Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tire Safety that could save your life.

Thanks Aunt Nay for sending this one. Joe and I are going to check our tires this morning (when the temperature gets above 32- 17 right now). Also, I will keep this in mind the next time we go tire shopping. I hate being played the fool when spending money.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Random Blessings

As I have said previously, God has been blessing our socks off! They are always random and they are not necessarily monetary. Since they are random, I wanted to randomly post some of them here to share with you.

Background: I have ALWAYS wanted an entertainment center to house the TV, VCR, DVD, stereo, etc. ALWAYS. But those things are expensive. Even in our better times we could never have afforded one.

We have our house listed for sale. We need to move to a city that has a Kidney specialist and we need to be closer to family. It's just too much to go it alone. Although my family would love to have us live closer, I can't stand LA longer than 3 days at a time. Is it the smog? Is it the traffic? Is it the concrete everywhere? (BTW, when I was little, I thought the entire world was covered with concrete/cement and people just cut holes in the cement to put in a tree). Back to the story. Our house is for sale. Our agent was talking with Joe and asked for his help. The agent has another house listed just a block away, but it is going to go to Foreclosure. The lady has moved on to CA and left behind some items. She told Ricci (the agent) that he could have whatever he wanted out of the house. But he needed Joe's muscles and truck to load up the washer and dryer and oven. Ricci was selling these items to another person. While in the home, Joe noticed some other furniture that the lady had left behind. Joe asked what Ricci was going to do with those things. Ricci said we could have whatever we wanted. What was there? A big, brand new-looking entertainment center. Huge. We brought it home and put our TV, VCR, DVD, stereo, books, DVD's, and videos in it and it still looks empty. Cost: nada. We also got a nice new-looking futon and other random things we will sell at the yard sale. Thank you Lord.
(BTW, the pic was taken about 5 minutes after we set it up. It doesn't take them long, does it? Luckily they haven't done that since)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

One of my favorite websites

So, if you read my post about 25 random things, you saw that I LOVE to save money. To the point that it's a game for me. I found this wonderful website that does many good things.
1. You can get free samples in the mail. I have gotten everything from shampoo, to coffee, to vitamins, etc.
2. You can get coupons. Most coupons are about $1 or $2 but some are $5 or more. Plus, some stores double coupons.
3. You can play sweepstakes. I have won a gas card to Chevron and free Dr. Pepper (is there anything better?).
4. You can get advice and tips on how to stretch your budget. Face it, we can all shave a few bucks here and there.
What's this website, you ask? I have signed up for the emails so that everyday I see what she has added. She adds stuff everyday. I don't have time to click on everything, but I scan the site for what I need or want and just click on those things. EnJOY!

Monday, January 26, 2009

25 Random Things

(random pic for a random post)
Although I was pressured into this "25 random things" thing, I now think it's funny. See if you were in any of these things

1. Although I was raised in a Christian home, I made my personal decision to follow Christ when I was 23.

2. My father died when I was 14 months old.

3. I have lived on 2 sailboats (some of the best times of my life).

4. I lived in a National Park (Yosemite) for 3 years.

5. I love to go to bed early.

6. I am addicted to saving money. It's llike a game to me to see if I can get the best price.

7. I LOVE chocolate like you don't even understand. LOVE!

8. When I was pregnant with Jack, I ate (almost) only fruit. I CRAVED fruit!

9. When I was in the High School Marching Band, I won almost all our drill-downs. Go Me!

10. I played softball for 8 years and then helped coach my sister's softball team.

11. The only time I have to read magazines is in the restroom. There, now you know my little secret.

12. It took me 9 years to finish my Bachelor's, but only 14 months to finish my Master's.

13. I find this little "25 random things" stressful.

14. I used to work for a Hot Air Balloon company and chased hot air balloons all over San Diego county (and Temecula).

15. I have never done drugs.

16. I arrested over 10 people when I worked in Security.

17. I hate to exercise, but am trying to enjoy it. (trying)

18. I think my husband is the best father in whole wide world. He's also pretty hot.

19. I love to dance and often do around the house with the boys.

20. I love Game Nights and random get togethers with my friends.

21. I love to bake from scratch; especially apple pies for my husband.

22. I am tone deaf and can't hold a note, except in the car, where I magically turn into a Rock Star!

23. I don't mind cleaning the toilet but I can't STAND to clean the shower or bath tub. Calm me weird.

24. I was Valedictorian of Junior High School.

25. The BEST feeling I have ever had in my whole entire life, was giving birth to Jack, naturally.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Our love story

Our seventh anniversary is coming up and I thought I would share our love story. I know, you are thinking, "I thought we went to her wedding in the summer." Yes, our WEDDING was in the summer, but we were married earlier. Let me explain.

Way back in 1993, Joe was working for a car dealership in El Paso. A woman was telling him how her son was working and living in Yosemite and how he loved it. Joe decided he wanted to try it. After all, he loved the outdoors. There are so many stories I could lace into this post, but it is about "our love story". Maybe another time. Joe fell in love with the park and stayed.

Fast forward to 2000. I wanted to volunteer as a missionary in Tijuana, Mexico (remember, I was living in San Diego at the time). But the organization never returned my calls. Then I got a letter in the mail from Yosemite saying I was hired I needed to report to duty on June 1st. I went, but I was only going to stay 2 months. I was still paying rent for my room in SD and I still had my cat and everything down there. Well, I too fell in love with the park, and stayed.

Joe worked at Curry Village and I worked in Security. Joe noticed me on the occasions I went to Curry Village. He had a friend in Security, so he asked her about me. She told him that I was only there for a short while. Never bother, he decided to ask me out to dinner. I knew that I didn't want to get into a relationship, so I said "no" every time he asked. And he asked a number of times. Finally, I decided, "hey, it's a free meal, Susan. Go for it." So I said yes. That dinner changed our lives.

As we sat there, Joe reached over, held my hand, and we prayed for dinner. I knew in that moment that this was the man I was going to marry. But, I couldn't get all caught up in that love stuff, I had a mission. I had to finish college. I just had to finish college before I could get married. I had to graduate with my maiden name. For those of you who don't know me, my father died when I was a baby. That's a whole other story that is bringing tears to my eyes.

So, Joe and I were hiking buddies. We hiked all over Yosemite that summer. Hiking is such a good date. There are no distractions like a movie. It's really cheap. And you get to see something of the other's character. I loved that summer.

But fall came. I had to go back to school. I left and realized what a mistake that was, so within 9 days, I was back. I just transferred universities. Joe changed his schedule so that he was off work on the days I had to go to school. The closest university was 2 hours away, one way. But, Joe would drive me almost every day for 2 years. Love. Again, more time for talking and getting to know each other. After 6 months of friendship, we realized that something had to happen. We couldn't continue to be friends forever. But I was adamant about finishing college before I got caught up in love. We decided to go our separate ways, but it only lasted a week. It was the worst week in my life. God reaffirmed in that week that this was the man I was to marry and He would work out the details.

Six months after that, Joe proposed. It was almost beautiful, storybook, fantasy. Almost. All that summer, Joe had been working up the nerve to propose. He had the ring and was ready, but he just couldn't do it. We went on some gorgeous hikes. We slept on Sentinal Dome in the full moon (I don't suggest it). Our last camping trip of the summer (before I went back to school), was to Twin Lakes in Mammoth. That night we walked along the lakes. We crossed the bridge between the two lakes and looked at the moon on the water. Perfect place to propose. But no. We went back to the tent and went to sleep. Then, at 6 in the morning, when I needed to visit the little girls room, when I had my coke-bottle glasses on, when I had no make-up on, when I had my hair all messed up, when I had morning breath............. Joe proposed. I figure, if he can love me when I look like this, he's a keeper.

We made plans for the wedding to be the following summer. It would be an outdoor wedding, because we are outdoors people. All these plans, all these deposits, but there was a problem.

By January, I was 18 units away from graduating. Up until this time, I had been working full time and going to school on my 2 days off. That's why it took so long. I could have continued working and split up the 18 units into 2 semesters, but that is a whole year, and who hires teachers in January? I wanted to finish in summer, to be right on track with teaching. But, there was NOOOOOOOOOOO way I could continue to work full time, take 18 units, and still drive 2 hours each way.

So, quit your job, you say. It's not that easy in Yosemite. When you quit, you lose your housing... unless you live with someone else who has a higher level housing. Joe had that higher level housing. Ok, so quit, live with Joe, and finish school. We had strong convictions of not living together until we were married. We talked to our pastor about our dilemma and he told us that he could marry us in a small ceremony in January and still do the big ceremony in LA in the summer.

So, on January 31st, Joe and I took a hike with our pastor and his wife (the witness). We stopped along a creek and pledged our lives to each other. It was so beautiful. Then my Security unit had a sweet wedding reception for us, in the firehouse. I would love to post pics here, but this in the days before digital cameras and all my pics are on paper. I will try to scan them and post them here for you to see.

I went on to finish those 18 units and graduate with honors. Oh, and one other little detail. I never changed my last name, so on June 1st, 2002 Susan Kathleen Bridges graduated. All in tribute to my late father. Finally, on July 20th, 2002, we had our ceremony in front of all of you in LA.

So you see, our real anniversary is January 31st. This year, it will be 7 years. We have been so blessed and we have never regretted getting married twice. In fact, sometimes we will joke and say "in sickness and in health. for richer or poorer.... I meant it BOTH times".
signed: Susan Kathleen RODRIGUEZ

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Pictures of the boys

I love this one. "I love you this much"

The boys playing in the snow in the backyard.

This is my favorite picture of the boys and Joe.

The latest updates on us

For some of you, this will be a repeat. But for those who were not able to follow me on Facebook, this update is for you. Remember, I am real new to this blogging thing, so bare with me.

5 years ago, we tried to get life insurance but Joe was declined due to protein in his urine. The doctor said that some men have that, and we didn't pursue it. 4 years ago, we tried again for life insurance. Declined again for the same reason.3 years ago, same story.

At this point, you would think that we would begin looking into this "problem", but it was the same month that we put our CA house on the market, sold it, got jobs in AZ, bought a house in AZ, moved to AZ, and then found out I was preggers again. Needless to say, we sort of forgot about it.

Joe got a job with ADOT (the AZ equivilant to CalTrans) 2 years ago. Part of that job required a commercial driver's license. He didn't pass at first as he had... yep, you guessed it, protein in his urine. He drank fluids, went back and passed. To keep your CDL you need to have a physical every year. Joe went through the whole shebang last year. Didn't pass the first time, drank alot, went back, and passed.

Fast forward to about 2 weeks ago. Joe has been having swelling of his feet. BAD swelling. And if he lays down, his face gets swollen. Terribly swollen. When it became painful, he finally thought about going to the doctor. Oh yeah, he hasn't had insurance for a year, as it was too expensive for us. Well, when I signed my contract in September, I added him and thought that I didn't want to take the chance anymore. We would find the money somehow. I am soooooooooo glad I did.

His doctor ran an EKG right away and that came back clear. Then he ran blood tests and had the results in one hour. Not good. Then he ordered a 24 urine test. In the meantime, Joe has to renew his CDL again. He goes, and same story. Except this time, he tried 4 times over 2 days and still never passed. The doctor told him that he will end up on dialysis if he doesn't get this under control. This hit Joe like a ton of bricks. He looked frantically in the phone book for a kidney spcialist, but there are none on the mountain. He called the hospital, grasping for straws and turns out that the lady who answered knew of a doctor who comes up from Phoenix once a month. Joe called and once they got his test results they squeezed him into an appointment for this Tuesday. We are so blessed that that particular doctor was coming up in a couple of days.

Tuesday, we went to the Kidney Specialist, still not knowing exactly what was going on. We had looked things up online and had guessed that Joe had kidney disease, but we didn't know for sure, the extent of it, or even which kind. When the doctor came in, he was using all these big words and talking so fast about treatments and whatnot. We asked, "so, does he have KD?" The doctor said, "well, yes, he's in stage 3." When we were looking things up online, we found the scale of stages. Stage 1 is the beginning, moving up the scale to stage 5 being kidney failure requiring dialysis or transplant. I thought Joe was a stage 2. We also thought that we were going to walk out of there with a prescription to take down the swelling and see the doctor again next year. Not so much.

The doctor started to have his nurse call the hospital to get ready for Joe. Hospital! We asked at what time does he need to be there. The doctor said, "right now." No going home to even get a toothbrush. Do not pass Go. Go directly to jail (oops I mean the hospital). They had to drain him of the excess fluids Tuesday night and then do his biopsy on his kidneys Wednesday. Since being checked in yesterday, he has already lost 4 pounds. At least the swelling is almost all gone.

The purpose of the biopsy is to determine which form of KD he has and how bad it is. He had to have a CAT scan, ultrasound, and then biopsy. He was supposed to be released today (Wednesday) at noon, but he had bleeding from the biopsy and they want to observe him for one more day. Hopefully, we will be able to bring him home tomorrow. Then the doctor says that Joe can't wait the one month to see the doctor again, so he has squeezed Joe into an appointment on the 29th in Phoenix. We don't know how often Joe will need to go in for treatments, but we can't keep running up and down the mountain (3 1/2 hours each way). We are seriously looking into moving to a city.

The biopsy confirmed the Kidney Disease. It also confirmed Stage 3. Finally it confirmed the type of disease. Membranous Nephrology. How's that sound? Now the doctor wants to see what is causing it. It could be caused by lupus or it could be genetic. If it is lupus, they can treat that. If not, then we treat this. So, more blood work.

On to treatment... the doctor wants to treat this with medication first. Joe's kidneys are spilling all of his protein and we need to slow them down. He is on meds now and it is a trial and error thing. We try these meds for awhile (3 months) to see if they solve the problem. If they do not, then we try transplant meds. Again, if they don't work, we try chemo. The doctor thinks that it would take Joe 15 years of no treatment to get to Stage 5, since it took him this long to get to stage 3. And he thinks that in 15 years, we may have new drugs and treatments.

Until then, God has been so good. Joe and I had alone time yesterday (I can't even tell you when we last had that) and really talked. This is bringing us closer together and to God. We are focused on what is important in life. And we have been completely blown away by all your kind words and gifts. Just know that each and every one is much appreciated

When I got home there were 2 envelopes in the mail. Before I begin, did you see the documentary "Sicko" by Michael Moore? I know, I don't like Michael Moore, but it was eye opening. I should have seen this coming. The first was from our insurance saying that they have a pre-existing condition limitation and they don't want to pay his bills for the Kidney Disease. Why the heck do I pay $275/month for him for insurance? There's no way we can pay the hospital bill (3 days, 2 nights, CAT scan, ultrasound, biopsy), the monthly appointments with the specialist, and the myriad of pills he is taking. No way. Maybe before the housing market crashed we could have used equity, but there is none now. You know me, I don't like debt. I don't like the feeling that we owe someone.

But, as if that wasn't bad enough, I opened the other envelope.The second one was from the state. We had applied for state aid (Californians, it's like Medi-Cal, in AZ it's AHCCCS). Denied. We had applied for Joe and the boys because we couldn't afford to pay $550/month for Joe and the boys. We were thinking that even if they only approved the boys, that would save us. But, alas, denied.

Just a little update. How do I summarize this?.... a little up and a little down. Joe's health continues to suffer. He was taking his Lasix pills to control the swelling, but he had to double up to keep the swelling down. Then he ran out. While we were waiting for the doctor to refill the Rx, he swelled up bad. It was up to his knees. When he woke up Thursday, his right eye was swollen shut. He is back on the Lasix now, but it only treats the symptoms, not the source.

Joe's boss told him that he won't need him until March, maybe. Maybe? How do I tell my children we'll eat tongiht, maybe? How do I pay my mortgage with "maybe"? There are just no jobs. Miraculously though, we have had all our needs met. We will sometimes come home to find food or clothes on the doorstep. We will sometimes find money in the mail. We are living by faith that God will provide. Funny thing is, it's actually less stressful.

The insurance is taking our case and the state will probably take the remainder. Probably. Even the hospital is involved and will negotiate. I refuse to get stressed out over it. It's really not even a resident in my brain.

We just got back from the doctor for Joe. Good news. Joe is holding his own and the doc is going to keep him on the current meds (instead of trying the transplant meds or chemo meds). Also, the doc feels so good about Joe, Joe doesn't have to go back until 2 months. That is a major blessing. but the best part was when Joe was talking with the doc. The doc asked how he was feeling and Joe told him that he was feeling good. Then Joe said, "most of all, I have faith". Sweet words to my ears.

Welcome to ME!

Ok, so I finally did it. I got a blogspot. Although I was VERY happy with my Facebook and will continue to keep that up, some of my friends and family were not able to access it. So..... I have a blogspot.

For awhile, I will post my blogs on FB and here until I just start blogging here and chatting on FB. Also, I am proud to say that I finally found my USB cable to connect my camera to the laptop. After 2 1/2 years, I realized there are still some boxes we never unpacked. Maybe it was that whole being pregnant and having a 6 month old and starting a new job and all that. Nevertheless, I found it and should be able to update pics and videos very easily now. You don't even want to know how hard it was before.

I know that some of you have been here for a long time and know your way around the block. I have been looking at your blogs and enjoy all the different layouts. How do I make mine a cute layout? Ok, so you experts, comment back and tell me your secrets on how you get your blogs to look so cute.

where Glory meets my suffering