Friday, March 24, 2023

Stepping back

For some time I have been noticing advertisements for shampoo in a bar. I didn't really take a lot of notice, mainly because I tend to ignore ads. Yeah, I know I just said I noticed them, but it was more like glancing at the headline and immediately switching off when it was obviously an ad. If I want to buy something, or find out if what I have in mind actually exists, I will ask Google, or search on Amazon.

Recently my friend Shelly came by with her massage chair. I have mentioned her before (see here). When we lived in Leander, with Mildred. Shelly used to come out fairly regularly and all three of us indulged in the magic of a chair massage. With Covid, like so many other things, that came to an abrupt halt. When it was finally safe to mingle, we were living at the lake and I was hesitant to drag Shelly out here, an extra 30 minutes on her drive. However, she insisted that she didn't mind the longer drive and so we are once again indulging ourselves.

If anyone would like her contact information, she will bring her chair to your office and spend a few hours there reducing the stress for you and your colleagues. For a very reasonable cost you can have a fifteen or thirty minute massage without leaving the office and without removing your clothes. That is actually how I first met her. Once a week she came to our office and there were always between four and six people lined up to be de-stressed. 

Anyway, I digress. Shelly told me that she had tried a shampoo bar and was thrilled with the results, not just the fact that she was reducing the plastic waste associated with shampoo and conditioner bottle and tubes, but also her hair was much healthier and easier to manage. 

I decided to give it a try—the bar shampoo, I was already sold on the chair massage. I got a shampoo and a conditioner bar, I prefer to not do the combined. I was amazed. Not just at how easy it was to apply, but how much better my hair felt. Literally a few strokes of the bar over my wet hair and presto, a really good lather. The conditioner bar doesn't lather, something I am happy about because I see no reason why it should. It is equally easy to apply and the results are amazing. 

There were a couple of unexpected side effects of this. Apart from helping to reduce the plastic waste of course and the satisfactory results, I was transported back in time to when I was a kid and a bar of soap was normal. Just holding the bar of soap in my hand felt so good. Stepping back in time felt even better—current times being what they are. I decided that I had to eliminate all plastic from my shower and bought a bar of hand soap as well. Obviously a decent bar of Olay. 

That reminded me of the Lux soap bar that my mother used to purchase. I searched and sure enough, I found it.Lux is still available on Amazon—I am not sure if it is the same Lux we got when I was a kid but Lux just the same. Maybe I will buy some to transport me further back in time. Meanwhile, my shower is very much tidier, minimalistic you could say. And the trash can will be a little less full.



The purpose of this post is to encourage you to try bar shampoo and conditioner to help save the planet and your hair, and if you are in the Austin area, consider having Shelly come to your office with her chair and save the sanity of you and your colleagues. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2023


There is something seriously wrong with the health care system in this country. For one thing everything costs a fortune, secondly despite the existance of Medicare for the elderly, that too costs money. Not only do you pay into it from every paycheck when you are working, but once you retire you continue to pay into Medicare from your social scurity, as well as paying for Medicare Advantage if you want to be able to see and have teeth—for readers who don't know, Medicare doesn't cover dental or vision. And the care is most definitely not as good as private health care, even with the same doctor. I noticed a big difference in the attention I got since I retired. Of course, I am judging this in comparison with health care in Europe which has it's own problems, but at least it is readily available to everyone.

But what I find the most frustrating is the total lack of interest in a patient's mental state. I used to have a doctor who not only listened to what you said, he listened between the lines to what you didn't say. I firmly believe that a large majority of minor disorders could be cured by just talking about what is bothering you, rather than a battery of expensive tests and a slew of unnecessary supplements and prescriptions. How many times have you felt better just because you went to the doctor? Not because of anything he said or did, but the stess had somehow been relieved.

A few months ago my husband had some medical issues. He was submitted to a number of tests the last, and most significant test had a very long waiting time. As a result we were left dangling, not knowing what to expect—I found myself literally holding my breath. It felt like the awful few months in Amazon while I was fighting for my career and finally decided to throw in the towel and retire. (See post here). Unfortunately this time there was nothing to do but wait. And try to remember to breath. 

The constant anxiety finally got the better of me. I guess I am not good at managing my stress, I just pretend that I am. I started getting palpitations. At least, I guessed that is what it was, I never had them before. I got good at recognizing the signals and warding them off with deep slow breathing. It didn't happen very often and usually only lasted less than a minute, but after one somewhat prolonged episode while grocery shopping, I decided I better talk to my doctor. I knew it was anxiety and assumed he could give me something to make it go away, or at least calm me down; better yet, do something to reduce the wait for my husband's appointment. 

My own doctor was not available so I went to see my second choice. A man with a dismal personality, a lousy bedside manner, but an extremly good doctor, or I thought so. Of course, he wasn't in the least bit interested in my personal woes, so maybe not so good after all. If the truth be known, he probably wasn't very interested in my health, just doing the clinical CYA steps. After conducting a EKG in the office, the result of which was perfectly normal, he referred me to a heart specialist. 

Now, for my age I am remarkably healthy. my cholesterol is on the high side of normal, blood pressure has always been good, yes I am overweight mainly due to a thyroid that is lazy, but other than that I am good. I workout regularly, eat sensibly and oh yeah...I drink red wine—it is good for you, right?

Anyway, the worst part about the heart specialist is that he was a full hour drive from where we live.  The heart doctor sent me home with a heart monitor stuck to my chest. I was to wear that for two weeks and if I experienced palpitations I had instructions to tap it and fill in a diary listing exactly what I was doing at the time. Diary was also supplied.

He also referred me for a CAT scan, a treadmill stress test—don't be fooled by the picture, the treadmill I was on was set at a very steep slope—and an echocardiogram, which I have to say was fascinating! Both the stress test and the echo were at his office, so at least two more, two hour round trips in our future. But first, the two weeks with the thing stuck to my chest recording every heartbeat. I was so relieved when I was finally able to remove it, pack it in it's box and send it back. 

Before each visit I was required to sign a document stating that if Medicare refused to pay for the procedure I would pay. Leading me to belive that happens quite a lot.

Sample echocardiogram

Funny thing, the day after his nurse stuck the thing on me, I had the worst, longest episode of palpitations I had ever experienced. It lasted a full twenty minutes. So I tapped the device and when the flashing lights behind my eyes stopped and my heart beat returned to normal, I filled in the diary: Just had my shower and sat down at my computer. The instructions were 'write down what you were doing', not what you were thinking. Perhaps that would have been a better clue. I had been thinking about my husband and how long we had to wait for his next procedure, and oh yeah, the stupid monitor stuck to my chest. The good news is that since then, six weeks ago, I have not had another episode.

All of the test results were normal. I did tell him on my first visit that I believed I was wasting his time but he had to go through the motions I suppose. Though I never did get any results from the heart monitor readings. I guess that means I will eventually have to return yet again to hear him recite those findings.

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Surprise trip

First, let me explain my silence. I have been concentrating on writing my first novel. Yes, I wrote and self published Peeling the Onion, but that was not a novel. I am sure you have heard that writing a novel is difficult. It isn't, It is very nearly impossible! Anyway, that is why I have not posted here for some considerable time. In between bouts of writing, I have been following courses on the Writing Mastery Academy and following up on early beta readers' feedback. I have now sent my draft off to a book club for a full beta reader experience, so back to blogging.

As I have mentioned before, I frequently write as a form of therapy, to calm anxiety. This post is no different. I have written before about my 'travel mode'. I love to travel, but I get very anxious; thinking of all the things that could go wrong. See here for the previous post. The day before my trip to Florida—two weeks ago— was no different, well actually, it was a bit different. I was more anxious that I have every been. Perhaps in part, due to the fact that I have not done a lot of traveling in the past three years. Once up to Seattle, with my husband, to visit my son and his family there. And once last August to finally get to see my all of family again, where I got COVID and spent a week in isolation, but still managing to spread the germs to my sister and her daughter. This trip, tomorrow as I write, but it will be over by the time I publish this, is to be a big surprise for my son and his family, therefore by the time you read this post, the trip will be over—obviously or the surprise might be ruined. 

At Christmas my son, the one who lives in the north of England, and his family received an amazing gift from his mother in law. She had booked to bring her children, their spouses and their children to Disney in Florida for a week, followed by a week at St Pete Beach just outside Tampa. She contacted me with a plan to surprise my son by arranging for me to join them at St Pete Beach for a few days.

I have been to Florida before; back when I was doing a lot of travel for work I attended a conference in Disney, in Orlando. Because it was a State I had never visited, and because it was Disney, I was very excited to go. Since then I have felt absolutely no inclination to return. Oh of course Disney was fun, but there is one in Paris and another in California (and my roller coaster days are over), and there is no other reason to go to Florida, and lots of reasons not to. Yes, the weather is amazing but it is pretty okay in Texas too. To see any of my children, I would travel to the moon, so I arranged to go to Florida.

Amazingly my co-conspirator and I managed to keep it a secret. That was not easy I can tell you. The plan was for me to join them for dinner their first evening there. They were coaching from Orlando to arrive in the late afternoon and I was flying in from Texas the same afternoon.

The day before my flights I was in full on travel mode. Worst case I have ever experienced. I was packed and all my electronics were charged and ready. I checked in online and all I wanted to do was head to the airport and wait there. The smell of aviation fuel calms me. I managed to get through the day, because I had no choice; and because I started writing this post—you know, therapy. Next morning I was up at 2.45 a.m. The shuttle was due to pick me up just before 4 a.m. So plenty of time to have coffee and get myself ready. At 3.45 a.m. I was outside on the sidewalk with my suitcase waiting.

My flight to Atlanta was uneventful and with two hours to make my connection there was no problems there. I took a Lyft from Tampa airport to St Pete Beach. I was staying at the Postcard Inn. A fascinating motel. Very eclectic. When I walked in I felt like I had gone back in time and not because it was old fashioned, more that it was like one of those fun surfer hangouts in sixties movies. I had to wait about an hour for my room to be ready, so I sat at the bar and chatted with the girl who served me a healthy pour of wine, and people watched while I waited.

Once in my room I had a four hour wait before heading to the restaurant, which was a five minute walk, almost next door to my hotel. I unpacked and showered and then got on my laptop to burn up the time. Finally I headed to the Rumfish resort restaurant. Yes, naturally I was early. I always am. I wandered around the shop, through which you had to walk to get to the restaurant, and waited. At twenty past eight—the table was booked for eight thirty—I talked to the hostess and explained that I was with a party of eleven, booked for eight thirty and was hoping to be seated first as I was a surprise guest. Our table was not ready but she went off to check on it. While she was doing that I got a text from my co-conspirator to say they would be delayed by about ten minutes and could I tell the restaurant. I think they were glad because they clearly were having problems getting rid of the party at our table.

I found a seat in a corner of the shop and waited. Finally I saw my son's mother in law come in and waved to her. She said the others were just behind her and the table was not yet ready. A couple of minutes later my son, his wife and their two children stood in front of me and their faces were priceless. Dinner was amazing and I highly recommend the Rumfish if you ever happen to be in St Pete Beach. The next two days went by way too fast. 

An added bonus for me was that my husband's cousin and her partner—they live in Sarasota, about 35 miles south of St Pete Beach—made the trek, over an hour's drive, to meet us for lunch the day before I was due to leave. 

St Pete Beach is one of the barrier islands inTampa Bay. Everywhere is literally on the beach. In the early morning each day I was there, I walked down the silvery sand, soaking in the sun and the sound of the waves. The beach was empty except for the birds who took absolutely no notice of me. And naturally, the sunsets there were amazing.

Early Friday morning I was once again in travel mode waiting outside the Postcard Inn for my Lyft back to Tampa airport. I only had one hour for my connection at Atlanta and my flight out of Tampa took off twenty minutes late but I made it!