I Want Your Attention Please!

002 (2)Bella has been gone a couple of months. It is time to let her go and move on. Or so I think. What I have not considered is that the two cats, Snowflake and Clover, also had a very close relationship with Bella. They slept snuggled up every night; one on each end of the dog. But they have never particularly liked each other. Now, they start to seek contact from us, the humans. Snowflake crawls up on Hubby’s chest in the evening and snuggles in right next to his face. She scratches on our bedroom door several times during each night, disrupting our sleep. How annoying! 003 (2)Our skittish Clover who never before would allow us to touch her has decided that I am her friend. She comes every evening to my desk when I come home from work and sprawls out on top of my papers. Meow! Meow! Then she rolls around and everything slides off onto the floor.

As several weeks have passed, I think we are settling into a new routine. Father’s Day brings the obtaining of a new puppy, Willow, by our daughter for their home. Occasionally, she brings the puppy over and oh what fun it is to torment the cats. One day, after Willow has gone home, I walk past the garbage can. Whew! What is that terrible smell? The strong odor of cat urine just about barrels me over. As I investigate further, I realize it is coming from the dog kennel. We have left Bella’s kennel in its place in the entryway with the door slightly ajar. That terrible odor is coming from inside. Has the untrained puppy been using that for her place of business? I wonder. I remove the soft pad from the bottom, wash it, and close the door after replacing it. A day later, I notice Clover clawing at the door trying to get in. Then the light goes on for me. It is Clover that has been using it as a litter box. Not thinking too much more about it, I comfort myself with the thought that now that the door is closed, she will have to go back to the litter box.

If I only knew that I am so wrong. A few weeks later, our daughter informs me that the main floor bathroom now smells like cat pee. I don’t smell anything but then my smeller has been deficient for many years. As I sniff around the area and get closer to the hallway outside the downstairs bedrooms, the smell gets stronger and stronger. Great! Just great! After being blocked from using the kennel, she has moved on to using the carpet at the end of the hallway. About the same time, I get a whiff of this same smell when I step out of our bedroom door upstairs every morning. I try to convince myself that this isn’t true but after a couple of mornings, I realize that denial is no longer possible.

030This situation is royally frustrating. I remember going to visit my husband’s aunt when she was still alive and always being repulsed by the strong odor of cat pee in her house. I was never going to have a house that smelled like that. Now, I have a house that reeks of cat pee. I have no idea what to do about this. I search my brain for what might be the cause of this sudden change in habits. Is it the arrival of the new puppy that torments them occasionally? Is it the loss of Bella? Is it a territory war? Is it a bladder infection as some have suggested? I have noticed the two cats having more frequent squabbles so that is the approach I decide to pursue. I buy another Litter Robot for the main floor and place it at the end of the hallway where the cat has been urinating. I also order a black light in the hopes of finding and cleaning all the areas she has been frequenting.

Even though I think I have all the bases covered, every time I sit in my recliner in the living room, I get waves of cat urine ammonia hitting my nose. There has to be another spot I am missing. Even the black light is not clarifying my suspicions. One evening while our daughter is visiting, we go on a journey around the house. Her conclusion is that the smell is coming out of the heat vent. At first, I do not believe her but the more I sniff, the more I am convinced that she is right. Peeing down the heat vent just adds to the aroma as every time the furnace runs, it gets distributed nicely around the house. Uggh!! I’m embarrassed to even think of having visitors.

I wash out the heat vent the best that I can and schedule for a carpet cleaner to come. Maybe, the best solution would be to rip up all the carpeting and put in hardwood floors. There seems to be less fur flying so maybe having 2 litter boxes is the solution. Daughter says one is supposed to have the same number of litter boxes as there are cats plus one. The automatic ones I love so well “only” cost $500 a piece. So what’s a little money to buy a third one if it permanently solves the problem? Better yet, who wants two cats?

One Day as a Tax Aide

“Amanda, do you want to take this last one?” I pause and look at my watch. It is 11:45 a.m. on a morning of volunteering at the Salvation Army. Not too late, I think. My day has been going smoothly and I am feeling more confident in my ability. I can whip through this one in a hurry and be out the door by 12 noon or 12:30pm on this Saturday morning.010

I had decided this year to volunteer with AARP as a tax aide, helping low income and elderly people do their taxes for free. I love playing with numbers and the opportunity that I found printed in the local newspaper seemed like an interesting, exciting challenge.  After 40 hours of class and much on-the-job learning, I am finally enjoying this opportunity to give back to the community.NightCrossesJohnsonWedding 076

A short, elderly lady rises slowly from her chair and trundles after me. She lugs a large cloth tote bag with her. She settles into the chair beside my desk and plants the tote bag between her feet.

“Hello,” I begin, “First, let’s go over your pink sheet that you filled out and then I will need a copy of your social security card and a driver’s license or ID.”

She fishes through her wallet and hands me the social security card. Several more minutes pass as I patiently wait for the requested ID. The minutes are ticking away in my head as others are wrapping up and getting ready to leave. “I almost never need an ID so I don’t really know where it is,” she finally shares this information with me.

“Well, you keep looking while I start to put your basic information in the computer.”

“Do you want my paperwork?” she questions.

Sure, why not. “Yes, please.”

Out of the tote, she produces a very thick envelope-stuffed folder. I quickly flip through the contents. My heart sinks to my toes and a sense of panic threatens to overwhelm me. This is not what I was hoping for from my last client. There are return addresses on the envelopes from various financial companies, banks, etc and none of the envelopes have been opened. I take a deep breath and realize that there is nothing to do but begin at the beginning. I methodically open and sort through each envelope, placing the pertinent 2016 reports in one pile, the mixed-in 2015 ones in a second pile, and those that have no relevance to the current situation in a third pile. When did I become the mail sorter?

I can feel the frustration mounting and feel the clock ticking. I wonder how many questioning faces will be peering in at me before I get this done. I take a deep breath.

power line 3-13-14 250Finally, I am ready to begin entering the data. Even though I have not done many returns that contain IRA distributions, mutual funds income, and rental property, amazingly, my training kicks in and entering the data goes quite smoothly. Most of my questions to the client requesting additional information are met with, “I don’t know. My husband used to take care of all this” so I need to rely on my gut instincts and previous knowledge.

Searching the internet for property tax information for the house takes more time but I am ecstatic when I am successful. I think I am doing pretty well with this challenging undertaking. It never ceases to amaze me the information one can scare up on the internet with a few clicks.

“Are we going to have a return to submit today?” the question comes from a smiling face at the door. The pressure is on. The two remaining quality reviewers are getting antsy. The rest of the aides have gone home.

“I will be done in just a few minutes,” I assure the anxious face.

A few more minutes and I hit the final “ready for review” button. I did it. And it only took an hour and 15 minutes. Whew! I thought I was going to be attending Salvation Army church on Sunday.PetsFamilyJan2013 108

Visitors in the Attic

PetsFamilyJan2013 094As my husband and I lay in the darkness of our bedroom, just as we are drifting off to sleep, I hear this scratching noise like when our white cat, Snowflake, uses her paws on a door to open it. Scritch, scratch, thump, bang seem to be coming from the bathroom or so I think. Often Snowflake will sneak into the bathroom closet by opening the folding door. She does this by placing her little paw in the opening underneath the door and pulling until it squeaks open just a crack. Her owners then give doors such as this one all over the house that compulsory push to close them again. Once Snowflake is done snoozing away in the soft blankets and towels, she must find her way out. It keeps her entertained. The thought occurs to me that I should get up and let her out but I am nicely snuggled down in my bed so I sink into my world of dreams. Around 11:30 p.m., I hear my hubby get up to go to the bathroom. I can still hear the scritch, scratching noise so when he comes back, I sleepily mumble, “Did you let the cat out of the closet?”

“She is not in the closet,” he replies. “Both cats are laying with the dog in the hall.”

OK, so what is that persistent scratching noise that I hear? And where is it coming from?

PetsFamilyJan2013 092My 6’4” hubby reaches up and bangs on the ceiling. Instant silence follows. Apparently, we have some kind of visitors making their home in our crawl space above the ceiling. Mice? Rats? Raccoons? Squirrels? And what do we do about it? There is no entrance from inside the house to the crawl space in order to set a trap. Hubby crawls back in bed and we settle back down to sleep. Only a few minutes go by and the scurrying, scratching noise begins again. Ugh… How are we supposed to sleep like this?

Over the course of the next few weeks, there are nights when we hear no noises and nights when the frantic scurrying awakens us. We discuss many times what to do. Our house roof is very steep, 30 feet in the air, and covered with snow so neither one of us wants to go on the roof to see if one of the attic vents is allowing access to our happy housemate.

“We have a live trap boxed up in the basement from when we caught that squirrel running around in our first house,” I inform Hubby after he decides he will go buy a live trap and cut a hole in the bathroom closet wall. Soon our trap is baited with peanut butter and set just outside the new hole our closet wall sports. Hopefully, the cat doesn’t find this hole or she will be gone into oblivion.

Several weeks go by. There are some nights during which the scurrying persists and many nights when there are no sounds. The trap sits empty, always at the ready to receive the offender who seems not the least bit enticed by what we are offering. We have given up hope of ever catching anything and don’t know what our next step should be.005 (3)

One morning, as I am sitting on the commode, I hear this commotion in the bathroom closet (scratching, scurrying, banging). What is that noise? Finally, it dawns on me. I pull open the closet door and peer into the depths. Two shining eyes and bared teeth glare back at me. Hello, my not-so-innocent little friend. We have just caught a squirrel. Now the question is, what do I do with him? Our son-in-law had suggested that we make squirrel soup if we ever caught the critter. But to my soft-hearted Hubby, that is just not an option. So, I load my very unhappy catch into the car and drive him 7 miles down by the river and watch him scamper off into the woods there.

The very next evening, Hubby hears the very same crashing going on in the closet. Squirrel #2 in custody. Has the first squirrel already made his way back? Or is this his mate? Now, it is hubby’s turn to drive 7 miles, this time in the dark, and to release our catch. Another decision is made. On the next Saturday, the bucket truck comes home and all the branches on the tree next to the house that must be totally tempting for squirrels to use as a bridge to the house roof come off and go into a heap. Hopefully, this is the last visit from the busy bodies. I guess we shall see as the trap remains at the ready.039_1 (2)

Traveling to Israel

325 I lay awake in bed waiting for the alarm to go off as I am slightly anxious about our upcoming trip. The phone rings at 6 am. I stumble out of bed to answer it as I can’t figure out how to answer the bedroom phone anymore. It is my brother. “We are leaving,” he tells me. I am not even out of bed yet. It’s like the tortoise and the hare. He has 6-7 hours to drive to Newark, NJ and we have 3 hours to fly.001

Son-in-law and Daughter arrive at 7:45am and we are soon on the road to my husband’s sister’s house in Richfield. She will drive us to the airport and then store our car until our return. I googled her address for directions last evening. Somehow, though, we miss the exit indicated and find ourselves having gone too far. We swing around and go back the way we came. I have a set of directions from 2007 that mentions one of the exits we have passed. We exit following the older directions and soon find our way. We are all somewhat tense and on edge. It doesn’t seem like we can travel without this anxiety.

We make our way through security without incident. The TSA lady tells us we can leave our shoes on. I feel like an idiot after I realize all of us have pre-checked TSA status. The flight leaves a little after 1 pm after a slight delay because the flight attendants arrived late on another flight. Our 3-hour flight arrives in Newark, NJ at around 4:45 pm. It is getting dark. We have no problem retrieving our luggage. In fact, ours is first and within 15 minutes, we are ready to look for the hotel van. I realize my TSA approved lock on the big suitcase along with the zipper tags are gone again. This is the same thing that happened in January when we traveled to Florida.

We ask a lady at the information desk where to catch the Best Western bus. She says, “Go out that door and wait for the bus in lane 2.” As we stand along the curb, we have a group discussion about what “lane 2” means. We are standing at “pickup 2”. After little agreement, Hubby instructs me to return to the information desk to re-inquire. The man this time tells me that I need to go up 2 flights on the escalator and catch the Air train which will take us to “pickup 4.” This is a totally different affair than previous. Back inside we go and back up the escalator to the train. His instructions are correct and we soon find ourselves where the hotel buses actually pick up people. 5:30 we pull up outside the hotel and there is my brother waiting for us in the lobby. The tortoise has beaten the hare. After acquiring our rooms, we all gather in the restaurant for a well-deserved meal. We soon discover that all the other patrons there are also going on this trip. Then it is time to relax.

11-9-2016  Wednesday Continuing Journey

After a somewhat restless night during which I keep falling toward the middle of the bed, the alarm bids us to awaken at 6:15. Our agreed upon breakfast time is 7 am. Brother and his wife, Son-in-law and Daughter are already there when Hubby and I arrive. For me, it is a breakfast of yogurt, coffee cake, a bun, and milk. Son-in-law and Brother and Hubby pile on the potatoes, eggs, sausage etc. Brother and Son-in-law have seconds. A short relaxation period follows during which we watch all the hype and reporting about the election in which Donald Trump is the winner. “Such an unexpected upset,” the commentators say. By 8:30am, it is time to meet the hotel van for a ride back to the airport. The van driver drops us directly off at the El Al airlines. This is an unexpected nice touch. Potential passengers are starting to mingle around but nothing seems open and/or ready for business. I spy some self-service machines and we are all able to get boarding passes printed with no problem. That is the last of our check-in that goes smoothly. One of the security people tells waiting travelers to line up in the strapped off lanes and to make two lines. The line, we choose, does not seem to move. The security agents set up temporary podiums and start to call couples from the other line over and over. The guy behind us sneaks over to the other line and soon so do Son-in-law and Daughter. Hubby thinks it is rude to jump lines and insists that we stay where we are. I am just getting frustrated by this lack of progress. Soon it is Son-in-law and Daughter’s turn and I can see within the first five minutes that they are having trouble. They nod towards us and the agent goes to talk to another agent over and over. Soon we are asked to join them at their podium. They have told the agent that they are married and that they are living with their parents because the addresses on the passports are still their pre-married addresses. Because they got married in September and I knew this trip was coming up in November, I had advised Daughter not to try to change her name on her passport lest they not get them back in time. I never realized that the addresses might be a problem too. Of course, I do not know that they have said they are living with parents so now I tell the agent that they live together in their house at a different address. What a tangled web we have weaved. Oh dear! The next question is, “Do you have a marriage certificate with you?” All of us shake our head, “no.”

“Do you have some way of proving you are married?” is the next question. Ah, social media does sometimes come in handy. Son-in-law is able to pull up on Facebook a picture of them just after they have been proclaimed husband and wife standing in the front of the church. This the agent accepts. My stomach by now has turned into a knot and I am starting to feel hot and suffocated. I have visions of Son-in-law and Daughter being sent back home. Finally, I think the Israeli security people are satisfied and Hubby and I move on to checking our luggage. But Daughter and Son-in-law still are not being allowed to go. They have confiscated their carry-on backpacks so they can search them. They are instructed to wait. We decide to wait with them. “Why did I think this trip was a good idea?” I ask Daughter. The cell phone dings and the message from Sister-in-law says, “We are through security. What is happening?” As time ticks on for over an hour, I am becoming increasingly restless by the minute. Son-in-law starts to pace. Finally, the bags are returned and we are on our way to the real security check. That goes well except for forgetting to take the laptop out of my bag.

003

On the plane to Tel Aviv

Around 12:30pm, we begin boarding. Poor Daughter has ended up in a seat between 2 random guys far from the rest of us due to Hubby and I switching to the exit row seats. I did not realize that she was the one between us and that Son-in-law had gotten seated with Brother and his wife.

Take off is smooth and supper is served at 2:30 pm Eastern Time. I have figured out that we will get to Tel Aviv at 11pm eastern time but it will actually be 6 am Tel Aviv time. We will have missed the night.

329

Tel Aviv airport

Destination – Whistle Stop

win_20160925_07_46_51_proWe leave the house on this sunny but cool September morning around 8 a.m. The trees are just starting to display the bright reds and yellows of autumn as we begin our 250-mile drive. We are headed for New York Mills, MN, a small town located in northwestern Minnesota. So what is the attraction about New York Mills and why do we wish to travel there, you might ask? Situated there is the Whistle Stop Bed and Breakfast. win_20160925_07_44_00_proIt is a unique bed and breakfast in that the owners have purchased and refurbished four old rail cars into sleeping quarters for guests. My hubby has always been in love with trains and as a special weekend to celebrate our 25th anniversary month, this seems like a cool adventure.

We decide to deviate from the printed Google directions which direct us towards all four-lane, high-speed freeways. Who wants to see the same old stuff while distracted by the mass of humanity that crowds the expressways? We begin our journey, instead, by winding our way north on Hwy 63 and then somewhat westward on the twisting Hwy 60 to Mazeppa. As we continue our journey westward on MN 19, we soon come to a detour. It seems that we drive ever further south instead of north and west. After going a fair number of miles out of the way, we are headed, at least, back in the right direction but on a different road than was our original plan. We can get where we want to go using this road too, we reason so we might as well go this way. We haven’t gone more than 10 miles or so and we come to another detour sign. You have got to be kidding. We repeat the going out of our way process all over again. By noon and after the appearance of the fourth detour in a little under 100 miles, I am starting to become paranoid every time I see an orange sign. Frustration is mounting and our progress towards our destination has been slow.win_20160925_07_44_27_pro

This whole driving experience reminds me of our 25 years of married life. As a young (relatively at 34 and 36 years old) couple, we set out on our life adventure with an image of our years together. And then there are detours – side trips that take us places we would rather not go. I think our first major detour was 3 years into our marriage when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Our dream of having more than one child was delegated to the file of “wishes only.” The “maybe we can adopt” six-year second detour ended up on the road to nurse anesthesia school instead. There is some beautiful country along this road. Our latest bumpy side trip has taken us on a spiritual detour that is confusing, lonely and seems like it has no road that returns to the one that leads to our destination. We can only cling to each other and faithfully attempt to search for the road signs of God’s leading hand. So our life is mirroring this road trip.

A little after noon, we get back on our original planned route and do make our way to the quaint town of New York Mills by 2:30 p.m. Just 100 feet behind the Imperial Car that welcomes us is a modern-day railroad tracks hidden behind the trees. win_20160925_07_39_36_proThis feature presents us with authentic shrill whistles and the clacking of speeding wheels approximately every ½ hour. This is a thrilling treat for hubby but creates a problem for restful sleep. I lay there in bed several hours into the night and wonder, “Why did I think that coming to a bed and breakfast would be relaxing and restful?” I guess it is all in how one looks at the experience just like married life. After all, an adventure is supposed to be exciting, terrifying, and exhilarating; it is not supposed to be a relaxing, restful journey.win_20160925_07_48_35_pro

Progress at the Destination Medical Center

Wednesday morning – I haven’t been to work since the weekend. How much could possibly change in two days?NightCrossesJohnsonWedding 138

I stride down the hall from the parking ramp, lost in thought in another world. Suddenly, the hall turns right and trails down a corridor that I have never traveled before. Where am I? Oh yes, I remember seeing a sign last week posted to the main hallway sidewall that stated, “Hallway to be closed on May 24.” Precipitously a new hall has appeared. The only choice is to keep moving forward and see where this passageway comes out. I feel like I am completely in another world physically as well as mentally. I turn this way and that, not recognizing anything. My brain is confused. Did I park my car in the wrong ramp this morning for I am hiking down hallways that sport appointment desks, waiting rooms, bathrooms, and decorated sidewalls? Where did all this come from? Eventually, after an endless walk, I come back out to an intersection where my brain is able to finally say, “Ah, yes, I can go back to my non-alert state.” Apparently, behind all that plastic lining the other old hallway for the last year or so has been growing another clinic building.

I change into scrubs and head down to the operating rooms to begin breaks for my fellow nurse anesthetists as I always do. Somewhere during those first couple of hours, I arrive at the realization that what used to be the recovery room has also closed during my two days away and a new recovery room has opened. This new facility has small individual rooms for each patient while the old one was a large open room with clusters of bays for patient care. It is a modern work of art. I even have to scan out with my name badge to get back to the operating room suite. Strange. Are they afraid the patients are going to make an escape back to the OR?157

Here again, my brain struggles to figure out the new rules. Does everyone go to this new recovery room? Or do some patients go to what we call “the far east” which currently serves as the pre-operative area? And who decides? Within the first 30 minutes, my pager goes off telling me that “Patient John Doe is to go to the east pacu postoperatively.” That is an odd page. And why am I getting it, I wonder? I am not this patient’s anesthetist. And where does this page originate from? No one seems to have an answer to my questions.NightCrossesJohnsonWedding 162

As a final addition to all this change, a change has also been made as to how some of our drugs are packaged. They look different and they are harder to distinguish one from the other. I have worked here for 29 years but today, I think I unknowingly got off the wrong bus at the wrong hospital. I just don’t remember doing so. Maybe that is how Alzheimer’s works.