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Working Sick: Where’s the Line?

​Recently (meaning a couple months ago), NPR did a report featuring workers who go to work sick. For the majority, it was mainly older employees who tended to stay home when I’ll while the younger workers were more apt to push through their illness to not miss work. The major difference between these two groups were the ones who tended to stay home were those who had tenure and got paid sick time off or would otherwise not be punished for taking time off. This was the older set. Of those interviewed in the younger set, they told the reporter they almost always went to work sick because they did not have paid (or even unpaid) sick time that they were allowed to use. Illnesses ranged from painful migraines to colds, flu, and other contagious illnesses that involved vomiting and diarrhea at work. Those who went to work sick said they did so because they could not afford to lose the pay or their jobs.
I was reminded of this radio spot as I forced myself to go to work sick today out of the same fear. I’d called out the past two days with severe bronchitis but could not afford a write-up for missing any more time, so I stuck it out. I ended up getting worse throughout the day because I wasn’t able to rest or take the medications that I have been at work – they put me to sleep. Upon returning to work today, I also heard from several others that they’d had to call out sick this week too for the same thing and I know where it came from. One person who came in sick 2 weeks ago coughing up a storm and even bragging about having the flu and still working.
The question is: where does someone who lives paycheck to paycheck draw the line between going in sick and staying home for their own health and others? Is it worth losing money or even your job to keep others safe? How do you handle it? Comments are welcome.

Down Time

When is the last time I had a vacation? I can’t remember. So 3 months ago, when my job finally made me permanent and assigned some PTO for me (paid time off), I requested a 4-day stretch off work. To my surprise, it was approved so as I write this, I am enjoying my first little non-working vacation in I don’t know how long. Can I tell you how good it feels to NOT have to set the alarm? To be able to go to sleep when I’m tired instead of when I have to? This is much-needed down time for mind and body, especially since the busy season is about to start at work and not only will time off be difficult to obtain, we’ll start seeing mandatory overtime as well. It’s about to get stressful.
So what am I doing with my time? Lots and lots of reading and relaxing for one. Some self-pampering. Today looks to be a day that involves nothing more than a long soak in the pool, followed by basking in the sun with a book, then the jacuzzi. Then dinner with my hunny and curling up to watch some TV, just us.
I wanted to stay local while still being far enough from home for it to feel like a getaway, so we booked a lovely inn that is a little out of town and right down the road from my second-favorite Downtown area and the artisan community interlaced with it. Tomorrow looks like window shopping and browsing at the many antique stores and art galleries. Best way to spend a Monday 🙂

Daily Prompt – Money for Nothing?

In response to: Daily Prompt – Money for Nothing

Dream jobs… we all want one. For some, that dream job just means sitting back and collecting on a winning Powerball ticket.  The most joy, I think, comes from the satisfaction of doing work that you love that also pays the bills.  My dream job is not going to be found in any newspaper or on Monster.  It will have to be crafted with hard work and a hefty sum of funds to start – where they would come from is unknown but… prayer does bring miracles, especially when it’s for a good cause.

This is something I’ve been half-heartedly plotting for years – half-heartedly due to not knowing where or how to acquire the funds to start and run it all.  I started by listing three of my main interests that I would love to make my life’s work: animal rescue, social work and a bed and breakfast.  In combining these things, I came up with an idea: An unwanted horse rescue which would be run on a ranch. As part of a ranch, there would be housing. That housing could be used as a battered women’s shelter.  The name: Renewal Ranch.  The organization’s “icon” would be a simple sunrise, signifying each day bringing new light. Something like…

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…Without the green screen of course 🙂

Horses are taken in to be cared for. Women are taken in to be cared for. In return for their shelter, the women would get to connect with nature and the horses by helping to care for them.  Both the women and the horses would be safe, sheltered, fed and helped to recover from abuse, neglect and un-want. The joy to me would be in helping everyone involved, give the women a purpose and the horses a second chance. The positive energy would come full circle as the women rehabilitate the horses and the horses help rehabilitate the women. I’m giving myself 9 years to find a way to acquire the funds for this project because I would like to “retire” from the corporate world at 50 and spend the last half of my life (yes, I plan on being around until at least 100!) doing good for some of those most in need.  My dream job – a labour of love.

ISO: Stability

Bear with me as I reflect on some out of the way things here, like the connection between Daytona and God.  I’m still unsure which led me to which, but here I am, borderline homeless in Daytona (defined soon) and wondering why after such fervent prayer, life keeps throwing me one backhand after another just trying to knock me down – which, admittedly, it has a few times in the past five months – and keep me from getting back up.

After losing my job in January 2013 due to the death of the owner of the company and subsequent company closure, I spend the next 8 months looking desperately for work that would pay enough to cover my basic expenses: rent, utilities, transportation, food… I’d taken a couple temp jobs in that time frame because they were all that were offered, but it was still nowhere near enough to cover even rent.  After my tax return had run out, rent of course fell behind.  I had given up numerous comforts (if you can consider a proper diet and asthma/heart medication comforts) in order to start paying a little over each week on my rent to catch up.  By August, I was essentially destitute. Knowing I couldn’t continue to pay rent, I gave my landlord 2 weeks notice and moved in with the man next door for a couple weeks.  That turned out to be a nightmare, as he was an ex felon and was extremely controlling and cruel.  He was also just plain disgusting as a person.  His treatment of me made living there unbearable and so I got out before I got into a situation that I wouldn’t be able to escape.

In September, someone I used to date back in 2010 contacted me from Daytona and offered to let me move in there.  It took a lot of very difficult decision making as this would put me 3 hours away from my daughter of whom I have shared custody.  Seeing her 4 days a week would then mean seeing her only once every 4-8 weeks due to miles, gas, funds, etc.  Without work and without a place to live however, I had to make the decision to relocate to try to get back on my feet.  You may as well have ripped my heart out of my chest and taken my last breath away because that’s what it felt like as I started heading to Daytona without my baby girl.  There was no work, unemployment had run out, my tax return and savings had run out, and I was without shelter.  What else could I do?

I get to Daytona and just as I arrive at the house, I find out the water has been shut off.  Not a good omen.  Ex is scrambling to find the funds and we are out of water for days.  It goes ok after that for a couple months, I learn my way around town but never quite feel welcomed. These people have a completely different set of ethics (or lack thereof) from the way I am.  I find work within a week of arriving, but instead of being helped to get on my feet as was promised, I end up financially supporting a household of seven people, sometimes in full, on bills, food, gas, cigarettes, personal supplies, household supplies… The ex… he makes a decent sum of money, netting far more than I ever have in a month, but spends it all as soon as it comes in. As many times as I asked him to sit down and create a household budget with me, he changed the subject. Soon, the money I was making was running out, leaving me with nothing at the end of the week for having to support everyone but myself.  That’s December, about the time his whole personality changed.  He began to withdraw, to push me away, then one of his own exes came back into his life. He stopped coming to bed, started staying up all night on the phone with her, spent nights out (taking personal supplies that made it obvious it was a planned “sleepover”), and started becoming emotionally abusive. Then mentally abusive, eventually moving into screaming, cussing, threatening and being all out vicious toward me.  At that point, I was scared as I’d been through this before and each time it only escalated. This man was becoming completely unraveled and was getting progressively and rapidly worse.

Come January, he’d left me for the third time.  The final time he broke up with me, he did so online without telling me, then told me finally and had the nerve to immediately ask me for gas money. Upon refusing to give it to him because – well – he’d just left me, he threw me out, first with 30 days notice, then with 3 days notice.  I came and went, sleeping where I could but the room he had just haphazardly thrown my few remaining belongings into was unlivable – it is a storage room, full of junk and mold, there is no door, no privacy, no bed, only a bare box spring, and a filthy couch that made me sick to sleep on one night. I felt like an unwanted dog being banished to a filthy kennel, only I think he’d have treated a dog better than he was treating me.

My dad being my angel, he ended up providing a clean, safe place while I looked feverishly for a roommate but Friday will be my last night there.  In the interim, a woman I’ve known for several years and used to work with ended up offering a room to me with her in Sebastian. We talked about it, sorted out the details, and I was to move in with her this coming Saturday, the 8th.  Trusting that my friend was acting honorably, I gave my daughter the good news that I would only be 45 minutes from her now instead of the impossible 3 hours and that I’d get to see her every week like normal again.  She was ecstatic, as was I as we miss each other terribly.  Well I don’t know what happened, but 3 days before I was supposed to move in with her, I noticed she’d deleted me from Facebook.  I called, no answer. I texted, no response. An hour later, I tried to go to her page to message her and it turns out she had blocked me.  There was NO warning or reason as to any of this.  I left her several voice mails yesterday and still no response, so my dearest William sent her a message on my behalf asking her what was going on and still has not heard back. 

Still have no idea why a friend of several years who so happily offered to have me move in with her, saying I’d done so much for her over the years, would – without any warning – delete me from Facebook, block me, refuse to answer her phone, return a text or a voice mail.  Why would someone do that? She knew what I had at stake. She knew I’d already told my daughter that I was moving back to the area, she even offered to come up to Daytona to help me bring some of my things down. The last conversation we had, she gave me the new address and we were making plans for the move this coming Saturday. It was all a go and she said she was happy to help, that I owed her nothing.  I would really love to know what is behind all this, why someone who was always so sweet would out of the blue do this to me.  Does anyone have any insight to offer as to why someone would do that?

So thank God I did not turn in my resignation at work, as I would have had to do had this move gone through.  Something stopped me from doing it, “Just in case.”  I returned to my search for a roommate and happened to call on a listing last night for a room for rent in the area… a little more than I was budgeting, but I will have to work something out if it goes through.  I spoke with the homeowner last night for a solid hour and she was very friendly, an older lady, who really seemed to resonate with me.  In exchange for helping her around the house, she offered to drop the deposit and pay for half the internet that I would be transferring over. I will be meeting with her tonight and am praying to God that everything works out and I can move in Saturday.  At this point, I have no other options so if anyone reading this would please join me in that prayer that I find a place to move into this Saturday, between my faith and your intercession, God can do some amazing things.

The other question bothering me so much is why does God continue to test my faith by allowing me to come into worse and worse situations?  I mean I have lost everything over the past 18 months, including access to my child who is the single most important person in my life.  I’d go as far as to say she IS my life.  Every time I have prayed on this, I have received the same answer:  “I do this to draw you nearer to me.  If you see that I can raise you from nothing, then you will have everything.”  But how much more pain and loss can I take?  I realize God knows my limits, but life has become unbearable far too often, especially in the past five months. In RCIA, they discuss depth of faith often.  It’s so difficult to have faith when all you’re doing is futile even down to your most basic needs being stripped away and the longer it takes to get an answer – or see a miracle – the further that faith sinks.  This becomes a vicious cycle as God detests the lack of faith and puts the person in an even lower situation, pressing the faith to return.  It’s a Catch 22 – how does it stop?  As life – and faith – elude me, I will leave off here, hoping some answers come in the way of a safe place to live with my meeting of this seemingly nice woman tonight.  Thank you for listening, and please – keep me in your prayers.

 

At A Crossroad (Perblog Oct. 19, 2013)

PerBlog October 19, 2013

 

After spending the majority of this year out of work and the most recent 2-3 months couch-surfing after I lost my apartment, I am finally starting to get settled in at my new home.  It is 2 ½ hours from where I have been for the past decade, but St. Lucie County had just completely run out of opportunities for me. After my old boss passed away and the company closed behind him in January, I simply could not find work that was enough to take care of my basic needs. I’d found temp work here and there, but nothing permanent came through.  With my apartment several months behind, that was it.  I started another temp job and put my stuff into storage, staying between my car and a neighbor’s house (which quickly became very abusive situation).  I approached people that I trusted and no one was willing to let me stay with them until I got back on my feet so without an ounce of help from my friends and no family in the area, I had a choice to make:  continue being homeless and unable to care for myself much less my daughter, or make a change in my life.

It’s been a very difficult change to make.  150 miles away, a previous boyfriend was willing to take me in and provide food and shelter while I sought work and recovered my losses.  His family (3 kids of his own plus two extended family) has been welcoming and friendly as I try to find work here in a much bigger city and try to adjust, settle in and find my way around.  I am still looking for work, but do have some calls coming back for interviews and I am hopeful something will come through soon.  I have so much I need to catch up on – vital bills that can NOT be ignored but right now there isn’t a damn thing I can do about them.  I’m still trying to come to terms with the fact that I am 2 ½ hours away from my daughter until I find work and get a couple paychecks in to be able to get back for visitation, the fact that my belongings are being auctioned off at storage because I couldn’t pay for it, and the fact that I lost two pets in the process, Topper and Moppit, my cat and my dog.  I have very little clothing with me, and only one of my journals – the most recent one – even though I had kept every one of my journals since I started writing them at age 9.  I had to leave when I had to leave, and that meant coming up with only what would fit in my car.  This is the third time in my life I’ve lost it all.  Isn’t it about damn time something other than being shit on becomes permanent in my life?

Well, with nothing to my name, here I am starting over yet again.  Praying to God something permanent comes in so I can once again have gas and food (it’s still scarce here in a household of seven), proper clothing, personal bills paid, and a little to live on.  After those basics are taken care of, I look forward to being able to fix the A/C in this house, as it’s got a bad circuit board and was 92F inside today and my asthma is suffering BADLY for being stuck in this hot, humid air and I’ve no means to get my medication.  Internet would be great too!  Right now my only reliable connection is at the library.  It’s sad, the things we take for granted when we have them constantly.  When not having certain things begins to affect one’s health however, I think there is justification for bitching a bit when trying to change the situation that wasn’t working isn’t itself immediately working.  My life has turned upside-down this year and fallen out from under me.  It is HARD.  Bear with me if I’m angry or depressed or bitter.  All that pretty hope and happiness idealism isn’t always possible.

PerBlog September 10, 2013

Hello, friends.  Please bear with me while I vent.  Maybe you can even relate a thing or two to your own experiences and silently lend support with a shake of the head and a sighed, “Been there…”

So yesterday was a MONDAY.  It was a Monday to the extent that I tweeted an exasperated:

 

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It took no less than a half hour to get my sleep-through-a-nuclear-annihilation child out of bed in the morning. No matter how early she is sent to bed, every Monday morning is still a battle, some worse than others.  We ended up running late in getting her back to her dad’s house but after we’d left, it came to realization that she’d forgotten her notebook of homework so we had to turn around and get it.  

I barely skidded into work on time and no sooner did I sit down at my desk to log into the phone did my team leader come by, “I’m sorry, I have to send you home to change.”  What the?  See, during the summer, the dress code is pretty lax, with shorts and hats allowed in the call center.  Friday however, apparently an e-mail had gone out notifying staff that we had corporate company coming this week and were on a “business casual” dress code – no shorts, jeans, hats, etc.  This notice went out at 4:45 p.m. on Friday – my shift ends at 4:30.  Brilliant.  Trying not to miss *too* much time, I lead-footed it home and ended up getting stuck waiting for one of the Tropicana trains that snakes slowly across several intersections in the neighborhood, leaving no way around it.  I get home, I change, RUSH back to work, log in 32 minutes late and start having trouble breathing.

Rummaging through my purse, I cannot find my inhaler (I have chronic asthma) – Ok, I’m thinking, I’m going to drop dead at my desk.  Calls are pouring in, I’m trying not to sound like a pervert breathing heavily on the phone and trying to basically meditate myself out of this asthma attack between calls.  I make it through to lunch and call the pharmacy who has been trying to reach my doctor for an inhaler refill for two weeks now.  They still haven’t gotten a response but the pharmacist offers to try calling her directly to get an emergency refill.  I only made it until 2:30 when I could no longer talk on the phone and had to flag down my team leader to tell her I needed to go get a breathing treatment.  She said I could leave but would have one “occurrence” against me.  This is essentially their writing me up.  We are not allowed any time off for anything, period.  Screw it.  Breathing is kind of important.  I drive myself to the hospital and decide to take one last look through my purse, dumping the entire contents out onto the passenger seat.  Wouldn’t you know it, there stuck in the *lining* of my bag is my inhaler.  I contemplated going in for a treatment anyway because by then the asthma attack was so bad the inhaler wasn’t working fast enough but I eventually did get it under control.  As I was pulling out of the hospital parking lot, I get a call from the pharmacy that my prescription is in.  Of course, the price of it ended up being too much for me to afford this week so I would have been screwed anyway.  

The majority of my bad day ended there thankfully. I did leave out one bit that I didn’t think needed to be aired here, but still… yesterday was one of those, “Enough already!” moments when I just wanted to break down and cry and be held.  But of course crying would only give me a headache and there is no one to hold me anyway, so I just kept pushing through it all begging for it to end.  Anyway… signing it off here, writing off yesterday as just another day in hell and waiting to see what kind of mood the roommate is in once he wakes up.  Then again, with him just staggering out of the bedroom, my asking him, “How you feeling?” and his response being a sinister, “Don’t. Talk….” I can see how this night is going to go.

 

Product Placement Fail (Back Pain Revisited)

Having scoliosis has been a boon for my activity level the majority of my life as even the slightest wrong move sends my sciatic nerve blazing in pain and surrounding lower back muscles seizing up as my body tries to immobilize the affected area.  A few years ago, I ended up pulling my back out by catching my daughter in my arms as she jumped precariously off the back of my car (always the adventurer, she).  As the pain got worse and my back got tighter, I dragged myself to Wal-Mart for some Doans because that was the only thing that has ever helped my back pain when simple heat application and stretching would not loosen it up.  Making it to the pharmacy, I stood there helpless and shaking my head to find the coveted back pain medicine on the bottom shelf where I had no hope of bending over to reach and retrieve it due to my lower back being locked up (though that didn’t stop me from trying in pain vain).  Finally, some kind person did wander by and, realizing my predicament, was nice enough to assist.  I mentioned this obvious oversight in product placement to the cashier who just kind of laughed.

For the past couple months, I have been working a job that requires heavy lifting – which incidentally was not mentioned in the interview – and frankly, it’s done my back in.  The past week, I have been experiencing pretty intense nerve pain throughout my lower back and legs and finally come Friday, my back became stiff enough that I got sharp pains trying to do even simple bending (such as getting up from a chair or lying down in bed).  Again, no heating pad or pain pill is working.  My neighbor C. gave me a Soma, which I took hoping it would relax the muscles enough to at least leave me pain-free for a couple hours but it did not help.  This time I headed to CVS for my Doans, thinking to myself, “History cannot repeat itself.”  Sure enough…

Thankfully, my daughter was with me this time and she automatically dove down to get the boxes of Doans (luckily marked buy-one-get-one-free) that were once again on the bottom shelf.  I actually complained to the cashier on this one too, saying Wal-Mart does this too but I expect such an oversight from them, not from CVS.  She agreed with me, she apologized and said she would bring it up to the manager.  Think about it… someone with back pain is going to have trouble bending over. If they’re going to a pharmacy to buy some back pain pills and those pills are on the very bottom shelf – isn’t that a little cruel?  It reflects poor planning at the least and I can’t believe that two separate stores would fail to see this logic when creating their stock layout.

That Kitten Sprawl (Perblog 5-27-13)

Four gruesome months of unemployment finally came to a close in May when I started a job as a Paralegal.  It pays very little (net has been about half what I need to meet my bills, which have already been trimmed down to the bare minimum) and it’s practically out of town for me, but it’s work.  I’m only hoping that I do well enough for the promised raises to come through as indicated when I started otherwise I don’t know how I’m going to make it.  Well, the truth is, I’m not.  So hopefully those raises come through!

I’ve started a 9-part pre-RCIA line of coursework with the Catholic Home Study Service in preparation for my RCIA classes starting in October.  William has been a wonderful guide to me in my studies though I quietly wish he’d give me a little more crap when I don’t go to mass.  No nun-pun intended, but I’ve got to work harder on getting into the habit.  It would be easier if my church had services on Sunday nights, but there’s really no excuse for me to miss the 10AM mass.  I’ve slept in the past two Sundays though.  Shame on me.

A couple weeks ago, a new kitten came into my life, a very friendly little long-haired silver kitty.  We named her Bellamina – the name is bigger than she is, but not bigger than the ball of energy that she brings into the house.  She’s a bit codependent which is fine by me as she lays sprawled across my lap as I type, hugging my leg and just purring away.  The big silver and white pouf of a tail reminds me of a squirrel, all fluff that constantly looks as if it’d been rubbed by a balloon and static took over.  The cutest thing about her is when she’s being petted, she blows kisses.  It’s not a post-weaning suckling kind of thing, she literally just smacks her lips and blows kisses as a person does when calling a cat.  It’s more of a mimicry, and I’ve never seen another cat to do that.  She’s also got enormous paws which give her a comical lope during play, like a puppy who hasn’t grown into his feet yet.  She truly is a treasure.

This Memorial Day, I’m not sure I’m doing anything.  It would be nice to have a cookout or something but I don’t have anyone to invite or join at one.  Going to the beach would be a full on nightmare with the traffic.  I tried in vain yesterday, couldn’t even get close.  Actually had to back my car out of a parking lot because there wasn’t even enough room to turn around where all the spots were full and people had parked in non-spots essentially gridlocking the entire lot so that no one could pass through or out.

We’ll see how this day pans out.  I’d hate to spend it just doing housework!

PerBlog April 10, 2013

Trying to come up with some radical new idea (ok, maybe “radical” in this day and age was a bad term) – a BIG new idea for research for my next FME article.  With everything happening in the news, I should not be at a loss for a topic, however my fear is that I will just come across as repeating the same news we’ve been hearing every day.  What would YOU like to read about, or hear a fresh view on?  Tell me in the comments!

Just to drop an update on myself, ever since my boss passed away on December 28th and the company subsequently closed on January 2, I have been seeking work.  For 3 1/2 months, I have been living on my tax return and the grace of friends and charity however that is all running out quickly.  If I don’t find viable work *this month* I will be facing very dire circumstances.  

The stress of this has caused my blood pressure to shoot up as the worry is constantly there, 24/7, and I have rarely been able to sleep at night for the past couple months.  A week and a half ago, I ended up having to break down and go to the doctor with the joints in my right wrist severely inflamed – I was unable to move my wrist, hand or fingers at all.  The wrist was treated and cleared up in a matter of days with a brace and a prescription anti-inflammatory but we still don’t know the cause of it.  X-rays showed no fracture, blood tests showed no elevated uric acid and therefore no possibility of gout, and the doctor also ruled out arthritis.  It remains an excruciating mystery but at least I have leftover meds to treat it should it recur. 

While at that doctor visit, whereas the wrist was treated quickly enough, the focus of the visit quickly turned to my blood pressure when my vitals were taken.  Back to that – my BP was 210/140.  YIKES!  The doc immediately gave me a Clonidine and told me to go to the emergency room however if you’ve ever read my previous post about Lawnwood Regional, you’ll understand why I was loathe to even consider stopping in there.  In the end, I did not go to the ER, taking the prescription for Clonidine and hoping that would start to lower my numbers.

Like an idiot, I started right in on the full prescribed dose.  Had I remembered the problems I had when starting on another BP med several years ago (heart rate below 60, fainting, inability to walk more than a few feet without severe difficulty in breathing), I would have started small and worked my way up to the full dose.  The first 3 days of full-dosing this time, same thing.  I was fainting, could barely breathe due to very slow heart rate, and (thankfully this was over the weekend) was barely able to stay awake for more than a couple hours at a time.  My thinking and reaction times were very slow so driving anywhere was NOT an option.  By that Monday, I was vomiting and fainting and I stopped the med completely (another stupid thing, but I did consider how my BP would shoot up in doing so). I called my doctor and told him I *have* to do this my way.  By stepping the dose up slowly over the next few days, I was fine on the prescribed dose.  Hitting my system all at once though is something my body just couldn’t handle.  

In taking my BP every couple days over a week and a half, I saw the numbers were going down but not nearly enough.  I called the doc and reported the latest readings and he still *insisted* that I go to the ER.  It was either that or drop another $60 at his office to be seen for another reading and a dose adjustment.  I did not have $60, I’d just dropped my entire unemployment check at his office at the initial visit, so this time I had no choice – I had to go to Lawnwood. 

Checking into the ER, my initial reading put the staff on alert:  240/120 – Hypertensive Crisis.  The previous afternoon’s reading was around 203/116 – I am willing to bet that just the thought of having to go to this hospital spiked it.  Immediately, I was in a bed hooked up to a monitor, getting about a dozen vials of blood drawn, the works.  The odd thing is, I *felt* fine, but this is why they call hypertension “The Silent Killer.”  They ended up doing a chest X-ray on me and an EKG.  Bloodwork came up clear, X-ray came up clear, I don’t know what the EKG said.  After receiving additional medication, 3 hours later my BP had reduced to 174/91 – the lowest it’s been since this whole ordeal started.  That was enough for them to discharge me with two new medications in a combo pill to be added to my original one.  

Because of the urgency in getting those numbers down to stay, I have gone headfirst into the full dose of the new med(s).  Since I lack a way of checking my BP at home (can not afford a home device), I have to go to a pharmacy or a fire station to get it checked for free.  Driving right now is not an option, so it’ll have to wait until my head clears from the new med.  What a headache this has all been, especially thinking of all the medical bills when I’m trying to survive on a tiny unemployment check that pays my rent but nothing else 😦

 

Working For Free – Oyster Reef Volunteer

Having been out of work for some time now, the cabin fever was setting in pretty hard.  Between having no income yet still spending gas to get to job interviews, there was no gas to just get away for pleasure, a break from the monotony and certainly no funds for entertainment.  I needed to feel useful again, productive.  That is when I came across a request in the local paper for volunteers to help that coming weekend on a project to build an artificial reef in the area.  I’m a nature lover and have always been interested in (and often active in) conservation efforts – how cool was that?

After e-mailing the listed contact for details, I was excited to get to work – even if it was for free.  I let a friend of mine know about the project and he was on board as well.  That Saturday, he picked me up early and we went out to Harbour Pointe on the inlet where several tons of oyster shells were ready in large barrels and on sheets of plywood in huge piles.

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About 20 other volunteers showed up and we were given a brief primer on the task at hand.    We organized ourselves into each area – shoveling, bagging and tying off.  I shoveled shells into smaller buckets while my friend bagged and tied them.  They were then loaded onto a truck to be moved to their final resting place in Wildcat Cove.  

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During a break in which bottled water and other drinks were provided, the leader of the operation and a colleague commended us all on our efforts which far exceeded their expectations.  In just about 2 hours, we’d already assembled about 400 20-pound oyster bags for deployment.  My friend and I stayed for a 20-minute informational lecture about oyster reefs, their local benefits, lots of statistics and zoological info as well.  We broke for lunch then and would meet up at low tide a few miles up the coast at Wildcat Cove.

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Upon arrival at Wildcat Cove, we found the oyster bags in a neat pile in front of the canoe launch.  Another 100 bags had been assembled and brought up in two deliveries.  It took a little brainstorming as to how we were going to get the bags to the reef area, but one adventurous girl with her own kayak said she could pull floating tubs of about 30 bags per load out to the location.  There was some interesting trial-and-error in getting the system going, including one thankfully good-humored man getting impossibly stuck in the thick muck at the bottom of the river.  It took more than ten minutes to get the river to release his legs and he lost a shoe, but we got him back safely!  Note to self: Don’t go into the water without a boat here!

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Once we got the production line going, the rest was – pardon the pun – smooth sailing.  Bags were floated out to a mangrove area where a 4-foot high oyster “wall” was built staggered around the mangroves.  Once settled and cemented, these artificial reefs will provide settling places for new oyster spawns, as well as providing habitat for young fish and feeding grounds for birds such as herons, ibis, loons, cormorants, anhingas and more.

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I remain in contact with the organizer of this effort who works for the county in coastal restoration and he is helping me network with other people in the field so that I may actually find work in conservation or a related field.  Even if it is a desk job, it would be a great opportunity (and has been) to do something productive in a field I really enjoy.  Another reef build is coming up in two days.  This time my daughter will also be involved, getting her hands dirty and having a positive impact on our local, unique and delicate ecosystem.