Thursday, July 20, 2017

“Uh-Oh! I know!”

“Uh-Oh!  I know!”
Copyright 2017 by Lori-Ann Willey

Despite owning a few dogs and cats over the years, Paul and I never had a flea problem. Well, that isn’t necessarily the full truth. Sometimes, a pet owner  visits with their dog and leave a few fleas behind, but we always nipped them quickly. Sometimes, just to be precautionary, we’d even pre-treat the cat before another dog arrives. Our cat, AhChoo isn’t an outside cat, so we’ve been able to avoid fleas up until a few days ago when I felt a flea jump onto my arm shortly after crawling out of bed. Huh? We had last treated AhChoo about a month prior, so we were due again, apparently.

My parents bred, raised, and trained higher end beagles, both for rabbit hunting and for trials, so I know what a flea looks like. I also know their bite. If they must bite a human, they tend to like their feet or ankles. One night, I woke to a couple itchy spots on my ankles. My first thought? Fleas, but upon asking Paul the next morning if he was bitten, he said no. As a result, and not convinced, I blamed the mosquitoes, though there were no signs of them inside the camp. 

This year, for the first time since the 1990’s, my body is not so tolerant of mosquito bites. Many years ago, a single mosquito bite sent me to the hospital with anaphylactic shock. After four days in the hospital, I was released with a stern warning from the doctor to avoid mosquitoes for the rest of my life, because that episode may be my one and only warning. 

So, given that I’m 51, my body is changing whether I like it or not! Like it or not, too, I’ve been forced to stay inside far more than I’d like during “mosquito season”. Unfortunately, we’ve had a lot of rain in our area of the state this spring/summer, so that not only increased the mosquito population, but it extended it, too. Man! Are they hungry this year! Yesterday, in 80-degree temperatures during the heat of the day with bright sun, sweat dripping off my nose, the mosquitoes were relentless when normally, they’d be in “hiding” until the evening hours. Each “bite” fire-like! I assumed they only felt that way because my aging body is hypersensitive to them this year. Logical thought, right?

Paul and I treated the cat after I saw a flea jump onto my arm. Honestly, though somewhat befuddled, I was thankful it was a flea and not a mosquito. Although the cat doesn’t think so, we dread the process as much as he does. The treatment comes in a small liquid-filled tube that is rubbed onto the back of the neck. My job is to hold the cat while Paul applies the treatment. Problem solved. Or, so we thought.

If the weather isn’t rainy, or the biting insects intolerable, my morning routine is typically the same. I roll out of bed, make my bladdah-gladdah, make coffee, check for messages, and then, bring my coffee outside to enjoy the sunrise, fresh air, and beauty that appears in the cove before me. At the far end of that labyrinth sits beautiful Mount Katahdin -Maine’s tallest peak. If I could have any part of the day to call my own, I would select the time frame between pre-dawn to the first hour after sunrise. 

It usually isn’t long before our resident chippies and red squirrels visit me in hopes for snacks. Sometimes, they are often scurrying about the deck before I crawl out of bed, so it isn’t long before they are at my feet the second I step outside. Routine tells them to be patient until I get situated. To them, my “Wait!”, “No!”, “Careful, this coffee is hot!” are phrases they know well. For many years, I’ve allowed them to crawl all over me, even atop my head and tunnel throughout my hair if they want. Even if it means that from time to time, I untangle a Chippy paw from my hair. The red squirrels don’t tunnel much, but they do like to do a balancing act atop my head. Oftentimes, they are not there for very long as my slippery hair does not make for very secure footing.

It had only been a couple of days since we treated the cat when I felt another flea jump onto my arm. I was quite perplexed! How? Then, it dawned on me! "Uh-Oh!  I know!"  The fleas must be jumping onto my hair during my playtime with the critters. I busted a gut and told Paul, “I gave the cat fleas!” Not once have I ever noticed a flea on any of the critters. Rarely any ticks either, but they are the only possible explanation. Do you have another?

Life off the grid is always full of surprises!
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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"Kabooms", Coffee, and Poop!

"Kabooms", Coffee, and Poop!

Copyright 2017 by Lori-Ann Willey

I’m a disgruntled shopper, so it doesn’t’ take much to frustrate me in a store …any store. 

Today, for the first time, ever, I stepped foot into a Lowe's store. I will be honest and not only recognize but own the fact that I am a pessimistic shopper. Always, I want in and out, so always leave Dilly and Dally at camp. My sister suggested that I buy some Kow Manure for a couple problematic veggie plants, so taking up the suggestion, I thought maybe that while Paul has his next IVIG, I'd "visit" the Lowe's across the road. Today, was that day.

Things started going wrong at Walmart about 30 minutes prior, when, once at the register, I scanned the shopping list on my phone. “CRAP! I forgot the coffee!” We normally roast our own blend, but we’ve been busy or Paul hasn’t been able, so we literally ran out of coffee this morning. As I stood with a cart load of goods, I weighed my options. Coffee or no coffee? Because we were in the Bangor area for Paul’s IVIG infusion treatment, we couldn’t roast coffee, so luckily, we had some day-old coffee to sip. Paul needs a few days of rest after each treatment or he risks complications, encephalitis is one that we watch for closely, kidney issues, is another. He’s run into complications a few times before, so we take extra precaution these days. After I run that through my head, it could be a few days before we could roast another batch of coffee.

So, with those thoughts, I excused myself from the line and back-tracked throughout the store. It had been so long since we purchased coffee that I hadn’t a clue which aisle to find it. I asked two customers and they didn’t know either, so I wove up and down about 10 aisles until I finally found the coffee section. Then, the dilema -which kind? We know how coffee is stored and distributed. We also know how to tell if coffee is old or fresh just by looking at the type of bag or container it is in. Buying pre-ground is always a NO-NO and a huge one. That Walmart only carries one kind of coffee bean, the rest were pre-ground. Yes, I did the squeeze test on every bag hoping there was another brand of bean there somewhere.  UGH! Knowing we don’t care for that coffee, I had no choice. We’ll be drinking that for a few mornings and then, appreciate our own fresh roast again. Even if our green beans are aged, it is still far better. It is time for us to restock on some green coffee for winter roasting!

As I approach the registers again, I noticed lots of people near the front of the store. I figured the lines would be full, but thankfully, they weren’t. A travel/tour bus had pulled up while I was doing the whole coffee search and debate thing. The people were of the non-Maine kind. I was glad that I was getting out of there while I could. Thankful, too, that the cashier also knew how to bag my goods. That made it so much easier to unpack and fill the coolers in the bed of the truck. 

Off to Lowes for my cow poop. My sister told me they keep some outside and some inside. She said to look for the yellow bags. After I parked, I noticed the several stacks of bags, but being that I had to go inside a hospital afterward, I figured that I’d avoid the dirty bags and go through the main doors to search for the clean ones. Before me, there were two women. One had a service dog with her, and being a dog lover, my attention went straight to the dog, when “Kapow!” A loud clang. I half expected the dog to flinch at the noise more than I did, but that didn’t happen. I was extremely impressed …at the dog, not myself. The women tried desperately to separate two carts that stuck together. Then, again, “Kaboom”! Another customer behind me tried to do the same with two more carts. I didn’t flinch that time, but I did turn to see if the dog did.

By then, I made my own, “Kaboom!” I stepped aside and again, “Kaboom!” Two more carts were stuck together. As two men approached, I told him, “All those carts are stuck together”. He went to another row and “Kaboom”! Those too were stuck. Finally, I pulled a set of three carts from the row. Because of all the “Kabooms” around me, I had lost track of how many times I tried to pull different carts apart, but I think it was my fourth attempt, the man’s second, the women’s third or fourth, and there were people behind us all trying to separate those carts …the ones that failed for me and the people around me. I felt as I was in a train wreck with all the noisy carts banging around. Several clusters of two carts were scattered about behind me. It was awful! I applaud the dog greatly for his tolerance of it all, too. He was more composed than the shoppers at that point.

Happy to finally roll a cart away from the “wreck”, I wove around the garden aisles looking for yellow bags, or what I thought to be yellow bags, as I have a yellow/orange color deficiency. That means, I read the label of each yellowish / orange-ish bag I saw. When I could not find any upon the shelves inside, I sighed. My last resort was to step into the outside garden area. There, I found the bags. They were wet and heavy. If I had a sense of smell, I probably would know they stunk, too. The bags vented a bit through the small factory punched holes. Those were wet. The bags were wet all over. They looked dirty, but I can read and it clearly said Kow Manure, so as much as I wanted to convince myself that was dirt, I knew it wasn’t. “Really?” I mumbled to myself, “If I had known, I wouldn’t have fought with the carts for as long as I did!”

Trying to be mindful that I still had to go into a hospital, I almost walked away. There was no way to stay clean. The bags were wet, “dirty” and heavy. I was not wearing work clothes, either. Again, I almost walked away. Then, I said, “Frig it!” The man beside me stopped and wiped his hands clean, too. He grabbed another type of soil. His was dirt, but he had the same issue as I did. We just looked at each other with locked-in understanding, then continued to load our carts. Neither was impressed. He dressed nicely, so apparently, he didn’t expect a mess either. Suddenly, I didn’t feel quite so singled out.

My cart didn’t take so well to my navigational commands as I pushed it loaded with four large, heavy bags of poop to the register. To top it off, isn’t a store employee supposed to yield to the customer and not make a customer stop for them? Customers should always have the RIGHT OF WAY to the employee, but I seem to have that issue no matter the store I shop. I used to work at a store and I always gave way to the customer. That’s just the way it should be! 

At the register, the older cashier welcomed me. I smiled and said, “I have four bags of poop.” She chuckled as her fingers worked the register.  With a smirk, she mumbled, “Four bags of poop”. That seemed to make everything all better. Sometimes, you just need a friendly face belonging to someone with a sense of humor that melts away frustrations. 

I have my poop on the back of the truck still, but I’ll wait until I have my junk clothes on, or maybe, it’ll just be better to unload it in the nude and then jump into the lake afterwards poop and all! “I’ve gotta clean that shit up”. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

"I Broke Your Toilet"

“I Broke Your Toilet”

Copyright 2017 by Paul Willey

Some of you know this story from May, 2013, but I’ve never told the story in full detail at once because I was too tired to write it at the time, and I have I have some new insight that may explain why some things happened the way they did.  I just put the pieces together yesterday when retelling a short version of the story to my cousin. It's a rather "simple" explanation that gave me some new insight.
It was only about 4 months after my worst MS flare ever and I needed a Snowmobile Ambulance rescue from camp because I was completely immobile.  It was a long-planned trip around the country to see our son, family, friends, sightseeing, and the last thing I wanted to do was cancel this trip.  I got the medical OK from a new Neurologist.  We had a new accessible van as well to make the trip easier.   We were on day 49 of the 9,700-mile road trip.  I was completely exhausted.

We'd hit the road early that day and our hotel room still wasn't ready even though I called ahead early.  To kill time, we went to a small diner style restaurant chain across the street.  I had to go to the bathroom, and it was down a narrow hallway past the same exit the wait staff used to exit the open diner style counter area.   I got to the single toilet bathroom and it didn't meet ADA guidelines.

I'm USUALLY a hell of a driver with my wheelchair.  Especially with the front wheel drive chair. Pin-point control.  I wasn't that day though, I'd already run over Lori-Ann's foot with my wheel chair.  I was stuck earlier because I drove one wheel over the edge of the van's wheel chair ramp and Lori-Ann was fighting to get me rolling again. She was not happy when I ran over her foot after fighting to get me off the edge of the ramp.  (The wheelchair weighs nearly 600 lbs with me in it and it does not technically include a winch; as of this moment I plead the 5th.)   

Back to the bathroom; as I backed in next to the toilet so I can at least close the door. I heard a loud snap and a splash.  Water was almost instantly traveled past my wheelchair and down the floor drain.  I looked and the toilet was twisted off its base and the bolts are broken.  I thought for a moment, "No biggy, I can hide this, and swing the toilet back into place." 
I didn't wonder why water was still gushing by me at first.  Then, I looked up at the tank.  I hit the toilet hard enough so that it twisted and the tank broke as an edge hit the wall.   The tank looked like someone split it with a splitting maul right down the middle, a perfect V open about six inches at the top with both sides still on the base of the toilet.  Water was  still ran past me like crazy before it ran into the floor drain. For a few moments I was pondering how to get out of there without having to mutter the words, "I broke the toilet."

I looked down at the water flowing the full width of the floor.  I was already in the stream of water and had to drive through it to get to the door. I could visualize a trail of water with my all 4 of my tires going right by the counter exit area so I knew there was no escape.  I drove out and stopped a waitress by the counter exit. I told her, "I broke your toilet." The expression on her face was priceless.   She looked very confused for what seemed like an eternity. Then I realized she didn't make the wheelchair connection and then I told her I hit it with my wheelchair trying to back up. Then she understood.  I can only imagine the thoughts going through her mind at first.  

Then I proceeded to go back to the table with Lori-Ann and I tried to tell her what happened.  That is when I got the "MS giggles". I COULD NOT tell her or hardly speak a word. I was using hand gestures and trying to talk that way. Then, I tried to draw an invisible picture on the place mat.  Finally, after I don't know how long it was, before I searched for a drawing app. on my phone.   I had to draw what the toilet looked like before Lori-Ann was able to understand what I was talking about.  It took at least 15 minutes.

Towards the end of the meal, I felt a hand ever so gently placed on the shoulder opposite of where I was looking.  I turned to look and it was the manager. She had already squatted down next to the table.  She told me not to worry about it, and it's OK with a real sympathetic look on her face. I thought, and always thought all these years it was kind of strange because I'd been laughing the entire meal and feeling guilty about my behavior with the, "MS giggles".  If I was a manager, and I saw this guy laughing, even if it was an accident in a small bathroom, I’d be thinking, “What an Ass!”

It took me over four years to realize how the restaurant staff must've seen me.  I'd been bowing my head down and turned away, with occasional sheepish looks, putting my hand on the back of my head like I was shy and bashful, and trying not to let them see I was laughing, but my entire body was shaking and they may have thought I was crying.   I realized they probably thought I was "special" because I was also using a lot of hand gestures trying to talk to Lori-Ann. They saw me using my phone to draw on an attempt to communicate because I was having trouble talking at times. We were both showing each other comments from our road trip through our FaceBook group via our phones. To top that off, I wore pajama bottoms most of that trip because I had a lot of pain in my legs and they were very comfortable.  I don't think I was wearing my "Superman" T-Shirt that day though.  Then, of course, there is the Wheel Chair factor as well.

They must think the world of Lori-Ann as a Social Worker because she was taking me outside to a restaurant.  She let me try to go to the bathroom on my own, too.  She let me order my own food, and she even let me pay the check and leave a tip.   Of course, they don’t know where we normally live.