Category Archives: Health

Food Pantry

I wrote this post with the help of Husband, who is devoted volunteer at our local food pantry. He works mainly on Thursday afternoons selecting meat for various sizes of families. He tries to “mix it up” so people get a nice variety of the frozen ground and whole pieces of meat. He also goes once a month to help unload the big truck with the large quantities of food that comes from a regional food distribution site in Fargo.

He mentioned the other day that they received a large shipment of of smoked turkey necks. He also stated they currently have vast quantities of smoked Chinese oysters, various dried beans, frozen pork knuckles, hocks, and necks, overgrown winter squashes, Mac and Cheese, eggs (including blue eggs), hot Jimmie Dean sausage, frozen haddock and pollock, Chinese noodles, canned tomato sauce, canned vegetables, soup, canned fruit, half and half, cereals, snacks, dried lentils and garbanzos, Lil’ Smokies, pancakes mix, Mexican and Chinese condiments, surplus diet soda, etc.

The volunteers load up the carts. Patrons can’t order what they want. This made me wonder what a person who has very few resources would do with a can of Chinese oysters , frozen pork necks, and a pound of dried garbanzo beans. Husband got the go ahead from the Pantry Board to talk to our local County Extension Home Economist about nutrition information for patrons. I also asked him if the needy folks even know how to cook dried beans or even have the right cookware to prepare a meal from scratch. He and another volunteer are going to come up with tasty recipes using the Food Pantry provisions to help make this food go farther and be palatable.

What would you do with smoked turkey necks and canned Chinese oysters ? What are the essential cooking pots that are necessary for basic cooking? What are the basic recipes that people should know to prepare?

Signs of stress

I can always tell my level of work stress. All I have to do is look at my fingernails and cuticles. The more stress, the more chewed up are my nails and nail beds.

I have been an inveterate nail chewer since early childhood. I decided when I was very young that I hated my mother clipping my nails, and I started chewing them off. It is sort of like our cats, who hate nail trims (Don’t squeeze my paws!) I think it might have been a sensory issue for me, too, because I am only comfortable with the shortest of fingernails and toe nails.

I was appaled last week to read about the woman with the world’s longest nails. She finally got them cut when their collective length was something like 28 feet. I can’t imagine how a person could even function.

I haven’t bought nail polish for decades. I have no interest in stopping my nail chewing, but I am interested in stress reduction. I have three more years to get through for my job, and I need to be a good role model for positive coping.

How can you tell you are under stress. What is stressing you these days? What do you do to de-stress and relax?


Husband really likes vegetables. He also really likes olives and preserved /pickled peppers and tomatoes. For some reason last weekend, he decided he was going to make an olive salad, and proceeded to buy six kinds of olives.  He ran short of the olives with smoked paprika, which is why I was running around in the big wind on Monday to score a jar for him while he was at his private practice.  The header photo is the olive mélange he concocted. 

I like vegetables well enough, and probably eat more because I have been married to Husband all these years. I don’t crave vegetables. He really does, and says he feels ill when he doesn’t eat enough of them.  I would probably feel the same way if I couldn’t have cheese and dairy products.  I could live the rest of my life and never eat another pickle or olive. 

Husband considers olives a free food for him as a diabetic.  He also loves green salads, which I could take or leave. I just hope he can eat that huge container of olives. They are taking up a lot of room in the fridge and not leaving much room for my skyr!

What is your favorite kind of salad or vegetable?  What do you tend to buy too much of when you go grocery shopping?

Mad Kitty TWO

We have a mad kitty again. 

We noticed that she had a lump on her chest last weekend.  Since she had a fatty tumor last year that required surgery and some serious recuperation and a real notch out of my wallet, we were worried.  I made the vet appointment and then checked on the lump every day.  It seemed more fluid filled and it turned out to be a hematoma – the skin gets pulled away from the muscle and the body tries to fix it by filling it up with fluid.

It’s a fairly easy fix if your kitty isn’t mad.  These days you sit in your car in the parking lot while the vet deals with your animal.  They call you on the phone to let you know what’s going on and what they recommend.  When they called me, they said that Nimue was unhappy and uncooperative.  She’s gotten more uncooperative over the years; she used to be a sweet little thing but I guess some of her vet experiences have made her decide she’s not crazy about being there.  They said they would need to sedate her in order to give her a little tummy shave and to drain the hematoma.  I ok’d this and about 50 minutes later, they called me again to give me the final update along with after-care recommendations, which included putting a shirt on her (if possible) to keep the incision site clean for 24 hours.  They said they had given her a little bit of sedative reversal, she would be coming around soon and they brought her out to me in her carrier.

Well, it’s easy to put a shirt (borrowed from the neighbors) and an unconscious cat.  It took her a LONG time to come out of her sedation – I was very relieved when she started to blink and she continued to be really zonked out for most of the night.  By this morning, she was awake and moving about but NOT happy about the shirt.  We ended up taking it off at about noon but she’s still a little crabby.  Treats are OK but not much scritching or cuddling is allowed for now.  Hopefully she’ll be back to her happier self soon.

Do you ever sleep too long?  Does it make YOU crabby?

Pi Day – Not!


One year ago on the day before Pi Day, I read an online column in which I saw the “flatten the curve” phrase for the first time. Even though only one person had told me that they were going to skip the Pi Day party due to covid-19.  But after reading that column, I realized that I needed to get onboard immediately and I started calling and texting people, letting them know I was cancelling.

Like everyone else, I was thinking that we’d have a couple of bad months and then get back on track, so I kept all my Pi Day organizational materials: the list of ingredients that I had bought (and hopefully wlll need to buy again), my timing spreadsheet with what time various pies have to go in the oven and what temperature they need (sorted by temperature, of course) and the little placecards with all the pie names.  All these items are in the drawer in the living room and I see them occasionally and sigh.  And now it’s been a second Pi Day with no festivities in the house. 

Not entertaining has been a huge hit for me during pandemic.  I entertain a lot and I miss it a lot.  You all know that I try to keep my expectations low, so I’m hoping that I’ll eventually be able to have Pi Day fun at my place, but I’m not making plans.  And that’s made me think about other changes that I’ve made that may or may not be permanent. 

I am spending WAY more time texting and emailing than I used to.  I’m spending way too much time farting around on my phone.  I’m doing my Italian lesson (also on my phone) every day – I’m on a 310 day streak and I doubled my lesson time about 4 months back.  For the first time in decades I am hitting the gym more than 12 times a month (masked, sanitized and socially distant).  Pre-pandemic I used to follow several blogs, a couple of chefs, several science sites, husky dogs; I’ve quit following all of them and only occasionally check them out – usually if they pop up in my feed.  Last summer I sent thank you cards to people with great gardens that I encountered while walking the dog.  I’ve started sending birthday cards to people on a Facebook group of stampers – complete strangers and I increased the cards that I made for charity.  Way more gardening and more jigsaw puzzles.

I don’t which of these habits will continue if and when we get past pandemic.  I hope to keep all the good changes (reaching out)  and jettison the bad ones (phone games) and I hope like heck that I eventually get to celebrate Pi Day with my friends and loved ones.  Maybe Pi and a Half Day? 

How has pandemic changed you?  Do you think some of your changes will continue?


I see in the news that Jennifer Garner just got her ears pierced.  According to her, the main reason she didn’t do it sooner was because she thought her father would disapprove.

I can certainly understand.  Getting your ears pierced started to become popular when I was in high school.  As the years went by, more and more of my friends started to get pierced but my folks, particularly my father, were adamant that I not join the “fad”.  Back then the only official way to get your ears pierced was at the jewelry counter of the big departments stores and you had to have your parents permission if you were under 18.  There were a few girls I knew who did the deed on their own with a needle and ice cubes, but that scared the heck out of me.  It never occurred to me to go against my folks’ wishes in this, even if I could figure out how.

The argument went on for a couple of years and came to a head toward the end of my junior year.  All the trendy and interesting earrings were now pierced; the non-pierced options all made me feel like my grandmother.  Finally my father made his big error in his argument; he said that getting your ears pierced was a form of body mutilation “like those Ubangi natives you put the metals rings around their necks to stretch them out”.  I remember these words, because he brought it up several times before I came up with a counter-argument, that being overweight was also a form of body mutilation.  (My dad fought his weight his whole life.)  I’m not sure what gave me the bravery to say this to my dad and as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I was struck with the certain fear that he might kill me for this comment.  (No, my dad was not abusive, so this is not literal.)  But he did not.  He actually left the room and the next day told me that I was right.  And if I lost 20 pounds, I could get my ears pierced.

If I would replicate the process by which I lost 20 pounds, I could bottle it and retire to my own private island on the proceeds.  Took about 3 weeks.  I know that my mom yelled at my dad over this, but they both took the honorable path; my mom drove me to the department store, stood by while I got my ears pierced and even paid for it. 

It was a good decision for me.  I adore earrings and I have far too many of them.  Friends who know of my earring fetish has brought me earrings from all over, including some huge paper mache dangly fish from Hong Kong and some adorable pink pig earrings from a barbecue joint in Boulder.  I have earrings from Sicily, Hawaii, London and even New Zealand.  YA has made earrings for me and I have trouble not going overboard making them for myself as well. 

I did not repeat my parents’ dictions; when YA turned 10 she wanted to get her ears pierced for her birthday.  Off to Claire’s we went.  Too bad that Jennifer Garner didn’t have ME for a parent.

What have you tried to do differently than your folks?  How did that work out?

Back To The Mine

The unbelievable has happened.  After several months of furlough, my company has asked me to come back half-time.  20 hours a week.  Half of my regular salary and health-care.

I have to admit – it never occurred to me that I would come out of all this with a job.  I have been assuming that I would get the call any minute that I would be officially laid off.  My company was extremely generous to keep me on furlough despite how devastated the travel industry continues to be but I just didn’t think it could continue indefinitely. 

What this means is that I have completely given myself over to the idea that I am done with work, despite the fact that I certainly haven’t gotten the hang of retirement.  Even after all these months, I tend to beat myself up for “wasting” time when I don’t get enough done during a day, even when I don’t actually have anything that needs doing.  The house is cleaner that it has been in years, cooking is happening, crafts are being done, animals are happy but this is not taking up massive amounts of time.

I accepted the work offer (if I hadn’t, then I WOULD have been laid off at the end of March) and I “start” on Monday.  Of course, I don’t get my new equipment until Tuesday morning, so my 20 hours won’t really start until then.  Several of my previous programs have re-scheduled or are in the process so there is actual work to be done, just not sure how much time it will take.  Work will still be done from home – our company has officially closed its offices until June and I will stay home until the pandemic has passed.  So my “lady of leisure” phase has passed but at least it’s for a job I like.  For now.

What job would you REALLY not like to do?

Keeping Fit

My mom (Nonny) is a jock.  She was very active as a kid and played many sports when she was in school (basketball, field hockey, tennis).  She got my dad interested in tennis after they married and they played consistently until his death.  She even played tennis the night before my baby sister was born.  Doubles and she was happy to tell everyone that they won against the other team.

So imagine Nonny’s disappointment when all three of her daughters turned out to be complete non-jocks.  I cycled fairly seriously for a couple of years (way before YA was born) and my baby sister runs occasionally, but for the most part, we are couch potatoes.  Of all seven grandchildren, only one has any spark of jock-ness: YA.  Swimming, gymnastics, running and weight training have been part of her regime over the years. 

Santa brought YA a 10-pound weight, so now she has two.  I noticed a couple of days ago that she has set up a “gym” in Nonny’s room upstairs.  She has her yoga mat, her weights, a big yoga ball and some kind of exercise bands.  This morning she had music playing on her phone while she worked out.

I admire her get-up-and-go.  While I’m doing the stationary bike at the gym occasionally (translation: every 4 or 5 days) and walking the dog occasionally (translation: if the sun is shining), I wouldn’t say that exercising is my top priority these days.  If would be nice if YA’s commitment to working out would rub off on me, but I’m thinking if it hasn’t happened yet, it probably won’t.

Have you ever had a “favorite” exercise?  If you could have your own In-home gym, how would you like it set up?

Proceeding Hopefully

In about three weeks,  we will be in a new month and new year.  I have never gone through such an extended period of change at work, societal upheaval,  and perpetual anxiety.  I am beginning to see some glimmers of a more  positive existence,  and have allowed myself to have some hope.

It has been a few weeks since the governor of ND issued his mask mandate, and while there are still people who go maskless, the number of people wearing masks has increased very noticeably.  It is also very interesting that the number of new, positive cases has dropped precipitously since the mask mandate was issued.  Oh, I know it will go up due to Thanksgiving  gatherings, but the trend of increased mask wearing is encouraging.

Our Tortie was near death a month ago.  Now she is thriving on a maintenance dose of steroids.

My workplace is finally settling down after our move, numerous technology changes, staff turnover, and treatment paradigm shift,  with  good administrators in charge and people getting necessary things done that were neglected for a couple of years.

I try not to wallow in political news since it keeps me awake at night, but that is starting to look more positive,  too, in terms of the changes in administrations.  I also am hopeful now that the seed catalogue are arriving in the mail.

What glimmers of hope are you seeing? What are you hopeful for in the new year?

Invent Your Own Covid Test

Last Friday I was on a MS Teams meeting in a weekly group supervision session I participate in with staff from another Human Service Center. The clinical director of that agency was really amused by the ingenuity of  one staff member and the young adult child of another staff member, both of whom accurately self- diagnosed themselves with Covid.

The staff member was suspicious of some symptoms,  and took a couple swigs of lemon juice, couldn’t taste it, and went for a formal test at the doctor and tested positive.  The young adult was out with friends drinking shots of Fireball whiskey, realized she couldn’t taste it, and went for a test and was positive.

The clinical director wryly suggested that perhaps we all needed to drink shots of Fireball whiskey throughout the day to self-monitor for Covid.  Cinnamon flavored whiskey isn’t my drink of choice, but I could think of other strong tasting things I wouldn’t mind monitoring with.

Make up your own Covid test.