Eat the Chicken, Leave the Drones.

Tonight we did the annual USPS letter carriers’ retirement banquet for the umpteenth time. We do it for the chicken, served gratis, compliments of the union. They would extract the union dues from our pension whether we ate the chicken or not, so we might as well eat it and enjoy.

The chicken is not really free. It bears the hefty price tag of enduring through speeches delivered by the union high command. Every year, the president of the National Association of Letter Carriers sends his regrets for not being able to be with us. (Yes, we know, Mr. President. You are way too busy and important to come to Wisconsin in March. I wouldn’t be here either, if I had a choice.) But we are still obligated to listen to a couple of other mucky-mucks who fly in for the chicken and to hear themselves talk.

Their orations do not vary much from year to year. We are indoctrinated for fifteen or twenty minutes about how the Postal Service is being torn limb from limb by the Republicans. In order to save the P. O. (and our pensions) from total destruction, all good letter carriers, active or retired, must vote for Democrats, because they, of course, love letter carriers, and will see to it that retirees never have to eat out of garbage cans or sleep under the bridge. And so it has gone for the past thirty-eight union dinners we have attended.

However, this year we broke from tradition. They brought in a guy who had missed his life calling. No doubt he had truly wanted to be a college professor, but had joined the Postal Service instead, so that he could partake of the annual chicken dinner. It was not a speech, but a lecture, complete with asking the class questions to keep us on our toes. I listened carefully, in case there would be a quiz at the end. Perhaps the top ten students would get to take a bag of chicken home with them.

Now, I did fairly well in high school. In fact, I graduated at the head of my class. But because I have a bit of a mule streak in me, and because I have been a nonconformist from the bassinet, I refused to go to college. I have done all right, I think, in educating myself without spending those additional four years being bored daily into a coma. At sixty-two years of age, I have no pleasure in attending lectures now, either. The chicken we had just downed was beginning to seem not worth its cost.

Our speaker enjoyed himself immensely. The longer he went on, the more animated he became. The arm-flapping was vaguely reminiscent of what those chickens we had eaten may have done before they had ended up in the broaster.

I seriously thought about pulling out a pen and decorating the tablecloth with stick figures carrying postal bags and macing snarling mongrels. But that would not have been kosher, so I restrained the impulse. The napkins had already been removed by the servers, so a little impromptu origami was also out of the question.

I glanced at the lady seated across from me. She mouthed, “Should we skip out of here and let our husbands find their own way home?” Still, we knew that would not be decent, since it’s an unwritten law of the union that you must pay for the chicken by listening to the speeches. If this man ever finished, there might be time for the four retirees we were there to honor to say their few words before the dining hall locked the doors for the night. Maybe, maybe not.

Our speaker finally asked if there were any questions, and I saw a hand shoot up. No! Please! How can you do this to us? He will go on for yet another hour if you give him the opportunity!

He smiled broadly. “Yes, sir! Your question?”

“Yer time’s up, buddy.”

Slightly abashed, Mr. Professor sat down hurriedly, and we all clapped enthusiastically.

And that is how we managed to get home before every bar in town closed for the night.

Winter Fun in Wisconsin

Cheese-300pxRecently, someone from the deep South asked me, “So what do y’all do in Wisconsin in the winter?” I was surprised. I thought everyone knew what a blast Wisconsin is in January! We have phenomenally fun activities going on all the time here.

First, there are Packer games. The colder it is, the better the turnout. Wisconsinites take great pride in knowing how to dress for these events. Those cheesehead thingies everybody wears? Lined with head-warming uranium-enriched chemicals, this traditional Wisconsin headgear is  made from a secret recipe inspired during somebody’s hours of boredom while freezing in a tree stand, waiting for the legendary thirty-point buck to appear. Basement Packer chapels and decorating our living rooms in gold and green also keep us pretty busy.

People “up nort'” enjoy raking four-foot piles of snow off the roofs of their trailer homes several times during the season. It is great exercise, and although not as exciting, is more fun than having the roof collapse into the living room.

For those who are more inclined to sedentary entertainment, a quiet afternoon spent fuzz-balling your red union suit is guaranteed to enhance your serenity.

You no doubt have heard whispers about the Polar Bear Club. On January 1st, members congregate on the shores of Lake Michigan (or other suitable ponds), strip down to their thermal underwear, and go for a swim. I must explain that these are not sane Wisconsinites. Too much fuzz-balling of the red union suits can push people beyond serenity into hallucinogenic euphoria. I might add that the multitudes of people who come just to spectate suffer some noggin problems as well.

Reading seed catalogs from cover to cover multiple times is also a favorite activity. At the end of winter, Burpee has a contest exclusively for Wisconsinites: whoever sends in the most thumb-worn catalog with their order of $100.00 or more gets a plaque with a big pumpkin superimposed over the state capitol, which reads, “Home-grown Wisconsinite and proud of it!” It may not ever warm up enough to get a harvest out of those seeds finally planted midsummer, but dreaming is almost as good as achieving, right?

The men all grow bushes on their faces. Outsiders think it is in admiration for those Duck Dynasty fellers. Nope. Purely a Wisconsin thing, contrived for survival. The Louisiana guys just stole it.

And we shiver. This is a health bonus. It tones the muscles. The more sleek you want to be, the more you turn down the thermostat. There are no gym fees, you don’t have to leave home, and the added bonus is a lower fuel bill. It’s a no-brainer.

“Remembrance Parties” are a big trend right now. The idea is to gather a few intimate friends, slurp some spicy-hot chili together (in hopes of generating authentic perspiration), and swap memories of the previous summer. “Joe, do you remember when we wore short-sleeve T-shirts last July for a couple of days? Refresh my memory. What did that feel like?”

Some of us find enjoyment in traveling from park to park to watch the bubblers freeze over (probably referred to as water fountains where you come from). It’s not quite as much fun as watching the Polar Bear Club carry on, but it works in a pinch, if you’re going stir-crazy inside.

Contrary to rumors, we do not enjoy lemming races. That is strictly an event in Upper Michigan, which Wisconsin is unfortunately adjoined to — but we can’t do much about them.

Now for a cultural exchange — What do all yous guys do in the winter?

New Study Touts Bratwurst as Health Food

GOOD NEWS FOR WISCONSINITES

Brats and KrautA few years ago, we broke the story on bratwurst as the cure for swine flu.  Based on that find, the results of this latest study should not be a surprise — especially to lifetime residents of Wisconsin.  (We always said we were progressive!)

Right on time for Memorial Day festivities, a far-reaching clinical study just released by the prestigious Masbur Foundation has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that eating bratwurst significantly increases life expectancy. The quantity providing optimum effectiveness is 69.7 lbs. per person annually, with larger quantities producing no additional benefits, but not posing any health risks, either. Apparently “too much of a good thing” only means … more enjoyment of a good thing.

In the study, which covered a dozen brands of bratwurst, consistent consumption of Johnsonville Brats seemed to provide the greatest benefits. Data analysts surmised that bratwurst-induced longevity might be connected to body-healing chemicals released through the taste buds, thereby explaining why Johnsonville had the edge on the other brands.

The study also suggests that generous doses of sauerkraut consumed in tandem with bratwurst helps the anti-aging process.

Bible Buddy and Me

BibleYou have not heard my Bible story yet, but you must. It is a saga of Bible bumps in the road and miraculous answers to prayer.

I grew up Lutheran, and traditionally the Aid Association for Lutherans provided Christmas gifts for the children of our  impoverished congregation. One year they gave us peanuts in the shell. (It was a lean year for them, too, I guess.) The next year a small plastic nativity scene appeared, which I still display every Christmas. But the best present of all came during my third grade year — an American Bible Society King James Version hardcover Bible.

I felt so grown up. My very own Bible! I read it  all the way up to the genealogies in 1 Chronicles, before sliding down the hill of despair back to Genesis. My methodical mind could not conceive of skipping over those “begats” and moving on. So, to this day, I have a better working knowledge of Genesis through 2 Kings than most of the rest of you — simply because I backslid through them so many times. I finally arrived at the epistles of the apostles about ten years into the adventure.

By the time I made it to the New Testament, that Bible was getting mighty precious. It went to school with me. (Those were the days before life imprisonment was imposed for bringing the forbidden book there.) For a brief time I hugged it to sleep every night — a little weird, I know, but Oral Roberts said he did it, and I figured if it worked for him, why not me?

That Bible lasted forty years. It had a few surgeries along the way.  My husband Paul is a Shoe Goo specialist. Other men do duct tape, but he has mastered Shoe Goo for whatever ails whatever. Our marriage has probably been held together with the Goo all these years, and I am just not aware of it — because he is such a master at applying it for that good-as-new look. But there are things even Shoe Goo cannot fix, and when pages began to wear through, and I was writing in words where the ink had departed from the paper, it was time to find a new Bible.

When you’ve had the same Bible for forty years, its quirks sort of work their way into your system. I wasn’t handy at knowing which book or chapter “Judge not that ye be not judged” was in, but I sure knew which column and how many lines down from the subheading it was.  And I didn’t want any talk about being “an hungred” or “shewing” anything. The American Bible Society had fixed those spelling thingies by the time my Bible was born, and I wasn’t about to go back to the original 1611 version. I prayed diligently for a Bible with the exact same inside text to still be available somewhere in the world, and then called the ABS with hope in my heart. They had no idea how to help me, since my Bible was pre-ISBN days. What they sent didn’t even come close.

Paul felt he needed to prepare me for the big let-down.  “Why don’t you just use that nice leather KJV I bought you?”

“It says ‘shew.’  I can’t abide ‘shew.’  It has doctrinal commentary and footnotes, which ABS Bibles avoid. I hate notes. They distract me.  And it’s a red-letter edition.  I don’t like that either.  Jesus talked like everyone else. He didn’t float around spewing red letters.”

He rolled his eyes and assured me there wasn’t a chance in the world that I would get a Bible even close to what I had, much less the spitting image. Oh, he of little faith!

Starting to feel slightly daunted, I took my decrepit Bible and daughter Beebee in hand and headed down to the local Christian bookstore. 

“Excuse me, Miss, but can you help me find a Bible? I want something similar to this.” 

The store clerk obliged me by showing me numerous KJVs — all with “shews” and red letters attached, not to mention the inevitable footnotes. After a good ten minutes of trying to please, she slipped off to do more important things with saner customers. But Beebee had been busy during the discussion, and this time the busyness paid off.

“Mom, look at this one. Doesn’t it look just like yours — maybe?” 

She handed me the Bible Amy Grant sang about in her classic, Fat Little Baby — the biggest King James you’ve ever seen. Its page 493 matched my page 493, subheadings and all. No red letters. No “shews.” Bonded leather. And 300 superfluous pages at the beginning, explaining African American historical relationships to the Word of God, complete with full color paintings and poetry from their artists. It was The African American Jubilee Edition, and it was God’s answer to my prayer. I don’t know why the clerk had missed it. Perhaps my rather light complexion just didn’t click with her.

Heart pounding with joy, I skipped to the checkout with my treasure, and proceeded to squeal, “Look what Jesus did for me! I can’t believe it! I needed a Bible exactly like my old one, and everybody said it couldn’t be found, and look! Here it is!”

The clerk had neither eyes to see nor ears to hear. She missed the miracle entirely. No doubt miracles are commonplace in Christian bookstores, and she’d already seen her share of them that day. “Fifty dollars, please,” was all I got in response.

I chortled all the way home. “Beebee, do you know how all this happened? The American Bible Society didn’t know what they were doing when they put The African American Jubilee Edition together.  They did it just for me. God knew I was going to pray for a Bible just like my old one, so He inspired the ABS mucky-mucks to think up a new edition. And then the janitor found the old print plates from forty years ago kicking around in the warehouse, and brought them to the CEO (kind of like in the days of Josiah, when they found the Scriptures that had been forgotten in the cluttered-up temple), and –“

Beebee couldn’t take it anymore.  “I know, Mum, I know.  We’re all happy Jesus heard your prayers. But the little song and dance you did back there in the bookstore was embarrassing!”

That was all about ten years ago. Last night the pages and cover of my beloved Jubilee Edition decided to part company. It must have had a heretofore undiscovered birth defect, no doubt due to being manufactured in China, unlike Bible #1. Dr. Paul pulled out his popsicle stick and Shoe Goo and did emergency surgery, and it is currently in ICU. 

Dr. Paul thinks we can expect a full recovery. But just in case, I did some online exploring and managed to find a revised, now-only-in-hardcover African American Jubilee Edition — still with page 493 identical to my page 493.  Its glorious 1440 pages will be in my mailbox in another week.

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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An Open Letter to Mousedom

Photo0042PDear mice and other varmints:

I have tried my best to coexist peaceably, because I am by nature a gentle, amiable soul. I was happy to concede our entire garage to you, as long as you avoided crossing the borders into our house. But I have been pushed over the limit. “Peace in our time” was a pipe dream for Neville Chamberlain, and it’s not working for me, either.

I waffled for a season, telling myself that mice are really cute little warm and fuzzies (in their natural outside habitat). I used moderate control measures when a few of you took up residence among us. But the invasion and ensuing population explosion within our domicile have reached the intolerable point. Deportation has not worked. Neither has making a public example of some of your ring leaders been effectual. New masterminds continually rise to the top, and your family dynasty within our walls has been growing by alarming proportions.

My formal ultimatum is this: get out of my house by sundown or face all-out war.

I have done extensive research, and let me solemnly assure you that there is no pretty way for mice or any of their rodent relatives to meet their demise. The violent keep their kingdoms by force, and I am not above biological and chemical weapons. If I can find the WMDs that eluded George W. I will use them, too!

So, there you have it. I mean it. Now it is up to you to back down and scram. John Wayne and Chuck Norris look like Captain Kangaroo next to this mad mama.  So don’t mess with me anymore. Ya hear?

Published in: on October 25, 2012 at 2:43 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

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!

LeeAnnRubsam.com

“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.)

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