Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Sunny and Boo Show...

Lest I leave this year with all of you thinking that our lives are only sadness and disaster, let me give you one episode of the Sunny and Boo show:

Driving past the hospital this morning with the grandkids in the car, Sunny piped up (as she always does), "That MY doctor office!!"

I can understand why she thinks so. Between the frequent bellyaches that turned out to be due to chronic constipation and, more recently, a substantial head contusion, she's seen the inside of the ER more than her siblings, although they are frequently with her when she goes. 

Then elder sister Boo piped up. "Yeah, that's where they had to take your head off and sew it back on.  It's JUST. NOT. FAIR.  I NEVER get bumps on MY head!!!"

Now, mind you, it's snowing to near whiteout conditions and the roads are pretty rough, and now I'm laughing so hard I can't see anyway, so what difference does THAT make, I ask you?

It's utterly amazing that I simply don't drive off the road, and no great wonder that my mom did, once, just from laughing. Grandkids are the most hysterical form of stress relief there is.

Happy New Year to all of you, from all of us!


Saturday, December 30, 2017

Uninsured Since 2016.....

We have what is known as "commercial insurance." We are not old enough, disabled enough, or poor enough to qualify for any government-sponsored health care.  We are fortunate that my employer pays the lion's share of our health insurance policy cost, but to keep that cost down, we have been given an ever-growing portion of the usage costs in terms of co-payments and deductables.

We do what we can to keep costs down. 

We go to in-network providers as much as is humanly possible.  We are more than willing to use generic medications when there is a generic medication available. We avoid the emergency room in favor of lower-cost walk-ins when appropriate.  Because we don't have government insurance we are allowed to use manufacturer's discounts on all of our brand-name medications, and we also try to stick to what our insurance prefers (if we can figure it out!).

But Babygirl's not a cheap date, medically speaking.  And she's not having a great winter. She caught a cold about a month ago, and it triggered her asthma.  We started her inhalers right up (we refilled one 5 days ago - that's important to remember later in this story!), but the cough has just gotten to the point where it is merciless.  And the beauty of a good asthma cough is that it is a dusk-to-dawn affair.  For someone with migraines, a sleepless night of violent coughing is just BEGGING for a headache.  And Babygirl never has to BEG for a headache, they just come in and make themselves right at home anyway.

(Prior to this, the headaches had, in and of themselves, been severe enough that we'd contemplated a visit to the ER at least once.  She's said a couple of times, "It's like I never had the Botox this time.")

So this morning I logged at 8 in and was told to report to the walk-in at 11.  We ran a couple of errands and arrived at 10:30 since our walk-in is rarely busy.  THAT was an error in judgement. They are suffering through the same new computer programming we are, and the bad roads made one of the doctors late.  We were roomed about 1 o'clock. The doc looked her over, opted for increasing her steroids and starting some nebulizer medication, avoiding unneeded antibiotics and x-rays.  I helped by showing her shortcuts in the system to make her workflow more efficient. I've been suffering with it longer than she in my office, no need to make myself suffer excessively off the job as well, right?  She sent the new prescriptions off the the pharmacy, where I already had a couple of things waiting for me.

We stopped on the way there to eat lunch, do the weekly grocery shopping, and to get wrapping paper for next year (Hey! We're all out - don't judge! LOL). 

Somewhere along the way the pharmacy called and asked if we'd gotten new insurance cards recently.  We had, actually, about a week ago, but they don't take effect until after the first of the year, so....why?

They had tried to submit her new prescriptions and had been told, "Oh, she hasn't had coverage since 2016!"  The pharmacist pointed out that Babygirl has been getting prescriptions filled QUITE regularly throughout ALL of 2017 up to and including (you guessed it!) FIVE DAYS AGO so what, exactly, are you talking about??

By the time we arrived at the pharmacy she'd already been on the phone for over 45 minutes with some high-school-educated gum-chewing gatekeeping flunky who clearly thought that SHE knew more about the matter than the pharmacist did. The pharmacist, who is apparently a candidate for sainthood, was doing her best to find someone farther up the pharmaceutical food chain.  On a Saturday.  On New Year's Eve Eve. At nearly (by this time) 5 freaking P.M.

At this point, what we really need to make Babygirl feel better is $3 worth of prednisone and probably less that $50 worth of nebulizer medication, so I'm ready to fork out the cash and let the refill on her antirejection medication and inhalers go for now - we have enough to get us through the weekend and we can take up the fight next week.  Next Year.

Crap.  Who the hell knows what that stuff's going to cost us next year?  January is always mystery month, and I always keep $1000 on hand for just medications in January just in case, but DAMN, I have coupons for those inhalers and I KNOW I can get them for $30/3 months if I can get them NOW and they'll last until April and she won't have another asthma attack until 2019 so I won't need them again and......freak.  I need to breathe.

So I take off my jacket and climb the lobby stairs a couple of times, go to the ladies' room and splash cold water on my face (and because I'm feeling like an irritable asshole I raise the blind in the handicap stall window.  Who puts a window in a first-floor bathroom?? I feel a little bad now because if some short wheelchair-bound soul goes in there they will NOT be able to reach that sucker. My bad.) and work off some steam and figure that if the pharmacist is willing to waste her day talking to idiots on my behalf, the least I can do is pretend to be patient while she does it.

"At least we aren't almost out of her transplant meds."  "That will NEVER happen while I am Pharmacist here."  Damn.  I think I saw her Cape and Tights peep out. 

An hour and a half later, she learns that despite the fact that they have been billing (and getting paid for) Babygirl's medication using a code listing her as person #2 on the insurance card, she is, actually (this week at least) person #4 and should be coded as such. Just like the inexplicable change in mail-order costs a couple of months ago, "It's always been that way" was the only (utterly nonsensical) explanation the insurance company could offer. $114 for her medications (and $75 more for three of mine) and we were out the door.

Babygirl looked at me at this point and said, "I'm really glad I don't have to do this on my own."  I felt my own Cape flutter a little. (I shoulda maybe hung it over that bathroom window....)

She just filled her pill sorters while doing a breathing treatment, adjusting the higher dose of prednisone for her lower one for the next four days, and asking, "Are my hands supposed to be shaking like this?"

Yup.  Just like my brain is right now.


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Christmas Plumbing....

My house has been Holiday Central for many years.  It's big enough, and has a big table. We had the most kids, and it made sense for people to come here:  That way they could leave the chaos behind any time it got overwhelming.

Wanting to get some idea of exactly HOW overwhelming, I posted this on Facebook:

"I failed to send out the engraved invitations at Thanksgiving...So here are the Christmas Invites:
December 23rd will be kids' day. Come over any time after 1 PM for cookie baking. Make a gift for Mom and Dad if you need one! Dinner will be Lasagna (in honor of Great Grandma's birthday!) at 5 PM, with cookie decorating to follow. Adult beverages available..
December 24th: 
11 AM church service includes a kid's program (come and watch Boo and Sunny!) and a Cantata.
Dinner (adults only*PM me if you think you or your kid should be an exception LOL I may agree) at 5 PM. Adult beverages available 8-10 PM
Services at 7 and 11 PM, I'll be singing for both.
December 25th:
Gifts opening at 9 AM for those "sisters" who can't be apart for the event LOL. Quiet time at grandmas house noon to 4 PM.
Dinner at 6: Roast beef, mashed potatoes and whatever you all are bringing (let me know so I can fill in the gaps!).
RSVP! or just show up for the cookies!"

You get the idea.

The 23rd was delightfully chaotic.  There were 6 grandkids and four sisters, lots of flour and frosting and some early gifting, and a LOT of sugar buzz.

Christmas Eve was sweet.  Seeing little children in sheep costumes escape their shepherds and crash the bell concert during the morning service:  Priceless.  The two evening services, lovely.  

The quiet time between?  Well.

Sometime during the Cookie Crazy the downstairs bathroom sink stopped draining.  My granddaughters are notorious for putting things in pipes that JUST. DON'T. BELONG.  So, on my list of things for between noon and 5 PM (in addition to making dinner and making sure our ice and Adult Beverage supplies were adequate) I had a sink to unstop.

Overnight Drano had not solved the problem.

I figured out how to pull the vanity drawers, and got down to removing the trap.  No clog.

I tried the 'twist and lift' that usually removes the plug device from it's anchor, and the plug.....sank into the drain.  Pushing the drain lift did not make it move. 

Up to this point I'd managed without hubby, but I called him in for a consult.  He's a genius - he handed me a pencil, which was long enough and narrow enough to push the plug back up.  The clog was entirely on the plug, but the device that moves the plug up and down was broken.  Well, honestly, how often do you actually need to plug your sink anyway?  I put it all back together without the plug, after cleaning a LOT of nasty, mentally apologizing to my granddaughters for blaming them for the problem.

The Holidays proceded apace, and a good time was had by all.

Christmas Night, when all the guests had departed, Hubby and I played a new Christmas game, finished a bottle of wine, and went to bed.  

About 3 AM MY plumbing went crazy.

My gut hurt all the way through my ribs to my mid-back. Being sick was a brief, blessed relief.  The word "pancreatitis" flashed through my head a couple of times before the pain let up after about an hour.  Well, not 'let up' so much as 'spread out all over my body.'

I am not terribly susceptible to stomach bugs, although the past two years might argue differently. 

But I AM a baby about being in pain.  I took some Tylenol (the only over-the-counter painkiller my kidneys will tolerate).  I felt better.  Well, then, this sure-as-crap isn't pancratitis - NOTHING makes that feel better. 

I called in sick to work, and slept 12 hours between 'plumbing emergencies' for the rest of the day.  I worked half a day today.

I suspected it was handling whatever was in that damned drain, but then I discovered that about 1/3 of the family had it (and hubby and Sunny just got over it) so who knows.  

But if you are going to get sick, get sick the day AFTER a great long weekend, right?


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Joyous Moments....

It's been an undisciplined gratitude month.  Oh, I've been grateful, every day, truly.  But I've been lax about getting it down on paper.  But the month has been full of those odd, funny, joyful moments...

The laughter of a child at a made-up nonsensical joke.

Getting the giggles so bad you forget what you were laughing about to begin with and laugh more because you are laughing until it hurts, and then you laugh more.

Meeting the eye of your love across the room and smiling because you both just Know.

Coming through the door and smelling dinner when you thought you'd be the one cooking.

And watching a big, clumsy old dog take off across someone's yard to attack a spinning pinwheel flower, and seeing him laugh and prance away like he did something AMAZING when it stops spinning.

Our lives are full of things to laugh about, if we pay attention.  There are moments of joy, quiet and loud, dark and bright:  They surround us at all times if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.  The day-to-day struggles of our lives sometimes feel overwhelming.  I need to remember to SEE, to HEAR, and to FEEL the joy when it is struggling to make itself heard!


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Cherries and Maple Leaves.....

It was about this time, two years ago, that Mom took the fall that ultimately took her home. There's a two month blog-gap between the first December  (General Health Updates....) and my annual kidney transplant update post (Four Years....) that was utterly taken up by her hip fracture, hospital stay, nursing home transfer and decline.  (By the way, my brother offered the nickname "BamBam" for JuJu's baby - it never stuck - they all call him Bubbies. I have no idea why.)

Time passes.  The raw emotions that follow the loss of both of your parents (and one of your best friends) in less than a year don't really go away, exactly.  They just hit less frequently.

Sunday afternoon I wrapped Christmas presents.  Don't judge me - there are a lot of grandkids to keep track of!  I'm pretty efficient.  Wrap, label, add to the list.  Wrap, label, add to the list.  Wrap....

My dad adored chocolate covered cherries.  I'm not sure why - personally I think they're pretty gross - but he loved them.  So every year, I would buy him a box.  Once, when Curlygirl was very little, she started eating his cherries before he could even get the first one:  I had no idea she like them.

So, every year for nearly 20 years after that, I bought and wrapped TWO boxes of chocolate covered cherries.  Until last year.  I don't actually remember if I bought them for Curlygirl then, but I bought them this year.  And wrapping only one box just made me cry for a few minutes.

Next day: 

First, the background.  When Citygirl moved out west to learn wine making, she sent my Mom a picture of herself holding the biggest autumn maple leaf I've ever seen - far bigger than her head. That picture sat on my Mom's dining room table, and she commented on it at least once a week over breakfast.  The photo went with her to the nursing home, although she was too out of it to really notice at that point. I remember picking it up with Mom's 'personal effects' a few weeks after she died.

So, walking into work, still a bit tender from the Christmas memories, I spotted an absolutely enormous maple leaf on the sidewalk, not as big as the one in the picture but monstrous compared to what we usually see on trees here, and, BLAM, I was sitting at Mom's table, sorting pills and drinking coffee while she ate her peanut butter toast and chatted about whatever thoughts were wandering through her mind at the moment.

Weeping as you come through the door of the office is bad form.

Grief is a funny thing.  You can be fine - truly FINE - and then. Then.

Oddly, someone today randomly mentioned that I seemed to be handling my Mom's loss well. He's facing losing his own mother and isn't at all sure he'll do well. It left me at a bit of a loss as to what to say.

There's no real point to all of this, and it's a bit out of place in the gratitude month concept, except...I'm not UNgrateful for grief, truly.  I've met people who would happily dance on the graves of their parents, and who grieve only for the sadness that was their childhoods.  The things I miss are happy things, good things, grateful things. My life hasn't been all sunlight and roses, but my parents did their best to give me better than they had, and I miss them.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Grocery Stores....

Today was stock-up-on-everything day.  Beginning at the Farmer's Market, moving through Aldi's, Walmart and Price Chopper (in order of ascending price LOL), there was really nothing that we could have wished for that we couldn't have found.

Of course, our wishes are modest.  We aren't looking for fresh truffles and two carat diamonds.

But we could have had live lobster.  We bought mangoes and pomegranates. We could have had any of an almost unimaginably large number of luxuries without driving more than five miles from home.

I remember life in Pakistan.  I lived in a wealthy neighborhood (lower upper class, if you will). The family had one full-time servant, and at least three part-time.  We could afford to but enough water to have a flower garden and a lawn in the middle of our desert city.  There was a refrigerator, and we fired up the hot water tank every morning for (brief!) hot showers, saving the grey water for the lawn. But shopping?

Once a week a bazaar sprang up in a dusty grassless field.  There were a lot of things you could buy: Clothing, undergarments, cloth, towels.  There was food also:  Garlic, spices, two or three types of fresh vegetables, some canned goods. Fresh yogurt in large open clay bowls. Fresh chicken as well. Well, actually, LIVE chickens that were slaughtered and plucked on site while you shopped. Nothing like flying feathers to help you work up an appetite....

The entire place was a transplant recipient's nightmare.

Farmer's market food requires a couple of extra minutes of preparation.  Cut the tops off the carrots.  Snap the Brussel sprouts off the stem.  Make sure you didn't bring home any little green worms with the broccoli.  But even our most inconvenient food is easier to work with and far more plentiful than what the majority of people all around the world deal with day-to-day.

I'm grateful.


Friday, November 10, 2017


I remember the heat vent upstairs in the house I grew up in.  It was in the hallway, by the windows.  If there was another source of heat for the bedrooms up there, I don't remember (although I don't recall ever being cold, exactly).  I DO remember standing over that vent in my flannel nightgown on more than one Christmas Eve, warm and waiting....

I remember the steam radiators in my old apartment in Buffalo.  They were slow to get going, but once they did, they'd fog the windows with warmth...

I remember the beach house that I lived in during medical school.  It had only one heat vent for the entire tiny house.  The last person to bed opened everyone's bedroom doors to let in some heat, and the first one up closed them to keep in the quiet.  All THREE of us would stand over that vent in our nightclothes to warm up...

Today was our first really cold day of the season.  When I went out to walk the dogs this morning there was a gust of cold wind, the kind that makes your nostrils pinch and your throat shut tight so you can't breathe for a minute.  It soaked into me, and lasted until now.

But now I am sitting on the heat vent in my living room, with a blanket to keep any of the warm air from escaping.  My fingers and toes are finally warm, and my ears can't be far behind.

Thank God for the blessing of warmth.


Thursday, November 9, 2017


I will never, ever stop being grateful for the blessing of a good pedicurist. As I’ve aged I’ve come to realize just how much pain I’d be in if I hadn’t found someone I could trust to keep my ingrown toenails in check. I mean, who wants surgery for that when there is a more pleasant alternative?

It seems like a small thing. But I am an absolute baby about pain, honestly. Having let things go once to the point where I need the less-than-tender mercies of a podiatrist, I RUN to get a pedi at the first pinch now. And the plus? Pretty toes.

Hey! No one said that all gratitude needs to be profound! LOL.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Puppy Love....

How can I not be grateful for our dogs?  Simon is going to be 15 this spring, and he still greets every day with a smile.  Larry's age is an open question, but he's 10 if he's a minute. He's proudly learned how to play for what appears to be the first time in his life over the past year since he moved in with us.

And then there's Capone.

He's hysterical.  He's adorable. He's loving to me, and a world-class jerk to his brother dogs.

While we were trick-or-treating with the grandkids, I stopped to say hi to an enormous GoldenDoodle on a neighbor's porch.  "He's so calm!"  "Yeah, he's pretty good."  I told him my dog's not so good with crowds of people in costumes.  "I think you've seen us walking. I have the Shrieking Beagle."  "Oh, yeah - I know that dog. He's, uh,.....cute."

Yeah, pretty much everybody knows Capone LOL.


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Headache Meds....

I missed yesterday's gratitude post:  I came home from work with a puking light-avoiding headache after another day of struggling with our recently installed 'new' electronic medical record system.  I wasn't feeling grateful.  Or up to typing.

But in the (subdued) light of (medication-hungover) morning, I am grateful for the medications that brought that headache from Oh-Dear-God-Take-Me-Now to Pretzels-Are-Dinner-Food-Aren't-They over a period of a couple of hours.

I'm grateful for the medications that I take daily that took away the daily headaches that came with hallucinatory auras.

I am NOT grateful for the new operating system.


PS If you see me today, remind me to call in a refill of my migraine medication. I had to borrow Babygirl's last night.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Safe Havens....

I've been fortunate that for most of my life I've had a Home.  I lived in the same town for the first 18 years of my life, moving into my childhood home when I was a toddler and into a house just outside of town in my mid-teens. I left for college, and returned for a couple of years afterward. And then I became a nomad.

I moved dozens of times during medical school.  If it didn't fit in my Toyota Corolla, I didn't keep it.  I moved from one hospital to another every 4 - 6 weeks.  I lived in Long Island, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Detroit, and Buffalo, sometimes moving 12 hours between the end of a shift on Saturday and the start of another on Monday.

I've been where I am now for almost 30 years.  This is MY kids' home town (which still seems odd to me).  I don't have to move again unless I want to.  It's Home. And for every time I have to leave with Babygirl to park ourselves in some hospital elsewhere, there is an endless sense of safety and relief when we get back.

For those of us who have been uprooted and thrown from our safe havens, finding Home is a miraculous and wonderful thing.  It isn't a place, necessarily:  It's the knowledge of belonging.  Every once in a while someone will ask me about some bit of local history and I'll have to admit that I'm not 'native' here, but I belong nonetheless.

I looked ahead on my schedule for the week, and I have a new patient. She's a brand-new baby, whose mother I cared for when SHE was a brand-new baby, and that is just another aspect of Home.

Gratitude for our safe places, amen.


Saturday, November 4, 2017


We city dwellers rarely take the time to think about where our food comes from.  And the majority of us, if we think about it, agree that factory farming isn't a good thing, but we still don't really change much about how we select our food in the grocery store.

Guilty as charged.

We still buy milk (hormone free, but I'm pretty sure the cows aren't running loose) and we aren't looking to become vegetarians anytime soon.


We faithfully go to our local farmers' market, almost every week. An increasing percentage of our grocery money is going directly to the people who grow our food locally.  I'm willing to buy smaller apples, odd-shaped carrots (we saw some the other day that were of 'inconceivable' size, making my friend and I giggle and inappropriately reference adult movies), and food I've never heard of (Dragon Beans, anyone?) to improve our health and decrease our carbon footprint somewhat.  I've had my own little veggie patch long enough to truly appreciate the work that goes into growing cabbages that defy the "Never eat anything larger than your own head" rule.

Generally speaking, this is better for Babygirl. Food that is grown in a local organic farm is far less likely to be contaminated with some deadly bacteria like E. coli or salmonella.

We owe our very being to people who are willing to live close to the land.  But it is hard for smaller local farmers to compete with the big factory farms.  This is where Community Supported Agriculture comes in.  The idea is this:  You join a CSA group, and pay a set amount either weekly or up front for a box of fresh produce, weekly or biweekly, that you can pick up at your farmers' market (or in our case, my place of employment if I'd prefer).  The farmers are guaranteed a certain income up front. You might get 2 small heads of brocolli instead of one big one, but you'd still get your brocolli (or whatever is in season).

Here's a link to a site that will help you find one: Local Harvest

I haven't done a farm share yet.  I like going to the market, and we spend as much there as we would on the farm share, but either way is a great way to show your local farmers that you are grateful for what they do.


Friday, November 3, 2017

Card Games.....

Mom had multi-infarct dementia.  In a nutshell, she had tons of little strokes that did progressive brain damage.  It's not the same as Alzheimer's:  You don't fade backwards into time, you lose chunks of what you once knew, at random moments.  Sometimes it's so subtle no one notices, but sometimes...

My Mom loved to play games.  Clue, Chess, Monopoly, Rummy, Nertz, Sorry.  She loved them all.  And she played mercilessly.  She knew more card games than anyone I ever knew, and was always willing to learn a new one.

Until she couldn't. One week she could play cards. The next week, she couldn't hold them, couldn't understand them, couldn't remember the rules, couldn't figure out what to do with them at all. The ENTIRE skill set disappeared in the space of one week, with no other notable deficits.

It was one of the most depressing moments I can recall of her overall decline, a watershed moment:  There was no mistaking the loss, and no going back.

Tonight Babygirl, Em and I played Blokus (a board/puzzle game) and a round of Phase 10 and one of SkipBo.  We laughed, ate chips and salsa, and enjoyed each others' company, and remembered Mom.

I am grateful, today, for the ability to play.


Thursday, November 2, 2017

Delayed Gratitude....

It's traditional to think about thankfullness in November.  It's not that we shouldn't be thankful all the year 'round, of course, but I think there is a great wisdom in picking the waning days for this purpose.

It's easier for me to settle into gratitude when the days are lengthening. It's easier to stay grateful when the days are warm and the gardens are blooming.  But on a day like today, when the skies are grey and the air is cooling and I can feel in my left ankle just exactly WHAT is coming, well, I need to think about it more.

So lets update the medical, because there is much to be grateful for there.

Babygirl is 18 now.  When I announced her birthday in church a couple of months ago there was a collective gasp that startled the visiting pastor:  Everybody loves her, and everybody remembers her from her toddler days to her holy-cow-don't-set-the-altar-on-fire accolyte days, to now.  That congregation has prayed us through incredibly hard times, and thrown money at us when we'd have gone under if they hadn't, but I think they never imagined her as a 'grown up,'  It was an entertaining moment.

We saw her doctors last week.  She is now 5 1/2 years post transplant.  The kidney is doing astonishingly well in terms of function, still a bit acidy, and her body is putting forth some hormones that indicate that something is a bit wonky somewhere, but overall, an excellent report.  Usually at this age they'd transfer her to adult doctors, but because her health has put her 2 years (!) behind in school, she qualifies to continue there until she finishes high school, so we are good to continue with the pediatric specialists in Philadelphia for a couple of years.

The headaches remain a different issue.  She is off all the preventive medications, which is likely why the kidney is happier.  She is getting Botox injections every 12 weeks, and they work pretty well for the first 8 or so, and then wear off.  Still, this is a VAST improvement over what life was like for the previous 4 years, so we'll take it.  As with the Philalelphia doctors, the doctor in Wilmington (Delaware - yes, we are now seeing pediatric specialists in TWO different states, neither of them the one we live in) will continue to care for her as long as she is in high school.

I get a lot of questions about Botox.  No, it isn't just for movie star wrinkles. It is an FDA approved therapy for chronic refractory migraines.  It involves something just under 40 separate injections in Babygirls forehead, scalp, neck, and trapezius muscles (the upper border of the shoulder).  One time this paralyzed one eyebrow for a week so she had a bit of a Spock look going, but otherwise she hasn't had any side effects.  No, they won't give me the leftovers.

So my November 1 AND 2 Thank You are for ongoing health of Jorge's kidney, and fewer headaches.


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Don't Have a Cow, Man...

One of the joys of being a grandma is being able to snag a kid and just go do something.  Usually Hubby, Babygirl and I hit the farmer's market on Saturday morning for fresh coffee and cookies vegetables and fruit, and then move on to our weekly shopping. Since Babygirl was hanging with a friend, and Hubby's back was being mean, I went next door and asked Squeaker if he'd like to go.

"Is it far?"

"Not at all!"

"Not the one at the beach?  'Cause it takes EIGHT HOURS to get to that one."

Well.  He has a point:  That WAS the last farmer's market I took him too, and it did take him and Curlygirl eight hours to get there because of rain, traffic jams and general mayhem on the road.

"Nope. It's here in town, I promise."

He agreed, and to our delight we discovered that it was trick-or-treat day at the market. He wasn't costumed, but no one held that against him. He got candy, a tiny pumpkin, fresh cookies, a bag of granola and samples of all kinds.  He wants to go back next week.  I felt a bit like Charlie Brown.  I didn't get rocks, but I had to PAY for my stuff.

On the way home we talked about food we liked.  "Thumbs up if you like:  Carrots!  Broccoli!  Apples! Peaches!"  We took turns suggesting foods.  I finally said, "Coconut!" and he said, "I don't know, I've never had it.  But I like milk, and coconuts have milk, so I guess I'd like it!"  So I had to explain that cow's milk an coconut milk might not be at all similar, and why.  So then he said:

"So, it's not a cowconut?"

I. Laughed. My. Butt. Off.

He's FIVE.  OhMyGoodness.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Me, Too.....

The "Me, Too" campaign to raise awareness of rape/sexual assault/sexual harrassment online has been interesting to observe.  The idea is that any surviver of any of the above should put "Me, too" as their status to let people know just how overwhelmingly common this is.

I'm not surprised by how MANY people have posted. I'm more surprised by how FEW.

Statistics show that one in THREE women (and one in FIVE men) will have some sort of unwanted sexual encounter at some point. I'm not sure those stats even assessed more 'ordinary' day-to-day sexual harassment that women just deal with - catcalls, "why-doncha-SMILE-baby", and having to say, "I have a boyfriend" whether you do or not to get some loser to back off at a bar.

That being said: Me too.

I've never been raped or assaulted.  But....nearly 40 years ago....

I was 22, in my first 'real' job, working in a large biological R&D lab. We did serious research: Our lab developed interferon as a drug, the first biological drug to have to go through the FDA. We developed the test that is still used for early detection of prostate cancer.  It was a very diverse place.  My boss was a Chinese woman, and her boss was a Polish man.  My immediate superviser was Japanese.  One of my co-workers was a soft-spoken Korean woman with a PhD in microbiology.  And then there was Lamonte.

Lamonte was a lab tech.  He was everywhere in lab keeping supplies in place, helping gather specimens for quality control, helping maintain the large tissue cultures required for interferon production.  And one place he ALWAYS seemed to be was behind ME and my Korean co-worker.  He'd sneak up and tickle us in the ribs under the arms, never quite hitting the breasts from behind, simply enjoying watching us jump and shriek.

Personal history:  My dad used to tickle me, and not EVER stop until, well, HE wanted to.  As a child, I had a recurrent nightmare of standing in a spotlight, with hands reaching in from the dark to tickle me.  In the dream I absolutely KNEW that if I could just scream the tickling would stop, but I could NEVER scream.

Lamonte did not sneak up on any of my male co-workers and tickle THEM.  The very first time he did this to me I asked him to never do it again.  He thought that was cute, apparently.  At least once a week, when I could not possibly anticipate it, he snuck up behind me and tickled me.  At the Xerox machine. At my desk. While I was doing delicate work with cell lines. And NEVER when there was anyone to see it. After a few weeks of this I reported it to his supervisor.  A few more weeks and I reported it to MY boss.  My Korean co-worker QUIT, and I didn't find out until much later that he was the reason why.

The last time he did it, I was seated in a solid chair, and by reflex jammed my elbows back, trapping his hands against the metal.  He had the temerity to complain that I had hurt his hands.  I looked him in the eye and told him that if he ever touched me again I'd do more than hurt his hands. And then I went and got his supervisor, dragged her to my boss, and had a come-to-Jesus-shout-down about this ongoing behavior, and how they were allowing sexual harassment in the workplace, and that IF they allowed it to happen again I was going to administration and letting them know just how LONG they had allowed it to continue.

It doesn't sound like much. But it made going to work a gird-up-your-loins chore instead of a joy.  It made me nauseous when I realized he was at work (which was, of course, almost every single day!).  It destroyed my peace of mind.  And it happened only because some man felt he had the right to lay hands on any woman he wanted as long as it was 'just a joke,' whether she was laughing or not.

Me, too.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Eating Our Way Through Austin....

Our purpose for this trip was to attend a wedding, but, airfares being what they are, it was MUCH more affordable to stay a week than a weekend, lodging included. Airfare for a 10 day stay would have been the same, but then lodging would have exceeded the savings, so we decided to make a week of it.

The beauty of having an apartment to stay in is that we can eat breakfast and the occasional lunch here, so going to a supermarket for $100 worth of supplies took care of a significant number of meals that would have been $50 each - not to mention coffees and waters that travel with us.

But Austin is a Foodie city.

There are food trucks.  Dives. High end vegan restaurants. Steak houses. Barbecue joints. Tacos of every description. Coffee bars.  Not to mention every strip-mall chain seen everywhere else in the USA, plus the local fast food: Jack-in-the-Box, Chick-fil-A, El Pollo Rico - but thankfully no Bojangles. There are even specialty supermarkets:  Fiesta Mart, specializing in ethnic (including pre-packaged Indian) food, and Central Market/Whole Earth Provision (Whole Foods meets Wegmans in a warehouse). You can't possibly miss a meal here, and you can buy wine in any corner store or supermarket.

So far we've hit two steakhouses (don't ask - I can't remember!), a taco truck, a fabulous Mexican restaurant (Polvos) and an amazing family-style Italian (Buco di Beppo), where 16 of us were seated in "The Pope Room."  This was a domed circular room, with an 8 - 10 foot circular table with an enormous lazy Susan in the middle.  Huge platters of manicotti, shells, chicken, salad, mussels, spaghetti with 1 pound meatballs and garlic bread spun their way around, with a bust of the current Pope smiling benevolently at us as he spun along.  It's the only restaurant I've ever been in where you walk through the kitchen to get to the seating, and one booth is located IN the kitchen, so if you like, you can be seated where you can watch all the action there.

Babygirl has been bringing home leftovers from most meals. I think she plans to have a burrito for breakfast.  I'm not throwing stones: Yesterday I had leftover red potatoes and spicy fried butterflied jumbo shrimp.

Oh - I even picked and ate one of the prickly pears.  The color is amazing. The flavor?  Kiwi-ish, not as sweet.  Not worth the risk of the prickers IMO LOL.

I think I will not step on a scale for a week or so after I get home.


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Armadilllos and Such Like.....

We arrived in Austin, Texas on Wednesday to celebrate the wedding of my Godson Danny, which will take place today at The Moss Ranch near Enchanted Rock State Park. We haven't had much opportunity to explore Austin, but we did drive to the ranch yesterday. It's about two hours away from our apartment in South Austin.

(Side note:  I can't say enough good about AirBnb.  We needed a place to stay where we can manage Babygirl's medical needs:  Comfy surroundings, a fridge and a stove, clean bathroom and so on, and we found a very cute, reasonably priced 1 bedroom apartment less than 10 minutes from our hosts, 10 minutes from downtown, and across the street from not one but THREE amazing Taco Trucks.)

We attended rehearsal dinner last night, not because we were needed but because we are just, well, family. It was fun to reconnect and to meet a generation of young'uns I've been watching grow online but haven't seen IRL so far.  Danny is the last of my 'neices and nephews' (from my 'brother from another mother,' Rich) to marry, and the first whose wedding I've been able to attend.

The venue, as I said, is 2 hours away, but only 88 miles.  Google Maps helps sort out traffic, most of the time, but letting Google decide between one deserted hill-country road an another in the dark may not be the wisest course of action.

Google sent us off in the opposite direction from which we had arrived.  Having seen a map, I knew that this was, however odd, entirely reasonable, since we were in a sort of you-can't-get-there-from-here corner of the universe anyway.  But holy Lord, we went over some twisty dark roads with cattle guards and flood crossings and switchbacks and...

We saw a coyote. Since I'd already seen a roadrunner it seemed logical, and could the Acme truck be far behind?  We saw deer.  I saw an ENORMOUS skunk. We saw some WTF was THAT? And some deer, and Hubby scared the life out of me when an armadillo startled the snot out of HIM.  The second one was less alarming, giving us a bit more warning by ambling down the center of the road.

At one point I misheard my directions, took a wrong turn and was then redirected by Google onto a HolyHillsBatman back road.  At the third left turn, we spotted a sign:  "No Outlet. DO NOT FOLLOW YOUR GPS."

OMGoodness.  I wish we had paused for a photo, because, really?  Who is going to believe us?

We backtracked a mile or so, caught our road, and finally hit civilization and revived ourselves at a "Texas Stop Sign," AKA Dairy Queen.

Now we get to go back there for the wedding. Wish us luck!


Friday, October 6, 2017

Midnight and Pearls....

I haven't had many insomniac nights in the past year - scarcely any, actually. But tonight is a humdinger of a can't-shut-my-head-off kind of night. You know: The kind where you might just as well give in, get up, and accomplish something.  And it isn't like there isn't always a to-do list, right?

Bella is getting married tomorrow.  JuJuBee's middle sister: Eight years old when she first charmed her way into our home, in and out during her mother's tumultous struggles with addiction, and on her own by age 18 with a 2 year old. She has had her own demons to fight, and has grown up all the way, ready to become The Grownup in her own family.

When she asked me to be Mother-of-the-Bride, I cried.  I am deeply honored, yet incredibly humbled.  There is so much I could not do for her, so much I could not save her from, so many times when all I could do was pray, and pray, and hope and pray some more.

She deserves better, although I know I couldn't have done much more.


I asked her if she would like to wear my mother's pearls on her wedding day.  She got teary, and touched, and excited.  But antique pearls and modern wedding dresses don't always work well together. So this week, she asked, "Do you have anything else 'old'?"

Oddly, yes.

Among my mom's things were not one but three sets of pearls.  One has an, um, interesting, history. Mom left those to Citygirl. That set I know is about 65 years old. The next, I'm not sure of - judging by the clasp and the stringing style they are likely older, possibly MY grandmother's.  The third set of about that same age had a cheaper clasp and a broken string, and the pearls were coming off.

So I offered to stitch the loose pearls to her garter.  Something old, something from her Grandma.  My friend Michelle (one of my best inheritances from my mother) is a talented seamstress, so when I asked if she had fine needles and silk thread she produced "beading needles" (who knew that was a thing?) and beading thread (again, a thing?), so all I needed was some time to get it done.

Work's been crazy. Nothing like a computer software overhaul to make your day difficult, or to trigger some massive migraines.  I guess I needed some insomnia.

Sixteen pearls are now adorning the lace of her garter. I've had some quiet space in my head to pray for her and her soon-to-be-husband and their new life together.  May they face it with courage, grace, and humor.

"Always kiss me goodnight."


Monday, September 25, 2017

Water Under the Bridge....

Last summer, I got a dental infection.  It needed treatment with not one, but two antibiotics. That led to a gut infection, which pretty much left me as ill as I can recall being in years.  But here's "The Rest of the Story."

My parents were awesome people, but they grew up poor.  I remember the day my mom came home after having ALL of her teeth extracted.  I don't think I was in school yet, and she was only 20 when I was born. Regular dental visits were not part of my life, growing up.  Toothbrushes were also not a regular part of my life in early childhood:  It took some dental hygiene classes in school and some sleepovers at friends' houses to notice that we were missing something. By the time I was a teen, brushing was a regular habit, but by then the damage had been done.

When I was 21, I got a job with REALLY good dental insurance.  It took a good dentist about a year of almost weekly visits to fix what could be fixed and pull what could not.  When all was said and done, I was down 2 wisdom teeth and 4 other adult teeth, and had fillings in nearly every other remaining tooth.  I lost another tooth during medical residency - I just couldn't afford a root canal.  So when I finally got another 'real job' I started seeing a dentist again.

To cover a gap due to these missing teeth, my dentist recommended a permanent bridge, crowning 3 teeth and adding 2 'fake' teeth.  Twenty or so year later the enamal cracked, and I had to replace it.  Now, these suckers are expensive:  A 5-tooth bridge is $2500-$3500, and dental insurance at the time covered very little of it, but hey, I like to eat, and chewing with your gums isn't comfy, so I did what I had to do. When the replacement bridge was installed, I needed a root canal in one of the teeth, so the timing was good even if the cost was ungodly.

Fast forward to last summer.  The infection I had was in the tooth, under the bridge, with the root canal.  So earlier this year I went to an oral surgeon and had some procedure done that made the tooth stop getting infections.  I went for routine follow up at the end of July, and he said it was healing well, despite the fact that I told him that it felt like the bridge was, "Chewing funny."

Two days before we left for the beach, I had a routine cleaning.  I told the hygienist the same thing.  I was due for x-rays.  My regular dentist was on vacation, so another guy looked it all over, said everything looked great, see you in 6 months.

Later that same day, I was eating, and the bridge came out.  At least, that's what I thought at first.  But what actually happened was that it BROKE between the two 'fake' teeth, bringing the recently repaired tooth right out with it, root canal included.  So, there I am with essentially three teeth in my hand and....Geeze. In retrospect, the crack is completely visible on the x-rays, not that it mattered.  It would have saved me only one emergency dental visit the next day.


Today, after a lot of back-and-forth between my regular dentist and the oral surgeon, the bridge has been turned into 2 crowns, and sad remains of the other tooth pulled.  An implant was placed, and I'll tell you that I've never had so many stitches in my life as I have in my mouth right now.

The total anticipated cost on this baby is about $3500, but thanks be to God this guy takes our insurance, so I'm expecting to pay less than a third of that.  And THEN I get to see about getting a removable bridge, because no way in HELL am I putting in a third 'permanent' bridge at those prices.

And tonight, I have to say, I am incredibly grateful for hydrocodone, and for medications that cut nausea enough to make it possible to take it.

Interestingly enough, dental implants frequently require bone grafts, and I needed grafting. So I now have donor bone in my jaw (not to be disrespectful, but jamming splinters of someone else's bone up under your gums is uncomfortable while it is happening, even with Novocaine, and QUITE painful when the Novocaine wears off).  I asked the oral surgeon about the donor, thinking to write to the family and say thank you, but he said, "It came from the University of Miami, so it must have been a smart guy."  By this point I was a bit dazed by all the yanking and jamming and whatnot, but I'm planning on slapping him upside the head when I go back for my recheck to remind him that perhaps some respect is due to those who donate, right?


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Prescription Glitches.....

 Babygirl has been managing her pill sorter for some time now. Generally, she's pretty good at it. She lets me know when she is running low on things, but yesterday for some reason I asked her to check on her supply of translplant medications. She'd asked me to call in the one that has to be filled at the local pharmacy, but I couldn't recall getting any medications from the specialty pharmacy that sends her 90 day supplies of the pricy ones.

Sure enough, one of them was pretty close to gone.  She just sorted two weeks' worth, and there are a few still in the bottle, so we have time enough to get them ordered.  Another one was about to start on the last bottle. The pharmacy usually can get them to us in three to four days, so no problem.

I put in the call, and the chaos began.

"That will be two medications, with $15 co-payments each, for a 30 day supply, okay?"

Um....not really!  "Why just 30 days?  We always get a 90 day supply. And why do we have a co-payment?  We haven't had to ever pay you for these medications before!  Not that $15 is so much, but what changed all of a sudden?" I know insurance companies sometimes change the rules, but to change two rules simultaneously seemed, well, just off.

I spent thirty minutes on the phone with a very patient and kind pharmacy representative who did her best to try to figure out what had changed and why.  When all was said and done, she really didn't know, but mentioned something about a 'cap' on the amount of medication, and read me back from the insurance coverage that this was, indeed, what the price and amount was supposed to be.

Well, we're three weeks away from out of medication on one dose, so here's my credit card number and go ahead and ship just THAT one, okay?

We've been using this mail-order specialty pharmacy for transplant medications since right after Babygirl's Medicare ended 2 1/2 years ago.  We were told, if I recall correctly, that we HAD to use it for these medications or face fairly astronomical monthly co-payments at the local pharmacy.  We've been using them without a single glitch ever since, and I have nothing bad to say about them - they've been convenient, easy to contact, and unfailingly courteous. But.

There is no way to tell someone who doesn't have a chronically ill child (or a personal catestrophic illness) just exactly how gut-clenchingly terrifying the word "CAP" is.  The implications are staggering, nauseating, insomnia-inducing, palpitating, adrenal-squeezing:  That moment when you realize the ship is going down and there is nothing you can do to stop it.

It implies that your coverage is running out. And without that coverage, bad things - VERY bad things - will happen to your child.

It was a good thing we were having chicken soup for dinner.  (Cock-a-leekie soup, actually, but no one seems to believe me when I say that, and it makes people laugh. But it's very good soup.) It's very calming.

During lunch today I called the pharmacy benefits department of our insurance.  They looked over the policy, and assured me that the mail-order people have it right:  We can only get a 30 day supply for a $15 co-pay.  "Since when?" I ask.  "Since always," they reply.  They seem to believe that the pharmacy has been working in error for 2 1/2 years, gifting us with co-payment-free medications to the tune of nearly $1500 in missed revenue without noticing.  Furthermore, they tell me, I should be getting these at my local pharmacy because the monthly co-payment THERE is only $10.

I was so mystified by this absolute crock of crap that I totally forgot to discuss the work 'cap', but under the ACA (while it stands, and God bless us, it still stands) there ARE no caps, so I'm going to let that sleeping dog lie and hope my adrenal glands and my gastric lining recover.

Meanwhile......Babygirl turned 18 on the first of this month.  I can't help but wonder if THAT tripped some trigger somewhere.


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Enjoying the Journey....

Since trips to the doctor are an inevitible part of our lives, we try to keep it interesting when possible. The quarterly trip fell near to Independence day, and the annual picnic and parade with the family, so I scheduled off for the 5th as well as the 6th and took a three day "weekend" in the middle of the week. 

The picnic and parade in Glenside were amazing, as always.  Bolivian dancers and wine.  Who could ask for more?

The next day we took my neice back to The Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.  Famous for art and architecture, it has some very interesting art installations.  This one was apparently by Wile E. Coyote.

My neice's school ID entitled her to two free passes at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, so we went. They were having difficulty with their credit card reader, so they let the rest of us in for free as well!  


We returned to Philly to enjoy dinner and a campfire with Uncle Ricky.  He'd never had a s'more, and we had to teach him what to do with the marshmallows.....

Closer, dude.

Today we went to CHOP in the early AM. I was a bad mommy and completely forgot to have any blood work done, so we'll have it done on Saturday.  We DID have labs done locally six weeks ago, so we thought we'd talk about that, but for some reason THOSE had never arrived at CHOP, so they are going to track those down and call us later.  She is otherwise doing well.

After CHOP, we had several hours to kill before we had to leave for Nemours.  I had randomly picked up $2 off coupons for the Liberty Museum (never heard of it) in the Philadelphia Historic District, so I looked it up online and we decided to go.  We walk half a mile to the subway, take the train for 10 minutes and, voila, we are there.  $2 off the price of admission meant that our total charge (for BOTH of us) was $5, the best deal ever no matter how good or bad the place might be, but I have to say it was a completely wonderful little museum.  It was themed around the concept that individuals are what make liberty possible.  There was a movie about the Congressional Medal of Honor, areas dedicated to women's rights, important religious figures, Nobel prize winners and ordinary people of extraordinary courage (individuals who hid Jewish families during the Holocaust, for example).  The displays were interactive and gripping.  They used original art and humor in many ways throughout to promote personal responsibility and peace:

"Truce: Rock, Scissors, Paper"

Lunch at The Bourse, a carriage ride through history, train/walk back to CHOP, and now we are at Nemours waiting for doctor #2.  After this we drive home, and we'll have earned our dinner at Perkins since we hit 10,000 steps on our FitBits a while ago.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Mourning With Those Who Mourn.....

At the very end of the year last year Citygirl's hubby lost his grandmother. She was at their wedding, and they won the "Longest Married Couple" dance quite proudly. This loss has been devastating to their family, the more so because it occurred a long way from the family home. So this week, almost six months later, a formal funeral was held in their hometown. Hubby and I decided to come out to New Hampshire to celebrate her life with them.

A close as we are to New England, neither of us had ever been through Vermont or New Hampshire. The drive was absolutely breathtaking and was only about five hours long. We saw dozens of intriguing places we would love to have spent hours exploring!

We arrived in time for the service. Babygirl and Hubby had never seen a Catholic funeral, so the up-and-down kneeling was new to them, as well as the incense and the music. Their cantor had the voice of an angel: "An He will raise you up on eagles' wings, bear you on the breath of dawn; make you to shine like the the sun, and hold you in the palm of His hand." Goosebumps.

At the graveside, her children told stories of the kind of woman she was, and read poems she had written. Her grandchildren grieved.  And I mourned with them, remembering afresh the loss of my own mother and grandmother.

This is, I am sure, the purpose of a funeral.  It gives families a place to put their grief:  A place to remember, to share, to mourn in solidarity with each other and with friends.  A place to laugh over happy memories and cry for the loss of them:  A place to let go.

The next day we joined the family for a "Nana" tradition:  A game of mini golf with all of the grandchildren.  It was silly, sunny, happy, and rediculous - perhaps the best sort of memorial a grandmother could ask for.


Monday, May 29, 2017

Surviving the Bug....

I've been a bit under the weather this week.  I tend to be pretty tough from an immune standpoint, but this past year has hit me with more than a few bugs.  Not surprising, really:  It's a well-known fact that having people you love die has a negative impact on your immune system for a year or so, and I've been stacking up losses left and right.

That being said, it is extremely rare for anything to hit my GI system.  Even my migraines tend to leave my gut alone.  But this....THING...that Squeaker brought home from school..... Dang.

I had an eye exam Thursday morning.  They tend to trigger migraines, so I really tend to put them off.  This one was more than a year overdue, but everything was good, no change in prescription, all is well, except that two hours later when I went to work I looked like some sort of crazed junky with my right eye about normal and my left fully dialated (which, by-the-by, stayed that way for about another four hours).

So when I started feeling anxious and queasy in the mid-afternoon, I thought for sure I was going to be hit with a migraine.  In fact, my last patient of the day was being seen for migraines, and I joked with her about not worrying if I suddenly had to leave to puke.  She laughed - we migraine people find that sort of thing funny in a sad sort of way.

Once she was done, I found I was totallly unable to finish any more computer work.  I shut down and went home.

On my schedule for Friday morning were four house calls with a resident.


By morning I had gotten rid of Thursday's lunch, breakfast, rehydration attempts, and, I am pretty sure, Wednesday's dinner as well.  I actually didn't feel TOO horrible, so when the resident arrived at my house, we headed out.  First patient?  No problem. Second?  Not bad but I handed off the keys and had her drive after that and let my manager know I was a no-go for afternoon clinic.  Third?  I think I was okay, but my Tylenol had worn off, everything hurt and I was grateful for a sensible second set of eyes.  Fourth?  Well, I perked up a bit and made it through but was grateful indeed to escape in the end.

Last night was the first time I ate a solid meal since.

I'm the last to have it.  Squeaker gave it to his mom, and they were both ill for two days and recovering for one.  Babygirl had it, ill for two days and recovering for three or four.  Me?  Ill for 12 hours and recovering for 2 days.  Nasty sucker.  Hubby's in the recovery phase now and he's been the least sick.

Why. Does. Sickness. Come. On. Weekends?

If this weren't a holiday I'd be going back to work today, dammit.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

This Month's Disaster.....

We all know that Larry has a....delicate gut.  Our experience with last years' 4th of July fireworks aftermath (Sure Fire Paint Remover...) was just one example:  It took two weeks to get his tummy settled.  He can't eat people food, and we have to be careful not to switch up his dog food either.  And he's REALLY not the guy you want on a long road trip. So when he stopped eating for a day early last week, we didn't really think too much of it.

The second day, he ate some.  And then he didn't.  And then a little, and then...not.  And then came the poops.  We came home to a house that smelled like a cross between dog doodoo and death. We spent some time trying to imagine WHAT he could have gotten into and came up with nothing. He's either in the house or on a leash all the time.  The second day of this horror, he hit a bathmat.  I rinsed this out in the toilet and realized that I was seeing a LOT of blood.

Needless to say this was on a Friday evening.  Our vet has no weekend hours.  Over Friday night to Saturday he began throwing up as well, and by Saturday morning it was clear that he wouldn't make it to Monday without some professional help.

What is it with kids and dogs?  Do they all absolutely know for SURE when the doc's/vet's office closes??

There's a lovely animal walk-in not far from here.  When Simon had a tummy bug a couple of years ago they fixed him up, but they made it clear then that he was at the outer edges of what they could do on site there.  Larry was clearly a few steps over that line, so I called the Vet Hospital emergency line and they invited us on over, after informing us that there was a minimum $150 fee for weekend emergencies.

(I checked the place out online before going. Our other option would have been Cornell Vet center, an hour away, and they also ask for you to pay up front.  The reviews were either "They did a great job," or "They were great but expensive," or "What kind of bastards won't even care for your dog if you can't pay??" Personally, I understand your pain if your pet is suffering and you can't afford a vet, but dissing someone because you expect them to work for free seems unreasonable to me.)

The initial evaluation was reassuring, but the differential diagnosis somewhat alarming, as I expected.  The tests to rule out the ugly stuff was what set us back the most.  IV fluids, antiemetics, antibiotics were given and he looked like a new man when we walked out the door.  He's a bit tired today still but eating and walking, and no more of the runs.  We have a couple weeks of special diet, medications and probiotics for him. We will see our (much more affordable) regular vet in a couple of weeks for follow up.

Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis.

It usually hits little dogs, and tends to be related more to stress than infection. Untreated, it can be fatal in a matter of days. They asked about stressors, and I really couldn't think of anything in particular.

But as I was walking this morning I pictured Easter from HIS point of view:  Five extremely excited children ramming through the house at high speed screaming about baskets and eggs and CANDY and baskets and EGGS and eight or ten extra adults crammed into his space talking and laughing and eating and maybe some goodies being dropped on the floor for doggie cleanup and.....

Who knows.  He's a good boy.  He's had Thanksgiving and Christmas under his belt already, with the same people and chaos, more or less.  This might have just been one too many.  We might have to make sure he's upstairs and quiet for the next family gathering.

At our house we joke about the $1000-disaster-of-the-month.  This will do for April.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Odd Things....

Easter Sunday is always wonderful. Crazy busy, but wonderful. Today was blue-sky sunny and 75.  Eggs were hidden outdoors, so the one we inevitably didn't find didn't matter. Dinner was perfected by that one daughter who stepped up and said, "What can I bring?" and doubled down with three choices on the veggies. Dinner is early on Easter, so there is plenty of time to sit, relax, and let the mind wander.

It's been an odd couple of weeks.

Babygirl's recent doctors visits were not bad. Her labs were drawn a week ahead, and she happened to be ill, so we had to redo them because they were a bit off, but the repeats were fine.  Her Botox injections finally appear to be paying off, and she's had more headache-free time than she has in a very, very long time.
Meanwhile, our insurance insists that the last Botox injections were experimental therapy and won't pay for them.  They DID pay for the ones before that, and the ones before THAT, and so on.  In fact, they covered the first two sets without argument and I've had to fight for each one since.  W. T. H.

My thumb has been healing slowly with no recurrence of infection.  My wrist and my shoulder, oddly, still bother me, because I tweaked them all over the place trying not to use my thumb.

I am dealing with a patient in my office who believes he was bitten by a pit viper while visiting Daytona Beach.  Given the nature of his story, I'm guessing that I might be exploring my first involuntary commitment if his leg isn't getting better.

My washer died Thursday. I discovered it when I went to move Thursday's was to the dryer and put in Friday's load.  There was some kind of error code flashing, so I just opted to try to restart it.  It pumped out all the water and then just kept pumping. And pumping. And pumping.  Since this was clearly not helpful, I pulled the plug and waited for the 'door locked' light to fade out.  The door remained locked.  I plugged it back in, hoping it had forgotten whatever it was on about, but NO, the endless pumping resumed.  I unplugged it for several hours.  Rinse. Repeat.  It's stuck on trying to empty when it's already empty, and permanently locked.  This would be less of a problem if nearly every bra I own wasn't in there, sopping wet, and, I imagine, getting fairly nasty.  I'd go shopping for more, but it's Easter Sunday and, ewww, Walmart bras?  Besides....

I found a killer mother-of-the-bride dress yesterday.  Bella is getting married in the fall, and although she didn't stay with us as long as her sister JuJuBee did, she asked me to be Mom for the wedding.  (In other news:  I saw a picture of myself from this morning and I didn't look.....bad.  Sometimes I forget how much weight I've lost.)  So although the dress was reasonably priced, hosting Easter dinner, putting together Easter baskets, and buying a fabulous dress doesn't leave a budget for new lingerie, especially if I need a new washer.  Hopefully our repair guy will be able to liberate them tomorrow and I can used Curlygirl's washer to finish washing them.

We are considering a fence for the yard.  Capone is just that crazy. And the grandkids are just to little to trust with the doors.

It's our second Easter without Mom.  Maybe SHE took the missing egg. It was always her before.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Fiscal Year 2016....

I am, as always, behind on paperwork.  Our tax lady doesn't even bother scheduling us until April, and as always I put everything off until I have no choice.  It's a genuine pain in the hiney to do our taxes. Sorting the medical crap alone can take HOURS.'s done.

Historically, our worst year was transplant year, 2012, with a total of $19,157 in out-of-pocket medical expenses (and 14,701 miles traveled for medical purposes!), and our best since then was 2014 with $5,500 out of pocket and 2015 with only 2,261 miles of travel.

2016 had some interesting challenges.

Our insurance has changed the way things are reimbursed and we didn't figure this out until bills started rolling in after Babygirl's February blood tests.  Our home hospital and her new neurology center are "Level One" providers. Our deductible for the family using these providers is $4400/year.  The hospital where Hubby gets his pain management, and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (where Babygirl gets all of her transplant-related care) are Level Two providers.  Our family deductible there is $8800/year.  Hubby's pain management sends tests to a Level Three lab, which is not covered AT ALL.

Babygirl's first set of blood tests at CHOP in February came to just over $10,000.  We ended up owing about $3500 for those visits (I negotiated $1500 of her neurology visit down to $200, just settled: The insurance said her treatment was "experimental" even though they had paid for the SAME treatment three months earlier) but the rest was lab costs, and I had to set up a payment plan.  I learned that if I had had the labs drawn at home, it would have cost half as much, so all further labs were done here to decrease our portion of the costs.  Hubby's Level Three lab cost is still under appeal.


Pharmacy costs:  $3,415.90.  That includes two $300 co-payments for Botox.

Medical copayments and deductibles: $7,302.

Mileage: 3,040 (worth $.19/mile for tax purposes, $577.60)

Tolls and parking: $157.27

Grand total out-of-pocket:  $11,834.77.


Add an additional pre-tax $215 for our part of health/dental/vision that comes out of my paycheck, sight unseen.

We'll do a bit better this year.  All Babygirl's labs will be drawn locally.  We're considering whether switching Hubby to our hospital's pain management program is reasonable. Babygirl has been taken off of some medications, and there are no copayments for Botox at her new neurologist's. But this is the second year in a row our costs have come up, and with the loss of Hubby's income last year the hit was especially onerous.


Meeting a Donor's Mom....

During my recent hospital stay, the discharge planner asked the usual questions:  Are you safe at home?  Do you have any trouble getting and taking your medications?  Do you have any mobility issues inside your house?  But there were two rather interesting questions.

"If you needed a caretaker, who would that be?"

Well.  When my headaches were kicking my butt, hubby stepped up and did the muscle work: Shopping, cleaning, parenting, whatever I couldn't manage at any given moment.  He's in no shape for that right now.  My response?  "That just can't happen."  She looked a little nonplussed, but I suspected it wasn't the first time she'd heard something similar.  Then:

"Do you have any concerns about how you'll pay for this hospital stay?"

I actually laughed out loud.  She went somewhere beyond nonplussed.

"I have a child who had a kidney transplant five years ago.  Medical expenses are $1000/month line item in our budget. I'm just taking the hit for team this year and meeting our deductible."

Her eyebrows hit her hairline.  So we chatted about the realities of the expenses of it all.  And then we chatted about her reality:  Three years ago, her twenty year old son died and became an organ donor.  She'd not met an organ recipient, although she had letters from some of her son's.  I asked if she had written them, and she said, "I haven't gotten to that place yet."  We talked about Jorge, and his parents, and Babygirl, and suffering.

"I have to look at it this way:  I got to be his mom for 20 years, and it was the most amazing thing that ever happened to me."

I feel the same about each and every one of my kids.  They are, collectively and individually, the best part of my life and heart.  I've never had to say good-bye to any of them, and I hope I never, ever have to.  But if I do, I hope I do it with the grace and courage this woman has.


Friday, March 24, 2017


Yesterday morning gave an update on the thumb injury.  It didn't quite carry it far enough, apparently.

Each workday since the injury, I've had the same nurse unwind the ACE wrap, pull of the gauze and really LOOK at the boo-boo with me.  Monday - okay, not bad - and a whale of a lot better than the massive Sunday morning swelling that I had before my dose of Godzillamycin.

Tuesday, same.

Wednesday?  That drainage looks a little....yellow.  And what do you think? Is it more red? No?

Thursday I start work late.  So after I did yesterday's post, I got the bandage off.  Hmmm... That's DEFINITELY more red. And more swelling.  And doesn't this area feel a little mushy to you?  So, naturally, since I had a million patients scheduled, I kept working and went to the walk-in after work. (To give me credit, I did call my doc.  He was off work. HIS little girl was home with influenza and a fever.)

The walk in doc heard the story and basically said, "So what do you want ME to do about it?" and sent me to the ER.  The ER called in the troops and had me admitted.  So I've been on IV antibiotics for over 24 hours, and the thumb is looking better. Orthopedics have me in a bigger brace. Infectious disease ordered an MRI and won't let me go home without a second look tomorrow.

MRI with AND without contrast.  Thirty minutes of lying on my back with my broken thumb jacked up in an awkward position while IV fluids continue to fill my bladder.  Yoga practice to the rescue!  I was the longest, noisiest shivasana EVER, but I actually fell asleep for a couple of minutes.


I tell my kids all of the time that intelligent people are NEVER bored.  It's true. But sometimes we ARE at a loss for things to do. I should have grabbed my Sudoku book.


Thursday, March 23, 2017


It's been 5 days since I put a drill through my thumb.

For those of you who didn't hear the details.....

I was working with the mission team at about 9:30 AM Saturday, making Christmas ornaments out of wood to sell as a fundraiser.  As I was drilling through one piece, the 3 mm drill bit snapped.  I had quite a bit of downward pressure on the drill, so when it bucked sideways, it went into my left thumb.  Since there wasn't much left of the bit, I avoided impaling myself to the table, but you can see; looking at the side opposite the entry wound, just how close I came to having an EXIT wound.

There was a 3 mm entry wound and a good bit of bleeding.  My tetanus shot was up-to-date, so I had a teammate bandage it up, mopped up the bloody floor and continued working.  It was just my left hand, after all.  I changed the bandage about 5 times over the course of the day as the wound continued to bleed (a good thing for a deep puncture - you want it to wash itself out, really).  At our 11 PM bedtime, I took the bandage off for a final cleaning and fresh dressing and realized it was throbbing a bit.  And....there were some red streaks headed up past my wrist into the forearm.

Well.  That's not good.

So I did what any sensible person would do. I went online and checked out the ER wait time.  It was a little over 2 hours.

I did the math.  Two hour wait, 4 hour treatment time.  Added up that equalled no sleep, and I'm on call tomorrow.  Yeah, nope.

I took three Advil and went to bed.

When I got up in the morning it didn't look any worse (nor any better, truth be told) so I checked the ER times again. Twenty minutes?  Hallelujah!  I preregistered and was assigned and arrival time in 45 minutes, time enough to eat breakfast (NEVER go to a hospital on an empty stomach, never ever ever) and pack my gear.  I arrived ahead of schedule.

X-rays showed that there were no drill fragments in the thumb, BUT!  I had managed to knock some bone fragments off the edge of the joint with the drill bit.  I done broke it.  It really didn't feel that bad, honest!

The ER doc had an out-loud mental discussion about what antibiotic to use given my list of allergies and recent bout of C. diff, and opted to give me a dose of IV Godzillamycin while I was there to jump-start the treatment.  He also scolded me for waiting.  I'm not thinking that what amounted to a 5 hour delay in starting that antibiotic really mattered a lot, but time will tell I suppose.

I was back at church before the service was over.  Early Sunday morning IS the time to be in the ER.

So.  It really doesn't hurt much.

But you can't button your jeans with only one thumb.

You can't hold a dog food can and fork out the food with only one thumb.

You can't cut meat like an adult with only one thumb.

You can't open ziplock bags with only one thumb.

And for absolutely sure you CANNOT remove a 4-hook bra at the end of a long day with only one thumb.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Homey Blizzard...

I grew up south of Buffalo.  OMG BUFFALO! People say! SO much SNOW!!

Well, the honest truth about the city of Buffalo is that it is generally sunny, fairly windy, and not too snowy. (Think about it.  If it got 10 feet of snow at a time ALL the time, would it make the news when it did?  I mean, who ever reports on a snowstorm in Syracuse?? In 'Cuse, a snowstorm is just SSDD, right? In Buffalo, it's an Event.) In fact, if you listen to weather reports in the area, you generally hear things like, "In the city we expect 2 - 4 inches of snow overnight. But in squall areas south of the city we can expect up to 18 inches."

"Squall areas."  "The Snow Belt south of the toll booths."  "South of Rich Stadium."

Call it what you will.  It was my Dad's driveway.

It wasn't at all unusual for us to get 6, 8, 10 inches and go to school in the morning with the snow still coming down. We used to speculate the the superintendant of schools had a bright sun and blue sky painted on the inside of his window shades.  When the snowfall got above a foot, there was one area where the buses just couldn't get to, so those few kids down in the valley simply didn't make it to school.  It had to approach nearly 18 inches in one snowfall to make them close the schools. Snow commonly started in October. We were frequently ice skating on ponds at the end of November.

Our town was Prepared. They started running plows when the first flakes flew.  Our town had SIDEWALK PLOWS.  Seriously. Sidewalk plows.  I miss those babies. Especially today.

We've had 30 inches of snow since midnight.  They cancelled school preemptively.  I've shoveled the sidewalk three times and my FitBit says I've done 15,000 steps even though the dogs only got walked a mile. I've helped dig out about 8 cars.

I'm sitting here with hot tea, getting ready to assemble some goulash and put a pumpkin custard in the oven. I'm supremely grateful for a large number of things:

Central heat.
A gas stove.
Neighbors who help you dig your car out (and who get excited when they get paid in organic Farmer's Market beer).
Neighbors who can't dig themselves out, and the strength in my own arms to help.
Fleece blankets.
Warm socks.
Snuggly dogs.
Well-stocked cupboards.
Childhood memories.
Memories of my children's childhoods.

No matter what our day-to-day struggles, having that odd event that makes us completely switch up our lives and schedules can trigger gratitude and reset our hearts back to a quieter, more elemental time.  Snow.  The smell, the beauty, the challenge.


Friday, March 10, 2017

Stick a Needle...

On Thursdays I take Capone to doggy daycare.  He's just two years old, and a complete lunatic, and he picks fights with the big dogs at the dog park so I can't let him run off steam there. I have a friend who trains dogs and keeps our pups when we are on vacation, and she has 'small dog day' at her place once a week.  Since it's around the corner from my office, I walk him there on my way to work.  Her big fenced yard is perfect for him, and he's exhausted by the end of the day.

Yesterday, just as I was dropping him off, I got something in my eye.  It felt like an eyelash, under the edge of the upper lid, but I just COULDN'T get it out.  It wasn't terrible, but SO annoying.  My next stop was to get a haircut, so I figured sitting still with my eyes closed (and watering!) would wash it out and I'd be fine.


From there I walked to work and asked my partner to see if she could get it out.  She couldn't even see it, and was unable to flip the upper lid inside out to get a good look.  We just don't have the right tools.

The staff cancelled my patients and the nurses set me up with an ophthalmologist.

A couple hours later I was meeting what appeared to be a 19 year old girl with a black ponytail.  She put drops in my eye, flipped the eyelid, scraped off some 'debris', yanked a couple of eyelashes and sent me home with $25 eye drops.  It will be interesting to see the bill for that.

This morning I am off work to finally repair the root canal that caused all the trouble last summer.

The really sad part of all this?

My computer at work has been acting up, fading out as often as twice per patient.  Yes, IT has looked at it. Yes, they replaced it with a new laptop and it still has the same problem. No, no one else is having this problem. NO, we have not yet performed an exorcism.  It has made work so stressfull that I've had more headaches in the last three weeks than I have in the last year.

I am looking forward to a revision of a ROOT CANAL as a fun alternative to going to work.  And the possibiity of someone sticking a needle in my eye yesterday didn't seem so bad either if I got to go home.

THAT's how bad work has sucked for the last month.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Too Many Shoes....

Our church has always done Wednesday night dinners in Lent, with a short Bible study and communion.  I like them, always have:  Informal, friendly gatherings, usually including at least a couple of people I don't know extremely well.  It's nice.

Babygirl and I went together tonight and enjoyed the discussion, and spoke of gratitude (and the lack thereof) on the way home, one of the more subtle themes of the evening.

And when we got home, we caugh up on a Lenten discipline designed as a fun way to raise money for UMCOR (the United Methodist Comittee on Relief), given to us at dinner.

March 2: "We waste food while others live without. Pay $.01 for each disposable cup and plate in your home."

March 3: "Most people in the world walk to get around.  Pay $.50 for each vehicle you own."

March 4: "Heat is an expensive luxury. Pay $1 for your warm home."

March 6:  " "I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet." Pay $.05 for each pair of shoes.

March 7:  "Do something fun with friends or family and give $.10 as a thank offering for each one."

March 8: "Many have no bed or inadequate bedding. Give $.50 if you slept in a warm bed last night."

Well, we didn't have to sacrifice much on the paper plates and cups (although some friends had just stocked up and ended up ponying up $12 LOL). But I got nailed on the shoes.  I was a little surprised, actually.  I don't feel like I have a ton of shoes, but it turns out I have nearly 30 pairs!  Like, how...???

I'm a walker, so I have two pairs of sneakers and two pairs of 'snow sneakers.'  A pair of work boots for mission trips and a pair of 'apre ski' boots. Oh, and actual ski boots.  Three pairs of flip flops, two pairs of hiking sandals, a pair of waterdogs,  Eight pairs of cute flats in a variety of colors, mostly leftover from all of last years' wedding parties. One pair of dancing heels, also wedding shoes. And the rest are 'work shoes', nice enough to wear to work and comfortable enough to survive the day in.  With the exception of one pair of sneakers and two new pair of work shoes, none are less that a year old and most are more than 4 years old. Several are hand-me-downs that Citygirl got tired of. There is a small crowd of shoes under my desk at work.

I grew up at the bottom of middle class, or at the top of poor depending on whether my dad was laid off or not at the moment.  I had a pair of sneakers for gym and a pair of shoes for school.  The first year I had a job and could buy myself two pairs of shoes for school stands out in my mind:  I could CHOOSE which shoes I wanted to wear!

I'm generally not a hoarder, and not a collector.  But today's Lenten discipline uncovered that memory.  I didn't really 'go without' as a child, but I frequently had less than my friends did.  I can fit nearly my entire work wardrobe into one large laundry basket, and I have a small dresser and the world's smallest closet.  But apparently I have made up for some childhood insecurities with my shoe collection.  I'm no Imelda Marcos, but hey, it's a start.


PS Our total for UMCOR so far is $7.05.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Mountain Climbing.....

Yoga class.  I started with some trepidation, but it's become a pretty regular part of my life. Babygirl and  I make it to two to three classes weekly, and are the better for it.  (Babygirl noted today, as she bent down with a dustpan, that it's easier to do chores like that one now that she does yoga regularly.)  Since I had no idea what one did in a yoga class, I've learned a few things.

I've learned that I CAN stand on one leg, reach one arm out in front of me and reach back with my other arm and grab my foot.  You know, the one that ISN'T still on the ground.  I've learned that I'm not the only person who can only do this pose on one side, but not the other.  I've learned that I'll never figure out why they name poses after awkward animals. No pigeon I ever saw ever looked like anything that I or anyone else in the room is attempting to do.  And, like Citygirl, there is a part of me that giggles everytime I imagine rooms full of adult people all over the world lying on their backs hanging onto their feet for dear life in the Happy Baby pose.

But I digress.

While yoga itself is not a religion, it is a meditative practice, at least at our studio.  Each class begins with setting an intention:  What are you focusing on tonight?  It can be as simple as peace, or self acceptance, or a more complicated thought.

The other day, the instructor gave us this quote:

"These mountains that you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb." *

My brain literally stopped.

In one sentence:  This is what we are doing wrong.  This. Is. What. I. Am. Doing. Wrong.

This quote has been bouncing around my head for three weeks now.

Ash Wednesday is this week.  It's time to contemplate Lenten discipline. The last few years it's been about giving back, being kind.  This year?  Well, how do you figure out how to let go of the mountains?  To put them down and not pick them up again?  How do you just climb?

Time to re-route the journey a bit somehow.  Stopping my brain was an excellent starting point.


*quote attribution: Najwa Zebian

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Road Less Traveled....

A friend at work showed me pictures of her son the other day.  He's about Babygirl's age, and he's a wonderful boy. He's kind, generous (he's the one who passed on his 'guys' to LittleMan so many years ago because he knew we only had 'girl toys' at our house!) and well-mannered.  He's a natural athelete who once actually managed to make a hole-in-one at a PGA golf course.

The pictures were ordinary enough:  Handsome young man, suit and tie, lovely young lady, formal dress, all decked out for a school dance.

It tore my heart.

Citygirl was a social butterfly and attended so many formal dances at so many different schools that I cut her off budgetarily in terms of new formal dresses. She learned to shop on the internet and switch up with friends and I have a million pictures of her in the most astonishing dresses, surrounded by beautiful girlfriends all trying (in my humble opinion, of course!) to look as lovely as she.

JuJuBee had no real interest in such goings-on.  She and her beloved were once voted prom King and Queen on a mission trip, and they nearly died of embarrassment.  It was typical of her quiet personality that this was NOT as funny to her as it was to those of us who had stuffed the ballot box.

Curlygirl went to her Senior Prom, and because it was almost the only dance she'd ever wanted to go to we went all-out on the dress.  She was lovely.


She is walking, and not by choice, the road less traveled.  Before her illness she was not an extremely outgoing child, but she would go with Youth Group and have sleepovers and invite friends in. She wasn't a 'girly girl' who paid a lot of attention to fashion or makeup, but she was only 11 when she got sick. Who knows, if illness had not intervened, what type of social life would have developed for her?

She is attending school online.  If asked, she says that she is happy with her social life.


I've seen her dressed up for her sister's wedding, dancing and having a wonderful time.  I think it's not likely, however, that I'm going to see her in a prom dress with an updo going to a school dance.  And if it were her choice, like JuJu's, not to go, I'd be fine with that.  It just tears me to think that the choice has been taken from her.