Thursday, December 14, 2017

Oh, The X-mas Card List!

Every year it's the same routine. And yes, I do still send them out. Often on time.

Since my cards could be described as an ego trip, with some photo I've shot on the front, sometimes more, that's the first decision. Most years I know the second I see the picture in large format on my laptop, when it announces, "I'm the ONE!" Sometimes I know even before I see it. So step 1 is choose the picture(s).  Or let it/them choose me.

Step 1: Done.

Step two waits until sometime near mailing day when I have the time and energy to go to somebody's photo department, fight with their computerized system which is always, ALWAYS, different from the year before, just to plague me, and get whatever number of cards printed off, plus one. I do keep one for the records.

Somehow, organizing those records in never one of those steps, so step 3 is making sure the "from" name(s) appear on the card. Nowadays that is part of step 2. I'm also claiming paying in step 2, just because I'm too lazy to include it as a separate step.

Step 2: Done.

Step 3 then is composing and printing the year-in-review letter. There was a time I hunted for holiday themed paper to print them on, but it eventually became just too hard to locate the right paper. Its location is apparently another one of those things that certain shall-remain-nameless-mart stores keep changing just to get me, the potential customer, hiking all through the store looking for them, with the erroneous idea this will endear me to impulse buying a hefty portion of those gazillion items I'd never otherwise go past. Hey, guys, get a clue: your tactic just makes me clear the store faster with less energy to hunt for the things I'm actually looking to spend money on!  So, plain white printer paper again this year. Maybe its contents will be colorful enough to make up for it.

Step 3: Done.

Step 4 involves folding the letter, inserting everything into the envelopes provided, and sealing them.

Still working on that one.

I got diverted - not in an entertained way - by step 5. I start each year by printing out last years X-mas mailing list and trying to figure who died or became un-friended, who moved and to where, who goes on the list for the first time. Part of that actually comes before step 2, because I need the list to count how many cards get printed this year.

The worst part of course is verifying addresses. It's not just the grand kids who move, either. One friend moved within the same apartment building up one floor. One digit was all I needed, from a 4 to a 6. But it's important. Apparently small town postal workers no longer have that tiny bit of problem-solving in their list of job skills to a: recall the customer moved and uses a different box number in the same apartment lobby, and b: extrapolate that the card should now be placed in that new box rather than be returned to sender.

Yes, that happened.

I seem to recall hearing one pair of years-long friends retired and moved into a smaller home, but I'm not positive. Nobody calls each other any more, email addresses no longer work, I don't do Facebook. It occurred to me that I could Google one of them, and found out they're on Linked In. Hey, me too! I could go there... but Linked In refused to allow me access to my own account because they tell me they no longer support my email server. It's not Yahoo or Gmail or one of those big ones, so I guess I don't count. Funny, they still send me five or six messages a day at that old address, but....  Hey, if you two read this, and you know who you are, get in touch, will ya? Just remember, though, if you follow your usual pattern of sending your cards out in late January, getting yours from us will be even further delayed.

I'd really like to finish step 5.

Step 6: for those cards which have a confirmed destination, there's the writing the address out part, the hunting up enough return address labels and stamps that are not too obnoxious for the season part, and the affixing them part.

I'd like to finish that one too, and get on to the final step, #7: actually getting them into the mail. Or in a couple cases, skipping the stamp and hand delivering them. The first one of those has actually been handed out.

I'm quite proud of that, actually.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Insomnia Is A Funny Thing

I've decided to quit worrying about it. It's not like I have to get up at a certain time... most mornings. When I do, I've figured out how my latest alarm clock actually works, except for the bit about having a second alarm at a different time so it's not always set for 7:30 even after I think I've changed one or both of the alarm times, but it's mostly good enough. Coffee mostly works, despite what various doctors have recommended. So what if I can go right back to sleep after having my morning cup unless I get up and move around doing something? If I'd had to be up, I'd be active and awake, problem solved.

So if we knock of the it's-bad-for-you hypothesis, insomnia might actually have some uses.

I've been looking back at what actually keeps me alert after I've gone to bed exhausted from my day and thinking I was ready to fall asleep in the middle of my book or during a TV show, both of which I'm actually interested in. (Hey, the boring ones don't count.)

There was a time it was worry keeping me awake. Something bad had happened or was likely to happen and I needed to figure out how to deal with it so it could be fixed as soon as it possibly could. It may have been something with a kid, or the car, or some necessity there wasn't funding for. It's not that late night worrying often helped with whatever-it-was. It's just that the brain just wouldn't let go.

Life is much simpler now. Life's really major problems I can't fix anyway. The usual other issues mostly take care of themselves without me. If the car breaks down, it's not going to cost me a day or three of unpaid work time. If a blizzard is rolling in and I still have to get out and drive in it... oh wait, that's why I moved down here. Pain mostly isn't an issue any more. My kids have been adults for so long now that I'm a great grandmother. If they haven't got it figured out yet for themselves, they can lose their own sleep over whatever it is.

Still, there are many nights when the moment the head hits the pillow, the wheels start churning. Mostly, I've decided it's creativity. That usually translates into something from lapidary club. My brain learns, or learns about, something new and different. It might be from a workshop showing a new technique, or seeing an item for sale in the shop. I'll start trying to figure how to accomplish something either like somebody else did that I never saw before, or it might be working on a variation of a method I just learned in a workshop.

I think I know what I want a finished product to look like, and I can come up with five different bad ways to go about it. It might be a way to work wire into a specific form, and I can spend a couple hours figuring out why step A can't come before step B, or why step C can't be done at all. It might be a new technique where I plan which color wire combinations work with which other colors and a particular stone and/or how a bead works into the design. And just which bead?

On a completely different track, it might be a blog posting that starts working its way through my brain and unless I'm completely confident I can/will remember each word in the morning, it just has to be tackled NOW. Or it can simply be a way to turn the brain off of whichever spiral path it was on for the last hour and a half before I gave up and had to do something different. Sometimes a few pages of reading will do the same thing. Or maybe chapters. Or TV shows. It all depends.

Eventually the brain of this former morning person gives up and I can walk back down the hall with the full expectation that two seconds after the head hits the pillow I'll be unconscious.

Then it's time to start the wild ride through my dreams. Now there's a fun time! That's where we really ride the improbability train!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Passing On Some Political Humor

As the title implies, these have been heard elsewhere, but I believe are worth repeating.

1: For his senate election, Judge Roy Moore rode his horse to the polls, begging the question was the horse at least 14?

2: In support of Moore, Trump said, "Go get 'em, Roy." In answer, he said, "I can't: they're all still in home room!"

3: George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump all arrived at the pearly gates. God asked Bush, "What do you believe in?" Bush explained he believed in education. When God asked what he'd done about it when he was President, Bush spoke about No Child Left Behind.  It didn't quite work out the way he wanted, and could use improvements, but he'd tried. God said that was good, and admitted him.

Next God asked Obama what he believed in? Obama replied that he believed that everybody deserved good health care. When God asked what Obama had done about it when he was President,  he spoke about the Affordable Care Act. It didn't quite work out the way he wanted, and could use some improvements, but he had tried. God said that was good, and admitted him.

Finally it was Trump's turn. When God asked him what he believed in, Trump replied, "I believe you're in my seat!"

Friday, December 8, 2017

I'll Miss You, Al

As a former Minnesotan, one who refused to change my residency to Arizona until after voting for him for his second term in the US Senate, I find very little to feel good about in the resignation of Al Franken.

I knew him from SNL as Stuart Smalley with his stupid affirmations. I wasn't that impressed. Then I started listening to him on Air America Radio. I actually followed Catherine Lanfer when she switched away from MPR to join him in a show that combined humor, biting satire, and a great depth of political knowledge which did a lot to inform my viewpoint and move me politically from ho-hum Democrat to intensely liberal. When she left the program, I continued to listen to him. I bought - and read - his books. I admired his dedication to our troops stuck in an unjust war by regularly entertaining them in USO shows.

The last person I even heard of doing USO shows was Bob Hope.

During his 1st Senate campaign, he visited our little rural county and I actually met him and shook his hand. Nothing special, since I was already sold on his credentials for the job, but I bothered to go to a political meet-and-greet for one time in my life. I didn't even do that back when I was a candidate for office, though I won three times.

When his narrow margin in the election with Coleman was challenged, I followed the news faithfully, proud of how particular and honest the process was, and with both witnesses and video to prove it. The process delayed his entrance to the Senate until summer, giving the Democrats a majority for only 5 months in which to get things done. (If you didn't keep track, things changed with Teddy Kennedy's death.) We got the Affordable Care Act during that narrow window of time, with Franken fighting to limit the percentage of healthcare premiums which the insurance companies could put into overhead/profits before they had to refund excessive premium charges to customers. He fought for net neutrality, another one of those things Trump is busy working to disassemble right now. There was a lot more he contributed, but mostly made the national news when he was insisting on asking the tough questions of people who didn't think they needed to answer to the public.

His resignation announcement leaves a lot of questions, ones we may never get answers to. Don't get me wrong: I have few issues with the MeToo movement. It's way past time women got respect and freedom from sexual harassment and assault. Publicly shaming those who used their powerful positions to abuse women is a powerful tool and doing a lot of good. At least in the short term. I'm cynical enough to believe the lessons will fade and need to be repeated, over, and over, and over. As long as this culture predominately puts men in top positions of power, there will be those who abuse it. And no, I'm not locked into thinking only men can abuse power.

Given all that, I still have to wonder about the balance of hearsay vs. proof, of innocence until proven guilty. As a culture, right now there seems to be some magical number of women who have to come forward in order to be believed, and it varies from situation to situation. How many is the right number? 1? 2? 10? How many false claims would it take to wind up discrediting them all? There will be a false claim sprinkled here and there, possibly for animus, for fame, for money, for politics, for whatever. Everybody knows somebody who tells lies sometimes. Maybe just exaggerates, a bit more with each telling? And one lie, maybe two, can discredit a whole lot of truth tellers. How do we tell? How long do we have to wait for truth to come out? What are the costs in reputations and careers, or does it even matter for the greater good?

And how do we decide, and who gets to decide, where the lines are drawn in a long spectrum of behaviors between acceptable behavior for some, most, or nobody? Does a dirty joke do it for you? How much touching and where? When can it be an invitation for a date and when an abuse of power or an assault? Are there universal standards, and if not, why not?

Clearly we have a lot of questions to raise and decisions to make. Age is a factor but standards vary, depending on both people. An adult and a teen is a whole different couple than two similar-aged teens, but an 18th birthday can turn an affair into a crime. How much consent can be given in the presence of drugs or alcohol, and how much does it matter - or does it? - whether their usage is voluntary? What about when my clothing doesn't give the message I want to send? When does joking turn into invitation, or not?

I don't pretend to have the answers. Heck, I don't even know all the questions. I just think we need to give some thought to them as part of the whole discussion. In the meantime, changes are happening with or without that thought going into the process. I can't judge how predatory a whole lot of individual men are, without personal experience of their worst behavior. Did Franken need to step down? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. I can only say, for all the positive contributions he's made, I'm gonna miss you, Al.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Having A Little Fun Online

One of my favorite websites, one of the few I visit daily, is NASA- sponsored Spaceweather.com. I have great memories of northern lights, and nearly every day a new picture of some is posted, filling in a hole in my actual recent experiences. I learned why they have different colors, pink meaning the waves descend lower through the atmosphere to where nitrogen is more abundant.  They also show pictures of sunspots, comets, solar flares, earth from space. Warnings of anticipated CMEs are posted. This is where I first learned such a thing as sprites existed and why, not to mention pictures of this rare event. What's not to love?

A couple of days ago, they ran a picture of a full moon along with notice of the pending "Supermoon". Or should I say, "warning"?  After all, the headline started with "Watch Out For..."

I had to write them back. Of course I had to.

I started with the usual love-your-site niceties, followed by the usual read-you-daily ones. But that came after the subject line of "Dumb Headline".

I got around to wondering why they needed us to "watch out for" the supermoon? I mean, I got  the idea that it was a phenomenon, worthy of a look or two. But... "Watch Out..."?

Why? What was it going to do? Attack? Go bouncy-bouncy across the landscape? Turn us all into werewolves? Turn the full-moon loonies even loonier?

Or maybe, against all the known laws of physics, was it going to keep approaching, smashing into this planet? And if so, why bother to watch out for it? It's not as if we could do anything about it should that happen, except maybe spend a last few minutes fighting with the rest of the world for cell tower time to contact our loved ones for a final "Good-bye".

Off my email went, into cyberspace. Steve and I got a chuckle from it, figuring it would be ignored like 99% of similar emails to folks who have no clue who I am and probably care about the same amount.

But I had a reason to turn on the laptop a bit later, and found an email reply in my inbox. They changed the headline!

What's not to love?

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Another Idiot Heard From

Why do these folks always get on TV? Are the newscasters so desperate that they'll take the stupidest comment on a story just in order to have one?

The news report - the real news - was that Hwy. 17 in Arizona is the 4th most dangerous in the country, with Hwy. 4 in Florida being top worst. Nobody could bother mentioning any others. Or why it was dangerous. Or what might be done to fix it. I guess they had to save time for the idiots.

For those unfamiliar, 17 runs north/south from Flagstaff to Phoenix, ending right next to Sky Harbor Airport. It changes vertically by about 6,000 feet, with a couple low points in the Verde Valley and "The Valley", aka Phoenix. Once you are out of the greater metro area, it has two lanes each northbound and southbound, often widely separated by terrain, which incidentally cuts way back on head-on collisions.

It doesn't have to be unsafe. I've driven it many times. It's freeway all the way, so no cross traffic to watch out for. While I've seen signs warning about elk, I've never seen wildlife along any part of this road. The curves aren't sharp, the hills and valleys aren't steep, particularly for mountain driving, and the worst part uphill has added a 3rd lane for those trucks that just can't maintain speed on such a long upward haul.  Signs are many and clearly visible advising slower traffic to keep right wherever your particular  part of the roadway is climbing.

Yes, gorgeous scenery can be distracting, but one can easily watch the road, sparing the briefest glimpse periodically, or save the tourism for pullouts or exits. And commonsense - OK, rare and uncommon too often - will inform one that weekends will see heavy traffic northbound late Fridays and heavy southbound late Sundays. People find all sorts of reasons to change the ambient temperature of their surroundings, from escaping summer heat to seeking winter snow.

Of course there are distracted and impaired drivers and jerks behind the wheel. You find them everywhere. That's what defensive driving is all about. It should inform your driving patterns when and wherever you're behind the wheel. I had to take those 8-hour courses every two years for my job. Out of those 8 hours, the part that was most stressed was the two-second rule: note when the vehicle ahead of you passes a particular spot. A tree, a signpost, a discoloration in the pavement. Count off the seconds until your car gets to that same spot. If it's less than 2 seconds, you're too close for your reaction time to kick in so you can avoid whatever emergency the car ahead of you might have. Then add at least a second more distance for each of the following conditions: poor weather, sun in your eyes, ice or snow on the road, erratic driving ahead of you, whether either of your vehicles is a semi or a motorcycle. If you forget everything else you learned from the class, remember that!

So the idiot interviewed about Hwy. 17 is going on about how he can't keep a following distance between himself and the car ahead on that road because if he does, three more cars will crowd into it.
We tried that one on the defensive driving instructor back when ourselves. He reminded us that if a car moves over and fills in the space so you have to drop back again a bit, it will delay your getting to you destination by a whole ... two seconds!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

A Step Closer To Freedom

This may seem like a strange time for anybody in this country to think with any rationality that anything in their life it moving closer to any definition of freedom. And no, I'm not referring to anything on the political landscape. We're all fucked. Get over it. The only questions remaining are how much and in how many ways? I'd also ask how we could fix it, but I'm a pessimist.

No, this is a more personal kind of freedom. I managed to make the final payments on two different loans today. The car is all mine, not the bank's. The same applies to the loan I had to take out to replace the roof's AC/furnace (yeah, that's how they do it down here).

It's not just that those payments are ended. It's also that they both came due the first of the month. For most folks that is not only usual for big bills, it's expected. However, when it came my turn to sign up for Social Security, my payments come on the second Tuesday of the month. So I have to do my budgeting with the requirement that something has to be left over until the first of the next month. For me, that means checking my balance about every third day, redoing the math on  upcoming bills where the amount fluctuates once the bill is deducted, and trying to make sure there is sufficient balance to cover whatever it was I'd forgotten.

You know, like those quarterly bills: was this the month? Were taxes due? How about those community center fees? License tabs for the car? How much heat/water/electricity did we use?

 I know everybody's budget works a lot like that. The amount of a bill is announced a couple weeks before it's due. It's not supposed to be that much of a challenge. I've figured out a system to keep things flexible. Expenses that can, such as groceries, gas, clothing, go on the main credit card. All the extra in the budget goes the same place. Nearly always the total balance drops. I had planned to work that extra couple years to bring the balance way down, but, well, life happened.

 But I've been known to blythely dump all I think I have on that last bill sometime before realizing there was one extra bill, or an emergency comes up that can't go on the plastic. Life still happens. Worrying aside, I do a pretty good job of covering what and when I need to. I haven't had to touch savings for quite a while.

But now, there are two fewer bills coming due at the most inconvenient of times. The income and outgo match much better. And even better, that amount can now go towards that credit card balance, bringing me even closer to both debt and worry freedom. Somewhere in the back of my head that  Flashdance earworm is playing, "What a feeling!"

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Ancestry.com: The Plan

Steve and I had talked about this for nearly a year. Not only did we each want to research the truth and lies, if any, behind our family stories of our heritage, but wanted to share our own halves with our respective children.

I wanted to take it a step further. I can't and don't care to track down their father in order to fill in the gaps for them and their heritage. Is there really the oft-spoken and oft-denied Native American (Canadian?) in their bloodline? And with all the various conquests and immigrations across the European continent over the millenia, how different is the bloodline from the various ports of departure for these shores?

Yesterday, Steve- a much bigger internet surfer than I care to be - pointed out a Black Friday deal online. He suggested it as out mutual X-mas present to each other. Ancestry.com had a special going on, bringing their prices into our budgets. We both signed up immediately.

There is one small difference. I ordered two kits. My idea was that I do one, my daughter and keeper of the family history for her generation do another one. Then we compare the results when we get together. I'll know where I come from, and she'll not only know her ancestry but be able to sort out the paternal side. It'll be simple math. Half of all my values will be in her results. Remove those, and she'll have the paternal side.

Then we can share with our families. Yes, brother, I know you read this, so my results will be your results, and Merry Xmas! Uhhh, the results won't be here till mid January or so, though.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Ten Minute Scare

Quick background: Steve is in the hospital. After feeling various kinds of sick for 4 days, he showed what appeared to be blood in the urine. After 4 hours in the ER, it was determined to be bile. He was admitted Sunday night for tests and observation, then transferred to a surgical wing in anticipation of a possible diagnosis of stone(s) in the bile duct, requiring surgical intervention.

This morning he had some special kind of MRI but with a 4-letter acronym which I can't remember. Being kept on clear liquids was just one of many reasons for anxiously awaiting a proper diagnosis.

A little while ago he called me, my having been home at the time. He'd just been told he had Hepatitis A. While the mildest form of the disease, it can easily be transmitted by "close contact". Any way you want to interpret that, he and I qualify.

Our call was interrupted by another medical person entering the room to consult with him, so I did two things. I looked it up on the internet, then left voicemail with my own doctor to see if/what I needed to do for my own health.

Almost as soon as I hung up, Steve called back. There was new, differing information. It wasn't hepatitis A after all. BUT... we still don't know what exactly is going on with him. It's gonna be at least another day of wait and watch on their part, worry and head-scratch on ours.

Oh yeah, and I need to call back my doc's office with a "nevermind".

Sunday, November 12, 2017

To Sleep, PerchanceTo Dream

Those who study dreams have all kinds of theories about what their purpose might be, and those who don't study them have other ideas. Maybe we collate all the data from the day, sort it out, and store it in the brain for further reference. Freud had a bunch of ideas about what they "really mean" that seem pretty weird - or at least make us all seem pretty weird, and others interpret dreams in other ways, perhaps as a clue to predicting the future. Some folks claim they never dream, others claim they only dream in black and white.

I have some ideas of  my own. I buy into the idea that we remember dreams, at least for a little while, if we wake up during them, since I have no memories of dreams from early in the night when I sleep my soundest, and experience dreams that continue with a story line in ongoing pieces during those mornings where I have the luxury of sleeping in, but lightly. A problem I'm first aware of in the first of a series where I sleep lightly, wake briefly, and return to dreaming, continues to be processed  and reprocessed in further stages with each consecutive dream. Sometimes the problem actually gets solved, at least in dream logic. Sometimes I finally wake, relieved to realize it was all just a dream and I can quit trying to fix whatever it was.

Oh, and yes, I dream in color. The first I ever was aware that others might not was when I read that it was a controversy as to whether anybody actually dreamed in color. I'm not going to venture an opinion as to how accurate your memory of color vs. no color in your dreams is, or what the explanation for the difference may be. However, since everyone has REM sleep periods, I do believe everybody does dream, remember it or not.

For years I have revisited landscapes that only exist in my dreaming brain, recognizing them as they appear in each new dream. My dreams place secret mountains just west of the Twin Cities, not found on any map, but leading along a route which travels downhill through a non-existant town and across a few miles of valley to end up here. This landscape resides in the same logical system that places a tall blue glass tower on the very western edge of the metropolitan area, offering a clear view over fields and trees to a cloud cover sending five tornadoes straight toward the tower.  (Yeah, that one always wakes me up, though repetitions lose scare value since I know they're coming.)

My dreams have changed since I retired. I suspect, since they are about 90% work dreams, and there are always problems with getting the job done, that not only does my brain have some adjustments to make with that huge part of my life ending fairly suddenly, but that perhaps the job was more stressful than I let myself consciously register while I needed to continue performing it.

Maybe your stress dreams are different than mine. I've never had the standing in front of an audience in no clothes dream, or having to take a test I've not studied for. But then, speaking to a crowd or taking a test were never stressful for me. I have had the falling off a cliff kind, or suddenly facing a snarling wolf kind. While I was working, I'd often dream that my foot was on the brake but the car would fail to slow down. Sometimes it would be going forwards, sometimes in reverse. Those would wake me in an adrenaline rush, otherwise known as a nightmare.

These days the dreams I remember have me still working...  or trying to. Stuff goes wrong. First, I can't read while I dream. When I have to try to find an address, or figure which part of the world I'm supposed to head to, the writing on the page or screen is too blurred or missing completely. If my dream actually gives me that kind of information, it'll be some place I've never heard of, and I can't call in and ask dispatch because they'd fire me for being so stupid.

Other times I can't remember where the car is. Not only is it now the wrong color, likely blue or red, it's blocks or miles away from the building I'm coming out of and I have to walk for ages, some times even then finding it's not there after all. In the back of my mind during these dreams is the awareness that I can't actually walk that far because of my knees, but find myself doing it anyway. If I do find it, I don't do the smart thing and move it next to the building I'm delivering to, but take the package out and hike off again to the next stop.

Last night was a new twist. I was aware of having been working for months, all those dreams accumulating "real time" on the job, and was thinking to myself how nice it was going to be to have that income to add to my Social Security. But then I looked at my bank account and realized that there had been no money coming in from all that time on the job. I decided to head in to the office and ask why I wasn't getting paid.

I was told that all that work was only in my dreams!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Good News / Weird News

Let's hearken back to my missing the eclipse due to breathing issues. There was an undefined something on my lung on a CAT scan at the time, which didn't look like cancer, or an embolism, but maybe something viral or bacteriological. I got sent home with lots of follow-up ordered.

We know it's not Valley Fever, not pneumonia (at least in one of its usual forms), but antibiotics were prescribed anyway. Cardiac tests found nothing, a follow-up CAT scan was ordered, and I returned to my pulmonologist today  for the latest conclusions.

In all this time, the breathing has gotten only minimally better, and really acts up just after even a small meal, with enough exercise following to, say, complete a shower. On the plus side, I no longer feel like I'm preparing to pass out behind the wheel, at least so long as I'm not talking too, and driving has resumed back to normal.

Today, I heard that whatever the shadow on my 1st CAT scan was, it isn't around any more. Likely it was some infection that has since cleared up. But GONE is the good news.

It doesn't cure the issue, however. Even today, just before heading to his office, I had a light lunch followed by a shower, accompanied by ... you guessed it ... puffing, panting, and exhaustion. So our discussion went on to the weird news. I have a herniation in the diaphragm with my liver pushing up into the lung area.

No, I can't recall any injury that may have caused it. I listed previous abdominal surgeries but he wasn't thinking they were likely culprits, probably because this is recent and they weren't. This isn't something they are likely to fix surgically, though that can be done, since it doesn't seem to be a "major problem".

Going through the rest of my records, he noticed nobody had thought to order an actual breathing test, something doubly important, and on an annual basis, since I've been on amiodarone for over two years. That test is now set up for just before Thanksgiving.

That means the saga will continue.

How weird will it get?

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Halloween Memories

I don't recall much in the way of trick or treating from when I was little. Perhaps that was because we lived out in the country and neighbors didn't live within walking distance. By 3rd grade, however, we moved into a small town and I do recall going door to door. This, of course, was northern Minnesota, so not only was it very dark (still standard time before they extended it into November), but also very cold on Halloween. The typical "costume" had to fit over a winter coat, sometimes snowpants too, so an old worn-out white sheet was cut up, enough to see and extend arms, and that was it. That, or your costume went under your coat where nobody could see it, so what was the point?

Being the fifties, nobody worried about real predators or freaks who might be malicious with what they handed out. A couple years we also took out little boxes to collect pennies for UNICEF. Mom gave us each a small container for our treats. A pillowcase was considered scandalously greedy. As it was, when we got home, our parents went through the candy. It was not to protect us, other than from too much sugar over the next month. That was about how long the candy was expected to last. Or popcorn balls. Even a caramel apple or two. We didn't meet anybody rich enough to hand out whole candy bars, but you might get a little Tootsie Roll. Or Tootsie Pop.

I grew up not knowing there were people who TP'd houses or threw eggs or tomatoes at them, though I did hear stories about somebody (never somebody I actually knew) getting an outhouse tipped over. Since those had all but disappeared by then, those stories usually were told by older kids about even older perpetrators. The "worst" story I ever heard, from somebody who swore they had a hand in it, was taking fertilizer to an unpopular teacher's house and spreading it in the pattern of THE naughty word. Come spring, and for several years later, that stood out as the greenest part of the whole yard!

It's really hard to spread more fertilizer carefully enough to fill in around the letters and hide them from view in equally green grass. It's still pretty funny. For the record, I am in no way encouraging anybody to repeat that kind of mischief.

Seriously.

No, I mean it. Stay away from that high nitrogen lawn greening stuff!

Occasionally I was aware that some older kids went to parties to keep them entertained and out of trouble, and most likely to attempt to make up for the lack of a candy bonanza. As a kid, however, I never attended one.

After I got old enough to be prohibited from the great candy handouts, I stayed home and helped answer the door, the other side of the equation. Mom shopped as cheaply as she could for goodies, and other than home-made popcorn balls, there was little incentive to sneak a little bite of something for myself. Not that it stopped me.

I didn't return to trick or treating until it was time to escort my own kids around the neighborhood. They balked at the tried and true sheet ghost costume, but some years that was all that was affordable. Buy one at the store? Never! One year, however, there were inflatable plastic "alien heads" that you wore like a hat, with color-matching makeup for your face so you could pretend to be about 18" taller and spooky. The kids complained they weren't "real" costumes, but by then the child support payments had stopped and it was those or nothing, and nothing included staying home. They wore them.

Once.

Next year they were mysteriously unable to reinflate.

My favorite my-kid's Halloween memory came from one of the 3 years we lived in Georgia. It was a fairly close-knit neighborhood, lots of kids, some even friendly to us newcomers. We didn't go too far, staying where we knew people, and most likely my youngest got toted around in a wagon. From our house at the bottom of the hill to the top and back again was our route. The father of the family at the top of the hill came from the same small Minnesota town that I did. In fact, his family owned and ran a lumberjack-style restaurant outside of town which was one of the very few my parents ever took us to. Down in Georgia now, with milder weather, and Halloween becoming more of a holiday, this family really did it up good! Besides spooky decorations, Mama opened the door dressed as a witch to greet kids. We thought perhaps Daddy was escorting his own kids around the neighborhood, but apparently he found another parent to take their kids. As we left, he stalked each group back to the street, wearing a hairy gorilla suit, and shuffling and making grunting noises which passed enough for real that the kids were either entertained or scared. I heard from the neighbors that he did that every year.

Eventually trick or treating ended for another generation, other than the handing out candies part. By then we had to be careful and buy prepackaged goodies. A lot of publicity that may have been real or urban myth had parents searching every candy piece for poisons and razor blades before kids were allowed even a bite. Officially, anyway. Lots of pieces were scarfed up before returning home with the goodies despite all promises to the contrary. But no more popcorn balls, caramel apples, repackaged candy corn with other miscellaneous tiny goodies. More yard decorating was going on besides carved jack-o-lanterns with candles inside and gooey messes scraped off the table and into the garbage. Halloween was now officially expensive!

As an adult with older children, I finally had occasions to go to Halloween parties. They were held on Saturdays, regardless of the actual date, so you could still man the door at home and enforce a curfew. These were costume events, and I was into making my own. The first year, no money to spend, I wore my work uniform for my costume. I wasn't the only one to do that. The next year I bought red and black felt and glue, making a tube and pointy hat, going as a red crayon. I may have done a copyright infringement, since I copied it down to the wavy black line on a real crayon. That wasn't the part I was bothered by, however. Not only did I forget pockets, that thing was hell to get in and out of for a bathroom break!

Other memorable costumes included my belly dancing costume, made for real performances at a very amateur level, and a "blind date". These too had drawbacks. While modest, the dancing outfit gave a couple of well-lubricated party-goers the idea that touching was encouraged. Since they were complete strangers rather than friends like most of the others at the party were, it wasn't.

The blind date was something I worked hard on. I made a shiny brown long tube, gathered top and bottom and supported to hold its form by a large domed hat inside. Then I added sunglasses, lenses made from a black netting so I could see out, and a white cane, the latter borrowed from a friend who had known someone who actually used one. Unfortunately, proud as I was of it, there was a very well-known TV commercial featuring singing raisins at the time, and nobody got the pun.

These days Halloween is still fun. No decorations, other than that one house a few blocks over that packs their yard with all the lighted ones they can cram onto it, just like they over-do it for X-mas. We carve no pumpkins and roast no seeds, have no kids visiting our seniors-only community, no pranks, no parties. But we can hit the stores for bagfuls of our favorite candies just for ourselves, and make them last just as long - or not - as we want to!

For a bonus, we can watch any TV program or read any book without interruptions all night long. Or whatever.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Pain Management? Seriously?

Warning: The greater Phoenix area has two seasons: Sizzling, and Snow Birds. The latter is characterized by a wild increase in population, attended by all the microbes they bring along with them. Some of you think of it as Flu Season. Don't ever have to go to the hospital during Snowbird Season.

Why? There is no room!

Steve got booted out early this morning. He wasn't busy dying, and never mind his problems, somebody else wanted his bed.

Pain management? Are you shitting me? He got a seat cushion along with good wishes for his ability to figure out a comfy way to use it by finding a spot that didn't push too badly against his broken tailbone, and a prescription for painkillers that don't even match in strength what he's already got. And don't let the door slam you in the ass on your way out!

Especially not there!

But scram!

Lest you think of this as a one-off, this shove out the door, it's a well known phenomenon down here. Back when Steve was wintering here and I was still working back north, he had some now-forgotten reason to call our local paramedics. They stayed here in the house with him for a while, finally managing his problem without transport. They bluntly told him they weren't going to even bother taking him in unless he was dying, as the hospital had no beds available. And (Spoiler Alert!) he wasn't dying.

At least this time he got a few hours of good pain relief. He managed to actually sit in the car for his trip home, with a stop at his local pharmacy where he was informed they could have his meds ready in around 90 minutes, should he care to sit and wait. Unsurprisingly, he didn't care to.

Sit. Or wait. Not to mention both together.

Both of us being short on sleep, on arriving home we both went to remedy our situations. I'm now waiting on him to wake up for his (our) return to his pharmacy. Late as it is now, tomorrow I'm going to nag him to call his spine doctor with the request for the doctor to contact the medical records department for a copy and findings from his CAT scan, and get back to us with the info on whether they are sufficient for Steve's next month appointment or whether he needs to schedule more or different ones taken before then. I asked at the hospital if there wasn't paperwork Steve could sign before leaving the hospital to authorize them sending the results on. But nope, according to them, his doctor had to do the requesting, exactly opposite of how my records were handled after my Utah hospitalization last summer.

Color me cynical, but I can't help but wonder if nobody wanted to be bothered with one more piece of paperwork.

Ass In A Sling!

Oh, if only it were  that simple a fix! I mean, that expression had to come from somewhere, didn't it?

Yes, Steve is in the hospital, we don't know for how long. They're talking physical and occupational therapy, perhaps in some rehab center where he'd stay until they feel he can function for himself around the house again.

It began 4 days ago. There was a rather prolonged session sitting on the throne, something about a good book being involved in his ignoring the passage of time, and his legs going to sleep. He stood up anyway. Or tried.

I heard the thunk from the living room. He'd landed on his seat on a concrete floor, and, incidentally scraped his leg. So there was a bit of time spent in tracking down a pair of sturdy pillows  that would actually provide cushioning for his knees as we worked together to shift him into a position he could help himself stand from. Then bandaids, of course.

But he hurt to sit, to stand, to walk, to lie down at every angle, and to move from any one of those positions into the next. For the first day he feared he'd broken his tailbone. On the second, it seemed better, so maybe it was just bruised. Could I see a bruise there? Nope. How about the next day? Still nope.

By Sunday, he couldn't find any position comfortable, but especially not sitting. We rearranged the couch with pillows in the living room so he could watch TV, but he still couldn't tolerate more than an hour or two, even after taking fairly strong meds, which he has on hand for that day or two a month, usually, where he twists his knee or something. His doctor prescribes him a bottle and it usually lasts about a year.

By about 7:00 PM his pain was so severe he asked me to call 911 for a stretcher ride to the hospital. Now, I could have driven him, but he would have had to sit up, stand, walk to the car, maneuver into a sitting position, bounce on his tailbone for a bit over 2 miles, twist, stand, walk into the ER, be sent to sit in a chair for however along it took them to take him seriously and get him in to be seen, stand up, walk, get on a gurney, and still wait for pain relief until they had decided what was wrong and where they could fit him into their busy schedule with most of the rooms full and a waiting room of more customers looking for their service too.

I think there's a violation of the Geneva Convention in there.

Now the ride in the ambulance would have several advantages. He didn't have to move himself, the paramedics would transfer him onto a nice flat stretcher from the nice flat couch, on which he'd stay until being transferred onto a nice flat gurney. No sitting, standing, walking, sitting, etc. And one there, arriving via ambulance is the best way of getting prompt attention from the medical staff.

He still screamed when four strong men shifted him from the couch to the stretcher. I couldn't imagine having to hear that, or his attempts to muffle that, for however long it took me to drive him there. I followed the ambulance in the car.

By the way, our paramedics are really great here. After calling 911 and getting transferred to them, part of the process was giving them my phone number. I actually blanked after the 3 digit area code. So they told me what my number was, just asking for confirmation! This on top of being fast, thorough, helpful, friendly and just plain good at what they do!

He got a fairly prompt CAT scan at the hospital, which revealed a broken tailbone. At least it hadn't shifted relative to its original position. As soon as they had that information, in came the dilaudid, and something for nausea. That's the gooooood stuff!. I know. It's what I had, in a self-demand IV, after fairly extensive abdominal surgery. Nothing hurt for a week, even as I was cutting down and spreading out the dosages. Within about ten minutes, he was comfortable enough to actually fall asleep, something he hadn't been able to do much of for the last four days. About 20 minutes later, he even got another dose, and was willing to try changing his position in the bed.

In additional to the physical relief, there was the psychological relief of somebody telling him they found a real reason for what he was going through. Vindication!

They also decided to admit him for a couple days for pain control and evaluation of how he could function around the house on his own. Or whether he can even go straight home, what kind(s) of therapy he may need.

Hearing he was going to be admitted rather than sprung, he sent me home with orders to get a good night's sleep and a list of stuff to bring. Basics like his cell phone, laptop, the next book in the series he's been reading. I guess he feels like he'll be both pain free and alert for the next several days. I always figured it was an either/or kind of thing, but who knows?

Anyway, those of you who wish to contact him on his cell or Facebook should be able to do so by tomorrow afternoon. He wants me to sleep in.

That sounds good.

Friday, October 20, 2017

At Last! Back To Lapidary

I haven't been to the Club for more than a few minutes since last April. There were medical reasons, seasonal condensation of hours to times that didn't work well for me, and the emotional drag of having what was supposed to be a major project wind up showing me graphically where the gaps in my skills lay.

This month, I had required attendance as secretary for a couple of meetings, but nothing much else changed. Perhaps it can be considered on the plus side that I was no longer spinning the wheels in my brain, keeping me alert and awake, trying to figure out the next design, the best (perhaps) technique, the special project, instead of falling asleep when I wanted to rather than an hour or two later. But required attendance and winter longer hours got me started up again.

It's starting to feel good. I spent parts of two days with the grinding wheels on various rocks. Unfortunately, every one I chose to work on was either agate or jasper, both very hard, thus a slow slog. Nothing got much closer to completion.

But I was working again. And there was incentive to keep on working with receipt of a check for my share of three items that sold over the summer.

I managed to pop in for the last half of a workshop on a new way to use copper to make a bail which was also big enough to glue on the back of a stone. No more wrecked wire wrapping! In many ways the technique is similar to making bolos, which is where I started out, but hanging from a chain necklace rather than on a braided leather cord.

The slowness of bolo sales meant that I spent most of two years worth of energy in making stones without anything good looking to mount them on to wear. There are a whole pile of polished cabs sitting in a drawer waiting to go.

So today wound up being a long day in the club. I bought a sheet of copper, consulted on a few techniques along the way (one of the best reasons for going to the club, besides all the equipment), cut half the sheet into strips in a couple lengths, and sanded all the sharp edges and corners.

In case you wondered, it's not by using sandpaper, which sounds like an impossible task. Instead, the club saves old grinding wheels which have worn out on the outer circle, but if you lay them flat on the table, you have a big round flat block of surface area to move your metal across. There are a combination of techniques how to best move across that surface to make all the edges and corners smooth without ruining the flat of the copper strip.

Next comes the shaping/punching/fastening the loop part, where the final product becomes an actual bail ready to attach to your stone. Or so I thought. But somebody asked had I thought about decorating the strips, rather than having a plain flat strip which you have to polish smudges, stains and fingerprints off of.

Hmmm, work and work for something plain and flat and showing all its flaws despite your best efforts? Or, the technique I picked from many possible, hammer a design into the copper leaving it already textured and no longer so shiny, so imperfections become merely part of the finished product?

Silly question!

I saw a variety of hammered designs on sample bails and one jumped right out at me. Unfortunately, the person who'd done it, having done a variety of samples, didn't remember just which tools she'd used to produce that particular effect. She did know the technique involved a flat steel hammering surface to lay your metal on, and the technique of how to use the hammer to mark whichever design you wanted,  though not which surface of which tool was the one for this design.

The club only has about 30 hammers and uncounted punches and similar kinds of metal marking equipment. It's good that we have them all. It's just a pain figuring out which to use and how. Take a simple carpentry hammer: you can strike with about 5 or 6 different parts of the head and each will make a different dent. The next hammer offers as many options, slightly different results. And some heads are larger or smaller, some flat, some curved, some have corners, some sides have points or are flat....  There are a variety of wooden ones too, just not for this use.

It can take a while to figure which and how for your desired result. I took a couple small flat copper scrap pieces and tried different things. Not wanting to waste too many, they wound up with several layers of strike-overs. Eventually I figured it out.

Then I had to practice so the strike would both land where I wanted it - fortunately I picked random distribution instead of uniform - and work on holding the hammer head aimed vertically a little further away from me than felt natural, so I could get the right shape in the pattern, shallow oval rather than deep circular.

In addition, there was always the issue of landing on the copper instead of a finger! There is incentive to master that one quickly.

Liking what I'd done with the first strip, I decided to make all of them that way. It was so engrossing that I was still pounding away well after official club closing time. Lucky for me, several others were also there, so I wasn't kicked out, and finished all my strips. I have a zipper bag full of copper strips ready for shaping, punching, fastening both together and to a stone.

Next visit.

I'm back in the groove!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A Little Night Music

When the TV is off, conversation gives way to reading, traffic and neighborhood noises are all but nonexistent, and the weather is perfect for having the windows open in the house, that's when it's time for a little night music. At least on the nights when you are lucky. It's not like we live anywhere but in the middle of a vastly overdeveloped desert.

One can almost pretend one is the only person awake in the world, until, a mile and a half away, the oh-dark-thirty train goes by. If the pack is anywhere nearby, or better yet, if competing packs are out running the neighborhood, the coyotes start to sing. One can tell where they are hunting this evening by the direction and distance of the songs, but one has to pay attention because they don't last long.

I can always hope the music stops because the pack has scented another rabbit to rid the world of, but maybe that's just me, hating having to fence the world.

Nighttime, when you are really lucky, is also when an owl might come and sit in a tree and hoot briefly for whatever owl reasons they do. We occasionally had one visiting the big pine in the front yard. Now that the front yard tree has died and been removed, we're much more likely to hear an owl from the back of the house, presumably from a perch in the remaining big pine. If we go out to try to view it, the music stops, so we just enjoy it from the house.

This weekend I was having trouble deciding whether I was hearing "our" owl from the front or back window. I was hearing a lot more hooting and lasting much longer than usual, so I had more time to try to figure it out. It was in the usual pattern, two quick hoots, then two slower ones. In a bit, a slight difference in pitch caught my attention. On a musical scale there might have been a half tone of difference, like between a B flat and a B. Not being blessed with perfect pitch, having only fairly decent relative pitch, I am making absolutely no claim on what the two pitches were, just their slight difference.

Just as I was detecting the pitch differences, I was able to sort out that the deeper pitch came through the rear windows, and the higher from the front. There were two owls! I just closed up my book and sat and enjoyed the concert while it lasted.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Go, Learn Things

Anyone who's a fan of NCIS New Orleans knows that when Pride sends his team out, those are his instructions. Sometimes, however, it's not that deliberate in real life. A chance comment in somebody else's conversation can lead to tons of information.

And now I've got something else to explore and worry about.

One of our lapidary club's oldest and sickest members made a long-awaited appearance at our general meeting on Monday. He and his wife sat at the same table I was at. Unsurprisingly, much of the conversation before the official meeting started was about his health. It turns out that he, too, has to deal with A-fib. Only these days he has to deal with it without the benefit of the medications that keep my cardiac rhythms  pretty normal. Of course my ears perked up, particularly when his wife started talking about the toxicity of what he was, and I am, taking.

If you follow this regularly, you know about the health problems I had when Steve and I tried camping in Wyoming in order to see the totality of the August eclipse this summer, when I spent a few days finding out about the (high) quality of the hospital food in St. George, Utah instead.

I have since seen my cardiologist, a pulmonologist, and my primary, and have follow-up tests and visits upcoming with all of them. We've ruled out a number of things, such as Valley Fever. I am not having problems breathing when I do stuff, but that's probably because I don't have any energy to do anything that might remotely be considered exercise. OK, I vacuumed the house, do laundry, have changed my sheets, done some dishes. But there's a list of "haven'ts" that ought to be easy to do but hasn't been managed yet. There are small bushes to prune, and need another watering. Weeds need to be plucked out of the front yard. I need to work on lapidary stuff, from polishing rocks to putting them in settings in order to make a product to sell.

Somehow the energy isn't there. I take my bag of stuff to the club, and find myself just sitting there. I can't even quite settle on whichever next project there is to do.

OK, I know it's easy to say right off, "depression." It doesn't feel  like it. I have emotional energy, and an optimistic mood.

I have a heck of a time getting up and staying up in the morning, leading to a heck of a time getting to bed when I feel sleepy at night. Shorting myself on sleep to put things right just winds up putting me on the edge of A-fib. Not a top choice.

My cardiologist says everything is perfect. We're trying some experiments to see about cutting down on some meds to see whether and how much I can lower them without causing problems. We're on a try-this-and-report-back-in-a-couple-weeks program.

My primary - well, I'm debating switching but somehow that seems like too much work when I'm already filling out medical forms and more medical forms and.... It's not just that he's terrible about refilling prescriptions, it's that he doesn't seem to have any interest in more than one tiny detail of what's happening at a time, like he only cares about how he can write up each visit for billing. He had, several months ago, noted my thyroid levels are a bit low and I'm now taking pills for that. May I add without his retesting my lab levels? Or my A1C, or...  fill in the list.

Then there's that thing in my lung, which we have to wait till the end of this month for the next CAT scan to see what may have changed and how.

So where is all this going? Well, that table conversation, the part that really perked up my ears, was the phrase "amiodarone toxicity".  My cardiologist had just mentioned that amiodarone is the one of my drugs that he really hoped I would be able to cut down on, since it's very effective but has bad side effects. No details to go along with that statement, of course. Now here was a font of information, first-hand knowledge of the negative effects, backed by life-threatening issues, and all the time in the world to share their story. (OK, 'till the end of lunch, anyway.)

You know that the pharmacist sends every bottle of pills out with a two-page print-out of stuff to watch out for. It's always either too vague (OMG, a headache in some people?) or way too technical, and soon they all sound the same. I know to avoid alcohol,  grapefruit, and too much sunshine, but not for which drugs, and don't care anyway because those are just not me. In contrast, this conversation was hitting a few too many notes close to home. So was follow-up research online.

The toxicity can be a reaction to stressors to the body, such as surgery. (I count 5 procedures in the last 2 1/6 years, two major.) It can mess with your thyroid levels, your lungs (some technical term for damage that shows up on CAT scans), change sleep patterns....

Are you seeing any patterns here? So far my exams have been in aid of looking for horses, as they say, in the array of symptom hoofbeats. It's time to start asking about zebras, now that I know what the questions are. And I know a lung biopsy can make a definitive diagnosis. When you're spread out between three different doctors, the likelihood of any one seeing the whole picture is less. Every one can easily assume somebody else is putting the whole thing together. Throw in a couple of out-of-state docs with their own long-ago reasons for some of these prescriptions, and it can get to be a bit much. Everybody acts in good faith so who questions previous decisions?

I now also know that it can take months to clear the drug out of the system, if it has become a problem. The process involves a lot of steroids, which sounds like a whole 'nother set of battles. But I can go armed to this month's appointments with a different set of questions. In other words, go, learn things.

By the way, that friend from the club? He's had to quit both of the medications I currently take for A-fib. And yep, he's living with it uncontrolled. Day by day. Prognosis uncertain. If you are one of those who believes in prayer, send some Bob's way. Maybe just a well-wish. He's a nice guy.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Raising the Bar

The numbers keep going up. Right now, the Las Vegas shooter has a death toll of 58 and there are over 500 wounded. There is absolutely no reason to think those numbers are final.

But again, I'm absolutely sure that the NRA and their political puppets are going to claim that "now is not the time" to reexamine our gun laws. Like they said after Sandy Hook, or (_______ insert a dozen names here).

Sure, there is a Second Amendment. Most of our country doesn't know there is an introduction to the sentence talking about a standing militia as the reason for bearing arms, since we were breaking away from a powerful country overseas who sent their military over to stop that process.  They don't care to know enough history to realize the framers of the constitution lived in a frontier situation where muskets were loaded one bullet, then gunpowder, for one shot at a time. They forget we were the invaders and the folks whom we were displacing might just have had a legitimate reason to protest losing their land, their livelihoods, their very lives. They forget four-footed predators were abundant in the woods all these immigrants were busy clearing. They just hear it as carte blanche to own all the firepower they can get their hands on, including arms appropriate only for soldiers in war. And as others stock up, that means they have to stock up more.

And don't give me the crapfest about a "good guy with a gun" being able to stop the bad guy. Ask a cop. That alleged "good guy" is indistinguishable  from a bad guy and only adds to the chaos. And is your "good guy" weapon going to be any help against automatic weapons fired from the 32nd floor? You think if you pulled your good-guy weapon during that shooting you were going to do anything but get identified as the threat, get yourself killed, and delay locating the real threat? Remember, there were off-duty cops at that Las Vegas concert. All they could do was identify the direction of the threat and help concertgoers clear the area. Hooray for them, but....

Look, I get hunting. I was raised in a family that hunted deer, grouse, pheasant, geese. Delicious! There are all sorts of other animals which can be shot for the dinner table. I get skeet and other kinds of target shooting as a sport. You don't do any of it with automatic weapons, however.

I get having, or feeling like you need to have, a pistol or two for self protection if somebody breaks into your home. I do, however, lament the accessibility of those weapons to children. We'd know how many are killed and injured from unsafely stored guns in the home if there weren't laws prohibiting the study and collection of such statistics. So we just get the headlines. And these days, those injuries and deaths are so common they often don't even make the news.

Las Vegas, of course, is the only news right now. Nothing about the Russia investigation, the dire need for help for Puerto Ricans and the ignoring of them, or worse, blaming the citizens for needing assistance beyond the dedicating of a golfing trophy, on the part of our... resident of the White House. Just Las Vegas.

I'm not saying that coverage isn't appropriate or necessary. It is. But somewhere out there, some other bumfuck idiots, hearing the numbers rise, are thinking to themselves, this guy has really raised the bar. But I can do it better. I can be even more famous. I can be more important.

And they start planning the next tragedy.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

"Friendly" Planet?

I was introduced to, and immersed myself in, science fiction books back in the late '60s through, oh, somewhere in the '90s, I guess. That of course included the old masters, writing from back in the '40s and on up. I relished having my assumptions challenged by new worlds, new species, new problems and their solutions. My mind expanded. Boggled, too, but that was a good thing.

There was one theme that ran through a huge number of books I read in those days. (Perhaps it still does, but I'm into a lot of other things these days and wouldn't know.) Space travel was the big thing. We would explore and colonize other planets, grow interstellar cultures. We'd find all these other friendly planets, maybe solve an adjustment problem or two, and settle in. Or maybe a previous exploratory colony ship would hit that one insurmountable problem that nobody expected and get wiped out, leaving the next colony ship to land and figure it all out.

What fun!

These books would explore faster than light travel, or the consequences of not having it and what could go wrong with a multi-generations ship. We'd meet other cultures, figure out why they were intelligent though very different from us, make friends or enemies, and sometimes get invaded ourselves.

Underlying all these different adventures was one basic assumption, both stupid and erroneous. We'd be looking for a friendly planet, just like the one we'd left behind.

What friendly planet? I don't mean that old mathematical theory about how many billion of the right kind of stars with how many billion of the right kind of planet kind of idea. Hey, it's got appeal. I get it. But just where is this so-called friendly planet we're living on now?

Yes, I know that we've been successful at spreading our species, 7 billion plus, into nearly every nook and cranny on the globe. That means we're an adaptable species, not that we're living on a so-called friendly planet. Sure, there are a couple of things going for us. The atmosphere has a pretty decent amount of oxygen and not too many toxins in it, though we're working on that. It's got temperature ranges we can comfortably adapt to, or even not so comfortably. There's plenty of water. The other flora and fauna, for a big part, are edible enough to sustain our bodily needs.

All that is the stuff of a desirable colony planet, and way too many authors have stopped there in developing the ecosystems, weather, geography, and what have you in our supposed new homes.

But how on earth did we survive on this planet? Pretty much everything here is trying to kill us. And often does.

First, we're not stable. Our surface challenges us with earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, quicksand, too much or too little water, fires, blizzards, heat waves, extreme winds, lightning, rock slides, mudslides, avalanches... and that's just the surface.

Our food supply can be deadly, whether a poisonous berry, a nut that needs cooking before eating, a predator that wants to eat us first, or some small little snake or bug that just wants to stay alive by sacrificing a few to teach us to avoid the many. Heck! Have you noticed we haven't even figured out the mosquito yet?

That doesn't begin to cover the microscopic threats, all the fungi, bacteria, viruses, prions, and parasites whose only goal is to destroy us. Not all of us, mind you, leaving just enough behind that we can multiply again before they launch their next attack.

Let us not forget what a splendid job we are doing of killing off each other, as if all these other challenges weren't enough.

We all know all this. Yet we think of this as a friendly planet to our species. And try to imagine there are other planets out there in space that can be "friendly" homes for us?

Who are we kidding?

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Dear CBS National News,

In this part of the country, your network is doing the most complete and honest job in covering what's going on in the country. (Yeah, it took you guys long enough to get off the Trump-HaHa mindset, but that's a whole 'nother story. So did almost everybody else, finally. A bit late, eh? I trust you got the cause/effect message there.)

Right now I want to address you on your Puerto Rico post-Maria coverage. We get "both sides". First Trump is patting himself on the back, bragging about his ratings, informing us that Puerto Rico is actually an island in a huge, HUGE ocean. Really BIG.

Then you have a news team, boots on the ground, sometimes in the water, showing us what conditions are really like, talking to the people who are really affected and those trying to help them.

Thank you for that.

But that's not really what I'm writing about. I would appreciate it if, once this is back to as normal as it can be, where our fellow Americans aren't struggling (and failing) to find clean water, food, medicines, fuel, transportation, communication, once your crew has returned from telling the complete story, if you would pass along a message to them.

I understand how difficult a job this must be for them. Any human with half an ounce of empathy, any understanding of humanity, must find it excruciating to go on telling this story, when you know that you actually have food and clean water, transportation, fuel, communications, medications if needed ... and you can't share them with the hundreds or thousands of people you are reporting on every day! You have to want to. You have to feel like shit when you need to save these things for yourselves. While those around you suffer because they have not, you suffer because you have.

And that's a story that ought to be worth telling.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Doggone ... Mostly

Those of you who've been following regularly are aware that we found new homes for our dogs while we were on vacation this summer.

Yes, we miss them sometimes. We  fall in love with other people's dogs, dogs on TV, in pictures, online, but only over the short term. It's kinda like being a grandparent, loving the heck out of the grandkids and happy to return them to their parents. I even found a new breed to covet, until sanity returned again. For the record, look up the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard dog. Go through about 50 different pictures for all the coat variations and see if something doesn't hit just that note. And hey, short haired. BUT, it's a herding dog, large and active, not for geezers like us. And there would still be the feeding, training, pooper scooping, shots, barking, traveling issues....

Sigh....

Those of you who follow this also know we've just gotten a new vacuum cleaner. It's finally assembled and working, even though we still have no clue where "Tab A" is. Most of the house has been attacked by it. We're reveling in colors in our rugs that we haven't seen in years. It's taking a while because it's bagless, the canister fills up in a big hurry from all the Fred Fur, and you have to use a long skinny stick to reach up around the edges to pry out the wads of fur that cling to each other as if their very life depends on it.

Come to think of it, it probably does.

And the emptying takes twice as long or longer than the vacuuming did.

By about the fourth time across the rug, you're mostly pulling up dust, and crumbs dropped since the last vacuuming, and they drop out of the canister for emptying pretty easily. And the colors still deepen. Whew!

Now with all this attention, including moving furniture, shaking out the little rugs, hitting the hallways,  and all the other stuff that might actually qualify as a Spring Cleaning, you might think that the floors stay pretty clean now. That the Fred-bunnies are gone. That it's just new stuff to pick up. That the house cleaning has gotten simple now.

Uh huh. Sure.

I think what we have here is proof positive that all those little Fred-bunnies have been taking after their namesakes and multiplying and multiplying and multiplying and....

I think I understand now why my parents put their collective feet down and said no more pets in the house. No cats, no dogs, no guinea pigs, no nothing!

None!

Never!

No!  No!  No!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Losing Puerto Rico

What is it? Nobody cares about "those brown people"? If it's an island, it's not part of America? (Like, you know,  Hawaii, where a president born there wasn't American?)

Are we all just too worn out from Harvey and Irma? And heaven help anybody who might raise taxes on our billionaires to send assistance to Americans who have no food, water, electricity, homes, and are additionally suffering through a record heat wave? Or is it just more important to our so-called president whether athletes take a knee to protest racial injustice at the beginning of a game because he thinks it is about him?

Oh, so the airport control tower is down. How about we send in the navy with supplies and/or transportation off-island rather than put on a show to provoke Kim Jung Un? They don't need radar to land on Puerto Rican shores, and they could be doing a part of our country way more good than trying to start a nuclear war.

Every so often Puerto Rico takes a vote to decide if they want to become a state of ours rather than a territory. Or do they want independence? With this kind of treatment - or lack of recognition - why on earth would they do anything to tighten their ties to us? Heck, maybe they'll chose to join up with Cuba. At least there they would get healthcare!

And while I'm on a rant, let's turn our eyes to Flint, Michigan. Yep, they're still there. Just fewer of them. No, not from moving away, but from drinking their own water. It's been scientifically determined that not only have the lead levels highly decreased pregnancy rates, but highly increased miscarriage rates. What? Hadn't heard that? Can't be bothered with news? REAL news?

Surely you've heard for decades now about the evils of abortion. Your belief or not, you've heard that point of view. But where are all those folks who care about fetuses now, when an plan to save tax dollars is killing them off left and right, just because it costs about $100 a day to add the right chemical to the drinking water so the pipes don't corrode and leach lead into the water? More than that is spent to pay abortion protestors to carry signs outside women's clinics. Can anybody spell "hipocricy"?

Say, this wouldn't have anything to do with all those urban brown people, would it? Why bother shooting them when they run away from you if you can just prevent their existence in the first place?

Yeah, much as it hurts, I'd take a knee too.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Birthday Cause

I just sent an undisclosed amount to my daughter's Go Fund Me page.

There are a lot of reasons I'm proud of her, besides the simple fact of being her mother. She fights for women's rights in a lot of ways, just one of which is on her blog. There's more stuff on it than that, of course, just like mine is pretty eclectic. But in her case, there have been consequences.

She goes to a lot of conferences. One relatively famous attendee/ presenter is what some folks refer to as a hound dog. Apparently believing himself to be the ultimate gift to women, he pushes himself on them in whatever circumstances he believes he can get away with it.

Not all women appreciate his advances, of course. They protest, they bear witness, they talk amongst each other. Steph, in her blog, on numerous occasions, has related - aka warned - about what has been going on. It hasn't mattered to those in charge of organizing and presenting those conferences. Big Name Guy carries on ... all puns intended.

Ever heard of a Slapp suit? It's where one person/group sues another for the express purpose of silencing them. If that term doesn't ring any bells, think about terms like libel and slander. The thing is, if you're telling the truth about the bad things the other person is doing, and can prove it, the lawsuit goes away.

Mr. Big Guy has sued all those he can find who are telling others about his behavior. He's got a big pot of money. The people he's suing don't. Some days that wins the game. It's expensive to fight. Together, the suit recipients have hired a lawyer, who says them he has no case against them. But I repeat, it costs to fight.

Steph has set up a Go Fund Me page. She is asking for anybody who wished to send her a birthday present ('cause today's her birthday) or for any other reason support her cause, to send money to it. Since she posted it on Facebook,and I don't "do" Facebook, and Steve has a heck of a time excerpting something out of Facebook and sending it to me, I had him read off the URL and I wrote it down for me and whomever of you cares:

https;//www.gofundme.com/defense-vs-carrier-slapp

This is not a link. You'll have to copy-paste. We thank you in advance for your support.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Comeback

They're trying to kill all the benefits we've gotten used to from Obamacare ... again. Just because they told their constituents they would. Not because they have any  kind of a plan that's an improvement.

To further the confusion, they manage to get ignoramuses who don't understand the principles of any variety of insurance being the reliance of those who need it being supported by all the folks who don't... at that particular  moment. Your car insurance rates start at a lower payment so if you have an accident you don't have to carry the full load of replacing your car, hospital costs, liability, and what not. Of course, if you persist in driving stupidly, your premiums can rise or you get  booted.  But the whole supports the individual, and good driving can drive your rates back down again.

Homeowners insurance gets paid for by everyone even if your own house never burns down or crumbles in an earthquake or blows away in a tornado, hurricane, etc.

Health insurance should work the same way. It's there when you need it because who knows what kind of illness or accident can come your way. If we knew, who'd buy insurance? It's the unforseen that's the issue. That tree that knocks over your house may hit you too. Got the principle down?

Now, you get the ignoramuses who think health insurance should be parsed out by what they think is likely to happen to them. Like, they'll never need mental health insurance. Uh huh, sure. Not that they'd recognize it if it bit them in the ass.  But the ones who really annoy me are the ones - males, of course - who chafe at having to chip into the pot for maternity care. (Like sperm wasn't half of it.)

This is when you just look them slowly up and down, and ask, "What? You were hatched?"

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Assembly Is A Bitch

This story goes way back to 1964, boys and girls, and ends... well, maybe next week sometime. So settle in, find a cozy chair with a good spot of light, feed the critters, grab a glass of whatever,  and read on.

I'll never forget the year, since my mom complained about it so frequently. That was the year a slick Kirby salesman talked her into throwing away a whole $360-something on a brand new vacuum cleaner. I reminded her years later that she'd have spent much more on replacing ordinary cleaners over the years, and she finally quit complaining. At least to me.

I had faith in that Kirby, you see. It needed a few minor repairs over the years, mostly replacing worn belts. A few bags were needed as well, but like the pink bunny with its drum, that Kirby just kept going and going and going....

I told Mom I wanted her Kirby after she died and had no further use for it. No rush. Just staking my claim. When the time came, I announced to my brother as well that the Kirby was mine. He just shrugged. Perhaps he hadn't had my years of experience replacing worn out broken vacuum cleaners, one after the next, fighting to find room in the budget for each one. Each time it happened, I reminded my mom of how well her Kirby was holding up.

We got accustomed to a certain amount of litter on the carpets.

Once Mom died, at the ripe old age of 90, the Kirby stayed with my dad. There was still a need for vacuuming, and he had hired help to assist with the machine. And for those of you who wonder, NO, that had absolutely nothing to do with my taking him into our house for his final 2 1/2 years. Absolutely nothing!

Once Dad died, and Steve and I moved to Arizona, the Kirby came along in the moving truck. With the condition my knees were in, and the fact that by then most of our floors were uncarpeted and could be swept with a broom, the few rugs in the house were very infrequently vacuumed. The Fred fur coating them was a fairly even grey, and one could willfully ignore its accumulation. Until you couldn't anymore. Then the Kirby got dragged out and used.

Fred fur filled a bag fairly quickly. There were replacement bags aplenty, but somewhere along the line, that danged spring that held them in place got so tight, and my fingers lost enough strength, that the bags ripped each time they were changed. Then the belt, like all rubber finally must, discombobulated. I looked up Kirby stores in the area, but the nearest one, far as I could figure, was 30 miles away. I didn't feel like going there. Shopping on line, I managed to find them, but only in bags of ten. Oh well, a forever vacuum cleaner could use ten belts, right?

The problem was, over the intervening years, I had forgotten how to change one. Plus there was that aforementioned finger strength issue. They finally got themselves all straightened out, and suddenly the rugs showed colors we hadn't actually seen in years! Cool!

But then... last spring... there was a little square of hard plastic, the kind that, with opening and closing the top of a daily pill box over a couple of years, gets folded a few too many times and falls of, just so it can get lost on the floor. Somewhere on the rug. Under a chair. Right where the Kirby could suck it up, emit a partial minute of high pitched squeal, and manage, somehow, what over 50 years of use had not managed to do: kill the Kirby.

I changed the bag, since that needed doing anyway. I dug deep into memory and changed the belt, leaving 8 still in the bag hanging in the closet. I grabbed a good pliers (yes, I do actually have a good one. One. Plus a whole lot of others.) and worked it in between the roller and whatever, managing to pull the green plastic piece out, this time to throw it away forever! When I plugged the Kirby back in, it hummed. When I looked where I had been, big clumps of hair had been left behind. Turning it upside down, the roller refused to roll. Nothing was getting swept up.

Kaput.

Since it was spring and we were about to head back north, I just left the Kirby on the kitchen floor in a spot where we wouldn't trip over it while rushing stuff to the car.

Upon return, I looked one day when I had enough energy to examine it again, thinking maybe the fairies had visited over the summer, or maybe I'd just gotten smarter (equally likely), and discovered the Kirby had disappeared. Steve had thoughtfully put it away for me. I guess I had "forgotten" to tell him it was broken.

While Fred was no longer here to shed over everything, we were. There was an amazing amount of crap on the rug that we could no longer blame on the dog(s). Plus the old stuff was still there, along with the miraculous emergence of Fred fur from all the hiding places where it had been holing up during previous sweepings and vacuumings. That, or maybe I was actually right when I claimed the stuff multiplied all by itself without the need for a dog. Hadn't we been calling those clumps of fur "Fred Bunnies"?

It was time to head to the store and find something with a HEPA filter and get rid of all those allergens ... occasionally. The model we wanted was, of course, out of stock in the store. And I, of course, was out of patience. Upon returning home, I turned to my favorite online shopping-for-everything location, eBay. First thing I found, once HEPA was one of the search words, was the model from the store. Now $80 cheaper.

SOLD! Delivery guaranteed in two more days from now. Arrived yesterday.

I let it sit in its box inside the door. I knew what was coming.

Steve was all excited to see it, cutting open 77 feet of tape first thing this morning. Then there was the box fitting snugly inside the box with several other parts boxed, and those not boxed, bagged. Some both bagged and boxed.

I actually found that kinda reassuring.

Assembly, of course, was required.

I'm still not sure what language the instruction book was printed in, but once we flipped it over, we found English. (But why combine those two in particular?)

It had the usual warnings in it about not electrocuting yourself, just in case you can actually find the plug before you've read the rest of the manual. For those unacquainted with electricity, it explained that plugs come with a narrow and a wide prong these days, and it needs to be inserted into the holes in your outlet correspondingly. No, don't file down the wide side to fit. Go hire an electrician if you don't have a wide opening in your wall socket.

I wonder how many lawsuits prompted adding that bit of wisdom.

Next, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, here is your drawing and naming of the parts. We're already in trouble. It points to a tab "A", showing it in an empty space between two other parts. We can see how those two parts fit together, after all, they are the two parts of the handle (Duh), but look as we might, there is nothing either between them or on one end or another that could be remotely considered any kind of tab.

We decided to carry on, though it'll come back to haunt us, since other directions require locating and using this same Tab A. But the next directions required removing a Phillips head screw, inserting the smaller part inside the larger (though that is not how they described it), and reinserting the screw to hold both parts of the handle together.

Bet you think that would be easy, eh? This thing had the most cockamamie design since the axolotl, and after Steve fought with it for ten minutes, then handed it to me for the same, the task finally got accomplished. And please note, no Tab A showed itself at any time during this process.

After figuring out that we couldn't find a couple of pieces that needed to be inserted inside each other because they already came packed inside each other, and unlike the advertising that the HEPA filter was easily rinsed off between uses,  unless of course it was a HEPA filter which couldn't be rinsed but needed to be bought and replaced, which was probably why we couldn't figure out how to remove it for cleaning, we both decided we'd run out of patience with it for the day. Maybe two. Even three.

That's why the story doesn't end yet. The new vacuum is sitting in an infrequently used corner of the living room waiting for us to finish figuring out which parts of its assembly are still required.

And where Tab A is.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Partial Answer

So I've been to my cardiologist 3 times now. Last week was the echo, this week the stress test one day and results and discussion the next.

First, the good news is my heart is perfectly healthy according to all the tests. There have been no A-fib episodes since late spring, and those were limited to tiny flutters of short duration.

After explaining my recent issues to him, we agreed that perhaps it's as simple as a medication change. The metoprolol slows down my heart, which is necessary when it's trying to gallop down the road three miles ahead of you. It also, however, can make it more difficult  for it to respond to increased demand. You know, like a little bit of exercise. So we're going to cut my dosage to half a tablet twice a day. (In case you were wondering, it only acts for 12 hours, so twice a day keeps it in my system.) I go back in two weeks and report the results.

A possible alternative is cutting the other one, the amiodarone, in half. Since that has worked to keep my rhythm steady for two years, that alternative scares me a bit. My cardiologist likes that alternative better because amiodarone has long term side effects. So we'll be experimenting.

The best part of this is I trust him, unlike my "regard" for my primary physician.  That is in the process of being corrected.

Another possible sign of progress, not fully tested yet, is that I've gotten back behind the wheel again. It's just short stints, but it was me. The one possible glitch seems to be I can't be chatting away and drive at the same time. Maybe that's the slower heartbeat. Maybe I just can't talk and drive. Hey, I've never tested whether I can walk and chew gum either, so who knows where all my limitations lie? Maybe it's all still to be determined. So far Steve still comes along with me, in case.

We'll see what the pulmonologist has to say later this month. Meanwhile I moved some furniture this evening.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Reflexes - Or Not So Much

This happened at another birthday dinner some good friends treated us to, the day before the main event as Steve and I actually had already made plans for The Day.

What drove it home for me was the discussion Steve and I had just that morning. A TV commercial showed a man in his doctor's office, the hammer to the knee, and reflexes so strong his shoe was kicked high into the air. It's not about how stupid the commercial was. It was trying to remember how long it had  been since a doctor had actually checked our reflexes that way.

Years, for both of us. We'd both had no knee reflexes since long before our osteoarthritis had seriously set in. How did they know? And why had they stopped trying?

Back to the restaurant:

Sitting down at the table, the person carrying the tray of beverages made the tiniest of miscalculations and bumped the edge of the table rather than setting the tray on the table. Hey, no blame to him, embarrassed as he was. It happens to all of us. I can personally vouch for that on my own behalf.

What registered for me were my own reactions to the event. Imagine, first, how speedily this all happened in real time. Now imagine me reacting in about the time it takes to read the rest of this.

Oh, I heard a noise. Hmm, I guess the tray bumped the table. Hey, there are a couple tall cups tilting my way. They're probably cokes, knowing what this group likes. Oh, look, there are ice cubes floating across the table towards me on top of the coke. Hey look, it's starting to spill over the table top. The ice cubes are hitting the floor going all over. That coke is hitting my lap. Oooh, it's cold! Hmm, I didn't grab enough napkins to stop the flood. Hey, I guess I could push my chair back and stand up to stem the flow a bit. Yep, it's still cold. Look at that pattern of wet and dry on the front of my shorts. Ooh, I feel it on my ankles too. Let's see, we're not home so there are no towels to take care of this. Oh wait, there are a whole lot of napkins back where we grabbed our forks and, oh yeah, our first batch of napkins, maybe two per each of us, because who thought we'd need more? I guess I could head over there like everybody else and go grab some. Let's scoot some of these ice cubes on the floor out of the way first so nobody falls on them. Like me while I get ready to stand up. Good thing they let you refill your cups here so the two people with cokes don't have to pay for more. Oh yeah, remind the person who spilled the cokes that it's no big deal. It easily could have been me. And has. Plus I'll be dry again before we leave here.

Which I was.

And dinner was great, so an extra "Thank You" to my friends.

Pulling a Trump

I've been raised not to create a scene, particularly in a public place. Sometimes I regret that.

It was the one thing that spoiled a very nice birthday dinner that Steve took me out to on Sunday. It was our current favorite restaurant and the food, as usual was fantastic. Our server was absolutely perfect, plenty of attention without being intrusive, knowing what we needed almost before we did.

In the direction I was facing, I had a complete view of a foursome halfway across the room. My guess is they were about our ages. The meal was over, and after sitting for over half an hour, it can be difficult to get knees and hips working again, not to mention with anything resembling grace.

We know about that. That's us too.

The presumed husband of the 1st pair slid out of their booth first, waiting for his female partner to work her way across the seat, stand securely, and start walking towards the restroom. Needless to say, there was none of the fluidity of a 20-year-old in her movements.

He let her precede him down the aisle, ostensibly a show of good manners. But there it ended. As he followed, by exaggerating her movements, he mocked her every infirmity, eyes on his male tablemate who was his primary audience. He apparently thought he was hilarious, and his cohort did nothing to disabuse him of this idea. He reminded me of nothing more than Trump's mocking of the disabled reporter during his campaign.

I run through the excuses in my mind: I was too far away. I wasn't spry enough to get up quickly and and approach him to chew him out, something starting with, "Hey, Asshole!" or similar. I wasn't skilled enough to lay him out on the floor - a major temptation, let me tell you. The restaurant was too noisy for yelling my contempt across to where he could hear it. Same with yelling over to his compatriot challenging him as to whether he actually thought his "friend" was funny.

I do feel fairly confident that, had I been the woman mocked and caught him at it, I could have turned around and "accidentally" stumbled into slamming a knee into the "wrong" location. After all, none of those parts were anything he was likely to get to use in the near future.

Feel free to define "near" as anywhere from 6 months to ever. And I could easily blame it on the clumsiness he'd been demonstrating to the world so entertainingly on my behalf.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Still Waiting

Still waiting... like many parts of the world. Not for earthquake reports, nor strength and paths of 4 sequential hurricaines, nor body counts of any of them, though I'm waiting for those too, and they help me keep perspective. It's not even that I'm waiting for some actual rain, especially when most nights we get spectacular lightning shows, haboob warnings, and watch weather pass on every side of us but overhead.

I'm waiting for my stress test Monday, of which I won't get the results until Tuesday. Still waiting for the results from my new, local pulmonologist, whom I don't even meet till the end of the month. Then again, that's pretty quick for getting in to see a specialist, unless it's one you meet in the hospital. I've already done that. Not too satisfied with, "We can't find anything to treat you for so go home."

I'm waiting to meet my new primary physician, after the former one (who still thinks he's my current one) excuses failing to refill my prescriptions by laughing it all off with - and I quote - "Do you have any idea how many faxes we get in here each day?" Let me give you a tip, Doc: it's about to become a bunch fewer!

I'm still waiting for some way to do a little exercise - and I do mean little - without running short of breath. And still waiting to feel secure enough to get back behind the wheel again without fear of getting ready to black out. Yep, that's still happening. It's not an altitude thing. I made it two miles last time, before deciding that Steve is our driver for now.

And he's still waiting to get his appointment with his new spinal surgeon for what is likely to be fusion of a couple of discs so he can get off the drugs which make it illegal to drive, without really knocking out the pain, especially when he hits the meerest bump in the road.

So good thing there's great TV on right now to help us distract ourselves... oh wait, there's not. Well, then, good thing there are so many books to read in the house to distract us from, say, worrying about getting to appointments safely and legally, and we're not taking so many pills that we can't concentrate on the words on the page.  Oh, wait, Steve can't do that either right now. I can, and just finished that oh-so-cheery book about a Jewish woman hiding her identity to survive in Germany during WWII. Great book but now I need something a little less edifying, like, say, Judge Judy, where the idiots do a little less harm to each other. After that last book, it gains a certain appeal.

Hey, it's something, while we're still waiting....

Then there's still waiting for the first great-grandchild. Her pictures are adorable. Where does her tiny Mama find all that room?