Life is like an interval run

My run yesterday morning began with seven minutes of low-grade torture. It wasn’t like a near-drowning experience at the hands of a CIA operative, but it generally sucked (as in “I repeatedly sucked air into my half-deflated lungs”) and I began planning how to cut my workout short.

I was embarking on what’s normally my favorite interval run, the 7654321 workout which meant six more intervals of running six minutes, five minutes, four minutes, etc.

I toughed through those long seven minutes and walked briskly for three-and-a-half minutes, marveling at the nice weather. For the first time this month, I was able to take it easy for a few minutes without freezing my tush off.

Then I began my six-minute interval and noted how I was still going uphill and now the wind was in my face. Figures, I thought, that my longest intervals are the hardest part of the route. [My route, by the way, was my choice. No one twisted my arm to run uphill. Downhill options exist just a block from my house. I was the idiot who chose to do it the hard way.]

Ah, then came a three-minute interlude of brisk walking. Good.

The end of my five-minute interval  ended at exactly the highest point in my route. The rest of the way was downhill I noted as I surveyed the village below. And the wind was at my back.

And then I began to realize my morning run was a metaphor for my life so far.

At 48, I’ve finally figured out that choosing the easy way is easier. [Took 48 years for that brilliant revelation. Every single decade, I look back at my 10-years-younger self and think, I was such a dope 10 years ago. I’m so much smarter now. Now, at least, I realize my 10-years-older self will still be saying the same thing.]

Those running intervals are getting shorter. And, with a bit of experience and oxygen in my veins, I’m getting faster. And the world seems to be working with me instead of against me.

By the time I got to my three-minute running interval, I literally felt like I was flying. A little bit. My pace had picked up. I was running downhill. The wind was carrying me along instead of spewing in my face. I was floating for a millisecond on every step, gaining an extra inch with every stride. I was airborne!

That’s how my life is some days. Buoyant. I’m married to an amazing man of big adventures. I am doing good, important, creative work. My car functions, the economy is improving, and I’ve avoided having to shop at the local detestable supermarket for more than a year. Hey, I’m within five pounds of my ideal weight. The small things count in the big picture. I’m experiencing a runner’s high of life right now.

My two-minute and one-minute running intervals quite literally flew by. Poof! My morning workout was done.

Not so bad for a run that had me so demoralized in the beginning that I considered not finishing it.

Kinda like life.

Holy Cow, that was a fun book

In fairy tales, queens consult magic mirrors and beans grow giant bean stalks. If you can swallow those sort of ridiculous plot twists, you can appreciate a cow who writes a memoir, a pig who gets circumcised and a turkey who flies planes in David Duchovny’s Holy Cow, a modern-day dairy tale.

Holy CowI picked up with book for two reasons. A. David Duchovny is the handsome leading man of “X Files” fame. And B. My PopSugar 2015 Reading Challenge called for reading a book with nonhuman characters.

Holy Cow is the story of Elsie the cow who embarks on a great odyssey when she catches a glimpse of an “industrial meat farm” on the farmer’s “Box God” (aka TV). Her journey with Shalom the pig and a turkey who uses Google maps on a stolen cell phone is a surreal page turner.

I found the book the be a fun romp through the cow pasture, but I noticed some reviewers found a few cow pies. Twice, Duchovny crosses the “let’s all get along” line when he gets all PETA on readers by chastising meat eaters and then he preaches peace by taking on the haters in the Middle East.

Here’s the deal: I’m a meat eater, and I still appreciated the anthropomorphism of a cow. And I’ve gotta believe at least some residents of the Middle East want peace.

More than plot, literary sticklers will cringe at the puns and tired metaphors. I found them funny. Duchovny is surprising and clever. While Holy Cow is probably a great book for a teenager (especially one thinking about eating vegetarian or one who just got detention for fighting), it’s a fun distraction for an adult, too.

Do not pass Go, do not collect $200 (or $200 million)

For some reason, I found several emails from my Beloved in my spam folder today. The same folder I usually just trash without looking.

Why would important emails from an important person in my life go directly to spam, do not pass Go?

Perhaps a better question is why would a man who works at home with a work-at-home wife need to send her not one but multiple emails? Maybe he is spamming her (kidding, ‘love).

But while I was fishing in the cesspool of my In Box, I discovered some fine gems. Lurking among the ads for Viagra and online dating (um, nope and nope), I learned I won the UK lottery and that I had an “overdue inheritance claim” (hmm, should someone have died sooner? why is it “overdue”?).

Apparently I’m likely to need company (All Lonely Wives Need A Friend!), a smoke (Great Cigar Deals!), Thicker Hair! and a Commercial Grade Surface Sealer!

I don’t even know what a surface sealer is, or what surface they’d be talking about. And I’m flummoxed about why it’s so urgent to seal my surface that an exclamation point is required.

Funny, no one was advertising to sell me a spam filter.

If Seinfeld was a blog

Some days I want to tell you about my day, and I’m like, well, I made a killer spreadsheet with a super complicated formula where you type in one number and four complex other numbers get spit out, and it’s really cool.

Oh, for nerdiness!

OK, I was quarreling with someone, and we smoothed it over and it’s all good now …

Um, too much information.

How about this: I roasted some old grapes and made a really yummy dish for supper.

Sorry, you’ve already shared a weird recipe like that.

I did a kettlebell workout this morning, and my butt is killing me!

Chirp. Chirp. Is that crickets, I hear?

Ah, the weather? How about I tell you about the weather?

Bor. Ing. Hello? Anybody awake in there?

I’m reading this great book–

Another book review? Really?

So a mechanic, a rabbit and a transvestite walk into a bar …

Right. A joke. No.

OK, I had this philosophical conversation with a deep thinker about how home feels, and I can’t recreate it for you without a lot of back story, and I know I won’t have the words to really convey what he meant when he said a certain road reminds him of youth, and eating at a local restaurant doesn’t just mean comfort food, it means comfort. And while he was describing this, I was thinking that exact same place that feels like home to him feels like a wind-whipped prairie I only wanted to run away from for me.

That was my day. A whole bunch of inconsequential stuff that added up to good things in life. But they don’t make much of a blog post.

I’m sorry.

Maybe tomorrow.

Lamott book of essays inspires laughter, tears

I appreciate author Anne Lamott because she writes about faith so simply and directly: “Jesus had an affinity for prisoners. He had been one, after all.” Or she writes something so honest, you just want to hug her because she seems to understand you: “I have sometimes considered writing a book called All the People I Still Hate: A Christian Perspective, but readers would recoil.”

Small VictoriesSo I loved her collection of essays, Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace. Lamott just has a way of finding truth — and humor — in otherwise bland everyday moments like skiing poorly and airplane turbulence. Reading her work is like sipping tea; I joyfully savor it.

My favorite pieces in the book were “Forgiven,” about her Enemy Lite, a seemingly perfect parent of another child in her son’s first grade class,  and “Dad” which moved me to tears when she wrote about reading her father’s journal decades after his death. I also enjoyed “Matches,” about online dating (most of the time, I feel Lamott is my simpatico, but when she wrote that sex “is not on the women’s bucket lists. I’m sorry to have to tell you this,” I literally said out loud, “Ah .. no. You are not speaking for all women”).

One other small niggle: She regularly railed against President George W. Bush (apparently a number of the essays were written during his administration). I don’t particularly like him either, but her strongly negative feelings sometimes got in the way of her point. I began to wonder if the title of the book was a statement about the 2000 election. I imagine some readers might not be able to get past her politics.

Still, if you’re looking for a dose of hope, joy and grace served up with a dash of humor and honesty, you might like Small Victories.

$2,569: Another lesson in the healthcare maze

Regular readers may recall my rant about the hidden costs of American healthcare when I discovered a lump in my breast a couple years ago and felt rushed into getting what turned out to be a completely unnecessary ultrasound. Because of the way the procedure was coded, my health insurance was conveniently (for it) let off the hook to pay for it—but I didn’t discover this until after the procedure.

Lately, I’ve heard a lot more about how consumers have no idea how much their health care costs because of the way healthcare providers and insurance companies handle the labyrinth process, which makes the story I’m about to bring you all the more relevant.

Uncle Al wrote up the following story after he regaled me and my Beloved recently with the details of a mysterious little tube of medicine he had on his coffee table. When I read it, I suggested the world needed to know about the sneaky ways American health care gets its money so I’m sharing his story here on Minnesota Transplant.

Please welcome guest blogger (and entertainer) Uncle Al:

$2,569 — always ASK your doctor

I’ve had this little mole shaped like a pencil eraser right in the smile line of my right front cheek for a while. It was a problem because I smile a lot and I also managed to nick it with my razor on a regular basis, too … ouch! With its plentiful blood supply, the mole—once nicked—bled for about 10-15 minutes … and then would start bleeding again if I touched it later in the day. How embarrassing for someone else to tell you over lunch that what you are eating is making your face bleed!

So in January, I went to the dermatologist for a “whole body” mole check (something my sister recommended—she’s a retired RN), and they found a suspect, possibly precancerous mole on my shoulder. I also asked about that pesky facial mole, and another mole right in the middle of my chin (which I have almost successfully shaved off over the past many decades—I won’t say how many!). And I also mentioned that I have this seemingly overly-sensitive spot on the very top of my head which I cannot see (girls: I don’t have a hand mirror) so I asked the nurse to look at it. Minutes later “Pssst!” went the liquid nitrogen on three of those spots up there and after a bit of slicing and cauterizing, both those facial moles were gone. Other than a little pin prick to numb things, all went well as far as any pain. Gone. Thank you, Lord!

The nurse practitioner (never saw the dermatologist) is the sweetest, nicest lady. She performed the two facial mole-ectomies. She also suggested a cream to prevent any future cancer spots on top of my head. I thought, “Cool, I better pay attention.” She commented that it was expensive. Since I opted to go directly (no referral) to this dermatology clinic (based on an excellent experience my son also had with them about a year ago), I asked how much the medical cream would cost. She didn’t know and said not to worry—that my medical provider would cover it: “No problem … since you have a precancerous mole and these tiny sensitive spots on the top of your head, it will be covered. We will do a biopsy so we know for sure.” I thought, heck if it is that expensive, maybe I’ll just pay for that ointment or cream today, write a check … what’s a couple hundred bucks for some ointment and no hassles from my insurance provider (since I did not go there on referral from my primary physician).

Again, I said, “I understand there’s a deductible, and it’s expensive. How about I just pay for it today?” I’m still thinking a little tube, the size of a Chapstick container cannot cost that much money, now can it!?

So she suggested again that I just allow the dermatologist’s office, to submit it to the pharmacy and my medical provider will likely cover it completely and then I can deal with any questions later. Seemed logical, so I paid my doctor visit portion of the bill and walked out the door with just a little circle Band-Aid where that pesky “used to be bloody mole” was located … a new man! I felt so good!

A week later, the doorbell rang. I had to sign for the prescription, and I eagerly opened up the box, slid out the 30-gram tube of medication (for us Americans that is 1 ounce) and read the instructions and side-effects carefully. I put a dab on my finger after I opened it (no returning it now you know) and … no pain. Hmmm…not bad. I continued treatment.

Two weeks later I got a notice from my healthcare provider. Yep, they paid it all! Phew! Good! Then I read the second page of the billing statement dated January 22, 2015. This is 10 days after my appointment. I read that with one prescription I had almost exhausted my prescription drug plan coverage and with another $131 of prescription medicine expenditures in 2015, they will move me into the next higher class of coverages (meaning I pay much, much more for any medicines needed in the “remainder of the year.”) WT*? (Pardon me!) What the hell has just happened? I’m only into the 22nd day of the year. The bill for one ounce of CARAC CRM 0.5% costs … get ready …


Can you hear the expletives still echoing?

Yes, $2,569 for a tube of Chapstick in cream form! OMG. I wish she would have said, “Be sure to bend over when the postman arrives!” because that cost would have caused me to rethink my decision to get the medicine!

I think Americans, including myself, have lost sight of what medications actually cost out there in the market place. We are all “neatly hidden” from the actual costs of medicines, and we are allowing drug companies and insurance companies to screw us over. Ditto to the hospitals that charge us for each tissue, Q-tip (excuse me, “sterile swab”) and every time our blood pressure gets checked (by a machine nowadays).

Anyway, nothing I can do about it now. The minute I signed for that postal package, I was screwed. I can’t return it. I didn’t have a bill yet to even know what I was actually signing for when the medication arrived at my door. I learned a valuable medical life lesson in this little mole-ectomy experience, and I hope you now did, too:

Always ask how much any medication actually costs!

I am not convinced I really need to put a little $85 dab on my head each morning (then, like a good beer, in minutes it’s gone!)

Are you kidding me? Ask!


Minnesota Transplant note: Uncle Al is a dear man living in a beautiful place where his head is regularly exposed to sunshine. Let’s hope his ridiculously expensive skin balm does the trick in one tube. Because there won’t be a second!

Things change

Monica Lee:

While our house is being buffeted by hard-driving rain, I am reminded of another spring storm five years ago. I’m going to curl up with a book.

Originally posted on Minnesota Transplant:

There’s a storm blowing in.

The temperature has dropped to 42 degrees and the trees with their little green buds are swishing to and fro like an angry maid’s broom.

I can hear the wind coming up, and every once in a while, the fireplace howls.

It’s twilight now, and I saw a couple pass our house walking their dogs. They were wearing winter stocking caps (the couple, not the dogs).

Yesterday, the high was 62.

Isn’t it strange how quickly things change?

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