Archive Page 2

06
Jun
09

Container Gardening Therapy – Bringing Color to Dark Spaces

June 6, 2009Kirby & Chia in Flower Garden04 2008 May

Container Gardening Therapy – Bringing Color to Dark Spaces

My life has been in such chaos and uncertainty, it has been very difficult for me to figure out what to do. A few months ago, my heart just wasn’t into doing container gardens this year. With the possibility of losing my home looming overhead, I thought “Why should I put all that time into this project, only to lose my home?”

As the weather warmed and the sun came out and weeds decorated my planters, I said, “Well, why not? I can always pack up the containers. I have at least one friend who would enjoy my plants.”

There’s something magical that happens inside when I throw a few seeds in some dirt, add a little water and sunshine, sit back and watch these barren containers spring forth with green leaves and stems and anxiously await to see what flowers and colors will emerge! Even Kirby and Chia like wandering through and on top of the pots, catching bugs, pulling up stray grass bunches and even eating treasures like fallen cherry tomatoes.

This year I decided not to plant a container vegetable garden, other than herbs and tomato plants. The return on potatoes, zucchini, cucumbers in containers last year was dismal. Definitely not worth all the effort.

I bought a 4-pack of tomatoes to plant, one for my upside down tomato plant and the extras for large pots. Apparently, I have occasional problems with counting….it turns out I bought a 9-pack of tomatoes. So, you can expect more recipes from me using tomatoes, and my neighbors and friends can expect tomato care packages!

For those of you who would like to try a project, I would highly recommend planting a Caterpillar Nursery/Butterfly Garden.  (Click here for more information.) This is very easy and a lot of fun.

garden01For your entertainment, I thought you might enjoy some pictures I received in an email entitled: “When to Chop Off Your Green Thumbs” or “What Kind of Fertilizer Are They Using?”

garden02

© Angela Cramer, 2008-2009

garden03

garden05garden06garden04

05
Jun
09

Suggestions to My State Legislators

June 5, 2009computer, woman3

Suggestions to My State Legislators

Being the victim of such unfair practices, makes it easier to be passionate about an issue and wanting to see change. Even though I may not benefit from changes, it is worthwhile knowing that other people will not be treated like I was.

The problem becomes figuring out what can I do to start to bring about change? My individual letters to my state legislators are not likely to do much, unless more people like myself step forward.

I have met about 5 other individuals who have been affected by these state retirement systems. Some are scared to join with me to voice their opinions, afraid of retaliation.

Another approach I tried was to call some union leaders at a school to make them aware of the injustices. All they were interested in were the negotiations for the current year’s salaries. Their thinking was much like a teenager’s – “Something like that won’t happen to me, so I’m not going to worry about it.”

So for now, all I know to do, is to write down some suggestions of changes that need to be made and present them to whoever will listen. Right now, that will be my state legislators. Perhaps I’ll learn some new things which will help me figure out what to do next.

—————————

Dear State Lawmakers,

While I’m afraid it may be too late to help me, I write this in the hopes of seeing changes for people with disabilities who are battling the state retirement systems (SERS, STRS, PERS) right now…and those who will be fighting long after, unless changes are made now. I’ve been told by several lawyers that our state’s retirement systems are allowed to get away with unfair practices because they have written so much power to themselves in their bylaws. It is not fair for organizations to give so much power to themselves that they are legally able to hurt those people whom we entrust the education and future of our children….and there is no recourse.

If changes that protect school & public workers’ rights cannot be made, then I suggest that these organizations disband the disability portion and leave it to social security. The federal government program is more reasonable than this state’s retirement programs. Besides this, these retirement systems collect money for disability, then have the power to unfairly deny their members and pass off the cost to the federal government when we have to apply for SSI, Medicare and other services which these retirement systems should be providing.

Please consider the following:

#1. School/public employees are forced to pay into state retirement systems instead of social security. When a disability occurs after employment has ended, the former employee cannot apply for benefits. People paying into social security can apply for disability benefits anytime. So why don’t the state retirement systems run their disability benefits the same way?

(Click here to read more)

© Angela Cramer, 2008-2009

Clipart is the property of Jupiterimages made available through subscription:
© Jupiterimages Corporation, 2008-2009 www.clipart.com

04
Jun
09

Personal Letter to My State Legislators

June 4, 2009government

Personal Letter to My State Legislators

Although I have signed various petitions, I have never written a letter to my state legislators. I don’t think I ever understood clearly about the functions of senators & congressmen who have offices in Washington and those who have offices at the state capitol.

Now I’m starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together. The legislators who have offices in Washington, DC can help you with problems related to federal programs & organizations. The ones whose offices are at the state capitol can help you with state programs & organizations. Since much of my difficulties have arisen because of the school employees retirement system (SERS) which is a state retirement system, I need to write to the state legislators instead of the federal legislators.

Here is the letter I sent regarding my personal experiences with SERS. I also sent a letter making suggestions which will appear on my next post.

computer, woman4—————————–

Dear State Legislator,

I sent you an email a few days ago regarding changes which I believe need to be made regarding the state retirement systems. This email includes my personal experiences with SERS which led to me write to you in the first place.

My doctors tell me that I have a closed head injury including brain stem dysfunction, problems with circulation to my brain, a type of migraine which causes stroke-like symptoms, tremor, problems with walking and balance, depression and anxiety and it all started in July of 2004. That’s when I was rear-ended by a truck and my car was totaled. I went to Urgent Care and was told there was nothing broken and my problems were most likely due to whiplash. I continued to be in a lot of pain, have headaches, nausea, memory problems, etc. which continued to get worse.

To make matters worse, I had just lost my job due to millions in school budget cuts and I needed to find work. Still thinking that my problems were just soft tissue damage and that I would be as good as new with a little help, I went to a chiropractor who assured me he could help me with my pain. Never did he tell me of the risk of stroke associated with neck adjustment, or the symptoms of stroke. I faithfully received treatment from him.

Unfortunately, my problems then got worse – I couldn’t talk without stuttering, I had a hard time following conversations and remembering what I had said, I had difficulty walking, could barely sit up for 15 minutes at a time; walking 15 feet from my couch to the kitchen and back wore me out.

I went to see some real doctors and a couple of them thought I had a brain injury from the car accident, as well as migraine, torn rotator cuff, cervical and sacro-lumbar sprain. I tried Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapies so that I could hurry up, get better and get on with finding a job. Though I qualified for reduced medical costs, these costs quickly became a few thousand dollars.

I found a lawyer who was experienced with brain injury cases. While the judgment was in my favor, the insurance company lawyers worked hard to minimize my symptoms and the award was not enough to cover legal expenses; I received nothing and was left with trying to pay off about $130,000 worth of medical expenses.

My experience with SERS (State Employees Retirement System) has been the same as the lawsuit in that they have bullied me and worked tirelessly to pay me as little as possible.

To support myself right after the accident, I went through my savings, and borrowed against some annuities I owned. I was told I did not qualify for disability pension through Social security because my money was being paid into the state retirement systems for about 15 years as mandated by state law.

Finally in April 2005, I learned that I might be able to apply for disability benefits with SERS since I was still paying into SERS at the time of my accident.  I turned in my application by June 2005. Over the next 4 months, they sent me to 3 doctors whom they hired to examine me.

In March 2006 they sent me a letter denying me disability pay, saying there was nothing wrong with me.  I appealed their decision, by submitting additional findings from my doctors. They were not very prompt in getting me an answer.

But, eight months later, at the end of Oct 2006, I received a letter from them saying..oops, I am disabled but not from the accident so they didn’t have to pay me any back pay because according to them the accident didn’t cause my problems. For some reason their board determined I had first become incapacitated on Sept 1, 2006.  When I called them asking about this, they told me that this was their decision and there was nothing I could do about it. My advocate and I called numerous bar associations trying to find a lawyer who dealt with SERS cases on a contingency basis, but could find none.

(Click here to read more)

© Angela Cramer, 2008-2009

Clipart is the property of Jupiterimages made available through subscription:
© Jupiterimages Corporation, 2008-2009 www.clipart.com

28
May
09

Winks from Creator/God

May 28, 2009God wink1

Winks from Creator/God

Keeping faith that everything is happening and unfolding according to a Divine plan has been a very challenging concept to practice and maintain, particularly in the past 5 years. I have been told, and have often felt, like I’ve been a walking case of Murphy’s Law…in that anything that can go wrong, has gone wrong. Yet, there is a small niggling somewhere in my mind that perhaps this experience which feels and seems so awful and bleak will somehow lead to something amazing and wonderful. That’s the way it was with my divorce, so why shouldn’t my brain injury journey be the same?

The difficult part of having faith is that it’s so much easier to look back after going through a difficult time and saying, “Wow, isn’t it amazing that everything worked out well and better than I could ever have hoped!” It’s much more difficult to keep a smile on your face and profess that your life is going wonderfully well and just as Creator/God has planned while you are actually knee deep in manure on this arduous trek. The “manure” which is swirling around me right now includes: approximately $130,000 worth of medical debt, termination of my disability pension, lack of any income, a decision from the bank as to whether I qualify for any kind of assistance so that I can stay in my home or whether they will foreclose, a 3 to 4 mud bath2month wait to see if I qualify for SSI, and an undetermined wait as to how long SERS (school employees retirement system) will drag out my appeal of their decision to terminate my disability pension.

While some people may have an inherently positive/optimistic personality even in the face swimming in such sewage, I am one who needs a little more encouragement or some kind of reassurance that things are going to work out okay. I would like to believe I received 3 such messages of encouragement/reassurance over the past month.

Some people might call these positive types of experiences a coincidence, the answer to a prayer or simply an incident with unlikely odds.  SQuire Rushnell calls them “Godwinks.” He says that these uplifting happenings are a way in which God “winks” at us and leads us to precisely where we need to be in life or to the right people and/or opportunities at just the right time. (For more about this, visit his GODWINK STORIES™ at http://www.beliefnet.com on Mondays and Wednesday or read his book, When God Winks at You.)

I’d like to share with you my recent “unusual” experiences and ask you what you think.

Wink #1: One of my neighbors, whom I’ll call Alicia, frequently brings me meals. Although we did not know each other very well prior to my accident, when she found out about my circumstances and the difficulty I had with fixing meals, she took it upon herself to fix an extra plate of food every now and then to share with me. The thought and love which she puts into these special plates are amazing and she seems to show up on my doorstep with them at times when I’m at my lowest.

A few weeks ago, she brought me some dinner and told me that her 14 yr. old car finally died, and that she was hoping to find a reasonably priced used car in good condition. The next morning she called and asked if she could come over because she had something for me. It was very unusual that she was coming over in the morning. When I opened the door, she handed me a check for $1,000 made out to the County Treasurer’s Office. She said that she was able to find a car and had not used all of the money she had set aside for it. She got online and noticed that I was behind on my property taxes and decided to give me the check so I could get current on my taxes. Alicia is woman who not only has a strong relationship with God, she also is a true embodiment of love, compassion and generosity.

Wink #2: Around this same time I was feeling very anxious about wondering how long I would be without income while SERS makes a decision on my appeal. I thought about this sleezy mortgage company I had taken out my mortgage with right after I got divorced. They ended up charging me $13,000 more than they should have. A lawyer looked over the documents and told me it wasn’t worth trying to sue them and that I should just find another more reputable company. A couple years later, I unexpectedly received a check in the mail for a few hundred dollars. The check was for money recovered from a class action lawsuit against this mortgage company. And, it had come precisely at a time when I was having difficulties paying bills. A couple years after that, I received another check from them, once again arriving at a time when I was experiencing some financial difficulty. This last check came about 7 or 8 years ago.

With my current financial situation weighing heavily on my mind, I began thinking “Gee, I wish I would get another check from that class action lawsuit.” The very next day there was a check in my mailbox from the class action lawsuit for $560!!!

Wink #3: Yesterday, a friend and I packed our cameras and went to “happy hour with the butterflies.” We have discovered that the special evening butterfly events are the best times for me to attend since there are “adults only” which makes for fewer people, much less noise and, therefore, less overstimulation. One of the most amazing and beautiful butterflies there was a blue morpho butterfly. Some of the staff told us that it is extremely difficult to get a picture of this particular butterfly. Its beauty is breathtaking as it flits actively around the exhibit, but as soon as it lands, it usually closes its wings, displaying its less attractive dark brown underside.

As I sat watching it flit around, I said a prayer and asked God to send me a message to me that everything will be okay by letting the butterfly land on me. Within 10 minutes this incredible blue butterfly landed on my shoulder! A few people gathered around me taking pictures of it. Fortunately, my friend was among them, poised with her camera to capture this astonishing occurrence.Butterfly on my shoulder02 2009

Butterfly on my shoulder05 2009Butterfly on my shoulder 2009

Question: What do you think? Are these reassurances from God or simply a string of very fortunate/interesting events?

Please consider making a donation to help
me through this tough financial time by
clicking here.

Blessings, and thank you.

© Angela Cramer, 2008-2009

Sky picture and clipart are the property of Jupiterimages made available through subscription:
© Jupiterimages Corporation, 2008-2009 www.clipart.com

Butterfly pictures taken by my friend, Missy Black, © 2009

29
Apr
09

Betrayal

April 29, 2009betrayal2

Betrayal

It’s been a long time since I’ve had the time to focus on my website. If you read my posts from Feb 27th and 28th, you may have figured that my energy and attention has gone into appealing the School Employees Retirement System’s (SERS) decision to terminate my disability.

With this appeal, my life and character have once again been scrutinized and ripped apart. The reports from SERS’ examining doctors have twisted and distorted who I am into a person whom I do not recognized and would not have much respect for. Then these reports are circulated to my treating doctors and it leaves me wondering if they can see through the lies, or if they are starting to believe them. I have become distrustful of just about everyone.

I feel myself pulling away from just about everyone, not knowing who I can or cannot trust. I now understand what it’s like to live with a sense of paranoia. I understand why so many people with brain injury have “mental health” problems. Even if these issues exist because of the brain injury or even existed to some extent before the brain injury, they are most certainly exacerbated by interacting both with professionals who are uneducated about brain injury and/or unethical professionals who have an agenda to push in order to save money for organizations.

After reading an article which appeared in The New York Times titled, A World of Hurt: Exams of Injured Workers Filled with Mistrust (click on to read), I wonder if this same thing is occurring with the SERS organization I am dealing with.

· There are only certain doctors which they use for their “independent” medical exams; one of these doctors even had his license taken away twice.

· These doctors repeatedly ignore, disregard and even misrepresent information provided by treating doctors.

· The SERS doctors do very brief exams and are supposed to be more knowledgeable than a person’s treating doctors that a person has seen once a month for years.

· SERS doctors’ opinions are taken over the treating doctors and even disability decisions made by the Social Security Administration.

This next one is particularly clever…..

· When an SERS doctor disagrees with treating doctor, he simply concludes that the treating doctor and any other professionals involved “are contributing to the patient’s delusion that she has a brain injury!”

© Angela Cramer, 2008-2009

Photo is the property of Jupiterimages made available through subscription. It is used only to represent the emotion of betrayal, and is not a real person in this blog:
© Jupiterimages Corporation, 2008-2009 www.clipart.com

03
Mar
09

Finding the Magic

fire1March 3, 2009

Finding the Magic

A couple of months ago, I read an article on Oprah about Magic Lists.

I seem to be living in the Ring of Fire, so much so that one lawyer referred to me as a walking case of Murphy’s Law, anything that could go wrong, has gone wrong. Somewhere between being down-sized in my job, acquiring a brain injury from being rear-ended by another car and then suffering an “ischemic event” from having my neck adjusted by a chiropractor, all which happened in less than 3 months time, my life changed and I lost myself and my sense of purpose and meaning.

I fought to hold onto my home and place in my community where I have lived for more than 20 years. My worst fear has been to end up forgotten in a back room of someone’s house or a state-run nursing home at age 50. It seems that a corrupt legal system and dishonest state retirement system for school employees are quickly stripping me of these last things I have tried to hold onto.

This journey has been scary and uncertain; fear and hopelessness are my all too familiar companions. Despite having more stress, turmoil and chaos in my life for the past 4 ½ years, I oddly feel very lucky about many things. I feel very lucky to have a huge group of supportive people whom I can call friends.

It is unfortunate that many of my challenges are invisible. If I work hard at pacing myself, keep from getting too overstimulated in my environment (which means staying home most of the time), force myself to take frequent breaks and lie down, and make many other accommodations which help me conserve energy, I can talk, think and write pretty well. Though my existing abilities have left many professionals to consider me a fake and malingerer, I have to acknowledge that there is a reason I can still do these things.

With the loss of myself, worrying about what others think of me (particularly professionals who stamp you with deadly labels), and wondering how I will be able to support myself to live in the real world, I have forgotten how to dream. Now that I am close to being stripped of everything, the only thing I can do is to either resign myself to my worst fear, or to start dreaming.

I’m going to give one last shot at awakening my soul’s dreams. And so, I would like to share my magic list with you:fairy-with-star

  • Inspire & conceive communities/surroundings which nurture the mind, body & spirit of people with all abilities.
  • Experience financial security
  • Take pleasure in hobbies which involve creating things of beauty, treasuring nature, and cherishing how magical & wonderful life is
  • Experience a balanced home environment (calm, yet stimulating) surrounded by loving, supportive people of compatible mind and spirit, my pets & the beauty of nature
  • Share my gifts of helping others by attracting and aligning myself with people in power to improving the quality of life for those with brain injuries

I have written my magic list knowing that it is more successful when a person can actually claim to have the things they desire. I give thanks every day to the parts of my dreams I can claim, even if on a small scale. I have also written my list so there is a give and take – what I want to receive and what I’m willing to give in return. I want to feel my life still has purpose and meaning.

Several years ago, I encountered an incredible experience which you can read about in a story I’ve written called “The Feather.”  I believe I was provided this experience as a reminder of the power of miracles, synchronicity, faith or inter-dependence. My job is to continue to do what I can to help myself live a meaningful life and to have faith that I am not alone. My dreams may not happen the way I expect – they may, in fact, come true in ways that are more incredible and better than I can imagine.

© Angela Cramer, 2008-2009

Clipart is the property of Jupiterimages made available through subscription:
© Jupiterimages Corporation, 2008-2009 www.clipart.com

28
Feb
09

Finding the Funny Side of a Bad Situation

February 28, 2009

Finding the Funny Side of a Bad Situation

I have been reflecting on the following sentence much of this week:

“….the Medical Advisory Committee has advised the Retirement Board that you are now capable of resuming your previous duties.”broke-no-money

Although they believe I am perfectly capable of doing my previous job as Program Coordinator/Parent Educator, I know that I probably would not last one whole day. So, one of my strategies is to plan for the worst case scenario: my disability pension check and health care benefits stop immediately and I have no money coming in at all.

(By the way, those of you who think I am a Pessimist engaged in negative thinking, you are soooooo wrong! I am actually tapping into the power of “Defensive Pessimism” which is a very positive way of tapping into the good side of negative thinking. How do I know? Because that’s what it says on Oprah’s website!)

Okay, now back to the question of what do I do if I have no money coming in at all? One coping strategy I am quite good at is to take inventory of all the things a person, including myself, is able to do well and to see the positive side of what others see as a weakness. With this in mind, I am starting a list of jobs/occupations to explore using my strengths.

1. Actress portraying a person with disabilities.

I have fooled my friends, neighbors, psychiatrist, social worker, advocate, some highly specialized doctors and even a person who lives with me, into thinking that I have a disability. And I’ve been able to do this for 4 ½ years!

I’m particularly good at pretending to have tremors in my head and neck. One of my disabled friends has nicknamed me “Bobble Head.” Another talent I am quite good at is making my legs and back shake so hard that I collapse on the floor and weeblepretend not to be able to get up. Now this one may be a bit of a problem in the acting world, since I need to pretend the “not being able to get up” thing for at least 30 minutes, so I wouldn’t be able to jump up quickly to do a re-take if necessary. I do, however, always get up eventually. I have another friend with a disability who does something similar. I’m sure we would both make a convincing pair. We call ourselves “The Weeble Sisters,” as in “weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.” Okay, not totally accurate in our cases. We do fall down, but we always find a way to get back up.

Maybe Dr. Phil, Oprah or Ellen DeGeneres might help me break into the acting world…

2. Writer/Author/Comedian

I am a very convincing liar and even good at lying and pretending for very long periods of time. I think they call that “malingering.” This could be talent or mental health disorder, depending on whether you are an optimist or a pessimist. Of course, I choose to be an optimist on this one. I am so good at lying and using my imagination, I have a lot of material to write about.

I am even good at pretending to have logorrhea. (*Note: If you are pretending to have a brain injury, never use big words like this. Even if you went to college and have a masters or doctorate degree. It’s a BIG RED FLAG!!! You have to drool, use really little words and NEVER learn anything new.)

Okay, back to logorrhea. Maybe you don’t know this word. It means constantly talking. If you need a way to remember this, try the following: “logorrhea” sounds like “diarrhea” and I’m sure you’ve heard of “diarrhea of the mouth,” which is what logorrhea means. I have a variant of this called logorrhea of the computer: I type and type and type and type. Therefore, lots of writing material.

My creative imagination, many “characterological disorders” (here’s another one of those BIG words that doctors like to throw around and I like to collect) and a convincing ability to pretend something and make it look real have put me in many very interesting situations. I think my favorite one is where a doctor gave me a wedgie during an examination. I still need to write up that story!!!! It took me a while to figure out a new name to give him, but I finally decided on “Dr. Pullam High.”

That reminds me…. Have you heard of the new medical epidemic that’s been attacking many doctors and mental health professionals? The strangest and most interesting aspect of this chronic condition is that they typically don’t know they have it. In fact, their patients are usually the first ones to detect their symptoms and their patients don’t even have medical degrees! I guess this is like the old adage about a lawyer who acts as his own counsel has a fool for a client. A doctor or mental health professional is the least likely person to be able to recognize this condition. Oh, I almost forgot to tell you its name; it’s called Cranial Rectal Inversion. I don’t think it has been recognized yet by the medical community, but many laypeople are able to quickly recognize it. (Sorry, Drs. Sears, Stork, Masterson & Ordon…… I didn’t mean to make your profession the butt of my humor. I have not noticed any signs of this with any of the doctors on your TV show, The Doctors.)

Maybe Ellen would be interested in my birds, Vodka and McGyver. I have a couple of funny stories about them here: How Vodka Got His Name and McGyver and the Insurance Man. I’ll have to see about sending in some videos of them.

I even do a little inspirational writing in the form of short stories. Oprah’s into inspirational/spiritual development so this is a good field to get into as well. Here’s a couple of my short stories: The Feather and Goose Necks and Short Cuts.hearts2

3. ”Lady of the Night”/Home Companion

This brings me to the last alternate occupation to explore. Though I don’t have actual work experience I could list on a resume, I do have a lot of life experiences of being screwed by many different people from all walks of life. And apparently I’m very good at getting screwed over and over and over again. (I apologize if I’m being too crude. I’ve never listed life experiences of this kind on a resume, so I’m not sure the appropriate word to use.)

My problem has been that everyone else is making money over screwing me, and as Oprah or Dr. Phil might tell me, “It’s time to re-claim my own personal power!” I’m trying to think this through and perhaps working as a “Lady of the Night” would not be a good idea since that’s an illegal profession.

People have told me that I’m the one who needs to hire a home companion to help me with things around my home that are difficult. Perhaps I’ve been falling into the trap of negative thinking again. Maybe I’m the one who should be a “home companion” since I’m obviously very good at being screwed. Only this time, I want to be the one who gets paid for my services!!!!

canoe(Hmmmm….I wonder what Oprah, Dr. Phil, Ellen and “The Doctors” would say about any of this???)

My temporary new address will be:

#1 Uppah Cr., Withatapaddle, OH!!!!! (just until I can line up some “contract” work)

© Angela Cramer, 2008-2009

Clipart is the property of Jupiterimages made available through subscription:
© Jupiterimages Corporation, 2008-2009 www.clipart.com




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