Friday, December 30, 2016

Happy Dance Time

I have been going to weekly appointments at the physical therapy clinic due to the problems with my feet and legs.  Wednesday the therapist told me my legs have healed to the point where I needn't go back - I can just continue treatment at home.  Yep.  Happy Dance time!!

I still have to keep my legs and feet bandaged and wrapped in Ace bandages and those have to be changed every other day, but the fact that this can be done at home with the help of a kid or two is reason to celebrate.  And when completely healed, I will have a compression device for each leg, kept closed with Velcro, that I think I can handle by myself.  That makes me even happier.  My kids have been great - hauling me to appointments and helping me with the bandaging in between times.  But I will be pleased when I don't need to ask for help.

Funny, isn't it.  When family has asked me for help in the past, I have always been glad to help if I could and have never, ever considered it a burden.  But it makes me a wee bit (alright - a lot) crazy when I have to ask any of them to help me with anything.  My kids tell me that I am just stubborn, and I suppose they may be right.  Well, OK.  They are spot on, but don't tell them I said so!  But I think it is more that the older I get, the more I fear losing my independence.

I have a few things I want to get done before the cleaners come in sometime in January, so I am taking off until after the first of the year.  There are a couple pieces of furniture to be moved and another shelving unit to be set up.  I am out of space on the shelves that hold my home canned food.  As a result, I have several cases of food in jars sitting on the floor of my bedroom.  They need to be shelved so the carpet can be properly vacuumed and after that I can shampoo the carpets.

And when all is said and done, I plan to spend the rest of the winter sewing and quilting and crocheting.  Not very exciting, I know, but those are the things I enjoy.  Give me a nice, quiet winter, preferably indoors where it is toasty warm,  and I am one happy granny.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Santa, Disguised as My Family...

was good to me this year.

I have been wanting one of those jackets that look like a flannel shirt only they have a warm, quilted lining.   I have heavy winter coats, but wanted a jacket more lightweight.  Oldest Son has one and I had talked to him about shopping for a similar one for me after Christmas.   Lo and behold, the jacket I wanted turned up under the tree.  I love it and I'm sure it will get lots of use when I can be out and about again.  And my daughter assured me that plaids are "in" this year!

My kids are good at finding useful and unusual gifts for me.  As anyone who visits here regularly knows from my occasional whining, I have been dealing with arthritis and leg problems this year.  This means that although I am still capable of doing the basics for myself like cooking, laundry and basic housekeeping chores, the details often are neglected.  Dust bunnies are multiplying at an alarming rate.  Cupboards do not get scrubbed.  Anything requiring climbing up on a step stool or excessive bending to reach rarely get done.

So my family gave me cleaners.  They hired a company to come in to do a one-time deep cleaning of my apartment.  This will happen some time in January.  They won't let me stay home while the cleaners are at work.  They think I will try to help.  Don't know where they got that idea, but they are taking me out somewhere while my apartment gets a top to bottom scrubbing.

Anyone who has physical limitations will understand that once we fall behind on those chores, it seems like an impossible task to get caught up again.  I have good days and not so good days.  On good days I can accomplish quite a lot.  On not so good days it is all I can do to cook meals and wash the dishes.  So I think it will be easier for me to maintain a clean apartment once the dust bunnies have been eradicated and the surfaces and corners I have trouble reaching have been dealt with.

God has blessed me with a better family than I deserve.  And I  am forever grateful.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Merry Christmas

Like so many others, I am a bit busy before the holidays.  Computer time takes a back seat.  My family will gather as we have for several years now, at my daughter's home for Christmas Eve brunch.  I think this is my favorite time of year when everyone is together.

I will likely not be posting until after the holiday, so I am using this opportunity to wish one and all a very blessed Christmas.  I value each and every one of you who take the time to stop by this silly little blog.  Your comments make me think, make me smile.  It is like a get-together of friends with the click of a mouse.

May God bless you all in this season when we celebrate the birth of His Son.  And may the flicker of hope for a better year to come continue to grow.

Love to you all,

Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Bit Nippy

It looks like we got about 7 inches of snow in this recent go-around.  And then it turned cold.  Rob over at "At The Lake In The Woods" reports temperatures at his place fell to minus 31 degrees early this morning.  He and his family live 50 miles away from me - a shorter distance as the crow flies.  I am a craven coward.  I didn't want to know how cold it was then.  I checked my thermostat that registers both indoor and outdoor temperatures and found that at 10:30 am it was still 12 degrees below zero.

I checked my Facebook page this morning as I usually do.  I rarely comment there, but look to see if any of my children have posted pictures of their families.  I chuckled when I saw my oldest son had posted two words before braving the elements to go to work this morning.  I quote: "bursy toad."  Years past, when I would take my little ones to see their grandparents in the middle of a Minnesota winter, at least one of them would ask Grandpa how cold it was, knowing his answer would be, "Brrrrrrzy Cold," said with the proper voice that was guaranteed to make the kids laugh.  The younger ones, having the usual pronunciation by toddlers, parroted the phrase as "bursy toad," which has been our description of mind freezing weather ever since.

I am happy to report that the healing of the legs is progressing nicely.  I have been going to therapy appointments twice weekly to have the progress assessed.  My legs are bandaged knee to toes, partly to deal with the seepage of fluid that goes along with the Cellulitis and mostly to provide the compression necessary to keep the fluid from building up and to help reduce the swelling of legs and feet.  I have been able to reduce the appointments to one a week and go from daily changing of bandages to every other day.  May not seem like much, but to me, it is a huge difference.

I wonder when the insanity within the pharmaceutical industry will end.  Or if it ever will.  I realize there are folks who need medications that are much more spendy than those I need to take, but here is what I learned this week.  My doctor sent a prescription to my pharmacy for medication that should greatly increase my chances of having near normal feet and legs.  The usual dosage requires two refills each month.  One refill costs $365.  Two come to $730 per month.  I just signed up for prescription drug insurance which kicks in Jan. 1, so I won't know until then if this medication is covered.

But what happens to those who can not afford insurance.  Those like me who are on a fixed income.  I did the math, just to see how I would fare should my meds not be covered.  Figuring in rent, monthly bills, groceries and the meds I already take plus the new one, I would wind up in the hole each month by over $400.  One of my kids is facing a similar situation.  His insurance does not cover his latest prescription, which is necessary in a life sustaining way, that costs nearly $900. a month.  He doesn't qualify for his clinic's program of financial aid to those who need assistance because he has insurance.  But if he were uninsured, other medical bills would eat him alive and our government would fine him for being uninsured.  I don't know what the answer is.  I do know that if either of us is required to pay these outrageous prices, the only way we could afford to live is if we pitched a tent in the park and lived there.

One the bright side, my apartment stays warm and cozy even on the coldest of days.  And I need not go outdoors unless I want to.  I don't.  There has been one casualty due to the cold.  My herbs that have been growing nicely on my windowsills have given up the ghost.  I didn't think there would be enough of a variance in temperature next to the windows to affect them.  I was wrong.  I seem to have, once again, murdered my plants.  I was, however, able to make use of them while they still lived.  Parsley, sage, thyme and basil lived long enough to let me experiment with cooking using the fresh herbs.  I will give them a decent burial and try again in the spring.  But next time I will move them to a warmer place when the snow starts to fly.

There is a pot of vegetable beef soup simmering on the back burner.  I think a pan of cornbread will go well with it for supper.  Until then, there is a half read murder mystery book that needs my attention.  And a mug of hot chocolate - with mini marshmallows - is calling my name.   Not a bad way to spend a cold afternoon here in the "Land of 10,000 Lakes," which is now the Land of 10,000 ice skating/hockey rinks.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


A gentleman by the name of Steve Boyko visited this blog the other day and left a nice comment.  I checked out his Google + site and was delighted to find that many of his posts had to do with trains.  I have ancestors who wrote about their days "railroading."  My Dad dearly loved trains, especially what he called the "long, lonesome sound" of the whistles.  He passed the love of that sound down to me.

My mother's father, Andrew Paul, was the Depot Agent in Blackduck, Minnesota for many years.  I am not sure when he started the job, but I do know he was working there at the time of his first wife's death in 1912.  I believe he retired in the early 1940's.

Grandpa Paul at work in the Blackduck Depot.

Blackduck Depot.  This photo was among pictures from my parents.

I found this photo of the Blackduck Depot online.

Andrew's younger brother, Walter, worked for many years as dispatcher for the M&I railroad in northern Minnesota.  Walter was also a prolific writer of Paul family history.  He wrote the following two stories about events that occurred while Andrew worked at the Blackduck Depot.

"One day my brother Andrew who was agent at Blackduck went out on the platform to hand up orders to a passing log train. As the train went clattering by swaying like a boat in rough water, he noticed the protruding end of a small log on top of one of the approaching loads. Knowing the dangerous spot he was in he jumped back to safety just as the log rolled off, landed on the far end of the depot platform, skidded straight through the bay window and came to rest with one end protruding into the ladies’ waiting room."

"One day a woman showed up at the Blackduck depot where my brother Andrew was agent. She announced that she was going to Bemidji right now and would ride in the caboose of the freight train then about to leave. It being against company rules to permit a woman to ride a freight train she was told she would have to wait for the evening passenger train. No, she would not wait, she was going on this freight and there was nothing anybody could do about it. Suiting action to words she picked up her bundles and climbed onto the caboose. The conductor argued with her all to no avail. She was in the caboose and in the caboose she would stay until it got her to Bemidji. Andrew and the conductor withdrew for a consultation and finally came up with a solution. They went back to the caboose and told the lady that if she  would not get off it would be necessary to set the caboose out at Blackduck and take the train on to Bemidji and leave her just sitting there. Even that did not budge her, so the conductor in her presence told his brakemen, “Well boys, set the caboose in on the house track out of the way, cut it off and we will have to ride the engine and on top.” So they set the caboose in on the house track, uncoupled it and away they went with the rest of the train, down around the curve and out of sight. Just as the train was disappearing around the curve one of the brakemen dropped off where he could keep an eye on the depot. A little further on the train stopped. Soon the woman in the caboose seeing no more hopes of getting to Bemidji on the freight came out, clambered down the steps and went back up town. Andrew, watching proceedings, then went out on the platform and gave the distant brakeman a back up sign, he in turn relayed it to the engineer. The train backed up to the depot, coupled onto the caboose and away they went."

Grandpa had a pretty good sense of humor, I'm thinking!

My cousin Gene's wife wrote this piece about the Blackduck depot some years ago.  I don't know when the depot closed or even if it is still standing.  But her article talks some about my Grandpa and gives an idea of his duties as Depot Agent.

"Living History by Leona Matheny
Several weeks ago, in May, the railway depot in Blackduck was closed.  Just a little building standing deserted near the railroad.  It wasn't always like that, just a little building.
In the early 1900's a man by the name of Andrew Paul came to Blackduck as the depot agent.  There were many jobs to keep him busy.  He was the telegrapher, the freight agent, the baggage handler.
There were four or five freight trains through town each day, and two passenger trains each direction.  Many days a train known as an extra would also come into town.
The first passenger train arrived in Blackduck from Minneapolis about 6:00 A.M.  It was known as #11.  The destination of this train was International Falls.  It turned around there and returned late in the afternoon.  Then it was known as #12.  The other passenger train was a local.  It started in Kelliher and went to Bemidji.  It got into Blackduck about 1:00 P.M. and went on to Bemidji, returning about 6:00 P.M. and on to Kelliher.
At the depot which was much larger then,--to the West there was a large waiting room, for ladies only.  Just off the office to the East was a general waiting room.  To get to the restrooms, you had to go outside and across the tracks to the little building there.  It was a single building with two doors, LADIES and GENTLEMEN, and it had a center partition.
On the days when the "extra" train would be on the track it could not interfere with the schedule of the regular trains so the extra would have to go onto a siding.  Some times these trains were so long they would hardly fit on the siding.  At times the depot agent would stand out between the two tracks to make sure the large trains had sufficient clearance, and sometimes this was only inches.
Messages were relayed by telegraph from station to station.  The depot agent would take these messages off the key, which was an apparatus which tapped out the message in Morse Code.  Some of these messages were of special freight shipments coming in, or a message to be relayed to the engineer of a train which was passing through without stopping.  At these times the message was written out and clipped to a wire hoop.  This hoop was placed on the end of a pole which the depot agent held up at the end of the platform.  The engineer would reach out the window and slip his arm through the hoop and after removing his message, would drop the hoop at the other end of the platform.  Telegrams of a personal nature were also transmitted on these keys.  Messages were taken by the agent, written up and after his day was done the agent would go out into the country to deliver a telegram.  After Mr. Paul had been here a few years a man was hired especially for telegraphy work.  This was Paul Whitney, who is well known in the area.
Depot is defined as a place of storage.  There were many things stored to be shipped out.  Great quantities of wool were shipped at times.  It was stored in huge long gunny sack bales until shipping time.  Years ago the fishermen who were visiting the area would bring in their catch of fish which were packed in crates of ice and shipped home, mostly to Iowa.  Pulpwood was a leading industry in the are in those days.  All of it was shipped out by rails on flat cars.  One of the timber buyers would come in and request the cars, it was always, "Andrew, you got any flatracks?"  The depot agent and several employees were responsible for loading much of the freight into the cars.
There were many types of cars, each with a special use.  There were the slatted cars known as stock cars.  They carried livestock to market, or they have been known to carry a load of watermelon.  Refrigerator cars were cooled by ice which was stored in a compartment at the front and back of the car.  A fan in the top of the car drew the cool air through the car to keep the fruit, vegetables, or meat from spoiling.  Each car had a number which indicated to the agent it's contents.
It is sad to see an era end.  It is sad to realize that many will never have the enjoyment of riding on a train, dining in the elegance of a dining car with the tables so beautiful with the snowy white linens, the shining silverware, and the sparkling glassware.  Those who have not had this opportunity have missed a memorable experience.
And now there it stands.  A small white deserted building.  Just a reminder of a part of history we lived with."

I have seen old train depots turned into useful businesses.  Just two blocks from my apartment is a beautiful old brick depot that had been vacant for years.  Some enterprising local ladies renovated it and turned it into a beautiful quilt shop, while retaining the look and feel of the depot.  It is good to see those old buildings put to good use instead of being left to fall apart.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Canning Marathon

This week found a couple of pretty good sales at my grocery.  My order included four family-size packs of chicken thighs and three boneless chuck roasts, weighing about 4 lbs. each.  I also ordered potatoes, carrots, onions and two 1 lb. bags each of corn and peas.

The chicken went into a couple of stock pots and were boiled until they were falling-off-the-bone tender.  Once they cooled, I stripped the meat from the bones and chopped it into 1/2 - 1 inch pieces.   While the chicken cooked, I chopped the potatoes, carrots and onions into 1/2 inch pieces.  All the vegetables were put into a large bowl and mixed.

I put 1/2 cup of chicken in the bottom of pint jars and added 1 cup of mixed vegetables to each.  I covered that with broth from cooking the chicken.  There wasn't enough broth, so I got three quarts from my shelves that I had canned last year, to finish filling the jars.  I pressure canned this at 10 lbs. pressure (for my altitude) for 75 minutes.  I wound up with 31 pints of chicken vegetable soup, having one jar that broke during the canning process.

I had leftover vegetables, so I packed them into pint jars, added water to 1 inch below the rim and processed these for 55 minutes at 10 lbs. pressure.  When canning mixed vegetables, the vegetable that requires the longest processing time dictates how long to process.  In this case, the corn required the longest time.  I got 16 pints of mixed vegetables.

The beef was cut into about 1 inch cubes and packed into jars.  When canning raw meat I don't add any liquid.  That is a personal preference.  Liquid, either water or broth, can be added.  I just like the taste and texture better when I can raw meat without.  If the meat is cooked before canning, then it is necessary to add liquid.  I got 10 pints of beef cubes from the three roasts.

There was some chicken left over, so I packed it into 3 half pint jars and added broth.  The chicken was processed right along with the beef at 10 lbs. pressure for 75 minutes.  The smaller jars of chicken, when drained, make good sandwiches.

I also got a dozen bell peppers that were on sale.  Those I cleaned and cut into about 1 inch pieces.  They went into the dehydrator.  I have found that the skin on bell peppers doesn't rehydrate well - it stays sort of tough.  So when dry, I will run the peppers through the food processor, turning them into powder.  I can add the powder to various dishes to have the flavor of the peppers without the bothersome tough skins.

We have snow in the forecast for this evening and tomorrow.  I wanted to get this canning done before, even though the forecast is for only 4 to 6 inches of the white stuff.  But here in Minnesota, you never know.  This same forecast has brought only a few flakes or it has been known to bring a surprise blizzard.  Whatever happens, my canning this week is done and I can sit in my rocking chair by the window, coffee cup within reach, a good book in hand, and green fuzzy blanket snuggled up to my neck.  Do whatever you want, Mother Nature.  I'm ready.  :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

I Was Happily Reading Blogs When...

my modem went belly-up.  Just flat quit working.  My internet service provider is my phone company, and I rent the modem, so I called them and told them their modem had died.  We played "jump through the hoops" for a while before they decided I was right.  The new modem arrived today.

I spent some time today on the phone with their tech support - a nice lady with a sense of humor from Nebraska - and got it sort of working.  She seems to think part of the problem is within my phone line.  A repairman will be here Friday, and because she thinks the problem is in the lines entering the building and not within my apartment, I will pay nothing for that service.  Seems kind of funny, though, that I am now using the internet.  It will work only when the Ethernet cord is attached and I have no WiFi, but I can live with that until it is all straightened out.  I was going through withdrawal, I tell ya.  It wasn't pretty!

So posting may be a bit more sporadic than usual until I get the kinks worked out.  And now if you will excuse me, I have some serious internet surfing to do while everything is still working.  :)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Pride Goeth Before a Walker

It is official.  I have attained geezer status.  The therapist I saw yesterday has ordered one of those handy, dandy walkers with four wheels that have a seat attached so I can sit if needed when I am out and about.  Well, crap!

I have had a misplaced sense of pride in the fact that I could continue to function without the aid of a cane or crutches or a walker.  Well, stick that pride on the back shelf and leave it there.  My therapy session yesterday was good in that I learned more about dealing with the problem of swollen legs and feet and cellulitis outbreaks than I had learned in two years with my family doctor.  I have another session scheduled for next week to learn the exercises and other methods for reducing the swelling.

But the blow to my pride came when, after extensive questioning, it became apparent that most of my mobility issues were due to osteoarthritis rather than the lower leg thing.  I have gotten to the point where standing for more than 10 minutes at a time has become painful.  This is not a problem within my apartment, but it is limiting when I go out.  Hence, the walker.

This turn of events is really a blow to my pride and my desire for continued independence.  After thinking about it overnight, I have come to the conclusion that I have two choices.

I can rant and rave and throw a hissy fit and blame the gods for visiting this misfortune on me.

Or...I can suck it up and learn to use the damn walker and learn the other things necessary to keep me here at home.

I have decided on the latter.  And with that in mind, I have spent the morning going through my apartment and making a list of those things that are now difficult for me and figuring out alternative ways to do them.

Having a shower has been challenging.  By the time I finish washing my hair, my hip joints and lower back are screaming at me for relief.  I already have one of those hand held shower heads installed.  And I am ordering a stool designed for the bath so I can sit when necessary.

I have always scrubbed my kitchen and bathroom floors on my hands and knees.  That is no longer happening.  So I am getting one of those janitorial type mops and buckets with the wringer attached.  Having spent several years cleaning office buildings, I am familiar with them and am confident they will work better for me than any other type of mop.  And I can attach one of those green scrubbies to that kind of mop for getting the stubborn dried on spills off the floors.

I have already dealt with the problem of lugging laundry up and down two flights of stairs by investing in a portable apartment sized washer and dryer.  Both work like a charm.  But the dryer sits on the floor.  The controls are beneath the dryer door.  That means there is a lot of bending over to put clothes in and take clothes out and to push the buttons for the proper settings.  I found that several of the big box stores carry those storage cubes that when two of them are set side by side, the combined size is perfect to hold the dryer up off the floor, making its use much easier for me.  Plus it will give me a handy place to store laundry supplies.

A simple thing like putting on socks can be difficult when a person doesn't bend so well any more.  Yesterday I was shown a device that I can slip a sock onto, slide my foot in, and using the handles on either side, pull the sock up.  I will be ordering one of those devices as well as some over-sized tongs for picking up things from the floor that are hard to reach.  In addition, any shoes I buy once I can wear shoes again, will be the slip-on variety.

The purpose of this post is not to encourage sympathy.  I don't feel sorry for myself, so nobody else should even entertain the notion of feeling sorry for me.  I just won't have it.

The purpose of this post is to encourage those who may be dealing with similar life-changing circumstances.  I really hate having to admit that I need a walker to be able to enjoy being outdoors again.  And I hate having to change the way I do things due to limitations.  But there it is.  Old age ain't no picnic.  Some sail through without having to deal with aches and pains and others don't.  For those that don't, we need to remember that even though there are adjustments to be made, life is still grand.  And well worth living.

My youngest son, David, took me to my appointment yesterday.  On the way home I remarked to him that I had always said I wanted to live long enough to be a problem to my children and that I may have reached that goal.  (That has been a standing family joke for years.)  His response was that he didn't think we had reached that time just yet.  He said he didn't care how big a pain in the whatever I was, they still wanted me here with them.

God bless those kids.