Monday, June 30, 2008

Bang! You're Dead

Our Earthlink modem died some kind of horrible death on Friday. For the woman with the bad, bad back this is N O T a happy prospect.

One hour and twenty minutes of me sitting in the desk chair that cause the initial back spasm and Earthlink finally determined I had a blown modem. Well, it lived six hard years here on my desk -- covered in dust and pencil shavings and dental floss. No wonder.

A new modem is being shipped by ground and we hope to receive it sometime this week. Until then minimal amounts of computing are being accomplished on the laptop Max OS X. Nice screen and all but lousy keyboard. And the operating system is not something I use with any great speed, even though I've had it since last June. The Mac is, however, WIFI so we do have some internet connection, though I'm not sure who I'm stealing bandwidth (or whatever wireless connectivity is now called) from, since my PC desktop is DSL.

The back is relatively better. I can walk. I made it to church on Sunday. I went to Sam's today and got three different kinds of meat to try and entice Fritzy into eating. He spent three days happily chowing down on rice and hamburger and then, nope, no way, no how, is he going to eat one more mouthful of it. Saturday I gave up and sent Hubby out for chicken nuggets and he absolutely loved them. Sunday we had barbecue from our favorite joint and I made him a nice bowl of beef tips and he turned up his nose until Hubby removed all the ham from his own plate and fed it to him -- and then he devoured every bite. At Sam's today I got him his own ham, some precooked chicken nuggets that only require warming up, and more hamburger -- hoping that a variety of things would keep him eating. He's very thin now but he still seems to have energy. He happily ate ham again this evening, sending poor Gus into spasms of misery because he only gets bowls of dog food.

This summer is certainly not turning out as well as I had hoped . . .

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Pain Will NOT Go Away

Out, damn pain, out! I say!
with apologies to WILL

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bad Back

Last Monday while doing research for Tuesday's curriculum workshop, I sat for four hours in at my computer in my favorite, and very comfortable, computer chair. When I went to stand up, my back rebelled.

In the late 1980's I collapsed the last two vertebrae in my spine and have suffered a lot of back pain since. This pain wasn't as awful as that, but darned close.

I spent Tuesday in utter misery until I found the oxyocodone in the medicine cabinet -- left over from the gouty big toe. By Wednesday I was throwing up every meal but that was better than the back pain which had, by then spread down my right leg to my knee.

Friday I had the annual physical with the doctor to get all the meds renewed for the year and she thought I was having back spasms. She prescribed a lovely muscle relaxer that replaced the oxyocodone and at least allowed me to eat.

From Tuesday afternoon until today I have been in bed, trying my best not to move at all so that damn pain would not eat me alive. Today I'm finally marginally better. This sucks.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sick, Sweet Boys -- Ouch!

Fritzy came home from the vet's early Saturday morning, very tired, very lethargic. He sleeps a lot. He refused any canned or dry food but the vet sent a recipe with him that we could fry up: hamburger, rice, hard-boiled egg, white bread all mixed together with a little bit of warm water. This he adores and gobbles up with no resistance. He needs a multi-vitamin to go with but that's fine as long as he's n0t vomiting up everything else.

This morning the vet called to say Fritz also has an extremely bad kidney infection -- his tests showed three different strains of bacteria so he now has a 40 day stint of antibiotics to run through, then another round of $100+ testing. The antibiotics aren't cheap, either.

Meanwhile, Gussie, he of the bad hips and legs, threw something out in the park this morning and now is hobbling around on only two legs, while the back ones send him gimping sideways and partially falling over. It's always something.

Thursday we meet with the vet to learn to do sub-cutaneous IV's, hoping to keep Fritzy healthy for a little longer. If Gus isn't any better then she'll look at him, too -- but every time they've seen him, they just throw up their hands and suggest more X-rays, all of which give no definitive answers as to what's wrong with his back end. Meanwhile each X-ray runs $100 or more.

Last week's vet bill ran to over four figures. The one on Thursday is also going to be highly costly, just for Fritz. So we're medicating Gus with aspirin, massage, and the laying on of hands. I know he hurts but we can't afford much more dog misery without facing some serious misery ourselves. Poor little boys. Poor bank account!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Lessons from Daddy

I came late into my father's life (he was 42 when I was born) and he was forced into coping with a teenager during his middle fifties. He never really complained, though I wasn't always an easy girl to raise.

Daddy never lectured. He didn't moralize. He wasn't a preacher. He never said these things to me, but looking back and remembering, here are some of the things his life taught me:
  1. Live an honorable life; don't lie, cheat or steal and most of all, no matter how hard it may be, honor the major life commitments you make.
  2. Treat people the way you, yourself want to be treated; don't gossip, don't hold grudges, be friendly.
  3. Take care of your family. You don't have to be rich but you do have work and support those you love in the best way you can.
  4. Be kind to animals, even if you don't always like them. They depend on you and need you to make their lives tolerable.
  5. Read: books, magazines, newspapers, fiction, non-fiction, short stories. Reading helps soothe you, as well as keep you informed.
  6. Write. Daddy wrote reviews and small historical essays. He read train and civil war books and he wrote reviews of them. His writing was his artistic outlet.
  7. It's okay not to be a physical person or to know how to do physical things. Reading and writing make up for not leading a very physical life and not being able to repair things around the house.
  8. Enjoy travel and do as much as you can afford. See new sights and open yourself to the experience. Don't be afraid of new places and new things.
  9. Attend church, honor God, but don't use religion to beat others up.
  10. Make your bed every day; it will help you organize your life.
Daddy was good man, a man of his era. He loved the mountains. He loved his wife. He loved a good, dry martini. He loved KU football and basketball. He wanted his bed made every day and he expected his wife to make it. That, and the fact that he was to be the bread-winner of the house, were probably his two most annoying philosophies. He did not expect his only child to find a husband to support her; instead he made it clear he was fine with my working. He did expect me to make the bed -- something I've always had trouble doing, even when living in his house. He also wanted a cocktail every night before dinner and a nightcap suited him fine, too. I've been told he once loved fine clothes but when he had a family to support on a newspaper man's salary, he gave them up and bought cheap suits, ties, overcoats, and hats. He only wore jeans on a the rare Saturday or in the mountains. I always remember him wearing a tie to church.

I believe he loved me without exceptions and without qualifications. That love has sustained me all my life.

Friday, June 13, 2008

How We're Spending Our Vacation

A little pictorial essay in how we're enjoying easy summer living:

I'm grocery shopping . . . and washing dishes . . . and cleaning house.

Then I'm cooking up yummy recipes (mostly yummy, not always) in my fancy cookware.

Gussie sits all day, every day, in front of the new screen/ storm door.
This door was chosen just so he could sit and look out into the world he dreams of conquering.

Little Fritzy, suffering from the onset of kidney failure, spends a lot of every day sleeping and his favorite place has always been buried under the covers on our bed. We no longer make the bed because he tosses and turns and burrows until he has all the pillows thrown off and the sheets / blankets arranged just the way he likes 'em.

"Dang, Ma -- why'd you have to disrupt my nap?"
Fritzy on my birthday . . . you can see he hasn't been groomed for at least three weeks - and he's not feeling real chipper. However, nudging pillows and sheets around tend to send Schnauzer beards into disarray.

Hubby has been fixing the plumbing in our house. I haven't had a bath in three days now. You might want to stay downwind of us if we meet in the next six hours or so.

Interior image of our "new" car. We don't buy 'em "new" but this little dreamboat was a gift -- an honest to God gift -- from one Melissa to another Melissa. And I'm eternally grateful! Though a 1995 -- and a car that takes premium gasoline (half a tank cost us $50 last night!) -- the car only has 33,800 miles on it. That makes it new in our book. And toys! Oh! my! Sun roof, passenger and driver heating/cooling controls, heated leather seats, burl wood trim on the console, CD player, every type of engine read-out imaginable, a V8 engine so tons of power, four-doors. Pristine condition, loving cared for since purchase. And a gift that came just as Big Mo, our Lincoln began taking her last breaths. Now, if only gas prices would come down . . . this is a car I can actually drive.

Worn Out

Big Mo, the 1993 Lincoln Town Car Hubby bought in October of 2005, is worn out. She's weary of pounding the pavement between one urban city and its state line neighbor, putting in at least 50 miles a day ferrying me to and from first the construction job and now the teaching position. Her seats, once pristine leather, are torn from eight dog paws and carrying the hefty bottoms of two aging adults. Her brakes are mushy. Her hoses are leaking. Her air conditioning has not worked in the past 12 months. Only three of her windows operate, even though their controls have been replaced repeatedly. She has given valiant service. She has never been demanding. She almost never stranded. But now she's let us know that she's tired and would like to consider retirement.

Big Mo was not my choice of cars. I loved the Caddies Hubby had purchased from 1995 on, each one a beauty even in their used-car status dotage. Plus caddies had lots and lots of toys inside, are big and roomy, and traditionally have lots of power. The first one, the 1988 Seville Hubby bought me in 1995, is my favorite car of all time. She lasted us eight wonderful years. Then came THE TANK -- the car from hell, who nearly single handedly caused me more trauma than anything in my life has ever done except my own family. Midnight, a lovely dark blue Caddy, only lasted from March until August, when she caught fire in our driveway and nearly turned the dogs, the house, and the garage into toast with her.

Using the insurance money, Hubby bought Big Mo, an ugly gray, nondescript Lincoln but with a good, kind heart. Big Mo has served us well. I have grown to care about her, if not love her. But now I no longer have the skill to keep her running. Hubby still can, but he is frank that she is on her last legs. "She might last another six months -- or only 24 hours." Yesterday, Hubby pulled her into the driveway with hot steam haloing around her hood.

The time has come to retire her. She has been a hard working lady. She more than earned her keep. She kept second little family afloat and mobile with great diligence these past two and a half years. She gave good return on her value. She has earned her rest but I am sad to see her departure from our lives.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bumming Around on the Web

Every now and then I like taking those silly quizzes that pop up on the Web.

This one gauged my ability to survive an animal attack. I do great with the really small, tame ones.

Would You Survive?
House Cat: 100% Chance
Racoon: 96% Chance
Coyote: 49% Chance
Medium Sized Dog: 26% Chance
Large Dog: 11% Chance
Wolf: 4% Chance
Small Shark: 15% Chance
Large Shark: 0% Chance
Predetory Cat: 0% Chance
Elephant0% Chance
Lion or Tiger: 0% Chance
Bear: 0% Chance
Alligator: 0% Chance
Gorilla: 0% Chance
Human: 0% Chance

Here's the link:

Small Fritzy Update to Previous Post

Just heard from the vet and they have added in tests to check for kidney infection (at the cost of another couple of hundred dollars, of course).

After observing Fritz and hearing about his seizure, they want to make sure all bases are covered.

We just spent the money we had saved for our planned summer jaunts -- but if Itty Bitty Pretty Fritty can be more comfortable, then what's a few more hundred dollars?

Gus, as can be expected, is miserable. He's hanging out at the front door, looking lost and lonely.

We are all counting the hours until the boy-0 comes home . . .

Going the Last Miles Together


Fritzy is not eating. No inducement other than feeding his food to Gus gets him to sample the kidney prescription food and then it's never more than a 1/4 of a can at a time. Any more than that and he throws it all up -- and then he doesn't care that Gussie is enjoying his dinner.

More weight loss this week. One small seizure at the end of last week where I thought the boy had died on me. Kidney functions way too low; toxins in the blood. Things are definitely on the downhill slide.

This morning we piled both dogs in the car and took off for another vet consultation.

"How do we get him to eat?"
"What happens if he continues to NOT eat and lose weight?"
"Just how bad are his blood readings?"
"What do those readings really mean?"
"How do we fix this?"

The bottom line, of course, is that kidneys do NOT regenerate and we can't fix it. We can make Fritzy more comfortable but we can't make him well again.

Finally, we ask the question that's been in the room all along and no one is willing to mention: "How long?"


Not long.


I've done the thing I swore I'd never do; I've put Fritzy in a cage to live for next three days -- never coming home, not seeing his mom and his pop, just vets and techs and IV's and shots. They are going to try and flush out his system and fill him full of Pepsid in hopes of making him less sick, more energetic, and HUNGRY.

Fritzy knew just how upset I was. He wrapped his little paws around my neck and hung on for dear life. Hubby sat in the car and acted unimpressed with our display of misery. I cried. Fritzy clung. In the end, Fritzy and I managed to let go of each other and he was carried away to a wire cage where he will spend the next three or four or five days on IV fluids while they try to flush the toxins out -- but this is only a temporary measure and frankly, so expensive, that we can't do it all that often. The staff put Fritzy in a cage in the center hallway so he could watch everyone and be the center of attention . . . but it was still a cage away from the only home he's ever remembered since he was rescued -- oh! my! lord! 10 years ago now.

I thought Fritzy was only ten but we have his papers (well, the vet has his papers) and he's actually 11 years 5 months and 9 days old. He's officially an old dog. And he's slipping away from us at a rapid pace.


Hopefully, this stop-gap measure will buy us some time.

Now I just have to figure out how to survive until Fritzy comes home Friday or Saturday. Keep him in your prayers. He's such a good little guy -- and so sweet.

Fritzy on the left; Gussie on the right.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Feeling a Little Dry . . . So Here's a MeMe

1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning

2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.

3. At the end of the post, the player tags 5 (or 3 in my case) people and posts their name, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they've been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

What was I doing 10 years ago?

Proud of being an five year contractor for the #3 Telephone Company, doing communications management with and for the coolest group of women I’ve ever worked with. I miss them. I miss working for myself, since the #3 hired my company as the contractor.

Five snacks I enjoy in a perfect, non weight-gaining world:

I no longer live my life (as witnessed by my weight) denying myself the snacks I really, really want. That said, I don’t keep these in the house all that often.

1. An entire red velvet chocolate cake

2. A 12-pack of Heath bars – one just doesn’t do it and 3 make you feel slightly sick, so it's better just not to indulge

3. Iced mocha cappuccino -- the sugar content here is scary!

4. Penuche fudge by the pound – not the tiny slice in which they always sell the stuff

5. Pecan pie WITH whipped cream

Five snacks I enjoy in the real world:

6. Cheetos

7. Fritos

8. Bing cherries (I have a huge container in the house right now)

9. Microwave popcorn with theater butter

10. Diet soda -- I actually prefer diet to the sugary stuff

Five things I would do if I were a billionaire:

1. Buy a car (for me) AND a truck (for Hubby)

2. Hire a maid to come weekly and clean the house

3. Buy my church – well, okay, give a huge trust fund to the church to support it for the next 25 years so when fund raising failed and then be able to tell everyone to stop arguing and the get heck out of the way of change

4. Set up a foundation to do stem cell research – or contribute heavily to the Stowers Institute in my city which does do stem cell research

5. Buy a cabin on a lake

Five jobs that I have had:

1. High school teacher

2. Co-creator / administrator of high school college prep program

3. Business owner / communications management

4. Manager of a construction trailer (worst job ever)

5. SPED collaborative teacher (current)

Five of my habits:

1. Collector of things – if one thing is good, 25 must be better

2. Hair spray user every day – the hair MUST NOT MOVE

3. Doing laundry only occasionally, but never regularly

4. Sleeping two hours at a time, reading, sleeping two more hours

5. Holding in anger until it explodes and shocks everyone, including me

Five places I have lived:

This is hard for me, because I’ve never lived in any metro area except this one in the Heartland

1. With my parents

2. In my own apartment in a suburb of this city – the only time I’ve not lived within the actual city limits

3. In my own house back in the urban core

4. 34 years in my own house

5. 34 years in my own house with Hubby

Three people we should all get to know better: (A nice way of saying TAG!)

Because I don't have 5 I'm willing to list here (or who might even be interested), here's my list of 3:

1. snugpug

2. lost in a world:

(new discovery! -- lives in my home area)

3. as if you care:

Saturday, June 07, 2008


The talking news heads called yesterday, Friday, June 6, Black Friday. The price of oil rose $13 some dollars per barrel, an all time increase; more jobs were lost in May than any time during the last quarter of a century; and, due to these two pieces of bad news, the stock market plunged.

This morning, after spending two hours hunting down really cheap bargains at the neighborhood garage sales ($3 for a lamp/table combo; $10 for a padded, swiveling desk chair, $1 each for an assortment of education VCR and DVD tapes; 25 cents each for a trunk-load of classical literature), we headed out to the $100 store. You know the drill: no matter how much or how little you purchase in one of these huge box warehouses, you end up spending at least $100.

But inflation has hit the warehouses, too. Today, 18 items (watermelon, fiber laxatives for the dog, Ritz crackers, round steak, pork chops, milk, bing cherries, etc.) ran $237. It's now the $200 store.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

TV Reprise

We really like TV in our household and we're not real particular about our viewing choices, either. We're music snobs -- but truly low-brow in our TV watching. Every night from 6 until 8 p.m. Hubby has Walker, Texas Ranger tuned in. Personally, I find the Chuck Norris show bland and repetitive, so that's usually my computer gaming time. I enjoy an eclectic mix of TV shows: Boston Legal, Reapers, Numbers, Brothers and Sisters, American Experience, Antiques Roadshow. And lately I've found that at 10 a.m. in the morning, ABCFamily is rerunning my one of my favs of all time: Gilmore Girls . I record every episode faithfully. We're not much into the reality series that are so popular now. Hubby can't abide American Idol; he claims they rarely have anyone on who can actually sing on key. I can't stand the antics of the judges, though I usually can't tell if someone's off-key unless it's really bad.

Our TV set runs day and night. We have it on all night long, tuned first to the late night showings of Walker (on the Hallmark channel) and then to the all night news stations: either local news or CNN. Hubby claims to be unable to sleep without the noise from the set. I wake up enough time during the night to find the light from the TV comforting. We get out of bed to the morning newscasts, watching the Today show until the View comes on (or lately, Gilmore Girls). Then, if Hubby is home in the afternoon, he watches all the judge / court TV shows. Once in awhile he tunes in Oprah, but not often. At 5 p.m. we watch the news again -- until Walker comes back on (this show runs five days a week) and now we've come full circle through our 24 hours of TV watching. If I'm reading and home alone, I tune in the classical music station on the TV for background noise.

Because we like TV so much, we subscribe to Dish network and take their most extensive package. We have every TV channel that isn't porn related. We have all the HBO's, Showtime, Starz, and Cinemax channels. Automatically bundled with that comes a bevy of sports and music channels we actually don't watch. I love all the cooking and home improvement channels though, and Hubby likes National Geographic, the Animal channel, and Hallmark. I go through spells where I watch many of the BBC programs, but lately their serializations aren't attracting me.

This summer, TV programming in our Heartland city has been suspended. Instead, all evening, every night, we have weather warnings. The rain has pre-empted shows on every channel except the cable shows. The big storms have also disrupted satellite connection to Dish network. They have improved dish reception tremendously in the past two years, but heavy storms still cut the transmission.

Last night was a rather more than typical night of TV viewing in our city -- but demonstrates the point perfectly. By 8 p.m. all local TV stations had suspended programing to report on the weather. Thunderstorms with heavy lightning had hit the area and in the river bottoms a huge gasoline fire had been started by lightning. The rain was barreling down and there were flash flood warnings out. North and south of us were tornado warnings.

Obama's historic winning of enough delegate votes to be the first African-American presidential candidate from a major political party wasn't even broadcast here. A roof that collapsed on an apartment building (where no one was injured) was reported every 10 minutes while we saw aerial and ground views of the huge fire by the river (where again, no one was injured). For four hours the local news covered nothing but weather. And frequently, the rain was heavy enough to disrupt our cable reception, leaving us nothing to watch but local programming.

Every night in the past week, and certainly the majority of nights in the past month, our TV screen has been filled with weather related images: little maps filling the corners of our screens showing where the floods/tornadoes/severe thunder storms/heavy winds/ hail might occur. Frequently, network programming has been disrupted so the weather people could bring us up-to-date reports on the storms in the area. And the storms keep coming. Rain, thunder, lightning. Power outages, flooding, lightning fires, people left homeless, property destroyed, businesses in ruins. And our TV programming totally disrupted! Bah! We need to get our priorities in order here. Rain, rain, go away . . .