Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

October 12, 2018
by funny
1 Comment

Stress and Budget Stress

As you’ve no doubt noticed, stress overall that has nothing to do with finances tends to put stress on your budget. Looked at the bank balance the other day and thought hooleeee shit! Down 12 grand from last June? Really?

Well, yeah: really. And no: not exactly. But it’s still not great. When you’re stressed out with a lot of extraneous bullshit pressing in on your life, the last thing you feel like thinking about is managing your personal finances. But in fact, that is the time that you need to get a grip on the bucks and the budget. Because when you’re distracted with life’s little tragedies, you tend to throw money at your problems without even thinking about it. And because life’s little tragedies tend to get mighty pricey, throwing money away heedlessly is a less than ideal strategy.

This month, with the endless drama of the sick dog and the bashed car and the leaking roof in the biggest rainstorm we’ve had in any Millenial’s living memory and the Great Flood of incoming editorial work and the key to my office door breaking off in the lock (sealing both computers, the voicemail machine, my glasses and all my money stuff in there) and the AMEX card lost or stolen and the receptionist duty I naïvely volunteered for slicing four indispensable hours out of my week and Cassie pissing Lake Urons all over the house and Charley the Golden Retriever disappearing and a weird scary pox thing developing on the hand of the arm where I had a Shingrix shot and more drives to veterinarians through homicidal traffic than I can count and the new Medicare card (now also lost or stolen) not working when I went to get a flu shot and the stove refusing to light and the HVAC unit busting and the pool water clouding from neglect and a hummingbird getting trapped in the skylight and on and on and fuckin’ ON, I just flat gave up on tracking the budget.

Wasn’t any point to it. Money was flying out my door and into the vet’s at the rate of $1200 a hit, and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. So it seemed, anyway.

But really, when money is pouring out like water through a hole in the side of a kiddy pool…that’s the time to keep track of what’s going on.

Having failed to do that, I almost fainted when I saw the bank account’s bottom line, since it looked like there was no way the remaining money was going to see me through to time for the next Required Minimum Drawdown (RMD). Social Security just supplements my RMD; the truth is, there’s no way in Hell I can live on Social Security. But I seemed to be looking at a drop of $12,000 in the bank balance from the end of June, 2018. Four grand (plus!) a month????

Given this moment of panic, it took some study to remind myself that I’d set aside several thousand dollars to pay for the property tax, the car registration (which because the dented Venza is much newer than the long-lamented Dog Chariot, is damned bracing), and the homeowner’s and car insurance. Okay, that was mildly reassuring. But we still had the fact that there simply isn’t enough left in cash flow money to cover another nine months. It might last five…if I’m careful. WTF?

Okay: the issue is, I finally realize, that I’ve been setting aside an optimistic $681 a month from Social Security into emergency savings. This was good: much of the expenses I’ve run up will be covered by the amount I’d already managed to squirrel aside before the current Shakespearean tragedy (comedy??) launched. But bad: it doesn’t leave enough in cash flow to cover regular expenses.

So today on the way home from visiting Young Dr. Kildare (yes, goddamn it: another doctor’s visit!!!!!), I’ll need to drop by the credit union and have them adjust the automatic transfer down to $300 a month. I could try to do that online, but since my propensity for screwing up online transactions has given staff there a flinch reflex every time they see me stumbling toward their door, I don’t think that would be wise. Better to get a grown-up who knows what she’s doing to perform this trick, so she doesn’t have to do gymnastics to fix whatever screw-up I create.

If I change the monthly emergency-fund contribution to $300, that will leave an extra $381 in the checking account, which I sincerely hope will help to cover routine expenses for the rest of the year. Kinda doubt it, frankly. But hope springs eternal.

The point is, though: when a barrage of incoming flack has got you stressed out, prioritize managing the budget. Set aside an hour or so a week to keep tabs on what’s going on financially, even if it means you have to roll out of the sack early once a week. This can spare you from a lot more stress on down the line.

October 11, 2018
by funny
3 Comments

Dogruminations…

Okay, I may be one of two things:

a) Pathologically skeptical; or
b) Grasping for straws.

Lemme tellya…I  think there’s something mighty fishy about all this Cassie Standing at the Gates of Heaven narrative. My sense about this is that either there’s something MarvelVet isn’t telling me, or there’s some part of his story that just plain isn’t straight.

Let us consider what the story is. Or rather, what the stories are. Or were.

First, the dog comes down with a cough. I call the vet’s office and am told not to bring her in because something is going around, they know what it is, and they’ll give me a drug to ease it. I drive over to his place and pick up a bottle of Temaril-P, which is a combination of an antihistamine and prednisone. Its purpose is to suppress coughs.

She goes through the prescription, administered according to his instructions, but is still coughing.

If the human had been a bit less trusting — as it should have been, already, it would have come across this warning:

Do not give Temaril-P to your pet if the pet has a serious viral or fungal infection. Temaril-P can be given in the presence of acute or chronic bacterial infections provided the infection is controlled by antibiotic. Temaril-P may weaken the pet’s immune response and its ability to fight infections.

When I report that she’s still hacking, he has me bring her in. He does a blood panel on her and then, with no evidence in the results to prove this, tells me she has Valley fever. He then tells me to keep her on the Temaril-P and give her fluconazole.

Folks. Valley fever is a serious fungal infection. If he knew what he was doing (or believed what he was telling me…), why would he have me continue to give her a drug that is specifically contraindicated? And if she’s not getting better, why put her on a drug that reduces her ability to fight an infection? Assuming it is an infection.

The fluconazole makes her extremely sick. So much so that twice I think she is about to teeter over into the grave.

When I look this stuff up and discover a list of a half-dozen dire side effects, a couple of them life-threatening, he tells me oh, those are symptoms of Valley fever. By now I know that…well, no. No indeed, they are not symptoms of Valley fever. Not by a fuckin’ long shot.

I take the dog to another vet, who says it’s pretty ambiguous and there’s good reason to doubt that she has Valley fever. But by now she’s very sick, indeed. It appears she’s not going to make it. And by now, too, my skepticism is fully aroused. I decide to take the dog off the fluconazole on the chance — which I think is pretty good — that she doesn’t actually have this dread disease. Show me some empirical proof, and I’ll reconsider.

As the fluconazole clears out of her system, she  slowly improves. You can’t just stop taking prednisone: you have to titre off of it. But before long I have her eased off that stuff, to no ill effect. The incontinence stops. Prednisone, as it develops, can cause incontinence in dogs. Meanwhile, I happen to know that you can give Benadryl to dogs — have done so before. She’s wheezing, as though she has asthma. Of course, asthma has many causes…but one of them is allergies. She gets markedly worse on a day when heavy winds and rains blow through. Why not? think I…

Put her on a couple of doses of Benadryl, morning and night. Within a couple of days, she’s markedly better. Meanwhile the vet has me bring her in for this supposed “free” ultrasound scan.

Free? Really? Hm. Well, whatever.

Not surprisingly, the result is dire: he tells me she has adrenal cancer.

I say, “Well, then. We’d better put her down right now.”

His response is to say that it’s not necessary, because she seems to be doing all right for the moment. (Benadryl is some kind of chemotherapy, is it?) He says we should wait until she seems to get a lot worse, and remarks that she’ll have her ups and downs.

I ask how long she’s likely to live.

He says, “About three months.”

Uh huh.

I now look up this new drama and find a number of things out.

You can’t know whether something that looks like a tumor on a dog’s adrenal gland is malignant without doing surgery to biopsy it.

If the dog actually does have a tumor on her adrenal gland (I’m beginning to wonder; see below…), it may be harmless. About half of such growths are what is known as “nonfunctional,” meaning they just sit there and do nothing. Half are malignant and cause the dog to exhibit symptoms that look like Cushing’s disease. This dog does have a few such signs: thirst, vigorous appetite (which she’s always had: a corgi will eat until it explodes!), unusual lethargy. Alternatively, the mass may be an adenocarcinoma: an aggressive malignancy that indeed will spirit the dog away sooner than later. Interestingly, though, when you look that one up you find she exhibits exactly zero symptoms of it.

Hm. Day by day, she gets a little better. The Benadryl — or tincture of time, could be either one — seems to be bringing her back to normal. She still chokes and wheezes when she drinks water…but she’s always choked on water. Corgis do that: Ruby does the same thing. She’s now barking in her accustomed excessive way, and not wheezing every time she yaps. Or even any time she yaps. She’s beginning to lose the “tragic” expression and looks far more normal.

I’ll tellya what I think.

I think MarvelVet made an incorrect assumption on the fly. Chances are his original diagnosis — a bronchitis that was going around at the time — was right. But the assumption that a week on Temaril-P would cure it was incorrect, because of her age.

If you believe those silly dog-to-human-years charts, this dog is the same age I am. The last time I got a cold — apparently a fairly ordinary cold — it took me six months to get over the cough. A 12-year-old dog is not going to get over a bug as fast as a two-year-old or a five-year-old or even a seven-year-old dog. If my theory is correct, the cough hung on because it would take her longer to throw it off. And if she actually has a symptomatic cancer of the adrenal gland, she would not be steadily improving.

If my alternative hypothesis is correct — that she had asthma from the git-go — then what happened was the storms aggravated allergies that were developing and growing more bothersome as she has aged. One way or the other, the reason she did not show signs of Valley fever in the blood panel was that she did not have Valley fever.

I think he realized he’d misdiagnosed the dog, and that the meds he put her on made her extremely sick. May even have caused permanent damage. And between you and me and the lamp-post, I think this scan thing is a diversion.

He probably figures that if I don’t put her down and she gets better over the next three months, he can claim a miraculous cure. Or simply say the alleged tumor is of the “nonfunctional” variety and so, whaddaya know! It didn’t kill her…

Tellingly, his office has not responded to Second Opinion vet’s requests that they send the scan over to them for a look-see.

I wonder, really, if his alleged colleague even did any such thing…if they simply shaved her belly and told me this story. Even though I asked, I was never given a chance to see the scan — and when he was telling me she had Valley fever, he did show me an X-ray that he alleged to be her lung and heart.

Now admittedly: all of this speculation may be the product of a fevered brain. Or some part of it may be and some part may not be. We all know I’m a crazy little woman, and what we see here may simply be a manifestation of that, eh?

BUT…for a dog that’s pounding at death’s door with cancer, Cassie seems to be surprisingly well. Once she got off the toxic drugs, she began to come back to normal. Right now she’s barking without coughing, eating cheerfully, bright-eyed, and alert. Under the influence of 1/2 Benadryl in the a.m. and 1/2 in the p.m. (she only weighs 20 pounds!), she seems kind of sluggish and tired. But lo! Look it up and you find Benadryl has the same sedating effect on dogs as it does on humans:

The most commonly reported side effect is drowsiness. This is so common that many people give Benadryl to their dogs to help them calm down. (Diphenhydramine is even marketed and used as a sleep-aid by many people.)

The second most common side effect is mild disorientation. We recommend paying attention to your dog’s behavior after giving them Benadryl to make sure they don’t experience this before giving them a second dose.

Hell, I weigh more than six times what that dog weighs, and a half-pill of the stuff will knock me out all night! I use it as a sleeping pill.

Dollars to donuts, once she’s off that stuff, she’ll be her same old normal self.

Will she die within three months? Maybe. But that wouldn’t be surprising: I’ve never had a dog that lived longer than 12 or 13 years. And she’s at least 12 right now.

 

October 10, 2018
by funny
2 Comments

Doggy Doom?

So we’re told this afternoon’s abdominal ultrasound of Cassie the Corgi shows a large tumor on an adrenal gland. So that comes under the heading of “the last act.” The vet proposes that we not put her to sleep just now, since she seems to be doing fairly well — except for the cough (which she started with), all the other symptoms (which I still believe to be induced by the Valley fever drug and the prednisone) are going away. He says these symptoms will come and go, and he thinks she’ll last about three months, at the most.

I remain skeptical. Why? Because…

a) Cough and wheezing are NOT symptoms of adrenal gland tumors.
b) The symptoms she’s had that could be explained by an adrenal tumor also are classic side effects of fluconozale and of prednisone.

So what do we have here? The following potential symptoms for adrenal cancer:

  • Excessive water intake (polydipsia) Cassie: yes. But it’s also a prednisone side effect
  • Increased urine output (polyuria) Cassie: yes. What goes in must come out.
  • Increased appetite and food intake (polyphagia; affected dogs are often ravenous): Cassie: Yes: she lost two pounds in the coughing episode, so I’ve been feeding her more.
  • Weight gain, frequently to the point of obesity: Cassie: no
  • Abdominal enlargement (pendulous, distended abdomen; “pot-bellied” appearance) Cassie: no
  • Hair loss (alopecia; usually patchy and symmetrical on both sides of the body): Cassie: no
  • Darkening of skin (hyperpigmentation): Cassie: unknown
  • Excessive panting; often when lying down and appearing to be resting quietly: Cassie: yes
  • Skin bruising: Cassie: unknown
  • Clitoral enlargement in females (clitoral hypertrophy) Cassie: unknown
  • Testicular enlargement in males (testicular hypertrophy) Cassie: n/a
  • Loss of normal reproductive cycling in females (anestrus) Cassie: n/a
  • Infertility (males and females) Cassie: n/a
  • Weakness: Cassie: possibly
  • Lethargy, listlessness Cassie: no more than usual
  • Exercise intolerance Cassie: unknown
  • Muscle atrophy Cassie: no
  • Thin, fragile skin that tears easily Cassie: no
  • Poor coat condition Cassie: no
  • Lack of coordination (ataxia) Cassie: no
  • Neurological signs (circling, aimless wandering, pacing, bumping into walls or furniture, falling down for no apparent reason) Cassie: no
  • Poor wound healing Cassie: no

That’s pretty ambiguous. Yes, she does have some of the signs. But she also doesn’t have a lot of the signs. Some of the signs can be explained by whatever sickness caused the coughing, which was severe (and is now, finally, gone). Some of them can explained by her age, which is rather advanced. Two can be explained by the effect of the prednisone.

There are two types of adrenal tumors in dogs: functional and nonfunctional. This squib is a little clearer. A functional tumor is a malignancy, but a nonfunctional one is not. Apparently there’s really no well to tell without $urgery. Nonfunctional tumors need no treatment. If the thing is “functional” and it hasn’t metastasized, you can operate and get from 16 months to 3 years of extra life. I’ve already spent almost a thousand bucks on this. Looked at the bank account and almost fainted when I saw the balance. At this rate I’m going to run out of money for living expenses LONG before the end of the year that this year’s RMD covers. I’ll have to get a job. And at this age: fat chance!

So I’m going to try to get a second opinion, as a kind of last-ditch thing. Because, to tell the truth, after my Adventures in Medical Science I’ve learned to always get a second opinion every time some doctor (or vet) delivers a dire opinion. But I don’t hold out much hope. She is old. And obviously the vet saw something on her adrenals. Whatever it is, it ain’t likely to be good for her.

October 9, 2018
by funny
0 comments

Time to Take in the Slack…

Nothing on this earth is there like a Young’s Double Chocolate Stout for unwinding purposes. All of about an hour remains in which to rest. I’ve done (endless!)_ battle with not one but two computers to get a $28 check deposited; finished proofing edits and returning the third of three sections of a P&T review sent over by one of the Chinese academics; met with the appliance repairman, who cleaned the stove burners, examined it carefully, could find nothing that would have caused two of the burners not to work after the recent brisk storms, and charged me sixty bucks; driven to the Costco to return the worst coffee I’ve ever tasted; driven to AJ’s to buy some of their reasonably acceptable coffee; gone back and forth with two veterinary offices; transferred funds (on a wing and a prayer) from PayPal to my corporate checking account; negotiated with the pool company’s dude for a date to resurface the hole in the ground (having decided there’s no need for expensive repairs on the car); talked with the vet at Indian Bend, who finds Cassie has a urinary infection (surprise!); arranged to take Cassie to Arcadia for an ultrasound; explained to both vets that she seems to be returning to health in response to the Benadryl I gave her (good luck with that!); talked to a nurse at the Mayo about an interesting new lesion, (probably unsatisfactorily); cooked up a little spread for lunch and served up said Young’s with it.

In 30 minutes, I’ve gotta be outta here again. Any question why I never get any of my own stuff done?

Cassie continues to revive. As we speak, she’s barking her little furry head off, in her former accustomed manner. And she is NOT wheezing after each attempted yapfest. She seems a little weary, but you would, too, if you’d been as sick as this dog has. This noon she shot out the side door after Ruby, just like a turbocharged little rocket, something she hasn’t done in weeks.

I think if we can get her treated for the UTI the Indian Bend vet just diagnosed, she’ll be just about back to normal. Yes, I do understand that prednisone and fluconozale both cause incontinence. But also understand that cloudy urine is suggests an infection (lo! I was right…). But I also understand that corgis are prone to UTIs and that the incontinence should stop when the drugs stop.

It is much better. But she’s still given to a certain embarrassing urgency. I think if we treat her for the infection this vet says he found, she’ll soon be back to her old self.

Can’t believe it! Truly…there were two occasions when I truly thought she was going to die. Then when the vet proposed to put her on that monstrous drug for upwards of six months, I told him I would put her down before I would do that: occasion #3.

I can’t believe my 12-year-old dog is still alive and seems to be on the mend…

I can’t believe I spent upwards of a thousand dollars to do nothing for a doggy ailment that seems to have resolved itself pretty much on its own…or with the help of an over-the-counter allergy pill.

I can’t believe I crashed my car in the middle of all this.

I can’t believe I was able to get the car repaired without having to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars for the privilege.

I can’t believe I managed to get through six assignments from clients while all this shit was going on.

I can’t believe beer could taste this good.

 

October 8, 2018
by funny
4 Comments

Hear that Sound in the Sky?

That is the sound of angels singing.

When the dogs rousted me out of the sack…again…as per the New Usual…at three in the morning, Cassie needed to get outside fast to pee (prednisone makes dogs incontinent), but just lifting her off the bed started her wheezing. She gasps her way through that for a couple of minutes, then can finally breathe enough to stagger to the door.

This little dog was — again…still — very, very sick. Has been for a long while, despite the various drugs the vet has tried for the cough and the wheezing. Today she literally could not bark without falling into a wheezing frenzy. And since this dog lives to bark, that’s a lot of wheezing. She couldn’t drink water without wheezing.

Time passes. When she’s not wheezing, she’s flopped on the bed with her little chest heaving.

Finally I think…what, really, is gonna happen if I give her half a Benadryl?

I know dogs can tolerate Benadryl, and I know 1/2 tablet is the correct dose for a 20-pound dog. Decide I’d better ask MarvelVet about that first, though… Reach his office but am told he’s out for the day. Hm.

So along about 9 a.m., I think fuck it. She’s gonna die if this keeps on, anyway. Wrap up half a pill in a wad of butter and down it goes.

No noticeable effect ensues. I plow through two of the three files the current Chinese client has sent; return them to her. But must go to Costco to (as we’ve been led to believe) replace tires, especially the one I successfully gouged up in the late, great fender-bender. Really, really depressed. Four new Michelins…it’s more than I can contemplate… {GLOOM}

So without finishing the tripartite job, I traipse up to Costco, braced to have to cough up hundreds and hundreds of bucks to install four new tires on the Toyotamobile. But nay!

To my astonishment, the tire foreman looks at the things and says…”There’s no reason to change these tires. They have plenty of tread left on them. Yeah, there’s a ding in that one sidewall, but it’ s nothing to worry about. Only problem is, you did wallop the air valve on that tire. It’s bent so it can’t be used. Sixty bucks to replace it.”

Almost fainted on the spot!

Make it so, say I, and I charge off to spend money in the store.

Buy a month’s worth of food. Retrieve the vehicle. Cruise home, drive into the garage, hear Cassie BARKING. And barking and barking and barking and barking and…NOT WHEEZING!

She hasn’t been able to bark at all — not one yap — without falling into a wheezing frenzy, not for days and days. Fling wide the gates, and…. Cassie is dancing around, she’s barking, she trots outside…not one cough nor one gasp for air!!!!

Holy doggerel! The Benadryl must have worked!

There’s really no other explanation. She was mighty sick when I left the house this morning…as in “dog is not long for this world.” Four hours after a dose of Benadryl, she’s almost completely back to normal!

Wouldn’t that be something, if all this doggy misery and all this worry and all this (phenomenal!) veterinary expense were caused by…allergies? The hound has developed asthma, and it has something to do with whatever is in the air or whatever she’s eating.

October 8, 2018
by funny
0 comments

Life on the West Side…

Lest you think I’m crazy because I drive across the city to do my grocery shopping…

This incident happened where the closest Costco resides. There’s also a Walmart and a Target in that shopping center. I feel distinctly unsafe in that parking lot, although the Costco gas station seems OK — because Costco hires a guy to stand out there and keep watch. The area around the Target does not. Wouldn’t get out of my car on the Walmart side, not on a bet.

That shopping center is on Conduit of Blight Blvd, a ribbon of slum running from the downtown area all the way up to North Phoenix, many, many miles. That garden parkway is flanked by blight, decay, and slum from where it starts, near the state capitol, all the way up to the 101 freeway in the North Valley. This Circle K, scene of a milder incident, is within the Conduit of Blight corridor — about 5 blocks from CoB itself.

Why anyone would go into any convenience store — be it a Circle K or a QT or whatever — escapes me. Those places seem to be perennial targets, no matter where they’re located. There sure are plenty of them along Conduit of Blight, though. Here in the ’Hood, a few weeks ago we had an incident where a guy shot a transient for stumbling into a Circle K women’s room after the guy’s daughter. Killed him dead. The transient, that is.

Moving to the Pointe Tapatio by way of adding distance from Conduit of Blight may not solve the problem. The entire city is pretty crime-ridden. Here’s a fine adventure that happened in Litchfield Park, a far-flung suburb where middle-class folk move specifically to get away from this sh!t.

The solution, if there is one, may be to move out of this overcrowded and still bloating city. If you don’t want to live with criminals, stay out of the fifth-largest city in the country.