Dec 7, 2018

DC v. Dallas: Smackdown!

I lived in the DC area for over 40 years and have lived in Dallas for about 3 months. Seems like enough information to do a smackdown, right?

FRIENDLY PEOPLE

If you are the chatty type, and I am, Dallas wins. By a lot.

The first time I walked into a supermarket, the cashier turned around and started talking to me. I couldn't understand why she was talking to me. Our neighbors talk to us. My doctors chat about non medical stuff. The waitresses and hair dressers chat. I enjoy all the friendly strangers. Breaks up my otherwise quiet life.

On the other hand, if you like to be left alone, live in DC. There is mandatory silence on the subway. Eye contact is not a good thing. Everyone minds his or her own business as everyone is assumed to be a serial killer until proven otherwise. 

CRAZY DRIVERS

DC "wins" in a landslide. In the DC area, a red light is an invitation to plow faster through the intersection. If you are first in line at a traffic light, do not go into the intersection when the light turns green. You must wait for the intersection to clear (and that can take a while) or risk death.

In Dallas, people tend to stop at red lights. Yes, I've been cut off in Dallas by a couple of rude drivers, but nothing like I experienced in DC. Then again, I don't drive on the Dallas highways, so maybe I'm missing out on the crazy.

CARS

Speaking of cars, IMHO, DC wins. In DC people tend to drive smaller cars. Our 2003 Prius ($15 a month in gas) is a joke here. It can take forever just to back out of a space in a parking lot in Dallas because I'm surrounded by really big car/truck things!

MORE CAR STUFF

I'm comparing Virginia to Texas now. Virginia wins.

Virginia's Division of Motor Vehicles has won awards for its efficiency. In Texas, you have to go to a different place to get your car registered, get a driver's license, pay property tax, get an inspection, etc. I still don't understand it as Mike took the lead.

NEIGHBORHOODS

Dallas wins. The residential areas we've seen are gorgeous. Lots of older homes with old trees laid out in easy to navigate grids. And they are conveniently located -- retail and commercial and medical spots are easy to get to. I'm impressed. And the suburban neighborhoods are very nice too -- many beautiful homes at reasonable price points in convenient locations.

Of course there are many beautiful neighborhoods in DC and the suburbs. But the DC area is so expensive and DC itself has a lot of "traffic circles" a/k/a death circles.  Even I, a tentative driver, am navigating Dallas.

CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS

Dallas wins. I've never seen so many houses decked out with so many beautiful lights. Seriously, get on a plane and drive down my street!
BUGS

Dallas wins and by that I mean loses. And that's all I can say about that ... .

COST OF LIVING

Dallas wins, but not by as much as I expected.

Real estate and rentals are cheaper. There is no state income tax in Texas. Restaurant meals are cheaper. And it looks like we are paying less for the repairs we are having done on our house than we would have paid in DC. 

On the other hand, car and property insurance is 3 times the cost with enormous deductibles. Utilities are high (I'm sitting in the dark as I write this!) Property taxes are also much higher.  And, sales tax in Texas is much higher than in Virginia. 

MUSEUMS/BOTANICAL GARDENS

DC wins the museum category but Dallas wins in the Botanical Garden sweepstakes.   

RUNNING TRAILS

Dallas wins. At least, that's what Mike says. (How would I know?)

FALL FOLIAGE

Dallas wins. A couple of weeks ago our neighborhood exploded with color. This was a surprise as several people had warned me that Dallas' trees went from green to brown. Nope. I was thrilled.  

PRESIDENTIAL MOTORCADES AND MONUMENTS

HA (Although we live about 5 minutes from the President George W. Bush library.)

AIRPORTS

Not sure. We live about 20 minutes from Love Field (Southwest Air) and that is so convenient. Plus, it is much easier to get in and out of Love compared to the airports in DC. However, I'm totally drugged up when I fly so I really can't compare the actual airports themselves...

SPORTS

High school and college football are huge in Dallas. So if you love that, Dallas wins. Both cities love their pro teams. We're not into any of it at the moment as our football team, the Giants, are horrible and we haven't made the transition to baseball yet. We enjoy baseball and expect to become Texas Rangers fans.

WEATHER 

No one wins.

Winters are milder in Dallas and I love the prospect of no, or almost no, snow. I hear we get ice, but since we live in the city, it's significantly warmer than the north suburbs, so hopefully we'll escape that scourge. DC's a crap shoot in the winter -- the Northern VA suburbs can get significant snow. 

DC summers are hot and humid. Dallas' are much hotter and just as humid. I have no intention of going outside from May through September and apparently will pay a small fortune to run our AC!

Don't move to either place for the weather.

AMOUNT OF DAYLIGHT

Dallas wins. There's over 30 minutes extra of daylight in Dallas in the middle of December. We LOVE that. Such an unexpected and welcome surprise.

FRIENDS AND FAMILY

DC wins the friends category, but Dallas wins the most important family category.

We are still adjusting and are a little homesick. Our friends and everything we know is in the DC area. It's harder to transition at our age than we expected, so it's going to take a while for Dallas to feel like home. 

However, we see our son every weekend, and see other family (Mike's brother and his family live here) often. 

So, Dallas wins.


Dec 2, 2018

Winter Still (7 Cards!)

Today I'm sharing 7 cards (4 Christmas and 3 Winter Holiday) all using the same stamp, Penny Black's Winter Still.  It's a beautiful cling image that can be used year round. Added a Christmas sentiment from Concord & 9th and a winter holiday sentiment from another Penny Black set to complete the cards.

Using the MISTI, or other stamp positioner, makes adding layers of ink pretty easy. I don't think I would use this type of stamp without one.

Here goes!

1. Stamped with a variety of green dye mini ink pads 
and red and purple Tombow markers.  One layer.



2.  Moved the image and the sentiment.  One layer.



3. Flipped the image and used different shades of green ink. 
Added a bit of gold ink to the leaves. Also one layer.


4. Added a little blue to the berries and brighter shades of 
green ink (and a touch of yellow) for the leaves. One layer.


5. I wanted cold colors for these winter themed cards (for my Jewish friends) and switched to watercolor paper.  Misted each layer of ink with water before stamping and then dried with a heat gun before layering again. Stamped the leaves with Distress Ink Stains (grays and blues for the leaves) and blue and pink markers for the berries. Sprayed with water and dried between layers.  Trimmed and added to an A2 card.


6. Watercolor paper, lots of water and heat between layters. Added more dark gray for contrast. The stamped moved (I was using a lot of water), so there is a faint extra layer of berries.


7. Finally, I used more ink here and less water. The leaves are bluer and the berries are quite pink.



MOOD WHEN DONE:  Well, I made a big old mess making these but enjoyed every minute of it!  So, I made a total of 9 holiday cards this year and all calling it a success. Most of my cards are store bought. This week I'll turn my attention to other types of cards.  And maybe baking cookies...

Nov 28, 2018

Using a Large Image

Needed to take a break from making Christmas cards and chose a very large floral image from Penny Black, called Garden Gems, to make a thank you card.

The nice thing about these large images is that you can just rub some ink over them, use waterbased markers to produce a more realistic image, emboss and water color around them, or try other techniques. But my favorite thing about them is that Penny Black has done all the work --no masking or figuring out where the leaves go.


Used various shades of pink and orange inks and just lightly stamped portions of the image several times. The MISTI or other positioning tool makes this very easy.


Added a sentiment from Altenew and some black speckled paint. Before I added the paint, I covered up most of the card with scrap paper.


MOOD WHEN DONE: Good! The card is about to go in the mail. Then it is time to clean up this mess before I go back to making Christmas cards. Hope to have more to share soon.

Nov 18, 2018

Christmas 2018 -- First Card! and A Life Update


Here's my first Christmas card for 2018. Very grateful for the time, health, and opportunity to just sit and play. Last year I was recovering from surgery and the year before I was sick in Belgium, so it's been awhile since I had the pleasure of making a Christmas card. At least I think so -- I haven't gone back to check!


This uses Penny Black La Fleur Rouge stamp and a sentiment from W Plus 9 -- both have been around for a while. I stamped it multiple times with Tombow Watercolor Markers and misted with water. Then I stamped with Versamark and embossed in clear and watercolored around the image. The white edges around the stems and leaves are the places where the embossing powder melted. I like the look.

Here's a picture of the layers of watercolor and splatters. So much fun to make!


I took this picture in our bedroom. That blue wall is like the rest of the house -- textured plaster. I've yet to find the right light for photography in this house, but this will do for now.

MOOD WHEN DONE:  Happy!

LIFE UPDATE: The move to Dallas has been full of happiness and some tears. Both of us are very happy we made the move, and both are homesick. We like the city but we need time to adjust. 

The section of the city where we live -- East Dallas -- is full of lovely older homes and buildings. It's liveable and, particularly for me, easy to navigate. We are 20 minutes from Love Field (the airport from which President Kennedy flew back to DC after the assassination). We are about 5 minutes from the President George W. Bush library and will be going there soon. So, while it is different from what we are used to, Dallas is a good place.

Living near our son has been better than anticipated. He hasn't lived near us for more than a few months in over 10 years, so there is a lot of happiness on all sides. We have also spent a fair amount of time with Mike's brother and his family, who live nearby, and are looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with them.

All good!

There is a clinic that specializes in my heart condition nearby, which is fantastic, as most cardiologists do not have enough experience with the condition and can cause more harm than good. The clinic is a participating site for a clinical trial for a new drug and asked me if I wanted to participate. In a week or so I start the process to see if I can participate. Without clinical trials, we will not more forward so I am hopeful.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Today we are hosting a small get together for a few neighbors. And one of them is -- get this -- a stamper who reached out to me because she reads this blog and recognized my description of where we live. She is 3 blocks away!! We met for lunch and she is awesome. I AM SO EXCITED.

I hope to be back with more cards later this week. 




Nov 14, 2018

Oh, James

I scanned the intake sheet: James Kolacki (not his real name), 24, unemployed. Wants to appeal a denial of social security disability (SSD).  One of the other lawyers or paralegals in my legal aid office must have been on vacation or overloaded, as I rarely handled that type of case.  Ok, time to learn something new.

James had pale white skin, blond, almost white, hair, and pale blue eyes. Very thin, he looked about 18. His father, Mr. Kolacki, was with him. Mr. K was graying and looked older than his age (50). I soon learned why.

It is difficult to get SSD, and very difficult when you are young. Before the government will agree to pay, you must meet the definition of disability in the social security laws. The older we get, the easier it is to meet that test -- back problems, arthritis, cancer etc. all become much more common as we age. At 24, however, the odds were not in James' favor.

Before I could introduce myself, I noticed James reading my framed licenses and certificates quite closely. So, after I told them my name, I made a point of mentioning that I was "the attorney" assigned to James. Since I was 27 and a woman, it was often necessary for me to remind my clients that I was a "real" lawyer.  Sometimes I needed to remind myself as well.....

Right from the start, Mr. K took over the appointment and explained that James lived in supported housing, ran by a local non profit, for adults with developmental or serious mental health issues.  Mr. K handed me the paperwork denying SSD for his son, and said he wanted to appeal.

It's tricky when an adult comes in with a parent, child, or other adult who is answering all the questions. So I went out of my way to explain to James that I was his attorney, not his father's, and that I wanted to speak privately with James.  Mr. K got up to leave, but James immediately said it was ok for his father to stay.

Mr. K sat down and I looked at James and asked him why he thought he couldn't work. His father immediately answered for him. "James has schizophrenia** and cannot hold a job." He then handed me a one inch thick medical file.

I needed to hear from James, if for no other reason that James would need to testify and I had to assess his ability to do so. So I sat back and said to James, "Tell me about your life. I know your Dad can explain it but I want to hear it from you." And then I said to Mr. K, "If it's ok, I'd like you to sit back and just listen for a bit." Mr. K nodded.

Without looking at me, James said, "I live with my parents and I got fired from my job at Taco Bell."

"What reason did Taco Bell give you for firing you?"

"I got upset. I couldn't stay there at the cash register so I left in the middle of my shift and they fired me."

James looked a little agitated and kept staring at my certificates, so I decided to change the subject and ask something simple.

"Did you graduate from high school?"

I caught a look of immense sadness come over Mr. K's face. Before James could respond, Mr, K said: "Yes, James graduated 3rd in his class. And then he went to the University of Virginia for 2 years. When he was a junior at UVA, he had his first psychotic break and moved back home."

In the 3 years that I had been practicing as a legal aid lawyer, I had a lot of clients with serious mental health issues. Although they were a small portion of my practice, they took up a lot of my time. Sometimes their issues seemed comical, even though underneath they were deadly serious and tragic. Nevertheless, it seemed I connected with them better than with my "healthy" clients.

For example, Gail (not her real name) kept filing lawsuits against Picasso (his real name), even though Picasso was dead and Gail had no connection to Picasso. I had learned the hard way not to argue with Gail about those facts. Rather, I convinced Gail to stop filing suits against Picasso because Picasso wasn't in the US and the US courts didn't have jurisdiction over him.

I was representing Bill, (not his real name either) a cab driver, in a routine divorce. Things got interesting because Bill believed that Walter Mondale had beaten Ronald Reagan in the 1984 Presidential election. Bill wasn't claiming voter fraud -- rather, he was convinced that Mondale had won. Bill "saw" the victory celebration for Mondale on TV and drove up from Florida to Northern Virginia in anticipation of working for Mondale. While waiting to start work at the White House, Bill's wife sued him for divorce. On the day after Mondale's "Inauguration Day," Bill went to the White House to report for work. (The Secret Service called me because I was listed as his lawyer on the divorce papers Bill was carrying around.)

So, I had a little experience dealing with people suffering from schizophrenia and, tremendous sympathy. Schizophrenia is one of life's cruelties. I was powerless to address the schizophrenia -- all I could do was work around it and help my clients get what they deserved.

In any event, I understood why Mr. K was answering the questions for James and I was beginning to understand why Mr. K looked older than 50. But, before I could respond, James stood up and stated: "I don't want a woman lawyer. I want a man. I don't like being near women."

Mr. K explained, "James is afraid of women. He thinks they have powers to kill him. He couldn't handle working with or serving any women at Taco Bell and that is why he left in the middle of the shift. Please don't be offended. It's part of his illness."

We had a policy in our office that we would not respond to clients' prejudices -- if you didn't want the Jewish lawyer or the woman lawyer or the guy with red hair, you were out of luck. But James was different. This wasn't stupidity or prejudice; this was part of James' illness.

"Well, give me a moment. I want to talk to one of my colleagues."

But before I got to the door, James also stood up, walked over to my law school graduation certificate and, pointing at it, said, "Well, I see you went to a Catholic law school. I will take you as my lawyer because you are Catholic."

I decided not to share with James that I was not a practicing Catholic.

"Well, good. Let me look through the file your Dad brought."

I scanned the papers and silently fumed. James was clearly suffering from schizophrenia and had made multiple attempts at working, all of which failed. His permanent disability was documented by many psychiatrists. I knew that Social Security had denied James because the Reagan Administration had a policy of denying all SSD claims and forcing everyone to file an appeal. As a result, the appeals process was overwhelmed with claims. Even worse, many people didn't understand how to appeal and didn't go forward. This was especially cruel because SSD comes with eligibility for Medicare (after a waiting period). No SSD, and often no health care for the most vulnerable.

I explained this to James and his Dad but also told them that our office had a pretty good track record for winning at the hearing officer stage. In the event we lost, we could file in Federal Court.

The hearing officer was a kind man. He listened to my presentation, chatted with James for a few minutes, and took my binder of documents supporting James' claim. While he was reading the doctors' statements, James blurted out that if the hearing officer thought he should try and work, James would try again. It was heartbreaking. I saw the empathy in the hearing officer's eyes. After a moment, he put down the file, looked at me, and asked if the SSD checks should be made out directly to James or to Mr. K as his guardian. James agreed to let his father get the checks.

So James got SSD and the health insurance (Medicare) that goes with it. I was thrilled. It was a small victory against the disease and the system that tried to rob James of his chance at a decent life. I wasn't sure what the future held for James, but I imagined a relatively stable life, living near his family and doing as well as could be expected. Mr. K was hugely relieved and thanked me over and over. James looked away and didn't say anything.

I never saw James or Mr. K again. But about 10 years later, I noticed a short article in the Washington Post. Apparently James had moved to Staunton, Virginia and had been living in a boarding house. A fellow resident had shot and killed him. James was survived by Mr. and Mrs. K and 2 siblings. The police were investigating.

Oh, James, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. 

** James wasn't "a schizophrenic." Just like I'm not a heart disease and others are not cancer. James was a human with a disease.

Although research continues, treatments have not changed much since James died. You can find more information on schizophrenia here.





Oct 15, 2018

One Year Later, Part 2

A lot of events happened last year, and the other day I documented some of it on the blog. 

But what I didn't document were the really important moments, the moments we remember because of how they made us feel. Like stones rounded by the sea, I sometimes take out these moments and turn them around and around in my mind, taking comfort and joy in their memory:

When Mike was hospitalized a few weeks before my heart surgery, a friend said: "I'll go with you to Mayo."

When it was recommended that I have a recliner after surgery, as getting in and out of bed would be painful, a friend said: "I have a recliner. We'll bring it over and carry it up your flight of stairs."

When we were flying back home from Mayo, a friend said: "I've made extra dinner. I'll bring it over as soon as you get there."

When Mike was anxious to get back to work after being at Mayo with me for 2 weeks, a friend said: "I'll take you to the doctor," even though that meant a long drive in rush hour for her.

When the doorbell keeps ringing because so many friends have sent food or flowers or both.

When you get cards.  

When friends insist on dropping by for just 10 minutes and seeing them brightens your mood for days.

When the doc in the ER gets angry on your behalf because the Mayo docs screwed up something and she calls Mayo to complain. 

When that same doc says to you: "This embolism could have killed you. You're lucky your husband called an ambulance."

When your son turns to you and says: "We should live in the same area. Move to Dallas."

When your sister in law calls to say that her mom is having a biopsy, and my husband and his brother drop everything to be there.

When your mother in law takes a turn for the worse, and everyone -- children, in laws, grandchildren, flies across the country and is there in less than a day.

When the time comes to divide up property and my mother in law's children argue -- not to get more for themselves, but to make sure they don't take too much for themselves.

When you hear your nephew and niece performing at your mother in law's memorial service.

When your sister in law buys your favorite candy, twizzlers, and then eats them with you. 

When your mother in law says: "Thank you for being here."

When you wake up covered by biting bugs at your airbnb apartment and your husband says: "We are out of here. Leave the stuff covered with bugs on the bed. Now."

When you finally find a doctor who figures out what is wrong with your scar. And makes it stop hurting.

When you say goodbye to neighbors, knowing you may never see them again, and your heart tugs.

When your car check engine light comes on as soon as you enter Dallas, and a car guy you've never met fixes it and doesn't charge much.

When your realtor (Kathy Hewitt) is the BEST realtor ever and makes a difficult situation easier. 

When your sister in law in Dallas calls and says "come for dinner" and keeps calling with the same request.

When the people running the breakfast buffet at the hotel where you are staying greet you with a big smile every morning.

When every. single. person. you meet in Dallas is friendly (and many are from the DC area!).

When the Dallas waitress reorders all your food because there is a way to get the same food at less cost.

When a stamper friend contacts someone she knows in Dallas and her Dallas friend and I go to lunch.

When you get invited to attend your nephew's baby's church dedication.

When 3 of your new neighbors knock on the door and welcome you and give you their cell numbers.

When your son says: "I'm glad you moved here."


Oct 13, 2018

One Year Later

October 13th 
Super Freak Out
Heart Surgery at Mayo
A few complications
Feeling better every day
More complications
Get stronger
Mike retires
Spend week in Florida celebrating
Anticipate boring (good) year
Mike decides to take job in Phoenix
Freak out
Mike's mom get sick
Go house hunting in Phoenix
Spend weeks in Harlingen Texas
helping Mike's sister care for my MIL
Go to San Diego to be with MIL and SIL
Sadly, Mike's mom does not make it
Andy suggests we move to Dallas
Heartstrings tugged
Cancel Phoenix
Put house on market
Sell house
Freak out
Move to Dallas
Leave 2 Airbnb places due to "issues"
Freak out
Move to hotel
Breakfast buffet is (too) good
Spend lots of time with Andy and Mike's family in Dallas
Househunters
Buy house in Dallas
Cancel Contract on House 1
Buy House 2
Cancel Contract on House 2
Freak out
Buy House 1 again
Freak out
Move into house
Unpacking**
Love house
Meet nice neighbors
Have first dinner with Andy in new house last night
Anticipate boring year
Please


** Pic of sunroom filling up with empty boxes