Monday, March 30, 2009

I asked for a bike, and they gave me a wife

My husband is going to be interviewing for a job in California. Since our older daughter, her twins, my mother, father, brother and sister all live in CA, I'm coming with him. We'll arrive several days early to visit family.  He asked what I'd like to do while he spends the day interviewing. I told him I'd like to ride a bike around town and explore.  
None of the bike shops in town rent bicycles. A male professor was willing to loan me his bike, but thanks to arthritis, I can't get my leg up and over a man-style bicycle. Next thing I knew, I received an email from the folks who schedule the chancellor's wife. First, they assured me that the hotel they are putting us in has a swimming pool and a small gym. Then they told me the chancellor's wife would like to show me some of the local parks.  That's very sweet of her. I love parks. I'd prefer biking around them to walking. And this kind of meeting seems worse than a blind date for teenagers. It's easy for me to shock or offend people. I don't want that to influence my husband's career.
Then again, at his last job change, he had me meet his potential department chair. The man was a renouned womanizer. I'm glad I know how to turn that sort of person off quickly. And he still wanted my husband to be in his department.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

On to the Next Level

My toastmasters talk won the local competition. That means I get to present it again on April 18 for the next level.

Meanwhile, I want to talk about the 2nd place winner. (She was the only competitor in my category.) Her idea was good. Her points were important. She used the standard 5-paragraph structure, BUT she left off the first paragraph.

For those of you who haven't taken Freshman English lately, the 5-paragraph structure is as follows:

1st paragraph:  State your main point and 3 supporting themes.  For example: I like lemons because they are yellow, they are round, and they are sour.

2nd paragraph: Go into detail about the first theme. For example: Lemon yellow reminds me of summer and sunshine and happy vacations when I rode the waves on my yellow inflatable raft.

3rd paragraph: Go into detail about the second theme. For example: I like round things like lemons and baseballs and my dyna-flex exercise toy. Round things feel good in my hands.

4th paragraph: Go into detail about the third theme. For example: I like sour foods. Most foods are sweet or salty, but a splash of lemon juice or vinegar gets my saliva flowing and enhances the taste of almost any food.

5th paragraph: Paraphrase the main idea and add something extra. For example: Lemons are an important part of my diet. I always make sure to have some in my refrigerator to squeeze on a salad, or add to a curry. I like everything about lemons. I enjoy their happy yellow color. They feel solidly round when I squeeze them. And their tangy sour taste makes my meals more delicious.

But if you leave off the first paragraph, the essay feels disjointed. The topics jump from yellow to round to sour without any reason. Only at the last paragraph does the reader (or listener) find out why the three aspects of lemons were introduced.

I assure you that my worthy competitor did not talk about lemons. I don't want to steal her thunder just in case she reworks her speech and comes back in a future competiton as a winner.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Safety and Ideals

I'm entering my local Toastmaster's International Speech Competition tomorrow.  I'm hoping to persuade listeners to stick up for their rights and oppose government monitoring of email.  Here's the talk:

Have you ever wondered: what is it that makes the United States of America – the Land of Freedom and Opportunity?

Think about it. In all the world, the United States is unique because the Founders of this country believed that all people have the inherent rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Other governments exist to conquer neighboring territories, or to protect their citizens from nearby wannabe conquerors.  Other governments exist to provide income for a King to live in luxury. Other governments exist to control people and make them follow religious or philosophical dictates.

Our government exists to ensure our rights to LIFE, LIBERTY and PURSUIT of HAPPINESS!


We just elected a new President –  President Barack Obama who said in his inaugural address, “As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.”

So why is our government reading our email?

Any time you send an email beyond our borders, a copy is sent to government agents whose job it is to decide if your email is subversive. 

I came to the attention of the federal email readers because I’m helping a French friend translate his brother’s poetry into English.  In one of my favorites, his brother is looking at his reflection in a puddle. A breeze blows a ripple across the water. And his brother wonders what caused the wrinkle on his face. The poem is about how we interpret what we see.

Interpreting what we see is part of Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness. So is the right to choose our audience – to choose the recipients of our communication. If I don’t send a copy of my email to the government, then the government shouldn’t have it.

When I told a friend that our government is WRONG to read our emails, she surprised me by asking, “Why does it matter if you're not doing anything wrong?”

It matters because WRONG is in the eye of the beholder. We all have plenty of experience with being thought wrong when we were perfectly innocent.

I’ll share some examples from my own life.

My boss at the sewage lab didn’t like it when I developed a faster and more accurate method to measure the pH of incoming sewage.  “Your new method will let you finish your tests 15 minutes early. I can’t allow that!” Any argument on my part about the value of increased accuracy only made my boss angrier.  To my boss, I was WRONG. 

When I was thirteen, my mother found me trying on lipstick in the bathroom and screamed, “You’re not going out of this house looking like that!”  I never intended to go out of the house looking like that. I never got a chance to explain. To my mother, I was WRONG.

When I was nine, I disagreed with something my father said at the dinner table. “Go to your room. This instant!”  My father frequently disagreed with dinner guests about a wide range of topics.  But I was a child and by his rules, any opinion I had that didn’t match his own was WRONG.

If our family and co-workers, who know us, can misinterpret our actions so easily, what can we expect from government agents who don’t know us at all, and who are hoping to find people they can suspect, in order to justify their jobs?

This is not the first time government agents have snooped on innocent citizens.
President John Adams snooped on Benjamin Franklin’s grandson’s letters and tried to shut down the press with which he criticized the Adams administration.

During the McCarthy era, innocent people were blacklisted, and unable to find work if they were suspected of Communist sympathies. Ethel Rosenberg was executed for no crime at all.

Nixon had his Enemies List.  Under the Bush administration, 20 American citizens, all Muslims, were jailed without charges and without access to lawyers on suspicion of being enemy combatants. 

The United States Government has a history of abusing citizens via its snooping power.  A history in total opposition to the Founding Fathers intent to secure to all citizens the rights to LIFE, LIBERTY and PURSUIT of HAPPINESS.

But you may ask – what if I’m a traitor? Doesn’t the government have the right to find out? 

If I’m a traitor, surely I have to do something other than write emails in order to accomplish my goals.  The founding fathers were all traitors to England. They published books for public sale. They bought weapons, created an army, and refused to pay taxes.  Our government has plenty of access to monitoring that kind of activity without reading our email.

In 1993, our government was able to find the people who tried to bomb the world trade center without resorting to unconstitutional snooping.

Why does it matter if the government reads my email if I have done nothing wrong? It matters because we have the right to LIFE, LIBERTY and the PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS! Only so long as we defend it!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Getting the Bum's Rush

I am now officially out of P.T. My physical therapist noticed that my rehab doc had neglected to send him a copy of my prescription. I don't need him to tell me to exercise. I just needed his guidance as to which exercises would help me. Going to P.T. was getting to be a drag anyway, so I'm glad to be out of there.
My acupuncture guy has also decided I've gotten as much as his therapy can give me. He also gave me exercises. And I think I can duplicate most of the effects of acupuncture by lying on a soft baseball over the correct spots. Yay! One more office visit I can do without. And expenses I can also do without.

Major victory of the day -- I took my flippers to the pool again today. My legs seem to have figured out what to do with them. I swam 1/2 a mile in the time it usually takes me to swim 1/3 of a mile, and I wasn't tired afterwards.

In the changing room I tested my ability to climb two-steps-at-a-time by stepping up onto the bench. I did it, so I saved face in front of the other clothes-changing-women, but it was more difficult than I'd thought it would be. The woman at the nearest locker giggled with me about our efforts to stand on one foot with our eyes closed. She has a competition going with her husband. So far, he's winning.

And my victory of the week. I went to a yoga class where everybody was standing on their heads. I have a head-stand gadget that I've used for the past 15 years. But I didn't have a moment's hesitation -- of course I could still stand on my head without the aid of my gadget. And I could. This is totally unlike everything else I've thought I could do in yoga class and discovered that my legs aren't as strong as they used to be, or as balanced as they used to be, and my back isn't as flexible as it used to be. But yoga isn't what it used to be either. They have props, and the teachers know how to modify the poses so everybody can get the stretching and strengthening even if they can't do the official pose. I'm so glad the world of exercise has figured out how to work with what we have instead of insisting that we look like the folks who get their pictures in magazines.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Pre-Emptive Bandages

I must be wearing a sign that says "Give this woman more exercise!"
I bragged to my chiropractor about all the exercise I'm doing, imagining an enthusiasatic response. My chiropractor runs marathons-- he's another exercise junkie. But NO! Not a word about what a great program I'm doing. Instead, he gave me a new hip stretch to do (in which I lie on my back, bend one knee over and twist to the side, opening up the hip) , and ordered me to wear flippers when I swim so my legs get more of a workout. I have a pair of flippers (Zoomers) that I take to the beach when I snorkel. The catch with them is that they fit tightly across the arch of my foot and I need bandages when I'm done. So, I got the great idea -- put the bandages on first! I can happily report that my feet are undamaged after my first experiment with prebandaged feet. I took the flippers off after 1/4 of a mile because my legs were getting tired. I did the rest of my laps in bare feet. Yikes! Is there no end to muscles that can be made to work harder? At yesterday's yoga class I discovered muscles in my shoulders that I need to stretch more. I used to wonder how athletes and body buffs spent all day in the gym. I could do that, but the reason I'm doing all this is so I can have the rest of my life -- okay -- that and the fact that my body is my favorite plaything.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Not Getting Anything More Done

Yesterday I decided to take it easy. Aside from my early morning bike ride to mail a DVD to a friend in time for her grand daughter's birthday party, I limited my exercise to the 80 minute routine from my PT.  No trips to the gym. No yoga class. No weight lifting beyond what's in that 80 minute routine.  And guess what? I didn't get anything extra done with those 3 hours of free time. I got into a strange email discussion of  which appliances use electricity when they are off.  
If you care, the best answer I found is here:
But it's not going to change my life. I already have my TV, VCR and DVD player on a power strip that I turn off when they are not in use. Same for my computer, monitor, scanner and printer. The debate controversy was my blender.  And, tada -- I found two websites that both unequivocally state that blenders that don't have "instant on" and LCD features do not draw power when they are off. OFF is OFF. Here's a good website that debunks popular energy myths:
I think my time might have been better spent at a yoga class.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

How is a Doctor's Office Different from a Torture Chamber?

This is a legitimate question: How is a doctor's office different from a torture chamber?
The last time I went to my rehab doc's office, he told me to get on his examining table and proceeded to pound on my shins with a mallet. He did not explain what he was going to do, or why. He did not ask my permission. He did not state at any time how this would benefit me. When I told him it hurt, he just said, "I'm examining you." I may be mistaken, but I think my rehab doc has the strength not just to hurt me by pounding on my shins with a mallet. I think he's strong enough to break my bones. So I didn't want to get him upset while he was doing his pounding. That kind of fear is at the core of torture.
Afterwards he said he was testing my reflexes. I never complained about my reflexes. He never said why he wanted to test them. He never told me what he learned by pounding on me. This is common doctor behavior. Get on the table, get hurt, no explanations. We do it because we want something -- in my case physical therapy, or in earlier years birth control. It seems to be an unspoken bargain -- they get to torture you and then maybe they'll do what you want. I guess that's the difference -- in a true torture chamber, the torturer will never do what you want.
If we are to become full partners in our own health care, we deserve more information and more choices in how we are treated in a doctor's office. In future, I'm not getting on that table without a full explanation of what will happen and why. And I'm going to veto anything I don't want.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Yay! I've been corresponding with both my rehab doc and the woman who trains PTs to use microcurrent nationwide.  Both have agreed to teach my two precautions: 1) when you reach your goal, STOP and 1) If there is any decrease in strength, STOP.
As I explained to them, there is no cost to them in teaching these precautions. They should apply to any treatment -- not just microcurrent. All drugs have side effects. All foods have people who are allergic to them. And microcurrent is not problem free.
After the usual spate of hems and haws, and "there must be something wrong with you's," they agreed.

Next stop, Dell.  I just finished a 5-hour fight with Dell on the phone to get them to take back a computer that arrived with some serious problems.  Now, I want Dell to pay me for my time on the phone with them, doing their tests. Why should I do this free?  Why should my client pay me for what was Dell's problem.  They shipped the defective computer. They insisted on doing 5 hours of tests and reinstalling the operating system. They should have agreed to take the computer back immediately. I'm not on Dell's payroll, but I should be, since I just did their work. It would have been cheaper for them to send out a new one in the first place. They are the ones who refused to do that. 

Warning -- if you get a defective computer -- demand to talk to as many supervisors as it takes -- do not waste your time trying to fix it. Demand a replacement -- not a visit by a technician with a new mother board. And insist that they replace the computer without wasting your time. You do not work for the computer manufacturer. The Dell advertising implies you can send back the computer for any reason at all.  I'd say not working properly is a good reason, and Dell should not argue, let alone waste customer and tech-people time.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Herbal Alternatives to Viagra, Cialis, and Other ED drugs

Here I am doing all these exercises and going to physical therapy so I can get my legs apart, and my husband goes to the doc to get a prescription for Cialis. Yuck! The thing that drug creates is not what I expect from my husband.  No curve. No heat. No ridge.
I'm one of the lucky ones who married the first guy she ever fell in love with. There is only one penis I call home. And what my husband got with Cialis is not what I'm used to. He smelled the same. He kissed the same. But sex was NOT the same. Having a different penis is just too disconcerting to be enjoyable.
Fortunately, Mrs. Grieve's Herbal is on line

ED is not a new problem. And as with most health issues, Mrs. Grieve has herbs to suggest: Damiana and Ginseng.  I also found other websites recommending Maca.  All three herbs are readily available. They're not even expensive. A bottle of ginseng cost me about $7. Damiana and Maca were about $4 each at the web herbal pharmacy I shop at.

I'm here to tell you they work!  My husband took the bottle of Cialis back to his doctor to give out to other clients who want to try it without buying.  The doc said nothing.

Then I saw an article in the paper stating that half of all men who try Cialis and Viagra never refill the prescriptions.  Doctors pontificated that perhaps the problem wasn't biological after all, but was really trouble in the marriage.  It never occurred to them that maybe there's a problem with the drugs not creating what women want.  

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My New Logo

My new Geezer-Chick logo is by Ty Meier of
It's available on t-shirts at

Last Visit with the PT

I had four more physical therapy appointments scheduled.  When I went in for my appointment on Tuesday, my PT surprised me by telling me that my prescription for appointments had expired and he needed to do an evaluation. During the evaluation, he asked when I was going to see the rehab doc again. I asked why I'd want to see him. I was going to him to get the prescriptions for physical therapy, which I needed because the microcurrent he prescribed weakened my legs. My PT said the doc would want to do an evaluation.  I figure the doc can look at the eval the PT did. The PT spent far more time doing the eval than any appointment ever lasts with the rehab doc. And besides -- the rehab doc's idea of an examination is my idea of a torture chamber. I only put up with it because I wanted to get the strength in my legs back.  That rehab doc poked pins in my bare feet to see if it hurt. Duh! I never complained about my feet. It was all his idea. On another visit he pounded my shins with a mallet. I told him it hurt and he kept on pounding. He claimed he was testing my reflexes.  I never complained about my reflexes. He never told me what he found out from these so-called examinations.  My PT tried to make excuses for him, but even he concluded, "I can't ask you to go to a torture chamber."

Yay! I'm done. And this morning, for the first time since before I had microcurrent, I was able to climb my stairs two-at-a-time.  This is not a frivolous activity. I like to climb monuments and they are built with double-height stairs.  It bothered me that I, who have exercised daily for 60 years, was the only one who couldn't climb monuments on my last trip. Desk-jockies who bragged that they hadn't exercised in months if not years were able to climb them. But I had had microcurrent for my arthritis and I had to hoist myself up using a cane and upper body strength. It has taken almost 3 months of hard work to get my leg strength back. And keeping it is going to be more work.  The only good thing I can say about having to use upper body strength to climb -- I did strengthen my arms.  Okay two good things. I fell asleep without supper every night of  my two-week trip, and I lost 5 lbs.  Since I gained 15 during the year I hit menopause, I'm glad to have lost 5.     

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Our Mooching Neighbors

In my inner city neighborhood, people grow up and marry and buy a home on the same block they were born in. Their children do the same. Sometimes the children never move out.  When I moved here, one home, two doors down from me housed three generations of adult family members. For simplicity, I'll call the one closest to my age Mom, her mother, Grandma, and her children, the son and daughter. Mom was the first to come calling.  Would I drive her to the welfare office? At that point we still had a car, so I did. Next thing I knew, she was over here, asking me to look up funeral notices on my computer. File her tax stimulous forms on my computer. She never offered to pay for any of this, even though she knows this is what I do for income.  Then she started borrowing money.  $20. The first time she paid it back. The next time she wanted $80. I don't keep that kind of money in the house. I loaned her another $20. She never paid it back. Now she barely talks to me. Hurray!
Next, her son came by to borrow from my husband. He borrowed $30.  I told my husband about his Mom.  My husband is even more trusting than I am.  The son paid my husband back. But a month later -- there he was again. He wanted $30 again.  I told him, "this family is not a bank." But my husband loaned him the $30 again.  I don't expect to see it returned.
I will say that I see far less of mooching mom since she stole the $20.  And I learned by talking to other neighbors that she's done the same with all of them, some for much larger sums. I suppose we'll soon see much less of her son. This is truly an odd way to get rid of moochers. Loan them money that they won't pay back and then they leave us alone while they are off to bother others. 
The really odd thing is that they never give a reason why they want these sums of money.  My best guess is that they need it to pay the pizza delivery service that I often see at their door. And since  our inner city row houses are only 16 feet wide, I overhear their conversations. They refer to my husband and me as "worthless yuppies" (didn't that used to stand for YOUNG upwardly mobile professionals?) And they blame our flower boxes for summer mosquitos. It's really too bad that our mooching neighbors don't share my sense of humor. This is the stuff of comic soap operas.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Seedlings are up. Gravity is Down.

My niece came for a visit the weekend I started seeds in the basement. She's my brother's daughter. My brother had the misfortune to be born the year our family moved away from Iowa. He grew up without the backyard garden where raspberries and rhubarb came up every year but peas had to be planted in the ground and tomatoes had to be started indoors when snow still covered the ground. "Snow is fertilizer." At least that's what our teacher told us.

But back to planting seeds.  My niece had never planted seeds. She didn't know important things like one radish seed grows one radish, but one tomato seed grows dozens and dozens of tomatoes. I hereby state my public endorsement of seedling trays that have a reservoir of water underneath so you can go a week or more without watering. My niece takes trips and wanted to be sure her plants wouldn't die in her absence.  My niece actually read the instructions on the seed packets and planted the seeds at the recommended depths.  I meanhile, pressed the bigger seeds under the dirt and the tiny ones, like strawberries, just sprinkled on top.

Then it happened. Lateral gravity struck.  We have lateral gravity in our house. Every now and then things leap off of tables or shelves and tumble or spill onto the floor below. My niece's seedling tray fell victim to a surge of lateral gravity.  My brother is an engineer and he doesn't believe in such things as lateral gravity.  Instead he believes in getting upset when things fall unexpectedly.  My niece was upset to see her dirt and seedling tray on the floor of our dining room.  I had to reasure her that GRAVITY is the most common swear word in our house. And we know what to do about it.  We pick up what fell. I got the dirt back into the tray. She planted more seeds  and we held everything together with rubberbands.  That's one way to fool the gravitons.

It's now a month later and we have seedlings.  At this stage tomatoes and peppers look alike.  Only later will the tomato leaves become furry. My brother may have missed out on the richness of  Iowa soil and the joy of harvesting fresh veggies.  But his daughter, who lives in a big city  apartment has seedlings on her windowsill.  The heritage of an Iowa farm girl continues.

Monday, March 2, 2009

And the Acupuncturist, too.

I must look like an exercise junky. The acupuncturist who is treating me for bursitis has had me using the inner and outer thigh machine at my gym 3 times a week.  He started me at 30 lbs and told me to work up to 80 lbs.  I'm at 55 lbs now after 2 weeks.   Today, he also wants me to use a machine where I'm supposed to lie on my belly and push weights up with my feet.  I expect when I describe this to the person at the desk in front of the machines s/he will know what to look for.  And, I'm supposed to do lunges on both legs while holding 10 lb weights in each hand.  

My life is getting to be exercise overload.  Bike around town. Swim. Do a 15- 20 minute exercise video in the morning (things I do voluntarily). Add one hour of physical therapy exercises. Add yoga classes and Pilates classes 4 times a week (plus the extra bike ride to get to the gym and back). And now as long as I'm at the gym, do the exercises from the acupunturist.  

When am I supposed to have the life I'm doing all these exercises for?

I'm giving this one more month, and whether or not I've got the strength back in my legs, I'm cutting back on this.  Exercise is eating into my writing time.