Archive for May, 2016

Would you like a discount card?

We all know about those discount cards that many stores have nowadays. You use your card when you make a purchase, and you get some (usually miniscule) amount off. There are cards for shoe stores and grocery stores and restaurants and clothing stores and gas stations. I generally politely decline those discount card offers.

I take five prescriptions on a daily basis. I have been taking three of them long-term, and it’s possible that I will continue to take some subset of the five for the foreseeable future. Therefore, I have asked my doc to write them for 90 days, and since he’s so accommodating, he does. With refills. This means fewer emails to the doctor’s office and fewer trips to the pharmacy, both of which make my life easier.

It was time for refills. I will not mention that I have been trying for ages to get ALL my prescriptions to refill at the same time. This, of course, is impossible, which means I end up making more trips to the pharmacy, and that doesn’t make my life significantly easier. But now that we have no prescription coverage with our medical sharing plan, we pay cash for all scripts, so I don’t have to deal with insurance, and I can refill them whenever I jolly well please! So last week, I began to do just that, but then paused. It occurred to me that it might be smart to compare prices on all five meds at the two pharmacies I frequent.

I will not bore you with the details of the number calls made, messages left, or times spent on hold, but I will say that on some of the meds CVS was lower and on some Family Pharmacy was lower, so I ended up asking each pharmacy to transfer from the other the ones for which it charged the better price, and they were each happy to do that. Nice folks, those pharmacy techs.

But get this. The cash price on my 360 bumetanide tablets (a diuretic we refer to as “bum” and of which I take four per day) at Family Pharmacy was . . . are you sitting down? . . . I guess you are because you’re reading this on a screen of some kind. . . a whopping $538.87!!! That’s a house payment!!! I gasped and stammered out a thank you to the lady for that information. Then I called CVS and was relieved to learn that their price was somewhat better. I told the technician I wanted the cash price on 2 mg bumetanide tablets, quantity 360.

“Well, that one’s pretty expensive.”

“How expensive?”

I was remembering that the price at all the other pharmacies in the area is usually in the $400 range, but that CVS has been filling it for the past couple years for about $60.00. I have never told CVS their competitors’ prices, and I would sincerely appreciate you not telling them either.

“Ummm. . . it’s $409.99.”

“You have GOT to be kidding! You’ve been filling it for years for something like $60.00!”

“Well, that’s $409.99is the cash price, but, oh, I see, they’ve been running it through on your discount card.”

Note that I have a fistful of discount cards rubber banded together in a cubby on my desk, but there is no CVS discount card in that collection. I think it must’ve been some deal where they had asked me at some point in the past if I wanted to sign up for their discount card, and I had asked why I’d want to, and they’d said it would save me some on some prescriptions, and I’d said, “Sure,” and they’d put my name in their computer, and that was it. I obviously have not thought anything about a CVS discount card since that day.

“And with your discount card, it will be, uh, $27.24.”


Totally shocked and much more than slightly embarrassed, I replied, trying not to giggle with joy, “That is a WONDERFUL number. Please refill that prescription.”

I’d decided on the spot that even though I still have a month’s supply of bum here, I’d better go ahead and refill it at that price before CVS changes its mind!

I picked it up this evening, and they really did charge me a mere $27.24 for my 90-day supply. That is absolutely amazing!

Moral of the story: Always say yes to the discount card.

Freezer burn

I recently decided to defrost the upright freezer in our cellar. This is now only a 15 minute task, thanks to my having figured out some years ago that I can melt the ice with water straight out of the water heater, also located in the cellar a mere ten feet from the freezer.

I had evidently let the job go longer than my usual six weeks, and there was a super thick layer of ice in the bottom. I attacked it with my trusty screwdriver – the one I keep on top of the water heater for opening and closing its drain valve – to break up and scrape off as much as possible first. Then I blasted it with hot water.

As I was running the hose back and forth against the lowest part of the back wall of the freezer, I suddenly burned myself and jerked my hand back. Initially, I thought it was the water, but that didn’t make sense because I use that same hot water all the time to shower or wash dishes, and it doesn’t burn me. But I was definitely, albeit mildly, burned on the outside of two fingers of my right hand. They had brushed against the back wall as I was hosing. . . And then I saw it! A somewhat scorched brownish place on the back wall of the freezer, almost down to the bottom. That back wall is metal, and I must’ve grazed my fingers against it while hosing. But why would the bottom back of the freezer be hot enough to burn me? Maybe that’s where the defrost heater is located and its thermostat is a little messed up? Hmmm. . .

I really have too many other things on my plate to try to figure that out right now, but at least the situation did provide me a satisfyingly catchy blog post title!

We are in an elite group

Every time Katie and I get together, we always have an adventure. My trip to visit her this weekend and witness her graduation from the College of William and Mary with a Master’s Degree in History was no exception.

For one thing I got to see my sister-in-law, fondly referred to by Katie, who shares her aunt’s initials, as A.K. It’s been two years since we were in the same place at the same time, and Kristy is just one very remarkable woman, whom I greatly respect. She’s now eating a “whole foods, plant-based diet,” which was interesting to learn about, and the fact that she drove about five hours to spend several days with Katie makes her extra-special.

But I digress. After exploring James City County’s Freedom Park near Centerville, Virginia, where we greatly enjoyed both the botanical garden and a refreshing walk on a subset of the miles and miles and miles of lovely wooded (massively huge tulip trees!) hiking and mountain biking trails, we decided to go exploring. Katie and I – and for that matter, Jessica, too – really like to explore back roads, and we went first along Highway 5 in search of Charles City, which is the county seat of Charles City County. And by the way, only in Tidewater Virginia do they give counties superfluous names like “Charles City County” and “James City County,” of which Williamsburg is the county seat. I collect county seats, or more specifically, town squares, so any time our family happens upon a town square, we rejoice greatly and drive – or sometimes walk – around it.

Charles City, being an unincorporated area with a population of 133, sadly has no town square. In fact, there is nothing at Charles City except the courthouse, which is, depending on the source, either the second, third, or fourth oldest courthouse in the United States. A new courthouse has been built beside it, and that facility seems also to house the police station, post office, and public library. We explored all there was to see of Charles City, but the main event turned out to be what we had passed on the way there and again on the way home.

The Virginia state highway map indicated that we were in the area of “James River Plantations.” I didn’t know what that meant, but it turns out that as we tooled along Highway 5, there were signs for numerous plantations. One was called Sherwood Forest Plantation, and it turns out that this parcel of some 1600 acres was the home of our tenth president, John Tyler. So, as we left Charles City, we decided to stop and check it out.

We pulled into the dirt parking lot, in the midst of which stood a single very unique tree. It was definitely a curiosity, what with twisty trunk, its large smooth heart-shaped leaves, and its clusters of popped-open “nut” shells. My research consultant and I are still trying to figure out what it was. Nearby was a pay box stating that for $10 per person one could use one of the provided brochures and take a walking tour around the grounds. How fun! We were definitely game, but alas, all we had with us was plastic, so, although initially discouraged, we made plans to come back the following morning on our way to the airport and bring cash.

Which we did, and not only that; we did it in steady rain! I daresay there are only a handful of folks who can say that about their hike around Sherwood Forest Plantation.

Yes, it was a steady rain which grew heavier as we walked, but Katie had a small umbrella, and we had stopped at the Rite-Aid pharmacy in Williamsburg and purchased a $1.99 “Emergency Poncho” for me. Much could be said about my emergency poncho. In fact, let me check my camera. Katie may have taken a shot of me by that tree in the parking lot. . . Ah, yes.  Here it is.

Emergency poncho

As you can see, this fashion statement is about the consistency of Saran Wrap, but to its credit, the emergency poncho did keep me dry from shoulders to knees in a fairly steady rain for about an hour. Not too shabby! It came in a zip-loc pouch the size of a cell phone, but I explained to Katie before even removing it that I was NOT planning to fold it up and try to get it back into that bag. In fact, I peeled it off, dripping, inside out, and threw it away.

But back to Sherwood Forest, and specifically, what is creatively named “The Big House.” This house was built in stages, well before John Tyler bought the place, and he also made significant additions to it. Under the umbrella, Katie read me the blurb as we stopped at each of the nearly twenty marked locations, and we learned a lot. This house is the largest frame house in the United States! And to think that we would never have even known about it had we not taken a drive to Charles City. I tried to get a picture of The Big House, but that’s just not possible. Here’s its center portion with a Southern belle on the porch, but this is only about the middle third of the house.

Sherwood Forest with Katie 05-17-16

We traipsed all over the grounds and had a grand time looking, analyzing, and commentating. About halfway around the house, and having hiked through some relatively tall grass, I began to sense that my socks were possibly getting damp. Tennis shoes are only partially waterproof in pouring rain. I looked down and saw that my jeans were soaked – as in I could have wrung them out – from the knees down. Katie’s weren’t so wet, but my emergency poncho just didn’t provide as wide a range of coverage as her umbrella did. But not to worry; by the time I got to Chicago, they were dry.  = )

We have now toured together portions of three presidents’ homes in Virginia: Mount Vernon, Monticello, and Sherwood Forest. Like all explorations with Katie, this one was totally fun.



They’re not open yet, but

I have tiny green things that will soon be yellow flowers on my tomato plants. YAY!

And the peonies are in bloom in their snow-white glory back by the bird feeder.

Have I mentioned that I LOVE spring?!?

Residential plumbing

Our downstairs toilet has been in rebellion for a few weeks. Every once in a while, I go in there and find a lot of water all over the floor and the toilet running. I sop up the water and jiggle the handle, and eventually it stops.

But I was gone for a few hours yesterday, and when I got home and found the toilet in that condition, despite jiggling the handle and even opening the tank and manually shoving the rubber seal down, it would NOT stop running. And the thing on the left was spraying like crazy and water was going everywhere. I worked on it for about ten minutes, getting pretty wet and messy, and finally, it stopped. Well, sort of. It was still running quietly, and water was leaking out of the thing on the left, but no longer spraying violently. I did a little more handle-jiggling and seal-pushing and float-holding. I figured out that if I held the float up another half inch, it would all stop, but I knew I couldn’t spend the rest of my life standing there holding the float.

On top of the thing on the left – the thing the water was spraying sideways out of – I saw a couple screws (maybe set screws?), and I thought that if I adjusted on of them, it might cause the float to stay up, but really, why should I have to do that now, when I haven’t done it for the past nineteen years, ten and-a-half months? Something was clearly wrong, and whatever it was, I clearly did not know how to fix it. So I did what anyone in that situation would do. I texted Mr. Bill, explained the problem, and asked if he would consider looking at (and hopefully fixing!) my rebellious toilet if I paid him for his time and parts and if I gave him some fresh-baked homemade cookies. For those conditions, he was happy to come.  = )

Mr. Bill is not only the nicest neighbor imaginable – and married to one of the most wonderful women in the world – he can fix anything and is known for always having (over in his garage, up in his attic, or out in his pole barn) whatever it takes to fix whatever needs fixing. I happen to know that once a long time ago, the most wonderful woman in the world did get a wee bit frustrated with the nicest neighbor’s massive collection of potentially usable items, but since that one day some twenty-five years ago, she hasn’t let it get to her. Mr. Bill works as a plumber for our local college. In fact, I haven’t kept up with the details of his career in recent years, but by now he may well be the head of the plumbing portion of the college’s maintenance department.

So he was able to quickly diagnose my problem. I needed a new fill valve (the thing on the left). He happened to have one which he proceeded to install. I also needed a new flapper (the rubber seal), which he said he had at home, so he left to go get it while the most wonderful woman in the world and I caught up on various aspects of each other’s family news. Mr. Bill returned, apologizing that he didn’t have the flapper I needed. He may have been shocked and slightly embarrassed. I told him that if he would write down exactly what I needed, I could go get it the next day, but he said, “I’ll get it. You need a red Korky flapper.” I agreed that red would be a nice touch; you know, to add a splash of color to the inside of my toilet tank. I told LaShell that I thought a flapper was one of those 1920s crazy ladies! Well, yes, but a red Korky flapper actually looks like this:Red Korky FlapperSo Mr. Bill said he’d pick one up and bring it by tomorrow, which was tonight, and sure enough, at 5:37 PM, they both showed up, he bearing a red Korky flapper, which he promptly installed, and voila! We were in business! I did pay him for his time and expertise, and he was most grateful, but I’m not sure if that was for the money or for the cookies. I thanked him profusely, and he said he was glad to be able to help, even though he “doesn’t do residential plumbing.” Specifically, I think he only does residential plumbing for his own family and maybe one other: ours. We are most blessed. Everyone needs a Mr. Bill in his life, but you can’t have ours. We’re too fond of him to share.


There is no joy in Mudville

Just got the news that Ted Cruz dropped out.

Now, I’m not a huge Ted Cruz fan, but I did vote for him in our Missouri primary, simply because he actually had a chance – albeit a slim one – to beat Donald Trump here. And had Cruz won the Republican nomination, I definitely would have supported him in the general election.

But the way things look tonight, I think I will finally get to vote for my man, Marco Rubio, after all. I will do so with my head held high, knowing that I am choosing a man who cannot win, but who honors God, thinks clearly, develops reasonable policies, and possesses a high degree of character and integrity. Those qualities matter more to me than anything else in choosing a president, but I will say that writing in his name will be bittersweet as I remember the America I have experienced and believed in (and do so desperately miss) and look forward to the one facing us now.

God, please help us. We can’t do this alone.

It’s not supposed to be this hard

Josiah moved out yesterday. I knew it was coming. His rental agreement with us was through April, and he didn’t ask to extend it. It’s best for him and for us that he live on his own, so it’s a good thing, but it was not easy to load him up with groceries and household stuff and haul cords and monitors out of his room and look at him and love him and miss him before he even left.

I’m not sure what led into it, but he spent quite a while on my computer looking at aerial shots of various parts of Niger on google earth and showing me where he’d been and who lived where. It was neat to see. Ever the philosopher, he also talked about the importance of remembering what we’ve been through and who we are. How it’s good to look back even at difficult and painful experiences; to not lose hold of what we’ve gained. I agree.

It was nearly 9:00 PM when he drove away.

And I cried.

But only for three minutes, because just then Andrew walked in with a dental injury that needed to be attended to, so crying had to be postponed.

Then today, I decided to brave his room. I just needed to get it over with. To Josiah’s credit, he really had emptied it. All that was left was Scott’s desk, the trunk that holds our photo albums, a cheap flimsy dresser that desperately needs to be put out by the road while modeling a FREE sign, and a little TV stand-type thing on wheels. He took his bed and bedding. Said it’s really comfortable.

I loosened the screens and brushed out the thousands of dead ladybugs. I dusted the few pieces of furniture. I used a whisk broom to get all the crud (and more thousands of dead ladybugs) out from along the baseboards and then I vacuumed. The vacuuming was hard because as I worked my way around the room, I saw all kind of things: the brown crayon writing on the baseboard from when he was a little kid, the AIM paper plates on the wall, the picture of him at the Great Wall – so young, so fresh, so innocent, so happy; I remember those days. The days before his heart hurt so much and before everything started changing. Tears. His Loveland trail map. The cross with the nails. More tears. And the “Resolution” document. The one he and Scott and Dave Brown signed. Rivers of tears. I just couldn’t leave it hanging there to mock me. It hurt way too much, so I took it down and put it in the trunk with our photo albums. Maybe that will be my hope chest.

I cried awfully hard. Maybe sobbed is the word.

I went to my desk and decided to do something productive. I wrote a Niger update that I think was pretty good. It helped. I checked with some other folks to see how they’re doing. That helped. I did a bit of research on some possible source material for a project I’m working on. It helped some.

Later in the afternoon I was pretty OK, except that I had to keep tilting my head up to see my screen clearly. I finally figured out that my glasses were dirty. When I took them off, I saw the problem clearly: they were splattered with dried tears.

Today it’s really hard for me to see the Llama’s stall, all clean and empty, but I know these words ring true: “Take courage, O, my heart! He’s sure to come back soon because he forgot to take his panini press!!!”

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