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.

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Of Bunnies and Beans

LeeAnnRubsam.com

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.” 

“Hmm?” 

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

Keeping Fit in Pitt

LeeAnnRubsam.com

As I explained yesterday, we have been visiting in the rural outskirts of Pittsburgh. 

I have been doing quite a bit of walking, partly out of desire to see some scenery, partly to find temporary solitude.  There is a hiking path about one-half mile from Susan’s house.  Getting there is semi-dangerous, as there is only a narrow shoulder along a sharply curving highway to walk on, and traffic is clipping.  I take consolation in not seeing many wildlife corpses on the road, which probably means that if I keep my eyes open, I will not end up as roadkill either.  I instruct the family before leaving that if I am not back in two hours, it is time to mount up a posse and come looking for me.

The hiking trail is an old railroad line, with a long tunnel cut through a hillside for added interest.  Woods adorn both sides, and Susan’s house is up on a bluff overlooking a creek which cuts between the trail and the residential area.

It seems that Pittsburghians do not behave quite like Wisconsinites.  The folks out on the trail are mostly intense types.  They jog, they stride energetically with arms flailing wildly, they are pulled along by unruly pitbulls, but they do not acknowledge each other’s existence as they meet.  My mother taught me as a small child that when we pass someone on the street, we smile pleasantly and say “hi.”  Pittsburghians appear to be very serious about whatever they do, including conscientiously obeying their mothers’ instructions never to speak to strangers.  I perversely insist on accosting them with a “hi,”  although I quickly discovered this is not kosher. The typical response is a surprised stare, as if they have discovered an intriguing new species of insect and are not quite certain whether to squash it or let it entertain them.  I keep trying, in hopes of improving their standard of civilized behavior, and I sometimes even get a response, but it is difficult to change a culture in a mere week’s time.

The trail is not heavily traveled in November, so I feel a little nervous about encountering lone men when no one else is in sight, especially in the dimly lit tunnel.  I am alert to my surroundings at all times, and listen carefully to assess the danger factor.  If the guy is breathing heavily as he approaches, that is probably good.  Loud snorting, wheezing, asthmatic gasping, and pre-cardiac arrest noises are even better.  All of these mean I can run faster than them, and that predator tactics are the last thing on their mind.

One of Susan’s friends informed me that in the summertime, the men are not the main alarm factor on the trail.  When it is warm, the copperheads enjoy sunning themselves smack dab in the middle of the road.  When they get too warm, they cool off in the tunnel — and no doubt lie in wait for silly Wisconsin women who never once imagined that a ten-foot-wide gravelled road would be a snake resort. 

I passed a pleasant elderly couple along the trail one afternoon.  (They said “hi” back and smiled — probably natives of Wisconsin, not Pittsburgh.)  I suppose they were in their seventies.  She was round and he was very lean — like Jack Sprat and wife.

As I approached  the tunnel on my return leg of the hike, I encountered Mrs. Sprat peering intently around the edge of it.  Jack was on the other end, poking around in some weeds.  Shortly after I entered, what I thought was a teenager tore past me in the fastest sprint I’d ever seen outside of the Olympics.  But it wasn’t a teenager.  As he got nearer, I realized it was Jack.  Seventy … spry as a youngster … faster than a speeding bullet … no red cape  or other super hero props though.

“How’d I do?”  Jack asked, lightly puffing.

“Thirty-one seconds,”  Mrs. Sprat replied.

But the light puffing didn’t subside or even continue evenly.  “EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH!” Jack commenced gasping in high-pitched apparent distress.  I wished I had remembered to bring the cell phone.  Obviously Jack was going to need an ambulance, and no telling how long it would take one to get there and whether the driver would know that he could disregard the hiking trail rule, “no motorized vehicles allowed.”

I turned to gaze in horror.  Mrs Sprat giggled.  Jack didn’t giggle.  He just kept on with the “EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH!”  At that point I figured that either she was rather looking forward to an early widowhood, or else Jack and the Mrs. just hang out at the tunnel on a regular basis, waiting to show off their stuff for whatever unsuspecting Wisconsinite comes along, hoping to scare the daylights out of their victim.

I headed on down the trail, and I noticed when I got to the end that the Sprats, with no “EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH! EEH-HUHs” in earshot, were not far behind. 

Keeping Fit in Pitt (Part 2)

LeeAnnRubsam.com

“Awake, O Sleeper”

LeeAnnRubsam.com

I grew up in a liturgical church. I’m not there now, but I have fond memories – one of which I’m sharing today. 

Our congregation went through an abrupt transition from a perpetually smiling, always gentle shepherd to a vacancy pastor who had missed his Marine drill sergeant calling. I’ve noticed that people in nondenominational churches don’t put up with such things. They just leave if the pastor doesn’t suit them or if the preaching gets too hot. But in the church of my youth, we hung in there by our fingernails for the sake of denominational loyalty. 

We couldn’t do without our pipe organ, and our elderly organist thought we couldn’t do without her, either. Mrs. Leidenfeist must have been installed along with the pipes seventy years before. Her possessiveness of her organist position had increased proportionately with the percentage of clinker notes we now endured through each Sunday. She fussed if anybody else ever touched the keys, and she never took a vacation for fear of finding a permanent replacement on her bench when she returned. The elder board, not knowing how to turn her out to pasture without devastating her tender sensibilities, piously reminded complainers that forbearance was a virtue. 

One summer Sunday, it all came to a head. Keeping the congregation alert in a sanctuary with no air conditioning was a challenge for the pastor, but he excelled at strategically punctuating his sermon points with thunderous emphasis, so most of us kept our eyelids up. Still, it must have been unbearably hot in the choir loft, where the organ and Mrs. Leidenfeist resided. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John would have had a hard time keeping awake up there. 

The sermon finally ground to a conclusion, and ending the service required just a little more liturgical dialogue between congregation and pulpit. 

“Let us pray,” intoned our pastor. 

We all waited for our organ cue to respond in song. Deafening silence lingered for an eternal twenty seconds, while the pastor shifted impatiently from foot to foot. Every child, parent, and granny in the building was probably dying to turn around and check out what had gone haywire in the balcony, but the mamas of our denomination had drilled into their children for ten generations past that looking behind us or laughing in church would net us ten thousand years in purgatory – and we didn’t even subscribe to that doctrine! 

“I SAID, ‘Let us pray!!!’” the pastor shouted, as he glared towards the choir loft. 

The organ lady hit the keys with a full body slam, at the same time tromping down hard on the volume pedal. I know the Bible says the resurrection of the dead will be announced with a trumpet blast, but if it had said “organ,” this would have done the job. Mrs. Leidenfeist recovered quickly, and the traditional notes were duly sounded. Not a snicker was heard. How many prayers shot heavenward for divine aid in giggle suppression can only be guessed, but the liturgical response, done with the usual perfect decorum, prevailed over all temptation. 

No doubt the pastor consulted his Excedrin and Maalox bottles for the rest of the day, while the laity enormously enjoyed chicken and Mrs. Leidenfeist’s embarrassment for dinner.

LeeAnnRubsam.com

Anniversary #31

LeeAnnRubsam.com

Today was our wedding anniversary — thirty-one wonderful, adventurous, romantic years together.  Paul provides the wonderful and I provide the adventurous.  The romantic just is.  I thought I’d give a report on our day, so that all of you who don’t have the first idea how to have a great anniversary together will get a few pointers.

Gifts — For weeks I pleaded with Paul to give me some ideas of what he wanted.  My eyes glazed over when he mentioned the technology items.  I don’t do technology.  It mortally confuses me. 

Finally he announced the need for a new set of dress trousers.  I had just about simultaneously gotten the same brilliant idea, having noticed a  huge white wear spot on the pocket of his navy blue slacks just that morning as he stood at the front of the church.  The entire church family saw the need at the same moment I did.  Humility is not something I have to strive over-hard for.  Opportunities abound.

So I thought the problem of an anniversary gift was solved.  Not.  Finding Paul trousers is a monumental challenge.  He is long and thin.  The trousers available have the dimensions switched around.   32 x 34 will work; 34 x 32 will not.  I was still looking today without success.  Fortunately, I had a book stashed away for his birthday, which had to do anniversary duty.

When he hauled out several presents for me, I felt like a heel — until I opened them.

Gift #1 — A homemade Fernando Ortega CD case — without the CD.  “Thank you, Paul.  I have always loved Fernando Ortega’s CD cases.  Usually they come with a CD inside.”

“Oh, did I forget the CD?  Duh.”  He ambled off to his man-den in the basement to retrieve the music portion of the Fernando gift.  He had downloaded the music (legally) from the Internet and made a lovely case and all — just forgot to put the CD in it.

Gift #2 — A Hershey Milk Chocolate-flavored lip balm — with instructions to smear it, but not to eat it.  I normally do not use lip balms.  Petroleum jelly out of a jar serves the same purpose quite effectively.  Beebee asked if I knew how to use lip balm, or if she needed to demonstrate for me.  She probably just wanted the first lick.

Gift #3 — A bag of Lemonheads.  Yes, exactly.  The same candy they sell at swimming pool concession stands.

I now understood why, whenever I had pleaded for gift ideas, Paul had consistently stated he only wanted a bag of circus peanuts and a tube of braunschweiger to fulfill his fondest dreams.  He had hoped to put our gifts on an equal plane.

(The man gave me roses and truffles, too, but Lemonheads and CD-less CD cases are more fun to talk about.)

Other festivities —  We spent a romantic afternoon together at ShopKo Optical.  I have needed new glasses for a while, not being able to see overmuch out of the old ones.  They had a huge 25% off sale, and Paul generously offered to buy me any $49.95 frame in the place.  (Actually, I was the one who opted for the $49.95 pair.  The $99.95 frames looked a little nicer, but the price tag hanging from them wasn’t near as elegant as the one on the $49.95 pair.  I know cool when I see it.)

We dined on petite sirloin at Applebee’s.  It was a weird experience having the cook bring our steaks to the table and stand over us, demanding that we cut it and make sure it was done to our taste.  He refused to leave until we had done so.  It must be a custom peculiar to Applebee’s.  A few minutes later, the waitress came by and asked in a whisper if we had “cut our steak for anyone yet.”  I’ll bet it has nothing to do with whether the steak is done to perfection.   They probably don’t trust the customers to handle knives without supervision until the management is sure they are mature enough to manipulate sharp objects alone.  We were being tested.  I got so nervous I tried to cut with the serrated edge up, but they let me keep my knife anyway.

While I demonstrated my knife-wielding prowess for the cook, precious seconds were lost, and the butter ran off my baked potato and into the zucchini.   I was disappointed.  If they had wrapped that potato in traditional foil, the butter would have stayed put.  Sigh!

We dressed up for our big occasion.  Paul wore a sweater and white jeans (because I could not find dress slacks for his anniversary present, no doubt).  I wore my beautiful hunter-green tunic with the Nehru collar.  I fell in love with it and its $3.00 tag at Goodwill three years ago.  I look ever so chic in it, but have not had the courage to wear it in public, since I don’t see other ladies flaunting football player-size padding in their jacket shoulders right now.  I keep hoping such fashion will come back into style eventually.  (Beebee tells me it is coming back, but only young ladies who have never yet had opportunity to do huge shoulder pads are allowed to wear such things.  Old ladies who had their chance back in the 80’s do not get a second shot at it.  I will never understand the rules of fashion.)  Anyway, I figured nobody at Applebee’s would know me or care, so I wore it and enjoyed myself.  I sashayed around Target after dinner in it, too — again looking for the elusive 32 x 34 trousers necessary to restore my man to respectability.

LeeAnnRubsam.com

Elevator Dialogs

LeeAnnRubsam.com

Hospital elevators are interesting places.  You are stuck with a bunch of other people who might have the next epidemic exuding through their pores and who wouldn’t mind sharing the wealth.  We didn’t get the contagious crowd this last time, however:  we got the nutcases.

I have no idea if they got on at the psychiatric floor, but I know they did not get off there.  As soon as Beebee and I entered and the doors closed behind us, the fun began.

“I eat a whole banana cream pie every night before I go to bed.”  I glanced at the elderly man who announced this randomly to anyone who wanted to know.  He did not weigh 500 pounds.  Either he had the metabolism of a hummingbird or he was at the hospital to have his brain waves tested.  Perhaps he wanted to let us all know what the secret of his longevity was.

One of the elevator riders decided to be nice.  She giggled and replied, “I like banana cream pie, too.”  But she didn’t chirp a peep about eating a whole one every night for bedtime snack.

I restrained myself from commenting that I loathe banana cream pie.  It would not have been sympathetic, and may have made someone angry, which is not a good situation in an enclosed box that cannot be immediately evacuated.  I also restrained myself from asking, “Oh, banana cream pie syndrome.  Is that why you are here?”

The elevator opened at the third floor, and when no one got off, a young man among us asked, “We’re at ground level.  Why aren’t we all getting off?” 

The woman next to him explained, “This is the floor where they have babies, not ground level.”

He thought about that a couple of seconds and then decided the thirst for knowledge must be satisfied.  “Don’t they have babies on all the floors?  I thought they did.”

I’m not sure what was bouncing through his mind, but I was personally glad that baby-bearing was confined to one floor, and that it was not allowed in the elevator, even if nutcases were.

Mrs. Banana Cream Pie then announced, “In our hospital back home, people can’t have babies at all.”  Before I could wonder if they were missionaries temporarily on leave from the African jungles or if they had a huge infertility problem in their area, she volunteered the name of the rural city they came from.  It was the same place that hit the national news twenty years before because  all its grocery stores ran entirely out of ice cream for a day.  (It was a kinder, gentler world back then, when we all cared immensely if some town in Wisconsin didn’t have ice cream for a whole day.)

She went on to explain that people in their town had to drive sixty miles to get to a hospital where they could have babies.  This brought vivid images of certain intolerable scenarios to mind.  I have an idea that no one of child-bearing age lives there anymore.  It is probably entirely inhabited by older people who eat whole banana cream pies before bed each night.

Let’s just hope what happened with the ice cream twenty years ago never repeats itself with banana cream pies, or there could be a violent uprising.

LeeAnnRubsam.com

The Cure for Swine Flu

LeeAnnRubsam.com

I know, I know.  Nobody is freaking out about swine flu anymore.  But, the experts are direly predicting a comeback of this hysteria-producing disease, come autumn.  Consequently, just in case they are right, we should all protect ourselves with a little common-sense preparation.

I’m not sure if everyone knows this, but the surefire antidote to swine flu is bratwurst.  Yes, bratwurst – not the turkey or the beef kind, mind you.  It’s gotta be the pork variety.  It’s a very simple concept: fight swine with swine. 

Before you roll your eyeballs right out of their sockets, think about it.  What did they do to stop the polio epidemic?  They injected everybody with a weakened polio virus.  How did they devastate measles, mumps, and chickenpox?  Same story. 

I’m not suggesting that we inject bratwurst into anyone’s veins.  Swine flu is a most virulent disease, and a weakened dose of pork will not do the job.  The bratwurst must be applied full strength via the digestive system, in large doses.   Besides, immunologists are just beginning to realize that the more fun a vaccine is to take, the more effective it is.  Modern science is wonderful, isn’t it?

This is why in Wisconsin, where we are progressive and savvy about most things, every man, woman, and child will be porking up on bratwurst all summer long.  Cumulative dosage is key to jump-starting the immune system.  Here in the Badger State, we are anticipating eating an average of 39.35 pounds of brats per capita between now and Labor Day. 

You may ask, “Why, if bratwurst is such a wonderful cure, was Wisconsin the #2 state in the nation for swine flu cases in the spring of 2009?”  Obviously, if you have to ask such a question you do not understand the culture and climate.  The swine flu hit before it was warm enough to grill brats outside, and we were caught off-guard.  Besides, you didn’t hear of anybody in Wisconsin being seriously harmed by swine flu, did you?  This is because, as soon as the cases started appearing in hordes at our hospitals, the medical personnel knew exactly what to do.  They started stuffing Nesco roaster-loads of brats down the patients’ gullets.  They power-dosed the victims by force-feeding them quarts of sauerkraut (loaded with vitamin C for immune system boost).  It worked, and they all went home feeling euphoric about the whole recovery experience.  Nary a complaint was heard about the deplorable state of hospital cuisine. 

As everyone knows, not all drug brands are alike.  Sometimes those generic versions do not work as well.  This is why it is important for Americans to understand that not all brats will work equally as effectively in protecting against swine flu.  Johnsonville brats are still at the top of the heap, and their priceyness is well worth it, if you want to stay healthy.  Klements are a somewhat distant second in efficacy, while the low-income or exceptionally frugal-of-heart individuals will have to muddle along the best they can with the greatly inferior store brands. 

A tragic epidemic among people of lower income could be averted if President Obama would merely issue an executive order allowing the federal government to seize ownership of the Johnsonville Sausage Company.  He could then declare free brats for everyone to make sure all is fair and square.   As a by-product, many jobs would be created, as the company would have to go through enormous expansion to meet the demands for all that free food.  The new jobs would mean more income for the IRS to abscond with, thereby creating a bottomless barrel for pork projects dear to the hearts of politicians.  More pork in the barrel would mean more swine flu antidote, and the cycle would spiral ever upward into an increasingly healthy economy. 

So there you have it, folks.  Bratwurst – the answer to all the nation’s problems, from swine flu to the economy.  You heard it here first, and I don’t mind at all if you share it with Wall Street and the American Medical Association.

LeeAnnRubsam.com

Generation Canyon

LeeAnnRubsam.com

Beebee has old parents, and it is hard on her psyche.  Our daughter is the only teenager in her acquaintance whose father retired about the time she hit high school — and it wasn’t because Dad had made his millions, either.

When other people our age were peering over the lip of their empty nest, we discovered, to our great joy, that we were about to be Mama and Daddy again.  I was an old mom masquerading as a young grandma.  The obstetrician had a geriatric specialist standing by at the delivery.

Beebee frequently pleads, “Please don’t ever get old, Mom.”

I know what she means.  She has witnessed her grandparents become window peekers, people who entertain themselves by watching their neighbors through the curtains, much like younger folks watch TV.  I can’t even glance out the window momentarily without creating anxiety in her young mind.

She keeps a sharp eye out for telltale old-people symptoms, hoping that with early intervention she can slow down the slide.  “Mom, Dad isn’t going to make any wood lawn ornaments, is he?  He is revving up the scroll saw.”

“Nope, he’s too busy doing the real woodworking — remodeling the kitchen.  And besides, I’m not into lawn ornaments, which is why I sold his pink flamingos to some other elderly couple at the rummage sale last year.” 

“Yesterday, when we were at McDonalds,  he was carrying on about hamburgers being six for a dollar when he was my age.  I nearly gagged on my French fries.”

“It’s a clever old-people ploy, my dear.  Slather enough guilt on the children and it chokes the expensive appetite right out of them!”

“Promise you won’t ever get old?”

“Promise.  When I’m eighty-five, I will think just as young as I do now.”  (This will have to satisfy her.  It’s the best I can do.  She already views my mid-fifties perspective as beyond ancient.) 

“But … you tell stories … over and over … just like Grandpa did.”  (My father had favorite anecdotes, all from his World War II days.  They were funny, but only the first twenty times or so.  I seem to be following in his footsteps.  It must be in the genes.)

“I have never told the same story more than twice,” I indignantly reply.  “By time number two, you are all rolling your eyes and covering your ears.  I WANT to tell my stories more often than that, and you ought to let me!  Kids, these days!  No respect!” 

Beebee goes on, in this heart-to-heart chat about the child-as-caretaker problem she imagines she has.  “The worst of it, Mom, is your friends.” 

Again, I know exactly what she means.  My acquaintances scare me, too.  Women within a ten year radius of me all want to discuss their health issues, and Beebee has sometimes listened in with horrified amazement.  Fifteen-year-olds should not have to know the ins-and-outs of premenopausal to postmenopausal woes, hemorrhoids, gall bladder attacks, and plumbing surgeries gone awry.  For that matter, I don’t want to know, either, but I have to be polite.

I like to tease the child sometimes, just to see what she’ll say.  “Beebee, when you were born, you were the answer to all of Mom and Dad’s dreams.  We were always afraid that your sister would move away, and she did.  But now we have you to take care of us through our twilight years, our very own in-home health care professional.  Think of it — you don’t have to obsess like other kids do about who you will marry or what you should do for a career.  All your material and emotional needs will be met for decades to come by your wonderful parents — and I plan on being around for at least another forty years.” 

Beebee calculates quickly and realizes in forty years she will be a tad older than I am.  She stalks off with a good-natured “Humpff!  Mom, you’re even scarier than I thought.”

LeeAnnRubsam.com

Eating for Less at Thanksgiving

leeannrubsam.com

I laugh when I see those yearly articles in the newspaper announcing that the price of Thanksgiving dinner is getting beyond what Americans can afford.  This year they are trying  to convince us that the cost per head will run about $4.50 each. I think I can do it for half that or less. No doubt the problem is all the prepackaged this, that, and the other thing.  We don’t do that at our house unless it is cheaper to do so — which is probably one of the reasons I hate cooking Thanksgiving dinner.  Hidden in the following advice for a cheap Thanksgiving, you will find some other reasons as well.

Here is Lee Ann’s sage list for how to do an economical Thanksgiving dinner that tastes good:

Save on water bills by serving all cooked components of the meal right in the pots they were heated in.  It will conserve on dishwater, which translates into $$$ you keep in your pocket.  And you won’t labor over washing so many dishes, either.  This is only a bonus if you are the only dishwashing appliance your house contains (which is my sad condition).

I actually tried serving a la pot for Thanksgiving the first year we were married.  It is the way I normally serve dinner at our house 364 days a year, when we don’t have guests looking on.  I am not one with an appetite for elegance.  However, my mother does hunger for elegance – at least when she eats at my house.  Ever since the first year, I have opted for paying the extra dishwater money.  It saves on disapproving mother-lectures.

Skip the real potatoes and go for the instant mashers.  Buy them cheap at Aldi or Sav-a-Lot.  For that matter, buy everything cheap at one of those two outlets.

My mother, the Thanksgiving connoisseur by which all things must be measured, informed me all through my growing-up years that instant mashed potatoes were “pig slop.”  Well, no, she didn’t really say that, but it was implied.  She never went back a second time to any restaurant that served instant potatoes.

I am the adventurous and sometimes lazy type, though, and thought, “What could be so bad about potatoes that look like bleached wood chips, only cost $.99, and cook up in five minutes?”

The secret to good instant mashers that your kids and your persnickety mother will love is using twice the amount of milk called for, instead of all that water.  Use more flakes, too.  If the potatoes are so runny that they drip off your spoon, Mom will know!  They need to be thick.

The first year I dared to serve them for Thanksgiving, my mother could not tell she was getting instants.  She oohed and aahed over those potatoes.  I confessed their true nature, and the second year she asked, in the days leading up to the big event, if we could have those lovely instant spuds again.

Don’t buy Stove-Top Stuffing.  Make your own.  If you like the stove-top taste and convenience, you will need to have a kid or husband who will not eat the heels of the bread loaf.  Do not throw the heels out for the squirrels.  Peanuts are much more healthful for the little varmints.  Dry those bread heels, break them up into cubes and stick them in air-tight containers until you are ready to use them (unless you enjoy the added protein and flavor of weevils).

If you need a recipe for the proper amount of water and seasonings to make this one turn out right, I’m sure someone listed in Google can help you out.  If not, I’ve got a great recipe.  Call me for blow-by-blow coaching at 1-900-STUFFIN before 5:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.  After 5:00 we will be in the midst of eating, and it will cost you twice the price.

In truth, I only do the homemade stove-top stuff when it’s just my immediate family.  When extended relatives are with us, we do real stuffing in the oven.  My mom does not agree that I do real stuffing, since I refuse to stick it in the turkey’s insides.  I suppose she is right.  If it isn’t stuffing something, technically it isn’t “stuffing” (although if the meal turns out right, some of the relatives will certainly be stuffed when it’s over).  Oh, let’s just call it dressing, then, to keep the peace.

I don’t stuff the turkey’s former intestinal cavity because the idea is repulsive to me.  Think what was in there before!  Besides, if you put the dressing in there, it absorbs blood and fat, all of which I can skim off before using the juice in the dressing I cook in a casserole dish.  Stuffing bird is also a lot more work.  Scraping it out is a lot of work, too.

My mom says my dressing is not as good as hers because I do not stick it in the intestinal cavity.  Perhaps she likes the taste of bone marrow and blood and fat in her dressing.  She has also expressed a loathing for the bits of celery I add in.  I have learned to compromise with her by chopping the celery in large pieces so that she can pick them out before slopping the gravy over the top.

Make your own low-fat gravy.  That runny stuff out of the can is expensive, and it has no substance to it.  When you make your own, make sure it has a few stick-to-your-ribs lumps in it, so that everyone knows it did not come from a can.  Seriously, I don’t have too much trouble with lumps.  If you go to my web site, I’ll give you some tips on perfectly lumpless gravy that will wow even your in-laws — http://www.look-ma-no-lumps.com.

Sara Lee makes pies cheaper than you can — but only at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I used to do pies from scratch.  The mess is deplorable.  Sometimes, so is the result.  I don’t know who Mrs. Smith or Sara Lee are, but they do a bang-up job on pie.  I can only hope their pie ingredients do not come from China.  Melamine or chicken doo-doo in my pie crust does not sound like my idea of a good time.

Volunteer your mom to make the fresh cranberry sauce.  I don’t care too much if my cranberries come out of an Ocean Spray can, but the extended relatives do.  I can’t make the fresh sauce right.  You see, I follow the instructions on the bag, and when I use only the cup of sugar the recipe calls for, it puckers the elderly relatives’ mouths.  My mom is not afraid to put three cups of sugar in, and when she does that, she is happy with the way they taste.  I should do it her way, but it grosses me out, throwing all that sugar in.  So I let her do it and try not to think about all the sugar beets that died for me while eating it.

That, my friends, is how I save money and family relationships at Thanksgiving. 

leeannrubsam.com  

Give Me What??

leeannrubsam.com

My doctor is a drug addict.  You are shocked, I dare say.  But it is not what you think.  I will give her the benefit of the doubt that she is not “on something.”  I mean she is addicted to prescribing drugs. 

For the last twenty years I have endured migraines – nearly daily.  I know how to cope, and they are not the consuming thought of my life, other than when one the size of a tsunami hits.  But the doctor is concerned about my comfort.  This is very kind of her, but I am not fond of the solutions she comes up with. 

“So, you say the migraines are about the same.  How do you manage them?” 

“I use Head On first, ibuprofen if that doesn’t work, and I break out the $30.00-a-pop little white pills you gave me as a last resort, so that I don’t spend an entire day zonked out in my recliner with a barf bucket close at hand.”  (She doesn’t want to know about the barf bucket.  I wish I didn’t have to know about it, either.  It’s a fact of migraine life – if I don’t do the $30.00 pill now and then.)

At the mention of Head On, she rolls her eyes.  I cannot help it if she is not a believer.  What works, works. 

“Migraines do not happen on the forehead.  They say to apply it to the forehead.” 

“So they lied.  I smear it where it needs to go.  They just make the stuff.  We don’t expect them to know how to use it effectively.  I tell you, it’s a winner.  I’m going to buy stock in the company.  Sales are way up since I discovered them.” 

She moves a little closer for effect, and starts to wheedle.  “I can give you something that you can take daily so that you never have to have another migraine.  Wouldn’t that be nice?” 

I shrink back.  “No, I don’t want to take pills everyday. I don’t need that.”  

(I don’t want to tell her that I would not be capable of remembering to take a pill everyday.  She is younger than I am and doesn’t understand about fifties-brain.  Fifties-brain is normal.  All my friends have it, so I know I’m OK.  It’s possible she could misdiagnose me with something dire if she knew about the forgetful moments.  Then she might really want to plug me full of pills – and maybe send me to a social worker besides.  I will never tell her about this blog, either.  That might also cause a date with a social worker.) 

“But you would never have to suffer a headache again!  Why would you not want to take a pill a day?” 

“It’s all about trade-offs.  The last doctor I had told me every time I take a pill, I’m deciding between alleviating a symptom and damaging some part of my body to get rid of the symptom.” 

“You told me the last doctor suggested narcotics for the migraines, too.  He did not know what he was talking about!”

“Which is why I see you now, instead of him.”  (This mollifies her a bit.) 

“There are many varieties of daily medication that I could give you,” she drones on, as if I have not already said no.  “Some are hypertension drugs and some are antidepressants.”  

I stare at her in horror.  My blood pressure is fine, and she wants to mess with it for the sake of migraines I already know how to control.  Antidepressants!  I have friends who take those!  One feels like she has her mouth stuffed full of cotton at all times, and the other breaks out in hives.  Both of them still cry way too much of the time.  I would probably get so happy I would giggle at inappropriate times, which would shock people who erroneously think I am dignified.  I don’t think so! 

“I think I will stick with the occasional little white pill.  I never use more than a couple a month, ibuprofen is effective a lot of the time, and the Head On works fine, as long as I’m not dumb enough to apply it to my forehead — really!”

“But too much ibuprofen is not good for you.”  (Neither would a daily dose of antidepressants or blood pressure meds be, but it’s all in the perspective, I guess.) 

She changes tactics.  “You are stressed?  Or depressed?  Migraines are often related to stress or depression.”  She eyes me sharply, looking for a chink in my armor. 

I am not depressed in the slightest, and I am not going to falsely admit to such a thing, no matter how hot the interrogation gets.  I am feeling a little stressed, though, about whether I am going to get out of this visit free of blood pressure and antidepressant pills.

I finally manage to squeeze out of her the refill I need for the $30.00-a-pop last ditch migraine-stopping pills.  I have been victorious in avoiding the daily dose treatment. 

As I leave the office, the light dawns about why the big pill-push: she probably owns stock in several pharmaceutical companies and wants to boost their business.  Maybe it would be better for all concerned if she invested in Head On.

leeannrubsam.com

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