Monday, August 22, 2016

Enough BCBS BS!

Good ol' Blue Cross. Lovely Medicare supplemental insurance plan to cover those extra things that Medicare doesn't quite cover. Like that 20% of the 80-20 plan. You get to sign up at the first of the year for a price of .....

Oh wait. Did we tell you that? Silly us! The real monthly premium will be about an extra $80, but hey, no big thing, right?

Oh, and you remember that thing about signing up the first of the year because it's for a year's coverage? Well, we changed our minds about that. Your renewal date is now in mid-April, and of course we're bumping the premium for your new year up accordingly, say, another $50 a month. But hey, no biggie, right? Your fixed income will adjust somehow, eh? Fewer steaks and luxury shopping, eh? We hear there are some great peanut butters out there, and some actually come from clean factories. Lucky you. Oh, and the nicest part? You don't have to fill in any new forms or anything. You're automatically enrolled in our new plan.

Wait! What? You're having a birthday? You scamp, you, going and getting older on us. According to our tables, at your new age, your premium bump will be another $15 each month. But hey, nothing to sign to authorize it, no new forms, we'll just take it out of your account like we always do. And hey, Happy Birthday! So nice of you to hang around for our new increase!


E.N.O.U.G.H!

Stop, already!

There's another plan out there. Because I already have a Type F supplemental plan, haven't had any surgeries for 90 days or other in-hospital events, have no impending surgeries, and haven't quite yet hit that latest point of decrepitude, my next birthday, I qualify to transfer over. My kidneys are fine - their biggest question - and I've never smoked, their next biggest. I don't need to wait till next January. I didn't qualify before my knees were replaced, but that's done now. I just squeak in under their deadline.

So Blue Cross? No more of your BS!

Bye Bye.

We're done now.

Go screw somebody else.

The forms are in the mail. No more of BCBS's BS. Not only is there a much cheaper price, there's a lock both on it and on how much it can increase for the next several years.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Daily Vocabulary: H. Pylori

So the good news is Steve doesn't have gall stones. No surgery necessary. But what he does have is a bacterial infection in his gut. It can cause anything from ulcers to cancer. It gets treated with a cocktail of multiple antibiotics and antacids. After a couple weeks, he goes back in to make sure it's gone.

Its source is a mystery. As much as he eats out, it's likely somebody preparing his food who caries the bacteria neglected proper hand washing. We will probably never know. It doesn't really matter. What matters is properly treating it and, should it happen again, getting my stubborn I-can-take-the-pain guy to go in and deal with it.  Quickly.

Oh, and I can probably still kiss him in the meantime, as long as I don't try to inhale his tonsils.

Oh wait, does he still have those? Maybe I better find out....

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Race Issues: Just This Week

Twice I have married "white" men, meaning the kind who "passed" or would have had to a hundred years ago, but in the lingo of the times back then would have been referred to - and denigrated - as "breeds". Or put another way, as proud as my own family of origin is of its origins on this continent nearly 400 years ago, we're definitely in the category of new immigrants. Primarily northern European. White. Blond, blue-eyed. Can't tan even when it's popular. Get skin cancer and that pesky Scandinavian allergy to nickel.

Of the two husbands, the native ancestry was treated differently. In the first case, it was the dirty little family secret, still denied by some.  I was told it gleefully by my fiance Paul (now Sr.) as a way of demonstrating his credibility as a liberal, back in the 60s when the country was mostly trying to abolish Jim Crow laws, which had little or nothing to do with our native Americans. Because it was a dirty little secret, proof had to be presented while at the same time hidden. It was in the family bible, in the lists of marriages and births through a couple centuries. A French fur-trapping ancestor "took himself a wife". Being a "heathen" her name was not allowed to be recorded in the bible, and the marriage likely was only recorded to give inheritance legitimacy to the couple's offspring. To differentiate, every other marriage was listed along the lines of "George married Elsie Smith" and where and when.

The bible disappeared, a minor scandal involving a branch of the family who wanted to review it, especially comparing family ancestry records. It is presumed they less-than-accidentally swapped the copy they left behind with the "true" copy in the family. The only history left is the whispered stories and the presumption of this however-many-greats grandmother being from some Canadian tribe since that was where the ancestor (male) was at the time. I have seen an old family portrait where the mom in the family was indisputably native American/Canadian, unless you're from the part of the family that manages to refuse to see it.

In the second case, I have always knows Steve is part Cherokee, 1/32 in fact, enough to be included in tribal rolls should he wish. He does not. A great-grandfather provided a lot of oral history to him, including tales of "The Trail"passed from his own mother. Steve was raised white, identifies white, and unless he told you otherwise, and if for some reason it mattered to somebody, is white. Spiritually his beliefs come close to native beliefs, which seems to be the only bit of that part of his heritage he truly values.

Our various children know what is discoverable about their heritage. Nobody seems to care, beyond bringing it up casually in conversation once in a while, given about the same importance as "we used to live in that state", or perhaps a bit more when who can tan and who needs more sunscreen comes up.

I have for years not thought about my own "white privilege" as I have gone about my life. Years ago I started hearing tales of people being pulled over by the cops for DWB, but having no experience nor referent for it, filed it away back in the "it's unfortunate but rare" part of my brain. Probably right next to Tooth Fairy stories. Recent news has made that impossible for me to keep myself unaware of the racial disparities in this country. Even moving to Arizona have made me very aware of my need for extra identification as I go out and about, especially with a name easily assumed to be hispanic, and even more especially travelling anywhere close to our southern border. I store my original birth certificate there, keep on hand not just my drivers license but my voting card too. If I want to fly again I'm gonna have to dig out documentation of my name change, paperwork I hoped to never need again.

Returning to Good ol' Minnesota, liberal bastion of blue-state hood, that racial awareness hasn't gotten tucked back in a neglected corner somewhere. Let's start with Sunday night. Actually, it was Monday morning as Steve and I were heading home from the hospital, the eastern sky just beginning to tinge orange on the horizon. It was one of those emergency runs, the upshot likely being gallstones. His, not mine. More tests necessary. We dumped everything we were carrying into the hatch of the car as we left the hospital, and I idly wondered if that was actually wise. Even more so as the flashing red and blue lights on the police car across the street lit up his u-turn  as he suddenly became interested in us. A quick check of the speedometer showed I hadn't exceeded the 25 for this Wisconsin town, and I imediately pulled over, hoping we merely needed to clear its way for some important business.

Turned out we were that business. Now I'm very aware of the location of my ID and trying to figure out what is the safest way to ask the officer exactly how he would like me to dig it out of the back of the car without threatening him. Of course, being white, and perfectly sober and polite, I wasn't really concerned. But I was really aware.

Turns out, once I asked if there was a problem, he kindly pointed out that my lights hadn't been turned on, and suggested perhaps we had just left some place really well lit? Yep, the hospital parking lot. Once the lights were on and my apology offered, we were free to go.

But had we been black?

This morning Steve and I were again in the hospital, this time waiting for one of those tests he needed. So was another guy. He should have kept his mouth shut. He started bitching about "Black Lives Matter" (out of the context of TV Olympics coverage I should add), went on to liking Trump, and I started thinking I was absolutely not going to be able to continue to sit in the waiting room to keep Steve company no matter how much he might need my emotional support and how much I wanted to be there with it. Lucky for all of us he was called back for whatever his own procedure was. A scene was about to be caused. I had already warned Steve I needed to leave and why when the ignorant jerk was pulled out first.

Mother would have been so embarrassed. I wouldn't have cared.

Much.

Anyway, the test results will have to be read and "they will call you." Meanwhile Steve is tolerating a fat-free diet fairly well for a few days.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Evidence on Flossing

Do I floss? Of course I do. I never tell a lie. I've never stolen anything. I wouldn't think of cheating on a test. I weigh 10-30 pounds less that that broken scale claims. I'm still as tall as when I was 18. I were doing the speed limit officer, honest! The house was just cleaned this morning: it must have been the kids/dogs/neighbors. I have no idea how that page showed up on my computer. Where did that spot come from? It wasn't there when I got dressed. No I haven't seen what happened to your 25-year-old favorite fishing shirt, honey. So yes, I not only floss daily, I brush twice each day as well.

What's ambiguous about that?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Changes... and Progress?

I tried to laugh at myself this morning on my trip from bed to the bathroom. I stumbled, tilted, double-stepped... all in all would have failed a sobriety test. Good thing I didn't have to drive to the bathroom. I'd like to blame the dogs I was dodging, or the walls, bed, rugs, dresser, doorknobs... but really, I'm just completely uncoordinated when I first wake. However, considering how far the hike in this house to is to the bathroom, it didn't seem wise to wait to fully wake up. Especially when one of the four of us has just left for work (what woke me), so I know the odds have just improved of no waiting outside the door.

I have decided to tell folks that I have two new knees and they are still getting used to me. Of course, nobody bothers to inquire.

I am walking a bit more, not so much out hiking the paths but trying to do actually useful things. It was a slow start, beginning with the shower and progressing to the bathroom floor, including new rugs and some of that animal doedorizer, then progressing to the kitchen, bit by bit.

Now I can sweep the living/dining/kitchen/hall floor all in one go, no sitting down four times to rest, no stopping before the full two gallons of dirt and doggie dust bunnies are mostly relocated behind plastic.

I noticed a pair of bruises where I haven't seen any for years now. That may seem odd, but I was out along the driveway with hand and long pruners ridding the garden of trees that have grown up unimpeded during the last several years when my knees kept me from doing more than mentally tut-tuting as I walked or drove by. Those bruises? Oddly, they're in my tummy where I had to use full body pressure to close those pruners against some of those branches. And yes, this job I had to take several breaks from, and am currently taking another few days from getting back to it. Anyway, those bruises, they're tiny, thanks to being off warfarin now for months.

I collected my dirty laundry together and hauled it down the basement steps. The process involved one foot down, clinging tightly to the rail, drag the basket down one step, rebalance and shift grip, repeat 14 times. It was going to be another step towards independence, but one long look at Paul's new washing machine quickly told me I have no idea which of the 83 buttons I need to push in which order to accomplish the task. So the dirty clothes sat there. At least some clothing and detergent made it into the machine. I got that far!

On the way down I did notice that I could still be helpful, and wound up with  total of 4 trips up and down those stairs. I'm not sure they've been swept for the 4 years since I last struggled down, so the first trip involved fetching and using broom and dustpan... and bags. More bags, broom, and chair were appropriated to knock down neatly stacked piles of empty water bottles, scrunch them into smaller forms, load into bags to carry up - later just try to throw them up and be happy with any progress per bag, one step, three... and keep progressing by the bag on the last trip up I had any energy for. By then, almost zero.

I had to ask Paul after starting running the washer to bring up the broom and dustpan again for me. I hadn't gotten to the floors up here yet at that time. They waited two more days. I was having company over.

Is the basement job done? You shitting me? A certain son and I are getting together this weekend with more bags, brooms, whatever, and the chair I'm mostly going to be supervising from, to clear a much better path through the chaos and make some decisions on what is absolutely NOT going to be inhabiting that space again in the near future. I figure a couple months of that should result in  some progress, always given the limits of space in the garbage can, and the fact that the empty water bottles, completely recyclable, take up a lot of room per unit and we're starting with a can nearly full already from all the bits and pieces of metal from a twin mattress spring that got cut up and disassembled this week by a certain other son with some assistance from his mom while watching one of the earliest Doc Martin episodes on TV.

Amazing what bits you remember. Fun new favorite show, anyway. We get bits of Season 3 in Phoenix, and Season 1 just started up here. Answers a lot of questions.

Anyway, while garbage goes out weekly, recycling goes only every 2 weeks, so that job is slower. While you can squeeze a lot of crumpled water bottles in a plastic bag and knot the tops, they can't go out that way, so I imagine them puffing up like popcorn in the bin.

In a few more days I may feel like more gardening, including cutting down all the ragweed that took over. By then I expect to be able to start finding those 3-year-old Amur Maples that sprout up everywhere ( a poor choice of landscape tree in retrospect, in the garden, but oh so pretty in the fall). The garden is a particular challenge for me because the ground was lined with rocks and things planted in the spaces. Nothing is level, and my knees particularly hate that. Nor can I kneel.

One of the biggest changes to the appearance of the yard is the absence of the old RV. I had nothing to do with it. This time Steve gets the credit. A couple years ago I signed over my half of the title so Paul could get rid of it however he wanted. After all, Steve and I planned to never get under the thing to hook up grey- and blackwater hoses, and Paul wasn't all that keen to go camping with us again after The Disaster Trail. I mean, fun, yeah, but Murphy came along on that one. So it sat in the driveway. And sat. There are nice (!) ruts in the asphalt where the tires were all that time.

Tuesday was National Night Out. Steve loves to go. He gets to ride in the fire engine. He's still the oldest "kid" to take that ride each year, and knows all the local firemen by name and vice versa. Rather than drive over, he took the scooter my dad used to use. (Still not sold. Needs batteries. Cheap. Anybody interested??) The batteries died on his way back and some lovely folks gave him a push the rest of his way home. They got to talking about the RV. The guy's a mechanic and an optimist. The end of the story is that it got towed out of here yesterday morning at no cost to us. Everybody happy with the price. Mouse nests added for free.

And OMG we can see the neighbors again! Well, plus vice versa, sorry guys. Once Steve and I leave again, the guys don't have to juggle cars each night depending on who leaves first the next morning! So bonuses all around. Of course some garbage that was hiding - from us - behind the thing now needs to go away, but that's ultimately a good thing too.

So, I'm feeling useful, a tad more competent, and we're still snickering when national news here reports the disaster of 2" of rainfall down in Phoenix shoving cars down the streets. It never falls on our yard, of course.

Never.

Dang!

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Reverent Atheist

It is very gratifying for a mom to have an adult son who lets her know he thinks she knows a thing or two about a thing or two.

Currently the discussion revolves around politics. And boy scouting. Rich was a boy scout for several years. He's taken a lot of his values system from that experience. How it comes into play right now is in a Facebook discussion with a Trump supporter, anathema to Richard. This  person is also a former boy scout, in fact an Eagle Scout, a rank which requires a lot of work to earn. Rich is trying to use those values in his discussions to persuade this guy how opposite to those scouting values the guy he supports is. Occasionally he emerges back into the analog world to pick my brain.

We've had several long discussions. As part of them, Rich tells me he's picked up most of the scouting values himself as ones to live his own life by, at least as well as he can.  Nobody's perfect, we all know. But he tries.

There is just one area where he can't see himself following the scout rules: reverence. Loyal, thrifty, brave, all the rest he has no problem adopting. But he sees reverent as an issue because he considers himself an atheist.

We examined that for a while. The oath itself doesn't say a boy scout is Christian. Nor Jewish. Nor Muslim, Bhuddhist, Taoist, Shinto, Hindu, Wiccan, or a member of and believer in any particular theology. The word is specifically "reverent." Not even "religious." Just "reverent".

He agreed.

I had a couple more questions for him. Did he respect the world around him and the things in it? You know, trees, mountains, birds, clouds, all that?

Yes, he did. Of course.

Did he feel a sense of awe at how the world was all put together along with the universe it inhabited?

Oh yes, it was overwhelmingly awesome.

Well, that's reverence.

You've got it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Motel 6: Good, Bad, and...

We use Motel 6 a lot. Inexpensive, dog friendly, fairly ubiquitous. There have been issues, like the Raton, NM room with no heat because they were going "green" while it snowed outside. Or thin walls while a hoard of drunken party animals roamed like zombies hunting their latest victims. But mostly they've been good to us.

This time "good" was two out of three. Albuquerque off Coors road: great! Lincoln off whatever exit (403?) of I-80, great!

Denver will never be forgotten. Never. Because Denver, despite reservations, didn't happen.

One of the first things I always request is a handicap accessible room. This usually involves a definition of terms: what exactly meets our standards? No stairs? High toilet and wall safety bars? Walk-in or roll-in shower in a "wet room"? There are times we can be a bit flexible. Some mornings we can skip a full immersion shower if everything else works for us, for example.

We arrive at our motel, the one at I-70 and Federal Blvd., and I go stand in line, 4th to be waited on. Not comfy, but I get the need for it. Once at the counter I'm prepared with the necessary cards and confirmation number. Only thing is, the dufus who took the reservation forgot to check the box that says handicap accessible.

Well, let's try to adapt: 1st floor?

Full.

But the totally understanding clerk at the desk offers us a room on the 3rd floor. No elevators, of course. She seemed completely surprised when I flatly refused with one word: "Impossible!"

She did offer to check the other two in the chain in Denver, so I waited a bit more. Nope, full up. Something about a big soccer event in town. How much were we willing to spend? She could locate us a room near the airport (fyi an hour back on the rush hour choked freeways we'd already traveled to reach this motel) for a mere $600. Dogs might be extra, of course. I walked out, as coolly as I could under the circumstances.

Hey guys, take a hint: if we're traveling using Motel 6, by what stretch of your idiot imagination might we be willing to consider a $600 room?

We sat in a parking lot on the phone with a Motel 6 national reservation number. They tried to be helpful. For about an hour. We decided we were in shape to keep heading up the road, winding up in Greeley at a Days Inn. The gal on the Motel 6 line claimed she found us - and per her manager's authorization, reserved us - a room there. I asked for the Days Inn phone number so I could call and 1: verify the reservation vs. our needs, and 2: get directions once in town. After about 5 delays and diversions, she finally gave up the number.

We thanked her for all her time and effort.

Might have saved our breath.

Our first chance to stop off the freeway north and call this motel, we got several bits of information. Yes, they had a handicap accessible room. No, they had never in fact been contacted by anybody to make us a reservation. Dogs were OK, at a minor fee of $25, that's per pooch, and the total fee was 3x what we would have paid for the Motel 6 room had they been paying proper attention. Oh, and here were the directions....

The room offered us was lovely, the one the manager reserves for herself when she's not in town. Third floor but with an elevator. Gorgeous sunset view over Rocky Mountain National Park on the horizon. Kitchen facilities with center island and pass-through between that and the hanging cupboards. Padded bench in the bow window with that fabulous view. Sofa and coffee table for the late night reader who can't quite sleep. Had we chosen the expense, it would have been well worth it.

There was a semi-decent breakfast the next morning, including eggs and sausage. Hot would have been a nice touch, but they were no colder, really, than the Cheerios.

And we had miles to go.