December “Up North”

For a month now, we’ve been waiting for snow. We had such a good start in November but since then the temperatures have been between the high teens and a bit less than 40. The early snow has gradually melted in all but the shadiest, most protected places. In some ways this mild streak of temperatures is nice but it puts a damper on those who are waiting to ski, snowmobile or just see more of the pretty white stuff.

We were very hopeful about the winter storm that was forecast for last night. And sure enough, when I looked out in the dark this morning, I could tell by the streetlights that we had new snow. We also had a good chance of more precipitation in some form, but it was 37 degrees – that meant it would likely be rain not snow.

My brother is responsible for snow removal in the small development that he manages. I help him when I can. He runs a small machine with a plow, called a skid steer, and I shovel close to the houses where he can’t easily go with the machine. There are 12 dwellings. It’s a good upper body workout, yes it is.

But I like to shovel snow most of the time. This snow was wet and heavy. There really should be different names for all the different kinds of snow, and there are a few, I guess. This snow was white and pretty on top but slush underneath. Slush is heavy, being mostly water trapped in collapsing snow particles. When I pushed the shovel through 3 to 4 inches of this stuff it would curl up in a roll until it was too heavy for me to make it move. If I’d been out to play instead of work, it would have made super, sticky snowballs.

And the more I thought about it (play), I decided I was not an “all work” girl. Making a giant snowball is a pretty nifty way of clearing a path, so I did that a couple of times and ended up with a snowman. By this time it was raining instead of snowing. I had a hard time getting Frosty’s eyes and nose to stay on his face for a picture but I persisted. Mom is not “all work” either. She suggested one of her hats would look good on him, so that’s why he got photographed twice – the second time with a somewhat more glorified nose.

I’m dressed.

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Hangers, lots of them.

“So, I’m telling you don’t worry about your life, what you’re going to eat or drink next, about your latest aches and pains, about what you will wear. Is a meal the most important thing in your life? Is what you wear more important than the body you put it on?”  Jesus in Matthew 6:25

No, I thought. What I wear has become much less an issue since moving to the deep freeze (Wisconsin). The desire to look a certain way when seen, doesn’t know what to do with itself when I’m hardly ever seen anywhere. When I’m seen, I’m pretty much always wearing my coat.

I often go to Walmart but you know I’m not going to worry about looking good there. I’d rather blend in.

Even at church, where my childhood habit of wearing my Sunday best ought to kick in, I’m more often in my flannel shirt uniform. People who walk or drive long distances to get somewhere in freezing weather have to think about dressing to prevent hypothermia if their car breaks down or if there’s a stiff wind. I’m trying to remember the last time I saw a woman in a dress.

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It’s a nice closet, and much better than squeezing into the one in our bedroom, with the husband’s things.

My clothes were a major part of what I packed to move up here. There were boxes of winter things, some of which had not seen much action in thirty years of Florida weather. I decided the large double closet in the garage was the most logical place for my things – it’s handy, right outside the kitchen door and only a few steps from our bedroom. I had to buy hangers, lots of them. Most everything fits there. It’s a little weird, but not a problem if I plan ahead.

But now that winter is here, and we’re keeping the garage at a lower temperature, I’m opting not to go out there as often. I have found that I can wear the same clothes for days at a time if I’m careful. My big accomplishment this week is going five days in the same pair of jeans. In a previous life this would have been wrong on several levels, but not here, not now. Don’t judge. Seattle daughter would be happy to know that her blue sweater gift is on it’s fourth day too.

Did you know that washing clothing unnecessarily is creating a cloth fiber plague in our water and air? It’s true. I read it on the internet. Even fish caught in the ocean have cloth fibers in their flesh, and we eat that. Yuk. So I’m not washing my clothes either. Well, not as often. If I can’t see the dirt, they’re not dirty. Try it. Saves on detergent too.

That whole section in Matthew 6 says a lot about clothes and worry and I’m taking it to heart. I’m just sayin’ – there’s no sense in running after things that God has already given me plenty of.

Is unfashion a word? Did I make that up?

Mealtime Meltdown

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I’m getting ready for a book burning…

I have been fighting with my computer all afternoon and it has left me in a poor mood. At least that is what I’m going to blame it on.

Mealtime meltdown, and I’m not referring to some three-year-old who doesn’t want to eat his broccoli. It’s me. I’m at war with the idea of fixing food to eat. Although I like eating as a rule, and probably eat more than a lot of other people I’m starting to harbor a great dislike for planning meals and cooking them. It’s work. Repetitive work. Often unrewarding work.

I suppose it’s like anything else – if I would view it as my job and not an interruption, I would approach it more reasonably. In fact, I must have approached it differently for the past 40 years or my family would have starved to death, hired a live-in chef, or spent way too much money eating out. I must have liked cooking back then, but everything has gotten so complicated lately.

These days, almost all food is suspect. It either causes cancer, or kills off our beneficial bacteria, or is loaded with hormones or environmental poisons. We have to eat keto, organic, gluten free, free range everything. We have to eat our food in a 6 hour time window, drink enough water to float a boat, and avoid comfort food in general (and bread in specific). We are bombarded with messages like “food is medicine” and at the same time we are sold a zillion supplements and told to ask our doctors for prescription meds for everything from depression to skin problems. I’m confused and I kind of want to stop eating, kind of…

The husband came to me this afternoon around 3 pm. “What did you have for lunch?”

What he really meant was “what can I have for lunch?”

It’s evidently less demanding if he asks it that way, which he often does. I had just started in on a blog post for the business site and my creative energy, which was already faltering, disappeared completely with the interruption. There was soup in the refrigerator. Mom made it yesterday. After leading him to it, we discussed what I thought was an explanation and a plan. At least it was my plan. We had a late breakfast and we would have an early dinner in about 2 hours. But he was hungry so I dished up a bowl of soup to hold his hunger at bay until then.

You might think that I moved in with Mom to help her with her meals, but that is not the case. She has pretty much given up on the way the husband and I try to eat (or not eat). She eats when she is hungry. The timing might be 4 am, it might be every 4 hours, and the deciding factor on what to eat might be whatever is about to spoil in the fridge. She likes to hide in her room and eat. We do intersect at the table, for a meal, a few times a week but we are most often like ships passing in the night, SYSCO trucks passing on the freeway…

After giving up on my computer problem, and aware that the fated dinner hour was closing in on me, I went in to see if Mom wanted to eat dinner. The process of figuring out WHO wants to eat sometimes gives me time to think of WHAT to eat. She had stuffed herself, her words, with a taco salad not too long before and wasn’t really in the mood. She must have figured I was frustrated with “food think” because she came out to the kitchen and got her leftovers out for me to fix for myself and the husband. Why not, I thought?

So, I warmed, chopped, sprinkled, arranged – all those annoying little activities – to produce our salads and called the husband to eat.

“I’ll take about a third of that” he said. “You can put the rest of it away for later. I just ate soup and a sandwich.”

Okay, just put me in a straight jacket and lock me up. I could have been reading a book or something fun instead of standing in the kitchen FIXING FOOD for someone who doesn’t want it. I am constantly vacillating between guilt (what? There’s nothing to eat?) and frustration (you made food – I don’t want any).

I will admit, it’s not easy living with me in charge of food. I am prone to disregard my stomach. I can tolerate the same menu day after day. I can eat water for food, or take a walk and skip the meal altogether. I love doing so many other things more than worrying about what to eat.  When it comes to food, there is one thing I can say I love. I love friends who love to cook and invite me to eat, and you know who you are. Just sayin’…

Mayo Clinic Day 3

Please tear my hair out in clumps and put me in a straight jacket. I’ve been talking to my insurance company. For the purpose of this post, the numerous automated screenings and niceties have been left out of the conversations which took about an hour altogether. 

Me: Yes, hello. I’m calling to check on an authorization for a PET scan for my husband Dennis. Where do we stand on this request?

Insurance company: I can check on that for you, just a moment… I don’t see a request for a PET scan in the notes. I see four other authorizations, blah, blah, blah…

Me: Mayo Clinic sent our Dr.’s notes to you yesterday, and they were told the decision was pending. It’s an out of network issue and it’s complicated. Do you have someone who handles these cases that I can talk to? (I give them a case number and the history of the last five days phone calls.)

Insurance company: No, I can’t say that we do and the notes we have don’t mention a PET scan at all.  (She tries to find more information but comes back with the same answer.)

Me: (Calling Mayo Clinic business desk in a panic.) I’ve just called my insurance to check on the authorization, as you suggested, and they don’t know anything about a request for a PET scan. It’s supposed to happen tomorrow. What can I do?

Clinic rep: We called your insurance at 8 am this morning to see if the authorization was given. They did get our fax yesterday about the Dr.’s evaluation and the matter is still pending. We should know something today.

Me: Why are they not able to find this anywhere in his record? They have the other authorizations but nothing for the PET scan. They say they don’t even have case numbers like the one I was told to give them.

Clinic rep: (explains all kinds of stuff about a special review board for out of network authorizations) We gave them the Dr.’s recommendations and I’m sure they will be getting back to us. Don’t worry, we have all day today and most of tomorrow to work this out. It will get resolved.

So I called the insurance company again, got a different rep who said basically the same thing with the added information that she had never heard of a special review board and she would know if there was one (she said). I made sure she knew that this was getting very mysterious and confusing to get two completely conflicting stories about the status of the request. She assured me they did not have a request recorded – but I could get one started. She told me how.

I didn’t want to call the clinic again, but I did. No surprises there – the same report. At least everyone is consistent. I guessed it was up to me. Which story did I want to believe? So, I went with the clinic, and am praying that they were right.  I really did not want to make any more calls. Tomorrow, we will find out if that was a good decision.

A bright spot in the day came when the scheduler called mid-morning and told us we had an appointment  tomorrow, at 7 am, for the neuro-psych evaluation, the one we had been on standby for. We no longer had to keep showing up and waiting for a cancellation. The lumbar puncture was rescheduled for Friday morning and will be followed by an afternoon wrap up with Dr. Jones. We are going home on Friday!

But will probably be coming back in a month or so (sad emoji face). Whatever. Maybe by then we will have new insurance, the kind that’s not so special that no one knows about it. Just sayin’…

Many thanks to my Aunt Evelyn Boone for a calming, pleasant afternoon visit and a wonderful dinner at her residence. Best thing all day!

On Clothes

I have an opinion on almost everything. Not that it matters…

Clothes do not “make the man” as some like to think. You have to know who you are before you put them on or you are in trouble. This I have learned from experience.

Down here in the sauna of the United States, I change clothes, a lot. It would be exhausting and take up way too much time to have to worry about looking good in what I wear. I settle for acceptable in a modest and functional way.

I accept the fact that clothing is fickle. It can look pleasing from one angle and totally embarrassing from another. It can fit well on one wearing and then not fit at all after one of us changes sizes. It can look soooo good in the picture, on someone else, and then be a completely different garment on me. I don’t know how it happens but it does.

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I won’t say what I was planning to do in this outfit, but you see what I mean?

I was looking this morning for something to wear while riding my bike outside. I wanted sun exposure and to be cool temperature-wise so my choice of knit shorts and tank top was a practical one. I put my helmet on and looked in the mirror. There I was, just like in countless pictures of myself biking, hiking, kayaking, whatever – looking decidedly awkward, gangly and a bit on the nerdy side. A real fashion plate. I regret that this is the case, but as I said, I’m not letting clothes define me. Function and protection are some major strong points of clothing, and shoes also, which is why I have almost completely given up on high heeled shoes. They are health hazards in so many ways. I’ve seen those models on the runways, nearly killing themselves…

I’m not against looking good. I even give that a shot from time to time, and it’s a lot of fun when it happens. However, I’ve also learned that the illusion of looking good is a real thing. For instance, having a great time dancing at a friend’s wedding only lasts until I see pictures of said evening and me in my finery. Who is that woman?

It’s been interesting to see how my clothing philosophy rubs off on my daughters. Pretty much not at all. There are occasions when they ask me what I think about what they are planning to wear but I’m always way too confused to tell them, and they end up wearing what they want to anyway. My opinion has a very poor track record. I think that they both would admit to clothes presenting them with some degree of a problem in their life (Why do I have so many? Where do I store them all? Why is my dry cleaning bill so high? Etc…) and that is where my bottom line comes in. Clothing should not be making life any more difficult than it already is.

Clothes should not be a problem, unless, of course, you don’t have any. That’s a problem, but it’s solved fairly easily. Do you know that there is a glut of clothing in the world? Do you realize that most of the stuff we donate to Goodwill ends up in the landfill? It’s alarming, really. But if you have clothing, don’t stress out over it. Wear it, take care of it and keep it clean. Smile and be kind no matter what you’re wearing and hope that’s what people remember most about you. And you will occasionally look good – it happens to all of us. Just sayin’…

Side note: Does anyone want a nearly new pair of Lands End board shorts, size 16W, in black? I found them last night when we were walking along the street. I think they blew off someone’s boat. It’s really easy to find clothing around here.

Loss Happens

Loss happens. To everyone, and more than once. In fact, life could be seen as a progression of things we gain and things we lose and leave behind.

I’m not priming you for a sad story. This tale is one of those inconsequential, odd things that happens to me every now and then, but catches my attention a little more than usual. It’s another earring story, of which I have quite a few.

Several years ago, shopping in a second hand shop in Alachua, Florida I noticed a display of earrings on a rack at the checkout desk. They were probably handcrafted and were all Swarovski crystal in various combinations, drop earrings with pretty silver hooks. The pair I decided to get were several clear crystals with some blue crystal beads on top. I got them because I wanted something blue.

Since then I’ve worn them a number of times without incident. They are nice but I would call them unremarkable. Yesterday I had them on during my visit to the doctor’s office and as the young child (or so she appeared) who took my blood pressure laughed at them and said “Oh wow, you’ve got snowmen earrings. How cute.”

“No, you’ve got it all wrong. They’re not snowmen, they’re just geometric shapes. Not snowmen.” To be truthful I couldn’t even envision what they looked like at the moment, and it had NEVER occurred to me that they looked like snowmen so I couldn’t understand why she thought so. Later, I looked at them and had to admit that they could look like snowmen, if you’re one of those people to whom everything looks like something else. There are people like that.

Today, I’m wearing blue again and decided to stick with the same earrings. At lunch, my friend Char looks at me and remarks about my snowman earrings. Obviously, since it’s summer in Florida and 90 degrees in the shade, everyone is thinking snow? Maybe? I don’t know, but I had to tell her she was the second person in two days to come to that conclusion, after several years of no one ever settling on that. We laughed.

After lunch I did several errands, including being called to pick up the husband at work. He had donated blood and was feeling not so well and wanted to be driven home. His office is only a short distance away so I decided to bike over and drive his truck home too. I am a good girl and wear my helmet all almost all the time and don’t like to wear dangling earrings with it. But, there was only one to take off.  Somewhere since lunch, one of my snowmen must have melted, or something. Lost.

I remember stepping away from the counter at the bank and saying “Did I drop something?” But it was one of those sixth sense things that makes you think you might have heard something, even though nothing is in sight. I probably should have looked harder, but no, and I’m not going back either.  It’s not that I have anything against snowmen – on the ground, in the winter.  Not in the summer, not on my ears, just sayin’…

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NOT a snowman, right?

Where in my mind am I?

I was very tired last night.  I fell asleep in the chair watching tv and decided it was crazy to waste sleepiness on a chair.  I would go to bed where I so often wish I was sleepy and am not.  I got ready for bed and got in, turned out the light.  As I was lying there and my body was getting numb to it’s surroundings, as I lay quietly behind my closed eyelids waiting for sleep, I suddenly could not remember whether I was in the chair thinking about being in bed, or in bed thinking about being in the chair. Weird things happen in that space between awake and asleep.

The worst part was, I had to get up and go write down what it was like because I knew I’d forget it if I didn’t.  By then I was wide awake again and stayed up too late like usual.  The mind is a crazy place, just sayin’…

Anything like that ever happen to you?

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It started here, in my chair.

By Any Other Name

Have you ever wondered what your life would have felt like if you had been named differently?  Would things have gone differently for you if you were named Oliver instead of Dave, or Polly instead of Tiffany?

I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about that, but today at Burger King (it was necessary, believe me) I had the opportunity to be someone else for just a few seconds. The guy at the counter took my order, looked up and said “Name?”  And for some reason I told him “Clara”.  I do not know why Clara, I just wanted to see how it felt.  It’s not my name, not even close.

I realize there was no danger involved as in a spy alias, and it wasn’t like I was lying either – he didn’t specify that it had to be my name. It was just a small, secret excitement to keep my own name hidden and be a Clara for a few minutes.  That old fashioned name that I never hear much anymore…  I had to spend the wait time consciously thinking Clara thoughts, lest I forget who I was trying to be and not recognize my food when it was called out.

What became clear to me is that I have become so accustomed to “living in” my name, writing it, seeing it on letters, name badges, checks, hearing it spoken and just thinking it, that I can’t imagine being anyone else.  It identifies my life to me and it feels strange to be called anything else.  Just sayin’…

Clara's receipt, complete with ketchup.
Clara’s receipt, complete with ketchup.

(Another totally weird thing is to google your name and see how many other people are called the same thing? How can that be? Have you done that?)