Monday, December 28, 2009

Another Middle of the Night Call

Sweetie's oldest sister died at 2 a.m. and one of her daughters called us at 5 a.m.

He's taking a nap now, exhausted, and dreading a 10 hour drive to Brighton, MI. I'm not sure I even want to look at the weather map. The roads here are icy, the temps have plummeted and the wind is howling.

He had a doctor appointment this morning, then we picked up a prescription, used a gift certificate and had lunch with my Dad - and gave him his Christmas gift. We ventured out Christmas day to drop off a few things and headed home before the weather worsened so we saw very few people. It was another quiet day at home which is fine.

Right now, we're on autopilot. In 10 months he's lost three family members. In eight months I've lost four friends. It seems all we do is pack and drive; stand in line, hug and shake hands; unpack and wonder what day of the week it is.

For the New Year I'm going to get a new address book. When I made out Christmas cards there were so many names crossed out it was depressing.

I have no energy today and find myself wishing I were sitting on the beach in Florida! Must be getting old or insane, as I've never like Florida.

Yesterday I was going to post here about New Year plans and thoughts on what we have learned here in 2009. Maybe another day.

Keep warm, safe and be grateful for your family and friends. Treesong

Monday, December 21, 2009

Government's Purpose

Government's sole purpose is to perpetuate itself. Plain and simple. If you think they're serving us in anyway, well, you've been hoodwinked.

Sure, they provide a standing army for our "defense" and they regulate business, utilities, banking, trade, food production/distribution, medical procedures and medications, highway safety and maintenance, and ...

You get the idea.

And through all their various agencies, policies. guidelines and mandates we're supposed to consider ourselves fortunate that our government cares about our well being.

In reality, they create programs, agencies, laws, regulations, task forces, focus groups and studies to justify their continued employment. Government doesn't shrink and though it may experience "cutbacks" most often there are realignments. A job or program may be cut somewhere but there's always another one created to take it's place.

Along the way, some situations and various needs are met but the status quo is maintained. Surveys, studies and reports will be found to prove that real "change" and improvement have occured. And the "change" so often promised by government is a tenacle that spreads further into the private lives of its people.

More laws and regulations generate more duplication, confusion and complications. One program shuffles paper and passes info to another agency which utilizes your statistics to "prove" the need for more government funding - and the whole circus continues ad nauseum.

And of course, various restrictions and "guidelines" must be met to "qualify" for various programs. But people, being human, find loopholes so those who have no genuine need are served by the program. Among the excuses these people use is, "if the government is giving it, I'm taking it." Hell, I've felt that way myself.

People are sick of entitlements and freeloaders. Yet really, the government encourages it. They are, in my opinion, masters of illusion, deception and plain old bribery. Need 60 votes for the Health Care Bill (a laughable, ironic name)? Just offer incentives and exceptions to certain Democratic senators and the "deal" is done. Harry Reid said as much today. It's just politics after all and some people are better players than others.

So government operations give us the best example of how to conduct business with them.

As an example, the government offers the commodity food program to seniors who meet income guideline. If you fall within those parameters, take advantage of it. So what if you own - free and clear - one million dollars of real estate; drive a 2009 Ford F250; and your only "income" is a paltry Social Security check - thanks to your late husband. Never mind that all recent sales of real estate "assets" have either been funneled through the kids' bank accounts or the cash is under your mattress. The qualifications for the program are "income" not assets, dear.

In other programs, assets and income matter and they're tracked vigorously. An example: a friend, who lives on $530/mo. in Social Security, struggles to pay property taxes, utilities, truck and homeowner insurance, and occasional repairs. She qualifies for $184 in food stamps. Like millions of Americans, she struggles to pay her propane bill. In the past, her children have helped her out but all of them are laid off work and stuggling themselves. She contacts the Human Services Dept. for help to fill her propane tank.

She's told she has too many assets. What are they? Her late husband's 18-wheeler, a tractor and an 80 acre hunting camp that she's been to once in her life. She was told to sell an asset to pay for her propane. Yeah, right. In this economy who's looking for the machinery, truck or camp? Not many and besides, it takes time to sell things. But the "regs are the regs" she was told.

Sooooooooooooo...a friend offered to "loan" her the money to pay her propane bill. My friend tells her caseworker this and in turn is told she must declare the "gift" which is considered "income." This additional "income" will eliminate her food stamps for the coming month because there's this pesky little provision that says she must spend the "asset" within the same month she receives it.

And they wonder why people give up, get disgusted, no longer trust the government, or just go out and shoot themselves or someone else.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What I've Noticed

I made a trip to town by myself today. A rare event and a bit nerve racking as the first 9 miles were ice covered roads. Once I reached clear pavement I pulled over to check out the strange noise coming from the back of our Crown Vic. Chunks of ice and slush were solidly packed and one part had partially dislodged itself causing a "clunk, clunk" sound. A little work with the shovel and the scraper handle and the mess was removed.

Eleven miles later I arrived at Walmart's nearly empty parking lot at 9 a.m. I'd expected lots of shoppers the weekend before Christmas but this was not the case. In fact, I was the only car on the road for the first nine miles and afterward met only four others until I reached the Portage Lake Lift Bridge.

Inside Walmart four checkout people waited for customers and 2-3 had someone in line. I asked one of the checkout people "What gives?". She claimed "the rush had slowed."

I leisurely covered nearly every aisle in this rare opportunity to wander and peruse products. In the grocery section there were a few notices of products no longer available due to shortages, pumpkin among them. I noticed low inventory of other products, one being the shelf stable milk. A stocker told me they have been carrying less of it due to low sales. They had also eliminated one brand. This irked me. I buy 12-18 boxes every month and others buy multiple boxes per visit but apparently this doesn't translate to strong sales. I read somewhere that Walmart was eliminating products and trying to appeal to customers with more disposable income but I think they'll lose customers in a lot of communities.

Two local grocery stores seem to follow the opposite logic: stock variety but small amounts of each. So, if I'm looking for variety I know where to turn. If I'm stocking with price in mind I go to Walmart. Wish it weren't so but I do. I really, really miss Save-a-Lot! The closest one to us is Sault Ste Marie.

More obvious is the sagging support for local charities. Many are behind in their fundraising goals; some fear being unable to distribute Christmas baskets and gifts. An additional picture of the falling economy is the empty seats at usually busy restaurants, the low census at local motels and empty seats at local watering holes. Tourism related businesses are praying for additional snowfall which usually translates into additional business but it's anyone's guess whether either will materialize.

And then I read about the growing threat of food shortages; the continuing mess in the mortgage/banking/commercial markets; and the insanity of the "Health Care" legislation - one among a never ending list of government poppycock.

As this course continues what new excuses and linguistic gymnastics will officials resort to in hopes of portraying their latest hologram as reality?

Personally, I think having little everyday contact with the daily trough of images, innuendo, indoctrination and insanity gives me a clearer picture of where we really are. It's not pretty folks; not pretty at all.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

happenings here

Just when you think life's getting a little dull...

The neighbor has an emergency and EMS and three fire trucks go whizzing down the road. The fire trucks weren't needed but EMS was. As the jerks in the neighborhood don't stop by here, don't answer their phones and otherwise don't talk to us (because we want our land respected!) we don't know if it was the elderly guy on the third two-track past us or his neighbor who may have come out to check on his camp. Usually, the elderly man drives to town daily for his beer run and a visit with his girlfriend. We haven't noticed his car in three days. The seasonal neighbor's obit was in the newspaper tonight so it may have been him.

And then we drove to town today to get my Dad. He was in his independent mode today and insisted on driving himself out here. Fortunately the roads were in better shape than they had been three hours earlier. Tomorrow we have an appointment in the nearby small town (nine mile drive) at 2 p.m. so Dad will follow us that far and then be on his own. I pray for his safety and those on the roads as he drives by, sometimes in his lane and sometimes not.

My eldest son called and asked to borrow a wood stove for the winter. His basement is cold and he wants it heated to help keep the main level comfy. Guess he's not sold on the $4000 plus pellet stove he installed this summer. His house is about 1800 square feet and he's complaining of coming home to a cold house at 6:15 every night. His request meant Sweetie had to dig the stove out of it's perch on a flatbed trailer. The picture shows part of the process. He strapped rope through the stove and lifted it to the old sauna bench from my son's basement. Now we wait for him to pick it up. This could be tomorrow or next week or never as he is dependent on others who are not dependable. With snowmobiling and snowboarding season here nearly everything else goes by the wayside for his friends - unless of course you promise a case of beer once the job is done. Even then I don't know if that's enough inducement.

In other news, Ontonagon's largest employer Smurfit Stone Container Corp. announced it will close permanently. About 186 people will be out of a job. A nursing home closed there a few months ago so they're left with the road commission, the small hospital and the school system. Not much for a few hundred people who, if they want to remain there, must drive to Ironwood, Houghton or somewhere else to work. The plant closing also affects suppliers and loggers and truckers and... well you get the idea.

And then we went to Walmart. I like going to Walmart. Not because they have great prices or service but because it's an opportunity to people watch. There were few shoppers and lots of inventory and a few check out people twiddling their fingers and hoping they wouldn't be sent home. My most interesting observation was overhearing a conversation between a mom and her young son, maybe about age 7. He begged and begged for various snacks and we met up with them again in the toy aisle. I was there looking for something for my two youngest grandkids. Didn't get anything and decided I'd bring them out one day to pick out what they want, within reason, of course. But this youngster was there begging his mom again and she was more adamant in her refusals, even telling him money was tight and "remember, your Dad is out of a job and will soon be out of the house if he doesn't bring in some money."

I wanted to slug that woman. I'm sure she's stressed to the max but telling this to a little kid is real crummy. But not to worry, as we were leaving the store, she was in the entryway talking to a friend. "Can't wait for 8 o'clock when the babysitter comes," she said. "We're going out to play pool, then party and have breakfast at Perkins in the morning." Her friend asked how they were managing and she said, "I don't care anymore about managing. To hell with all the bills. When we get kicked out we'll go to my folks or his folks and then we'll go to the welfare office."

Some people's priorities.

My friend from Tuscon called tonight and said she had been to a discount store and stocked up on paper products. "To look around my closets it reminds me of you and your stocking up," she said.

I couldn't resist asking her what condiments she was going to use with her paper products. She laughed and said, "I know, I know. But I eat out just about every day."

Oh well. She also works two jobs, lives in an apartment rented by someone else and has her bills mailed to an address here in Michigan. All other communications are via the Internet and her cell phone.

I don't know why I haven't developed the skill sets of these individuals. It does appear to work for them.

Well, it's time to clean up the kitchen

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fifty Two Inches Thus Far

Snow that is! Since Friday, December 4th.

Let it come. I could care less. We're warm, have plenty of provisions, can tolerate one another amazingly well, and our dog and cat are good company!

Today I got all excited thinking maybe we'd be snowed in on this road for at least one day. Just as I walked down the drive to get a picture of the unplowed road, the plow zoomed by. My camera was in my pocket. So like a snow nut, I stood there for 20 minutes waiting for his return from our dead end road. Kept the camera in my pocket and was able to get one picture before it froze up! Oh well.

Talked to my dad today three times. First call he was on his way out to shovel his steps - all nine of them. Second call he had just got in town - 7 mile drive to my sister's. Third call, told him we're staying home today so we won't be seeing him. This was before the plow came but we're staying in anyway. The visibility is almost zero and some Facebook friends have already been in accidents because they couldn't see on the highway when traffic came by. The area also recorded its first snowmobile death early this morning. As usual alcohol and excessive speed are suspected. Guy flew off the machine, hit a sign while airborne and landed 60 feet further away in a bank. There will be more for sure as they never seem to learn. Too bad for the families that are left to grieve, though.

I was online awhile yesterday looking for menu inspiration. Not that either of us need to eat much more! But every once in awhile it's nice to try something new. The challenge was making sure I already had the ingredients on hand. Came up with a broccoli casserole and then combined the best of two recipes for another casserole. Haven't tried either yet but if we like them I'll pass them on.

Sweetie just said he sees no point in plowing today. Five inches have come down since we woke up at 7 a.m. I'll check the weather report and we'll decide later if we ought to clear some to make room for more!

Well, time to call an elderly friend downstate and do the dishes. Keep safe and warm folks, Treesong

Monday, December 7, 2009

Since Saturday

Sunday we started the 22 mile drive to visit my Dad who was at my sister's for the afternoon. About four miles down the road the car just quit. Sweetie coasted to the roadside and soon a guy came by and gave him a ride home where he got the truck. The tow rope was already in the car and soon we had towed the car home. Of course, all the while we're thinking; not another expense!!!

This morning Sweetie called the Ford dealership and talked to the parts manager. He was told to check a button in the trunk. He'd no sooner told me about it and I had an ah-ha moment. A Mercury Tracer I owned did the same thing when I was hit broadside at an intersection. It's a safety feature that cuts the fuel off so you don't risk an explosion.

We left for town again today but took the truck and "The List." Pointless to leave home without "The List." Of course, once in a store if I spot a deal it's added to "The List." Picked up another fire extinguisher, smoke alarm, four packages of chicken gizzards for Lady, yogurt, cat litter and cat food. Now have two plus years of cat litter and cat food.

At Family Dollar I bought ten 8-roll packages of toilet paper! Sweetie says I'm anally fixated! I say I'm prepared and saved us $2 a package over what we last paid for nearly the same square footage per package (different brand last time).

Also went to Goodwill and the Salvation Army Thrift Store. For a mere $15 I got a HUGE Ralph Lauren bath towel, three picture frames (all different designs), a NEW man's flannel shirt, a Charles Wysocki puzzle, a pair of brown lounge pants, a pair of L.L. Bean snow pants, NEW women's lingerie, a woman's Faded Glory top, six pair of wool blend socks, 69 assorted design Christmas cards & envelopes and some free paperback mysteries. Two of the picture frames were new, in their boxes. I'm enlarging/cropping family photos of my Dad and giving copies to my children for Christmas.

And finally, I want to thank Hermit for his kind support and wonderful blog. Today, I found this gem in his blog: "... unexpected things in life can test us, can unite us, and can be the basis for a strong future." Wonderful reminder for all of us!

Forecast calls for six below here Thursday night. That will be a test of our pipe insulation, heat tape and caulking. Personally, I'm looking forward to a good blizzard. Won't bother us one bit! Last night I was doing some "mindless calculating" as Sweetie termed it. That "mindless" exercise tells me we - and our dog and cat - could stay here for 19 months without needing any food and enjoy a variety of healthy, nutritious foods as well as treats. This is without growing a garden! It's just a great feeling to know we wouldn't starve. What more could we ask for?

Well, time to load the wood stove! Treesong

Saturday, December 5, 2009

We Came Home to Snow

More than eight inches of snowfall yesterday and six inches since 1:20 p.m. today! Sweetie plowed the drive yesterday after we gunned it through the drift in our drive. The car's in the garage, our truck is on loan to someone who's moving in this mess and the Blazer with the plow did a fine job - and Sweetie stayed warm.

Our trip was tiring, sad and a lot of white knuckle driving the last 100 miles. Can truly say that it's good to be back. Four to six lanes of bumper to bumper traffic during rush hour is for those who think life has to be "Achieved." Personally, I'll stay broke, well fed, warm and surrounded by pine trees, idiot neighbors and the sound of Lake Superior's waves crashing the shoreline. At a mile away we hear her mighty power daily and it's awe inspiring, to say the least.

Sometime within the next few days - depending on the weather - we'll do our monthly shopping. I spent today cleaning cupboards, sorting drawers, taking an inventory and dusting the tops of cans, buckets and boxes along the way. We've determined we have the wall to ceiling space above our current pantry shelves to accommodate more steel shelving so a few resale shops, Habitat for Humanity and finally Walmart will be checked for the best deal. Sweetie screwed the existing shelves to the wall and now he's building me a ladder attached to a horizontal pole so I can slide along the shelving - think library ladder to access canned goods!

Well, Sweetie just woke up from his nap and said, "Good Morning!"

I think he's wrung out from the trip. It's 4:30 p.m. NOT a.m.

Have a good day and stay warm! Treesong

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Sometimes you're hit with so much at once you either crack or become anesthetized to it all. I feel that way today.

We've been sticking close to the land line phone for a couple day, waiting for "the call" about Sweetie's oldest sister. Yup, another impending death.

Today we had to go to town so we took a prepaid cell phone that we've never used. Still no call.

The weather is changing tonight and the forecast calls for nearly 10 inches of snow within the next 24-36 hours. If we have to leave I'd sure like to get out now.

But, as with most of OUR life, we're asked to wait. Instant gratification, recognition, acceptance, understanding, excitement or appreciation just don't seem to come our way too often. Still some people hang onto that belief.

We were talking about this while in town and then wandered around Walmart waiting for Sweetie's scripts to be filled. What an opportunity to watch people stress out while justifying their "need" to accumulate STUFF.

One poignant example was a young mother who has cystic fibrosis and may be 20 now. She complains daily about "having no money" and how tough it is to live on $650 a month in SS disability. Yet she's foregoing her rent, electric and cable TV bill to spend on her 16 month old for Christmas. Now, one could say she may not have many more Christmas's so why not splurge? But the stress she'll endure when the shut off notices come will exacerbate her condition. Sometimes, when that happens, she takes it out on her son.

Our banker told us about the rise locally in foreclosures and a certain hospital placing liens on people's checking accounts and paychecks. The hospital will not accept payment plans of $50 a month from someone with 3-4 children who makes $400 a week and pays a $650 a month mortgage! Instead, the hospital demands $500 initial payment followed by a "reasonable" $175-250 a month. Unfortunately, lots of these people, according to the banker, also have car payments, no insurance or horrible insurance deductibles, and a need to "keep up with the Jones."

I said "keeping up with the Jones" now means losing a home, job(s), insurance, security and the misplaced belief that fedgov is watching out for you. He gave me a quizzical look and said, "Sounds like you've been reading some conspiracy theory stuff."

Incredible, considering the scenario he had just told us about. And so I told him that.

Well, I have to close now and free up the phone line. Maybe a trip away for a couple days, even to a funeral, will do us good.