Thursday, December 31, 2009

Here's 2010 - Yippee!!!!!

After grinding through yet another year, I decided to write a blog to actually make resolutions and goals that will guide my decision making in the next year or two. You see, 2009 SUCKED! A lot of people had a sucky year, and thankfully, mine didn't tank like some did, but all the same, in my personal micro-world, it was not a pleasant year.

For many, many reasons - not the least of which my dog died and oh yeah, the guy who I was living with left me (because he's effin' crazy! No, really - crazy as a bedbug! Just ask his psychiatrist!) between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Of course, losing the dog hurt more, but dealing with the man and his injuries and all that attendant crap took a big bite out of my life.

So onwards and's my New Year's Eve blog!

Top 10 Resolutions for 2010

#10: Don't get bit by a feral cat, for the love of Pete!
#9: Take more multivitamins to avoid being sick (again.)
#8: Avoid cutting down any tree over 10 feet tall.
#7: Ride your horse(s) more often.
#6: Do something new that makes you slightly uncomfortable at least once a quarter. Push your boundaries. The USMC Mud Run does qualify. However, see Resolution #4 for guidelines.
#5: See ALL your doctors this year. Even the ones you don't like.
#4: No broken bones. No exceptions.
#3: Trade in devoted significant other hat for the cougar cap. Meow.
#2: Get a body that looks good in the cougar cap.
#1. Whirled Peas or at least peace in my living room.

Top Goals for 2010

#10: Run three miles a day 4x a week by this time next year.
#9: Eat healthier
#8: Get rid of any clothing you haven't worn in 2 years.
#7: Read at least one non-fiction book a month. Read one new book once a month.
#6: Pamper yourself AT LEAST once a month - buy a special food, get a massage, go do something that is special just for you and don't share.
#5: Annoy someone at least once a month.
#4: Laugh. More.
#3: Remember, payback is indeed a b*tch and her name is Kristin.
#2: Work life, don't let life work you.
#1: Finish your book. And then the second one. And then sell them. Good luck.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Cue the Breaking News Sounder - USMC Mud Run Update!

I survived the 16th annual USMC Mud Run. Barely, and with help from my team mates, but I survived. It was a LONG 4.2 miles with 30+ obstacles, and LOTS of mud. Did I train? Not much. My summer was eaten away by injury after injury - kicked by a mule, biten by a feral cat, breaking a bone in my foot, all the fun stuff. I went in knowing that I was inadequately prepared for the mud fest, but despite all that, managed to finish.

There are plenty of people who can tell you how to train for the mud run. I thought I would share my now first-hand knowledge with the world on how to survive the mud run.

  1. Set Low Expectations: It’s okay NOT to want to win. It’s okay NOT to place in the top 100. My goal from the start was to still be breathing at the end. And my friends, I was. I met my goal!

  2. Embrace Your Pain: Pain is a good thing. You don’t have pain if you are dead. So appreciate the fact from Number 1, and keep your feet moving.

  3. Don’t get attached to your clothes: Reference Picture 1 to understand what mere words can’t prepare you for.

  4. Laugh! The more you laugh, the shorter the course will seem, and the better time you will have. Unless you a REALLY serious competitor trying to complete the course in less than 50 minutes, then have some fun with it. Mud can be fun!

  5. Other Important Things

    Dress appropriately. No, seriously. Dress appropriately. You have a beer gut? Cover it up. Unsightly scars – hide them. No one can afford to be distracted during the over and under logs by your lack of clothing. Ladies, wear a sports bra at least a size too small. You need to be as aerodynamic as possible when mud running. And don’t wear girly girl stuff, if you want laid that bad, go to the bars after the mud run. And please don’t tell your team mates while on the course that her outfit makes her boobs look perky. That’s a great way to bring the race to a stop.

    Ignore the Marines yelling at you, unless they are telling you an alligator just crawled into the Tarzan pit. You are doing your best. (As an aside, I did meet one wonderful marine who cheered me all the way to the BIG mud pit – he made me laugh, which cost me valuable oxygen, but I appreciated it.)

    Remember the fun you had as a kid, sliding on your butt down a hill? Revisit your childhood and slip-slide away down steep hills to save your ankles and knees.
    Ignore the first water stop. This is a trick. What you don’t know is that in front of you is the Z-Ridge and at the end of it, your body will expel any liquid left in your stomach.

    Oh yeah, the BIG MUD PIT. It’s a dozy! If you haven’t swum fully clothed for a long time, you may want to practice it a few times to remember the drag of clothes and shoes. And don’t be too dismayed by the ropes at the other end that you need to pull yourself out with. At least you made it to the other end.

    Accessorize appropriately. By this, I mean make sure your shoes still have tread left. Everyone will tell you to wear an old pair of shoes. But what they don’t tell you is to make sure you have some traction left. I didn’t realize what little tread I had would (literally) disappear during the course, and I would be ice skating across, down, through the mud. Duct taping your shoe laces is de rigueur, and it may even be gauche to not have taped your shoes. Kinda like wearing white after Labor Day.

    Build up your repartee. While most of the course is survived by brute force, your quick wit may come in handy. For example, as we were grinding our way to the end up and down the killer hills (this may have been called Heart Attack Hill on the official obstacle guide, which would be very appropriate), I slipped on a down side due to lack of tread, and face planted into the next up-hill. At this point we were nearing the end and spectators were gathering. I heard the crowd gasp as I embraced yet more mud. I, feeling no pain at this point, jumped up and yelled “DIRT – It’s what’s for breakfast!” My new fans yelled and clapped.

    Get a tetanus shot, if you haven’t had one in awhile. For reals.

    Buy some Imodium. Uh-huh, think of it this way – about 7,000 people are going to be swimming through the same mud pit. ‘Nuff said.

    Rice paddy/Light Armored Vehicle Trenches. Right. Don’t try to crawl, don’t try to swim. Float. And pretend you are a crocodile. Use your arms only to propel you forward. I moved faster and got a little rest that way. There was only one “rice paddy” that only had 6 inches of water in it, and the floating technique wouldn’t work. Crawling through it felt like crawling through wet sand paper. Also, no flutter kicking, per my team captain.

    The Z-Trench. Oh, for the love of Pete! Wasn’t the Z-Ridge enough? I gave up trying to walk this damn thing that would go from knee-high water to a 6 foot drop and crocodile swam. Take that, course designer person!

    10 foot Vertical Walls. Take the two minute penalty, don’t be a hero.

    Tarzan Pit – let go while you are over the water. Not when you hit the wet clay on the other side.

    Litter carry – you’ve made it. It’s only 100 yards of screaming hell as you carry one of your team mates on a litter to the finish line. Your muscles are crying for more oxygen, your eyes can’t focus. And then one of you team mates says “lets run.” What a jester!

    Post Mud Run

    There is a party going on once you cross the finish line. It’s okay to walk around wet and muddy for a few minutes. It’s your badge of honor, your Purple Heart, and your platoon’s colors all rolled into one. Of course, you are still trying to breathe at this point. But soak in the admiration. You deserve it.

    The water and the orange wedge you suck down will be the BEST ever.

    When it is time to start the de-mudding process, hopefully, you remembered to bring a garbage bag for your wet and muddy clothes. Feel free to toss your shoes in the provided garbage can outside the changing area. The clothes you see in the pictures went through a fifteen minute rinse process, and that’s what they looked like.

    Feel free to bring a shower kit with you. The water is ice cold and you are out in public, but the more mud you can get off here, is the less mud you will carry home.
    At home de-mudding: Remember to clean your ears when they are wet. Or better yet, buy an ear cleaner kit pre-Mud Run for use afterwards. If you try to Q-tip your ear clean, it will hurt. And don’t expect to get all the mud out on the first try. It sticks with you for days.

    Post Mud Run Pain Relief. I sucked down 4 Advil as soon as I got back to the truck. And about 4 hours later, took 4 more. Find a muscle relaxer for that night – it will help with the twitching. Do try to do some work the next day. It will hurt, but it helps to get things moving. Also, drink lots and lots of water.


    Did I have a good time? Yes! Will I do this again? Maybe! Am I in pain? Yes!

    Hey, wanna see what I’m talking about? Take a look at these:

    The State Newspaper Photo Gallery

    Midlands Connect

    WIS TV Coverage

    See the whole course - Someone wore a helmet cam!
      Hats off to our team mate Phil!!!!!!!!!!!! He pulled our sorry asses (mine in particular) through the course. He's my hero of the week!
      Hats off to Liz who finished even with a concussion from bonking her head during her Tarzan Pit experience.
      Hats off to Mike who understood my pain when I had to crawl out of my truck to open the gate to our driveway.
                      Hats off to my S/O Joe, who helped me out of my sports bra when my arms wouldn't move.
                        Hats off to Matt and Leo, our co-workers, who inspired us to pull together a team and participate.
                          Hats off to the event orgainzers - truly one of the best run events I've ever been a part of - wonderful job, and the key valet - superb!
                          Hats off to the vets that we ran and raised money for - thank you!

                        Wednesday, September 9, 2009

                        Help Save the American Wild Horse

                        Horse lovers and advocates for the American Wild Horse are aghast at latest atrocity being committed by the Bureau of Land Management, part of the Department of Interior. The BLM has now rounded up Cloud and his band of wild American horses from the Pryor Range in Montana. The BLM plans call to eliminate approximately 33,000 horses through euthanization/adoption/sale to kill buyers because of budget cuts during the prior administration.

                        Read another great blog about this on-going round up here:’s-herd/

                        You can help save Cloud and his band and many other wild horses by contacting Robert Abbey of the Bureau of Land Management: and Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior at: You can also email the White House at by using the form at And please forward this to any horse loving friends so that they can help as well.

                        From a press release from the Cloud Foundation:

                        Right now there are twelve entire herds being eliminated from 1.4 million acres near Ely, Nevada because these lands are suddenly not appropriate for wild horses,” Kathrens continues. “However, no action has been made to reduce cattle grazing in these areas.” There are no grazing permits in the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range and reasons for holding an unprecedented removal this year are not clear. The range and adjacent lands are in excellent condition following three years of drought-breaking precipitation.

                        Cloud and the wild horses of Montana’s Pryor Mountains are world famous but fame and an outcry from the American public does not seem to impact the BLM’s plans. There are currently only 190 wild horses (one year and older) living in the spectacular Pryor Mountains. The BLM plans to remove 70 of them, including young foals and older horses who could be sold directly to killer buyers.


                        You can help by using the form email below that you can copy and paste and send to Mr. Abbey.

                        Subject: Pryor Mountain Round Up

                        Dear Mr. Abbey -

                        It is with much dismay I heard about the round up of the Pryor Mountain Range horses, including Cloud and his band. Cloud is an ambassador for the American Wild Horse, and while he is slated for release, his herd will be drastically reduced to the point of genetic non-viability. Not only is Cloud and his band in danger, but every wild horse captured during this round-up. Foals and older horses can be sold directly to kill buyers waiting to transport them to Canada and death. Despite calls from the U.S. House and Senate to stop until the Senate can take action, the BLM has continued with this horrible course of action.

                        As an American taxpayer and concerned citizen, I am asking that the BLM immediately take action on the following issues:

                        • Wild horses over the age of 10 should be released directly back into their range. Their prospect at adoption is low and it is cruel to make them suffer only to bought by a kill-buyer.

                        • Herds should not taken below 150 adult animals to maintain their genetic viability

                        • There needs to be inncreased scrutiny of the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program. Our wild horses and burros need immediate change and an end to their mismanagement.

                        Mr. Abbey, I would ask for your immediate attention to this issue and look forward to your prompt response on how the BLM will be addressing these issues as well as the reasoning for the Pryor Range round-up.

                        Your Name



                        Thanks for your help!

                        Monday, June 29, 2009

                        Weekend Training Regime

                        I originally wrote this for my mud run team, so they didn't think I'm slacking. Here is an abbreviated version of my weekend training regime. Duplicate it at your own risk.

                        Early Morning Roll Call: 5:30 AM - Desensitization Practice
                        Start with an approximately 20 pound feline walking up and down your prone body with its claws out. After the fifth pass, the cat will have performed enough skin preforation that you will be awake and ready to face any pain the day brings.

                        Morning Aerobics: 7:30 AM
                        Chase ducklings around their crate and then across the porch until you stuff them into the cat carrier. Run like hell for the baby pool before they poop in cat carrier. Repeat manuever several times.

                        Morning Aerobics, Part 2: 8 am
                        Turn garden sprinkler and have it face the wrong way. Dodge and twist the ice cold blast until you can get behind it to turn it off or put it into the correct position.

                        Morning Upper Body Strength Training/Water Hazard Navigation Practice:
                        Remove waterlogged trees the size of telephone poles from the spillway where your conditioning coach, Mr. Beaver, left them for you.

                        Morning Wind Sprints:
                        Open garbage can keeper to find a wasp nest and many very angry wasps. Run. Fast.

                        Lunch break:
                        Lay on kitchen floor and pant.

                        Post lunch Upper Body Strength Training:
                        Flip over 600 pound round bale of hay. Pause. Repeat.

                        Post lunch Lower Body Strenght Training:
                        Climb in and out of pickup bed approximately 500 times. Increase exercise complexity by trying this while juggling power equipment

                        PM Aerobic Training:
                        Run through Wally-world with a 100 pound buggy as fast as possible.

                        PM Stretches:
                        Hang out at least 5 loads of laundry to stretch all those used muscles out. Cool down.

                        Friday, March 27, 2009

                        New Farm Project

                        Our farm is blessed with a LOT of water. We have water on three sides of the property, and are basically a penisula into a small lake. We have a medium sized stream that runs around the back and curls around one side, a black water pond which spills into the "big water". Perfect habitat for water loving creatures: herons, turtles, otters, egrets (Egrets? - I've had a few!) snakes, and the hero of this blog, at least one beaver.

                        As my brother and father know who have helped unblock and clean up after him, we have a very busy beaver(s). Unless the temperature dips below 30, or the water is flooding over our spillway, we wake up 5 days out of 7 with Mr. Beaver blocking our spillway overnight. So every day, Joe (or more normally me) goes down and fishes out all the crap he has piled in there the night before. I am utterly amazed at the size of some of the logs (think small telephone poles) that end up blocking our spillway, and the engineering that goes into the construction of his (or her) dam.

                        Most local animal control and even state wildlife people consider beavers nuisances. In South Carolina, the preferred method of getting rid of a nuisance beaver is to kill it in a drown trap. Obviously, for an animal lovers like me and Joe, that is not an option. The beaver is just doing his job of making his home liveable. I met an orphan baby beaver, a kit, once. He was just as adorable and cute as any puppy or kitten and just as well behaved.

                        Beavers are pre-programmed to dam running water. They hear it, and they have an instinct to go dam it. And given the propenderence of small trees, large trees, and pond weeds in our blackwater pond, the beaver has about enough material to keep damming for the next 50 years, give or take a year.

                        So low and behold, I was just cursing the beaver again when I caught a show on Animal Planet called "Leave it to the Real Beavers". It introduced me to the Beaver Deceiver, a way to keep beavers from damming culverts using cedar posts and fencing. (See the Beaver Deceiver here: So now my problem is to adapt the deceiver to a spillway, not a culvert.

                        So I'm contacting the US Fish and Wildlife division, Partners for Fish and Wildlife and see if they can help me come up with a design to adapt the deceiver for a spillway. I think the initial design will work, with some small adaptation. And then it will be time to round up a crew to build a new beaver deceiver.

                        I'm hoping that I can interest SC Dep't of Natural Resources to write an article about the implementation of a beaver deceiver so that folks see that there are ways to live with a beaver that don't involve its death.

                        This ought to be a cool project in a lot of different ways. As it progresses, I'll blog about it. Til then, may you stay as busy as our friend!

                        Friday, March 20, 2009

                        bathroom humor...

                        So, I decided to take a quick break in the action at work and run to the restroom. It's been one of those days that you have to just finally take the time to make bathroom break. I have a (bad) habit of using the handicap stall just because it affords more room to maneuver. If you could see our 1950s bathrooms made for children that now adults must use, you’d understand my preference for what I call the luxury box.

                        Anyhow, you all know the ludicrous pose we women assume in a public toilet, half squat – half crouch, which puts undue stress on body parts that shouldn’t be stressing at this point in time. And given your pants are shoved somewhere around your knees, you are effectively hobbled.

                        Well, I am in the pose, do my thing, and reach to yank some toilet paper off the industrial size roll, when shazam, the holder falls open and drops a 20 pound roll of unstarted toilet paper into my hobbled/crouched lap. And I am in the bathroom all alone in the luxury box, with no hope (or real desire) for any help.

                        “Crap” I thinks and then pause. “Okay, no crap, but what to do?”

                        Besides the pose and hobbling, I am dealing with a somewhat non-functioning left wrist. It’s probably broken somewhere in those myriad of small bones, but I am refusing to go to a doctor purely out of hatred of my medical insurance. (How, you might ask, did the aforementioned wrist get allegedly broken? Sleep walking – another new bad habit. I ran into the door frame so hard, I woke Joe out of his drugged sleep.) So add bum wrist to the pose and hobbling and now trying to hold onto a 20 pound roll of toilet paper with one good hand.

                        I sigh. This isn’t going to be pretty, no matter what I attempt to do.

                        Luckily (my first break during this whole experience) the holder door has stayed ajar. I rip the glue-y part of the toilet paper to get the roll started. It falls dramatically, like a feather drifting in the wind to the right. I maneuver the roll, gritting my teeth as things roll in my left wrist, and hoist the roll that is the size of medium-sized pumpkin back into place. And then the inner Miss Manners versus Project Manager dialog starts:

                        “So which way should the paper hang – on the left- or right-side?” Inner Miss muses.

                        Project Manager replies, “Well, what risks are there in hanging it on either side? What do the customers want? Do we need a risk mitigation plan to deal with left-side hanging? Will right-side hanging cause a significant impact to scope or schedule?”

                        Inner Miss sniffs. “If you do not know to which side the Ritz Carlton hangs its toilet paper, you are uncouth and uncivilized.”

                        Project Manager gets snotty. “We have a project here we need to complete. Pick a damn side and be done with it!”

                        God bless the PM for winning.

                        I shut the door. It falls back open. I shut it again. It falls yet again.

                        The inner engineer kicks in, “Apply ample percussive maintenance to any object not obeying the rules of plastic injection molding.”

                        I slam it shut and glare at it. You know, the mad woman stare that stops most men and (smart) dogs in their tracks.

                        It stays shut.

                        I complete my project. I finish with the obligatory soapy hand-washing. I go to get paper towels. The paper towels jam.

                        I run.

                        Tuesday, February 17, 2009

                        Worker's Comp - Part 2

                        Well, if you have unfortunately found out about worker's comp the hard way - my sympathies. If you are reading this out of curiousity, take mental notes, campers! Today, we are going to talk about the "compensation" end of workers comp.

                        Disclaimer & Bad Grammar Alert!: Compensation and it's governing laws will vary GREATLY from state to state. Please check in with your workers compensation commission to get the exact details of what you should be getting paid, and what your settlement or suit may consist of!

                        So, you've been hurt on the job and you'll be wanting a check. Now, ask yourself, prior to getting hurt, did you ever really give a rat's ass about workers compensation? Or were you just ho-hum, great, something else I'll never use...? Me, I was in the rat's ass category. It existed, and that's all I knew. My bubble was burst when Joe was hurt, and did I have a lot to learn. (See Worker's Comp Blog 1 for more info.)

                        Basic facts:
                        • The state you live in will guarantee you some form of worker's compensation payments
                        • The state will govern how often and what amount you get paid
                        • The state will govern what your settlement may (0r may not) consist of

                        Here in South Carolina, you are guaranteed 2/3's of your weekly pay up to the state average salary. Catch that last part - state average salary? To misquote Billy Shakespeare - there's the rub. Given that SC is one of the poorest state's in the nation, the state average salary is miserable. It is a mere $647 a week which totals $2,588 for the month. Now for some folks, that's quite a bit. For someone who makes the monthly total every week, WOW, so NOT covering the bills.

                        Now Worker's Comp is not taxed - you won't owe state or Federal taxes on it. (As an aside, when/if you settle, you will owe Social Security taxes on your settlement, but that's a tale for another day.) But that's all you get. And in South Carolina, the worker's compensation insurance company is allowed to average your salary over the last 18 months. Zowee, Batman! Talk about a further reduction!

                        So your workers comp check will come in specified intervals from the workers compensation insurance company. And the moon is made of green cheese which is harvested by little men from Mars. Do not count on your check being on time, particularly around the holidays, major economic events, or any time you really need it. Our lawyer advised us NOT to have it direct deposited - that has an even worse track record for timeliness. Supposedly, your lawyer (if you have retained one) could go after the WC insurance company for late payments, but it's not high on their priority list.

                        Now the next thing to understand is that there is a time limit to your workers compensation claim. In South Carolina, you are allowed to collect/be on workers comp for 500 weeks, or almost 10 years. That seems long, but for a major life-changing injury, it may not be enough.

                        I know, a lot to digest, so I am going to talk about settlement and suits in a different blog. I think I am due for a funny blog in between serious ones, so don't look for the next Workers Comp blog for a couple of days.

                        Friday, January 30, 2009


                        WASHINGTON — Gov. Mark Sanford might not have even known he was in the
                        wrestling ring when U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn delivered an emphatic
                        smack-down from Washington.

                        The State Newspaper, January, 30th, 2009

                        Whooo - go Jim Clyburn!

                        So before I get ahead of myself, let me pause and reflect. Mark Sanford, the economic conservative mouthpiece of the GOP, doesn't care about the unemployed or the under-employed, and certainly doesn't have a grasp on reality.

                        This is the man, who has been trouncing the Employment Security Commission, threatening not to sign a loan from the U.S. DOL (which he had NO choice but to sign - go ahead and call DOL, they'll tell you) to pay benefits to the unemployed in one of states suffering the worst from unemployment.

                        So U.S. Representative Jim Clyburn from South Carolina, the third most powerful Representative in the House added a last minute amendment, that bypassed the mouthpiece,and got the money to the SC Legislature.

                        After 6 ineffective years as governor, Mr. Sanford has choosen to grandstand on the backs of the unemployed, instead of getting his own house in order. The reasons that South Carolina suffers can be traced all the way back to the Civil War, but the lack of leadership and no efforts at bipartisanship have left the state in a shameful position.

                        Chose a ranking and watch how SC stacks up (all the latest stats available):

                        Infant Mortality - 3rd in the nation (U.S. Census, 2005 )

                        Most Dangerous - #4 (In sub-categories, in Assault, SC is #1, murder #4) (CQ Press, 2008)

                        Unemployment - 4th Highest (U.S. Census, 2007 )

                        Persons below poverty level: 11th Highest (U.S. Census, 2006 )

                        Traffic Fatalities: 3rd Highest (U.S. Census, 2005 )

                        Wow, talk about a state needing a Federal hand! And our Governor, who is well-off and married to a well-off woman would like nothing better than to spite South Carolina's collective face by refusing to take bailout money.

                        But our willy fox, Jim Clyburn knew the ways the political winds would blow and did an end-around our lame duck gov. Money desperately needed to repair roads and bridges will be making its way to SC DOT; children may get to go to class in safe schools; and the elderly will have cut programs restored.

                        It is time for South Carolina to take a hard look at itself. It's current government structure is not working for the benefit of the taxpayer. Yes, the Federal stimulus package is a quick windfall that may not be repeated ever. But South Carolina can make changes that would vastly improve the state of the state. And save it boatloads of money.

                        I think Sanford's idea of consolidation a great one - just why hasn't it happened? Why does it seem like he has more enemies on his side of the aisle than the other? Whatever happened to building politcal bridges as well as physical ones?

                        The statistics above point out a very sad fact about South Carolina - it's dysfunctional. Top to bottom and inside out, South Carolina suffers because no one has given a big enough damn to make things right. Poverty and lack of education and opportunity leads to violence and despair. And worse yet, people have convinced themselves this is how it is supposed to be that acting ignorant is okay; pollution acceptable; and the way things were are good enough for the next generation.

                        I am hopeful that a new crop of leaders will be inspired to try to make a change in South Carolina. If we can just carry some of the enthusiasm that sparked the nation to make a change, South Carolina may stand a chance. Amen.

                        Monday, January 26, 2009

                        Living on Workers Compensation

                        Listen up campers, I'm going to blog on a topic that a lot of don't know anything about, but if it happens to us, we wish we knew more about. The subject, Workers Compensation Insurance - the point of view, the significant other of someone who is collecting. If you are a Workers Compensation person from the other side of the equation, you'll not be happy reading this blog.

                        I am also going to write in a series, not just one. There is way too much for one blog to cover and give you enough information to help you muddle through the quagmire of workers comp.

                        Joe, my other half, got hurt quite seriously while on the job. It was a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed for three days. After trying to work with the system for about 2 weeks, I got fed up and we retained the services of a lawyer. So please keep in mind the severity of your injury before you jump on the lawyer happy path. Severe injuries like a spinal cord injury or amputation or major burn will need legal assistance. A cut that heals normally with a few stitches and a few days, probably won't.

                        And as another aside, for anyone thinking they've hit it big by getting a workers comp claim, please do all the really injured people a favor, and jump off a bridge now. Seriously.

                        So here is some the information YOU need to know about workers compensation, what it is, what it isn't, and what you need to do to make sure you are getting the appropriate level of care.

                        Workers compensation has a long and checkered history in the United States. Check out Wikipedia for more on how it got started. But please note this from the opening line on the Wiki article:

                        " a form of insurance that provides compensation medical care for employees who are injured in the course of employment, in exchange for mandatory relinquishment of the employee's right to sue his or her employer for the tort of

                        Did you catch that? Workers comp is for compensation medical care only. You have given up the right to sue your employer for negligence. If you understand that going in, it won't be such a big shock towards the end of your case or whenever you find out.

                        Let's take our case scenario, and work through it. Spinal cord injury, temporary paralysis due to swelling of the spine, discharged from the hospital without a whole lot of information, and sent home without further instruction from worker's comp. Week number one rolls by, and we finally get notified (in writing) from the workers compensation insurance company that a case manager nurse will be coming to visit.

                        Warning, warning! Workers Compensation Case Manager Nurses

                        Case manager nurses aren't your friend, and they certainly shouldn't be visiting at your house. Set the visit up for a public venue. You do NOT have to accept a dictated visit by the workers compensation insurance company. Remember, the case manager nurses are employed or third-party contractors who are being paid to get you off the workers compensation rolls as quickly as possible. Often, they will testify against you when you go to settle by claiming what they saw at your house could have been the cause of your injury.

                        Warning, warning! Workers Compensation Adjusters

                        Maybe I'm painting a whole industry with a tar brush, but these people are not your friends either. In fact, they are planning on giving you as little care as possible and back to work as quickly as they can. Do not talk to them any more than you possibly can; give them as little information as possible; and be prepared for lashback if you get a lawyer. Joe's workers compensation adjuster called him the first day, while he was in the emergency, on very heavy medications, paralyzed, and started reading him the company handbook on workers comp. Joe was in no way or shape able to digest this information or make any sense of it. As a little payback after we got our lawyer, he required that all of Joe's prescription medication be approved by him - something our pharmacist never heard of before in his career. Later, our pharmicist told us he would be happy to testify in court about this nonsense.

                        Okay, who is your friend?

                        One of the first things you need to do is figure out what laws your state has in place governing workers comp. Most states will have a workers compensation commission that oversees the rules and regs, companies and claims, claimants and settlements. Each state is structured somewhat differently. Here in South Carolina, we have a workers comp ombudsman who is a wonderful lady appointed to help the injured find out what their rights are, and help them understand the process. Above all else, find out what your rights are if you are severely injured.

                        Jury's Still Out - Workers Compensation Lawyers

                        As our case is in progress at this point, I'll refrain from too many comments on workers comp lawyers. We've all seen the ads on tv for a lawyer who will represent you if you are hurt and make sure your bills are paid. Well, point in fact, medical bills, and some portion of your weekly compensation. What the lawyer is good for is getting workers compensation off their ass and pointed in the right direction. IF there is a possibility of third-party suit, trust me, they'll sniff it out asap, and get busy finding out who else they can get $$$ from. By the end of our first visit with our lawyer, she had him in with the best pain management doctor in town, through our case manager nurse.

                        On the downside, workers compensation lawyers take a chunk out of your settlement. In SC, by law, it's 1/3 of your settlement. Gulp. That's a HUGE amount of money no matter what your settlement size is. You will sign a contract with the lawyer for their services, so don't think about trying to get around their system.

                        All right, this is a very small portion of what you need to know about workers compensation and how it works. Trust me, there is a lot more. Tons more. But take these away:

                        1. As soon as possible, contact your state's worker compensation commission so you know your rights, what is owed to you under state law, and how the system works.
                        2. Do not be bullied by the workers compensation insurance company or your employer.
                        3. Do not meet with the workers compensation case manager nurse on your property if at all possible.

                        Look for more tomorrow on compensation.

                        Tuesday, January 20, 2009

                        Change Happens

                        Today marks the change in presidential administration. Over the weekend, we had a change in administration at the house. Sookie has become Alpha. She claimed the dog bed beside my side of the bed. That had been Sunny's place, and then Gus claimed it after Sunny passed. Now Sookie has it - the ratty beat-up bed, but the one closest to Mom.

                        Jack, the Jack Russell, is the oldest dog in the house at 6 years old, but Sookie, the only female (and the biggest) now has pack leader status. Elrod made the mistake of growling at Sookie as she walked past him while he was eating. She had him down and pinned in less than three seconds. She held him there, and then calmly let him go. Poor Elrod.

                        Except she doesn't have rank over the cat. The cat calmly walked into the bedroom last night as we were getting everything sorted out, walked into the middle of the alpha dog bed, laid down and gave Sookie "The Look." Sookie (already very well cat-trained) got nervous and walked over to the other side of the room and laid in her old bed.

                        Rudy the cat is having issues. I am not sure what is causing the issues, but he is having issues. Perhaps since Gus was his whipping dog, Rudy is now bereft of his punching bag. Perhaps Rudy who goes outside with my dogs and comes back in just like the dogs, thinks he IS the alpha dog. He is beating up on all the dogs, bit me this morning, and is having way too much fun with his catnip mouse.

                        Rudy is my second cat. I've never asked for a cat, they've always adopted me. My first cat Callie, was my barn cat, who decided she needed to move indoors. Rudy was already resident at the farm, and starving to death when we moved there. We feed him, brought him one night when it got cold, and he stayed ever since. He got a bladder infection last March that cost us $400 to fix, so he is now forever known as the $400 cat.

                        "Don't stay out in the dark" we yell at Rudy - "You cost us $400 - way too expensive for a fox to eat!" I've heard Joe tell Rudy quite rudely that his $400 ass was not allowed on the kitchen counters. I'm sure that has something to do with his cat pyschology - knowing that he "cost" more than the other house animals.

                        I don't know a helluva lot about cats. They aren't dogs (pack animals) and they aren't horses (prey animals). Their little brains work in very weird ways. They get happy and they bite you. Totally don't get that. They are self-centered, and self-sufficient and very often, self-absorbed. What I think makes the cat happy and what does, normally are very different things. I can assert myself as uber-alpha dog whenever I have to, but try to do that with a cat. They'll just run around and pee on your favorite furniture.

                        I am not quite sure what to do with Rudy's issues. Wait and let him work them out? Take the catnip mouse away? Take him to AKC obedience school? I'll ask some cat people for advice. I'd like to get them fixed so Sookie can be the true alpha dog.

                        Friday, January 16, 2009

                        Post-Gus, Day 2

                        Well, it's the day after saying good-bye to Gus. I don't want to be melancholy, but I am. I don't want to look in the refrigerator and burst into tears, but I am. My heart still pounds painfully every so often - I think with remembered dread still causing a spike in my heart rate.

                        I threw his medicines away this morning, the stop-the-nose-bleed drops, and the pain pills. The pain pills made me wheeze and gasp, trying to not to sob. What really got me were the treats under the sink I bought him for Christmas, still there and unfinished.

                        The house this morning was quiet - so much so it was eerie. I didn't realize what a loud dog our blind sheepie was. There wasn't any of the extra bustle that had filled my mornings. Getting Gus up and down the hallway, following him around outside in the pre-dawn dark, getting him in the house, and his gentle huffs and sighs. Gus panted, probably because he wore a wool coat, albeit fashionably short in warmer weather, but still warm. And he thunked into things, which sometimes made the whole house rattle.

                        The muppets seem to be feeling the change. For the first time ever, they came back to the house on their own this morning with no extra prompting (read yelling, calling, or chasing down.) Sookie especially knows her big brother is missing. She was upset yesterday when she saw his body in the garage, and this morning she seemed mopey. Elrod was upset because his people were upset. The cat who was outside during the day's events, came in last night, and searched the entire house sniffing and looking. The Jack Russell, in typical terrier fashion, is acting like nothing is wrong, except not having enough food in his bowl.

                        I realized sometime last night that I could have a coffee table again. After 9 years of no coffee table, I am kind of used to the anti-extra furniture trend. I can't imagine having a coffee table. Really, can't. In my head, it makes the room smaller, and a lot more lonelier. Maybe in a few months I'll think about a coffee table, but I can't yet. Besides the muppets need their wrestling space.

                        I know that all the extra care and tending I put into Gus I can now point and do something else with, but I am not sure what. I would happily keep giving all that I was giving to have a healthy Gus back and in my arms. But the point is, I can't. I am coming to realize that what I was telling myself to make myself go through with our decision to euthanize Gus was really, really true. He wasn't coming back, he was dying in pain. The die were cast, his race was run, and it was time to let him go. His spirit - the spark that made Gus - had already left and was only held by the merest tether of a beating heart.

                        We thankfully have a busy weekend in front of us. Tomorrow we go see the Lippizan stallions in performance, Sunday we may go upstate to have dinner with Joe's family; and hopefully Monday, my parents will be here, trying to flee any more bad winter weather. I really need my mother's hug right now. I am buoyed by the news that my brother and sister-in-law are getting two foster puppies tonight! What a great adventure they have in front of them! I am almost jealous. We can plan our first weekend get-away now; it's almost been a year since we've gone anywhere.

                        But in between all that, I'll be missing and thinking and trying to smile about my big sheepie, Gus.

                        Thursday, January 15, 2009

                        Eulogy for a Dog

                        In memory of Gus "Bus" Iden July, 1998 - January, 2009

                        We had a hard to decision to make yesterday, or for me. it was the day before. Gus, our beautiful white-headed Old English Sheepdog, had been diagnosed with nasal cancer during the summer around July. It had started with a some hellacious nose bleeds and horrific snoring and escalated into total blockage of the sinuses. It culminated last weekend with the cancer
                        errupting into his eye socket causing him pain and distress. Within two weeks our once 93 pound dog droppped almost 20 pounds - the cancer was eating him from the inside out. It became apparent to me that we had come to a fatal decision point - either now or in a few horrible pain-filled days.

                        Gus had fought cancer valiantly for 7 months. Canine nasal cancer doesn't have a cure, it doesn't even have a good way to fight it. The surgery is horrible, the radiation afterwards even worse. My vet said that he wouldn't even put a young two year old dog through the ordeal. Instead we chose to give Gus the best life he could have for the remainder of his time. Over the last week, Gus turned into a zombie dog, who could barely put one foot in front of the other and who had stopped eating. If you knew Gus, you knew that was a very bad thing.

                        I agonized with the decision by myself until last night when I told Joe. He agreed that it was the right and best thing to do, and this morning we called the vet. Beth came to our house and help put our sheepie into a gentle rest. He was so close to going you couldn't tell when he slipped from our world over the rainbow bridge. We held him up to the end loving him as best we could.

                        There are tons of other blogs about losing a loved one, and lessons in life, and the pain of making the euthanasia decision. This blog is about me trying to heal some of the holes in my heart today.

                        Gus was a very good dog. Not great, mind you, but a very good dog. You see, like most dogs, Gus gave us all pointers in unconditional love, respect, friendship, and how to love whatever food is in front of you. But unlike most dogs, Gus had a few more lessons for me to learn and keep.

                        Most of you wouldn't know that when I brought Gus home, he had one beautiful brown eye and one blue eye. About 2 months after I adopted Gus from the Old English Sheepdog Rescue in North Carolina, he went to totally blind. Both of his retinas tore and detached, leaving an otherwise healthy and young 2 year old dog in the dark. Adding insult to injury, he grew
                        cataracts over both retinas, leaving boths eyes a milky blue. I always blamed his blindness on the rough start he got in life - left in a dog pen in the hot sun in Charlotte, North Carolina for the first full year of his life. The fur on his back was still brown from being sun-burnt when I brought him home.

                        But Gus and I both adapted to his changed world. I got rid of the coffee table, and he began to put his full trust into me.

                        We learned how to communicate. "Slow" meant "hey stupid, there is a tree (or house or car or horse trailer) right in front of you!" "Other way, Gus!" meant to execute an incredible tight turn in the other direction because impact was emminent. "Step, step" meant that the altitude was about to change one way or the other.

                        We still had accidents along the way. A quick-footed pony gave him a concussion and 10 staples in the head. I kept a bag of frozen peas handy to keep on his noggin after "Slow" and "other way" didn't work. But Gus, for the most part, worked it out. He had his Sunny, and then his Sookie to help him when Mom wasn't there.

                        Gus - your zest for life and love will never be forgotten. No matter you were blind, you wanted to play like the rest of the dogs. You barked and chased, and wished you could get that damn Jack Russell just once. You never let a garbage can lid stand in the way of getting what you wanted, by God, if the garbage smelled good there was something in it for you! Peanut butter kongs were a requirement, not a nice-to-have. And despite your people's best intentions, if there was some place you wanted to go, you were going regardless of how many bushes, holes, fence posts or donkeys were in your way.

                        And love. Gus always trusted that there would be someone around to love him. Someone he could feel and who would hold him. And if you were too busy to touch him, then he would touch you. Mostly by shoving his head through your legs, and squirming until he got his whole body between your legs. The looks of surprise on all the new people Gus met when he first did that too them! When the big, shaggy head would poke itself right out above your knees. Everyone would laugh and then get the message Gus was trying to tell them - love me. Easy enough to do for a dog so full of love himself.

                        And who among us who knew Gus doesn't have Gus claw scars on their ribs or their knee from Gus reminding us that he was present at the dinner table?

                        Gus had a love of well-endowed women too. If there was a large chested chick in the crowd, Gus would find her. And within the first hour have his head between her boobs. I used to warn any endowed women meeting Gus that he would be all over them, but I decided to keep it our secret. Every dog needs one or two. Secrets that is.

                        I said to Mom this morning, that even in times of immeasurable sorrow, you must remember to count the joys. Gus was a joy, a clown, a train wreck, and my giant living teddy bear. My heart is breaking with missing him. I know my love for him will always be there, and a piece of his heart will stay with me until the end of my days.

                        Now Gus is over the rainbow bridge. By now he has found Sunny and they are having a joyful reunion. And best yet, his eyes can now see what he hasn't been able to for 9 years.

                        Gus, our big goof-ball, rest in peace. We love you now and always.