Once Upon a Coupon

One Saturday night, not long ago, Chuck and I pushed a cart around the grocery store and filled it with all the necessary foodstuffs on our list. At least once, we encountered a very focused shopper noting totals in a notebook and sorting through piles – I kid you not, piles – of coupons. 

She was a Real Live Super Extreme Couponer. In our store! In our city! Wow! Where were the cameras? 

When we were ready to check out, there was only one checkout lane open, and she was in it. More power to her for taking the time and making the effort to shop this way, but we did NOT want to be in line behind her. I looked toward the self checkout, looked at my cart’s contents, and said nope, not going the selfie way. Luckily for us, the store staff provided another checker. Phew! As we left the store, we could hear Ms. Super Extreme Coupons with her checkout still in progress. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. 

The next day, we took the minivan to Kwik Trip to fill out the tank, and grabbed a few coupons on the way out the door. Chuck dashed into the mini mart to get the free bananas, dozen of eggs at half price, and a dirt cheap cup of gourmet hot cocoa. The cashier rang up his purchases, scanned his coupons, and then swept his Rewards Card. With the rewards card discount, his total came to a negative number. They owed him money. And at that, the cash register froze. 

He tried to pull it up into the positive numbers by buying a tube of Chapstick. The Chapstick wouldn’t scan. The cashier tried entering the code number manually. No luck. So Chuck tried again; he grabbed a candy bar. This treat scanned successfully – sort of. The total went farther into the negative, and this time read Transaction Finalized. Amid much laughter from the other customers,  including one who had offered to help out when it appeared Chuck was short on cash, he headed quickly back to the van. 

“Don’t say a word! If the cops stop us, let me do the talking!” “What?!?” He laughed and laughed as we zoomed home and tucked the minivan in the garage. 

Chuck the Super Coupon Man. Go figure. I never would have guessed. 

Amigo’s Turn on Injured Reserve

Amigo asked me to look at a “mole” on his hip. This mole had always been there, as far as he knew, but it had started hurting. At first glance it looked like a big bug bite: raised center, red rash around it. I touched it, he flinched, and I realized there was more under the skin.

We made an appointment to see Family Doc, the guy who knows us best.  The pain had increased overnight, and the red rash had also gotten bigger. Doc gave Amigo the news: it was a cyst, the cyst was infected, and it had to be lanced and drained. He would numb the area first, and then get all the gunk out.

Oh, it wasn’t pleasant, but Amigo took it like a trooper. He managed to stay still despite the pain of the numbing agent, and then accepted a damp compress on his forehead to help him focus and relax. Doc removed what he needed, stitched the area closed, and then covered it with a piece of gauze and tape.

We’ve been back twice to have Family Doc monitor his progress. Amigo took antibiotics to kill the infection, too. At this time, I’m checking on how it’s healing and putting clean gauze on the wound each night. Eventually, he will need the cyst removed. Neither of us are looking forward to this.

Fortunately, a cyst on the hip doesn’t stop him from singing. Amigo has joined a small group in the barbershop chorus: the Mixmasters. More music is good music! or something like that.

Injured Reserve

I’m temporarily on injured reserve, as Chuck puts it. I cannot lift anything heavier than 5 pounds or handle anything dirty or germ-laden. Such is life as an artery heals!

Friday went smoothly overall. Pre-procedure fast: check. Light breakfast (two frozen waffles, toasted): check. Morning medication: check. Doze off while reading newspaper: check. Oh, I admit it, that wasn’t on the list, but a nap was still a good thing. Anti-germ shower with soap from doc’s office: check.

Arrive at hospital on time: check. Find registration in a labyrinth that is the hospital: with the help of a volunteer: check. Change into hospital gown and socks: check. Vital signs: check. Blood draw, IV inserted, etc.: check. Admire the nurse’s Crocs featuring the Swedish Chef: check, bort! bort! bort!

Procedure: one long involved check. The purpose for Friday’s O.R. encounter was to insert a catheter through my wrist and send dye coursing through the arteries in my head to confirm what the MRA and Doppler Ultrasound showed. Stent in right interior carotid is working well; blood is flowing through the artery as it’s intended. Aneurysm on the left: somewhat larger than it was a year ago.

Recovery! Remove catheter from artery: check. Place pressure bandage over artery: wow, check. This thing was “blown up” with air to hold it tightly on the artery and prevent bleeding. Move patient (me!) upstairs to hospital room for observation while recovering: relief of sorts, check. Nice view of the river below and the pelicans and geese feeding. Rather fun, really. If I had to stay longer, I’d like a room like that. But anyway, over a span of a few hours the nurse gradually let the air out of the pressure bandage and verified that the artery was closing. I had a hospital supper: baked penne pasta with marinara sauce and a small lettuce salad. Yum. Hospital food has come a long way since I was a teenager working in a hospital kitchen!

Well, folks, that was Friday. The prep, the procedure, the recovery, then home. My discharge instructions were what put me on Injured Reserve, in Chuck’s words. The remaining bandage stayed on for 24 hours. Limit lifting to 5 pounds. Avoid contact with contaminated items, including litter boxes or gardening. These limitations are in effect for 3 days or until the wound heals. I can water the garden using my left hand, but I can’t weed it or otherwise play in the dirt.

I might be sore and tender for a week or two. There’s a little bruising, and that’s considered normal. As I heal, I’ll get back to the normal roster of gardening and cooking and other daily tasks. Meanwhile, I might just hang out with my laptop and rest. After all, I am on injured reserve.

Making and Keeping Rules

I told myself I’d never risk my health – my life, even – for my job. That was in November of 2010. I’d landed in the ER with chest pains, much worse than the average Sunday evening stress-stomachache. I went to school at 10 that night to leave sub plans instead of staying overnight in the cardiac care unit. Long story short, it wasn’t worthwhile.

In spring of 2014 I advised my coworkers “Don’t Wait!” I’d just found an interior carotid artery 99% blocked. Thanks to the timing and to the good luck of having an amazing doctor, the blockage was cleared and a stent installed.

So when the phone rang and I was offered Friday or the Monday or Tuesday that followed,  I looked at everything else on the calendar, took a deep breath, and said yes, I’d take the appointment. I didn’t put it off. I didn’t work around my staff development schedule.

Taking this appointment meant postponing the family garage sale indefinitely. It meant that La Petite will come home to help with the driving duties because Amigo has an important appointment an hour earlier than mine – in a different location, of course.

Rather than tie myself in knots to put everyone else first, I’m following my rules. I’ll have my head examined (a cerebral angiogram), get the results, and then plan for treatment of this rogue aneurysm if we find it has grown.

And that, my dear readers, is playing by all the rules.

Cooking without a Kitchen – still

Monday was a Planned-overs type of day. Planned overs are like leftovers, but cooked on purpose. In this Era of No Kitchen, we are cooking planned overs at least once a week so we have something decent that can be reheated in the microwave.

So, Monday. Burgers were on the menu. Side dishes, cooked on the coals in foil, were potatoes – diced reds and fingerlings with Scarborough Fair seasoning (parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme) and green & yellow zucchini squash with onion, salt, and pepper. These turned out very well.

Ah, the planned overs. We had a pound of French Onion bratwurst from the local meat market, and brats are always better on the grill, so I jabbed them with a fork and cooked them on the top rack. Someone recently suggested cooking bacon on the grill, so I tried it. As I pushed the burgers out of the flames so they wouldn’t get charred, I wondered if Someone had cooked bacon on a gas grill, not charcoal. The bacon smelled good, as bacon does, but it had a definite char look to it. I tried a piece on a BLT, and it tasted like bacon. Okay, it was okay, but I don’t think I’ll try that trick again.

Monday, as you see, was an adventure. I didn’t take any pictures because I was too busy moving bacon around to prevent total burn-to-a-crisp status. The veggies were a hit, the burgers were delicious (Amigo had two), and the bacon and brats went into the meat drawer for later.

Tuesday, I learned how to bake a pot pie in the toaster oven. Here I am, in my 50s, and I’ve never used a toaster oven. Now I can cross “Toaster Oven Use” off my bucket list.

Tuesday night I decided to do an experiment with the multitude of green onions in my garden. I pulled up several. Okay, if I’m honest about it, I pulled up a lot. I cleaned them up in the bathtub – no sink, remember – and packed the green tops into a crock pot set on low. I left it on Keep Warm overnight. In the morning, I removed the green tops, added the white bulbs sliced small, and seasoned the onion broth with a little salt and pepper and garlic.

Summertime, and the living is…is..

Last Friday was the all-important, all-consuming, why did it take SO LONG to arrive Last Day of School!!

We spent the weekend shuttling Amigo to his reunion at the school for the blind and then to Lions Camp. Monday, I finally took a deep breath and felt summer settle around me.

I spent most of the morning taking care of various garden chores. There’s nothing better than starting summer with dirt under my fingernails! Buttercup the bunny came out, too. She nibbled on the lawn and rested in the shade. A little weeding, a little watering, transplanting two tomato plants that were too crowded to another big pot. Did I really use two, too, and to in the same sentence? Maybe my mind is still in school, after all.

And that brings me to the rest of the week, this first week that so many think of as a teacher’s summer “off.” All day Tuesday and Wednesday and then a half day Thursday will be spent in staff development learning more about the technology I use to teach online, but mostly, putting in the hours. Next week I’ll have two commitments: a book study (I’m leading it, so I’d better be ready) and a formal three day training in an intervention reading program.

Without driving the details, I’ll just say that June is a full, full month. I did my best to leave July more free. August isn’t bad, either. None of summer, at least this year, will be a full summer off.

So anyway, my point? I’m not sure I have one. I’m happy to have more time to dig in the dirt. In a few weeks, I might even try Sleeping In. Meanwhile, it’s summertime, the good old summertime.

 

Progress – on a lot of fronts

Tomatoes are in their containers.

Computer desk and matching bookshelf and computer are in the guest room/office/La Petite’s former bedroom.

I have plants for the pallet garden.

Laundry is started.

All of these took more effort than we expected.

Tomatoes: I started the tomatoes from seed in March. Not all came up; I was a bit concerned. I did get six Roma plants, four beefsteak, and three large (and very tasty) cherry. Friday I was worried; the tallest tomato seedlings were showing some odd color on their leaves. I wondered if they were under watered – or over watered, for that matter. I came to the conclusion that they needed bigger containers, room to grow. They’re now transplanted to containers near the main raised bed garden – all but the one lone yellow pear tomato plant that’s in a basket between two rhubarb plants.

Computer desk and matching bookshelf took two weekends and time during the week to empty, clean, and move. Darn, those pieces were heavy! They’re all in place now, and everything works. Chuck had a challenge getting the AT&T tower up and running again, and it runs the landline, Internet, and television. He finished Saturday, just in time to pick up Chinese food and bring it home for supper.

Plants for the pallet garden: I have strawberries for the top sections, marigolds for the base, but the Home Depot garden center didn’t have the cabbage or kale I wanted for the large place in the middle. I watered them all, but they’ll have to wait until tomorrow night to get transplanted into the actual pallet.

Laundry. Darn it all, I almost forgot this weekly chore. After I cleaned up outside, collapsed on the couch with my laptop and a bowl of trail mix, I realized that unless I didn’t throw clothes in the washer and dryer, we might not have enough drawers in our drawers as the week goes on.

Laundry isn’t as glamorous or fun as planting the garden, but it has to be done. Now I’m relaxing on the couch next to Chuck, who plans to cook supper tonight. No take-out this time.

To Swap, or Not to Swap?

I had plans. Big, exciting plans. I was going to go to a seed swap and seedling sale on Saturday morning before The Boys (Chuck and Amigo) were even awake. Then the blizzard arrived. And not just any blizzard: the blizzard that broke records, records in snow-is-the-norm Wisconsin.

So I didn’t get to the seed swap and seedling sale. Honestly, it may have been cancelled. So much was closed, so many events cancelled, that I don’t even know if the park or the nature center was plowed. In fact, we were at the meat market watching a chef pick up $500 worth of meat for his restaurant when his wife called him to say the staff couldn’t get in and they were closing.

I wasn’t planning on bringing seeds to swap, if I’m honest with myself. I had been thinking about buying seedlings and nurturing them indoors through the blizzard and the early spring that might happen, maybe, someday. I don’t have many seeds, or at least not unique seeds. Or do I?

I have butternut squash, parsley, and dill, all salvaged last fall. Those are such common seeds that I wouldn’t bother to offer them up as a swap. However, when I found myself in the garage after cleaning and emptying a litter box in the middle of the storm — oh, let me start over without the drama.

Bunny’s litter box needed cleaning, so I walked through the garage to dump the waste/fertilizer on top of the snow in the backyard patch. On my way back through the garage, I grabbed a packet of seeds for sweet banana peppers. As long as I was there, I dug through the empty pots on my planting table to find milkweed. On my way to the milkweed, I realized I had saved more than I’d remembered. I searched through yarrow, chamomile, yellow beans, feverfew, baby’s breath, and (how could I forget?) walking onion bulbs!

The ending of the story is this. I didn’t go to the seed swap and seedling sale – if it even happened. But I did find more seeds that I could start right now – right now! – and nurture under my grow lights until spring really arrives.

Take that, Mother Nature.

Back aches and Legends

About five years ago, Chuck slipped on an icy sidewalk and chipped his elbow. He sent me a picture. Cute, eh?

Two weekends ago, he put his back out while doing our taxes. Yes, taxes. He had to shred a few documents, but the shredder was full, so he pulled out the tray to empty it into the recycling bin. As he did that, he must have twisted awkwardly. Ow! He managed to finish the taxes with the help of a heating pad and ibuprofen.

Two weeks later, he is struggling to clear major amounts of snow from the driveway and sidewalks. He’s not in pain anymore, but he is stiff. I worry about him re-injuring his Tax Break, er Back, while he’s handling the heavy, wet snow.

Chuck’s Tax-related Backache is already legend. The Blizzard of April 2018 may become legend on its own.