Scribe, Ink

Writer’s Muck & the kitchen sink

Posted in Uncategorized by Amy Yannello on September 17, 2010

So, dear readers, if you’re still with me, I owe you some explanation for abandoning this blog for an unusually long absence.

It was a combination of things really. First, physically, I just wasn’t feeling all that well, and that always has a big effect on my creativity. Second, I’ve been experiencing what I like to term “writer’s muck.” Writer’s muck is similar to writer’s block, in that you’re left with a blank page staring you in the face — but the similarities stop there.

For me, with WM, you lose a sense of self, a sense of place. You have four or five or 10 possible column ideas in your head that you could develop — but you end up nixing all of them because, you figure, “who wants to hear my ruminations on that anyway?”

Now for me, I still manage to write part-time, and I keep myself to a schedule with that, and the publishing has been consistent. But straight news stories are different from blogging in that with blogging, you’re giving your opinion on the various topics on which you write.

Anyway, back to my “brain muck.” I know the surest way to cure it is to do the thing I’ve been putting off — write!! So I will begin by sharing an assortment of things that have happened over the last few weeks:

— My loathing of shopping was not cured last Saturday when I traveled to the Folsom Premium Outlets for the first time with the express purpose of getting three items and getting out. Now, it takes only 20 min. to get to the outlet mall, but because it was Labor Day weekend, it took us another 20 minutes to find a parking space. Now, I took careful note of where our car was parked — the numbered row, and what store it was adjacent to — thinking this was a wise move on my part for the return trip home.

Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Whomever was in charge of signage at the Folsom Outlets did such a piss-poor job of it, that it took us a full 45 minutes to find our vehicle!! (And at least a mile-and-a-half of walking.)

You might think we would have seen a security guard driving by in one of those golf carts — but, no. It was that Seinfeld episode minus the air conditioner, and no one relieved themselves outdoors. But it still was an unnecessary hassle and for that, I won’t be going back.

Such things irritate me, but my recent experience with the United States Post Office has me livid.

Tell me something: Was I seriously the only person who did not understand that the USPS’ “Priority Mail” 2-3 day service was a complete sham?

Here’s my story: I went to one of those parcel places and paid to mail a padded envelope to my friend in Mass. I asked the owner what was the fastest way to get it there, and the cost. He suggested the Post Office’s “Priority Mail” 2-3 day service, which would cost me @ $8 (it was under 1lb.). But, he did caution me, it wasn’t “guaranteed” service. I figured, well, if it takes an extra day, OK…

Here’s the first part of the scam: They don’t require you to fill out any paperwork, so the package can’t be tracked. Ergo, they’re not responsible for getting it there in a timely fashion, because there’s no start date. Follow this?

In fact, the USPS is the only company that I can think of where you purchase something, and they don’t have to guarantee the service they provide. Think about it. The Post Office can outright lose a package, or damage it, and yet it’s not held responsible. Not the same if I order something from Amazon or from Sears, where, if it arrives damaged, or doesn’t arrive at all, I have recourse.

So, anyway, I sent my package Priority Mail, thinking I was beating the regular First Class mail by about four days. Ha! It’s now the next Friday, and the package has yet to arrive. I’m beginning to think the worst.

If it were so important that it get there, you might ask, why didn’t I send it UPS or Federal Express? Well, for one thing, it costs more money, right? And for another, it’s the principle of the thing. I think if I pay good money for an “extra” service, from the U.S. government no less, I expect them to provide said service.

Well, I’ve learned my lesson. Burn me once, shame on you; burn me twice, shame on me, my grandmother always said. I shan’t be using Priority Mail again.

Until next time —

Keep the faith.

— Amy Yannello

(Lovely) Blogs You Should Be Reading

Posted in Uncategorized by Amy Yannello on July 15, 2010

This Blog was recently the recipient of the award you see to the left, gratefully received from Dominique Small, founder and author of the Blog, 4 Walls And a View.

This award was unexpected, and I’m sure, given the company, not entirely deserved. First, it is generaly given to bloggers who have much more experience than I in the blogosphere. (While I have been a professional writer/reporter for more than 20 years, I’ve only been blogging since April of this year.)

Secondly, this award is given to those who have been writing exclusively on the illnesses of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, and assorted other neurological and auto-immune disorders.

Now, the recipients of the award also agree to turn around and publicize other blogs by paying it forward if you will. So here’s my list of some (Lovely) Blogs You Should Be Reading. They are chosen for different reasons, but all have a voice, a spirit, offer inspiration, or promote activism, and draw attention to needed change, or best-practices research.

Check them out and see what you think. 🙂

In no particular order:

ACTIVISM:

Campaign For A Fair Name
What’s in a Name?
Well, a lot, actually. Especially when speaking of an illness that affects millions of people across the globe. Thus a group of world-renowned scientists, advocates, patients and celebrities are ‘fighting the good fight’ to create a more equitable, realistic name for what the CDC years ago termed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Learn more about this important work and the upcoming vote by CFS patients right here (see Our Cause), and find out how you can help the Campaign for a Fair Name.”

LIFE’S CHALLENGES/SUCCESSES

Learning to Live with CFS (Author: Sue Jackson)

Lemon-Aide: “Squeezing the most out of life with chronic illnesses” (Author: Kerry)

Jo Blogs: “CFS Recovery is Possible” (Author: Jo)

Living the CFS Life: (Author: Shelli Proffitt Howells)

There are many additional deserving blogs, of course, and I encourage you to peruse these sites and check out some of the blogs each has listed on their sites as well, for there are a wealth of resources out there.

Until next time.

Keep the faith.

–AY

Hating on the poor still in fashion

Posted in Uncategorized by Amy Yannello on July 9, 2010

Well, my article on the state’s CalWORKs program came out today in the Sacramento News & Review, and judging by the online comments we’ve already received, hating on the poor is still alive and well and still very much in fashion.

The story, about the governor’s proposal to scrap the state’s welfare-to-work program, was designed to put a human face on the issue, and featured Jennifer Taylor, a married woman with three children, who lost her job last November in the banking industry — a victim of the recession. Taylor, 37, has worked full-time all her adult life, and welfare was new to her, and a humbling experience.

My reporting showed that more than 86,000 Sacramentans participate in the CalWORKs program — 64,000 of whom are children.

We went to great lengths to show the work mandates required of Taylor and others to receive their cash grants, food stamps, and Medi-Cal.

Still, the comments were angry, and mean. “Give your children to foster care,” if you can’t afford to take care of them, wrote one reader. Others were upset that the state was asked to be a “parent” and suggested that churches, neighbors and comunities step up with a helping hand instead.

Although there was one, I expected more letters to lambast the governor for proposing to turn away $3.7 billion in federal matching funds by eliminating a program that would save only $1 billion in general fund revenue, while plunging more than 1 million children into further homelessness and destitution.

Where’s the outrage about that?

And where’s the kudos for Jennifer Taylor who’s both working and going to school, thanks to the CalWORKs program, to better her life, and her family’s?

When I set out to report this story, I thought I would be able to show readers, through Taylor’s story, just how vulnerable we all are in this economy, and how easy it would be for any of us to end up in her shoes.

Perhaps, at least for the people who have commented, that is too harsh a reality to contemplate. Perhaps, it is easier to blame, than to empathize, for to empathize would make it all too real.

Until next time.

Keep the faith.

–AY

Getting out

Posted in Uncategorized by Amy Yannello on July 6, 2010

I get to go OUT today!!

As I write this, I am waiting for my gal-pal, Cindy, to come and get me (I can’t remember if I’ve posted this or not, but our car died @ one month ago, so … ) and we’re going out for coffee.

Now, this might not seem like a lot to most people, who are ensconced in the work-a-day world and interact with colleagues, clients, and friends on a regular basis. But for someone like me, who not only works from home, but is also dealing with chronic pain, AND, who now doesn’t have access to her own transportation — well, you can see how the world shrinks.

So, an opportunity to have afternoon coffee with a great friend is cause for celebration!

I’m anticipating some of what we’ll talk about. Relationships w/ the opposite sex, of course, but today, with a twist: Cindy’s recently met the love of her life — yes, the one she feels she was MEANT to be with. And, most awesome, he feels the same about her!!! More on this later.

And, I too, have been thinking about dipping my toe in the dating pool again, bolstered by both Cindy’s experience and by my friend, LaVette, who has recently been seeing this very nice guy she met online. Hey, if they’re having such success, why not I?

///

Well, it’s three hours later, and Cindy & I did, indeed, have a wonderful time. She is beyond smitten with her new beau. He is the one she will marry and spend the rest of her life with — this, she knows. “It’s not even a question,” she said. “Every new thing I find out about him, it’s like another piece of the puzzle fitting together.”

Well, don’t we all want that? I know I do.

I’ve decided, for now, to try the site that LaVette is on, since she’s had such good experiences with it, meeting men who seem, at first glance anyway, to be grown-ups, and know what actual courtship entails. Cindy & I ran through a half-dozen possible usernames before coming up with the one that I will try using: LoisLane. Not bad, eh?

Well, I best get to the business of creating my profile and signing up before I lose my nerve. Just wanted to get this post out of the way first.

I hope you’re all staying cool out there in this mad summer heat.

Until next time.

Keep the faith.

–AY

It’s so weird…

Posted in Uncategorized by Amy Yannello on June 27, 2010

I’ll tell you what’s weird.

Someone, somewhere, put in the search terms “bunny puppy eating” and came up with this blog. That’s because about a month ago, I wrote about bringing you the “happy news” and opined that I could write about bunnies and puppies.

Now, I know this person typed these words into a search engine because WordPress.com the company that hosts my Blog, allows me to view such information.

I’m just wondering what this person was thinking, or, more to the point, hoping to find, when they typed these particular words into whatever search engine they used.

Like I said — weird.

Speaking of weird, it’s bizarre as hell that Kevin Costner — yes, you read that correctly, the actor/director, Kevin Costner — is going to pull our collective asses out of the fire down in the Gulf, thanks to his ingenious invention — pioneered 15 years ago (I guess, unbeknown to many, Costner’s an environmental entrepreneur) that SEPARATES OIL FROM WATER TO A PURITY LEVEL OF 99 percent. Imagine!!

Read here in the LA Times the fascinating tale behind Costner’s invention.

I watched Costner in a Congressional hearing the other day, and he impressed upon the committee that he had tried in vein to give his invention away to the government, in the wake of the Exxon Valdez, in the wake of Katrina…the government, OUR government said, “No thanks. Not just yet.”

Costner came off passionate, yet soberly rationale. He’s spent $24 million of his own money on this technology — no sponsors, no government handouts.

At the June 17 hearing, BP signaled that it was intending on purchasing a number of Costner’s machines. Read the ABC News blurb here.

Well, that’s not weird, that’s just pragmatic.

Let’s hope that by now, all the i’s have been dotted and the t’s have been crossed, and Costner’s machines are well on their way to the Gulf.

If not, that would just be negligent.

Until next time.

Keep the faith.

–AY

Mind/Body Connection

Posted in Uncategorized by Amy Yannello on June 27, 2010

Before I get into the meat of this post, I wanted to share a find w/ all you coffee-lovers out there.

As the heat soars into the triple digits, and the nights grow longer, many of us iced-coffee lovers find ourselves in a quandary: We crave the taste of creamy iced-coffee after, say, 8 p.m., but don’t want the caffeine.

Well, Starbucks has the answer — and it’s portable too! Starbucks “Via” comes in individual packets, finely ground, that dissolve easily in cold water (in both decaf and caffeinated).

So here’s my “recipe” for a lovely iced coffee drink: Take an 12-oz. glass, and pour the packet in the bottom of the glass; take ice-cold water and pour over coffee (8 oz.). Stir vigorously, making sure you crush all the granules of coffee. Add sweeter of your choice (I like Blue Agave). Add milk or half-and-half if you’re feeling decadent. Add ice. Enjoy!!

///

Now, about this mind/body connection.

Although I’m a writer by trade, I’ve always found it difficult to put into words thoughts about my various medical conditions. I suppose I’ve always known it at some level, but it really hit me today, reading Dominique’s wonderful blog, 4WallsAndaView, where she writes so eloquently about living day-to-day with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Why can’t I do that? She’s so in touch with her body and is able to express herself so clearly.

Well, I’ve figured it out: I’ve spent so many years — DECADES — distancing myself from my body, that I’m just now learning to give it the attention it deserves.

Let me explain.

My body started to “fail” me in 1985, when the fibromyalgia hit. The doctors didn’t even have a name for it then, and the ones I saw for this “unexplained” pain basically told me it was all in my head, gave me anti-depressants and sent me on my way. I was in college then, and couldn’t very well afford to see any specialists, so I just continued on my way, in pain, graduated university, and began my career.

In 1989, I was finally properly diagnosed, but the doctors didn’t know much about treating FM, so it was more anti-depressants, and pain pills, along with bizarre alternative treatments that did nothing to resolve my pain issues, and, in fact, usually exacerbated them.

Oh, and, yes, I was also dealing with depression at the same time — not uncommon for someone with chronic pain.

So I learned early on, as a coping mechanism, to distance myself from my body. It was as if my mind was “me” and my body was another entity, failing me at every turn.

Little did I know that one day, my brain would be placed in jeopardy as well.

In 2005, I had a seizure and was rushed to the ER, where, after a wealth of tests, they found four brain lesions. Thank God they weren’t cancerous. But neither are they truly benign. I say this because a team of neurologists, after five years (and another seizure in 2008) STILL can’t tell me WHY those lesions appeared, or what effect they’re having on my system. The best guess, they say, is that they’re caused by some auto-immune disorder. (Oh, what, like fibromyalgia??????)

They can’t tell me, for instance, why I’m getting frequent and persistent migraines that started @ 9 months ago, with no explanation.

Anyway, Dominique’s blog got me to thinking, as did my recent viewing of Dr. Daniel Amen’s program, “Change your brain/Change your body.” on PBS. And what I’ve come to is this: At almost 48, after decades of ignoring the mind/body connection, after years of rejecting my body because I felt it rejected me, it’s time to connect.

This won’t be easy for me; I have many habits to undo, and, just as importantly, many new habits to take up. The task seems daunting, but I’m taking it one step at a time. I didn’t get here in one day; it’ll take awhile to get to where I want to be.

For now, the act of knowing is a step in the right direction.

Until next time.

Keep the faith.

AY

Bits & pieces of life

Posted in Uncategorized by Amy Yannello on June 24, 2010

First, I apologize for taking so long to post another column. This happens sometimes when I’m deep in reporting for a story, as I had been for the Sacramento News & Review these last few weeks, and my head was crowded with the story I was working on.

Unfortunately, I can’t mention it here, at this moment, because we still have two weeks before it publishes, and I don’t want the competition getting hold of it before it comes out, and coming out w/ their own version. Sacramento is a small newspaper town. Rest assured that when it’s published, I’ll post here, along with the supplemental information that I wasn’t able to fit into the orig. story.

///

My thoughts turn toward the personal today, as a number of you were kind enough to ask me how things were going with my health.

Like many who live with fibromyalgia, it’s been a mixed bag of late, exacerbated by the hormonal ups & downs of menopause, topped off with still-occurring daily migraines. There are days when I get no sleep for 48 hours straight, which makes all the other symptoms flare up, and then it sends me crashing to the ground.

What this does for my mood is make me, by turns, snarky, teary, confused, and just plain out-of-sorts. More than that, it makes me feel isolated — from colleagues, friends, and family. This is perhaps the worst. On those days, I do just that — isolate — because it’s sort of a protection mechanism — as much for everyone else as for myself.

On my “good” days — when I’ve had sleep, when the pain is at a manageable level — I call a friend. Yesterday, it was Cindy, and obstensibly, it was just to go run a couple errands (my car had died), but it gave us time to be together and lifted my mood considerably.

On another front, I’m still off sugar (since last posting 6/5), and have found an even better sugar substitute that Stevia. It’s organic Blue Agave, made for Trader Joe’s and is a liquid. The friend who turned me onto this was correct — it’s sweeter, and without that “mediciney” aftertaste. A winner! I’ll be going in for new labs @ the second week in July to test my blood sugar to see what difference it has made.

Well, my friends, that’s about it for now.

Until next time.
Keep the faith.
–AY

Increasing your brain size, one + sign at a time

Posted in Uncategorized by Amy Yannello on June 5, 2010

This column is dedicated to Todd Kelly, the most positive person I know.

“TK” — as I dubbed him years ago — is a person who truly strives to be unaffected by other people’s “stuff.” Meaning, he doesn’t let others’ opinions of him change who he is, or dictate his behavior. He often gets accused of being “too positive,” but I believe that’s because most people don’t understand what he’s preaching.

Very simply, Todd presents a zen-like approach to life: lots of exercise, positive reading material, healthy food, being a good dad, & bubble baths.

He asked me the other day, “Am I too positive?” And, unfortunately, I shirked from my reply. For what I wanted to say was, “How can you be too positive? No, my friend, you’re just more positive than I.”

I wouldn’t say I’m a “negative” person…just that I’m often plagued by what Dr. Daniel G. Amen calls “ANTS: Automatic Negative Thoughts.” Those “I can’t because” tapes that pop up automatically whenever we try to make a significant life change. The thoughts that are ingrained in our brains; that have worn a groove in our brain track and threaten our progress at every step.

I see where this comes from clearly: my childhood. And while I won’t go into that here, I will say that it is high time I LET THIS GO, for it is impeding my very health and well-being.

The realization came the other night — early morning, to be exact — when I was up with another bout of insomnia, and watching a PBS special with Dr. Amen, who was discussing his “Change your brain, change your body” book.

At one point, he was talking about sugar, and how it spikes our glucose levels, and actually SHRINKS the brain. I know I don’t want a smaller brain — do you? That got to me, given all the sugar I take in my coffee, hot and iced, throughout the day. (He had something to say about caffeine as well.)

Well, I took it to heart. And, as of last night, I am now OFF SUGAR, and have replaced it with Steevia — a natural sweetner made from the Steevia plant, that provides NO CARBS, & NO GLUCOSE, so no glucosomine (sp) spike in the blood.

I’ve also started supplementing my diet by taking 10,000 iu of Vit. D, as my recent blood work showed me abysmally low on this most important of vitamins — all so important for brain function.

In one month, I will go back to my doctor, to have new blood work drawn, to see how my blood sugar levels and Vit. D levels have changed.

I am excited about these new changes — about doing something good for my health. I’ve been so ill for so long, that it’s difficult to imagine feeling well again, but this gives me hope.

I’m a Prince fan from waaay back, and there’s an old fairly obscure song he has called “Positivity” that I always enjoyed. The chorus: “Positivity — Yes! Have you had your plus sign today? Positivity — Yes! Will they mark you present, or will they mark you late?”

Today, I’m present in my life.

Positivity. Yes.

Until next time.

Keep the faith.

— AY

Random acts of violence / the devolution of society

Posted in Uncategorized by Amy Yannello on May 31, 2010

Tell me people aren’t losing it. Or, to be more precise, losing their inner-voice. The one that tells them what is acceptable societal behavior and what is not.

Or, perhaps, people are just losing their desire to control their ability to keep that in check any longer.

Witness: Saturday, two friends of mine were pulling into a parking space at a local mall, when they encountered another woman who apparently believed she was entitled to that same parking spot. When they pulled in and exited their vehicle, the woman, angered that they got there first, screeched her car to a stop, and, yelling obscenities, jumped out of the car, and proceeded to go after the friend who was driving.

Now, mind you, the friend who was driving is in her 70s. She also was walking away from her vehicle, and had her back to the woman who was heading straight for her. Well, thank God, my other friend, LaVette, stepped between the two of them and said, “No you don’t,” — which angered the stranger, but most assuredly saved our friend from physical violence, as the woman in question turned around and, in her frustration, KEYED the length of our friend’s car.

The stranger wasn’t too bright, as mall security had cameras that recorded the entire incident, and, since she was there long enough, my friends were able to get her license plate number. So her goose is cooked, but I’m more concerned that someone could have been seriously hurt — all because of a parking space.

Witness: Later that day, on a trip through Midtown, Sacramento, a guy driving a big SUV stopped just past the light at 21st and P Streets, on a green light, leaving my car hanging out in the intersection as the light turned from yellow to red. I tapped my horn, as we were in the far left lane, and the middle lane was full, to alert him to my plight, and he flipped out, and laid on his horn.

But it didn’t stop there. When I was finally able to pass the numskull, he laid on his horn again, and then, when I got out of his way, he literally sped up, and chased me down seven city blocks, on my ass the whole way. He finally turned off on a side street, but he succeeded in scaring me.

What do you think? I don’t know about you, but I look around, and I see a lot of fed-up people. But, seriously now — the people I’m most fed up with are the ones who have lost their ability to be civil.

Look at our civic leaders, and would-be elected officials, from the local city council race on up to the federal govt. We have people who outright lie to the cameras, with no threat of retribution. We have so-called leaders of political parties, like Newt Gingrich, who thinks nothing of comparing our president to Hitler — HITLER!! — and gets away with such outrageous comparisons precisely because we’ve lost the ability to be civil in this nation.

We have a local city council candidate, Angelique Ashby, whose supporters have purchased her opponent’s domain name — his name — so they can prepare a hit piece on him, yet when asked about the ethical ramifications of this, Ashby feigns ignorance.

What does this have to do with random acts of violence? Well, I see it as part of the same thread — ruling by fear and intimidation. We’re all endowed with a conscience. We don’t need the cops to tell us that it’s wrong to jump out of your car, screaming obscenities at someone, threatening to attack them, then vandalizing their vehicle. And we don’t need attorneys or an election handbook to tell us that it’s unethical to purchase someone else’s NAME out of from under them, for the purposes of thwarting their opponents’ supporters in gathering legitimate information on them, or donating money to their campaign (although the law clearly states that it is.)

Somehow, on this Memorial Day weekend, when we’re supposed to be reflecting on the men and women who served so bravely and died for our country’s freedoms, these small examples of civil discord do much to dishearten me.

We can do better.

Dedicated to my Uncles Paul and Ted who fought and died in the Armed Services, and to my father, and uncles who also served.

Until next time.

Keep the faith.

— AY

God

Posted in Uncategorized by Amy Yannello on May 27, 2010

A friend I admire mightily lost his job yesterday — after only his seventh day on the job. Now, you have to understand that this was just your average warehouse job, but to my friend, and to his friends watching from the outside, this job was a Godsend. For he had been searching for work for 28 months — in fact, his whole life this last two years seemed to parallel the economic downturn seen globally.

And this guy is an uber-talented writer, singer-songwriter, and generous with his time and friendship. So while this wasn’t the gig to beat all gigs, it was a solid (so we thought) 40-hrs. per week, that would allow him to get back on his feet, get a place of his own, transportation — just a modicum of stability back in his life.

Remember, he’d been “keeping the faith” for 28 months — through personal travails too gruesome and detailed to go into here, but suffice to say he lost everything he owned in a fire, found out his wife was engaged in the oldest of professions, got divorced, managed to find love again, only to have that end sadly, his truck was repo’d because he could no longer afford to make the payments …

This is a guy who has been clean and sober for something like 17 years, practices daily meditation, and does yoga.

So, anyway, when he landed this job, I couldn’t help but feel, “This is God.”

But I was with him yesterday, early evening when he got the call from the temp agency, telling him that the boss-man at the warehouse had informed them that they would no longer be needing my friend’s services. No reason given — it “just wasn’t working out.”

My friend was stunned. I was stunned. First thought: Chickenshit-asshole-warehouse-manager! Can’t even tell my friend in person before he leaves for the day what is wrong?

Second thought, almost as immediate: WHERE WAS GOD IN ALL OF THIS?

Were we wrong in the first place to think that this job was a Godsend?

I don’t believe God to be cruel, but this definitely felt cruel — so, again, where was God?

Perhaps, had my friend stayed, something negative would have befallen him, and God was sparing him that fate, by taking him out of that situation when he did. But it’s doubtful that we’ll ever know that.

The Bible says, “Our ways are not His ways, Our thoughts, not His thoughts, Our time, not His time.”

So, God asks us instead to trust Him, and to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and to do the hardest thing — redouble our efforts in our faith lives when everything in the physical world is screaming for us to do the contrary.

This is difficult to do. For you don’t see God in a lot of “the world’s” things. You certainly don’t see Him in the crotch-grabbing/crotch-baring “singers” & actresses coming out of L.A. & Hollywood. Nor do you see Him in the overt grab for our dollars, pushed on us every night from the TV screen by the wizards of Wall Street. Nor do you see God in the fact that our alleys, parks, streets, & doorways, continue to be refuge for the thousands of homeless citizens we HUMANS have left to fend for themselves.

So — where is God?

Oh — you thought I had an answer. Well, I don’t. Clear as I can tell, God lives within us, and, if we let Him, directs our steps. I’ve seen Him work miracles in both my own life and in others’.

So, why do bad things happen to good people? My pastor says that it’s because we were left in charge. Meaning, that when Jesus ascended into Heaven after the crucifixion, He left US in charge. We are to be guided by our morals, and by Jesus’ teachings. But God doesn’t FORCE us to abide by any of those. We have free will.

This gets a little thorny for me, because while it explains things like homelessness, global warming, and the myriad political shenanigans that go on at the state and federal level, it gets a little dicey when it comes down to the immediate and the personal, like the bad luck that has befallen my friend.

But even there, you can see where the warehouse manager was not guided by ethical behavior. Had he been, he would have “manned up” and discussed the situation with my friend personally, giving him time to correct whatever problem the mgr. believed needed correcting. Instead, he chose the chicken’s way out — acting as if my friend was just another cog in a wheel, replaceable; disposable.

Will my friend bounce back from this? I believe so — though his spirits are waning, and he’s contemplating moving out of the area to try his fates elsewhere. Frankly, I don’t blame him, though I’d hate to lose him and his talents here. But when do you cut your losses and give God a chance to work elsewhere?

Perhaps we won’t know what God has in store for my friend until the next good thing happens. But my gut tells me that God IS taking care of my friend, even if outside appearances are to the contrary RIGHT NOW.

That’s where faith comes in.

Until next time.
Keep the faith.
–AY

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Small things make life worth living

Posted in Uncategorized by Amy Yannello on May 26, 2010

I’m certainly not the first one to say it, but sometimes it’s the smallest things in life that make life worth living, and I’ve certainly found that to be true lately.

For example, a couple of days ago, both my brother and I were having particularly tough days, for various reasons, and I suggested we drop everything and go to Target to find some old-fashioned toys from our childhood for the three neighbor children next door, whom we adore.

Neither of us had a lot of money, but I was pretty sure we could find something, and, after picking through aisles and aisles of what was essentially crap (stuff that you KNOW will be ripped open, played with for exactly six minutes, and then discarded), we found what we were looking for: Mr. Potato Head and the Playdough Fun Factory — two staples of my childhood.

We also purchased a plastic horseshoe set for the backyard, made specifically for kids, and it was a bargain at $9.99. The weather’s been too windy/rainy to play it yet, but I already know this will bring hours of summertime fun.

Then, I swung by the sock aisle. Now, let me say first just how much I love socks. They quite simply make me happy. I’ve been known to spend more time choosing socks to match an outfit, than buying the outfit itself. Socks are just “my thing.” So when I found two pair of Julius the Monkey socks (Paul Frank, designer) in black and red, to match a pair of lounge pants I have, I was very pleased.

Then, today, I was in the position to offer a good friend a little “get by” money until his first paycheck comes in. This makes me more happy than I can say, as 1) I have BEEN THERE, and 2) friends have done the same for me over the years. It is gratifying to be able to pay it forward.

Additionally, an article that I had to rewrite three times, is being published tomorrow in the Sacramento News & Review, and I’ve got another assignment as well, so that’s also gratifying.

Also, my brother & I instituted “family night” last night, to run every Tuesday evening. The first night was sort of bumpy, as we couldn’t agree on what show to watch, or game to play, but we’ll get better at it as we go along. The important thing is we’re both committed to spending time with each other.

So, even though my health is less than perfect, small things such as I’ve described, are those that make life worth living.

Here’s to celebrating life’s little victories!

Until next time.
Keep the faith.

–AY

Tales from the front: Sleep? What sleep?

Posted in Uncategorized by Amy Yannello on May 24, 2010

Menopause is Mother Nature’s way of telling you that both sleep and clothes are overrated. — Amy Yannello 5/24/10

More tales from the newly-initiated: Third night in a row that I didn’t get to sleep until 6 a.m.

I caught a few zzzzs from 6 a.m.-11 a.m., but I’m quickly tiring of this routine of staying up all night in my chair. And, yes, I take nighttime meds to assist me in sleep already — so this is clearly a horse of a different color.

As for the hot flashes, they’re not typical — at least not yet. They’re more like hot & cold flashes. I layer up, then strip down. Bundle up, then peel off. It’s a royal pain.

Recent labs revealed that I am woefully low on Vitamin D — I knew my avoidance of the sun would one day bite me in the ass, but this reading was ridiculous. I basically had trace elements in my system. So, it’s mega-loading the D, starting about 20 min. ago — so I should be feeling like a new woman in about an hour.

All joking aside, supplements do take time, but my doc says that Vit. D is one essential that kicks in quickly and is noticeable, so I am hopeful. What we’re looking for is an increase in energy.

Also just finished my first week of ERT (Estrogen-replacement therapy), and will stay on that for another three weeks before seeing my doc and discussing whether it’s doing any good. So far, I’m not noticing any reduction in the adverse symptoms I’ve been experiencing, but it’s only been one week, and I’m on a really low dose of the Vivelle Dot (an estrogen patch). In other words, there’s wiggle room. (The good news: I’m not having any adverse side-effects from the patch — unless not sleeping is a side-effect. NOTE TO SELF: CK THIS.)

I have no energy for anything these days it seems, which goes a ways to explain why I haven’t posted anything here in quite awhile. I just haven’t had the gumption.

But, I did manage to finish a new piece for the SN&R last week (publishes this Thursday) on the Sacramento County Animal Shelter, so hopefully that will help get the word out on their “Save Our Shelter” campaign.

I must go forage for food. My internal schedule’s off, and I’ve waited too long to eat again. Must rectify this.

Until next time.

Keep the faith.

AY

Out-of-step w/America?

Posted in Uncategorized by Amy Yannello on May 15, 2010

I was at my local natural foods seafood market today, and asked a silly question: Hey, where’s your shrimp?

As soon as I said it, I felt as if I should have a sign on my forehead that read: I’m sorry, I don’t get the connection between “fresh” and “seafood” and “Gulf of Mexico.”

Or didn’t you hear about the ginormous oil spill that’s gushing 227,000 gallons a day STILL ongoing in the Gulf, courtesy of our friends at BP?

Were I more adept at the mechanics of blogging, I’d embed a video here (my pal, Jackson, has tried to learn me), but you’ve no doubt seen the images. For our purposes, just imagine BIG. OIL. SPILL. HERE. DEAD AQUATIC LIFE HERE. For as far and wide as the eye can see.

Are you having an “OMG” moment yet?

If you are, you might be surprised to learn, as I was, that you’re “out-of-step” with 60 percent of the American public who, when polled AFTER THE BP FIASCO, said they are STILL in favor of off-shore oil drilling and do not believe the environmental dangers outweigh the economic benefits.

I’ll give you a moment.

The same MSNBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that nearly two-thirds of Americans back Arizona’s controversial anti-illegal immigration law. So, “us” against “them” is alive and well in the union, it would seem, and this time, it’s brown people who pay the price of indignity, alienation, and discrimination. (They’re not pulling over Swedes, you know.)

Oh, sure, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer says that racial profiling will not be the order of the day, and that only “probable cause of a crime” will get you asked to show your papers, but you watch traffic stops of brown people spike after the law goes into effect July 1.

Dawinder Sidhu
in a piece for Salon.com spoke astutely about why all minorities should take issue with this law. It’s worth a read — even for white folk.

Finally, why should this law bother me? I leave you with this most famous of poems.

“First They Came for the Jews”
By Pastor Niemoller

“First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Until next time.
Keep the faith.
— Amy Yannello

Ethics, horses & mood swings — some trouble with HRTs

Posted in Uncategorized by Amy Yannello on May 3, 2010

Well, the good news is that I’m not losing my mind.

The unpleasant news is that, at just shy of 48, I’m in menopause.

Well. Damn.

So those unprovoked fits of tears, and bouts of anger, just my body’s way of telling me I’m woefully low on estrogen, and, most likely, also on progestrone and testosterone as well (yes, women have testosterone.)

Labs still have to tell us how much, but other indicators are already there, such as not having had a cycle for more than a year and a half. (My doc says that, at my age, not having a period for more than six months indicates that you’re at the end of your cycle.)

So when she suggested that we try me out for a month on estrogen replacement therapy to see if there’s an immediate improvement in my mood, I agreed. She said, however, that we would be just “starting” the process, and we would “finesse” it later — meaning decide on exactly which hormone replacement therapy is right for me, and which delivery system (cream, patch, pill, et, al).

When she mentioned the drug “Premarin,” it sounded vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t readily place it, and we just went on talking, her saying she was going to start me out on a very low dose and see what effect it would have.

But when I got home, I went back to the Sacramento News & Review archives and remembered: Premarin is a drug manufactured by Wyeth Laboratories and produced by making mares stay tethered up in their stalls, day and night, with no room to turn around, and KEPT PREGNANT, nearly year-round, to produce urine, to make the drug.

Can you say, “ugh.”

Thirty-five THOUSAND mares annually are used in this collection process, my reporting found.

To think that horses are still being killed for the manufacturing of this drug is abhorrent.

Luckily, today, there are alternatives, and I’m sure that when I bring this to my doctor’s attention, she will prescribe me a plant-based Estrogen HRT, or at least one that isn’t made as Premarin is made.

My doctor today was somewhat prophetic when she said that we were opening up a “Pandora’s Box” when we talked of menopause and HRT, and that we would have many other discussions before we were done.

Choosing not to take Premarin is but one we will have.

Until next time.

Keep the faith.

AY

Clock is ticking for mental health clients

Posted in Uncategorized by Amy Yannello on April 29, 2010

Disability Rights CA is considering suing the county on behalf of mentally ill clients who will be losing their services and switched to as yet unformed mental health services, run by the county. Even the county admits “many” people will fall through the cracks. Lives WILL be lost and the setbacks will be wide. Read here in SN&R.

As countless mental health workers have told me throughout my reporting, there is great doubt that the county can replicate services, and get all 6,500 displaced county mental health clients to their respective new clinics, by July 1.

For the clients, of course, doubt brings great fear. As many of them will readily tell you, before establishing with their Regional Support Team, (a mental health clinic to you and me), their lives were unmanageable, unfocused, and dominated by their illness. After receiving proper medication support, regular visits with their case manager (or service coordinator), availing themselves of specialized groups, etc., their lives began to turn around. Their illness — once so prominent in their lives, began to ebb. Perhaps the voices diminished. Perhaps they learned to become more social. Perhaps they gained employment. Whatever their personal goals, they became reachable.

And now the county aims to tear that away and pluck them down in an as yet unknown system, with new workers, in as-yet-to-be-decided locations.

Will some make the transition will little problem? You bet.

Many more, however, will have so much difficulty that they will drop out alltogether. And, when their illness resurfaces as it will, they wil overcrowd our ERs, which are illequipped to help them. They will roam our streets, homeless. They will become victims of crime. Their families will ask law enforcement to intervene. They will commit suicide.

It all comes down to dollars, folks.

But it’s not over yet.

The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors are elected officials — the folks in the Department of Behavioral Health are not — and right now, those are the folks who are driving this movement. The Supes have yet to vote.

You still have time to make your voice heard. Find out who YOUR supervisor is and lobby.

The supervisors represent OUR interests. Is it in our interests to know that we’re personally responsible for setting back the gains made by 6,500 seriously mentally ill individuals who are working diligently to get their life on track? Is it in OUR interests to increase the homeless population? To overflow the local ERs? To increase the suicide rate?

There’s got to be a better way.

Until next time.

Keep the faith.

AY