I had a stroke … October 16, 2016

Something I never expected would happen, actually happened.  I had a STROKE.  I have none of the expected “signs” of a stroke – no high blood pressure, no A-Fib or other heart problems, out of control cholesterol, diabetes, blood clots, etc.  As a matter of fact, I had no idea I even had a stroke during the night.  I did not have a drooping face, I was not paralyzed but I could not open a water bottle, I took a shower, washed my hair and was going about my day like nothing happened.  Then, I tried to speak to my daughter and I could not speak.  I immediately realized that I must have had a stroke but I could not tell her.  I could not speak, write, and the mayhem began.  More on that in a later post.

“They” (my team of doctors) think it may have been stress.  We may simply never know what caused my stroke.  Obviously, if we had an answer, it would be better for me so we can avoid the “triggers” but, quite frankly, it is what it is.  Sometimes I feel like “stress” is the easy answer to explain the unexplainable – but maybe stress truly is a cause of some physical ailments.

No question that I was absolutely under a lot of stress but I had been for decades, but why now?  I have a very stressful job – legal secretary/paralegal and worked long hours, including traveling for trial, ever-changing demands, etc. but I love my job.  I feel very fortunate to have a great job that I actually enjoy because I was not able to go to college for financial reasons, which by the way, I always wanted to get a college education but life got in the way.  I have been taking care of my precious daughters and all that entails with little help from their father.  I was able to send my daughters to college and invest in their future (and, yes, I will be paying those college loans until I die).  I have also been taking care of my elderly mom for the past 11 years and who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2013.  When I say taking care of her, I literally mean she lived with me and my daughters for the past 11 years.  That has not been an easy undertaking for sure – on any of us – my mom or on me and my daughters.  But as hard as it is on all of us, it is even harder on my mom who realized she was losing her mind, who lost her independence, and I am sure the confusion that Alzheimer’s brings brought her much anxiety.   I had converted my garage into living space for her so she can be as independent as she wanted to be, which was a life-saver for all, especially mentally, for all of us.   In August 2016, she fell and broke her hip, was in the hospital for hip replacement surgery, then skilled nursing for weeks, and then I made the difficult decision to put her in a nursing home.  I felt she needed the 24/7 care that we could not provide.  I was working.  I had surveillance cameras and a nanny-cam which would alert me when she was on the move but it was not enough to keep her safe.  I still feel guilty because I know that no one will take care of our loved one like we would.  Just a fact.  We will all deal with helping our aging parents in some capacity.

On top of that, I was so busy at work (a 40 hour week was uncommon for me – way more hours); I returned recently from Delaware for trial (I love trial); I was dealing with my daughter’s DWI (which costs a fortune, btw); I was listed as a witness in a lawsuit and there was a possibility I was going to be scheduled for a deposition the following week (no good deed goes unpunished); a drunk illegal hit my daughter’s parked car (thank God she had just walked away however, my insurance paid $15,000 in damages and rent car … and dealing with the DA); still trying to pursue the San Luis Resort whose golf cart driver hit my youngest daughter car and refuses to pay the claim (another $12,ooo which my insurance had to pay), my house flooded in 2015 and the expenses and fall out from that ($400 premium to $2,000 this year) along with other usual “life” stress triggers.  I was in the process of all of that stress when the stroke happened.

We all live with stress.  Life can be stressful and life is very expensive which is stressful just by itself.  I have always used “humor” to ease the pain of whatever is happening in my life.  I joke a lot about my situation and have always made fun of life hurdles.   I could have crawled up in a ball and cried but what good what that do?   Not that I did not have my days in my dark closet having a pity party but you pull yourself and get on with it – one day at a time … sometimes one moment at time …

I know that having a stroke is serious but humor helps. You never know what could happen that could potentially change your life. It could have been so much worse for me so I am very grateful. My family and friends have been invaluable in my recovery and I have a wonderful speech therapist and my team of doctors.  The outpouring of support is amazing.  I am not paralyzed but I have speech (Aphasia) and some serious cognitive issues/executive function issues but I am getting better every day.   I talk like I am very slow/retarded, I struggle with writing and spelling (still googling for words), grammar, and don’t get me started on math – I cannot do simple math.  Period.  Retraining my brain, working on speech, and not know what caused the stroke – it is incredibly frustrating.  It this is as good as it gets, so be it.  I’m not working and it could be months before I return to work, only getting a fraction of your paycheck – facing financial hurdles and hardship is enough to give you another stroke!  It is all very stressful – but “don’t get stressed because that could be the reason for your stroke” – OMG. UGH.  

But here is the lesson:  don’t take things for granted, be grateful, live life – you don’t know what is going to happen and get more disability insurance (not kidding).  In an instant, your life and your family’s life can change dramatically.  Be prepared.  Save your money – pay yourself first.  Thank goodness, I had an IRA, 401K of which I am depleting at record speed.

Thank goodness, I also put together what I call the “death binder” a long time ago in the event that something happens to me which contains my legal documents, my assets/liabilities, my life insurance, beneficiaries even down to my obituary (not complete).  I am now working on my song selection and picture slide show.   🙂  The point is that I want my children to have everything they need in case of my death.  My death binder is very comforting to me.  I highly recommend a binder for everyone.  Nothing is worse than your loved ones having to search for information in their time of grief.  I am assuming that they would be grieving.  Ha.

Below is a picture of me when I was released from the hospital (less than 24 hours in the hospital) that I found out later that one of my daughters took of me.  And, the sweet note my daughters wrote for the GoFundMe page.  I am grateful.

More later … still recovering so forgive any errors.   #IhadaStroke #BrainRehab #BeGrateful #BuyLotteryTickets #LiveLife  14670668_10154592999836948_894778233767136549_n

Dear friends,

We all know that my mother, Brenda, is a hardworking single mother who has been the sole support of my sister and I for years.   She has also been supervising the care of my grandmother.  Now she needs our help.

Just when you think her life could not get any more stressful, she has a stroke.  She is only 54 years old and we currently do not know the cause of this stroke.  We have good and bad days, but most of her days consist of how we will pay for everything.  With this stroke, she is now facing medical costs as well as living expenses.  We have not received her medical bills to date, but her medical needs include increased prescriptions as well as visits to  Neurology,  Cardiology, and Speech Therapy for an unknown period of time.  She had an MRI, CAT Scan, EEG, and Ultrasound while in the hospital.  With insurance’s  high deductibles and only covering a percentage of these costs, we know there will be a large balance leftover.   She cannot write, type, or talk efficiently, and cannot get better at these basic skills without the Therapy and help from many doctors.  They anticipate several months to recovery.

Though she will receive disability until she is able to return to work, it will be at just a percentage of her salary.  Living expenses and taking care of my grandmother were already difficult enough to meet with her full salary.

Please consider helping her alleviate these stressors by donating and helping her build a medical fund and living.

I do not know how much this is going to cost us and I can only do so much by myself, especially from a financial standpoint.  She has always done everything for us and I want to help de-stress her life as much as possible.  Any extra stress can cause another stroke, especially in these first 90 days – I am trying to keep this from happening… Her number one worry is paying these medical bills, as well as living expenses. Anything helps. I am so worried for the future in how we will get these bills paid.  Thank you so much.

– Lexi and Sara Winfree

Source: I had a stroke … October 16, 2016

Dogs, dogs, dogs – Sydney

imageI love dogs. Dogs are special. They bring a lot of joy, they are great companions, they love you unconditionally and so much more.  They become a huge part of my family. I don’t understand why some people keep their dogs outside 100% of the time. My dogs live with us just as they were little people. My kids make fun of me because I talk to our dogs like they are  people.

I have two daughters.  When they were younger, they always asked if we could get a dog (I’m allergic to cats).  I always said “one day” when you both are older.  I think dogs are great for kids.  Dogs can teach kids so many things – they need to understand the responsibility.  Having a dog is not “convenient” and not just for show.  They need to be trained and they need a lot of attention.  If you are not ready for a life time commitment, you should not get a dog.  Period.

14 years ago, my children (first grader and fifth grader) begged me to go to the SPCA. I said sure but do not get your hopes up. I am not sure I have the time to devote to a dog. I tried to explain that dogs need attention, they cost money, and they are a lot of responsibility.  Having a dog is like having another small child.  So, “we are not getting a dog” today but we can go look.  Famous last words.

So, we go to the SPCA.  We walk around all the dogs –  big dogs, little dogs, puppies and of course it all strikes me that it is all so sad to see so many homeless dogs.  Some are turned in by their previous owners or even sadder, some people dump their dogs in various places like they are disposable.  I do not understand that – dogs are little people, aren’t they?  These dogs have a history with a family and it is so incredibly sad to me that somehow they ended up in a shelter.  Maybe they ran away and their family could not find them.  Maybe they did not want to find their family pet.  In any event, I find the shelters very sad.

My kids are bouncing around the shelter so excited about all the dogs.  They stop at every dog cage to look and to pet them if the dog will let them.  Some of the dogs are obviously frightened – of course they are.  Wouldn’t you be?  Some are aggressive, some just lay there, some will come up to you begging for attention.  But I know that their behavior in that cage may not be any indication of their true personality.  I do not know where they came from, how they were treated, and what that means for them now.  Our past shapes our future.  Wouldn’t that be true for dogs as well?  They may have lost trust in people.  We do not know their background.  Their life is summarized on one sheet of paper.  Just basic information – male/female, found or turned in by their owner, and maybe a little about their personalities if you are lucky and if it is even accurate.

We finally visit the puppies.  Of course, they are cute and cuddly but there are not many puppies in that special area because most people want puppies.   They see a man playing with a puppy – an Australian Shepherd, cattle dog mix.  They watch him and the dog.  My kids get even more excited.  The man tells the SPCA representative that the puppy is “not active enough.”  I see a tentative scared dog and think to myself “of course she is not, she looks scared to death.”  So, she is put back in her cage.  We watch the other people holding or playing with their new potential pet.  My kids ask to hold a puppy so I find a representative to help us.  They want to see the Austrialian Shepherd mix.  I read her history – she was found on the street.  She is about three months old.  She is friendly.  She has not been in the shelter long.  That is all we know.  So we wait (which seems like an eternity to my kids) until we finally get a room for us to spend time with this precious puppy.  My kids are thrilled.  The puppy is tentative but friendly, not too active but the more time we spend with her, the more active she becomes.  She is playful, likes to be held.  We like her and she seems to like us.  Now the kids are begging me and insisting we have to adopt her before someone else does.  They just KNOW that this puppy is meant to be a part of our family.  My famous last words are coming back to haunt me:  “we aren’t getting a dog today.”  Seriously, who goes to a shelter to “just look” and not adopt a dog?  But it is important to get the right breed for your family and lifestyle for everyone’s sake.  I know only a little about Australian Shepherds.  I know they are smart, loyal, and supposed to be great companions.  They aren’t a lap dog.  They grow to be a big dog, are active and needs a lot of attention.  Are we prepared for that?  Do we have time to devote to a dog?  I’m a working single mom with two kids and receive little help from their father.   Can I afford a dog?  I work a lot so do I have time to devote to a dog?  These are real considerations.

I complete the adoption application.  We are approved.  But they need to spay her so we can’t take her home that day.  They will call when she is ready.  We go to a pet store, buy all the necessities including a crate.  When she is ready to come home, we find out that during her surgery, it was determined that she was actually younger than they originally thought.  She was only about two months old.  Sad. Barely old enough to be away from her mother.  But we are excited to bring our new family member home.  We name her Sydney.  Let the house training and our new life begin with our little new addition.

She turned out to be the best dog ever.  I laugh at the stranger’s comment that she is not active enough.  That could not be farther from the truth.  She runs so fast and is so agile.  I thought about agility training for her.  She is smart, loving, friendly, a great guard dog for us but at first is very wary of strangers that visit us at her home but she becomes a friend to all our friends.  She is skittish – afraid of storms and vacuum cleaners.  She grew to be 50 lbs.  We had so many great times with her.  I am so grateful that she is a member of our family.  It was a good decision.

Over the years, we rescue another dog.  Sydney enjoys the company.

Fast forward to January 2011.  The kids’ dad (“Dad”) wants to take Sydney for the weekend.  He is good with Sydney.  He has even helped train her.  He has taken her before when he takes the kids out to visit his sister in the country.  But, he does not live near us.  I’m in an established neighborhood.  He lives in a different type of neighborhood.  He lives in a high rise on a busy street (Westheimer) with lots of shopping centers, and near a railroad track.  But he is good with her and he is attached to her just as we are.  I’m worried about saying yes because in the off chance that she would get lost, she would not be able to find her way home but she should be safe.  I am definitely a worrier.  So off she goes on her weekend retreat.

He takes her for a walk at night down Westheimer across the railroad tracks (which she did not like at all because of the narrow bridge) and it is a very busy street but Sydney is well-behaved, walks on a leash and follows commands.  Sydney is enjoys the walk and the attention from people.  They were walking back home and had to cross the railroad tracks.   A train approaches.  He knows that she can be nervous about loud noises so they wait in a parking lot near the tracks until it passes.  As the train crosses the tracks, Sydney panics, starts pulling on the leash and her collar breaks and she runs off in the opposite direction and towards Loop 610, a busy freeway.  Sydney is black and gray merle color and she is lightening fast.  He chases her but she is just too fast.  He spends hours looking for her.  He is mortified – holding  her broken collar, tags and a leash.  Sydney is gone.

He calls me Saturday morning to tell me what happened.  I am devastated.  Oh and by the way, it is our daughter’s birthday.  She is on her winter break from college.  I cannot tell either one of my kids that our precious Sydney is missing just yet.  I do not want to ruin her birthday.  I am convinced we can find her.  I quickly make flyers, put them in sheet protectors, and head to the last place he saw her.  We divide and conquer – we both get in our respective cars and go on the hunt.   We post the flyers everywhere, I stop and talk to everyone I see and handing them flyers and when I run out of flyers, give them my cell phone number.  I make more flyers, post about my missing dog on every website I can think of then drive around for hours.  It is supposed to freeze that night.  I cannot imagine how scared Sydney must be but I know she is smart.  She will find a place to shelter if we cannot find her before nightfall.  It is now time for the birthday dinner.  It is cold already.  I try to act normal, hoping nobody will notice my eyes are swollen from crying.  I cannot wait for dinner to be over so I can continue my mission.  I feel guilty that I can’t wait to leave the dinner and because I am hiding this terrible secret from my kids.

Sunday – still no word, no sighting, no phone call.  I told Dad that he needs to tell the kids what happened and they can help us look for her.  Sydney will recognize their voice and maybe come out of hiding.  As you can imagine, that did not go well.  They are devastated, worried, crying and angry.  It is raining and supposed to be freezing cold for days.  I already had more flyers ready so off we go.

Monday – I have to go to work.  I am just sick over the entire situation.  I look for her during my lunch hour.  5 pm I receive a call on my cell phone.  Someone spotted her.  I leave my office and look for her.  I did not find her.  Remember it gets dark early in January.

Tuesday – Another call!  I abruptly leave the office.  No luck.  But the “sighting” is in the same neighborhood so I focus there.  I see all my flyers, just a sad reminder for me.  I am more determined to find her.  I talk to more people who are walking their dogs, give them my number.  I go back to the office.  I’m feeling defeated.

Wednesday – Another call!  I text my friend, Ria, who is active in dog rescue, who knows Sydney.  I tell her what street the man just reported seeing her and luckily, she is literally two streets away.  I leave the office.  She heads to the street.  The man who called me was still there so she was able to talk to him.  He works in the area and had seen the flyers.  He tried to get her but she ran off and he could not see where she ran off to, just the general direction – she is so fast and dark colored.  A woman who lives on the street was there and I told her about my dog.  She said she has seen my dog the last few days and has been feeding her but Sydney will not come near her even if she has food or treats.  She leaves the food then watches her eat and drink from her house window.  She showed me where Sydney has been sleeping.  She found a small protected and hidden area with a fence on two sides and a tree.  She walks her dogs but had not seen the flyers.  I cannot believe I was so close to finding her.  I told the man, my friend, and the good samaritan that I’m going to park my car under the street light with the doors open and wait.  The caller and the homeowner leaves.  I move my car.  Ria and I were just talking and I decided to call her name.  “Sydney, Sydney.”  Unbelievably, Sydney runs out of the bushes from the house across the street from where we were all just standing and jumped into the back seat of my car.  She had waited until the “strangers” were gone to come out of the bushes.  We are laughing and crying.  I can’t believe our luck.

We rescued two more dogs from the Harris County Shelter.  We went to get one and ended up adopting two.  One of them was in quarantine for kennel cough and 1) I knew it was not kennel cough – it is reverse sneezing, and 2) most people would not even look at this dog because it was “sick” and they had him isolated.  It was just luck I even saw this dog.  I knew his fate.  I’m becoming a “dog lady” in my old age.

Fast forward to March 2016.  Sydney is getting old.  She lays down most of the time on her favorite spot on the living room sofa.  She has been having health problems, we had put her on medication but she is having trouble walking, incontinent, etc.  She seems miserable and is in pain.  She is really having trouble walking now.  I can’t stand to see her this way.  I think that we are keeping her alive for us at the cost of her well-being.  For the first time, I can hear Sydney crying/moaning on the sofa in the living room.  That was the deciding factor.  We make the heartbreaking decision to let her cross the rainbow bridge.  My kids do not want to go to witness her dying.  I can understand that.  I take her to my vet, I had to have someone help me carry her in.  I am crying uncontrollably.  We go into the exam room.  I am second guessing our decision.  I do not want to let go but I cannot stand to see her suffer.  Is there anything else we can do for her?  Give her more medication?  The vet reassures me.  He has been her vet all her life.  I am holding her, talking to her, they bring the shot, and I know it is the best thing for her. I tell Sydney I am heartbroken, grateful for all the years we had with her and I love her.  She is looking at me, I am still talking to her, petting her, they start administering the shot, she closes her eyes, and it was peaceful.  I have never had gone through that before.  I am devastated.  But she is not suffering and that is what is important.  What is best for her.  I would not want to live that way.

I vow never to adopt another dog again.  I cannot handle the end.  We still have two dogs but it is not the same.  Each one is special in their own way.  We tragically lost another dog two years ago.  It was hit by a car and the driver did not bother to even stop to help her.  Just lucky again, we found her and rushed her to Texas A&M but they were not able to save her.  More on that later.

I want others to know how awesome dogs are and how adoption can change your life.  If you want a dog, please consider rescuing a dog from a shelter.  At times, even though I rescued them, I think the dogs rescued me.  Although the end is heartbreaking, the rewards are worth it.

By the way, writing is therapy for me and it is way cheaper than therapy.

Taking my life back …

I made a small public service announcement on Facebook and received an overwhelming amount of support.  My announcement: “I AM TAKING MY LIFE BACK!! I’m so DONE with all the crazy family drama, deadbeats, fake friends, friends and ex’s that badmouth people — all that crap. DONE. DONE. DONE. So, be honest, be real or get out of my way … I am going to be the best person I can be – just not taking the crap. It is OK for us to say “no” when we need to. I am so happy – beyond words happy. Thanks. Have a great day!”

What made me declare my epiphany – my “AHA” moment.  I was DONE.  Over it – the drama, chaos and all the negativity all of that crap brings.  It is ok to say NO.

We all make decision based on information we have at the time.  Sometimes we make the wrong decisions for the wrong reasons but sometimes we make the right decisions for the right reasons and the wrong decisions for the right reasons.   You get the idea.  But, hopefully, we always learn from our past and move forward.  For me, I would rather make a bad decision than  no decision at all.  I do not like limbo or ambivalence.  Sometimes we weigh the good v the bad.  The cost v the outcome.  Like litigation – how important is it to be right and to pay a bunch of attorneys fees?  For example, a family member owes my mother a LOT of money.  But, if we spend a ton of money collecting the money that we have little hope of ever recovering, was it worth it?  For what?  To be right?  To make a point? And, the worst outcome, she will not go away. It is always something with her.

So many people stay in unhappy relationships for a variety of reasons.  I decided to get out and I’m relieved.  I’m happier.  I feel free from the pressure, the unhappiness, all of that stuff.  I discovered that this man was bad mouthing me and my kids to his kids, our neighbors, his friends, and anyone that would listen.  He didn’t think of the consequences of such self-serving actions.  His kids resented me and my kids over his lies.  Untruths. Yes, I was angry. Even after the truth was known, the damage was done. How could I stay?

For years, I stayed in a family relationship that was draining, unhealthy and chaotic.  One of the best decisions I ever made was I decided to let go of that crazy sister and cease contact with her. But she is like gum on my shoe – she isn’t ever really gone …

It is always something … storm damage/good neighbor

Just when I think I am getting ahead – financially and making a serious dent in my never-ending “things-to-do” list, something happens.

There was a severe thunderstorm last week.  I parked in my driveway as usual. I even thought about the possibility of flooding.  We had a “freak flood” in April 2009.  My home is not in a flood zone yet it flooded.  But that is another story … but let’s say the City of Houston (Mayor Bill White), TIRZ 17, developers Trammell Crow, Fidelis Investment, Memorial City entities, et al. all had hand in that “freak flood” because they allowed development that they KNEW was going to cause flooding in my neighborhood but developed anyway.  They had several engineering companies tell them that the development with no detention or retention was going to cause the area to flood.  If we have rain, I always think of flooding.  PTSD?  Horrible flashbacks … but thank goodness I had flood insurance; otherwise, this damage would have bankrupted me.  Flood insurance is not required except for my peace of mind.  I have seen people in ruins because they didn’t have flood insurance just because they weren’t in a flood zone, therefore, they thought they didn’t need it.

But, back to the recent storm.  There is a large tree on my neighbors’ property which hangs over their house and my driveway and roof.  During the storm with 68 MPH winds, a large dead branch fell from their tree and hit my car.  Other small branches pelted my car and there are a lot of scratches as well as many dents.   The damage is several dents in several places along the car – hood, roof, side/top near the windows, the side of the car and the windshield.  It looks more like someone took a bat to my car.  What a nice surprise to walk out to go to work and see the car that I have only had for less than 6 weeks with dents all over it.  But, time to go to work – busy day ahead.  I just shake my head – it is always something.  Not in a self-pity way, more of an “OMG, are you kidding me” way.  Add that to the ever growing “to-do” list = 1) call the neighbors regarding the tree; 2) call the insurance company; 3) make appointment to get the car repaired; 4) call the rent car company; and 5) whatever else.  One incident, several more things to do.  Check.

I get a frantic call from my neighbor who told me about the large branch and several small branches in my driveway.  She wanted to report that her tree dropped the branches and was happy to report it did not hit my house.   I had to break the news to her – it damaged my car.  She expressed shock that I hadn’t called her.  I told her it was on my list of things to do but I had been busy at work.  She felt horrible about it.  She thinks she is responsible.  I’m not sure who is – yes, there had been issues with the tree in the past and yes, we talked about it.  But, there was a windstorm aka “act of God.”  But, the tree limb was completely dead.  She was horrified she had not noticed that the branch was dead.  I just want to be a good neighbor.  I’m not angry, not accusatory, and just not sure who is responsible.  If it were just the storm and not a long history with the tree, I think we should just chalk it up to one of those things and my insurance will pay (great – another claim on my policy).  She reported it to her insurance company. The adjuster called me the same day.  As soon as he asked about my insurance, I knew they were going to deny liability and coverage.  In her defense, I have not ever demanded that they completely remove the tree although we tossed the idea around.

Never mind the fact that the tree had done previous damage to another one of my cars during another storm.  Never mind the fact that the same tree cracked my driveway with its roots which also cracked the wall in my house.  I was assured that severing the roots would stop causing further damage to my property and the neighbor’s tree company said that severing the roots would not compromise the tree.  Never  mind the fact that the same tree lost more branches and damaged the neighbor’s garage roof.  Never mind the fact that the branch was dead (no leaves, hollow … obviously dead).  Never mind the fact that the neighbors accepted responsibility for the damage their tree caused.  I understand the “act of God” reasoning regarding liability.  However, with the history of the tree, should they have reasonably known that the tree had potential for liability and damage?  Should their insurance pay?  If not, would a good neighbor pay my auto deductible?  They offered but I’m not going to hold them to it.  Truth be told, it could have been a lot worse.  I am thankful the dead branch didn’t hurt anyone.  I’m thankful that it didn’t smash the windshield and cause water damage to my car.  I’m very thankful it didn’t damage my house – I have a huge deductible on my homeowner’s policy.

For the record, it is not just a simple situation of insurance coverage.  I want to be a good neighbor.  And, I think they do too.  We talked about the tree again after the latest incident. We like the tree.  It provides great shade.  Although at certain times of the year, I don’t park in my driveway because it drips sap all over my car. How much damage to  my home and cars should I suffer because of a tree?   I told them that it is probably time to think about getting rid of the tree.  The plan is that they will have a tree guy come out to determine if the tree is dying or if severing the roots caused some limbs to die.  They don’t want the liability but they really don’t want to get rid of the tree either.   While this is fresh on my mind, I also hired a tree guy to come trim all of my trees.  Some limbs are getting close to my house, my other neighbor’s house, too close to the power lines, etc.  Well worth the $500.00 for my property to look better, avoid liability and to be a good neighbor.

Just my luck that I have had the car for only about 6 weeks and now it is at the Lexus dealership being repaired.  Estimated time:  3 weeks.  Seriously?  The repairs are a little complicated because of where the dents are.  The insurance company will probably send their own adjuster instead of just relying on the dealership because the extent of damage. When the estimator looked at the car and said “oh wow that is a lot of damage” I knew it was going to be expensive and take a while.  Rough guess of damages?  $5,000+.  So, I am in a rent car for approximately 3 weeks.  Oh joy.

Oh well.  These things happen.  Deep breath.  $250 deductible.  Another claim on my auto policy. $500 to trim my trees.  And, I’m a good neighbor.

Food for thought.

Questioning With Boldness...

The following is a transcript of a letter to the editor that first appeared on June 9, 2010, in the Iosco County News Herald. It is attributed to someone by the name of Ken Huber from Tawas City, Michigan. I feel that is equally relevant 6 months later and maybe it can be a barometer for how the Republican Congress is doing at making inroads into changing the current state of ship in the U.S.

What has America become?

Editor,

Has America become the land of special interest and home of the double standard?

Lets see: if we lie to the Congress, it’s a felony and if the Congress lies to us its just politics; if we dislike a black person, we’re racist and if a black person dislikes whites, its their 1st Amendment right; the government spends millions to rehabilitate criminals and they do almost nothing for the victims; in public schools…

View original post 321 more words

Black or white?

Is anything ever really black and white?

The Rutgers’ student, Dharun Ravi, was found guilty for an invasion of privacy and bias intimidation, a hate crime. Ravi used his webcam to spy on his roommate Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide after he discovered Ravi spied on him and tweeted about him – apparently outing him as gay.  There is no doubt that Ravi was at the very least morally wrong in using his webcam to spy on someone.  I think we can all agree on that.

The verdict … guilty.  It was deserved.  The punishment …  does the punishment fit the crime? Obviously, I only know what the press reports.  I was not in the courtroom and I do not know anyone associated with this case.   I did not follow the case closely but the verdict and punishment has me thinking …

I remember when this tragedy was first reported.  My first thought was “OMG how horrible for the victim.”  How can someone do something so thoughtless and insensitive?  More importantly, WHY?  People who know me are all painfully aware that I hate bullies. I am passionate about bullying and will speak out against bullying at every opportunity.  I believe that people should help, not hurt, others.  I believe that we should speak out and stand up for what is right even when it is unpopular.   I do not understand what drives people to be so hateful and mean to others – especially kids in school.

I have learned that bullying means a wide variety of things to people.  “Bully” almost seems like a childish term – an act that we associate with elementary and middle schools.   But for a lack of a better word, I will continue to use the word “bully.”  Bullying happens daily everywhere – in schools even high school, the workplace, in the community, on the internet … everywhere.  Was he a bully?  Was this a hate crime?

Bullying is just wrong.  It destroys people.  Why can’t people just leave others alone instead of bullying them?  I struggle to understand WHY WHY WHY.  The consequences are serious and sometimes deadly.   I believe that bullies should face consequences if they are responsible for pushing someone to suicide but is that really the case here?  Ravi is not being held responsible for the suicide in this case.

Ravi, 20 years old, was found guilty.  He spied on his roommate not just once but twice.  Clearly intentional.  Then tweeted about it several times.  Ravi has been described as arrogant and didn’t like “poor people” although his family was not mega-wealthy either.  Allegedly, there is evidence that Clementi was shy, introverted, didn’t have many friends, and had some issues.  He had confessed to his parents that he was gay just before starting college.  He asked for a roommate change after discovering what Ravi had done.  Clementi committed suicide–after his Facebook post “Jumping off the gw bridge, sorry.”  Was Clementi a fragile soul before Ravi or did this drive him to suicide?  Was he suicidal before Ravi?  Was this just the last straw?  Allegedly, there is a suicide note that not even Clementi’s family has seen.  He had previously made a comment about suicide and the bridge – way before even meeting Ravi.  There was evidence that Clementi checked Twitter over 38 times in two days before he jumped off the bridge.  Ravi is not charged with causing Clementi’s death. But, Ravi doesn’t seem to accept responsibility for his actions and even tried to cover it up once he learned of the suicide.

I don’t believe that Ravi intentionally drove Clementi to suicide.   In other words, he didn’t set up the webcam or tweet to cause the suicide although that was the outcome.   BUT, with all the media attention on bullying and suicides, isn’t that the assumption that it could be the outcome?  How many times do we have to hear about bullying and suicides before we take notice?  Were we surprised that the victim committed suicide?  So, was he just an extremely immature college student not thinking of any consequences?  Or was the roommate unstable?  Should he be held responsible?

My reaction when I heard the guilty verdict – “It is about time people are responsible for their actions. This guy was wrong in videotaping his roommate.”  He faces 10 years in prison and could be deported to his native India although he has been here nearly all his life.  Watching Ravi as the verdict is read is a little disturbing because he didn’t seem to show emotion but that could be a cultural thing.  My second reaction – I think the verdict is too harsh.  Right subject, wrong case for that verdict.  I think the young man was unstable before his suicide.

The entire situation is tragic.  We all feel bad for the victim and his family but do we also feel bad for Ravi and his family?  I do.  Many lives were hurt and ruined by stupid thoughtless actions but does the punishment fit the crime?  Is it too harsh?  Was this a case of severe consequences for the bully of an emotionally unstable roommate?  No punishment will bring Clementi  back but there needs to be some sort of punishment.  What is appropriate?  Does he deserve 10 years in prison for his actions and deportation?  Is ruining his life appropriate?  If this was a heterosexual couple in the dorm room, would the outcome be different?  He was offered a plea deal and turned it down.  The girl involved accepted the plea deal.  He chose to go to trial.

Rutgers said in a statement that freedom of expression, tolerance and the right to personal privacy are important to any university community, and added the “sad incident should make us all pause” to recognize the importance of civility and mutual respect.”

Well said.  My hope is that maybe this case will make another person to think before acting.  I firmly believe that people need to be held accountable for their actions.  There are always consequences.  But was this just? I am not sure that it was.  Is anything ever really black and white?