Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Root of Discontent or Maybe it's Just the Season Change

Wow, it’s been a while since I wrote anything for the blog…

I’ve been busy riding and enjoying my motorcycle. It’s been really good for getting me out of the house and doing things again. Have learned with each ride and have explored so many places I have not seen in years.

Have seen my new ID doctor but I’m not expecting to know my numbers until I visit her again on the 25th. I’ll be sure to update here when I find out.

I’ve been dealing with an unexplained bad mood since yesterday. I can’t put my finger on exactly why… maybe a combination of things. The fact that the police killed a man on a bicycle last night when their patrol car collided with the bicycle while they were in pursuit of the bicycle (in other words, the cops ran him down), or maybe it was Obama coming to town just long enough to collect six million dollars for his campaign… so many things to rub me the wrong way lately. The economy seems to just be absorbing everyone and everything. It seems everyone is so sick to death of being broke and feeling that there is just no clear path to any sort of financial security.

My grown daughter, a single mother, getting no child support, called me last night to say she quit her job. She has been working for a computer consulting firm in Northern California for a few years. She explained that she felt so miserable every day doing a job that she does because it’s a paycheck and not what she wants to be doing. I can understand. She feels that she has no quality time to spend with her daughter and that she’s not taking proper care of herself because of her unhappy state-of-mind. Again, I can totally relate. She feels alone and has been experiencing anxiety attacks. I wish she was willing to move closer to home where I could help her more. I can’t think of moving closer to her while my mom and step-dad are still alive. They need me and I know I won’t have them for much longer.

Her frustrations and dis-satisfaction with her job has only stirred the ashes of my own discontent with my job and the direction this company has taken over the past two years. We still have not moved into our new facility and even though the move is now imminent, I see that many of the same space problems we have in our current location will continue to be factors in the new building too. And it goes without saying that without some serious changes in the way management views its employees, little will change the general malaise that seems to have saturated the whole company. 

Last month, I requested small merit increases for three of my employees who have all spent the past four years being grossly underpaid, and the raise given them was a slap in the face. It amounted to about $10/week. Not even enough to cover the rise in the cost of living over the past four years. Even though the company is again thriving and meeting all financial and sales goals, it continues to underpay and undervalue its most important asset… its people. Why can’t they see that the reason this company weathered the storm and survived the recession is because of the sacrifices made by the people here? When do they get that credit? When will the company embrace them for their investment? So sad.

I’ll be at AIDS Walk Los Angeles this weekend to participate. It’s my birthday on Sunday and though I did no fundraising this year, I feel that being there as an HIV/AIDS positive person, is important. Please donate if you can at the AIDS Walk LA website:

See you soon,

Friday, August 3, 2012

Heck's Angel, Easy-peasy Rider

Happy August Everyone,

Well I passed all my tests, paid necessary fees, bought a beautiful new motorcycle, a helmet, some gloves, safety vest, tank bag and insurance and I’m officially a biker. I may be a newbie-biker but I’m getting more seasoned and will attend my first club ride on the 11th. It’s been great so far. I’ve put almost 300 miles on the bike already! I can tell that I will soon want to buy a bigger bike but for now, my 250 will help me learn a lot. The photo on my new drivers’ license is hideous. I sincerely hope I don’t actually look like the frumpy, homely old lady looking out at me from that photo.

My mom has actually gained a little strength and may surprise us all. I always knew she was too tough to just fade away. I wish she could communicate. I miss having talks with her. She has a terrific sense of humor and I know, if she could just talk, she’d have some pretty funny stuff to say.

My employer cancelled the meeting with my department. He offered no specific reason other than “You got your 10% back… I see no reason to meet with your employees”. So things are what they are and no changes in any policies will be considered for the foreseeable future. In other words, “Like-it- or Lump-it” is the general message. I tried, all efforts failed. Such is life.

Not a lot to write this week. I won’t comment on Chick-fil-A because everyone else has. Who cares if they’re dumb enough to spout their personal beliefs all over their business-model then they deserve the criticism. When you think about it, it’s probably more press than they’ve ever had before. I’ve never even seen a Chick-fil-A, let-alone eaten there.

Have you been watching the Olympics? I wish there were more Equestrian events televised. And wasn’t Bowling finally included as an Olympic sport? Billiards? My gosh, there’s Table Tennis (ping pong), Water Polo (who plays that?), and what about the one where they dance around with a ribbon on a stick? Can’t wait for the winter games with some danger and excitement!

Stay cool and have a great week.

Love Betsy

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Chess and Harley Davidson Dreams

Hey friends,

Things rolling steadily along in my life for the most-part.

I’ve at last managed to convince management to meet with my department and discuss some of the issues we have with regard to remuneration and human resource issues. Since I last wrote on this subject, I’ve lost three well-trained employees to other employers who are willing to provide more opportunity, better wages and working conditions etc.. Others in the company are also exploring the possibilities of gaining better jobs.

Initially, upon learning that one of my employees is interviewing with a competitor, our CEO/owner was described to me as “livid”. He also threatened to call the prospective employer and threaten reprisal for hiring away our trained personnel. I told them if they did that I would consider it a mean-spirited and unethical action and would personally sponsor each and everyone’s job search. I also asked why it should make management angry to know their employees are seeking a better life for themselves and their families. Perhaps they don’t understand that happy, well-paid employees don’t job-seek in their spare time.

We have been granted a meeting next Tuesday afternoon.

Late development: A memo went out to advise as of 8/1/12 the company would re-instate the 10% pay cut we took three years back… but they would be taking the same 10% from our bonus pool to cover it. So essentially they are giving us nothing.

In the meantime… I completed my Motorcycle Safety Course last weekend and passed the riding skills test required to obtain my M1 license endorsement! YAY! Now all I need to do is make an appointment at DMV, take the written and eye tests, pay the fee and I’m official. I only wish I had a motorcycle to ride now. I’ll be patient though and get just the right one. I’m very proud of myself for having completed a personal challenge that I’ve always wanted to complete.

Soon it will be time for numbers again. I have been contemplating moving my care closer to where I now live. Driving twenty minutes just for a blood draw and then another half hour to see my ID doctor seems silly when I could choose a doctor in my network closer to my home. I’ll be exploring that option before my next CD4 count I think.

I’m very overdue for my routine mammogram so need to think about taking care of that soon too. If only job stress was the key to curing HIV/AIDS… and if wishes were Harley Davidsons… we’d all be riding.

Stay cool

Love Betsy

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

WTF is National HIV Testing Day???

Sorry, but tomorrow being "National HIV Testing Day" I need to grab and shake some people to get their attention. I’m so frustrated at the whole HIV/AIDS community and at society in general for what I perceive as apathy and denial. It seems we shoot ourselves in the foot before we even begin the march!

Where the hell are all these ridiculous public service messages about the dangers of tobacco coming from?? Who is paying for all this prime-time air time? And now I see PSA’s every day about Shingles, Pot-smoking, bullying, Autism, Diabetes…. etc. And in all the millions of dollars-worth of television airtime dedicated to PSA’s… nothing on the importance of testing or condom use. No information is offered anymore to the general public to help end stigma or promote testing, treatment or prevention. Why???

ASO's and health organizations focus so strongly on the “at risk” populations that almost everyone else has been lulled into a sense of safety simply because it’s awkward to promote or encourage testing among populations perceived as “low-risk”. Aren’t we just fueling the stigma by focusing our efforts only at a certain population of people? Who will finally step out of the comfort zone and say what needs to be said to everyone? There are no “at-risk” populations? We are ALL at-risk!

How can there still be so many reasonably educated and otherwise intelligent people out there having unprotected sex and who are quick to say they are healthy and STD-free when, in fact, they have never been tested? How can they feel so secure? Most heterosexual people (of any color) who don’t live in “the hood” are completely unaware that National HIV Testing Day exists, let alone know it’s tomorrow. Worse yet, if they are made aware and WANT to be tested… and live someplace like Encino or Burbank or Toluca Lake… they will need to drive to West Hollywood or Compton to find a free test. Most have no idea that IF THEY ASK, their insurance (many are insured) will pay for the test.

So how can we have a National HIV Testing Day??? I contend that we can only measure the success of this day by the people we test who have NEVER been tested. Get testing beyond the gay community and the ghetto! Get HIV/AIDS into the faces of all those stupid, ignorant people who just assume they are safe because they are clean, white, heterosexual, over 50 or otherwise “low-risk”.

We should at least have as many PSA’s as the stupid secondhand-smoke zealots!!! My God!

Okay… Rant over.

Love to everyone… get tested… get educated


Monday, June 11, 2012

"Why Don't They Call??"

So, a lot is happening in my life right now. 
My excuse for not blogging? Let’s put it this way: you know how parents complain that their kids never call unless they need money? Well that’s because most kids (using the term for anyone under 28) are too busy trying to overcome some mistake they’ve made and calling Mom or Dad to chat is rough unless you have some good news to offer. Blogging is like that for me.
Too frequently when there’s a lot of negative things happening in our lives, we tend to internalize those feelings of negativity because we only want the world to know of our successes, not our failures. Use Facebook as an example. Most people’s pages are chock-full of all the great, exciting and positive things they are doing, because after all, your friends don’t want to read about your ugly breakup, your teen daughter’s unplanned pregnancy, the three days you spent eating ice cream in a darkened room because you just found out your lover was cheating on you. Anyway… I digress. 

Several weeks ago my elderly mother fell at home and broke her hip. After surgery and some limited recovery, she has been placed in Hospice care at a nursing home. She just turned 81 but is not expected to live much longer. Over the past two years, she has suffered several small strokes, leaving her unable to speak coherently and with limited use of her right hand. I believe her to be perfectly lucid and completely aware but her inability to communicate has made her disagreeable and demanding. I know she is afraid and angry because she now has no control of her life. She is now completely dependent on others and is trapped in a body that no longer operates.
My step-dad visits her daily. They have been married for 43 years. I visit her as often as I can during the week and every Sunday. I always bring her a strawberry-banana smoothie which she eats lustily in silence. Every time I see her, she is a little tinier and a little more frail-looking and a little more… gone. I say a prayer each visit that she will be allowed to escape the prison of her useless body. It's a painful situation for us all.

Work continues to frustrate me but it is what it is and I need to try not to let it matter so much. It’s only a job and I have to accept the things I can’t change. I’ve discovered that boundaries and rules and circumstances which restrict me only make me struggle harder to circumvent the controls others put in place around me. In other words, the more you deny me or stand in my way, the harder I will try to find a way around you. I don't find much happiness when there are too many rules to restrict me.

I’ve decided to get my M1 license so that I can ride a motorcycle. I used to ride before there were restrictions and I’ve always enjoyed it but never taken the necessary steps to get my M1. This time next month, I will be able to rent bikes and begin the process of deciding what I want and how much riding I want to do. I’m very excited for the first time since leaving the hospital with my diagnosis. It really feels great to look forward to something again and I hope I meet lots of nice people at the Motorcycle Safety Program I signed up for. I’m hoping it starts a whole new phase of my life. Who knows, maybe I will finally start doing other things too. At least I’ll be trying something new.

More to come as my life progresses.

Love Betsy

Friday, June 8, 2012

How to Nix the "Ick"s

I did some thinking about a remark I made some months ago in my introductory entry. Someone pointed out that my remarks regarding my visceral reaction to HIV positive straight men were demeaning and that I, in my way, was stigmatizing them with my remarks. 

I decided that this person was absolutely right. 

So I am expanding my remark to eliminate that component by clarifying that I don’t find HIV positive straight men “icky” because they are HIV positive. The “ick” factor is triggered only by those men who lie and claim they were infected by a cheating girlfriend, a one-night-stand with a call-girl in Manila or some other very remote sexual contact with a woman. I believe these men to be untruthful and that is what I find “icky”. Liars turn me off.  

I want all heterosexual men to know that if they step out and experiment with other men, and don’t protect themselves, they need to own up to it and not deny it. And if there’s a man out there who was really infected through heterosexual contact with a woman… and can prove it to me… I’ll have to consider changing my thought process on the subject. Until then, guys, if you did it, just admit it. It doesn't make you less of a man.

So don’t get me wrong. I love men… all men… or at least all honest men. HIV positive or not.

Have a great weekend. 

Love Betsy

Friday, April 6, 2012

Angels on Loan from Heaven

I have been not-so-skillfully surfing the rough seas of depression these past weeks. The loss of my very best friend (for some reason that remains unexplained) has really put me off my game and cut into my heart. My moods swing between anger/hatred for how he is hurting me and acceptance/grief for the loss I feel. If you have someone… be sure to remember how lucky you are to have them.

I guess it’s not easy to be the friend of someone with HIV/AIDS. Some days I can hardly blame my best friend for abandoning me. He is healthy. He has many friends and dealing with them is fun, not painful. He has a new lady-friend who is not comfortable with me or my illness so I guess it was inevitable that he would move on. I cannot describe how much I miss him. Having someone to call when you are lonely or someone to hang out with, to laugh with, to cry with… is so important.

There is one speck of light in my life… his name is Charlie… he is my own personal angel.

I have had many dogs over the years. My step-dad is a successful veterinarian so I have enjoyed the benefits of caring for animals my whole life, but Charlie is special because he was just a wee puppy when I was diagnosed and he was the only pet I was able to keep when I came home from the hospital. For four months he was the sole reason I had to get up and move around. Today he is my sunshine and usually the only one who even tries to bring a smile to my face.

Charlie has Alopecia X, a mysterious loss of hair fairly common among pure bred Pomeranians. Currently there is no known cause or cure (hence the “X”). When he was an adolescent he lost the hair on his chest and belly… exposing his cute black nipples… since boy-dogs don’t need them, they’re perfectly flush and look like they’ve been drawn on with a Sharpie. I started him on medication for a thyroid imbalance and the hair on his chest finally returned but this year he has lost much of the hair around his neck and back and all of the hair from his fanny so from the rear he resembles a baboon wearing furry boots. He doesn’t seem to mind the cosmetic imperfection and I think he's perfect anyway.

In my travels around the web and various blogs very much like mine… created for the sole purpose of flushing negative thoughts in the hope of helping others as well as ourselves… I find that pets seem to be foremost in the maintenance of our sanity and a common thread we all share, the desire to care for someone. Having that unconditional love is magical beyond description. I thank the universe every day for lending me the angel I named Charlie. I can’t imagine a life without him. He is truly my very best friend now.

Hopefully I’ll find a way to force myself out and eventually make a new friend, maybe. I have a tendency to isolate myself. I haven’t been able to figure out why and my motivation toward changing it is just not there yet.
Trusting someone again may not come easily.

I will try to post more photos etc. since they add more visual effect.
Great weather today and this weekend, I'm going to try to get outdoors, that always seems to improve my mood.

Happy Easter Everyone!
Love Betsy

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Numbers... A Necessary Evil

So here it is the 4th of April. I've had my appointment for months, did my blood draw two weeks ago and had planned the half-hour drive to my doctors office for lunchtime to minimize my time away from work and still they are going to ask me to reschedule my appointment because of our company-wide inventory and the bank auditors' visit today.
It's as if I do something so important here that they cannot manage a simple audit for an hour while I keep my Dr's appointment. Pathetic. Worse still, the boys upstairs couldn't be bothered to discuss this with me personally, they had to hassle my supervisor to call me at home last night to tell me they want me here for the bank today. All I can do is call my doctor and ask if I can show up a little late.

Well I made it through the audit with the bank and even to the doctor with time to spare. Numbers on inventory were good... very little discrepancy and it went as smoothly as it could have. Best of all... it's finally over and we can get back to work.

My own numbers are less encouraging. I have only 129 CD4 cells but my viral load is still undetectable and I feel pretty good. My doctor is less than thrilled with my weight loss efforts, but at least I haven't gained anything back. He is still unhappy with my cholesterol numbers but I am not as concerned as he is... no history of heart problems in my family and I think one of my ARV's causes my bad cholesterol to go up. He danced around the idea of swapping my Niaspan for a statin-medication but said he might have to switch one of my AIDS drugs to avoid any interaction. I told him I'd rather give the Niaspan a little more time. So next blood draw, I'll be ready to starve for a day, have a shot of wine the day before and hope the numbers improve.

Tomorrow I'll finally make the long-overdue-appointment for my Mammogram.

Till the next time,
Love, Betsy

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Time for Labs again...

Ok, so it’s time for numbers again. I’m seeing my HIV doctor on the 4th of April so tomorrow I have to fast and have my blood drawn. I’m going to fast because I need my cholesterol number to look better so he won’t harp on me about it. Not that I mind, I just hate having to make excuses and look like I’m not working on it. I am working on it. I know I’m overweight… I have been all my life and even after my bout with PCP and my coma… the weight came back really easily. I’m not sure who is responsible for how this works but I think it’s only fair that we should be able to lose fat as easily as we put it on, don’t you? I mean, don’t we have enough to contend with in our daily lives without having to worry over our weight?

Anyway, I’m hoping that my CD4 count is higher than 131 and that my viral load has remained undetectable. I’ve been working pretty hard lately and am kind of surprised that my health has been as good as it has. With a CD4 count of less than 200, I would expect that getting sick would be kind of a given. Having no immune system to speak of has made me more careful about washing and coming into contact with others who are sick. Considering my job and the environment that I work every day in, this is no small feat. I am constantly handling filthy equipment and am in almost constant contact with several dozen people who come to work ill because they have no paid sick leave left. Personally I think three days of sick leave a year is far from adequate for even the healthiest of folks.

I’ll be sure to post my numbers here when I get them. I’ve got my fingers crossed.

Have a great week.



Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Three People

The way I see it, there are three people who you must love and forgive, no matter what. This is not to say that you allow yourself to be hurt by them, but only that you forgive and love them unconditionally, no matter what their choices. It is essential to your continued good karma and peace of mind to never harbor ill feelings or intent toward these people.

The first is your parent. Your mother or father, step or foster. Hating or resenting a parent will only bring pain to your life and to the lives of those around you. You may hate what they did, what they do, how they act or who they are… but you must forgive and love them nonetheless because they are the only people who must also love you unconditionally. They must be there for you, no matter what your decisions are.

The second is your child; for all the reasons stated above.

The last is the only one you choose for yourself. It is the person you create a child with. You may fall out of love with them. They may cheat, break your heart and leave you destroyed. But because of the relationship your beloved child needs to maintain with them, you must look beyond yourself and understand that nothing good can come of your resentment for them. Forgiveness and acceptance is the only thing that can finally set you free. You will be able to be a better parent to your child and a better friend to those you truly value. Most important, you will never have to feel so hurt because of that person again. No one should think it's easy to do… but that is all the more reason to look carefully at the person you decide to have children with. That is a person that you must always love and respect for the sake of your child. A child must face united parents in order to grow up well-adjusted, emotionally healthy and able to parent a child him/herself. Parents need not be in love with each other, but they must recognize and share a united love for their child that transcends all things.

All others who cause you pain can be eliminated from your life completely. People who hurt and use you are not valuable in your world. Finding forgiveness for them is difficult and they don't deserve it anyway so letting them go and moving forward is the only way.

Love and forgive your three people (or more if you have them). Remember to choose number three wisely... 

Have a great week.
Love, Betsy

Friday, March 9, 2012

Glad to Grow Old

This is a post I ran across on my hard drive that I wrote in February of 2009. This was about a year and a half prior to my AIDS diagnosis. I enjoyed finding and reading it and decided to share it here. 
It's taken me a while to get back to this place in my head but it's been worth the trip.

I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life or my loving family for less grey hair or a flatter belly. As I've aged, I've become kinder to myself, and less critical of myself. I've become my own friend. I don't chide myself for eating that extra cookie, or for not making my bed, or for buying that silly cement gecko that I didn't need, but looks so stylish on my patio. I am entitled to a treat, to be messy, to be extravagant.

I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.

Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4 AM and sleep until noon? I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 60 &70's, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love ... I will.

I will walk the beach in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the beautiful people. They, too, will grow old if they're lucky.

I know I am sometimes forgetful.
But then again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And I eventually remember the important things anyway.

Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when somebody's beloved pet must be put-to-sleep? But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect and in love.

I am so blessed to have lived long enough to see my hair turning gray, and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into the little lines on my face.
So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their
skin could wrinkle or their hair could turn grey.

As one gets older, it seems like it gets easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don't question myself anymore. I think I've earned the right to be wrong. It’s okay if I’m not perfect.

So, in a nutshell, I guess I’ll like growing old. It will set me free. I think I’ll finally like and accept myself as I am.

I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. And I shall eat dessert every single day (if I feel like it).

I hope you'll enjoy your weekend... 

Love Betsy

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Fantastic Mood

So unusual for me. Not that I'm always in a bad mood, it's just that a really good mood, a fantastic amazingly good mood is pretty rare for me. Today, for some reason I woke up in such a great mood! It may have something to do with the fact that I put all this moving stuff away and negotiated a new lease with my landlord. You might say it's given me a new lease on life, knowing I have a home for the next year and feeling good about actually living to see the next year.
Since my diagnosis, I've been on a daily dose of Paxil. It's taken some time, but I feel the effects in that I don't feel the need to cry every day like I once did. Back before I was diagnosed I spent an inordinate amount of my time feeling so blue that the only thing that helped was crying by myself for hours every night. Often I would sit alone in my house in the silence and cry for a variety of reasons. Since then I have read much about the symptoms one experiences during the transition from HIV positive to full blown AIDS. One telltale symptom is crushing depression. I remember it lasting a long time before my body finally gave up and succumbed to Pneumocystis and Thrush.
Perhaps my good mood today is the result of the medicine, my current good health or maybe it's just the great weather. Whatever the reason, it's nice when life feels good and the future seems reachable. Not much to chit-chat about today... just needed to share my sunny outlook while it lasts.

Hope your day is great!


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sitting Tight

Okay, so I looked at a super cute house for rent, just around the corner from my folks. The landlord wants a little more than I am able to pay and it just isn't worth it. Besides, the whole point of possibly moving was to save money, right? I'm hoping I can negotiate something with my current landlord to just sit tight where I am.

It's been almost two months since Vince has communicated with me in any way. I go over and over in my head, every day, trying to figure out what in the world I could have done to him that was so awful that he thinks I deserve to be treated this way. A friend isn't supposed to abandon you if things get difficult. A real friend will at least tell you that they need to separate from you because your situation is just too much for them to handle. Only the very shallowest of people cannot bring themselves to do that and are more comfortable just blowing you off, avoiding your calls, not responding to texts or emails and generally disregarding you as disposable. I never would have dreamed that Vince would handle things this way. I guess it just illustrates that you never really know how someone will react when AIDS becomes a factor. I can do nothing but move on with my life alone, the best way I know how.

Work has been giving me more than my share of stress. My dad used to say that a company takes on the personality of they person running it. If that's true, and I know it is, the company I work for is a real tool. Our boss needs to get off the coke and quit screwing (both figuratively and literally) his employees. Also, return the 10% wage cut we all took and be a little more positive in the attitude. Twelve million dollars a year in the current economy isn't bad when you only employ 60 people and own your property outright. Again... it is what it is and I need to stay employed and insured so moving forward in spite of the obstacles is the thing I must do. I am protecting myself in the situation because it is me that I need to look after.

My health is okay. Still hanging with 131 TCells, getting enough rest and slowly taking off some weight. If only I could motivate myself to do some real physical exercise. Perhaps I'll swim tonight.

It's lovely weather... let's enjoy it together.

Love Betsy

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Apartment Hunting...

Not liking what I'm finding available in the area where I want to live. The units I've seen are amazingly small. I have to wonder who on earth can conduct their lives from just 500 square feet of living space! Tiny little kitchens, itsy bitsy bedrooms, windows that look out at bare walls, alleys or in one case a lovely view of DWP's lot.
From what I can see, there's no good option for me. Any savings on rent that I might capture will be used up in paying for laundry, buying a refrigerator, paying for off-site storage of stuff that won't fit into such a tiny space and all the deposits and fees that accompany moving to a new place. I'm thinking I should just suck it up and stick with my current apartment. Now that I've seen what's out there, I feel pretty fortunate to be living where I do. Nonetheless I will be making a couple adjustments to try to save a little money every month.

On an unrelated subject, work is getting really weird. The boss is really out of touch with what's going on in the company. He seems to be too preoccupied. No wonder... I ran into him last night while walking my dog. It appeared that he was leaving the office around 8pm with a pretty female employee who had clocked out at 5. Now I understand that his wife is home recovering from transplant surgery and  okay... he needs his fun... I don't begrudge him his coke either... but with an employee... in the office? Yuck! Spring for a cheap room somewhere. Don't shit where you eat and don't get caught. Running into me had to have been awkward for him. I know he was hoping I didn't notice the mistress as she sneaked down the alley to her car half a block away. I think I'll take more frequent walks.... so much to see out here in the world.

Have a lovely week.

Love Betsy

Thursday, February 2, 2012

APLA ... Who's "Home Health"?

AIDS Project Los Angeles is a fantastic organization here. They are the model of an ASO (AIDS Service Organization). But I have one question for my case workers when we meet today. I want to know why they call themselves "Home Health Care" instead of APLA.

I suspect it's because of stigma and the effort to respect the privacy of those they service but it's just a shining example of how the HIV community has further fed the stigma associated with being an HIV or AIDS infected person. Why on earth should the rest of the country deal with the hateful HIV/AIDS epidemic when even those most affected are ashamed to step into the light and demand help.

I desperately wish sometimes that I were a public figure or celebrity with some kind of sizable following. If I were, then my disclosure would make some difference but alas, I am only one obscure person who no one really wants to see or listen to. Proof of this is the fact that many of my friends are now strangers, more or less, and don't like to have to deal with the reality that this nasty virus is out here still killing people. Maybe I am too "out-there" for them. Some of my friends have told me that if they became infected that they either wouldn't want to know or that if they found out they were infected, they wouldn't tell a soul... not even family. When I ask "why?", they tell me they wouldn't risk being stigmatized. Don't they understand that secrecy only proliferates the stigma and validates the shame???

So I meet with my case workers today. These monthly meetings are necessary to maintain my place on the list for services should I ever lose the ability to work, my health insurance or in the event that I need legal help. I know they will again bug me about my yearly TB test and my overdue mammogram. Hopefully they won't suggest a yearly PAP smear (last years' was torture... my equipment is pretty rusty these days) as my PCP doctor is female and none-too-gentle in her use of the speculum.

Interestingly, they send two case workers every month. One asks me all questions related to my physical health. The other asks me questions regarding my mental and emotional health. Both ask about my adherence to my medicine schedule and my current blood-work numbers. Today I will be telling them that my Cholesterol has not improved much, I've managed to wrestle off seven or eight pounds, I have 131 CD4 cells and my viral load is still undetectable. I feel okay, no pains or problems.

My lease is up on my apartment at the end of February so I will have to begin hunting for a more affordable home this weekend. I dread moving and all of it's hassles... utilities and cable to move... deposits to make and change of address cards to fill out. I wish I could stay where I am but the rent is outrageous and I'm tired of living like a pauper just to pay the rent. I'm used to having more disposable income so I can't continue living here.

I'll keep you up-to-date on the home-hunt.

That's it for now,
Enjoy the beautiful weather we're having and have a great Super Bowl Sunday!

Love Bets'

Monday, January 23, 2012

They got PAID for this?...

Depression is more common among women living with HIV, compared with men living with HIV, according to an international study reported at the 2nd International Workshop on HIV and Women, held January 9 and 10 in Bethesda, Maryland, and highlighted by the National AIDS Treatment Advocacy Project (NATAP).

According to NATAP’s report of the investigator’s presentation, a significantly higher proportion of women met criteria for depression: 18 percent versus 14 percent, respectively. This difference was statistically significant, meaning that it was too great to have occurred by chance. Additionally, rates of depression were no different among women who were receiving ARV therapy, compared with those who were not. Of note, however, the rate of depression was significantly higher among HIV-positive women not yet receiving ARV therapy compared with HIV-positive men not yet on treatment (21 percent versus 11 percent).

The CRANIum investigators believe their findings “support a strategy of regular screening for, and clinical management of, anxiety and depression for all female HIV-infected patients,” NATAP reports.

I guess I found the above report to be silly. I wonder how much it cost to do this study. This is something I could have told them for free. The reasons for this are obvious… considering the perception of heterosexual society (most HIV positive women are indeed heterosexual) that HIV is most often contracted by sexually promiscuous women or drug addicted women, it would be no shock to think that within their own social circle, women would find more reasons to be depressed than their gay male counterparts.

HIV has been prevalent in the gay culture for three decades. Even though positive gay men may feel ostracized by their own social circle at times, women living with HIV have the fewest resources for support. We also have the added feeling that there is no one out there for us. The largest group of HIV positive men are gay… or bisexual. That makes the dating pool rather small and I can’t speak for all women but that makes me depressed at times.

Additionally, women who have yet to start ARV therapy may have added anxiety about their health.

The trick is to fight the depression every day. Be your own life-partner. Take yourself out to dinner. Take yourself to a concert or movie. Laugh as hard as you can when you laugh and when you cry… do it loudly and then realize you ARE your own best friend.

Then you’ll never feel alone.
Love to you,

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Do you make promises to people? If you make promises to people often, I would venture to guess that you don’t keep them as often as people would like.

There seems to be a mindset with people these days of making promises either to each other or themselves with every intention of following through… yet falling short of actually keeping the promise… and never feeling any personal sense of failure or responsibility for having broken a promise. Are promises disposable nowadays? Given freely and frequently, some with no intent to follow through but given just to get something or to buy time.

New Year’s resolutions are promises we make to ourselves. Look how often and how easily those are broken.

Politicians make promises to get elected. Are they expected to keep their promises? Are they held accountable if they don’t? Rarely. There’s always an excuse for breaking their promises and it’s always someone else’s fault.

Employers make promises to get employees to buy-in and invest themselves in a job or project. Frequently they don’t or can’t come through with the promises they make. Many never had intentions of keeping those promises in the first place. For instance… promising that there’s room to grow in your job when you’re hired, then keeping you in the same low-paying position for years, offering no chance for advancement or growth. Again, making excuses for not giving even minimal merit or cost-of-living increases by blaming the economy. It’s as if they think their employees are stupid and can’t tell that the employers' business is improving but salaries aren’t.

Spouses and lovers make promises too. Most of the time, these promises are made out of love and the givers of the promise really want to keep it. Promises are made to stay monogamous to each other and to protect each other. Those promises too are, unfortunately, sometimes broken. In my case, that particular broken promise nearly cost me my life. Just because he promised… I trusted him with my life. That was a gamble I lost.

The dearest promises to me are those that friends make each other to always be there. I don’t make or take these promises lightly because having a real friend when you need one is crucially important. If I make a promise, as your friend, that I will be there for you, no matter what… you can take that to the bank. I’ll be there to pick you up when no one else will. I’ll give you whatever I have to help make your situation better. You can call me from jail… some remote highway… or wherever you are… I’ll always be there to help you out if I can. I don’t make the friend promise to very many people for this reason. I can only offer this kind of loyalty to a precious few. It’s a promise I try never to break.

I gave up or lost some things I worked hard for when I exchanged the friend promise with someone. At the time, this friend was badly in need. I spent a number of years working hard to keep my promise to help my friend recover from some very dark days. After some extended period of time, my friend finally arose from the ashes and moved forward into what is now a fantastically productive and rewarding life. I have never been prouder of anyone for all they went through to come back better than ever. The things I gave up to help are gone forever. I will never get them back. I only wish I still had my friend… because I need one now and it turns out the promises my friend made to me aren’t ones they ever meant to keep. I guess that’s the risk we take when we accept a promise. It’s like giving a loan I think, better not to expect repayment, then, if you actually do get it back, it’s a pleasant surprise and not a bitter disappointment when you don’t.

I recommend keeping the promises you make. If you can’t keep the promise… please don’t make it. Broken promises have far-reaching consequences and build bad Karma around you. Try to remember those empty promises you make, they will always come home to you in the end. A better person you will be by considering carefully before you say “I promise”.

Spread some love, it’s a beautiful day.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Treasures... continued

Continuing my inventory of stuff saved from what seems like other lifetimes I've lived... on some other planet far away from here or perhaps another reality. It's hard to collate life now with anything it was before. I wish I could find a way to explain, but I just can't find enough of the right words to convey what I'm feeling. I'll trust that you'll bear with me through this process... I'm a beginner at all this. 
Anyway, another tray-full of precious treasures:
  • Perhaps not-so-precious are four old California drivers' licenses showing me from years 1980, 1984, 1989 and 2005. I wonder where the rest are. All carry the "Donor" sticker. Guess I don't get to be a donor now.
  • In the same category, there's my ID badge from my years at Transamerica Insurance Group, 1989-1994. Good picture, I was a pretty girl. Not nearly as young and bohemian as the photo of me that appears on the high school ID card from Verdugo Hills High dated 1977-1978. Hair long and parted in the center like all pretty hippie girls. 
  • A black book of matches with the name "Just-A-Nod Ebony Jet". That was the name of the horse, retired with a lavish party hosted by the family of my childhood friend Liz Goth. She's still fabulously wealthy. 
  • A name badge I wore when I went to Marinello school of beauty. Yes... I was a licensed manicurist for a few years back in the 80's. 
  • A brass pin with my name, the Hilton logo and the title of "Computer Analyst". This a job I held for a couple of years in the mid 90's. 
  • A dogs name-tag, "Tabu". She was a Doberman I had before I married. Also another name-tag, "Nike". He was a big seven-toed Main Coon style cat I loved dearly. He died in 1993. 
  • An odd collection of ticket stubs which include Genesis and Yes - both dated 1978 and from the Fabulous Forum, Yes again in 1998 and Creed in 2000-both at Universal Amphitheatre, then Metallica, Korn and Kid Rock (2000) at the LA Coliseum, a stub from the Pantages dated 1980 (I think it was a play), a stub from the Winternationals drag races 1989 and the crowning glory of all stubs... the Treasures of King Tutankhamun April 24, 1978. The most fantastic things I've ever seen! 
  • Two little, tiny silver thimbles that once belonged to my grandmother. 
  • A tiny carved ivory pill box belonging to my mother's sister, Betty, for whom I was named Elizabeth. 
  • My dad's silver name bracelet from his service in the US Navy. 
  • A tiny horse-head I carved from a small block of Lexan back in the days of dollhouse building and miniature-making. 
  • My grandma's tiny, brass magnifying glass. She used to wear it on a chain around her neck so she could check the stitches in her needlepoint. 
  • My dad's printers' loupe from the IPI . He used it to check the printing of the old TV Guide... when he ran the company that printed it back in the 60's & 70's. 
  • Finally... an item that I put in my treasure box just days before I landed in the hospital ICU with an AIDS diagnosis, the "Hard Card" I received from the opening day at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte NC in May of 2010. I had stayed with Vince for a week while he was working there. He returned home to California the day I went on life-support. 
So... there's a few more things you've learned about me via the treasures in my little case. 
I've enjoyed the trip down memory lane. I haven't looked at most of these things in a long, long time. 
Since my ass is falling asleep now... it's time to do a little walking to please my ID doctor...who wants my CD4 count to be higher than my weight by the next time I see him. 

Smile... stay on the sunny side of the street and take life one day at a time. Always give an honest opinion and always use a condom.
Love and hugs...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tiptoe through my Treasures...

So, I think everyone, no matter their age or financial or health status has a little box or knitting case or as in my case... An actual case, (the kind used by make-up artists or home-care workers with the trays that pull up and out to display their contents) that contains various odds and ends that define their lives and time on earth. A bit of a time capsule with a small portal to the past.

 My treasure box is littered with things that I now label mentally as "BI", before infection, "BD", before diagnosis and "EE", everything else. Weird, huh? In any case, I've decided to clean out my treasure box and share it's contents here in my blog. Not only will it be cathartic for me... It will tell anyone who stumbles in a bit more about who I am and who I have been.

Once opened, the box is next to me on the bed with Charlie, my best little pal nearby. He's looking on with disgust, having just gotten a bath, his mood isn't all it could be today.
Here is the contents of the first upper tray:

  • Two hospital bracelets, yellowed and not easy to read, one much smaller than the other. These from January 2, 1984 when my daughter was born by C-section at 6:09 pm. 
  • A tiny, red plastic treasure chest containing all but a couple of my daughters baby teeth. Ewe, right? I was the tooth-fairy after all. 
  • Two metal dash plaques from the ninth and tenth annual Route 66 Rendezvous. 1998 and 1999. I was also there in 2000 and 2001 with my own 1970 El Camino SS. I do miss that car now. sigh
  •  A very old black and white photo button of Tara Wertz, one of my first riding students accepting a blue ribbon in her first walk-trot class on my old equitation horse Mutiny Sweet Charity. This was a regional win at the Morgan Medallion Classic in Santa Barbara perhaps the year was 1978? I was very proud. 
  •  A half dozen exhibitor buttons from the Morgan Grand National and World Championship Horse show, spanning the years from 1976 to 1984 as well as one lone button from California State Fair Horse Show dated 1980. 
  •  A random button I used to wear that proclaims "I don't get mad, I get even". Carbon dating might reveal the year as 1985. 
  •  A nice red patch from the American Bowling Congress crowning the 1995-96 Mixed League Champions as well as an award patch from the ABC for my first scratch 700 series. Whooooo Hoooo! That's right... The girl can bowl! 
  •  Two laminated business-type cards, circa 1978, each suggests in polite script that the reader should "Kindly go fuck yourself". 
  •  Finally there are eight plastic credit-style cards. Each bears a little poem or proclamation about the importance of friends and the message that I am among the best. All of these were given to me by Vince over our eight years together. We did have some great times together. Now he won't answer or return my calls. 
Funny how AIDS changes people and the way they relate to you. Either they try too hard to act like it makes no difference or they avoid you altogether. In order to keep people comfortable, I try to just be who I've always been. It's  hard because I'm not who I was before. I'm a version of me that has a terminal illness that almost guarantees me a solitary future. I'm the me that hits the pharmacy twice a week for  medicine to keep me alive while I hope for a cure.
An old me put all these things in my treasure box.
A new me is taking them out.

More in the next tray... Some of it junk... Not really sure why I've kept so much weird stuff.
More tomorrow...

to be continued

Friday, January 13, 2012

Addendum to yesterdays entry...

Post script to yesterday’s rant, and the fact that it had little or nothing to do with my virus, directly:
I only wish there was some way to wake up employers like mine to the reality that their workforce is their most valuable asset. 

The learning curve for some of the work we do is amazingly long. The best people who work here have a goldmine of knowledge and skill acquired over decades of work for this company. The majority of the employees here are skilled craftsmen in a very specialized industry. Additionally, anyone who has worked here for more than five years has sacrificed to help keep the company afloat in the bad times. When the owner remarks to us that “growing is painful”, he doesn’t realize that much of that pain has fallen on us.

Mr. Employer, sir… with all due respect, now that you have and are spending copious amounts of money to buy and move us to larger quarters, build new computer systems, develop new and exciting products and hire lawyers, consultants and space-planners, please don’t email us the gas bill you paid last month when the weather turned briefly cold and we were forced to use the few gas heaters provided to keep our work area warm enough to work. It’s bad enough that there are no water heaters to provide hot water on the whole property. A $1500 gas bill for a facility that spans the equivalent of two city blocks is not that shocking. Forgive me for saying so but… complaining to those of us who have trouble paying our own gas bills is pretty bad form.

I’m not completely without empathy for business owners. I watched my dad start and run a successful business for two decades. I sat in the same room with him for half of that time as an estimator. He used to say, “90% of being smart is knowing what you’re dumb at.” He knew that hiring good people who were smarter than him at the thing he needed done and then paying them what they are worth to do it was the best way to have a smart business. Employees that invest and reap the dividends will invest more. Without invested labor, your company will always falter and flail, real growth will always be just out of reach.

Finally, I want to say that my own employment aside (I’m fortunate to have ASO resources if needed); I know there are people here with little if any resources available to help them if their jobs are lost. I’ve said what I needed to say to my employer last week after a minor disagreement over an inappropriate deduction taken from my check. I told him that I felt badly that *company name* seemed to ask the most from the people that they value the least. He said that I hurt his feelings with my remark but did not seek to understand the reason I made the remark. I was not necessarily referencing myself so much as his total workforce. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if he really wanted to understand what’s really going on?

Anyway… working on a fun entry for the weekend… Think “Treasure”

Much love,

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Employment... too much information

Working for a small manufacturing company has some perks. For example… I wear jeans and skate shoes to work every day. I need only look clean and presentable. I’m very good at my job and the team of employees that I supervise move heaven and earth to please me. We look great as a department. We operate efficiently and maintain good positive attitudes, while consistently meeting and exceeding management expectations. We are human though and we do make mistakes. We try very hard to do our jobs perfectly because we know how costly our mistakes are. We know because every mistake is drilled down to one employee, blame assigned and another pebble placed in the gunny-sack. I digress, so sorry.

The company owner is a nice man with real world experience in the products we manufacture. He is reasonably hands-on with the company overall but I think he insulates himself from some realities. Picture a typical retirement-aged, ex-party-guy, reformed 80’s playboy, made good overall but has paid for a number of impulsive and ill-advised decisions over the years. The best lasting feature is a well-manicured and twinkling smile. His children are grown (one of whom holds a job here, naturally) and his wife is recovering from organ transplant surgery. I know he fancies himself as quite a figure among the employees. I’m quite sure he feels worthy of their love and appreciation for his generosity and good nature. He drives a beautiful new $40,000 car.

A little history here: when the economy crashed in 2008, our company downsized like many at that time. We cut staff to a minimum and even had to cut hours for a while. Finally the company asked us all to take a 10% pay cut to save our jobs. They explained that as the economy improved, we would earn back the 10% in the form of a “discretionary bonus” (a phrase which means the bonus is predicated by the mood of our boss) which would be paid across the board for each month that we met a certain amount in invoices. We have worked very hard every month to earn that badly needed 10% (sometimes 15%, it is “discretionary” after all). In the meantime and since 2008, all salaries have been frozen and in spite of the number of glowing performance reviews and the owners repeated assertions that we are the best “team” of employees EVER, everyone knows that they better not even fanaticize of asking for a raise. Some long-time employees here make less than they did five years ago.

Today, payday, brings with it a “newsletter” reminding everyone that we had a very good year and that the company is growing. They asked us to remember the new computers that the company bought and the old ones which they generously gave to the employees (incurring no costs for dangerous material disposal). It touted the investments made in new machines, new products, a new website and our entry into social networking. It suggested that we shouldn’t forget the picnics and BBQs and the lovely holiday party that the company gave us this year.  The flavor of the “newsletter” was that ultimately, all these investments would pay dividends and opportunities for more money. *cough* It concluded by telling us to remember how much mistakes cost the company and to work smarter to avoid mistakes. *gag*

So there are people here who feel trapped and under-valued. They see lots of money being spent on growing the company, making more and more work to meet bigger and bigger goals and in spite of the bigger and bigger cost of just eating and driving a car and having a home, there is no realistic or tangible investment being made in them. The future looks bleak… based on the past.

So my question is this: will this company owner ever realize the key to having great success is having employees who feel valued and are willing to invest themselves in the companies’ collective success?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Journey of a Thousand Miles...

...begins with just one step... And with that in mind, I'll step off the edge and stretch my wings with the expectation of flight into the abyss of blogging.

Like so many others who blog or journal about living with HIV, I think my expectations are to build a network of people who can benefit by my experiences and who can offer me a sounding board for some of the problems I'm dealing with.

I call my virus "The Evil Hitchhiker" because that is what he is. He hopped on and began his nasty business in about the year 2000 by my recollection. He never showed himself until I was laying in the hospital on life support with PCP pneumonia suddenly in July of 2010.

After more than eighteen months, I've recovered 131 CD4 cells, gained back 30+ pounds (could have done without the weight gain) and returned to work full-time. Unfortunately I also have returned to smoking, though not nearly as much as before. Like others, my intention is to quit of my own accord in my own time.

I take meds, Kaletra and Isentress in addition to the antibiotic regimen designed to ward off the opportunistic infections I would undoubtedly succumb to without them, Bactrim, Zithromax and Valcyclovir. I also take Paxil to battle depression and large amounts of fish-oil in addition to Niaspan to help combat my cholesterol. I remain a little anemic but otherwise I seem to be holding steady.

You can imagine what a shock it was to hear, at age 49 that I was not only HIV positive, but fighting for my life with full blown AIDS. At that time, I had been in a fully committed relationship for more than eight years.   The only man I had been with since 2001 (I'll call him Vince) finally tested negative the following February and promptly moved on, leaving me to deal with my situation alone. It was a bitter pill to swallow but was good to know that I had not passed the virus on. I knew where I acquired my evil hitchhiker even before checking out of the hospital. When I contacted him, (I'll call him Danny) he and his fiance' visited me in the ICU where I told them both that they needed to be tested. Obviously, he tested positive... and to my knowledge, his now-wife continues to be negative. He began treatment and continues to live happily ever after. I recently spoke with Danny... and told him that while I did not blame him for infecting me, I harbor a tiny bit of resentment that the thing that has completely changed my life and future, was barely a speed-bump in the road of his life. I think he understood... but I think he may feel some discomfort in our awkward conversations. Perhaps I'm just a reminder of what also lives in him. His wife is a sweet and down-to-earth lady and I like her very much. He is blessed to have her in his life. In the tiny recesses of my mind, I still hope there is love out there for me. I do not anticipate or expect that my life will play out in the way I had always pictured it now but I hope for the best.

Because of the fact that I have only had a few sexual partners over my lifetime, never risked using IV drugs and generally tried to take good care of myself, HIV was, at least theoretically, a very remote possibility for me. And because my last boyfriend, Vince and I had enjoyed a very lively sex life up until just a couple of months shy of my diagnosis, the fact that he tested negative in spite of the thousands of times we had intercourse over those eight years, has born in me the belief that few if any men out there have contracted HIV strictly through heterosexual contact with an infected woman. Perhaps many of them just cannot admit having had a homosexual experience. Maybe I'm wrong... but I don't think I am.
So having developed that mind-set... I find the idea of forming a relationship with an HIV+ guy a little icky. I don't know... I just gotta be honest.

Over the coming months, I will continue to write and solicit feedback from those who wish to comment and I'll happily answer any questions. It is my desire to be completely open... as I have been with my status from the very start. There is no room for shame with this disease... the world needs to know that the gay community is not the only demographic at risk here. Heterosexual women and those bi-curious boyfriends are the ones woefully under-informed.

More later.... Love you all for reading!