Sunday, June 26, 2011

Progress, Dead Ends, and The Elephant In The Room

So, it's been over two months now since I got health insurance and started setting up appointments. Much has happened since then, and much not. Most has been written about, but one thing not. Yet.

The allergist diagnosed my dermatographism as a symptomatic expression of underlying allergy(-ies), tested, and found a bundle of things to avoid. Some of that is possible. Most, not so much. After some thought, I decided to go for the allergy shots, which actually start tomorrow morning, and go Monday and Thursday mornings for a while. Three shots per visit. Wheee.

They cause their own "little" side effect, and I'm not talking about the possibility of reaction to the shots, or even my decreasing availability for work causing lessening of income. After ordering having them made up, I was discussing with their office how much individual shots would cost if the ever-looming possibility of a government shut-down becomes fact on July 1st. My insurance is, after all, sponsored by the state. (An alternative scenario is I could get kicked off any insurance if the legislature budget goes through as written.) She thought about thirty bucks a piece, which is a strain but doable, especially if any shutdown is brief. Then she threw the zinger at me: it's formulating the shots themselves that costs thousands.

Thousands!?! Oooohhhh. Ummmm, maybe it's time to check how much of my $10,000/yr. insurance budget I have left. I figured this was one of the two things this year that I could take care of. There are already enough dead ends.

Getting the fibroid evaluated cost a visit to the OB-GYN, an ultrasound, having a radiologist read the scans, and an option for shrinkage treatment with surgery to follow in a few years when Medicare kicks in. The main problem with that treatment is that it is standard for it to require an overnight stay in the hospital, a very sensible precaution in case the wrong arteries got blocked somehow, but all by itself busting my budget. So, no go there. Keep carrying that football around, watching it grow. Meanwhile, a nice chunk out of that ten grand.

Getting the knees evaluated involved an orthopedic visit, X-rays, and a recommendation for surgery which also is a budget-blasting $60,000, give or take. So, live with them for another few years. Another, expected, dead end. Another chunk of the budget spent.

The last thing I'm dealing with, and have been since three days after my original physical when the labs came back, is diabetes. This at least is cheaper to treat. So far it's been two nursing visits, diabetes education on diet and a meter kit for stabbing my fingers three times daily and reading the blood sugar levels from a blood drop. The lancets and test strips need to be renewed by prescription, and there is an increased cost in food because the cheap carbs have to be avoided, but it has to be dealt with - forever! - and I'm doing it.

Actually, I'm doing a much better job of dealing with it on a dietary basis than I am in coming to terms with it. Mom always used to nag me that if I kept eating the sweets I love, I was going to get diabetes. Though my nurse tells me that's not strictly true, it still feels like a shaming punishment from Mom that I managed to cause myself. But I have developed a basic diet that works well, and occasionally try adding things into it that might or might not work, and getting the instant (2-hours) feedback that tells me when I've screwed up. For example, a 6" Subway is supposed to fit in, but the test strips tell me that they're pushing it. Don't do it often. Naan is out, since the allotted amount is way too little to consider anything but a hardship as a meal, and the pashwoori naan is too sweet to even consider trying, though I love the flavor. The beef-filled naan isn't worth eating. When I go for a burger or hot dogs, much of the bun is left out, which is OK unless I had in mind something that would hold a whole slew of condiments.

It's a lot of brown bagging, and my hours translate that into simple, easy, no-thought, no-cook, easy-measure foods. Cottage cheese is king. One carton covers two meals with fruits stirred in. Hence my recent expertise on what is good and what not. Cheerios are still OK, one of my favorite snack foods. Of course, that could and used to mean half a box if I was watching TV and not paying attention. Now it's a half-cup serving in a leftover container packed as mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. Baby carrots are not supposed to count as a starchy veggie (who's kidding whom here?) but my test strips tell me that they seem to accentuate the carbs in anything else I eat. I do have to go shopping at least twice a week, since fruits spoil quickly, and there's only so much room in the 'fridge.

It's a good thing I don't drink my carbs. For years it's been diet sodas, diet lemonades and fruity teas, water, and coffee. Morning coffee turned over a year ago into morning mocha, but I found a cocoa brand months ago that offers a good sugarless variety, 1/2 carb unit the way I do it, and still makes good mocha. I found months ago that I need a little something to get my stomach to accept the plethora of pills I cram into it with my morning cuppa, and besides, this is my daily allotment of chocolate, a necessary ingredient in quality-of-life. Since I have my mocha first thing and delay breakfast till about 8:30, I can still get a full set of carbs in for breakfast. That's 30-45 grams. You try reading labels to see how it works!

I'm supposed to have a bedtime carb. Many days I'm just finishing supper in time to run a test strip before bed, and a late carb just wouldn't get tested. So I choose no snack, a slice of meat, or if it's early enough, maybe a slice of toast, possibly with margarine and garlic. Hold the garlic if it's raisin toast.

The reason for a bedtime carb is that the liver tends to decide by morning that there's not enough sugar in the bloodstream and releases some of its store, shooting blood sugar levels up. It doesn't seem to happen to me. So I don't take the bedtime carb as a religious mandate.

One side effect of the change in diet is its effect as a diet. I've been losing weight, slowly but surely. Steve noticed, as did Steph. Apparently mostly it's around my middle, something greatly to be desired, but not really noticeable until I stand up. However, the uniform man-shirt I wear for work now buttons at the bottom button, and those are designed to taper in where we girls taper out. Monday I go in for a weighing on the original scale from 2 1/2 months ago, and find out if all these different scales in all these different offices are uniformly set. I figure it counts more on the same scale. If all are equal, two weeks ago it was 14 lbs. down. Or 29 lbs. less than my overall max.

The good news here is that I can pretty much monitor the blood sugar and treat the allergies on an ongoing basis if the state shuts down or I've exceeded my insurance limit already. The surgeries I already figured out will need to be postponed, unless I happen to win the lottery.

Yeah, that'll happen. Of course, the lottery office also shuts down July 1st if the state does.

But the two most important things will get taken care of.

And Koda can come back and sleep in my room again, after a few months. That's not to be sneezed at. Hopefully.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Button Button

Who's got the button?

Do children still play that game? I've been playing my own version of it, looking for suitable buttons, ever since I purchased my silk. The fabric shop was great for fabric, but not so much for buttons that I thought would work with it.

Oh sure, I could have bought those self-covered buttons you put the same fabric over as what you were sewing. Boring! And besides, I never was very good at doing that without wrinkles and lumps. That option would be my very last resort.

It seems that the world is buying tan colored buttons these days. Or at least that's what they're selling. Or novelty buttons. The individual cat buttons were cute, though expensive, and my friend Joan would love them, but I couldn't see them for a wedding. Nor silver, pewter, copper or gold-toned, round, squared, or bamboo-shaped oblongs.

Steph suggested I stop in a Hancock Fabrics sometime, so I decided to check them out online, see where they were located these days. Not only did I find their website and three locations, I found their pages of buttons listings. OK, let's check them out. Page 1, nothing I wanted. Page 2, nothing. Page 3, 4, 5....8, 9... Dang! I'm bleary eyed but nothing jumps out at me but my own impatience.

OK, how about a general web search? I'm thinking pink buttons, so Google that. The first site promises any buttons I want, so click and... Oh. Do-it-yourself political pins. Hey, dummies, those are pins, not buttons! Next site is... shirts after shirts in all colors, each bearing buttons. And none even my size, to add insult to frustration.

Big help!

Hey, here's an idea, how about seeing if anybody makes rose quartz buttons? I'm thinking using some rose quartz beads in the necklace I plan to make, after all. Click. Hmmm, button earrings. Button beads. Button beads? Where do these people come up with these things?

Pink pearl buttons brings me more jewelry, no buttons. Sewing notions helps narrow it down a bit, but still nothing useful. It's been about half an hour so far. I'm about to tear my hair out. Even eBay, my old friend, is not much help. I finally wind up on a website called Etsy that sells, of all things, buttons! Real, honest to gosh, buttons!

Somehow I wind up looking at some Czech art glass buttons, iridescent pink/green with gold dragonflies across the front. Intriguing, but at 1 11/16", way too huge, not to mention pricey. Still, I'm interested enough to email the seller and ask her if they ever come in smaller sizes, explaining my project and needs. Since she's in eastern Europe, there's a bit of a time thing going on, so I'm not expecting an immediate answer.

But hey, she, specifically, is selling lots more buttons, and I decide to explore her store. There are still lots of buttons that in no way fill my color needs, but eventually I come across some roses that are iridescent red/pink/whatever, and come in 1" and 7/8" sizes. I make a note of them to come back to. Then I fine clear/iridescent roses, same sizes. After much searching, and finding lots more dragonfly buttons, again in huge sizes, I decide to order a couple sets of the red/pink roses. Worst possible case, they clash. Best possible case, they work out beautifully. In any case, it's bedtime and I'm done searching.

Next day she answers my inquiry letting me know she'll check on smaller dragonfly buttons for me, and what sizes would I like? I tell her, and last night's email she says she's found some, but it's dark there and she'll send me pictures after it's day for her so she can get good pictures. I tell her I've already ordered some from her in the roses, but am still interested. After all, what the heck? I might be able to use them in another project, or even come to like them better than the roses. Who knows?

We keep corresponding in hours-separate chunks.

Button, button, I'll soon have some buttons.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hijab: A New Use

We've all seen them by now, even if only in photos. It's the headscarf worn by Muslim women to show their modesty in accordance to their religious beliefs. We've heard all sorts of things in the news about whether they should be worn in schools or for driver's license photos. I've even held a discussion with one woman about whether the beautiful colors in the scarves worn by many women properly preserves that modesty. She, wearing grey, thought not. But I don't recall anything about how useful they can be.

Yesterday I saw evidence of that. Stopped at a light, I watched an oncoming turning driver slowly pass. Neatly tucked into her hijab was her Blackberry, right over her ear. Hands-free cell phone talking while driving, Muslim style, was my first thought. That was until I saw that the freed-up hand was now free for smoking, not driving.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Wedding Plans

I just love it when I've planed something in my head and once I start to execute the plan, everything just falls together. But that was about the last thing that happened yesterday. Let's back up a bit first.

I keep getting asked, "When's the wedding?" It's next Valentines Day, or Feb. 14th for those who don't know that's redundant. I'm sorry for the inconvenience of it being on a Tuesday, but them's the breaks. It's all about the romance. I knew I'd never get married again unless there was a damn good reason, and it had better include romance. I don't mean infatuation. I mean those little gestures that tell the other person that you think of them. Without going into all the details, let's just sum it up in Steve being the most romantic man I know well enough to know that about.

With that date, I knew I'd have to select a site early, and I did, in Shafer. In fact, the site is being donated as a very generous wedding gift. It will host both the wedding and reception, having a nice commercial-type kitchen on premises.

Since that's the date, it's also the color scheme. Add rubies to the diamonds in the ring(s). Pick decorations, flowers, clothing in the white-pink-rose-red spectrum. For example, for flowers I'm thinking a variety of roses and stargazer lilies. The ladies/girls of the bridal party have been asked to pick out their own choice of clothing in that range. I'm not dictating outfits with lots of frou-frou that will never be worn again. Jordan selected a pink prom dress that she plans to use a second time as bridesmaid at the wedding. Steph, as matron of honor, went fabric-shopping with me yesterday. Or should I say silk shopping. She didn't find anything for herself, but she's got lots of time, and now knows what the bride will wear.

On the way to pick her up after work, I got two phone calls from Steve. He's heard back from the mother of a young grandson of his, giving permission for him to be ring-bearer. We already have selected one of his granddaughters for flower girl. The day we announced the engagement to his family, she called back and asked for the privilege, and we both were tickled, of course saying yes. His second call was to tell me her mother now has both my phone numbers so we can consult on her outfit. I'm thinking if her mom knows somebody who can sew, I can assist with some of the left-over silk from my outfit as a starting place for hers.

I put a lot of thought into what I'm going to wear. I've done the white-dress-and-veil number. Not going there again, in so many ways. As mother-of-the-bride when Steph got married, I sewed a tunic vest and pants outfit to wear over a (cheap) silk blouse. It was a linen-look fabric in ivory, with embroidered trim with tiny pearls wound through hand stitched in a border all around. It's been sitting in my closet ever since. I'll be able to fit it again by time of the wedding. So this time, I wanted to find a really nice piece of silk in a very intense, deep/hot pink to make a blouse/tunic to fit under the vest.

I had very exacting standards of what I wanted, and not just in the color. I had come across a variety of silk fabric a few years ago that was quite expensive, fairly thick compared to the Wal-Mart silk shirts I picked up long ago, slightly less shiny, and absolutely flowed. Feels like a little slice of heaven when worn. Not to mention I haven't managed to put a wrinkle in the black shirt-jacket I picked up back then. Yep, black, and not good for a wedding, at least not mine. I've worn it to a nephew's wedding over a long sundress, but it just isn't bride material. I wanted that specific kind of silk, just a different color. And maybe a different pattern. And help from Steph in using her sewing room, since I no longer have one.

I'd looked for the old JoAnn Fabrics in Rosedale, but that's a vacant storefront in a strip mall now. The yellow pages flaunted an ad for a store specializing in natural fabric, and silk qualifies, so I called. Yes, they had lots of silk, many varieties, and if they didn't have what I wanted, they could order. (They half-renegged on that after I walked in, but by then it didn't matter.) They threw lots of names past me, but I still don't know what a shantung is, or whether I like it. All I ever learned is the difference between raw and processed silk, and that came from my years of running a dry cleaners. What I wanted was processed, and that's all I still know about it.

Treadle Yard Goods is located on the corner of Hamline and Grand in St. Paul, across the street from the rightly-famous Green Mill Pizza. Steph offered to spring for supper, but shopping came first. The bolts of fabric are located on tables with signs on top stating what kind of fabric they held. The second sign from the front door said "Silk", and right in front shouting at us was the perfect color. We checked it against me and along side the vest I'd brought for just that purpose. It turned out to be the right fabric as well, and we had hopes there was enough left on the bolt. Of course, we grabbed it and then wandered around a bit to drool over some of the other selections before we had it measured. Six and a half yards, 45" wide. You don't want to know price per yard.

We took it all. It's nice to have plastic. There will be extra for - worst case - mistakes, or for pocket squares for the groomsmen and something for the flower girl if she chooses. Or perhaps a sash for future years and fashion changes, since I plan to wear this blouse often.

Since they conveniently had seating in front of the pattern books, we spent time there as well, finally settling on just the right one needing the fewest alterations to match my mental image. Buttons, not so much choice. They'll come later, as will additional trims as I decide what they should be.

Meanwhile, it will sit in my closet until later in the year when we'll start measuring and cutting. For now, tiny pieces have been cut out and will be sent to those concerned for color blending, or just drooling over the fabric. Oh, and I have one in my pocketbook for future shopping reference.

Supper afterward was as great as the shopping had been.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


I've become something of a cottage cheese connoiseur recently. Who knew? It's not as if I set out with it as a goal or something. It's just that I've been packing it in my work cooler for breakfasts and lunches a lot lately. It's tasty - or at least my favorite brand never disappoints - has premeasured amounts for steady, dependable nutrition values, and is great with fruits. Those are fast to add for quick total prep time on a busy rushin-out-the-door-late morning, as most are these days. I vary sliced bananas, strawberries, blueberries, peaches, cherries and raspberries as the add-in. They all work great except the raspberries. There's something about them that demands being eaten on the side, that just doesn't quite mix right. That's OK, I still love raspberries.

When I hit the store, I tend to buy several days' worth. I shop often enough as it is, keeping track of my needs, household needs, and my dad's needs. Trouble is, often somebody else gets there before I do and the pickins are slim. So I've tried other brands. That's how I found out I've become a connoisseur.

I started with Old Home, the cottage cheese of my Minnesota childhood. Now you know that means it's been around a long time. And it's just as good as it ever was: lovely flavor, firm curds, very little whey left in the carton or separated out, nice and white. Exactly as I remember and prefer it.


These days it comes in low-fat too. And that's just as good. That's the carton I go for first.

One day they were very low on that so I tried Land O Lakes. Local brand again, good rep, reasonable price. It was almost as good as the Old Home, just a bit yellowish, a wee bit of whey swimming on the top, and nearly the flavor of the other. Perfectly adequate, just not first choice.

Last week I saw a new brand, Daisy, with a sticker price $.50 cheaper a carton. I figured why not? The way I'm going through it, 5 cartons a week, I could save a chunk.

Big mistake. Worse mistake was buying two cartons without waiting for the taste test results. The first bite told me all I needed to know. Texture soft, not well-defined curds. Mushy. Ick. In some things, texture is a real biggy, the feel of it in your mouth or between your teeth telling half the story of your satisfaction and willingness - craving, even - to take the next bite. This one failed. Even worse was the flavor. It more resembled cardboard and paste than it did cottage cheese, and don't make the mistake and think I'm referring back to that delightful library paste we snuck tastes of back in grade school. That had zip! This had more of a gag quotient than anything else.

Unfortunately, I'd packed it for both breakfast and lunch, with nothing to fill in in its stead, and no time nor opportunity to find a replacement. Plus, I'd mixed in some lovely blueberries, really well stirred and blended, and there was no way I was going to let the blueberries go to waste. I did my best to pick them out of the surrounding crud, but inevitably some clung and I wound up eating it.

On a positive note, my dog isn't a connoiseur and was delighted to get some free people-food protein. He'll eat almost anything off a plate that finds its way to the floor.

I informed Paul that if he can find a recipe to use the second carton so it disguises the flavor, like maybe lasagne, he's welcome to it. Otherwise he can feed it to the dog or dump it in the trash. I refuse to eat it.

Tonight I picked up all six of the Old Home low fat cottage cheese cartons in the case.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Those who know about my job know that I tend to stop in at the Holiday or SA to use restrooms during my day when there aren't ones available at the sites I deliver to. Unlike when I'm traveling around with kids, I don't stop "just because, it's your last chance for a while, better try now even if you don't think you need to." When I stop, I do need to. Probably have for a while, but needed to get a package somewhere first.

The other day I headed into a Holiday only to find the Women's was occupied. OK, not usually a major problem. I waited. And I waited. My knees were definitely starting to notice me. Two men came and used the men's room in their turn and left. Still I waited. There were no flushing sounds, no running water or pumping out towels sounds. What on earth could she be doing? Might she be sick? Even when an employee is in there cleaning, it doesn't usually take quite this long.

Now, I was lucky. I wasn't quite desperate enough to go ahead and use the men's room. I mean, they do have locks, after all, and are single-occupancy, just like the one I was still waiting for. But they are so-o-o-o-o-o disgustingly filthy. I don't even want my shoes to touch the floor in there. And I have been that desperate. I might be again soon, but not quite yet. What was taking her?

I decided I was really going to be pissed (any pun intended) if she was just in there putting on her makeup. Just as I was wondering if I needed to pound on the door and remind her others needed the facilities, it opened, and out walked the cutest sweet young thing. Judging by the lack of noises, she very well could have been putting on her make-up in there. But damn! She was in so long she might very well have started out ugly!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Bank Robbery: The US Bank Scam


We all know there's a severe penalty for robbing a bank. But how about when the bank robs you?

I keep some of my IRA funds in bank (or credit union, depending on where the best deal is at the time) CDs. A while ago US Bank had the best rates, a modest 3%, though it's hard to get these days. They had the best rates for long enough for me to get two CDs, and then somebody else was a better investment.

You know the drill on CDs, right? You put your money in, it's locked up tight for the length of the CD, and at the end the bank pays you the agreed upon rate of interest along with your original money back.

Well, those days apparently are over.

Last week I got a letter I had trouble believing from US Bank. They have now declared my pair of CDs to be a Retirement Plan, and they're going to charge me for managing it for me.

WTF? A Retirement Plan? 2 simple CDs? What's to manage? Whatever happened to money in, locked in, money plus interest out?


Incredulous, I called them, trying to figure out what the mistake was. This wasn't in the deal, it's not a plan, and how can they change the rules on me like that? I mean, I get it, that they're renegging on their promised interest rate because 3% even on my paltry sum of cash is just too much for their greedy little asses, but how can they break the contract like that?

Well, they think they can. I argued every point in person, to a "personal banker" who was unflappable. He insisted what they were doing was perfectly reasonable, usual, and acceptable. I still disagree. I still feel robbed. I cancelled my US Bank card. (I only kept it "just in case" - I still have $20G in unused credit on other cards.) I tried to withdraw my CDs but was informed I would be penalized the entire remaining interest. The $30/year was much less than that. Of course, he said it added up to $180, and on 5 year CDs, he needs either a new brain or a calculator. $120, tops. They've been in over a year.

He also tried to claim that this was not a new policy, just a revamping of an old policy. Supposedly they used to do it for accounts under $5G, so all they were doing was bumping it up to applying to all accounts under $25G. Of course, if I added another $20G, I'd not be affected. And he was completely unfazed by the fact that this possibility was never mentioned to me when I made my initial deposit, definitely under $5G, or again when I made the second. For my nickel, it smacks of bait-and-switch.

Yeah, in a pig's eye. NOT ONE MORE PENNY FROM ME, YOU CROOKS! Who knows whether next year it'll be accounts under $50G. Whatever this greedy bank thinks they need to do to make "enough" money off our backs. The government is putting restrictions in place on some of their most eggregious thefts, so they are busy thinking up new ways to steal our money. THAT is their definition of "retirement plan". And they think I should pay them for this service. They even sent me a bill in the mail a few days later. But not to worry: if I want to save a stamp, just ignore the bill and they'll simply deduct it from my funds.

So what do you call it when the bank starts stealing from you? If it were one employee, it'd be called embezzlement. This way it's plain old bank robbery!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Call Your Local Sheriff

A friend of mine was upset. His son's family had just received an eviction notice from their landlord. They'd spent most of yesterday looking for a new place to live. Today I heard the additional information that they had to be out by noon tomorrow!

I knew a few things about them. The apartment they lived in was in Smalltown, Minnesota, in an old house that had been part funeral parlor. It was now three separate apartments, and the people renting the section that was the mortuary swore that it was haunted. Doors unlocked themselves, items moved, fuzzy things moved past one's vision. The family seemed both repelled and delighted by these events. At least, it wasn't their space that was haunted, if I recall the story right. Or maybe it just wasn't as bothersome as what was happening next door.

I also heard hazy details about the landlord not fulfilling his obligations, and other conflicts. One of those was the dog.

One can now get companion animals by doctor's orders not only for guide services, or warning of seizures, but to help treat anxiety or depression. By law, such animals cannot be prevented from living with the person needing such services, even if the rental was originally a "no pets" unit. One member of this family qualified for such an animal, and she was living with them. I'm told the landlord wasn't happy, in principal, since no mention was made of any problems like property damage or failure to clean up after the dog.

Whatever the primary cause, the family received a letter giving them less than 2 days to be evicted. I knew that didn't sound right, so I told my friend to call the local sheriff and find out if that was legal. He hung up right away to find out.

Later, I heard that not only was the 2-day notice illegal, as I thought, but that the landlord hadn't even been to court yet, a necessary first step. If he won his case, it would still be 15 to 30 days before they'd have to move, depending on cause. Further, the sheriff took it upon himself to call the landlord and set him straight on a few things. The landlord backed off rather quickly, suddenly stating the letter was just a friendly heads-up kind of a thing, a "courtesy" for his tenants.

Yeah, right. And I've got a bridge to sell.

At any rate, while they may still have to move, there will now be plenty of time to line up a new place, pack, and make all the other arrangements needed. Like, perhaps, finding a better landlord.

Anthony's Weiner

We're tired of yet another dim-wit politician getting in trouble and thinking he can lie about it, especially because these days there are recording devices everywhere and cyberspace leaves a permanent trail. May as well behave, guys, because you can't get away with it anymore. And when caught, 'fess up and then shut up.

On the picture in question, I must say it took some puzzling over it to figure out just what it was supposed to be. Partly I blame my old-fashioned low-def TV screen, and partly those are just weird undies and a weird pose. Still, it hardly rises to the level of... what, exactly? (And no puns intended. Well, maybe.) Anyway, really stupid picture to get in trouble over.

He claimed at one point he sent the pictures out as a joke. Here's a fair warning, guys. Any one who send a "junk shot" as a joke should not be surprised if the lady to whom it is sent laughs... at your junk!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

They Do Grow Up

This Saturday my granddaughter is graduating from high school. Imagine! It seems so recent that she was so young in so many ways. But I've just gotten feedback from a couple of the other adults in her life that tells me how much she's grown.

As a close relative, sometimes it's hard to judge. Oh, you see the inches in height and the physical maturity. If you're lucky, you see a more mature response in conversations. Yet it's so easy to keep the memory of that tiny girl so close that it blinds you to all the changes taking place, until suddenly you're given the gift of seeing her through somebody else's eyes.

We both worked for the same boss at the auction house. He can be great with patience with teenagers, tolerant of some of their growing pains, letting them work through issues and learn how to do the job despite them. He called me a few weeks ago to let me know, among other things, how proud he is of her.

It came in contrast with another employee's actions. In looking for another, better job, this other employee didn't let Doug know that he used him as a reference. The first Doug heard of it was when he got called to give the reference. Jordan, when it was her turn, called him, offered him an apology for needing a better job to help with college expenses and thus needing to leave this position. Then she asked him if she could use him as a reference. And yes, she landed the better job. Doug was very impressed by how she handled herself.

Her very last school choir concert was a couple weeks ago. While we were all leaving, I passed her choir director in the hallway and stopped a minute to tell her how much I was going to miss coming to these concerts. When she knew who I was, she let me know how much she appreciated Jordan in her class the last couple years, and how much help she had been. Just that evening, before the concert, Jordan arrived, saying she had nothing to do, and asking what she could to to help.

Of course, some of the kid and the attitude do stick around. Jordan's school is a charter school, started in an old warehouse building downtown, and later moved into a fancy new school built just for them. Jordan started in a class of 14 students, transferred mostly from the monster-sized giant high school with something like 600 in a class. Jordan did very well in the new environment. The lower level classes are quite respectable in size as the school's reputation has grown, and I tend to forget it's beginnings.

When Jordan was telling me about graduation, I was thinking more about my own, back in the day, when each student was allowed two guests to witness the event. I asked her how many people it was OK to invite to come, knowing her mom's side of the family was already sizeable, and hoping more than just myself from her father's side could attend. In a voice heaping with all the scorn a teenager can apply to the foibles of the older generations, she reminded me, "Grandma, there's only 13 of us graduating! The more the merrier. There's a lot of space to fill."

We'll all be there with bells on, doing our part.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Speaking Up

Sometimes a little complaining helps. Take last night. I stopped at the Forest Lake KFC for some hot wings. I've developed a fondness for them, and the 10-pack is just about perfect for a full meal, minus some of the coating. I figured I could eat them while driving home to make the Planning Commission meeting. Time was tight.

I bit into the first one. Or rather, I tried to. It was overcooked, the meat was dark brown all through, dry, stringy, tough, and flavorless. Not exactly what I had in mind for my $7. I tossed it and tried another. Then another.

It dawned on me that they weren't going to get better, that the first ones weren't an anomaly.

Dang! I tossed the boxful.

When I pulled in the driveway, I dragged out my receipt and called the phone number on it. The manager answered. I vented. I asked her if they were cooked yesterday and held over because nobody could eat them? I told her I didn't know what was wrong with this branch. It wasn't my first time I got overdone chicken here, just the first time I bothered to complain. Stillwater's KFC can get it right, Vadnais Heights can get it right, Mounds View can get it right, Wayzata can get it right, St. Croix Falls can get it right. Why not here?

She kinda snickered when I started listing all the stores where I'd happily gotten good hot wings. This increased my ire. I was going to have to go to a meeting, the reason I'd gotten them in the first place, and didn't have time to fix something else. I would have to go without supper. (Actually I convinced Paul to nuke a couple weiners quick-like, but why spoil a good rant with extraneous facts?)

She apologized, and offered to put my name on a list, and when I came back, I could receive double my original order, i.e., 20 hot wings. That seemed fair, even though it didn't solve my immediate problem. But would they be fresh next time? When asked, she offered to have me call ahead so they could put some in the cooker just for me so they'd be perfect just as I arrived.

I told her that she should be running her store well enough so that they didn't have to do that. They should be in good condition all the time. Further, I'd take her up on her offer, but that I'd sit in the drive-through lane and inspect the wings after they passed them out the window. And if they again weren't any good, I'd keep sitting in the drive through lane, stopping customer traffic, until I got some that were satisfactory.

She said that would be OK.

Tonight I stopped by on my way home to pick up my 20 free wings. When I got the box, I looked through them. They were OK. I described my experience from the night before, and the employee serving me suggested that they were really, really old to have been that dried out and overcooked. I informed her that the manager denied that they were old, just somehow got cooked too long. I was asked if it was a woman. When I said it was, she casually informed me, "Oh, she just got fired."


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Replacing the Replacements

Steve - that's fiance Steve, not brother Steve - has had both knees replaced. Picked the best hot shot doctor he could find, guy with patients like, say, the Vikings. Sounds like a great recommendation, right? Problem is, he's never been without pain, and every once in a while they still swell up like balloons. His regular doctor now has him on a steady pain meds regimen, one pill 4 times a day.

It helps a little.

His regular doctor finally sent him to a local orthopedic guy. The doc thought it might be referred pain from the hips going bad too. Apparently it's common. The appointment was today. The good news is the hips are just fine.

It's the knees that suck. After moving his legs around, the orthopedic guy heard what Steve's been feeling ever since he got his new parts: they're too loose. It's time to put in new joints with longer shafts and a tighter fit so they actually stabilize the knees. Moreover, one knee will get a prosthetic joint which eliminates the need for the tendons. You know about tendons, those things that stretch, get frayed, get torn, and ultimately generally hurt with any movement and sometimes even without.

So we're both looking forward to him getting new, better knee replacements, and finally being able to walk without pain again. At least, that's the hope. I'm even hoping that my right knee -when the time comes - can get one of those prosthetic knees. It's the knee I keep falling on - or rather, landing on - and those tendons have lots of play in them, leading to instability which hastens bone wear. Not to mention hurting on their own just because. I'm familiar with the problem. So I'll be paying extra close attention to the outcome for Steve.

He's scheduled the first surgery for October. It could be done tomorrow, but Steve's waiting until fishing season is over. The guy's got his priorities.