Allergies, Eyes, Candy (aka Lazy Post Title)

Dave finally had his appointment at the South Bend VA Clinic and folks, we have a winner! We both liked the doctor (actually a FNP) and the clinic itself. Now that’s he’s official there, with a provider and everything, he can go there for minor illnesses and either just walk in (although he may not get to see his regular doctor) or call the day before and make an appointment for the next day. That was our biggest concern.

He does still have to drive the two hours to Fort Wayne, IN if he needs to see a specialist or to go to the VA emergency room. (If he’s having a heart attack or a truly emergent situation, he can go to the hospital here in town and let them know he’s a VA patient.) We are still getting used to the fact that we can’t just drive 45 minutes to a VA hospital like we did in Illinois, but I guess we have to live with it if we want to keep living in this area (which we do). The other option is to eventually buy a house closer to Ann Arbor, which has a really good VA hospital, but then we’d have a 4-1/2 hour drive back to Illinois. No thank you!

Dave was diagnosed with seasonal allergies and now he’s trying allergy medication to see if it helps with his cough. It’s not as bad as it was, so he might be on the right track. It does make sense, since we are surrounded by trees and new plants here.

I saw a new eye doctor on the same day Dave had his VA appointment, and I really like the new place. It’s kind of a pain having to find all new doctors, so it’s a relief to find someone I like right off the bat. Getting my eyes tested makes me feel very vulnerable; I am terribly nearsighted (my prescription in both eyes is -8.50) and when I take off my contacts for the exam, I can only see blurry shapes. I depend a lot on lipreading with new people, so it makes me very nervous when I can’t see. On top of that, the doctor is usually to my side giving me instructions as I look through the various lenses for the test.

I explained my hearing to everyone I had to deal with, and I had NO problem understanding anyone. I know my CI hearing is really good, but I still get nervous when I’m put in an unknown situation where I’m not sure how loudly/slowly someone speaks, if they have an accent, etc.

So I’m testing some new contacts now — I still use and love bifocal contacts, but I’m trying out a stronger prescription for the reading/up close stuff. Otherwise my prescription didn’t change, which was kind of nice. For a week and a half I’m trying out a mid-level bifocal in my left eye and high-level in my right, and then the next week and a half I’m wearing ‘high’ in both eyes. So far I can only really tell a difference when I’m watching TV — the mid level seems to work better. It’s only been a day though, so I’m curious to see if eyes adapt the way ears do when we get new mappings.

When I go back in three weeks, I’ll give my doctor my final choice as far as contacts go and then she’s going to dilate my eyes. When I told her I’d never had them dilated before she was horrified; I guess when you’re as nearsighted as I am, it’s common to have problems that would show up with that test. Of course, I came home and Googled and now I’m terrified she’ll find retinal tears and holes when she does the test. The thought of having procedures done on my eyes makes me feel faint, so I’m trying not to dwell too much on the what-ifs because otherwise I’ll make myself crazy (er, crazier).

Halloween is Friday and alas, Dave is certain we’ll have no little trick-or-treaters at this house. He thinks we’re too far outside of town. On top of that, it’s going to be cold (in the 40s) and possibly rainy, so any kids we might have gotten may choose to stay home. We did buy two bags of candy, just in case. That’s one of the mysteries when you move — how many kids will you get at the new place on Halloween? I suspect we’ll be eating a few M&Ms and Snickers bars on November 1st.

Three Things I Like; One Thing I Don’t

Although I’m calling this post “Three Things I Like; One Thing I Don’t”, I have realized there is one more thing I like … I mean, really like, and that is autumn. It’s here in full swing now and I find myself staring out the window and grinning, while I contemplate all the recipes I can make now without turning our kitchen into a sauna. YAY AUTUMN.

And also, I’m not getting paid to write any of this or getting any perks or anything. These are just some things I’ve been very happy with lately and I wanted to talk about them. And also one thing I wanted to complain about, which is something I try not to do very often, but this really deserves some complaining in my opinion.

Thing I Like #1 is on my mind because we just had it for breakfast, so I’ll start there. It’s this biscuit recipe I got from King Arthur Flour. When I started counting calories last year (can’t believe it’s been a year already), I was appalled at how many calories there are in one homemade biscuit. It’s just so little, you know? How can it be around 150 calories?! So we’d make biscuits and gravy (turkey breakfast sausage, 2% milk) and I’d watch sadly as Dave crumbled four biscuits onto his plate while I tried to stick with one and half, maybe two if they were the smallest ones.

This biscuit recipe just uses two ingredients: cream and self-rising flour. The biscuits are one ounce each, and you use equal amounts of flour and cream so it’s easy to adapt. If you want 12 biscuits (you lucky thing, you) then you use six ounces of flour, six ounces of cream. We made eight this morning (two for me, four for Dave, two left over) so it was four ounces flour, four ounces cream. We use water to wet them. They are delicious and only 70 calories each! They make me happy.

Thing #2 is a girly thing (just a warning for the fellas). I think it’s very cliché to assume that menopause begins at 50, and yet that is just what my body seems to have decided. Right around my 50th birthday, my monthly visitor stopped arriving and I had an annoying new friend, Hot Flash, who rang my doorbell every 15 minutes or so and just would not leave. At first it was kind of funny, and I’d announce it to Dave. “Whew!” I’d pant, reaching for my fan (seriously, a little cloth fan, like what Christina Aguilera always used on The Voice, was my lifesaver), “I’ve got another hot flash! Feel my forehead!” I could see the look of pity on his face every time I turned on the fan/changed into a tank top/mopped my brow.

One day I looked up hot flashes online and saw that they could last for, like, five years or more. I was really and truly getting 5-6 hot flashes every hour, and sweating through my nightgown at night, and it was started to become very much not funny. So I started looking for anything that might minimize them.

I had run out of my Costco multivitamins, and since we aren’t Costco members anymore I was looking for a new brand to replace them. Then I thought, hmmm, maybe there’s a menopause multivitamin? Kill two birds with one stone and all that? And yes, there was. And ladies, it WORKS. For me, anyway. I am completely amazed to be saying this, but I might get one hot flash a day now; sometimes I don’t have any. I started noticing a decrease after about a week, week and a half on the vitamin so it must be a cumulative effect. It’s not some weird voodoo stuff either, it’s just One-A-Day Menopause multivitamins. I take mine at lunch to help minimize the chance of any nighttime hot flashes. Good, good stuff.

Finally, I noticed I was getting dry eyes (also, probably, because of menopause). First I had a bit of a cold and my left eye was all gunky and gross one morning. I thought it would clear up in a week or so, and the morning gunk did just last one day. But it persisted, this feeling of grit in my eye later at night (it was fine in the morning) and my eye would water a lot overnight. After over a month of this, I decided to do a search for a contact lens solution that was better for dry eyes, and I came across Clear Care. It’s more of a deep cleaner, like the enzymatic cleanings I used to have to do years ago. You have to use the special case it comes with, leave the contacts in for at least six hours to neutralize the hydrogen peroxide solution, and never, ever use Clear Care in your eyes. But just two days with this stuff and my eye is back to normal. Amazing!

I fill the case with Clear Care, put the Clear Care bottle away, and then leave a bottle of plain saline solution (not multipurpose solution, just plain saline) on the bathroom counter. That way if I’m tempted to rinse my lenses, I’m not going to burn my eyes out by accidentally using Clear Care. That’s my little tip for you all. But if you’re noticing your contacts are really bothering your eyes by the evening, give this stuff a try. It totally makes a difference for me.

The Thing I Don’t Like, and want to complain about, is the VA healthcare system. At least the VA in this part of Michigan. Dave caught some kind of upper respiratory virus the first week of September, and has been coughing ever since. It’s kind of a pattern with him; it usually turns into bronchitis, sometimes pneumonia. He waited a while, figuring it would go away on its own, but finally he’d had enough. He decided it was time to go to urgent care, get an x-ray and whatever medicine he needed. I knew he had to be feeling really bad because Dave is even worse than I am about going to the doctor.

So we started checking out where the nearest VA hospital was. In Illinois, it was a 40 minute drive to Hines VA but they had an emergency room so he was always seen, even if it involved a bit of a wait. It turns out that there really isn’t a VA hospital nearby; Benton Harbor has a clinic with one doctor and no urgent care, according to what they told Dave. There’s a hospital in Battle Creek, which is 1-1/2 hours away by car. There’s a clinic in South Bend, IN which is the closest to us, but they claim they don’t have a walk-in clinic (although they do have a lab, do x-rays and that sort of thing).

So he held off another day or two, and then he decided to make the long drive to Battle Creek because he was really feeling sick. He insisted that I stay home; he wanted to get on the road really early so he left before I was even awake. I hated that he had to make a three hour round-trip drive but, as he said, it’s free healthcare so he did whatever he had to.

He walked back in that afternoon with empty hands; no medicine, no discharge paperwork. Turns out that they have NO emergency room at the hospital, just what they call an Urgent Care center. But you have to have an appointment to be seen. What the hell?! He got there, was seen by an intake nurse who took his blood pressure and temperature, and was then told it might be a while because he didn’t have an appointment. So he sat out in the waiting room for two hours, before finally getting fed up and leaving. Three hours of driving for that!

One thing they did do was make an appointment for him. For three weeks later, on September 29.

So I was livid, and he was all, “It’s fine, I actually think I’m feeling better,” trying to calm me down. And he did seem better for a couple of days, but then he went back to feeling terrible. So this time he called the South Bend Clinic, which is about 20 minutes from us. Turns out they don’t have a walk-in clinic either, gosh, but they had received his records from Hines (he asked for them to be transferred a week or two prior) and they could make an appointment for him! On October 22, just a little over a month away!

So at this point I’m just freaking out, telling him to go to the walk-in clinic at Walgreens and we’ll pay whatever it costs. But no, he swears that he’s feeling better. In the meantime, I’m despairing because where would we take him if he gets another kidney stone, for instance, and needs to be seen immediately?

So Sept. 29 rolls around and even though he hadn’t planned to keep that appointment (he wants to use the South Bend clinic as his primary care place), he decided to go because he was still coughing. This time I went with. He was seen by an older woman doctor, who just pretty much went over the list of medications that he takes and got them switched from Hines to Battle Creek (they mail his routine medications from the hospital pharmacy). Then she listened to his lungs. And in the process, he had one of his coughing jags.

“Hmmm,” she said dourly, “That sounds like a smoker’s cough. Are you sure you quit smoking?” (He had told her he quit in 1985, which he quite definitely did.) I thought she was joking, but she was serious, kind of bitchy. He confirmed that yes, he quit smoking, and she said, “Well, I don’t hear anything. But if you start to feel bad you can always come back.” And then I was PISSED.

“He DID THAT,” I said calmly, through gritted teeth. “He was here over three weeks ago, really sick, and they sent him away without doing anything for him except to make this appointment.” She just kind of shrugged and said again that she didn’t hear anything that suggested bronchitis or pneumonia, but had he ever used an inhaler? After he explained that he had one but it expired long ago, she did at least prescribe a new one for him. And that was it. He’s supposed to go back in nine months but yeah, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

So now we are waiting for his Oct. 22 appointment in South Bend. Maybe the cough will be gone by then, or maybe it will be worse. Who knows. All I know is, if you live in southwestern Michigan and use the VA for healthcare, you better hope you never need medical attention that same day. Lord knows where you’d get it. (Dave does have good things to say about Ann Arbor’s VA hospital, but that’s a 2-1/2 hour drive from here … it would be shorter to drive back to Hines in Illinois!)

And now, to put a smile back on your face after reading all my crabbing, here’s a fun autumn practical joke:

onionapples

Is anyone mean enough to really do this, I wonder?

(I could not bring myself to do that, but I do think it’s funny. )

Where the Streets Have Too Many Names

We’ve been living in our new town for about a month and a half, and I have yet to drive anywhere. I’ve been driven, you see, but I haven’t been behind the wheel of a car myself. Partly it’s because Dave knows his way around town and I don’t, and partly (mainly) it’s because his only ear with some hearing is on his right side, so if he drives then we can still carry on a conversation. (If I drive, his deaf ear is next to me and it’s very difficult for us to talk to each other.) But there’s another reason: I can’t figure out the street names.

I had no problem tooling around in my Chicago suburb, with the traffic from hell and crazy drivers on the expressway who get exasperated if you’re only driving 80 mph in the slow lane. You’d think moving to a small town bordered by farmland, with dirt roads here and there, would be super-simple. You would be wrong.

Every street seems to have a minimum of two names, and most have three or four. And all the names are used interchangeably. We had a couple of streets near us in Illinois that had two names – Rt. 53 was Rohlwing Road, for instance – but nobody ever used both names. We called it ‘53’ and that was that.

I tend to be a lazy passenger, and I’m terrible with directions to begin with. I mean, I can follow directions with no problem and work a GPS like a champ, but if you tell me to go west or east, I will just stare at you. Then I’ll say, “Um, so do you mean turn left? Which way is east?”

When we drive around (and believe me, we spend a lot of time driving around because it’s fun checking out the area), I don’t pay any attention to the roads Dave is taking. I don’t remember, ever, how to get somewhere. Now, this isn’t totally my fault because Dave has a habit of taking a different route every time we visit a specific destination. “Hmmm,” he’ll say, “I wonder where this road goes?” And off we go, until we reach a road familiar to him. He says it’s his way of figuring out the street layout in town. It just confuses me, so I enjoy the scenery and trust that he can get us where we need to go.

Yesterday, though, I decided to pay more attention to how we get to town. I mean, if I ever had to run to Shelton’s for some groceries or go to the pharmacy in town, I would have no idea how to get there. NONE. I’d have to look up the address online and then rely completely on the GPS.

I pulled out my notepad as we headed to Goodwill to look for funky lamps for the living room. “I’m going to write down how to get to some of the places in town,” I told Dave confidently. “I really should know my way around by now, you know?”

I carefully noted whether Dave turned left or right (no east, west, north or south for me) and the street names. A couple of times I had to catch myself because I started daydreaming and gazing out the window, not paying attention, but all was well until we got near town.

“So this is Oak Street?” I confirmed as I wrote.

“Well, it’s also Main Street.”

“Oh, like Main Street where downtown is? Okay.” I added ‘Main St.’ in parentheses after Oak Street.

“It’s also M-51,” Dave continued.

At this point I was getting confused and a little frustrated as I said, “And isn’t 51 the same as North Fifth Street?”

Let me just pause here. As I was writing this, I asked Dave to confirm that North M-51 and North Fifth Street were the same. He said yes, and then added that it is also the same as 11th Street.

See what I mean?!

My directions stop at that point, not only because I was getting a little excited as I argued my point that it was ridiculous for one street to have three or four names, but also because Dave did another one of his detours to find out if we could get to Broadway Street from there.

Did I also mention that M-139 is the same as 51?

Even the GPS gets confused. When we punched in the address for Lehman’s Orchard, she directed us to a home about a quarter mile before the actual destination. “You have arrived!” she announced cheerfully, and Dave obediently turned into the driveway while I said doubtfully, “Um, this looks like somebody’s house.” As we pulled up and stopped, their (very large) dog trotted over and stuck his head in Dave’s window. We carefully and nervously turned around, continued on up the road (no longer expecting to find the orchard) and … there it was, just a little ways up.

When Dave tried to enter the address for the Battle Creek VA Hospital (we’ll talk in another post about how I feel about the VA’s handling of his appointments), Maggie the GPS refused to accept it. According to her, there were no addresses above 5100 on that street, even though the hospital was pretty darn sure their street number was 5500. “I bet the street has a different name that Maggie doesn’t know,” I said helpfully. In the end, I printed some directions from Google Maps for Dave to use.

So anyway, at least I can get myself out of my general neighborhood. Anything beyond that, I just hand Dave the car keys and enjoy the ride.

Let's see where this road takes us ...

Let’s see where this road takes us …

A Little Bit Country

Yesterday we went for a visit with Dave’s sister and her family. It’s so nice to be half the distance from them compared to when we lived in Illinois, and we took advantage of the shorter drive by staying way longer than we planned. (I hope we didn’t overstay our welcome!) Consequently, it was dark when we were driving home – dusk at first, and then the kind of black, dark night you can only get out in the country.

We hadn’t been on the road for long, and it was still dusk. I was looking around at the houses and scenery when Dave came to a complete, unexpected stop. I looked at him curiously and he gestured to the road in front of us. Just then, a deer ambled in front of car. She turned and looked at us for a second, then continued on to the other side of the street. Just as I, in all my city-girl glory, was squealing, “Oh my GOD — a deer,” her fawn trotted across the street after her. “A BABY!” I gasped, grabbing Dave’s arm. We watched them walk off into the woods, then he took his foot off the brake and we continued on.

I’ve seen deer before, but they were always far off on the distant side of the road as we whizzed by at high speed. I’ve never seen one that close up, and never expected to see one in what looked to me like a fairly residential neighborhood. I was also shocked that I didn’t notice the deer at all until Dave stopped. I asked him if they just appeared quickly, out of nowhere, or if they’d been right there all along and he said that yes, they’d just been right there; it wasn’t like we barely missed hitting them or anything. Just goes to show how bad my powers of observation are. (Dave does that a lot, by the way – we’ll be driving down the expressway and he’ll yell, “Hawk!” while I whip my head around and say, “Where? Where?” I never notice the wildlife that he so easily sees.)

The rest of the drive was fairly nerve-wracking because I kept expecting deer to leap out in front of us. Once it became fully dark it was especially tricky, because our entire drive was on a road through the country (not a major highway) with no streetlights. Eventually Dave remembered that it was easier to see with the brights on, and he commented that he couldn’t even remember the last time he used the brights when he was driving. It didn’t take long to get used to the ‘turn the brights off when another car approaches’ dance (although he did long for the days when the control used to be on the floor instead of by the steering wheel).

Adjusting to small town life hasn’t been that hard for me, partly because I have always preferred small towns – it wasn’t like I was dragged here kicking and screaming. I love hanging my laundry on the clothesline; never encountering traffic when we drive around is another big plus. We are in an unincorporated section outside of a fairly big town for this area, so where we live feels like the country (we have well and septic, but we do have natural gas instead of a propane tank for heat). It only takes 5 or 10 minutes to drive into the area of town where the stores and restaurants are; a 20 minute drive takes us into South Bend or Mishawaka, Indiana where it feels just like the area we left behind in Illinois, with every kind of store imaginable as well as a shopping mall.

One of the biggest surprises to me was how painless it was to get used to a much smaller house. I really thought I’d feel claustrophobic or constantly be comparing this house to the one in Illinois, but that hasn’t happened at all. I love this house, and although it would be nice to have another half bath and bigger bedrooms, the adjustment has been completely painless. Probably the hardest thing for me was giving up central air. We did buy a window AC unit but I’m loathe to turn it on unless it’s super hot in the house; even though it’s Energy Star compliant and isn’t supposed to cost much to run, I have this fear of getting a huge electric bill if we use it too much. (I know – central air would cost WAY more, but I never said my fears were rational!)

I knew we’d have a hard time finding a grocery store like the one we used in Illinois, which had really low prices and a huge variety of ethnic food, along with a massive deli and produce department. (For anyone in that area of Illinois, it’s Valli Produce – if you have one near you, cherish it!) We had a lot of fun checking out the grocery options in our little town, and after trying all of the stores we’ve narrowed it down to two right in town, as well as Aldi in South Bend and local produce stands in our area. We tend to get all of our produce from the farm stands (farmer’s markets haven’t been as successful, which has been a surprise) and shopping every other week at Aldi helps keep our food bill down.

But one thing we just haven’t found is a deli department that even compares to Valli. The selection at the delis here is very, very small and, oddly enough, when we have anything sliced it is always sliced in super-thick pieces. They do hold it up and ask if it’s okay, but from far away it looks fine. Then we get it home and realize the slices are like a quarter of an inch thick. That doesn’t sound like much but in lunchmeat, it’s huge! It’s become a source of amusement with us, because every single deli does the same thing. Today we went to a deli that had a little sign on the counter with examples of thickness, so we used that – it helped, but the meat is still far thicker than we’re used to. Not a big deal, just funny. (And we just use less meat on each sandwich!)

Dave got to meet one of our neighbors, when the guy needed a jump for his tractor. He’s very chatty and friendly, so Dave quickly found out that both the house next door and the one across the street are empty, which explains why we’ve never seen neighbors there. You’d never know, because the lawns are meticulously maintained and there’s no For Sale sign up. (We’ve also noticed that everyone out here, even people far out in the country with acres of lawn, keeps their lawn mowed and perfectly maintained, whereas in our old Chicago suburb, with postage-stamp sized lawns, half the people rarely bothered to mow until they got a ticket from the village.)

I also found turning 50 to be completely painless – that happened last week. Seriously, turning 30 was much more traumatic for me than turning 50. I’m not sure if it’s just that I’m less neurotic now, or maybe the 20 extra years of wisdom have mellowed me out or something. (How is it that it’s been 20 years since I turned 30? See, now that freaks me out more than knowing I’m 50!) I think it also helps that I feel better, physically and emotionally, than I did for all of my 40s. Plus, I get to grow old with my cute husband, whom I didn’t know when I turned 30.  :)

On my 50th birthday – Aug. 28, 2014

Honey, We’re Home!

They say that moving is one of the most stressful things you can experience, and they aren’t kidding.  I’m happy to report, though, that we made it through fairly unscathed and now it kind of feels like we’ve been here for a long time.  When I look back and realize it’s not even been two weeks since we actually moved our furniture in, I’m kind of shocked.

We did a self-move, because when we got quotes on movers it was rather eye-opening.  Moving from one state to another, even just two hours away, makes a big difference in price.  Although we really wanted to hire movers with a big truck, we ended up getting three Relocubes from ABF (kind of like Pods, if you’ve ever seen those).  I was concerned about loading them up (we aren’t getting any younger) but then I did some research and found out that you can hire people just to do the loading/furniture-moving aspect .  So we hired two guys for two hours (although I think they got everything finished in about 1-1/2 hours) and they loaded all the heavy furniture and boxes.  They were able to get two of the Relocubes totally filled, which was amazing.  (It helps to hire people with experience in packing those things – you use every bit of available space, all the way to the ceiling.)

They drop the cubes in your driveway, and you get three days to fill them; if you do it sooner, you just call and have them pick them up sooner.  They were dropped off at about 4:30 on Monday, the guys came on Tuesday to pack two of them, and on Wednesday Dave packed the third one and we called for them to be picked up, which happened on Thursday around 11 am.  I think the most stressful thing for me was worrying about everything fitting into the cubes, which didn’t look all that big.  I was pretty sure we’d be leaving tons of stuff behind.  All of the furniture and boxed stuff fit into the two cubes though, which was a nice surprise.  The third cube was filled with the miscellaneous stuff from the garage that Dave wanted to take (building materials, etc.) and things we were using right up until the last minute.  We did end up filling that third cube and then kind of running out of space, so we had to leave a few things behind.  We were able to stop back at the house earlier this week when Dave went back to IL for one of his dentist appointments, so we put those things in the car and brought them back.

We loaded up the car (another VERY stressful experience, because these were things we needed to get us through the next five-six days while we waited for the cubes to be delivered) and that was where I had to leave a lot behind – most of the stuff in the fridge (the cooler was smaller than I realized), our house plants, etc.  (We did rescue the house plants this week, thank goodness.)  As soon as our cubes got picked up, we headed out.  Then we hit a major traffic jam near Gary, Indiana and the car started to come dangerously close to overheating – the needle was hovering right before the red area.  I was completely freaking out.  We made it though, and two hours later I was so glad to get out of the car and into our new house!

Our cubes weren’t delivered until Monday morning, so we had to work with the few things that were already in the house:  two lawn chairs, two TV tables, a twin bed, and some dishes I’d brought up earlier in July.  We’d also brought our TV earlier in July (we bought a new flat screen and left the old 200 pound tube TV at the old house), and we brought our computers with us in the car.

Getting ready for breakfast, in style.

Getting ready for breakfast, in style.

It didn’t take long to unpack the car and get things put away, and normally we would’ve spent the weekend exploring our new area of Michigan, but the car was scaring us.  Dave figured it was a sensor going bad, or maybe the thermostat.  In any case, we just stuck close to town until we could get it looked at.

We slept together in the twin bed Thursday and Friday nights, and that was an experience.  Dave gave up and threw a bunch of quilts on the floor for the next two nights, but he was very glad to see our queen bed on Monday night!

Dave’s sister, Laurie, her husband Tim, and our nephews Gage and Tucker drove down to help us unpack the cubes on Monday.  I thought it would take the full three days to get everything unpacked, but I underestimated the vigor of youth – the adults helped, of course, but those boys got all three cubes unloaded and were still bouncing around with tons of energy when they were finished!  Seriously, I don’t know how we would have done it without the four of them.  We started around 10 am or so and around 2 pm we were all sitting down for pizza in a restaurant downtown!

Nothing was broken, and our move went as smoothly as it possibly could.  As I said, it was stressful but mainly because of worrying whether everything would fit.  It was the closest Dave and I have ever come to really fighting – more than once before the move we had to sit down together and clear the air.  I would still like to be able to use movers and a truck the next time we move (not for a while yet, thank goodness) but I can highly recommend ABF and the Relocubes – we had a great experience with them.

IMG_20140804_102554

The first of the Relocubes arrives in Michigan

We’re almost all settled in now, and the car is fixed (it needed a new radiator and two oxygen sensors, but at least we found a local mechanic that we like and trust).  We’re starting to explore our new surroundings and we are loving everything!  We’re both sleeping much later than we used to – partly because it’s dark later in the morning now that we’re on eastern time, and partly because we just sleep better here, and all that stress is gone.  We weren’t able to bring any of our garden plants – they were too mature by the time we moved – so I guess we’ll have to wait for spring to put in a garden.  We did get a little ornamental pepper plant (with deceptively HOT peppers) and a basil plant, and we already have chives, mint and oregano.  I’ve never grown oregano before even though it’s one of my favorite spices, and I find myself using it all the time – I guess I thought fresh oregano wouldn’t be as potent as dried, but I was wrong.

One of the big things that worried me when we first saw this house was that it echoed so much, to the point that I couldn’t understand Dave unless I was reading his lips.  Now that we’re all moved in, the echo is gone and I can hear just fine.  Everything, in fact, is more than just fine.

Our house is on the left :)

Our house is on the left :)

Wide Open Spaces Redux

Back in 2011 I wrote:

“When we buy our next house,” I mused, “I would like it to be far enough from our neighbors so that they won’t be tempted to have a conversation with me from their yard.” … Here’s the scenario: I walk outside, to do whatever, and I’m minding my own business. After a while, I glance over and realize one of my neighbors has been talking to me, yelling from their yard, and I’ve been ignoring them. Awkward. Even worse, now that I’ve made eye contact, I’m expected to respond. But no matter what I say, I will not understand what they shout back. This leaves me with two options: casually wave and immediately turn around and go back into the house, or go down two flights of stairs, across the yard, to the fence and have a conversation I really wasn’t planning to have.

As of later this month, that will finally be my reality. Although we were hoping to stay in this house for another year, you can never predict what the bank will do when you’re in foreclosure. Although they still have not actually notified us, thanks to Dave’s daily research we knew that we had until Sept. 12th to find a new place to live.

We toyed with a few different options, since we didn’t have quite enough saved to just go plunk down some cash and buy a house (our original plan). At first we were seriously considering buying an inexpensive mobile home, but it was really hard to find a home that was both in a nice park and not in god-awful condition. We came very close to purchasing one – we actually passed their credit check – but then decided it just needed too much work. It was in a really nice park just a mile from the Warren Dunes, so the location was tempting. At the end of the day, though, it just didn’t feel right.

Right after that, which was our second trip to Michigan to check out possibilities, we came home and started looking for houses to rent. We avoided apartment complexes because we have cats and there’s just no storage; we knew we’d be seriously downsizing, which is fine, but I was hoping to keep the furniture that’s sentimental to us for the future house that we purchase (which will hopefully be big enough for everything).

The house we eventually found has so many things in the ‘plus’ column that we can easily overlook the fact that it is small and lacking closets (no coat closet, the two bedroom closets are about one-fourth of what we have here). Those neighbors? Far enough away, with visibility blocked by trees surrounding the property, that I don’t have to worry about casual chit-chats, yet close enough that we don’t feel totally isolated. We have a full basement (unfinished but clean and painted) for storage, hardwood floors, an acre of land with permission from our landlady to plant as big a garden as we wish, a nice-sized kitchen, and a clean, freshly-painted interior that needs nothing done to it.

It’s just a two-hour drive from this area, so we can get back to see my family with no problem. There’s an Amtrak station right in town so the kids can travel from Chicago in just a little over two hours; because of the time change, they even gain an hour coming back (leave Michigan at 10 pm and get into Chicago at 11 pm, for instance).

Even though we’re just renting, it was one of those situations where you walk in and it just felt right. It felt like home. We’re just outside the city limits so it feels like we’re in the country, but we only have to drive a few miles to get to the main area of town. I love it!

So I’ll probably be scarce here (yet again) for the next month while we pack up this house and get ourselves moved to the fruit belt area of Michigan. We’ve been making weekly trips, bringing a few things at a time, to do things like get our banking situated, get utilities switched into our name, etc. Our big, final move will probably happen during the last full week of July.

On another note, all of the stress of the past month helped me reach my goal weight (YAY!) and then sail past it by a couple pounds. This is the first time since the late 1990s that my BMI has been in the ‘normal’ range; when I started all of this, back in October, my BMI was 31 (which is in the obese category) and it’s 24.7 now. Of course, I look at pictures and STILL think I look exactly the same as before. Maybe it’s because I’m short, and it just doesn’t show?!

So I’m going to sign off and go looking for a wool dust mop (something I never thought I’d covet) while Dave researches ways to set up a clothesline, something I’ve always wanted. He’s also telling me I need to buy work boots, which sounds ominously like he’s planning to put me to work around the yard and garden. Country living, here we come!

Pardon Me While I Freak Out Just A Bit

On the one hand, I’m all, ‘Wow, May is nearly over!’ and on the other hand, I’m thinking, ‘Wait, I thought it was June already.’ I think the really weird spring we’ve had has kind of thrown me off, because it was cold and fitfully snowing here and there for so far into May (May!) and then we started having fairly consistently warm weather, so now I feel like summer’s been here for a while.

Anyway. Things here are good; we’re trying to get back in the habit of walking outside again, now that the weather is cooperating. It always takes us at least a month to get into a nice routine of near-daily walks and then, with it being Illinois and all, after a few months the weather turns cold and nasty, and we get used to just hanging out in the house. Even if we get a walk in (so nice, the fresh air and sunshine!) I still start the day with some jogging on the mini-trampoline and always, always get at least 15 minutes in after dinner.

My oldest turns 24 next week, which is freaking me out a little bit. I remember when the kids started hitting their teens, thinking that I could remember being their age. That was a little weird. But now that they are both adults (Paige turns 20 in August) I am remembering the Grown Up things I did at their age and it’s like, how is that possible? Didn’t I just do that stuff a couple years ago? Kind of like how I feel the 80s and 90s were just about 10 and 5 years ago.

So anyway, I started counting back and I realized that I was 24, the same age Eric will be, when I bought this house. The house that both of the kids grew up in. Well, I was on the older end of 24 (four months before my 25th birthday) but still. My baby is old enough to buy a house! Not that I think he should, mind you – things are so different now than they were then – but just the fact that he’s at an age where I can remember doing such a grown up thing is weird to me. (This is actually my second house; I was 21 when I bought my first house, which seems impossible now that I think back on it.)

Even weirder, next year he will be the age I was when I had him. NO WAY. And Paige, Paige is the age I was when I got engaged to her dad. In August, she’ll be the age I was when I first got married. (Hang on, let me find a paper bag to breathe into.)

I turn 50 in August, and on our walk today I told Dave that I just can’t believe it. I mean, I used to picture 50-year-old-me in a rocking chair as a Very Old Lady. But I don’t feel much different than I did 20 years ago. Dave just laughed and promised he’d take me to the furniture store to pick out my chair.

I think I’ll hold off. Time moves fast, but I’m kinda having fun moving along with it.

Am I or Aren’t I?

Now that age 50 is on the horizon (three months away), it looks like I get to play the “Am I pregnant or is it menopause?” game. Yay.

I haven’t had any crazy serious menopause symptoms, really – a hot flash here and there, the occasional night sweats … I had the weight gain, for sure, especially in the stomach area, but that was one of the big reasons I started counting calories and exercising, so I can’t even get too upset about it. Probably the one thing I really noticed was that (ALERT ALERT female talk commencing – just want to warn any guys out there) my periods started getting irregular towards the end of last year.

I started using an app called Period Tracker, and it’s been great. My periods were doing a pretty regular thing where one cycle would be 24-27 days, the next would be in the teens (usually 17-19 days), the next back to 24-27 days, so on and so on. The app would gamely try to estimate the first day of my next period, but it was usually wrong.

For May, it estimated my start date as May 4. I always count exactly 28 days from the start of my last period and note that on our kitchen calendar. (Discreetly, with a little ‘p’ in pencil, not ‘MY PERIOD STARTS TODAY!’ in Sharpie or anything.) I would usually start three to four days before that. My estimate for this month was May 9th.

Now, we don’t use birth control, okay? Before his chemo and bone marrow transplant in 1993, Dave was asked if he wanted to freeze any of his, um, little swimmers for possible future progeny. The assumption was that between the damage done by the leukemia already (which was caught later rather than sooner), the major chemo drugs, and the bone marrow transplant, he would become permanently sterile. He declined the offer, and I knew from the early days of our relationship that we would not have any red-headed curly-haired babies. (Sob – I would have loved to have a baby with Dave!)

So I’ve never really paid any attention to my fertile periods, ovulation days, what have you. I do remember one or two scares, when I was in my mid-30s, when I would be late, we’d buy a pregnancy test and then hold our collective breath as we waited for the results. Usually I got my period the day or two after I did the test. Dave’s main worry was that if I did somehow get pregnant, the baby’s DNA would be seriously damaged by the affect of the chemo on his aforementioned swimmers. We always worried for naught.

In the last week of April, I was going through a frustrating period with my weight. It always fluctuates because I weigh myself every day (digital scale compulsion), but usually the general trend is downward. (Four more pounds to goal weight #1!) That week, though, it was trending UP and it was starting to frustrate me. Not by huge amounts, just .2 or .4of a pound, but usually it goes up and then goes back down, you know? I complained about it to Dave, and he laughed and said, “Well, maybe you’re pregnant!”

Let’s just say I didn’t laugh along with him. Instead, I panicked. “Wait, WHAT? I always thought you said we couldn’t get pregnant!” I opened my app and realized that if we could get pregnant, there was a possibility based on timing. If you get my drift. While I freaked out, Dave said, “Well, they never gave me a test or sperm count because the VA doesn’t do that. I guess there’s a very small possibility it could happen.”

Well, hot damn. I was a complete mess! I proceeded to worry every single day until May 4th, the first possible day I might get my period. That day came and went and nothing happened, no spotting, no nothing.

Although he is not a worrier, I did manage to get Dave as nervous as he possibly could be. “Can you imagine?” I fretted. “I’d be FIFTY YEARS OLD when I had the baby! I’d be … (pause to do mental arithmetic) … 68 when the kid graduated high school. You’d be 77!” By the time I was done, Dave was as worried as I’d ever seen him look.

I’d estimated my period to arrive by Friday, May 9, and it almost always came before my estimate. On Thursday night, I tried to think reasonably. I mean, what is it they say – when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras? Okay, so I might miss my period. But I’m 49, my husband is most likely sterile – it’s probably pre-menopause or the start of actual menopause, not a baby. I did some Googling and although the consensus was menopause, every site still said, “Keep in mind that you can get pregnant during menopause!” which was no help to my frayed nerves.

Then I asked Dave to do some research. Some sites said you could regain fertility after chemo, depending on the type and strength of the chemo used. I had no idea what they used on Dave, so he looked it up for me (turns out it was Cytoxan, Busulfan and ARA C). After he looked it up, he seemed very relieved. It turns out that the combination of the chemo medications is pretty toxic to a man’s fertility, so we weren’t being silly to assume. (Combined with the fact that we’ve been together since 1998 and never got pregnant.)

On Friday we ran errands, and I bought a two pack of pregnancy tests while Dave rolled his eyes. At this point we weren’t worrying any more, but I knew I had to do a test just to get an answer once and for all. The brand, First Response Early Result, is supposed to detect hCG up to six days before your period starts, and you don’t have to use first morning urine. So I came home, took the test and then waited. I couldn’t see anything happening; then Dave came in and said, “So it’s negative, huh?” Like this:

IMG_2880

Yes, I took a picture of the test!

Turns out I had been staring at the part you pee on, waiting to see a result. He had to point out the result window to me. Can you tell it’s been a long time since I’d done this?! That was with the instructions laid out next to the test, after I’d read them meticulously three times.

On a side note, I’ve never been able to just pee on the stick. I’m always afraid I’ll either pee on my hand (ugh), miss the stick and waste the pee, or not be able to pee for the five straight seconds you need to. I always pee into a disposable cup and dip the test. Aren’t you glad I told you that?! (And could I say ‘pee’ anymore?! Geez.)

My worries were over, but my period still never came. Since the box had two tests, I figured it would be prudent to take a second one after I was officially a week late (using my estimated date, five days later than the app’s estimated date). I cheated and did the test yesterday morning instead of this morning, and it too was negative.

So now I’m kind of excited, imagining the freedom of no more periods. We’ll see if it just shows up terribly late, or I just don’t get it anymore (I doubt it will be that easy). At first I was worried I’d be buying pregnancy tests all the time, if my period starts being seriously crazy, but now I think I’m just gonna chill out and accept the fact that we are not going to be making any babies.

On a funny side note, I was telling my mom and daughter about this on (appropriately enough) Mother’s Day, and Paige’s face lit up as she asked, “If you aren’t getting your period any more, can I have all your supplies?!” I told her I wasn’t sure this was totally the end, but I did gift her a big stash and she has dibs on the rest when the time comes. Good riddance, I say. ;)

New Starts: Plants and Houses Edition

This is our first seriously WARM day this year, warm as in ‘we left the furnace off all night and woke up to 72 degrees this morning.’ Warm as in ‘we opened the windows before 9 am and it was humid.’ I’m not sure I’m crazy about the humidity thing, but it seems to be dissipating as the afternoon wears on. (My ever-present glass of water is no longer coated with condensation, for instance.)

Dave just came in from planting the garden. The past few years he’s started seeds indoors and then transplanted them, but this year he decided to just sow the seeds outside from the start. I’m always amazed at how quickly things grow once they get outside, so it will be fun to watch the little plants poke through and then track their growing progress. In May and June, it seems like they will never get big enough to produce anything edible before cold weather sets back in … and then in late June, early July, it’s like they grow two feet overnight.

This year we got our seeds from Baker’s Creek Heirloom Seeds again. We used them last year and were really happy with them, even though some of the plants weren’t what we expected. (We had quite a crop of mystery tomatoes last year!) One of the mystery tomatoes, which turned out to be Costoluto Genovese, turned out to be so delicious that we deliberately ordered those seeds this year. We have a few types of tomatoes and peppers, butternut squash, zucchini (I begged Dave to just plant ONE this year, after my insane zucchini harvest last year), and some things that we’ve never planted before: leeks and Purple Peacock broccoli.

We are still keeping an eye out for houses in Michigan, and I’ve been kind of joking with Dave about the garden and a possible move. If we find something awesome, we could very easily pick up and go at any time … but what about our plants? I told him we’d either have to dig up everything, put them all in pots and move them, or sneak back here in the fall and reap the harvest. (I’m only half-kidding about that last one!) It feels like everyone is moving right now – my mom just sold her townhouse and is moving into an amazing two-bedroom apartment in a nearby senior living complex, and our neighbors just put their house up for sale yesterday. It’ll be interesting to see what they get for their house and how long it takes to sell.

We couldn’t sell our house when we looked into it last year, as I mentioned before – well, not for anywhere near what we needed to pay off the mortgage. We’re looking at land contracts in Michigan now, probably our only real option with a bankruptcy and pending foreclosure on our record. I doubt we could easily find a place to rent when we have four cats! So land contract it is; they are much more common in Michigan than they are here in Illinois. Dave is familiar with them but I had never heard of selling on land contract until he mentioned it. It will probably be quite a while before we actually have to leave this house, so we are just saving our money and keeping an eye on what’s available in southwest Michigan.

It’s kind of exciting, kind of nerve-wracking … we’re really in limbo, just saving money and waiting things out, which is, well, kind of boring. Luckily for me, my mom has asked me to help her decorate her new place when she moves in next month. It’s a blank slate, and HUGE, and it will be a blast helping her get things laid out … and maybe throw in some pops of color too.

One thing I can’t wait to do is get into a new place and make it my own; we know that wherever we end up will most likely be in fairly rough shape and/or be in need of updating, so I’m expecting to do a lot of renovating and redecorating (as time and money permit). When I bought this house, I really wanted something move-in ready. This next time around, it will be less ‘what I want’ and more ‘what can we afford?’ As long as it’s ours and we have a place for us and our four cats, that’s good enough for me!

The Uprising of the Appliances

Our car continues to throw little zingers at us. Dave would love to replace it; every now and then he peruses the used car ads on Craigslist with a gleam in his eye. But the car still runs, and as long as it continues to do so we will be savingsavingsaving for our next house. I imagine a new (to us) vehicle will be first on the list once we move, though.

So this time it was the key fob, the little doohickey that locks and unlocks the car (and sets the alarm). It doesn’t start the car, just unlocks and locks it. We each have one, and Dave’s stopped working a little over a month ago. He took it apart and something inside was broken, so it wasn’t just a battery or a simple fix. When we did some research on a replacement, we found out it costs around $300 to get a new one and get it programmed by a dealer. Good grief! We had no idea.

Once we realized it would be so expensive, we put it off. We still had mine, after all. But it was making Dave nervous, so last week he found a place on eBay that sells used key fobs and ordered one for $20. Then he searched for a video on how to program it himself. We watched it together and it looked fairly straightforward.

The key fob came today, and after he watched the video one more time, Dave went down to the garage to try his hand at programming (and saving us over $100). He ran upstairs a couple times to re-check parts of the video, and at one point I thought I heard an alarm going off. Finally he came upstairs, smiled weakly and said, “Well, it’s done! I didn’t realize it could’ve shut the car down completely, so that it wouldn’t start. It’s messing with the security system, after all. But it works!” It turned out to be quite a bit more complicated than the video showed, and perhaps he might not have done it if he’d realized what he was risking (the security system could’ve freaked out and locked the car in such a way that we couldn’t start it). Better not to think of that, and just think of the money we saved. (Whew.)

In other ‘things breaking down’ news, a couple of days ago I noticed a faint electrical burning smell in our kitchen. I called Dave over to sniff the air with me and he could smell it too, right by the kitchen island but nowhere else in the house. After we’d walked around the house sniffing the air like hound dogs, we met back in the kitchen and couldn’t smell anything. We did a collective shrug and figured it was just one of those things.

Later, after dinner, Dave made a cup of Earl Grey tea and he used the microwave to heat the water in his mug. After it finished, he called me over and there it was again. We remembered that the microwave had been used earlier that afternoon, when we first smelled the mysterious odor. Obviously something was burning up inside the microwave. My immediate reaction was to clap and say, “Oh GOOD, we get to buy a new microwave!”

We bought that microwave, a Panasonic, back in 2002. The first thing I did was use the ‘popcorn’ button to pop a bag of popcorn, and it burned the crap out of it. (I naively thought the machine knew what it was doing; I pushed the button and walked away, then came back to a room filled with smoke.) The plastic on the door was a nice light brown color after that debacle, in distinct contrast to the white shade on the body of the microwave. Dave never let me live that down, and I felt so bad that I sullied our brand new appliance on the day we bought it.

After some fast internet research, we settled on a Magic Chef microwave that’s a little bigger than our old one. It’s very pretty and it was inexpensive (especially after I found and printed a $5 off $50 coupon). It works a treat.

I no longer trust the ‘popcorn’ button. So far this microwave is still as pretty as the day we bought it.  :)

They say bad things happen in threes.  Let’s hope the appliances haven’t figured this out.

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