Did I mention that Ted was proud of the fact that he had not been to see a doctor for 20 years? No check-ups, no emergencies, no walk-in clinics because he was an incredibly well person – other than acid reflux.

Because he didn’t have a doctor, my doctor agreed to see him and I went with him for the appointment. It was Friday and the office was packed with the usual cross-section of sickies, general check-ups, and crying babies and I, as an experienced visitor to the office, had brought my own book, a Sudoku puzzle book, and a bottle of water. Ted spent the time observing the other office visitors.

Eventually Ted’s name was called and we picked our way through the waiting room to the inner sanctum of the office. This was a ‘Twenty Questions’ visit rather than an exam visit so no clothes had to be removed and I went with him to the inner office.

As a nervous ‘sickie’ he felt he should take the upper hand from the start, and immediately told the doctor that he was pretty sure it was an ulcer. Thus started the ‘Twenty Questions’: What are the symptoms? Why do you think it’s an ulcer? How long? What do you eat? How often? How much? When does it happen? How often? With different foods?…..

After 15 minutes she informed him that she was pretty sure he didn’t have an ulcer, but she felt he should have some tests done to check it out. I had a creepy feeling, especially when she mentioned she would schedule the testing for early the following week.

Monday morning the office called with an appointment for the test on  Thursday. Since Thursdays were my ‘Farm Days’ and were his ‘work days’, he decided to go to the 10:00 am appointment alone.

You know you’re in trouble when the doctor’s office calls less than 30 minutes after your test and the conversation goes like this:

Receptionist: Is Ted home?
Me: No, He’s supposed to be having a test. Did he miss the appointment?
Receptionist: Oh, no. The doctor would like to see him tomorrow at 4:30.
Me: Why?
Receptionist: The doctor would like to go over the test results. (Her voice sounded funny)
Me: Should I come with him? (Testing the raging female intuition that’s got me sitting down and having trouble catching my breath.)
Receptionist: Um…..Yes, I think that would be a good idea. (My heart started slamming my chest like it was fighting to get out.)

I waited until my heart stopped pounding so hard I couldn’t hear, then I called Ted.

When he got home that night we cuddled and talked. All the while I had a rock in my stomach and my heart was fluttering. I asked what the test was and he explained that they gave him some stuff to drink in a cup with a straw, then tilted him back on the machine to watch as it went down his throat. He said the technician came in twice to make sure he was actually drinking the stuff, and finally stood there watching him drink as the test was done.

Next week we find out the verdict. Tune in.

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Monster Kitty Whines

March 10, 2011

Monster Kitty brings out the mother in me.

Why is it that the squeaky little voice of Monster Kitty tugs so hard at my heartstrings? Does sleep deprivation make it easier for him to wrap me around his little paw?

What possessed me to give up my rest time, my writing time, my lunch and dinner time, and 95% of my sleep time to make sure he’s safe and warm and fed?

Why does his pointy little face, that resembles nothing so much as a rat, bring a smile to my face and give me a warm feeling? What is it about the small defenceless creatures of the world that bring out our protective instincts?

All of a sudden, out of the blue, with no lead-up, Monster Kitty stopped eating. He got a soft look on his face, curled into a little ball, started purring really loud, and refused to eat.

At first I thought I might be pushing the bottle at him too often, after all, what do I know about raising kittens?

But as time passed and he didn’t want anything to eat I started to feel tendrils of mild panic that, like refrigerator mold, grew behind the scenes until without warning I got up through the night to feed him and I woke to the fact that I was in full panic mode.

I had no vet in Florida so I typed ‘veterinarian’ into my iPhone and the little pins dropped all around my location. It was 6 in the morning and I was pretty sure no vet was open at that time, but I didn’t know how long it would take to drive to one so I loaded the truck with Monster Kitty and his paraphernalia and headed for the nearest clinic.

Fifteen minutes later I was parked outside the door waiting for the first employee to arrive in about two hours. Monster Kitty was so incredibly small. How had he survived the night without food? I was still panicking, but felt somewhat secure sitting in the vet’s parking lot.

Eventually (about a week or 10 days later it seemed) the vet arrived, the office opened, and I raced in with Monster Kitty cuddled against my chest and tears in my eyes.

To be honest, as you can see from the video, he was probably about the ugliest kitten anyone had ever seen. He looked more like a cross between a bat and a wire-haired rat than a kitten. Didn’t matter, he was my child and I was there to protect, defend, and provide for him.

The vet took one look at my face, took Monster Kitty in her hands, and began to examine him without a single wince at his extreme appearance. Finally she looked at me and made the pronouncement that, ‘There is nothing at all wrong with this kitten that I can see.’ She spoke briefly with her assistant who left the office and returned with a jar of white corn syrup. The vet then took the tiniest syringe I had ever seen – no needle – and filled the tiny syringe with some of the syrup. She stuck the syringe into Monster Kitty’s mouth and squeezed out a few drops.

The transformation was unbelievable and almost instantaneous. In less time than it has taken me to write this Monster Kitty went from ‘waiting for death’ to attack kitty and was climbing all over everything. It took two hands to hold onto him and I had trouble paying because he was running up and down the counter trying to take the pen from me.

As much as I liked his friendliness, I was more than happy to have my voracious little Monster Kitty back.

Tune in next week for ‘Monster Kitty Learns to Play’.

Missouri Horse Promise

March 9, 2011

Why horses are an important part of my life is a mystery to me.

When I was in the third grade my grand parents moved to Missouri. That summer we went to visit them and my dad got a job as an electrician in the small town of Imminence.

Eminence, Missouri

Eminence, Missouri

Naturally, when the proposed move was put to me, I didn’t want to go. All my friends were in Florida, why would I want to move to Missouri? Well, my parents were no dummies, so the first thing they told me was that my grand parents lived on a farm and I could have a horse when we got there. All of a sudden Missouri seemed like a wonderful place to live!

For the first several months of our time in Missouri we lived with Granny and Papa on their farm. It was a spectacular place for kids from the flat lands of Florida. The land was rolling foothills that seemed like mountains to us, there was a barn with a hay loft, a chicken pen filled with chickens and turkeys of all sizes and colors, a pig pen in the woods that seemed always to have baby piglets running around it, and…..HORSES!

Paperface was a white-faced plow horse that was also trained to ride. She was slow-moving and gentle with a broad back. In the middle of the summer I got caught standing up on her back as I pretended to be a circus ballerina. I was threatened with never being allowed to ride again if ever caught standing on a horse’s back again.

Dan was a pony that was meaner than a snake, could puff himself up to twice his normal size when presented with a saddle and girth, and tried to bite or kick anyone that even looked like they might want to get on him.

Sonny was Papa’s old quarterhorse. I think he was older than all of us put together, and might have even been older than Papa. His feet hurt from navicular disease so Papa had him ‘nerved’, which means the nerves in his feet were deadened. Since he couldn’t feel his feet he sometimes stumbled in the rough terrain so we didn’t ride him much.

Goldie was a Palomino mare. She was the most gorgeous horse I had ever seen, and she was about to be a mommy when we first saw her. She had a bad habit of biting and I was usually bruised somewhere on my chest or shoulders from her teeth pinching me.

Missouri was a strange place to me – like being on another planet. It seemed everyone had a horse of their own but me, and all I did was live and dream ‘horse’.

Tune in next week for the story of Aunt Neville’s trail ride.

The life story of Ted and Vickie

Time moves slowly when you’re not having fun, but it does move.

Photo of Keystone Heights beach

Keystone Heights Beach

Fast forward to two years later. Macho Park Ranger Guy and I had been married for 6 years – 6 totally wasted years of my life. Since our move to Keystone Heights I had been working multiple jobs again. During the day I packaged hamburger in the meat department of the grocery store, at night I served drinks in the local bar.

Meantime, Macho Park Ranger Guy was a park ranger through the day and had bought a boat with a rotted transom in partnership with another park ranger. The two of them planned to repair this boat and use it to import and sell pot. I’m not sure where they were going to get the contacts or how they were going to evade the authorities.  He had built a greenhouse on the back of our trailer right in the park living compound and was growing pot there. Maybe he thought he could sell enough home grown pot to afford repairs on the boat? Not that it mattered, mostly they sat around drinking beer, smoking pot, and talking about how rich they were going to be when they sold the first big boat load of pot. Oh well, I never said he was bright, only that he was a park ranger.

For the first time in my married life, I believe it was November two years after the move to Keystone Heights so I had been married for six years, my parents came for a visit. Of course they saw the pot plants. Later Mom let me know that Dad had changed his mind. Rather than see me go to jail as an accomplice, he wanted me to move home.

FINALLY!! I had somewhere to go so in November I packed my stuff in the van, wrote a ‘Dear Macho Guy’ letter, and headed for ‘home’. At that time I was 5’2″ tall, weighted about 89 pounds, and for the next week my stomach hurt so bad I couldn’t stand up straight. I think it was the first time I had let myself relax in years and I was having muscle spasms.

After my stomach settled I got a job in a pharmacy as a cashier and worked through the Christmas season – a job that actually lasted until the first of January. An job where I didn’t come home smelling of blood or like an alcoholic. The first week of January my first and only nephew was born. Since he was delivered by cesarean section and his mother had complications, I moved in with my brother and took care of the baby until my sister-in-law came home from the hospital. My first child. I never realized there was so much to keeping a baby: sterilizing bottles and nipples, changing diapers, heating formula, changing diapers, giving baths, and did I mention… changing diapers. By the way, for some of you who are really out of touch with babies and think you want one…diapers REALLY STINK!

photo of Gold Head State Park

Beach at Gold Head State Park

I was only back at my parents house for a few days when Macho Man called and said he loved me. He promised the sun and the moon and that he would change, then said he wanted me back. Great timing. No Christmas presents required. I guess he forgot my birthday was the following week. Anyway, I thought, “Maybe he realizes what a prize I am, and has decided to be a man and change his ways.” So….OK, maybe I’m not the brightest light on the planet….I moved back in with him. In self defense, I was still naive enough to believe love can change people. Of course, they have to actually be in love for that to happen.

Within an hour I knew nothing had changed and it wasn’t going to work. What was my first clue? His statement, “By the way, I talked to the owners at the bar and told them you’d take your old job back.”

My response, “I don’t want to work there any more. I think I’m going to take some time off.”

Over the next few weeks he started following me around the house yelling at me for no reason. I would go to the bathroom and he would follow me in, beer in hand, to yell at me. Once he grabbed me and shook me so hard my head almost flew off.

I moved my things into the spare room, and that night he moved in with me. Imagine my surprise. In the middle of the night I moved back to the master bedroom.

At one point I was cooking. I had cut potatoes for french fries and had to leave the room for something. When I came back I sat on the sofa and he took a scoop of potatoes from the frying pan and slung them across the room, hitting me across the face with them. Fortunately it was a fair distance so the grease cooled enough before it hit me that I only had red marks and not blisters on my face.

The following and badgering got worse. He even did it to my dog until the dog finally bit him, then he took the dog out to the woods and shot it. I was living in a horror story.

Finally he pushed me too far, I grabbed something off the counter and hit him across the face with it. Busted his nose. Surprise! He stopped bothering me for a few days, and during that time……

Ted showed up again.

Tune in next week for the continuing saga of Ted and Vickie…

  Our journey of discovery through esophageal cancer and the medical system.

The first symptom we noticed was at our anniversary dinner when food got stuck in Ted’s throat. That was not actually the first symptom.

For years Ted had acid reflux. He complained that I cooked dinner too late and this caused his acid reflux. Yes, I did cook late, but when I cooked earlier he ate something later anyway. We would snack as we watched TV until late into the night. While snacking on popcorn, potato chips, another bowl of chili, or whatever else he found to munch, he drank gallons of coke. Rarely was his glass empty for more than five minutes. He called it our ‘decadent lifestyle’.

Because he often had acid reflux, there was a gigantic bottle of TUMS on his bedside table. There were several other bottles in the ensuite bath, and another bottle in the kitchen. As a precaution, there was even a bottle in the family room, within reach as we watched TV.

The first symptom – the one we never paid any attention to – was his sudden lack of acid reflux. In fact, he had not taken a TUMS in over a week before he even mentioned it to me. He was relieved because the pain had been getting so severe that he thought he might have an ulcer.

If you have persistent acid reflux, there is a good possibility that the constant burning is causing changes in the tissue of your esophagus. This can be checked by a doctor performing an endoscopy. If there are changes to the tissue your doctor will have a heads-up and can keep an eye on it.

Even if there are no changes, there are medications you can take that will help neutralize the acid. Eating habits and diet can be adjusted so that acid reflux is less likely to occur.

If you’ve had long-term acid reflux and it has suddenly – for no apparent reason – disappeared, I urge you to see your doctor immediately. You only get one esophagus, and esophageal cancer is aggressive.

Just because he makes me laugh…

OK, I’ve had Monster Kitty for about a week and I’m sleep deprived, short tempered and tired. I pack a travel bag filled with Monster Kitty paraphanalia and it goes everywhere with me. In it are such items as:

Monster Kitty photo

"Go Ahead, Make My Day!"

  • Bottle
  • Towel
  • Feeding towel
  • Kitten formula
  • Brush
  • Face cloth
  • Clean shirt
  • and last but certainly the reason for all this….Monster Kitty

Pistol Tote’n Cowgirl

March 2, 2011

  My history with horses…

Photo cowgirl on pony

Biggest smile this side of the moon!

My all time favorite photo of myself as a child is of me on a shaggy pinto pony. I’m wearing a red cowboy hat, a matching vest, a gun belt with a pair of cap pistols, and the biggest smile this side of the moon.

This simply marvelous event occurred because a traveling photographer was cruising down the street one hot, lazy summer day in my rural Florida neighborhood, saw all the kids playing in the yard, and knew there were bucks to be made. He stopped his pickup truck at the edge of our yard, unloaded the pony – complete with saddle and bridle – from the back, and asked who wanted their photo taken on the pony.

DUHH!! Every kid there would have traded a year’s allowance to have their picture taken on that pony! We all broke the sound barrier as we took off in separate directions for our respective parents.

When we returned the photographer pulled a hat, a vest, and pistols from the front of the truck. We stood there with mouths hanging open! Not only were we going to have our pictures taken on a PONY!! We were going to get to wear full cowboy outfits with fringe and everything!

The pony was a real sweetheart and had obviously been doing this for most of its life. His name was Shorty, and he was black and white with big eyes and a gentle disposition. He had a thick shaggy mane and was all dolled up in cowpony gear completel with a heart-shaped breastplate and naturally every parent wanted a photo of the littlest kids on it. Of course, I was one of the oldest and the biggest so I had to wait for what seemed hours for my turn.

Finally, after every other kid in the neighborhood had their turn, I was allowed to dress in the paraphernalia of a cowboy. When I was ready to get on the pony the photographer smiled, reached into the truck, and handed me a pair of leather chaps with fringes on them. I was absolutely ecstatic! I was no girl! I was SPECIAL. I was a COWGIRL.

I had never been on a pony before, but I watched Little Joe Cartwright and Matt Dillon mount all the time and I knew exactly how to do it. So when the photographer reached out to pick me up and put me on the pony I had a fit and told him in no uncertain terms, “I know how to get on!” Up I climbed, onto the pony.

When I poked my toe into the side of the pony and the stirrup surprised me by swinging forward as I mounted (that never happened to Little Joe or Matt), he helped by just putting his hand on my back to keep me from ending up flat on my back on the ground under the pony. My embarassment evaporated in my excitement at being on a real live pony!

He took five photos of me on the pony. Waving the gun around, hat forward, hat back, guns in holsters, and the last one with a gun in each hand.

After the photos were taken Mom made my whole summer when she paid him extra to lead the pony around with me on it. I was probably on the pony for all of ten minutes, but during that time I managed to convince him that I knew how to ride a horse from watching it on TV. He let me take the reins for the last circle and ‘steer’ the pony myself. I must have bored everyone to death bragging about that for at least a year.

About a week later the photographer returned with five proofs and I was allowed to choose the photo I liked best. I still have a copy of that photo.

What an awesome summer that was! It’s my first memory of actually sitting on a ‘horse’.

We Meet Again….

March 1, 2011

The story of Ted and Vickie

The second time Ted and I met came as a bit of a surprise to me. After all, I was married to a state park ranger and living in the Florida Keys. I had long ago lost count of the people we met who stayed in the park and promised we would see them again. Of them all, I don’t recall more than five that returned for a second stay in the years we were there.

The first visit by Ted and Sharon had been in the summer, and had lasted three months. That was two years ago. Since then my relationship with Macho Park Ranger Guy had deteriorated to living in the same residence. No real love lost between us. More like a co-tenancy of the residence. I was on birth control pills and really didn’t even want to be touched. He was on Macho pills and wanted his marital rights twice a night. It was a match made in hell. I took sleeping pills so at least he didn’t wake me up for his pleasure.

So, you can imagine my surprise when Macho Park Ranger Guy came home one day with Ted and Sharon in tow! They were on the verge of break-up and had decided to visit the Keys again to try and kick-start their relationship. Macho Park Ranger Guy and I were still living together, mostly because we had no place else to be and because he couldn’t afford to live by himself – even in the park compound. 

I was still working multiple jobs and needed some sleep, but since I had the evening off Ted and Sharon invited us out to dinner in Marathon. I don’t off the top of my head remember the restaurant, but it was on the bay side and at the time was a landmark for boats in the area. It was painted green and stood out from all the other lighter colored buildings, making it easy to spot from the water. I do remember it was one of the best restaurants in the area.

Midway through the meal I felt another leg rub mine, looked up and caught Ted looking at me. His face was deliberately expressionless.  I was intrigued. Why was he doing that? I felt and looked like something a train had run over me. Was he making a pass at me? Was he teasing me? Was it an accident? I moved my leg away and a little later felt his leg against mine again. OK…maybe it was a pass. Maybe he was near-sighted. I know I was nearsighted, but even so I could see that he had put on some weight and gained some…. presence. He was definitely more attractive than he had been the last time I saw him.

I excused myself to the ladies room and after I returned he ignored me and didn’t touch me again. I don’t remember much of the rest of the conversation at the table or on the way home. My brain was beating me up: ‘Why did you have to choose that moment to go to the ladies room?’ ‘What do you think that was all about?’ ‘Does Sharon know?’ ‘Was she touching Macho Park Ranger at the same time?’ ‘Was this some kind of weird sex invitation?’ ‘Should I just pretend it didn’t happen?’

In the end, I did nothing. The evening progressed as if it never happened. They were staying in a hotel in Marathon and the next day they left for Miami, and from there took a flight back to Canada. I knew I would never see them again, so what did it matter anyway.

A year later, still with no way out, I left for North Florida with Macho Park Ranger Man when he was transferred to Goldhead State Park just north of Keystone Heights.

Tune in next Tuesday for the continuing saga of Ted and Vickie – 35 years of Life, The Universe, and Everything.

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