Tuesday, July 31, 2012

WDM, IA - And, the Hospital Gown Saga Continues

Throughout this last month, Gary’s been looking at Lug, Jack and me parading around in our classy hospital gowns and he’s been feeling mighty jealous. He knows he’d look classy too also but he just needs an opportunity to walk the runway in his own hospital gown. Unfortunately, he has an opportunity close at hand. He’s actually had a hernia since 2007. It has caused him no discomfort, it has not grown and it is not painful. It’s been there through all of our hiking, our loading and unloading of the RV, our extensive landscaping and our interior redo. However, it is something that he should have looked at much sooner but today is his appointment.

Quite a few years ago in the 1980’s when we owned two video stores in the Minneapolis area we were what is called ‘self-insured,’ meaning we had NO health insurance. We lived that way for about 13 years, from the time I left my teaching job in New Hampshire in 1985 to 1998 when I joined Wells Fargo. Would you believe that we had disability insurance, in case one of us was sick and we had to hire someone to work in the stores? No insurance to cure what ailed us but insurance to pay us while we were sick? Whatever were we thinking? For two risk-averse people, we were certainly living close to the edge.

Luckily we were incredibly healthy and never needed anything more than a doctor visit every now and then.

However, in 1994 I had a lump in my groin area that could fill my cupped hand when I put my hand into my pocket. Did I want to go to the doctor? Nope. Was I taking a terrible chance with my life? Yep. What a stupid thing to do. A huge lump and I decided to wait, for longer than I should have waited. I suppose that I was waiting for it to disappear and everything would be ok. (Same thing I used to do with car repairs: wait a bit and that rattle will disappear. This technique worked as well on health as on car repairs - not at all.)

Finally I made an appointment and walked across the parking lot from our video store to the doctor / clinic that we usually went to and asked them to look at it. I got an examination room, took off my jeans and undies when a nurse came in to see me. Oops - it was truly a nurse but she was also a customer in our video store who came in to say ‘hello.’ There I was, cowering behind the examination table, with nothing on below my waist and she wants to talk. Then she realized my predicament, apologized, said her good-byes and hurriedly left.

When the doctor came in, she took a look at my huge lump and began to laugh. Huh? Sure enough, she then told me that it was the largest hernia she had ever seen in a female. Well, thanks. I always wanted to set a record. Do I get a gold medal? Nope, I get a chance on the operating table. This doctor visit is turning out to be less than serious. No wonder I hesitated going to the doctor: embarrassing nurses, laughing doctors and all at my expense.

Well, I soon found myself in surgery having my hernia taken care of. All I can remember about the aftermath was that all I wanted to eat was a Perkins Upside-down Pineapple muffin. In fact, while I waited in the car, Gary got 2 of them for me. My body might have been in pain for a while but my tastebuds were grinning. In the end, I had a laparoscopic surgery and had only two small slits. I wasn’t out of work too long but was leery about lifting big boxes for a while.

Gary also had a hernia about 5 years later but he had hired Dr. Frankenstein and Igor. My doctor made two very small slits in my abdomen on Friday and I was back at work on the following Monday. I have hardly any scars. Gary’s Igor shaved him front and back from his navel to his knees and then Dr. Frankenstein made a huge 4” cut and he was flat on his back for at least a week. Interestingly enough, that surgery didn’t take and that is where Gary’s new hernia is.

Today, Dr. Feldman, the specialist, told Gary that he had several kids to put through college and that Gary ought to have the hernia operated on - Friday. That certainly was fast - no time to worry.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

WDM, IA - July Flew

And, here it is, heading into the last of July. Where, oh where, did July go? Well, of course, when you spend most of your time on the road in an RV, you need to catch up with your appointments and other things when you get back home. Here’s what we’ve done this July:

        2 eye appointments: no changes - still can’t see

        2 dental appointments: no new cavities

        1 skin appointment

        1 osteoporosis appointment

        2 colonoscopies

        1 Memorial Service in Rockford, Ill (see 7/13 and 7/22)

        1 90th birthday celebration in Fort Dodge (see 7/22)

        10 boxes of Toby Jugs shipped to Ohio and North Carolina

        spots on the lower level wall inspected and a plan developed

        a large set of Depression Glass unboxed and unwrapped (yep, another one of my mother’s collections)

        we’ve walked 4 miles most days

        I found a place to donate all of my business attire

Gary also has visited the RV in its spot in the storage area. This used to be a clean neat storage spot but the owner died and his son, who takes care of it, has some physical problems. Thus, no one is really maintaining it but it is secure and they do patrol in their truck so we still keep our RV here. Who cares about a few weeds? Notice how green they are compared to the grass in the picture below.
And it’s only the 24th of the month.

And, that’s how our time has gone this month.

The grass is getting pretty brown. Nothing like a month with no rain and temps above 90 degrees.
And you’re wondering why I haven’t blogged? Who wants to read about this?

Monday, July 23, 2012

WDM, IA - Rarin' To Go

And, today is my brother’s colonoscopy. He’s read all the instructions, followed all the rules and is ready and rarin’ to go. - in more ways than one.

We got up at 7:00, got ready and a bit packed and headed on down for the continental breakfast. Hardly anyone else was there. We actually got into this room during a break in the action. Last week was the girls’ softball tournament and next week is RAGBRAI, both of which will fill these rooms and every other room in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

The plan was to meet Jack in the lobby of the motel, after he had dropped his truck off at Roger’s Tire across the street for the motel. They will put on his 4 new tires while he’s in the hospital and we can pick the truck up afterwards. Nothing like split second timing. We met, packed the car and took off for the hospital where we waited for a short while. Then Jack was in his gown with the gaping back and in his own personal waiting room. (In Des Moines, they gave me 2 gowns, one to put on with the gape in the back and one to put on like a robe to cover that huge gape.)

He’s terribly impatient but finally they came to get him. Soon he was back asking when they were going to do it. Surprise, Jack, it’s done. Obviously, he was still under the influence of the powerful drugs which kept him sleeping and pretty mellow for a while. We’re going to find out what those drugs were so we can use them also. A mellow Jack, now there’s a Christmas present to die for.

Obviously, he did not want to go public with these pictures so we picked some of the best. No gaping gown pictures, no snoring pictures, no groggy pictures. Just plain old family pictures.

We dropped him off at his house to sleep and relax while we tooled back to Lug’s home where Gary was set to pull weeks in Lug’s old garden. He doesn’t use it any more and, with our drought, the weeds have run rampant. Meanwhile I spent time splitting yesterday’s cake into manageable chunks. When the party was over yesterday, we still had 2 huge sheet cakes left over which we had all put into Lug’s freezer. He loves his sweets but even he probably wouldn’t eat 2 sheet cakes worth of sweets. I took them out, cut them into sections, put them into plastic containers and put them back into the freezer. He’ll get out a small plastic container sooner than a huge sheet cake. Oh, and did I mention, that we took some home also. Actually, he told us to.

I also took some cake to some friends in exchange for 15 ears of corn. Can’t wait for dinner tomorrow.

I then went to Jack’s, took him out for a lunch, got an extra salad for Big Gar and went over to Lugs. Gary was done with the weeds and it was time to head back to Des Moines. We pulled in about 7:00, unpacked the car, showered and relaxed for an hour or two.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Fort Dodge, IA - 90 Years and Still Rockin'

Lug, Gary’s father, turns 90 today and we’re holding an open house for him in Fort Dodge. 90 and still going strong. He still mows his own lawn and snow blows his driveway and sidewalks in the winter. Since he’s been in Fort Dodge his whole life except for a few year after WWII when he went to art school in Chicago, he’s pretty well known. Not only that but he had 12 brothers and sisters while his wife Darlene came from a family of 9. Gary and his sisters grew up with a passle of cousins.

Cathy and he planned most of it when we were in California this winter and had to guestimate how many might come so they could order the cake and arrange for the room to hold it. Lug goes out to the local HyVee store in the mornings and meets some friend there who actually have a band that plays at weddings, anniversaries, etc. So he hired them to come so we actually had live music for half of the gala.

We sent out invitations and put an announcement in to the local paper and we also told others about it so all was ready for the big day. I had scheduled my brother’s colonoscopy for Monday morning so Gary and I planned to stay up in Fort Dodge Sunday night. Sunday morning we awoke early and drove up to meet some friends at 9:00 for breakfast. Since the open house didn’t begin until 2:00 we then checked into our motel to relax and change.

The open house went really well. Cathy had booked the room for 2:00 - 4:00 and people began to arrive right on time. Luckily we had bought some name tags so that everyone could see who was who, especially helpful for someone like me who didn’t grow up with all those cousins. About 1:15, the room was full and the Starlight opened up a partition so we could have two rooms with more tables. Of course Lug got to make a speech and he thanked everyone for coming and expressed his amazement that there were so many there.

I’ve never seen Lug at a loss for words. He can talk for hours and keep on talking. Well, here he is at a loss for words. Obviously, Gary can’t believe it either.
But he recovered shortly and was off and running. But, you’ve got to notice that fancy hat. Cathy made it for him with big felt numerals ’90’ and lots of stars circling it. Pretty special. Here’s Dawn, Lug, Tom, Cathy’s husband, Cathy and Big Gar. He asked his family to come up with him and I caught this picture before I walked up.
My brother came and tried to avoid looking at the cake since he was had his colonoscopy in the morning and wasn’t supposed to eat anything solid. He drooled a bit but we moved him away from the food. Most of the guests must have been having a good time since so many stayed the whole 2 hours. The Michehls (Darlene’s family) were here, the Maceks were here, we had a load of Eischeids (Lug’s sister’s family), a bunch of Insko’s from Illinois (we had been to Danny Insko’s Memorial Service last weekend and they held another in Vincent this weekend for all the Iowa relatives) and loads of Lugs friends from Hy-Vee. A good time was had by all.
And, by the way, here’s Lug’s OLDER brother, Johnny, who is 94 this year and a younger brother, Ron .
Finally people drifted out and we closed up at 4:30, drove over to Lug’s, put 2 large sheet cakes into his freezer, said our good-byes and left for the motel. Here we changed into something more comfortable in the 100+ heat and drove over to Jack’s for a short while. He kept leaving our sciltialtting conversation and heading into the bathroom. Wonder why. He keeps saying something about ‘whooshing’ and his hands with fingers spread wide, make a sweeping motion from his chest to his hips.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

WDM, IA - Clean as a Whistle

Another hot one and we walked in the local mall today. Because my colonoscopy prep starts at 5 p.m., we left the mall a bit earlier than the usual 4 miles we walk and headed over to the grocery store for two boxes of jello and to Office Depot to buy a box to pack the final Toby Jugs. While we were there, we noticed that they also serve as a Post Office and that I could take my 13 boxes there to mail. Great, that will be ever so much more convenient and faster than at the Post Office.

Our final stop was at the local TCBY where I enjoyed a ‘kid’ size ice cream cup with mocha almond fudge. If I can’t eat for the next 36+ hours, I want to go out in a blaze of treat. At home I finished off with a salad and that was that until after my colonoscopy on Tuesday.

We headed home and I finished up my packing for theToby Jugs so that I could send them off tomorrow. 13 boxes filled with Toby Jugs waiting for new owners who enjoy them as much as my parents and we have.

Later in the evening, I made Gary’s evening treat, made up 2 containers of jello and went to bed with dreams of food circling my head.

Monday, I got out the ingredients for Gary’s breakfast and one of my jello containers. This one was 2 cups of apricot. Clear jello - that is allowed. For lunch I had 2 cups of peach jello. In the picture below is the JUG filled with ‘flush’, water and cherry flavor that I will ‘get’ to drink. I have also laid out the three other flavor packets that I am not going to use. I am supposed to drink 1/2 of this jug starting at 3:30, one cup every 10 minutes. The directions recommend drinking it cold and fast. Even the manufacturer knows that this tastes like sour milk and warm alka seltzer mixed with goat spit.
I finished the first 1/2 of the jug about 4:30 getting more and more bloated. Gary counseled that the situation would soon take care of itself - and he was right. I spent the next hour or so mainly on the toilet feeling, as Dave Barry mentioned, like I was on a rocket booster.

Finally at 5:30, I got a break and had lemon jello for dinner. Variety is the spice of life, so they say. To say that I spent parts of the evening in the bathroom is stating the case mildly.

The instructions were, if one was to have a colonoscopy at 8:00, to get up at 3:30 and drink the final half of the jug: 1 cup every 10 minutes. This is getting better and better. Note to self: make your next colonoscopy app’t for 11:00 so you can forego the 3:30 alarm. 3:30 is bad enough with out having to drink this swill. However, there I was, at 3:30 drinking myself silly. Was I bloated? Was I headachy? Did I feel like a beached whale sitting in our lounge chair? I was also cold and sat there with a sweater on.

I do have to mention that Gary was up with me: he also got up at 3:30. What a guy. Finally, at 7:10 we headed over to the clinic, I was called into a prep room right away, answered some questions and the nurse prepped to get the needle into one of my veins for the intravenous. 2 tries and she called in Sonjii, who never misses on the first try. Oops. sure enough, my veins gave even her a run for the noney. (But the way, I tried to give blood once, had terrible trouble and they told me not to try again.) My right hand shows 3 of the places they tried. Finally the 4th try was successful and I was off for the procedure room.
They wheeled me back to a small room, called Gary in and, when I awoke, the doctor came in, told me that I was good to go for another 10 years and we left. And, that was that.

Back at home, you’d think I’d want to eat and you’d be right. But I wanted to sleep more. And, that was my afternoon.

Friday, July 13, 2012

West Des Moines, IA - Much Ado About Nothing

Mostly our life is pretty dull here in West Des Moines: no climbing mountains, no hiking through the desert, very few musuems but there have been several high points or, in some cases, low points.


Yep, that plural in the word above is no mistake. There are two colonoscopies coming.

I decided, with the help of my doctor, that I needed a colonoscopy - last year. But, by the time the office called too late in the summer and we had already left for Arizona. Ah, now it is July and I’ve got an appointment on the 17th at 7:30 am. I’ve spoken with my Sister-in-law, Cathy, who has gone through this recently and can fill me in on the details. I’ve already picked up my gallon container with the ‘flushing’ ingredients in the bottom. I’ve got 4 choices of ‘flavor’ to put in to the gallon container to make it taste palatable: cherry, lemon-lime, orange and pineapple. Cherry is one of my favorite flavors so I decided to pick cherry. Big mistake since I’ll probably never look at cherry again.

Best of all, I re-read Dave Barry’s piece in the Miami Herald about his colonoscopy. Absolutely hilarious and I’ve laughed so hard every time I’ve read it that tears come to my eyes. Suffice it to say that, now that I have gone through a colonoscopy, I think it is even better than when I only imagined it. Here is the link to it.

But, and here I hit the epitome of sisterly love: I got an appointment for my brother to get a colonoscopy in Fort Dodge, where he lives. Now, he actually asked for one several years ago when an old high school friend of his told him to get one. However, we put it off but, with the new Affordable Health Care Act classifying a colonoscopy as preventative, we decided to get him one too. So he has a colonoscopy scheduled for next week. What a good, loving sister. I’m thinkin’ - any day that you can schedule your brother for a colonoscopy is a good day.


As I have mentioned before, my parents had a large collection of Toby Jugs, more than 300 to be exact (if saying ‘more than’ is ‘exact’ enough for you). My father had always told me that I’d probably have to sell them to a dealer when I decided to get rid of them since there were so many. But, then he lived in the 20th Century and these days we have may other ways to sell things. Several years ago, Gary put them all out on Yahoo to try to sell them that way and actually sold about 19 that way. However, that dried up and we still had about 300.

It seems that the previous generation was more interested in collections than our generation. Spoons, dolls, stamps, coins, pipes, Precious Moments, beanie babies (although that is more our generation), etc. I’ve always heard that when you begin a collection, you’d better enjoy it since it probably will not be a good investment. Most collections are not investments and, as the fad fades, the value of the collection also fades. My parents definitely enjoyed their collection and Gary and I have also. Over the years, we’ve gotten more than their worth in enjoyment.

However, as the previous generation fades, so does the desire to collect. There are far fewer collectiors these days that there were years ago. And, thus, it is more difficult to dispose of a collection.

Gary finally was able to sell about 230 to a dealer who lived in North Carolina and was traveling back to NC from California where he had been giving a show. He stopped by our home here in Des Moines and Gary helped him pack up all the Toby Jugs in his van. That left us with 71 which we have enjoyed. Now, however, it is time to sell them off and hope they go to someone else who enjoys them as much as we all have.

Several days ago I verified the list that we had, looked up dealers on Google and began to e-mail them with the list and asking them for a price. In the end, two responded, one sending me their list with prices and the other telling me that she wanted 25 and gave me her price. I studied both, compiled my lists and compared prices. I realized that we could get the most money by selling the 25 to the one dealer and then selling about 36 to the second dealer at the prices they would pay.
And, I began the packing process. I checked with PostNet near our home and learned that it would cost $8.00 per jug to pack and $18 per jug to send. Hmmm. More than most are worth. And, on the way home, I stopped in at the local wine shoppe and found just the perfect boxes. In the storage room in the lower level of our home I found a treasure trove of wrapping paper, packing peanuts and bubble wrap. Of course, newspapers would fill out what we still needed after I had used what we had.

13 boxes later, I had 61 Tobies packed, labeled and ready for shipment. Meanwhile Gary, Cathy and I decided to drive to Rockford, Illinois for a memorial service for Danny, one of their uncles.


We decided to make the trip over two days, Friday to drive the 6 hours to Rockford and Saturday to attend the Memorial service and the family gathering at his home and then drive back. A long but pleasant trip and we three all shared in the driving which made it much easier. I had done my Priceline thing and gotten 2 rooms in a local hotel. I had originally bid on the 6th but, since it was a week away, they did not accept my bid. I then waited until 2 days before the actual day we needed the rooms and bid again. I figured that, by this time, they might be accepting lower bids and, sure enough, they did. I got the rooms for my original bid and we were off.

Beautiful old hotel overlooking the river and the park on the other side. The original owner had bought quite a few antiques in Europe to put in his hotel: fountains, paintings, candelabras, etc., in one case, even buying a whole room with walnut wainscotting, chandeliers, a huge wooden buffet and other pieces to use as a small banquet room. There were several large banquet rooms and, judging by the set ups, were both scheduled for large weddings this weekend.

The Memorial Service was quite remarkable. Danny had belonged to the VFW and the Eagles and both of these groups gave their own memorial along with the regular memorial A great send off for a great guy.

After the Memorial Service we all trooped over to the VFW where a nice lunch was served and then to Danny and Leila’s home where the family was gathering. Gary and Cathy knew many of them but I knew hardly any. Danny and Leila had moved to Illinois many years ago and had raised their family there away from the Vincent, Iowa base of the rest of the clan. But, I enjoyed meeting and talking with them. We left about 3:30 and headed back to Iowa.

I think the drive back to Des Moines was longer than the drive to Rockford, but isn’t that the way it usually is. We drove to Cathy’s, picked up our car and got in about 10:30.

Monday, July 2, 2012

WDM, IA - Seeing Spots

In January of 2009, while we were in Corpus Christi, Cathy and Tom, my sister- and brother-in-law called to tell us that a pipe had bust in our lower level but that they had taken care of it. We returned in May and busily set about re-doing the whole lower level. We replaced the lowered tile ceiling with a regular ceiling, replaced the 4 windows and took out a wall. We did hire a local company to put in the drywall, tape and finish it. We painted all the walls and the ceiling and had the new carpeting installed. Finished with this project and none too soon. 1 week later we headed off for our winter sojourn.

When we returned back to the home in may of 2010, we noticed some small spots on one of the walls. We didn’t pay much attention but this year, we’ve noticed lots of spots. They are light grey, becoming more numerous and seemingly, under the paint. Now, I know what you’re thinking and, in truth, mold was one of our first throughts also. However, all of these spots appear where they smeared joint compound when they put in the dry wall. None of the spots go through the dry wall, since we can see the back side of the dry wall in an unfinished storage room.

Now, I’ve seen mold before and you can always touch it, it seems fuzzy and you can clean it off. This has none of these characteristics. It’s not fuzzy and I can’t touch it. I’ve tried scrubbing with water and soap and have had no success in gettting rid of it. Not only that, but there is no water source for all the areas where these spots appear. Mold needs water to grow. The humidity in our lower level is fine. 
Very puzzling. We called the dry wall company which sent out a representative who agreed with us that it seemed to be on the drywall joints. But, of course, ‘they have never had this problem before' and ‘they are a very reputable company’. We’ll get back to them. We then called in an official certified home inspector who took air samples on all three levels, cut off a section of the paint and joint compound and sent them all to a lab to test. But, he did tell us that it did not seem to be mold.
Sure enough, we have the official lab reports back and it is not mold: we have no instances of any mold in our house. (Of course, I didn’t have him check my cheese drawer in my refrigerator.) Now what? Well, we pulled all our furniture away from the walls to better see and track the problem. Next we circled all the spots on one wall - to see if they multiply or grow. Finally we are going to paint some with Kilz to see it they come through this. We’re going to leave our lower level like this over the winter to ascertain what we can do to get rid of this problem.

Here I am, circling the spots on one of the easiest areas to reach and monitor.
If you have any idea or have seen this before, please tell us. We’d love an answer. Meanwhile, we’re living like this for a while.
Kind of scrunched but we do want to be able to reach our walls. At least everything is handy.

I'm just sure that the dry wall company had a bad can of joint compound - but that is going to be fairly difficult to prove, especially 3 years after they did the work. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

WDM, IA - Green Bean Soup

Speaking of mothers, here’s another mother story - but, this time, it is Gary’s mother.

Gary’s grandparents both came from Czechoslovakia, separately, to America, met in Fort Dodge and raised a rather large family. When her son, Lug, married, Darlene, his new wife, wanting to serve her husband a recipe from home, got this recipe from his mother. Now, when their son, Gary married, being the good new wife that I was, I asked his mother for the recipe for Green Bean soup, which he said he liked. You know, passing down the family recipes. And, here is the recipe she gave me:
This is all I got. There’s nothing more. Now, isn’t that just like an old family recipe? I’ll bet each of you has a recipe tucked away that is just like this.

        ‘Cook beans with plenty of water.’ How many beans? What is ‘plenty?’

        ‘When they are about done, add diced potatoes.’ How many potatoes?

        “Brown bacon, onion until onion is transparent.’ How much bacon? How much onion?

And so on. I also have an old church cookbook and it is just as vague in some spots. Well, I soon figured it all out and it has been one of our favorites for our 39 1/2 years of marriage. It did trip us up once. Gary, who doesn’t have as much experience in the kitchen as I have, made this when I was working and he became the household cook. He looked at that word ‘vinegar’ and put in a cup. WOW. It was good but a bit tart. Luckily he had made a large pot of it.

I made that notation of ‘sour cream’ and somewhere along the line I must have decided that sour cream added a bit of flavor to it. But then, of course, I was adding skim milk instead of half and half. I also decided somewhere that I liked it better if it had been allowed to brown on the bottom of the pan a bit. My sister-in-law, Cathy, who has the same recipe, adds Velveeta cheese to it since she saw her grandmother, from whom the recipe first came, add cheese in her last years. But, she does not let it brown on the bottom of the pan - I wonder why.

Thus, this is a favorite of both of our families and it is what Cathy served us when we ate at her house yesterday. Can anything be better than a bowl of bean soup? Sure - another bowl of bean soup - which is what I and the other three had. Delicious. And, then just one more small taste to finish it all off. Thank you, Darlene and Gizela (Gary’s grandmother) and Cathy. Great meal.