Gone

The little bastard thing made its exit yesterday. It now resides in a lab, where it will be treated with some chemical shit and frozen and then thinly sliced (sounds like a recipe of some kind, doesn’t it) and then examined by a pathologist.

The process of getting the little bastard thing from where it resided in my right breast to the lab took all day.  Well, really, it took up part of the night before as well.

This is what I have in my basement. Two gallons of the stuff. It’s what I used to make teat dip for Frances.  Mix a cup of that, along with 1/4 cup of vegetable glycerin, in a quart bottle and fill it with water, shake well, and attach a spray lid and you’re good to go.

They supplied me (at maximum cost to Medicare, I am sure) with a very small bottle of the same stuff and I bathed in it twice, once the night before, and again yesterday morning. I was the cleanest person in Kentucky, I am quite sure.

Before Dr. A could operate, he had to know what he was looking for. The little bastard thing was not obviously visible. Breast tissue just looks like white fat with blood in it.  It’s hard to see stuff in that. The radiologist had placed a metal marker in the spot when she did the needle biopsy, but that’s only visible under x-ray, and you can’t operate on a boob that is squished flat by an x-ray machine.

The dark line is pointing to the radioactive thing. The other white spot is the metal marker that was placed earlier. The white circle is the area that was removed (approximately), containing the little bastard thing.

So, he has a nifty Geiger counter instead.  They sent me to x-ray, where a radiologist did something very similar to the needle biopsy, except that she didn’t suck out half my breast. Instead, she injected a small radioactive “seed.”  I thanked her by bleeding all over the x-ray table.  Having been through this sort of thing once before, it was not too awful, although I can think of other fun things I’d rather do.

Dave got to sit and wait.  And wait. And wait.

From x-ray, I went back to the surgical area and met the anesthesiologist, Dr. D.  He hung around and talked with Dave about Pinehurst (North Carolina) and the golf courses and stuff.  Dr. A came by and signed my chest with his initials (the radiologist had done the same thing), so everyone would know which breast contained the bit from Chernobyl, so that it would be removed. The radiologist told me that they had a patient once who had the seed placed and then decided she didn’t want to have surgery after all, and got up and left the hospital with the seed in place. This is not a Good Idea.

 

Anyway, Dr. D, the anesthesiologist, asked me if I was anxious. I replied that no, I was having the best fun in the world, but what did he have in his arsenal?  He said, “Well, I could give you a little Versed.”

view source

If you have never had the pleasure of experiencing Versed (midazolam), you have missed out on one of life’s little gifts.  It is really good stuff.

It’s not about getting high. It’s about not giving a shit.  Versed is wonderful. It is fast-acting (given IV, it takes effect in about five minutes) and very short-acting (an hour or so). I experience no side effects from it afterwards, and it produces short-term amnesia.  The patient remains conscious, is cooperative and responsive, and gives not a single fuck what you do to him/her.

So, naturally, I said, “Hell yeah,” and got a dose.

I then made a huge mistake and began messaging with Deb Whitehouse, orally.  Like recorded stuff.  Like stuff that she will blackmail me with for the rest of my life.  So a warning is applicable here. Before you get a dose of Versed, give your phone to someone else and tell them to refuse to give it to you no matter what.

Due to beautiful, wonderful Versed, I don’t remember anything from that point until I woke up in recovery without the little bastard thing anywhere in sight, and with the Chernobyl bit safely back in its little metal case.

Anesthesia doesn’t make me nauseated, thankfully.  I just get a sore throat (from being intubated) and a very dry mouth (due to the drugs they give you for exactly that purpose, to keep you from slobbering all over the place).  So I ate six tons of crushed ice.

They supplied me with a pain pill before leaving the hospital, and since I was thoroughly drunk, of course we headed for Red Lobster.

Smashed. I was totally bombed there, but able to clutch my cup of crushed ice. The mark on my right chest is my surgeon’s autograph.

Lobster bisque, Caesar salad, and those wonderful biscuits. The waitress felt so sorry for her poor drunk customer (after we explained that the bracelets on my arms were from the hospital and not the liquor store) that she brought us a bag full of biscuits to take home with us.

I will spare you the image of my boob. The incision is larger than I expected, like twice the length.  It’s about 2 1/2 inches long in a semi-circle around the areola, which he did to minimize visible scarring, like I give a shit about that, but hey, what if I were a stripper. The area where the little bastard thing was is black and blue and purple, indicating that I had more blood to spare after leaving much of it in the x-ray department.

Now we wait again. My followup appointment with my surgeon is on June 28, which is next Thursday, where all will be revealed.

In the meantime, he put the treadmill off limits for a couple of days and told me to indulge myself with Netflix. Dave is preparing dinner, and that is ominous indeed.  However, at least the biscuits are already made (courtesy of Red Lobster and a very kind waitress). At least it means that later on he will have renew appreciation for my culinary skills.

My sincere thanks to every one who has expressed concern, and mostly to Deb, who thus far has restrained herself from publishing my messages, and who sent me links to YouTube videos in an attempt to distract me while I was waiting for the next step in a tedious and rather uncomfortable process. She is a good friend indeed, as she was doing all this while simultaneously being stung by a bee on her face while out in her garden and she didn’t bitch about it once. In contrast, I bitched continuously, which shows you who is the better person.

 

40+

Retirement

The linked article is nothing new.

There are basically three ways (and I’m being very simplistic here for the sake of brevity) to keep Social Security solvent.

The liberal fix is to raise the SS tax above the current limit of $128,700. That current limit is, in fact, an increase, and the 2017 amount was an increase over the 2016 amount, so yes, they are doing just that.  The rationale is that uber rich people aren’t taxed for SS on the majority of their income, yet they get SS benefits just like the rest of us who are paying in a far larger percentage of our income.

The conservative fix is to raise the retirement age, which is what the article linked is talking about.  Yes, they are doing that, and have been for quite some time. Dave was eligible for full retirement when he turned 65.  By the time I got there, ten years later, I had to be 66. The rationale is that people are living longer and thus, working longer. It’s not unreasonable.

The third way to keep SS solvent is for the fucking government to keep their slimy fingers off the SS trust fund and let it jiggle (an expression my uncle used to use a lot; he meant let it earn interest).

But the important thing to note is that Social Security was never, ever,  intended to be the sole source of retirement money.  It’s a sort of “look, we want to make sure you have a jump-start, and that you don’t become 85 and broke and we have to totally take care of you, so we’ll force you to do this little bit, but the bulk of it is really on you.”

Dave and I are both retired. We have been for a long time. Social Security is our fun money.  It’s what we use to take a cruise or buy something that we  don’t absolutely need.

Just before I turned 65, I contacted Medicare to sign up. The Medicare eligibility age is still 65, and boy I was chomping at the bit to get it. Private health insurance is expensive. Because I didn’t have Social Security and wouldn’t for another year, I couldn’t have my Part B premium deducted, so I was billed for it quarterly.

The following year, I contacted Social Security and talked with an agent who was a super peachy guy.  He told me that I had two choices. The first was to start getting full benefits at age 66. The second was to defer that, and instead collect half of Dave’s amount. This doesn’t change Dave’s benefit at all. I can do this until next year, when I turn 70, at which point it won’t benefit me anymore. For those four years, in return for me deferring, the base amount of my benefit rises, and rises substantially.  It means that when I finally start collecting my own Social Security benefits next year, the amount will have grown by 8% annually for four solid years.  This lovely little perk, like everything good, is all gone now.  I qualified for this in 2015. They eliminated it in 2016, but I was grandfathered.

Dave and I have learned something about retirement, having done it now for a while.

The first thing is that it sneaks up on you when you aren’t noticing.  One day, there it is.  You didn’t expect it so soon.

Second is that as we have aged, and even though we are both still healthy (once I get rid of that little bastard thing) and active, neither of us have the stamina we did when we were younger.

We have to think ahead and break tasks up.  No more do we start the day by plowing up the entire large garden and then get the whole damn thing planted before supper.  Part of it is that we don’t have to. But part of it is that we really can’t.

In 2002, Dave and I went to Scotland for six weeks, each of us with one back-pack and no other luggage. We had a few reservations made for some special events, but for most of the trip, we simply wandered around and figured out where we’d stay each night on the fly.  We used public transportation the whole time, or walked.

I’m not kidding about the walking apart. We did the entirety of the West Highland Way, from Milngavie to Fort William, 96 miles. For this little adventure, we booked with a bag-carrying service.  They arranged for a B&B every night and they also appeared in the morning and took our back-packs to the next B&B, and we only had to carry a small day-pack each.

Not all of the road was this flat, I assure you.  It was stunning, though.

We were undoubtedly the slowest people on the route. At every B&B, we would meet new people because everyone outran us. But most of the people hiking were still working and they’d taken off a week to do the Way, and so they had to cover ground or not finish.  We had planned it to be much easier and took nine days.

This is Rannoch Moor.  Naturally, it rained all day long. We walked about 14 miles in the drizzling, misty rain. It was the sort of rain that soaks you no matter what you do. Our boots and socks were soggy at the end. It’s a World Heritage Site, and just beautiful. I bet it’s pretty in the sunshine.

If you ever try to do a long-distance hike like that, I have one piece of advice. This stuff is available at Amazon, but damn it’s expensive. I have never seen it anywhere else in the United States.  When you arrive overseas, get to a chemist’s shop and ask for it.  Buy every size they have in the largest package they have.

Without Compeed, I wouldn’t have made it through that hike. I had blisters on my blisters.  Every night and again every morning, I checked my Compeed patches. They were on both feet, both heels, everywhere.  Moleskin sucks dirt. Compeed works.

We were so proud of ourselves there, and so very tired.  Photo was actually taken the following day after our arrival in Fort William and I was still tired.

Another thing we made a reservation for was the fucking boat.  Along with hiking the Way, this was my brilliant idea. We rented a boat and took it up the river from Ft. William or near there, to Loch Ness.  We lived on this boat during that week.

We had to take it through the locks to get into Loch Ness (and then reverse that to take it back to the boat company at the end of the week).

Dave was driving, so he was inside. I had to go throw the lines up to the attendant standing above.  We were complete novices and total fuck-ups, but so was everyone else, pretty much. We all laughed and hoped we didn’t destroy the boats.

The ruin in the distance is Urquhart Castle.

The water is Loch Ness.  The boat is ours. The guy in the little dingy, rowing for shore, is Dave.  Our motor died. Just died.  Dave is handy and he couldn’t fix it. We had no cell phone (and I doubt there would have been service then anyway).

On the shore are a bunch of fucking tourists watching our predicament and taking pictures, no doubt waiting for Nessie to rise up and devour me.

The Coast Guard came to our rescue.

They towed us to the closest dock and  the boat company sent a guy out to repair us.  There really was something wrong with the engine, but he got it fixed.

In 2002, I was 53 years old. Dave was 63.  We were great wandering all over Scotland for weeks without much of a plan beyond those two adventures (and tickets to the annual Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which was fabulous and that year, the guest performer was the United States Marine Corps band.)

There is no way in hell we’d attempt a trip like that again.  To plan it, I just got all those brochures from those places that advertise “Tour Scotland in X Days” and made a list of the places they went, put them on a map and picked out the ones we were interested in. In each town, we went to the tourist place and they found us a B&B in walking distance.  It was a very cheap way to travel. We spent about the same amount for a six week trip that we would have spent taking one of those “Tour Scotland” things, and they are only a week or two.

That was sixteen years ago. We were sixteen years younger.

Today, we want somebody to take care of all the picky details and call us when dinner is served.  We want somebody to make sure we’re at the airport on time and to figure out how to get to whatever sight we’re going to see today.

What I do know is this. The only way Nicole will be grooming dogs right up to the “morning of [her] funeral” is if she’s planning on dying young, or if she’s going to cut way, way back.  The older you get, the harder it becomes.

To qualify for Social Security, you have to have a minimum of 40 credits. That translates into 10 years of working. If you’re self-employed, you either have to pay into SS when you pay your taxes, if you pay your taxes, or you don’t get any credits (typically).  If you spend your adult life as a “homestead husband,” you don’t get any credits.  Get the minimum number of credits, with a low-paying job, and your SS benefits will be low as well.

What are the odds that either Joe or Nicole have that all-important 10 years worth of credits?  Besides which, there’s the whole issue of being a “whore of the state.”

Investopedia article

If you don’t qualify for Social Security, under most circumstances, you then have to pay for Medicare Part A or go without. Everyone pays for Medicare Part B.  If you don’t get Part D (which you also have to pay for), then you don’t get drugs when you need them.  The average person will incur most of his/her medical expenses in the latter years of their life. Pretending that won’t happen to you is being very foolish indeed.

When you cannot figure out how to grow a garden in three solid years, you’re probably not going to achieve a “self-sustaining homestead” (which doesn’t exist even if you are an expert gardener).  If you can’t keep chickens alive, and manage to have more roosters than hens,  you’re not going to do well with livestock.  And none of that will sustain you in your dotage even if you’re really good at it.

If the “homestead husband” can’t/won’t do the work when he’s in his early forties, it’s not going to get better or easier.  Our hike in 2002 was tough, but doable. Today it would be a whole lot tougher.

This part made me laugh, a lot.

Energy consumption is just a tiny portion of the expense involved in owning a home.  Joe and Nicole are going through garden sheds at a pretty alarming rate.  They’ve built exactly nothing on that property that will be there in any usable condition in ten years.  They have no source of water and have to haul it all from the shop, which won’t be there when Nicole is my age.

Solar panels take battery storage. Batteries have to be maintained and replaced. Generators require fuel which has to be purchased, with money.

Taxes have to be paid, with money.

Groceries have to be purchased, with money, because they sure as hell aren’t going to be able to grow them.  Cars have to be maintained, with money,  unless you use the Naugler method, which is to just drive them until they don’t run any more. But then, you have to get a replacement, with money.

Joe and Nicole are in their early forties. They have time to turn this around, but the clock is ticking and they are looking at a future where, if they don’t die young, they will be old and infirm and a burden on their children, if their children will even have anything to do with them by then.

Make no mistake about it, that is what usually happens to the Joes and Nicoles. They end up mooching off their kids.

Facing retirement with nothing but Social Security and basic Medicare is tough. It’s a horrifying prospect to me, even though I know that lots of people do it and are okay.  But facing retirement with exactly nothing at all is far, far worse.

Minimalism will probably look a whole lot more like destitution.

Limiting yourself to having the number of children you can afford and no more is right up there with limiting yourself to buying used cars and smaller houses.  Minimalism counts when you’re spitting out kids as well as when you’re going to the Dollar Store buying a lot of crap you don’t need.  In fact, I would venture to guess that choice of family size is one major indicator of how well you will do financially.  Kids are expensive.  Even if you neglect them, they are still expensive.

Children raised in poverty tend to be poor as adults. It’s a self-perpetuating situation.  It’s a pretty shitty legacy to leave your kids.

Working is sometimes very hard, and often pretty frustrating. Going to school can be a very tough thing to do, especially later in life.

But the West Highland Way sure beats being destitute.

28+

The Summit is Cancelled

So I’m gonna do a quick video because, um, I don’t feel like typing it up, but I wanted to say something real quick.

Boy, that didn’t take long, did it?

This morning, I posted a meme about how it’s very important thing to learn to talk to people you disagree with. And, I’m a debater, I’ve always enjoyed debates, and I talk to people I disagree with all the time. Sometimes I can be rude or condescending, and I work on that, but anyways.. .

Someone wrote a blog about my post today. They’re very offended that they, um, [shows tablet with the blog piece called “Summit” showing] very offended that I haven’t, um, [again shows the blog], see, here it is. And you can pause it here if you want to read it.

You misunderstood entirely, Nicole. I am not even slightly offended. I’ve never been offended by your refusal to accept my quite honest, very sincere invitations. I am just calling your bluff. You really do not want to learn to talk to people you disagree with at all, do you?

Anyway, she’s invited me to lunch several times, and I’ve declined, and she thinks that maybe I should learn to talk to people I disagree with.

I don’t mind talking to people I disagree with, but I want nothing to do with a psycho-stalker who has been obsessed with my family for three years, who has stalked me, harassed me, has agitated aggression against my family, has wrote defamatory blogs and has done everything that she possibly can to possibly destroy my business and have my children taken from me.

Nicole, I have never laid eyes on you. I cannot possibly have stalked you. I have never seen you. I have never once in my whole life initiated any contact with you. You are the person who is coming here, not on Facebook, to read what I write. You do not have to do that.  You’re getting no notifications from me about it.

It was your husband who stopped the vehicle in which I was riding on a public road, not the other way around.

I have never done shit to your business. I have expressed my opinion that I think the state should remove your kids, but hey, that’s my opinion. You think they shouldn’t. So what?

So, hell fucking no, excuse my language, do I want to go to lunch with you.

Great. I won’t ask again. We just saved that bit of money. Just don’t say that I refuse to meet with you face-to-face, which is what you claimed in the first place. I will call your bluff, Nicole.

face to face

 

I don’t want you near my family, I don’t want you near myself, I don’t want you near my home, I don’t want you near my business, I don’t even want you in the same state. So, I just want you to stay as far away from me as possible.

Since we, in fact, actually own property here in Kentucky which is completely paid for, I think you’ll probably have to put up with me living in the same state.

I mentioned above that I have never seen you in my life, nor have I seen any of your ratty kids. I’ve never been to your business and would require an address and GPS to even find it.

As far as your “home” is concerned, I will ride down that road any time I please whether you like it or not.

So to be offended that I am not going to go to lunch with you is just insane, to even expect it.

I am not offended and didn’t “expect it.” I expected exactly what you’ve done, only I really didn’t expect it to be this spectacular. You never fail to amaze me with your stupidity.

Um, I guess she said she’s having surgery, I don’t know, maybe there’s a tumor on her brain that needs to be removed to help her think straight, I don’t know, but, um, maybe someone should find out who her doctor is and have them do a wellness check because if she thinks that I’m gonna meet her for lunch, she’s completely lost her mind, and probably needs to be supervised [unclear.]

I’m 69 years old, Nicole. I suspect you won’t make it to 69, so you might better tend to your own health and not worry about mine.

So, that just blows my mind.

But we’re gonna watch my chickens for a few minutes because they’re awesome.

[Several moments of  cast-off game chickens and brush and crap and trash on the ground, backed up by a sagging clothesline.]

You may not like me, you may not like how I live, you probably don’t like how I write my blogs or whatever, but I’m sure we can have a civil conversation about that, unless, of course, you’re a psycho-stalker.

Please note that the definition of “psycho-stalker” is anyone who doesn’t agree with Nicole.

This is simply delightful and I don’t have to bother with trying to talk Dave into lunch with Nauglers.  He’ll be so pleased.

37+