Friday, February 27, 2015

A thrill a minute...

It was 7°F this morning when I arrived at the park with Molly for our walk. But it really wasn’t that bad. It could have been worse. The sky was clear, the sun was shining, and only a slight breeze was rippling the flag on the pole.

I could tell by the footprints left in the snow that I am the only person who has walked all the way around the park in the past few days. Other people have been there though, and other dogs as well. At one point she was stopping every few feet to sniff the footprints left in the snow by a very large dog.

The real fun part of coming and going is the trip down our driveway. Even though our neighbor was kind enough to clear enough snow from our driveway so that we could get out, there was still enough on the ground—and more snow fell along with freezing rain—after his kind gesture so that the first car to drive out made two noticeable grooves down the driveway, which grew deeper with each successive trip in and out. And then with the daily thaw-and-freeze the ridges turned to ice.

Now when we get the car going down the driveway, we can take our hands off the wheel – if we are wanting a bit of excitement – and bump and slither our way up to the asphalt without going over the edge. We do not need to pay $100+ a person (!) to experience thrill rides at a certain amusement park. No indeed. We have our very own thrill ride.

And just by way documenting the human spirit, which sometimes is able to find something humorous in very inconvenient circumstances… 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Merriam-Webster to the rescue

Yesterday afternoon I carefully positioned myself on the couch with a paperback mystery by the prolific writer Michael Innes

Almost immediately I saw that Innes was the sort of writer who I really enjoy reading. I like the words he chooses and the descriptive way he constructs his phrases and sentences.
Something long, pale and flattened had appeared against the window, like the under-belly of a sea-slug sucked hard against the side of an aquarium. Slightly above and to either side of this were what might have been two writhing caterpillars of the furry sort, and below each of these was a faint but baleful gleam of fire. The whole, in fact, was a human face engaged in some act of reconnaissance, and a moment later the door was thrown open and its owner heaved himself violently into the compartment….
But before I was a very few pages into the book, I started coming across words that were a puzzlement -- I had no idea what they meant or only a vague idea…
  • assize
  • hebdomadal
  • catholic (little “c” not Catholic)
  • Ruritania
  • breviary
  • otiose
Sometimes when that happens, I assign a meaning that seems to fit the context of the sentence and plow on. I do it all the time with words and phrases I see in the medical manuscripts I edit, but in that case I really don’t need to understand what I am reading, just that it makes grammatical sense.

And to chase a bit of a rabbit here, one of the few classes I remember from junior high (some 50+ years ago now!!) was an English class taught by Mrs Brewster. Oh my. She was an elegant, immaculately groomed woman who wore a subtle but wonderful perfume. I think now she was a great role model for impressionable and squirrley junior high school girls. We were learning the parts of speech, and she was teaching us how to diagram sentences (using the Reed-Kellogg system in case you have no clue and just have to look this up). She then handed us Lewis Carroll’s poem Jabberwocky, which starts off…

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe. 

And told us to have at it. We had no idea what most of the words meant, but discovered it was quite possible to diagram the sentence and do it correctly.

Where was I. Oh yeah.

Having decided that I really wanted to know what these strange words actually meant rather than just guess, and because the computer stays off on Sunday, I grabbed my trusty Merriam-Webster’s Eleventh Edition, which has seen better days and is held together by duct tape. All the words were there, and knowing what they actually meant made much more sense than what I was guessing they meant.

I only have the one Michael Innes mystery, which I believe I swept off the shelf as part of a “$1 a bag sale” at the thrift store. I am not likely to find any more at the thrift store (this one was written in 1945), so I have a feeling I may be visiting the library before too long to see if they have any of his available for checking out.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A "little bit of snow...

Saturday afternoon after I left off looking at the lovely primroses my husband bought for me to plant in pots and enjoy (hopefully) for years to come, I took a look at the weather forecast that I have on my Internet toolbar to see what might be happening on Sunday. I wish now I had saved a screen shot of the projected forecast for Sunday…

“a little bit of snow Sunday afternoon” 

is what it said.

Sunday morning dawned cold and windy (about 19 not counting wind chill) but with a clear blue sky; however, things sounded a bit more ominous when I got in the car to drive to the spot where I was going to take the dog for her morning walk: the news warned there could be up to 8 inches of snow in our area of the state.

Nah… they’re usually wrong. Right?

Yes, they usually are wrong but not this time.

The ice pellets started hitting shortly after the sun went down Sunday, and then the snow started, and we woke up Monday morning to at least a foot of snow. Compared with what has happened in the Northeast and New England in recent weeks, a foot of snow is not such a big deal. I get that, and I am not complaining.

What this is really about is the wonderful young couple that moved into the church next door a few years ago and turned it into their house. We had never before had next-door neighbors and suddenly we did, and they are indeed truly lovely neighbors.

We are blessed.

Monday afternoon the husband took it upon himself to come down our driveway with his little Bobcat machine and cleared the snow up to the concrete pad in front of the garage where we park two of the vehicles. Had he not done that, I am not sure we could have gotten out today even in our small pick-up. I needed to mail my cousin’s birthday present, and most important: Tuesday is “banana Tuesday” at the local market. The price per pound for bananas is just about half the regular price. We both eat a banana a day, so we don’t miss banana Tuesday if we can help it.

My car, which is parked by the back porch is buried and is certainly going nowhere anytime soon.

I am very thankful for having such a good neighbor. Some folks are not so fortunate.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Finding the hard way

Sometimes the mind, for reasons we don't necessarily understand,just decides to go to the store for a quart of milk.
Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider
Northern Exposure, "Three Doctors," 1993

If there is a choice between an easy way to do something and a hard way to do something, I almost always—and I do mean almost always—find the hard way to do it.

I have a pair of sweatpants that are very warm, but the elastic in the waist is totally shot and they will not stay up at all. To fix this, my dearly beloved bought me a plastic-encased package of 1-inch elastic. Remember when once upon a time you could go to the yardage counter and buy exactly the amount of elastic you wanted? Apparently not any more. At any rate, I have not gotten around to sewing the new elastic in the waist of these sweatpants and so have been using some suspenders to hold them up.

Was I able to figure out the simple way to undo the suspenders so that I could sit down to use the facility? No I did not. Each time nature called I undid all four clips and then had to fumble around and reattach them.

I was explaining this to Richard about why I thought the suspenders were somewhat inconvenient and he gave me a puzzled look and said…

Why not just slip the suspenders over your shoulders. The sweats will fall down and then you don’t have to unclip anything. Just pull the sweats back up and put your arms through the suspenders

I am not a stupid person, but sometimes my mind really does seem to go to the store for a quart of milk.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Mistaken identity and no lumberjacking for me…

Since the weekend after Christmas, when I started experiencing pain that I thought was around my lungs, I have had an electrocardiogram, two chest X-rays, and an MRI, all in an attempt to get to the bottom of what is causing the pain.

At first all of the symptoms pointed to pleurisy, but then as the days passed and the pain did not resolve, it appeared that something else was going on. When not-a-doctor Bob looked at the second chest X-ray last Monday, he said it looked to him like there was problem in the spacing between some of the vertebrae in my upper back, which has developed the unmistakable curve or a dowager’s hump.

And so the next day, I had the MRI, and was quite impressed at the array of banging, buzzing, and knocking sounds that accompanied the scan.

Today the hospital faxed me the results of the MRI, and I had a follow-up appointment with not-a-doctor Bob. But before I got to the examination room, I got to wait a while in the waiting room, and something truly hilarious happened. I wanted my dearly beloved to be there for the appointment, but since there were a few errands to run in town. we arrived in separate cars. I got there first and had settled down with a Stanley Kaminski paperback about Lieberman, the Jewish police detective in Chicago.

I was sitting against the wall a few feet from the door. I looked up as he walked in and was quite puzzled when instead of turning right and sitting next to me, he headed off with great purpose across the room toward an elderly woman who was looking down at a magazine. I was very surprised to see him stop in front of her and pat her on the head. She certainly was surprised, and so was he, I believe, when she looked up at him and he realized he was patting the wrong woman on the head. He laughed and apologized. She laughed. Everyone else in the waiting room laughed as well. She was a good sport about it.
But that was about the only funny thing that happened today. Fact is, the news from the MRI is not good. A short version of the report says:
  • Burst fracture of T8 that impinges on the spinal cord.
  • A compression fracture of T7.
  • Disc bulge lateralizing to the left of T5-6 and impinging on the spinal cord.
Cutting through the medical terms: my upper back is a mess, and I could be in for some trouble, potentially serious trouble, if my spinal cord becomes damaged from the impingements by these vertebrae that are fracturing.This is almost certainly the result of osteoporosis in my spine—there is no other injury to explain them—so I will have to have a DEXA scan and start treatment to see if the osteoporotic process can be stopped or reversed.

I will need to have a procedure done by an interventional radiologist where a type of cement is injected into the vertebrae to lift them up off the spinal cord. Not-a-doctor Bob says it is very effective.

He warned me that until this is fixed, I needed to be very careful. No heavy lifting. No mountain climbing. No lumberjacking. I can walk the dog.

For years I have gone to the Y and done weight-bearing exercise and lifted weights to try to help my bones be strong. Was all of that a waste of time? Bob says just think where you might be if you had not done any of that. He has a point.

Richard says, “Don’t worry. We can fix this. Be thankful it isn’t your heart and it isn’t cancer.”

I am thankful…. But still…

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Bringing in the sleeves…

I suppose everyone has their own reasons for why they don’t like going to the dentist. Perhaps it was an unfortunate experience in which the tooth to be worked on was not quite numb when the drilling started, or perhaps it is just the feeling of helplessness with you lying almost prone unable to talk and the dentist and the assistant hovering over you, as so aptly portrayed by the master cartoonist Gary Larson…

I have already written in an earlier post about my fear of loosing my teeth, so I don’t have to rehash that, but I do take very good care of my teeth and am faithful about having them cleaned and checked for problems. And the last time I went, I did indeed have two small areas that were being “watched” and that had progressed to cavities that needed to be filled. This was not really bad news because I have extremely weak teeth and these are the first fillings I have needed for perhaps 5 years or more.

So I returned from an hour or so of being worked on, with part of my face numb and drool threatening to leak from the corners of my mouth, and Richard meets me at the door to the bedroom.

Can you please explain to me what that hymn Bringing in the Sleeves is about? What does it mean “We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sleeves?” I gave him what I imagine was a lopsided smile and started to explain….

The word isn’t “sleeves” sweetie… it is sheaves. It comes from a verse….”

But then I saw the expression on his face and I realized he was teasing me.

I think living with someone who fancied himself a comedian and was always “on” would become very tiring very quickly. And fortunately, he is not a comedian in that sense. But he has enough of a sense of humor to liven up the grayest day and to balance out other aspects of his personality that sometimes make me a little crazed, and that is the one thing about him that I truly cherish.

Friday, January 16, 2015


Trying to convey in writing how hilarious this exchange was is really not going to work. I get that. But, I am still dealing with pain around my lungs that limits my ability to laugh as I would like too (and yes, I expect I will need to Take Further Steps). I need to get this down here so that when I have forgotten the conversation and come back in a month to see what I have written, I will be able to remember and laugh properly.

As way of background, cats are intensely attracted to my husband. A friend, who believes in this sort of thing, says it is because he is a Leo. I don’t think so; but nevertheless, cats generally love him. When we visit friends who have indoor cats that are not automatically terrified of strangers, they are right there where he is. The veterinary clinic where we take the dog has a free-roaming office cat. When Richard went to retrieve the dog after her teeth were cleaned and sat down to wait, the office cat, which sees a steady stream of people all day long and totally ignored me when I dropped the dog off, immediately got in his lap.

We will have lived here 34 years in May, and we have had cats for about 32 of those years. Actually just 2 cats (both rather long-lived, obviously) Richard was the go-to person for the head and under-the-chin scratches for our first cat, and Richard again became the go-to person for head scratching when Squeaker came along--actually, there was another car who lived here briefly who hated both of us (even Richard) but loved our son, and he took her and gave us Squeaker. When Squeaker goes to Richard for her head scratches, he sends her into such fits of ecstasy that she slobbers on him.

On the very very rare occasions when she comes to me to be scratched, Richard will want to know:

Is this alienation of kitty affection?

Now the dog is my dog. My dog. Mine. She pays attention to Richard when she thinks he is going to give her one of her special treats (a chew stick to help keep her gums healthy), but otherwise she has eyes only for me. My dog.

Mine, I tell you.

Which brings us to yesterday. We came back from the surgery center, and I sat down on the couch to rest. It is a puzzlement how riding in car for 2 hours makes one so exhausted that one needs to sit on the couch to recuperate, but there we were. Molly came in and hopped up on the recliner, and then Richard wandered in and sat down on the recliner next to her. She promptly put her head on his knee and looked at him with adoring eyes while he stroked her head and scratched her behind the ears.

Is this alienation of doggy affection? I wanted to know.


 YES! He says.


I will have the cat…”


“I will have the dog….” 

“And you will have... nothing.”


The inflection in his voice when he said “nothing,” was so funny, I grinned at him, and then he burst into laughter. I would have liked to burst into laughter myself, but that wasn't quite possible, so I laughed along as best I could.

I expect to be laughing full bore before too long (I hope).