Thursday, December 22, 2022

Tis the season for remembering, an upcoming storm and Christmas of course

Sorry about the stubble, I only shave Mon-Wed-Fri

It’s Thursday morning, and I’ve been sitting here admiring the twinkle of lights on my ceramic tree and door wreath, and sipping a cup of coffee flavored with white chocolate creamer (how come I only buy this flavor at Christmas?) and listening to dicey weather reports on the radio, and classic Christmas music. 

Andy Williams singing ‘The First Noel’ always makes me a little melancholy for some reason… 

The day before yesterday I got up earlier than usual to catch the 5:50am bus downtown (to UPMC Mercy Hospital for some blood work) and it was so nice seeing Pittsburgh all lit up in those pre-dawn hours.  It reminded me of the years I spent working in the city, and holiday shopping displays and fancy, hectic parties and get-togethers.  I’m glad I was a part of things then, but don’t miss it now.

After I got to the hospital and had 4 vials of blood taken, the nurse said I should go to the cafeteria and get something to eat before heading out, and that’s just what I did.  I had a prune danish and some very strong coffee, and watched the sun come up over the city.

When I got home, the first of my 4 test results was already in my inbox on my computer; it said my total cholesterol was 198.  When I told my friend Danielle, she said “You’re fine!  My number is 248 on a good day, that’s why I’m on statins!”

Anyway, I’m just sitting here and thinking about things.  Remembering my family’s Christmases at the farmhouse (my favorite was in ‘72 when a giant snowstorm forced our Grandma Morris to stay with us 2 days longer than planned) and then there’s today, the 18th anniversary of my mother’s passing on December 22, 2004.

My favorite photo of my mom from the early Eighties, and how I’ll always remember her

With six kids, Mom worked year-round to ensure our holidays were the stuff that kids dream of.  We’d come down those stairs Christmas morning with our mouths hanging open in surprise & wonder. 

Anyway, I don’t have anything else to write about, but wanted to say thanks and Happy Holidays to everyone out there who visits my blog and takes the time to leave feedback. 

Whenever I post a new blog, then return later to see if anyone’s been here and left a comment… it’s a little like seeing those presents on Christmas morning.

Does that sound corny?  I hope so. Winking smile

Merry Christmas Arkansas Patti, Art & Kay, Bobi, Bohemian, Carole, Celia, Chuck & Robin, David & Gigi, David Hofstede, Danielle, Debby, DJan, Elisa, Erin, Florence, Joanne, Cool Joe, Joyce, Kim in PA, Linda in Kansas, Maebeme, Margaret, Mary, Neena, Pam S, Peter Tibbles, Rian, River, Shawn, SpacerGuy, Susan, Tom & Everyone else who kindly visits here.


Saturday, December 17, 2022

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth—and a laptop (the laptop will have to wait)

I thought I’d share this because of the song and the irony, as it’s almost Christmas.  Last Saturday I had just finished reading blogger Tom’s post on Sightings Over Sixty, The Tooth of the Matter when I turned off my tablet to go downstairs and get my mail. 

Instead of the elevator, I took my building’s iron stairwell but wasn’t wearing my glasses, and one floor down I decided to go back up and get my specs.  When I turned around and headed upstairs, I tripped and fell.  I banged my lower face against a step and heard an awful crack.

When I got back inside and looked in the mirror, my one front tooth (on the right in this photo) was broken off halfway and very jagged.

I took a photo and sent it to my sister Shawn (I don’t want to post it here, it looked pretty awful).  I knew my dentist’s office was closed until Tuesday, but messaged them anyway and sent the photo and what happened.  I sat here the rest of the evening in shock, afraid to eat or drink anything.

That wasn’t the worst of it—I went to bed, and a little after 2am woke up gagging.  Now my SECOND front tooth was broken and in a crumble in my mouth.  Apparently I’d fractured that one too.  What a mess.

I dug out my TMD guard (a bulky acrylic dental appliance that fits over your top teeth) and lived on coffee, ice cream & chicken soup for a couple days.  Tuesday morning my dentist’s office called and said to come in at 2 or sooner if possible.

Shortly after getting there and filling out a couple forms, I was led back for x-rays and told to sit tight.  15-20 minutes later, a thin 41 year old woman with heavy eyeglasses, long blonde ponytail and the thickest Southern accent this side of the Mason-Dixon line appeared in the doorway, hands on her hips.  “Young man!  WHAT DID YOU DO?!”  

It took everything in me not to burst out laughing, I love her dearly.  Doctor Shannon Passineau.

She studied the x-rays, examined my teeth then said “Douglas you have two options.  Both come with good news and bad news.”

“If we do crowns on those two teeth, we can have temporaries on them in no time at all.  And when your permanent crowns come in, they will probably last you a lifetime.  Since you don’t have insurance, they will cost you $1750 for the pair.”

I said ouch but they sounded good, and she said “But they will offset your bite just a fraction.  And it COULD be enough to trigger your TMD again.”   No. NO.

She said “Then I suggest Option #2.  Normally we don’t recommend fillings or composite rebuilds of teeth requiring more than 50% restoration.  And your two front teeth are over half gone.  But I AM a restoration specialist and I think I can do a nice job.  It will probably set you back around $400, and it will require a minimum of 2 hours on our parts.  Are you up for that?”

I said “Dr. Passineau, I will happily spend the night in this chair if necessary.”  She said “We don’t want you doing that!  My husband is taking me out tonight to dinner and a show at Heinz Hall and there is no way I’m missing that, my young man!”

After she numbed my mouth and began working, she said “You should see my new red dress Douglas, the one I’m wearing tonight.  Tell him, Amy.” 

Her assistant said it was red alright.  Doctor Passineau said “Yes it is RED and I look just fabulous in it.  Amy hand me that No. 4 please.  Now Douglas a Southern lady would never wear red unless she was some jezebel, but if it’s CHRISTMAS—“

Amy on the left, Dr. Passineau on the right

Dr. Passineau stopped and said “Young man, are you alright?  Did I numb you enough?”   I was clutching the armrests, doing everything I could not to laugh at “jezebel”. 

A couple hours later, she handed me a mirror and asked what I thought.  My jaw hurt like heck, but I was delighted.  I said “One of my front teeth was misshaped, and I always had a small gap between them.”   She said “Oh, I went ahead and fixed all that!”   As you can see in the photo above, she sure did. 

My total for these repairs was $345.00.  Dr. Passineau told me she still needs to do filler on the left one, and repairs on two at the bottom.  According to the printout below, those bottoms will set me back another $335.00 in 2 weeks.

She told me all 4 of these teeth were structurally unsound and were ready to go anyway.  (I knew one of the front teeth was fragile, but not the other ones.)  

Anyway, with my recent gallbladder issue in November that cost me $550.00 after insurance ($150 for the ambulance, $75 for the ER and $325 for the abdominal ultrasound) and now this, there goes the money I had allocated for a new laptop, and then some. 

I’m typing this on a laptop from 2012 that still uses Windows 7;  I heard Windows is up to version 11 now!

Oh well, I’d prefer a healthy gall bladder & my front teeth anyway Nerd smile


Wednesday, December 14, 2022

When it comes to my former classmate Diana, no news is good news

Diana is in the center row, the only woman on the far right

These are my former classmates at my last high school reunion in August 2014, for the Jefferson-Morgan HS Class of 1979.  I didn’t go, at the time I was still working and up to my ears in a new product installation for the Pricing Group at UPMC Health Plan. 

(And truth be told, I had no one to go with and didn’t want to attend by myself.)  But from the very small turnout, I was far from alone in my choice.

They were going to do a “60th birthday party” reunion in 2021, when most of us turned 60, but then covid came along in 2020 and pretty much nipped that in the bud.

Anyway, for the last 10 years or so I’ve been in occasional touch with one of these former classmates, Diana (in the center row).  She would reach out just to say hi in email, and when I developed a serious TMJ disorder a few years back, Diana would write with suggestions on natural treatments and the like.

The irony of it was, as small a graduating class as we had (around 100 students total), Diana & I were not friends back then.  We ran in different circles.  But we attended one class together.

The class was On Your Own (which wasn’t really on your own, we learned how to co-habitate, budget & navigate the rocky terrain of marriage).  Here’s a photo of our very first class, “Wedding Day”.  That’s myself & my friend/wife Karen dead center, and Diana and her ‘husband’ Ron third from the right.

But this is my only memory of Diana, that class.  I remember she spoke very softly and had a nice laugh.  But in the 50 years I’ve known her, we’ve never once talked in person or on the phone, until the other night.

One day last week I was cleaning out my email folder on my laptop, and saw an old message from Diana where she’d included a phone number if I ever wanted to chat.  I wrote and asked if that was still her phone number and would she like to talk sometime.  She said yes, how about tonight.  She’d be working late but to give her a call at 8:30pm.  We could talk until 10pm, when she went to bed.

I did call her that night promptly at 8:30, and we talked 4 1/2 hours, until 1:00am.  Whoops!  She was just that easy & comfortable to talk with.  The entire time of our conversation, I thought “Why didn’t we do this sooner?”

In a nutshell, Diana married 1-2 years after we graduated.  She had 2 kids, a boy and a girl by the time she was 20 (and they are both in their forties today, which is strange.  I have a sister in her mid-40s).  Several years ago her daughter moved west to Salt Lake City, and then her son followed his sister to Utah to find his fortune.  

Diana’s first husband died young from cancer, and sadly her second husband died from covid last June.  She said “Doug I’m not as lucky as you, I still have to work.  I do like my job... I just didn’t expect to be alone at this stage in my life.”   

We did our share of reminiscing, and (for not knowing Diana that well) I was surprised at the same memories we shared.  I have friends I enjoy talking to as young as 45 and old as 80-something, but there’s something “kindred” when talking with someone your own age.

For example, I was sharing a memory from our senior prom, when the lead singer of the band said “Who’s ready to boogie?” and got silence and a few groans in return.  Another band member nudged him and said something, the guy at the mike said “Who’s ready to get down tonight!”  and the students cheered.  Diana laughed at that, she got it.

Diana did tell me something interesting which has been giving me a new perspective on things.  She doesn’t follow the news.  Local, national, celebrities, political—none of it.  She’s aware of the really big stuff, like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but that’s the extent of things and she wants to keep it that way.

She said it began years back when the lead story on the news one night was about Lindsay Lohan, and she simply had enough.  I have to admit, I’ve been finding myself turning off the news more & more this past week after hearing that.

Do I really need to know Prince Harry & Meghan Markle have a new docuseries on Netflix, or the latest going-ons at Twitter?  What a waste of time.  I’m happy that Brittney Griner is out of Russia and home with her family, but I only had to hear it once—not 30 times over in 3-4 days. 

And what about NASA and the success of their Artemis 1 moon rocket?  Okay, I did want to know that!  But I still think Diana’s on to something.

Finally, I was surprised when she asked if I’d like to make our chat a more regular thing, like once a month.  I figured she’d had enough of me for a lifetime.  But I said yes, for sure.  We’ve got over 4 decades of catching up to do.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

My Christmas Wreath Conundrum—darn it, this shouldn’t be a conundrum

A couple days ago after getting a haircut, I stopped in the hardware store to have a look around.  While I was looking at their (pretty meager) holiday display, the thought occurred to me I hadn’t hung a Christmas wreath on my front door in maybe 10 years.

I asked if they had any in stock, the clerk said she had one remaining from last year.  I bought it (in a box, sight unseen) for $25.00. 

When I got back to my apartment building, two of my favorite 4th floor residents, Opal & Sarah were sitting downstairs in the lobby chatting after getting their mail.

Opal’s my friend, but I love Sarah—she’s a quiet black woman in her mid 70s who’s very sweet and always calls me John, then apologizes profusely.  She is just so nice.

Opal asked what was in the box and I thought why not and told her.  She said “Well open it up so we can see!”   I peeled off the tape and lifted the lid.  Inside was a skinny ‘O’ ring of green encased in clear plastic.  Opal slapped her knee and laughed.  She said “I wouldn’t want that on MY door!”  I checked my pocket to make sure I kept the receipt.

But after bringing it upstairs and cutting off the plastic, this artificial wreath REALLY sprang to life, so to speak.  I got my door hook to hang it up and fluff it out (that’s it above).  It wound up looking just wonderful—and twice as big as the pizza-style box it came in.

I also discovered something really special.  It had a tiny green box embedded in the branches that took 3 AA batteries.  When I installed them, the wreath came to life with 40 led lights, in a variety of twinkles.  (There are 9 settings to choose from.)  Nice!

The thought occurred to me, why don’t I hang it on the INSIDE of my apartment versus the hallway on my front door?  I live down a dead-end hall (no one sees), plus I don’t have a Christmas tree other than the ceramic tree that sits on my dining table. 

I’d love to have something in here with pine branches, without getting an entire tree.  Would that be too selfish?

I remember several years ago seeing a news story where people who lived in NYC (in apartments) hung their wreaths inside to enjoy more (and to keep them from getting stolen).  But that’s NYC, this is Pittsburgh.

I moved it to my closet door, then went down the hall and asked Opal if she wanted to see the wreath again.  When I told her I was going to hang it inside instead, she said “You men are all alike, your front doors are bare!  Only the women bother to decorate!” 

She did surprise me later though, when she returned with Sarah and both agreed it would be nicer in here.  (Now my conundrum is which door to hang it on.  The closet door seems better, it faces the center of the room.)

Still, I felt guilty.  That all changed though, when I googled my conundrum and found this article on Apartment Therapy:

If You’re Not Putting Your Wreath in this Spot, You’re Missing Out

The article says if you live in an apartment and your door doesn’t face a public place like the street, you’d probably be happier hanging your wreath on the inside.

All’s well that ends well—yesterday I came across these 12” wooden door plaques with a sparkly bow-tie and got one for my own front door.  Opal said “That’s perfect!” 


Sunday, December 4, 2022

Kids! I don't know what's wrong with these kids today

A couple months ago, my sister Shawn let me know that my 18 year old niece Sophia was in her first serious relationship with a boy and his name was Colby.  I asked if this Colby was a nice boy, Shawn said yes, he’s nice. 

I haven’t heard anything in awhile, so recently I asked if Sophia & Colby were still an item and my sister said yes.  I said “So how about a picture of this young man?”  I got the pic above.  What the—!!  These two look like they fell out of the Disney Channel, you have got to be kidding me! 

I mean, of course I’m very happy for them (and even happier for my sister that Sophia’s young man isn’t a 32 year old Hell’s Angel) but these two take the cake.  I said “So what do they do for fun when they’re not posing for adorable selfies in matching comfy pants?” 

Shawn said “Well, they enjoy putting puzzles together” and sent me these 2 pics.


While I was looking these two photos over and wondering if this is what 18 year olds were really doing for fun in the 21st century, my sister sent the one below and remarked they were excited to recently vote in their first election.  They’re wearing their “I Voted” stickers.

I said that’s great, but I’ve seen enough.

Frankly, these two were making me feel like white trash.  Around the time I was their age during the holidays, I had recently broken up with my chain-smoking girlfriend Sherri and was involved with a girl named Kelly from work.  We were invited to her cousin’s trailer for a Christmas party, and inside was a keg (filled with beer I assume) and this metal washtub filled with purple liquid and swollen oranges bobbing around in it.

When I asked what the concoction was, someone said “You want a Purple Jesus?  Jesus is the reason for the season!”  I learned the liquid was grape kool-aid & grain alcohol.  You drop a couple sacks of oranges into the stuff, they soak up the drink and… voila.  A Purple Jesus.

While I was mulling over the possibility of trying one and not making it to my 19th birthday, Kelly said “Gimme one of those things!” and chomped into one.  A few minutes later, she was face down on the floor, passed out cold.  Ah, good times.

These kids today… what can you say!  Winking smile