Meet My New Dentist

dentistryI had some very awful experiences with dentists when I was a child. It started with the elderly guy who still used the same equipment he had started out with during World War I, including a hot drill which simultaneously burned out the decay and the nerve endings while scorching the sinuses — for what seemed like hours to my four-year-old mind. He also had an aversion to that new-fangled Novocaine stuff. (It was for sissies — which I was happy to be at that tender age. To this day, I still have no problem with being one.)

After one very bad session with him, we moved on to Torture Expert #2. This one didn’t like little girls who wanted their mommy in the room with them. So, when I continued to fuss, he slapped my face, then promised me more of the same if I didn’t quit crying. (His assistant did not intervene. I quit crying.)

After those two horrifying experiences, every time I went to the dentist for decades after, my stomach tied up in knots for days before the visit. I finally confessed my terror to one kind young doc, who assured me dentistry did not have to be painful anymore, and he wasn’t going to hurt me. He was true to his word, and the next thirty years went by without any further trauma — no more knots, and no more slaps.

Enter my new dentist. I didn’t ask for him. Let’s just say it was sort of an inheritance. We’ll call him Dr. Sadistic, because, you know, “The names have been changed to protect the guilty.” I mentioned to the hygienist that one of my wisdom teeth had been aching sometimes at night. So, she took an x-ray to look for an abscess or anything else abnormal. There was none to be seen. I was satisfied.

However, the clean x-ray was not good enough for the new dentist. He decided to do an “intense” test using extreme cold, to look for cracks. First, he wanted to test a “healthy” tooth and see how that one reacted. Then, he would do the same test on the “unhealthy” wisdom tooth and see how the two compared. I suspected what “intense” meant — PAIN. I should have said no on the spot, but my brain cells sometimes go into hibernation. It takes them a while to get it together. Often, it is too late to retreat by the time they accomplish ther mission.

So, he tested the molar next to the wisdom tooth in question. Now, I had not been entirely sure from the get-go which of those two teeth was the actual problem. But I neglected to mention that. He applied the cold what-ja-ma-thingy. I yelled,”YOWWW!!! We are not going to do any more of this, OK???!!!” (This is why they play music none too softly in the dentist’s office — to mask the sounds of agony in the next cubicle.)

He was disappointed that I refused to continue. Surprised, he queried after half a minute, “Is it still hurting? That’s unusually sensitive.” He had figured on six seconds. It still hurt minutes afterward, and in fact, when I left the office half an hour later, it still ached a little. The ache returned at suppertime, hours later.

Long after vacating the torture chamber, the brain cells began to hum along a little faster. “Wait a minute. He was looking for cracks in a wisdom tooth? Why? We’re not going to put a crown on it, and if it breaks or there is an abscess or decay, we’re going to pull it. And the x-ray found neither abscess nor decay, so why did we even do this? If it needs yanking, that will eventually become evident without this crazy test. … Wait another minute. Did I pay extra for this?”

I will be on my guard against Dr. Sadistic in the future. In fact, there may not be any future relationship at all.


Ornesta Goes Naturopathic

Ornesta Fruggenbotham, my friend from Iron Ore, Michigan, called the other day.

“Well hey! How are you, Ornesta!”

“Down in the dumpsters, Sweetie.”


“Well no, but it could come to that. Morale and the tourism industry have tanked up here, since President Obama did that latest executive order against the fishing industry — no fishing within 100 miles of shore — which means no fishing at all on the Gitch.* Bud says we’d be halfway between here and Duluth before we could throw a line in the water, and he didn’t think it would be safe with the 10 h.p. motor and the dinghy anyway. I cooked up the last batch of perch yesterday. From now on, it’s Mrs. Paul’s — out of a box!”

“I’m so sorry to hear that!”

“Yeah, and it’s just going to contribute to the fish overpopulating — shore to shore fish, can’t even swim around, poor thingies — and then they’ll have to dump tons of antibiotics in the lake, just to keep ’em alive.”

“Oh, tell me about it! The Prez did one of those executive orders on us, too — designated our town a drug-free zone, and now you can’t even buy an aspirin. Had to get my latest bottle from Canada.”

“SPEAKING of which … I’ve gone natural.”

“Hmmm? Just how natural did you go?”

“I’m talking about health stuff, silly. Those pills the doctors give you these days are dan-ger-ous! Like that Cipro-something antibiotic. Did you ever read the side effects? ‘Could cause tendons to rupture in people over sixty.’ Scary! What’s wrong with these guys?”

“The docs can’t help it. Not too many antibiotics work anymore.”

“And why do you think that is? Because they are stuffing the cows and the chickens full of that dope, just so they can stand wall to wall without sneezing each other to death. And now they’re going to have to do the same to the fish in the Gitch!”

“So, what do you use instead of Cipro when you come down with something?”

“Lots of stuff. Cinnamon, turmeric, beet greens, garlic –“

“I tried the garlic thing once for an earache. Put a clove at the back of your jaw on each side, bite down, and hold it ten minutes. Thought I’d swallowed a flame thrower, and I smelled like the Godfather’s mom for a week.”

“Well, did it work?”

“Nah. But I didn’t have any post-nasal drip after that. … Cider vinegar works great for migraines, you know. I keep some in a nasal spray bottle, and –“

“I think I’ll stick with the my current migraine drug, thank you — even if the first side effect listed is, ‘May cause death by heart attack.’ So far, I’m good. But, tell me about the Cipro. I have nightmares all the time about rupturing tendons. What do you do instead?”

“Well, I’ve been having trouble working around that one. Somebody told me to eat raw cranberries. ‘Raw cranberries are good for whatever ails ya,’ she says. So, while I’m munching away, she says, ‘But the acid in them strips the enamel right off your teeth.’ Great! Didn’t plan on having to invest in dentures! Thanks for the advice, lady!

“So, I mushed ’em up in the blender and tried to pour ’em down my throat without touching the choppers. No dice. And I tried swallowing them whole, one by one. Just about needed the Heimlich maneuver. I finally poked them into a leftover piece of key lime pie, hoping the pie goop would coat the berries so my teeth wouldn’t notice them. And then I sucked down enough water to swamp a camel — to fluoridate my teeth.”

“That doesn’t sound very practical, Ornesta.”

“No, it wasn’t. But I think I’ve got the answer now — oregano.”

“Like you buy in the McCormick bottle?”

“Oh, no! It’s got to be this special kind that grows wild in the mountains somewhere along the Mediterranean. They go in there with llamas, and load ’em up, and —“

“Um, I don’t think they have llamas in the Mediterranean, Ornesta.”

“Well, whatever! I leave the details up to the experts. I don’t go pick the stuff myself!”

“Why am I envisioning Mrs. Olson in a Folgers commercial right now?”

“Not coffee. Oregano. Although I have fond memories of Mrs. Olson and Juan Valdez and the other coffee celebs — and the guy in the kola nut commercial, too.”

“How’s the oregano working?”

“I think it’s doing great! And I didn’t see anywhere on the Web where they mentioned ruptured tendons as a side effect — except maybe for the guys carrying the stuff down the mountain — if they slip. You know, I think I’m going to like this naturopathic stuff.”

“Beats being a psychopath, I guess.”

“You betcha, Sweetie!”

*Gitch — Lake Superior

Of Migraines and Throat Scopes

I am currently under the influence, so we can’t be sure what will be said, but at least I am having fun. They told me not to drive or sign contracts after my throat scope, but nobody said a peep about writing blog posts.

The story started some weeks ago with a feisty migraine that did not make its usual concession to migraine medicine. Misery ensued, including a vomiting session, which is common for migraine sufferers. But unlike all the times before, chunks of blood came up with the stomach acid, which called for a trip to my doctor.

She was A-OK with me barfing up blood — said it was “just” an esophagus tear, probably nothing to be concerned about. But I have a knack for volunteering information that I should keep to myself. In answer to a routine question, I admitted that sometimes food feels like it gets stuck in my throat.

Doctors and tech support people from foreign countries are much alike. They listen for key phrases and then automatically respond to those, no matter what else you tell them. “Food stuck in throat,” is such a key phrase — and it brings dire possibilities to doctors’ minds. She didn’t hear anything after that, and began punching buttons to schedule a throat scope.

So, today was scope day. The prep was almost nonexistent — no breakfast and NO WATER for four hours ahead of the procedure. Simple enough — IF one does not wake up with a migraine. I was concerned that might happen. It did. The alarm went off two hours before the scope job, and Old Man Migraine had already made his appearance.

So I cheated. I took my first-line-of-defense drug, ibuprofen, downed with a tablespoon of the prohibited water. This was not the brightest move in the world. I should have immediately gone for the high-powered migraine stomper, but my thinking abilities at 5:00 a.m. are not the best. One-half hour later, Mr. Migraine was not only on my doorstep; he had broken and entered the house. So I debated cheating again with an additional tablespoon of the prohibited H2O for the sake of the big-gun drug … but didn’t.

I got to the scope place and explained that if the migraine really went south, I might throw up at an inopportune time, like while the scoping was in progress. (They probably have people retch all the time while they’re doing that, but are too delicate to tell on themselves.)

“Not to fear!” assured the RN. “The narcotics we’re going to pump you full of are gonna knock any pain you have into outer space. And if you start to feel sick, we’ll just put some nausea antidote in that silly little IV you’re wearing, too!”

Enter the scope doc, and I didn’t bother to mention barf concerns. But he wanted to know why, exactly, I was there. I told him about doctors and key words. (I left out the comparison to tech support people in foreign countries so as not to agitate him. He was going to be stuffing hardware down my throat, after all, and I wanted him to be feelin’ groovy while doing it.)

He decided that he was going to stretch my esophagus, in hopes that I would never get shredded wheat and other foodstuffs stuck again. (He said sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. If not, I would “just have to live with it.” I was perfectly happy living with it before now anyway.) He agreed with me that there was probably nothing wrong.

Seemingly nanoseconds later, everything was reported to be normal. But now my throat ached powerfully (from stretching it), and my head still hurt as much as ever. So much for narcotics that pack a whollop no migraine can withstand.

I popped the migraine dope which should have been ingested hours previously, along with a muffin and a glass of juice. They then wheeled me out to the car in a jellified state and shoveled me in. By this time, I highly suspected that they had not put any of that lovely nausea inhibitor in my IV.

We made a stop at the post office, and while my husband, a former postal employee, was inside swapping stories with his buddies (or whatever else he does over a couple of packages), I faced the grim reality that it had been entirely stupid not to bring an ice cream pail and a box of tissues along in the car. The major decision now became whether to open the door and discreetly release the goods right there in the parking lot next to the car, or head for the nearest snowbank and hope I wouldn’t woozily topple over trying to get there.

I opted for the snowbank, not wanting other postal patrons to step in decomposing muffin mingled with stomach acid. I made it, without any nose-dive mishaps. The process was not discreet, but at least I got ‘er done.

I was afraid hubby would absent-mindedly drive off without me. He came out, vaguely noticed something large was missing from the car, and scanned the landscape. I think he might have sauntered over to the snowbank and toddled me back to the car, but can’t remember for sure. I just know that I got home somehow and slept for hours before adventuring to tell the world about the experience.

Published in: on January 2, 2013 at 3:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Ornesta Tells ‘Em Off!

I got a phone call from Ornesta Fruggenbotham the other day.  You might remember Ornesta.  She’s the lady from the U. P.* that has way more extreme things happen to her than I ever thought of having happen to me. 

“Well, helloooo, Ornesta!  I haven’t heard from you since you put me up in your ice shanty a couple of winters ago!  Have the bluebells peeked through the snow drifts up there yet?” 

“Yes, and the lemmings did their yearly stampede, too.  It was a sad sight.  I cried for a week.  Why haven’t you written any funny stuff lately to cheer me up on such occasions?”

“Well, I just haven’t felt … funny.  But let me guess.  You’re calling because you have a story, right?”

“Yes, I do!  And I was wondering if you could write it all up for me, and slap your style on it, so that you have to put that cute little disclaimer in there about how it’s my relatives and not yours.” 

“You know, Ornesta, I much prefer it straight from the caribou’s mouth.  How ’bout if I hook up the voice recorder, you just give me the scoop, and we’ll let ’em have it just as it happened?”

“OK.  You know that Craig’s List place on the World Wide Web?  Well, Bud discovered it, and I can’t get him to leave it alone.”

“Oh? What’s he buying, London Bridge?” 

“It’s what he’s selling.  You know how my mom always keeps food forever and then tries to pawn it off on us?”

“Yeah, like the bluegills she’d had in the freezer for fifteen years, and then she tried to make me eat them while I was living in the shanty — thought I’d like to do a backyard fish fry — in December.”

“And the frosting that was seven years past the expiration date.  Duncan Hines goo in a bucket.  Well, she gave me this jar of Sanka –“ 

“Sanka, as in instant decaf?  Official drink of the Apollo astronauts?”

“I think they drank Tang, but yeah.  Some people keep strawberry preserves.  My mom kept Sanka preserves.  Embalmed in its original jar, with the seal still unbroken.  Best used by March of 1969.  Well, Bud saw the possibilities, and posted it at Craig’s List in the ‘vintage’ category.” 

“It’s good he didn’t know about Craig’s List back in the day of the expired goo in a bucket, I guess.  But, I would imagine there is quite a market for a rare item like Sanka preserves, right?”

“Well, Bud thought it was worth a try.  Waxed paper straws are a hot item, so why not Sanka from the golden years?  So, while he was outside selling the family car, the phone rang — one of those ‘private name, private number’ calls.  Normally I wouldn’t have answered, but Mom’s doctor likes to call incognito like that, so I thought I’d better answer it, in case her intestines were flip-flopping again.  They always call me when that happens. 

“So this guy asks for Bud in a very pleasant, businessman kind of voice, and I said, ‘He’s outside selling the family buggy.  Can I take a message?’

“And he says, ‘Well, no, I was just curious to find out what kind of an idiot would try to sell a jar of Sanka on Craig’s List.’

“I have lived with Bud for close to thirty-five years, and I never noticed that he had any problems approaching that degree of distinction.  What do you think?”

“Well, he seemed pretty normal to me when I was up there.  Maybe a little jollier than anybody living that far north has a right to be in the middle of winter, but I would say his mental faculties seemed to be in order.”

“That’s what I thought!  And so I said, real polite and sober-like, ‘Well, if you’re going to insult him, I don’t see any reason to let you talk to him.’

“And he sasses back at me as pretty as you please, ‘Lady, I’m not only going to insult him.  I’m going to walk him up one side of the street and down the other, and –‘ 

“And that’s when I got mad, so I interrupted, ‘Sir, you know that family buggy that Bud’s selling outside?  Well, it was Teddy Roosevelt’s first Model T, with the original tires and everything — ALSO listed in the vintage department at Craig’s List.  We bought it from Teddy’s granddaughter.  And just to be nice, she threw in a jar of Teddy’s Sanka as part of the deal.’   

“By that time, I think I heard a little gurgling on the other end of the line, which I took as encouragement, since he hadn’t hung up yet, and I wasn’t anywhere near finished, ’cause I was plenty mad. 

“‘Do you know where that jar of Sanka has been, sir?  It rode up San Juan Hill with Teddy, tucked in his back pocket, because he didn’t ever want to be without his favorite blend, and it saved him from taking a bullet, which is why Bud mentioned in the ad that the label has a slight tear in it.  And if that ain’t vintage enough for you and Craig’s List, then I can’t help you!'”

“Um, and then what happened?”

“Not much.  I hung up to let him think about it, that’s all.”

“Ornesta, tell me the truth, now.  You don’t really own Teddy Roosevelt’s first Model T, do you?”

“No, and Teddy didn’t ride up San Juan Hill with a jar of Sanka in his pocket that was best used by March, 1969, either.  But we’ll just let Mr. Smarty-Pants that has nothing to do all day but call nice people up and insult them think whatever he pleases.  He’ll probably have to Google ‘Teddy Roosevelt + Sanka’ to find out for sure.”

*U. P. — Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Journey to the Highlands

I don’t know what you did for Thanksgiving, but our family visited cool places, not counting the hotel we stayed in.  We have just returned from an exploration of life outside Wisconsin.  Wisconsin is unanimously viewed as being cold, while a few of us think it is cool, but not cool like where we have just been.

Many moons ago, our daughter and her family left their spacious wildlife-infested parsonage in Pittsburgh suburghia and relocated to a teeny-tiny apartment in Louisville.  They are there to plant a church.  Through years of large black snakes sunning themselves on the outside door frames of their house and tinier serpents infiltrating their basement, Susan prayed for the day when she could be surrounded by concrete.  Her prayers have been heard. 

We must start out right.  For the sake of educating America, we did not visit Loo-iss-vil, nor did we visit Loo–ee-vil.  It is Loo-uh-vul.  Say that three times.  Loo-uh-vul.  Now you know where we stayed.  I knew how to pronounce it long before going there, thanks to reading Ann Landers and Mark Twain in my younger years, but I listened carefully to the locals just to make sure I was getting it right.

Susan and her family reside on Bardstown Road, in the Highlands of Louisville.  It is a gathering knot of the culturally colorful, a haven where old hippies never die and younger ones currently live the lifestyle to one degree or another.  It is a place that confirmed I am fashionably valid — something I never suspected, but will now milk for all it is worth.

We spent an afternoon exploring the shops up and down Bardstown — many of them filled with semi-pricey vintage clothing.  Upscale, fashionably savvy people come in droves from other parts of Louisville to buy garments identical to some I currently have hanging in my closet.  Apparently, I am not a clueless fuddy-duddy after all.  I am chic and never knew it.  Next time you see me sashaying around in my hunter green Nehru jacket with the tapestry-covered buttons and the football player-size shoulder pads, remember what I have just said.  I am not an oddball; I am trendy and cool.  Now those of you who know me in real life will all wish you had not snickered, and you will be calling me for advice on how to morph yourselves into being cool, too. 

I now know how to pronounce hookah (who-kah, not hook-uh).   I knew what one does with a hookah from bygone days of reading The Count of Monte Cristo, but I did not yet have the correct pronunciation (unlike Loo-uh-vul).  There are hookah lounges on Bardstown, along with the Hubbly Bubbly Smoke Shop, which specializes in whatever you need to get your hookah experience going.  Susan and her family sometimes do second-hand hookah via the air vents from their downstairs neighbors’ apartment.  It makes their dog sneeze.  Susan assures me that not all hookah lovers smoke the substances that Monte Cristo’s heroine indulged in.  I am not entirely convinced, though.  Nothing like living the culture.

We scrounged the Peddler’s Mall for antique chairs at cheap prices for Susan and Chris’s church building.  If I were to move to the Highlands (which I will not, but it is a safe form of entertainment to imagine it), I would sell all the furniture I currently have and start fresh with the stuff from the Peddler’s Mall.  It would need to be fumigated or otherwise sanitized somehow, but it would be a fun, economical experiment. 

Meteor Shows and a Visit to the ER

I had an unpremeditated visit to the ER a few nights ago.  (Aren’t they all?)  Now, listen up, all you oldsters out there, because I’m going to give you some valuable health information: if you have flashing light shows, as in aurora borealis, flaming meteors, or comets appearing at the edge of one of your eyes, it is time to go to the ER, just like I did.

Being a semi-calm and rational person, I did not immediately opt for the ER.  I thought about several practical reasons  for why I might be having a personal light show, none of which were satisfactory.  I could not recall having a history of light shows in my eyeballs, either.

Step #2 was to consult the Internet.  Aha!  My symptoms were described exactly at several places, including Ask Yahoo! where plumbers try — complete with “LOL” comments — to diagnose and scare the livin’ daylights out of people with real medical problems who really should be on their way to the ER, instead of fooling around on the Internet.  Not wanting a plumber’s advice on my ocular needs, I moved on to a place where a real ophthalmologist told me what I was dealing with — and it was not overly comforting.

Step #3 was to call my eye doctor … on a Sunday night … knowing he and his office staff would not be in.  BUT they referred me to an eye doctor who would be in … but was not.  That person’s call service referred me to still another doctor … who was also not in.  Her call service referred me to a nurse … who told me I needed to get to the ER immediately — which I then did.

I asked an idiotic question while they were registering me at the ER.  (I guess I said several idiotic things during the hour and a half I spent there, so why not start out doing that right from the get-go?)  I asked them if they were a PPO for my particular insurance company.  I got slightly nervous when the lady said, “I don’t know what you are talking about.  What is a PPO?”  It went downhill from there.

Both the ER doctor and I knew I was in there because of possible retinal detachment or retinal tears.  He listened to my flashing lights story, asked if I could still see out of my eye in all sectors (yes), and announced my case had him “stumped.”

I didn’t care to hear that the doctor was planning on being of no help.  True to my nature, I decided to help him out a bit: “Do you want to hear what the Internet said you are supposed to do?”

Toilet Plunger by bnielsen via OpenClipArt(He did not.  He said the Internet doesn’t know what it is talking about most of the time.  I thought that was a rash statement, seeing as I was planning on telling him what the ophthalmologist had said, not the plumber spewing advice on Ask Yahoo!  ER doctors do not really want their patients helping them out when they are “stumped.”)

I forged ahead anyway.  After all, this was my eye in need of help, and if I was going to pay ER prices, I at least wanted my money’s worth of care.  “The Internet said you are supposed to dilate my eye and take a look inside to see if the retina is OK.”

Fortunately for me, he did eventually decide to at least turn out the lights and leave me in semi-darkness for fifteen minutes so that my eye would self-dilate enough so he could take a peek.

My husband Paul was with me while I was enjoying the intensity of the meteor show in the semi-darkness.  Have you ever noticed that people tend to fret about little things more when it is dark out?  Paul started to obsess about some minor missing details.

“Don’t you think it’s kind of funny that they didn’t take your blood pressure?  And your temperature — what about your temperature?”

“It’s my eye, not my heart or my thermostat we’re concerned about here.  I’m sure they figured that out.”  (But this did start to make me wonder why I had not been invited to step on a scale.  Doctors always want to know if we are eating too much.)

When the doc came back, he did a lot of scrutinizing of the inside of my eye, and finally pronounced it to be fine.  No retina problems.  (Good!)  He then talked with the ophthalmologist whom I had been trying to reach earlier in the evening.  Apparently he was not routed through several call services, only to get a nurse, as had been my case.  If he had been, the nurse would have told him to go to the ER immediately.

The ophthalmologist knew by my description exactly what the problem was — a vitreous detachment (the same thing that causes floaters) — not all that serious.  It seems that the ball of goo that makes up the inside of the eye is held onto the retina by zillions of tiny fibers, and if some of them get tired and let go, bingo! we have a light show.  This, by the way, was the same info I had picked up from the Internet doctor, who had still recommended the ER, because dilating the eye could reveal whether retinal detachment was in progress.

So, they sent me on home with instructions to follow up with my eye doctor.  Before sending me home, they did take my blood pressure and my temperature — but they forgot the scale.

My eye doctor is the best.  There is increased risk of retinal problems over the next couple of weeks, so he calls me every couple of days to see how I am doing.  Your eye doctor probably wouldn’t do that.  He would tell you to call him if anything dire transpired, and maybe you would get him if he wasn’t playing golf or doing something else more important right then than your eyes.  But my eye doctor is wonderful, and he calls me.  I will probably give him a thumbs up on FaceBook and Twitter when I get a chance.

I am still enjoying some light shows, which somewhat concerns the doc, but I can see what I need to see (which is a good sign), and I am confident I will be fine.

Aghast at the GastHaus

My husband is of German descent.  I am too.  There is one huge difference between us, though: he wants to eat like it and I don’t.  Paul came from a very Germanic household.  His father emigrated from The Fatherland.  His family says December funny — DeZember.  At least he can keep his v’s and w’s straight, even though his dad couldn’t.

I tried to learn the knack of  German cooking for him, but never quite succeeded.  My mother-in-law did her best to give me the low-down on cooking bread dumplings, but they ended up as little bits of debris floating in quarts of water instead of the tennis ball-sized lumps they were supposed to be.  I used a sieve to salvage the remains.  Mom herself grew royally tired, over the years, of eating pork this-and-that drowning in sauerkraut juice.  She thought of spaghetti in a can as the ultimate treat.

redcabchourizo1 by ranja2006, via photobucketMy husband’s yearning for the Deutsch foods of his youth has been surging to the forefront over the last decade or so, and no amount of feeding him bratwurst has been able to satiate it.   Recently it reached the seriously obsessive level, and he began desperately searching the Internet for German recipes that he could cook for himself.  You should have seen (and smelled) the red cabbage concoction he came up with.  I cannot say how it tasted, for I refused to go beyond the sight and smell perceptions.

Thanks to an approximately 1/2 off coupon, tonight we managed to quell his obsession, at least temporarily.  I can only hope I will survive the experience.  We visited the local Gasthaus eatery.

I should have known we were in trouble when the first oom-pa-pas of the tuba concerto assaulted my ears — or when we found ourselves elegantly seated next to two overstuffed, three-foot-high ceramic porkers, accompanied by an equally overstuffed ceramic burgermeister.   The prices were calculated to cause a stroke (if we hadn’t had the 1/2 off coupon), but they were nothing to what followed.

Wienerschnitzel!!! by cocco354, via PhotobucketI ordered the wienerschnitzel, mainly because it was the only thing on the not-in-English menu that I knew how to pronounce, other than the sauerbraten, which was out of the question because it  came with the nasty red cabbage side dish which I had already been introduced to at home.

My previous wienerschnitzel experiences had all been confined to a pancake house of some sort and could not lay claim to being authentic.  When the real deal arrived, I knew my gallbladder was in jeopardy, not to mention the cardiovascular system.  I am not a fat-o-phobe, but this was beyond suicidal.

“I think I am not going to be feeling so good after this, honey.  On the way home, maybe we can stop for some emergency antacids and one of those do-it-yourself home remedy angioplasty kits they’ve got at the drugstore.”

Paul looked slightly concerned, but only grunted politely through his mouthful of red cabbage that came with the sauerbraten.  I soaked a napkin with what grease was sop-up-able, and then dutifully dispatched the slab of swine frittered in gallons of bacon grease. (Real veal wienerschnitzel cost $3.00 extra.)

We stopped to pick up a few necessary items on the way home.  The drugstore was fresh out of angioplasty kits.  Paul offered to let me sit in the car while he ran in for the goods, but it is January in Wisconsin, and I was afraid if I sat out there in the deep freeze for a few minutes, the lard I had just ingested might immediately congeal in my arteries.

My diet for the next few days had better consist of dry toast and water.  I will pray for an absence of gout and gallbladder attack and run up and down the stairs a few times to get the arteries cleaned out.  I’m still trying to decide whether my desire for revenge against the GastHaus will be appeased by writing this blog post or whether I will report them to the health department to achieve full satisfaction.

Ornesta to the Rescue!

“Hey, Ornesta!  How’s life in da U.P.?”

“Not so bad.  The thermometer hasn’t blown out the bottom end yet, the bears haven’t moved into town to feast on the inhabitants, and I haven’t had to deal with any sneezified menus lately.  How about yourself?”

“Um, well … Ornesta, may I come live at your house for a while?”

“Sure, Sweetie!  We can put you up in the ice shanty out back.  Bud won’t need it until the Gitch* freezes over, and that won’t happen for a few weeks yet.  You’ll have your own private commode too, even if it does have a little moon carved out of the door.  What’s the problem?  Hubby being mean to you?”

“No, no.  The hubby’s always good to me.  I can’t complain — even if he can’t figure out how to use the phones around the house without disconnecting himself.”

“How about the teenager?  Is she running wild all over town?”

“No, not that either.  The closest Beebee ever comes to running wild is to saunter down Main Street in Little Chute with her guitar strapped to her back.”

“Little Chute!  What does she go there for?  It’s full of Hollanders!”

“She’s got a friend that lives there — not Hollander, either.  But — what’s wrong with Hollanders?  We’re all either Hollanders or Krauts down here.  If you stick a bratwurst in each of our fists, you can’t tell us apart. We all talk like Yoopers*.”

“Heeeyyyy!  Well, at least if you come to stay with us no one will know you aren’t the genuine article.  You know, I visited Little Chute once.  Went there for the Kermit Festival — but I didn’t see the little green guy anywhere, or Miss Piggy either — just a lotta folks clomping around in wooden shoes, with tulips stuck in their baseball caps.”

Kermis, not Kermit!  It just means an outdoor festival in Dutch.”

“Yah, whatever. Now, what’s the matter, anyway?”

“(Sigh!) Money doesn’t grow on the bushes out back, BFF’s aren’t always forever, my creative juices seem to have gotten rancid, I should have taken up Dave Barry on his offer after all, and I might as well apply the Christmas cookies directly to my hips, since they’re going to end up there anyway. “

“Yah, those are problems, all right.  But, how is living in the ice shanty going to fix ’em, do you s’pose?”

“Well, I think I just need a change of scenery — new vistas produce new writing fodder, you know?”

“That might take care of the rancid juices, but I don’t know if it will help the cookie-hips problem much. But tell you what: you pack your duffel bag and c’mon up, and I’ll have Merle Haggard singin’ Everybody Gets the Blues and If We Make It Through December on the tape deck in the shanty to cheer you up when you get here.”

“Throw in  Mule Skinner Blues, and I’m on my way!”

*The Gitch — Gitche Gumee; Lake Superior
*Yoopers — people who live in Michigan’s upper peninsula

(For more Ornesta-related adventures see Simply Ornesta! in the sidebar, under Archives.)

Thanksgiving Dreamin’

My husband had a deprived childhood. Never once in all his growing up years did his family sit down to a Thanksgiving turkey. You see, he and his twin brother were the little tykes who stayed home with Mom, while Dad and the older brothers were all off in the woods tracking Bambi every Thanksgiving. 

Still, Paul has pleasant memories of their peculiar holiday tradition: Spaghettios. Yes, you read that right. The left-behind part of the family gave their thanks with the help of spaghetti in a can. Mom dressed it up real fancy by adding ground beef and kidney beans. She and the boys thought it was a fabulous treat, because it was the only time of year they got to eat noodles of any sort. Dad hated noodles and forbade them at his table, while Mom craved pasta 364 days out of the year.

Why am I telling you about it? Because I find Paul’s childhood tradition inspiring. I am beginning to raise my family’s conscious level to the radical concept of Thanksgiving without the turkey and all the fixin’s. I hate cooking, and the day I hate cooking the most is Thanksgiving.

One of these years I will push past all the accepted traditions and plop spaghetti down in front of their faces — with baby carrots still in the bag as a side dish. I will not do the noodles-mummified-in-a-can version. I loathe Spaghettios and all of its cousins. No, the spaghetti will come out of a box and the sauce out of a jar.  And I will not adulterate our entree with kidney beans. They make me think of  their namesake body part, and that is not appetizing.

I will serve up our meal on a tablecloth-less table, and the spaghetti and its accompanying sauce will appear in their original cooking pots, not fancy bowls.  The silver will stay in its box and remain tarnished if it wants to, while we eat with the everyday flatware.  I will still bake pie-out-of-a-box to ensure that there will be no mutiny. And we will ALL enjoy ourselves immensely — especially the cook, who will not spend hours after the repast fighting food coma while painstakingly picking all the remaining meat off that poor gobbler’s bones and preparing stock for soup. 

Lest you think I will shock all my brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, and cousins ten-times-removed who expect the real traditional deal out of me, I must explain that the family gathering has shrunk down to four of us.  My mom will always get her turkey dinner if I have to buy it in a Swanson TV dinner box for her.  And we’ll work into this gradually. I am a long-range planner and can salivate over a revolutionary new concept for a decade before I actually put it into execution.  The rest of my family will be all right with the idea once they’ve heard about it a few times. My teenager doesn’t like turkey or any of the fixin’s anyway.  She endures until the moment of pie arrives.  My husband may miss the turkey and dressing, but when I remind him of how his mom used to do it, the pleasant memories of his childhood will carry the day.

I think it will work. And I may be doing the women of America a humongous favor just by writing this. The Internet is a powerful tool for raising up an army of radical thinkers, you know. I could create a grass roots  uprising of middle-aged women all over the country who never before had it cross their minds that they do not have to be slaves of  Thanksgiving dinner the way their mamas were.  The trend will eventually snowball to where grocers cannot keep enough pasta and Ragu on their shelves to satisfy the public demand at Thanksgiving time. All the turkey farms will be converted to fields of Roma tomatoes.

Yes, I like the idea.  Anybody with me?  

Of Bunnies and Beans

At the risk of alienating all my gardening friends, I have a confession to make: I like bunnies.  It doesn’t matter what size they are – big bunnies, little bunnies, in-between-size bunnies.  I just like them.  (But the teenier they are, the more I’m likely to ooh and ah over them and call the family to come and see.) 

The back wall of our house overhangs the foundation a little bit, and that overhang is the perfect place for bunnies to live year-round.  In the winter, they have to tunnel through the snow banks to forage.  I leave carrot peelings and popcorn kernels by their hole to help them make it through those cold months.  They also help themselves to my raspberry bushes when the going gets tough. 

In the summer, as long as we get the chicken wire around the garden before the beans start coming up, our relationship with them is harmonious.  And the tiniest ones don’t have a notion of being afraid.  They sit within six feet of me and listen up carefully while I tell them all about how much I like them and wouldn’t harm a flea on their hides. 

But this summer I noticed that the bean plants were looking a tad nibbled on, and while investigating,  I discovered that my bunny friends were getting more clever — an excavation under the chicken wire had been accomplished.  The invasion was easily stopped with a barricade of bricks. 

A couple of days later, I spotted one of my little bunny friends doing strange things outside the garden fence.  He had his tiny front paws wrapped around the chicken wire and was shaking the fence as violently as an eight ounce rabbit can be expected to, all the while biting the wire frantically.  I had never seen such behavior before and thought, “My, he must really enjoy the taste of bean stalks!” 

But bunnies must be smarter than I had previously given them credit for.  You see, he was really valiantly attempting to rescue one of his partners in crime.   Somebunny had gotten trapped inside the garden when we bricked up the under-fence tunnel. 

I didn’t get it at first.  I was picking beans and noticed the little guy inside the fence.  When he saw me, he just laid down on his side about two feet from me, and watched, and panted.  “Poor thingy!  He’s so scared he doesn’t know what to do,” I surmised, and proceeded to talk with him about how the humans at this house didn’t hurt bunnies, and that as soon as I left the garden, he could find whichever new hole he had dug, and get out. 

But Paul had a different idea about why he was in there.  “He probably doesn’t have another hole; he got trapped in there when I bricked up his entrance.  If we don’t let him out, he’ll dehydrate and die.” 

The easiest way to fix the situation would have been to remove the bricks and let him find his own way out.  But retired husbands don’t think like that.  Paul decided to help that poor rabbit by chasing him around the garden until he either caught him or until one of them collapsed in a state of exhaustion.  

There is no reasoning with such logic.  The best I could do was to suggest the use of work gloves in case Mr. Bunny decided to fight back, and to direly intone about how unfun rabies shots are. 

“Paul, I have to run off to the dentist right now for a dose of tooth-dope and a hilarious session of lying upside-down with my mouth wide open for an hour, but when I get home and am once more semi-coherent, you’d better tell me if that rabbit bit you or not.  I don’t want anybody around here foaming at the lips, unless it’s just toothpaste.  And if you think rabies shots are a joy ride – twenty-one slow, painful injections into your belly-button …”  and on and on in my unique style of husband lecturing. 

While under the influence at the dentist’s office, I did not think about the battle between rabbit and husband going on back at the ranch.  And when I got home, I did not receive a blow-by-blow account.  But the headlines were that the bunny wore out before Paul did, the work glove advice was heeded, no one got bit or otherwise injured on either side of the confrontation, and the bunny scampered away to the rabbit hutch and lived happily ever after. 

“Paul, are you SURE you didn’t get bit and you’re just not telling me?” 

(Patiently) “I’m sure.” 

“And you didn’t toss the bunny hard — he didn’t get hurt at all when he landed?” 

“No, I was very nice to him.” 

(Sigh!) “Now the bunnies won’t believe me.” 


“I promised them no humans at this house would ever hurt them, and I’ll bet they just won’t understand.”

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