Mike recently asked me if I’d like some wind chimes. I said – Yes! – with great enthusiasm. I’ve actually wanted some really nice wind chimes for a long time. I mentioned to him that you can get wind chimes that have really long pipes and sound like Winchester Cathedral in London … that’s been my dream!

A couple of weeks later he showed up with wind chimes, and my heart sank. They were made of shell material in turquoise. I thought – he must have felt sorry for some merchant in Ocean Beach, and bought them. I really try to “receive graciously,” as one of my gurus says, and not to insult anyone who gives me a gift, especially not my beloved husband. But I was floored by these wind chimes.

He ended up taking them from me and hanging them on our front porch. It turned out they also made a hideous clacking sound. The next day I was trying to talk with him about something serious. It was a windy day and the chimes were clacking furiously. I finally snapped and yelled at him, “I’m sorry but I can’t stand those wind chimes. I can’t even think with them making that noise! I need them taken down, now!” He took them down, looking crestfallen.

Later I discovered he had hung them off a tree in our side yard. I actually didn’t mind the sound coming from that direction, for some reason. But then I realized they were very close to our neighbors, and the chimes might drive them crazy! So I told Mike they needed to come down, so as not to disturb the neighbors. He took them down and told me he had thrown them into the trash.

Now I really felt bad. I fished the wind chimes out of the huge trash can, having to turn it on its side to get to them at the bottom. It turned out he had thrown them on top of a bunch of wood ash, so now they were covered with ashes. I took them into the house to spray them off in the shower.

I decided to put them in the middle of the back yard, hanging from our hammock, equidistant between our two side neighbors, hoping they would not disturb either of them. I realized that the next rain would give them a shower, so I didn’t bother washing off the ashes.

A couple of nights later, I awakened in the middle of the night to the sound of the wind chimes clacking. Now I started worrying about our neighbors across the ally, one of whom can be pretty particular about things. The sound was keeping me awake, and I figured it would disturb others as well. So I dragged myself out of bed at 2 am, and went into the backyard to retrieve the wind chimes. As I sleep-walked back to the bedroom through the kitchen, I hung them on the first thing I noticed – a hook that I hang aprons on.

Some time later … The amazing thing is that now, whenever anyone walks from the kitchen to the pantry, which happens all day long, you almost can’t help brushing against the aprons and wind chimes, and they emit a pleasant tinkle. I have never heard of indoor wind chimes, but that’s what we now have! They have finally found their place 😀

May be an image of indoor

All reactions:


Was feeling at the absolute end of my rope over our out-of-state airbnb for traveling nurses. We recently spent an incredible amount of time, money and energy getting our beloved vintage mansion all fixed up and gorgeous. Then we went through a panic period when it seemed no one was renting rooms. But nurses finally came, and all seemed to be going well.

But the next thing I knew, a guest complained that water was leaking through the ceiling and wall into her bedroom, and sent photos. This was about the worst nightmare I could imagine. I called the plumber who had fixed the leak a year ago. This led to a series of plumbing fixes … and then texts that it was still leaking. Always on a Friday night, which means that plumbing fees are double over the weekend. Luckily the plumber warrantied his work after the first time, though we still haven’t settled with him.

About the third time, he said he would have to cut into the drywall. He cut about a two foot by two foot hole in the ceiling, which finally enabled him to examine the whole drain assembly of the bathroom above, and fix it (overflow valve was the problem). So the plumbing was finally fixed, but there was this huge hole in the ceiling, which would let in cold air and spiders.

Throughout this, I had told the guest who was staying in that room that she could sleep in the other bedroom downstairs, which was vacant. She had been really sweet about bearing with us through all these plumbing problems.

But then she complained that the other bedroom was too hot. Really?? We had worried that it would be too cold, in the severe winters, and had gone to a lot of trouble to make sure the heater vent was fully open.

The next complaint came from another tenant, that our wonderful gardener, who I had enlisted to put a temporary patch over the hole in the ceiling, had not knocked before entering the house, had surprised her, had come in the back door instead of the front, and on and on. I told her that’s why I list all maintenance staff on the first page of the guest book – there will be times when they need to enter the house and guests have slept late or just gotten home from work or whatever, and don’t hear the doorbell.

I sent a text to all staff, reminding them to only enter through the front door, ring the bell and only let themselves in if no one answers, etc. I also called the gardener, who is a gem, especially considering that my biggest problem is always finding and retaining good gardeners. He said he had knocked, and he’s a very respectful person whom I really couldn’t imagine barging in. I told him I was sorry people were so sensitive, and apologized when I heard that the guest had also yelled and sworn at him (which she told me about also).

Then today I got a text from another tenant complaining about ghosts. Seriously. This just felt like too much. I texted her back that Mike and I had lived in that house for months, had never noticed anything out of the ordinary. That the man we bought the house from had grown up in it, was very nice, his family had taken very good care of the house, and I always got fantastic vibes from it. Even when I stayed there alone for a month, right after we bought it. Mike said he had heard sounds at times, but they were from the beautiful trees that surround the house.

Next she texted me a photo of smudges that looked (to her) like ghost “faces” on the window. Told of hearing footsteps. Good grief. This can be serious, if people start rumors, with many of them working at the same facilities.

I keep telling myself that this is something that some day I will look back on and laugh over. But right now, it just feels like something I don’t want to deal with. Not funny. This is all requiring WAY too much management. I spent the evening in tears. I feel like I always have to be the stable adult … only I’m not very stable … it’s a major effort.

Finally I managed to do some reframes, that are helping me tremendously in being at peace with all this.

Before: I feel like people are trying to drive me crazy (complaints, ghosts).

Reframe: I’m glad to be able to be of service to the guests at our airbnb, who are young women away from home. They probably need someone to talk to and some reassurance. I will be happy to provide this, rather than being put out and scared that their complaints are going to ruin my business.

Before: Our airbnb is requiring excessive management.

Reframe: I’m just getting the bugs out of the system. Everything is going wrong in the beginning, but will smooth out.

May be an image of outdoors and tree

All reactions:

Passports 2/24/22

Mike and I decided to renew our passports, since if there is anything I don’t want any more of in my life, it’s passport drama. As in, “Mom, Dad, I’m leaving for Europe tomorrow and I don’t have my passport!” Last time this happened, Mike drove to LA to get Jake out of a jam. You can renew passports mostly online, but you do need a photo. I hadn’t done this in ten years, so I looked online, and the easiest way to get a passport photo seemed to be at a drugstore. I sprung this on Mike and he was reluctant, but finally agreed to go, on his way to the office. So we went to Walgreen’s, after I’d called to make sure they took passport photos. But they had “out of order” signs on both their camera machines. I asked testily why the person on the phone hadn’t told me this, and she said, “It just happened.” Yeah, sure.

So we headed to CVS, reminding each other “don’t get stabbed” as our friends had years ago in the CVS parking lot. Surprise – their photo machine was broken too.

Okay, there is one more drugstore in Hillcrest – Rite Aid – so we went there. Their lot was almost full and we were in separate cars, but I parked in a “small car” space. Actually two spaces – something I would never normally do – but I couldn’t see squeezing into a space such that the car next to me would have no way to open the driver’s door and get in.

In the store I found a helpful employee and had my picture taken. “No smiling,” she said. I thought – awesome, I can just glare at the camera without the usual awkward attempt to smile! I can just focus on having my eyes wide open! She then explained, “no teeth.” Okay, whatever.

Next Mike called, angry and swearing by this point, saying he couldn’t park. I told him I would leave and give him my space(s), and he could pick up my photos, but on my way out he came in – he’d found a space. He had his photo taken and was again trying to leave for work, while I stayed to pick up the photos. But then the employee came running over, saying Mike’s eyes were closed, and you couldn’t tell this until the photos were printed.

Mike had his photo taken again, but this time the top of his hair was cut off, another no-no. Another employee came to take his photo a third time. Of course long before this, I had given in to the lure of Thrifty ice cream, still available at Rite Aid! So I was blissfully eating my cherry chocolate chip ice cream cup while Mike struggled to get a useable photo. I was not being very prudent because I had to remove my mask to eat the ice cream.

I finally returned to my car with the photos, and had not gotten a ticket. Hopefully my luck will hold and I will not have COVID either. And maybe we’ll even take that trip in several months 😀 Below are our requisite unsmiling photos, which look more like mug shots …

All reactions:

Home Sleep Home

Today I want to talk about cannabis, which I think will turn out to be the most incredible medicinal herb of all time. When I was a teenager, I did smoke pot occasionally, but really didn’t like it – it just made me tired and hungry. As an adult, I’ve always been pretty intensely anti-drug – I almost never drink, do no recreational drugs, no anti-depression drugs, and have almost never even taken any medicines. So when some people tease me and call me a pothead – well, I can barely even laugh about it,because I am just so anti-drug (for me; I am truly not intending to judge or disrespect others’ choices). And I do take some meds now, as an old person with some health conditions.

But I am writing this because of what a lifesaver cannabis has been for me for the past several years. Ever have trouble sleeping? I think the older we get, the more important sleep is, and the harder it is to come by!

Having heard lots of bad things about Ambien (even my mother, in full Alzheimer’s mode, said she would no longer take it, because it was giving her “crazy thoughts”), I started experimenting with cannabis for sleep. Of course due to all the decades of the ridiculous “war on drugs,” there is so little research on cannabis, when it should be a prime focus for research. Therefore we are left reading on the internet, or just going to a dispensary and asking what they recommend. I tend to be an obsessed researcher, but in this case not so much … I wasn’t enjoying it, and it was overwhelming. So I decided to just call dispensaries and ask what they recommended.

That takes us to the dispensary experience, which is pretty bizarre. You go to a dispensary, always with a uniformed security guard who checks your ID in the front. Then you enter to usually a long counter with merchandise in glass cases and psychedelic looking youth behind the counters. Merchandise like bongs (which we knew as water pipes) in the shape of phalluses … hmmm … all sorts of stuff.

I have tried a number of things. I never smoked cannabis, since we had roommates when this adventure began, and I definitely didn’t want our house to have even a whiff of marijuana smoke … didn’t want to have to explain myself, or start a trend .

So I started with edibles. One thing to know about cannabis for sleep is that there are two main strains of cannabis, sativa and indica, and you want indica for sleep.

The other is that there are two main categories of cannabis compounds, CBD and THC. From what you hear and read, CBD is the good guy and THC is the bad guy, since it makes you high. Well, forget all that. CBD is good for relaxation and pain relief, but THC is what puts you to sleep! People ask me, “Do you feel high?” Well, I hardly even know, because I am falling asleep as the cannabis takes effect. Occasionally I can feel a bit of a funny feeling come over my brain.

Actually that reminds me of the first time I tried a cannabis edible. I was really careful to eat it and then IMMEDIATELY go to bed, because I had visions of walking down the hallway to our bedroom, and suddenly getting a wave of sleepiness and falling down on the way there! Well, that is NOT how it works at all. The effect is very, very subtle. And with the proper dose, you wake up with no after effects at all.

I have tried a number of edibles, including gummies, chocolates, powder and more medicinal kinds. They are all fine, but I usually take gummies, because they are the most available, and have fewer calories than the chocolates (which are amazing!).

I have found that for me, 7.5 mg is what I need to take, of either pure THC or a very high ratio of THC to CBD (like 4:1). You could try starting with 5 mg, but if it doesn’t work, increase it to 7.5 or 10 mg.

Edibles are easy to consume, taste good and are long-lasting, as far as sleep goes. The problem is that they are slow acting, usually taking about 90 minutes for full effect. So I take them on those relatively few occasions when I can’t get to sleep in the first place. I know they will get me to sleep eventually, and I will sleep through for 6-8 hours.

My usual problem, though, is that I go to sleep immediately, but wake up at 2 or 3 am. I have done this all my adult life – stayed up for a couple of hours and then gone back to sleep. But as I’ve gotten older, it’s harder to go back to sleep. I don’t want to take an edible because I need something faster acting and with shorter-term effects, so I don’t wake up groggy.

So enter some type of cigarette or vape, which are very fast acting. I ruled out cigarettes and bongs because of the smoke. My son told me to try Dosist vapes … he lived near a Dosist store in LA at the time.

Dosist turned out to be my solution … I’ve been amazed at how well it works, and have used it ever since. The name “Dosist” comes from the technology – the device vibrates when you have inhaled one dose – a really nice feature, so you know how much to consume (just one puff, for me).

Vapes are little devices (plastic tube things, in this case) through which you inhale a vapor of cannabis oil. Some need to be plugged in and charged, or otherwise turned on with a button, before use.

But the Dosist vape does not need to be charged or turned on, it is always just ready to go (which amazes me). There is one end with a little window, through which you can see how much oil is left. You put that end to your mouth, inhale one drag, hold it in as long as you can, and that’s it! It does produce one puff’s worth of smoke, but I haven’t noticed any odor to it.

It took my lungs awhile to adjust … at first I would have a coughing fit. And I still don’t love the effect on my lungs, but I barely cough … I’ve somehow adjusted.

Another thing is that Dosist has both disposable and non-disposable devices. I recommend the disposable, because the other does need to be plugged in. You can buy Dosist in either a 50-dose or 200-dose size, so it lasts quite a long time.

Also, if you want a particular brand, like Dosist, you should go to their website and consult their list of what stores carry their products … only a few dispensaries in San Diego do.

A funny thing about cannabis is how regional it is. We go to Colorado a lot, and I can buy certain brands there that they don’t have here; and vice versa. So that’s why I’m not recommending a particular brand of edibles. But if you want an edible, I would ask for one that is indica, completely or mostly THC, and fast-acting. Some claim to be fast-acting, and hopefully are to some extent.

If you can’t face the idea of going to a dispensary, many deliver! There is a minimum, and you have to pay in cash, but that is what I did at first.

And I am not compensated by Dosist for any of this … just trying to share something that has really saved me, and I feel it’s a fluke that I found it (well, my son Jake does tend to always save me too!)

I feel that some people may be too intimidated to try cannabis, so I’m trying to demystify it. Hell, it is quite intimidating, with the lack of research, the lack of approval or disapproval by many, the lack of legality in many states, and the youth-centric dispensaries (though employees have never been anything but kind, helpful, and respectful to me).

Lastly I did not do any research for this piece, just sharing my experience, so I hope it is accurate. Just wanting to pass along something that has worked brilliantly for me, and I hate to think of where I would be without it. I only take cannabis when I really feel the need, maybe once or twice a week, but am immensely thankful for it each time.

Have some good sleep!

The Cat and the Bag

Our daughter Nina adopted a kitten almost a year ago, as she was quarantining in Los Angeles with her roommate, working at a demanding job, had broken up with her long-time boyfriend, had a horrible acne outbreak, and was generally feeling terrible.  Leo is a very active and affectionate cat, and has been a lifesaver for her.

So now, when our children visit, they bring their pets.  At this point we have our cat, Sophie; we’re babysitting Jake and Madison’s rabbit, Uni; Nina and Leo are visiting; and then there is always Max, the neighborhood cat, who acts like he lives with us. 

So after three days of Nina visiting, but always being off with her friends, we were finally having a “family night” of watching a funny movie.  We were sitting there laughing, about ten minutes into the movie, and I was feeling so happy about having picked just the right movie for our Los Angeles based kids – LA Story with Steve Martin – and looking forward to lots more welcome laughs.

Nina was sitting on the couch with a bag next to her – a “Gap” bag with rope handles, containing some shorts a friend had dropped off for her.  You know how cats love boxes and bags.  Leo jumped up onto the couch, and onto the bag, and one of the rope handles somehow got around his neck.

He looked terrified, jumped down, bag still around his neck, and took off at a run!  We were now laughing at Leo and the bag.  Nina said she had never seen him run so fast!  Nina immediately went after Leo, but he was nowhere to be seen.  We were all somewhat concerned by a cat with something stuck around his neck, so Mike, nephew Don and I also got up and started searching for Leo.

We searched all through our two-story house … nothing.  Mike got out a big flashlight and looked under furniture, through every closet, and even crawled through the attic, which adjoins Nina’s room.  There was no sign of either Leo or the bag.  We all got quiet and listened in various places … this is not normally a quiet cat … and didn’t hear a peep.

We contemplated whether Leo could have jumped out a window.  The casement windows in our bedroom were slightly ajar, though it is three stories down to the backyard, so we hoped to hell he hadn’t jumped.  But Don took the flashlight and searched all around the perimeter of our house.

Nina went to the grocery store and bought a jingly cat toy.  She jingled it all around the house, hoping to lure Leo out, but to no avail. 

I googled “How to find a cat that is hidden in your house,” and Don and I laughed at the advice, though it was actually a pretty good article.  But it didn’t really have anything that could help us.

Nina called her friend Emma, who told her that her cat sometimes hid for hours.

Nina and her dad got into a fight, of course, after Mike voiced what probably all of us were thinking, but carefully not saying – that he hoped the cat hadn’t hanged himself by now.  

Mike kept diligently searching, and even pulled our big bed on a foundation of drawers out from the wall, since there is a “channel” underneath, only accessible from the head of the bed, that a cat could crawl into – but Leo was not there.

We reassured each other that it was extremely unlikely that Leo had jumped out the window … he must be hiding … he must be keeping quiet for the first time in his life.

I was mostly sad that our watching of the funny movie was interrupted.  I said to Don, “Welcome to the bizarre world of the Doerings, where we can’t even do something normal like watch a movie without some crazy shit like this happening.”  It just felt unbelievable that a loud and juvenile cat, with a large bag attached to it, could disappear like this without a trace!  

Our search went on for a couple of hours, and it had gotten too late to keep watching the movie.  So I went to bed, and asked Nina to wake me if the cat was found.

I went to sleep, and a couple of hours later was awakened by – a gray kitten, with part of a bag still stuck around his neck, walking around next to my head!  I grabbed Leo, removed the bag, and brought him in to Nina!  I had a very happy daughter!  

I was even able to immediately go back to sleep.  When Mike came to bed we mumbled to each other that we will probably never know where Leo had been hiding.  Probably in the attic, which is filled with junk and has numerous crawl spaces.  Maybe someday we will find the rest of the bag.

It all started when we invited a few friends over for a bonfire in our backyard.  As we sat around the fire pit talking, one of our friends suddenly fell through our old canvas chair she was sitting in, and was unceremoniously pinned within the chair frame, with her butt on the ground and feet in the air!  We managed, with some difficulty, to pull her out, and she was okay.

But the next day I woke up thinking about how embarrassing, not to mention unsafe, this incident had been, and that we must buy more of those cheap but sturdy resin Adirondack chairs.  Mike said they had them at the hardware store in Coronado.  So we drove there in both our cars, since we knew it would be hard to fit them into either our Prius or Corolla.  Mike managed to jam the four chairs into my Prius, and tie the trunk door partially down with rope.

On the way home, as we were crossing the Coronado Bridge, with Mike trailing me, he called to tell me that something had come loose, and I should pull over as soon as possible.  However I didn’t see anyplace to pull over.  And it all felt pretty secure … I had the feeling the arrangement would hold together till we got home … so I kept going.  I was almost out of gas though, so I pulled into the gas station near our house.

The gas station was pretty crowded, so I had to drive around some cars to get to an empty pump.  Maybe I was nerve-wracked by the whole process of driving home, while disobeying my husband’s instructions, and hoping my cargo would not fall out all over the freeway!  Anyway, I brushed against the retaining wall at the perimeter of the gas station as I drove around the cars.

A female employee rushed over to me, waving her arms and yelling, “Look at your car, look at your car!”  Being accustomed, as I am, to ignoring small fender-benders and scrapes, I told her “Oh, it’s okay,” and waved her away.  She started exclaiming again, and again I reassured her and waved her away.  I started gassing the car, and then saw Mike, and walked over to the other side of my car to talk to him.  

At that point, I saw what the woman had been exclaiming about.  My car had sustained major damage from what had felt like just a tiny brush against the retaining wall.  The bumper, fender and headlight were hanging by a thread!  I stared in shock, as Mike removed the headlight and put it in my front seat.

Then I remembered that I had switched our car insurance only a week earlier.  After probably 30 years with 21stCentury, I had switched us to Geico, for its better price and coverage.  However I realized in an instant that it might seem suspicious that I gotten into an accident right after switching … they might think I had only signed on to get my car repaired.  I suddenly realized that the exclaiming woman might be an important witness, to confirm the date of the accident.

So I went to the office to ask for her contact information, but she wasn’t there.  I asked the other employee about her, and she acted like she didn’t know what I was talking about.  The manager came out, and they both looked at me like I was crazy.  Mike was also giving me funny looks.  After a few minutes, I said, “Okay, forget it,” figuring she must have been wearing a uniform from another job, and hoping I would be okay without a witness. 

So I filed my claim, got an estimate from an auto body shop, and an appointment to get my car fixed.  Then came The Phone Call.  “Mrs. Doering, we noticed that you filed your claim only a week after signing up with Geico.  We need you to talk to our blah-blah department to confirm some details.”  Oh no.  How did I know this was going to happen.

I talked to the woman at the fraud unit, or whatever it was.  She told me, “Most gas stations have observation cameras.  The best thing would be for you to go to the gas station and locate video footage that would establish the date of your accident.”  I thought – yeah, sure, they’re going to have video footage of an accident that happened a week ago, at the perimeter of their gas station … fat chance.  But maybe one of the women who had been in the office would be there, and remember that I was asking about the person who was a witness … maybe someone could corroborate my story.

So I drove to the gas station, hoping against hope that something would work out, and contemplating what might happen if it didn’t.  I entered the office and asked if they had observation cameras near the retaining wall.  As expected, no, they didn’t, they only had cameras right in front of the office.  

But then a miracle happened.  I looked up and there was the woman who had witnessed the accident!  I asked her if she remembered, and she did, and was happy to give me her contact information.  Of course then the manager told her not to, claiming that I was going to try to hold the gas station responsible for the damage to my car.  I assured her that was not what was going on, so she finally agreed that I could have the employee’s contact information.  The employee also explained that she had been leaving her shift when she witnessed my accident, and maybe that’s why the confusion had ensued.  At any rate, the insurance person called her, and everything was straightened out.  Yay!

But that was not to be the end of my insurance woes.  About a week later, I was going through my mail (which I like to put off for as long as possible), and came across a letter saying that the insurance on one of our rentals had been cancelled.  Oh god, my worst nightmare!  I was amazed that this cancellation was done with no warning whatsoever, especially since it was automatically paid out of the escrow account with our mortgage company.  But we had just refinanced this house, so the payment must have fallen through the cracks between the old and new mortgage company.

So I got on the phone, frantically calling the insurance company to get the policy reinstated.  But it was a Saturday, so it was closed.  After my attempts to pay online were rejected, I finally managed to pay for the entire year’s coverage over the phone with a credit card, on an automated line, and made myself a note to call again on Monday.

First thing Monday I started calling … first the insurance company, who said the policy needed to be reinstated through my insurance agent.  Then the agent, who got the policy mostly reinstated, but said I had to call the insurance company again, and give them a verbal assurance that there had been no claims during the 17-day period when our coverage was lapsed.  

So I called and gave this verbal statement, and was told that next I must email the declarations page to my mortgage company at a specific email address.  Good thing I had insisted the first person email me a copy of my reinstated policy, which they would not have done otherwise.

So I downloaded the policy and sent it to the email address I was given, only to receive an automated answer stating that “For your own protection, we do not communicate through email.  Please go to our website and contact us through our secure server.”  However the email did not give the URL for their website!  I did a web search, but could not locate any websites that resembled their email address.

So I had to call the insurance company back.  Each of these phone calls entailed probably ten minutes on hold.  By this time I had spent hours on this project, and was fuming.  I told the person who answered that it would be nice if they did not tell me to email the policy to an address that did not accept emails.  She said, “Oh no, you don’t email it at all, just go to the mycoverage.com website, and upload your declarations page there.”  So I did this, and it seemed to work. 

No more than thirty minutes after completing this hours-long project of reinstating the insurance, I received the following text from our tenant at that house: 

“Hi Daria, we had some hail yesterday. Today, some of the neighbors have submitted claims on their roofs. Just wanted to alert you that maybe you may want some to take a look at this roof.”  

Jesus Christ.  How had I known?  The main reason to submit insurance claims in Colorado is roofs destroyed by hail.  This hail event had happened one day before I got the policy reinstated.  

At this point I was tearing my hair out, or feeling like it, and updated my husband.  He said, “Wait until it hails again, and then submit a claim.”  Well, that might be a plan.

However I looked online at a website that lists hail events, hail sizes, and dates.  I found that for the city in Colorado where this rental is located, it generally hails on only one day per year.  Naturally, it was the day before the policy was reinstated.  I was screwed.

A day later, the tenant contacted me again, saying that the roof was definitely leaking, and a certain place in the house was wet.    

My latest reframe of this disaster is that I have been having trouble with landlord insurance for some time.  I had switched some houses to Traveler’s, but they jacked their rates way up after the first year, so I was anxious to dump them as soon as possible.  I had called my preferred insurer, HIPPO, but was told that I had too many claims (due to other hail damaged roofs), so they could not insure us.  Upon questioning, they said that one of the claims would drop off in July, and I could try again then.  So I have been counting the days until July.  

So my final thinking is – if I did file a claim for this roof, then I would be stuck with Traveler’s for god knows how much longer.  And that would probably cost me more than repairing this roof out of pocket!

Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day. I have been crying since last night. I know it seems silly. I wasn’t expecting much, since Jake and Nina came down from LA last month for my birthday, which is more important to me than Mother’s Day.

Then Jake called a few days ago to say he was planning to come see me for mother’s day, but then some friends invited him on a deep-sea fishing trip, so he was going to do that instead, and would we watch his rabbit for 2-3 weeks while he and his girlfriend take a trip to the east coast in a few weeks? Then daughter Nina texted me last night to tell me she was having dinner with my sister and celebrating Mother’s Day with her, and she wished I was there! 

I told Jake we’d be happy to take care of his bunny, and Nina that I was so glad she was getting together with my sister … and Mike bought me three bunches of flowers last night and was so sweet. So I don’t even know why I’m crying. 

My latest thought is that it’s just the sadness that our kids don’t live with us anymore. Maybe I need a “day of sadness over not having our kids with us anymore” every Mother’s Day. Truly. No matter how many times people tell you to “enjoy your children while they’re still little,” you do, but it’s such an intense time that it either flies by or is too painful due to the work overload or … I don’t know. 

When our kids were little, I did absolutely love it and love them, and I had this funny feeling that this time would go on forever. I knew it wouldn’t, but I guess it felt like we were such a closeknit family, that maybe I thought that would never end. Gretchen Rubin has a saying, “The days are long but the years are short.” I could never wrap my head around what that meant, but recently, several years after reading it, I suddenly understood.

Oh, and we can be glad we are so affluent, because I’ve also noticed that the more money you have, the further flung your children are … or that’s how it seems to me.

Mike’s nephew Don was with us for about a week recently, and is going to move in with us in about another week. We love him, and it’s SO nice to have him around. He is 50, I think, but it almost feels like having one of our kids with us. He shares many of our views and interests, is so easy and pleasant to be with, and it feels like he appreciates us and doesn’t pick fights with us. So we’re looking forward to his living with us, though he says it will only be for a few months, and then he will return to New York.

I’ve also gotten some very sweet “gifts from the universe.” About five years ago, Mike tried to crack an egg into a pan, but it slipped and spilled all over, and even seeped between the pieces of glass of our oven door, creating an ugly smear. Mike said he would take the oven door apart and clean it up, but never did. 

Fast forward to a few months ago … for some reason I started thinking about stoves, and went to the Home Depot website, and located the exact stove I would love to have – a top-of-the-line GE Café double range. I “saved” it, and figured I would buy it some day when we remodel our kitchen. 

That afternoon, I came downstairs and saw Mike – cleaning the oven door!!! After all these years, he had suddenly decided to take it apart and get rid of that gross egg smear! I was so thrilled and thanked him profusely! However he was unable to get the door back together again … some tabs had sheared off when he took the door apart. He told me to buy a new stove and he would pay for it … having no knowledge that I had picked out a new stove that very morning!

So I ordered the stove from Home Depot. It was backordered, due to manufacturing delays, due to COVID. So we had to wait about three months, with no door on the top oven! But it finally came on Thursday! It is so gorgeous, and is the first time I have ever bought a full-priced stove, rather than a second from Sears Outlet! With my love of cooking, I’m kind of amazed I never had a super-deluxe stove before! 

It also happens to be the same stove that our older son Nick bought – he found it at an outlet store for a fraction of its usual price – so we have had some fun chats about its features, and its funny habit of sending a text every time it does anything – like “Your preheat is complete” or “Your timer has rung.”

Another gift – several years ago, Jake gave me some beautiful and expensive gold colored wireless headphones so I could listen to music while working out. I had never dealt with wireless headphones before, and things kept going wrong – I lost the charging cord and couldn’t locate a new one, and then the headphones just quit and wouldn’t work at all. After several attempts to get them to work, I put them into a drawer and told myself I would try again later. 

Fast forward several years – the wired headphones I use to listen to Audibles on my walks quit working. Actually they didn’t – it was my old iPhone’s headphone jack that broke. Rather than get it fixed, I decided it would be cheaper to use wireless headphones.

So I bought some cheap wireless headphone, but then thought – before using them, I will try one more time with the much better ones that Jake had given me. So I got them out, and used the cord from the new headphones to charge them (and learned what kind of charging cord is needed for wireless headphones). They still wouldn’t work, so I fiddled with them, reconnected them to Bluetooth, and discovered that all this time, the problem was that I didn’t know you had to hold down a certain button to turn them on and off! Now they work perfectly! Another Mother’s Day gift.

Well, I always remember when I was about 13, and I told my mother – I saved up money to buy you a Mother’s Day present, but we’re here at this concert, and my friend Sam didn’t have any money for a ticket, so I spent the money on a ticket for him. She gushed that she was glad I had done that. Wonderful role model, as always.

Ankle Saga

Since I seem to be on the subject of my recent medical sagas, here is my five-year ankle saga. I will tell you the punch line right at the beginning: “You gotta shop around,” as The Miracles tell us.

This piece began as a Yelp review for the surgeon who finally saved me, a year ago. I waited a year to make sure it was successful. But once I started writing the review, I ended up telling the whole story, as follows.

It all began with a weird intermittent pain in my right ankle. I had been a lifelong jogger – a couple of miles, three times a week, for years. I gave up jogging for awhile because I thought I was too heavy for it. But then I went back to it, because unlike most people I knew, my knees never bothered me. So I figured that, amazingly, I still seemed to be doing okay with it. Jogging always felt easy, like the one thing I could fit into my life. I could take a mere 30 minutes out of my busy day and do my run. I felt like it kept me strong, kept me alive, really.

Until the ankle pain. This just didn’t seem good. So I looked on Yelp and found a doctor near me, Dr. K, who had impeccable credentials and great reviews. Dr. K took x-rays and said, “I can’t see anything wrong with your ankle, but I can see that you have bone spurs on your big toe.” It was true that my right big toe had been getting stiffer and stiffer.

I should also mention that I’m someone who normally never sees doctors. All my life, I had either been very healthy, or ignored my health issues, and just didn’t trust doctors. So until an issue became unbearable, I didn’t go. As for this toe pain, I had assumed there was nothing that could be done. But it was getting worse and worse.

He recommended a cheilectomy – surgery to remove the bone spurs. I had never had surgery before, but this seemed to make sense. At least one issue would be solved. So I had the surgery, which was actually pretty horrendous – months of lying on the couch with my leg elevated – but eventually it did heal, and solved that problem.I went back to him about my ankle, which still hurt intermittently. It was usually okay, but I remember one day when I had parked across the street from Vons, and was walking to my car with two bags of groceries. The pain became so sharp that I almost fell down, and didn’t know how I was even going to make it to the other side of the street. I made it somehow. And usually the pain was much more mild. But something was definitely wrong.

I went back to Dr. K and got an MRI, but he still insisted he could not see a thing wrong. So I figured I would just have to live with this.

By this time I was retired. I had given up jogging, due to the ankle pain, and taken up rowing on Mission Bay and folk dancing. I seemed to be able to do both without my ankle hurting, and enjoyed them for a couple of years. I was careful when walking, and didn’t run.

Then we took a trip to Colorado. On the way back, we were late for our flight, and ended up running through the huge Denver airport. I felt okay while running, but my ankle was much worse afterward. I knew I had to try other doctors and make further attempts to get this solved.

So I went back to Yelp, and next tried Dr. W, another doc with great reviews. He took an x-ray, and said the problem was that I had thinning cartilage surrounding my right ankle. He recommended “ankle distraction surgery,” a procedure he taught to other doctors, in which the doctor operates and pulls the joint apart a tiny bit so the cartilage can expand and fill the space. You have to wear a huge “cage” around your entire leg for six months, with screws going through your skin to the bone, holding it all in place. Obviously it is extremely invasive. But I was so desperate that I was considering it. He also talked about amniotic fluid stem cell treatment as another option.

So I researched stem cell therapy, which seemed like a relatively non-invasive treatment method, and it was touted as a cure for a wide range of ills, especially joint issues. I found that amniotic fluid does not actually contain stem cells, but “stem cell factors,” so it really doesn’t help. So the fact that Dr. W had recommended it eroded my faith in him further.

I found a doctor in LA who seemed to have helped a ton of people, Dr. D. With stem cell therapy, at least this type, they harvest bone marrow from your hip, spin it so they separate out the stem cells, and inject these cells into your joint, all in one visit. So I had this procedure done, and he injected my stem cells into about a dozen places in my ankle. None of this was fun – lots of pokes – but it wasn’t that bad either.

Dr. D was unclear about how many of these treatments would be needed. While in his waiting room, I read a paper he had written about how x-rays and MRI’s were essentially useless – he didn’t bother with them at all. Stem cell therapy could cure anything! The first treatment didn’t help, and I went back for one more. They were about a thousand dollars a pop as well, out of pocket. Dr. D said I might need many treatments to be cured. It all started to seem suspicious and pointless, and I couldn’t believe it was doing my hip any good to be drilled into. (Not that I’m disputing that stem cell therapy helps many people – it just didn’t help me.)

Dr. D told me to wear a walking boot for a month after the stem cell treatments. So one day I was walking down the street in my boot, and a guy made a comment to me about it, and we started chatting. It turned out he’d had problems with his ankle too, but had a great doctor in San Diego who had cured him with stem cell therapy! I got his doctor’s name and made an appointment. This doctor told me that it was important to use umbilical cord stem cells. That as people age, their stem cells become less and less potent. I researched this and it was confirmed. So Dr. D’s treating me with my own aged stem cells was unlikely to have worked, even if my problem had been amenable to stem cell treatment otherwise. Ugh.

So I got another way more expensive umbilical stem cell treatment from this doctor, and again it didn’t help. He had not done any x-rays or MRI’s, just given me the treatment I asked for.

By this time I’d had to give up rowing and folk dancing, and was becoming increasingly hopeless about my situation.

At the same time I was trying to deal with my weight issues, and my son Jake insisted I needed to find a nutritionist and go! So I found someone in my neighborhood with great reviews, Francesca Orlando. She was very smart about a wide range of issues, and told me I had to see Dr. Damion Valletta about my ankle … he was the doctor for many sports teams, and the best. At this point the last thing I wanted was to see yet another doctor. But I finally forced myself to make an appointment with Dr. Valletta.

When I called for the appointment, I found out that Dr. Valletta shared an office with Dr. Paul Murphy, who had done surgery on my husband’s shoulder several years ago and saved him from endless terrible pain. Mike worships Dr. Murphy, and had kept telling me to make an appointment with him, and I’d kept saying, “but he’s not an ankle guy.” In retrospect, I should have listened to my husband, and at least called Dr. Murphy for a referral.

When I got to Dr. Valletta’s office, his assistant said, “He will want to see a full set of x-rays before he sees you,” and they took the x-rays. Honestly, no one had bothered with this prior to Dr. Valletta! Only a random x-ray here or there. Dr. Valletta seemed very smart, high-energy and personable. He immediately diagnosed me with a hole in my talus (ankle bone), and showed me the hole on the x-ray. He said he had no idea what could have caused it, but that was definitely the problem. He said this was an unusual condition, and without treatment, my ankle was likely to collapse. We discussed surgical treatment options over a couple of visits. He did not want to do the surgery himself, and told me the top ankle doctor in the country was Dr. Robert Anderson in Green Bay, Wisconsin, team doctor for the Green Bay Packers.

I had gotten to the point where I would have gone anywhere in the country, or even the world, to get this problem fixed. I tried to do a video or phone visit with Dr. Anderson, but his office said he would need to see me in person. So I arranged for Mike and me to take a trip to Wisconsin! We also took a mini-vacation in Milwaukee, which we loved.

Dr. Anderson confirmed Dr. Valletta’s diagnosis, and also that this hole, or cyst, was growing rather rapidly. He said what he would recommend was an arthroscopic surgery of filling the hole in my ankle with bone graft from my heel, and covering it with artificial cartilage. He said there was no need to him to do it, however … it would be easier for me closer to home. First he recommended Dr. K, whom he had worked with at times to do follow-up care on Chargers players he had operated on. But I nixed that idea. Then he recommended three doctors in the LA area whom he had known for many years.

So I researched the three doctors, and actually did reconsider Dr. K. Mike and I went to see him, and discussed the surgery I needed. He admitted that he had done this surgery maybe ten times, and that all had been failures, and two had resulted in the patient having to have ankle fusion, in which all the bones are fused and the ankle no longer even bends. His message was that this type of surgery was unlikely to be successful. But the message I took was that this guy didn’t know how to do it, and don’t go to him!

Of the LA doctors, one had bad reviews, so I crossed him off my list. I sent my information to a second one, but his office was impossible to deal with, after a number of tries, so I crossed him off too.

We went for a consult with the third, Dr. David Thordarson at Cedars Sinai, and from the beginning, loved him. He seemed knowledgeable, competent and kindly. He looked like the quintessential doctor … gray hair, clean-cut, handsome, older but not too old.

Dr. Thordarson said he had done about half a dozen of these surgeries, and they had all been successful. I was glad to hear that, but half a dozen?! That is so few, that to me, it puts it into the category of an experimental surgery, which was the last thing I wanted. However I really had no choice, so I scheduled the surgery.

However I had a feeling of dread about the upcoming surgery, and kept imagining terrible outcomes. This seemed like no state of mind to be in, going into surgery, so I cancelled it. I mean, I was able to walk … not very far, but at least I could putter around the house … and I didn’t want to get any surgery that would make things worse instead of better.

I felt the need for divine intervention, and had heard of “Power of Eight” intention groups. I decided to start one … maybe that would give me the confidence and support I needed … at least I would feel I was doing everything I possibly could. That is a whole story in itself, but I did start a “Power of Eight” group with some friends, which is still ongoing, and still an amazing source of personal and hopefully divine support in our lives.

Meanwhile, a friend of my sister’s, married to a physician, heard of my plight. She consulted her husband and he told her the only place for me to go was the Hospital for Special Surgeries in New York. I seriously considered this … researched all the doctors … made an appointment … planned a trip to New York that would include this. But ultimately, I decided that Dr. Thordarson seemed really good, and I couldn’t imagine who else would be better, so I cancelled it all.

So I got the surgery, which was amazing – just three little holes, through which the surgeon guided a tiny camera and instruments to accomplish what was needed. All seemed to go well, and I didn’t even have any pain afterwards … almost none! However I did get a fever, and was worried that it signaled an unseen, internal infection.

I tried to see a doctor, and found that of course it is useless to try to see your doctor when you are sick. Your only options are urgent care or the ER. I went to urgent care … was treated with antibiotics for a possible UTI … but the fever came back. So this time I went to the Scripps ER, and the doctor gave me a massive dose of a sulfur antibiotic in addition to what I was already on. This resulted in my breaking out in hives all over my body. It was truly miserable … I could not bathe due to my recent surgery, had itching hives all over, plus the fever. So I went back to the ER and this time was hospitalized. Over several days they gave me every test known to man – blood tests, MRIs and CT scans of every organ in my body – and determined there was nothing wrong.

So I finally came home to rest and heal. At some point, someone said it might be “post-surgery fever,” which apparently is a thing, and I think it was as simple as that.

Now it is a year later, and I’m very grateful for the surgery. I would say that my ankle is 90-95% better. I tried rowing again, and that seemed to aggravate it … same with yoga. So I can’t do everything, but I can walk with friends, which is all I really care about.

So I went through a total of seven doctors in this journey. I am grateful to all of them – good and not so good – not trying to demonize any of them, they’re all trying. And I’m proud of myself for all I went through … I am nothing if not dogged.

Yea for Carbs!

My neverending battle with the medical establishment continues. My blood sugar level had gotten deep into prediabetes territory, and as it was one tenth of a point away from diabetes, I knew I had to do something. My cardiologist had been telling me for years to stop eating carbs, read Wheat Belly, etc. I saw a new integrative doctor and nutritionist, and they joined in the choir.

The only problem is that 1) I love carbs, 2) every book I’ve read that I regard highly, such as Blue Zones, promotes a Mediterranean or vegan diet, both of which make total sense to me, but not this new low-carb or Keto stuff … low-carb goes against everything I believe in, and 3) carbs are necessary to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that produces a feeling of well-being (and also reduces hunger), which antidepressant drugs seek to increase. As someone whose mental health is always a bit precarious, I felt that the last thing I should do is give up carbs. See https://www.psychologytoday.com/…/serotonin-what-it-is…

But I tried their plan, reasoning that I could eat a no-carb breakfast, consisting of two eggs, and that wouldn’t kill me. But after trying that for a month, my A1C was WORSE, not better. Not to mention that Blue Zones (my Bible in general) says that people worldwide generally eat an egg or two per week, so I didn’t regard this extreme egg eating as healthful in any way.

I did further research, and found that the American Society of Clinical Endocrinologists recommends losing 10% of your body weight to prevent diabetes. That made sense to me, and is something I’d love to do anyway. So I decided – back to what has worked for me in the past. I will do food journaling, and keep my food intake to around 1200 calories per day, indefinitely. I will combine my love of planning, my love of checking things off lists, and my love of cooking, and that should work for me.

So I started doing this, and have lost about 10 pounds in a month and a half. Though I also decided I would not weigh myself (later changed my mind about this), and would instead focus on the practice of eating right, regardless of the result.

So I saw the new nutritionist yesterday, and received the same BS lecture about how I need to lower my carb intake and eat more vegetables. Little to no mention of how great it was that I brought all my perfectly printed out food journals and nutritional analysis (which I’ve done for years on a fantastic website – www.FitClick.com), how wonderful that I have lost ten pounds, and how healthfully I eat (I already eat a lot of both raw and cooked vegetables). She also refused to prescribe an A1C test (average of your blood sugar levels over three months), claiming that it would “only lead to disappointment until I’ve been on her diet for more time.” Although she was very “nice,” I was so angry during the visit and depressed afterward … not good.

So this morning I went to CVS Minute Clinic and got an A1C test on my own. Even though the test is a measure of the average of your blood sugar over three months, and I have only been following my protocol for about a month and a half, my blood sugar level has fallen dramatically – from 6.4 to 5.6, which is normal and out of prediabetes territory!

So all I can say is F— these people and their absurd low-carb fad. I don’t like eating smoothies for breakfast or salad for lunch, because it leaves me feeling starving. I prefer the “miracle muffins” I bake for breakfast (no flour, sugar or fat), a bean burrito or vegan bologna sandwich for lunch (emphasis on legumes), raw veges and cottage cheese dip for a snack, and a normal dinner. I hope these folks don’t drive the many depressed people in this country to worse mental health or suicide.

I was seeking support in maintaining healthful eating, but none of them seem capable of saying, “Great job, keep doing what you’re doing!” nor appreciating all the amazing and healthful recipes I have created. I doubt I will ever see a nutritionist again in my life. Thankfully I have a supportive family, friends and therapist.

Most recently, an ad popped up on my Facebook feed for GenoPalate, a business that will supposedly take your DNA sample from 23andMe or Ancestor.com, analyze it, and tell you what diet you should be eating, based on your DNA.  What really grabbed me was their allegation that some people need a higher level of carb intake than others.  

So I managed to download my DNA report from 23andMe, and upload it to GenoPalate.  A week and $29 later I got their report.  Sure enough, I am one of those people who needs a higher level of carbs!  I feel so vindicated!

Mike and I have gotten totally hooked on watching Gunsmoke. It’s funny because prior to this, I had never watched an episode of Gunsmoke in my life. It’s the last thing I ever would watch, being the peace-loving hippie that I am, and more than that, being someone who is so upset by unwholesome movies that I don’t watch anything that is even suspenseful, let alone violent. But Gunsmoke is our evening comfort activity, and it is truly saving us!

Every episode is a morality tale, as Mike says. For me, there is so much wisdom and goodness in how Marshall Matt Dillon conducts himself. His authority, bottom line, is based on his being such a fast and accurate shot that he can outshoot almost anyone, and being good with his fists. But he always exhorts and almost begs the bad guys and the merely misguided to not draw, to not do anything stupid that will get them killed. They usually do anyway.

Matt uses such creativity to solve all the constant murders and crimes, that it’s really fascinating. We always joke that Matt Dillon’s main activity is burying the dead, and that it’s a wonder that Dodge City has any inhabitants left!

The Chester Goode character is also fascinating. At first glance he seems lame, and lame-brained as well. But he is actually a good shot with the rifle, and is fearless, maybe simply from his loyalty to Marshall Dillon. Matt clearly feels he can rely on Chester to take the prisoners to jail or anything else that needs to be done. Although Chester drawls on endlessly, it often ends up serving some purpose, and he is an integral character in everything that happens.

That all being said, we have some questions and observations, for any other Gunsmoke loving folks out there. Well, maybe only two questions. Are those bar girls prostitutes? All of them? Why don’t Matt and Miss Kitty get married?

• Everything in the show is historically accurate. There was one show that had a character whose parents were killed by a group called Quantrill’s raiders in an anti-slavery uprising in Lawrence, Kansas. We looked it up and such an incident did happen.
• Marshall Dillon has many “friends” that we’ve never heard of, but they come back into his life … usually in time to have somehow changed and now be trying to kill him.
• Matt Dillon does get shot sometimes, and it seems like it’s always in the left shoulder. We wonder how his shoulder has held up at all!

Most exciting moments:
• Finding out where Marshall Dillon got his horse! As a horse nut, I always noticed that Matt rode a buckskin horse. But nothing was ever said about the horse. Then we watched an early episode in which Matt saved the life of a white boy who lived with the Indians. Someone had stolen a bunch of horses that the boy was watching, and shot the boy, and the horses were in Dodge City. The boy recovered, and snuck out, taking the herd with him … all except the best horse, a buckskin, which he left for Marshall Dillon! Matt has ridden it ever since!
• Another exciting thing is that we own a rental in Pueblo, Colorado. It is an odd town that I had always avoided, because I read such bad things about it on the city-data.com forum, which is a great source of information. But once we went there, we found out that, despite its weirdnesses (general low level of education and difficulty getting anything done right), it is a very old steel town, and has tons of the Victorian, brick and Craftsman houses that I love. Anyway, characters in Gunsmoke are always going to or from Pueblo.
• Lastly, I am excited that Gunsmoke is the longest-running TV show in history – It ran for 20 years, from 1955-1975. So it will be awhile before we run out of episodes to watch!

If you watch Gunsmoke, pay careful attention to the opening, in which Marshall Dillon is often walking around Boot Hill, where the bad guys are buried, and making some philosophical observation or another.

Sometimes I have to take a break from Gunsmoke – I can’t take any more bad guys!  They are so cruel and horrible.  But then I recover and go back for more.  Despite all the great TV shows out there, this is all we want to watch.  Maybe someday we will go to Kansas and visit Dodge City … after the pandemic is over!