Health grade…..

I find myself saying “…we’re not in Kansas anymore!” at least once a month, or so it seems, since our move to the Sunshine state. Case in point the other day when trying to get through a “meet and greet” with a new family practitioner. In the good ole days one would call a doctor’s office with stated purpose (i.e. schedule a wellness checkup) and voilà…appointment scheduled and exam completed… in relatively short order time. Things are done a little differently now. First you must schedule a meeting (akin to a meet and greet) which will most likely not be with an actual M.D. but rather an APRN (advanced practice nurse practitioner) who will simply rapid-fire ask a boatload of questions and tersely request that you respond ever so briefly whereupon then you’ll undergo a three and a half minute–if that–“wellness” checkup. Mind you, I have no particular animosity with APRN’s…and, truthfully, I’m in (knock on wood) quite good health so meeting with the APRN is just fine with me.

When I moved to Alabama it took me nearly a year to find a family practitioner. As you may recall dear reader, my knickers got mighty twisted back then. Here I was at age 55 calling practice after practice, and before answering my question as to whether the doctor was accepting new patients I would be asked to state my date of birth. On one of those calls when I stated my birth year I was told that the doctor was not accepting new patients in the “Geriatric” category! Talk about a blue headspace day that turned out to be!

Finding a doc was much easier in Northern Virginia (and I liked her!) so I was hopeful that the process in my new state would be equally so.


Here we go again.

That’s really the painful thing about moving: finding the right fit when it comes to a doctor, dentist, ophthalmologist, hair dresser, etc. So far, I’ve got the hair dresser and the dentist covered however the doctor search is still on.

Naturally I have been doing internet searches to find doctors in my area. I note the ones that state “accepting new patients” and then I perform a cursory search for additional information on the doctor’s background via Healthgrades or Once I have narrowed my list down I call to make an appointment. Call after call yields disappointment. “We’re sorry, the doctor is not accepting new patients is the refrain. I’ll admit to a snap of the tongue after six calls on one particular morning; “Jeesh; how hard is it to update the damn website for goodness sake!”

But fear not dear reader. After a laborious search to find a doctor accepting new patients I finally get an appointment. I’ll admit I am not ecstatic about the doctor based on me being a tad picky about his background but the practice is less than five miles from my house and it is associated with the same health and wellness company from my previous state. This would certainly save time filling out forms and such given that most of my health information is in that shared system.

In a nutshell, my appointment goes like this:

APRN: [Without a scintilla of cheeriness]: Asks a bunch of questions regarding meds (I don’t take any), diet, exercise, family history, etc. You know the drill.

Me: I answer her rapid fire questions (and get mildly annoyed that she interrupts if I provide more than a four word response.)

APRN: Do you consume alcohol?

Me: Yes, a glass or two of red wine every day.

APRN: Everyday? For the first time she makes eye-contact and it seems to me, given her overall brusqueness, that she thoroughly disapproves.

Me: I do not drink hard liquor. I’m half-Italian and so I enjoy a chilled white wine on hot summer days and red wine with my dinner. I do realize the link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer but I do not have the BRCA 1 and 2 gene mutations and while I know that doesn’t mean I am without risk I think my overall lifestyle is….

Holy Cow….she interrupts me …

APRN: Do you have a will?

Me: [taken aback by the brush off]….Excuse me? A will? I’ve never been asked that before.

APRN: [with growing impatience]: Well if you are going to have a primary care physician he needs to know if you have an advanced directive. And then, as if I’m dumb as a rock, she starts to tell me what an advanced directive is. I hold up my hand to stop her: I know exactly what an advanced directive is and why it is necessary to have one.

Me: Of course, yes I have an advanced directive. But again, really….I have never been asked that question before for a simple wellness checkup and I have been getting them every year for some four decades.

APRN: [condescendingly]: Most people carry a card in their purse or wallet with their advance directive wishes on it.

Me: My headspace isn’t into carrying it in my purse for say, another 10 years at least.

APRN: Do you own a gun?

Me: [Head pops]: Say what!! What the______! EXCUSE ME! What kind of question is that? Definitely no one has EVER asked that question I say, with considerably restrained ire I might add.

APRN: [There’s that terseness again] We just want to know if there are any firearms in your house.

Me: [Now I am the brusque one]: How is this whatsoever relevant to getting a wellness checkup?

APRN: She puts up in hands in a feigned attempt to appear simpatico. I’m not here to infringe on your second amendment rights and any information you provide is confidential…you know, the HIPPA laws.

I want to respond with something biting and wickedly clever but I am not good at either when it comes to retorts. I find it hilarious that she seriously expects me to believe information is confidential given the politicization of vaccine mandates and vaccine passports.

Me: [as calm and matter-of-fact as possible]: It’s none of anyone’s business what I may or may not have in my house.

APRN: Well it is simply to have insight into the home environment if there is depression, and the like. It’s information for your mental health background.

Me: [A breath away from walking out]: I know what is in my health chart and there is absolutely nothing in it that remotely suggests mental health issues. (I could have replied that most folks can find any number of household items under their roofs that could potential cause harm, other than a gun, in the event of a mental health crisis but thought it best not to go there.)

APRN: Okay, well I’ve got enough information here for updating your chart.

She then takes my blood pressure.


APRN: It’s a little high.

Me: [deadpan voice]YA THINK?! I’m quite positive it would have been lower if you would have taken it five minutes ago.

As I walked out of the building I make a mental note to tell my husband that this place rates a solid D health grade. It’s not even nine-thirty in the morning and my mind was swirling with stress over having to begin the search all over again. Still, while my “five minute” wellness visit was less than impressive I recognize how lucky I am just to have that. And while I gave that morning visit a “D” it could have been an “F” but the front desk person was rather pleasant. There is bliss in that…as well as the latte that I am going to enjoy to get me out of negative headspace.

Break, Bend, Accept…kind of

Lord have mercy! More draconian shutdowns just in time for the holiday season. Whilst those governing from their power towers order us to stay home, they are dining out at $750-a-plate dinners or hopping on private jets to vacay in Cabo or some such place. Personally, I absolutely do not begrudge fun times for anyone, the well-heeled included, but imposing what is not okay for me but fine for thee…well, it’s such hypocrisy. Hey, that kinda rhymed!

Still, could 2020 get any worse? Ah yes it can!

I say this as not one but both cars are in the shop today, one needing major repairs.

2020 keeps on giving.

So yes, I’ll admit that these days I’m finding it increasingly difficult to find five degrees of bliss, let alone ten. I know I am not alone in this. All over the world, no one has made it through 2020 unscathed, unless of course they were living in an ice-cave, in say the Antarctic. Many folks have experienced profound loss in one form or another this year. One friend, for example, will spend her first holiday without her husband by her side. Another friend of some thirty five years is undergoing, literally as I write, an extremely complicated thirteen-hour surgery (yes, mind-boggling, you read that correctly) for a rare form of cancer.

I am waiting to exhale on good news.

Yes, I should feel a bit peppier, after all, as I have said a hundred times, I’ve a nice roof over my head and plenty of food in the pantry. But, I am—as I have also said a hundred times—only human. I acknowledge it’s all through a lens of perspective (others have suffered, sadly, far more than I) but while I am trying not to view 2020 as the worst year ever, it certainly has been the most challenging in a while. The past eight or so months have been, and continue to be, a roller-coaster ride and not the thrilling kind. From shingles to an unplanned dental implant to the stress of not being able to visit a loved one languishing in a memory care facility. Add to that a multitude of unplanned expenses that certainly didn’t produce one iota of bliss as well as an angry flare-up in both knees.

Ah yes…I’m back to scouring the internet for total knee replacement details (as if I didn’t know enough already) in the form of blogs and YouTube videos, which only (shockingly) serves to depress me further. I had managed to sail through spring, all of summer and even some of autumn with barely a twinge in these deteriorating joints. In fact, a bicycle vacation was on the books for early autumn though of course we know COVID squashed that. Fortunately, walking outdoors in the fresh air everyday between five and seven miles through these COVID months has been my salvation from all the madness going on in the world, and at home. Rain or shine, I’ve so enjoyed time on the trails with my “old man” Poodle-love (who turned twelve last month) and then, once leading him back to the comforts of his bed, continuing on, back down into the woods around the lake or around other trails that wind through peaceful, lovely neighborhoods.

Since we were in an election year I made use of time spent walking trying to make sense of political events and the insanity going on in various parts of the country, though I’m not certain I’m any smarter–or healthier–for it! Nearly every day I took to listening to various political podcasts, eschewing main stream media (I’m sure I need not explain). I venture to say this constant streaming of politics and attempting to digest alternative facts and viewpoints–sifting fact from fiction– daily for months on end hasn’t been altogether healthy for my headspace, nor has the stress of an ongoing family crisis–our 2020 life-quake– (which I acerbically refer to as our 2020 shit-storm). And, the plot just thickened with potential life changes in the year ahead. Holy-Molly! Suffice it to say, I’m been mighty upside-down these past few months.

Fear not. In time, I’ll bounce back…to a new normal. We all will…right? Tree decorating helps…along with wine, chocolate and Hallmark Christmas movies. Just saying.

I think of a passage I read recently from The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo:

We are all made delicate. The hard things break. The soft things bend. The stubborn ones batter themselves against all that is immovable. The flexible adapt to what is before them. Of course, we are all hard and soft, stubborn and flexible…and so we all break until we learn to bend and are battered until we accept what is before us.

Mark Nepo

So, I am back to listening to music now and thankfully lots of Christmas tunes are keeping my spirit light and hopeful. I danced jigs around the Christmas tree while decorating, managing to send The Poodle nearly running in the opposite direction. I still muster up enough energy to sit on my meditation pillow for about fifteen minutes a day although it must not be nearly enough as I can turn into a head-exploding purple minion on a dime when trying to get my adult son to wake up from his twenty-year stupor and face the music. And trust me kind readers…I’m pleading inside, like you must be too, for a far better year ahead (dare I dream, a mask-less and COVID-free one) and I’m praying for the peace, happiness and health of friends and loved ones, near and far.

God does not give us more than we can handle….so the saying goes. Break, bend, accept what is before us… (to which I add kind-of because I’m stubborn that way.)

It is my hope that my own spirits continue to lift despite our continuing life-quake and even as I believe our country is headed in the wrong direction. The fact that some 75 million folks feel somewhat like-minded is oddly reassuring, although frankly, I’m not sure there is much bliss in all of that either. But more than anything, it is my sincere hope that spirits lift for all who are experiencing a certain bending and breaking; may we all make it through to the other–brighter–side of things with grace, humility and hearts full of kindness, love and hope.

And yes, Virginia… there is heart-warming bliss in those bear hugs I still receive from my nephew (even though he’s shy of being a teenager), in the pretty pink poinsettias adorning my hearth, in the warmth of rocket-man’s embrace, from my poodle-love curled up by my side, and yes… in the glow of tree lights on a cold December evening.

As Leaves Pile Up….

Photo by Devin Lyster on Unsplash

Autumn typically is…almost…one of my favorite times of the year.

Typically? You ask. Well, it is 2020 after all.

Almost? you ask.

My kind “four” readers know the answer to that. What follows autumn is winter and this ole’ gal is not a fan of being chilled to the bone. It’s not that I’ve always felt this way. I truly loved my seventeen-plus years in Colorado and obviously there is, most winters anyway, a lot of snow on those majestic Rocky Mountains and certainly enough in the mile-high city of Denver to make one who is averse to winter to permanently seek Caribbean climes. For me though, the difference between winter in Colorado and winter in northern Virginia is humidity. Colorado winters are, in my humble opinion, infinitely more tolerable due to its arid climate. Simply put, the lack of humidity makes cold temperatures feel less so.

I suppose I should simply live in this moment which is a beautiful autumn day full of sunshine and swirling colorful leaves just beginning to pile up in yards and on street corners. I should enjoy the chrysanthemums blooming, their rich bursts of color competing with pumpkins and Halloween decorations in lawns all around the neighborhood. I should be thinking about pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce…cozy nights on the sofa wrapped in my favorite Pendleton blanket…and new Hallmark Christmas movies sure to come despite Covid up-ending the world.

I should. But I don’t have the energy today….

Alas, the life-quake that has shaken our neck of the woods continues to keep me in both a state of perpetual sadness and unbelievable stress. As I try to remain positive during this new crisis, involving…you guessed it…my son, it’s all I can do to “just be” one moment at a time. It seems impossible to think of the upcoming holidays and the joys that they are supposed to bring while dealing with yet another crisis. We’re navigating through this new storm–which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy–as best we can; whacking my Dammit Doll repeatedly against my desk helps but man would I give anything to have an MMA heavyweight punching bag hanging in the garage right about now.

So yes…I am decidedly not in a positive headspace at the moment and regrettably I cannot pretend, as I often do, to be otherwise. I struggle to find an ounce of fun and frivolity…anything to snap myself out of this shit-storm (no better word at the moment!). As I watch the leaves fall and pile at my feet I feel the weight of our up-ended world heavy on my shoulders. Though I know it is not a panacea, even my simple meditation practice has not eased the pressure as much as I had hoped. I know this too shall pass…I know that change is the only constant…but still…

Uncharacteristically, I have a list a mile long of what I dread as winter approaches (and don’t get me started on politics!). I dread, already, the teeth-chattering cold and fierce winds that will make it impossible to walk around the block without getting frostbite. I dread less sunlight, shorter days, and ice-storms. I dread, silly as it seems, the probability of not being able to spend long lazy weekend mornings over coffee and a good book at the local Starbucks due to ongoing Covid restrictions. But most of all, I dread that this madness will never end.

Argh! I know…aren’t I just a ray of sunshine?!

But hey, tomorrow is another day kind reader and with it promises of less bleakness from me. So….there is bliss in that!

(see, I came around….sort-of.)

Four More To Go….

Alas, my kind “four” readers…there is not much to get excited about in this here neck-of-the-woods. It’s hot and humid in Northern Virginia and stormy weather is headed our way once again. The Poodle will be a mess when the thundering begins and my hair will frizz into another zip code (at least those strands are “going” somewhere I whisper to myself.)

Yes, I’ll admit it…. this present funk is lasting longer than I care to admit. It doesn’t help my psyche one bit either to see neighbors packing their vans and heading to beach vacations and other adventures. Yes…the green monster of envy has taken hold of me but just for a moment. I am only human. Still, abysmal is the only word that springs to mind in my present moment though thank goodness there is– always– this that follows….

And this too shall pass.

Ruined vacations and social isolation aside, we’ve also missed out on pool fun. Though our neighborhood pool opened late in the season this is the first year we have not visited our swimming pool. It’s not that I am worried about catching the Corona virus (really, I am not). It is just that there’s no fun in having to schlep your own lawn chair because the pool deck has been cleared of all furniture and swim-related accessories for safety (after all, pool employees should not be required to spray down pool equipment every hour. Note: not without a bit of sarcasm). Nor is it thrilling, in an effort to minimize pool patron numbers, to have to sign up for a 45-minute slot at the pool (we’ve tried three times and have yet to get a two slots, so effectively, we have given up). Additionally, If we managed to snag a spot we’d be required to wear a mask to enter the pool deck (and, when not in the water), maintain six to ten feet distance in and out of the water from our neighbors and…oh, yes, “it would be great if you could refrain from using the facilities as much as possible.” I suppose I should be happy that masks are not required while in the water! Sigh. Even pool fun has been sucked out of this summer.

So, in an effort to control the degree of doldrums in my little world I walk like a mad woman, arms pumping vigorously, everyday between five to seven miles. It fills, of course, time in the day but it gets me some much needed vitamin D, not to mention a sanity break from all the stress of Covid madness and more. While I power walk I listen to politically themed podcasts or a wide variety of music. Listening to the former this morning made me shake my head in agreement but also filled me with despair and a degree of hopelessness that I have never felt before.

No dear reader, I shall not share what I was listening to. I’d be an idiot to do so in the age of cancel culture and hate-filled vitriol. Just saying.

It did occur to me however, some time later in the morning whilst enjoying coffee on my back deck amidst the calming sounds of my tiny water fountain and the serene pose of my sweet Buddha, that in light of my recent cholesterol and blood lipid panels that perhaps I need to scale back –or perhaps discontinue altogether–listening to anything about politics. For some four decades–through thick and thin and loads of stress here and there–I’ve had optimal cholesterol and blood glucose numbers.

…until now.

Sorry China, I blame it on you. You’ve ruined 2020!

Come on old gal….you must not throw in the towel just yet. Eight months down and just four to go. 2020 WILL END!

There is bliss in that. Right?

Giving A Moment A Chance…

I just had to do it.

Walk into a Starbucks that is.

I know what you’re thinking. Yes…I know what is going on in the world. But the coffee shop was open…and, well, my soul needed a moment.

This Starbucks moment was a few days back when I needed to get a few items from the grocery store. Just days prior to this visit store shelves were empty. No meat, produce…not even one single potato to be found. It goes without saying that the cleaning supplies aisle was completely bare and I was surprised too that the bread and milk aisles were also nearly wiped out. I will never forget the anxiety of that moment. Unlike so many in the world, in all my years, I had never seen anything like that.

So…As I did during my previous visit, once in the store, I engaged in the new normal; I wiped down the grocery cart not once, but twice. I was relieved to see that the produce aisles were decently stocked. As I made my way through the store I used additional wipes during several more aisle stops including just after paying for my items. There was a certain electricity in the air that made my heart pound. Maybe it’s just my imagination? Maybe it’s just that the weather is going to change? In any event, the feeling had me walking quickly back to my car. Before I even reached my car I realized that I had been practically holding my breath during the fifteen or so minutes in the store.

Honestly, I felt as if a weight of a hundred bags of sand had been placed on my chest. A mild panic was brewing…

My morning had already been fraught with enough anxiety –for a variety of reasons too raw to share– and I needed to quell what was bubbling to the surface.

A treat of sorts would surely work, I reasoned. Hence I headed to the place that often soothes my soul.

After loading my two bags of groceries in the car (no hoarding here!) I walked over to Starbucks. Upon entering the coffee shop I immediately saw that things were in full-on social distancing mode. Well, that IS a good thing. All tables and chairs had been moved to the wall and stacked so as to not be available for use. There were three baristas behind the counter but only two customers to serve. Perfect! I can get a cup of coffee (i.e., support a local business during an economic meltdown)…say hi to another fellow human being (naturally, adhering to social distancing protocol)…and leave a nice tip too for the barista who is no teenager (that is to say, I reckon she’s got mouths to feed).

Immensely thankful for my espresso fix I got my coffee and left the shop. But, before heading directly to my car, I chose to stand outside in the sun for a moment drinking in the warmth from both coffee and the late morning sunshine. As I did so, a rather imposing looking dude with his tiny white fluffy dog sat at a table just outside of Starbucks’ doors. I moved myself over a good distance way, say fifteen feet, and took a sip of coffee. I noted the guy with the dog had a cup of coffee in one hand and was on the phone with his other. He seemed plenty agitated with whomever he was talking to. I only caught a word here or there as I was more intent on watching a tiny bird hunt for crumbs on the sidewalk. After a moment or two I can hear that he ends his conversation with, “…anyway, I love you.” Not a moment later he looks over at me and practically yells, “This world is going to hell!”

For a second, I thought of bolting for the car. He seemed to me on the cusp of becoming unhinged. In fact, I’m sure he could flatten me with just a look. Still, he’s got a cute fluffy dog at his feet and he just told someone “I love you” so….let’s give this moment a chance.

“Well, yes…these are surreal times we are living in,” was my measured response.

“I am retired military—twenty years of doing service for this here country,” he says banging his hand on the table. His coffee cup takes a bounce but he catches it before it falls. “This whole thing is some twisted shit and it’s freaking me out. I am used to order, discipline…being in control! And right now, ain’t nothing going right!” he said shaking his head.

“I feel ya. It’s all pretty crazy. I’ve had a difficult morning myself,” I offered. “But you know what, I realized in a moment of bubbling panic that constant listening to the news and opines on social media wasn’t serving me one bit. I mean, ya gotta be informed, right? I get it. But still, I just had to stop…step back…take a breath. And, get coffee. Well, I also have to take more than a breath and keep repeating my little phrase.”

“You’ve got a phrase?” he asked looking at me with keen interest.

“Oh…well yes. It’s nothing special and I am sure you’ve heard it before. I just keep saying This Too Shall Pass. Honestly, it is helping me to not get so wound around the axle, especially during these crazy times. I’m not perfect at keeping the anxiety at bay…really, I am not…but every time I stop and catch the rising panic with a deep breath and my phrase, well, it helps in that moment anyway.”

“Yeah. I tend to get worked up real good because of my deployments,” he said. “I am getting counseling for it. It ain’t been an easy road…and…well, I’ve stopped drinking,” he added.

Resisting the urge to give this guy a high five (for obvious reasons) I gave him my brightest smile possible, saying: “Awesome for you! Keep up the good work. It’s one day at a time. Just takes deep breaths when you feel the wave of anxiety start to take over and keep saying over and over This Too Shall Pass.”

“Thank you for that,” he said.

I waved goodbye and headed to my car.

I‘m so glad I took a moment with a complete stranger. I’d like to think I gave him something positive to hold on to for the day, at the very least, for a few minutes. And, truth be told, the brief exchange lifted my spirits too. Both of us, without a doubt, feel levels of vulnerability and certainly undeniable fear–it sure seems that everything is spinning out of control and we are helpless souls in the thick of it all. Every moment seems to grow heavier with worry. Worry for my Italian family. Worry for my children…my family…my neighbors, worry for our own financial future, and so on. For each of us, our survival is being radically threatened and the stress of it is overwhelming; it would be all too easy to shut down and simply throw in the towel as it were. But, connection is crucial to humanity. We cannot survive without it. The reality is social connection–human touch– during these frighteningly surreal times is certainly much more difficult, but thankfully, not impossible. Taking time to offer kind words and smiles (with social distancing in mind) as well as frequent text messaging and talking to friends and loved ones by phone, Skype, Zoom…whatever flavor of technology… will most certainly get us through waves of panic to calmer waters. Humor and silliness helps too. So does coffee…

Everything is going to be okay (one way or the other). I’m certain of it. I have to be.

This too shall pass. There is bliss in that.

Stay well kind readers.

Silly Me.


I’m pretty sure The Poodle is actively scouting for new digs. In fact, if he possessed opposable thumbs I’m certain he’d be doing web searches now looking for a new place to move his bed to.

Let’s be clear.  I am not abusing my four-legged love though he would be quick to argue otherwise.

Since we’ve moved into our Northern Virginia home it’s been one fix-it problem after another.  In just shy of nine months we have endured a steady stream of contractors and the accompanying noise.  Some of course, were entirely optional, such as painters in the house for over a week.  However, vent cleaning, replacing the defunct water heater, toilet replacement, new appliances being installed, tree removals, and even replacing the rotting deck weren’t planned.

So now we’ve been able to enjoy a week of quiet after replacing the decaying wood deck with a lovely new screened-in one.   It’s been tranquil around these parts without incessant Poodle barking due to drills, pounding and such.  No sooner than we all exhaled into the bliss of our screened-in porch another shoe dropped.

I was sitting in Italian class when the call came from my son (yes…he is STILL in the basement)….and, in light of recent headlines about a man-child in a New York basement, let me not digress….

I excused myself and went out into the hall to take the call.  Actually, I was thinking my son was going to tell me he had lost this job.  Instead he said:  “Mom, there is water dripping from the ceiling in the kitchen. I placed a bowl there….thought you should know.” 

Ya think?

“What?” I roared, causing heads to turn.

Santo cielo (good heavens)….per l’amor di Dio (for the love of God)….can we not catch a break!?

“Mi dispiace professoressa. Ho una problema con il tetto di mia casa!”  (I’m sorry teacher….I have a problem with the roof on my house).

In two minutes flat I was on the road home.  In the meantime, I called my sis asking if she’d look in on the situation before I arrived.  She called me less than five minutes later as I was still in transit to confirm the news.

“The drips are coming down a good six seconds apart,” she reported.  “Your master bath is directly above the area. Maybe its a plumbing issue?”

Naturally, I nearly lost my mind.  What else could go wrong with this house?

Off and running I went to address the situation.  With the help of my sis I figured out how to turn off the water via the main shut-off valve.  I scrambled to submit an on-line claim request to the home warranty company and within minutes received a work order number.  I followed up with a phone call just two blinks-of-an-eye later only to learn that it would be a week before a plumber could come out.

A week?!

I’ll confess I was not….um… calm.  This is my first time with a home warranty company.  Is this going to be the norm?!  I could feel the Purple Minion bubbling up from the pit of my being.

“A week?”  I refrained from adding: Are you nuts?!  “I have water steadily dripping from my ceiling….around the light fixture, I might add!  I cannot possibly wait a week to address the problem!”

So, kicking “you might not be able to go out of network” to the curb, I called my plumber George.  He installed a pretty white potty in my powder room soon after we moved in.

“What’s up?” asks George.

I launch breathlessly into a tirade about the problem finishing with “can you please come out today?”

“Um…no,” was his reply.

Before I had time to erupt in frustration over his answer –which would have been my second lava flow of the day–George says “Lets walk through the problem over the phone.”

So, he Face-times me.  I can see that he is on his back in someone’s bathroom.

“Oh my God George, you’re on  job now!  I am so sorry to bother you.”

“No problem.  It’s what I live for,” he deadpanned.

He walks me through things to check as he continues working on his back on his client’s floor.  Hmm…no, it’s not the toilet in the master bath.  Hmm…all looks good in the shower which is directly over the area that’s leaking.

I’m yakking on Face-Time with George as I rack my brain.  As I pace the floor George makes a request. “Hey, boss lady, can you please stay in one place, you’re killing me here with sea sickness!”

Oh…jeez…right….I’m sorry!  “If it is not coming from the master bath …where is the water coming from?  Though we have been getting soaked with rain lately it cannot be the roof….I mean how can it be?  According to the previous homeowner, It was replaced in 2013.

I walk into the other bedroom and continue chatting with George as I look out the window.  It is then that I can see that a portion of the roof just above the area in the kitchen that is leaking is wet from water dripping from the gutters above me.  I look left, then right.  Everything is dry as a bone except for that wet spot.

“By George, I think I’ve got it,” I say to George.  I think this gutter system is the culprit.”   I profusely thank George for his help and promise to call him soon as we will need another pretty white potty installed.

I call Rocket-man to let him know that I may have diagnosed the problem.  “It’s the Gutter Helmet system.  I tried to schedule a cleaning for it just a few days ago and no one would service it because…well…it’s a Gutter Helmet system.”

Note to anyone thinking about Gutter Helmet for their home: DON’T DO IT. Don’t believe them when they say it keeps stuff out of the gutter. It’s a hassle–fifty-fold, and more–to clean. and if not done just so (read: By a Gutter Helmet professional) it voids their “lifetime” warranty;  most other gutter cleaning companies don’t want the headache particularly since the helmet system is placed UNDER the first row of roof shingles.  It’s by no means easy-peasy to remove the helmet and it’s also EXPENSIVE to do so.

Before I digress into a long diatribe about my first world problem suffice it to say customer service with Gutter Helmet was terrible!  The service technician from Gutter Helmet never showed up.  Naturally, as not one but two pots in the kitchen were steadily receiving water from the ceiling, this warranted plan B.  Replace Gutter Helmet with a more user-friendly leaf guard system.  I called another gutter company and the next day, bright and early….and on time….they new gutter folks showed up.  The guys were super.  They were practically giddy to show me how horrible the Gutter Helmet system was.  There was so much mud and debris in the gutters that they were incredulous the gutters didn’t fall off from the sheer weight of all the gunk.  So, I’m pleased as punch to have new gutters and downspouts.

Who says a gal needs shiny baubles–or new shoes– to be happy?

You’d be wrong however if you thought that was the end of that little drama.

Of course not.  How silly.

The next day my first world drip problem was back.

Another round of sleuthing (and expletives) began.

So it turns out it was not the gutters causing the problem.  It was the HVAC system in the attic.  Apparently the home inspector (the one we paid $875 to perform a thorough home inspection before we bought this house) overlooked YET ANOTHER problem.  You’ll recall the mountain of lint in the basement ceiling because the dryer vent was not venting to the outside! Yep….THAT home inspector.  Grrrrr.

Anyhoo….A call to the HVAC company yielded a quick response.  Within thirty minutes I had a definitive diagnosis: the primary condensation line was clogged which meant the secondary condensation line to the outside would need to come to the rescue.  It would have been able to do its job had it not been THREE INCHES TOO SHORT.

Breathe missy….breathe.

Therefore most of the condensation water was dripping back into the house.  The HVAC guy said, “Your home inspector should have caught that right away.”

I held up my hand.  Don’t get me started was all I could muster.

Rocket-man has dubbed our house “Aquarius”.  “We are waterlogged.” Between all the drainage issues in the yard, leaky faucets, replacing a water heater, leaky toilet, and now water damage to walls and ceiling…..I see his point.

I pull The Poodle up into my lap moments after the HVAC technician, who had worked for more than three hours to resolve the problem, finally pulled out of our driveway well after happy-hour time.

Rocket-man hands me a glass of red wine as we kick back on the deck.  As he takes a swig of his beer, He’s tallying up the fix-it expenses… so far…less than a year of living in our Aquarius home.

I caress The Poodle and ask Alexa to play some smooth jazz.  For a moment I’m lost in the music.  It’s our first world problem.  Too many folks in the world don’t even have a roof that leaks or a condensation line that is too short.

I let Chris Botti and his trumpet, along with the beating heart of my poodle-love, soften the worry and anxiety in my heart.

“First world problems,” I say to Rocket-man.  “I’m chilled.”   Without a shadow of a doubt,  I am grateful for Aquarius and all of her problems and possibilities.



Stress Busters!

My sis is the greatest.  In the mail today I was surprised by a tiny little package.  I didn’t open it right away as I was knee deep in leaf raking.  My back yard was a mess of leaves.  Wet leaves, mixed with dry ones, I raked and bagged leaves for a solid two and a half hours.  I had my earbuds in listening to native American Indian music on Spotify as I worked.  The music selection seemed to fit the quiet of the afternoon.  The rain had pretty much stopped.  The sun was straining to make an appearance after a couple of days of gloomy weather and there was just a whisper of a breeze in the autumn air.  I’ll admit that I’m a tad sore from the effort though It could be a heck of a lot worse if I didn’t work out on a regular basis.  I figure an extra glass of wine is in the cards tonight for the fruits of my labor.

After a luxuriously long hot shower I sat down with my glass of wine and opened the package.  Inside was a little squishy toy.  A skull….specifically a”Los Muertos” stress skull.   

 A huge smile erupted on my face, followed by a joyful laugh.  The Poodle was at my side in an instant to see what was going on.  He jumped up to inspect what he thought was a toy for him.  

No, my four-legged fluffy love!  This one is mine!  And, how perfect it is!  I can squeeze it this way and that as I pace back and forth while I talk to Rocket-man about the pressing issues with his mother.

My Sis gets me (and, I’d like to think I get her!).  For all the deep breathing, punching a heavy bag, and my still sporadic meditation practice, she knows that managing stress can sometimes be a challenge for me (and for her as well I’m sure she’d admit!).  

So my stress du jour is dealing with Rocket-man’s mother.  Or rather….sitting helplessly on the sidelines and watching what is unfolding.  Dementia is draining the personality right out of her.  For weeks now she has been calling many times a day demanding  her car which we have taken away, for obvious reasons.  Her calls have escalated in frequency (sometimes four or five calls over the course of an hour), and her voice has reached a new crescendo.  She is angry. Very, very angry.  Her diatribes at every call are virtually identical, down to the last sentence.  It is not a rehersed script; she truly does not remember five minutes ago. On the one hand my heart breaks.  This behavior is not her fault.  Her mind is  disintegrating.  Her life and her mind are out of her hands now.  Still, it is extremely difficult to be on the other end of the phone listening to the diatribe. The latest call I took while I was trying to find an item at Bed, Bath and Beyond.  I stood in the middle of the aisle next to the coffee makers listening to her red-hot anger.  Thank goodness my next stop would be to my favorite fitness studio. There I would be able to forget for an hour at least.  Naturally,this heart-wrenching decline is causing Rocket-man a great deal of angst. Together, we are trying to be patient because the woman that was is simply (and sadly) no longer.   I am more mindful than ever….but for the grace of God, there go I.  This could be me …or Rocket-man in just a few short years!  This glaring potentiality is just another in a long list that keeps me awake at night.   

Rocket-man is trying to handle the situation with his mother from afar as best as he can as he works long hours and travels near and far.  His sister is the one that lives minutes away from their mother and SHOULD be tackling the immediate stuff (powers of attorney, financial assessments, researching care options, etc.) and communicating …without drama…to her siblings who are at the ready to help.  So many steps need to be taken to get Rocket-man’s mother in a better place and nothing…nothing …is happening!  It is making my head explode.  

I take a deep, deep breath.  

This is not my mother.  There is no use in turning into a purple minion over this.  I have to let it go.    


Having gone through hell last year  dealing with my mother, I can only whack my other stress buster, my “Dammit Doll” in frustration…and then let it go.  Let me assure you, I can do this!  

I think of all that happened last year.   My sis and I–with the loving support of our husbands–had things in place and on the road to manageable within a month after our step-father passed. It took a little over four months,  but we had our mother moved and settled into a wonderful care facility.  We could rest a little easier knowing that she was being cared for in such a beautiful place.   I literally want to smack Rocket-man’s sister to China and back over what must be done and hasn’t been done!   Months have ticked by!   There is no excuse for her inability (and, to some extent, refusal) to dig in and get things done in a timely manner for her mother.  It’s sad. Extremely sad.  We’ve barely recovered from the ordeals of last year –emotionally and financially–and here we go again.  God is giving us more. Aren’t we special


But, in all honesty, as I sip my glass of wine and ruminate on all that is happening in my world and the world around me, I realize that more than ever, I need to give thanks to every. little . thing in life that lifts my heart and brings me even the slightest joy.   If  I don’t, I’ll find myself down the darkest rabbit hole without the hope of any way out. 

So, this silly little stress buster arrived at just the right time!  Every time I look at my little stress buster sitting on the kithcen counter a smile erases that moment of sadness or  frustration bubbling beneath my complicated surface.  When I think of the pain associated with my mother…or the ravages of dementia….or the loss of friendships over the past year….or a host of worries big and small….all I need to do is squeeze my silly little stress skull, or whack my Dammit Doll against the granite counter to get a sweet little release that, surprisingly, brings both clarity and levity to the moment.

There is bliss in that.