Wednesday, August 26, 2015

learning a few new things

One of the best things about retirement is that it's given me the time to learn a few new things. I've taken lots of classes...ballet, yoga, painting, writing, cooking...which are mostly successful because I have had good teachers.

I've bought books (marginally successful) and I've tried to teach myself things from Youtube (epically unsuccessful). I have books on dragonflies, butterflies, and straw bale gardening. I've learned a lot by following groups on Facebook: native pollinators of the midwest, bird and nature photography, and season watch.

I have always loved taking pictures but mostly as a way to document things. I have only recently begun to learn that my camera can do a lot more than just point and shoot. Regis is teaching me some things and I have some books. I try to analyze the photos that I like, find out what kind of lens they used, and how the shots were composed. It's a lot for an old head.

Here are a few pictures I took the other night. I didn't have my cheat sheet and of course, couldn't remember the different modes of the camera, but overall, I was happy with how they turned out.

Friday, August 21, 2015

confessions of a recipe hoarder

I hoard recipes. I used to hoard them on index cards until that got unwieldy but about the same time, the computer came along. Ah, electronic recipe hoarding.

I wish I was the kind of person who had favorite recipes and stuck with them. I have favorites, but then I keep adding to the collection. I still make beef stew and tomato soup the way I have for years, but the recipes I keep those are special.

A few years ago I found a recipe for a Summer Vegetable Gratin in a Cook's Illustrated magazine. I make it at least once every August. Last year, my friend Cheryl, introduced me to Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good. Now that is a must-make in the fall. I found a recipe on Smitten Kitchen for PearTarte Tatin and it's my showiest autumn dessert.

You can imagine that things get out of hand. I have recipes in binders: two Christmas binders, a Thanksgiving binder, an Equinox/St. Patrick's Day binder, and a Current Favorites binder. I wind up with overwhelming piles of recipes to sort and organize (badly). I tried going completely electronic but there is something appealing about a recipe with a smear of butter or a smudge of pumpkin.

The internet, as much as it is helpful with my addiction (I use Plan to Eat) it is also part of the problem. I love food blogs and food sites: Smitten Kitchen, Food Network, Simply Recipes, Yummly, Tasting Table, and so it goes. I can't find one recipe for fish tacos...I have to find six recipes, compare them, use the fish prep part of one, the sauce recipe from another, the cabbage from yet another. So now I have to keep all six. It is a sickness.

These last weeks of summer, I am drawn to recipes for things from the garden: vegetable gratin, salsa, soup. Soon, I'll be moving into fall recipes which are my favorites. I love the aroma of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and pumpkin. Oh, my. It's good to be alive.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

a long day but a good one

Always wear boots to oncology appointments. It's my rule. The second picture is one I had Regis take during my diagnosis-treatment phase. He didn't want to take it as he said I was posing like a corpse but I added the crown for a little extra zip.

All is well so I will try to not over-dramatize the events. I do get some nasty anxiety leading up to the day. I remember I went into this situation three years ago all optimistic and shit. That didn't get me too far. Haha! They called me at 10:30 to tell me the mammogram was "negative normal" and it took me a couple seconds to translate that into regular English. Bloodwork was all within normal limits and exam revealed nothing of concern. I go back in November...trying to get this all on a six-month rotation.

I did a couple errands then went down to Tandem Bagels to meet Peter and April for coffee. I strolled down 2nd Street to look at some of the Art Walk. I think this is my favorite piece because you can sit on it....and I know what it is.

I realize it may make me seem sort of rube-ish but I am not fond of art that has to be interpreted for me. What the hell is this?

This I like. I know what it is.

I read the artist's statement because I wasn't sure about the next one but there is something appealing about it anyway. It's not so abstract that I didn't recognize the shape.

At the end of the long day, I went to my favorite grocery store to pick up some things. I was greeted by this lovely sign of autumn.

The grocery store was crazy busy but I ran into several old friends...Diann, Ann, & Jean. Stocked up on a few things for the week and weekend. We're having each kid and family for dinner one night before school starts. It's more fun to cook for them separately than collectively.

We're also having a Labor Day Pig-Out to honor the end of summer. It's a fun meal to plan and to prepare. One year we did a Jersey Shore theme. This year, the theme is pork.

More torrential rain today. I'm not leaving town but I am having coffee with a woman who was recently diagnosed with clear cell carcinoma. That's something that will make you feel more positive about whatever is wrong with you.

A local radio station that we have adopted as our own has adopted the Legendary Stardust Cowboy. His real name is Norman Odam. You can look him up in the google and find out all kinds of information about his show business career. He appeared on Laugh-In for one thing. He'll be 68 on September 5th and KMSU is calling for all fans to send him a birthday card. Here is his address if you are so moved. Include a SASE and he will most likely send you a promotional photo...or a grocery list. We have gotten both. It's one of those goofy things in life you just do because it's a hoot.

P.O. BOX 730742
SAN JOSE, CA 95173

Regis and I went to visit Mom this past weekend. Mom and I went to visit Irene who just turned 95. Such a sweet surprise to find my dear, old friend Linda there, too.

Make it a good day. Stay dry!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

done ranting

Ire at insurance companies is wasted energy, I know. Done with that.

I have been using Picmonkey to edit photos this summer. I follow a couple photography sites on FB and have admired their photo editing but wasn't sure how they did it. Now, I am learning.

Blue Moon

Stained Glass

Late Summer

a rant

Since my breast cancer surgery, I have experienced lymphedema in my left arm. I think they told me about it right after surgery but my head wasn't in the game then so the information drifted out immediately. When I started having symptoms, a year later, I figured it out fast.

Here is a pretty good explanation of lymphedema:
Lymphedema is a potential side effect of breast cancer surgery and radiation therapy that can appear in some people during the months or even years after treatment ends.
Lymph is a thin, clear fluid that circulates throughout the body to remove wastes, bacteria, and other substances from tissues. Edema is the buildup of excess fluid. 
So lymphedema occurs when too much lymph collects in any area of the body. If lymphedema develops in people who’ve been treated for breast cancer, it usually occurs in the arm and hand, but sometimes it affects the breast, underarm, chest, trunk, and/or back.
Why does lymphedema happen? As part of their surgery, many people with breast cancer have at least two or three lymph nodes removed from under the arm (sentinel lymph node biopsy), and sometimes many more nodes (axillary lymph node dissection). If the cancer has spread, it has most likely moved into to those underarm lymph nodes first because they drain lymph from the breast. Many people also need radiation therapy to the chest area and/or underarm. Surgery and radiation can cut off or damage some of the nodes and vessels through which lymph moves. Over time, the flow of lymph can overwhelm the remaining pathways, resulting in a backup of fluid into the body’s tissues.
If you already have lymphedema but don’t remember hearing much about it during breast cancer treatment, you’re not alone, says Dr. Marisa Weiss, founder and president of “I can say from experience that the time right after diagnosis, when you are considering options and planning treatment, is a blur. When you are feeling so anxious and overwhelmed, it is hard to listen, understand, and decide. So even if lymphedema gets mentioned during this time, you may not remember it. Or it may not come up because the focus is really on getting you well. So if lymphedema does develop later on, it can feel like yet another insult to the body, one that many women weren’t fully prepared for. The good news is that women can learn how to manage it and lead normal lives.” 
Although there’s no way to know for sure whether you’ll develop lymphedema after breast cancer, you can help yourself by learning more about it. Know your risk factors, take steps to reduce your risk, and be aware of early symptoms. Left untreated, lymphedema can worsen and cause severe swelling and permanent changes to the tissues under the skin, such as thickening and scarring. 
Adding to the frustration some people feel is the conflicting advice about how to prevent and manage lymphedema — perhaps you’ve encountered some of it! There’s still much more research to be done before we fully understand this condition. Also, many doctors don’t have a great deal of experience with lymphedema. Realize that you may need to take charge and find your way to an experienced lymphedema therapist.
Recovery involved physical therapy, exercises at home, a compression sleeve, and bras that were prescribed by the doctor and filled by a specialty shop. No more fancy under-wire garments. These were serious, wide-sided, no nonsense things. And seriously expensive.

The first year, I got two and made do with those.

In May, they told me that I could get up to 12 a year. I thought that might be excessive, but I thought I would get what was needed and no more. So, off I got to the specialty store to be measured and to order two new bras. The woman who helped told me that they dispense them two at a time so I could call in August and order two more.

I called Monday and the person who answered the phone said she would order them for me. Yesterday I had a message saying that Medicare will only allow three in six months and my prescription expires on the 20th of August. I called back and said there must be a mistake, I have BCBS not Medicare and I have a RX for a year.

Here is where it gets interesting. She said their company had been purchased by another company and they follow Medicare guidelines no matter what kind of insurance you have. Long pause. I said I pay $2100 a month for premium health care. Not her fault. I get that. But I am pissed.

She said they could fill my RX only if the bras are medically necessary. I asked who decides that and you guessed it...the insurance company.

Friday, August 14, 2015

summer evenings

Regis drove the transit a lot this week which left Gus and me on our own. We spent much time outdoors as the evenings were beautiful, coolish, and pretty much bug-free. Our patio is so peaceful. I love to sit out there and visit with passers-by, watch the birds at the feeder, and see the sun go down. You can see Gus scanning the horizon for the transit. He misses the master.

In the grand scheme of things, I have gotten a few things done this week. I renewed my supply of cosmetics and made a new spray with my collection of essential oils. I read a couple books and learned a new word game. I made stuffed peppers on the grill. I had lunch and did some shopping with a friend. I finished my ten-week session with my very awesome trainer. (And I don't use the word awesome lightly.)

In my strength training world (which I do not for vanity but for osteoporisis and cancer), I got my report card on Thursday. I started leg presses with 50 pounds on each leg and went up 27.5 pounds. Those are big muscles, though, and the other results were not quite so impressive. I did improve in each exercise and I am feeling stronger. I told Gunner, I can squat way to the ground, take a picture of something, and stand right back up without support. Not bad for an old gal.

Tom Hynes, the new word game is called Alphabetty and it's by the same folks who brought you Candy Crush. I like the game but it only has 50 levels and then apparently you have to pay. Sad face. I can waste a lot time playing word games but I guess it could be worse. I downloaded Words with Friends, Mom, and will give that another go. I am not competitive, though, and if I start losing, I might quit.

I finished my applications to sub in two neighboring districts. It was an arduous process, believe me. I barely remembered enough to write a resume and barely cared enough to find the information. Ha.

That's Bob Dylan's (I Used to Care) but Things Have Changed. My official theme song. Some of my Facebook friends were doing a stress test this week and scoring between 50 and 85%. I got 15%. I am not living the perfect life but I am oblivious to a lot of things which helps.

Lot of water under the bridge.

Note: When I looked at my stats and reviewed my posts for August, I see I repeated myself a few times. Sigh. Sometimes I can't remember if I composed something in my head (I do this OFTEN!) and then wrote it down or if I only did the inside head composition. Ah, well. You know how to skip, right?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Woodrow Call...guest blogger


That's not so hard.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

food and stress

Since my bariatric surgery and my cancer treatment, my taste in food has changed. You would expect it from the former but maybe not the latter.

I have an aversion to chemicals. I bought a ham sandwich at a grocery store recently. As I ate the first half, I glanced at the ingredient label. The cat got the second half and then I felt bad for subjecting him to that chemical shitstorm.

I have a hard time eating in restaurants. I like my portions much smaller than what they serve and I get tired of left-overs. And I hate to throw food away. Sometimes I order something and by the time it comes, I've lost interest. I am not wasting away so I must be getting enough food. (Since my cancer treatments ended, I have maintained my weight within five pounds.)

I can't eat grocery store lettuce anymore.I check it over carefully for a sell-by date but if I find one slimy leaf, that's it. I'm investing in a tiny greenhouse so I can grow greens indoors all winter.

If I could afford to buy locally grown meat, I would do it. As it is, I try not to think about where my meat came from. I am not interested in being a vegetarian as I like a cheeseburger or a steak from time to time.

The food I eat has to taste really good. I'm not saying that I never eat frozen pizza or fast food. It's just not my first choice and I usually regret it. Not for any moral reason...I just don't appreciate the taste so much.

I bought a book on nutrition but the dude's first advice was to give up meat. Ah, no can do.

I think I might like a Japanese diet...smaller portions, not so much meat, strong flavors.

Tonight I had a grilled cheese sandwich and two of Jerry Harty's pickles (I like his pickles but not always his politics...haha!). It was yummy.

I took a stress test on Facebook. Most of my friends were scoring in the 50% range with a few in the 80-90% range. I scored 15%. This does not mean that I have some sort of Zen presence. It means I am oblivious. I don't watch the news. I don't read the bad news in the paper. I am a happier person because of it.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Mom: Guest Blogger #2

On June 14th, my mom wrote a story about the construction crews digging up her street. It was so popular that I asked her to write the ending to the story...well, almost the ending! The first part is here if you didn't read it.


Today I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  A young man knocked on my door yesterday and told me to move my car as they were going to do the curb and gutter and I would not be able to get out of my garage for a week or two.  The cement has to cure!!  He wanted me to park it several blocks away;  he would meet me and I could have a ride home in his truck.  I hurried to the post office to mail a package and meet Mr. Young Guy on Reno Ave.  As I parked and waited for him, I decided to leave my car in the garage,  i did not like the thought of leaving  my trusty little Malibu exposed to the elements and I did not think I could walk that far.  I have good friends whom I am sure would see that I had groceries  could get out once in awhile.  I told Mr. Young Guy I had changed my mind and would leave my car in the garage.  He looked a little puzzled, but said o.k.

I have watched this project since June 12th when they started digging up my street and laying water, sewer, and storm sewers.  I enjoyed watching the progress and the men with their machines, green shirts and hard hats; however getting around on bumpy and lumpy streets was not as much fun.  Some days when I would go to the store I would take a street and avenue to the highway. I would take the same route home only to be told I could not go there.  Go to another street; that street had a 3 foot drop off, so I would turn around to go on another street only to be told I could not go there either.

Finally a friendly truck driver walked a couple of blocks and came back and told me to go the way I had driven to the highway.  I had my walking sticks in the car and the truck driver told me to hit someone over the head with one to get their attention and someone would see to it that I got home.  I went to that street and a young man in a green shirt waved me on and after thinking my car was going to disappear  into a big hole I made it home.  I vowed I would stay home until this project was finished.

Today the Hannas and I sat on my patio and watched them do the curb and gutter.  It is amazing how quickly they get it done,  They will soon do my driveway and last of all they will put a layer of tar on the road.  I may have to call on the Hannas, Kockelmans,  Johnsons, and Lundquists to see that I get to the grocery store and church.  Church may be the most important as I might have used a few naughty words trying to get home.  I made it through the summer and am looking forward to driving on my new wonderful street.  And I may I  add, " Good job, boys!"  You did great.

Shirley Saum
Summer, 2015


I quit my 8 hour a week job a few weeks ago, then unquit when they offered me only daytime hours. One bad thing: now I only work 2-3 hours a week which makes my lifestyle unsustainable. Sigh.

Even though I have a visceral aversion to substitute teaching in most places, I considered it again. I looked into applying in two small districts near St. Peter. After three phone calls and directions to the right website, I discovered I had to upload a resume, submit to a background check and an interview, and then they might hire me. Sigh. I think I will have to become an ascetic (a person who practices severe self-discipline and abstention..I had to look it up.) because I am not sure I can go through this soul-sucking process again.

A friend of mine stopped to visit with me at the fair. She has a small business proposition in the works and wants me to be a part of it. She couldn't tell me much at this point but I am going to cross my fingers and hope that works out. I can't believe there isn't a low-responsibility, high-paying job out there for me.

We started our weekend spending a couple hours on the patio at Lone Star eating delicious food and listening to Ron and Billy...always a treat. It was hot but tolerable, the gin and tonic was thirst quenching, the tenderloin was amazing...and the company was fine! Thanks Bob and Richie for joining us.

Regis got up at 2 am to start smoking this pork butt. He was nervous because it was a new recipe on a new grill and I had invited people to help us eat it. I said the worst that could happen is we order pizza. Right? It was delicious. This picture was taken right before it came off the grill. It has such a beautiful bark and it was so tender you could cut it with a fork. Success!

I volunteered to do four shifts at the Nicollet County Historical Society booth at the county fair. Ella came with me each time and she my right-hand man! She took care of the people counter, she made a sign and gave away candy, and she learned her way around the fairgrounds! She was a trooper! Tiffany and Elliot joined us on Sunday. While Ella went to watch the 4H rendition of Annie, Elliot manned the people counter. They had such a good time!

Elliot rode the Ferris wheel by himself on the last day of the fair. Brave boy! Glad he didn't ask his Nana to ride along!

Saturday, August 01, 2015

once in a blue moon

We had the kids here for pizza last night. After most of them left, Elliot wanted to see the Blue Moon so we took a drive up the hill where we had a better view. Too many trees around our house. We tried to explain why it's called the Blue Moon but I'm not sure a six-year old can take that in. It was beautiful!

From Wikipedia:  A blue moon is an additional full moon that appears in a subdivision of a year: either the third of four full moons in a season, or a second full moon in a month of the common calendar.

The phrase has nothing to do with the actual color of the moon, although a literal "blue moon" (the moon appearing with a tinge of blue) may occur in certain atmospheric conditions: e.g., when there are volcanic eruptions or when exceptionally large fires leave particles in the atmosphere.

Alex and Elliot have both lost so many teeth in the last year that they are sort of comical looking. You can see they like to pose with their big, toothless smiles!


Peter and April were here and we spent some sweet moments talking about their wedding plans. I think they get a kick out of the fact that I have already started planning my wedding regalia. And considering it is quite simple, it is kind of goofy. Last weekend as I planned the pontoon party, I thought about having the groom's dinner here...then thought better of it. I would be crazy trying to have everything ready and tidy and cook besides. Think we will leave that to someone else.

We went to Mankato this morning to buy kitty litter and dog treats. Sigh. Driving is such a pain in the ass anymore. Everyone is in such a hurry and they drive so dangerously. You almost have to assume they don't see you, or even if they do, they don't intend to stop. It makes my blood pressure go sky high. Of course, the moderately aggressive driver I travel with doesn't help.

Our other purpose in going shopping was to take advantage of some deals at one of the pharmacies. I don't know why they call themselves a pharmacy when most of what they sell is other crap, but that's a rant for another day. So, we have coupons where you get points for this and points for that...but you have to buy $20 worth of this brand's products or buy one at regular price and get one half off or buy this product in combination with that product...all designed to confuse and obfuscate and make insane. And then, the town is full of crazies going to watch that football team practice.

Someone at Lone Star yesterday told me that he hadn't watched the Vikings since Fran Tarkenton left the team. Yeah, I get that. I haven't spent ten cents on anything big sports related. I think it's turned into a big ugly conglomerate of the rich and obnoxious. Haha! There's another rant.

I should maybe spend a few minutes in silence contemplating the full moon.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of Tiffany's homecoming. I'm not sure I can do the math to see how many years ago...but if she turned 30 in must have been 30 years ago tomorrow. I'll post some photos and write about that experience tomorrow.

Going to work soon and then to Hank and Rita, a barroom operetta.