Friday, July 31, 2009

The Twinkle-Light Years

Had a lovely surprise call from a dear friend earlier this week and we made dinner plans for yesterday evening. We live miles apart and she calls when she is in town. The restaurant we chose had closed so we met at a nearby hole-in-the-wall Chinese establishment (low on cost and ambiance but good food). It survives more on Take-out rather than Eat-in customers and we ended up having the dining area to ourselves. We spent our time eating and catching up on what's happening in our lives and attitudes. Our discussed health (ours and others), economic status, news of mutual friends, and the current and future state of TV and radio programming...

Health- we both are dealing with serious health issues and are trying to maintain, if unable to improve, our current level of wellness. We are also keeping a close eye on changes in the state of health care provision (private medical insurance as well as Medicare and Medicaid availability and cost).

Economic status- both of us are are living on limited income and with increased out-go. We currently have cars that give us independence; however, we may have to give up this convenience sooner than later... not because we are becoming unable to drive, but due to the cost of repairs and maintenance. And the cost of our housing continues to increase while our income is static... what to do... what to do?

Mutual friends- we met years ago (serendipity, again) and although we can't meet often, it's always a joy to be together when we can. She updates me on people I had met through her and I update her on news of my family (no, I didn't have pictures... I'm a ba-a-ad grandma).

The state of radio and TV programming- my friend's career was in theater so she is more cognisant of the state of entertainment than I. During the past few weeks, we each have had "What?!" moments while listening to NPR. We each heard glaring, jarring errors and misnomers that appeared due to lack of research, and possibly, just maybe, the lack of age and experience of the announcers (sigh). If we can't trust NPR, then who...? On TV, the sound level of advertisements is still way louder than that of the program being broadcast, even though this continues to be denied by broadcasters. We also have noticed that the difference in volume has become even more evident since the change to digital signals. Program content on TV has become so youth-oriented that we now find ourselves with fewer things to watch even as the number of channels available increases. My friend noted that the audience that TV is trying to reach is out and about, not sitting in front of the Tube. The increasing older contingent of the population is becoming the audience; why isn't programming being placed for them? I told her "Follow the money"... the advertising budget rules the roost. (But, if the younger ones are not in front of the TV, how and why do producers think their ads will reach their target? Think cell phones that have become miniature PC-TVs, so pervasive that finding a cell phone that just makes calls in virtually impossible.)

Attitudes- we have each reached the decision to eliminate worry from our lives (more successfully some days than others). Worry changes nothing. It effects only our state of being and wastes time that we can spend on more creative and satisfying thoughts and actions.

The sky had darkened and storm clouds were moving across the sky, so we left the restaurant and said our farewells in the parking lot, during which my friend mentioned 'the twilight of our years.' She said she felt her years weren't going to be twilight but rather 'twinkle light' years. I told her I love twinkle lights. As we both have experiences that seem just a trifle off the norm, we decided to embrace our twinkle light lives. We'll also continue caring for and sharing with each other and we'll get together again as soon as we can. Twink, twink.

Friday, July 24, 2009

HMO Schmo

When an HMO was first in the works for employee medical insurance at the company I worked for, I was told that it would be an over-sight group that would negotiate physician fees to keep costs reasonable for patients. I was not told that it would be a for-profit outfit that physicians would buy into. I was not told that physicians would make bonuses related to the number of patients they saw during a day. I was not told that the HMO, not the physician, would decide if a procedure or care regimen was warranted (even if the physician prescribed it). I was not told that the main thrust would be profit for the HMO.

Medical insurance started as a source of coverage for emergency treatment. Visits to the doctor to have physicals, beans removed from ears, broken bones splinted, ingrown toe-nails treated, etc., were visits for which the patient expected to pay. Then wellness care came on the horizon, and insurance companies started charging more for premiums to pay for these visits. New medical advances and cures have come into being, all raising costs for treatment. Now, insurance companies hire employees to see how they can refuse to pay claims... as in 'she has cancer, she'll die anyway, why should we pay for chemo or other treatments just to prolong her life? ' (My scenario and italics.) God forbid that the treatment might actually provide a cure.

I need to state here that, to my knowledge, my current insurance provider has refused payment for only one procedure during my current care regimen, and that was because the pre-approval period had elapsed. The approval was updated and the treatment carried through and paid.

One thing that we as patients are not told is the amount paid to physicians and test & treatment providers. I inadvertently discovered that one provider received only $5 over my co-payment for each visit. If this is typical, one way to cut health costs throughout the nation would be for patients to pay the full amount for the visit, thereby relieving doctors of the cost of dealing with insurance companies. But then, what do I know? I'm just part of the general public.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


It's been a quiet week in .... no, wait... that's someone else's line. Actually, I've been alternating between busy doings and playing hermit.

Lot's going on behind and beyond my door, including......

The death of Walter Cronkite. Not unexpected given his age but sad none the less. A wonderful example of how to conduct a life and career... with kindness, honesty, honor, integrity.

The anniversary of the moon landing. I had stayed glued to the TV, nervously watching the landing and the first steps on the surface. I awoke my baby daughter and tried to impress her with the momentous images on the screen. (A few years back, I asked her if she remembered. She didn't.)

Another elderly lady fought with a purse snatcher. It's not that saving one's possessions is paramount. It's the idea that a person thinks one should give them something just because they make a threatening demand. The reaction is spontaneous. The outcome is different each time.

Puff (a.k.a Squeak) had her spaying surgery yesterday. She's doing fine. Post-op instructions were to provide paper litter in her box and keep her quiet, no running or jumping. Yeah, right. She loves to play with paper. The only time she's not running or jumping is when she is in my lap. I do have other things to do, after all. I have a life. Sometimes.

Friday, July 17, 2009

(Wake-up) Alarms in the night

Living as I do near the 911 Response headquarters, I've become accustomed to sirens in the dead of night, so this morning's 3:45a.m. siren was not a shock. Actually, it was the most subdued I have heard so far. I often wonder why the use of the siren is necessary at this time of early morning but assume it is required by law as there is no traffic to alert. But that's okay... Squeak had already sat on my neck and given me my wake-up lick on an eyelid.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Little cat feet

I won't do a running commentary on all my new kitten's activities, but want to note a couple of things. I have changed her name from "Puff" to Squeak" as that is what she does. And I have to admit that I wish I had half the energy "Squeak" does. There is no ledge too narrow for her to walk on; no corner too small or dark to explore. If it moves, or makes a sound, it will be pounced upon. (Trying to make up the bed is a challenge.) She discovered the remote and turned on the TV at 3:05 this morning. Nothing is safe from her exploration. I admire her determination. I'm in a flurry of movement. trying to stow all things movable before she can get to them. I have no doubt as to which of us will win that race. Excuse me, I have to change the channel...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Kitten Chronicles (short version)

Decided to get a pet. Would love to have a dog, but know I'm too lazy to walk it... I don't walk myself when it's cold and rainy. Got a cat instead... a kitten actually, adopted from a family member. Said kitten, small and virtually weightless, was born at Easter. She was named Puffball because of a spot of fur in the middle of her forehead. I've renamed her "Squeak" as that's what she does... haven't heard a single meow. Just survived the second night with my new companion. It's like living with a newborn baby... lots of sleep, then demands for attention. No need to be fed during the night, but bouts of energy involving running, clawing and chewing.

Squeak's favorite toys are (1) me, (2) her official bed, which is soft, lightweight and easily moved... she likes to claw and chew on it... has yet to get in it, much less use it to sleep, (3) the bathtub, sans water of course, and (4) a paper bag. She appears to travel well in her carrier so road trips are in the future.

Whenever one acquires a new roommate, there is always a period of adjustment. Rules have to be established. So far, there are two... (1) the keyboard is off-limits when I'm online and (2) no walking on my face at 2:40 a.m.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Black Dog has moved on to another neighborhood

A legend has passed on to easier streets. Black Dog roamed the near West End for years. At first, he was just an elusive target for 'the dog catcher,' but as time passed, sighting him became a small coup for those who walked, ran beside, and drove the streets and alleys of the area. I saw him at least twice, so unexpectedly that it took me several seconds to realize "Hey, that was Black Dog!" He inspired a protective feeling in the neighborhoods he frequented; most people not really trying to catch him so much as trying to provide shelter and food for him in his wanderings.

At first, as the public safety representatives started receiving reports of sightings, they thought people were seeing several different dogs, but as time went on and descriptions coalesced, they realized that, yes, Black Dog was not just a figment of our imagination. They had a hard time understanding how he could survive for so long, roving the busy city and suburban streets.

If you would like to learn more about this sojourner, access the Times-Dispatch today and check Local News. I don't know how long the item will be on the current page, but it will probably be archived. Today, it is located at:

Some day, I hope to see Black Dog again. Maybe he'll let me pet him.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Fine Fabulous Fourth of July

The drive to the mountains this past Friday was wonderful; the weather so fine that I could travel without running the air-conditioner. The lawns, fields and gardens were green and thriving... the corn tall and full. It's been several years since I've seen growing corn looking that healthy.

On the Fourth, I got to hear my favorite patriotic music, including Sousa marches, and American the Beautiful, although it's the first time I'd heard God Bless the USA sung by a barbershop quartet. My son-in-law grilled chops, and as expected, they were great. Didn't get to a parade, but did attend a local baseball game in the evening. The teams started out slow but reached their stride in the 4th inning and gave us a show... even a fair number of foul balls for the crowd to catch... my grandson caught one. I really enjoyed the game for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that the announcer didn't say anything until... (gasp!) ... he actually had something to announce. So nice not to endure endless recitation of team trivia that die-hard fans already know and people like me don't care about. Yeah! Then had a perfect seat for the fireworks after the game.

All in all, a wonderful Fourth of July... fantastic weather, great food, and good fun.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Still celebrating...

Have been celebrating my birthday for over a week now...
... A dear friend took me out to dinner last week
... I received birthday greetings through cards, Facebook and email.
... My youngest daughter and her children took me to hear the Gourd Orchestra at a county library. The performers grow their own gourds. Then they make beautiful musical instruments out of them and play them. They also wear them. What fun! Check out their website at

I'm going to continue celebrating this weekend. My family has promised that my son-in-law will barbecue something for me. I can hardly wait. He is a BBQ gourmet. He could grill cardboard and it would taste yummmmy!

We'll be celebrating our country's independence, too. For me, the Fourth of July just isn't complete without a parade, patriotic music, fireworks, and a picnic with family and friends. I hope to hear and sing along with The Stars and Stripes Forever (I always have to march in place to this), God Bless America, and The Star Spangled Banner. And I'm Proud to be an American-God Bless the USA.

God bless our men and women serving in the armed forces (past and present).

God bless America.