Tag Archives: Postaday

Stop and gaze upon the roses

 

horizontal red roses

Stop and smell the lilacs, that’s a maxim I could get behind. The scent of lilacs blooming in May is both fleeting and intoxicating.

Roses, I have found, are not very fragrant, making the phrase “stop and smell the roses” not only cliché but also misleading. But still, roses in bloom have a way of stopping one in one’s tracks, they are so handsome.

Napa cookie cutter campgroundI captured the image above a couple of weeks ago when we were staying at the Napa Valley Expo, a neat and proper sort of RV park where every lot is exactly the same size, lined up on a perfectly asphalted street. The effect is rather hypnotic, particularly when one walks her dog along the same route every time, four times a day.

Then I wake up in the morning, answering puppy’s call to nature, and notice the dew on the roses.

dewy-red-rose.jpg

It’s all I can do not to break out in my Stevie Wonder voice, “Isn’t she lovely? Isn’t she Won. Der. Ful? Isn’t she precious?”

A fanciful row of rose bushes line the main thoroughfare in the park, and I get to gaze upon them whenever I walk the dog or do the laundry. These dewy images were taken a couple of weeks ago, when most of the blooms were only buds, just waking up to spring’s welcome. Unfortunately for us visitors, it rained most of a week, but April’s showers left such perfect droplets on the roses, one might think an artist was painting circular little globs of clear lacquer on every upward surface.

red bud

We answered Wanderlust‘s call to fly home for some business (and pleasure), and then returned “home,” to our little RV in Napa Valley. The rain is gone, and the roses, still standing guard on the thoroughfare, are almost spent. We’ll be moving on soon enough, but today we’re here, and the roses demand attention.

rose bush

This morning’s wide open blossoms.

A little rant about health care, mammograms, paranoia and unfounded faith in technology

When someone blames Obamacare for their high  health insurance premiums, I want to scream.

It’s not politics that increased my health insurance premium by $78.37 in the middle of the year (yeah, I didn’t know they could do that either, but my monthly premium  — for the exact same plan that covers me alone — went up 34% in July, the equivalent of nearly $1,000 a year).

At least, it’s not only politics. It’s wiz-bang innovations that patients demand and/or doctors recommend for no reason other they sound good.

Image by Prevention magazine

Image by Prevention magazine

Need an example? How about computer-aided-detection, aka CAD, for mammography. Computers do everything better, right?

Wrong.

CAD for mammography, which aims to double-check radiologists’ screening results, didn’t improve accuracy by any measure, according to the largest study to date of the controversial tool, published Sept. 28 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. I’ve been seething about the report shared in the Star Tribune ever since.

The JAMA Internal Medicine report found that CAD for mammograms added at least $400 million to the nation’s annual health care tab. Someone is paying that $400 million, people, and if you think it’s not you, you don’t know how insurance premiums are set. Insurance companies are out to make money, and they don’t pay for procedures out the goodness of their hearts — they pay for them out of your premiums.

You might be tempted to blow off that $400 million number, but think of it this way: There are about 35 million women in the U.S. between the ages of 50 and 74 (the age frame of women recommended to get mammograms). That $400 million means $11 every year for every middle-aged woman in the country. For just one unnecessary type of procedure among dozens, if not hundreds.

Not only does CAD not improve a radiologist’s accuracy in finding cancers on mammograms, it actually reduces it, probably because they’re depending on the computer as a crutch. “Radiologists’ sensitivity, or the proportion of times they correctly identified cancer, was 83 percent when they used CAD — and nearly 90 percent without it,” reporter Jonel Aleccia wrote.

Aye yi yi.

I’ve been suspect of mammograms since my last one three years ago, preformed after I found a lump in my breast (it was more of a bump, actually). It turned out to be a harmless bruise, but I paid $517 for an unnecessary ultrasound that discovered nothing except peace of mind (read that outrage here). In most cases — not all, I get it — but in most cases, a woman or her partner finds the lump first and the mammogram just confirms and pinpoints it. It’s one of the reasons breast cancer screening guidelines changed a couple of years ago from beginning routine screening (i.e. mammograms) for women of average risk at age 40 to age 50 and from being performed annually to every two years. Mammograms simply aren’t the be-all, end-all of breast cancer detection.

Some women are still insisting they want mammograms more often than the guidelines. The science just doesn’t back it up for healthy women (i.e., no family history, not taking hormone therapy, not at high-risk of carrying the BRCA gene, etc.). News flash: If you want a mammogram before age 50 or more often than every other year, you can still get one — pay for it yourself! Why should my insurance premium bear the cost of your paranoia?

So what can a logical woman do about health care procedures that do nothing to actually improve her health? Well, for starters, we can take control of our health care by being informed. Ask how much a procedure is going to cost before going ahead with something just because you’ve met your deductible for the year. As for CAD for mammograms, you  have a right to ask for a CAD-free mammogram, which is not only good for the community bottom line, it’s good for you because it encourages the radiologist to be more careful.

And the next time you’re tempted to blame politics for the cost of your health care, look in the mirror. I’ve seen the enemy, and it is us.

A workation’s symbol of freedom

horses back yard

The view out the back window of my camper.

Horses have been something of a theme on this workation I’ve been experiencing since mid-June.

Yes, I’ve been traveling, thus the spotty schedule of blog posts which I hope you’ll forgive. Our camper has made a cozy home in six different locations the past three weeks which means three laundromats and six sewer hose hook-ups (lest you think a workation is all fun and games, though it’s been that, too, what with a Fourth of July parade (how much fun is a parade!) and a Twins baseball game in Kaufman Stadium (when they say “not a bad seat in the house,” they’re not kidding)).

The trip began in Kentucky, and what’s Kentucky known for? Bourbon, fried chicken and the Kentucky Derby, right? Miles of white fencing line the pastures of Kentucky’s rolling landscape, and behind those fences beautiful horses graze on what I can only imagine is Kentucky bluegrass.

Then, quite by chance, we had the opportunity to witness a horse finding a home in a new Iowa pasture when we arrived a bit early at a colleague’s house for a dinner party. His son’s girlfriend trucked her new thoroughbred to his house to be stabled with his 22-year-old horse who, our colleague insisted, still mourned her stablemate who died five years ago.

horses free

Though you can barely see the equine beasts in this shot, their appreciation of the meadow at sunset was breathtaking.

We expected fireworks of the snorting and whinnying variety, hoping there wouldn’t be biting and kicking (I had, heretofore, been unaware that horses can be mean biters). Instead, the two horses took to each other like best friends. After a few hours of get-to-know-you sniffing and nickering, the horses were freed into the pasture together. To see those beautiful animals galloping after each other in the meadow was a beautiful sight.

During one of our stops in Minnesota, I had the opportunity to run (twice!) on trails marked as “shared use,” where I was instructed to announce my presence upon encountering riders on horseback. I only imagined giving such a beast a wide berth, not actually seeing any on my early morning jaunts.

Arriving in Wisconsin, we made camp at a site only 30 yards from a pasture where two chestnut beauties spend their days munching on grass made lush by lots of rain. My 8-pound miniature schnauzer spends her days on the back of the couch growling warnings through the camper window.

And the book I’m reading now? Well, among the characters in Jonathan Kirsch’s The History of the End of the World are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

What meaning should I draw from this strange repeating coincidence?

Well, based on a quick Google search (what better place to find meaning nowadays than Google, right?), horses symbolize power, grace, beauty, nobility, strength and freedom (WhatsYourSign.com). My journeys have taken me through the heart of the Midwest, so perhaps I should draw on the beliefs of the original residents: “The horse has long been honored as helper, messenger and harbinger of spirit knowledge to the Native American.”

Beauty? Nobility? Freedom? Harbinger of knowledge? Sounds like a message to which I ought to be listening.

Noble color, noble intentions

On the theory that seeing warm colors warms you up, I present this gallery of beautiful flowers on the warm side of the color wheel.

(There is no theory that viewing warm colors warms you up, but I think you’ll enjoy these images that make the most of the Rule of Thirds more than pictures of yellow snow.)

yellow flower

coral flower

red flower

fuscia flower

purple flower

Wherever men are noble, they love bright colour; and wherever they can live healthily, bright colour is given them—in sky, sea, flowers, and living creatures.

~ John Ruskin (1819–1900)

Letters in the wind(ow)

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The most amazing window display caught my eye last week when I was in downtown Chicago visiting a client.

Someone upcycled pages from books into blossoms. Letters became art, art as commerce.

The display drew me into Greer, a pretty like stationery store where I spent $40 on beautiful notes and cards and papers. If I like someone very much, I may actually work up the strength to send them.

20140426-222337.jpg

On top

birth markA few months after I’d met my Beloved when I knew him well enough to know I was sure about my feelings but when I was still caught up in the rush of infatuation, I made him a list of reasons I loved him.

No. 34 was “that cute little birthmark reminds me you were a baby once.”

When I first met him in a coffee shop seven years ago, I noticed he was tall (I was swooning by then). Then I noticed his big, strong hands (yeah, I have a thing about hands). Then I noticed he had gorgeous blue eyes (oh, joy!). And then I noticed the little Gorbachev on top his head. His presence? Imposing. His hands? Like baseball mitts. His eyes? Breathtaking. His birthmark? Cute.

He wore his hair shorter then, so his birthmark was evident. Now it’s often hidden by his curly tresses. But I know it’s there.

Technically, it’s called a hemangioma which is an abnormally dense group of blood vessels. According to the Mayo Clinic, cause is unknown though it may be hereditary. The old wives’ tale I’d heard said such birthmarks are caused by how a baby rests inside the womb, which is why my Beloved’s reminds me he was a baby once.

Whatever the cause, I think his little purple blotch is distinctive and adorable. Just like him.

Street life

cartegena walk

Whenever I hear “Cartagena,” I think of Kathleen Turner sliding down a muddy hill in a Colombian jungle in “Romancing the Stone.”

I couldn’t get my Beloved and my Adored stepson to actually watch the 1984 movie before we left on our cruise last week, but I did manage to avoid any jungle disasters. We walked the streets of Cartagena, Colombia  — our first port of call and enjoyed the street life and architecture of Old City, the walled colonial city on the coast of the Caribbean Sea.

Nine days. Ten trips through metal detectors. Five countries. One glass of ice cubes I should have avoided. Ninety degrees almost every day. Great vacation.

“You’re the best time I’ve ever had.”

Kathleen Turner as Joan Wilder
in “Romancing the Stone”