mentally and emotionally.  Perhaps if I’d come to the decision to abort on my own, I wouldn’t have the feelings I have, but I didn’t…I was pressured all three times.  I went along with it, more out of a desire to please my partner than anything else, because I didn’t stand up for myself.  I didn’t stand up for my wishes and desires.  Until Ruby, I’d never stood up for anything really…and for her, there was nothing I could do.

THIS is why I’m pro-life.  I’ll never know if the abortions caused my many miscarriages…but the possibility is there.  In a way, I suppose I’m still pro-choice, because MY choice after the third abortion was to NEVER have another one.  My choice was to carry a child that we all knew would die because I refused to have another abortion…because I wanted to give her the best chance at survival…because as a parent, I could no longer tolerate even the idea that I’d kill another baby.  I firmly believe that it is murder, because I’ve had beautiful children, saw and heard their heartbeats when I was only a few weeks pregnant, watched them form in the womb.

I’m also reasonable.  I accept abortion in the cases of rape or incest, especially of a child.  Having been raped, I know the emotional trauma that causes.  I accept abortion in instances to save the life of the mother.  I don’t like it, but I accept it.  So, while I say I’m pro-life, others would say I’m actually pro-choice.  That’s just where I stand.

The abortions have been a deep, dark secret most of my life.  I’ve claimed more miscarriages than I actually had, because I was ashamed to admit to not just one, but three abortions.  Even Justin doesn’t know there were three (well, I suppose he’ll know NOW).  Only my OB-GYNs knew the truth…my medical records told it for me.  Getting it all off my chest though, after twenty years, is finally lifting the last of the emotional burdens I’ve been carrying for most of my adult life.

My experiences are also why I have little sympathy for people who make poor decisions.  I’ve made them myself…frequently.  I can’t even say I don’t make the same mistake twice, because I have, and I do.  I’ve even been quick to own up to my mistakes…admitted when I was wrong…except when it came to the abortions.  It weighed heavily on me, and I finally had to come clean.

Its kinda funny.  This post started out as a discussion on my inability to find a political party I “fit” into, and was going to be about why I felt we should legalize marijuana.  I guess I needed to unburden myself a bit instead.

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Has the TSA Worn Out Its Welcome?

Posted by Kandy on April 17, 2012

I’ve been seeing more and more news reports of “hot” people getting a more intense pat-down than others…of women in tears after a pat-down…of small children patted down in a way that undermines a parents instructions to not let a stranger touch them in certain areas…of the elderly being humiliated in many ways in regards to their medical/personal needs…the list goes on and on.

What I’d like to see are some actual statistics…how many of these searches have yielded results?  How many weapons have been confiscated?  How many terror attacks prevented?

For a country that has a liberal majority that espouses personal freedoms and choices, we sure don’t mind getting up in someone’s personal space and “touching their junk,” to quote the famous dude a few years back.

I’ve always loved flying.  My first flight was in college, when I flew on an Army helicopter back in my ROTC days.  When I went to basic training, I flew commercially for the first time, although by then I’d logged a few hours in a private plane.  When I traveled, flying was my personal choice if I had the money for it…and with my health the way it is now, flying would be less taxing on me than 8+ hours in a car.

There’s one major problem.  I’ve never been an exhibitionist.  I’ve never enjoyed getting undressed in front of people (showers during basic training were excruciatingly embarrassing for me), much less being touched by a stranger.  I was frisked by a Petal cop when I was 16 because I pulled out of my parking space with my headlights off (it was dark, but a very well-lit parking lot.  How many of us have done this before?), and it was a traumatic experience.  I was frisked because I was a Seaton, driving the family car, and lets just say that my brother had made a memorable impression on the cops when he started driving 5 years earlier.  Years later, when I learned to frisk a suspect as part of my Military Police training in the NY Army National Guard, I realized that what the cop had done to me wasn’t procedure, it was molestation.  I was frisked properly during training, so was able to compare the two events.

All that being said, I’m shy.  Having gained weight over the past few years as a result of my health battles, I’m embarrassed about my appearance.  I have scars all over my torso from surgeries, and they’ve caused a lot of scar tissue to form, as well as flab that I can’t just exercise away because of the way I was cut.  I don’t like being touched by anyone, and indeed some touches on my abdomen, for instance, cause pain…intense pain in some cases.

I won’t fly now unless I verify its in and out of an airport that doesn’t do the pat-downs.  This seriously limits my choices in destinations.

We shouldn’t be subjected to this.  Seriously.  A pat-down probably wouldn’t have prevented the 9-11 attacks (they used box-cutters to take over the planes, if I recall)…half the time the pat-downs are just a quick shuffle, and many times people are singled out for a more intense pat-down based on…appearance…body language…etc.  I’d probably get a more thorough assault pat-down because I’d be visibly uncomfortable, anxious, and distressed while waiting my turn.

Our individual liberties are being eroded.  They already tell us we can’t wish someone Merry Christmas because its offensive.  We can’t mention God in schools or the work-place because someone might be offended.  But its ok to touch me in places I’d really rather they didn’t, or touch my child in places I’ve told her/him that its NOT OK to be touched by a stranger, all in the name of “national security.”

Why can’t we learn from countries that deal with attacks on a regular basis?  Flying in and out of Israel or Ireland isn’t this demeaning, it shouldn’t be in the “Land of the Free” either.

*stepping off my soapbox now*

p.s.  I really want to fly somewhere on vacation, but I’m terrified of the humiliation, thus inspiring this rant

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The Best Laid Intentions…

Posted by Kandy on April 9, 2012

…can go oh so wrong.

I did not have a happy high school experience.  Many of my fellow students back then would be shocked now to hear me say that.  My children confirmed today that I talk of my Army years a lot, but rarely talk about my school years, unless I’m recounting a fond memory from band…and even those memories are colored with a lot of bullying I was on the receiving end of.  This is because my Army days were the first time since early childhood that I’d been happy…truly happy.

Much of the turmoil came from within my home.  Things were rough back then…financially, emotionally, mentally.  I was developing the traits of bipolar, but didn’t understand what was happening to me, and I tried to deal with that as well as with a dysfunctional family.  I got pretty good at “putting my best face forward,” and hiding the reality, as well as hiding FROM the reality.

Because of that, I determined when I held Jared the first time, that he would NOT go without if I could help it…that I would do whatever was necessary to make him and any later children happy…to be able to look back on their childhood fondly.  I got derailed along the way…I bungled my first marriage and quit when the going got tough instead of sticking it out and trying to make it work.  I was unmedicated for most of that time, and prone to sudden outbursts of crying or temper tantrums.  Once I married Justin, things stabilized.  He didn’t understand the bipolar disorder, but he tried to.  He encouraged me to seek treatment, to stay on my meds.  He’s helped me.

I said I wouldn’t make the same mistakes my parents made.  I would make my kids be happy if it killed me.  Things went pretty well at first, then I somewhere along the way got derailed again.  Things got bad after the liver cancer…I was a productive, good worker one day…went in for surgery the next day and when I finally got out of the hospital months later, I was disabled.  I’ve remained disabled, albeit with “good days.”  Even though six years have passed, I haven’t gotten over it.  I haven’t made the adjustment *I* need to make.  I’ve tried, but failed miserably.

Today I realized I’ve also failed my kids.  In trying not to repeat my parents’ mistakes, I’ve made some pretty monstrous ones of my own.  Justin is a good disciplinarian…I’m not.  He’s firm but kind with the kids…I want to give them the world.  I want to be the “cool mom” and the fun person to hang out with.  I discipline when I have to, but I rarely have to anymore.  This, however, has made me appear weak to my kids.  I rarely get true respect from them.  I’m talked to in a manner that Justin would NEVER be talked to.  There’s absolutely no respect there…and its my fault.  It really is…there’s no one else to blame.  I created this atmosphere, this permissive behavior.

And now I’m reaping what I’ve sown.

My biggest fear is my children being grown, and looking back on their memories of me with disgust and frustration, and in trying to prevent that, I’ve encouraged it.  Its time to get harsh and do what I didn’t want to do but should have done 18 years ago.  Maybe the youngest will still benefit from it. 

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Just a Quick Vent About Homosexuality

Posted by Kandy on April 2, 2012

My mother and I had a long conversation about homosexuality today, that ended with me getting so frustrated I cut it off.  I mentioned that if Katie (who was sitting here listening) were to come home one day and say “Mom, I like girls,” I would love her and support her.  Mom went off and said “I’d beat her butt!”  Katie looked upset too.  I tried to explain my position, she didn’t want to hear it, and kept yelling “I raised you better than this!”  Most of ya’ll know how I was raised…strict Pentecostal.  I believe my Bible, I believe many things, but I also have a brain and can think for myself, and I have compassion.  Mom yelled that she supposed I’d be happy if one of my kids were gay.  Why would I be happy about that?  Why would I want my child to have to live a life in shadows, unhappy and possibly alone, open to criticism, intolerance, and outright bigotry, just to be who they felt they were meant to be?  I don’t have the “right” answers about homosexuality.  All I can do is heed Christ’s teachings to “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” and to love my neighbor.  I’ve done so many things wrong in my life, and am still being judged for them.  I know how it feels.  My children suffer because I’m being judged.  That pisses me right off, I can tell you.  I NEVER want them to be judged.  So of course I wouldn’t be thrilled if one came to me and “confessed” their orientation wasn’t the “norm” but ya know what? I’d love them anyway, and that’s all I can do.  I’m so sick of all the hate and bigotry.  I’ve been guilty of thoughtless comments…still am.  We all say things we don’t mean sometimes or don’t intend them to sound the way they sound, but I go back to “love one another.”  That’s all I can do.  Probably gonna lose some more friends, but that’s ok too.  Its kinda funny, cause after this heated discussion, I saw here on facebook a response to a popular blog called “I’m Christian…Unless You’re Gay”  Love that blog post.  He says it so much better than I ever could…which is probably why I’m not a big deal on the blog circuit 😉

So that’s it.  Just seriously felt the need to vent…and unfortunately around here, I’m not allowed to about certain topics.

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Difficult Day at the VA

Posted by Kandy on March 29, 2012

Yesterday was the in-person board appeal I requested through the VA because many of my claims have been denied.  When I got there, they realized I didn’t have an advocate, and asked if I wanted one.  I was thrilled, because I’ve been attempting to get an advocate for a couple years now.  I was randomly assigned to one, and found out later he’s probably the most respected of the advocates there (according to my judge).  He’s former Army, former special forces, and a really Godly man with a solid knowledge of scripture.

During our initial interview, he educated me a lot on what I needed to say, how to say it, etc.  He’d read through my records (which might explain our two-hour wait) and had found the same concerns I found while reading my own VA records yesterday.  Many of the doctors who’d seen me contradicted themselves throughout their reports.  They recorded my statements and some facts incorrectly.  Half the time they either misspelled my name or referred to me as a male.  Most disturbing of all was discovering that my shrink thinks I’ve been lying.  During one visit where I’d had an extremely emotional and physically draining day, he asked about the nightmares I’ve been having.  I explained one that recurs often, and then stopped talking when I observed his reaction.  He got hung up on the fact that I’d claimed to be attached to Delta Force for a few weeks in January/early February 1991.  I let it pass because I was crying and really didn’t feel like getting into it in depth.  Instead, I told him to check my service records.

I never claimed to be a member of Delta Force.  I never claimed to be trained in special forces.  I explained a recurring nightmare I had, seeing faces of people who’d been killed, various scenes of trauma, etc.  When I was a teenager and young adult, and even to some extent today, I had a very morbid curiosity.  “Faces of Death” was one of my favorite documentary series back in the 80s.  I’ve always been curious about and enjoyed seeing crime-scene photos.  Or used to.  Back in the Gulf, I saw rather too many up close and personal scenes.  I looked at too many polaroids.  After I got back, I started having nightmares, about things I’d personally witnessed, as well as things my active imagination ran away with after seeing photos.  My shrink asked me about my nightmares.  I obliged.  He somehow took it to mean I was making statements of fact about something I personally did over there.  Somehow, I became a special forces badass in his opinion, and was lying.

Then he shared that information with the doctor I see for general medical stuff.  He shared details of my session as well as his suspicions of lying.  Together they decided to try to confirm my past medical history through “outside sources” since I was “refusing” to provide outside medical records.  For three years, I signed medical release after medical release.  I didn’t go up there every month, so until someone mentioned they still didn’t have my records, I didn’t know.  Finally, out of frustration, I paid Ochsner over $120 to obtain a physical copy of my medical records since 2006, and hand-delivered it along with a digital copy on CD to the VA, back in October of 2011.  Only then did that information make its way into my records.  Did my shrink or GP check their system the next time they saw me, to see if I was still “lying” about my history?  Nope.  Did my quality of care suffer because of this?  I believe it did.  I got the feeling of the cold shoulder from both of them the last several appointments.

As I read all of this during the five hours I waited to see a judge yesterday, it pretty much destroyed me.  I fought allegations of lying during my pregnancy with Ruby.  I posted pictures of her ultrasounds and later pictures of her after delivery just to prove I wasn’t lying, and then later regretted giving in to the naysayers and compromising the experience of carrying and delivering her just to prove what I knew was true.  That time was really hard on me…I was dealing with carrying a child that was going to die after birth, ongoing medical issues, and a lot of emotional and mental anguish.  I still deal with difficult emotions in regards to her.  So you could say that I’m a bit raw when it comes to that type of thing.  Seeing doctors who had medical evidence before them still disbelieve me hurt.

Its not like I don’t expect it…any time I have to go to an ER or see a new doctor, I dread it if I don’t have a copy of my records with me.  I end up just telling them to write “train wreck” on the intake, as it will save time and pretty much cover everything, and I make jokes about it, but inside I’m wondering if they’re going to accuse me of malingering again, or worse.  For years, I didn’t go to doctors.  Then I almost died in 2006, and got pretty paranoid about the least little ache and pain.  I’ve seen doctors regularly since then.  A lot of things were diagnosed at once.  So when I recount my history, it seems like at best I’m a hypochondriac, and at worst I’m making stuff up.

Carrying my records around everywhere with me isn’t always an option.  For one thing, there’s the sheer size.  It would be a couple boxes’ worth if I got every record from every doctor and clinic I’ve seen the past six years.  For a while I carried a CD, but I gave my last one to the VA and Justin hasn’t had time to make another for me (with my computer issues, he’s kept the backups for me).  The main issue though, I suppose, is that I’m tired of it all.  I’m tired of proving that yes, indeed, this many bad things can happen to one person.  I’m tired of hearing “But you can’t be the patient, you’re too young,” or “You look too healthy to have all the issues you’ve reported.”  I almost never get to see a doctor on a “bad day.”  Once they’ve reviewed my records from other professionals, they either no longer doubt me and proceed as normal, or they apologize before going about their work.  After it happens so many times, it just seems hollow words.  It makes me want to just give up.

During the hearing yesterday, I kept quiet about most of my medical problems.  I was very conscious of the two doctors in my VA records accusing me of lying.  I was in real danger of jeopardizing my hearing because I just wasn’t talking.  My answers were all “yes sir,” or “no sir,” with no real explanations or opinions from me, even when asked my opinion.  Thank God for my advocate.  He made me clarify to the judge a few things.  The judge began to ask me very direct and pointed questions, which I answered honestly, shocking him at times because he wasn’t expecting the answer.  For instance, I was diagnosed “manic depressive” back in 1990 at Ft. Bragg, NC.  He asked many questions about my treatment, finally asking why I sought treatment to begin with.  I replied I didn’t have much choice.  He asked why, and when I told him I was sent to the TMHC (Troop Mental Health Clinic) it was after hospitalization for a suicide attempt.  He literally did a double-take, and almost yelled at me, asking why I hadn’t mentioned that to begin with.  I could only shrug my shoulders.

Finally, at the end of the hearing, he asked if there was anything else I wanted to say, or clarify, or ask about.  I tried to express my frustration at the process, and ended up bursting into tears.  Humiliating.  My advocate again stepped in and explained that because of the way I’ve been treated by the regional office, I was leery of the procedures and process now.  Both he and the judge seemed frustrated at the way I was treated, the inconsistencies in the records, etc.  The judge told me he was a good judge of character, from doing this for a while, and he believed me.  That’s really when I started crying.  The validation didn’t feel good, it HURT.  It hurt because I finally had someone who knew the system, reviewed the evidence, believed me after initially being skeptical, and yet I couldn’t enjoy it.  All I could think about was my shrink, whom I’d trusted, basically “playing” me and making me feel like a fool for trusting him.  I’m still not sure about the ethics of him sharing details of one of my sessions with the other doctor…to my knowledge I never gave permission for such to occur, but its the government.  As my advocate explained, the minute I filed a claim with the VA, my Army medical records no longer belonged to me, they belonged to the VA and I had no real right to them without going through a process.

And for the record, I was never part of Delta Force.  I was a crewchief on a medevac Blackhawk helicopter.  My bird and crew, as well as one other bird and crew, were attached to give medevac support to another company for a few weeks.  It happened to be a part of Delta Force.  It amused the guys to let a woman shoot with them.  It amused them to share their stories and photos.  I was the only female on my crew, but the other crew consisted of three females and one male.  The other gals and I made something of a stir when we arrived to an all-male compound.  Of course there were guys talking to us.  Duh.  My shrink never let me get that far in my explanation.

Now, I don’t know what to do.  I’d considered changing my care from Jackson (2.5 hours away) to the coast (less than an hour away) due to travel distance, among other things.  The coast VA is building a brand new facility and has the best Women’s Center the VA can speak of…a brand new Women’s Center.  It just makes sense to transfer.  The one thing that kept me in Jackson was my shrink and my GP.  I loved them both, felt they really cared.  Then the past year I noticed the sudden change in their treatment of me…and started taking steps to transfer care.  Now, I’m not sure how to proceed.  I’m still going to transfer, especially now, but I’m not sure whether to “clear the record” with them first (I have future appointments with both) or just let it ride and clear the record with the new doctors when I transfer.  Clearing the record would probably do nothing for me except possibly make me feel better, but given the evidence before them, and them still doubting me because of that one misunderstanding, would it really solve anything?  Its taken three years with my shrink for me to open up enough to trust him with one of my worst nightmares, and it was taken out of context, misunderstood completely, and then used to ridicule me.  I didn’t sleep last night because of this.  I woke up in a foul mood today because of it.

Sometimes, what they say is true, its best not to find out what people are saying about you.

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