Why don’t we all have this?

This is an update on mom, but it’s also about health care, a subject that makes people lose their minds these days (mine included).

Mom fell Sunday night and tore up her elbow which led to a trip to the ER. They ran tests and found that her potassium was high. The words ‘kidney failure’ were bandied about and she was admitted. It was a long night. No word yet on how her kidneys are or why this happened, but she’s better now. My mom is tough and heals fast so I won’t be a bit surprised if she’s not back at her assisted living center playing cards in a few days.

At no point during any of this did we have to worry about how to pay for it. Mom has Medicare and supplemental insurance. As I looked around the packed ER, I knew that a lot of those folks were having a much more stressful experience because they had to worry about how to pay for their medical care.

I know good people who cannot afford insurance. They work hard, they live good lives, but food and housing consume their budgets. The stress of knowing that they can’t afford to go to the doctor is awful and leads to more health problems.

Even though we as a nation are split over how best to fix the system, we ought to be able to agree that everyone deserves access to decent health care. If I could wave a magic wand, we’d all have the same medical care that my mom has just because she is over 65. I guess that means that I’m for a single payer system where we all pay in and cover each other.

Before your head explodes and you start writing about why I’m wrong, take a deep breath. I don’t have a wand, I have an opinion, as do you. Our politicians, who have the power to actually do something, also have opinions, but they can’t seem to reach a consensus. Maybe they need to learn how to listen to each other and have a real conversation so that they can reach a compromise.

Feel free to comment with a different view, but let’s keep it constructive. Let’s listen to each other with open minds —maybe we could start a trend :-)!

Hiking Wheeler Peak…

Note: You may have read this post way too early. WordPress hiccuped and I couldn’t fix it. But here it is, in the intended order of posting.

We talked to a local who said that if we started our hike early, we ought to miss the storm that was forecast at Wheeler Peak so Chris, Steve, and I were out the door by 5:00 AM on our last vacation day. Lorna opted to stay back with the kids on their last day in Red River. She and her mom took them on a 4-wheel excursion up the mountain.

We parked the car at Taos Ski Valley (altitude 9439′) and started up the Bull of the Woods trail. This is longer, slightly easier, scenic route to the top, but it’s uphill all the way. It is 2.1 miles to this meadow.

We still have 5 1/2 miles to go to reach the peak. Oh my. This sign got my attention. If you ski, you know that a black diamond means ‘expert’. It may not mean that for this hike, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all.

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Some parts were only a little uphill, more were really uphill, and there were a few disheartening spots where we went downhill and then had to climb back up. Deep sighs all round.

We walked across snow a few times…

Honestly, our lungs were killing us. As we got higher, we stopped to breathe every 100 steps.

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You reach the 2nd highest point before the you get to the actual peak. And then you hike down a while before turning back up. It was harder than it looked like it would be but we did it. Wheeler Peak, altitude 13, 159′

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The views were amazing!

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This is Chris standing way closer to the edge than Lorna would have been able to tolerate…

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We took the short, steep way down. The first part were switchbacks over a huge granite talus field. I was happy to have on knee braces and to have a real trekking pole because this was the scariest part of the whole hike. No photos, I was focused on not falling.

The last part of this trail intersects with the downhill part of the Williams Lake trail that we had hiked earlier in the week. We went back to the Bavarian Restaurant to celebrate reaching the peak and hiking 11 1/2 miles with more Andechs beer. As we sat there, the rain finally came. Life is good :-).

 

 

More Mountain Hiking!

Steve, Chris, Lorna, and I had planned to hike up Wheeler Peak (the highest spot in New Mexico) 2 days before the end of our trip. Unfortunately, the weather changed and thunderstorms were in the forecast. We could have maybe stood being wet, but not being fried by lightening. Instead, Steve and I hiked the Pioneer trail in Red River.

Pioneer Trail – Easy – 3 miles one way: Next to the Ski Area, this trail built by miners in the gold rush days, begins where Pioneer Road ends. You just might find an old claim as you explore this one.

OK. This is another one of those trails that is all uphill until you’ve had enough and turn around. Who decides what an easy trail is in New Mexico? But it was pretty, and it didn’t rain.

But it had rained the night before. The farther we went, the more water we found. There were 4 places where we either had to wade across or find another route.

In all cases, we opted to go around. Others had gone before us so it was easy to find a way across the streams and get back to the path.

People in 4-wheelers passed us going and coming.

The farther we went, the wetter the path got until it was more stream than path.

We gave up 3 1/2 miles in. Downhill was going to be hard without poles so Steve pulled out his trusty Swiss Army knife and cut us each one. I was both impressed and thankful.

It was a very nice hike and we were happy to have done it, but sorry to not have hiked Wheeler Peak. More on that next post.

 

Mountain hiking…

Our home in Sherman, TX, is 735′ feet above sea level. Red River is at 8671′. We were nearly 8000′ feet higher than normal and my lungs knew it. After taking 2 days to acclimate, we went on our first hike to Williams Lake. The trail begins at the Taos Ski Valley and is nearly 4 miles round trip. You start at 10,191′ and climb about 1000′ to the lake.

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This is supposed to be an easy hike and, in comparison to the next 2, it was. But walking uphill at that altitude is hard work! The kids were not mentally prepared and there was (gasp) a fair bit of whining.

Lorna took the Tula (a kid carrier) and she (mostly) and Chris (some) carried Bear most of the way.

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Bear is tall and weighs 40 lbs. I’m not sure how they did it.

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Jack embraced the challenge about a mile in.

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I always wonder, when I’m hiking, why I am doing it. My lungs were not happy when going uphill and my knees are not happy when I’m going downhill. What is the point? Well, one reason I hike is for the scenery:

The other reason I go on strenuous hikes is to prove that I can still do it!

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There is a Bavarian Restaurant at the end of this hike that serves traditional German food and Andechs beer on tap. Beer was the adult reward, the kids had sausage and lemonade :-).

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Listen to your bits…

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I have spent 24 years drawing with my mouse on the computer. For the last several years, I used Apple’s magic mouse which is touch-sensitive and allows you to swipe across it to move the cursor and it has been wonderful — until a few weeks ago when I was doing a whole lot of drawing in Illustrator.

My right index finger (the mouse-finger) started to hurt, a lot. And it got swollen. And then it hurt worse. It is at this point that many people go into denial. I do not.

I treat my body like a used car. If warning lights start flashing on your car, you take it to a mechanic, right? We should all head to the doctor when our bodies send us similar warnings.

It may not be this way in your town, but here plastic surgeons are the hand guys. I visited Dr. Swamy who has been in practice here a long time and is much beloved. I took my mouse and asked if that was the problem. Yes, it was. I asked if rest would make it better enough to be able to use the mouse again. No, it would not. We agreed that I had to find a new way to draw in the computer and I had to also find a more ergonomic mouse.

 

 

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The mouse was easy. I got a Logitech M570. I’ll have to be careful not to overuse any of my fingers but I can do that.

I won’t be using the mouse to draw. I am, instead, viewing this as an opportunity to buy a tool that I have lusted after — a Wacom Cintiq tablet! (Imagine a quilt-y picture instead of a lizard.)

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The Cintiq tablet is actually a very fancy computer monitor that is touch-sensitive and that you can draw on. It’s similar to the iPad Pro, but you hook to to your computer and the Cintiq mirrors whatever is on screen. I’ll be able draw in Illustrator with a special pen. I’ll be able to use the pen in Photoshop as well, and I’m sure there’s more. I suspect that I’ll be able to move the mouse on the screen with my finger, much like you can on your smartphone.

On the advice of a friend (thank you, Amanda) I got the biggest Cintiq. I have gotten used to using a very big monitor and there isn’t any going back from there. Thankfully, this is piece of business equipment that I should have gotten a long time ago. I think it might actually make me more productive while also helping me to preserve my right hand – my sewing hand!

The bigger issue, and the point of this post, is that you need to pay attention to your body! Don’t ignore warnings, take care of your bits early rather than after damage has been done. Because I said so :-).

 

Paper towels, please…

I just read an interesting article about these super-blowy warm air Dyson Hand Dryers. Contrary to what you may think, they are not less germ-y.

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Many people (not you and me, of course) do not wash their hands well enough before using the air blower. According to the article:

…(the dryers) launch far more viruses into the air, which linger for longer periods of time and reach much farther distances, researchers recently reported in the Journal of Applied Microbiology. This is particularly concerning because viruses, unlike many infectious bacteria, can easily maintain their infectiousness in the air and on surfaces, and just a few viral particles can spark an infection.

Paper towels are, according to the research, much safer. And with that thought in mind I’ll re-post this TED Talk by Joe Smith on how to dry your hands with one paper towel. It works!

 

When all you need is a phone…

My mom and telephones have not gotten along well for the last several years. The more advanced the phone is, the less she likes it.

When mom moved a few weeks ago to assisted living I asked about phone service. Someone told me that the service in the apartments didn’t work so I got mom a non-contract flip phone from AT&T. Seriously… what was I thinking!!!! After 4 weeks mom told me that she’d rather not have a phone than use the little flip phone.

I asked the folks at Preston Place again about telephone access and was told to call Verizon to activate the phone service in her apartment. OK, I could do that. But when I called Verizon they said ‘no, they don’t do that anymore but Frontier might’. I was about to come unglued (this had been a frustrating day) and the nice man on the phone kept saying, ‘ but wait… we have this cellular thing.’ It only took him a few tries but he finally got me to listen to what he was saying and it’s pretty cool.

Verizon has a small shiny black box with an antenna that plugs into an electrical outlet. It’s called Wireless Home Phone. You can plug a landline phone into the back of it. In fact, you can plug in 2 phones!

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This is the Wireless Home Phone unit.

They are having a promotion so the initial $40 fee was waived. I signed a 2 year contract locking in the price at $20 a month for unlimited calling (+fees and taxes). That’s cheaper than the flip-phone contract was going to be.

Mom’s fancier Panasonic cordless phones worked but she didn’t love those phones. They have too many bells and whistles and have been hard for her to use. Mom asked if I could just get her a telephone—and she asked in such a way that I knew I might as well find what she wanted, now, not later. So I Googled retro phones and found all sorts of choices.

Mom is now the proud owner of a beige princess phone. It isn’t smart. It’s just a phone and so far she is very happy. UPDATE: I need to get a better/more expensive princess phone. This one is a little twitchy but her cordless landline phone works very well. She doesn’t like it as much, but she can use it.

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It’s loud enough for her to hear, the buttons are big and lit. It’s not as heavy as the original princess phones, but it feels sturdy.

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I wish I had known about this years ago. Mom had phone service from Cableone and I know it was more expensive than this service is. And I wish I had thought to get her a retro phone a long time ago too.

I’m sharing this because I know some of you may know people who are having similar phone problems. I hope this helps!