Thursday, July 23, 2009

My Turn

Yesterday it was my turn to deal with the medical world. Actually, yesterday and the day before. What should have been a quick in-'n-out turned into a 2 day trial.

About 3 or 4 weeks ago, I received a letter from Intermountain Health that it was time for my annual screening mammogram. Several weeks went by before I got around to making the phone call to schedule. I knew that last year I had actually had 2 mammograms - a screening mammogram and later a diagnostic mammogram to follow up on something the radiologist wasn't sure about. I was able to have the screening one done at the IMH clinic that is only about 1/2 mile from our house, but I had to make the 32 mile round trip into the BigTown for the diagnostic one. OK, the letter said screening so when I called for the appointment, I asked for the nearby facility.

I dutifully showed up at the assigned day and time, but when my name was called I was told that there were some problems. The tech who was to do the test said that Medicare only paid for 1 mammogram a year and this was only day 365 since the last one and they wouldn't pay until day 366. "So, let's just re-schedule," I said - logically I thought. Well, there's another problem. The last mammogram was done digitally and the doctors will want this one to be digital also for comparison purposes and we don't yet have the digital equipment at this clinic. "OK, I'll call and schedule at the other facility when I get home."

Not to happen. The reception-drone behind the desk who checked me in was already speed-dialing the scheduling number. You'd have thought she was a used-car salesman desperate to close the deal and have me sign on the dotted line she was so determined. Meanwhile, she is dithering about how she had already had me sign the Medicare form and what should she do with that. "Don't you have a shredder?" The tech rolled her eyes at my remark and the drone just kept dithering.

The thing that bugs me is that when I originally called, the scheduler put my name and birthdate into her computer and instantly knew everything about me - she had my complete IMH records right in front of her. Why didn't she realize that I needed to be scheduled after the 21st or that I needed to go into BigTown instead of the local clinic? The information was right there. Second, reception-drone had the same information available to her when I checked in. Oh wait, she would have had to THINK. Thus, it was left to the tech to spot the problems.

So yesterday I made the 32 mile trip and was in-'n-out in less than 20 minutes. The form that had the drone so concerned was waiting for me when I arrived - I really would not have minded signing another one. At least I didn't have to be stuffed into a scary box and hauled off to God knows where.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Snickers' Turn

On Monday, it was Snickers' turn to be stuffed into the scary box and hauled off to the vet's. Over the weekend he had been exhibiting some of the same behaviors that had resulted in Pudge's trip to the vet, so we packed him up and headed out.

We, including the vet, are a bit puzzled as to why these problems are now cropping up with him. He is eating low magnesium food. In fact, Snickers will eat only the wet low-magnesium stuff, which comes in 2 flavors - smelly and smellier - and Pudge will eat only the dry stuff. We got the recirculating water fountain, and they both seem to be drinking fairly good amounts of water. As the vet said, "We've shot our best bullets already". There are a couple of things left to try - one is to give him a daily dose of kitty glucosamine/chondroitin (hopefully, it can mixed with his food) and as a "last resort" bring him back in for a sub-cutaneous injection of fluid to "flood" his kidneys and bladder and flush them out.

Snickers was very good on the trip to and from the vet's - that is to say, he didn't throw up. Back when we hauled the cats along with us in the RV, we could count on Snickers throwing up within the first 3-5 miles of the wheels starting to roll. Sometimes he would pee and poop as well, but the throw up was a given. Since the cats were always put in their carriers when we were moving, the throw up was contained. I had a tote loaded with paper towels, spray bottles, surface wipes, plastic bags, etc., and we quickly developed a routine in which Snickers would crouch in the back of the carrier while I cleaned and wiped up the mess.

Anyway, no throw up on the trip to the vet's. He was terrified though - his eyes were extremely huge and he was quivering all over - no drooling, but that was a definite possibility. He put up with the poking and prodding from the vet, burying his face in my stomach during the ordeal. After the poking and prodding were over, he did growl at the doctor, so I put him back in the carrier while we discussed what to do.

The last couple of days, he seems to be a little better. All we can do at this point is keep an eye on him and hope that the measures we have taken will do some good.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sewing for Dummies

Mamie’s latest sewing project involves making aprons. Since she basically doesn’t sew, that generally means that my latest project consists of my sewing whatever it is she has come up with. But we decided that this time it would be a good idea for her to learn at least some of the basics.

First up was to check the pattern books in the fabric department at oldWalmart (where we happened to be because they have a way better fabric department than our newWalmart). We came across patterns labeled “Sewing Patterns for Dummies” – who knew? Of course, oldWalmart did not have the particular one we wanted, so we headed across town to JoAnne. There we found the pattern and 3 pieces of fabric that Mamie wanted.

A caution about the so-called “Sewing Patterns for Dummies” is in order here. I have been sewing since I was in 7th grade (over 55 years for those of you who insist on counting), and I must really be some kind of dummy because I found the directions tricky and somewhat misleading. You DO need to have some idea of what you are doing or these patterns can get you in a world of discouragement.

Yesterday afternoon was devoted to the first sewing session. Mamie did the majority of the work, from ironing the pre-washed fabric all the way through the final steps. She determined the pattern pieces she would need, separated and ironed them, laid out the pieces on the fabric, pinned and cut them out, sewed seams, etc. I did have to help out and adjust the methodology on some of the trickier parts, but she was the main person.

We were both pleased with the final product, even though it is not perfect. But this was a learning curve for both of us, and the next ones should go more smoothly now that we know where the pitfalls are. She is already thinking big ideas about aprons for Pi (who LOVES to cook and whose personal idol is “that cooker girl” aka Rachel Ray) and aprons for each holiday, etc. I guess we can add “Apron Lady” to my resume, along with Kleenex Cozy Lady, Coaster Lady, and Pillow Lady.

Friday, July 17, 2009


It is HOT, HOT, HOT here. Breath-stealing, lung-scorching, soul-searing hot. The temperature has been over 100, closer to 110+, for well over a week; and it doesn't look like things will get any better for at least several months. Yeah, yeah - I know we live in the desert southwest and have to expect hot, but that doesn't make it any easier to take. The wind which seems to always be blowing just adds to the misery, sucking all the moisture out of all living things - plants, animals, people.

UDOT is in the middle of a project to re-surface about 15 miles of State 9 from I-15 to the eastern edge of the Village. Lots of workers earning some much needed wages. I do worry about them toiling away in this heat - how in the heck do they take it? They must be part lizard or really acclimatized to the heat. I nearly collapsed walking the short distance from the car to the door of newWalmart, and that was at 8:30 AM!

Mamie and her fellow Facebook fanatics in the southwest have been discussing whether it is better to go outside and be a roasted chili pepper or stay inside and be a chilled pickle. Another discussion topic has been the HOT water that comes out of the supposedly cold water tap.

Whatever the gripe of the moment is, the fact remains that is DAMN HOT and not going to change for a long time.

Friday, July 10, 2009

TV Controls

You know those parental control thingies you can put on TV’s to prevent children from watching shows that might possibly pollute their little minds and warp them forever? I think there should be something similar so wives could lock out husbands from the Food Network.

Golfguy periodically comes up with some recipe that he’s seen some food guru prepare and thinks looks good and like something we should try. Nothing wrong with trying new recipes; I’m all for discovering something new and good. The problem is these cooking shows have UNLIMITED budgets and most of these recipes contain at least 1 or 2 unusual, exotic, and expensive ingredients that no normal pantry EVER regularly stocks.

Golfguy’s latest find resulted in 4 items on yesterday’s list that are not part of our usual buy-list. Do you have any idea how much fresh thyme costs? Or any fresh herb, for that matter? The few little sprigs of whatever couldn’t be more than 20 or 30 cents; the expense must all be in the plastic coffins enclosing them. I probably can use up the remainder of the peach preserves on morning toast, and GolfGuy can probably use the Dijon mustard, but I’m not sure about the molasses. And we haven’t even gotten to the meat part of this recipe yet.

But the real kicker is that the vast majority of these recipes, once assembled and prepared, generally rate at least one “Blech!” Very few are ever keepers.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Back to School

I know it’s only the second week of July, but I was in newWalmart today and they had HUGE displays of school supplies. The schools in our county do start the middle of August, but it does seem a little bit early to start hounding parents about getting kids ready for school.

However, I can tell you that the first, and most avid, customers of all those shiny supplies will be the classroom teachers. The average “civilian” would absolutely NOT believe the amount of their own money that teachers, particularly elementary teachers, spend on supplies for their classroom. Sure, some states supply the majority of the basics, and in others the parents are provided with long lists of items to send with their kids. But neither method covers all the needs, and so teachers do what they can to fill the gaps.

The years that Mamie spent as a classroom teacher were focused on the summer back-to-school supplies deals. At some point during the summer once the sales were on, we would get together and try to purchase what she might need for the coming year. Of course, we could not anticipate every need and things didn’t usually last the whole year, but it helped.

The first summer before Mamie was no longer going to be in a classroom, I was relentlessly drawn to the school supply displays. With a feeling of great sadness, I stroked pencil boxes, brushed fingers over boxes of crayons, and gazed regretfully at piles of notebooks and stacks of folders. The urge to buy something, anything, was great, but I turned away. The second year was easier – I looked but didn’t stop. Today, I just kept on going with barely a twinge of awareness of what I was seeing.

What did get to me, though, were the “Back to College” displays. The Walmart ad that came the other day featured all this stuff, and today the displays were all over the store. Bowls, plates, cups, wastebaskets, laundry baskets, storage containers, sheets, comforters, pillows, towels, faux suede storage ottomans, every possible household goodie a college-bound kid could want was there for the taking. And featured in 4 colors – PURPLE being one of them.

Purple is Mamie’s favorite color, and the temptation to grab purple items for her was almost overwhelming. She IS 40 years old, but it seems like there are times when I revert and think of her as 20something. I think I may have a problem.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Gettin' Back in the Groove

Things are starting to settle down into the same old, same old again. Mamie, Igor, Brendin and Pi are back safe and sound from their big road trip. Sounds like they had a great time in Garden City - lots of family, food, and fun. Mamie is off today for 3 days of conferences in the town just an hour to the north. On Thursday, she and a friend will spend the night there so they can go to one of the Shakespeare festival plays being presented there.

GolfGuy is back to playing golf - his elbow has healed up again. The last 2 days of his big road trip, he was not able to play because his elbow had flared up and was really hurting. He's just playing 9 holes at a time now, not 18, to keep down the wear and tear.

Pudge seems to be overcoming her bout of "stones". Her pee clumps in the litter box are close to normal, and she's not going to the box a zillion times a day and straining to no effect. I'm not sure the water fountain is a big hit, but both cats seem to have accepted it. The change in food is going fine; they are eating the REALLY smelly canned food well, especially Snickers, and eating the dry food as well. Pudge is bouncing around again - all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

The baby quail were back yesterday around noon time. Several hours later, they were back - only this time so were the 1st batch of baby quail that I saw a month or two ago. Now this first batch are "juveniles" and look huge in comparison to the little ones. Baby quail dad did not like having the other quail family around his babies and shooed them off to one side of the yard before herding his family to the other side. Guess there won't be any play dates in their futures.

Fourth of July was pretty quiet around here - no parades, no bar-b-ques, no fireworks for us. I spent a good part of the day turning pounds of Costco hamburger into meatloaf and hb patties to stash in the freezer - boring and lots of work. I did watch "A Capital Fourth" from Washington, D.C., on tv that evening. Some of the music was good and some not so good - the best was when just the orchestra played as the Sesame Street characters and the blond bimbo singer in the skin-tight gold dress didn't do much for me. The fireworks were OK; the fireworks from NYC were better, but by then I was pretty much falling asleep anyway so gave it up and turned the tv off. Watching fireworks on tv just isn't the same as sitting in a lawn chair at the ballfield with several hundred other people and kids running around all over the place, hearing the boom and feeling the thump as the sky explodes with light and sparkles and a collective sigh and gasp from the crowd goes up. Just not the same.

I'm headed off to Silver Sneakers later this morning. After playing hooky for a week and a half, I forced myself to go on Monday because if I didn't, I knew I might never go back. Our instructor had surgery 2 weeks ago and will be out for another 3 or 4. Unfortunately, the sub isn't "TOO tall, too...", and I don't much like her.