Sunday, February 18, 2024

I'm Sad to Say I Must be on my Way, So Buy Me Beer or Whiskey, 'Cause I'm Going Far Away



 Well kids, it seems as though I have moved my blog to Substack. It has a lot less quirks, and it has a lot more action. So, if you are at all interested, please check it out, subscribe, like, comment, or whatever works for you. You can find me here:

Sunday, January 21, 2024

More Songs About Buildings and Food

I took this in Taos, New Mexico last May. I love the loneliness of abandoned buildings.

This is just going to be a little update post with some photos I took of abandoned buildings last year.

Soooo, sometime in November I started feeling like I was becoming Hypothyroid again. For those of you who don't have to worry about these things ( I hope that is all of you), what that means is that I was getting more and more tired, lethargic, a little blue, freezing cold, and gaining weight again. I also was beginning to have headaches and digestive issues. Kind of like when people have gastric by-pass surgery and they can't eat very much or they feel very sick, only I gain weight instead of lose it. (LOSE/LOSE!). I knew I had a doctor's appointment in January, and it wasn't terrible yet, so I figured I could wait it out. The symptoms have been gradually getting worse, but, again, I just waited for my next appointment.

Well, on Wednesday I had my appointment to have my labs drawn the day before my doctor's appointment, and I was right (it's hard to be me). My Free T3 and 4 levels were right on the border of hypothyroidism. Which means my meds are working very well. Which is good. My TSH is also in normal range for the first time since I was diagnosed with Grave's Disease and Hyperthyroidism in 2022. It went from .001 to 1.64, which is incredible. It's all great news, except for my cholesterol numbers (stupid menopause). So, I was hoping that all doctors involved would be amenable to me cutting down my meds. For whatever reason, my body tends to be hyper sensitive to....Everything, so when my numbers get even borderline Hypothyroidism, I get very pronounced symptoms.

Of course, later that afternoon, I got a call from my doctor's office saying that my doctor had Covid and they had to reschedule my appointment. GAH! Lord knows, you can't help having Covid, I just have to wait another few weeks to see if we can cut my meds. Meanwhile, I'm trying to fight lethargy, exhaustion, weight gain, and always being cold (except when that gets broken up with a hot flash. Woo hoo!). In the middle of Winter, I don't need any help feeling ANY of those things anyway. I'm just going to ask all of you to wish me luck with my dose reduction plea and my current battle to stay awake.

I took this in Louisville, Kentucky last month. I especially love abandoned, lonely buildings with ironic billboard ads above them.

On a happy note, I feel like I've had a much better attitude about Winter this year. And seein's how this has been a VERY Wintery last couple of weeks, my timing has been excellent. I do know that it gets harder to maintain that attitude the longer Winter lasts, so check back with me in a month or so and see if my blog posts are just a picture of me with an axe in my hand saying, "HEEEEEERE's Churly!"

Right now, though? Right now, I am dressing in millions of layers, trying to get out and cross country ski as much as possible, and then making and eating some amazing comfort food (maybe Menopause isn't the only thing to blame for my rising Cholesterol?), and hanging out with cats in front of my fake fireplace reading books. All good things, right?

I hope all of you have wonderful health news this month, and that you are able to handle whatever weather situation you find yourselves in.

Monday, January 15, 2024

I See My Breath Outside, I'm Freezing, I'm Motionless, I'm Disbelieving

First off I want to say that I love every animal I've ever had, and I will love any animal I have in the future, but I will NEVER have another cat like Archie. He is such a dork, he's funny, and empathetic (and for a cat that is REALLY weird). Almost everyone who has met him thinks he has to have some dog in him. He is my beloved familiar.

I first met Archie in 2010 when he was a kitten. He was the biggest spaz at the shelter. I told John that if he was affectionate as well, I would try to adopt him. Turned out he was ridiculously affectionate. He loves attention and will snuggle with anyone. He will let people pick him up and carry him around, even if they aren't being super careful. I have had to tell more than one of my friends to put him down, because they were being too rough and I could tell Archie was uncomfortable. Most cats would scratch your face and jump away. Not Archie. I have a feeling it's less about him worrying about hurting a human than being an attention whore, but I TOTALLY understand that.

As a kitten he was a terror. The people at the shelter told me he was adopted once before and then brought back. They said it was because the other cats in the house were mean to him, but he shredded every one of my blinds, accidentally ripped my lip open, and purposely dropped books on my head while I was sleeping to let me know he was hungry, so I think there was a little more to it than just the mean cats.

Archie's most hated thing in the world is going for a ride in the car to see the vet. He's smart like that. Last month on his annual appointment, we had them do some blood work. Archie used to weigh 21.5 pounds, but now he is 12 lbs. He has also been drinking tons of water.

With humans, they always say that if we live long enough, we will inevitably get dementia. With cats it's kidney disease. Archie is 13.5 years old now, and you guessed it, he was diagnosed with kidney disease. He has anemia as well, and our vet said the anemia might kill him faster than the kidney disease.

We're all heartbroken. The vet said he'll probably live another year, but not much more, and it could be less. She said there isn't a lot they could do for him. We did get some kidney disease specific cat food. She said we might possibly be able to do a kidney transplant. The weird thing, is that they do that by taking another cat's kidney, and after the surgery, you have to take that kidney donor cat home with you and adopt it. Weird, huh? That may or may not work, but if you'll remember, Archie HATES the vet, and he's old so he might not tolerate a surgery like that anyway. Mostly, I just want him to be happy and free from stress or pain. So, our plan is to let him eat as much as he wants, we have some lactated ringers handy in case we need to give him IV fluids, and then we'll just spoil him even more than we already do (if that's even possible).

As you know, he's so suave and handsome that we named him Archibald Leech after Cary Grant. Even as an old man he still looks distinguished.

I don't know what we'll do when he's gone, because he won't be around to supervise our home improvement projects, and we're just stupid humans that will mess everything up on our own.

He still has so much he wants to do before he succumbs to his disease. He spends hours working on editing his yoga work-out videos.

We have kicked around the idea of getting ANOTHER cat in the next few months. Poor Gus Gus is going to be wrecked without him to play with, and he does an incredible job training kittens to behave better without being too rough.

 I just want to spend as much time loving him while I can. I'm going to miss him slapping my phone out out of my hand so that I'll spend more time staring at him instead, lying on top of me and crushing me when he knows I'm sad, arguing with me about whether it's time to eat or not (it's not), and watching him growl and hiss at the mailman. I have no idea what happens after we die, but for Archie's sake I hope there are unlimited supplies of fresh catnip, tuna juice, sinks of every shape and size, and gigantic scratch boxes located right next to sunny windows.

Oh, Archie. I thought you would live forever on piss and vinegar. Let's just hope we get more time with you than the vet predicted.

Sunday, December 31, 2023

The More We Know, the Less We See, Second Time is not Quite What it Seemed

It looks like this is my last blog post of 2023. It's been quite a year in so many ways. Mostly good, but I've had a lot of health challenges that I'm trying to work through. Let's hope 2024 gives me a break in that department. This blog post is about the good things, however. 

I know everyone has different ideas of what their purpose is in this life. Personally, my purpose is to find as much fun and joy and adventures as possible, without hurting anyone else. If I died today, I wouldn't worry about whether I left my house clean or not (not, duh), or made enough money (most decidedly not), or whether the cool kids liked me (they never have). I would worry more about if I had been kind enough (I'm always working on that), or if I made a positive difference in the world (I'm sure it depends on the day), or if I worked hard enough on my issues (I'm not sure any lifetime is long enough for that Hurculean feat), and most importantly, was I open to experiences.

So, every year I like to tally up all of the new things I've tried. Most of these new things happened on trips, but I suppose that's why we travel (if we can afford to).

Anyway, here is my list of the things I did for the first time in 2023:

Last January I took Stinky to Chicago and we stayed at the ever swanky Palmer House Hotel. I've always wanted to go there, because my Uncle Duke (his real name is Reginald Harrington Haigh, so I would rather people call me Duke too) worked there a hundred million years ago and one of my aunt's still has some of the art they gave him. I always thought it would be too expensive, but Coadster stayed there on a business trip, and by Chicago standards, it really wasn't that bad.

One of my other firsts occurred on that trip. I experienced my first immersive art experience. We saw the Van Gogh exhibit. It was beautiful and emotional and sweet and sad and so many things. I'm so glad we made a point to see it.

I had a LOT of firsts on our trip to New Mexico last May. If you know me at all, you understand how much I love cheesy, uniquely Americana shit. So when I found out we'd be driving through Amarillo, I asked John if he would be cool with us stopping at Cadillac Ranch. Lucky for me, John is always cool with doing all the zany, hair brained things I want to do, even if he sometimes okays them with an eye roll. It is an art installation funded by a now dead Texas business person. Basically, you bring spray paint and are encouraged to deface some Cadillacs buried in the desert. Who wouldn't want to do that?

I also got to go to the land of my people, and see all kinds of space aliens. I didn't find my mother ship in Roswell, but I did get to go to a restaurant where a guy played Charlie Rich songs on a Casio while we ate, and see even MORE cheesy Americana. Poor John.

At Carlsbad Caverns I ate lunch in a cave 800 feet below the surface of the earth. The ambience was incredible.

At White Sands I got to hike barefoot for the first time. The gypsum sand doesn't absorb heat the way normal sand does, so it isn't hot. I have always loved going barefoot, which means this was a wonderful thing for me (in case it didn't seem that way to you).

I also killed two firsts with one stone in White Sands. I got to sled in May for the first time, and I had never gone sledding on sand before. It wasn't quite as fast as sledding on snow, but the older I get, the more okay with the lack of speed I am.

When we made it up to Santa Fe, I scheduled a trip to Georgia O'Keefe's house (well, one of them anyway). I had never pawed through an artist's home before...Especially a rich one. It was beautiful. It would be hard NOT to be creative with those surroundings, and not having to work a shit job, but even so, there is only one Georgia O'Keefe and no one else has the vision she had.

In June, I got to see a baseball game at a real live major league ball park. I did see the Cubs play once, but it was from the rooftop decks, and not from Wrigley Field. This time Stinky wanted us to go to St Louis to see a Cardinals game for her graduation from college present. The game was fun, but I felt so honored that she wanted us to be included in her gift.

I may not be great at it, but I love to cook. I like to try food from all over the world. It's a great way to look at a culture. So, when we went to Minneapolis for Stinky's birthday in September, I bought "The Sioux Chef" cookbook and I've been slowly but surely figuring out not only how to cook Native American/Indigenous food, but cooking at that fancy level. I have worked in tons of restaurants, but none of them were anywhere NEAR Michelin Star level, and my cooking is a reflection of that. So, this has been a fun challenge. I have tried hard to buy ingredients from Native Americans whenever possible. If I'm going to appropriate a culture's food, someone from that culture better damn well make some money off of it.

I have always had this romantic vision of taking my daughters to Chicago right before Christmas, and this year I finally did it. Of course, it was a lot easier and fun doing it when they were in their 30's than it would have been when they were young kids. It may not have been quite as magical for them, but they seemed to have a good time, anyway. Mostly, it was nice to spend time with my kids when we did't have to get to work, or home, or be stressed-out.

I always say I like to explore a place by walking/running/biking, as opposed to driving in a car. Well, this year I got to ride my bike over the Big Four Pedestrian Bridge that goes over the Ohio River from Kentucky to Indiana. I have walked across it before, but it's always more fun on a bike, right?

While we were in Louisville, I got to see the English Beat (or what's left of them, anyway) for the first time. They had toured with The Police in the early eighties, but by the time I saw the Police live in 1983, UB40 opened up for them. I had always wanted to see the English Beat, and as we all get older, I try to see all the old people bands while I still can (I'm looking at you, Shane MacGowan). Anyway, the show was a blast, and it's always fun to go places where I'm one of the younger people there. It doesn't happen all that often anymore...

 I saved the best for last, apparently. It's nothing I've ever thought about doing, but like I said above, when an opportunity presents itself, I try to be open to it. Drinking tequila in a Catholic church did feel pretty irreverent (but also fun), even if it was a Catholic church that had been converted into a restaurant.

I'm pretty happy with all of the new things I tried this year. I'm already trying to think of more new things to discover in 2024. Here's to a new year of stepping out of our comfort zones and finding new adventures!

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Words of Wisdom, Words of Strife. Words That Write the Book I Like

Well, kids.It's the last week of December, so it's time for my end of the year posts. I'm not sure how many I'll have time to do, so I will start with my favorite one: The Books I Read in 2023.

Since I'm pretty sure I won't finish the book I'm reading right now before the end of the year, I'm going to call it and say that I read 45 books this year. Of those, I read Five Young Adult books, and one children's novel.

The Children's Novel - Was "Black Beauty', by Anna Sewell. If you only got around to reading one children's book and that book happened to be "Black Beauty", I'd say you were lucky. It was a beautiful story about respecting all life, especially animals. I was never one of those horse crazed girls when I was younger, listening to "Wildfire", and reading "Misty of Chincoteague", like my sister, so I missed this book growing up. I don't think it lost anything by reading it when I was old and cynical, as opposed to when I was young and cynical.

As far as the Young Adult books are concerned, I'm just going to do a loose ranking. I could go a different way on another day, but right now I would rank them thusly:

5.) "A Hero Ain't Nuthin' But a Sandwich", by Alice Childress. I loved this book when I was a kid, but I think it lost something either by it not being the 1970's anymore, or the fact that I had already read it before, or because I'm not nine years old anymore. If you haven't read it before, I would still recommend it, but I didn't have quite the same reaction I did in 1974.

4.) "That Was Then This is Now", by S. E, Hinton. This was another reread for me. I don't remember it being quite so dark when I read it in junior high. It takes place in a small town in Texas in the 1960's. It's about the relationship between two foster brothers, and the decisions we make and can't take back, when we're too young to make them. 

3.) "Moxie", by Jennifer Mathieu also takes place in a small Texas town, but it is supposed to be modern day. It is about trying to deal with sexism and how to channel one's anger. It is really fun and sweet, and the Netflix movie with Amy Poehler is definitely worth watching too. I also think I need more of a tutorial on how to channel my anger over sexism, but this is at least a start.

2.) I don't think I read "Brown Girl. Brown Stone", by Paule Marshall when I was younger, but I'm glad I read it now. It takes place in the 1930's and '40's in Brooklyn, where Barbadian immigrants deal with racism and poverty. It's a really sweet/sad story.

1.)  I love Jacqueline Woodson, and "Brown Girl Dreaming" is one of her best. It is actually a series of connected poems about growing up in the South in the 1960's and '70's, during Jim Crow and then moving to New York. The writing is superb, and the story itself is riveting.


I read one Classic Novel in 2023. It was Edith Wharton's "Age of Innocence". In 1921, it was the first novel written by a woman to win the Pulitzer Prize. As a lit major, I'm always surprised by the books I WASN'T assigned to read in college, and this is one of them. It's about the aristocracy of the time, and their bullshit rules. I thought it was fun and a little snarky. One of my favorite combinations.
"Ms. Marvel Vol II: Generation Why", by Jamie McKelvie, Jake Wyatt, and Adrian Alphona was the only graphic book I read in 2024. I really love the Ms. Marvel series so far. Who wouldn't want to read about a teenage, Muslim superhero?  I can't wait to read the next installment.

I also have just one cookbook that I perused this year: "The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen", by Sean Sherman with Beth Dooley is amazing. I've made a few of the recipes so far, and I plan to make many more in the coming months. Sadly, I'm not the best cook that ever lived, but in trying to master these recipes I feel like maybe I could get better.

I also only read one Fantasy/Sci Fi book this year, but it was a doozy. Marlon James', "Red Leopard/Black Wolf"  is graphically violent and sexual, and epic in every way. It is also a series, and I will tackle the next installment soon.

I read three Horror/Monster Fiction books this year. I loved them all, but if I have to rank them, it would look like this:"

3.)  "The Daughter of Doctor Moreau", by Sylvia Garcia-Moreno. This is the third novel I have read of hers, and they are all so different. She has such a great imagination and manages to cover political and feminist issues during different points in Mexican history.

2.) I got pretty into indigenous horror fiction, with more titles I'm excited to read in 2024. Cherie Dimaline, combined the horror of colonialism, fake "christianity", and werewolves all in one brilliant nove in "Empire of Wild".

1.) I'm blaming Stephen Graham Jones with my recent, above mentioned Indigenous horror fiction obsession. This year I read his, "My Heart is a Chainsaw". Lucky for me, it's a trilogy. So, I plan on reading the next installment in a month or two. This book is perfect for someone like me with ADHD, and a love of pop culture references. I'm just going to hope that Stephen Graham Jones is as prolific as Joyce Carol Oates.

Strangely enough for me, I didn't read a ton of detective/mystery novels this year. Only two, and here is how I would rank them:

2.) "Pardonable Lies", by Jacqueline Windspear is another book in the Maisie Dobbs series. It's nice that there are so many of them, because they are great to read when I need a break from how bleak the world is these days. I know that everything will come out okay, with a nice, tidy ending in her books. Unlike the shit show that can be the real world.

1.) I read Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None" last Winter. Which is about the opposite of a Maisie Dobbs book. I had no idea how bleak it was, but incredibly engaging and well written the whole time.

 Okay, now we're FINALLY down to the two big categories.

The first is the five best Non-Fiction books I read in 2023:

5.) "The White Album", by Joan Didion was just...Okay. I'm sure that's blasphemy in some circles. I loved "Slouching Toward Bethlehem", but except for one or two of the pieces, I was pretty bored with a lot of "The White Album". I've been told I really need to read "The Year of Magical Thinking" to feel better about her writing, and I promise I will.

4.) I was really surprised by how much I liked Jeanette McCurdy's "I'm Glad My Mom Died". My daughter told me I needed to read it (I tried not to read to much into THAT). It was a Summer read, but the story was crazy and heart breaking and compelling. 

3.) "The Body", by Bill Bryson was definitely what you'd expect from a Bill Bryson book...And that's a good thing. It's full of fun, and not so fun facts about the human body. It doesn't bog down with way too much information to process, and you don't need a degree in medicine to understand it.

2.) John got "An Immense World", by Ed Yong for Christmas last year and loved it. So, I finally got around to reading it this month. I only wish I had more time to read, other than right before bed. The few times I read it during the day, when I wasn't dozing off right before bed, I got so much more out of it. There is so much information about how other creatures experience their worlds. It was fascinating.

1.) The best non-fiction book I read in 2023 was "The Yellow House", by Sarah M. Broom. She writes about the history and present of the New Orleans the tourists don't normally see, through the history and present of her own family. It is so well written and the stories are heartbreaking. I have been recommending it to everyone I know.


Now, onto the five best fiction books I read this year:

5.) "Deacon King Kong:, by James McBride. As we all know, I am moody as f*ck, and sometimes what I want to read changes wildly from one day or week or month from the next. For whatever reason, I tried to start reading this book a couple of times before I picked it up this year, and loved it. Who the hell knows why? Anyway, this last time, it really did take, and I got so into the story that takes place in South Brooklyn in 1969.

4.) Because she teaches at the Writer's Workshop, I have had the pleasure of hearing Lan Samantha Chang read her own work, so it's nice to hear her voice in my head when I read her books. "The Family Chao", is a retelling of Dostoevsky's "The Brother's Karamazov". It takes place in a small town in Wisconsin and centers around the death of  a controlling, narcissistic, father.

3.) I finally got to go to Louise Erdrich's book store, Birchbark Books when we were in Minneapolis this Fall. I bought any of the books on this list written by Native Americans, including this one there. "The Sentence" takes place mostly in 2020. It is about the Pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, and all of the gray areas enmeshed in that year. It is also about what happens when the most annoying customer dies and haunts their bookstore store afterward. 

2.) I just finished reading Ann Patchett's "Tom Lake". It is another book that takes place during the Pandemic. It is written by a Writer's Workshop graduate too. It's about a family who owns a cherry farm in Michigan. Their three adult daughters come home during the Pandemic and help pick the harvest. To pass the time, they press their mom to tell them the story of when she dated a now famous actor. In that telling, we also hear the story of a young woman trying to figure out what she wants, after falling into something. It was hopeful, which I need right now.

1.) I had heard such good buzz about this novel, but I was daunted by it's girth. Eight hundred pages is nothing to sneeze at, especially for a person who has almost no attention span. I took the leap, and I am so glad I did. My favorite book I read in 2023 was "The Love Songs of W. E. B. Du Bois", by Honoree' Fanonne Jeffers. It was a beautifully, sad tale of an African American's story from the earliest days of the United States. This book made me feel so many strong feelings. It was hard to put it down to go to work, or eat, or just function on any level.

So, judging from this list, I need to read more classic, graphic,  and sci fi/fantasy novels next year. If you have any recommendations of books you loved from any genre, I'd love to hear them.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

I Have My Books, and My Poetry to Protect Me

How 1985 is this photo? I'm in a trailer with faux wood paneling, I'm listening to a cassette tape, and writing in cursive in a notebook next to an electric typewriter...And I'm wearing Levi's 501 jeans and Chuck Taylors.

Last week was the anniversary of me buying my first house, and I've been thinking about spaces lately, and what it means to be able to create a sanctuary according to my specifications (within my budget, of course).  There is always a certain feel that I want from a room. I like lots of sunlight, and I have this weird hatred of carpet. I have no idea why, but it bugs me. Of course, most of the places I've lived before this house were filled with carpet. So, now I have a house with none.

I like a funky vibe. My brother told me (not unkindly) that he wasn't as into my style. He prefers clean lines, and very little ornamentation. I understand that, but I do like a bohemian kind of look. I don't love tons of clutter, but I want to show off my friends' and my art, I love plants, and I am a BIG fan of festive lights.


I know not everyone has the luxury of making a work/creative space exactly for them. After 14 years in this house, and now that my girls are gone, I FINALLY decided to claim part of our spare bedroom as my "work" space. I used to write on my desktop in our living room. It was fine, but it was in the middle of everything and it was hard to focus. In the last few years I bought a laptop, moved my that desktop to the spare bedroom, and a couple of months ago, I bought a real live desk. 

There is room for plants, and books, and most importantly, festive lights. I also don't mind lighting a stinky candle or incense (I guess there's no getting over my catholic upbringing). The good and the bad of all of this, is now I have no excuse NOT to write. That's a lot of pressure, but probably what I need to light a fire under my ass most days.

 Since I'm a moody bitch, creating a mood before I try to make something is really important to me. I like to listen to music. What I choose to listen to depends on what I'm working on. Usually, though, I like it to be pretty mellow. I save the faster, ragier stuff for when I'm cleaning or cooking and/or dancing in my kitchen.

I also try to read something before I start writing. I usually read a short story or two, or some poetry. I am a HUGE fan of the "Best American Short Story" series. I can thumb through it and see which story speaks to me at any given time, or check out the first sentences of stories that I love.

When I was younger, I always had a journal that wrote in, and if I wrote fiction, I would HAVE to write it down first, before I typed it on a type writer or word processor. These days, I'm finally used to just writing everything right on my laptop. Although I do carry an unlined notebook around with me to write down things or observations as I'm thinking about them. Lately, I've been celebrating my oldpeopledness by cracking myself up with things I misread or mishear. For example - private voice as pirate voice, and particularly complimentary as patriarichally complimentary.

So, yes, I'm not that fancy. I have written outside in a notebook, at my kitchen table, at a makeshift desk in my living room, and even (god forbid) in a carpeted bedroom, but since I have the option, I'm really excited to make my creative/work/play space exactly how I want it. I guess we'll see if it inspires me to write more prolifically.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Doctor, My Eyes Have Seen the Years, And The Slow Parade of Fears Without Crying, Now I Want to Understand

 Soooo, it's been quite a month. I've had this ridiculous cold for the last few weeks. I also had my yearly mammogram, which was normal. Whew! Then a week ago I had to get tests to see how my Thyroid Eye Disease was doing. It was going very well, thank you. It looks like my friends bringing over truckloads of Brazil nuts is working. Thanks again, wonderful friends! Of course, staring into bright lights  for a few hours and having a tiny ultrasound wand placed in several spots on my eyeballs was a FABULOUS way to trigger a brutal migraine for me, but it's better than going blind, right?

ANYWHOOOOO, going to the eye doctor turned out to be quite the experience. While I was waiting in the hallway to get my eyeball ultrasounds, a couple of employees came walking up pushing something that was labeled "the sunshine cart". They were blaring "9 to 5" and handing out free snacks. Dolly Parton and free treats? THOSE are the people who should be making billions of dollars, not those evil corporate CEO's who cheat poor people and don't pay their taxes. 

After the Sunshine Cart left to give snacks to other patients, an older couple (older than me, even) looked for chairs to sit together to wait for their next appointment.

"You two can't sit apart from each other? Are you afraid she'll leave you?" Another old guy joked.

"Ha!" The woman said, as her husband sat next to me and she sat on his other side. "It's a little late for that."

"We've been married for 65 years!" Her husband said proudly.

"Wow, " The other old guy said. "I bet she's heard all of your stories..."

"My husband can't hear half the things I say anymore, which probably helps us stay married," I said.

The husband laughed, got very excited, and pulled out his smart phone to show me his hearing aid app and show me all the features, and how he can just turn it down if he's tired of listening to people.

"Boy, I'm surprised you even know how to use one of those phones," the other old guy said. "I can barely work my flip phone, which he pulled out to show us that he wasn't kidding about still having a flip phone.

"That's the only thing he DOES know how to do on his phone," his wife said.

Then a woman came out into the hall and called a name, that of course, none of us could hear. She called it again, and it was me.

"Sorry," I said to her. "We were all just sitting there talking about being deaf. The woman laughed and said,

"Yeah. We have a different clinic for that..."

Wednesday, November 01, 2023

Walking By Myself, Down Avenues That Reek of Time to Kill

 Okay. So, I was late for work a few weeks ago. The thing is, I originally had plenty of time, so in my addled brain I thought I could just water a few plants in our front yard. You know...Because the drought and all. After I did that, I still had a couple of minutes, so I figured I'd just run across the street to my plot at the Community Gardens and only water the tomatoes and my pepper plants. It was almost the end of the season, and those were really the only things producing much.

Anyway, I got over there and saw that there were some ripe tomatoes. I knew I should wait to pick those until after work, but I have this impulse control thing wrong with me, so I decided it would only be a minute more to pick those. On my way to the spigot for the water, I was amazed to see that there were quite a few green beans that could stand to be picked. Huh? I thought they were done. I was running out of time, so those could REALLY wait to be picked until after I got home from work. I want us all to stop here and admire my restraint. At least for a minute.

I watered the tomatoes, and while I was watering the peppers, this very sweet young man (he could probably be anywhere from 15 to 40 years old, but everyone looks young to me) came over with a root vegetable in his hand. "Hi," he said. "Hey, do you know what this is? I thought I just planted mustard greens, but then this came up and I'm not sure what it is." 

"Hmmmm. It looks like it could either be a malformed turnip or one of those weird white radishes. What are they called?... Oh yeah, Daikons! I wonder if there's some kind of vegetable identifying app you can get on your phone, like the plant ones?" 

He said he figured there was one. Then he told me this was his last day in the gardens. He had to nanny for some kids and wouldn't be back before we all had to be out for Winter. He also told me to help myself to any of the mustard greens he had left in his plot. Which was very kind.

Shit! Now I was actually late. I stared hard at the green beans, couldn't stand it, and said, fuck it. I was  going to take the time to pick them anyway.

I gathered up the tomatoes, green beans, and my watering can and juggled them all the way home. Of course, once I put everything down on the counter, I realized that I got weird dirt/vegetable puke stains on my shirt and had to change it. So, I grabbed a light gray shirt out of my clean clothes hamper (I hear some people actually fold their clothes and put them in their dressers. It sounds quaint). I looked down and realized I was wearing a brighter pink bra that showed through my shirt. If I had been in my twenties, I may have just gone with it, but being 58, it felt a little unseemly for the office. So, I dug through said hamper again until I found a darker shirt and put that on. Amazingly, it wasn't backwards or inside out. I searched around for a bit before I found my gloves, grabbed my messenger bag, hopped on my bike and headed to work. I was about halfway there before I realized I had forgotten to wear my helmet. I thought about turning around, but reasoned that I rode my bike without a helmet for close to 40 years before I started wearing one, so this one day probably wasn't going to kill me. I know, I know. I fully expected to slip on a banana peel left in the street, crash my bike, and bleed out through my temple  five seconds after that.

Amazingly, I made it to work only five minutes late. It wasn't even worth trying to explain to my boss why I was late. He's a busy man, and I'm sure he didn't even notice. Also, he's met me before and would probably be MORE surprised if I started getting to work early every day.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

I Rode My Bicycle Past Your Window Last Night

Somebody has a birthday today. This time thirteen years ago, John and I were dancing around each other. We talked about it, and John said he didn't think he was ready to start dating again. It was about a week after that conversation, that we found ourselves sitting across from each other, on a date at the India Cafe. I'm verrrry glad he went against his better judgment and asked me out.


Originally, we decided to take it slow, and hang out and see where it went. Of course, a few weeks and John getting hit by a an F-150 pick-up truck while riding his bike later, that whole "taking it slow" thing went out the window. 

Since then, he has been there for me and my girls. Teaching Stinky how to drive a stick, helping both girls with life emergencies in their twenties, helping to fix bikes, getting in political arguments with Coadster because they both love that, and NOT getting into political arguments with Stinky because that stresses her out. He is one of those great people who will drop you off at the door somewhere, and search around for a parking space so you don't have to walk in the rain, or cold, or heat. It is so nice to be with someone who can talk things out, and who works as hard (or harder) at everything as I do.

John always says that scars are sexy. Lucky for us then. After all the bike crashes, his getting hit by a truck, my breast cancer and Grave's Disease, and the emotional scars our three cats have left on us, we just keep getting sexier and sexier.

We've run, hiked, biked, and explored almost every kind of surface together, and John is always so patient and good at slowing down to go at my speed with me. I have the big ideas and plans for adventures, but I'm not great at logistics. He will take those plans and ideas and make them happen.


So, all of this gushing is just to say, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! to my very best friend and partner. I am so glad you changed your mind thirteen years ago and gave us a shot. I hope to spend a long, happy, life together playing and collecting memories...Scars and all.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Went to School and I was Very Nervous, No One Knew Me, No One Knew Me

So many geometric patterned sweater vests in 1983. I'm the one in the middle. I took this on my disc camera. If you've never heard of it, ask your grandmother. She might remember.

 It's strange getting older. There are so many things I've forgotten. Feelings that burned so hot at the time, are cool and dull now. Of course, there are some things I hope never to forget. The things that sucked at the time, but that I learned from, and those lessons that made me a much happier person in general. Can you tell I'm feeling Fall coming on hard, both literally and figuratively now?

 This time forty years ago, I was just starting my adulthood. I moved into my dorm room at the University of Northern Iowa at the end of August in 1983. It was the beginning, but it felt like the end too. I always thought that I would die, or something bad would happen to me before, or right after I turned eighteen and could leave my horrible situation with my abusive legal guardians. After a few weeks of waiting for something bad to happen, I realized that it might not come after all, and I could start working on this new life.

I wasn't prepared for independence. I never had any money to learn how not to spend it, I was rarely allowed to go out with friends, I had never dated, I hadn't been allowed to express my opinions freely for the last eight years, and I had very few social skills. I had spent so much time living in my own little world, and I suddenly had to learn how to live in the "real" world. I had no idea I was allowed not to consent to anything or establish boundaries. I could say no? I could voice negative emotions without being threatened or punished? Needless to say, I made soooo many mistakes (sometimes the same one over and over again) for years after that.

Don't worry. This isn't a mug shot. It's just the picture on my first university ID card. Try not to be jealous of my OP Shirt.

The University of Northern Iowa is the smallest of the three state Universities in Iowa. A lot of the students go home on the weekends and it can feel like a ghost town. I went there because I was injured the last year or so of high school, and the only track scholarship I was offered was for a small christian college in Southern Iowa. Even knew that wasn't a good idea for me...Or for that school either. I thought I'd have a better chance of walking on to the track team at UNI than I would the other two bigger state schools. Of course, after I got there, I found out that the cross country/track coach had a serious eating disorder and we spent half of our practices getting fat tested, being expected to do three different work-outs a day, write down everything we ate, and then get shamed for every calorie. It didn't take long for me to decide that maybe I could just run on my own and skip all the bullshit.

I transferred to the University of Iowa the next semester, but maybe it was best that I spent my first semester of freedom at a smaller school. I might have lost my mind had I gone to a bigger school with more to do. It was a nice, safe way to learn how to make friends, drink alcohol for the second time in my life (I did get drunk once at a friend's New Year's Eve party my junior year of high school), learn that I couldn't drink more than two beers an evening, figure out that I wasn't ready to be in any kind of romantic relationship after one blind date, and that I would probably be happier at a bigger school that had a better writing program.

Ahhh. Those wacky dorm room shots. At least there were no camera phones back then, so there are only a few of these photos lying around.

Believe me, forty years later I'm still working on some of that shit, but even as old as I am and with my brain a little more muddled, I remember how scary/exciting/overwhelming/liberating it was to so messily maneuver around trying to be a person in my own right. They say youth is wasted on the young, but I don't know if I agree. Sure, it would be great to have the physical part back. I would love to be in my fifties and be able to run like I did in my late teens, and not be in pain after sitting too long in one position. BUT, I think it's easy to forget all of the insecurities and emotional stuff. I can't imagine having the energy to work on all those issues and see my place in the world through those HUGE emotions and all that self-criticism while careening dangerously close to 60.

Thursday, September 07, 2023

She's Got Marty Feldman Eyes


Is this thing still on? Yeah, so, I've been meaning to write forever, but I haven't been making time. Partly because I have too many things I try to do, and partly because my Grave's Disease meds make me fat and lethargic. I keep trying to fight the lethargy, with limited results. I guess I'll just keep on trying.

So many things can happen in five or six months, right? The good thing for all of you, is that I have so much to write about that I won't have time to into the minutiae of what I had to eat for every meal of the day (I save that shit for Facebook, apparently), or how many bowel movements I had, or how often I stepped in cat puke a week (quick answer? probably about equal to my number of bowel movements). I will, as usual, go into too much detail about health issues and where I'm at with menopause (quick answer? Who the hell knows). Let's get down to it, shall we?

1.) Health Issues: Since my doctor cut my Grave's Disease meds in half, I am not nearly as tired and woebegone as I was on the bigger dose, but I am still both of those things. Also, even though I'm not actively gaining weight any more, I am not actively losing what I have previously gained by taking twice my dose of meds no matter how much I exercise or how little I eat. Of course, wah! wah! wah! It's all so much better than dying of a stroke or heart attack. So, I guess I'll take it?

Sexy, huh?


The other thing is that I got my eyes checked to see if I had Thyroid Eye Disease, which can cause blindness, and keep you from seeing colors, and make your eyes all bulgy like Marty Feldman. When I went to the appointment, I joked with the resident that maybe I wouldn't mind so much to have it if it took away my squinty little eyes. He seemed a little horrified, because he either didn't get my joke, or didn't think I was as funny as I always think I am (most likely). Anyway, after about three hours of testing, it turns out I do have Thyroid Eye Disease, or TED. The doctor I spoke with about it said the best thing to do for it was to keep my Grave's Disease under control by taking my meds, limit my stress (Hmmmm. Not my strong suit), and to get Selenium. She was very specific about how and what to take - exactly three Brazil nuts a day. Oh, how I wish Cashews had tons of Selenium instead. I am hit and miss with remembering to eat those three nuts. Let's hope I don't blind myself with my own lame-assedness.

Because I am stupidly optimistic, I like to look at any positives I can find about this annoying disease. So, here's what I have so far: In looking for ways to control my Grave's Disease, I stopped drinking milk and eating dairy yogurt (for the most part) because dairy products are high in iodine, and it's made my allergies a lot more tolerable. The joint pain seemingly caused by my meds have made me finally get off my ass and see a doctor about how to fix it. The doctor then sent me to a physical therapist, who made me custom inserts for my shoes, and gave me some exercises to do. The joint pain is still there, but I'm hoping it gets better. The biggest positive is that I have had people who had thyroid disease reach out to me to tell me that reading the things I've written have helped them. Sometimes it's nice to know you're not the only one going through and/or being frustrated by something. I'm glad I can do that for even a few people.

 2.) Playing Bikes: I am riding my bike way more than I was last time I wrote in here. I'm still horribly out of shape, so going up hills is even harder than ever, and I am trying to do longer and longer rides. On RAGBRAI week I rode three whole days in a row, and did my longest bike ride this year, 86.5 miles in a day. A VERY hot, and miserable day. Bike riding is fun!

3.) The Garden: Gardening during a drought has been a little crazy. The tomatoes, and raspberries, and Zinnia's are happy. The broccoli, zucchini, and Mexican Torch Sunflowers? Not so much. 

4.) My Husband: I know I do gush on and on about John, but if you've had even half as many shitty relationships as I've had, you would appreciate the hell out of a great partner too. He is patient and kind and generous and helps to remind me not to be disappointed when my body doesn't respond the same way it did before I had Grave's Disease. Some days I come home from work all lethargic from my meds, but also a bit anxious because of my disease. I will have planned to ride, but it feels overwhelming, and when I whine to John about how lame I feel, he'll say something like, "Just do what you can. How about watching some "Stranger Things?" And you know what? Watching "Stranger Things" is always the right way to deal with feeling crappy. So, what I'm saying, is that John is an empathetic genius and I'm pretty damn lucky he is in love with me.

5.) My Daughters: I am also incredibly lucky to have two amazing, strong-willed daughters. As they move out of their twenties, I get to watch them find themselves. They have both been through a lot, and they're still sorting through who they are and what they want now that they're adults, but neither of them are afraid of hard work, and they are both doing that work. They have also been very supportive of me and my issues. I'm just happy that I actually choose the family I was given.

Okay...that's probably all more than enough for one blog post. Hopefully, I will keep on it and I won't have to spend so much time summarizing my life on here, but you know how I am...

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Look Around, Leaves Are Brown, There's a Patch of Snow on the Ground


Well, kids. It's been a rough Winter for me. Not that everything has been bad. I got to take my baby girl to Chicago for a long weekend to celebrate her getting a job after she graduated from her surgical technician program, and that was amazing and fun.

It's mostly everything associated with my Hyperthyroidism/Grave's Disease that's been doing me in. Of course the thyroid is a hormone so when it's messed up, it f*cks with all kinds of weird things in my body...Most importantly emotions and energy levels. And no older person needs help messing with those things.

I am taking Methimazole to calm down my thyroid. Like I've said before, that medicine has a lot of side effects. The ones that are bothering me the most are the headaches, which on me are migraines, muscle and joint pain, digestive issues, and weight gain. Sounds like a blast, right? Luckily, some of those side effects lessen as your body gets used to being on the drugs. And since my hyperthyroidism was so bad, they gave me a large dose of these drugs every month. At my last appointment a week or so ago, they checked my levels, and my meds have worked so well that I am now HypOthyroid, which means I am super lethargic, I have mild depression instead of anxiety, Oh, and even more of the weight gain that seemingly never ends. 

I also forgot to tell you that my meds lower my immune system. I do try to be careful and wear a mask when I'm in large groups of people, but sometimes I forget, or get tired of it, and go someplace and don't wear one, but I finally got sick this past week, and it was a doozy. I had this weird cold thing that turned into a stomach flu and I was tired and dizzy and watched a lot of bad TV. I started feeling a little better today, so I'm hoping I'm on the upswing.

I know I am whining a LOT right now, but the good news is that my doctor decreased my dose by half, so in the next month or two, I should hopefully start seeing a decrease in the lethargy, depression, and even my weight gain is supposed to calm down. I can't even  imagine how lovely that will all be.

Don't worry, I'm still trying to get some exercise in, which is normally how I deal with any physical/mental/emotional issue I have, but the weird joint and muscle pain thing that my meds do is no joke...Okay, it can seem kind of funny in that old-people-falling-apart way, that those of us of a certain age can either laugh or cry at...Or laugh until we cry, which is what I like to do.

Anyway, here is an example of what I'm talking about:

When we were in Chicago we went to the immersive Van Gogh exhibit (which was amazing and I highly recommend it). We checked out the gift shop ahead of time, and they still had some merch left from the Frida Kahlo immersive experience and it was on sale, so I thought, "What the hell, I should get the 1,000 piece Frida Kahlo jigsaw puzzle". I totally forgot why it's a bad idea for me to buy jigsaw puzzles, and that is because my stupid ADHD can make me hyper-focused (read: obsessed) about completing puzzles, and it can take away from literally anything else I should be doing. Who needs to eat? Sleep? What's that? I can put in my own catheter, don't you think? No? Maybe a chamber pot?

So, I start working on this stupid puzzle, and I have kind of a shallow table I use to put puzzles together, and spend almost an entire day one day working on it, and because of the weird position I was in for most of that day, I wake up the next morning and my hip is all different kinds of messed-up. Seriously. Shit. That was about a month ago, and it's still not back to be 100%. It's a hell of a lot better, and almost where it should be, but man is it embarrassing telling people how I hurt my hip - vigorous jigsaw puzzling? Egad! I guess it's an answer to one of those, "tell people you're old without actually saying you're old" things. I could barely walk for a few weeks because I hurt my hip putting together a jigsaw puzzle. No matter how many ways I say it, it's still embarrassing.

 Okay, so the deal is, it's been a rough Winter physically, mentally, emotionally, and as far as my pride is concerned, BUT it is almost March, which means warmer weather (at least by May in Iowa, but SOOO close), my body is slowly but surely getting used to the side effects of my meds, and anyway My doctor decreased my dose by half, so hopefully all of this stupid disease shit should eventually get better and better. HOPEFULLY.

Now, I just have to figure out a way to get the cats to give me my reading chair back that I recently bought to escape into books on all of these bad days I've been having. I can't blame them for hogging that chair, it's soft, and velvety, and best of all, it swivels!


Sunday, January 29, 2023

Time Grabs You by the Wrist, Directs You Where to Go

Okay, for the love of gawd! I am finally finishing my shit jobs post. Before I started this, I really forgot how many jobs I worked, and how many times I worked at a couple of these places. I guess I should just get on with it now, huh?:

 24.) During my last semester in college I only took 12 hours of college courses, which meant that I could work 60 hours a week instead of the measly 40 I was working when I was taking 16 or 17 hours of classes. A friend of mine knew a guy who was leaving his job at an ice cream/coffee/soup and sandwich place, and they were going to need to replace him. I marched right down, got an interview, and started working at the Great Midwestern Ice Cream Company within the week. I would work at Great Midwestern twice, for nine years and I wore many hats. The first time I worked there, I took classes in the morning, worked there in the afternoon, and worked at the Mexican restaurant at night. When did I sleep and do homework? Who the hell knows.

 25.) My 19th job was detasseling corn the Summer I turned 26, but I already kind of talked about that. Basically, I was trying to save up money to move to Albuquerque to see if job prospects might be any better after I graduated from college with a "very practical" English degree. The guy I was dating at the time had a cousin who just moved to New Mexico who had a little apartment that used to be a garage where we could stay for free until we got set-up.

26.) Surprise, surprise, my 20th job was working at one of those crappy mall pizza places in Albuquerque. It was so bland and boring that I don't even remember the name of the mall OR the pizza place. What I remember most about that job in 1991, was that New Mexicans put Ranch dressing on EVERYTHING. Ironically, Iowa would later be known for doing just that, but back then,  I hadn't really seen that before.


27.) While I was in Albuquerque I discovered I was pregnant with The Oldest. Not having been around babies much, I thought I should move back to Iowa and family. I was lucky enough to get my old job back at Great Midwestern. I worked there through both of my pregnancies. I worked on the line, was a janitor there and a shift manager. It was the last restaurant job I ever worked. As usual, the most important part of that job were the amazing friends I made and still have today.

28.) When my oldest daughter was old enough to go to kindergarten, I was finally able to afford to leave my abusive ex-husband. I would only have to pay full-time day care for my youngest daughter and the before and after school program for my youngest. I got a full-time job at the hospital working as a nursing assistant in the Ob/Gyn clinic. I took  home $1200/ week there. $600 went to pay for daycare and $600 went to my rent. Everything else had to come from my part-time job at Great Midwestern. I did love my job at the clinic. I did phlebotomy, I assisted in all kinds of different procedures, I taught med students how to use a sterile field and catheterize women, I was pulled to translate for Spanish speaking patients, and my favorite part of the job, was advocating for patients. I had to make sure they weren't getting pap smears less than a year than their last one, so their insurance company would cover it, and I had to help them through some painful/scary procedures. It was the most heart breaking/rewarding job I've ever had.

29.) Because being a nursing assistant only paid $7.80 back in the late 1990's, I took a typing test, and got a job as a patient account representative in the business office of the same hospital where I worked at the ob/gyn clinic. Even after cleaning toilets for a living, this was probably my least favorite job. It was a lot of dealing with insurance companies that screwed over our patients, seeing people lose their farms and their homes because they had astronomical hospital bills they couldn't pay, and every phone call I answered produced ridiculous amounts of work I didn't have time to do, before the next call came in bringing its own ridiculous amount of work. At least some of the calls were amusing. Aside from half of them starting out with, "You fucking people...". I had a guy tell me that the Pope said he would pay his bill, and he gave me the address of the Vatican to send it to. I wondered if the Pope would pay my day care costs too. I also had a woman tell me that I was in cahoots with Janet Reno in causing the Oklahoma City bombing. I had no idea Janet Reno caused the bombing, or that I was so powerful (you'd think I'd be making more money). 

 30.) Since I was not super happy at the business office, I was applying for all kinds of other jobs. I did it like playing the lottery, I didn't think I'd get them, but it didn't hurt to try. You never knew...I finally got lucky and started working at the Admissions Office at a big 10 university. In April, I will have worked here for 22 years. When I started there in 2001, nothing was online. All the applications were paper and they, and any supporting documents were sent through the mail. We had a toll-free line to answer any questions and a huge space in our office was taken up by all of our paper files. I have seen everything change and our work force decrease by probably 70 %. Besides me, there is now only one other person who was there when I started still working in the office. My job has changed a bunch of different times, and I was just told that I will be learning something completely new to me in the next few months. I get good insurance, and get paid well for what I do. I have no idea how much longer I will be at this job. I hope I will be able to stay until I can afford to retire, and in my best fantasies, I get to that place sooner rather than later.

31.) I am counting donating plasma and mowing an older woman's lawn as one job. They were what I had to do to be able to afford to pay my mortgage after I first bought my house in addition to my full time job. Lucky for me, I only had to do them for a little over a year.

So, 31 jobs. No wonder I'm tired. I really hope I don't have to add to this list. I would love to somehow get enough money to retire and my only job will be to take care of my house, my gardens, and my fun hobbies. I can't even imagine how luxurious that would feel.

May you all be able to afford to retire the minute you are ready.