Tuesday, July 29, 2008

It Was This Big.....

The last time I was in Los Angeles, last July in fact, my brother Daniel took me with him when he went fishing. I don't have California fishing license so my job was mostly to try to catch sand crabs for bait. I used to spend a lot of time at the beach catching sand crabs when I was a kid (which I always let go), seemed a lot easier then though -- maybe cause I was closer to the sand? At any rate, we could see all these fish swimming around in the surf, but he didn't catch anything, although the guy next to us did.

In the letter my father wrote me last week, he mentioned that my brother Daniel had caught a big corvina at Bolsa Chica beach. And he caught it on light tackle: 4-lb test line and a small pole. Well, we all know how fishermen like to exaggerate the size of their catch, only this one has a picture to back it up. The fish was 22 1/2 inches long and 4 lb 3 oz. Daniel deserves 15 seconds of fame for this. Congratulations, brother. Looking at this scene makes we wish I was not 1500 miles away.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Upsides and downsides

We don't think too much of the local daily newspaper, which is published at the Howell County seat 25 miles away in West Plains. I suppose that is partly because we used to own a newspaper, so I guess we are a little more critical because we have opinions about how a newspaper should look. In general, it is a really poor newspaper, filled with typos and layout mistakes, and a depressing sense of what it considers "news" that it thinks we all need to hear about, frequently consisting of grisly crimes it picks over the AP news feed that have occurred 1,000 miles away.

But I digress. The people that run the newspaper do know how to sell extra copies. There are always lots of photographs of the school kids who have accomplished something in various sports or academics. But the pièce de résistance has been the publicity the newspaper has been giving to the Howell County Fair, which concluded last week.

In a rural community such as this, where people still farm the land and raise food, some kids have other things to do besides sitting in front of the computer or an electronic game, and whatever else kids do these days that does not involve going outside the house. And this was evident in the tabloid-sized supplement with winners and their ribbons, and in each issue of the paper in the past few days, which has had a page or two of photographs of winners of various contests. Some are posed with plates of vegetables, some with domestic arts projects, some with paintings and other works of art, and some with animals. Nearly all of these photographs are of children.

Here we have a 14-year-old boy whose beauty takes my breath away. I look at him and wonder how his parents are coping with his looks. Are they attempting to mold character? When he turns from beautiful to drop-dead gorgeous, what sort of man will he be? How will he treat women? At the moment though, he is still a kid and he is holding a black and white Silver Spangled Hamburg hen in one hand and a first-place ribbon in another; the chicken also won a prize, a trophy with a chicken top. Here is an 11-year-old girl, whose female guinea pig won supreme champion and grand champion ribbons. A host of assorted young boys and girls won ribbons for their goats, lambs, hogs, and rabbits, as well as cattle ranging from large calves, such as the one shown by a 7-year-old girl, to full-grown Holstein cows and Charolais steers that often dwarf the child holding the halter rope, to small, delicate-looking Jersey cows with those huge, beautiful eyes. And I know one proud momma is going to by umpteen copies of the paper showing a picture of her 2-year-old who stuck blueberries on a potato and won the Mr Potato Head contest.

The other times of the year when lots of papers are sold are during the fall and spring hunting seasons, when the pages are filled with photographs of smiling individuals-again, often children-posed with their trophies. Only these trophies are dead turkeys and deer, which aren't so much fun to look at.

The upside living in a rural community where the newspaper is filled with pictures of children and their animals is that it fosters a perception of simplicity that is mostly a myth, but in any event a contrast from what one might think of as "life in the big city." The downside of rural living is that the police and the courts have too much time on their hands, and so they can go after people for crimes that would more likely be ignored in a major metropolitan area. The local police are noted for stopping people whose license plate light is out and also for handing out citations for driving 5 mph over the speed limit. I know a young man who was prosecuted for an overdue library book. He had to pay a $21 fine for the book and $250 in court costs, and is now on unsupervised probation for a couple of years. Seems a little harsh for an overdue library book. Maybe he should have asked for a jury trial.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Wheels Are Turning

Another pun? Maybe. My nurse practitioner friend called me back yesterday. She will order the x-ray!! Yippee. The wheelchair has been a blessing from the Lord, but it looks like it's days here in my house are numbered. Thank you, Lord.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Falling Through the Cracks

Is that a pun? That sort of thing doesn't happen for me very often, because I am not very clever (and I can't tell jokes, either). At any rate, I feel like I am in limbo land as far as moving to the next stage in my recovery. It has now been 6 weeks since the accident, and I am almost positive that the crack in my pelvis is healed:
  • I can sneeze and cough without excruciating pain.
  • I can roll over on my stomach, and it doesn't hurt.
  • I can stand with my weight on both feet, and it doesn't hurt.
  • I can maneuver using the walker with about 90% of my weight on the other foot, and it doesn't hurt
What I can't seem to do is get a follow-up x-ray and an appointment with doctor who will look at it and tell me "yes, the fracture is healed." None of the physicians in this area - neither orthopedic specialists nor local family practice doctors - maintain x-ray equipment any more. So, one just can't go to the doctor and get an x-ray. And one can't show up at the imaging company (which is owned and operated by a radiologist, who is a doctor, right?) and ask for an x-ray. It has to be ordered by a doctor. I know, I called to find out. And I'm wondering why the radiologist can't see me as a patient, and then order himself to take the x-ray?. But never mind.

Because this fracture was the type that can't be treated by casting or surgery, none of the orthopedic doctors wanted to mess with it when it happened, and they don't seem anxious to see me now either. The receptionist for the first orthopedic doctor I called was totally unhelpful. After I explained the situation and asked for an appointment and a follow-up radiograph to see if it was healed, she said, "The doctor is going on vacation and you need to see your family doctor about this." The receptionist for second orthopedic doctor I called wasn't sure how to deal with me because I had not had "fracture care," - which is a fixed number of visits during a 90-day period and costs about $1000. She started rattling off the payment policy for uninsured patients* and that I had to deposit $150 at the first visit, and if the visit wasn't more than that, I would get a refund; but it could cost up to $250 (keep in mind that doctor would not be doing the x-ray, that's an additional $80+ at the imaging clinic), but if I paid it off at once, there was a 20% discount, and my head was swimming and I said "thank you very much, I have to discuss this with my husband" and I hung up the phone.

In fairness, I did arrange an appointment with an orthopedic doctor, who I thought was in a town about 25 miles away. The receptionist mentioned that they had an opening that afternoon, but I indicated that wouldn't work so she scheduled an appointment for 2 weeks away. I was very excited and relieved and I mentioned to Richard that there was an appointment "right now" and he said "Sure, let's do it." So I called her back and told her we'd come that afternoon. She asked if I knew where the office was, and although I was looking at the address in the phone book, I realized I didn't know exactly where this was. So she proceeded to give me directions to an address about 90 miles away. The office had moved since the phone book was issued. I had to cancel that appointment. Gas is too high to drive that far something that should be able to be handled locally.

And so I am back to square 1 (which I guess is a hopscotch term?). I have a friend who is a nurse practitioner at a local medical clinic, and I sent her an e-mail 3 days ago to see if she or one of the other doctors at the clinic can order the x-ray, evaluate it, and then tell me if I can start walking again. I am still waiting for a callback from her. Patience. Patience.

*Rather than formal health insurance, we belong to a Christian organization that is founded on the Biblical principle of bearing one another's burdens. The monthly payment we make is distributed to other members of the organization who have unpaid medical bills. It doesn't count as health insurance.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Go visitin’

At the moment, I am so frustrated at the local medical community--and with our health care system in general (whoops, what am I talking about? This country doesn’t have a health care system)--that it is best that I don’t write about anything.

So, go pay visit to my very favorite blog – Country Doctor’s Wife. She is hilarious, and I am not mad at her husband, who is a country doctor.

I need to take some deep breaths, some very deep breaths since I have no tranquilizers on hand, and call somebody in the morning.

Saturday, July 05, 2008


One of the most well-used cookbooks on my shelf is Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant: Ethnic and Regional Recipes from the Cooks at the Legendary Restaurant. And one of my favorite recipes is "Groundnut Stew," which originates from West Africa. The introductory notes to the recipe indicate that there are many variations. The one the editors chose is most like the Groundnut Stew that would be made in Senegal or Mali. The ingredient list includes onions, cayenne (or ground dried chili), garlic, cabbage, and sweet potatoes, which are sauteed in peanut oil and then simmered with tomato juice, apple or apricot juice, fresh ginger, cilantro, chopped tomatoes, and okra--lots of okra. Finally, at the very end, peanut butter--that's the ground nut--is stirred in.

Last year I bought quite a bit of okra at the Farmer's Market, most of which went into a couple of bags that migrated to the belly of the freezer and were promptly forgotten. R found the okra on one of his journeys through the freezer on an expedition of discovery and insisted that I "use this up, it has been in there for at least a year." So, I made the full batch of Groundnut Stew, mostly following the recipe as written, but leaving out the apple juice and the garlic. I also don't saute everything in peanut oil first, but just add the vegetables together with the liquids and simmer until done. Saves a couple hundred calories that way.

Now, my mother is one of those gifted people who buys unusual and unexpected presents, and once upon a time she gave me MFK Fisher's marvelous little book How to Cook a Wolf. With great wit, Fisher presents a recipe for what she calls "Sludge," an "unpleasant murky-brown-colored" mixture of ground vegetables, ground grain-cereal, and meat (if you have it) that is cooked together for several hours and could have nutritiously sustained a starving person for several days for about 50 cents back in the late 40s, when the book was first written.

Sludge is an accurate term to describe the Groundnut Stew mixture of chunks of vegetables mixed with peanut butter, which also is a "murky-brown color," but the word to describe it that first popped out of R's mouth was not "sludge." At any rate, it took about a week to work my way through this batch of sludge, and I even had to freeze the last couple of servings so it wouldn't spoil in the refrigerator before I could get to it.

The day after I finished the last of the Groundnut Stew, I also turned to Moosewood for another okra recipe, "New Brunswick Vegetarian Stew," a flavorful combination of okra, squash, potatoes, tomatoes, corn, onions, and lima beans. The recipe called for 10 ounces of frozen okra, so I weighed out that much and then began thinly slicing it into a bowl of very hot water so that it would thaw. After the water gushed through the bottom of the strainer, I noted the slime from the thawed okra began oozing out in thick globs. I went ahead and let it ooze for a few minutes before I added the okra to the pot, which made the stew much more palatable. As it happened, a friend from aerobics class was going to drop by for a visit the next day, so I invited her over for "slime and mush" stew, but she politely declined. Wonder why?