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today is Nov. 29...

Sunday, November 29, 2015
...which is my mom's birthday. She died in 2009. I've been thinking about her all day, mostly because it is her birthday. I would call her and sing the Birthday Song if I could. It was a difficult relationship at best, and she could be a hard person get close to if she choose to keep you at arm's length. But if she wanted to befriend you, you knew you had a devoted friend for life.

I try to remember to put a little memorial notice in the hometown paper every year to celebrate her birthday, as well as a notice close to the day she died in January. Usually there is a sweet poem, or interesting quote or a meaningful Bible verse, along with a photo. But this year, the wording after her name and the dates, just said 'we love you'.

I was talking to a customer today who is 'way too chatty, always provides too much information about her family and personal matters. She was talking about her mom who came over and brought food on Thanksgiving - that she would not eat, and put in the trash, saying her mom does not keep her house very clean. Sort of 'trash talking' about her mom, who I know and: yes, she might be a tad off-center.

I know people like that, and am very wary of eating anything that comes out of the kitchen of a person who does not keep counters and floors relatively clean, or licks the spoon repeatedly while stirring. But I wanted to tell her: 'my mom's gone, you need to try to be more thankful while yours is still around.' So if you still got your mom, you should stop what you are doing, and call her - right now.

amusing four year old...

Friday, November 27, 2015
... belonging to the adult kids of my cousin. I saw the cousin briefly, yesterday when we were both in Decatur not celebrating Thanksgiving together. But in almost in the same place at the same time, close enough to have a little visit while we were holiday'ing with progeny, now fully functioning adults.

She always has photos of grandchildren to share, and occasionally a funny story. We saw a short video she had saved from when the son, wife and little peoples were visiting her home in October. That cute little girl has obviously been carefully observing as adults have been reading story books. In the video, the four year old sat in a chair, with the book in her lap, open for the viewers to see the illustrations, and proceeded to 'read' her made up story to  her audience. It was an adult book, meaning one with lots of text and very few pages that would interest the non-reader. Yet she proceeded to 'read' it to her 2 year old brother, expecting and assuming he would be totally riveted by her tale. She was so serious and determined to have him pay attention, it was hilarious.

Then her grandmother told about another time when the four year old was telling story, completely out of her fertile imagination. Making it all up out of her head, as best we know. It went on and on and on and the little one kept rambling about the characters she had invented. Then it suddenly came to an unexpected end, when she reported: "and then the government shut down". Where in the world did that come from? Obviously something she picked up from conversations amongst adults. As my mom would say:  'Little pitchers have big ears'... which means... I have no idea, but surely applicable here.....

dead days...

... is the week between Thanks/Fall break and finals for schools on the semester system. Apparently a period of time when instructors are limited in what they can demand from students headed into the final stretch. No papers or projects due during that week to give students a little breather, before they start cramming info. into their brains for the testing period that determines pass or fail. This is all new to me, such an oldster my higher education was done back during the 'quarter' era, as opposed to the more current/in vogue semester plan.

I thought dead days, or dead week, was that time between Christmas and New Years when you could take a deep breath and slowly exhale, without feeling like you needed to be more productive. A time when the hustle and bustle was over,  holiday shopping and gift giving were history. When there is nothing that desperately needs attention, no busy-ness on the agenda with a sense of urgency attached.  All that is left is the slowly creeping dread of knowing the credit card bill will eventually slip through the mail slot and it will be time to pay the piper.

I heard a hilarious message from someone on our church staff several years ago, based on 'dead week', when most of his fellow workers were taking vacation time, and he got left to prepare a sermon for the Sunday that fell in the middle of those two holidays. We were amused by a clip from the movie "Princess Bride", with Billy Crystal using blacksmith bellows to bring someone back to life. Though the person in question appeared corpse-like, the character Billy played insisted only 'nearly dead', and proceeded to bring the lifeless back from the great beyond. I continually hope to get a replay of that message each year, when we get to the Sunday that occupies a space in 'dead week'.

Eternally optimistic, always hoping church will be amusing as well as informative and enlightening...

over the river...

Thursday, November 26, 2015
...and through the woods... (delete the river part). Getting ready to travel for Thanksgiving lunch. Looking forward to family gathering. Having said to lots of customers in the workplace how sweet it is to have all your favorite people sit down to a meal. Can't think of anything I enjoy more. See there: it don't take much to make me happy.

I finished my squash casserole last night and put it in the oven just now. Had a hard time deciding how much to make - it's really good leftover, and I could easily eat it for lunch for a week. But only have a small 9 x 9 casserole dish, so hope that will be enough to feed the group that will show up with napkins tucked under their chins.

The pumpkin pie has been in the freezer for a couple of days, ready to travel. I actually made three. Came in from work yesterday with the intention of making two more, to give away to friends. So I stirred them up and delivered one to a friend who works at church, and the other to a couple who host community group/home church each week. Saying 'you can eat too much and still have room for a slice of pie, since it is mostly air'.

I had decided to make a couple more pies, and knew I did not want to stand in that interminable check out line. The place where people appear to not know Turkey Day is coming until the day before it arrives. So they all come barreling in the grocery store on the Wed. before Thurs. and buy these huge frozen turkeys  that take days to thaw. Somehow expecting to feed the crowd twenty-four hours later. Grocery carts brimming with enough to feed a battalion.

 I got my pie ingredients when I went in to work at 6:00.  And walked to the front of the store to pay as soon as they unlocked the front door at 7:00 (this from the person who swore to not to be buying food/ingredients on the day before Thanksgiving), so I would not be gnashing my teeth behind customers who had hundreds of dollars worth of goods. And was fortunately out of there before noon, at home stirring up the wonderful fluffy pumpkin pie to share with friends.

too suspenseful...

...a couple of movies I have taken myself to recently. One was yesterday, when I went to a matinee to see the latest (and I assume the final installment of the series) version of 'Hunger Games'. It may be due to my not watching television, and out of the habit of anxiety over invented/scripted crises. Or it could be that I am person who is just not well suited to worrying about things I cannot control. (Like the man I live with who frets over weather conditions and things going on all over the planet weather-wise that he sees on TV and can do nothing about except talk and worry.

I'm assuming it was the end of the story, since two of the major players died - and there is finally peace in the kingdom, with a ruler that everyone agreed upon. But there were places in the movie, sitting there in the dark, on about the fourth row, right in the middle too close to the screen so I could not duck down and hide from danger: I thought of leaving. I wanted to see it, wanted to know what was going on, but while it was happening I was really uncomfortable. Not wanting to insert 'spoiler' here, I will not give details, but there was a point when they were underground, in the dark and up to their necks in water, listening to creepy sounds, when I am pretty sure my hears skipped a beat or too.

The other movie recently viewed was The Martian. I think I knew the screenplay was based on a book. And now know I should have read the book instead, so I could just put in a book mark and walk away when I needed a breather! Like being shipwrecked times a gazillion. Knowing you will die from a thousand different problems - just not knowing which one will the that final zinger that will do you in. The character played by Matt Damon was a remarkably resourceful guy, as is anyone who qualifies for the astronaut program. But there were times when I thought: I need to be able to exhale and slow my pulse, breathe in and out, relax from all these problems piling on top of each other.

It all worked out in the end. He lived to mentor the next generation of potential space travelers. But it was maybe the sort of thing I should be viewing from the safety of my couch, cozily ensconced in the comfort of my own home. Protected from all dangers that scriptwriters dream up. Where I can cover my head with the blanket if necessary.

kiva...

Wednesday, November 25, 2015
... is a non-profit I have been supporting for a couple of years. Making loans to people who are trying to improve their lives, and provide for their families. How it works: www.Kiva.com  (501c) serves as the 'middle man',a go-between that connects the haves with the have-nots. The individuals, or possibly groups of people, in places who do not have the means or access to traditional banks, will contact Kiva and provide information about themselves. And share plans/goals they have for their small business or cottage industry.

These individuals, the people asking for support, will be doing things like operating a lawn maintenance business, or running a small store from the front room of their homes. Maybe wanting to start raising livestock: chickens, pigs, beef, rabbits to sell to neighbors as a source of protein, and need fencing and food for their animals. Possibly wanting to purchase yard goods for sewing clothing, or an industrial sewing machine to produce goods faster.  But needing financial resources to get the tools for success.

I think I have loaned out the same $25 eight or nine times, and it keeps coming back. It's kinda' like "Flat Stanley" and his travels: my money has been to Samoa, Peru, and Kenya in Africa. I get a notice when my funds have been repaid, with the Kiva team asking me to put it back in circulation and send it out again. I tend to loan to females and often filter to find people who are sewing or doing native crafts for sale. Just personal preference.

I need to give credit to my kids for telling me about Kiva. I have long been interested in the principle of  micro-loans. I also believe that women with dependents, who are trying to run a business to provide for their families are likely to be reliable, dependable, and smart money managers. My twenty five dollars that has circled the globe several times is less than lunch money for the week. I say: why not brown-bag it, and put your funds into a Kiva loan?

We are so amazingly blessed, living here in under the protection of the US Constitution. In warm safe homes, with electricity and clean potable water on demand. Lots to be thankful for...

thankfulness...

Monday, November 23, 2015
...is not seasonal event with me. I can always find something that I consider an opportunity to count my blessings. Usually little inconsequential mundane things that we seldom take the time to notice. If you have been reading for a while, you are aware of periodic musings that reflect on some of those things we tend to 'take for granted' until some thing occurs to catch our attention, make us aware.

Today, I wrote in my Little Book of Thankfulness this morning that I am thankful for: hot water heaters and indoor plumbing. I plugged in my little electric space heater that does a super job of warming the bathroom before I have to peel my layers off. And had nearly instant hot water when I started the shower. Surely you can bring to mind any number of places in the world where people do not have hot water on demand. Or potable water at all, walking great distances to a source where the water is not safe to drink, and hauling it daily to use for washing, cooking, drinking, basic necessities. Where in our culture, we have come to expect fresh safe water on demand.

When I got to work, I told my boss abut my Little Book of Thankfulness. Reporting he is in my book: how thankful I am for a manager who is an agreeable, reasonable, pleasant person to work for. He agreed that he has worked under people who could be difficult, demanding and hard to deal with.

This afternoon, I had a phone call. A story about someone who had a relative who got a DUI last night and spent the night in jail. So  in addition to all of the above: I am thankful for young adult daughters who do not drink to excess or much at all, and certainly do not drink and drive. And did not spend the night in jail sobering up - or call me to come and get them out. Also thankful for daughters who do not find themselves employed in places where they are required to take their clothes off to earn a living.

wishing i had seen more...

...but the light changed and I did not want to listen to the people behind me with their irate honking. So I moved on through the intersection to get to the appointment in the nick of time. But watching the guy with the heavy yellow equipment in action was fascinating.

The vehicle was on big tracks like you see on caterpillars (or army tanks), but it did not look awkward, actually remarkably smooth. Like the videos you see of tanks traveling at full speed across the desert during the early days of the Iraq war. Moving much faster than you would think something that weighs tons could travel.

There was a bucket, with teeth on the end of the 'elbow' he was using to dig into a big pile of dirt. The dirt looked fresh, like it had been brought in by a truck and dumped to be use as fill. So the guy with the bucket, that had metal 'teeth' along the bottom edge, was transferring dirt from the pile into a depression. I guess it was a backhoe, but on tracks instead of mounted on a tractor. There was another guy with a front end loader, picking up huge pieces of concrete from a building foundation and putting in the back of a dump truck.

It was amazingly 'graceful', so smooth it did not look like a huge, twenty ton machine in operation - but rather a well-rehearsed dance, with carefully choreographed moves of a ballet. I wish I had been able to sit and watch these guys at work, they made it look so smooth and easy to the untutored eye. I've always been fascinated by HeavyYellowEquipment and would love to be able to operate backhoes and front end loaders, digging holes and chugging around on tracks.

 The area where they were working was at one time a huge brick building that covered more than a city block. Originally a mill or clothing manufacturing site, but had been damaged by fire, and occupied by vagrants in recent years. I am guessing someone will develop the land, and likely build apartments, dense housing.

you might remember....

Sunday, November 22, 2015
... reading about this fluffy pumpkin pie around Thanksgiving last year? But if you did not write it down, or more likely just recently checking for amusement here, I feel compelled to repeat. I have all the makings and will probably put it together this afternoon, and tuck in the freezer until time to travel on Thursday. Go ahead and get it out of the way while I have plenty of time. My assignments for Thanksgiving lunch are pie and squash casserole.

I tell people who will listen that it is possible to make a pumpkin pie without actually including any pumpkin. Due to the amount of pumpkin pie spice you stir in, though it will be somewhat more fair/pale than it would be if using all the ingredients. Plus there is the graham cracker crust, that would be good with most any substance you choose to add, short of sawdust or tree bark.

The recipe is glued to an index card, and appears to have originated with Keebler Ready Crust people, but references several other name brands. Calls for Jello Instant Pudding and Cool Whip, so they might be part of the Keebler family. But any store brand would work just as well, as long as you keep the proportions fairly consistent.

Creamy Pumpkin Pie

1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup cold milk
1 package (six servings) Jello Vanilla flavored instant pudding and pie filling
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (includes nutmeg, allspice & cinnamon, so you could add separately)
3 1/2 cups thawed Cool Whip topping
Keebler Ready Crust Graham Cracker pie crust

Combine pumpkin, milk, pudding mix, and pie spice in a small bowl. Blend with wire whisk for one minute until mixed well. Fold in 2 1/2 cups whipped topping (I use the whole 8 oz. bowl). Spoon into pie crust. Freeze until firm, top with remaining whipped topping if desired. Take it out of the freezer ahead of time to make slicing easier, but store in freezer or it will get soupy.

See... the actual pumpkin is optional! It is so light and fluffy, you can overeat and still have room for a piece of pie.

either highly amusing...

Saturday, November 21, 2015
...or completely horrifying. The recipe for Mac'n'Cheese I found in a magazing recently read in a waiting room someplace. I asked the staff to make me a copy, so I would not rip the page out of the Good Housekeeping. My kids would be thoroughly horrified that someone would mess up a perfectly good recipe by including a vegetable on the list of ingredients. 

To find it entertaining you have to know a bit of history: as a mom I was forever hoping to feed my family something nutritious. It is probably in the job description, where it says Food Pyramid or Basic Food Groups. The sort of thing you would learn in Home Ec. classes in high school in a previous century. 'Designing a Balanced Meal' according to the pie chart that has a certain percentage devoted to vegetables, a different amount given over to carbs and starchy foods, and a smaller wedge allotted to meat/protein.

My variation on that particular theme was a continual effort to smuggle in vegetables to little people who would go to great lengths to avoid healthy eating. I was forever grating up carrots to sneak into the spaghetti sauce or pot of chili, or adding grated zucchini to the soup. Over time, they learned to be very wary, closely inspecting their food prior to forking it up. Lately it's been more onions and celery added to a wide variety of carbs, things like cous-cous, rice, pasta dishes. Squeezing in the healthy stuff where ever I see a wee little place to insert a vegetable.

Reading the recipe in the Good Housekeeping, I am sure it caused me to laugh out loud when I discovered it actually calls for grated carrots in the ingredients. I thought I was the Only One, and find cooking experts and professional food prep people adding carrots to such a dish highly unlikely. Honestly, you really cannot taste the carrots. You do notice, as they are a completely different shade of orange from the cheddar cheese, but really, truly, does not alter the flavor of the dish.

Carrot-y Macaroni and Cheese
12 oz. elbow pasta (or your choice of shape, I think teeny shells would be good)
3 cups shredded carrots
1/2 cup low fat milk
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 cups finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
3/4 cup Greek yogurt w1/8 tsp. salt

Cook the pasta  as directed, adding carrots to boiling water just before draining. In large sauce pan, heat milk and garlic powder. Slowly stir in cheeses, until melted and smooth. Remove from heat, whisk in yogurt and salt. (You may wish to add a bit of hot sauce - but I won't, but I might give it a little prepared mustard). Toss in pasta and carrots. Serves 6. Crazy sounding, but pretty good. Garnish with parsley if desired.

I'm still looking for the perfect mac. and cheese recipe...

up early to go...

Thursday, November 19, 2015
...into a class I signed up for several months ago. Offered by a local hospital as a continuing education opportunity, that will hopefully reduce my cost of auto insurance. When I paid the most recent bill I thought to myself: 'this seems like more than I have been paying every six months for coverage?' After checking payment history, I find that it had increased considerably, and decided it was due to the 'good driver' discount being discontinued.

Sadly, upon contacting the continuing education program at the local hospital, I found that the entire cont. ed. program had been eliminated due to severe financial woes. Recent news reports indicated that the after an audit the medical facility found they were thirty million dollars in the red. That really sounds unlikely - how can an outfit with an entire bookkeeping/accounting department full of people who constantly check on expenses and income/ balance the ledgers loose thirty million bucks? That sounds more than a little suspicious to me.

One of their cost cutting measures was to completely eliminate their 'communications department'. So no continuing education classes to help their patients. No informational programs to benefit the community. No driver education programs to help me get a discount? Well, not quite that extreme. But according to the one person left in the office to answer the telephone and assist consumers, the only program they currently offer is this one through AARP, for senior drivers. Set up before the whole department was dismantled.

Which is why I am up and ready to go in to the driver education class, ready to spend the day trying to keep my eyes propped open. Hopefully not fall out of my chair. Devote seven hours to a class that would put an insomniac to sleep with repetitive information about safety practices behind the wheel. All to get a ten percent discount on my auto insurance.

unbeknowst to me...

Wednesday, November 18, 2015
...at the time, it was a profoundly poor decision to scratch around and find a sub. teaching job for today. I went to a elementary school to replace a first grade teacher. If you know me, you have heard the expression: 'I would rather drop a brick on my toe than (fill in the blank)'. Today was most definitely one of those 'rather than' days. More than once I found myself opening the connecting door to the adjacent class room to ask the teacher who knows all the students to come in and help me get it under control. She was most willing to get them settled down again, but it did  not seem to last.

I don't know what the problem was  - and guess it was at least fifty percent me. I could not manage them. There were about two dozen six year olds - how difficult can that be? The answer is very. By the middle of the day - not even yet noon, I went to get the next door neighbor and said:' I don't think I can do this'. She said: 'they go to lunch in ten minutes.'

So I thought to myself that I can stand anything for ten minutes. Which was possible, but then that left the rest of the day to wrangle them into submission. I told them after lunch that if they could get their work done, we could go out on the playground for a bit  - which would have been as much a kindness to me as to them. But we never got there, so were in the classroom until they finally left in drips and dribbles for walking, car riding, or bus pickup, the last of them leaving at 3:10.

It started raining before I could get home, at times so hard it was difficult to see the roadway - good weather to go to bed and pull the covers up over my head.

true happiness...

Tuesday, November 17, 2015
"Realize that true happiness lies within yourself.
Waste no time and effort searching for peace and contentment and joy in the world outside. Remember that there is no happiness in having or in getting, but only in giving.
Reach out.
Share.
Smile.
Hug.
Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others out on others without getting a few drops on oneself."                                                        
 ~   attributed to Og Mandino

"the only normal people.."

"The only normal people are the ones you don't know very well."
                                                      ~ Alfred Adler, Austrian psychologist (1870-1937)

Having long had the opinion that we ALL come from dysfunctional families, I am  more convinced each day that there is no such thing as 'normal'. The reason we believe other people might/may be leading 'normal' lives is due to the blessed fact that we are not privy to their private activities, things they do when they are certain no one will know/see what goes on behind closed doors. Most of which we should be thankful we do not know about, coming under the heading of TMI. Fortunate that they are not sharing things we really don't need to know. Like the co-worker who was telling about needing to make a dr. appt., so she could report that her 'implants were leaking'. I'm sure I did not need to know that, and cannot imagine any other casual acquaintance who would feel differently.

Growing up, we all believe the places we live, homes we inhabit, families we are surrounded by are, for the most part 'normal'. As children we accept the circumstances of our lives and relatives at face value, their attributes and quirks as nothing out of the ordinary. As we grow, we gradually begin to widen our circle, develop friendships. That provide opportunities to explore relationships, get a glimpse into homes and lives different from our own experience.  Peeking in from the outside, as if peering in the windows, observing people to whom we are not bound by DNA. Gradually becoming aware that other families have a different version of 'normal'.

Looking back, my childhood was in some ways remarkably ordinary and conventional. But also not. Experiences that shaped my psyche linger still, and have affected every relationship through out my life. And continue to have an impact today, many years later. The people who made me who I am continue to have a profound impact -- in many ways positive. I treasure the memories and history of grandparents and parents who shaped my life, people of strong moral character and high standards. People who would consistently do the right thing, regardless of personal risk. I continue to be thankful for those people in my life, providing the history of compassion and good deeds, serving their families, communities with their efforts to make the world a better place.

But  were they normal?  What is normal, anyway?

not yet cooked: brussels sprouts...

Monday, November 16, 2015
...but it is surprisingly good. I had a taste when I was leaving work yesterday and stopped by the food give-away. The fellow-cook was making a chicken dish, with the sprouts as a side. I have never been a fan of sprouts, as I remember it being a bitter/sour tasting item when cooked beyond recognition and served in the lunchroom when I was a kid.

But lately, have had reason to change my opinion. First time: eating them in Austin in a café that had sidewalk seating. They were flash fried, lightly sprinkled with sea salt. Oh, my goodness. The outer leaves were browned and crispy and they were so tasty.

And more recently, when they would be sliced in half and roasted in the oven, with a bit of olive oil to keep moist, and probably coarse salt and fresh ground pepper. I probably ate 'way too much, in a desperate effort to keep them from possibly being thrown out. Or maybe I brought home a container with left overs and ate the remainder cold?

The recipe I will be preparing today calls for feta cheese, which I would never choose to put on anything that was going in my mouth. (I probably need to put it on that list of  'things I hope I never eat again' that includes oreos and pecan pie.) But the sample I had yesterday was surprisingly good.

Oregano pesto Brussels sprouts

1 pound Brussels sprouts, quartered
1/4 coup basil pesto
1 tsp. chopped garlic
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup crumbled tomato/basil feta cheese

Trim and quarter the sprouts, combine with pesto and garlic until evenly coated.
Preheat large saute pan on medium for 2-3 minutes. Place oil in pan, then add sprouts, cook and stir 7-8 minutes until tender. Chop oregano. (Put leaves in measuring cup or small bowl, and dice finely with kitchen shears.)
Remove pan from heat, top with cheese and oregano, serve warm.

looking at life...

Wednesday, November 11, 2015
... thinking about being a responsible adult. Talking to a friend, trying to hook up for lunch today. She has an adult son who was in a really bad auto accident some years ago, remarkable that he survived. She considers him a walking miracle. Though he continues to have some lingering effects, especially mentally with processing information. And occasionally struggles with communication issues.

I was telling her that one of the things none of us realize as we are now those mature capable adults we never really expected to become, is how frightening it can be when you wake up one day to find you are 'self-responsible'. I muddle through life doing the best I can, taking care of business at home or in the work place, feeling competent at all the varied tasks I complete in the course of each day. But rarely taking the time to consider how much I don't enjoy the actual fact of being the Responsible Adult. One of those things you do without conscious thought.

And you stop and wonder, then have to think: 'how did I get here?' When your brain still thinks you are half the age your body has become. And then your various joints, frame and organs begin to betray your preconceived notion of youth! What? I can't be falling apart! I'm not ready, and certainly not old enough to begin to show the effects of this many years...

updated update...

...on that same bum knee. I had an appt. with the chiro. guy on Tuesday afternoon. Not sure how well it works, or even if I think it is beneficial at all. I do believe in the power of the placebo effect, and personally convinced there are times when you can benefit from just the idea of  believing something is beneficial.

So I went on Tuesday, as you might expect, he wants me to come back. Twice a week for 'adjusting' then we will see how it goes from there. I'm feeling compelled to give it a chance, knowing that all this limping about has definitely altered my gait, and altered the way I walk, bringing about another set of problems. Feelin like the 'favoring' of the disadvantaged knee has already begun to cause stress and strain elsewhere in my person.

But then I had an appt. with the orthopedic clinic today, a return visit to the specialty-parts guy I have seen several times since the first of the year. I made the appt. a couple of weeks ago, after lying in bed, awake, far too long one dark night. And pondering the universe, along with my aching joints. Decided it is crazy for me to continue to self-medicate and think I can continue along this route for another twenty or thirty years. Concluding that the constant application of generic Tylenol daily for the next several decades does not seem like the best path.  Similar to that  quote about grudges: 'holding a grudge is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die'. I know it need to be doing something that really has an impact, instead of obliviously going about treating the symptoms.

I got in the little cubicle and told him I wanted to talk about options. He suggested he could get a Long, Huge, Scary needle and draw some of the fluid off the knee that has been inflamed/swollen since January. And insert some cortisone with another Long, Huge, Scary needle.

It was like a lamb (Me!) to the slaughter. I laid down on the table, and they swabbed my knee with Lidocaine, and proceeded. It was Amazing. He used two of the little vessels/containers that snap onto the Long, Huge, Scary needle and pulled about 45 cc of yellow colored liquid (called synovial fluid) off. It looked remarkably like cooking oil, about the color of olive oil, and the same consistency. The poked me again to put in cortisone. Not nearly as excruciating as I remember from last time, back in January.

Wrapped it in ace bandage and sent me on my way. Thanks to comprehensive medical insurance which probably pays hundreds of dollars for that ten minute procedure and another hundred for ace bandage. I asked for the name of the yellow stuff that was obviously the reason the knee does not bend, work properly. The nurse said it is the result of trauma, and after googling find it is normal in joints, serving as a lubricant, but has apparently built up to the point of being detrimental in excess.

update on bum knee...

Tuesday, November 10, 2015
...that has been going to the chiropractor again. A different guy. Making me think I should have been taking it to the female chiro. that I really like and have not been to in a couple of years. Just prefer going to a female instead of having a man poking and prodding me. This joint has been a pain for the better part of a year: orthopedic dr., therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic have not had any noticeable effect. But it occurred to me last week that I need to be doing something to find a solution, rather than limping around on a trick knee for the next twenty years.

I went back today, for the second appt. As expected, he asked if I could tell any difference. And as expected, I was undecided. There are times when it does not hurt at all, and times when I am anxious about taking the next step thinking it will be miserable. I'm not sure it has been effective, and not sure you can notice improvement after only two 'adjustments'.

But willingly admit that the one I saw for the first time last week seemed to be much more interested in providing some relief. Did a more thorough inquiry into history, and spent more time in the exam room, adjusting to try to get things back in the proper balance/order after  months of varying degrees of misery. I'm supposed to have two appointments for several weeks, then perhaps just once a week if/when we decide it has been beneficial, though it is possible he could pronounce me 'cured' when the insurance coverage runs out!

there were people...

Monday, November 9, 2015
...at my house when I got home from travels on Saturday night. Knowing they were coming for the weekend made me somewhat reluctant to go away, but the plans had been laid, so I left, knowing some of my favorite folks would be coming into town. Here, waiting when I did return.

This amusing guy loves to tinker, enjoys doing things that keep him busy. Reminds me for the world of my dad, who could find the most things to do, just a thousand little 'honey-do' odd jobs that are forever popping up and need attention. In the way there always seems to be, for a homemaker, a button that needs sewing on, or hem in need of repair, or a pocket with a hole that surreptitiously leaks all your change out. This guy can  find things like drains that need un-plugging, or door knobs that need tightening or squeaky hinges that need a squirt of WD40. Stuff that you did not even know needed attention

When I got back to the house on Saturday I discovered my wheelbarrow completely disassembled. In a multitude of pieces lying in the floor in the workshop/store room. He had done a little repair on the wheelbarrow back earlier in the year, and apparently decided it needed an overhaul. So he took it apart and painted all the rusty metal: forks, supports, wheel. Spraying all the moving parts with lubricant, and has put it back together. Nice and sparkly, good as new.

Funny wheelbarrow story: you cannot do the right thing when deciding what to buy. I had one for years that had wooden forks, those two long pieces that go under the bowl/barrow part, that you lift by the ends/handles to take the tool where you need for transporting a load. Left it outdoors, propped up against the house, thinking I was doing the right thing, where it was somewhat protected from the weather by a wide roof overhang. But over time the termites got into the ends of the wood, and eventually made the thing useless. I took it to my smart, handy, clever dad who rebuilt the ends of the wood, where the forks come together over the wheel, and I continued to use it for a number of years.

When it finally rusted out, and I was pondering what to replace it with, discovering lots of options, comparing types of bowls: plastic versus metal. Then looking at different types of forks: wood versus metal. And types of wheels: pneumatic versus solid rubber. And of course costs. Finally deciding to go with metal and a hard, heavy duty plastic bowl.

One of the first things I did was use a saw and cut into the plastic bowl, accidently of course, but still.... arrggghhh. When I laid something over the bowl to use it as a support base to have a steady surface to trim a piece wood.... and sliced into the upper edge of the wheelbarrow with the saber saw, in addition to chewing through the wood...

safe travels....

Sunday, November 8, 2015
...back home after a pleasant trip, nothing unexpected. Always thankful for safe travels and getting back to my own space without incident.  Returned to ATL around 6 on Sat. afternoon. And back home in time to brush my teeth and land in my own bed.

In VA, I went over to Williamsburg for lunch on Friday. It was a beautiful fall day, and a pleasant ride through the woods. Trees lining the road, with bright fall colors everywhere. Lunching on the sidewalk, adjacent to the old, reconstructed, refurbished original area of Colonial history. Bought some postcards (you are not surprised, right?) and got them in the mail on Saturday.

Family came over for dinner on Friday night: lots of busy-ness with little people, and sweet time of togetherness with extended family when younger generation came to share a meal together. It was pretty quick, as I had forgotten how little ones need to go to bed fairly early (to maintain sanity of parents, among other things). They whirled in, ate, had a short visit, and bustled out again to get home and tuck the under four set in for the night.

Actually got in little 'weed pulling therapy' on Saturday, when there was a work day on the grounds of the nearby Baptist church. We did some raking, hedge trimming, limb whacking. As my mom would say: 'many hands make light work', so got quite a bit accomplished before the rain started around 10.

A trip to the downtown area, to visit a farmer's market and check out the Brunswick Stew cook off. I sampled several from different cookers - and surprised to find the one I liked the best was from a group that had made the trip from Brunswick GA! It was a drizzly day, but nice to ride around town and see the sights: lots of fall color in the trees, especially bright yellow ginkos planted in downtown landscaping. Lots of history in Richmond, the Capitol of the Confederacy. Many generals on pedestals at intersections, statuary of people of historic significance in public parks and squares, buildings and train  depots preserved for posterity from previous centuries. Lots of pretty architecture.

Sleeping in my own bed is hard to beat!

flyin'...

... from ATL to Richmond to spend a couple of days with folks I really like but seldom see. Enjoyed a nice visit with those people after about an hour in the air. Probably takes longer to get from the parking lot to the boarding gate than the actual flying time.

You know the drill you get from the stewards about safety precautions. All the cautionary tales and dire warnings before you can get underway. About oxygen masks, or what to do if there is an unexpected water landing. The vest is under your seat, and you need to pull the little red handle after you tighten the waist strap. If the handle does not inflate your personal floatation device, you need to blow in the little red tube to inflate it yourself. Then she said: "if that doesn't work, it's just not your day." So... prepare to sink or tread water for hours on end.

And after warning us about how things in the overhead compartments might not be in precisely in the same place as they were when the doors were closed, she explained how the luggage can move as the airplane ascends, makes a turn or descends. She said: 'shift happens'. I guess I was the only one who was amused, when I thought of those so commonly seen bumper stickers years ago, reminding us all with a minor obscenity that  's**it happens'.

drivin' in the city...

Wednesday, November 4, 2015
... helped me to remember why I have no desire to live in Atlanta. I came up this afternoon, and drove across the west side of town to go up and visit a friend who lives in Marietta. Meaning I drove quite a distance in that traffic that is either driving too fast, whizzing along on the six lane wide interstate highway. Or clumped together, inching along at 4 m.p.h., wondering what the hold up can possibly be causing us to be barely moving.

So if I should take complete leave of my senses, and accidently, inadvertently think of making move to live in the City: remind me about how it takes an hour to drive twenty miles to get from one end of town to the other. Before traffic slowed to a crawl, I was getting 63 m.p.g. in my little Toyo. Jealous?

last dayof the literacy tutoring...

... was sort of anti-climatic. The kids read "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" book by Eric Carle. The one I remember reading to my kids was a smaller version, a board book easily managed by small chubby hands with chunky fingers. It also had severely frayed yarn that represented the caterpillar as it went from page to page, feeding it's way through a variety of foods. After hatching from a tiny white egg, it ate a hole through an apple, two pears, three plums, four oranges, and a variety of other items including a hot dog, a cupcake and a wedge of watermelon.

My two little readers had two other adults come this week and read the book to them, complete work sheets designed to reinforce some part of what they learned: letters, colors, beginning word sounds. And there will be two more for the last two days of the week. One of my girls said she did not like to color, which is what the reinforcing work required, so we were done in record time. I told her I would not be seeing her again, as the last day of the assigned eight weeks for me would be on Veteran's Day when schools will be closed.

Sadly, I am not convinced that the concerted efforts of five different individuals coming to the school for five mornings over a period of two months has had much impact. But I do not know how the possibility of improvement is evaluated, so not sure whether they have improved their skills or not. If there are learning disabilities or the desire to learn to understand written language is not there, I'm not sure how would go about instilling the curiosity and desire to develop skills necessary to decipher the baffling symbols.

I just got an email today from someone who is involved with the local Ferst Foundation, that provides reading materials for children to help improve literacy: a book a month for the first five years. They feel like the intervention being done with kids who are pre-K, Headstart and Kindergarten is not occurring at a young enough age, as well as insufficient to improve skills and break the cycle. And therefore are making a effort to partner with other groups who have similar goals with a desire to unify efforts and become more efficient at delivery of programming.

Who's up reading at 11:20 p/m/ ?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015
... while I am still sitting here typing? I need to get to bed, in anticipation of my last day of doing the literacy tutoring program for four year olds. It actually goes on for another week,  but luck of the draw: next Wednesday is Veteran's Day here in the U.S.A. We will put out the red/white/blue bunting, wave our flags and honor those who have served to defend our liberty. As well as give them a free pass at the Golden Corral buffet: all you can eat!

Just wondering who is up at this time of  night reading the musings? Not likely anyone in the Eastern Standard Time zone, where it is dark by six o'clock, due to having fallen off Daylight Savings Time last weekend. Just wondering...???? And now it's 11:45. Why are you not in bed???

reallly a creeeepy idea...

..that is reality in call centers in foreign countries. The book I read recently by Paul Theroux, a collection of short stories (actually just three) about India. So realistic and such likely portrayals of true life, it is easy to believe these things could and really do happen. One of the stories will make the hair on your head stand on end. Involving a bad man that came to a bad end due to an uncontrollable elephant. No more details necessary.

The tale that lingers in my mind was about a young woman who sort of fell into a job working in a call center. She was from the US, had finished college and was taking a  year off to travel, wander, enjoy experiencing the world. Her friend/traveling companion bailed, she found herself on her own, traveling as a white, female, relatively wealthy, smug, independent, single in India = a recipe for disaster. But fairly uneventful as she traveled to an ashram and settled into a life of peaceful serenity of the mundane daily tasks required for a resident in a reflective, meditative environment.

This girl, Alice, gets a job training native Indians in the syntax and colloquialisms of common American English - really a different language from the stilted, archaic classical Brit-speak English most natives learn in Indian schools. And really does her job so well, those call center workers can fool the people who are coming to them with their problems with technology. Whether the 'first world' people with their modern appliances are having problems with their washers and stoves or computers and smart phones, the workers at the call centers have the language as well as tech skills to have the callers believe they are right next door.

Which makes me always ask when I call those toll free 800 numbers: where the CSR person is actually located. And notice that they have gotten very Non-specific. They won't tell you where they are. They will say Texas, or central Mississippi, or the Asia, but not really tell you anything. And they are SO good at masking their accents, coming up with common names like Jen or Shane, they can make you think you are talking to your cousin or neighbor or someone you met at the Starbucks last week... Beware!

perpetually optimistic...

... may not necessarily be a desirable character trait, but it seems to be better than walking around in a Doom and Gloom mode. Reminiscent of the little character in the Peanuts cartoons who always has a little rain cloud over his head. Constantly muttering to oneself various corollaries of Murphy's Law.

You might not be old enough to remember some television shows. Probably recall the thing that was the precursor to YouTube videos, which was that horribly cringe-worthy 'America's Funniest Home Videos'  (that are rarely actually funny, more often humiliatingly painful) paid huge sums for home movies. Primarily consisting of mishaps caught on tape when friends and family would do profoundly stupid things or have frighteningly scary accidents. All  witnessed and recorded for posterity and public viewing, keeping the participants in constant fear of their faux pas outliving their natural life spans. And now we have a multiplicity of electronic media with which to amuse ourselves, record our foolhardy friends, and poke fun at total strangers.

But before any of this happened: There was "Candid Camera". Probably on television back in the sixties or early 70's. Three or four different scenarios, always beginning with a 'set up' when we/the viewer would get the goods on what was going to happen when the unsuspecting innocent was filmed in a hokey, unlikely, often embarrassing situation. With the ultimate goal of the set up being revealed, and every one enjoying a good laugh. At the expense of the one who had the wool surreptitiously pulled over his gullible eyes.

This is how I feel when bad things happen in my life: I keep thinking it's going to be a big joke. And the hidden camera will be revealed, and we will all get a big laugh, stand around with a cold beer and rehash the events as they are retold and the tape replayed over and over. I keep thinking:"'Ok, I'm ready - where's the camera? It's not funny any more, can we get this over with?"

about a poorly functioning body part...

... that has been plaguing me since the end of last year. As could be expected, the knee has not gotten any better as of been largely ignored. Other than taking pain meds on a constant basis, which cannot be beneficial to one's health. There is always a handful of generic Tylenol in my pocket, that I periodically consume throughout the day, take when I think about popping more drugs.

I am still in a quandary about the Velcro brace with metal stays for support. Knowing it does help but also limits flexibility even more, and using it surely causes reduced strength in muscles. This probably qualifies as a 'catch 22' situation... but so does walking out the door and crossing the street.

I have an appt. with a chiro. man today. My boss at work saw me hobbling along last week and asked if I had tried that route. I said I went to one a customer recommended, but after a month did not feel it was helpful and quit writing a check for thirty dollars each visit. The boss assured me I have not been to the 'right' one yet, and gave me the number of the guy he sees. If you know me, you will also know I am generally reluctant to go to a male physician, and would much prefer to do business with a female: but I'm willing to give it a try. Stay tuned...

suprise, surprise, suprise...

... occurred when I looked in the mail box on Saturday afternoon. I have long learned that part of being an Adult is that most of the stuff you pull out of the mail box will somehow be related to "U-O-Me". In that there are rarely friendly greetings, and almost invariably some request for funds. Not necessarily my new-found-relatives in Nigeria, but some financial obligation that needs addressing.

I opened the box and pulled out an envelope from the dentist. Thinking they were billing me for more to cover the cost of replacing two teeth in recent months. The first one was not absolutely, positively necessary - but had such dire warnings I forced myself  to keep an appointment I had cancelled twice. Literally 'forced' is the word best used when walking in the door of the dental practice, right? He'd been assuring me for a year that I was going to have a problem if I did not take steps to remedy the anticipated likelihood of a mouth disaster.

I am thankful for that little dental insurance policy I pay for every week as a pre-tax deduction on my pay check. Particularly after having called around and priced a replacement  tooth a couple of years ago, and found most dentists charge about $1200 to help you out of a crisis. Partially so high when you are not a regular patient of the practice, and partly because they can. My guy has the latest in electronic gizmos, that models a tooth in the computer and sends the diagram/schematic to the machine that generates the little porcelain product. They then check for fit, adjust as necessary and stain/fire to match your tooth color. So customers are paying for Big Toys for Big Boys as well as service when you are in a bind.

Any way - the insurance claim paid more than any one expected, so I got a refund. Yay! Travel funds!  Especially when you consider he could have kept it for himself and no one would have been the wiser. So - thanks, Ed.

the ASL sign for 'all done'...

... is one of the easy hand signs you can teach babies before they are verbal. They don't have the language skills to tell you they are finished with eating. But soon learn from repetition, observing mom. They learn from watching the parent/caregiver who waves hands in the air to indicate 'all done' when they are through. Along with other words like 'more', and 'water' and 'hot.

I'm all done with work for the week. Apparently I shot myself in the foot when I offered to be part of the Halloween scene last Saturday afternoon. I was on the schedule to work this morning, but recently found myself  'deleted'. Not so good for the ego - but lately I have practicing saying 'if you are not at work, you are on vacation'. Conditioning my brain to think: enjoy the free time more than the income. Factor in the awareness that I would already be at work instead of sitting here in my pajamas typing, with nothing pressing or necessary till noon, and it gets better all the time.

cookin at work...(pork with pasta)

...makin' this thing that starts with a pork loin, so when the passersby ask about the taste? I'm saying: "I don't know, since I don't eat pork." Think about it... chewing on a porker. It's kinda funny in an unfunny way (which is I assume the definition of Irony?) that I would like all the ingredients, except for the part that comes directly from the animal, and not be willing to give it a try. But really: if you know you like everything that is in the recipe, it's a  pretty safe assumption you would like the end product, right?

In the effort to be completely transparent, I will go ahead and say I did not put the pork loin in my mount. But I did eat some of the pasta dish, which is nearly as bad, with bacon bits. As well as oh-my-goodness sun dried tomatoes. And oh-yuck wilted spinach. It was pretty good, though a bit spicier than something I would normally choose to consume.

So here's the recipe, like it is printed in the newspaper ad. and on the laminated cards.

Chipolte-mango pork with pasta

1/2 cups water
1/2 cup reduced-fat milk
2 Tbs. canola oil, divided (which I mostly left out of the pasta)
1 pouch chipotle pasta side dish mix (we were using Knorr, 4.3 oz.)
1 pork tenderloin (about one pound)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup fresh mango peach salsa, well drained
2 Tbs. fresh cilantro finely chopped
1/2 cup light mayonnaise (olive oil)
2 tsp. chipotle pepper sauce (Tabasco makes this)
2 cups, lightly packed fresh baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup cooked bacon pieces/bits
1/4 cup julienne cut, sun dried tomatoes, drained

Start pasta according to package directions.
Preheat large skillet, add 1 Tbs. oil. Pork should be cut into four fairly equal long slices, by cutting lengthwise, then cut in half. Season with salt. Cook about 6-8 min, till lightly browned, turning as needed. Stir together drained salsa, chopped cilantro, mayonnaise, pepper sauce. Reduce heat in skillet, stir in sauce, cook about 3 min. more, check with probe for safety: 145 temp.
Stir bacon, tomato, spinach in pasta.

Advice and alterations: I used 1 tsp. of hot sauce, and would just leave it out entirely if I was to make it at home. And would likely not use the chipotle flavored pasta mix. Just too much 'bite' for my mouth. I sliced up the pork while the sauce was simmering on low, stirring in a bit of water if it gets too dry, and kept the pork slices warm during the 30 min. of serving time. I suspect that, like lots of things that improve with time, the flavor is really good if you have leftovers of the pork loin, sitting in the sauce to reheat the following day.