Monthly Archives: January 2015

Nervous Nellie

We’re waiting for a furnace repair fellow to show up, so I figured I’d pass the time by writing. The furnace is still hanging in there, but a few days ago I noticed a … burning? … smell right before the furnace fan kicked on. It was hard to describe, not really alarming but definitely noticeable. I mentioned it to Dave and he checked it out. He said it looks like the furnace starts to ignite and then fizzles out one or two times before it finally catches. So maybe it really was the furnace and not the thermostat when it stopped working overnight a couple weeks back.

Our landlady is very cool and she responded right away to Dave’s email. We all have our fingers crossed that this is a quick fix – our landlady for her pocketbook, Dave and I because we don’t want to be without heat for very long. It’s not as cold as it has been, but still … it’s a brisk 18 degrees outside, and we have no space heaters or fireplace here. We would like to be without the furnace for the shortest time possible!

I finally conquered my completely irrational but entirely consuming fear of making an appointment with a new doctor here. I have no idea why I was so frozen with fear over the idea of simply making an appointment, but I was. Finally last week I just told Dave, “Today we’re going to return my library book, then stop off at the clinic and I’ll make my appointment.” Boom.

After I explained my situation to the front desk clerk – new in town, don’t have a doctor yet, meds are running out and I need refills – she said, “Oh, we can do that in the walk-in clinic.” And not only did I have my appointment, I was also being seen that same day, in a matter of minutes.

One thing I was pretty sure of was that I might not need my blood pressure medicine anymore. One of my goals when I started counting calories and losing weight was to be much healthier in my 50s than I was in my 40s. My 50th birthday was looming, so right after my 49th birthday I really dug deep, found my willpower, and started losing weight. I added exercise reluctantly – I hated most forms of exercise – and as the weight came off, exercising got easier.

I don’t credit the exercise with helping me lose weight; it never has. But it makes me feel better, and I look forward to doing it every day. My stamina has increased so much. I told Dave that I used to worry I’d be sent for a stress test, the kind where you run on a treadmill, and I wouldn’t be able to last even one minute. (Seriously.) I feel better than I have since I was in my 20s. My knees don’t hurt any more, I don’t have aches and pains when I get out of bed, and I don’t run out of breath.

There’s been a few times in the past couple months when I’ve felt a little goofy – sometimes my heart is kind of racing, sometimes I feel a little lightheaded. I never know if it’s from perimenopause (which I’ve found can give me heart palpitations on occasion) or something else, so I always ask Dave to check my blood pressure to make sure it’s not sky-high. Every time he’s checked it, it’s been really super low (for me), like 80/60 or in that range. It scared the crap out of Dave, and he kept telling me to go to the doctor because I probably didn’t need blood pressure medicine anymore, now that I’ve lost weight and I exercise daily.

I started on blood pressure medicine when Paige was still nursing, in the mid-90s. My blood pressure was high during my pregnancy with Eric, and it was the same deal with Paige. The doctors and nurses would make a big deal out of it (rightly) and they’d tell me to lay on the table and try to think relaxing thoughts. Then they would come back later and check it again. That never helped me; it just made me more nervous. I’d dwell on the fact that they were coming back to check it, and if it was high would I get put on bedrest? Would they want to induce labor? I would work myself into a worrying frenzy, and my blood pressure stayed high.

This turned into a major case of White Coat Syndrome, and I still have it today. Every time I set foot in a doctor’s office, I get nervous. Crazy, heart-poundingly nervous. Dave has talked to me about it, tried to help me rationalize it and realize there’s no reason for me to worry, but it’s an instant reaction that I can’t control. Deep breathing, meditation – I do them all in the doctor’s office, and I’m still a nervous wreck.

Well, I was already worked up about simply making the appointment, so when I realized I was actually seeing someone that day I was mentally freaking out. They called me back pretty quickly; I got weighed (not bad), they checked my height (one inch less than I thought I was – I refuse to believe I’m 5’ tall and not 5’1”), then did my blood pressure. 140/84. Looks like I’ll be staying on that medication for a while longer, thanks to my insane doctor office phobia.

Then I had to sit there for a long, long time – at least 30 minutes, maybe more. When I finally saw someone, it was a PA. She listened to my lungs and heart, and entered a 3 month refill for my cholesterol and blood pressure medicine. Then I talked to her about establishing myself as a patient there … and that was it! All that worry for nothing.

I went back to the front desk to talk to them about establishing myself as a patient, and it turns out only one doctor is accepting new patients. It just so happens to be the female FNP I was hoping to get, so that was a bonus. I filled out a form so they could get my medical records from Illinois, and then once she gets them she will look them over and decide whether to accept me as a patient. (I guess if I am a complicated case she won’t take me on.) I’m hoping to hear good news, because I really liked this clinic. I guess they’ll call in a couple weeks, and if she accepts me then I’ll make the appointment for my real first doctor visit.

Of course, I’m already worrying about it.

Our First Chili Crawl

We went to a chili crawl downtown on Sunday, a first for me and Dave. The weather was colder than the day before, when we went down to check out the Hunter Ice Festival. On Saturday it was in the low 40s, which is really quite a heatwave for this time of year in Michigan. When we stepped out of the house on Saturday to go to the car, it felt rather warm and I thought I’d be overdressed in my hat, gloves and pea coat. I actually carried a scarf outside with me and then changed my mind and tossed it back into the mud room before we shut the door.

Big mistake! Once we got downtown we realized it was very, very windy and we had a long walk against the wind to Main Street. I ended up buttoning my coat up to the neck, and I was very glad for my hat and gloves. As we walked around looking at all the ice sculptures, the wind died down a bit and it was a really pleasant day – the sun added just the right amount of warmth.

They were selling Hunter ice cream, a special recipe just for the festival that was a close replica of the vanilla flavor sold by the Hunter family at the turn of the century. At first I couldn’t imagine walking around outside in January, eating a scoop of ice cream … but then we couldn’t resist. And it was delicious! (If you’re curious about the back story, here’s a short article: )

Wendi, Dave & Ice Cream

With our ice cream, at the festival


When we walked up, the line was about 40 people deep and Dave wanted to wait until Sunday (when we went back for the chili crawl) to get the ice cream. I talked him into waiting, though, because the weather wasn’t bad and I really couldn’t imagine walking around eating ice cream AND chili at the same time. It’s a good thing we decided to wait, because on Sunday the ice cream was already gone.

We happened to be behind a guy with a service dog, a big fella (maybe a German Shepherd?) who I could tell Dave was dying to pet. He had on his vest with a big DO NOT PET emblazoned on the side, so of course Dave refrained. It didn’t stop others though, and we watched as a few people cooed and petted the dog. I was a little irritated on the guy’s behalf, but Dave mentioned later that the guy had told the people it was okay. We were both trying to figure out what service the dog was providing – the guy could obviously hear (he turned in response to sound) and had no hearing aids or CIs, and he wasn’t visually impaired; I know there’s a whole array of services that the dogs provide so it must have been one of the many others, something not obvious/visible.

But back to Sunday, and our first-ever chili crawl. I wasn’t even sure what this was, but basically it was a walk through town where various businesses/organizations had their chili available to taste. It was just $5/person for 15 tastes, and we each got a manila envelope with tickets, a map/score sheet, a napkin and a spoon. (We realized we had no pen or pencil with us, so we had to jot notes at the places that had pens near the cash register.) We followed the map and stopped in each business, where we received a small cup of chili. And I do mean small – it was basically the size of the cup you get for pumping ketchup at Wendy’s or Culver’s, if you’ve ever seen those.

We really enjoyed getting to visit so many different places downtown, many of which we’d never been in. We definitely had our favorites as far as the chili went (Dave’s favorite won people’s choice first place!) and we’ve found at least four new restaurants we want to try. We got to meet lots of nice people, get some exercise, and also try a wide variety of chili. Some were actually gumbo, a couple had rice as an ingredient (which I found I really liked), one was more like a soup, quite a few were not the deep red color I’m used to, and one guy mentioned that he used no chili powder – the heat came from ingredients he brought back from his travels to Jamaica. (That actually was my favorite.) Most of them, if not all, had beans, I believe – I was wondering if we’d get any chili without beans because I know some people feel strongly for or against beans in chili. (I like them.)

A couple places gave us bigger cups, and I think that worked in their favor. There are so many ingredients in chili and the beans are fairly big, so with the teeny tiny cups there just wasn’t room to get all the different elements in there. I actually voted for the place that gave us the biggest cup, and Dave’s vote went to a place that gave a bigger cup too (which was tied in my mind with the place that got my vote … I went with them because they were a little more unusual).

The place that got first place from the judges was okay but way too salty for me, and I am someone who loves salt a little too much. (I think I have a salty palate so I try to be careful and not over-salt when I cook for other people.)

Even with the colder, more dreary weather (a bit of rain and snow, no sun), it was a fun day – the chili warmed us up and we had a good time talking about the merits of each taste. I wouldn’t hesitate to do another food-type crawl around town!

Winter in Michigan

I believe the last time I wrote, I was bemoaning the cold temperatures and our temperamental furnace. A little over a week later, and the furnace is going strong (YAY) and the outdoor temps are rising. And we have plans to go to our town’s Hunter Ice Festival. Yes, they are celebrating ice, outdoors, for three days. This is not the place to live if you hate the cold! Tomorrow we’re planning to do the chili crawl, on the last day of the ice festival. I’ve never done anything like that so I’m really looking forward to it (and I love chili, so … yum).

The festival kicked off this at 9:00 this morning with the annual Frigid 5K race, although it wasn’t very frigid at the time – I checked and it was in the low 30s. (Last year I think it was 12 degrees – brave souls!) Dave and I actually considered signing up for this race when we realized it would actually be pretty warm for Michigan in January. We came to our senses, though, when we thought about it – I haven’t done any kind of running outside (just jogging on my mini trampoline) and neither of us has any kind of appropriate clothing for cold weather running. We could have signed up to walk, I suppose, but I kind of wanted to jog my first 5K. Also, it’s probably not the best idea to sign up to run your first 5K in the cold, with snow and ice on the path you’ll be running. But it was exciting to talk about it for a few days! Maybe next year. (I really did want a race shirt though, darn.)

We made a trip to Illinois earlier this week, and Dave got his partial denture. He finally has a mouth full of teeth! He’s been working with just half his teeth on the bottom (not even half, really) – he has no teeth at all on the left side. He dropped me off at my mom’s on Wednesday and we tackled some of her technical issues while he went to the dentist. (He’s been getting his work done at a dental college in Downers Grove, and he was in the middle of treatment when we had to move.) My mom is seeing a specialist next week for her imbalance issue – it started in August and hasn’t really abated, so she’s hoping for some relief. They wanted her to complete an online new patient questionnaire and she was having trouble with it, so we sat down to tackle it as soon as Dave left. An hour later, we were finally done. My god, what a chore! I’m kind of curious to see if they even refer to it during her visit. (Mom, if you’re reading this – let me know if they do.) Half the time I find that I fill out copious amounts of paperwork for stuff (medical, financial, etc.) and then I get asked the same questions in person later. Why bother filling all this stuff out?!

Dave came back with a full set of teeth, and he tried them out on his Portillo’s Italian beef sandwich (of course … when in Illinois, Portillo’s). So far, so good – as he wears his partial and gets used to it, he’ll be on the lookout for sore spots or any other issues. He hasn’t tackled steak yet, but next week I’ll be serving him a Marlboro Man sandwich (a Pioneer Woman recipe that we love, pan-roasted onions and cube steak on a roll). We haven’t had them in ages because it was just too difficult for Dave to masticate. That will really be the test of his new teeth!

We have a yard full of snow, and yesterday we got out to do a little more shoveling. (The plows had deposited a lovely snow barricade at the end of the driveway, and our car was not pleased.) Dave took me around back and showed me some of the animal tracks he’d spotted – definitely deer along the back of the yard, and what he thinks is probably coyote going all along the fence from the front to the back. Actually, he thinks there were four of them and two were playing together. He showed me the little scratches from mice, and also tracks from a fox. He’s also found lots of rabbit tracks and droppings; we can usually see the bunnies in the spring, summer and fall but they’re a rare sighting in the winter.

Everything looks pretty calm weather-wise for the next week, so we’ll just be enjoying winter in Michigan and looking forward to celebrating our 13th anniversary in a little over two weeks. I’ll sign off here as I get ready to go out and eat some Hunter Ice Cream in the snow and sun!

Notes from the Polar Vortex

When we lived in Illinois, our neighbors across the street were fanatical about clearing their driveway of snow. We didn’t know them at all; the only time they spoke to us was right before we moved. Someone had kicked in their front door and robbed them, right in the middle of the day. The guy came over to see if we had seen anything (the police also came by before he did) but we weren’t even home that day, we were at my mom’s. (I have to confess, I was glad to be leaving the neighborhood after that happened.) Anyway, we never knew anything about them but we assumed they had jobs in the health care industry because they kept kind of strange hours, Dave had seem them in scrubs before, and, like I said, they always kept their driveway shoveled as if they needed to be able to leave in an emergency.

They used shovels, both the husband and wife, and the minute we had more than one inch of snow they would be out there, methodically shoveling. The sun hit their driveway perfectly, so it would melt whatever stray flakes they missed. (I used to be envious of that; the house shaded our driveway so the sun never warmed it and we always had little icy mounds that didn’t melt.) Dave and I would watch them surreptitiously in amazement. We used to joke about them blow-drying the driveway to get every last bit of snow removed. It didn’t matter if it was still snowing or it was below zero. They’d pull up, park their car in the garage, and then go out and get that driveway cleared. It was obviously important to them, being able to leave at a moment’s notice if they needed to.

Honestly, we would have rarely shoveled our driveway if we didn’t feel pressure from the neighbors. The renters on our left didn’t often bother to shovel. If they could drive over the snow, that was good enough for them. The guy on our right had a snow blower and he was pretty rigorous about using it … except on the sidewalk, which always irritated me. We’d be out there with our shovels, shoveling HIS area of the sidewalk so our kids could make it to school without walking in the street. Asshole.

So I’ve been watching to see how our new neighbors handle snow removal, just out of curiosity. Most people here are pretty lax about it. They have trucks and SUVs and they just drive over the snow unless it’s over six inches deep. We have this big half-circle driveway but we really only use the half that goes up to the car shelter, so we tend to just shovel that side. Sometimes I’m feeling feisty and like I want the exercise, and I’ll continue all the way around to the mailbox on the other side. But if we don’t bother, I don’t feel like the neighbors are judging us. I mean geez, the sun is going to come out and melt it eventually – why bother?

This has been a very cold, snowy week here in Michigan. Yesterday I was reading in bed and I realized my hands were freezing – like, going numb. It’s usually colder in the early morning because I have the thermostat set for 66 degrees during the night, but it felt unusually cold. So I got up to check the thermostat and it read 60 degrees. I stood there for a second as the thoughts tumbled around in my brain. If the furnace is broken, we’ll freeze – we have no fireplace or wood stove here, and we’re in the middle of a polar vortex until Sunday. What if it takes the repair guy a week to get here, what will we do?

I woke Dave up, poor Dave, and told him the furnace wasn’t working. He went downstairs, messed around a bit, came back and said we were going to have to call the landlord. I started putting on layers of clothing. He went back downstairs, did something else, came back up and said he thought it was working. A few minutes later, the heat came on. Hurrah!

He had also turned the thermostat up to 75 (I had changed it to 70 when I got up that day). The furnace has been running fine ever since, so we think it was just the thermostat being temperamental. But for the rest of the day, he was restless and nervous. It was snowing like crazy all day. It was beautiful and awe-inspiring, watching the snow blow and surround us. But Dave kept fretting about the fact that he wanted more gasoline in case we needed it for the generator – what if the electricity went out? – and the bird seed was low, just a handful. The birds were depending on us, how could we let them down?

At 4:00 we had a little break in the snow and he wanted to drive to town for gasoline and bird seed. We ended up compromising – we have a wind chill warning until noon today (it’s -7 degrees as I write, with a wind chill of -29). Then we have a winter storm warning from 3 pm today until 4 pm tomorrow – more snow is coming in, with lots of blowing and drifting. We’re heading to town for supplies during that three hour window. Hopefully it will at least be one degree above zero – a heat wave, you know.

I find that weather like this brings out my maternal nature. “Wear gloves!” I admonish Dave when he leaves the house. “You’ll get frostbite!” When my daughter mentioned a trip to visit a friend, I texted her, “Wear a hat! Gloves! A scarf!” (I know she doesn’t listen to me. The thought of her heading out in a hoodie , no gloves or hat, and moccasins with no socks makes me cringe.)

As long as we don’t lose electricity and the furnace (or thermostat) keeps working, we’re doing just fine. Dave put out a seed feast for the birds this morning and I’m watching them right now – finches, chickadees, a red-headed woodpecker, lots of cardinals and blue jays, a tufted titmouse.

Dave and the Birds

Dave feeding the birds (on a warmer day than today)

I think, though, that a fireplace or wood stove has just been added to the mental list of things I’d like in the next house we buy.



Doing It One More Time

In one of my posts last month, I mentioned that Dave will be starting treatment again for his Hepatitis C. I’m in a medical frame of mind because I have to find a new doctor this month, so I thought I’d catch everyone up.

I always hate looking for a new doctor. I feel more comfortable with women, so that knocks out a lot of possibilities. I have to guess whether the doctor will have an accent or not (I really, really try to avoid anyone with an accent – my medical stuff is just too important for me to be guessing about what the doctor’s saying). I want someone close by, so that if I’m really sick I don’t have to drive 45 minutes just to get to the doctor’s office. And I don’t know anyone in town to ask for a referral, so I just have to pick a female medical practitioner that works out of a nearby office and has a non-accenty-sounding last name.

I really only need to see the doctor to get my medication refilled (I take medicine for high blood pressure and cholesterol, both of which run in my family). Of course, losing 35 pounds and exercising every day has hopefully made a positive effect on both those things, so my medication may end up getting changed or even discontinued … we’ll see. But I don’t have any chronic health conditions; I just know my medications will run out on Feb. 18th and so I figure I should get a new doctor by the end of this month. I’m not looking forward to it.

Dave has it a little easier because he has to go the VA, and he just gets whatever doctor they assign to him. (Of course, figuring out WHERE to go was the hard part as far as the VA health care system is concerned.) When he went for his new patient visit at the South Bend Clinic, his doctor was really great – very easy to understand, willing to listen to Dave’s concerns and address them appropriately, very friendly and good natured. He’s an FNP, which is fine with us — I’m actually planning to make an appointment with a female FNP at the clinic I’ve been planning to go to (all the MDs are male, and I have had good luck in the past with FNPs).

One of the things he touched on at Dave’s visit in October was his unsuccessful Hep C treatment in 2013. We were surprised to find out that they have new medicine now, just a single pill with no Interferon shot. They seemed really eager to get Dave going on this new treatment, so he made an appointment in November for him to see the liver specialist.

This appointment was so cool. The South Bend location is just a clinic, and the liver specialist works out of Fort Wayne, Indiana which is about two hours south of us. Rather than make us drive to Ft. Wayne, they did a video conference appointment in South Bend (which is less than 30 minutes away). There was a medical technician there, and he set everything up … then we waited for the doctor to join us on the TV screen that was in the room.

Dave was able to understand pretty well – they had the volume turned up and we could see the doctor’s face to read his lips. He asked Dave all kinds of questions, went over his medical history, and then told us about the new treatment. It’s not supposed to have many side effects, at least not compared to the hellish treatment Dave was on in 2013 (Ribavirin and Boceprevir pills daily, plus Interferon shots once a week). Even though Dave didn’t clear the virus, he is still a good candidate for this new treatment.

Then the doctor asked the medical tech to listen to Dave’s heart and lungs. He hooked up a stethoscope somehow so that the doctor could hear the same thing he heard. The doctor told the tech where to place the stethoscope, and told Dave how to breathe (deep breath, hold his breath, etc.) It was really amazing!

I think the new medication is Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) but I don’t know much about it yet. I think Dave will just be taking the one pill, but it’s possible he has to take it with Ribavirin. I do know for sure that he doesn’t have to do the Interferon injections; the Interferon was what really messed up his thyroid and made him so sick last time.

When he went through the treatment in 2013, we had to go to classes to learn about each drug and its side effects. I don’t know if this treatment is that involved, but I don’t think it will be. I do know that we have to drive to Fort Wayne every two weeks to pick up his medication. They’ll give him a two-week supply; then two weeks later we have to drive there again to pick up the next supply, for a total of 12 weeks. I feel that this is a huge pain in the ass – four hours of driving, plus the cost of gas, and wear and tear on the car. But Dave said it’s absolutely worth it to him – he wants to clear this virus once and for all. I’m kind of hoping that after one or two trips, they’ll just have the medicine waiting for him at South Bend for us to pick up. (He doesn’t think this will ever happen.) I remember one of the guys in the classes we took at Hines VA was from a town about an hour and a half away. He was at maybe two of the classes, and then the nurse who was in charge of the program set it up so that he could pick up his meds at the clinic near his house. So I’m thinking maybe someone will take pity on us and do the same, even though it’s a different hospital.

We’ve never been to Fort Wayne, but we’ll be going next month so Dave can have a liver ultrasound – they want the results of this test before he starts his treatment. The doctor was kind enough to take into consideration the unpredictable winter weather we have in this area, and he’s having him wait until March to start treatment. He has another remote video conference appointment with the liver specialist in March (in South Bend) where they’ll go over the results of the ultrasound. And then probably later in March, or in April at the latest, we’ll make the drive to Fort Wayne to meet the liver doctor in person and get Dave’s first two weeks’ worth of medicine.

Hopefully this treatment will work, and I’ll be posting that he’s cleared the virus by the end of 2015!

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