Archive for the ‘Rants and Raves’ Category

My Great Aunt Dora and Me… After Eighty

Monday, October 7th, 2019

Dora Espy Wilson, c. 1951

My Great Aunt Dora did two notable things once she reached eighty.  She went on her first-ever roller coaster ride and she took the S. S. Lurline to Hawaii.  I thought about that yesterday when I was doing something for the first time ever at the age of almost eighty-four.  Not so glamorous or exciting — but a first, never-the-less: I’m helping Nyel clean out our garage.

So far in my lifetime, garages have been the bailiwick of the men of the family — my father and my husbands, mostly.  When I did have a small cottage with garage to myself, it contained the water heater and, sometimes, my car.  There definitely was not a work bench or a wall of tools or stacks of lumber that “might come in handy.”  There could have been shelves for storage but I’m not sure.

Our garage serves many purposes.  It almost always houses the car; it shelters the cannon in winter; its shelves and corners and rafters all store things we just can’t get rid of; and it is the repository of many unfinished projects of Nyel’s.  Like a dozen or so duck decoys waiting to be painted…  Not that I don’t have unfinished projects.  Mine just happen to be in my computer.

Don’t look up!

When things get out of hand and it becomes doubtful that the car can find adequate space, Nyel goes on a cleaning spree.  Or he used to.  Now, he has to put up with me to do the lifting, shoving, climbing, pulling — all requirements of clean-out.  Plus, he has to put up with my  “why” questions.  Like “why do we need four large boxes of jelly glasses and rings?”    And my comments: “I’m certainly not going to be making jams or jellies and in forty years I haven’t seen you do any of that either.”  Well, he did make plum jam.  Once.  Twenty years or so ago.

Invariably we get into the saving versus hoarding discussion.  We both are big on saving for sentimental or historical reasons.  There is no question about keeping the box labeled “Horseshoes, Old” that dates back to the days when everyone in my mother’s family had his or her own horse.  Plus there were the work horses on my grandfather’s dairy farm which probably accounts for the box marked “Horse Collar.”


But there are things that are beginning to call less adamantly and, perhaps, are beginning to moulder and rot.  Old doll parts and doll clothes from my mother’s generation.  Two (count ’em, two) rusted old griddles that weigh a ton.  “But our stove has a a griddle…” said I..  “You never know when you’ll have a big crowd in for pancakes…” said he.  And so it goes and will probably continue on throughout the winter.

And what about things like jars of kitty litter for using in the event of spills during an oil change?  Like that’s going to happen soon…  Or how about the work bench?  Will we ever find it under all that “stuff?”  The scary part is that Nyel knows where everything is and why it’s there and how long he’s had it and what he’ll use it for.  YIKES!

Work Bench!

I never did ask Aunt Dora if she enjoyed her after-eighty-escapades. I’m pretty sure she would have been enthusiastic about both of them.  I’m not so sure about this after-eighty adventure of my own.  Ask me a year from now.




Waste Not Want Not? In The Medical World?

Thursday, September 12th, 2019

Package Contents

Anyone who has had a recent hospital experience knows that you have the option of taking home almost anything that comes into your room during your stay — a box of tissues, a package of gauze, a pair of surgical scissors… whatever.  Either that or it gets thrown out.  Okay, an opened box or package… fine.  But surgical scissors or forceps?  Presumably, it costs more to sterilize than to throw out.  Go figure.   And, no matter what, you or your insurance company will be charged for it.

So, Nyel always has me pack it all up.  His motto is: “Waste not want not.”  That, of course, applies to everything in our daily lives, hospitals notwithstanding.   Nyel re-purposes, recycles, reuses and, when it comes to  medical supplies and hospital policies, he feels that home stockpiling beats the throw-away alternative.

Now that we are home and have the services of home health nurses and physical and occupational therapists, necessary medical supplies are ordered by the nurse and paid for by Medicare.  The waste is absolutely appalling — beginning with the packaging.  Box after box of medical supplies are delivered to our door.  (I think we are single-handedly keeping the cardboard recycling bins overstuffed.)

Tah Dah!! The Contents!

Yesterday, for example, Nyel received a package of antibiotic ribbon which I use each day to pack in his “wound” (the sloowwly healing surgical site from his aborted April 28th surgery).  The ribbon in the 7 x 4 inch foil package was 17 inches long by 1 inch wide — about the length of a wide shoelace for a child’s shoe.  It was sent in a 9 inch wide by 12 inch long by 7 inch deep cardboard box and  “protected” by a  folded brown paper eight feet long and 15 inches wide.

Talk about wasteful!! The mind boggles.  We’ve received five or six boxes of supplies just this week,  similarly packaged.  Our Medicare dollars at work.  OMG!  How ironic that my “waste not want not” husband is somehow generating this ridiculous extravagance!  It used to be that when I heard the term “medical waste” I thought of hazardous materials that were collected in bright red containers at hospitals.  Now?  Not so much.  Medical waste is delivered right to our house by FedEx or UPS.  Almost every day!



Almost Pillow Talk

Saturday, September 7th, 2019

The Great Bed of Ware — one of the largest beds in the world

Today I’m thinking about beds.  Not a subject I usually give much thought to but, as it turns out, beds are a complex and fairly interesting subject — probably even more interesting than the reason my thoughts have turned in that direction.

In recent months, several visitors to our house have had occasion to take a look at our bedroom — not in itself an unusual circumstance as you must enter the bedroom to reach the downstairs bathroom. Plus, prior to the 1940s, the bedroom was the parlor and I often show off its original (1869) ceiling paper and coal-burning fireplace.

Vincent Van Gogh’s Bed

No, the unusual part of these recent visits has been the remarks about our bed.  “You and Nyel BOTH sleep in THAT bed?” has been the gist of it.  Truth-to-tell, until these comments/questions began, I had never given the bed a thought.  It’s the same bed that my grandmother bought in the 1940s from a friend in Ocean Park.  At that time it had an old-fashioned cotton mattress and bed springs.

In the early 1980s when my folks, in their turn, gave up the “master bedroom” upstairs and moved down to this bedroom on the main floor, they replaced the old springs and mattress with a new box spring and mattress.  Before those could be installed, however, they had to have Floyd Rank add six inches to the bed frame to accommodate those modern bed accouterments.  Neither Nyel nor I have ever given its “double” width status a second thought — except to notice that “doubles” are now referred to as “fulls” — apparently to allay the thought that they are meant for double occupancy.

John and Yoko’s Honeymoon Bed

Just now I looked up the History of Beds on Wikipedia and found that beds not only come in all sizes and shapes, but they also have a variety of names.  Here are some:  Adjustable bed, air bed, bassinet, box-bed brass bed, bunk bed, captain’s bed, camp bed (cot), canopy bed, curtained bed, daybed, futon, four poster bed, hammoc, hideaway bed, hospital bed, infant bed (crib), iron bed, kanga bed-stove, loft bed. Manjaa, mourning bed, Murphy bed, Ottoman bed, pallet, platform bed, roll-away bed, rope bed, sofabed, state bed, toddler bed, trundle bed, vibrating bed, waterbed.

Wow!  Who knew?  More to the point, who cares?  In this house there are three double beds, one cot, two twins — plenty under most circumstances, doncha think?  As for the three doubles… snuggle up, I say!

It takes all kinds…

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

In our garage are three big bins — one for glass, one for aluminum cans, one for recyclable plastics.  Nearby is an area where we stash flattened cardboard.  I think of it as our “Recycle Center” and faithfully add to the appropriate stash every day.  When one of the bins gets full, usually the plastics, I make a run to the Recycle Center at the end of Bay Avenue and Sandridge with all three bins and the cardboard.

It’s definitely not my favorite activity.  Unlike that woman who used to appear on TV wearing huge rubber gloves and scrubbing each contribution until it shone, I don’t recycle because I love the activity.  I recycle because it’s the right thing to do.  And, in case anyone wonders. doing the right thing doesn’t make me hate the process any less.

No matter.  Today was the day.  I found the Recycle Center clean and tidy — slots looking empty and no excess bags of “stuff” piled up near overflowing bins.  And, it was busy.  My neighbor Mark was there and we exchanged pleasantries — actually, unpleasantries in a way.  The puppy-guard for their new family member inadvertently “bit” Sandra and so we talked about blood and clots and scabs and other nasty subjects.

Shortly thereafter, a woman marched (yes, marched) up to where I was working and said, “I just want to see where she thinks she’s putting those plastic bottles.  You can’t recycle plastics here.”  I have no idea who she was talking about or even if she was talking to me, but I responded, “Yes you can, if they have this symbol,” and pointed out the PETE (Polyethylene Terephthalate) bin.

Ready for More Recyclables

“Oh.  Well that’s new!” she said.  “No.  It’s not,” I told her.  “Well, it wasn’t here a year ago,” she said.  “Yes, it was.  Probably even five years ago,” I said.  And then wondered why I was arguing with this stranger who seemed to have designated herself the Recycle Nazi of the Day.

Without further incident I finished up and  returned home feeling “very much accomplished” as my Aunt Medora would have said.  But I still don’t like the recycling job…  Another one of life’s necessities.  And who cares what I think, anyway?

Yesterday, Today, and Maybe Tomorrow

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

The Culprit – Broken Fiber Optics Cable

It irritates me beyond all measure that I’ve allowed my life to become so intertwined with technology that I can hardly proceed without it.  For starters, I’ve been trying mightily to get back into my early morning blog routine.  After all, my friend Janet depends (or used to) on reading it with her first cup of coffee each day.  By now, though, she may have cozied up to another, more reliable source of pre-dawn verbiage.

So, for the past ten days, I’ve made every effort to get something going before I start my Nurse Ratched routine with Nyel and before I go out to say “hello” to the chickens.  And every morning I am thwarted by the lack of internet service.  It’s off-again, on-again, off-again, with the modem’s internet light alternating red and green and red  from about five to seven every morning.  Then, today, no flashing green.  Solid red.  And well into the afternoon.

Internet Photo of Century Link FiberOptics connection

Several calls to Century Link (by cell phone; our land-line was also down) to get an answer to our question, “What the heck?”  Actually, we got an answer with each call — and each explanation different.  What was consistent was their hard sell for a service upgrade that “will actually lower your monthly bill.”  Balderdash!  And who cares, anyway?  That’s not the point.

Had I been able to blog early this morning, I’d have reported that our trip to Seattle to get a second opinion from the University of Washington’s Infectious Disease doctors went well.  Except for the fact that they were running way behind and we didn’t get out of there until after six (home at 10:30) — we were glad we went.

New information:  Nyel has many bone fragments in his thigh which may be causing his pain.  (I guess the orthopedic surgeon at St. Vincent’s didn’t see them on the MRI.  Or didn’t think they would cause Nyel pain.  Or didn’t think we needed to know.  )  Also new information:  It is much too early to tell whether he has chronic osteo myelitis.  He’ll go back to Seattle in eight weeks and they may be able to tell Nyel more. )   New Conclusion as a result of the visit:  We are through with the Infectious Disease team at St. Vincent’s.

Bureaucracy Cartoon

What does the Providence Medical Group have in common with Century Link?  Hint:  Two words; the first begins with R and the second with B.  Give up?

Answer: Raging Bureaucracy.  Rampant Baloney.






Already, I am torn…

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

Welcome to Oysterville! (The real-life one.)

Last night, I began reading Susan Wiggs’ hot-off-the-press novel, The Oysterville Sewing Circle, and though I’ve read only 14 of its 362 pages, I am already finding it hard to keep focused.  It’s not that the book is poorly written.  Not at all.  Wiggs is an accomplished wordsmith and, in fact, is almost overly adverbed and adjectived for my taste.  I’m sure her plot development is strong and the romantic content intriguing.  (In fact, the blurbs on the back of the dust jacket say so.)

My Great Grandfather R.H. Espy (The H is for Hamilton)

No.  It’s not the technical aspects of the novel that are a turn-off to me.  It’s the content.  I’m really not one for “romances” or “women’s fiction stories” as Wiggs’ books are often described.  I’ve never read any of her books, though she’s written well over thirty.  Yet, the very title of this book compels my attention.  After all,  there really was an Oysterville sewing circle.  My grandmother, my mother, various aunts and cousins — to say nothing of my great-grandfather’s third wife, Aunt Kate — all belonged to it.

“So,” thought I when the book arrived, “I’ll give it a try.”  By page two my very strong can’t-continue gene was kicking in.    And then on page three my own family’s name popped out at me.  Mr. Espy, the owner of the shop, used to claim he was part vampire, manning the register every night for decades.  Every hackle I possess was suddenly on full alert.  It’s not that Espy is a particularly unusual name.  It’s just that Espy and Oysterville in real life — at least for the last 165 years — have been practically synonymous.  And here was my family name in a story involving a town with the same name as the one my Great-Grandfather Espy co-founded!

The Espy Plot – Oysterville Cemetery

In the very front of the book there is the usual disclaimer:  This is a work of fiction.  Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real.  Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

I don’t think the names “Oysterville,” “Oysterville Sewing Circle.” and “Espy” used in the same novel are exactly “products of the author’s imagination” or are “entirely coincidental.” Though I’m tempted to put aside the book as another one of life’s wastes of money, I can’t help but wonder if I’ll meet a Sydney Stevens if I continue on.  Perhaps I’ll just wait and let one of my friends tell me ‘the rest of the story’ — someone who enjoys Susan Wiggs and her romance novels.  Meanwhile, I’m heading to the Oysterville Cemetery to see if there is any grave-spinning going on in the Espy plot.

Where’s my white hat?

Saturday, August 3rd, 2019

I arrived at St. Vincent’s last night to find that Nyel has been a) diagnosed with yet a new infection — chronic osteomyelitis — and that he does not “qualify” for hospitalization.  Everything that was done could have been accomplished as an outpatient says the hospital.  And, since that is so, he does not qualify for admission under Medicare Part A’s rules and we will be billed for the Part B deductible.

“So does he need to be here?” I asked.  There was quite a bit of arguing.  I don’t think Nyel and I “won” but we were told that “No, he doesn’t need to be here” and “No, they are not going to prescribe antibiotics as they are not indicated.”  Whatever that means.

“Then, get Nyel outta here!” said I.  Or something like that.

They are preparing his discharge papers as we speak.  There is far more to this story but… if we leave soon we might even catch the tail end of the Oysterville Regatta!  And, for sure, the Regatta Dinner!  The St. V saga can definitely wait.

Situation Normal AFU at St. V’s

Friday, August 2nd, 2019

I guess in some ways it’s reassuring that St. Vincent’s Hospital didn’t suddenly (since Nyel was last there for six weeks in April/May) get better.  When Nyel was admitted night before last, things looked hopeful.  But now… same old, same old.  At least we know we weren’t crazy the first time around.

The orthopedic surgeon who performed the original (failed) surgery and one of the two “clean-outs” seems to be in charge.  Maybe.  Or maybe not.  As of yesterday, he wants to open Nyel up and clean out the wound (again!) as it has become infected (again!)  The infectious disease doctors and the wound care doctors and the cardio doctors and perhaps even other ortho doctors wanted to do an MRI to try to get more information.   They were advising against surgery but as of yesterday a.m. — the MRI was off the table (so to speak.)  Surgery was on.

By evening, surgery was off the table and the MRI was done.  Apparently, the doctor-in-charge was overruled. As far as Nyel knows, no surgery is planned.  Oh — and let me add that though many doctors have seen and talked to Nyel up close and personal, he has not yet seen the orthopedic surgeon during this stay.  Not hide nor hair.

But it’s the back-story that makes it all the more interesting.  At noon on August 11th Nyel had a follow-up appointment with the ortho surgeon.  Nyel had been home for over a month and had been under the care of Harbor Home Health.  The head nurse was pleased that Nyel was going into Portland for the follow-up appointment.  She had some specific questions about the wound site and whether or not the wound-vac (the pump to which Nyel was attached) was still necessary.

I drove Nyel and his wound vac to Portland (actually to an office in Beaverton) for his appointment.  The doctor was pleasant and chatty but said he “wouldn’t bother” looking at the wound site.  “But… we drove three hours…”  When Nyel mentioned that his home care nurse had some questions about continuing the wound vac, the doctor said that she should be “perfectly capable” of making that decision.

That the home health nurse was frustrated by that news is totally understandable.  A few days later when she suspected the wound was infected, she contacted the doctor who then sent orders for a blood test.  “Yes” came the result.  “Infection.”  The doctor then asked for a culture from the “seepage.”  The nurse picked up the ordered testing materials from the hospital and did the culture.  At that point she also removed the wound vac and showed me how to apply wet/dry dressings — the protocol always used, she said, when there is infection in this sort of wound.

Yesterday, at the hospital, Nyel was asked who made the decision to remove the wound vac.  (He was also informed that he would probably continue to use it for up to a year or a year and a half. YIKES!) Furthermore, Nyel was informed that a culture should never have been taken from the surface seepage.  These criticisms/concerns were (again, “apparently”) coming from the ortho doctor but, as mentioned previously, he has not seen Nyel face-to-face.  And he was the one who ordered the culture.

As for the pain (which is why he went to the ER in the first place on Wenesday night)  — “they” say it is because his body is laying down calcium deposits trying to rebuild his femur.  That could continue for up to three years.  Of course, the femur cannot be “rebuilt.”  Calcium is not bone — no blood supply etc.  But the body doesn’t know that.  Or so the experts are telling Nyel.”  They have increased his pain medication.  Is that working?  “Except when I move,” Nyel says.  “Then, on a scale of one to ten… it’s about a seven.”






Thanks for asking!

Wednesday, July 31st, 2019

Internet Down!

The wires (actually, the wireless) have been humming on the way to our house — so many readers asking if everything is okay.   Wrote our friend Ruth:  I checked your blog and found that your last one was 4 days ago…What is happening? We’re concerned. Praying, sending love and hopes for good news.

I am so sorry for my silence and want to assure everyone that all is well.  The first three no-blog-days were due to no internet service.  Yesterday, for some reason, was “just one of those days!”  Time ran out and before I could get to the computer I hit a wall and went to bed instead of  blogging.

It probably boils down to Time Management or lack thereof.  Yesterday, for instance, I needed to get the car across the river for servicing by 10 a.m. (Check!), drive home to get Nyel and take him across the river to have him measured at Evergreen Prosthetics and Orthotics for another “platform shoe (Check!);” take a load of stuff to Goodwill (Check!); do some necessary shopping at CostCo (Check!); go to the Pharmacy and Jacks and do some recycling (Check! Check! And Check!).  Too much for one day but this morning my car goes to George Hill for some repairs and we will be home-bound at least until Friday.

Betwixt and between all of that, of course, were coop duties, meal duties, put-away-the-grocery duties, check the rat trap duties, and, most important of all,  the nursing duties.  Unfortunately, Nyel’s MSSA infection (a gift from St. Vincent’s) has returned and that requires additional dressing changes etc. etc.  “They”  are not prescribing antibiotics “yet” hoping his own immune system will kick in…

Dumb Cluck Svetlana – Still Broody 

Long story short: no time for blogging.  Maybe not having a car will free up some time in the next few days and I can catch up to myself.  Meanwhile… Thanks for asking how Nyel is doing.  I apologize for not keeping up.

Thank goodness for the library!

Friday, July 26th, 2019

So, here I am at the Ocean Park Timberland Library and not for any of the reasons that Andrew Carnegie might have imagined, either.  After all, the Carnegie libraries — more than 2,000 of them — Carnegie  were built between 1883 and 1929, long years before computers and the internet were invented or even dreamed of.

And, basically, that’s why I’m here.  I need to access the internet for several reasons — not the least being to post this blog — and, even though I spent more than an hour on the phone with the nice-but-ineffective Century Link troubleshooter, I am informed that I will be without internet access for a while yet.  “If possible” a technician will come to do some further troubleshooting on Monday.  Those words “if possible” never seem to sound anything but ominous.

Alameda Public Library (my first library experience 1941-1946)

Mr. Carnegie envisioned that libraries would “bring books and information to all people.” He gave over $60 million to that end — a vast fortune in 20th-century dollars.  His offer was to build and furnish libraries to cities who agreed to maintain and staff them.  He systematically funded 2,507 libraries throughout the English-speaking world including some belonging to universities. 1,689 were built in the United States, 660 in Britain and Ireland, 125 in Canada, and others in Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere. By 1930, half the American public libraries had been built by Carnegie!

Ocean Park Timberland Library

Our Timberland Library in Ocean Park is not one of the Carnegie Libraries, but I’m sure that he would approve of it.  And I’m equally sure that he’d love “the modern touches” — like the computer area and the internet access.  Who wouldn’t?

And, not to worry if I’m “dark” (as in invisible and silent) for a few days.  As fabulous as this connection to the outer world is, it’s not exactly as convenient as schlepping into my office in my bathrobe and slippers…  As my mother often lamented, “Why me, oh lord?  Why me?”