Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Adventures in Blood Donation

Last week I went to give blood and got considerably more than a thank you and a can of cranberry juice.

I’ve donated many times before and this time all the usual things happen – proper predonation food and water intake at lunch, intake assessment all fine (blood pressure a healthy 100/70-ish), no problems with the needle stick, outflow, or post-donation wrapup. So it’s time to get up and go to the table and chairs at the far end of the room for the snack and drink before leaving.

I sit up slowly, dangle my feet for a bit, and carefully slide off the table – I do have mild positional vertigo when I get up from lying down; at age almost 69 I expect it, it’s no big deal. I lean lightly on the table waiting for the short bit of vertigo to go away.

It does not. I lean harder on the table, my forearms braced on it, wondering why it’s taking so long. The attendant watches me closely. Another staffer brings me one of those little cans of cranberry juice and they ask me how I’m feeling. I’m not feeling so good, to tell the truth, but “Just a little positional vertigo, I’m sure it will go away....”

Someone says “Let’s get you a chair.” “Oh, no, I’m sure it’s nothing....”


I’m sitting in the chair, the juice can has vanished, and three people are standing around me bracing me. Now I’m definitely not feeling right, but what the heck...? “Better get a table,” one says, and one leaves and comes back pushing a padded donation table. “I don’t really think I need to....”


I’m lying flat on my back on the floor, knees raised, feeling weak and light-headed. Cold wet compresses lie across my forehead and neck. A staffer is sitting beside me, gently rocking my knees side to side. “Don’t try to get up. Just lie still and take your time.” She continues rocking my knees and watching me. Gradually the out-of-it feeling ebbs away. When she’s satisfied my color is better (apparently I’d gone ghost-white, lips and all), she gets up but tells me to continue lying there for a bit longer.

After a few more minutes I’m definitely feeling better. She and another staffer help me up and the two walk me down to the recovery area, prop me on a padded table with my back against the wall, hand me another can of cranberry juice, and leave me to continue my voyage back to normal (while keeping an eye peeled my way).

Another five or ten minutes later I’m fine – other than the mental anguish, of course, but physically everything’s functioning, so with their approval I put on my jacket and go home – where I discover one of the fun things about passing out that they never show you in the movies:

I’d pissed myself. Yup, it seems that bladder control is one of the things that’s rendered inoperative when you faint. Who knew? Not me, anyway. Good thing I’d peed just before donating, so the flood wasn’t much, and I was wearing dark pants.

I feel a bit dragged out and slowed down but otherwise all right for the rest of the day. I go to bed early and sleep nine and a half hours, and feel okay but tired for the rest of that day. After that I’m totally back to what passes for normal at my age.

So, that was my big adventure in Red Cross Land. I’ve been a donor for many decades and this has never happened to me before. Now I’m spooked, though, and wondering whether I should ever risk donating in the future. I sure don’t want to go through that again.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Another Adventure In Horsekeeping

You know you're a horseperson when:

You watch thick yellow pus streaming out of a hole in the sole of your horse's foot....

And celebrate, celebrate!

Yes, poor Ben has had an abscess in his left front foot for over a week now. Not too bad at first, but very painful since Friday, despite regular soaking and wrapping with drawing agents, so on Saturday I got the vet in (emergency call rate$$$$, sigh), who found a spot, carefully excavated till he got some drainage, then soaked it, rewrapped it, and said if Ben wasn't markedly better by Monday it would be time to do some x-rays to try to pinpoint the abscess.

Monday rolls around, Ben's still very lame, and so it's another vet visit, a set of x-rays (that was fun; we had to get Ben to put both front feet up on blocks; good thing he's so mild-mannered, well trained, and willing) and: ta-daa! There on one shot, a shadow around two sides of the coffin bone, its pointy end heading down toward the sole. The vet excavated carefully, and....

Yes! Pus! Lovely yellow pus running out!

The vet expressed as much pus as would emerge, then Ben had another good soak in Epsom salts and betadine, followed by a good slather of drawing salve and rewrapping in the usual fashion -- a pad over the salve, then the absorbent part of a disposable diaper, thoroughly strapped on with vet wrap, and finished off with a duct tape bootie.

Ben's still ouchy, which is to be expected, but he's way more comfortable, more willing to move, and more at ease doing it. He got a gram of bute in his midday beet pulp mash, and will for the next few days of stall rest while we wait for the drainage to finish and the healing to proceed. More soaking and wrapping! When he's finally ready to go out again we'll probably boot him rather than putting his shoe back on, at least for a week or two.

Ben and I are both so relieved!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Here We Go Again....

So the Daylight Savings Time clock shift happens once again, as it does like clockwork (ha!) twice each year. And once again, people howl and yowl in outrage over this terrible, awful, no-good upending of the natural order.

* shrug * Clock time is artificial anyway. The ancient Romans had a 24-hour day, but hours that varied in length depending on the time of year and thus length of daylight. So shifting our own artificial construct one hour this way or that on a regular annual schedule seems rather small beer in comparison, doesn't it?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


How to ruin your day: Realize after a couple of hours of running often to the bathroom that it's not because you drank so much water at lunch, then had coffee....

Nope. You're brewing a UTI, sigh.

And your doctor can't fit you in today, his office says. But....

There's an urgent care walk-in center a couple of towns away. Just a 20 or so minute drive....

So out you go, into the rain and the midafternoon traffic, and find the place with only one wrong turn, hurrah. More hurrah -- there aren't many people waiting, and you get seen in less than half an hour, and the staff are all friendly and competent, and you leave with a prescription phoned in to your hometown pharmacy....

And drive the 20 or so minutes back home in the rain and mid to late afternoon traffic, and only have to wait ten minutes or so at the pharmacy to get your Macrobid antibiotic, plus! the AZO that will ease your symptoms -- well worth the screaming orange pee you'll be pissing. And you throw in some cranberry concentrate pills while you're there, because why not?

And then you go home, eagerly suck down your first AZO dose, decide to wait a couple/three hours to start the Macrobid because it's every 12 hours and you need to time it for your usual get-up time....*

And try to carry on with the day's workload of proofreading, the care and feeding of the cats, and life in general despite what your urinary system is doing to you....

*I have been known, when prescribed a four times per day drug, to take a midnight dose, then set my alarm for 6:00 a.m. for the next dose, then go back to bed and sleep till my normal 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. get-up time. Yes, I am that persnickety.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Busy Busy Busy

Huzzah! My painter finished the last two walls of the living room yesterday! I've been slow-rolling through repainting much of the condo, doing it in stages because of all the books and other crap I have to move for every wall. But now it is DONE and I am happy with the results.

It's been a busy last couple of years for this 30-plus-year-old dwelling (I've been in it since fall 1996). Over the two-decade span I've replaced all major appliances, including the furnace and hot water heater, but so far in this recent two-year stretch I've replaced:

- the windows

- the front door

- the central air conditioning compressor

- the outside electrical outlet for the compressor

- most of the carpeting

- the overhead light fixtures (now all LED)

- the washing machine

- the smoke alarms

- the toilets

- the bathroom cabinet

- the bath and half-bath faucets

- the over-kitchen-sink light fixture

I've also had an additional handrail installed for the first to second floor stairs so now there's continuous rails on both sides all the way up, and had a leaky old garbage disposal removed and plain piping installed, since I now compost food waste. My recliner is scheduled for pickup on Thursday to go be reupholstered.

With the new carpeting and repainting there, plus attractive new shelving, new larger laundry folding table, colorful area rugs pulled from storage, and some pictures hung on the walls, the basement has gone from a, well, basement to a real room.

Oh, and I've had a junk man come and take away some stuff that had been cluttering the place, also gave away a lot of stuff via Freecycle, donation bins, etc.

So what's left for a project-mad homeowner to do? Well, the first and second floor decks desperately need repainting (including power washing and heavy sanding prep), but that's not happening this year; my rehab budget is tapped out. I'm also eyeing one patch of flooring in the entry I'd like to change....

Being a homeowner is so much fun!

Monday, September 4, 2017

A Litter Box Surprise

When you've got indoor cats, you've got litter boxes. When you've got litter boxes, you've got to clean them. When you've got to clean them, you find poop.


How often do you find a poop tower? Not several discrete turdlets piled more or less neatly into a pyramid, no, no. Not even one long turd spiraling up like so much soft-serve ice cream (sorry...).

Nope. I'm talking vertical turditude. One solid giant excremental deposit, at least three inches long, nearly an inch wide at its base and tapering only slightly to its blunt-cone tip, lodged an inch deep in the level expanse of litter, standing up straight and proud.

I gazed at the collection of possible culprits gathered around me for breakfast, eyebrow raised in inquiry. They ignored the eyebrow and continued insisting they were about to expire RIGHT NOW of starvation and neglect, then waddled joyfully after me as I sighed and went on to the kitchen.

I never did find out whodunit.

P.S. Yes, I did think of photographing it and sharing its glory, but TMI, folks....

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Modest Proposal

Massachusetts approved recreational marijuana use by referendum last fall, and since then the legislature has been struggling over how to rewrite the law to suit a lot of factions -- the hike the referendum tax rate side, the make it easier for towns to block retailers side, the make it so screwed up it can't work at all side, even some the people decided so stop trying to derail it side.

Anyway, the lege finally came out with a rewrite today. I haven't checked it out yet, so I don't know how thoroughly they've mucked it up, other than I'm pretty sure they jacked up the tax rate -- way to go, guys and gals, way to make illegal sales more attractive!

Anyway, while all this was pending, I was listening to WGBH's radio show Boston Public Radio where they were discussing this. Co-host Margery Eagan had a wonderful idea: So certain cities and towns want the right to block pot retailers from opening up shop within their pristine limits? Fine -- but don't distribute a penny of the tax proceeds to them. Let all the revenue go to the municipalities that do allow pot shops. After all, if marijuana is going to have all those horrible no good scary dreadful EEK!!! effects, then they should get all the millions of dollars the evil weed brings in.

Works for me!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

What the...?

I have a small gardening mystery, a volunteer flowering plant that’s popped up in two planter boxes out on my deck.

I have four planter boxes on my deck railings and a round container on a plant stand. I used to put annuals in them, but over the years I noticed that moss was self-planting and decided to let it stay. Eventually I decided to let nature take its course, so that now the three long boxes have long-ago-planted sedum (three varieties) that have spread to fill them over the moss, the short box and the round planter have mostly moss with a few stray other plants that somehow found a home – a clump of strappy grass stems, a bit of fern in the round and a bit of evergreen in the short – and a tiny little shamrock-looking plant pokes its head up here and there in small clusters. It’s basically a sprinkling of random weeds among the sedum and moss, but I like it. Plus, everything survives the winter, no matter how bitter, without any special care, ditto for harsh dry summers.

Now, though, I have a new arrival, a bizarre-looking stem with a cluster of pink starry flowers on top. What on earth could it be?

Update: Found them! They're sedum flowers. Apparently one of the varieties I have will decide to fling up a stem of blossoms now and then.

Update two: But wait! These may not be sedum flowers after all -- further Googling leads me to believe they're hen and chick (sempervivum), another succulent plant I have a few of scattered among the boxes. Alas, once the blooming is over, that plant, its purpose fulfilled, will die. More: http://www.youngs-garden.com/blog/hens-and-chicks-flower/

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Book Report

I’m currently reading a delightful book by Am Stewart called “The Drunken Botanist”, all about the wonderful, wildly diverse ways in which plants and humans together have created alcoholic beverages. The Amazon listing gives a good description:


I highly recommend going for the hardcover edition, not only for the illustrations but also because it’s a gem of the bookbinder’s art. I have two other of Amy Stewart’s books – “Wicked Bugs” and “Wicked Plants” – that are equally good, in presentation and content.

Not only is “The Drunken Botanist” fascinating and illuminating – I never knew that…! – it’s also often funny. Here’s just one bit:

“The science of fermentation is wonderfully simple. Yeast eat sugar. They leave behind two waste products, ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide. If we were being honest, we would admit that what a liquor store sells is, chemically speaking, little more than the litter boxes of millions of domesticated yeast organisms, wrapped up in pretty bottles with fancy price tags.”

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

It All Comes Down To This

So, this is what untold millions, nay, billions of dollars and lifetimes of intense scientific and technical endeavors went into creating: A Facebook page devoted entirely to pictures of sleeping cats.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Obsolete? I Think Not

On a blog I frequent the topic of obsolete jobs arose, in the context of coal mining dying despite what anybody says about reviving it. One person observed:


The problem with this example is that welders can still get work. Their skills are still in some demand.

The problem is that many traditional livelihoods being pined after (e.g., coal miner) are more comparable to blacksmithing, and many mourned enterprises are better compared to livery stables.



To which I replied:


Actually, I'd say that blacksmithing has more of a future, in its own niche, than coal mining. Between economically extractable resource exhaustion, automation, and declining demand, coal is going down. The need for farriers to shoe working, sport and pleasure horses, however, continues.

Stats are hard to come by since the US Dept. of Agriculture stopped tracking the number of horses and mules nationwide (around 26,000,000 in 1915) but there's still an estimated 9.3 million of them out there today, with about 3.9 million used for pleasure riding. Others race, compete in other equestrian sports, herd cattle, carry police and other public service personnel, pull tourist buggies, and yes, even serve instead of tractors in farming and logging. (Also -- like my own horse -- serve as large expensive useless pets, often retired from work, but still decorating their paddock.) And most of them need to be shod about every six weeks. Even horses that go barefoot usually need to have their hooves trimmed on a regular basis, another service that farriers provide.

So, yes, there's plenty of work still out there for those who (after a suitable apprenticeship) want to be their own boss and set their own schedule with a steady stream of work from repeat customers. And who are willing to drive multiple miles per day to bring their forge truck, with its multitude of blank shoe stock sizes, multitude of tools, hundreds of nails, portable anvil, portable furnace, and other accoutrements they must invest in up front to their clients' scattered farms and stables and backyards, with more or less convenient areas to work in, at all times of year, in all kinds of weather, getting up close and personal with the often dirt and manure bedecked, powerful legs and sharp-edged hooves of large animals whose attitude toward shoeing ranges from "I'll just doze off here" through "Do I hafta?" through "OMG what was that I must JUMP!" to "Touch my foot and I will kill you", for clients who pay (a) right then, cash, (b) by mailing a check in a day or two, (c) when they think of it, (d) screw you, there's always another farrier. And there's a lot of heavy lifting.

So, yes, there's work to be had, now and into the foreseeable future, for those willing to go through all that. Oh, and be skillful enough, with farriery itself and the handling of their four- and two-footed clientele, to build and retain their business.

At least until their bodies give out.

Addendum: I posted this on Facebook and a friend replied thus:


Gretchen Frevele: Don't forget, beyond the demanding skills required at the forge itself, farrier work means you spend a very significant part of your life bent over. Not the most comfortable position. So yes, that last line is very significant. I have a mini horse. 32" tall at the withers. Absolutely NOT ergonomic to work on.

(My 6'4" vet showed me how to keep him trimmed while he was laid out flat, snoozing off his meds after said vet had just gelded him. It takes two people--one to pet his neck somewhat forcefully to keep him laying down--but that's really the easiest way to work on his feet. If he's up, he's somewhere between "Do I hafta?" and "Oh Hail Naw!")

But in the larger sense, it's a very skilled job. Not something you can pick up in a couple of weeks. And while I don't want to imply that coal mining is JUST digging in the dirt with a shovel, many of the lost jobs are not being replaced with jobs that their people are set up to take on. Either they don't have the money to get the training for them, or perhaps they don't have the right personality. (If you're the sort who "needs" to be moving around, a desk job at a call center is likely to be highly stressful, as one example.) Too often when that "door closes" there is little or no support to help people find the "windows opening" nearby, if such "windows" exist at all. Or it's likely to be perhaps a little more literal. The door represented the size of the paycheck earned, and so did the window. Sure, for the same amount of labor, roughly, one could break one's back mining coal or being a hotel room maid, but which job pays more? (Before you jump at that comparison, my mother worked at several hotels when I was younger. It may not be filthy, but it's real work. And it pays beans.)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Confronting a Moral Dilemma

On a walk with a friend a couple of days ago, I happened to glance down at the pavement of the quiet back road we were on and spotted a small gray rectangle -- a gift card, it proved to be when I picked it up. A Visa card from Vanilla.com, no denomination indicated on it; just the usual numbers, expiration date, and security code that you'd find on any credit card.

What to do? My friend and I discussed the morality of just pocketing it; a couple walking by with their dog said it wasn't theirs and recommended keeping it; surely, if it had been a fiver or a twenty dollar bill lying there, I'd have kept it without a second thought -- but a gift card? Who knows how much money it might be? Somehow it didn't feel the same. Somehow, pocketing it almost felt like theft. But leave it there for its owner to come back and find? Bloody unlikely, for sure.

So I took it home with me, and left it on the dining table. Picked it up this morning and saw on the back a website URL where one could check the card's balance. What the heck? Might as well. So I went to the site, entered all the information, and....

Thirty bucks. All gone. Probably fell out of someone's trash.

So much for all that moral agonizing.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Making The Change

By now you folks who use Verizon as your email provider have probably received the dread (welcome?) news – they’re getting out of the email provider business and offering transition to either AOL or another provider of your choice. Going to AOL lets you keep your Verizon address and all your contacts, etc., are ported along with that. Choosing someone else comes with no such perks. Just follow a few easy steps and voila!

Sounds simple, right? What could possibly go wrong?

Well, actually – nothing! So far, anyway. I just did it and ZAP! New AOL account, emails sent and received in a snap, including forwards from my two Gmail addresses, all my inboxful of mail that had been sitting in the Verizon online inbox popping up in the new AOL one.

Phew! Although I shall continue to watch for any signs of problems cropping up, while adjusting to the new world order.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Bibliophilia Run Amok

So I finished reading a novel I know I'll never pick up again; it was okay but far from that author's best work, and I won't spend the time on it again. It had sat on the shelf for years, decades, even, unread; it will never come into my hands for reading again. I can always use the shelf space.

So now I should throw the aged, yellowed paperback out. Put it in a donation bin? It'll go straight to the pulp pile.

I should. I really should just chuck the thing.

*little voice in my head* What? Throw away a BOOK?!? How DARE you?!? Heretic!!!!! Barbarian!!!!!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Democracy In Action


Just got home a little while ago from town meeting and am struggling to recover from four hot hours crammed into a tiny auditorium seat between a friend and a big burly guy with massive arms, no supper before I left home for it, no food or drink with me, listening to droning town officials reading endless financial details; elderly gadflies niggling over tiny details and demanding "No" votes on essential funding articles; speakers who can't figure out how to use the microphone to be heard; speakers who ramble on incomprehensibly, hopelessly muddling their arguments; speakers who couldn't buy a clue if you fronted them the cash; a moderator who wouldn't rein in speakers to the allotted three minutes, who bollixed up explaining procedural aspects and pending motions -- admittedly, when the question before the meeting is whether to vote to close discussion to vote on an amendment to the motion pending before the meeting, which is worded differently from the article in the warrant, it does get confusing -- in short, town democracy in action in all its messy, boring, frustrating, chaotic glory.

But I did finally get to vote on the issue that brought me there -- the preferred location for a new elementary school -- and my side (don't build it at Bialek Park, the only public open space in town, and next to where I live, build it at Doyon where there's helluva better room!) came out ahead.

In a nonbinding advisory vote after lots of argufying and procedural struggles, essentially meaningless legally but which hopefully will give pause to the school building committee, which is hellbent on Bialek but which needs (among other things) to get a two-thirds approval vote in next October's town meeting to go ahead. The vote was 326 for Doyon to 201 for Bialek, not even close.

The meeting adjourned -- well, I'm sure it adjourned after 11:00, but I and my friend bailed out about 11:00 while the fight over whether to establish a non-civil-service deputy fire chief position still raged. Since less than half the articles on the warrant got dealt with, there'll be another session tomorrow night. There are a couple of articles I'd really like to vote on, but my friend likely is all town-meetinged-out and I don't know if I can take another round.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

More Vet Bills For Ben

Ben's been on a daily dose of phenylbutazone ("bute") for several years to relieve arthritis, primarily in his hocks -- a not-uncommon problem in ageing horses. An unfortunate side-effect of this NSAID given long term can be gastric problems like ulcers, and for several months Ben's had runny fecal discharge soiling his hind end. Other remedies for this having failed, I discontinued his bute a couple of weeks ago, and sure enough, the discharge has dwindled away to almost nothing. He's seemed comfortable without the bute, too, in terms of idling around his paddock.

So far so good, eh? But Hilly has noticed a little stiffness lately, and when I had Ben's long-time vet out to assess his soundness yesterday, his flexion tests went badly. The underlying arthritis, while not overtly crippling him, hasn't gone away, and while he can move around reasonably freely, the vet worries about his ability to get up from lying down -- a real problem he had previously, before his last round of hock injections (analgesic and steroid) and some management changes relieved that.

So what to do? We could do another round of hock injections (his last set were in 2015), which would be good for some number of months but eventually the effect wears off. He could go back on the bute, which does a good job of controlling the arthritis but clearly is doing harm to his digestive system.

Or we can switch him to a new pain control medication, which is the course we're trying. He's being put on an NSAID called meloxicam, which as the linked article explains is less likely to cause gastric upset. The downsides are (a) his dose is 18 pills twice a day, more of a pain in the butt to dispense than one scoop of powdered bute, and (b) it's also more costly -- the several bottles of the pills I picked up at the vet's office today are enough for 15 or 16 days and cost me 50 bucks. On the other hand, hock injections would run me several hundred dollars.

So we'll see how this new med works, and hopefully it will keep him moving freely without chewing up his gut.

A study of meloxicam versus bute: http://www.thehorse.com/articles/31454/meloxicam-vs-phenylbutazone-effects-on-horses-gastric-mucosa-studied

A good summary of flexion tests: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flexion_test

An excellent article on hock injections: http://www.doctorramey.com/how-long-do-joint-injections-last/

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

And then what happened?

So, two bullets dodged, it appears, in the last week. One you already know about, the purported cardiac scare, which most likely was something else -- perhaps esophageal spasms, said my primary, whom I saw yesterday for a followup. Makes sense, since intermittently I suffer from GERD. I'll be seeing the cardiologist on Thursday, and hope he'll concur.

The other thing I hadn't spoken of here yet. It's this: On the Thursday evening following my hospital overnighter, I was getting out of my recliner (powered by weight shift, not motor), and felt a stab of pain in my left groin. The same kind of pain I'd felt leading up to my left hip replacement. Walking off felt... wrong. Over the next day or two, I continued to have frequent pain in that area, as well as on the outside of the hip and down the thigh, especially after even relatively short bouts of walking, and I noticed that I was toeing my left foot in and swinging the leg oddly inward.

Yikes! Had my fake hip flaked out? Would I need revision surgery? Crap! Nooooooo!!

It was somewhat encouraging that the pain wasn't overwhelming, and that other than the gait oddity and the discomfort the joint appeared to be functioning normally -- I could walk, take stairs, bend over, and so forth. Also, as the days passed, the discomfort seemed to be lessening, and in the last day or two the in-toeing seems to have dwindled away.

I brought this up to my primary yesterday. He said if a replacement goes bad it's normally either right afterward or many years down the line; also that, as I'd thought, if apparatus or bone had broken down I should be in a heckuva lot more pain. He did a couple of manipulations that didn't trouble me other than minor discomfort at the extreme of moving my bent knee inward. I should have been way more hurting if the hip had gone kerblooey, he said.

His take was that it's likely to have been something like an adductor spasm. This is normally a product of overuse but could be a consequence of prolonged sitting, which I've been doing a lot of in recent days, for work and other reasons. In any case, I'll be seeing the orthopedist who did the replacement tomorrow morning; I want the hip x-rayed just to be sure there's nothing more serious going on. But the gradual but real improvement makes me hopeful.

Now, let's hope the old "troubles come in threes" thing is malarkey!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Then this happened

So, not how I'd planned to spend Tuesday.

I spent yesterday afternoon, evening, and overnight in Beverly Hospital hooked up to monitors, to see if my chest and back discomfort were from a heart attack.

Apparently not, as I am a free woman again.

At least the food was remarkably good, and the hospital staff were likewise.

The cats survived my absence thanks to my friend Jean's care. Peanut was the only one in the evening who dared to come out of hiding; Sally also dared for breakfast; so I suspect much of what Jean set out for the others was gobbled up by (as Jean called him) Tyrannosaurus Peanut. Perhaps that's why today he's having a bit of potty woes and vomiting. I expect his intestines will settle down now that I'm home and he's back to his usual feeding routine. Stanley's being more clingy than the others now that I've returned.

And so it goes.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

More Home Improvement!

My townhouse condo has a garage underneath. The original design of these units had the garage portion of the basement going all the way back to the rear wall, leaving one side with just stairs to the first floor and a narrow corridor running beside the garage divider wall, leading to the washer/dryer hookups, furnace, and water heater. The people I bought it from had closed off the rear part of the garage to make a small room the width of the unit and maybe a dozen feet deep from the garage end wall to the back wall, with finished sheetrocked walls hiding the concrete. They put down carpet on the stairs, corridor, and little room.

This added room makes doing laundry a lot easier since I have space for a card table to dump the laundry bag onto and to pile the laundry on when it comes out of the dryer. The room itself is good for storage, and of course has accumulated stuff, including four shelving units, over the years. Meanwhile, the carpet -- a dull maroon with rows of little gray lozenges -- has gotten shabbier and shabbier, as have the boring linen white walls and trim.

A while ago I had the stairway and most of the corridor repainted in basic white with caramel-brown trim. The room was so full of stuff, though, that I left it undone. The redone area looked a lot better, though the carpet didn't go well with the new scheme. The carpet, in fact, looked downright ugly.

So I'm having it replaced, with a tough new carpet in dark brown/black with caramel flakes. It should look great with the white walls and caramel trim. And of course, since I have to move all that stuff to clear the area for the new carpet, I might as well get the rest of the basement repainted -- right?

So over the last week or so I've been moving things to the garage -- which, of course, required moving stuff out of the garage, rearranging stuff staying the in the garage, and in general upending both areas. There've been two trips to the transfer station so far to recycle as much as I can; one big item going out in today's trash, with two more slated to go in the next two weeks; a big bag of chuckouts in today's regular trash bin; and in general a redding up and reconfiguration that both spaces desperately needed. The garage itself wanted sweeping out, and got it today.

The job isn't finished yet; I'm pacing myself, doing an hour here, a half hour there; but this morning I made a huge dent in the project, and looking at the fruits of my labor afterwards was sooooo satisfying.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Local News Update

About yesterday's fire: More bad news today.

Crews from the fire department and the town DPW were in the woods today, hunting down hot spots and taking down damaged trees. Apparently when the fire burned over the ridge from Pineswamp into the woods above Linebrook Road it was intense enough to go up some trees instead of just burning through the leaf litter and underbrush, which is what Jean and I saw yesterday.

We walked up Pineswamp around 10:30 this morning to see what we could see, and learned that one of the men cleaning up in the woods had been just struck by a falling tree and was going to be medflighted out. We saw the helicopter go over us, headed for Bialek Park (which our little side street abuts) where there's a field big enough for it to land safely, then head back away toward whatever hospital would be receiving the man. Story here:


We went up about a mile along Pineswamp, past the point we'd reached yesterday. There wasn't a massed presence of fire trucks as there had been the day before, but firemen were at work overhauling the burned area, with hundreds of yards of fire hose running along the edge of the road from the only available fire hydrant to a pumper engine serving one crew working up into the woods. There aren't many houses along there, but we could see that the fire had come within a few dozen yards of some of them.

There was some rain last night, but not enough to do much good. It was pushing 80 degrees today, with variable winds. From what we could gather, the fire crews were in there all day and expect to go back for more mopping up tomorrow.

Update, April 20:

Update on the DPW worker the tree fell on while cleaning up after the forest fire:

I went to the town transfer station yesterday and was talking to the attendant. Turns out he was right there when the tree fell on the guy. Says he got hurt pretty bad: broken shoulder, ribs, leg, and a lot of skin on his arm and side ripped off. But should recover, or at least survive.

He also said the homeowner whose blown-away kindling started it had been taking down trees in back of his property and had six burn piles of slash set up ready to light. I guess we should be grateful he didn't get any of them started before the wind grabbed his fire and sent it into the forest.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Local News

So, this happened in my area today:


I came home around 2:00 p.m. from various errands to find the air around my condo smoky and nearby Pineswamp Road blocked off to cars other than residents'. My friend Jean was talking to a neighbor when I pulled in, and she told me the smoke had been even more intense earlier; she and I strolled up Pineswamp to see what was going on.

We watched for a while from the same place that the photographer was standing when he took the shot of the line of fire trucks along the edge of the woods, in the slide show at the bottom of the story. Lots of smoke up on the hillside in the woods, and we could see bursts of flame whenever the wind gusted, as the fire advanced along the ridge. We watched for over an hour, chatting with neighbors, hearing the State Police helicopter flying overhead.

By the time we left, things seemed to be getting under control despite the difficulty of fire fighting in the thick woods, with only one (I believe nonfunctioning) nearby fire hydrant on the Pineswamp side of the ridge, though there was a water source on the other side. Lotta lotta woods in my town, and they're tinder-dry right now despite recent rain, so this sort of thing does capture one's attention. We should be getting some showers overnight, which hopefully will quench any hot spots the firefighters may have missed.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


New mattress! Got a new mattress yesterday!

I'd been waking up with an aching back for a while now, so off I went on Monday to the local mattress store (The Mattress Firm, successor to Sleepy's) to check out what I could find. Tried several, starting with the firmest (red-color-coded), since I'd been sleeping for years upon years on a firm mattress, but found what seemed most comfortable in the next level down (orange-coded).

Boy, I gotta say, that company does customer service well. Not only was the delivery on time -- a bit early, in fact -- but I could track the truck's progress on a handy web page, see exactly where it was and get a 30-minute window of when I'd be seeing them, got a confirming call from the driver as they were setting out from their preceding stop. The delivery of the new and removal of the old was fast, efficient, and tidy.

So, last night I finally slept on my gigantic new mountain! Oh, yeh -- my 20-year-old mattress was about a foot thick. This new one has gotta be half a foot thicker (and you wouldn't believe how much thicker than that some of the high-end mattresses at the store were!) and getting into bed -- a bed almost a hundred years old, made in a time when mattresses and box springs weren't nearly as plump -- was its own little adventure. And off to dreamland.... with the usual couple of awakenings for bathroom runs, of course....

I noticed during the night and in the morning how much more I was sinking into this plush-top mattress than my very firm old one (which was firm even in the mild trough that had developed over the years). I noticed it retained somewhat my body's impression when I arose. Oh, no! Had I made a terrible mistake?

Well.... No. No, I don't think so. Because when I crawled out of bed this morning, found my footing way down there and stood up....


No aching back. No aching hips. Even my grumpy knees felt better. No feeling tired despite the night's sleep. Best night's sleep I'd had in, well, I dunno how long.

The salesman had said (and the promotional literature did too) that back sleepers need firmest, side sleepers need softer, and front sleepers need softest of all. I start my nights on my side and often awake to find myself on my back, pinned down by Schooner. So... maybe all those years of thinking I needed a firm mattress, I was wrong?

We'll see if it still works as well over the 120-day trial period The Mattress Firm offers -- yes, four months!

Friday, March 17, 2017

The morning Squash report

So far, so good. He ate his supper with Miralax sprinkles, gobbled it all down, and had a good breakfast too. So far I haven't heard or seen any vomit. He’s bright, chipper, and energetic.

Unfortunately, the detente with Peanut seems to have suffered a setback; he’s back to being wary of Mr. Grumpy Face, who’s back to staring at him, and has returned to lurking in the basement. Hopefully this will wear off along with the smell of the vet’s office.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Squash Survives

So, here's the scoop on Squash. What the x-rays showed was probably fecal matter and gas. His bloodwork was perfectly fine, and his teeth aren't all that bad considering his age. He got a large dose of subcu fluids plus an anti-emetic/anti-nausea shot that should be good for 12 hours, by which time hopefully tonight's dose of Miralax in his supper wet food will have moved the problem along.

He's to have a once-daily dose of Miralax for a few days, then every other day for a couple more. Till now he's been getting a mix of different dry kibble at lunch, pate canned at breakfast and supper. The canned will continue; his lunch will be primarily Royal Canin Gastrointestinal Veterinary Digestive Fiber Diet, plus a bit of dental and Calm. The vet is very positive about Royal Canin -- not only healthful but highly palatable.

I'm told he behaved pretty well at the vet's, only dinged the vet once, and missed her eye -- and that was from panicked flailing, not aggressive intent. He was delighted to get home, of course; skittered around for a bit, then camped out in the basement in his usual perch. He emerged at suppertime, ate every bit of his meal, and so far as I can tell still hasn't vomited three hours later. He returned to his basement lair till just a few minutes ago, when he scuttled over to my recliner. He's now lying contentedly behind my head, purring and looking very much like this:

Another Feline Medical Crisis

Squash is at the vet's. I'm waiting to hear back what they find.

He's been vomiting, unable to keep food down, since yesterday. He's otherwise his usual self, but within a short time after he gobbles each meal it comes back; he also vomits bile. He's 15 years old.

This is the cat who hasn't been to the vet's for so long they had him in the inactive file. He's been impossible to catch, carry, and put into a carrier for many years. I lucked out this morning, caught him on a bit of furniture at just the right height to lull him with skritches, then get him under his elbows, scoop him up, and hurry to the top-opening carrier I had ready to stuff him into. Managed to do it despite the flailing with only one minor wound, too.

I've given the intake person all the info. Now I wait while they slot him into the schedule, work him up, and see what's going on. Maybe it's just constipation. Or maybe it's a tumor. Whatever it is, he'll get what he needs -- even if what he needs is the last sleep.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Fun With My Smartphone

I've got a smartphone. Of course. Doesn't just about everyone, these days? Not that I ever use it for anything other than occasional phone calls, or reading a book from my Kindle library when I'm waiting somewhere, or once in a blue moon sending a text to the barn manager about my horse. Most of the time it's shut off and lurking in the bottom of my purse, just like a dumb phone. Yes, I'm a primitive -- still have a landline for my primary phone, fercrissakes.

But I have found a new use for it. I'd been wanting to have a music player for entertaining myself while taking walks when my walking buddy isn't available. I'd even picked up a low-end MP3 player but hadn't gotten around to trying to download my iTunes library onto it from my computer. Then my walking buddy suggested I use my phone for a player, as she does.

So I tried syncing my Android phone to one of my computers to get my iTunes stuff onto it, and couldn’t get my device driver to download. Bummer, right? But as I was about to give up, an errant finger swipe launched an icon called “Amazon Appstore” and what did I see? A menu of stores, the second of which was music. I pursued it further and whaddaya know? Every frikkin CD album I’ve ever purchased from Amazon, for years and years and holy crap did I actually buy that?!? was right there in the Amazon Prime cloud, just waiting to be downloaded into my phone! In a few minutes I went from nuttin’ to 650 tracks on the thing.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to play what I want, when I want, from the mammoth pile of possibilities. Oh, and make sure the generic earbuds I have lying around somewhere will work with the phone.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Fun With Horse Manure

Note: If discussion of horse manure bothers you, stop reading.

So Ben was actually still un-mud-rolled when I got to the barn despite the last few days of record warmth, unblanketing, and vast swaths of paddock filth uncovered by the melting of snow.

Unfortunately, the back of his butt and hindlegs and the underside of his upper tail were caked with crud from his unfortunate habit of releasing dribbles of liquid poo whenever he produces manure balls. This is not a sign of disease, especially at times of changeable weather; a certain fraction of horses simply are prone to it, and do or do not respond to various management practices to try to control it.

Ben's been dribbling for quite a while. I've tried some possible remedies in his feeding program over time, to little avail, and now have started him a couple of days ago on Sand Clear, a psyllium supplement that hopefully will absorb the excess liquid his digestive system is producing. Various horseperson friends have offered various suggestions; if the Sand Clear doesn't work I'll move on to the next one. Sometimes nothing works and one just must keep on cleaning the mess. At least it's not so visible from a distance on Ben, since he's a manure-brown bay; on a light chestnut or gray it's sadly apparent.

Anyway, we shall see if anything helps. But today was so warm I decided to wash as much of the filth off as I could. So I put rubber gloves and big sponges in a bucket, ran hot water into two plastic gas cans I keep for bringing warm water to the barn, and went to the barn. I set up everything in the aisle of the four-stall part of the shedrow, led Ben in to the crossties, and set to work sponging at the mess.

Yup. It was just as disgusting as you're imagining. I kept at it, though, spent probably an hour working on his butt and legs and tail, and by the time I was done the caked-on filth was pretty much removed. Oh, he's not really clean-clean; what he desperately needs is a full bath with horse shampoo and multiple rinses; but he's way better off than when I started. And happily there was no sign of scalding on the skin underneath the crud.

I finished Ben off with a good full-body currying and brushing, which he loved, combed the dreadlocks out of his mane and trimmed the scraggliness off it, and returned him to his paddock to resume noshing on his lunch hay. Then I cleaned up the work area, put my equipment back in the car, and took stock of myself: Clothes, skin of lower arms and shoes spattered with manure-infused scrubbing water, and a lower back aching and complaining from all the bending and reaching. And it will all be to do over again, I'm sure, the next time it's warm enough.

But it was worth it.

Friday, February 24, 2017


My washing machine died. Semi-full of a middling load, including towels. Died at the first spin cycle, so when I went to check on it everything was soapy-waterlogged. Ran a rinse cycle, came back to find it still unspun. I wrung out about half of the load as best I could and started it in the dryer; wrung out the other half (with the towels) and left it draped on the washer to drain as much as possible more out of the stuff while I wait for the poor patient dryer to extract the water from the first half.

I put in a call to a local repairman, but while waiting for a call back then thought, well, this thing is 20 years old and I've more than got my money's worth out of it, so called the local appliance store, where I've bought other items and been happy with them. They said the earliest they could install a new purchase would be Tuesday. That's not so bad, so I drove over, checked out what they had, and wound up buying a new top-loader on sale for a darn good price. It's not top or even middle of the line but it's an American-made Maytag, it's small enough to fit in the spot where the old machine lived, and since I don't want or need all the bells and whistles of a higher-end machine it will do just fine for me.

The salesman said it sounded like it was the transmission that blew out, that it would have been hard to find parts to fix my 20-year-old machine, and that 20 years was a good run. He said washers these days probably only last about ten years, but in ten years I'll be 78 and I daresay the health of my washing machine will be among the least of my worries.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Ah, Valentine's Day

Oh, good grief, they're at it again: The Vermont Teddy Bear Company is running those ads for Valentine's Day, where gorgeous young women get all hot and sexily bothered when their man gives them a gigantic four-foot-tall (and damn near as wide) teddy bear. They snuggle up to it, wriggling seductively, with smoky-sexy eyes....

Yeh, right. A normal woman's reaction to being handed one of those things? "Just where the HELL do you expect me to PUT this?!? Bend over, HONEY, and let me see if it will fit!"

Friday, January 27, 2017


What the...? I have Twitter account, almost never used. I get emails from Twitdom offering me links occasionally to the tweets from one or two people I follow (not always by any means) plus suggestions of who Twitter's algorithms seem to think I'd like to follow.

Lately there've been a lot -- a LOT -- of them that are clearly from right-wing tweeters, even though I don't follow anyone like that. Makes me wonder if there's some sort of propagandist push going on.

Or maybe I'm just paranoid?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Veggie Boys, sunbathing

Squash, brother of Pumpkin, has taken to living in the basement thanks to torment from his former best buddy Peanut, with backup bullying from Schooner and Stanley. He's actually been quite happy down there and thoroughly enjoys my visits to bring food and water, clean his box, or just schmooze in passing in and out of the garage. But he does miss me.

Lately I've been putting his food dish near the top of the stairs instead of at the foot before closing the door to let him eat in peace. Lately he's been lurking at the top of the stairs at mealtimes, even venturing a few feet out into the living room, before scuttling back when he spots one of his enemies.

And last night, very late, while I sat reading in the living room recliner, while Schooner and Peanut slept in a cozy lump in the recliner in the front dining area, I looked up from my book to discover Squash in the middle of the room, looking longingly at the tinfoil I'd just removed from a (damned good!) chocolate gold coin.

I knew what he wanted. I wadded up the foil and threw it and he gleefully chased it, then returned to demand more. We played that game a few more times, then, visibly gathering his courage, he scurried up onto the recliner, stretched out behind my head, and shoved his little skull forward over my shoulder for skritching.

We enjoyed some together time before his courage tank ran dry and he scuttled back to his basement refuge. But this morning he came a little way out again at breakfast, and I'm hoping that he'll gradually rejoin the upstairs life, though I suspect he'll never again really trust the dire Peanut.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Monday, January 2, 2017

Alas, Pumpkin

I brought Pumpkin in to see the vet on Saturday, concerned because he seemed even thinner and his appetite had become increasingly erratic; then too, there’s the frequent vomiting. Turned out he’s lost about another pound from his already scrawny weight a couple of months ago; he’s down under seven pounds now, skin and bones, and he ought to be closer to ten. They managed to draw blood for testing despite his near-collapsed veins, and then Dr. Montesano and I sat down to discuss where to go from here.

It’s more than just thyroid that’s the problem; given the improvement in his coat, it’s not likely even primarily thyroid right now (depending on the blood results). Most probably it’s some kind of gastritis or inflammatory bowel disease, perhaps even gastric lymphoma, which would have to be confirmed by biopsy. We’re not going to do a biopsy, of course, let alone chemotherapy if it is lymphoma; we agree given his age and condition it’s palliative care only, and we’re looking at months, not years, and quality of life at this point.

So what to do? The vets and I had previously discussed steroid treatment but been reluctant given his heart murmur; steroids could push him into congestive heart failure. But that treatment could shrink an inflamed and thickened gastric lining, help him to absorb nutrients better, in fact it’s part of the suite of treatments for lymphoma anyway, so what the hell? I could give him a daily pill or he could have a shot good for a month (though if anything went wrong there’d be no way to take it back); I said go for the shot.

He also got a dose of mirtazapine (Remeron). In humans it’s an antidepressant; in cats it stimulates appetite while helping to suppress nausea, a half-pill every three days. A short while after I took him home I offered him food – and he devoured it, as much as I thought safe to give him. He wasn’t too keen on supper but ate more small meals in the evening. On the vet’s advice that at this point it’s calories calories calories we need to worry about, not balanced nutrition, I’d stocked up on baby food, those teensy Fancy Feast cans, and some deli sliced chicken breast on the way home, and he liked what I offered of that.

Sunday he ate eagerly, again frequent small meals. He was more vocal than usual, a bit more charged up, but those are known side effects of mirtazapine, and overall he was doing way better, behaving normally, snuggling up to me. Success! For however long, success.

Dr. Montesano called earlier this morning for mutual updates, while slugabed me was still transitioning from awake to get out of bed. Mine: as outlined above. Hers: His thyroid and other blood levels looked good. Keep on as planned, his next dose of mirtazapine due tomorrow.

Then I went downstairs to feed breakfast. And a lethargic Pumpkin wanted none of it. Nothing I offered tempted him. At all. Not even deli chicken. Nope nope nope.

God DAMN. I called the vet’s office, was able to speak briefly with the vet before she went into surgery. Could be the mirtazapine has worn off already; could be.... Well, the plan is to watch him, see if he’ll feel like eating later. If he doesn’t by this afternoon, give him his next dose a day early, and let her know what’s going on by tomorrow.

And if he still won’t eat? Quality of life, not length, will determine what comes next.