?`s and ANNEswers

Ten minutes to write. Less time to read.


I woke up this morning feeling as if I were having an out-of-body experience. Yes, I remember I’d spent part of yesterday in the Emergency Room and that I have a kidney stone. Yes, I remember I was drugged to relieve the pain and came home to cope.

The out-of-body part comes from feeling disconnected to my usual routine. On Sundays, for example, I often swim. This Sunday I was also supposed to go to the theater and then chat with a friend in the evening. There is no way my body – and my mind – can process any of this. So I’ve cancelled today’s activities. And Monday’s. Not sure about Tuesday but it might be off the calendar as well.

One medication I’m taking makes me pee more often. How does every fifteen minutes sound? So my commode and I are now the best of friends. Which is a good reason to cancel my current calendar’s commitments.

Additionally, the pain meds make me sleepy and fuzzy. I realize that the right thing for one part of your body is usually counterproductive to another part. The medication I am taking for pain is constipating; the diet for kidney stone prevention is counter to a diet for other health issues; the vitamins to take for this isn’t a good idea for that.

So I’ll be compliant for a few days. After that, we’ll see.

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It came on suddenly as I practiced piano. One minute I’m pounding through “Great Barrier Reef,” and the next my stomach is pounding in its own right. The former piece is about the Great Reef in Australia in all its glory; the latter had nothing glorious about it.

Only an intense desire to visit the bathroom. And then again. And again.

When my stomach is upset, I’ve found that curling into a fetal ball and trying to sleep often helps, especially if it’s something I ate that didn’t agree with me. So I did that for six hours but with little relief. You can gauge how miserable I felt, because the question always is, “Does the insertion of an IV in my arm in the emergency room cause more anxiety than the pain I feel?” Most times, the pain wins.

But by late afternoon, I threw in the towel. Doubled over in evident misery, I was greeted promptly at the ER by someone who put me in a wheelchair and pushed me past others waiting their turns. Earl parked the car and came to console me.

The next four hours included a myriad of tests as well as something to dull the pain. Actually it took more than one something administered through an IV, but eventually relief begrudgingly arrived. As did a diagnosis. I have a kidney stone. Who knew that something only 3 mm in size could cause such agony?

After signing various forms and instructions, I was sent home to await the stone’s passing. (Given its relatively small size in the world of kidney stones, this is the first course of action.)

Needless to say, I was also sent home with good pain meds. Which are making me  v e r y   s l e e e e e p y now. Back to the fetal ball position.

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Recently I posted about several things on my To Do List that have languished there. (See August 5, 2019.) Today I started making headway on them. I actually changed the furnace filter, only nine days late. I started a project for my aunt that included photos from our recent trip to the McDonald Family Reunion in upstate New York. And I called someone to come clean our carpet. At the same time, I added other items to the list.

So am I ahead or behind? I think it’s all in the way one feels about the day’s achievements. Given this was the first day that I was back in my usual routine, having recently traveled for a week followed by a visit from my son for the next week, it felt great.

I wonder if other people have this yin and yang about their lives.

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Today is my current husband’s eighty-fourth birthday. (See yesterday’s blog if you think he is the father of my sons.) Who knew we would ever get this old?

Who knew he would still be working? And have the constitution of a horse? He takes no medication to have a blood pressure reading in a doctor’s office of 120/70. He is not diabetic, doesn’t have COPD, has all his original body parts, and does a crossword puzzle every day.

What did we do to celebrate?

We spent the morning at a doctor’s office when we learned the growth in his left ear is not cancer but needs to be removed. Then we went to breakfast where Earl devoured two eggs, bacon, and English muffin, and a blueberry pancake smeared with syrup and butter.

Later today we went to Grande Mere Inn (his choice) for a birthday dinner that was excellent. And now, he’s watching the Chicago Bears in a pre-season football game while I record the day for posterity.

Years ago we might have tripped the light fantastic; but now we’re content to mark the day as special and be asleep by 10 PM.

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Fifty-four years ago today I married the father of my two sons. We were college sweethearts and wed as soon as I graduated. He was two years ahead of me and waited as I suffered through Metaphysics and sailed through Sociology.

He died last year, but I am not his widow. Rather, we divorced after eleven years of marriage; both of us went on to marry others. Still, I’m one to remember anniversaries of all sorts: birthdays, weddings, deaths.

Our wedding was at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago. I was 21, he 23. I was from a small Irish family; he was from a large Italian one. I loved its wide open arms and emotional reactions to everything; I never knew what he thought about my own heritage, but I know we were more reserved.

My Mother, paying for the wedding, opted for a small one. Fifty guests, no more. Twelve for our side; the rest for my fiance’s. But my intended’s family had more than that which they wanted to invite and offered to pay for the expense of so many relatives. My Mother declined, since she felt it was the bride’s family – which consisted of her and me – to pay for the entire reception.

So the event was fraught. In fact, our marriage was fraught. But today what I recall is not our time together as man and wife. What I remember fondly are the three years leading to that wedding; they were charming. Magical. Full of laughter and fun.

The fact that we were not really ready for marriage never entered our minds. Looking back, it probably should have. But we were young and inexperienced and had no way of knowing what lay ahead.

Today, I’m glad we didn’t.

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To Do

I am an inveterate list maker. By the day, by the week, and by the when-I’m-caught-up-with-the- day-and-the-week. If you’re wondering what this last category is, it’s all those projects I want to do but don’t have a deadline for. Or maybe a soft deadline, which is one that isn’t on my calendar but lingers in my head.

Currently, here are some of the items on this last list.

  1. Clean the furnace filter. This should be done every month for optimal operation of our furnace and AC, but I’m extremely lax here. Actually, it’s on my calendar for the first day of every month; but this is August 5, and I still haven’t done it.
  1. Genealogy for my cousin Charlotte. At my family reunion last month, I promised the historian of the McDonald Family that I’d update her records of our branch on the family tree. I’ve done nothing except make that promise.
  1. Apply for TSA’s permanent Precheck status. This requires a visit to some bureaucratic office in Kalamazoo so that I don’t have to undress – shoes, jacket, belt, hat, etc. – every time I go through security at an airport. It’s $85 for five years; given the amount of travel I might do, this is definitely worth it.
  1. Clean the garage. Actually, this one can stay on the list indefinitely.
  1. Stock up on lightbulbs. Sounds easy enough, except that light bulbs have gotten complicated in recent years. I know what I like, but I don’t know what it’s called on the lumen spectrum. I also know what I don’t like, and I don’t like the modern bulbs. Period. This item will probably get my attention when we start working in the dark.
  1. A myriad of other items. There’s making notes on our July 2018 visit to Alaska. The photos are all aligned in an album, but there are no words to accompany them. There’s an item to study my relatively new (maybe a year old) iPod instructions, and one to contact Comcast to reduce our monthly bill.

Some of these things will probably never be finished. But keeping them on the list keeps them in the background of my consciousness at least.

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Simple Gifts

There have been two mass shootings in the last twenty-four hours in our country, one in El Paso and the other in Dayton. We are the only country in the civilized world that has had more than 250 mass killings in 2019, with five months to go before the year winds down. When will it end?

At the same time, I’ve tried to concentrate on the small, gentle things that happened to me today as I learned of the national scene.

One, I swam for half an hour and it felt good. I swam with friends, and that felt good too. Two, my gladiolas continued to unfold, a sign of nature’s resilience. Three, my gardener friend, Mike, came by to admire our mutual handiwork over the summer. Four, my son brought an appetizer from a brewery for the first course of tonight’s dinner.

These are small wonders indeed when you’re reading about mass killings. I relish them because they are becoming fewer and fewer in our national mindscape.

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Ice Balls

When I was in grade school, an ice ball was what the boys lobbed at the girls on the way home from school. They were harder than snowballs and left a temporary permanent mark if one connected with an uncovered leg or arm or cheek. The main battlefield occurred around Elsworth’s Drug Store, where we often stopped for six cent single ice cream cones as a reward for enduring Sister Mary What’s-Her-Name another day. Truth be told, the girls loved to be pummeled by the boys because it was a sign of adolescent affection.

Today, ice balls have another more adult meaning. I first became acquainted with them while visiting my son Kevin in Fargo. We’d gone to a new bar to sample the wares. I don’t remember what I ordered; what I do remember is that it arrived in a cocktail glass with a giant round ice cube floating in it. At first I was intrigued by the single cube and the logic that it could keep the drink cold while not diluting it. It has a sleek look too.

Lo and behold, the ice ball has arrived in Benton Harbor, MI, several years after I first met it in Fargo. That same son, Kevin, and I visited one of our local haunts a couple days ago. We always sit at the bar where he orders the Corpse Reviver straight up and I order a Buffalo Trace Old Fashioned on a rock. The rock does not disappoint.

The other night the cocktail server told us you can get the molds for ice balls at Meijer, so this afternoon I went in search of them. At first, all I found was a mold for five-pointed stars. Then a mold, believe it or not, for crushed ice. At last, I found the ice ball mold on a BOGO sale; and currently there are four of them solidifying in my freezer as I drink my Southern Comfort with ice chards for the last time.

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I received a postcard this afternoon that was really a bunch of coupons stuck together for me to use at my local Meijer store. What I noticed most about these discounts was that they were sealed with rubber cement.

I rolled it off into a little ball with my finger and wondered if there is much of a market left for this product. The only other time I’ve seen it recently was when my new credit card arrived in the mail stuck to instructions on how to activate it.

But back in the day, which in this case is the nineteen eighties, rubber cement was a staple of my professional life. It was glue but with the unique property that the two items glued together could be unglued. This was invaluable in laying out brochures and flyers before the age of cut and paste. Now everything is done on a computer, so perhaps there’s not much market for a glue that can come unglued.

I didn’t research this, nor have I lost sleep over it; but I do hope the manufacturers of rubber cement have other products in their inventory.

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Flying By

Two months ago I relished the thought that summer was about to appear. Lazy days of sunning, gardening, reading, napping, and swimming. Oh, and physical therapy, doctors’ appointments, medical bills, and therapeutic massage.

Actually the former activities made the latter ones tolerable, and summer has flown by with progress on all fronts. My garden blossoms; my napping has become gourmet quality; physical therapy has given me back my right arm; and the medical bills are under control.

So this summer was most productive. And, in Michigan, the public schools are mandated by a 2006 law to start after Labor Day. Which means there are four more weeks until classes begin.

Still, I see the creep of autumn. Trees and bushes and crops are bulging with greenery. Some of my flowers are telling me they’re done. School bus companies are seeking drivers while shopping excursions have become all back-to-schoolish.

Was it like this years ago, that fall started the beginning of August? That summer seemed truncated. That vacation frenzy ran rampant. I really don’t think so. In this age, however, we’re always looking ahead, plotting our steps, making plans for the future.

Which means Christmas will be here before we know it.

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