Thursday, August 28, 2014

Acturally reading -- a book!

In my marathon TV watching of the 1990's series Reba and Murphy Brown, my brain (after a second miserable round of eliminating mood enhancement drugs from my system) suddenly said, "Hey, stupid, maybe you might actually enjoy reading a good book.  Not just a ladies magazine or a People-type magazine, but a real book."

Earlier in the summer I had optimistically ordered several Kindle books that promised (from their reviews) a good old-fashioned wallow in literature.  I had just never had the ambition to crack their spines, so to speak (Kindle books don't have spines, of course).

Earlier in the summer I had devoured Robert Galbraith's (AKA J. K. Rowling) The Cuckoo's Calling but after that my reading had been relegated to fluff -- or absent all together in favor of marathon TV reruns.  But yesterday I actually finished Elizabeth Gilbert's (of the Eat, Pray, Love fame) The Signature of All Things:  a Novel.  Granted, I found it tough going in spots and all the scientific philosophizing had me out of my depth but I read the entire 501 pages and can recommend it to my friends who care about botany or how Darwin came up with his theories.  It's a family saga, supposedly, not a mystery (my favorite genre) and nobody really has a happy ending -- but that's life, yes?  Gilbert can tell a good yarn and she is so very smart that all through the cataloging of mosses and orchids, one is mesmerized by how much she knows about such things. 

Now I'm finally ready to delve into the new Charles Todd (I've read EVERYTHING by this mother / son writing team) World War I novel, A Duty to the Dead which is a Bess Crawford Mystery and, based on past history, I probably won't emerge until the novel is finished. 

Brief update on the med situation:  the second round of pills was no better than the first.  Now we're ready to try round 3 with the adviso, that if this doesn't work, we are out of options.  Also last week, Hubby decided that big shiny steel machines at the Y was the just the things we HAD to try, so we went and I tried and was fine on the simpler machines, like the recumbent step, but then I moved on to something with weights and pulleys and back bends and spent all last Friday laid up in bed, moaning and groaning.  Now we've added in the muscle relaxers.  Hurray for good meds!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

It's the meds fault

The new pills, to help me gain energy and feel happier, kicked my butt big time.  Last Wednesday I slept  four hours in the morning, three hours in the afternoon, four hours after supper which was a can of soup, and then slept all night long.  This from a woman who is going to the doctor because she can't sleep.  Thursday was worse.  When ever I stood up I had to sit back down.  I slept all day and all night, and then most of Friday.  However, on Friday I was smart enough NOT to take any more of the new meds.  By Saturday I was able to go with Hubby to the movies which was fun -- we saw The Expendables.  Then on Sunday to dinner (at Denny's, no less) and back to the movies to see the highly recommended Guardians of the Universe which we hated.   This was actually the sum of my activities for the entire week.  Oh, I did make Hubby some tuna salad.  Otherwise, I watched TV and slept. 

On Monday I was finally able to go back to water aerobics but still felt pretty out of it.  I also had an acupuncture treatment for my knees Monday afternoon.

Today Hubby picked me up at 1:00 and we went over to the Y to actually workout on machines.  It had become clear that Hubby was desperate to try all the iron equipment in the gym but wasn't willing to go without me, so I finally dressed myself up in workout gear -- that means real athletic shoes instead of my swim shoes -- and we trudged over.  The only machine I could manage -- and like at the same time -- was the recumbent step machine.  I tried the bikes but they were too high and I tried the knee presses but they were too complicated.  The recumbent step machine was comfortable -- and slow -- and nobody was on it because, well, it's recumbent, comfortable, and slow -- and according to it I used up 5 calories before I burst into flames and had to get off -- meaning, I began to sweat. 

The doctor has just called and announced I should stop talking the horrible medication -- you think?  But she also sent out a script for something else to try.  We'll see what happens this week. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bad news

Yesterday I could understand why my sister-in-law explains every Christmas that she does not watch the news; it's just too depressing.

Tony Stewart ran down a 21 year old kid -- mistake or not -- and killed him after he had bumped the kids car off the track.

Stewart and his 21 year-old victim
 Michael Brown, an unarmed 18 year old, was shot and killed in the St. Louis area. 

Brown's mom
 Ferguson, MO erupted after his death with rioting and looting that has lasted for two night.

Teens in St. Louis demonstrating for the police -- Don't shoot!  I surrender! 
 President Obama goes on TV to remind us that the bombing in Iraq will not solve the ISIS problem; the Iraqi prime minister refuses to step down and the power struggle in Baghdad grown worse.

Iraq -- again
 Finally, our muse, Robin Williams felt he could no longer overcome the ravages of depression and took his life at age 63.  I especially loved him in Mork and Mindy, The World According to Garp, What Dreams May Come, Bicentennial Man, Good Morning Vietnam, Good Will Hunting, Toys, Moscow on the Hudson, Dead Poets Society, and of course, Mrs. Doubtfire.  I happily watched every episode of his 2013 / 14 TV series, The Crazy Ones -- it was sweet and always ended with a good moral.  I was sad when I learned it had been canceled.  I know he screwed up his personal life and I can only imagine what that kind of rapid-fire mania his brain must have experienced -- but he brought such joy to his public.  He was a genius with a good heart and he brought us much happiness. 

It was a bad, sad day yesterday.  Today we try to correct the problems and recover from the grief. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

One new doctor; couple of new meds

Dr. Megan McMannus

When our GP moved on to private practice he recommended a woman doctor for us.  We met her early this morning, got a pretty clean bill of health -- all the old meds seemed to be working fine and I got a couple of new ones to try.

I liked the new doctor a lot; I think because she was a woman I was able to open up to her about a couple of personal and cosmetic issues I had ignored with our male GP.  Consequently, I had a three annoying skin tags removed and I got two new scripts and had a skin culture taken.  Hubby came off even better -- he was pronounced just fine and jim-dandy and nothing new was added to his health regime.  I'm not so sure he liked the new doc as well as the previous three men we have seen but maybe I needed the change, and since Hubby's doing so fine right now, I'm happy to be the center of attention.

Interactive Therapy was prescribed in continuing doses and I'm thrilled about that.  I have an appointment next Monday for more acupuncture and then the next day for massage and I can hardly wait.  You can't beat having a doctor you really look forward to visiting. 

I was the only "lab" rat today with blood drawn for a couple of small issues -- just to see how the new meds for the last three months from the Interactive Therapy had been working. 

We started out at 8 a.m. and were both back home by 9:30 -- including labs, skin-tag removal surgery, skin scrapings, and new scripts called in to the pharmacy.  That's a pretty productive morning. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday afternoon movie

After watching CBS Sunday Morning and ABC Sunday news and walking two doggies and heating up a couple of day-old donuts (from LaMars -- um, um good!), we headed out to our favorite cinemaplex to watch an old-folks film, The Hundred-Foot Journey staring Helen Mirren.

Our theater ($4.25 a ticket during daylight hours) usually shows the top movies but, the marginally intellectual or independent films come four to six weeks late, or sometimes never unless they are nominated for awards.  However, over the years the business end of the movie theater chain has begun to realize that us "older" folks have income to spend on movies if we're not being offered mutant turtles or blood stained vampires at every showing. 

Only three times were offered for the Mirren film while Guardians of the Universe had two separate theaters and shows offered every two hours.  I figured the 12:30 showing of our film produced by both Speilberg and Winfrey would be well-attended but we hadn't expected a sell-out.  Even the front rows were filled. 

The movie is fun and sweet at heart -- not great -- but full of family value pronouncements and lovely scenes of France.  Hubby napped a bit, especially during the intense foodie scenes, but on the whole, we both thought it was a very good film. 

That's two movies starring older actors and decent plots that we've enjoyed this summer.  The Michael Douglas / Diane Keaton movie, And So It Goes, honestly was better and funnier and it had some pretty good scenery too -- not France but lovely seacoast scenes. 

Maybe the movie industry is finally getting the message that money can be made with established stars and well-planned plots if we oldsters continue to attend these well-made movies with handsome but aging stars.  Can't beat a Sunday afternoon with popcorn, a big soda, and an engrossing film on the big screen -- and toss in Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton, or Helen Mirren and you've got yourself some "dreamboat" material.  

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Christmas shopping

In my youth we would hit the road by 8 a.m. and go until 3 or 4 p.m. to make sure we had hit all the garage sales in the area.  We'd go on Friday (when I was teaching and it was summer) and hit the ones we missed on Saturday.

For a time nearly everything in our house had been purchased at some garage sale or other.  The house filled up with stuff, a lot of things that needed dusting or were kitchen utensils that we used once-in-a-blue-moon.  Family and friends were pretty much in the same predicament.  Looking at other folks left-overs had lost its allure.

We stopped garage saling about eight years ago but every once in a while I'd get the urge and we hit a sale or two before I decided I didn't need anything else, especially something "used." 

This year I suggested to Hubby early one spring Saturday morning that we try a couple of sales for maybe half an hour.  We didn't last that long but we found a fun Christmas item to take to Houston for gifting.  We began to go out to the sales, probably twice a month, usually for less than an hour.  We bought some good used books and made a nice little heap of Christmas presents just for giggles in Houston -- nothing anyone would have to dust but could be put to interesting use. 

On my way to lunch with the Wyandotte retired ladies last Wednesday, I saw a sign for a neighborhood garage sale across the state line -- an area that had been pretty productive in the past.  We headed out about 9 a.m. this morning and managed just over 90 minutes before I was totally pooped from my efforts but we had a trunk full of some really great presents, mostly for the Houston crew.  All for under $10!  I'm probably going to have to spend more on the wrapping that I have on the actual gifts!

PS to my Houston family:  I promise not to bring down anything you will have to take care of or store!  Well, mostly not store, anyway.  So far everything I've acquired seems to be things you are currently using every day (or for entertaining). 

Friday, August 08, 2014

Love those naps

We dressed in our swimming suits and threw on shorts / shift over them and drove over the five blocks to the YMCA for our swimming class.  The parking lot at 9 a.m., always packed with cars, was nearly empty.  "Last minute vacations before school starts," we muttered to each other.

But as we got out of the pink Lincoln we were hailed by others who had already learned our pool was closed.  I had noted to Hubby on Monday that the water was getting a bit murky, especially in the "kids" area.  Then Wednesday we missed aerobics because I met with the Wyandotte Ladies Who Lunch (WLWL) for an early meal in Kansas City, KS.

Instead of swimming this morning we got me a Super Sonic Breakfast burrito from Sonic and I came home thinking I'd catch up on some of DVR TV shows.  One burrito and 20 minutes later I was sound asleep.

Now the salad has been made for lunch and the Sims 3 is booting on the tower and I'm feeling refreshed from "power" nap.  Hopefully next Monday the pool will be re-opened and fresh from cleaning -- but we have doctor's appointments to keep (we see the same GP so schedule together) and won't be among the active.  It's been quite some time since we had a break like this (over a week) from exercise.  We both miss it. 

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

It's the company, not the food

This week my "old" school district is having teaching in-service in preparation for the start of school next week.  Two years ago when I retired, I met for lunch with a friend I had taught with and who had been retired for a year.  We kept expanding our list of attendees for our monthly get-togethers as more and more of our co-workers retired themselves.

Today we met at a very small, new BBQ joint in downtown Kansas City Kansas, sampled the brisket, ribs, and burnt ends, and shared how pleased we were to be able to go home from lunch and take a long nap.  Well, two of our group, actually sub for the district -- and being the fabulous teachers that they were (and are), they are often filling long-term sub positions.

I left home at 10:15, cruised my normal "to work" route from two years ago, and thanked my lucky stars that I had been given the gift of full-time retirement.  You can never tell if one day the economy may swing wrong and I find myself needing supplemental income, but right now I'm reveling in my freedom. 

The luncheon food was okay but visiting with the interesting ladies I had suffered the slings and arrows of educational devotion with was much better than the gustatory sensations.  I was feeding my soul and not my stomach. 

Here are some pictures from some of our previous lunches:

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Better than sex?

It was three weeks since my last massage which had worked such wonders (along with the acupuncture) on my knees that I had been skipping along pain free.  Until a week ago Saturday night when I caused the foot / toe damage by walking into the kitchen step stool.

When the staff at the therapy center asked, "How are you today," I answered with a long, sad face and a litany of my complaints -- I did manage to preface that I had felt better for a brief time than I had in 10 years.  But that had all but washed completely away.  "I feel like the last rose of summer," I summarized as I removed my tee and bra for the message.

The table was clothed in cool linens and this time the music was soft piano.  My masseuse is middle aged but her hands are soft, warm, and timeless.  She started with the misery that has been my right foot for the past week.  I was leery -- the foot hurts all the time and manipulating it wasn't going to make me happy.  At first it was slow and easy but then I began to twitch and jerk.  "I'm working on the tension, the sore spots, and some of this will also help the knees so I need you to breathe through it if you can."  So I did.

I had been having a headache for the last 24 hours and living on pain meds, even resorting to the stronger gout pain pills when nothing helped either the head or the foot.  Within five minutes the ache in my head eased.

She moved up to my back and then spent a lot of time kneading the knots out of my neck and shoulders.  When I turned over, she began with the left side of my body.  The ache in my right foot eased into a very manageable jolt now and again. 

Thirty minutes later and I felt, for the first time in days, relaxed and nearly pain free.

Before I left I made my appointment for two weeks hence -- to heck with this going once a month.  Like the Spike Lee movie proclaims, "She's Gotta Have It!"

Monday, August 04, 2014

Time for Friendship

In high school I had two friends I palled around with all the time but once graduation came we totally lost touch.  Each went a very different direction in their lives and we didn't maintain contact.  In college I had one bosom friend and that friendship lasted until I discovered she was a closet bigot with a mean streak and then she became my mother's bosom friend, and honestly, one of my worst enemies.  

My friendships with women don't seem to last.  I've had several in my adult years but they always petered out after a time.  I missed having women friends. 

Hubby and I have "couple" friends and I love them dearly, but they are not "girl" friends.  We don't shop together or have sleepovers or meet to share broken hearts.  We go to concerts and dinner and we help each other out in sickness and worse, but it isn't "girly" stuff.  

When I got a contract with the #3 telephone company in the 1990's to provide consulting services, I worked with three women, two of whom became "friends."  We lunched together and shared life stories.  We attended family funerals to give support.  Even when my contract ended, they remained e-mail and Facebook buddies. One of these ladies was my boss and a big-time executive at the #3 which honestly, kind of limited some of the interactions we could reasonably share.  She's one of the smartest, creative, and decent people I know and I'm thrilled that our friendship has outlasted our working time together.  She no longer lives in town but we meet, periodically, whenever she's visiting family here in Kansas City.  We share books and pictures of her travels and stories of the wonderful places she's lived and visited since her time in KC. 

The youngest of the women I came to admire at #3 was the friend that you know is your friend, even when you have long, long periods without contact.  The minute we resume our relationship, though, it's like we were never apart.  I honestly thought I'd never have a friendship like this one so late in my life, but I bless our time together, whenever our paths recross.

After I retired we promised each other we would meet monthly for dinner, catch up with our lives and family obligations, and just chill together.  We've done okay as long as her kids weren't getting married or moving across the world or my husband wasn't in the hospital.  Which means that actually we meet once every three or four months. 

Bristol Seafood Grill in Leawood
Lately she's been having a tough time with family obligations and some angst on the job so I've been trying to be more persistent in our finding time to be together.  Sunday we met half-way between our residences (she's suburb while I'm inner city) for brunch. 
It's rather an anomaly that we have a pretty decent seafood restaurant in land-locked KC but this place has a wonderful Sunday brunch with salmon, tuna, boiled shrimp, grits, crab souffle, lobster mac and cheese, prime rib, ham, sausage and eggs, waffles, an omelet bar, and a huge array of desserts (as well as breads and salads). 

We arrived at 11:30, filled our plates, and ate and talked -- for three hours.  It was a muggy, rainy day -- perfect for girl talk and delicious food.  We told each other things we don't talk about with others, we shared family stories, we relaxed and reveled in warm, intimate girl talk.   Yes, we made plans for later in the month but nothing that would stress either of us or feel like a commitment, especially in her over-committed life.  We even have plans for a "girl's get-away" which I'm especially looking to with great anticipation. 

The seafood buffet only

Lobster mac and cheese  


Ours is the one of the more perfect friendships -- we meet when we can without recriminations about lost time.  We understand the obligations we each have to meet and when they don't overwhelm us, we find time for each other.  With my track record of choosing the wrong women for friendships or ones where we honestly have little in common, I finally found a winner. 

Friday, August 01, 2014

The Gamer

As a kid my favorite toys were my paper dolls.  I had a huge carton where I kept all the clothing for the dolls but I only played with two of the actual dolls themselves.  One was designated for whichever friend had enough imagination to play paper dolls with me; my doll was always Susan Hayward.  It didn't matter that the clothes may have come from other dolls -- we would cut and alter to make them fit the dolls we were playing with.  We had hundreds of outfits to choose from and we could imagine lifestyles for our "girls" that were, to us, wildly exotic and full of adventure. 

Sometime around age 12 I gave up toys but I held on to my box of paper dolls even into adulthood.  Along with nearly all my childhood dreams, they were left behind when I finally moved out of my mother's house in 1973.  She gave everything of mine away to Goodwill as punishment so now I only had my memories of the fun I had with those paper dolls.  At least twice a year I check out paper dolls on the web but quickly realize that those days have long passed me by. 

Sometime around 2000, I found The Sims computer game and bought my first edition.  The fun was that no goals were set in playing the game, you simply created a "virtual" human (a Sim), built him or her a house, and made a life for the creature.  I loved building the houses and decorating them.  I loved creating huge wardrobes for my Sim.  I wasn't much into the actual living arrangements of my creation but there were plenty of cheats I could access to make sure that my Sim had enough money to buy the materials to create the perfect home and live the perfect life.  There was also a great community of creative folks out there making lots of additions to the game and the company that built the game (Maxis) kept adding new versions (Pets, University Life, Vacation Life, etc.) to ensure I spent plenty of money to keep my Sim current.

The only problem was that if you downloaded enough of the user creations eventually you would find one that would blow the game off your computer.  The number of times I had to reinstall The Sims games and then sort through which download had caused problems finally made the game nearly impossible.  Plus Electronic Arts gained control of the game and issued a new version of it -- Sims 2  which I didn't find those nearly as much fun to play.  Each addition to the game began requiring more and more computer memory and high-end graphics and I finally gave up my Sim life. 

Still, I always remembered just how much fun the original game had been, and just like my paper dolls of eras past, I wanted one more go at creating a perfect Sim.  Just as I retired I discovered that the original Sims game was free for download so I accessed it.  Most of the great user created objects / characters had now vanished so the game wasn't nearly as much fun for me. 

I began looking at Sims 3, a game I had never tried.  The game could be downloaded now -- initially you had to buy it by disk -- so I tried it out for the cheap price of around $20 for the original plus two other additions / worlds.  It can also be played interactively with others, but I'm much too much of a loner to want others messing around in my created worlds. 

My addiction began all over again and this time around EA (Electronic Arts) had noted the user created problems and retained control of the process through an Exchange that only put out items that were safe to install in your game. They now offer Sim dollars (which you have to purchase in $20 increments) that allow you to add more objects and worlds to your game, besides all the free downloads.

I currently have all the worlds and many of the upgraded venues.  My Sims creations are numerous, though I'm not exactly creative.  If I know you, you are probably in my Sim game, living in a palace filled with exotic furnishings and taking vacations to China, France, or India.  You might or might not have children, but you certainly have a pet -- a dog, a cat, a horse, or something only a Sim could create (like maybe a unicorn).  Nearly all my Sims have been to college and most have a degree.  You don't have extensive wardrobes like in the past but you live in the most grand creations that take hours of my time to build and decorate.  Most of you live by the sea, though mountains are plentiful, too.  You can travel to the future, snorkel in the ocean, live on a houseboat, and "woohoo" with the most popular Sim in the game. 

Instead of blogging I'm busy creating my own fantasy world, filled with only rich, educated, smart people living the grand life.  Incidentally,  EA is releasing Sims 4 in the fall.  I've actually had to have the conversation with Hubby about getting a more "graphic" computer, so I can continue my life of game playing.  Clearly this addition is not abating. 

Here is what Wikipedia says about The Sims:

The success of The Sims resulted in Guinness World Records awarding the series five world records in the Guinness World Records: Gamer's Edition 2008. These records include "World's Biggest-Selling Simulation Series" and "Best Selling PC Game of All Time" for the original The Sims game, which sold 16 million units, 100 times EA's original projection of 160,000 units.