Wednesday, July 29, 2009

When your doctor is on vacation . . .

. . .and you have a problem, unfortunately what you are often told to do is "go to the emergency room". At least that's what happened to us. Seven hours later, we left the emergency room (at nearly midnight) with unresolved issues and instructions to go to the office of the doctor filling in for our regular. Well, you can just imagine how that went. We were there for three hours, filled out every paper imaginable since they didn't know my husband from Adam, and finally got the type of examination and care we expected to be able to get in the emergency room of our large local hospital. Not all the answers yet, but some "This is not the problem" answers which are a bit of a relief. Now we have to go for tests tomorrow afternoon, and who knows how long that will take.

The ridiculous thing is, if our doctor or her office had told us "Dr. X is filling in for me, call him if you have a problem", we could have probably seen him yesterday afternoon before his office closed, and avoided all this. Why they didn't tell us is a mystery, since it was arranged for Dr. X to take care of emergencies with her patients.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Location is everything

Since I have told you about my relationship with the neighbor's dogs, I will recount this little story from yesterday. I was outside watering the flowers and enjoying the evening when Sparkle and Fritz appeared around the side of the house. After I got them calmed down, we all sat down underneath the oak tree for a little head-patting time (the dog cookies were in the garage - they would have to be happy with affection alone). After a few minutes, Fritz stood up abruptly, his head cocked sideways, and then trotted off around the yard to his house. Something had happened on his home turf that demanded his attention.

Sparkle and I moved onto the front stoop, where I sat enjoying the evening and she lay on the rug facing the front door, listening to my husband talking on the phone inside. (He's like the Voice of God to animals, I swear. They sit up and listen. I wish I had that kind of presence.) Finally Fritz returned from whatever pressing dog-business he had to attend to, and sat down on the step.

In a few minutes, however, he got up and moved to the stoop, where he sat down precisely as close to me as he could without actually sitting on me. This alerted Sparkle that her self-proclaimed position as Most Darling Dog was in jeopardy, so she wormed in between us even closer to me, pushing him aside. I "ssshh"-ed them, made them move over and put them in a sit again where they weren't trying dominate or monopolize me. It was OK for a minute, and then there Fritz was again, pushed up beside me like "She's MY property". And here came Sparkle trampling over him, like "No, she's MINE." So I had to take control and move them over and remind them that access to my lap and my person were not at their bidding but only if I said so.

This went on several times until I got the idea across that it wasn't their prerogative to pick their spot, I was the boss right that minute. I didn't belong to them and they couldn't "claim" me. It reminded me of two kids fighting over sitting in momma's lap.

The Cesar Millan approach to dogs

You might think this is a funny topic for a post, seeing that I don't have a dog and all, but with my neighbor's little miniature pinschers (aka the rat dogs), I have seen first hand how his methods are grounded in a dog's innate mental state, and that they really work.

The rat dogs visit us at regular intervals, being consummate escape artists. The chain link fence around their yard isn't even a serious deterrent. They get out often no matter what the owners do, and roam the neighborhood. I have heard brakes screeching followed by car horns when they get in the road, particularly the smaller female dog, Sparkle. She hasn't got the sense of a chipmunk and I would be afraid to try to estimate the close calls she's had on the street in front of her house. Her doggy guardian angel must surely be on duty, because she's never to my knowledge gotten hurt. It's a miracle.

The male dog named Fritz is a little more savvy and a lot smarter than his pal. I think he's smart enough to stay away from cars, but he's a nervous little thing and a consummate barker at anyone and everyone he doesn't know. Since his owners don't do very much with the dogs besides feed and provide water for them and give them a house to sleep in, they pretty much run amok and do whatever they please, including giving the fence the slip and roaming the neighborhood. Since his people haven't assumed a position of control in their lives, Fritz has taken it upon himself to be the alpha dog in this little pack, but he doesn't really want the job. His personality is way too nervous and timid to be an assertive leader, but in the way of animals who naturally live in packs, he stepped up to the plate since his humans weren't taking control by his way of thinking and Sparkle surely wasn't leadership material. Someone had to give the orders, so he appointed himself.

Now, for several months they have been visiting us for a pat and a cookie. Those two would walk through fire for a Milkbone. For a while I was admittedly nurturing their bad sides, because I am a cat person at heart and I treat an animal as a friend, not a minion. Unfortunately, this was making Sparkle more demanding of attention and Fritz more nervous.

My husband has more innate skills with dogs, but he doesn't enjoy the task. We have been watching Cesar Millan's "Dog Whisperer" show for years, and my husband already knew what Cesar was telling his clueless clients. If you don't want your dog to become a complete nuisance, you have to clamp down on them from day one. They have to understand that you are the leader of the pack and you won't tolerate any nonsense from them. This isn't being cruel or mean to your pet, it's clearly defining the social structure of the family and making sure the dog knows he's not at the top of it. It actually makes dogs more secure and happier. If a dog sees a vacuum in the power structure, he will try to take over the position of leader simply because as an animal that evolved living in packs, he thinks somebody's got to be the boss - why not him? Without a clearly defined leader, a pack animal can't function comfortably. They're nervous without structure in their lives. That's why most people's dogs run all over them. I don't think my husband feels there's a dog alive that is worth all the work it takes to keep them tolerable. We both would rather be a cat's buddy than a dog's boss.

The rat dogs were a textbook case. My neighbor John passed away last year. He was the one who got the dogs and the one who cared for them. His wife isn't a dog person and only keeps them because there wasn't anywhere else for them to go and I suppose she would feel guilty getting rid of John's dogs. I felt sad for the dogs because no one next door seemed to give them much attention; the youngest girl is even allergic to dogs. When they started slipping out and coming over, I would give them a little affection and a dog cookie, and they started to like me. Sparkle was an instant fan; it took Fritz longer to trust me. Now, whenever we are outside, two little faces appear at my gate for a visit.

I used to let them sit on my lap, but that's bad for two reasons: they are flea-bit and they STINK! I mean seriously; I had to change clothes after cuddling them. Doling out all this constant attention and petting and lap-cuddling was having a bad effect on them. Sparkle was becoming even more demanding of attention and Fritz was getting stressed trying to control her. Every time Sparkle started the "min-pin dance", jumping on her little back legs and waving her front paws in the air to attract attention, Fritz got very nervous and ran around her in circles, trying to calm her down.

I took a clue from my husband and Cesar. No more jumping and pawing at me - not allowed. No more 100% attention when they were around. They had to listen to me. They had to calm down and sit down before they got any treats or pets. Sparkle actually started to do little growly-barks at me when she felt she wasn't getting enough attention. Let me tell you, a seven pound dog trying to dominate you is funny looking, but it is very serious business. Thus are ankle-biters born.

The last few days I'm seeing results when they visit. After some corrections (mostly a finger point and "ssshhh" noise, delivered with the proper command presence) they are starting to get it. They mostly sit down and quit trying to climb in my lap, and behave themselves. Only when they are calm do they get any attention. The change in their demeanor is remarkable. Nervous gestures like lip-licking are diminished. Sparkle's almost-hyperventilating is diminshed and she's breathing more normally. They can sit or lie down beside us and relax. It's their natural state. Dogs don't like to live all spun up like that. Imagine yourself being anxious and nervous and adrenalized 24 hours a day. Horrible thought, isn't it?

I'm trying to make their little doggy lives better and I think we are succeeding. They still listen to my husband better than they do me, but I'm starting to get the hang of it. Of course, since we only see them maybe an hour a day, this won't change them completely, but I would like to see them calmer and happier. Fritz doesn't see me as the leader 100%, but it's coming along. Sparkle, she of the little brain, is a much more pleasant dog when she's not bombarding you with the hopping/barking/pushiness.

Cesar, you're absolute right.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Regarding eyeglasses

I picked up my new post-cataract-diagnosis sunglasses and bifocals today. My normal walking-around glasses were done last week. Now, I have my three pairs of glasses back in service:The bifocals, I admit, get little use, but it's nice to have a second set of glasses if something dire happens, and they are safety glasses frames left over from my work life, so the updated lenses were the only cost to me. I reused my old frames for the others, too, not only because I liked them but because glasses that fit my wide face are few and far between. You hang onto a pair when you find them.

I was trying to think of how many pairs of glasses I have owned since I was cursed with them at the age of 10. Oh, I had the nearsightedness when I was younger, just not the glasses. But the summer my brother turned 16, after he opened his gift (a darkroom set for developing pictures) and put the box down on the chair, I got up from the other side of the room and went over to it to read what was printed on the side. This triggered interest - "You can't see that?" Nope. I wasn't nearsighted enough to run into door frames or fall down stairs, and I had already gotten into the habit of taking the chair closest to the chalkboard in school, so my vision deficiencies weren't obvious. But now they were under scrutiny.

So I was packed off to the optometrist next to the Sears in Huntington, and sure enough, I needed glasses. I was just turning 10 and a bit of a geek. So what kind of glasses do I get?
Right - old lady frames of brown plastic with clear plastic along the bottom of the lens ("It'll make it easier for her to get used to looking through glasses," the doctor said. No, it just made me stranger looking.) Not really cats-eye glasses, but close. I was mortified, but unlike today's kids, I didn't get to give input on the choice. Besides, there weren't that many frames to choose from.

So, I left fourth grade just another kid and came back to fifth grade that fall a four-eyed geek. And thus began my love-hate relationship with glasses. Sure, I could see details in the world on the ride home from the eye doctor I never imagined before - "I can see every leaf on that tree!" But now I was a plain girl with ugly glasses, for pity's sake.

I wore those a couple of years and then because I had grown and my vision had changed, back to the optometrist we went and I got the same shape frames, just brown all over this time. Maybe an improvement. Marginal. I wore those for a few more years, and then, when I was a freshman, I went to Dr. Tisko in town and got new oval tortoiseshell glasses. Definitely better. Remember, these were the hippie years. They weren't granny glasses, but they were close. These glasses accompanied me through high school and a year of college.

Finally, when the plastic frames had seen better days and I needed a new prescription, I took myself over to the optician downtown near my college dorm and emerged with stainless aviator frames. At last, glasses that weren't an embarrassment. They were cool. They were trendy - Gloria Steinem wore aviators! They stayed with me until my first post-college job.

After that, there were two questionable pairs in the 80's - a little large, a little too, too - if you know what I mean. It was the 80's, after all. Then a pinky-beige pair, a gray pair (these were the ones that I got when I was almost in bifocal territory but the ophthalmologist compensated for it and saved me), three pairs of wire rimmed frames in gold, bronze and brown (should have been bifocals but I decided to take my glasses off instead when reading), and now the ones on the left in the picture. There was a very large pair of prescription sunglasses in there, too, during the early 90's - so very Joan Collins - and a smaller "cool" pair of sunglasses two years ago.

I was thinking about how nobody ever had more than one pair of prescription glasses when I was growing up. No one worried about frame styles, and we wore clip-on sunglasses. To have multiple pairs of eyeglasses was the height of wastefulness. (And, oh, Lord help a kid who broke his glasses.) Having three pairs of glasses still seems extreme to me.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The dreaded garden got'cha

I thought I had two ripe luscious tomatoes today. This is what I could see deep within the bush, on the fence side of the plant, their perfect backsides turned toward me. But when I pulled them out, here's what I found:
I spray and I spray and I look for bugs, and this is what I get, anyway.

Oh, bother.

Friday, July 10, 2009


I just got the weirdest email. Back in June another blogger wrote about the Simplicity strip cutting machine. I commented on it and said this:

The only problem I see is that the strip cutter cuts pinked edges. I can never sew an accurate 1/4" seam with pinked edges. I know from experience using jelly roll strips. As for the bias tape maker, you can buy a little doo-dad that folds the strip as you slide it through. A lot cheaper than Simplicity's machine, I'm sure, and quite effective. You get the strip started through the gizmo and pull it along the strip of fabric following closely behind with your steam iron as you move across your ironing board.

Now, today I get an email from a lady who bought one, was dissatisfied with it and returned it. She said she read about it in my blog. The way she put it, it sounded like I wrote this glowing recommendation of the strip cutter and misled her. Duh? I didn't even post about it, just commented on the other blog. And my comment was definitely ambivalent. So I'm very confused. I'm wondering if she followed the other commenters back to their blogs to get their email addresses and griped to them too. I noticed she commented on the original post on the other blog and said just about what she said to me in the email. I also noticed that her profile is blocked so you can't see anything about her.

Have you heard from her?

Monday, July 6, 2009

It truly IS "always something"

Well, we packed off our fourth of July guests (sister-in-law, her husband and her two teen aged sons) on Saturday night after 3 days of visiting and near-constant eating on the teenagers' part. I don't have much experience with teenage boys, but good heavens, can they pack the food away. I don't think we could afford to have them around much. The grocery trip stocking up to feed them for 3 days cost twice my normal weekly bill. It became quite fascinating to watch the food disappear. And, there appears to be an abnormal attachment to catsup going on. They ate it on everything. Don't know what to think about that.

Sunday was abnormally quiet with just the two of us in the house again. I spent a large part of it in a semi-recumbent position, recuperating. It's exhausting to entertain people, even relatives you want to see.

Then, we both had eye appointments today with the ophthalmologist. His was a scheduled checkup, nothing out of the ordinary, but mine was an examination because I realized I wasn't seeing at a distance very well with my current glasses. Since I've only had them 20 months, and since I kept the last pair for four years before my vision changed enough to warrant new glasses (to be honest, I was tired of the frames, my prescription hadn't changed all that much), I was concerned enough to schedule an appointment before the fall, when I was going to anyway.

Well. Turns out I am developing cataracts in both eyes, but the right one was enough to affect my vision. They can still correct my vision to 20/20 now, but when they can't I will be facing cataract surgery. We have no idea when or if that will happen, but the thought has spooked me. I knew something was up when, during the eye check, they show you the letters in a box flanked by two bright light bars at the top and bottom. She kept adjusting the size of the letters but the glare from the lights washed out the text box so that I couldn't read them with my right eye. I could read them with my left eye after some adjustment to the text, but it was hard.

This was one of those situations where I knew too much. I realized that meant I might have cataracts forming, since difficulty seeing in glare from bright lights is a symptom of cataracts. I had to mentally stew on that fact while they stuck the phoropter lens thing-y on my face to determine my glasses prescription (yep, changes in both eyes, but more in the right) and while I waited for the drops to dilate my pupils. Then the doc looked me over and pronounced what I already dreaded.

So now I'm a bit freaked. I need to keep a close check on my vision, and tell her if it deteriorates any more, and take the vitamins and supplements she recommended which may help. (This last item surprised me, because I never have run into an MD before that suggested taking vitamins or supplements of any kind, or actually seemed to have much knowledge about nutrition.) I consulted medical websites, such as Johns-Hopkins, after I got home and found out that a medication that I take may contribute to the formation of cataracts. Something else to discuss with the prescribing doctor next month.

On to brighter topics. On the quilting front, I haven't touched the sewing machine since I got back from Mom's house, but I intend to complete "In Lucinda's Garden" soon. I posted a photo of the Double Delight quilt on Quiltville's Yahoo group and got two comments. I wasn't really expecting a gush of compliments - but was glad two people noticed! And I have two designs burning a hole in EQ waiting for me to start them, as well as five, count 'em - five, tops to quilt for Project Linus. If I wasn't spending so much time watering the flowers and tomato plants, maybe I could get some more sewing done.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Back home

I was out of town for a short visit at my mother's house. It was her birthday, and I wanted to time my summer visit so that I could celebrate with her. We couldn't do that as easily when I was working, so it's a luxury to be able to choose any time I want for a visit.

I gave her the Double Delight quilt for her birthday. Now, you wouldn't think that being given a quilt would be that big a deal, considering that her house is almost as full of them as mine, but she was very emotional - she cried. Then I cried too and everybody got all weepy. She was very touched I would give her the quilt and loved the pattern and colors.

Another thing I bought for her birthday was a pair of shoes. That doesn't sound very spectacular, but we both have shoe buying problems. I wear a large shoe, and she wears a very narrow show. Both end up being hard to find. When she told me that her favorite store had quit carrying the flats she likes in a narrow width, I jumped on the computer and found them at Shoemall. I wish she wanted to learn about computers; she would love online shopping. With her hearing loss, telephone ordering is hard, and retail pickings are pretty slim in my old home town.

No photos of her birthday celebration - she doesn't like to have her picture taken. I don't either, so I completely understand.

Now I'm back home cleaning for company this weekend. For years, we couldn't bribe family to come here. Recently, though, we've been inundated with relatives. Sometimes I wonder if our house is on the way to a good fishing lake or something.