Coffee heat rising

Shenanigans Update…

So a variety of shenanigans have been in progress here at the Funny Farm, none of them very momentous (because you can’t get up to a whole lot during a covid quarantine). It’s been hotter than a by-god here, 111 and up. But today is a little cooler, following yesterday’s monsoon showers — the first we’ve seen in the Valley this summer.  A lovely, hazy 180-degree rainbow stretched across the eastern sky yesterday afternoon, as the sinking sun lit up a broad curtain of virga and rain.

Adventures in Medical Science have proceeded — at a stately pace, but still proceeding. I’ve developed peripheral neuropathy, an unending, annoying tingling in the hands and feet. Turns out this can be related to the pre-diabetes the Mayo decided, lo! these many years ago, that I harbor. As usual, they assign me to a resident to assess my current hypochondria. And what a lovely, brilliant young woman. I want her as my forever doctor!

Before I left the house for the appointment, I checked my blood pressure: 124.4/81.8, average of five, the first of which (always the highest) was 131/85. This bit of intelligence invariably leads to one variety or another of mystification or amusement.

And yea verily: I get to the Mayo and as usual they slap a blood pressure cuff on me. They make me sit up straight on the edge of the bench seat (you’re supposed to sit with your back supported, according to the video published BY THE MAYO for training its employees…). It’s 141/74.

Say what? a serious diastolic of 74…did you happen to notice whether I was conscious at the time? 😀  Well of course…my BP goes right into orbit every time I set foot inside a medical facility, so much do I just love visiting those places. But that reading was pretty hilarious.

So the two docs — one the resident and one an old hand — listened to my sad story, provisionally hypothesized that the tingling is from drinking too goddamn much wine, proposed that I knock it off (easier said than done, ladies…), opined that they don’t THINK it’s diabetes, at least probably maybe likely not, and arranged for a blood draw the following morning. So works well: it’s at the (much closer) hospital facility at 7:10 tomorrow, a straight shot north of the coveted Fry’s supermarket.

I felt marginally encouraged, since it was clear that they weren’t very concerned. Or if they were, they sure hid it well.

Senior doc was not pleased with my boozing habits. I figured out how much is in one of my wine glasses and concluded that a typical serving for me is about 4 to 5 ounces. So if I drink two glasses — which I typically do, because I start tippling while I’m cooking the meal — then I’m drinking twice as much as the amount currently deemed OK for women. Note that this reckless behavior has been going on since I was about 29 years old…46 years!

But she had another suspect: she also told me to knock off the vitamin D capsules I’ve been dropping every few days. Not just because 4000 milligrams is about three times too much for a normal dose, but more to the point, she said, merrily OD-ing on the stuff can make you good & sick. In the vitamin department, though, she observed that a deficiency of vitamin E can cause peripheral neuropathy. So that’s one of the things she wanted to test for. Not likely, since I’m given to scarfing down salmon with gay abandon, but…any fishnet in a storm, eh?

Vitamin B12 deficiency also can cause peripheral neuropathy, so she’s testing for that, too. Again: unlikely, as it’s caused by inadequate diet and I eat like the Queen of Sheba.

Honestly… I dunno whether knowing all this stuff makes a junket to the doctor’s office LESS stressful or MORE stressful. On the one hand, you have an idea what to expect. On the other, it may be better not to know.

Okayyy… So come the crack of Thursday’s dawn, I traipse up to the Mayo Hospital in Paradise Valley, where we hoi polloi are greeted with a phalanx of covid-checkers. Their phlebotomists are so skilled you can barely even feel them puncturing your vein. So that was fine.

Our honored highway department had the righthand lane leading up to the freeway off-ramp that takes you to the hospital ripped up for at least a year. What they’re doing is unclear, but whatever it is seems to involve making no progress. My guess is, what they’re doing is pumping money through a boondoggle. At any rate, if you’re doing 70 on that freeway, you’re just barely keeping up with traffic — you’re actually moving too slow. And of course everybody has to get there first! So you have a bitch of a time maneuvering on to the freeway from SR 51 and then an even bigger bitch of a time getting off at 56th Street. Basically, you have to threaten to kill someone. That is why I always drive a car of hefty build…and why I vaguely covet a candy-apple-red pickup, bigawd!

On the way, I realized dayum! i left my credit cards at home!!! So much for the planned early-morning sneak attack on Fry’s Supermarket. Just as well, though: I’ve become too accustomed to eating breakfast, so by 7:15 when I walked outta there, I was starved. But neverthless decided to head back toward the ’Hood on the surface streets, the freeway being too annoying to contemplate further. Amazingly, there was almost no traffic. I flew across the city and shot into the ’Hood at an astonishing 7:25 after that 7:10 appointment, just freakin’ unthinkable! At any time of day, to say nothing of rush hour on a Thursday morning.

Before you know it, the Mayo ALREADY HAS THE RESULTS of that damn blood test posted on its portal. And…it appears that “glucose” is just slightly high. According to the Mayo’s squib on subject, I could bring that down by losing about 10 pounds.

Wouldn’tcha know: that’s exactly the amount by which I happen to be overweight just now. Except for a low bilirubin figure, which is described as “not a concern.” Jeez…if you believe these figures, there’s not only precious little wrong with me, I’m healthy as my horse-like Christian-Science forebears. Those women lived to be 94 without ever once seeing a doctor. But….

Well then…what the HELL is causing this crazy zinging in the paws?


Okay, so I learned early this morning that peripheral neuropathy can ALSO be caused by pre-diabetes, not just full-blown diabetes. Sooo…that explains the condition and releases me from the guilt trip laid on me about my daring to have a glass of wine with dinner every day. (How un-American can you get, eh?)

So, what to do about it?

Medication includes drugs used as antidepressants. I happen to know, from Connie the Long-Haul Trucker and from a couple others of my more stressed-out friends, that these have some amazingly undesirable side effects.

Reading along here, we discover that one factor in this ailment is lack of exercise.

Uh huh.

Well. I’ve been loafing either on the bed or in my chair with my feet up on an ottoman since the covid fiasco crashed down on us — since April 1. I’ve gained 10 pounds. And though the dog and I walk two or three miles a day, that seems not to suffice. Literally, days and days go by when that is the ONLY exercise I get.

You don’t register how much walking you do across grocery-store and big-box parking lots, and around and around inside malls and big-box stores. Though I laid the cleaning lady off as soon as the contagion started, I’ve thoroughly cleaned the house only a couple of times. It’s too hot to go hiking on the mountain now, even in the wee hours, and with the craze for exercise, that place is so mobbed that walking through the desert preserve there is not what you’d call a nature stroll.

People don’t realize how far their voices carry across the desert — especially women’s voices, with their higher pitch. So they’re out there yakking…and you can hear them a half-mile away. In detail. Yakitty yakitty yakitty yakitty yak yak yak!!!!! Sometimes I feel like turning around, walking back to a pair of them, and saying, “Ladies, I do not want to know the gossip in your office. I don’t want to know how your kids are doing in school or what allergies they’ve got right now. I don’t want to know about your husband’s best buddy’s peccadillos. I do not care what color you got your hair dyed, or how your stylist baked cookies, or what a bitch her sister-in-law is. Will. You. Please. SHUT UP!”

But of course one can’t get away with that. {sigh}

Point is, the swarms of humanity out there have ruined what used to be a good (if sometimes sketchy) place to get some decent hiking or mountain-biking exercise, with lots of up and down hill and plenty of rock-hopping. Now you can’t hear the birdsong for the nonstop yapfest.

So that’s one excuse. The other is it’s just too hot at this time of year to go out there safely. Heat exhaustion is a real thing. And it can kill you.

Soooo…one thing that might help is to get off my duff and clean this place up. And keep it clean.

The garage had gotten so dirty and messy that it was uncomfortable to walk around barefoot out there. So this morning I pulled the car out onto the driveway, hauled out the shop-vac, and started vacuuming. There was bird seed scattered evenly all over the garage floor. Whaaaa????? Finally recalled that one of those Instacart delivery folks had kindly carried a 50-pound bag of Costco bird seed into the backyard…we would have cut through the garage…the bag must have had a little leak.

Finally got up all the dust and dog hair and bird seed. Hauled out load after load of precious valuables like empty cardboard boxes from Amazon (who knows when you’ll need an old cardboard box, right?). The problem with these little projects is that they multiply…you go to fix something and that leads to another thing that needs to be fixed which causes you to realize something else could be reorganized and cleaned up and on and on and on. Hauled 30# of soda ash out to the pool, where I’m going to offer it to Jim the pool dude. If he doesn’t want it, at least maybe he’ll help me lift it into the trash barrel, since I can barely pick it up.


That chore done, we moved on to a mighty fine HOLY SH!T moment. 

As I’m cleaning up the litter on my computer and go to close out of the Mayo Clinic’s “portal” page, I notice that three items in the blood test report are higher than normal: hemogolobin, hematocrit, and erythrocytes.

What, wonders my hot little brain, does that mean? So I look these up — also on a Mayo page —and discover that if hemogolobin and hematocrit are both elevated, that indicates something called polycythemia.

And what is THAT, you might ask?

That is a blood cancer.

This revelation causes a moment of panic. Nay verily….an extended chain of moments of panic.

I call MagaDoc’s office, trying to get in touch with one of the RNs and PAs they have fielding calls from panicked Mayo patients. Mind you, since one day is the same as the next for me, it escapes my attention that today is Saturday….  However, the woman I reach arranges for me to talk with an MD on call.

Shortly this doc calls me. She looks at the test results and says the high numbers, especially since they’re inconsistent with earlier test results, don’t indicate anything more threatening than dehydration.

Well, that certainly would make sense, since we’ve had temps between 100 and 111 every day since…the birth of Adam, far as I can tell. She adds that if the docs feel any concern about it, they’ll ask me to come back for another test — and be sure to drink some water, for cryin’ out loud.


She adds that doesn’t think the figures have any dire significance whatsoever.

So aside from the prediabetic level of a couple of indicators, there seems to be nothing wrong with me that losing 10 or 15 pounds won’t help.

Literally, other than the daily doggy walks I’ve been inert ever since the covid panic started. Have rarely left the house (except for sneaking an occasional junket to Sprouts) since the first of April. And, since laying off the Cleaning Lady from Heaven, I have not been throwing myself around to do all the work she did.

And that woman DOES heave around! Right now I need to dust, vacuum, mop the floors, and clean the windows. But…one wonders if those antics count as exercise…given the portliness of CLfromH, who cleans at least one house and probably a couple every day, one tends to doubt it.

I hope she’ll come back whenever the plague abates. But don’t think I want a return to happen until a vaccine comes available. Among the many potential plague-carriers she works for is young couple here in the hood. These two are extreme Evangelical Christians. He—the husband—told a neighbor that (hang onto your hat!) they will not wear masks and will not get vaccinated if and when the time comes, because they do not believe covid-19 is “real,” and because even if it is and they do get it, God will take care of them.

Can you imagine? This guy is teaching high school here! At least he isn’t teaching science.

Lockdown Learning: Hacks from the Covid Confinement

So here we still are: the Body Politick getting mighty restless after a good two months’ of confinement to our homes. This has turned into one helluva journey. But from my point of view, a number of things have presented themselves as valuable clues for the future project of Aging in Place.

Because of course that’s what I intend to do, with a little luck: stay in my home until I croak over from old age. Being stuck in your house because you dare not venture out into a contagion is much the same, in many ways, as being stuck because you can’t or should not drive or because you’ve gone too lame to hike around supermarkets and big-box stores.

Here are some little discoveries that have come about from the great Covid Confinement Event, discoveries that can be applied now or in the future:

  • When I’m not darting off to the grocery store or the vet or the church or the Walmart or the Costco whenever the whim so moves me, gasoline consumption drops to almost nil. Literally. After two months, that car sitting in the garage still has half a tank of gas in it. And it wasn’t full when the quarantine fiasco started.
  • The insurance companies having registered this, my insurer dropped my auto premiums by 15 percent.
  • Savings on gasoline (to say nothing of savings on car insurance) would easily cover the cost of several Instacart or Amazon deliveries each month.
  • For the nonce, the cleaning lady could go. Or at least be cut from every two weeks to once a month. Much as I’m…well..Not Fond of housecleaning, I’m having no problem keeping up with it. And it’s kind of pleasant not to have a visitor show up and bang around for four or five hours every couple of weeks. The house would be fine if WonderCleaningLady surfaced just once a month, and I would save 50% on that onerous bill. In the age-in-place department though: obviously as I get older I’d have to increase the frequency of the cleaning visits. But that time, apparently, has not yet arrived.
  • Having groceries delivered may actually save on grocery bills, because sending someone out with a list eliminates impulse buys.
  • Instacart runners know little about selecting certain kinds of groceries, especially produce and ingredients for cooking from scratch. Ordering groceries through Instacart is, to put it mildly, a learning experience.
  • Therefore the Ager-in-Place will need to visit markets in person about once a month, even if it means using Uber or Lyft to get there.
  • Amazon vendors gouge spectacularly when given any excuse to do so.
  • Mormons are scary-smart during a national emergency. And they don’t stint on the generosity.
  • Ways to exercise need to be found and engaged. Sitting and playing with a computer all day leaves you with your joints frozen up. 😀
  • You could save a w-h-o-o-l-e lotta money on groceries and probably eat healthier by making every second day a Veggie Day. That is, eat meat one day, and the next day have all vegetarian meals. This will extend your supply of meat during the present crisis. But if you made it a regular habit, now and evermore, it also would cut your grocery bills and much reduce your cholesterol levels.

So there are some life-lessons one could apply to daily existence, now and evermore. How many will stick remains to be seen. But I intend to adapt at least some of them to Life After Covid, willy-nilly.