Saturday, December 7, 2013

Fair and Balanced - Some thoughts on research and media

This started out as a comment on Fierce Freethinking Fatties - this post in particular Fair and Balanced, but I soon saw that it was becoming a post in itself, and was going to end up hijacking any comment thread that followed. So here it is, on my blog, as an explanation for why I have a problem with research, and a real problem with the media. I can remember a time when a reporter wrote an article/story and followed the rules I was taught in every writing class I ever took - every story should contain a Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How in order to be complete. Most of the articles I read in the news now don't come close to containing all of those prerequisites. Most of the news today is slanted/biased, it's not objective, it's trying to press some agenda for some group or other, and it's more interested in headlines and making money than it is in actually informing the public. It's all about soundbites and what will bring in the readers, even if it's just for that one item - who knows, maybe another one of those soundbites will capture readers' attention for the 10 seconds it takes to read it and move on to the next item. That's not informing us, that's not educating us about what's happening in the world and what it means for us.
After 50+ years of being told I'm fat, in a tone that makes it perfectly clear that being fat is not acceptable, and when, for the first 18 years of my 60 years of life, realizing that I wasn't actually fat at all, yeah, I get pissed when science is used to beat me over the head and tell me how unacceptable and unworthy I am. When you've been hearing that shit for as long as I have, it's really difficult to find the energy to dig deep enough to find what's under those headlines that people beat me (and other fat people) over the head with all the time. When every commercial tells me I'm disgusting, lazy, ugly, useless, dirty, stupid, and a worthless piece of shit, which, by the way, just reinforces everything my mother used to say to me, it's difficult to even want to dig deep enough to find out what those studies really said, especially when some of them are so poorly designed in the first place - whether that's because the researchers didn't care, were biased, or had a specific agenda in mind, or whatever other reasons there may be. So the healthy skepticism I had when I was younger has turned into cynicism and anger. I think my anger is justified - after all, 50+ years of being treated like shit, not only by people who don't know me, but by family, who were supposed to love me and support me, simply because they "think" I'm fat (whether I was or not), well, that anger is damned difficult to get over and it bleeds over into too many areas of my life, my writing included.
I don't have a problem with science itself. My problem is with the people who use science. Everyone has biases and prejudices about one or more areas, some of them are conscious, some are not. Those biases/prejudices are sometimes reflected in their work, whether it's running a business or doing research. The conscious biases/prejudices can be controlled for, if the researcher is honest, but the unconscious ones creep in and skew the results. Data is left out that should have been included, data that should have been left out is included - that skews the results, whether it's intentional or not. So it's not really science itself with which I have a problem, it's the researchers who use that science to continually browbeat people who don't conform to the "norm", whatever that is (and the "norm" seems to change every few years, depending on what society thinks it should be, which has no place in research, imo). It's the media who have forgotten how to research their news articles before they publish them with whom I have a problem. It's society which says how you look is more important than who you are with whom I have a problem.
I just don't have the energy, the ambition, or the time to devote to digging that deeply into research studies to find out every reason why they say what they say. I'm intelligent, but I don't have the formal education to understand the science behind those studies. I had one year of science in high school, one year of higher math (algebra), and the college education I have was to either become a mechanic or do data entry (not a lot of math or science required for either of those career paths). I spent two and a half years trying to get an AAS, and had to drop out because raising a child alone, working, and going to school was more than I could handle at the time (not to mention that trying to do all of that while dealing with an abusive mother and a really dysfunctional family didn't help matters any). To be honest, most of the education I have is from the voracious reading I've done all my life - I've learned more from the over 20,000 books I've read in my lifetime than I ever learned in school. But that doesn't replace a college education in science, statistics, math, psychology, sociology, etc. So while my life experience and the knowledge I've managed to glean on my own enable me to look at a study and say "There's something wrong here, this doesn't make sense", I just don't have the necessary educational background to be able to articulate that in ways that are accepted by people who do have that background. And I'm coming late to this FA/SA/HAES battle (I've only known about it for the last 7 years), so I'm also trying to be an activist while dealing with several health issues that affect my memory, energy levels, and ability to get things done in a timely manner. So when people look at my blog posts and point out my deficiencies, they're not telling me anything I don't already know, and it just seems like another attack, another way of telling me that I'm stupid, another way of telling me that I don't matter, that my opinions don't matter. All of which I heard from my mother and other family members for the first 40 years of my life (until I told them all to eat shit and bark at the moon, that they were no longer my family if they couldn't respect me or my boundaries).
I'm not sure, but I'm beginning to think that maybe I should just quit blogging about the things I'm passionate about if they involve research or science. Maybe I should stick to blogging about surviving abuse, about books, about the things I do know quite a bit about and leave the science and research to others who have more time, more energy, and more ambition to do the deep digging than I have. I really appreciate the fact that Shannon took the time and did so much work to explain the research behind that news article - "Fat and Fit - A Myth?". I just can't do that, so any posts I may do about research that slams fat people are not going to be that in-depth - I just don't have the spoons to do that much work on a post (and if I try to spread it out over the course of several days, my train of thought gets derailed, never to get back on track in a manner that makes any sense).
Thanks to those of you who took the time to read this, I hope it explains some of the reasons why my blog posts don't "measure up" for some people.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mobility Scooters Increase Ability to Get Out And Participate in Life!

I posted last year about getting a mobility scooter (I bought the Pride Maxima). We ended up buying a hydraulic lift to get the scooter in and out of my minivan (I have a 2008 Kia Sedona). That lift was well worth the money, let me tell you. I've used my scooter more in the last 4 months since we got the lift than I did in the whole year I had the scooter before we got the lift. We had ramps to load/unload the scooter (before we bought the lift), but I couldn't help DH push the scooter up the ramps, over the lip at the back of the van, or into the van (the scooter bottomed out on the lip and the wheels were almost useless for moving it until you got it all the way in the van). And getting it out of the van was just as bad.
I researched lifts online and the one we settled on goes in the back of the van. We lost the use of the third row of seating, but we seldom used it anyway (and it's stow'n'go seating, so we didn't have to take the seats out of the van, just folded them into the floor and had the lift installed on top of them). DH loves the lift and says we should have gotten it at the same time we bought the scooter (I agree). It's so easy to use, and I can unload and load the scooter by myself, which really increases my ability to go places alone that I normally wouldn't be able to (on bad days, I can use my scooter for doctor appts, and I couldn't do that before the lift).
Since we've gotten the lift, I've been able to go shopping at the malls in St Cloud - and yes, one of them does have mobility scooters that you can use, but you have to be able to walk to customer service, which is not anywhere close to the mall entrance. Kind of defeats the purpose of having scooters for disabled customers, if you ask me.
I've also been able to use my scooter when stores that have scooters have all of theirs in use (WalMart, I'm looking at you, you never have enough scooters available on weekends). I used my scooter this weekend when Sauk Centre had its Sinclair Lewis Days. I used when we went to watch the parade (it didn't go by our house this year). I used it when we went across the street to the park for the craft show and sale on Saturday, and again on Sunday when we went to the car show and to watch the water show, put on by the Twin Cities River Rats.
we're going on vacation in September, to Norfolk, VA, and plan on visiting Colonial Williamsburg. I'll actually be able to see it because I'll be able to easily unload my scooter. I'll be able to go to the base exchange with DH, and anywhere else he wants to go. I don't know where else we'll be sightseeing, but I'll actually be able to sightsee without being in excruciating pain.
The freedom that this gives me is exhilarating, and I highly recommend anyone who is hesitating on getting a mobility scooter to go ahead and go for it, whether it be a new one or a used one (depending on what you can afford or if you have insurance that will pay for one). I found out that if you buy a new vehicle, some car companies will give you a discount to have a lift installed. Of course, this assumes you can afford to buy a new vehicle (goddesses know I can't afford one).

Thursday, January 3, 2013

I'm A Fatty - Some thoughts on the issue:

I've been doing a lot of thinking today about Fattygate and how it affects the FA/SA community. I've come to the conclusion that, while discussion and disagreement can be a tool for growth and learning, this whole kerfluffle seems to be on the edge of being a divisive force that isn't going to promote anything, let alone growth and learning, or tolerance.
I think I've made my position clear on how I feel about the word in question, with my comment:
For me, personally, whether “fatty” is offensive or not depends on the context – who is using the term, how they’re using the term, why they’re using it that way, etc. What offends me the most about that term? The fact that people use it as an epithet, as an insult, to hurt people. And that offends me about every word that can be used to insult/hurt anyone.
Yes, I’m fat, so I could be called a “fatty”. Big fucking deal. Anyone who would use that term to hurt me is someone that I could give a shit if they live or die. Because the people who know me and love me wouldn’t use that term for me, and everyone else? Can eat shit and bark at the moon for all I care.
I’ve reclaimed a lot of the words that fat people find offensive simply because I’m a perverse bitch who loves the look of confusion and shock on someone’s face when I use those terms to refer to myself. It’s like they’re thinking “WTF?! She’s dissing herself, that’s our job to dis her, she can’t do that!” My take on it is that if you think you’re going to insult me by calling me a fatty, calling me a fat ass, calling me a bitch, calling me a whale, or whatever insult you can come up with that means I’m fat and opinionated, guess again. It ain’t happening. If I don’t know you and you’re rude enough to try that shit with me, you’re going to get called on it and then I’m going to walk away from you like you don’t even exist. Because I don’t know you, don’t want to know you, and don’t give a rat’s ass about what you think of anything. And it’s not my job to educate you on manners, your parents should have done that when you were a child.
I’ve probably used the term “fatties” in a blog post or two (or however many) because it’s a shorthand way of saying fat people. I’m not trying to offend anyone, but when I’m blogging, collectively calling fat people “fatties” isn’t meant to hurt anyone, it’s meant as a way of collectively referring to fat people without having to use the awkwardness of typing fat people numerous times. I’m using it, not to say that being fat is bad, but to say that “Yes, we’re fat, we’re here, get used to it, and learn to deal with it. We’re not going away, and we’re going to be more and more in your face demanding the rights you don’t think we deserve.”

and:
For me, it depends on the context with which "fatty" is used, ie Fierce Freethinking Fatties is a title that I see as being a sarcastic comment on how those who hate fat people don't see us as fierce in any way, or that we're fully capable of debating anything intelligently. But for someone I don't know or someone who isn't part of the FA/SA movement to call me a "fattie/fatty", well, they have no right at all to do so. Just like those who think it's cute to call me Mare (I'm not a fucking horse, thank you very much) or Mary - excuse me, that's not my name and if you can't call me by my name, I refuse to talk to you/pay attention to you. Oh, and if you can't figure out how to pronounce my name from its spelling, you can ask, there's no shame in asking how to pronounce an unusual spelling (I've been called everything from Marlene to Marrilen to Marilyn because people can't figure out that Mariellen is pronounced MaryEllen).

and:
Just as some added perspective on this issue of reclaiming derogatory terms for marginalized groups of people (and I realize not everyone feels this way), a lot of people in the LGBTQ community have reclaimed the word "queer" as their own, even though it's been used as an insult for a very long time ( I think the quote I saw was "We're here, we're queer, get used to it" or something similar).
Personally, I could care less what terms people use to define me because how *they* define me doesn't matter a rat's ass. What matters is how *I* define myself - I've said I'm fat, and I've used the term DEATHFATZ many times to describe my size simply because I've been hearing for the last 35 years of my life that my fat is going to kill me - you know, death walking, looking for a place to happen (thus the DEATHFATZ terminology). I don't know who coined the term originally, but I've claimed it as mine because I like the shock value it has for *normies* - you know, those people who aren't fat and are supposed to be the ideal we're striving to attain all our lives. And I've claimed several derogatory words used as insults against fat people simply because of the shock thinner people express when I use them to describe myself (it's okay for them to use those words about me but I'm not supposed to use them about myself? Give me a fucking break, assholes).

Is it really going to matter 6 days from now, 6 weeks from now, 6 months from now, 6 years from now that certain people don't agree over the usage of a word? Fine, one person doesn't like that word applied to her and thinks it's not good to apply it to all people that it could describe. Those are her feelings and she's entitled to them, as is the person who thinks the word has been/could be an insult but could also be reclaimed so it's no longer an insult, and uses that word to describe people as a group. This has escalated beyond a conversation about a word, its meaning, and its usage. It's degenerated into name-calling, fighting, and passive-aggressive bullshit.
How in the hell are we supposed to get respect from the rest of society when we can't even show each other any respect? If I got my knickers in a knot every time someone called me out over something I said or the fact that I didn't wholeheartedly agree with them, I would have very few friends (and no family at all, let alone a husband). One of the things I happen to like about the internet is that I'm so wordy that it takes me a while to type a comment and that gives me the time to think about what I'm saying, why I'm saying it, and am I taking it too personally? I don't know how many times I've gone to type a comment on a topic and ended up deleting it because when I read it over (to check for typos, to see if I've said everything I wanted to say in exactly the way I wanted to say it), I sounded like an asshole (yes, I use the Asshole Rule from Fierce Freethinking Fatties to rate my comments, and if I look at my comment like someone else wrote it and it sounds asshole-ish, why then it is an asshole comment and I delete it). That's why you'll see that I've "liked" a lot of posts on Facebook, but I haven't commented on them (I haven't figured out how to comment without sounding like an asshole, and if I can't contribute something constructive, I'd rather keep my mouth shut).
My main problem is that I really don't understand people and why they do the things they do. I never have, and I've been a tactless fool for most of my life - it took me years to figure out that when someone told me I looked nice, I shouldn't say "I should, I slept with curlers in my hair last night and it took me an hour to do my make-up and another hour to decide what outfit to wear." And yes, I have made comments like that when I was complimented on my appearance. It took me years to figure out how to interact with people and not piss them off right away. And I've never gotten over the fact that I just generally don't like most people, don't want to be around them, don't want to talk to them, don't want to deal with their bullshit.
Back 17 years ago, when Pat was still alive, I didn't have a job, I lived alone in an apartment, and she was the only close friend I had. I had acquaintances, people I knew, but we didn't go out shopping together, or have dinner out together, or just get together at one another's homes. We saw each other in passing and I liked it that way. The only time I left my apartment was if I needed to get groceries or pay bills, unless Pat called me and said "Let's go somewhere and do something." or "Come on over, we'll play video games and watch MTV." If it hadn't been for Pat, I would have been a hermit and been completely happy. I had my books, cable TV, my crafts (counted cross stitch, soft-sculpture dolls that I made), my sewing, crossword puzzles to work, and the ironing and mending I did for other people for spending money. I didn't need anyone to make my life complete, as far as I was concerned, my life was complete and I was happy with it that way (can we say semi-hermit?).
I have a few friends on Facebook, most of whom I've never met in real life. While we seem to connect online, I sometimes wonder how well we'd get along in the meat world if we ever managed to meet. I've had a few people un-friend me on Facebook and I have no idea why - one of the many drawbacks to Facebook is the fact that you can un-friend someone with no explanation. I mean, I know why my sister-in-law un-friended me - I told her to "eat shit and bark at the moon" and "fuck you". I know why my niece un-friended me - she worshiped the ground my mother walked on and I thought my mother was an abusive bitch and blogged about it (heaven forbid I should talk about any of that and tarnish her sainted grandmother's image .... roflmao).
All of this is to say that I really don't understand why people get their knickers in a knot over things that aren't really all that important in the grand scheme of things. I mean, really, how much damage is it going to do to anyone if some of us in FA/SA refer to ourselves and fat people as a group as "fatties"? If we really want the rights we deserve, we need to keep fighting to take the stigma away from those words that people hurl at us as insults, especially when they aren't offensive in any other situation. If you look at the meaning of "fatty", this is what I found in the online dictionary:
fat·ty

ADJECTIVE:
fat·ti·er, fat·ti·est

Containing or composed of fat: fatty food; fatty deposits.
Characteristic of fat; greasy.
Derived from or chemically related to fat.

NOUN:
Informal pl. fat·ties

A fat person.

So yeah, I'm a fatty and anyone who doesn't like it can lump it.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Wedding, sightseeing, and ruminations

We went to Illinois last weekend for my son's wedding. I was hesitant about going - thought I would run into my sister-in-law and her daughter there and really didn't want to spoil my son's day with having to ignore those two. Thankfully for me, they didn't show up, but them not showing up was a shitty thing to do to my son since he planned the whole wedding in Decatur, Illinois exactly so they could attend (because they bitched about his last wedding being in Minnesota and how they couldn't attend that one because it was too far for them to drive). He even changed the date so they could attend, and then none of them bothered to show up. My niece didn't even have the courtesy to answer my son's texts (she thinks he said something nasty about my mother at her memorial service three years ago, but doesn't have the balls to say anything to him about it, she's just ignoring him). My nephew didn't answer my son's texts either, he was too busy with a fishing tournament that he signed up for after he knew about the wedding and said he would attend. My sister-in-law had some excuse about some family reunion or something that was more important than her nephew's wedding that she bitched about wanting in Illinois so she could attend, but decided after all that it wasn't that important. And they wonder why I want nothing to do with them.
The reason I was going to have to ignore my sister-in-law is because on the Thursday before the wedding, she contacted me via Facebook to let me know she was un-friending me over a comment I made on a newspaper article here in Minnesota. It was on the marriage amendment that's on the ballot this fall and stated that a mother and a father were the ideal parents for children. My comment was to the effect that of course heterosexual parents never abuse their kids, that my mother had abused me for 40 years, until I cut her out of my life 19 years ago, and that I hadn't seen her in almost 15 years when she died. My SIL came unglued over that and said that I just couldn't drop it, could I? That it was about time I got over it and forgot about it. Then she had the nerve to castigate me for the fact that I didn't have any respect for my mother. Like I'm supposed to respect a woman who abused me for 40 years, who never told me she loved me, who never showed me any signs of affection whatsoever? Yeah, I don't think so. When I told her "Fuck you", she told me that was my answer for everything (it isn't, it's just my answer for matters dealing with my douchebucket family) and that I was a vile, hateful person. Right, I spent 15 years ignoring them, just like they ignored me - because when I left Illinois, none of them ever tried to contact me, even though I sent Christmas cards every year for the first 3 or 4 years. And when I didn't get any cards in return, I gave up. I figured they had written me off just like my mother had, and if that's the way they felt, it wasn't any great loss to me.
What I don't understand is why my SIL is so invested in taking me to task every time I talk about my mother. I mean really, why the hell does she care? Mom wasn't her mother, Mom was just her mother-in-law. My SIL didn't have to grow up in that house, she didn't grow up being abused by my mother, so she doesn't have clue one what it was like. So where in the hell does she get off telling me that I "need to get over it already, forget about it, put it behind me, and quit talking about it"? It seems to me that she's in major denial that I was abused and doesn't want to be reminded of that fact, just because my mother didn't abuse her or her kids. BFD. It happened to me, and I'm going to continue to talk about it whenever I feel the need - if nothing else, so that other people being abused will know that there is nothing inherently wrong with them, that they don't deserve to be abused, that they can walk away from their abusers, that they can cut their abusers out of their lives, that they can go on to make a decent life for themselves after the abuse, and that they are good people who have survived horrific treatment. It's not like it was a huge secret in the town I grew up in, after all. I mean, when I became an adult, and came back to that town after living out of state for a few years, I don't know how many people came up to me and told me what a shame it was about the way my mother treated me (yeah, it was a shame all right, but none of them had the balls to go to the authorities and report her or try to stop her). So it's not like I'm airing dirty laundry that no one knows about or hasn't witnessed first hand. I guess she thinks living in a state of denial is better, but that's not the way I'm going to live my life. If she can't deal with that, well, too bad so sad sucks to be her. She's going to have to find some way to deal with the fact that I'm an opinionated bitch and I'm not going to keep my mouth shut just because she doesn't want to deal with the fact that my mother abused me physically, mentally, and emotionally for 40 years of my life.
Then my SIL tries to guilt trip me because I didn't offer to go to Illinois and help her when my dad was in that accident and was in the hospital/nursing home. Well, she didn't ask for help, and she has two adult, married children who could have/should have been helping her. And I'm not going to volunteer help I can't give. My husband was working a job with 12-hour days at the time and would have had to find someone who could cover any days he took off from work (and we had just come back from a vacation). I couldn't go without him because he has type 2 diabetes and I'm the one who figures out how much short-acting insulin he needs at each meal and I'm the one who injects that insulin because he's too squeamish to give himself the shots. So, sorry, I'm not leaving my husband home alone with no one to give him his insulin. My husband's health and life are more important to me than the fact that she thinks I should have volunteered to drive the 10 hours to Illinois to help her with my dad (like she would have accepted my opinions or advice anyway). The fact that I'm disabled and wouldn't have been able to do much to help doesn't figure into her diatribe against me at all. I wouldn't have been able to help her pack up everything that was in Dad's house and move it - I can't lift/carry anything over 10 lbs, I can't walk for more than 10 or 20 feet without my walker, I can't stand for more than a couple of minutes, so really, WTF did she expect me to be able to do to help her?
The really funny thing about all of this is that now my aunt & cousin are suing my dad's estate over that damned accident a couple of years ago. They already sued the guy who pulled out in front of my dad (dad t-boned his truck, he pulled out from a stop sign on a side road and was crossing a highway that my dad was driving on). The guy in the truck was at fault, they've already sued him and gotten a big settlement, now they're trying to say my dad was also at fault and they want a settlement from his estate. I don't see how that's possible, but greed will make people do strange things. My aunt hasn't been speaking to me ever since the accident, when my niece had to open her big mouth and stir a turd over something I said on this blog (does anyone really wonder why I want nothing to do with those so-called relatives of mine?). The last time I saw my dad, he told me had a $10,000 life insurance policy and he wanted all my information so he could change the beneficiary (he wanted me to be the beneficiary on it). He said that my brother and his kids had gotten all kinds of help and money from him and Mom, and that I hadn't gotten much from them, so he thought I should have that. Evidently he didn't get around to having that done before the accident, because it looks like my brother and I are going to have to split it (if this lawsuit by my aunt/cousin ever gets settled, that is). I figure it'll be a cold day in hell before I see any of it.
So while I was upset for my son and his wife that his aunt/uncle and cousins didn't show up for the wedding that they wanted held in Illinois, I was glad for me that none of them showed up. I thoroughly enjoyed the wedding and reception and didn't have to worry about ignoring anyone or holding my tongue or being icily polite to a bunch of douchebuckets. Jennifer looked lovely in her gown, Jon looked handsome in his tux, the bridesmaids looked great in their dresses, the groomsmen were handsome in their tuxes, and the flower girls/ringbearer were so cute! And I thought this was an awesome way to leave the church after the wedding:

Jennifer ended up having to take off her veil before they finally left for a ride through town before they headed off to the reception - didn't want to get it caught in the spokes or under the wheels of the bike.
The wedding and reception were on Saturday, we got up Sunday morning, had breakfast and left for Springfield, Illinois to find Lincoln's Tomb and the Veterans Memorials that are located in the same cemetery - the WW II Veterans Memorial, the Korean Veterans Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. We had to wait for Jon to bring Mykel to our motel - we were taking Mykel home with us since Jon didn't have enough room for him in the Suburban (not with all the wedding stuff, Jennifer's parents, her brother, and her 2 girls). Jon and Jennifer were riding the bike home. We had brought Mykel down with us so it wasn't any big deal to take him home too.
Mykel rubbing Lincoln's nose for good luck.
WW II Veterans Memorial (that white globe has steel pins with a letter/number that correspond to locations/battles of WW II that are engraved on the inside of each wing of the wall).
Korean Veterans Memorial
Vietnam Veterans Memorial (at the center top of the 4 pillars, there's a flame that burns eternally to honor those who lost their lives in service to our country in Vietnam)

We spent the night in Springfield, then got up Monday morning and went to Petersburg, Illinois to see Lincoln's New Salem. I had been there on a school trip when I was a kid and wanted Mike and Mykel to see it. We took over 100 pictures there, so I won't post them all, but here are a couple of them:





These houses/buildings have been standing for 80 years, and none of them are nailed together. All of them are notched logs. The chinking is cement now, but back when the cabins would have been originally built and used by the settlers, they would have chinked them with a mixture of clay/straw/horsehair that would have had to be replaced 7 to 8 times a year (not something the caretakers of New Salem would have the time to do for all the buildings here, thus the use of cement for chinking now).
The trek through the village is about 3/4 of a mile (one way), so I was very glad I had my mobility scooter with me (there is no way I would have made it through the village using my walker). The scooter allowed me to keep up with Mike and Mykel and still take all the pictures that we wanted to get. The path through the village is paved with blacktop, so the scooter navigated it easily. I did have to get off the scooter to go into the houses that were open in order to take pictures inside, but that wasn't a problem for me, the steps into the houses weren't too high, so they were manageable for me.
There's a museum at the beginning of the village that has a short movie and lots of pictures/memorabilia. It was navigable by scooter too, even the part that was bi-level (it had a curved, railed ramp that my scooter navigated easily). We spent about 3 hours there, going from house to house, taking pictures and talking to the people who were there in period dress (they had a lot of information about the village, the people who lived there, what life was like then, etc) and even with going up and down some inclines, I still had almost a full battery charge on the scooter when we were ready to leave (and I used the scooter at the Veterans Memorials too, without charging it before New Salem). I'm very satisfied with my scooter and wish I'd bought it a couple of years ago.
We left New Salem about 3 p.m. Monday afternoon, and managed to get Mykel home to his mom's house about 11:30 p.m. We didn't make it home until 3 a.m., had to stop along the way and find an open gas station (do you have any idea how many gas stations don't stay open when you're in the Middle-of-Nowhere Minnesota at 2 a.m.?).
Came home to kittehs who missed us and wanted their kitteh treats right now! Poor babies had to do without them for 4 whole days (and they were waiting at the door when we unlocked it and tried to come in, had to step over them). So they got their treats and some petting/loving, then Mike and I collapsed into bed, and didn't get up until almost noon. All in all, it was a very good trip. We'll be going back one day to see the Lincoln Library with my friend, Linda, and her husband. And I want to take Mike to see Rockome Gardens (went there when I was a kid, want to see if they still have the little house built out of 7-Up bottles).





Thursday, August 30, 2012

New mobility scooter

I got my mobility scooter, and the one I was looking at (the Pride Victory), which has a weight limit of 400 lbs, isn't heavy-duty enough for me (I don't quite weigh 400 lbs). According to the salesman, you need to take your weight and the weight of the scooter into consideration when you're looking at weight capacities (not to mention the amount of weight you plan to carry in the front basket and the optional rear basket).
I ended up buying the Pride Maxima, which has a weight limit of 500 lbs, weighs 180 lbs fully assembled, can be taken apart without any tools, comes with a headlight, tail lights, turn signals, and one rear view mirror on the left handgrip. It also has a flag so I can be seen in traffic if I decide to drive it in town (like I need to do that, I have a minivan that I drive around town......lol). I suppose it would come in handy for parking lots, etc, when we're traveling.......
We didn't by the ramps from MedCity Mobility, they were an additional $300 (did I mention that the Maxima normally costs $3,375 and we got it for $2,868?). So we took it apart and put it in the back of my Kia Sedona minivan. Um, yeah, taken apart, it takes up most of the back of my minivan when the very last row of seats are folded into the floor (the Sedona has stow'n'go seating for the 3rd row seats). So I looked online and found ramps for less than $140 and bought them. Now the Maxima only takes up less than 2/3 of the back of the van, and the ramp folds in half length-wise to slide in next to it, leaving us room for luggage or groceries, etc (I also found out that the middle row of seats in the van fold up against the front seats for more cargo room in the back, and for access to the back row of seats when you're using them - who knew? Pays to read the manual that comes with your vehicle, folks.....). So my 7-passenger minivan is down to 3 passengers when we're traveling - one of the middle seats has to be folded up against the front seats so the ramp will fit in the back of the van. The length from the back of the middle seats to the back liftgate is only 54" and the ramp is 69" long. The ramp folded in half is too tall to go under the seat, and it won't fit diagonally between the seats to the liftgate either. There's nothing in the Sedona's manual about how to take the middle seats out completely, but I'm going to ask our mechanic if he can figure out how it's done (if we remove one seat completely, that gives us more room when we're traveling for a cooler behind the front seat, plus luggage and the ramp).
So for anyone considering buying a mobility scooter, these are all things you need to consider :
1- What weight capacity do I need?
2- How will I get it in and out of my vehicle?
3- If I use a ramp, will the ramp and the scooter both fit in my vehicle?
4- Can I do the loading/unloading of the scooter alone?
5- Do I have room for it in my house or is it going to spend the entire year in my vehicle (mine will, and can be charged there as well, by plugging the charger into a heavy-duty extension cord).
6- Can I afford to pay for it myself if insurance won't? (Craigslist/eBay is an alternative if you can't afford a new one, but when you're buying used, you don't know what you're getting or how long it's going to last - no warranty)
There are probably other things to consider, but these are the ones I think are the most important, once you've made the decision that a mobility scooter will improve your quality of life.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Biting the bullet - looking at mobility scooters

It's come to the point that my mobility issues have gotten bad enough that my walker just isn't working out when we go sightseeing on our weekend trips/vacations. So I'm looking at mobility scooters and I'm finding out that when you're a person of size, finding one that will support your weight, hold a charge for a reasonable amount of time, and be able to handle a variety of terrain - well, it's not easy and they don't come inexpensively.
I looked at the TravelScoot, but the information on their website leaves a lot to be desired. When I contacted them for more information, all they could say was to refer to their testimonials from satisfied customers. Yeah, I don't want hear how satisfied they are with their TraveleScoot, I want to know can the damned thing haul my fat ass for 10 miles of sightseeing over pavement/gravel/grass/up inclines, how long does the charge last, how easy is it to charge, how long does it take to charge it, how comfortable is it to ride for more than an hour or two, etc. I also asked if there was a dealer in Minnesota and that question was totally ignored. Yep, you really want my business (/sarcasm).

This is the TravelScoot and I just don't think it can be made strong enough to hold my weight, and I don't think it would be stable on rough ground. I could be wrong, but without having a store in Minnesota where I can go look at one and try it out, I'm just not willing to order it, only to have to return it if it doesn't work out. And it's $2,195, before it's beefed up to hold my weight (who knows how much extra that would cost).
Then I looked at the Hoveround, and the chair that would support me is just way out of my budget. Insurance won't pay for it unless you need it to get around inside your home, which I don't, yet. Insurance could care less if you can't get around outside your home without one, just stay confined to your house, you don't need to be able to go anywhere if you're disabled, after all (/sarcasm).

This is the Hoveround chair that would hold my weight, and it's $3,395 (cash or credit card). Hoveround also makes scooters, but their weight limit is just shy of being able to handle my weight, so those are out of the running.
The Hoveround is more than we can afford.
The one I'm really considering, and will be going to look at next week when we go to Rochester, is the Pride Victory 10 mobility scooter (this one). It comes in a 3 wheeled model as well as a 4 wheeled one, and it will hold my weight. It has a top speed of 5.25 mph, weighs 175 lbs, will fit in the back of my minivan without being taken apart, has a battery charge range of 15.5 miles, and can be had for less than $2,000 (which is less than half of what the comparable Hoveround chair would cost, and is less than the TravelScoot would cost).
Funny story about going to check it out in Rochester. We were there to see the Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial and Mike's parents' graves. When we drove to the cemetery, we passed a medical supply company that had a huge model of the Pride Victory scooter on a platform display as advertisement. So when Mike and I were talking about checking into me getting a scooter, he said we should talk to them and I should do a search online to see if I could find out what medical supply company it was. So I did, and I found them, and emailed them to see if they had the scooters in their store in Faribault (they have stores in Faribault, Rochester, and Austin). I figured if they had them in Faribault, we could go there as it's closer. I was expecting an emailed response, but instead they called me. Yes, they do have the scooters in the store at the Faribault location. But we're going to check them out in Rochester anyway because Mike wants to go back there and get some better pictures of the veterans' memorial now that we have a better camera. If Med City Mobility can answer all my questions and the scooter suits, they'll probably be the ones who get my business - they bothered to call me back, they wanted to know what I was looking for in a scooter, what did I need to know, and how could they help me. That's good customer service, and I appreciate that. I also checked out their website, so I know they carry a variety of scooters and they have more than one that will handle my weight and that are in my price range.

This is the one I'm really considering, and it's only $1,829 (the 4 wheel version is only $1,929).
I do wish that health insurance thought that disabled people deserved to be mobile outside of their homes, not just inside them. Because not every place that I go has mobility carts available and if mobility carts aren't available, I'm not going to be shopping there, sightseeing there, spending money there. Not to mention that being confined to one's home most of the time definitely impacts one's quality of life, and not for the better.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Mini vacation in South Dakota

DH and I took a short vacation to Rapid City, South Dakota the beginning of July to see Mount Rushmore. Neither of us had ever seen it, and we both wanted to, so DH took some time off work, we reserved a motel room for 3 days, and off we went.
We stopped at the Pioneer Auto Museum in Murdo, SD on the way to Rapid City and took a look at some of the old cars there. There were also displays of old toys, tools, smoking pipes, pinball machines, etc. We took a few pictures:

This is the original General Lee from the Dukes of Hazard movie, on loan to the museum (they wrecked 13 of these cars making that movie).

This car is made out of wood and it's absolutely gorgeous - I'd definitely be afraid to ever drive it.













This was on the 4th of July, we had hoped to be able to see the fireworks over Mt Rushmore, but they were cancelled again this year due to the dry conditions and the high risk of fires.
We got up bright and early on the 5th and headed out to see the Crazy Horse Monument. It is going to be huge when it's finished. There's so much to see that you really need to take a whole day just to see that. We did get a few pictures there, and we saw the movie about how the monument came to be - it's very moving, and informative. The monument isn't funded by the government at all, it's strictly donations from the public and admissions that are allowing this monument to be built.



This is the front of the visitor's center, where you can see the film, buy souvenirs, and see all the displays of Native American art and artifacts. We took pictures inside with disposable cameras (the memory card on our digital camera was full) and the lighting wasn't the best, so those pictures didn't turn out the greatest (and when they were developed, they were cropped so that what I saw when I took the picture is not what showed up in the picture - some of the items are only half there :( ). The visitor's center was very handicapped accessible, and they had wheelchairs available for people who have mobility issues.














After we left Crazy Horse Monument, we took the scenic route to Mt Rushmore, and it was a gorgeous drive. I wish we had a video camera, I'd have taped that drive for the scenery alone.
















Mt Rushmore was pretty cool, and it was very handicapped accessible - there was an elevator so that if you had to park on the lower levels, you could get up to the level of the monument without having to climb stairs. There was also a ramp for wheelchairs/strollers, but I don't know how easy it would have been to navigate that ramp with a mobility scooter as it curved a couple of times (maybe if you took it slowly).
On the way back to Rapid City from Mt Rushmore, we stopped to go through Bear Country USA. They said at the gate that it takes about an hour and a half to go through the whole park, and at the end there's a building where you can see the bear cubs, and there's a petting zoo, a souvenir shop, and a cafe.
We saw several varieties of deer, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, arctic wolves, cougars, buffalo, and OMG! the bears!!!! Remember in that Yogi Bear cartoon where Yogi is saying he wants to leave Jellystone Park because he's tired of the same old thing every year, the tourists always coming and they always say "Look at the bears, look at the bears, look at the bears."? Well, when we got to the part of Bear Country (at the end) where the bears were, that's exactly what DH and I said: "Look at the bears, look at the bears, look at the bears!" and laughed our asses off. There were so many bears, of all colors and sizes, and they were walking everywhere - in the road, across the road, next to the cars, sniffing the tires, inspecting the vehicles and then just ambling off like they owned the place (they do).

This bear was so close, it was almost rubbing on the side of my van - that's the best pic I could get of it with the window rolled up (don't even think about rolling the windows down in this part of the park).

More bears.....lol













After Bear Country USA, we hit the Reptile Gardens, another interesting stop on the way back to our motel. Not all of those pics turned out as well as I would have liked, but some of them are pretty good.



If I had known there were birds not in cages in this section, no way would I have gone in here. I'm fine with birds in cages, but birds flying free in enclosed spaces terrify me (it's a phobia of mine). I managed to walk through the whole area and get pictures, but I was nervous the entire time and couldn't wait to get out of there. Not one of my more enjoyable moments...........










We headed back to the motel room after that to take a break before heading out to find some dinner. Let me tell you, after dinner, I was ready for some TV time - that was one full day and I was exhausted by the time we had seen everything.
On the 6th, we headed out to Wall, SD to see all the sights at Wall Drug. That's another place that you need to take a whole day just to be able to see everything and do it justice. It was interesting, to say the least.

It's really difficult to get a good picture of the front of Wall Drug because of all the cars parked along the street in front of it, but I tried.

This was outside and back of Wall Drug, you could sit in the wagon and pose for pictures in it (we saw several families do this).

This was next to one of the eateries in the Wall Drug complex - this room was set up to show what an old-time bar looked like, what a poker game looked like, etc.

A miner and his pack mule. There were a lot of these kinds of statues all through the place - saloon girl, Annie Oakley, Calamity Jane, Wild Bill Hickock, and other historical figures from the old west.











After we left Wall Drug, we headed off to the SD Air and Space Museum at Ellsworth AFB. That was very interesting, and there was a trip you could pay to take to go through a missile silo (we didn't do that one). I did manage to get pictures of all the planes that were sitting outside, and then I got pictures of most of the items inside the museum. DH told me about some of them, the ones he knew about from when he was in the Navy (like the missiles that were on one of the ships he served on).


This is a cutaway of a jet engine, interesting to see the inside of it and how it works.

















This was a short day, we only saw Wall Drug and the Air & Space Museum before heading back to Rapid City.
We left on the 7th to head for home, and stopped in Mitchell, SD to see the Corn Palace, another interesting place.


After we left the Corn Palace, we headed over to De Smet, SD to see the Ingalls Homestead, of Little House on the Prairie fame. I wasn't impressed with it - the buildings were all spread out and the only way to see all of them was to pay to take a horse-drawn wagon ride around to them (not handicapped accessible) and it didn't seem to stop at the various buildings so you could get down, go inside and look around and take pictures. It's also a campground, so if you want to get pictures of the covered wagons, you have to settle for getting campers' tents in the pictures with the wagons (not something I really cared to do).

This is the schoolhouse, and we parked to next to it at first because we came in the back way. We then drove up to the visitor's center/souvenir shop to find out about the other buildings and how to see them.











All in all, it was a great vacation, but there was so much we didn't get to see that we wanted to see - we decided we're taking two weeks next year, probably in September, and we're going back to see everything that we missed this time. We'll probably revisit a few places so we can see things that we didn't get to see the first time around too.




















Thursday, June 28, 2012

Julian Bakery Smart Carb Bread review

I've been looking for a low-carb, high-fiber bread for us for a while now. Most of the stores around here just don't stock anything like that. The closest I've been able to get is Wonder's Light Wheat, 2 slices of which have 80 calories, 18 grams of carbs, and 5 grams of fiber (net carbs is 13 grams). The flavor isn't bad, if you like wheat bread (I don't care for it unless it's toasted).
Then I found Julian Bakery with a whole line of low- to zero-carb breads. They also have gluten-free breads. So I checked to see if there were any stores in Minnesota that carried this bread, even though it's expensive (at almost $8 a loaf, that's damned expensive for bread). HyVee in Mankato, Rochester, and Owatonna are the only stores in Minnesota that carry it.
Since we were going to visit my son in Faribault last weekend, and Mankato is only 45 minutes away, I thought we'd make a run over there and pick up a loaf or two (of different varieties) to see if it would be worth ordering online. Well, there's also a HyVee in Faribault, so I thought I'd stop in there and see if they had any, just on the off chance that someone had wanted it and they had ordered it for them (stranger things have happened). Lo and behold, the HyVee in Faribault did have two varities of the Julian Bakery low carb bread - Smart Carb 1, and Smart Carb 2, cinnamon raisin. So I picked up a loaf of each and could hardly wait until we got home to try them.
Now, the Smart Carb 1 has 109 calories per slice (wow!), 13 grams of carbs, and 12 grams of fiber (for 1 gram net carbs). The cinnamon raisin has 137 calories per slice (another wow!), 15 grams of carbs, and 13 grams of fiber (for 2 grams of net carbs). While this is great for someone who is counting carbs for blood sugar control, I have to say that the flavor leaves a bit to be desired. Both breads are really bland, even toasted and buttered, and the cinnamon raisin one? Well, I can't tell it's supposed to be cinnamon at all - there's no cinnamon flavor to it in the slightest (but I have that complaint about every cinnamon raisin bread I've ever bought, so this isn't a new thing).
I like the fact that the breads are made with all natural ingredients, and that a lot of them are organically grown. But for the price I paid for the bread, I expect it to have more flavor. It's also very dry and not something that makes a good sandwich - it's too heavy (a 1 lb loaf has 15 slices, and that includes the heels). I don't know if it's the combination of ingredients that makes it bland, or if something is lacking in the recipe, but these two breads are not something I'll be buying again. And for $7.99 a loaf, I'm not willing to try the other varieties either.

Friday, June 1, 2012

ClearWire SUCKS!

I will never recommend ClearWire as an internet provider to anyone, ever. We've had them for the last 2 years, and it's been nothing but hassles from day one. We've been paying for 2 MB service, but have been lucky to get 1 MB. I haven't been able to watch a news video yet that hasn't taken me at least 10 minutes to watch the entire way through - and that's a video that's less than 3 minutes long (because it has to stop every 5 seconds or so to buffer before it will play for another 5 seconds or so). Don't even try to watch a YouTube video, it ain't happening with ClearWire unless you have all day to watch one short video. And forget about streaming anything, that ain't happening either. If it rains, you lose your internet. If you have a router so you can have more than one computer hooked up (which we do), you can't have the router within 3 feet of the modem or the modem only works part of the time - and they didn't bother to tell me any of this until we'd been having problems for over a year. Every time I called because we lost our internet connection, they never even asked if the router was close to the modem (until a year ago, after we'd had service with them for a year). Then they tell me the router has to be at least 3 feet away from the modem. Gee, thanks for that little bit of information.
When I called the other day because we lost our internet connection, the service rep asked me if I had unplugged the modem and the router. I told him yes, I'd done that 3 times, gotten the internet back for 1 minute each time and then lost connection again. He said, "Well, I'm showing you have a strong signal, you should have 5 lights on your modem." I said, "Yeah, I have 5 lights on my modem, but I still don't have any internet." Then he asks me if the modem is facing the tower. DUH, asshole, the modem is sitting in the same position it's been sitting in for the last two years, facing the damned tower, otherwise, I wouldn't have 5 fucking lights on the damned thing. So he says "Well, let me put you on hold and I'll see if I can find out what's wrong." He comes back 5 minutes later and says "There's a problem with the tower in your area and it could take anywhere from 2 to 24 hours before your internet is back. Is there anything else I can do for you today?" Yeah, ya dumb shit, you can tell the crew to get my internet back online for me, why the fuck do you think I called? Geez louize. I told him no, thanks, and hung up. And every time there's an outage, that's the scenario we go through. I realize they have a script they have to follow, but some initiative on their part would be nice (I really don't think they know how to think outside that box they're given to work within).
When I called the first time to cancel service, they wanted to know why, and I gave them the list of reasons, and they wanted to know if I wanted to upgrade my service for another $20 a month. Right, I'm paying $50 a month for 2 MB service now that I'm not getting, so why would I pay another $20 a month for faster service that you aren't going to be able deliver? Do I look like I have "STUPID" tattooed on my forehead or something? Yeah, I don't think so.
So when we decided to change providers, I called to set up cancellation of our service. Now, our billing cycle ran from the 26th of one month to the 25th of the next month, and we were having cable internet installed on the first of June, so I wanted to have ClearWire shut off on June 2nd. Sorry, they told me, no can do. Have to call on the day I want it cancelled, and have it shut off then, and any overpayment will be refunded to me within 24 - 48 hours. So I'm thinking okay, I'll pay the $50.32 on the 26th of May, have it shut off on the first of June, they'll refund me the balance due from June 2 to June 25 and we're good. Nope, not happening. I called and was told that my ClearWire internet can't be cancelled until the billing period ends on June 25 because ClearWire doesn't refund any money, ever. When I told the service rep that wasn't what I was told, he told me that no one would tell me I would get a refund because they don't do that - essentially saying that either I'm a liar or whoever told me I would get a refund was lying. Oh, and we've been leasing the modem, but we don't have to send it back, we can keep it. WTF am I going to do with it? Use it as a doorstop? Use it as a paperweight? It's a worthless piece of equipment to me - I don't have wireless internet anymore, I'll never have wireless internet from them ever again, so why the hell would I want to keep their modem?
So I highly recommend that if you have ClearWire and ever decide to switch to another internet provider, be sure you set it up so that your new provider installs your service the day (or 2) before your ClearWire billing period ends so you can call and cancel it before they charge you for another month of service you won't be using. And if you don't have ClearWire, I wouldn't advise considering them as an option.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Finally bought a Kindle

Well, I finally broke down and bought a Kindle. I have a Nook, but don't have a lot of books on it. Barnes & Noble used to notify me when they had free ebooks - usually a new one every Friday, but they quit sending out emails, and I don't have the time to go to their site and sift through every free ebook they have looking for the new ones. The Nook is also a little heavier than I like to hold in order to read - which is why I bought an easel cover for it, so I could prop it on the desk/table to read. But it's also really slow to start up, and I don't like the fact that it's easier to download the ebooks to my computer, and then I have to manually transfer them to my Nook by hooking it up to my computer, opening up Adobe Digital Editions or Nook for PC and moving the ebooks from those apps to the Nook itself.

I looked at the basic Kindle online, and then I noticed that they had them at WalMart, and WalMart was offering a $30 gift card with the purchase of the basic Kindle ($79 with the advertising when you aren't reading a book, I can deal with that). Since Mike works there, we get a 10% discount, so between his discount and the gift card, my Kindle ended up costing me $41.10 (and that's a deal I couldn't pass up). So I got it, took it home, hooked it up to the computer, it found our wireless internet, I registered it, and voila, all my ebooks that I had gotten from amazon were on it without me having to do anything at all. And all those free ebooks I get every day from the groups I've joined on Facebook? Not only do they show up in the Kindle for PC app on my computer, they're also on my Kindle, automatically. So I can either get the ebooks online from my computer or I can shop from my Kindle, whichever is easiest for me, and I have the books in both places, to read wherever is easiest for me.

Sorry Barnes & Noble, if I had known all that when I bought the Nook, I never would have bought the Nook. Amazon just has a wider variety of books for ereaders than you do, and a lot more free ebooks than you do. I already have 450 books on my Kindle and I've only had it a week (of course, I've been getting books for the Kindle for PC for a couple of months now, so that could have something to do with it). But I've had Nook for PC for a couple of years, and I've had my Nook for over a year, and I have less than 100 books on it, so that tells you something about the availability and affordability of books between Amazon and B & N. Of course, most of the books I have for my Kindle are from new authors, but they're still good books, at least in my opinion (and I think I should know, I've probably read 4 or 5 thousand books in my lifetime).

So, if anyone is looking for an ereader, I can highly recommend the basic Kindle, especially if all you want to do is read books.