Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Shopping Spree

Ever since I had read about the new HyVee Grocery store at 95th street and Antioch (Johnson County, KS -- rich man's territory) I had wanted to visit.  I thought I'd go last Friday but then Hubby brought home some meat and I spent the morning carving and dividing and was too tired to go foraging in a new produce department.

Since I've retired I've not gone grocery shopping on the weekends -- I leave the crowds and long lines for those people who MUST shop on a Saturday.  Yesterday we met friends for lunch at Webster House, a really nice downtown restaurant that once was an elementary school in the early days of the city.  Now the "foodie folks who dine" have turned the building into a variety of posh shopping areas downstairs and upstairs you can sup elegantly in one of the classrooms turned into a dining room. 

 Finally, today, with the sun shining and the temperatures warm enough that a coat was not required over the dog tee-shirt, we ventured across the state line to do some fancy grocery shopping. 

What fun we had!  Hubby went in with me and we purchased a very nice lunch for two (with one soda) for a little under $11.  We even had food leftover to bring home for my supper tonight.  Then Hubby picked out some fruit and found his favorite hard candies before he left to wait for me in the car.

I wandered around, enjoying all the services offered by the store:  catering, a huge bakery, a full kitchen with two chefs in residence, a sandwich island, a huge butcher shop including a seafood island, giant tubs of fresh herbs and rices, aisles filled with organic products, an Italian kitchen, a Chinese kitchen, a downstairs eating area, and upstairs a wine bar with a restaurant.

One of the best features is the "green" plan used to save energy at the store.  The freezer cases are not lighted until you walk down the aisle next to them.  Then the lights turn on until you pass by. It makes you feel special when you realize that cases are being lit just because you're peering inside to check out the ice cream selection. 

After all my groceries had been bagged, I went to leave the check-out stand but was told I had to wait.  My bill was being reconfigured.  I couldn't understand, until the friendly gentleman checker explained that he had realized that he had scanned an item twice and my bill was being deleted and replaced. I waited maybe 30 seconds for the manager to hurry over and punch a key on the register -- and then I was able to leave with my new bill.  I hadn't even realized I'd been overcharged and would have easily paid for the item twice without the honesty of the store. 

The checker also told me all about the Sunday brunch served at the store from 10 to 2 -- with shrimp, prime rib, a "made-while-you-wait" omelet bar, and every kind of pastry one could desire.  We will certainly have to check that option out one Sunday. 

I don't go to malls or department stores anymore but I do enjoy a really nice grocery.  I won't go to this one every time.  My neighborhood HyVee has warm personnel, I know where things are located, and it's small enough that I don't wear out shopping there.  But for a special treat, the HyVee on 95th may need to be a once a month visit. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Shklik! on Everything!

Things that are pissing me off right now:

Rain - Sleet - Snow.  Perpetual rain.  Mixed with sleet and sometimes snow.  This is the end of April.  Weather, what kind of confused are you right now?  This is not Colorado or Seattle or mountain country. In the Midwest we get spring!  Did you hear me clearlyS P R I N G!  That means sunshine, blooming trees, sprouting plants, green grass, blue skies.  Not slush on the highway and huge puddles of cold sloppy water in the park.  Not! NOT! N O T!

Headache.  This is day five of the unending left side of my head pounding away, almost to the point where I can't keep my eyes open because it hurts just too much.  I'm living on Vanquish (my favorite form of aspirin) to the point where I'm sick to my stomach with it and my ears are ringing and still there is no relief in sight.  Maybe if the rain-sleet-snow would stop and the humidity levels would decrease, the pain threshold would lower.  Until then I'm suffering something fierce.  I can't read or watch TV or sit at the computer for any length of time because my headache only worsens when I use my eyes.  I'm cranky, I can't sleep, and I hurt!  Things are uneasy in my household.

Bad news reporting.  Why can't we trust reporters anymore?  And why do they keep repeating the same old stories over and over and over?  Why did CNN report that the Boston bomber was a dark-skinned man.  Why were two pictures repeatedly shown of innocent bystanders while reporting they were the bombers?  How many times can Anderson Cooper and Piers Morgan give the same story in a 24 hour period?  (Aside -- when you can't watch TV because your head hurts too much, you often find yourself listening to TV -- like we once listened to the radio).

People Magazine.  Really, People -- Gwyneth Paltrow as the most beautiful woman in the world?  Maybe the skinniest woman, other than Angelina Jolie -- both look like they have match sticks for limbs.  Then Gwyneth spends nearly the entire article explaining that her life revolves around working out, which is SO HARD on her.  And just wears her out.  All the pictures of the woman are showing off legs -- miles and miles of toned, slim thighs in white shorts.  What 40 year old woman with two kids and a real job looks like that?  This is the woman who advised the rest of us on how to spend a quarter million dollars for a new spring wardrobe and she advertises string bikinis for babies.  Pitooie on her!

Dryers.  My dryer timer went out and now I have to be around to turn off the dryer manually.  I know this is small potatoes but the dryer is in the basement, down a long flight of 15 steep stairs.  If I don't go down physically and turn the dryer off, it runs all day and all night (I found this out the hard way).  You can't leave the house with the dryer on, you can't go to bed and think you'll pull out the fluffy but cool towels in the morning.  And I'm too cheap to just go buy a new one when the dyer itself still dries clothes.  If I were doing diapers or loads of clothing for children, then I might consider the purchase, but right now I have to be the machine part that makes the dryer start and stop.  I bet Gwyneth Paltrow doesn't even DO her own laundry.

I think if the headache would only stop (which means if the weather would just clear up) I wouldn't be in such a pissy mood.  Until that happens SHKLIK (which according to the web means head popping off of body) to the whole world! 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Restoring a Garden

Marcel Proust wrote:

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.  

As my family shrank precipitously in the last 20 years I have hung on faithfully to the two remaining family members who seem to love and care for me, regardless of my cranky disposition, my coldness of spirit, and frequently my selfish personality.  Yes, I've made a few acquaintances along they way but I've lost more people that I thought I liked and could trust.  I found out these people could not be counted on to support me when times became rough or I became difficult and in almost every case they would not go out of their way to do a me a kindness. 

I was eventually left with only Hubby and his sister in Houston.  I have held on to two Texan acquaintances, though our contact is usually minimal, and they are actually friendships that existed because of my sister-in-law. Still, I always thought that if I asked, they would be willing to reach out to me (us) in a supportive way. 

I had two couples here in the Kansas City that I believed could be counted on for moral support and one of those couples has freely offered physical support as well.  For the last two years theses two generous people have been the lodge pole of our lives, though we actually only see them monthly or even less.

I don't have people I call on the phone to chat with and talk over the day's events.  The closest I come to the hours of time my mother hung on the phone with her friends and her mother (who lived right next door) is the time I spend on the Internet.  For the last 20 years or so my DogTalk friends have been my most constant companions.  I read some tid-bit of news from them every day and I share what my boys are doing or how Hubby is feeling with them weekly (or monthly, sometimes).  I have only met one of them face-to-face.  Though I know they care about me from across the miles, I also know they aren't going to jump on a plane and come pick up the pieces of my life should it smash around me.  They will pray for our healing but they don't send low sodium chicken soup to the hospital when that's all that Hubby can eat and they can't wipe my tears of fear when the doctors utter dire pronouncements. 

When I began to blog, I started reading some wonderful writers and interesting people leading fulfilling lives, at least on screen, and I added a few select people to my list of daily contacts.  Using Facebook added a few others -- and re-connected me with some people from my immediate past.  I chat with at least two of these good people every week and sometimes I think I've become more invested in their lives than I am in my own.  I know about their daughters and husbands and in-laws and when they are sick and when they feel down.  But, once again, our only contact is the written word -- and if my computer fails or the power goes out, our friendship is then lost. 

I honestly haven't been lonely.  But I missed having face-to-face contact, hugs, and out-loud laughs with real people.  I especially missed having a special "girlfriend" to share my life with. 

Then I retired and everybody said, "What will you do with yourself?" Even I knew that holing up in the house with just Hubby and the dogs was not going to be enough of a life for the long haul.

My first outreach was to a woman who had given me a very lovely gift when I retired.  I really didn't know her well but I did know she was an open person with a kind heart.  I suggested we do lunch.  She agreed.  While chatting about our professional life, she thought that other retired teachers would enjoy joining us for a meal and we settled on gathering once a month at some nice restaurant with an open invitation to other women who had worked at our school.  We are now a group of five, soon to be six, and I find I look forward to being with them out of all proportion to the time we actually spend together.  These ladies are not closer to me than my Internet friends but they exhibit a real, true, physical presence in my life.  I find that I really do need that. 

I mentored a young lady my last year teaching; we're very different people and she is so very young but we liked each other.  We were too busy to form a close bond but we did share similar experiences and some of the same students.   Waiting until school was ready to start again this past fall, I asked her to dinner.  She came; we talked the night away and not just about educational things.  Now we meet regularly to talk over school politics, favorite students, teaching techniques, new apartments, trying visits with family, and the best place in town to find a great burrito. 

From 1990 until 2006 I ran a small company doing communication's management for large firms that needed executive level presentations.  During that time I met a few really special people -- the kind you always wish you could hang on to, but often get lost in the business end of work.  One has made a special effort to keep me within range, even though she has moved around the country since our work relationship ended.  She emails, she calls for lunches or dinners when she's in town, she sends birthday cards, and has on occasion, even sent books she knew I'd love.  Another, a younger woman and I always said, "No matter whether we're in touch or not ours is a friendship that will last."  When I reached out to her after retirement, she opened her schedule and her heart and we are back, meeting regularly, sharing stories, comforting, supporting, advising, listening.  Two men from my business days have remained in my life, though more on the sidelines than as part of my inner circle.  Still we do see each other, we share meals, we email, we Facebook, and I know they are at least more than un-embodied voices on a wireless connection. 

When I left teaching almost a year ago now, I would have said I had only one friend I could count on. I hadn't been a friend to those people who had reached out to me so I certainly wasn't able to feel comfortable asking them for support.  Slowly, I'm rebuilding my life around people who have always been supportive and now I think I'm beginning to position myself to be able to be a friend in return. 

An adult friendship is so much more complicated than who you would sit next to on the bus or in the auditorium.  A true friend may forget your birthday but she won't shut you down when you call up and are afraid that you can't meet the physical requirements needed by a sick family member.  Instead, she offers to help you find resources that support you.  This is so much better than a birthday gift or card.  She knows when you are feeling helpless and down and it's her physical presence that can support you through the rough patches.  

Our true friendships are simply priceless.  When you reach out to be a friend, in return those people who have stayed by our side, no matter where we were in that relationship with them, will reach back to help you move into their path.  These are the friendships to deepen and make last.  These are the friends I'm making the building blocks of my life. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Beautiful Pictures to Help You Feel the Joy of Spring

I'm feeling all shriveled up and dry inside; having a hard time feeling perky.  Can't think of a thing to put on this old blog. However I clicked on one of my favorite bloggers, simply because his photos are just so lovely (and sometimes funny) and came across these shots of Northeast Kansas City in the springtime.  Might make you wish you were here.  

David Remley -- Hyperblogal

Of course we don't live in any house similar to these and we have no flowering trees in our yard.  However today the lawn men came for the first time this spring and mowed down the sparse grass both front and back and cut down the weeds -- so the house is looking much neater at the moment (at least on the outside).

Soon we will don our swimsuits and head out to the Brookside Rehab / Spa for our afternoon water aerobics.  Then I meet my mentee from last year -- she's a second year teacher now and doing a spectacular job meeting the challenges of an urban school with a huge minority population (at last count I heard we had 200 SPED students and 400+ ESL).

The wind is blowing strong today but the sun in shining and the sky is blue.  The temps are in the lower 70's.  Maybe spring will stay around now and my spirits will lift.

Enjoy David's wonderful photos of Kansas City just south of the Missouri River.  

Friday, April 05, 2013


Yesterday morning we trekked out to the doctor who inserted the pacemaker into Hubby's chest. We didn't leave the house in a very good mood, however. 

I was grumpy and kept grumbling under my breath about how I had to wait on Hubby hand and foot because he won't walk to the kitchen anymore.  And he was grumpy because his blood sugar levels had been high for two days and the day before he had been so worn out he had never really gotten out of bed.  He slept most of the day.

I told him in no uncertain terms that drinking a gallon of orange juice a week would NOT help his blood sugar.  Hubby does not take well to hearing lectures.  He yelled (and Hubby can yell better than anyone except my mother) back that he needed a bottle of water from the kitchen to take his meds.  I returned him yell for yell that he had an open soda on the desk and to just use that.  He yelled back that he would never, ever drink from that soda because 1) it wasn't his and 2) he had no idea how long it had been sitting there.

The dogs scooted from the room as quick as a wink and went to stand by the front door, looking forlorn.  They know when to get out of the way.  

I gave up but left mumbling that, of course, the soda was his -- I don't leave my cans sitting around the house; I take my cans back to the frig or I dump them; he's the coot that won't go to the kitchen.  I brought him the water, barely refraining from tossing it at him from the hallway. 

We drove to the park in utter silence; I walked the dogs (of course, he can't get out of the car).  Poor boys were noticeably subdued on our jaunt around the pine trees and baseball diamonds. 

Then Hubby had to have a McDonald's breakfast sandwich because I hadn't fixed him breakfast at home before we left the house.  And with it, just to prove me wrong, he had the giant-sized orange juice (which isn't juice but some kind of orange drink full of sugar).

Finally we arrived at the cardiologist.  I had to park the car so he could just walk in the front door instead of taking 50 extra steps from the parking lot (are you sensing a trend here in my mood?).  In the office we had to wait 45 minutes to see the doctor.  We waited in silence. 

By the time we got back to the lab to do the testing, his blood pressure was sky high.  Everyone was scurrying around worrying about him -- and he kept looking at me, saying, "But yesterday my pressure was normal!" They tested his pacemaker to make sure it was functioning properly but since the lab room was so small I had to wait outside in the hallway.  By the time they were finished, Hubby was apologizing for my having to stand 30 minutes during the test; he knows that standing is very difficult for me (I can walk but I don't just stand still without a lot of pain). 

Then the nurse practitioner moved us to a bigger room so I could sit and they did the EKG and talked with Hubby about how he was feeling.  He gave his normal responses, "Everything is fine; I feel fine; I'm doing fine. It's all fine." After chatting with Hubby for a bit, she turned to me and asked, "Okay, how do you see things?"

I explained that we had hoped Hubby would have made a miraculous recovery with the pacemaker regulating his heart rate but we were learning that wasn't going to be the case.  Though disappointed we were dialing back our expectations and getting happier with the results we were seeing.  Hubby was able to do water aerobics three times a week, he had handled four years of taxes which he hadn't been able to cope with for the last several years, and though he had down times every three or four days, we were making slow progress.  Also he had finally agreed to have them scope his throat next week; something he had continued to avoid as long as he was fearful about dialing back on his meds for the throat procedure.   

Hubby chimed in with his own tales then and we talked for another 20 minutes.  At the end, the nurse pulled out the blood pressure cuff and retook the reading -- and Hubby was at 127 over 67 -- a nice, normal pressure. 

Give us some time and we have learned how to calm down and find an even keel, and now-a-days, we just don't stay angry about the stupid things in life. 

The upshot was that the cardiologist who performed the pacemaker surgery released Hubby back to his own cardiologist because the surgery was a grand success.  We drove home together as if nothing untoward had happened that morning. So it's all good, one way or another. 

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

April Means Taxes

Hubby took over doing our taxes by TurboTax in 2006.  However we could never file electronically because my name was different on my social security card, my W2 forms, and my tax returns.  We could never figure out exactly who had which name so we always filed a paper copy.  I couldn't even file for social security but had to go to the actual offices where they determined I had another form of the name - and they used that for both social security checks and Medicare.  The IRS and social security all use my married last name but then they get all confused and use various forms of my first name, my middle name, and my maiden name in combination with my accepted last name.  Personally, I think since all the name forms are connected to my one social security number, it shouldn't prove to be such a problem, but that's the IRS for you.

Anyway, after Hubby began having heart problems we just tossed up our hands and we didn't file for 2010 and 2011.  We knew it would catch up with us eventually and it was better to be proactive about it, so after the pacemaker was installed and Hubby began feeling better, he once again took charge.  By then we were also having a problem with 2009's return.

Hubby began in early February meeting with an accounting office and today we electronically filed the last of four years of tax returns and were notified electronically that the IRS had accepted 2012's return.  In the middle of all this we were notified that two of the returns had NOT been accepted because the name filed did not match the IRS social security identify for me.  It took two days of work and numerous calls to the IRS but today we got that part straightened out.

For some years we get back a little pile of money and some years we need to pay.  Missouri and Kansas state taxes get the biggest windfall from us.  The Feds owe us the most money.  We needn't worry, though, because, in the long run it all balances out and we come out pretty even.  Frankly, that's about as good as it gets when paying taxes. 

We owed a "hunk-a-hunk-a" change to the accountants and Hubby spent an enormous amount of time gathering materials and going to meetings.  I only had to go in twice to the accountants, both times to sign things or write checks for payment of services.  I got off really easy and now we are all caught up -- with two states, the city, and the Feds. 

Hubby made the final mailing yesterday.  Today we met for a correction of my name through electronic signature and a final accounting with the accountants and we are done.  What a blessed relief to have filed three years of tax forms and amended one.  And it's not even April 15th yet.