Tuesday, June 20, 2017

We Have A Plan ... We Think

As everybody by now should know, there will be a total eclipse of the sun over a large swath of the US later this summer. Neither Steve nor I have seen one. I want to, and I found a way to drag him along.

Now, forget motels. I asked at the front desk of one we stayed in on our way up to Minnesota whether, as they were close to the path, they had been getting a lot of reservations. A lot? They'd been full up by the end of the day its path had been announced last year! Hmmm, I guess not the way to go for us.  Another friend had checked a community they wanted, found a single room left in the whole town (!) in a Motel 6 for the night, but for $400! They passed on that one. They can leave a whole lot of lights on for ya at those prices!

Being neither early planners not millionaires, we needed another plan, or to just give up entirely. I wasn't ready to give up. I developed a plan, figuring how to entice Steve into going along with the idea. Just add sentiment... and fishing!

Sentiment boiled down to a  favorite location, one filled with happy memories. (No, I'm not going to tell you where that is! We're hoping for a little breathing room.) In this case, the location involved includes a pair of his favorite fishing rivers, so cross those both off with no effort.

So what's the catch? I mean, other than starting to head back home earlier than usual, and seeing family for a shorter time than usual, there had to be a catch if I had to put in a bunch of work to bring Steve along on a trip  he wasn't particularly interested in to see an event he was fairly indifferent to, right?

The catch is the plan involves camping! Yep, that's right, these two old geezers are going camping! In a tent! In sleeping bags! I doubt I need to explain to you just how unlikely we thought that would ever be for us again. Heck, even RVs were both out of our price range, and required skills and abilities we don't have. (Think crawling underneath to hook up and empty the grey water and black water!) Steve actually talked somebody into taking the old RV off our hands last summer because it was so riddled with problems and bad memories that nobody in the family ever wanted to use it again. Free was the right price for the new buyer, and we see it all spiffed up sitting across town ready to find its next adventure, so we guess everybody is happy.

This is a plan that takes a lot of putting together. Start with the tent. There's an old one in the basement needing to be checked out. Had mice gotten in? Mold? Poles bent? Zippers working? Was it tall enough to stand in? And even if all those things were perfect - which they were - could the two of us in the middle of nowhere put it together? Richard hauled it into the back yard, figured how it worked, and then spent about an hour working with us to make sure we could manage it ourselves. We’re fairly confident. Not totally. Our route has us arriving at the campsite with a full half day to try to work any kinks out.

Even the best tent is no good if we can't get off the ground in the morning. So off to the store for two new airbeds. We got the kind that inflate to a height of 22" off the ground, and have lots of inner support so it wouldn't just roll over while we're trying to get up. They came with inner pumps which worked off the cigarette lighter of the car, and we tested both of them, up, down, carrying weight, comfort. Back to the store for a couple long extension cords just in case we couldn't get the tent close to the car. Or was it if we couldn't get the car close to the tent? We're not sure once fully inflated that they'll go through the tent doors, so we have to inflate them while inside.

Both of us had great sleeping bags last trip, so those had to be checked for mold, mice, zippers, etc. They passed. No air pillows, though, so put those on the list. Plus a pair of ugly pillow cases.

Now great as those sleeping bags are, we could easily be looking at snow for some of this trip. August? Really? Yes. We’ll be at some elevation, and for comparison, Yellowstone just had snow a few days ago. If that doesn’t convince you, consider my very first camping trip to Yellowstone with my kids, ’85 if memory serves, near July 4. I was naive enough to think I could just drive up to the entrance and get a camping spot, no reservations. Of course you snicker! The thing was, it worked. 8” of snow had fallen just a few days earlier, driving all the wimps out of the park. It had  just now melted, and we had a hundred or so sites to choose from! What that all comes down to is we’ll be packing a bunch of extra sweats to sleep in or whatever, just in case.

For the two of us geezers, sitting comfortably is an issue. Fortunately, each of us has a Coleman's steel frame and canvas folding chair with a folding little table, including a cup holder for either beverages or bug spray. It's the only chair we've found that both supports our weight and isn't so low we can't climb up out of it. The table is small but will hold a book or lunch. (More on those later.)

Last time we camped in this location, the campground had been left abandoned. The outhouses still were safe to use, as were the picnic tables, but we have no idea what we'll find now. Plus, if the campground is full, we may have to select a spot in a meadow near the river and set up camp there. Either are allowed, and the price is free. We just need to prepare for lack of amenities. And we hope to avoid difficulties with crowding by arriving a full week before the eclipse.

The outhouse issue will be solved with a portable camping toilet, plumbing free. So far I've only found them online, but that's my perfect way to shop. The toilet is a 5 gallon sturdy plastic bucket, lined with a heavy gage plastic bag, topped with a plastic seat and lid combination that snap tight. Extra bags are available, of course, and the trick to using them without spills or stink is not just the assurances of the seller, but adding a small amount of clumping cat litter. They even come in their own little but tall tent for privacy. Not sure where we'll find an acceptable place to drop all our garbage, but we'll locate something, somewhere.

While researching camping toilets, I read a little Q&A about one. It included the query as to whether the seat was comfortable enough to sit on for an hour and a half? The answer was that nothing is that comfortable,  and referred the questioner to their doctor.

The other garbage will be food garbage. Now make a note: I am putting my foot down and declaring that this is my vacation too. That'll make it a first in ... forever! NO COOKING! Which carries over to no dish washing, no menu planning, etc. It doesn't mean starving, however. I went online and ordered 2 cases of MREs. Each has enough calories to last a day, is sealed off until opening so bears and raccoons don't sniff them out and try to ransack your camp, and each meal is different from the others in the case. Back when Paul was in the military, he brought some cases home and I helped eat them. It's not a sacrifice ... for 12 days. And those little tables on the chairs will be up to the task for mealtimes.

An FYI: as now-Arizonans, we are very used to carrying around plenty of water. There will also be extra room in the car, because next week the dogs both go to foster homes through a marvelous program called MARS, while they await their new forever homes. Both will be with families, not in shelters or kennels, which makes it emotionally much easier on both of us.

We have no idea if we can nail a campground site with a fire pit, but we've got a hatchet, just in case. Oh, and fire too. If we can't, dark happens for us when it does for the other critters. We'll be about 20 miles from any electricity, so no kindles after dark. Paper books and daylight reading only. But as the world darkens, those who remain still and quiet can get treated to the sight of the local elk herd coming down the mountain for their evening drink at the river.

Yes, there'll be a flashlight for finding the toilet, whichever and wherever it may be. I have considered getting another Timex Indiglo watch, though I'm not even certain they're still made. It worked well enough my last camping trip there. In a black world, it's a beacon. Just not enough of one to kill your night vision so you can still stop and look up to see the most spectacular view of stars available. It's also got the advantage of being literally at the end of your arm so you needn't hunt for it in the dark.

We’re hoping to find an easy-assemble screen tent, both for shade and bugs, while we relax. Back to the basement. But this time, the old one has nothing easy about the assembly portion of the job. Another search online, no clue of the results.

On The Day Of, the plan is to wake early, drive about 30 miles, and find the best eclipse viewing spot we can to pull over and park. I also figure it'll take a couple hours for the area to clear out again, so there's no thought of breaking camp that day and heading out ourselves. One last night on the trail, then head for a motel. I'm sure an actual shower will rival the heaven we've spent a week in.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Trip To Prison

Those of you who know me well are aware that an extended family member is in prison. Most summers when we hit Minnesota Steve and I go visit for a few hours. It's contact visitation, so we can exchange hugs, talk all we want (provided rules of common civility are observed), play board games.

Last year that changed. I'd just had my knees replaced, and knew they'd set off the metal detector. So I called their main phone number and asked what I needed to do to gain admittance, explaining my new titanium knees. I was blithely informed that I could tell them what the case was, show my scars if necessary, they'd wand me to verify the metal was inside me, and pass me through for the visit.

Boy were they full of bull****! When we arrived, I was denied entrance. I talked myself blue informing them I'd inquired from out of state, and gotten this nothing-needed response. They didn't care, and treated me like either an idiot or criminal. By the end of that discussion, I'm sure they were as happy to be rid of me as I was pissed to be kicked out.

What, I wonder, did they think I was about to do? Cut my knees open and pull out drugs? A file to work through the bars? A shiv? I mean, seriously, guys? There wasn't already enough pain in the replacement process? So I went back to the car, none too amenably, and sat there while Steve had his visit. I told him to take as long as he wanted, as I had my Kindle along, and there were restrooms in the public part of the building. However, I'm sure he hurried through the visit with me in mind.

He drove up alone for his second visit of the season.

Keep in mind that had I been given the correct information, the two necessary pieces of paper were on file in Arizona, and would have fit easily in a pocket of my baggage.

I brought them this year. They photocopied them for future information and returned them to me for any future need. Probably if I need to fly, or pass some metal detector, or whatever. Who can tell? Everybody down in Sun City knows what those two scars mean. We who have them compare notes, much like new mothers compare birth experiences. Apparently others are perfectly capable of finding more nefarious causes for them.

While I still maintain those people are complete idiots, today I enjoyed a couple hours visit in a prison. And even more, appreciated leaving!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Where Did It Go Wrong?

It was supposed to be a loving trip down memory lane. PBS first aired a Peter Paul & Mary special, then an hour of folk oldies M C'd by the Smothers Brothers. These were the anthems of my teenage years. Folk, peace, love, ending wars, with some great classical thrown in. There was no rock, just idealism and humor on my record player. (Hey! Look it up, whippersnappers!)

It started to feel wrong tonight. At first, I put it down to all those songs that got missed, even though a pledge drive or two couldn't possibly have been inclusive. Then it began to feel like I was left out, so many songs I didn't know, still don't. Since everyone else seemed to, a "should" crept in there, pointing out the gaps and holes. But even that didn't explain it.

What finally emerged was failure. My failure. I believed in all that idealism back then. Of course, I was too young to be allowed to march for civil rights, the wrong gender to get caught up in the Viet Nam War, even though my brother was. All that idealism had no place to go, I tell myself.

So it went nowhere. Just got incorporated and buried. Life went on. There was some college, but without a real goal, got swapped for a marriage "because he needed me", and I needed to be needed. I disappointed my parents, despite - or perhaps because of - years of hearing I wasn't living up to my potential.

No clue what I was to do with that message, however. I was good enough at everything, so no one thing stood out. Life kept happening. There were the kids, putting up with a bad marriage until I finally couldn't anymore, struggling to be a single parent while at the same time putting my own head back together. There was no sense of living up to my potential in anything, nevermind being able to identify what that might have been.

It wasn't whatever all those idealistic messages had been however. There was no sense of making the world a better place, just recovering from what it had dished out. And no fooling myself about my failures along the way. There were no grand schemes, no noble causes, no big contributions in the rear view mirror. The world wasn't a better place for my having taken up a place in it.

Perhaps it's all just an age thing. The body is too old, has too many reminders of what can't be done anymore, carries around too heavy a pile of disappointments in what wouldda/couldda/shouldda beens. Too many years wasted, or at least falling far short of whatever it might have been. It's hard to carry around all that unfulfilled potential.

Songs like "Blowing In The Wind" stir it all up again. I can't help but ask, "Could I have made a difference? THE difference?"

Did we perhaps all fail?

Is that just how the world cycles round?

Or is that just another way to be able to sleep at night and continue on?

Monday, June 5, 2017

So The Motels Wanted Critiques!

My email box has been filling and refilling daily with motel requests evaluating our stays there. I finally bothered with two, our best and worst.

Anneth Lodge in Cortez was our first and best night. It's single story, modest, and if you're skimming along the main drag looking for big and fancy, you could miss a real gem. (Hint: go for the address, 645 E. Main. Don't miss it while you enjoy the view of snowy peaks lit by the sunset as you roll through town.) Inexpensive and dog friendly - defined as dogs stay free unless they damage something - it gave us our best night's sleep of the trip. Climate control worked perfectly, unlike our worst stay. The front desk had practical information on touring Mesa Verde so we could  judge our stay and be getting back before the local food joints closed. There was a grassy area for dog walking, a treat for them after months in Arizona with no grass. We didn't bother with Wi-Fi or TV because we were tired and there for sleep, and that's almost never what I rate a motel on anyway. If there's time for  bedtime TV, we haven't enjoyed local attractions or driven far enough to get where we're going. All the connection beyond phones we want with the outside world is for upcoming weather, and ten minutes of the TV weather channel in the morning in every motel I've stayed in has served that need while I dress and have coffee.

The room was easy for both of us to get into, no stairs anywhere and a slight ramp off the parking lot on our end, always important these days, and more so as years pass. If you're looking for a good solid sleep, try this one.

Our worst night was immediately following, Motel 6 in Pueblo. That was the one with no AC after a hot day, and no real fix for it, other than sitting awake for periods during the late night with the door open so the evening air could cool the room enough for the next couple hours of sleep. I wrote in more detail about that in my previous posting, but we'll never go there again. As far as we are concerned, sleep is what a motel is all about, and if you can't get that, why are you there?

When it came time to fill in their online questionaire, snark was the name of the game. I can do that well. The silliest part was they promised to post it. At least Anneth only offered to post it after their committee reviewed what I wrote. I guess they are smarter in lots of ways.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Hi Points, Low Points

We arrived safe and sound. Mostly. Steve's arthritis hit his hands so hard that I wound up doing most of the driving (no biggie), and the final day of the trip I sunburned both arms through the rolled up car windows. Yes they still hurt. Actual aloe jel  - the pure stuff - helps briefly.

The dogs managed the trip pretty well too, though Fred Bassett, at 9 or so, is finding it increasingly difficult to jump up into the back seat of our low-slung hatchback. This from our already Miracle Dog, adopted from a shelter after somebody turned him in after an apparent road accident where both his pelvis and one leg were fractured. Once he'd healed, Steve had been told he'd never do stairs, but he's managed pretty well to make it onto the living room couch all these years. It finally took his "Magic Word" to get him into the car, after I decided his heft meant I couldn't help him in either: "Milk Bone!" You just better have one on offer for him after using the phrase! He gets down pretty well on his own, but there's usually a lot of incentive from his bladder at the time. We do see an occasional limp, however.

His problems brought us to a decision we'd been discussing for months now. The time has come when we will no longer be dog owners. Bassets are notorious for bad backs, and if we keep traveling with him, that will be much sooner than later.

Ellie, on the other hand, is still frisky as can be, but since Steve and I have decided to do more traveling while we still can,  having any dog still presents issues. Ellie's early history of abuse leaves her with residual issues that also make her a special needs dog. She has severe abandonment issues. We can leave her with Fred for short periods, but if more than a couple hours she can get very destructive. And no, you CAN NOT pop her into the car and bring her along everywhere in Arizona. They arrest you for that. Also, since her early abuse involved being left for long periods outside the house in a wire crate, she absolutely will not tolerate any crate to this day. She is so frantic to get out that she works to dig through until her paws are bloodied. So again, a solution for a "normal" dog is not one for her.

When I got her, those issues were not problems. I was close to retirement, in a household of people with varied schedules which left her getting constant attention. Once retired, I was able to give her that attention nearly all the time. She makes a great lap dog, a wonderful guard dog both around the house and yard, and on her favorite corner of the bed, appropriately facing out to take on all comers. If everybody was sleeping, she still had Fred for company as he also had the run of the house at night.

But with all of it taken together, we decided on the trip up that the time had come for new homes for them. Our ideal, of course, would be home, singular, but we're realistic. I can only hope Ellie's new home is not with some know-it-all who believes a crate is about good behavior and not about the torture it would be for her. I'd rather see her put down than face that, but our favorite vet will not get involved since we can't point to some physical ailment to say this impairs quality of life.

The trip was about more than the dogs, especially the first two days through Colorado. Our always first stop, if our route leaves it at all possible, is at Four Corners where the best - to us anyway - fry bread around is to be had. Steve's history there goes back to when he was in high school and his much littler brother and parents were on a trip. Steve placed himself so he covered all four states at once, bent Max over his knee, and had his parents shoot a picture of a mock spanking in four states at once! Now, no spankings, not even any kneeling, just fry bread.

We made it up to Cortez for the night, checking in early so we had plenty of time to visit Mesa Verde and get back. Our original plan was to see a bit around sunset, and head back for more pictures in morning light. Luckily we went to the "Palace" first, since the trip just to the main overlook  for it with cameras and dogs managed to both awe and thoroughly wear us out. Leaving we spied a coyote leisurely strolling down the road toward us, but even the dogs were tired enough to forgo going ballistic like they usually do in our back yard when one passes. We returned to our motel room, where even considering losing an hour in local time, it was well before our usual bedtime, and were more than ready to hit the sack. None of this midnight stuff for us! In fact, no reading, not even any TV!

Our goal for day 2 was to hit Pueblo. We already nixed a return to Mesa Verde, agreeing it was a great idea for 30-year-olds. Not us. We did, however, detour for Chimney Rock. Nothing much to see there that you haven't already seen and with better views, approaching from the west. At least it was free.  We could have gotten out for a hike, but....

Driving through the San Juans was glorious. Verdant valleys, snow capped peaks, ranches, flowing streams, cattle and horses. For a mountain road it was one of the easiest driving I'd done in years. I've had my fill of white-knuckling switchbacks, thank you very much.

After passing several Forest Service roads, usually with signs letting us know one was there about three seconds before the turnoff while tailgaters were hot on our behind, we finally found one with a safe access and took it. It's one thing to pass beautiful country at 60 MPH, quite another to get up close and personal. I don't guarantee this was the best possible road of the all choices, but it had everything we could possibly want along it.

About a hundred feet in, a private road with a wide turning spot before the locked gate was on our left. PHOTO OP! Below us spread a meadow following the gravel road curving down to a quiet, reflecting lake, a tiny cabin roof just showing above the drop to the lake off to the side. Rising up the other side were a patchwork of bright green meadows and deep green pines, repeat repeat, until above the treeline craggy rock peaks held traces of the last of the spring snow, topped off by scattered clouds in a sunny blue sky. Beautiful as this was, it still was almost ho-hum until the wind started to gust through the pines. All too often the picture has to wait for the wind to die, but this was pine pollen time, and thick clouds of yellow were lifted and carried off  leftward with each blow.

When we were  finally satisfied with every possible permutation available through our shutters, we jockied the car around to head further up the road. There were a few homesteads along the way, until finally we reached where the madly running creek crossed the road we were on. It was narrow enough for a single land bridge, so we very carefully made sure stopping both before and on the bridge were safe for the pictures we wanted. I shot out the driver's side, enjoying how the current lifted over a couple sapplings lying in the water before noting that I was actually shooting through a broken railing in the bridge itself. In fact, on my side there were two breaks! Luckily the bottom planking looked secure.

Live and dead trees mixed, and both Steve and I have a fondness for weathered grainy wood, These were nothing as spectacular as the gnarly corpses back at Mesa Verde, but still worth a few shots. My favorite live tree shots, now that we were way past the blowing pollen, was at a pull-off, where a single spruce stood festooned with reindeer moss, or at least it would be called that in the BWCA. It stood next to the upper part of the creek whose narrow bridge we stopped at, only this time there were many more obstacles causing whitewater, and a wide space allowing a reflecting pond before the water headed out on its way.

We thought we'd taken enough time here, considering how much journey remained for the day, and turned back. A Forestry Ranger pulled up next to us in the one spot on the road wide enough for two vehicles, and we had a ten minute conversation on sights to be seen, where everyone was from, all the usual. He was heading back further up the hill where a small herd of Bighorns were grazing earlier that morning. Tempting as it was, we decided the likelyhood of any being still there were nil or fewer, and proceeded back to the highway.

After that pulloff, the rest of the day was just driving, by comparison. Sure, snowy peaks, clouds dropping small showers, fields and forest. The closer we got to Pueblo, driving east, the flatter it all got. We easily located our Motel 6, had pizza delivered, and suffered through our worst night of the trip. Our elevation was low enough that the day had gotten hot, and we had the -apparently only - room in the place with no air conditioning working. A call to the office promised a repairman. First thing in the morning! Or we could haul all our stuff up to second floor! Uh, hello, there was a reason I'd specified either handicapped or first floor! She couldn't manage to convince me that our comfort mattered to her.

We wound up keeping the dogs on their leashes and having the door to our room open once it cooled down. Not the safest feeling, but... After dropping the room about 10 degrees, and being exhausted again, we locked up until about 3 AM when apparently the heat even woke up the dogs. While Steve took them on a generous walk to cool the three of them down, I sat up with the room door open to collect as much coolness as possible. We made it through until morning. That's another motel on our "Never Again" list.

The last two days were driving, driving, and sunburn through the car windows. We did spy another coyote, two dozen turkeys, one live and two roadkill deer, and several bits of highway hamburger. Just after crossing into Minnesota, Steve was pointing out a towed boat with two vertical posts used for shallow fishing to keep the boat from swinging around at anchor. Before he managed to explain their purpose, the trailer, on our left, blew out a tire, throwing rubber all over. Despite the traffic, I managed to hit the brakes soon and hard enough to allow it to cross in front of us onto the right shoulder without causing any further damage, to themselves or others, so far as we could see before starting up again. Steve thinks they lost the wheel too by the time they stopped.

Our trip, at least, was safe! Maybe tomorrow we'll start to unpack.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

New Sighting

I've heard about them from the neighbors ever since we moved down here. Of course I believed them. They had to  be more than just another urban myth. After all, it took a couple years for me to spot actual tarantulas out in the desert, over a year to see coyotes in the neighborhood, and until a year ago to see a javelina. And while I've still not spotted scorpions or rattlers down here, my reaction is not disbelief, just gratitude.

I love watching the various doves, finches, owls, hawks, and especially the Gambels quail with their little topknot black feather. I even feed them, waiting till spring to attract parents with babies. This year the home baby count was one family with a single, likely day-old chick, and another with 4, either 2 or three days old. Unfortunately the baby quail sighting was limited to a total of about five minutes in a single day.

Too many predators, I guess.

But the bird the neighbors have raved about is the peach faced lovebird. I finally spotted one this morning, while doing a bit of yard cleanup before summer. It sat up on a wire, studying me as I studied it, though I'm sure I'm the only one of us who was regretting that the camera was all the way through to the opposite end of the house, charging. Perhaps my inactivity upon finally spotting one became boring to the lovebird, as it flew off elsewhere, leaving me to finish my cleaning.

In case you can't look one up - though if you have enough internet connection to be reading this, I can't imagine why - think small parrot slightly larger and fatter than a parakeet, emerald green throughout the body though pictures show some royal blue if you get closer than I was, a tiny white parrot's bill, and a black eye set in a face and throat ranging from peach to rose, depending on the bird.

Native to southwest Africa, it is believed some kept as pets escaped their cages in the Phoenix area and found a habitat well suited to them, including roosting spaces in old woodpecker holes in saguaros. They have been spreading throughout the greater urban area, possibly due to plenty of water sources though they are adapted to dry areas, and an abundance of seeds either from everybody's landscaping or the very popular 20-pound quail seed blocks that folks like me set out.

Either way, I count myself lucky to have seen one.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

AWWW, Another X-mas Tree Denied

Yep, Christians are under attack in this country. Uh huh, sure. Boo hoody hoo. They're so-o-o forced underground with their beliefs. To be "forced" to wish 'Happy Holidays' instead of 'Merry Christmas' because all good Christians know that there are no other holidays, religious or secular, happening at that time of year... scandalous!

It's not enough that all the stores in the country set up decorations and special sales even before Halloween half clears the shelves. Not enough that lamp posts are festooned and cables high over streets are decorated in greens and lights, not enough that every mall has a Santa and elves for photo ops. Not enough that houses up and down the streets hang lights and inflate snowmen and Santas and reindeer, poke candy canes and stars and blond angels and fake packages in holes in their lawns, competing with every other house in the city for the most garish display and the biggest waste of power ever ever, as if any of that makes them holier than their neighbor because we all know it's a competition and the richest, most ostentatious one wins.

Hey, if a church wants to put a creche on their lawn to illustrate the story of their particular belief, goody for them. That's the proper place for it. I'm not about to haul them aside to quote the forgotten commandment about no graven images. Not my place. And after all, how many of the trappings of Christianity actually follow the principles of Christianity anyway? Was there a decorated tree in the manger in Bethlehem? Did Santa squirm his was down the chimney, not to mention the advisability of even having a chimney for a fire in a building full of straw? Did the shepherds make candy canes? Were the gifts of the wise men wrapped in pretty papers with curly bows? Did the angels smite unto death all who didn't believe the exactly proper way about what happened and what all it meant?

So despite the ubiquity of silly celebrations of Christmas, down here in Phoenix land there is yet another attack on Christmas. Or at least that's one interpretation of what's happening. It's not mine.

First, keep in mind two immutable things about this part of the world. 1:  There are mountains scattered about within our metropolitan area. Used to be they pretty much enclosed the area, but we've grown.  2:  This is a desert. It's made of rocks and tinder. If you want to argue with that last term, consider the amount of rainfall it takes to first, grow a tree or suchlike, and second, the amount of water it takes to decompose a tree or suchlike. See the first sentence of this section. We don't have it.

As a result, any trash you drop, stays. Wind may relocate it, but until the sun degrades it, years on, it's still here, somewhere. All our city parks, generally designated to be on mountaintops where it's just too damn difficult to haul construction materials up that high, and also too damn high to pump water that far, but not too high to keep an endless supply of athletically endowed but often intellectually challenged people from heading to the top, have their own unique set of rules.  By unique, I mean something beyond the usual ones of tell somebody else where you plan to go and when you plan to return, take plenty of water, stay on the trails. You know, the seemingly obvious. We've had to add that you will pay for your own rescue off the mountain.

At least we don't make you prove solvency first!

Unique rules, for example, say dogs are not allowed on the trails, or what passes for trails, once the temperatures reach 100 degrees. Yes, there are folks both stupid and cruel enough to ignore those signs. And no, you can't leave them in your car while you head out, either. I'm not sure if not playing with the local wildlife, like the Africanized bees, scorpions, gila monsters or rattlesnakes are rules, but they should be. And we're fussy about whatever you take in, you pack out.

Which brings us back to Christmas "persecution".  For over a dozen years, hikers have been carrying a decorated X-mas tree up to the top of Camelback mountain, to leave there for weeks, and then haul down again. Well, mostly, anyway. Winter winds do blow. Ornaments get fastened loosely, as if the tree were inside somebody's home with the breezes limited to what emerges from the HVAC system.

I bet you can guess how much of what goes up actually comes down. You might even have an idea of just how dangerous it might be to retrieve something that's blown just... over.... Oops! So the city is working to prevent the placement of another X-mas tree on top of Camelback. I bet you can also guess just how many folks who believe themselves to be well-meaning are fighting that prohibition.

Me? I'm with the city. Put that damn tree in your own yard! Better yet, in your own window, letting your personal message shine out into the neighborhood without your personal mess joining it! And let the mountain stay a mountain. You know, just the way whichever deity you believe in, or don't, intended it!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Just When You Think It's Over...

The day finally arrives: Stent Removal!

It starts out pretty lazily, the appointment not being until 4. Yes, I know I'm supposed to keep drinking a lot, but it's difficult to force myself. Every movement means a new pressure against the stent, a new poke. More pain. Weeks ago, what is seemingly months ago, it was just a spasming reminder of something there.  My body didn't like it, but it was nothing like it is now. I tell those who ask that it only hurts when I move around or I'm sitting still.

They look at me funny.

I don't add that I think now I know what The Clap feels like, a burning every time I pee. It's a bonus.

I take what I hope is my last percoset in a long while, early enough in the morning that I'm legal to drive myself to the appointment. Steve has cards tonight, and one thing or another, mostly me, has kept him from going lately. If he feels up to going, I don't want to spoil it for him. If I need a driver, I can still pop another pill. Or is it that if I need another pill, I can still get a driver. Cause and effect is sometimes getting lost here. Like time. Has it already/only been how many weeks?

It turns out I don't grab another pill. Not then.  Not wanting to offer them any chance to figure out a reason to cancel this one on me, I show up to my appointment 45 minutes early, carrying purse, kindle, paperwork with complete address, jar of dried bits from the filter, and disc from the x-ray. Hmmm, maybe I should have brought a bag, too. There is an open seat next to a magazine table, so I take advantage of that space. Over the next minutes, the crammed waiting room empties out. I'm the last patient.

Maybe they even stayed open late for me.

According to the hand-out sheet on my chair with my clothes afterwards, they're supposed to ask me whether I've had my antibiotic pills as scheduled. They don't, but I'm not going to protest, since I have taken them religiously. They're the same nasty two-tone green ones I had upon leaving the hospital however many weeks ago, the ones which left that peculiarly repulsive chemical tang on my tongue. They didn't this time, but maybe that's a side effect of having taken them in concert with all the other stuff I was given after checking out. Any single piece of good news is not to be questioned.

Like getting to leave my socks on, keeping my feet warm.

The procedure itself is even briefer than promised. It's also surprisingly more painful. I try to dismiss that with the consolation that the stabbing of increasingly tender tissues is now over, and that's true. I can tell that just in sitting up again. While there is residual burning like I still really gotta pee, it's not that stabbing pain. I can start improving!

I wanted to take the stent home with me, partly out of a desire to abuse the thing, torture it like it has me, get revenge. I know, inanimate object and all that. The Doc refuses my request, vaguely referring to some state law. But I get a good look, trying to figure just which part of it was poking, stabbing, creating so much misery. All I see is what looks like a blue piece of plastic coated wire, spiral curled inside itself at both ends with only the outer curl able to touch anything. I can only conclude that either my body was overreacting, or whatever it was had sprung back into shape, erasing any clues. The Doc had nothing to offer as to why, seemed indifferent to my complaint of severe stabbing. Maybe they are too used to this. Maybe they just think we all are a big bunch of whiners. Worse, maybe they just think I am.

I wish him the joy of having one of these stents someday. He takes it with humor. Little does he know.

I'm just happy to be done with it all, heading directly home for one last percoset, the one I didn't think I was going to have to take. Or should I say, the first that I didn't think I'd need.

The burning didn't get better. As ordered, I forced liquids, more than willing to flush out any malingering bits that might remain as irritants. It didn't help. Not only that, but the pain was increasing in my back, what I'd come to recognize as the location of my kidney. I reread the handout about what to expect and when to call the doctor if....

Meanwhile I popped another percoset. This was just 3 hours after the previous one, meaning I'd be overlapping for a total dose of 10 mg. for a few hours. Sitting on the throne and rocking was the only thing that even hinted at relief, so the back of my legs got real used to the discomforts of a hard plastic seat. And yes, now for the first time in this whole journey, there was blood on the tissue. Barely, but there. It didn't qualify me for that late evening call to the doctor, but the steadily increasing pain did.

I got a callback from a member of the practice I'd never heard the name of before. Whatever. He indicated this was "to be expected" (so why hadn't I been warned to expect it? Did they think we were so suggestible that being aware of possibilities would create the effect?), and was just my body swelling temporarily and blocking kidney drainage. I should go take a couple of ibuprofin.

Uh, yes, we have that. Bottles full. I took 3. Then planted myself on the throne for more rocking. Any ease at all, I was clinging for dear life. This doc advised me to wait through it for an hour before heading off to the ER if it hadn't let up. I had changed into my PJs a couple hours earlier, so decided to be prepared and changed back into daytime clothes. Really: who wants to show off our PJs in the ER?

With all the comfort available having been claimed from my last half hour of rocking, I returned to the living room to see if a little conversation with Steve and a bit of late night TV humor might distract me while I waited to see if I needed the ER? About 45 minutes into the ibuprofin, the "bite" of the kidney pain began to ease off. I started counting down the pain levels. By the time I'd watched Trevor and Steve and tried to solve a few Wheels of Fortune - not my best night - we were down to a three and still dropping.

Steve and I decided it was safe to count on heading off to bed. And, I could finally enjoy the scent of wet desert, as we'd finally gotten enough rain to kick those mesquite trees into production. Windows open, everyone!

Friday, May 5, 2017


The saga continues... unmercifully.

Last night after 5:00, as in, after it's to late to do anything about it, I get a reminder call from the urologist's office reminding me of Friday's appointment and to bring the latest KUV x-ray. Wait! What x-ray? Why didn't I know about this? And why, if you're going to "remind" me about it, don't you make this call a day earlier? Somebody else called to confirm the date and time a couple days earlier, after all.

OK, well, I can hit the drop-in radiology place they sent me to last time, early in the morning to maybe cut down on the wait, and bring the disc along with me to my afternoon appointment.

Simple, right?

Yeah, no. Not so much.

I walk in a few minutes after 8AM, and the check-in person searched her computer records. "I don't have any orders for you. Go away." That's not a direct quote, that last sentence, but it's the gist.

I called the urologist's office, left voicemail. Half an hour later, repeat. A little less politely. Fifteen minutes later, call the front desk appointment line, get an actual human. Arrange - I thought - to get the orders faxed over.

Mission accomplished? Of course not. I get put on hold several times while she has to check a few other details with the staff. Did I take my antibiotic pills today and yesterday? No, I took them back when they were prescribed, 1xday for 3 days, per label. Oh, said label also happened to refer to my "colonoscopy", but who's counting? More consultation. OK, they can deal with my having taken them last week, no biggie.  Another discussion ensued, same put-on-hold, come-back process, regarding whether I could get the x-ray done on time. I asked them flat out, citing the process of waiting an hour and a half, getting the x-ray, waiting 10 minutes for the disc, bringing the disc to my appointment this afternoon, if there was anything in that process which would preclude my making my appointment this afternoon? Mmmmm... no, that would be fine.

I left again, since I made it home during the waiting time, back to the radiology office. Still no orders received. Sit and wait for them to show up. 20 minutes later, my Minnesota Nice has evaporated and paranoia sets in. I get back into the line for attention at the check-in desk, and verify that the number highlighted on the business card she handed me this morning, which I passed on to the urologist's office, was the right one.

It wasn't. Naturally.

I called the urologist back from inside my car for privacy, giving them the new number. I decided to wait in my car a couple minutes, needing to fight my way back to some semblance of calm. More than a few f-bombs, or near bombs ("What the effing...?" etc.) had been dropped by this time. Most of the causes for them had nothing to do with the radiology folks. After another wait in the check-in line, I was informed that the orders had shown up just as I was walking out the door to call with the right fax number. Of course.

So there's the waiting, long enough for the super duper AC in the waiting room to make me wish I'd brought a jacket. On a day forecast to top out at 105 degrees, that hadn't exactly been a consideration when I left the house.  (Note: it reached 108.) Then there's the metal-free trousers and backless gown to change into for the x-ray, something which had been skipped last time I was there. They came in one-size-fits-other-folks, so I can't bring my arms all the way forward to properly hold the pants up where they don't make it past the hips. Oh well, who needs modesty? After changing back into civvies, another little wait in the check-in line to start the copying-of-the-disc wait. In other words, everything went pretty much exactly as expected.

Precisely as I'm sitting back in the car, noting that the earlier shade has moved elsewhere and the car is now stultifying, my phone rings. Seeing a too-familiar number, I answer it with the announcement that I have disc in hand and am leaving as we speak. I get a hesitation, then am asked to hold for a minute. Then she comes back and announces that my appointment has been changed to Monday afternoon because there will not be time for the technician to make his report before 3:30. The disc isn't enough? No. You couldn't have mentioned this earlier? Apparently not, despite the previous long consultation pauses before confirming that I could actually make my appointment. He can't read the films himself? He did before the lithotripsy, or at least said that he did. Again, apparently not.

Remember, all this back and forth has been aggravating the spot where the stent decided to poke into my bladder last Tuesday after a few minutes light yard work. It has the entirely predictable effect of continuing to shorten my temper. It doesn't help that Samantha, my caller/contact at the urologist's office, has taken this time to start getting defensive about how all this is my fault, not a speck of theirs. I asked how I was to know this was needed when all 13 pages of paperwork, still stapled tidily together, say absolutely zilch about this x-ray, and the prescription doesn't give a more specific timing of  which days to take the pills and even references a treatment I'm not getting. I even refer to an earlier phone conversation where I ask them to verify my assumption that I need to stay out of the pool until everything's over, during which I'm assured that info was already in my papers because it always is - until she checked their copy of my orders and... surprise! It's not there.

I was getting ready to unload a bit more, but decided to take a deep breath instead, flatly say I'll see them Monday, and hang up.

It's so-o-o-o past time to head home and take a percoset.

While I'm waiting for it to kick in, I get another call from Samantha. They have decided now that they do, in fact, want me to take another 3-day cycle of antibiotics, starting with Sunday. I inform her I'm not able to drive any more today, and they'll have to call it in to my pharmacy for me to pick up tomorrow.  (I purposefully neglect to ask if this also means thaat the x-ray I just had done would also be obsolete by Monday, since it's supposed to be exactly one or two days ahead of the appointment. Enough boat rocking, already!)

In the process, I explain about how the pain has been driving my lack of patience, and dear old Samantha decided I need to leave a message about what the pain is like with my doc's medical assistant, the same one who hasn't been able to return my first two phone calls. I ask Samantha what's the point, since they won't/can't do anything about the stent until Monday now, anyway? She suggests they can maybe tell me if the pain is normal or not, and transfers me back. I duly leave a message, along with, yet again, my callback number.

You all just know I'm holding my breath. Right?

Thursday, May 4, 2017


This is the follow up to my "Easter" post. That will give this some context.

I suppose we all thought once you're sent home from the hospital, all's over, you're well. OK, well, perhaps a lot of us really knew better, but there is a dollop of relief in the fact of the discharge. Just not the end of the story. In fact, barely the beginning. I think that's been the biggest surprise in this whole thing. I started by thinking kidney stone = a few hours of "discomfort". Boy, did I have a lot to learn!

The stent was causing problems. My bladder was spasming, the infection just starting to get knocked down so everything was still extra sensitive, meaning I registered every spasm as a flash of sharp pain. And with everything a bit swollen, the end of the stent was poking the wrong things if I sat straight up in a chair. (What are those wrong things, you ask? Whatever it touched!) So I was stuck on percoset for a few days, which diminished but didn't clear the pain. I could definitely tell the individual spasms now that the background pain was controlled.

While an improvement, it came with side effects, forgotten about in the year since my knee surgeries. It slows the intestines. That's one of the reasons everyone in the hospital inquires about their function. Since I went in empty, was denied food until after surgery, and had no appetite for a couple days afterwards, I wasn't upset about lack of production. Nor were the staff, listening to all the gurgling and rumbling. Something was happening. Back in the olden days, I'd not have been released until they had visible evidence, meaning they would have kept me in for nearly a week.

Glad I didn't have to wait.

Dry mouth came back with a vengeance. It was bad enough the day of surgery when I wasn't allowed anything by mouth. I still fail to comprehend that one can have enough fluids in the system to produce copious amounts of urine but none of that water makes its way to the salivary glands. The first morning waking in my own bed, my mouth was so dry I couldn't talk or swallow until after a sip of water. Unfortunately that persisted for days. I even needed to have water between bites of food, or it would get stuck in the back of my throat, as I found out the hard way.  I couldn't breathe momentarily! Between that and the snafu with not getting anything through the mask jammed down on my face for surgery, I had the makings for the beginning of a new phobia!

I took that as an incentive to get off the percoset ASAP. (Turns out I was wrong about the cause, but...)

Fortunately, my pain levels were decreasing as the spasms were backing off. I figured the infection was getting knocked down. All the pain wasn't gone, but what was left was tolerable. It simply told me now I had to pee.

Every hour.

Day or night.

Screw sleep!

Off percoset a couple days, I somehow had this silly idea in the back of my head that my appetite would come back, when the reality was I could be quite satisfied with three tiny meals a day. Hunger never struck. No cravings. Just eat because I needed to, and let the persisting dry mouth drive hydration.

Now I thought the tap water down here was terrible the first year. Lemons and filters please!! After that, it was just... water. No flavor. Not till a day or so past being home. Every time water hit my mouth, I got a chemical taste on my tongue. OK, plenty of bottled water in stock, time to start using that. Same reaction! It was me, not the water. (Turns out whatever is going on also ruins the flavor of chocolate!) Maybe something in my other meds? I came home with 3, after all, percoset, an antibiotic, and something to treat the regional bladder pain. I'd never heard of the last two, my only concern was that the antibiotic NOT be Cipro, as it makes my heart rhythm regulator do just the opposite. This one came in two-tone green capsules, and as the days wore on, started stinking more strongly every time I took the cap off the bottle. Sulphur! Ick. I can't help wonder if having that in my system is flavoring my food and water. If so, just put up with it till they're gone, and hope my system rights itself.

Tuesday, 8 days post surgery, was doctors' visits day. Morning for the urologist, afternoon for my Primary for a generic after-hospital check. Both of them are the same building, but I couldn't arrange back-to-back appointments. At least it's a very short drive back and forth from home.

My primary basically just said hi and charged me for the visit. After all, the hospital did all kinds of tests, so what did he need to follow up on? Plus, "my" urologist (Never thought I'd have reason to use that term) was following up. So again, nothing for him to do. Makes me wonder just why the hospital sends you back to your primary after discharge.

The urologist visit was only a little less perfunctory. How was I doing, those were all normal side effects, go get an x-ray to see if the stone has moved, and schedule both lithotripsy and his follow up visit to remove the stent. Here's a packet of information, yada yada. Oh, and a free sample of meds for the bladder spasms that should be without the dry mouth symptoms.

Wait, what? That's what was causing the dry mouth?

Meanwhile I decided, if a bit late, to go online and do some more research on the new meds I was taking, or finishing, as the case may be. Turns out that yes, the sulpha was ruining my taste buds. A couple days after finishing with those, I could again drink a sip of water without recoiling from the chemical slap. It was indeed the anti-spasming drug (not a localized pain med as had been explained to me) which caused the dry mouth. I switched over to the freebee but after the first day with no improvement to dry mouth, and finding that it also caused that symptom (but only in 5% of users!) I just quit altogether. With the percoset, pain levels were way down and the spasms were noticeable but tolerable. Way more so than the dry mouth.

Lithotripsy was scheduled for the following Friday, out-patient surgery at a different hospital over in Sun City West. Now the barrage of phone calls started. I was given a time, to be changed later, of course. Why would I expect anything different? I was given directions on where to park and which entrance to use. On the day of, it only took circling the parking lot about 5 times to find any spot at all. ("Oh yeah, we're really busy here Friday mornings, which is why we tell you to park over there instead.") Yeah, right. My meds history was gone over, letting me know which I could take and what needed stopping when. And NPO after midnight, so no cheating by taking more than one tiny sip to swallow those 5 pills! Also no gum, cough drop, or rinse to ease this newest case of dry mouth either!

The funniest was their insistence that I take an antibacterial shower that morning before coming in. Dial soap was suggested. Now, I know enough to appreciate how ubiquitous bacteria are. Also how soap and water actually multiply rather than cut their numbers on your skin. And what's the point when your towel is not germ free, nor your clothes, nor the chair or car seat you sit in, not the dogs who say "Hi" before you leave, nor...? You get the picture.

Besides, lithotripsy is noninvasive surgery. No skin gets broken in the process. It the germ wasn't already there, it won't get added to the system. So why all the fuss?

After getting checked in, getting a new pink-stuff scrub by a nurse who insists there is a point to the home shower, a new show-your-booty gown, and given a final chance to pee (non sterile toilet), it's a ride down the hall to x-ray (also not sterile) for a final look at where the stone currently resides. Yep, there's a light shadow there. Steve is allowed in my cubicle. Oh, fyi, he's not sterile either. A few more items fussed over, and it's wheel away time.

There are two major improvements over the previous surgery. OK, maybe three. First, though I still have to transfer myself from my gurney to the operating table, at least this time the table coverings offer traction so I can actually do it. Second, my memory stops there. No fighting to breathe, nothing. Must have been a pretty good shot they gave me. Third, did I remember to mention the two big bruises on my belly that I came back from the first surgery with? I mean, it's not that they hurt or anything. I had to see them in my home mirror to even know they were there. But no new ones this time.

I don't even remember waking up. Let me just assure you that I did. Must have been a really good shot! The only discomfort was needing badly to pee. I was given a cup that fit into the toilet and a paper and mesh strainer to capture any and all stone bits coming through, plus a container with a lid to put them in. I used them twice before being sent home, and before even hitting the parking lot, I needed to again so much that we went straight home. No lunch, no stopping for prescriptions, nothing. Ahhhh!

That first bit of detectable stone is almost exciting. I know,weird, huh? But it's proof positive that something happened. Even then, it's more of a hint of lint showing up in the paper cone than an actual piece of anything. Less than dust. Silt is about right. A grey shadow slowly grows, until finally! On day two or three there's an actual something in the bottom of the pee cup, something to follow as you pour through the strainer, something to capture, something to prove it really worked.

Of course, all that paraphernalia is logistically impossible to drag around with you. Can you imagine, hauling the big cup and the paper cone with a slowly rising yellow ring working its way up the paper along to a public restroom? And forget about visiting a friend's house! Even if you could get past the disgust and embarrassment, how would you collect the bits for transfer to the container, then clean up after all the mess? At home, the container sits on a few layers of folded TP on the side of the sink, drying out until everything can be scraped out with the rounded end of a nail clipper or something.

Steve and I agreed that our planned restaurant meal would be postponed until the collecting was done. I did manage to hit my pharmacy for my new prescriptions that first evening, finally getting the capacity to wait over an hour between bathroom trips. I only filled two of them, though. The third was another anti-spasming dry mouth drug. Not only was I not spasming, I figured even if I started, the cure was worse than the problem. I still had percoset if it got annoying.

I'm not sure if all the bits have passed. When my urologist told me he blew the stone to smithereens, he wasn't kidding. Most of what collected was silt, and I'm convinced some of that made it through the screen. Still, I dutifully scraped and transferred, noting the occasional dog hair or mine. When a visible piece of something was produced, by the time it dried, it often was about a fifth of its "wet" size, and frequently stuck onto the mesh. It all doesn't seem to add up to a 5mm anything. And nothing has shown up the last few days.

I decided to become a bit more active, since things were going so well. The yard needed pooper scooping again, a couple bushes needed water, and an old sun-rotted hose needed collecting and tossing. Nothing much. But apparently the rhythmic motions resulted in the stent irritating the bladder again, and the spasms are back. Nothing big, but there.

Tomorrow, however, should be my last visit with the urologist, where the stent is removed. He says it's just a quick procedure, no painkillers needed, just reaching a tool in, hooking onto the stent, and pulling it out.

I hope he's right.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

So, How Was YOUR Easter?

I had plans, I promise you. There was laundry, and typing up 2 meetings worth of minutes, and hunting all the... um... chocolate Easter eggs in the back yard and scooping them up.

Instead, I woke up feeling a bit off. I took my morning pills and decided to postpone breakfast.That turned into a wise idea. I was thirsty a bit later so drank some water, then hit the bed because "off" was turning into something worse. When Steve woke up, half an hour later, I called him to come talk to me. I let him know I was sick, and by the time I'd spoken five sentences, I needed to make a mad dash to the throne. It was my first set of dry heaves for the morning. I admit I was a bit surprised this soon the stomach was already empty. But it certainly got our attention.

Meanwhile, the pain had been traveling as well as increasing. I first thought bladder infection, then bowel, then appendix despite not having one of those for 56 years! Then the pain climbed up my back to sit waist high, just right of the spine. Almost like is was in the kidney. I decided Steve was going to drive me to the ER, that being the only available medical care available on the holiday. While he was tending to the dogs so they could stay home for a while, just in case, I was digging around for the least dirty clothes I could find. Laundry was due, after all, and would soon become overdue.

At the ER I asked if I could lie down anywhere, since I certainly didn't feel like sitting up by then. I got their routine response that was only a mite more civil and helpful than "Take a number and wait", but that's what it meant. They also answered my request for a pan, since the nausea was returning, and when it hits, it doesn't wait on a trip to a possibly already occupied restroom. As soon as I sat down, it became useful. My fellow waiting room inmates were treated to a spectacular series of dry heaves. I figured they must think I was hung over. By the time my name was called, the count was up to 4 sets, with two more to follow before they shot me up with an appropriate medicine. It kept Steve running to resupply me with tissues for after, since each bout left my eyes and nose streaming as well as the mouth.

The only good thing was I wasn't producing any bile, so no horrible taste or smell. On the other hand, it didn't do a thing to ease the pain, and left me even now with sore muscles across my back from over-use.

I asked Steve to hit the front window again with my request to lie - somewhere, anywhere - down while I was waiting. A couple minutes later they took us and my pan back... to a room with chairs!

I do believe there are times when it's appropriate to let someone know, even to the point of raising your voice, that they are not listening! A room with a bed miraculously opened up right then, and it almost felt better to lie back. I say almost because that still did nothing for my pain. But I was done with having to sit up. We even figured out how to hold the pan while I was horizontal so everything went into the pan and not on me, the bed, or the floor. By the time I finished the last bout, what was collected in the pan totaled about two tablespoons, all saliva I figured.

Things improved. The anti-nausea meds via IV worked. I can't tell you what they used, even though they told me twice. The brain was on hold for certain higher functions. I did recognize the term fentanyl , which started easing the pain, but it took the addition of toradol to really bring it down. In fact, it was good enough that I could raise my arms up for the CAT scan, a real challenge after rotator cuff injuries. And that CAT scan gave them their diagnosis, confirming a kidney stone.

I was getting admitted.

I learned a lot the next few days. The CAT scan only showed the one kidney stone. I would need to be concerned and adjust my diet if, like most who show up with one, already had a bunch of others sitting up in the kidneys just waiting their turn. Being lucky doesn't always feel like lucky.

There were several different options for treatment, depending on a variety of factors. Did this one also show on an X-ray? Size is a factor, graded by under or over 5 millimeters. Mine is exactly 5. How they go in, as in down from the top or up from the bottom, depends on how far down the tube it is. Following a pattern here, mine was exactly halfway. Options include a couple different ways of smashing up the stone, but neither is possible if there is a UTI, or urinary tract infection, which I tested positive for. Turned out to be e coli, the most typical culprit. It can be hard to clear the infection, since with a stone still imbedded, there is lots of habitat, if you will, for the little buggers to hide in. "Stone" brings to mind something smooth and round, so think more like sand burr. Surgeons can reach the stone with a lighted gripper thingy and pull it out, and not need a stent to keep urine from continuing to back up in the kidney. However, if the tool accidentally punctures the ureter the stent will still be needed so urine bypasses that spot to let it heal. But if it's more than a tiny hole, they have to open you up immediately and practice their knot tying, and you still get the stent.

But hey! maybe none of those options would be necessary if the stone flushed itself out, so they pump IV fluids through me at a high rate to keep me peeing, and catch that in a little insert under the toilet seat, then strain the contents before anything gets flushed and see if any little 5mm something shows up.

None of the information influencing options was available yet, so I made it onto the surgery schedule for the next morning. Something was needing to get done, unless I could produce a stone in the strainer. By then we know I had a UTI, limiting some options, that no stone had passed, so the first procedure was to be -hopefully - a simple stent. 20 minutes under. Nothing to eat or drink before surgery, of course.

With my kidney in the shape it was in, I wasn't feeling hungry anyway. Painkillers didn't change that. Good thing, since the hospital food absolutely sucked, except for the red grapes or the banana I got later. Not only was the meat over-cooked, dry, and tasteless, the baked potato like a rock that didn't even smell inviting, the whole wheat dinner rolls were old and cold and again, yuk in the flavor department, but every tray had about 12 carb units where I'm allowed 3, so I had to make choices of what is the least worst. Then again, even now I barely have an appetite, so much of that food would have been tossed anyway. At least the grapes and banana could be saved for a late night snack.

Most of the nurses were great. However, both my roommate and I had special attention needs, primarily for being unplugged from multiple outlets, and quickly enough that we could make it to the bathroom without either creating a mess or enduring an unnecessary level of pain. Sunday night was the worst. A couple of the nurses made sure we knew how much inconvenience we were causing them.  What made it worse was them sounding like there was a party out there.

If we hadn't shift-changed to new sets of teams, we both would have gotten very good at becoming even more of an inconvenience. I had pain pills I needed on schedule, especially since my pills were only 2.5 mg of percoset and wore off well before I was allowed the next. You better believe even at my most out-of-it, I was a clock watcher. And yes, I was a bit out of it that night with a low grade fever.

One issue I solved for myself by figuring out how to take stuff apart so I didn't need help every 2 hours or sooner. The pink plug came out and went back into the wall behind my bed, and the IV rack it was attached to had a display showing battery life, usually 4 to 5 hours. No way I was going to need it unplugged that long. The leg cuffs that squeeze alternate legs in order to prevent blood clots took a bit longer to figure out, since they had an alarm that sounded if they were disconnected for a certain length of time. I finally just decided to just unplug my cuffs and wear them into the bathroom, and it the alarm brought somebody, well, all to the better. Ann and I had different staff assigned to us, and that first night they were very territorial, in a not-my-problem kind of way. Again, that improved, and we had gotten very good at saying, "while you're here could you just....?" Ann had extra complications keeping her from unplugging herself, including being hooked up to O2, and a bed alarm.

After both of us were feeling better we started chatting occasionally. You never knew when the other was sleeping, with the curtain kept pulled. She has led a very interesting life, traveling to many different countries for work, on all 6 of the major continents. At present she was battling COPD on top of Valley Fever, had been here 5 days already, and had only one sleeping pill in her history that worked for her, which the hospital pharmacy didn't stock. After 5 sleepless nights, the staff finally threw up their hands at a problem they couldn't solve, and consented to let her have somebody bring her own labeled bottle of sleeping pills. They were talking about discharging her soon, but she'd been through the repeated routine of going home and needing to return two weeks later, stay a while, go home, come back. She wanted not only more care, but better.

Back to me: Monday morning I was awakened with the news that surgery was at 11:20, and the CNA needed to assist me with two antibacterial "baths". Think towel, washcloth, and thin pink soap. I informed her no way until I got my already overdue pain pill. Maybe it takes messing with their schedule to get your needs met, because the pill arrived shortly. In between the two baths, I was informed surgery was now moved to 12:30. That worked for me because my pain pill would just be wearing off then and the OR staff could deal with it however was needed. I should be under, and then on whatever was needed for after surgery. One way or another, my kidney would be unblocked and stop trying to kill itself. Even if the stone remained, it was the kidney causing all the pain, not the stone traveling the length of the tube, as most people think.

So my morning was devoted to getting 2 scrubbings, blood drawn, vitals checked, and trips to the toilet, straining my own urine because the staff had somehow lost orders for that in the transfer, so the "not my job" resurfaced, and it was really simple. Whether that stone had passed was vital information for the surgeon. Plus for hygeine there was a nice sink with soap and paper towels, the strainer rested in another container, and the toilet insert sat next to it all in the shower, out of the way. Get over it: after changing thousands of dirty diapers, this was not obnoxious.

Once down in surgery, we knew the stone hadn't passed,  I had a fever, a UTI was presumed, so a stent to relieve the pressure was the only task of the day. Taking out the stone under these circumstances risked a blood infection. Antibiotics before and after surgery, and a follow through with my urologist to make sure the bug was gone, and we'd schedule lithotripsy and stent removal. Oh yeah, and now the schedule was changed again, so surgery something like 2:20. Or whatever. I wasn't going anywhere. I just laid there quietly, not even up to reading. (Nor for most of my stay.)

I didn't particularly appreciate the lead-in to surgery. I got wheeled in on the gurney to a spot reasonably close to the operating table, and asked to transfer myself over. Uhh, sure, you bet. Of course it means sliding from one slippery surface to another even slicker one, nothing to grip or that would stay put for leverage, and it took them a while to decide they probably shouldn't leave me half over the edge of the second because I might fall. Well duh! I was a long way from worrying about falling yet, with the two gurneys touching. My issue was the hard inch-wide, inch-high rim on #2, not - so - cozily nestled right under my spine.

Hey guys, a little assist?

Then the anesthesiologist shoved this plastic mask down over my nose and mouth. I couldn't breathe, so started wiggling my face around to create an air gap, and gasping. As far as he was concerned it wasn't possible that I was having trouble breathing, and he just told me to slow it down. Hey, my body is slipping into full panic mode right now! He removed the mask for a few seconds, then clamped it back on me again. Same result. He removed it once more. The third time he told me he was putting something in it to help me sleep. Well, about effing time! So down came the mask, and... I wasn't going under for what seemed an age. "Breathe deep."  Hey, what the hell do you think I'm doing here, trying somewhere to find some air or sleep or something! My eyes are rolling, searching the room for help, but nobody's looking. I started counting breaths. I remember 10. Way-y-y-y too long, guys! And why should it be so difficult in the first place? Hose kinked? Nobody turned the O2 on?

If it takes surgery to remove the stent, I want a different assisting staff!

In the recovery room, I was mentally out of it long after being physically awake. I knew who I was, I'd just had surgery, and why. But it was still too hard to connect the verbal part of my brain to answer the basic questions they shoot at you. Finally I was able to answer. "Do you know your name?" "Yes." Hey, everybody asks you that, every time you see them. Birth date too. So far the best I could do was answer the question they asked. It went rapidly uphill from there, giving full name, date, and volunteering,"I have to pee!" They heard me. Within a couple minutes, they had me sitting up, making sure I had balance, and brought over a commode chair next to the bed. Ahhhhhhh....

The fever stuck around most of that evening, not too unusual after this surgery I'm told. My blood pressure was also well  up there past the healthy zone. I was loaded with pills, the IV with antibiotics, potassium to make up for the IV flushing practically everything out of my system, and settled in to
 trying to get out of bed in time. The fever shot down hope of leaving Monday night, but maybe Tuesday, if....

I improved overnight and through suppertime Tuesday, but so far only the urologist had signed off on my going home. Steve was trying to arrange his schedule for picking me up, a challenge when nobody will commit to anything. A pair of good friends stopped in for a visit, after finding out I was still going to be there in the hospital to see them.

It turned out the doctor who was needed to sign off on my leaving had no idea my urologist had already given the OK. Once she heard, things got rolling. Fast! I was out the door and in the car in half an hour. That was still time to get to my pharmacy for my 3 new prescriptions, then home to a comfy chair, even better a comfy bed. Steve and I watched a half hour of TV, and by the time I got back to the living room after that next potty break, I was ready to crash. No more TV. No more pills as I'd just taken what was needed. Just sleep.

The good news is the kidney pain was gone by the time I woke up from surgery. However, I'm one of those who find the stent very uncomfortable. I've got pills for that. Next Tuesday I see the urologist for a post-op evaluation. If all goes well, we can schedule Lithotripsy for about a week later, but there are "ifs". Later that same day I see my primary for a post-hospital evaluation. Of course the calendar is already spotted with the last post-op check with the eye surgeon, the 1 year check on my knees with my orthopedic surgeon, and the 6-month cardiologist visit, all before we head north. Hmmm, funny, I don't feel like I'm falling apart.

I do feel... good that the laundry finally got done today. And maybe ambitious enough tomorrow to go harvest those chocolate Easter eggs. I'd like to head back into lapidary, but if it comes to a choice between taking the good meds and spending more time working on rocks, you can guess my priority.

Anyway, that was my Easter. How was yours?

Better food, I bet!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Getting Rid of Trump

Historically, assassination has been the way to get rid of leaders whom you have decided have got to go, when there seems no other way to accomplish the task. We tried to get rid of Castro that way, Iraq tried to get rid of Daddy Bush. Whether it's for idiological reasons, or a power play so you can take over, it's been a tactic throughout history.

It's tempting to at least think of somebody going for it with Trump, say, before he creates a total catastrophe. But recent reports  in the news suggest there's no need to actively assassinate Trump. Just let him continue spending his weekends down at Mara Lago, eating his wonderful chocolate cake and whatever else from their filthy kitchen. That'll do it for ya! We just have to be careful his kitchen doesn't kill off some other world leader and start the catastrophe we'd like to avoid.

As a side note, one of our local news stations has a weekly feature called "Dirty Dining", where they inform us of which restaurants around the valley get the most - and best - ratings for health violations. But even their worst kitchens only get half or fewer of the violations Mara Lago got.


So I guess that when Trump brags that whatever he's got is the biggest, the best, the most, this is one time we can believe him. That list of code violations in Mara Lago's kitchen is  HUGE! HUGE!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Ask Yourself This...

So, you've been sitting there, catching bits of news here and there, maybe even paying more attention lately as evidence mounts from a variety of US and international sources of Trump and company's collusion with the Russians - NOT a friendly state - and watching as Trump keeps ratcheting up the aggression with more and bigger bombs, however misplaced, however ineffectual, as a way to divert our attention (Look over there!), listening to the bluster and self-praise voiced or tweeted in ways which prove just the opposite....

If you're not scared, you just aren't paying attention, or you're nowhere near as smart as you think you are. Complacent or terrified, hopefully it has finally dawned on you that there are two  crazy rulers on opposite sides of the globe revving up their engines on their self-aggrandizing game of nuclear chicken. The possibilities from that just beg the following question, in no way offered as a kind of silver lining to this whole mess:

Would a nuclear winter stop global warming?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

In-N-Out Ick

Steve and I were running errands which stretched over the lunch hour. We opted to grab a bite from some fast food joint. I suggested that while I drove to our next stop, he scout out the joints we passed and we could stop on our way back, his choice. He opted for In-N-Out Burger, something neither of us had tried.

Nor will we ever again.

Steve ordered a burger, fries, and Coke. I think his Coke was OK, meaning standard Coke, something he enjoys. I asked about his burger, and he wasn't all that impressed. It was food, period.

That was not something either of us felt confident about claiming for the rest of our fare.

Not having a yen for a burger, I opted for a small chocolate shake, figuring if that was all I had, I could pretend it was justified in quantity of calories and carbs. I will give it credit for chocolate flavor. However the texture was that of some kind of goo holding together a bunch of air. Maybe they substituted some kind of gum additive for milk product? Once the level was down in the cup, I slipped the lid off and took a look. Whatever it was, it still thickly coated the cup evenly on all the surfaces which had originally contained it. Now any real shake would have slid down the sides to the level of what remained, leaving only the thinnest coating to testify that the cup had originally been filled, with just enough color to suggest vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, or whatever.

I really want to see an ingredients list for whatever that was.

Or wait: maybe I don't.

Feeling greatly unsatisfied by what I'd ordered, I decided to help myself to a couple of Steve's fries. I knew his portion was way bigger than he could eat. So I reached over, grabbed a couple, and bit into... what, exactly? There was certainly salt there, and not a lot of oil (on the face of it, not necessarily a bad thing to avoid a grease bomb), but it somehow missed being "potato". It wasn't that it tasted bad, it just didn't taste. Like it wasn't actually there. Like I was chewing... hmmm... air.

I looked at a couple broken centers, and saw quite plainly that these "french fries" were not, in fact, a cubed stick cut the length of an actual potato. I cannot say with surety that it didn't contain any actual potato. But whatever it contained, it was a highly processed substance puffed up with air holes, or even a central tube of air down the length of one piece we examined.

In-N-Out Burger? We're staying OUT OUT OUT.


And I'm looking forward to supper this evening, at home. Not quite sure what it'll be, yet, but by the time it goes in my mouth, you can be sure I will know what I'm eating!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Lunch With The Kool-Aid Drinkers

Thank goodness the pot luck part of the meeting only lasted a half hour. I know this area of the world is majority Republican, which party I left many years ago when the Democratic Party became the one to push for civil rights, but I had no idea what it was like listening to a whole table-full of extreme and extremely vocal right wingers.

At first I couldn't seriously believe what I was hearing. It's not that I haven't heard all the wild-assed conspiracies before, or at least most of them. These were die-hard kool-aid drinkers. I'm talking obvious Fox viewers, sucking up every nutty assertion of actually fake news as the real thing. You know, like all the people Hillary killed, how she and Obama conspired to (insert list of about 18 to 20 crazy things here), how one rape perpetrated by a person from a particular minority meant that the whole of the group behaved that way and didn't belong in this country.  Sharia laws were ruling our public schools now. The Black Lives Matter movement was responsible for all the cop killings. Thousands/millions of dead people voted for Hillary. And on. And on.

I've heard all that crap. I've also gotten the debunking. I'm old enough to remember history that is definitely different from what was now being touted, and read the Constitution enough to know why certain things were illegal and against the principles of our country.

I'm particularly tuned in to the garbage after sitting in the spa pool last night listening to some guy from Wisconsin expound on how the 10th amendment was a conspiracy by the Koch Brothers to ... well, nevermind. All I needed was a calendar to debunk whatever it was he was trying to prove. I know even those guys aren't that old!

So when today's nonsense started, I checked one of the women's statements."Excuse me, did I really hear that you believe....?" She did. More people chimed in. Topics broadened, crazy ruled the conversation. I decided I didn't need to do anything more than concentrate on my lunch, just shut up and marvel at these people, and not in a good way. This wasn't punking, not joking, but anger at all the things they believed were happening in the world and whom they held responsible.

I recalled a previous conversation with the woman who started off the crazy. We had been talking about something completely non-political, and I mentioned Minneapolis. Her response was to express her unease (putting it mildly) about there being a concentration of Muslims there. I calmly agreed with her about the numbers, since there is an area with a concentration of Somali immigrants. I went on to inform her I had worked alongside a number of them, had some good discussions during slow work times about how our cultures differed, and ended with my assessment that by the most part they are a strongly family-oriented community. That ended our conversation as she quickly excused herself and relocated away from where I was sitting.

Thank goodness!

But today I was stuck at this particular table, and simply had to be content that the club business meeting would soon start and they'd have to put away the kool-aid for an hour or so, after which we could all go our separate ways.

But OMG! Really?

Thursday, April 6, 2017


So, while I'm not working on my taxes, getting paperwork ready for tomorrow's board meeting, mopping the den floor where the dogs mistook its concrete for the outdoors ... uh, last year ... uh, three times ...  I'm also staring at a necklace, a very complicated design, which I started either two weeks ago or two years ago depending on where you consider its starting point really is...

I'm blogging instead. It's not so much what I am doing, it's more a reason to avoid what I'm not doing. I've gotten pretty good at being busy at one thing instead of another.

So why am I procrastinating on all these things?

Let's start with taxes. I have all the paperwork, though I really need to pull everything out of my file box and sort 2016 from 2017, and some of the stuff I need, like how much SS I got last year, got detoured into a stack of paperwork I've set aside for proper ID for a driver's license that actually allows me to fly and do cool stuff like enter Canada, which in turn requires proof that the me on my birth certificate is actually the me on my SS card, and I never did replace my original card with one with my new name on it after marriage a gazillion years ago.  (Now that's procrastination, although the SS folks have followed me around just fine, and have no problem paying me or setting up my Medicare when it was time. The new card should be here in a couple weeks.) Anyhow, stalling on my taxes has nothing to do with owing any money, because I don't, or not figuring it all out, since I filed my own business taxes for over 40 years and this year I only need about 3 numbers on the form. I just am. I still have over a week, anyway.

Tomorrow's board meeting involves making some copies of last month's minutes to distribute to the board, and I was just at the printer working on copies -yes Virginia, real hard copies - of the tax forms, and I simply didn't get around to it. Maybe the floor under the printer having been one of the dog's target spots rushed me out of there.

The floor? Well, that involves not having the right kind of mop,  so I have to go to the store. I probably also need the right kind of mop bucket and a better type of detergent, and since I have to go pick up a prescription later, I can do at least that part... if I get it all on the list... later. Plus, if I do mop the den floor instead of just keeping the door closed forever except when I use the printer, I can't pretend I don't see the dirty floor behind the living room chairs where Fred lies down and drags in desert dirt on his greasy coat, leaving it there to build up. And once I start on that, I will also see where he leans along the wall, creating a brown stripe about a foot high and, oh, 10 feet long? And then, since I'm cleaning, there's the kitchen floor under the sink, and sweeping all the Fred-bunnies off of everywhere, and ....

The necklace began with cutting and polishing 6 identically- sized cabochons from a single lavender agate slab. OK, lavender plus light stripes plus black dendrites plus orange plumes. Pretty cool, actually. It's been among the projects that have kept me awake hours after bedtime designing in my head. It's implementation time now, and after getting approval that what I want to do will actually qualify for sale in the club store because the design incorporates purchased amethyst beads, I started putting it all together and once nearly finished decided that the copper wire made the cabs look muddy. Like, ick! I can't use silver like I really want if I want to sell in the store, because my silver isn't sterling, only silver-filled. I can't afford sterling. So it sits.

I am thinking about it. I wonder whether I want to continue with this in my silver, perhaps making next year's X-mas presents instead of making something to sell. Perhaps find a new slab to start from. Perhaps just cut this project back from three cabs plus triple chains with hanging amethysts all wrapped in copper to just the one cab with the most orange and a smaller, less ambitious design. Whatever I decide, I've already wasted a lot of wire and some lengths of chain.

I did actually pooper scoop the yard, cut the damaged trunk from the "thorn tree", though without having cut most of it into small enough pieces to go out in the garbage in a dog food bag so they don't stab our garbage collectors, cut the brown seed stalks from last year off the red yuccas without destroying this year's nice crop of new stalks about to bloom in brilliant red, separating out the seeds which I scattered down among the yuccas in case they might actually sprout and increase the clump sizes. I cut out a lot of the old dead brown leaves (think spears) from the blue yuccas, though not all, and got most of the cut ones removed from the plants' centers and onto the ground, though without actually gathering them up for the garbage. A new smaller wire cage went around the thorn tree to keep the rabbits actually out this time, and transferred the larger one around a bush with a tiny cage which had been choking it. It didn't get staked, however. Yet.

See? Lots of ways to procrastinate and still fool myself into thinking I'm not useless. Including blogging.

Of course I've forgotten just what I was going to actually blog about this time.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Meds Wars

Lately it seems like the whole family has been having problems with their meds. Except Steve. He's just fine, mostly.

Steph has been quitting her latest migraine medications. I'm not sure all the reasons, whether it's side effects (dizziness, etc.) or lack of effectiveness (dizziness, etc.) or what all. I'm also not sure what's in the arsenal for trying next, since she's been dealing with migraines for decades now. As of last night when I spoke to her on the phone, she'd been five straight days with migraines. Lucky for her, if there's anything at all lucky in her situation, is they're not the painful sledgehammer-bonking-the-head kind of migraine, but a lot of visual symptoms and that  kind of stuff. I would describe them better, but I don't quite understand them myself. Back as a teenager, my migraines were the hammer and nausea, go hide in a dark room type. And hormonal changes got rid of them for me.

I've been starting to work my way off the clonazepan that was prescribed for my post-knee surgery restless leg syndrome. It's been working just fine, thank you. But partly I want to know if it's just a temporary thing, whether I can go off it and get by with, say, more activity, more vitamins, more or less whatever, and get off a schedule 2 drug.

It's more the idea of the thing than any side effects - at least so far - that's prompting this. I did the horrible thing of going and looking it up in depth online. New things popped out at me from this search than I found with my initial search a year ago. It just seems like a really good idea to at least try.

But it's a drug you can't just stop. You have to wean yourself off. So last night I cut two pills in half and tried taking just a half. By bedtime I knew that wasn't going to work. So I cut another pill in quarters and added one of those bits. I'll be taking 3/4 dose for a few days, see how it goes, and try tapering lower, and lower. Worst case, I'll refill the prescription. Best case, I won't have to worry about refilling it on summer vacation across state lines, and whatever else goes along with this medication that prohibits doctors from prescribing it past a certain (unspecified) number of doses.

But the real star of the meds wars is Rich. He picked up some kind of respiratory bug. It takes a lot to get him into a doctor, but this was bad enough he called up Brenda for a ride to the ER. They prescribed a new, strong antibiotic and some Prednisone for him. One to kill the bug, the other to open the lungs. Unfortunately, either one or the combination got him hallucinating. He was both seeing and hearing things/people that weren't there, and he knew, in some deep corner of his mind, that they weren't. The worst news is that the symptoms started in while he was at work. He was sent home, and it turns out that Uber from Minneapolis to home is about $120! He was already working because he couldn't afford the time off. Now he's not sure if he has a job to go back to.

On the plus side, he's done with all the pills, he knows what's real again, and he's coughing all sorts of crap out of his lungs. (I tell him that last one is a good thing.) He'll be staying home until he's much better. Or perhaps until he has to head out job hunting again. Hallucinating is not great for job security, even if it is a drug interaction and you know how not to repeat it.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Another One Bites The Dust

OK, technically it bit the gravel and concrete. We've been watching and waiting for it. It couldn't possibly last, and it didn't.

Backing up a few weeks ago, there was a big saguaro cactus a couple suburbs over that made the news when it fell over onto a pickup truck, and once finally removed, left the truck in a very sharp "V" shape. Estimates at the time, per the news, were that the saguaro weighed in at 10,000 pounds. (Who do you suppose weighed it?)  Those puppies do hold a lot of water, and we'd just had three decent rains, each about 2 weeks apart. They told reporters that they didn't want to spend the $2,000 removal cost and just let it stand. Until it didn't.

This story resonated particularly with us because we almost daily pass a corner where another huge, very multiply branched saguaro was visibly dying. We blame the rabbits, of course, for nibbling the juicy green bottom away. At first only the bottom foot or so showed  through to the skeleton all around. That has been climbing higher and higher as time progressed, say, over the last year or so. Each time it got windy we'd pay particular attention to whether it was still vertical. Since it's exactly at the corner of a 4-way stop, there was plenty of time to observe it safely. Plus, if you're prone to worrying, to wonder whether it would fall just when Steve was scootering to the Community Center. That's exactly his path.

The last couple of days, wind warnings were out, though mainly either north or south of the valley. Still, we wondered. Today, on my way home from errands when  my path took me past that corner rather than a different way, I noticed that the inevitable had happened. Six feet of dead trunk no longer was able to support the monster top. It currently is laying not only completely blocking the sidewalk but also the entire width of the driveway for the house, blocking the exit of the car currently safely sitting tucked up under the carport.

I hope they're not in a hurry to go anywhere. And maybe have a couple grand sitting around.

I wonder, with all the regulations concerning saguaros, whether someone will be required to plant the individual arms to try rooting them and produce some benefit out of the tragedy. Or if somebody will try just for the profit in it.

*     *     *     *

Ummm, on second look, backed by photos, the arms look a little too split and crunched to be viable.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Do As I Say, Not Do

We were just leaving the AZ MVD after stopping in to get Steve his own handicap hanger card. Mine expires soon, and I no longer qualify.

Unfortunately that meant a left turn onto a 6 lane 2-way very busy avenue with no light or other way to accomplish the task sanely. Moreover, its speed limit is 40 MPH. Down here that's considered a mandated minimum by far too many of the local drivers.

After waiting a while for what passes for a break in traffic, if you turn into the center yellow-stripped lane, I headed into that one. I had seen a white car back at the light a couple blocks back on the right side, but judged it safe, after double checking my side mirror, to move over into a real traffic lane. (My turn signal was on, of course.)

Apparently, she disagreed about my right to do so. She had sped up  into my blind spot in the process of passing me, laying on the horn with a long loud blast. I swerved back into the center lane, to let her by, before pulling back over.

Now ordinarily I would say this was traffic as usual. But as she passed, Steve and I both read her bumper sticker and burst out laughing. It read: "BE KIND"!

Apparently it only works one way. Good luck with that, lady.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

You Know It's Windy When...

We had a strong wind blow through a couple days ago. The various spring weather fronts have been active. No rain, just a long solid spell of wind. A lot of pine needles were knocked off the tree in the back yard.

I didn't get a MPH figure from the local weatherman, but I can report that for the first time in my experience down here, the morning after when I stepped out with the dogs, every last one of those needles was laid out on the ground parallel with all the others, a thousand rusty compasses pointing west to east.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Math Impaired MD

Having spent some time working on a pre-med major, before quitting college entirely for the hard knocks school, I'm aware of how much math is involved. Try taking quantitative or qualitative analysis without it, or just plain old organic chemistry. So my primary care physician's math skills level totally puzzles me.

He seems to do just fine with plain old multiples of 30 when he's writing out - well, actually emailing, these days - prescriptions to my pharmacy. If it's one a day, he gets 30, or 90 for a three month bottle. If two daily, he's got 60 and 180 down pat. Anything else in the dosage regimen, and he's hopeless.

A couple years ago we were fiddling with fluctuating warfarin dosages, before my cardiologist took me off the stuff, until I show symptoms that will require my going back on it. The pill schedules might be one, one and a half, or two pills, depending on days of the week and my last test results. Because it was fluctuating, he was only going for 30 days at a time. But he couldn't figure out what, say, one and a half pills a daily would translate to over a month. Heaven help us all if a couple days a week were just a single pill!

Somehow we managed. My INR levels never stabilized, but never killed me either.

Now my thyroid levels have slowly been dropping, so he started me on medication for that. The single pill dose wasn't quite high enough, so he told me to take two pills on weekend days.  He didn't change the prescription. That, of course, meant I'd go through them too fast and the insurance wouldn't pay for over the prescribed amount. Given a choice between staying with one a day or increasing the dosage, I stuck with taking one a day rather than upping the dose some days and running out early. At least there'd be some going into the system.

Refill time came this week. I called his assistant, reminding her that he wanted me to take extra pills but they needed to be prescribed in higher numbers. Nobody called back, other than the pharmacy telling me my pills were ready.

On the way home, I looked at the number of pills prescribed for the next 90 days. One every day would be 90. Add the extra two each weekend, assuming 12 weekends in 3 months, should be another 24 pills, or a total of 114 pills. I don't even need a calculator for that; I can figure that in my head. So the bottle has ... 98!

And most folks think that Grannies like me don't take enough pills because they're trying to save money?