Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Give a Kidney for the Holidays

Glenn, a dear friend of 30 years, has a daughter, Sandra, who needs a new kidney.

Another friend of 30 years, married Glenn's son, and they now have three daughters, all beautiful in spirit and intention.
Please take a minute and a half to view the gift they gave their Aunt Sandra for the holidays, then please forward this request to everyone you know.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWVvCniWF4k&feature=youtu.be

Let's make this wish happen! Anyone interested in donating should contact the University of Washington Medical Center at 206-598-3627. The identity of the inquiring person is never revealed to Sandra or her family.


Here is some background information Glenn posted in April.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Filling My Cracks

At fifty-something, manless, and poorer than a millionaire next door pretends to be, I tighten my muscles and tackle most big jobs myself. In the two years past, I’ve had to buy new batteries for my drill, a pump for my hot tub, a new bathtub and surround, roof, windows, manpower, and crack fillers of many kinds—evidence of a writer with too much time on her hands.

My neighbor loaned me Home Improvement 1-2-3: Expert Advice from the Home Depot (1995) that teaches in blonde terms and illustrations how to build and repair things around the house. They usually feature male illustrations, further convincing me I’m attempting gender-inappropriate work and should really return to carrying a briefcase filled with sales material and gender-inappropriate items.

Due to my 1954-vintage house founded on shrinking-when-dry then swelling-when-wet bentonite clay soil coupled with a 10-year dry spell, Mississippi River–size cracks creep up walls and across ceilings making thick moaning and breaking sounds like a lake freezing in wintertime. It’s ominous, though my nightmarish thoughts are prime fodder for a horror flick. Imagine drowning in a king-size waterbed after it fell through the floor. It’s happened to me twice.

In DIY mode, I researched and learned that each of my cracks might need a different filler, sort of like being on the air again (DJs and radio/TV types unite!). Depending on size and location, each substance has its own problem if not inserted into the appropriate crack. Believe me, I’ve had my share of experimentation, not always choosing correctly, and it has led to time-consuming extraction complications. There’s joint compound, Spackle, expandable foam, vinyl concrete patch, concrete latex crack filler, epoxy, and a dizzying variety of caulks. Some materials, once inserted and allowed to age, tend to be rather difficult to remove. I chipped away two-year-old silicone caulking from the upper periphery of my lower brick fireplace with putty knife and hammer. It was no easy job to pull off. Now I understand how hard it must be to remove those big, expensive boobs girls have installed after their spines atrophy.

Last Saturday I used expandable foam to fill a two-inch crack between drywall and the entire chimney masonry unit, an 8’ x 4.5’ x 30’ structure containing two fireplaces and four chimney pots that is literally heading south. It is separating from the rest of the house, headed for warmer climes. By next year, I’ll be able to add a large gun closet where the fireplace used to be, and I’ll build a house around the chimney’s new location. That two-inch crack allowed me to see the garage from inside my home. It also created quite the draft, so I foamed it.

Since the entire can of expandable foam had to be used or it would self-seal, I decided to use the remainder and fill the open-air space between my large, wood garage door and its frame. I don’t waste stuff, including Great Stuff, but I’m blonde and tend to use materials in unconventional ways. A 70-year-old cashmere sweater has been transformed into door insulation, for example.

The day after I foamed the garage door, I got a call from an old friend, “Hey, you want to be spontaneous and enjoy fermented grapes with me?” I said sure, I’d be over in a bit.

But my garage door wouldn’t open. It was expandable-foam shut. Being a bit later than expected, I called my friend and asked, “Have you ever done anything stupid?” then realized he’s a politician and didn’t force a response. So I powered off the phone and chipped the hard, foam-looking material from my garage door, then drove up the cañon for a grape tasting.

That said, a result to seriously consider is that crack fillers are not eternally pliable as girls are with wine. Spackling dries and separates. Some caulk has elasticity, though it’s unsuitable to span large crevices between parting walls. And not all foamy liquids make you burp and pass wind.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

When in Doubt, Vote It Out

The following arrived Sunday, October 14, from a friend whose dedication to changing the world continues for the better, at least most of the time:

[edited version] "I just read [El Paso County, Colorado, Sheriff] Terry Maketa’s essay on “Why I need a tax hike for the Sheriff’s Department” and looked at his current budget: $47.8 million. Taking the land area of El Paso County, I subtracted the City of Colorado Springs, which has its own police department, subtracted Fort Carson (military police), the Air Force Academy (more military police), took out Peterson Field [Peterson Air Force Base] (ditto), took out Space Command/NORAD, and did not include Woodland Park, which is in Teller County.
 "So on Maketa's current budget, it is costing us brave souls a million dollars per square mile per year for law enforcement. Just for law enforcement, not roads, bridges, whatever. And he can’t make ends meet at that level. Something is seriously wrong in this country.…
 
"It just struck me that the government is sucking up all of the money 'per square foot,' or 'per capita,' or whatever—one of the reasons the private sector is dead.

"We have to do 'Stormwater' at half a billion dollars, because of lawsuits from Pueblo about the water coming down Fountain Creek. Well, for that money, actually about half that, we could buy the whole town of Pueblo and move it somewhere south of Albuquerque. Things are just getting all out of proportion."

The above-mentioned friend is a successful entrepreneur who established a few national corporations and continues to travel internationally, helping less fortunate countries become self-sustaining. So, with permission, I forwarded my friend's email to other friends, saying, "I'd welcome your comments and received the following."

A. "I think you should become a columnist, in the great style of Andy Rooney. You hit the nail on the head…government is sucking all of our money; either directly, or indirectly."

This friend obviously credited me for the entrepreneur's research, but I need to give him a break—he also resigned from his job the same day he wrote and plans to leave this cowtown. Next…

B. This from an unlikely Harvard Business School grad and current adjunct professor: "I'm against the logic being used and prefer the concept of 'zero-based budgeting' where we don't assume that the infrastructure needed to support the troops on the ground has been well-invested and justified ... the other aspect to consider is that population density varies (open land versus single-family homes versus mega-apartment complexes) ... the purported arguments and logic appear flimsy and we need to review how much of the budget is currently for hands-on protection versus equipment and paper pushers amd middle management ... at least that's my quick overview."


C. "Good to hear from you. Give me a call," from a politician friend.

D. From a former DoD-contractor employee and educator: "If he would deport every illegal alien and make Colorado Springs a very distasteful place for illegals, it would save the county one whale of a lot of money. If the jail were a little more unpleasant, maybe the illegals would leave. They could hassle all of the medical marijuana places. His law enforcement budget covers jails, etc.

"Maybe he needs to copy Joe Arpaio in Arizona. Check this out: www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxNgJk0WSqs
peace."

The next astute response comes from the most credible friend I know, whose intelligence, drive, talent, and sense of humor still blow me away after 27 years. Cream of the crop, this guy. He actually gave me a tour of NORAD in 1985 when he was first manufacturing satellite equipment.

E. "You activist, you! I am in agreement with the writer. I present a few reasons I believe the Sheriff's budget is sufficiently funded at this point. Is there really a need for an El Paso County Explosives Response vehicle complete with robot, or is this an asset that could be shared between city and county? The El Paso County Tactical Rescue Unit? Really? Two HazMat vehicles?

"If the Sheriff's requested sales tax passed, then we, as citizens of Colorado Springs, who comprise over two-thirds of the county population AND provide our own police protection, would be responsible for the majority of the revenue generated. Citizens of Colorado Springs currently pay 0.4 percent Public Safety Sales Tax, a tax approved by the voters in 2001 to assist our city's police and fire departments.

"I am chairman of the PSSTOC, the citizens' committee that oversees spending of these funds. So, if we not only fund our own protection through the general fund but also pay an extra 0.4 percent specifically for our own protection, why in the world should we, as residents of COS, be expected to pay an additional 0.23 percent for protection outside our city limits?

"It should be remembered that the Sheriff's Department does maintain much of the jail facilities. However, we currently pay a 1 percent county sales tax that should generate about $62 million a year from city residents. We also pay miscellaneous fees for roads and bridges through our property taxes and register our vehicles through the county DMV. How much do we need to carry those who live outside our city limits? How much do we and should we rely on county services?

"The statement has been made about the explosive population growth in El Paso County. The majority of this population growth is in the many housing developments in the Falcon, Widefield, Security, and Cimarron Hills areas. Otherwise, I believe it is safe to say that El Paso County has a fairly low population density, consisting of ranches and horse property. Looking at crime statistics for the county, the vast majority of incident reports come from these four areas. Why don't these population centers, especially Falcon, either pay more for their services or create their own police forces?

"I believe Falcon should incorporate, pass their own city sales tax, and create their own police force. Obviously, the residents do not agree. However, we are once again being asked to take responsibility for them. Let them take responsibility for themselves. This, to me, is the crux of the argument. Why are we, as city residents, being asked to fund our public safety and their public safety?

"Luv Ya…"

You heard him: Vote No. Vote No on all judge-retention petitions too—they are not God.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Waldo Canyon Fire

Climbing out of a big, black hole this morning, I could finally see the light of day. As I opened my bedroom blinds and cautiously opened the window, a wonderful, clean, sweet, moist waft of air freshened my lungs and filled the room with much-needed relief. The six o’clock sun’s warmth on my face complemented the cool air emanating from our rain-drenched earth. Praise god. All but two of us made it through hell.

During record-high heat for days in a row, fires devastated a large section of our half-million-peopled city. Those on the west side of I-25 that bisects Colorado Springs found it hard to breathe for a week—not just because of the thick, particulate-filled smoke, but because of fear—fear of being forced from their homes with possibly no home to return to. This happened to 347 families. One couple was unable to escape and succumbed to fire in their destroyed home.
Throughout the week beginning Saturday, June 23, 2012, plumes of residue from burning foliage hung in the air like a thick, dry fog. Many trees had lain on their sides for years, victims of a years-long drought and beetles that preyed upon their weakened bark and flesh. Those living in their midst probably felt the darkness surrounding them, though the Colorado sun burned brightly. Lack of rain drained plants’ resistance to predatory insects and disease making them vulnerable to volatile situations. It would have taken numerous invigorating showers for our trees, shrubs, and other plants to replenish their vitality. As they stood, frail with roots shriveling in dry, crushed granite, they were star-crossed awaiting an executioner’s line.

Like water, wind, and the earth’s bowels, fire has a life of its own. It moves and breathes like a wild animal, but can grow exponentially at lightning speed. Given austere conditions and abundant fuel, all it needs is a spark or dull smolder to bring heat to life. Further encouraged by even a small breeze, fire converts all that is beautiful and ugly into ash. The wild creature, tense from being caged for years, breaks free and grows larger with each discovery. Dried pine needles crackle and spit. Its flames loop around tall cylinders of wood, dancing from limb to twig, changing colors as they interact with sap, moisture, and air. Fire transforms, licking and lapping like a wave at land, sucking life from its victims left dying in its wake. Insatiably, fire consumes the desiccated and affects the green in parched, lively gulps until it is depleted of fuel or man tames it.

Waldo Canyon, whose trail I used to hike at least monthly, held ripe components for a dramatic firestorm for years. How the most destructive fire in Colorado history got its start, we have yet to learn. What we do know, though, is how better to mitigate fire’s reach, how to build more fire-resistant homes, how to more intelligently landscape in an arid clime, and how much we care about each other.

[written Tuesday, July 10, 2012]

Friday, May 4, 2012

Giving Up Prejudice: Loving Dandelions

I’ve held prejudice against dandelions. Shocking, because in October 2010, I blogged about feeling rejected like one—if our feelings were real and acknowledged.

In my yard, alone, dandelions took the brunt of victimization by pluck, hours of it. Now I’m free, and so are they! I love ’em.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Colorado Springs Recommendations: Electric, Garage Doors and Door Openers

Electric. As a person known to repair almost anything, I avoid electrical repairs after having received a strong shock while fixing my hot tub. And though I’ll never need another perm or a pacemaker, the risks, in my opinion, outweigh the benefits of playing home electrician.

One afternoon I decided to enjoy a riveting game of Miller Moth Tag. Currently there are more millers than in a Wisconsin phone book. The goal of the game is to suck the three billion creepy, dusty fellas entering my garage and home each night into the great abyss of my 10-gallon Shop-Vac. If you haven’t tried it, I strongly recommend it, particularly if your hand-eye coordination is suffering and you don’t have a date.

Amidst my joy and determination, I must have touched a lightning bug instead of a miller, because, suddenly, my freezer, alarm system, and garage door opener ceased operation. Panicked and wondering how to rectify this major disaster (that I was certain would cost more than a week’s pay, which would be easy since my weekly income equals zero), I leashed Shiloh and headed out for a hike. These almost-daily jaunts double as thought and prayer time while observing God’s creatures and creation.

Within five minutes, I saw a well-dressed young man step out of a Rocky Mountain Electric van. I got a tingle.

"Gee, I could really use your help," I said to him, then explained my great moth adventure.

Jason Kelly, master electrician, handed me a card and said he’d call after his appointment. Rather than walk-jogging the three-mile trail, I ran so I wouldn’t miss him. As I was leaving the park, he rang. We met at my house, where he quickly assessed and repaired my electrical problem. Jason was my answer to prayer, something I term a miracle.

I recommend Jason (719-229-6633) and believe him to be honest, hard working, kind, and able to handle most electrical challenge.

Garage Doors, Door Openers, and Repair. Practically everything I have is old and falling apart (she said as she looked in the mirror), so when I find a trustworthy, reasonably priced company that handles repairs and replacements, I like to share these treasures with others.

Having had much experience with the folks at American Overhead Door (719-538-9900) to balance my two-ton Crawford oak door on the continually shifting old brick house, I’ve found all technicians skilled, courteous, and timely. They’ve also replaced parts in my early ’90s Sears Craftsman opener. Sure, they offered replacements but appreciated the quality of my Crawford, as well as my desire to use old parts till they’re no longer reparable.

As for plumbing, I’ve been fortunate to have my ol’ pal Norman rescue me from repair to repair.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Kidney Donor Appeal [a guest editorial]

My daughter Sandra is in need of a living kidney donor.

Twenty years ago, Sandra’s diabetes led to her need for a new kidney and pancreas. Through the generosity of a donor family, she received those organs. She worked hard to care for her new organs that have lasted several years longer than expected, however both of the transplant organs have failed.

Currently she is being kept alive by dialysis. Though a person can live several years on dialysis, the procedure requires a person to be attached to a machine for roughly four hours, three sessions per week. Because of the unpleasant side effects, such as nausea, exhaustion, and headaches, coupled with weakening of the body and reduced quality of life, dialysis is a life-sustaining measure, not a solution.

Sandra is on the list for a deceased donor kidney, but for a person like Sandra with blood type O, the wait is more than four years. There are 80,000 to 90,000 people in the United States awaiting a donor kidney. A person with type O blood can volunteer to donate a kidney directly to Sandra. A person with another blood type can donate to the Living Donor Exchange Program, which in turn would donate a kidney to her.

Once a donor steps forward, the procedure can be expedited to within two to three months. About 30 percent of living kidney donors do not know the recipient. Donors can live anywhere in the United States. Surgery for the donor is laparoscopic, and the recovery time is 2 to 3 weeks. Sandra’s insurance pays for donor tests and all other medical costs including surgery and post surgery.

Anyone interested in donating should contact the University of Washington Medical Center at 206-598-3627. The identity of the inquiring person is never revealed to Sandra or her family.

I know this is a lot to ask, but we lost her mother to diabetes and my hope is to have Sandra with us for many more years. I am asking you to talk about the Living Donor Program to many people. I am willing to talk with anyone, including groups, about this need. Please contact me at 719-635-0798. Also, I would ask that you consider becoming an organ donor by checking the donor box on your driver’s license.

 Thank you for your time and your thoughtfulness.

 Glenn Driscoll

Monday, April 2, 2012

Lent ’n’ Easter

For the past few weeks, Pastor keeps talking about Lent. As much church as I’ve attended in my half century of earthen wear, I’m still unclear as to what it really is.

Raised by an old banker dad who headed a loan department, I saw Lent as meaning “loaned yesterday,” as in, “I lent those poor borrowers my daughter each summer so I didn’t have to deal with her.” So to me, Lent is more like Passover, as in, “During my childhood, my dad opted to pass over raising me to poor borrowers each summer.” No kidding.

In the old Wisconsin days, my high school buds and I would joke that we were giving up something for Lent. “Yeah, for Lent I’m giving up smoking and liver.” I didn’t smoke, only morons eat liver, and God already knew I wasn’t about to give up the sinful things I enjoyed.

Research break: I just looked up Lent and learned that it consists of the 40 weekdays from Ash Wednesday to Easter and is devoted to fasting, penitence, and abstinence. I’ve fasted most Fridays for years, but if I had to fast for eight weeks I’d look like Gandhi did, all nose. Abstinence—well, if it’s from sex, my Lent began years ago. If it pertains to beer, forget it.

Easter reminds me of my daughter, Ivy. Late on the Saturday night before Easter when she had just turned four, I hopped ’round the house hiding plastic eggs filled with unhealthy stuff like beef, pork, and onions.

To top off this gourmet with creative juices, I took a piece of printer paper, drew two bunny tracks on it, and cut them out. Then I grabbed the baking soda and headed for the stairway.
Laughing to myself at how clever I was, I sprinkled baking soda through the track holes, two paw prints per step. I’ll admit, I was pretty proud of myself. Here was Miss High-tech Businesswoman stooping over stairs at 10:45 p.m., pretending to be a cute little bunny, all for the joy of her little angel.

Easter morning, the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, little Ivy rose and began searching for her rotten meat ’n’ onions. (Okay, I hid candy, but that makes me sound like a bad mom.) When she tootled toward the stairway, I was psyched, anxiously awaiting her surprised reaction at seeing bunny tracks. I could almost hear her jubilantly say, “Look, Mommy! The Easter bunny hopped from downstairs!” and be all happy.

Instead, this precocious four-year-old ambled down a few steps, bent down, and closely observed the tracks. She wiped her little hand over the white powder, then rubbed her thumb against her fingers. “Baking soda,” she said. “Why would the Easter bunny walk through baking soda?”

“How do you know that’s baking soda?!” I demanded.

MOMmy,” she replied, as if to say, “Are you really that dumb?”

Sometimes. I suddenly understood penitence. I should have dropped chocolate-covered rabbit turds instead.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Returned to Sender Due to Addressee’s Violation of Postal False Representation Law

When a person is enduring a lawsuit of any kind—divorce, perjury, embezzlement, malfeasance, defrocking, impeachment—walking to the mailbox can be an anxiety-producing event. Opening its cover and seeing what lies within can be like uncovering maggots in your briefs.

Years ago while being railroaded by judicial system thugs—mean, small-minded pond scum who used my daughter as a pawn to torment me and threw law interpretations around like gangsters would a dead cat—I couldn't foresee what deceptive accusations would fall into my mailbox. To protect my soul, my postman would offer to hold certain pieces till I was emotionally hardened and ready to receive the fraud I’d eventually open.

Trauma throughout life can elicit responses to stress that make the brain shut down. Perpetrators seem to have an ability to victimize the innocent to make them feel as if somehow they, the prey, are criminals. Perps are like that.

Six years after my daughter became free from a very abusive situation and my family finally gained some peace, I received a piece of mail that looked official and did the wrong thing: I reacted without reading the correspondence top to bottom. It was a Periodic Report, purportedly from the Secretary of State, informing me I was delinquent (by months) in renewing my $10 annual fee and now owed $225. Indeed, I had not renewed the corporation I started in 1986 because I didn’t use it and had discussed the issue with a gal at the SoS’s office, stating that my intent was to dissolve the corporation. She told me how to told me to proceed, and I heeded her instruction.

The document I received looked legitimate, but it wasn’t. Had I not reacted from Mailbox Fear and read the entire page, particularly the bottom quarter, I would have seen this:

“This product or service has not been approved or endorsed by any Government Agency and this offer [note: offer] is not being made by an agency of the Government. U.S.C. 39.6.3001(d). This is a solicitation for the order of services, and not a bill, invoice or statement of account due. You are under no obligation to make any payments on account of this offer.”

As a very detail-oriented editor, I know that most of our government forms, heck, almost everyone’s printed pieces, are riddled with errors. It upsets me that few respect our language enough to learn it. But in this case, angst replaced detail orientation.

So in reaction to this document, I jotted them a note mentioning the date I talked with the SoS gal and her name and returned the document in the envelope provided.

Ten months later the same envelope I’d mailed with my note was returned unopened with a red, all-uppercase U.S. Postal Service stamp: RETURNED TO SENDER DUE TO ADDRESSEE’S VIOLATION OF POSTAL FALSE REPRESENTATION LAW.

Hmm, I am the sender, so how is the addressee in violation? I went to usps.com and found numerous USPS lawsuits against organizations. All were fraud cases. Many people illicitly have attempted to get victims to give them money. The words transgression of the law were in the USPS claims, which sounded very biblical.

Then I googled the words of the red stamp and found www.ripoffreport.com/small-business-services/corporate-controller/corporate-controllers-unit-pe-69f53.htm

“The solicitation looks very official citing that ‘Colorado Corporations Code Requires Periodic Report’ and ‘CORPORATIONS CODE SECTION, 7-90-301 AND 7-90-501 Colorado Revised Statues (C.R.S)’

“It's not until the bottom of the letter that it reads ‘This is a solicitation for the order of services, and not a bill, invoice or statement of account due’

“Unfortunately, many companies may be duped into thinking this is an official notice for payment by the State of Colorado and end up paying these scammers the $225 fee.”

Also, “By the way, Corporate Controllers Unit, it's U.S.C. 39.4.3001(d) that you should be referencing not 39.6 (which doesn't even exist!). For the intern at CCU the roman numerals are: IV = 4, VI = 6, there is no part 6 of Title 39.”

Bottom line: Don’t let fear be your guide.

Monday, March 19, 2012

You Who

Late one night I went online to read the local obituaries and saw a name that my friend would be relieved seeing, due to the harm the deceased had inflicted upon my friend’s children.

I quickly tapped a one-liner with a link to the obit and included a Clarence Darrow quote, “I have never killed anyone, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction.”*

Immediately the email bounced back because I’d inadvertently sent it to an old address, and thank goodness it did. My one-liner read: “Did you hear you died?” rather than “who.” Ho llew.

* Clarence Darrow, American lawyer (1857–1938), http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Clarence_Darrow

Wearing Diapers Again

Whenever my daughter sneezes, I ask, “Did ya wet your pants?!”

She rolls her eyes at me and, playing my game, answers, “Sure did. Nice ’n’ warm.”

We’re strange like that, springing off each other’s thoughts. Free association, wild style. I’m drawn to quick-witted types who keep my mind humming.

Like my spirit mate of 27 years. Unfortunately, he contracted a nasty case of influenza, so on top of all his regular doctor and therapy appointments, he has had to add another to the docket. What a terrible waste of precious time and energy. Though he’s on the mend and heads into work, his vigor quickly wanes. Never the poorer, he’s endowed with a wry sense of humor.

“Your body is telling you to go home and rest,” I said to him, even though he’s extraordinarily driven and likes spending alone time at his recording studio where he composes symphonies, concertos, and other movements you don’t flush.

He’s a rare person who has become famous, or should I say, notorious, prehumously vs. the more common posthumously. Still, his knees almost always quiver when he’s standing before an appreciative audience. I can relate.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to get together soon,” he said with a slight air of doubt in his voice. Seems when a person is ill, it’s hard to imagine feeling better. When a body’s energy is zapped, tending only to restoring health, it can feel as if you’re never going to be better. “It’s hell getting old,” he said. “Takes longer to heal.”
“Maybe we should reverse the process and start getting younger but without needing diapers.” Then, as if on cue, something flew up my nose. "A-choo! (pause) Whoops! Too late."

If you don’t understand, wait a few years.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Dead Girl Makes Great Date

At book club we’ve been reading Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth since August 12, 2010. I joked with my friend, Anita, that we’d probably never finish the book and end up taking Eckhart to the grave with us. Each month we’d only go through a few pages. It’s not that we’re just learning English or that we find consciousness such a difficult topic to absorb, but we girls can talk!

Imagine my surprise when we finally completed the book March 14, 2012, 19 months after we began.

In the last chapter, Tolle wrote about how Western societies have little respect for the old, who when they’ve breathed their last, aren’t seen anymore. It’s as if death should be hidden. I commented that two of my friends had died in November, as well as two uncles in recent days or months, and cremation has taken the place of the wake.

“We travel from different parts of the country or world these days,” I said, “so it’s hard to get people in one place quickly. Of course, I certainly don’t want people looking at my dead, old body.”

“Well, at that point, you’re gone. You shouldn’t care,” Diana said.

“Yeah,” I continued, “friends would probably look at my corpse and say, ‘Gee, she looks pretty good all plumped up. No more wrinkles.’”

To which Diana volleyed, “Yes, death really becomes her. She should’ve died a long time ago. She looks really good!”

“I can see it now, pictures of the new dead me circulating on the Web. ‘Lookin’ better than ever. The new dead Auntie.’”

“We could put your face on match.com!” Diana exclaimed enthusiastically. “You know, just the head shot taken from the casket.”

“And the pitch: ‘Doesn’t say much. Quiet by nature.'”
“Not much trouble. Cheap date,” Diana threw in. We were on a roll, laughing so hard, tears flowed down our faces. Our other book clubbers couldn’t keep up with the speed and sat with mouths agape.

“Won’t embarrass your family,” I threw in, thinking of my past.

“Discreet.”

“Focused and attentive. A good listener.”

“She doesn’t look so tired. Must be getting more rest.”

“Gotta get the name of that hairdresser.”

“Check out her nails.”

Maybe they’ll even give me boobs.

Nuts

For as long as I can remember, I’ve liked nuts. The hankering likely comes from my dad’s side of the family. During football season back in the 1960s, he’d enjoy a Pabst or two and salted peanuts. At Christmastime we’d take a sledgehammer to walnuts, revealing fruit only an adult would like.

In fourth grade almost every day after school, I’d come home and make a not-so-chocolaty chocolate malt. I’d use a fork to break up the vanilla ice cream, the kind Mom would buy in a five-quart bucket—oh boy!—and add just the right amount of whole milk and malt powder to ensure it didn’t get too soupy. After I had ground the ice cream to a perfect texture and swirled the thick, caramel-colored delight the right number of times (OCD was my normal), I’d top it with salted or dry roasted peanuts. Oh my gosh! Definitely worth the effort.

We’d often travel to a food warehouse in St. Cloud, Minnesota, a couple hours from Montevideo, to stock up on supplies we either couldn’t buy in Monte or didn’t want to pay too much for. Mom would always buy me a huge box of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, chocolate and peanut flavors in one scrumptious bite. Life couldn’t get much better at that time. Honest. I’d store them in my bed’s headboard, a sliding-door cubby, and each day I would allow myself one peanut butter cup. That’s discipline, because each package held two. But the decision was mine, even at eight or nine years old. I owned those treasures. I have always been the type to save the best till last, and I wanted the best to last.

My freshman year of college meant freedom, even though I lived in a dorm and ate at “Hillslop,” our nickname for the cafeteria at the top of the hill in dormland. Freedom for me meant eating what I wanted and in quantities I wanted—not needed, which is a whole ’nother concept. That was in the autumn of 1977.

I never really thought about body weight. Back then it simply wasn’t a big issue. Models were models. Fat people were fat people. And some friends thought I was anorexic. I hung out with everyone, and they hung out with me. We didn’t give weight much weight.

But one morning when I prepped for class, I couldn’t zip my stretchy pants, yes, stretchy pants with a button on top, not that the button mattered at that point since it was two inches away from the buttonhole.

By late spring 1978 I needed a new wardrobe. As I packed my belongings to head from Eau Claire to Wausau for the summer, I thought, How did I grow so? Then, in a sort of dreamlike disaster, I pictured it. After each day’s smörgåsbord, I’d waddle to the ice cream area. A few flavors and every topping you can imagine held up their hands saying, “Eat me! Eat me!”

But I’m not always a softie. I’d pretend I didn’t hear them and walk on by. Then, so they couldn’t see me, I’d dip my hand into the cold freezer and draw out a crisp chocolate-covered ice cream bar. Yum! But something was missing on those babies, something that only my friend, the peanut, could rectify. I’d wobble backward a bit to the five-gallon bucket of smooth peanut butter and slather it all over my ice cream bar—front, back, and sides.

There!

And so my pants wouldn’t button.

I must’ve puffed up like a soufflé those first two semesters, because three months later when school started again, a couple of the girls who lived with me on the fifth floor of Towers didn’t recognize me. They’d grown accustomed to watching the evolution of the Two-Ton Tillie I’d inadvertently become. But over the summer, I’d accidentally fallen back into Twiggie mode. Thank God, ’cause I didn’t really want to buy a new wardrobe.

My nut addiction didn’t wane during my sophomore year, either. I felt grown up that year and raised my standards by buying cans of Planters Mixed Nuts, the good stuff with no peanuts. In two nights, I could magically make the entire 20,000-calorie can of cashews, Brazil nuts, almonds, macadamias, hazelnuts, and pecans disappear. Fortunately, with consistent bike riding to and from work (four hilly miles away, and I had a car), I didn’t regain Tillie status.

In 1980 I entered my fourth and final year of college. Three young women and I rented a large home three miles from UW–Eau Claire and very close to where two of us worked, the Eau Claire School District’s Board of Education building. On decent-weather days I’d bike the distance and, again, develop quite an appetite. To reward myself for biking and not using my car, I’d head over to Randall’s grocery and buy a super-large container of Skippy crunchy peanut butter. Now I know some think Jif is better, but I’m a Skippy girl, and those who know me would agree that I can be a little skippy at times.

Fearing my skippiness could become pudginess without some budgetary constraint, I would hide the jar of peanut butter from myself under my bed so I couldn’t find it—except at 7:30 every evening. I’d ensure no one was in sight, open the silverware drawer ever so quietly, lift a tablespoon out of its section, then wiggle into my bedroom and gently close the door.

On my belly next to my bed, I’d be thinking how great God was to give me long arms. With my hand wrapped around the wide jar, I drew it closer to my big, blue eyes. Eager and salivating like a dog, I’d unscrew the cover, set it aside, and dip my waiting spoon into the crunch. I was always amazed at how much that spoon could carry, but it somehow was strong enough to reach my lips, where I'd nibble and nibble till it was almost gone. Then, as Mom used to let me do, I’d lick the spoon.
What is it about foods we crave? What comprises its lusciousness that keeps us coming back for more? Hmm, let's see. Between my Kroger crunchy peanut butter and two-and-a-half-pound container of Kirkland mixed nuts, the common denominator is…fat.

Hey, what a way to go.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

“Only” 50

On an extremely windy day, Shiloh the Lab and I set out for our daily jog. Glancing up the street, I saw Don, my 84-year-old neighbor who is a thrice-a-day walker, gearing up for his second jaunt of the day. Noticing he was waiting to talk to me, I sped up a notch and heard him say, “Wha’cha doin’?”

Thinking perhaps his mind wasn’t keeping up with his years, I scrunched up my face and looked at him incredulously. “What am I doing?” the wind blew my words up the street to him.

“Naw, I can see what yer doin’. How’re yeh doin’?” he clarified in Kansas speak.

“Ahh,” I realized, sauntering to his side. As we walked together, I continued, “I’m doing better since I committed to writing my book. I went to a writers group last night where we discussed issues and questions important to us. Because of all the publishing experience I’ve had, I was able to share some knowledge with folks, but my questions weren’t answered. The gal who ran the meeting is researching for me, though, and will let me know. I just wish I had someone who’d throw a few hundred dollars at me every month to keep me going.”

“Well, yeh git Social Security, don’cha?” he asked.

“Don, I’m only 50!” blowing off a couple years.

He laughed, “Well, everyone I go to breakfast with gits Social Security, so I figgered you did too.”

So I’m going to breakfast with him in the morning.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Feeling Lonely? Click…

If I were lonely, I could pay for match.com, eharmony.com, or Donna Shugrue’s Perfectly Matched dating service and a matrix-based formula would align me with Mr. Right. And if I were isolated, depressed, and wanted free companionship, I could click Get Your Free Quote at online-health-insurance.com, whose motto is “Health Insurance Online makes comparing quotes and finding affordable plans easy. Apply online or speak to an agent for cheap health insurance options.”

Free. Cheap. Those should’ve been my clues. But it was a Monday.

By applying online and not speaking to an agent (it did state “or” not “and”), I could put a person on the project of researching plans and rates for me, didn’t have to talk to a soul, and could work uninterrupted. Yep, back in management.

After entering my basic information on the site mentioned above—including my telephone number, I clicked for my free online quote. It was definitely a Monday.

The moment, and I mean moment, I clicked for my free quote, the phone rang. “Hello?”

“Hi, this is Doug, and I’m calling to talk to you about health insurance.”

“Noooooooo! How did this happen?” I have been on the National Do Not Call Registry since its inception, and I absolutely did not request a call, making his advance illegal.

After telling Doug to take my name off his list and hanging up, the phone rang incessantly till the predator gave up and started calling the next Monday moron. As I glanced at my computer, I counted nine U.S. predators that had spammed my email trying to get a piece of the commission pie. I felt very sick. The phone rang again and I spoke with Antonio, a guy who told me he lived in my city (but in a not-so-nice part of town). I said, “Are you at Daystar Terrace?”

“Ah, yeah. You must’ve gotten my email.”

I gave Antonio a chance after he went on for five minutes explaining to me how everyone and his brother got my information. I replied to his email more formally requesting my free quote. Well, it has been two weeks, and I’m still waiting for Mr. Briceno to write.

I unplugged the remote and powered off the answering machine. At 5:30 that afternoon when I plugged in my phone to recharge it, it immediately rang, as if they knew! I definitely had stepped in a pile of poo via that site I mentioned above.
This fiasco began with an announcement from Aetna, my health insurance provider. They are no longer offering individual plans in Colorado, so by midyear, I must select a new bloodsucker, just in case. Reminds me of an old satirical cartoon: A life insurance salesman says to a man and his wife, “That’s okay, Mr. Johnson, you just think about the policy, and if you wake up in the morning, give me a call.”

Last year I sought a different carrier via ehealthinsurance.com (a good experience), because Aetna had to be watched like I would a con man, that is to say, my ex-boyfriend. With every other claim, of which I have very few, Aetna either wouldn’t give me the agreed-upon rate between provider and insurer, or they’d simply refuse to pay their contractually obligated amount. I’d have to babysit Aetna, take my time to email them, explain their contractual agreement with the provider, and have them reprocess the claim.

Most of Aetna’s customer service reps didn’t write or understand American English, making this dance quite asynchronous. (They’ve recently hired English-writing Americans, probably due to my numerous complaints about having non-Americans wasting my time.) In 2008 it took one year of stressful aggravation and several appeals before they realized they had an agreement with a provider. They could have saved a lot of money had they initially hired native Americans.

In 2010 when I needed Mohs surgery for skin cancer, Aetna’s preauthorization representative said it would cost me only a $50 copay, so I proceeded with the dissection. When the actual bill came in at $2,000, I knew Aetna had erred and contacted them. Upon receiving my email, Aetna’s rep leaned back in her comfy office chair, filed her nails, and wrote (paraphrased), “The rep who told you your surgery would be covered with $50 was just kidding. What did you think the required preauthorization was anyway? It’s a cat-and-mouse game. Doesn’t mean a thing to us.”

Business law states, Aetna failed to honor their oral contract.

In this matter, I was fortunate for two reasons. First, I understand why Aetna would say they’d cover me then renege once the invoice was submitted. My friend works for a California insurance company here in the Springs and told me that when she denies a claim, she gets a kickback. She earns more money by not fulfilling the insurer’s contractual responsibility.

Second, I know about DORA, the Department of Regulatory Agencies, and for the first time in my life, a governmental organization was on my side; specifically, Deanna. This gal unceasingly helped me, from reading my initial request for assistance through completion, a process that took two months. She first contacted me via email, attaching the well-written, factually based letter addressed to Aetna. With the receipt of each DORA letter, Aetna would squirm and plant their heels into the ground, so my advocate, Deanna, would articulately, intelligently, and gracefully pull the rug from under Aetna’s sandy footing. Finally, Aetna admitted their trespasses, and to ensure I have no more claims, Aetna wrote me an assuring letter stating, next time anyone from their company says a procedure’s covered, don’t believe it.

Deanna is my hero and she knows it. I mailed her a thank you note telling her so. After all the travesties and injustices my daughter and I experienced in the Fourth Judicial District, DORA’s Deanna is a breath of fresh air. She’s probably gorgeous too.

So maybe I will start dating. Things are flowing more positively. Excuse me, phone’s ringing. “Hello?…yes, Brian,…health insurance? You have a very nice voice. Single?”

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Damn Republicans

What’s a vote worth?

I’m so fed up with Republican calls and surveyors muddying my morgue that I’ve announced to friends I don’t plan to vote for any of the breeders, nor growling Gingrich. For the two weeks preceding Colorado caucuses, my otherwise silent sanctuary reverberated like a school with alarm bells blaring every 45 minutes.

“Hello?” I’d answer in my sweetest “you’re calling to offer me a job” voice, only to receive three seconds of silence as foreplay before the big bang.

“I’m Ann Romney, and I have five children….” Later, “We’re conducting a 30-second survey…,” which lasted more than a minute. “This is Team Colorado calling to remind you of the caucuses on Tuesday at 7 p.m., and did you know how horrid Rick Santorum is. He had eight children and is conservatively consuming all the nation’s food supplies! That’s why you need to vote for our More-men Mittski.”

I carefully and quickly yanked the plug to my remote phone and powered off my answering machine. Immediately a whoosh of peace enveloped my soul—till a dog started campaigning next door.

“I refuse to vote for a breeder,” I wrote my beautiful confidante. “They’re just selfish.”

“What if I paid you to vote for a breeder? Or is that illegal?” she honestly replied.

“What’s it worth?” I volleyed.

“Twenty bucks.”

Sure I believe we need change, but are any campaigning Republican contestants capable of making it good for United States Americans? As with any politician, we’ll see. Look at the current debacle.

And before any reader believes I’m against having children, I’m not. In fact, here's a photo of me practicing to give birth.
One of my closest friends has six kids, but they are from three husbands who didn’t have other offspring. That equals two kids per family. And Arnold? He had four kids. Plus one. That’s two-point-five per family.

I rest with my case—a six-pack isn’t enough.

(Maybe being celibate is getting to me, but what about Jon Huntsman Jr., five birthed, two adopted; Sarah Palin, five; Michele Bachmann, five birthed, 23 fostered.)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Who Tooted?

Whenever someone goes into my kitchen and forages in the refrigerator or cabinets, there’s a 99 percent chance that one LabraDog and one Maine coon will be five feet away, eyes affixed on the forager.

Recently someone was bending over to pull a stockpot from the drawer beneath the oven and simultaneously tooted an atonal tune. Standing up, that someone turned around and said to the gastronomic gazers, “Excuse me,” then smiled,

at which point both beggars glanced sheepishly at their own rear ends.