291 posts categorized "Crabby Old Lady"

Crabby Old Lady Tries to Manage Her Disease

TGB readers generate a lot of good ideas for blog posts, sometimes without knowing it. The latest that caught Crabby Old Lady's attention is pretty much a perfect fit with one of the tenets of TimeGoesBy – that we talk about old age things here that nobody ever tells us will happen. We discover them the hard way.

About a week ago, Patty-in-New-York left, in part, this comment:

”Reading this post,” wrote Patty, “I was struck by how complicated it is, managing your illness.”

No kidding. As soon as Crabby read that, she realized such thoughts have been rolling around in her head for some time, just slightly out of reach. Patty's note made them manifest along with instant understanding that Crabby is far from the only old person doing this.

MEDICATIONS
Start with medications. It's not just the pills themselves, it's how and when they are taken. Crabby has one that she takes first thing in the morning. Another – a double dose of two pills - to take 30 minutes before breakfast.

There are five or six more she takes at the beginning of that meal, and another pill that she must take before every meal and every snack she eats; it is crucial to replacing the enzymes her body can no longer produce on its own.

Then there are the evening pills. Some related to the evening meal, others not. Oh, and one more – Crabby takes cannabis in a variety of forms an hour before she intends to go to sleep to relieve the insomnia she lived with for many years.

Crabby counts out all these into little pillbox containers every Saturday for the coming week. She's been doing this now for two years. It's boring. Really boring. Crabby sighs a lot on Saturday when she counts them out.

Since the breathing problem appeared, Crabby has been on an inhaler four times a day which is now plugged into her schedule with the pills and altogether, they go something like this: 6AM, 7AM, 10AM, noon, 2PM, 6PM and so on. It means being in almost constant communication with a clock all day every day.

About a year ago, Crabby needed to inject a solution into the fat in her belly twice a day for two months. This is not fun and the longer it went on the fewer “clean” places there were to stick the needle. Thank god she didn't need to find a vein.

WEIGHT
As Crabby has undoubtedly mentioned, cancer and chemotherapy eat up energy (calories) faster than a healthy body and weight loss can quickly lead to frailty. Crabby is regularly admonished by the nurses and doctors to eat lots of protein and animal fat and if she is not eating enough, weight slips off her body like water after a shower.

So first thing every morning Crabby weighs herself, marks the number on the chart she keeps and adjusts her eating for any given day on whether her weight is heading up or down.

NORMAL ACTIVITIES
Start with the aforementioned shower. For reasons Crabby doesn't understand, showering leaves her breathing hard before she's halfway done. She is completely baffled as to why standing mostly still while lovely hot water falls over her body should do this.

Making the bed since the breathing problem appeared is a long procedure; Crabby needs to sit and rest two or three times when straightening the covers, and don't even ask how many times she rests while changing the bed.

Even getting dressed sometimes requires a rest period to get her breathing back on course.

Carrying groceries in from the car? Crabby used to just grab all the bags, even six or seven of them, and walk them into the house. With the breathing problem now, that many bags requires at least three trips with a 10 minute rest between each one.

Further – again, associated with the breathing difficulty - even standing still can be exhausting. It still surprises Crabby every time she washes the few dishes one person generates that she's breathing hard before she's halfway through two plates, a cup, silverware and a pot or pan.

Often, just bending over to pick up a dropped pen or pencil results in a few minutes of heavy breathing.

In comparison, laundry is relatively easy. Throw it in the washer with the soap, then dump it in the dryer. Crabby can manage folding with only a couple of rest periods.

OUTSIDE ACTIVITIES
Mostly, Crabby can manage only one trip from the house per day (she has come to think of them as expeditions) to do the grocery shopping, a medical appointment, lunch with a friend, etc.

Nowadays, Crabby takes stairs slow and easy, trying to avoid them if at all possible. Even slight inclines in the pavement for a few feet leave her exhausted and breathing hard.

And it's more than just the physical activity and driving; there is a kind of psychic fatigue at being away from home that piles onto “normal” sluggishness resulting from what it takes to get through a day now.

TIME SLIPS AWAY
All of this, and more that she skipped over telling you, eats up hours from Crabby's day, especially when she's tired enough to need a nap. But she signed up for it and shouldn't complain – at least, not too much. She can ditch all the treatment at any time and let the disease take its course. No one is stopping her.

So far she is willing to live this way although what she lately misses most is personal time. She goes brain dead by about 3:30 in the afternoon which means that in addition to household maintenance for the day, she is done with books, magazines, the internet, email, writing the blog – anything that takes mental power.

Speaking of email, a goodly amount of it arrives daily with messages, questions, suggestions and other missives from readers that need at least a “thank you” if not a longer response.

But there comes a time in the afternoon – usually around that 3PM mark – when Crabby cannot sit at the computer for one more moment without crashing. Her body is done for the day.

When that happens, unanswered email is likely to go unanswered indefinitely as it gets mixed with all the new stuff that drops into the inbox and as Crabby just described, there are many fewer hours in her day than there once were. She tries, but she hopes you will understand if you don't get an answer.

YOUR TURN
One of the few things Crabby Old Lady has learned over time all by herself is that if it is happening to her, it is happening to a lot of other people.

Crabby isn't the only denizen of TGB who struggles with managing a chronic or deadly disease (or "just" getting older) and she wonders what you do to keep it all together. How do you deal with needs, limitations and surprises old age inflicts?




What Matters to Crabby Old Lady Today

Crabby Old Lady here. Remember that mini-vacation my alter ego, Ronni, took on Monday? It sure wasn't much of a vacation.

Not that Crabby had big plans. Mostly she wanted to be free for a day from “shoulds” which in her case this week means ignoring the mess of books, magazines and various papers in need of filing on the dining table; ditto the desk; the pile of chemotherapy hats in the bedroom that need a tidier storage place, answering a big backlog of email, and so on.

In that part, Crabby succeeded: it is all still there today (Tuesday), untouched.

She had wanted to walk over to the neighboring park but it rained again as it has seemed to do every day since Christmas. Okay, Crabby exaggerates, but it feels that long.

Instead, she took note of her breathing as a prelude to a short trip to take out the trash and check her nearby mailbox. In the past few weeks, breathing has become difficult when doing anything much more strenuous than such a short, slow walk as this.

An inhaler has helped a bit but Crabby is looking forward to seeing the doctor soon to find out what else he can do for Crabby's breathing difficulty. Meanwhile, Crabby decided the trash and the mail could wait another day.

By mid-morning and for no good reason (Crabby had slept well the night before), she felt tired. Avoiding the bedroom, which means sleep, she snuggled down on the sofa with a cozy quilt, pillows and a light-hearted detective novel.

But her mind kept wandering from the book.

Is Trump really going to pardon criminals convicted of treason on Memorial Day? What kind of mind thinks that's a good idea? Is there no one who can stop him?

Why hasn't Attorney General William Barr been jailed? He refused a subpoena from the House but the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee have done nothing since Barr's absence on 2 May - no contempt of Congress citation, nothing.

On Tuesday this week, former White House Council Donald F. McGahn, at the order of Trump, defied a similar subpoena. He too just didn't show up as scheduled and like Barr, there has been no penalty.

”Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York,” the panel’s chairman, reports The New York Times, opened the brief session with a stern warning both to Mr. McGahn and Mr. Trump. The House, he said, would move quickly to bring Mr. McGahn to court, citing him for contempt of Congress if he does not relent.

“'This committee will hear Mr. McGahn’s testimony, even if we have to go to court to secure it,' Mr. Nadler said, staring down at an empty chair for Mr. McGahn.”

And blah, blah, blah. It's what they've been saying since Trump was elected - “contempt of Congress” and “if we have to go to court” or similar threats and nothing happens.

You can bet your booties that if Crabby Old Lady or any of you defied a Congressional subpoena, we would immediately be frogmarched off to jail.

And then there is Special Council Robert Mueller. If there ever were real discussions to arrange for him to testify before the Judiciary Committee, they have disappeared – at least publicly.

The Washington Post reports Representative Nadler told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week that Congress should open an impeachment inquiry into Trump but Pelosi is still holding out on that option. More blah, blah, blah.

Not to mention the potential new war in Iran. A friend told me that Trump says doesn't want a war; it's National Security Advisor John Bolton who does. Oh really? And when was the last time you could be certain that Trump would stick to what says?

And Crabby hasn't even started on the bunch of old, white men intent on taking control of women's bodies by killing Roe v. Wade.

Are any of you as bone-deep exhausted from living in Trumpworld for more than two years that you, like Crabby, can't even stay awake on a “vacation” day?

There is so much wrong with our government, with our president, with legislators too timid to do anything but let the president and all the crooks he has appointed to high positions steal as much from the treasury and the American people as they can, it is beyond measurement now.

There is plenty more to be concerned about but even with only the above, no wonder Crabby is tired enough to nap even with a good night's sleep under her belt.

After thinking over all the above, Crabby Old Lady was tired again. Sleep overcame her for another hour or so.

The rest of Crabby's Monday “vacation” was more of the same although she did get about halfway through the novel before turning out the bedside lamp for the night.




Crabby Old Lady, Sales People and Cancer

Earlier this week, in the mid-afternoon just as Crabby Old Lady's energy was beginning to wane for the day, there was a knock at the door. The conversation went something like this (paraphrased):

TALL YOUNG MAN WITH CLIPBOARD: I want to talk with you about renewable energy.

CRABBY OLD LADY: I could use some of that this time of day.

TYMWC: (blank look)

COL: Never mind. It was meant to be a joke but didn't turn out well.

TYMWC: Our records show that you have assigned only part of your electric bill to renewable energy and...

COL: (interrupting) Wait. Your “records”? Who are you? What company do you represent?

TYMWC: You wouldn't have heard of us but we've been hired to let electricity customers know...

COL: (interrupting) That's all? You could have phoned or sent an email, even a snailmail letter.

TYMWC: (word salad about how Crabby Old Lady could help save the planet just by changing her electric bill choices – sign right here, ma'am)

COL: Are you kidding? You won't even name the company you work for.

Varieties of people arrive at Crabby Old Lady's door with some regularity if not frequency. There are sales people like today's example, dubious charities and, at election time, political candidates.

Most try to make their point and they politely move on when Crabby gives them the brushoff. TYMWC was more determined than others and less polite too.

TYMWC: Are you sure you want to be left behind, to be part of the problem of climate change and not the solution?

Crabby isn't sure about this but perhaps desperate times require desperate means. If so, this still is not the way to do it.

Ticked off at TYMWC's attempt to shame her, Crabby pulled off the watch cap she keeps by the door to wear so that her bald head doesn't scare whomever is knocking.

“Let me tell you how it is with me,” she said. “Priorities change when they tell you you're dying of cancer and whatever it is you're selling doesn't interest me these days. So leave. Please leave. And take your self-righteous hubris with you.”

And without a word, he turned on his heel and walked away.

This is not to say that people with a deadly disease should use it as an emotional bludgeon. But there are some people who just deserve it. Crabby did that without any thought, on the spur of the moment and she's glad she did.




Crabby Old Lady on C.R.A.F.T. and Typing Errors

Trying to live with a couple of the irritating artifacts of old age – that's what we're talking about today.

TYPING ERRORS
There was a time over many years when Crabby Old Lady could type faster than most people and do it accurately, without hitting wrong keys. It was easy for her to do 125 words-per-minute in those days.

Crabby hasn't timed herself lately but there really is no point since she cannot get through a single line of type nowadays without errors – sometimes several. Because in general, such as cooking or writing with a pen, Crabby does not have hand/eye coordination difficulties, she's chalking it up to old age.

There is a fairly large collection of activities that are not symptoms of dire disease but nevertheless are annoying and slow Crabby down. Typing errors are near the top of the list because Crabby types a lot.

It's so bad recently that she can no longer shoot off even a quick email to a friend without reading it carefully for errors. Even in as short a note as three lines, Crabby often finds half a dozen mistakes.

There is no solution, no backtracking to the days of near perfection in typing that Crabby can find, so she resigns herself to everything involving a keyboard taking twice as long as it once did.

Just to show you what it's like, Crabby going to finish writing this post leaving all the errors intact. Have fun.

C.R.A.F.T.
At the top of Crabby Old Lady's annoyance list is C.R.A.F.T. It was only a few weeks ago that she discovered this acronym and prompty named ie perfect for the irritating situation: “Can't Remember A Fucking Thing.”

Every old person knows the story: make a list for the grocery market, leave it at home (C.R.A/F/t) and even if it had only three items om oit, Crabby gets home with only two. Tthe third one is lost is the ether forever until she needs whatever it is and it's not in the cupoard.

The weird thng is, she remembers the item was on the originalshopping list as soon as she realizes it is missing. How does memeory work, anyway, that Crabby can't remember an item on the list but two wqeekslater recallsit was on the list.

Convervations are the worst. Halfway through a sentence, a word Crabby needs will not appear in her mind. Zero ip there in the vocabulary section of her brain. Her favorite, if it were not so annoying was the time she shouldn't remember the word for scissors.

Here solution that time was to pantomime cutting with her first two fingers while saying, “that thing you cut paper with.” But most of the time even a dedcriptijom like that will not come to mond.

C.R.A.F.T. leaves a lot of holes in conversations and most often it isn't the name of an item that disappears but the entire idea Crabby was talking bout or rwis;;u e,barrassing, the punchlineto a storyl.\

And that common belief that if you don't try to remembere, it will reappear?

Yeah, sure. right after you arrive home or haveh ung up the phonel.

Just to be clear, none of this has anything to do with dementia. It's common to just about all old peple and win't kill you – although it might irritate you to death.

You know, maybe if Crabby Old Lady complains enough, lets off enogh steam about all the memory irritations, she'll die without a single thing bothering her/




Crabby Old Lady: Professional Patient

Crabby Old Lady is sick, she is dying and she is busier than she has ever been. That's because she has become a professional patient and she is sure, after this amount of time at it, there must be a certificate of achievement or something she can hang on the wall attesting to her proficiency.

The last time Crabby wrote about being a professional patient 18 months ago, it was from a hospital perspective. She was spending a lot of time there in the early days following her pancreatic cancer surgery and many of those hours or days involve waiting for this doctor, that test or procedure, new instructions and so on.

There is little to do in those circumstances to amuse herself, so Crabby watched how the system functions - “studied” hospital culture, if you will - and learned a lot about a world she had not encountered up close before. She wrote about it here.

But you don't need to be in a hospital for the medical team to pile on the tasks and homework.

Crabby is sure that many of you, dear readers, have experience keeping track of medications, counting out pills into those little plastic boxes once a week. Crabby keeps a chart taped to the inside of a cupboard door in the kitchen to follow when she is filling up the boxes once a week.

Why does it always feel, when they are empty again, as if she last did the counting yesterday? It never ends.

And filling the boxes depends on whether Crabby has kept track of how many pills are left in the bottle. If she forgets to renew the prescription when she's down to five pills, there is the pharmacy to wrangle with to get a refill in time.

The doctors and nurses have asked Crabby to keep a diary of symptoms and side effects from the chemo so she has a little book for that. She also tracks her weight every day to be sure she's not losing. (Never in her previous life could Crabby have imagined that she would one day struggle to maintain weight rather that lose it.)

Before her cancer, Crabby had only the vaguest idea of what chemotherapy would do to her. Of course, she had heard of all sorts of dreadful side effects and she's lucky to have so few – the biggest one being fatigue for several days after an infusion.

That means naps. Sometimes two a day for three days or so. Then there are the two full days a month at the chemo clinic for her infusions. It puts Crabby behind in everything – she is always playing catchup these days.

Both the disease and the chemotherapy have slowed Crabby down. Pretty much everything – cooking, cleaning, laundry, taking a walk, hauling groceries in from the car (in two trips nowadays instead of one) – takes twice as long as it once did.

That leaves a lot less time for social life, leisurely telephone chats with friends far away, reading, other entertainment and writing blog posts. It is the dilemma of the professional patient and Crabby is losing patience with it.

Not that lost patience will change anything. It's just that Crabby didn't expect this drag on her time and she needed to blow off a little steam about it today. Plus, she really does believe she deserves at least a gold star for it.




Crabby Old Lady on Honoring Cancer Survivors

Five year survival is the medical gold standard of a successful cancer cure and apparently there is a season of the year (December) to “honor” five-year cancer survivors as articles about several of these celebrations have recently dropped into Crabby Old Lady's email inbox.

Now, doing some light homework for this blog post, she has discovered that in June each year there is a National Cancer Survivors Day, “a celebration for those who have survived.”

Crabby would be ecstatic to be one of those people but her life hasn't turned out that way. Her two new cancers are incurable. And as you must have expected from the headline, here goes Crabby Old Lady again being a Grinch.

[Unpaid family and friend caregivers deserve respect too (not to mention some effective regulations about leave from work, etc.) but today is about professional caregivers.]

So. Honor the survivors? Give Crabby a break. It's fantastic when that five-year anniversary arrives and it should probably involve an over-the-top, joyous, hoot-and-hollerin' celebration with the survivor, along with his or her family and friends. But publicly “honoring” them?

When they should have been honored was during the months, maybe years of treatment. It's damned hard to be a cancer patient. Surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, things that go wrong like Crabby's internal bleeds that required two more surgeries, pain, fatigue like you've never experienced before, keeping track of all the medications and more.

Celebrations back then might have given patients encouragement when they most needed it as they wondered, too often, if they just should have skipped all the interim stuff and died sooner.

That's when the honoring of patients would mean something - for following all the instructions and doing it stoically. Well, for the most part. Sometimes you just need to have a good cry.

But the first people Crabby honors, above all the patients, are the professional cancer caregivers. All of them, from celebrated surgeons who get so much attention, through the RNs, CNAs, medical assistants, schedulers and coordinators and all the rest of them.

At the top levels, physicians, nurses and their assistants (the dozens Crabby Old Lady has spoken with about their careers during her 18 months of regular visits with them) CHOSE to make their careers with cancer patients.

Think of that: they made a conscious decision to spend their working life with people who, most of them, die in a relatively short period of time.

Patients and caregivers get to know one another over that time. They exchange personal information unrelated to cancer. They don't become friends exactly, but they do become friendly with warm feelings for one another: “Hey Sean,” Crabby might say to a medical assistant when she arrives, one who had been previously assigned to her. “How are you doing?” Or “Hi Nancy. Good to see you again.” High fives all around.

She gets the same in return from the caregivers as she walks by their desks. And by name. How many of us do they keep in mind?

Imagine what it is like for them when all too often and not unexpectedly, they get word that one of their patients has died. If you think it is hard for laymen like Crabby and you to grieve for loved ones, it doesn't happen but a fraction of the time it does for cancer caregivers.

And yet, they choose this work and they are universally wonderful people in all respects – different in their essence than other people.

As Crabby or Ronni has said before, every single one is smart, knowledgeable in their field, warm, comforting, friendly and as far as Crabby can tell, never has a bad day. They never, ever bring their personal problems to work – at least not with patients.

Yes, Crabby herself has worked hard following instructions to get through her treatment – sometimes awful stuff – questioning not infrequently if it isn't time to stop and let the disease take its course. But these men and women keep Crabby going as if it really matters to them – and it does, manifestly.

These are the people Crabby Old Lady honors first above herself and other patients. They are different in the best possible way from the rest of us. Maybe it's in their genes.




Crabby Old Lady and the Holiday Season

At the risk of being labeled a Grinch, Crabby Old Lady is tired of the holiday season already. She always is by now, the day after Thanksgiving. There are a whole lot of good reasons:

It starts in September. That's when Crabby saw her first Christmas TV commercial this year. Let Crabby repeat: IN SEPTEMBER. That turns over four damned months - ONE-THIRD of an entire year - to a holiday that in public has little to do with anything but asks that everyone spend lots of money.

Even before Halloween, half the shelves in Crabby's local “drug” store were filled with artificial trees, chimney stockings, ornaments and other Christmas tchochkes.

Some people refer to Happy Holidays thinking they are being inclusive but that's just window dressing. The American holiday is only about Christmas. Have you ever tried to find a box of Hannukah candles among the mounds of Christmas tinsel? Crabby has had to buy them online for years.

If you don't count the silly and stupid songs, there is a lot of gorgeous Christmas music in the world. But by November, having already heard it constantly repeated through every tinny store speaker too many times, it's not beautiful anymore – It's just annoying earworms.

And woe to any retailer who doesn't join the Christmas decoration parade. We're all brainwashed and it has nothing to do with a Christian holiday. It's all and only about excessive consumerism. Did you know that a couple of years ago five people were killed in the Black Friday rush and 105 injured?

However, just so you know Crabby Old Lady isn't entirely a curmudgeon, she has a fondness for the British tradition of Christmas adverts, lavishly produced by the country's large (and some smaller) retailers.

This year John Lewis and Co. sucked in Crabby with The Boy and the Piano, a story about:

”...the power of a gift. And how that gift inspired, changed and influenced the course of a little boy’s life. That little boy just happens to be Elton John.

"The film begins in present day and works backwards chronologically through Elton’s life right until the moment on Christmas morning when he received the special gift that changed his life.”

A large number of the British Christmas adverts have been published on the internet (“Already?” says Crabby). You can watch a bunch of them here.




Crabby Old Lady's Typing/Finger/Word Problem

In sending an email recently, Crabby Old Lady intended to write, "That works. Let's meet there at noon on Tuesday,” but when she scanned for typos before hitting "send", this is what she saw:

"Than works. Let's meat there at non on Tuesday."

Okay, that “non” is a simple typo, hitting the “o” key once instead of twice. But the other two, “than” and “meat”, are a different kind of error – mental rather than physical.

This is not a new phenomenon for Crabby Old Lady. It has been happening for several months, maybe even a year or more and it happens pretty much every time she types out something longer than six or eight words.

Crabby finally gave this issue some (semi-)serious thought when, a few days ago, she read a review of the last book from beloved American poet laureate, Donald Hall, who died in June at age 89.

As you might imagine, the new book, A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety (which is sitting on a table across the room from Crabby along with more than a dozen others she hasn't found time to read yet) is largely about the indignities of growing old.

The reviewer, Dwight Garner, quotes some short passages about certain age-related losses Hall reports on and although they don't plague Crabby yet at age 77, she can feel them or something similar nipping at her heels:

“You are old when the waiter doesn’t mention that you are holding the menu upside down...when you guess it’s Sunday because the mail doesn’t come. It might be Christmas...In your eighties you take two naps a day. Nearing ninety you don’t count the number of naps.”

But the excerpt that had Crabby Old Lady groaning aloud in recognition is this:

“Striving to pay the mortgage in the late 1970s and ’80s, some years I published four books,” he says. “Now it takes me a month to finish 700 words.”

Whatever may have slowed Hall's writing (Garner doesn't say), for Crabby, it is the typing/finger/word problem. Imagine if every other sentence in a story or email or letter you write contained one or two or three such errors.

That is what Crabby Old Lady is up against these days and it takes an inordinate amount of time to correct them.

With the hope of mitigating these errors, Crabby tried to analyze what is happening when she writes and discovered several types of word problems.

Sometimes the mistake is a rhyme as in substituting “to” for “who”, “case” for “face.” (All examples are real errors Crabby has made.)

Another common mistake is synonyms. Crabby perfectly well knows the difference among to, two and too but often types the wrong one.

Mixing up “than” and “that” happens almost every day. If you are a touch typist like Crabby, “N” and “T” are typed with different hands but they both do use the first finger. Is the brain signal going to the wrong hand?

Too often the mistake just comes out of nowhere. “Of” for “in”, “car” for “cabinet”, “screen” for “fork,” etc.

Who knows what that kind of mistake is about and the thing is, when Crabby is writing, she visualizes the words she is using. So if the word needed is “fork,” that image is in her mind while she types “screen.” How can that be?

Recently a crazy new one turned up, a weird spelling out of nowhere: “plase” for “place.

At last “plase” in Crabby's word error list, is the problem of omitting words - just plain skipping them so that the first half of this sentence might look like, “At last “plase” Crabby's word error list, is problem of omitting words – plain skipping them that...”

These are also the kinds of errors the eye might skip over when reading so Crabby doesn't always catch them all. Even reading stories twice, she can miss them – you may have noticed in some blog posts.

Spell check, of course, is mostly useless because it checks only for correct spelling, not usage and it certainly won't tag missing words.

So should Crabby Old Lady worry about these mistakes?

U.S. media makes sure with their daily servings of commercials and Alzheimer's reports that anyone over the age of 45 or 50 is terrified that every time they misplace their reading glasses, forget what time they are due at an appointment or lose their train of thought it is the beginning of dementia. Crabby refuses to take their bait.

She is not unaware that a large number of elders are diagnosed with dementia and she carries on a kind of relaxed monitoring system of her brain activity, enough so that she recently asked her physician about these mistakes.

Not to worry he says. And anyway, Crabby seems to be getting through daily life without any alarming cognitive issues. What she doesn't like, what she really resents every day is the extra time her typing/finger/word problems take up.

It doesn't happen when she writes with a pen in hand. How about you?




Crabby Old Lady: It All Goes Wrong From the Neck Up

Has anyone else noticed that most of the non-life-threatening stuff that can go wrong in old age happens above the neck?

Yes, Crabby Old Lady realizes that terrible cancers, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia afflict the brain which is, obviously, above the neck.

But today she's talking about relatively benign ailments that nevertheless require daily attention, often extended daily attention involving time that increases as the years pile up.

Most old people are stuck with at least one of these or other such ailments, usually more than fewer, and the head harbors an outsized number of them.

EYES
It starts around age 40 when suddenly you can't read street signs or you start complaining that publishers of books and magazines and websites are using smaller and smaller fonts, impossible to see clearly.

Eyeglasses or contact lenses can make the necessary corrections but give it a few more years and the world starts to turn fuzzy, maybe a bit yellow or colors fade toward grayness.

That's cataracts, folks, but the surgery to fix them is one of medicine's modern miracles. It's fast, easy and returns vision to that of a newborn babe, or close enough. And it is successful more than 98 percent of the time.

A down side is that if your eyes are corrected for distance, you will waste way too much time hunting for your reading glasses which are never where you need them.

Even so, all good. Right? Not always. After a year or two, Crabby's vision became fuzzy, usually first thing in the morning and again during the afternoons and evenings.

Not a big deal, said the optometrist. It's just some minor dryness. Here, use these eye drops.

So just when Crabby was relieved to give up the daily hunt for her elusive readers (she chose monovision when she had cataract surgery), she's got to spend way too much time locating the damned eye drops.

EARS
One-third of Americans age 65-75 have some degree of hearing loss. That goes up to nearly 50 percent in people older than 75.

Only a quarter of those with treatable hearing loss (80%) use hearing aids. (Probably due to cost, which easily reaches $4,000 and is not covered by Medicare.)

Crabby Old Lady hears just fine. Actually, too well. She no longer goes to movie theaters because no matter where she sits in the auditorium, the audio is pumped up so loud, it makes her ears hurt.

At home, it's a different problem: in certain TV shows, the dialogue mushes together so she can't make out individual words.

An audiologist told Crabby that particularly since her hearing is otherwise normal, hearing aids would not help. Thanks a lot.

But recently, Crabby discovered that the difficulty is a combination of two technical issues: (1) audio is commonly recorded poorly combined with (2) the indifferent sound quality built into most television sets.

So she now has acquired “sound bar” made especially to correct that deficiency and produce crystal clear dialogue. As is too rare in life, the product actually does what they say it does.

That solves Crabby's TV audio difficulty but doesn't help people who use hearing aids with Crabby's overall issue: the time involved with all this maintenance – in the case of hearing aids: sound checks, cleaning, battery testing, etc.

TEETH
Or lack thereof. Many old people have lost all or some of their teeth and Crabby Old Lady is among them.

About three years ago, Crabby spent tens of thousands of dollars (stolen from her emergency fund) for an upper “overdenture” which involved first growing new bone over six months, then implants – another six months wait - and many fittings.

Like cataract surgery, Crabby considers it a modern medical miracle and is thankful that she could scrounge the money.

Unlike real teeth however, the overdenture takes more extensive maintenance, extra visits to the dentist for fixes, along with the several instruments and cleaning agents, including water flosser, for both denture and lower jaw twice a day to forestall losing the rest of her teeth.

Crabby hasn't timed it but she is pretty sure it takes longer to clean her mouth – and do it twice a day - than to wash her whole body in the shower.

HAIR – TOO LITTLE AND TOO MUCH
Crabby's hair was already thinning a lot before last year's treatment for pancreatic cancer but here is a little secret people who've been through cancer know: you don't give a damn about bald spots when cancer is at issue.

So Crabby quit wearing her signature hats - she just didn't care anymore.

A couple of months ago, she went through five weekly iron infusions to treat the anemia that chemotherapy had caused. After two or three of them, hair started falling out when she was shampooing.

No one told Crabby liquid iron or the anemia itself (there are arguments in the literature supporting both explanations) can cause hair loss. Now it's even more thin, doesn't appear to be recovering and Crabby is back to hats.

And now she is considering a wig which will mean even more time out of her life for in addition to hair cuts, there will be wig cleaning and maintenance to keep up with.

Then there is the hair problem on the other end of her head – her chin and above her upper lip that require daily removal.

Crabby suffered through creams and sticky strips, razors and other stray hair remedies for many years until, a few months ago, she succumbed to a TV advertisement for a cute, little, battery-operated shaver.

Guess what? It works! It really works. (Apparently Crabby Old Lady is lately having a lucky streak with what are usually dubious consumer products.)

Oh, one more hair issue. In the past couple of weeks Crabby has noticed a surplus of nose hair. So there's another chore for Crabby to deal with each day and that cute little shaver can't do the job. Crabby will need another tool.

A rough, back-of-the-envelope calculation adds up to about an hour a day – give or take - of above-the-neck maintenance time. One. Whole. Hour. Per. Day. Of mind-numbing boredom.

The head, on average, is just 7.5 percent of the body by weight. But by Crabby's accounting, it takes up about 75 or 80 percent of the total time and effort to keep one's self in working order, much longer than when she was younger.

That doesn't seem right. But apparently it's an old person thing.




Crabby Old Lady and Audio-Only News

Crabby Old Lady winds up in a snit these days every time she reads – or, rather, TRIES to read - online news.

Certainly she has her favorite news websites, but Crabby regularly visits a wide variety of other news sources too, several dozen in fact, and although she can't read every one every day, she's familiar with them all from her decades of use.

For several years now, however, a growing phenomenon is making it harder and harder for Crabby to find written news stories (you know, the kind with detail and explanation, the kind that make it easy to backtrack when she wants to re-read a sentence or paragraph) because more and more news websites are publishing all or some of their stories as video only without providing a transcript.

By their nature, video news stories are always more shallow and less informative than written ones because the medium does not lend itself to explanation and detail.

(Documentaries are a different animal. Their length allows producers to present a more thorough report than one-to-three minute news pieces can accomplish.)

Crabby doubts she is the only person who knows that it takes at least twice as long and sometimes more to watch a news video than to read a written one.

Further, she can't skip forward watching a video because she has no way to know if the information she wants is next. With words on paper or a screen, she can always skim the tiresome parts.

Video news can be useful when Crabby can listen while she has something mindless to do – wash the dishes, make the bed, etc. But it doesn't do much for understanding our complicated world; that requires the concentration that reading involves.

Even the grand dames of legacy publishing are posting more video/audio-only stories, The New York Times, the Washington Post among them. And Crabby watches hardly any of it mainly for the reasons stated but also because the majority are so poorly produced and written.

And according to at least one source, Crabby isn't the only person who rejects video/audio-only reports.

A two-year-old study from Digital News Publications found that except during times of important breaking news, online video news is driven more by “technology, platforms and publishers” than consumer demand.

”Around 75% of respondents to a Reuters Institute survey of 26 countries said they only occasionally (or never) use video news online.”

But the respondents were watching more news video on third-party sites such as Facebook, Snapchat, etc. and further, according to the study:

”We find that the most successful off-site and social videos tend to be short (under one minute), are designed to work with no sound (with subtitles), focus on soft news, and have a strong emotional element.”

Which may account for the gazillions of cute kitty video compilations.

Crabby doesn't recall where but she was encouraged recently to read that after dramatic drop-offs, book sales are up slightly giving her reason to believe that reading which, unlike video news, requires actual thought might not be deteriorating after all. But then this turned up last week:

Michael Lewis, one of the most successful non-fiction book writers in the world (with good reason) announced that his next magazine article will be published only in audio:

“'You’re not going to be able to read it, you’re only going to be able to listen to it,' Mr. Lewis [told The New York Times]. 'I’ve become Audible’s first magazine writer.'”

Michael Lewis just lost one fan. Can others be far behind?

The Times tells us that other top-line writers including Robert Caro and Jeffrey Deaver have signed on to publish with Audible, which is also producing original audio books, even plays.

Crabby believes there is a place for audio books (as long as they are also available in print or on screen), and given a long drive or train trip, for example, she would probably stock up.

Her problem is that she doesn't commute anymore and it doesn't take long enough to wash dishes or make the bed to be bothered.

People our age have seen an amazing number of ideas, inventions and technological advances we could not have guessed at when we were young and there is a tendency to believe that new is always good. Crabby Old Lady doesn't believe that - especially about audio-only news and books.




Crabby Old Lady Has Three Things to Say Today

Starting with 1. MEDICAL
Crabby Old Lady is sorry to have been absent here for a few days. This blog is Crabby's job. It is what she does. She enjoys it still even after all these years. She learns a lot both from the work that goes into it and from readers too. She misses it when she is away or out of commission for awhile.

To bring you up to date, Crabby's cancer has disappeared or at least gone into hiding and last Thursday, doctors did an amazing maneuver to stop an internal bleed they and Crabby have been keeping eyes on for two or three months.

With two little holes, one in in Crabby's neck and the other in her groin, they used “interventional radiology” to thread their way to the bleed somewhere in her abdomen, insert a stent – not unlike the kind used for heart patients – that will force blood to go where it should be instead of where it has been going.

For Crabby, it was easy – she slept through the procedure – and woke with two small Bandaids covering those two tiny incisions.

There was no pain afterwards and she went home that evening, slept like a newborn babe and felt terrific on Friday, enough to attend her regular current affairs discussion group.

Crabby hopes the stent works; she's tired of anemia, blood transfusions and iron infusions that had become a regular part of treatment.

2. PANCREATIC CANCER AND THE MEDIA
There are a few words in the English language that are terrifying: for Crabby, “pancreatic cancer” is at the top of the list.

Has Crabby mentioned that 35 years ago her father died of it? Until her diagnosis last year, Crabby had almost forgotten. Now she can't avoid it and the reason is that it appears to be the media's new go-to disease.

Pancreatic cancer is much less common than, for example, breast, lung and prostate cancer but it is much more deadly. Only ten percent of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are eligible for the only treatment – the Whipple procedure - and many of those patients die soon anyway.

Crabby is deeply grateful every single day that she could undergo the Whipple, that it was successful and that she has recently been pronounced cancer free. She would like to stop thinking those words now but there are reminders everywhere she turns.

There are the ubiquitous cancer treatment commercials on TV, in magazines, even giveaway newspapers and Crabby made the mistake of searching for some information about pancreatic cancer online.

Now, pretty young women with big smiles on their faces follow Crabby everywhere on the web promoting a link to a pancreatic cancer website. It's not unlike those marketing idiots who spend six months showing Crabby ads for the shirt she already bought.

Shirt. Kitchen sponges. Cancer. What's the difference?

It gets worse. This past season, Crabby has seen at least half a dozen television dramas that have made pancreatic cancer a plot point. “Fred won't be back. You know he has pancreatic cancer and won't live more than a couple of months.”

Geez. Thanks.

Over the weekend, Crabby read Barbara Ehrenreich's new book, Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer.

It's a strong polemic with, among other kinds of information, a lot about how cancer tumors in general work and how new types of treatments are being developed at the cellular level.

But even Ehrenreich, among all the different kinds of cancers she might mention, won't let go of making pancreatic cancer the centerpiece.

In the space of two pages she tells readers that Rockefeller Foundation director John H. Knowles died of it in 1979, at age 52; Apple CEO Steve Jobs died of it in 2011; Henry S. Lodge, co-author of Younger Next Year (a dubious assertion) died of it in 2017 at age 58.

Crabby wants nothing more than to leave this horror behind and the media just refuses. Maybe zombies have worn out their fright value and pancreatic cancer is writers' latest ploy to scare the bejesus out of us.

3. CRABBY IS DONE WITH POLITICS AND TRUMP
Crabby Old Lady has silenced the cable news channels in her home. No more. The anchors and hosts treat every Trump tweet as if it's a revelation when it is only repetition. Different topic sometimes, same complaint: “I'm so wonderful, why doesn't anyone like me? Throw them all in prison.”

He's an idiot, a con man, likely a criminal but no one with the power to do anything will deal with it. They've always got an excuse. There are 535 members of Congress and even the few good guys are weenies in the face of Trump. They all deserve to be thrown out.

There is only one effective group of activists trying to make the U.S. a better place and they are all 17 years old. Aside from her excellent medical team, Crabby Old Lady is in a very bad mood today.




Crabby Old Lady and Home Monitors for Elders

These days, you can install indoor and outdoor cameras on your home to catch a burglar. You can reset your heating, air conditioning and turn on the lights as you're driving home so the house is comfortable when you get there.

If you've got the right digital kitchen equipment, you can remotely turn on the grill, oven or slow cooker with an app for your iPhone or Android so dinner is ready when you arrive.

Of course, there are dozens if not hundreds of wearable trackers to count your steps, measure your heart rate, fat, BMI, muscle mass and even pregnancy.

Just about every day a bunch of new gadgets come on the market and those above are only a handful of the most obvious in the new-ish category of “smart home” living.

The closest Crabby Old Lady has gotten to it in both personal interest and use is the Alexa – she owns three and you probably would not be wasting your money if you bet that sometime soon she will throw at least one of them against a wall.

They regularly misunderstand words, behave as if they are deaf unless Crabby shouts, don't have an answer for commonplace questions and – a new one Crabby hasn't been able to fix yet – play random music when she hasn't asked. If that grill controller is as iffy as Alexa, Crabby hopes it comes with an automatic fire extinguisher.

Her skepticism notwithstanding...

The biggest demographic market for smart devices may be elders. There are the ubiquitous home alert necklaces that can and do save lives – just ask TGB reader Darlene Costner. And Crabby has come to believe that electronic pill monitors could be useful especially for those, like her, who need a chart to track when a dose is due.

For Crabby, however, it gets trickier when talk turns to sensors that monitor an elder's activity and send the information to distant caregivers or family members.

Marketed as a way to help elders live independently at home for as long as possible, hardly anyone has spent much effort yet to find out how the spied-upon old people feel about inanimate objects acting as nannies and tattling to their human controllers.

When you look into these gadgets, one of the first things notice is that elders themselves are left out of the conversation as though they are already too senile to evaluate the service themselves which, obviously, begs the question about why, in that case, anyone would leave them home alone - sensors or no sensors.

Here are a couple of examples of how marketing language is typically aimed toward the children or caregivers and not elders themselves:

'Looking after an elderly relative who lives alone can be a huge source of worry. But what if your smartphone could automatically alert you if your mother has stayed in bed all morning or suffered a fall?

“If a senior does not get up in the morning and turn on the coffee machine as usual, the system detects the lack of activity and the person's carer is warned by text message.”

Oh yeah? What if Crabby just wants to sleep in this morning? Are you really going to wake her for breaking YOUR rule about her morning routine so you can congratulate yourself about your caregiving chops?

There's more. A newly-developed sensor uses radio waves to map where people are in a room. Another company is working on a sensor that warns when a senior is at risk of falling by detecting sudden changes in their walking speed or gait.

Does that second one make any sense at all? Maybe she's just dancing a little jig because it's a beautiful day. And if she's about to fall, Crabby doubts anyone will get there in time to save her from it. Plus, does anyone think the police or EMTs have time to show up at someone's home on a maybe?

Are these helpful things or intrusions, do you think? Lifesavers or invasions of privacy? And why don't sellers target elders themselves about this stuff? Here is one point of view in a short, humorous film about an 70-year-old widow, Thomas, whose adult children have loaded his home with smart gadgets to organize his day.

The film, Uninvited Guests, was developed about three years ago by an organization called Superflux. It stars actor James Leahy:

(Thank Chuck Nyren, proprietor of the blog Advertising to Baby Boomers, for sending this video which prompted today's post. You can find his thoughts on wearable tech gadgets here and you can read more about the film and its genesis at the Superflux website.)

Do any of you, dear readers, live with such monitors and reminders? If not, would you consider it – for yourselves or, perhaps, for you own ageing parents? Here is what Superflux says about the issues raised in their film:

”The brightly coloured 'smart objects' in the film are...symbolic ‘ghosts of the future’, where with time, their physical presence fades into the fabric of our environment, and all that is left is their invisible halo constantly monitoring, logging, tracking and processing ambient feedback.

“Ultimately it is our intention that this, at times comedic story, plays on and gives form to some of the growing tensions between human and machine agency. And in doing so, provoke questions about how we want to live and grow old in an increasingly technologically mediated word.”

Crabby Old Lady sees value in some of these new electronic helpers and in particular, she is looking forward to virtual doctor visits via her computer one day.

But she is skeptical about the privacy issues and about the control of elders' daily lives and schedules by people – loved ones or otherwise - who believe they know better. Like it or not, however, it is only going to become more widespread and commonplace.

What do you think?




Crabby Old Lady and Protest/Donation Fatigue

But first – we have a winner in Monday's random drawing for a book of essays by Ursula K. Le Guin titled No Time to Spare. The random number generator spoke and Karin Bendel's name came up.

The book has been mailed off today. Congratulations Karin, and thank you Lynn Lawrence for providing the giveaway book.

* * *

Now for something entirely different – no old age, no cancer, not even a book today.

It probably won't surprise you that Crabby Old Lady has email subscriptions – several dozen of them - to newsletters, announcements and daily mailings from a lot of newspapers, magazines, political organizations, resistance groups and some members of Congress.

They have piled up over the years as Crabby has added new ones she finds along the way and, of course, never deletes any.

At the same time, she has become adept at knowing what she needs to know – so much so that she has learned from experience what information need not be read beyond a headline (if the headline writer is any good) and which newsletters are worth drilling down into for a fuller story.

Nevertheless, Crabby spent a good deal of time this week unsubscribing from some of these missives for one reason: they write scary headlines often in bright red and then supply a link only to a donation or paid subscription page. (A frequent alternative is a request to sign a petition which then begs for money.)

In many cases, this happens from the same organizations every day. Every. Single. Day. And Crabby is fed up. So one-by-one she is ditching them.

She's sorry to do that and god knows she has contributed through the years. But these pleadings never have new or useful information and always imply that they are going to close their doors within a day or two if they don't get Crabby's $5.

For many years now they have been doing this in Crabby's inbox every day. Every. Single. Day.

For all the handwringing that goes on about how trashy the internet is nowadays – whether that refers to the plethora of pornography and various scams among other detritus – Crabby never runs into it. She is interested in news, politics, health and age-related information plus a few minor silly addictions, and she knows where to find them all.

What pisses off Crabby are the political organizations that trade on their perceived righteousness but give no discernable return on their begging for money – certainly no information that Crabby doesn't get on any number of other websites.

So Crabby is gradually cleaning up her inbox and she can't be the only person who, having suffered enough, is giving up their support for just this stupid reason: they overdid it.

And another thing: It's official, says Crabby: there are no longer any news, news-ish and commentary websites known to mankind that do not blast audio – usually attached to video – as soon as the page settles.

Plus, there are so many moving distractions next to the text Crabby is trying to read that she knows it distracts from her full comprehension, not to mention all the many interruptions for commercials between paragraphs of stories made to look like part of the story so, supposedly, she will read them.

Not, as we used to say. She just moves on, deciding that the hassle to read with all the interruptions isn't worth whatever she thought might learn from the article..

Somewhere this week, Crabby saw a headline about a survey of internet users reporting that there is so much distracting “stuff” on pages of the internet that people feel less informed now than before they had the internet.

Crabby didn't read that one either, in this case because the headline said all anyone needs to know about this topic and there is no doubt it is true.

For these reasons and more, Crabby Old Lady is aggrieved at these and all the other awful online stuff she hasn't even mentioned. It has become so hard to use the internet that Crabby is doing a lot less of it these days. How about you?




Crabby Old Lady and the Things They Don't Tell You About Getting Old

Crabby Old Lady will be here in a moment but for a few sentences this is me, Ronni. After I wrote today's post, members of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted on Friday to kill Net Neutrality. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about what that then impending vote, if passed, would mean for you and me.

Answer: more expensive internet services for all of us and in the case of small blogs like this one or startup businesses counting their pennies, having your website "throttled" (slowed down) if you don't pay big fee. It's now law of the land.

This vote was taken, by the way, even though more than a million FAKE comments were found at the FCC website supporting repeal.

We'll talk about this more next week. Meanwhile, there are rumblings of at least one state attorney general and a number of public interest political organizations that oppose repeal will be suing to repeal the repeal. Some hope. Maybe.

* * *

There are all kinds of things they don't tell people about growing old. Throughout the midyears, most people sort of know it's mostly old people who are afflicted with cancer, heart disease and diabetes, for example. In fact, they are even called “diseases of age”.

But most convince themselves that such events are too far in the future to cause concern and anyway, it won't be me, says everyone.

Today, however, Crabby Old Lady is talking about the relatively benign afflictions that accompany old age – they won't kill you but they are massively annoying, and they never go away.

HAIR OR LACK THEREOF
Let's start with hair: ear hair, nose hair, thin hair, no hair. Ear hair shows up mostly on men and Crabby had assumed that was true for nose hair too. Wrong. If she is not vigilant, it could grow long enough to braid.

More men appear to be bald than women but Crabby is catching up. The hair on the back of her head was becoming so thin that a couple of years ago she took to collecting hats and mostly does not leave home without wearing one. Lately, however, the loss is worsening.

Undoubtedly Crabby Old Lady should be grateful that chemotherapy hasn't made her bald (yet), but that place on the back of her head and now her front hairline are becoming thinner by the day – a lot more skin showing that hair.

CHIN HAIR
This hair misery gets its own paragraph. It's amazing how fast these isolated – three or four at a time – hairs appear dotted across Crabby's chin and pulling them out with a tweezer causes big-time pain.

This wasn't a problem for most of her life and even though she finally found a specialized razor that works quite well, Crabby resents the need to keep up with those stray hairs.

AGE SPOTS AND FRECKLES
When she was a kid, Crabby longed for smooth unblemished skin but I was stuck with freckles, little brown spots that she believed then were unattractive at best, ugly at worst.

Life goes on and sometimes you find a way to accommodate disappointments. In this case, when Crabby learned of age spots that commonly turn up on the backs of the hands of old people, she thought, “Oh, goodie. When I get old, age spots will hide the freckles."

The flaw in that thinking is obvious and anyway, no one would confuse age spots with freckles. Crabby doesn't like either one but she honestly doesn't care nowadays. It is one of the great benefits of old age - not caring about all sorts of things anymore.

THE MIDNIGHT BATHROOM RUN
For most of Crabby's adult life, she believed it was men who couldn't get through the night without two or three or more trips to the bathroom.

It's been about ten years since she was disabused of that error. Unless Crabby is the only one, it's women too.

LOST FINGERPRINTS
This wasn't as important before cell phones started using fingerprint ID technology. Did you know that old people can lose their fingerprints? As reported here four or five years ago,

”...the elasticity of skin decreases with age, so a lot of senior citizens have prints that are difficult to capture,” reported Scientific American.

“The ridges get thicker; the height between the top of the ridge and the bottom of the furrow gets narrow, so there's less prominence. So if there's any pressure at all [on the scanner], the print just tends to smear.”

This also happens to people like bricklayers and tilers whose fingers have been worn flat.

It seems as soon as a new security technology comes along, there is a glitch its creator didn't take into consideration. Already with cell phone facial recognition, the wrong people's faces are being identified as correct.

Undoubtedly you can come up with more irritating afflictions that Crabby Old Lady has overlooked: eye floaters and tinnitus come to mind. And there there is this: when some new malady manifests itself, it can be hard to know if it requires a doctor visit or is just some new aggravation about which there's nothing to be done.

It's not as if the late actor Bette Davis didn't warn us: “Old age ain't for sissies,” she said.




Crabby Old Lady's State of the Union

Today's post isn't precisely about ageing but Crabby Old Lady needs to get some of this off her chest and suspects a lot of you may want to also.

Have there ever been so many different things going wrong – painfully, horribly, terrifyingly wrong all at once - in the U.S. than now? It's not even possible to list them all.

Biggest of all is the ongoing confrontation with North Korea. Crabby hasn't been this frightened of the potential reality of nuclear war since she hid under her desk at school in the 1950s. How does it not make it worse to taunt the Supreme Leader with juvenile name-calling?

TAX REFORM BILL
The tax reform bill has made it clear as never before that the Republican Party philosophy is simple: more for me, less for you. And now they've doubled down on it by openly admitting that adding $1.4 TRILLION to the deficit is a deliberate decision made to be able to claim the necessity to make deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

That's big too. The Pay-Go law may require $25 billion in cuts to Medicare the moment Trump signs the bill into law which would cut back care and treatment for millions of people.

There has been some reporting on that but not enough that anyone not dependent on Medicare would notice. (According to a new Quinnipiac Poll, only 29 percent of Americans approve of the tax reform bill; 53 percent disapprove.)

NORMALIZING TRUMP
Remember how, right after the November election, many reporters and pundits were admonishing the public to not normalize Trump's behavior?

Guess what? Everyone, including those pundits, not only accepts presidency by tweet storm now, we expect it on a daily basis and the pundits analyze his every Twitter utterance as though it is a policy announcement.

Which it has become. Who needs Congress or even Executive Orders? The president tweets and it instantly becomes policy. If, in Trump's ignorance, the tweet goes wrong, he can just have his lawyer take the fall for his mistake as happened this week.

There are a lot of people in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere – Republicans usually – for whom Trump's word is their marching order. Case in point, supporting an accused pedophile for the U.S. Senate in the upcoming Alabama election. No Republican will now disavow Roy Moore.

ADMINISTRATION LIES
Can anyone count the number of lies from this administration? It's hard to keep up when it's every day, and when any given lie is no longer convenient he and his aides just make up another and refuse to acknowledge if it contradicts the first one.

NATIONAL PARKS
And how do you feel about the cuts Trump made to national parks earlier this week? Trump reduced Bears Ears National Monument area by 85 percent and the Grand Staircase-Escalante by about 50 percent which, according to The New York Times is the “largest rollback of federal land protection in the nation’s history.”

This move opens about two million acres of wilderness to potential commercial development. Crabby had no idea until now that a president could just do that, all alone without Congress.

SEXUAL MISCONDUCT
Then there the continuing story of alleged sexual misconduct among mostly famous men in glamour businesses. You know the list: Kevin Spacey, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, Glenn Thrush, Garrison Keillor, Jon Conyers, Roy Moore among many others.

There is a fuller list here which, like all the other lists, does not include the predator-in-chief, Donald Trump.

Speaking of lies, earlier this week, he tried to say that was not his voice on the Access Hollywood tape. Billy Bush set the media straight on that.

Most women Crabby Old Lady knows have been sexually harassed at work, including Crabby herself. Pats on the butt, inappropriate jokes and suggestions. In some places Crabby worked, women made note for one another of which men to keep a distance from in order to avoid unwanted touches.

There was never any question of complaining. Everyone knew they would be the ones to be fired.

Some think, thanks to so many women coming forward, those days are gone. Many are claiming this is a watershed moment for women, that workplace sexual harassment will end now.

Don't count on it. Crabby hopes she is wrong but news stories fade, the public gets jaded (see “normalization” above) and the media is always chasing the next new thing.

VENTING
And here's a question for you: how is it that the president's every single cabinet appointment is the worst possible choice. Worst, that is, if you are idiot enough to believe that the country's leaders are there to run a government by, of and FOR THE PEOPLE, and not to (further) enrich themselves.

Given how ignorant, uninformed and erratic the president is, Crabby Old Lady worries every day about what terrible predicament he will get the country into.

It's not like Crabby has any solutions. She just felt the need, on this otherwise single-topic blog, to acknowledge a problem (well, a large set of problems) that are more important than growing old.

It helps to vent now and then, and to give everyone here a chance to do that too.



Crabby Old Lady's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day(s)

(With apologies for the headline above to the wonderful Judith Viorst)

Crabby Old Lady should have known last week that something awful was brewing. Her desktop PC was becoming more unsteady and rickety by the day with programs not responding, warning messages, long delays loading pages, screen freezes and such. Then it would seem to recover overnight, work well enough for an hour or two the next day until it started acting up again.

Monday morning, the blue screen of death appeared and the computer has been dead since then. None of Crabby's jiggering around has helped.

Sometimes when disaster strikes, it's not immediately apparent. Okay, said Crabby to herself, until you can figure out how to fix this, there's always that cheapo, little laptop in the cupboard.

Yeah, right. It wasn't until Crabby got it set up that she remembered everything on it moves at about the speed of a 1990's dial-up connection, that the keys on the chintzy keyboard are all positioned slightly out of place so that a lifetime's practice at touch typing is useless and the online email she's forced to use for the duration is slower and clunkier than the machine itself.

Bottom line: whatever takes (took) a few seconds to do on a Crabby's desktop machine, takes five or more minutes on the laptop. Translation: hours more a day at this cheap keyboard.

And that's not the worst of it.

Did Crabby just say that sometimes it's not readily apparent when disaster strikes? No kidding. What she forgot during the two or three hours it took to get everything humming on the laptop (as much as it's ever going to hum), is that everything she needs – in her personal life, for the blog and everything else – EVERYTHING – is on that computer. Currently unavailable.

Here's what the disaster means for TGB:

Outlines for planned and/or nearly finished blog posts along with the ongoing list of ideas for blog posts and the research for potential blog posts are all on that machine

The ongoing collection of items for the Saturday Interesting Stuff is there

So is personal documentation of Crabby's newly busy medical life

Along with all email records,

All photographs,

And numerous bits of information and facts that are useful for blog posts

You wouldn't be far wrong to say that Crabby Old Lady's entire life is on that computer.

Although there are a couple of good leads, Crabby has not yet found a person to investigate and - Crabby hopes – repair the machine or at least save the hard drive. The one she is most interested in so far is not available until November 1 or 2 but she is still looking around. Meanwhile, Crabby could use a little help from you, dear readers.

This mostly relates to email. Readers send a lot of ideas for blog posts, items for Interesting Stuff and other missives with their thoughts. All are always welcome but Crabby wonders if you could be a bit more discerning until the computer issues are resolved. Such as:

  1. Please, especially if you read TGB via email, do not hit “Reply” to send a comment. Reply, just as with any email, goes only to me. To leave a comment on the blog post so others can read it, go the the website by clicking the title of the story in your email. It will open in your browser and you can then comment at the bottom of the story. I get about half a dozen emailed comments a day and it takes a long time to respond to each explaining how to comment.

  2. If you have ideas for Interesting Stuff, try to recall where you've seen it. Crabby gets a lot of duplicates, items that have already been featured on previous Saturdays.

  3. If you want to send a news item or other kind of story, consider first how widely reported it is. Crabby has at least 40 news alerts so anything on the front page of the major papers in the world lands in her inbox. Features related to ageing, retirement, elders, seniors, Medicare, Social Security and other topics of common interest to elders are often included in her alerts too but not always. So on this you'll have to guess and there's no penality for being wrong.

The reason for these requests is that the poky email system Crabby is stuck with for now is so hard to use and so slow that it takes forever to read through the inbox without automatic sorting or color-coding, even longer to get them organized and with the off-kilter keyboard, it is excruciating to try to write (including this post), hitting wrong keys every few words.

This also explains why, if you have emailed in the past couple of days, you may not have received an reply. It is difficult in so many ways to use this laptop and this email program that Crabby throws up her hands several times a day and walks away.

Crabby hopes you will understand she is trying to reduce the “terrible, horrible, no good and very bad day” aspect of her computer troubles until they are fixed. At worst that will be sometime next week. Meanwhile she's paddling as fast as she can.



Crabby Old Lady Writes About Her Cancer

Handwriting

You've read it here more than once – that Crabby Old Lady never wanted to become a professional patient, and in the time following her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in June, she has fought against it mightily.

Well, phooey. It has been a futile effort from the get-go that Crabby should have known better than to try. This isn't a broken bone that will heal in a few weeks or a new knee.

So today we have another chapter in Crabby Old Lady's attempts to adjust to her new situation in life. Some in the news business would call it a thumbsucker but Crabby, as always, is helpless against E.M. Forster's dictum, “how do I know what I think until I see what I say”.

Don't take any of this too seriously yet. Some (many? a lot?) of these thoughts, complaints and feelings are new to Crabby and therefore, by definition, half-baked. No doubt there will be revisions.

In the three months since those terrifying words, pancreatic cancer, were said out loud, Crabby is only gradually realizing how much her life will be permanently different. It is much more than she expected or wanted.

Crabby will spare you the lists and just say the nuts and bolts of living with this disease and the results of the surgery average out to a couple of hours a day, every day – hours for which she had other plans. Certainly she has seen more doctors more frequently than all such previous encounters combined.

Six months of weekly chemotherapy begin a week from today and for the past 10 days or so Crabby been buried in reading matter about all the awful things it might do to her, how she can help prevent some of them and which of those side effects are medical emergencies to be addressed immediately.

Elsewhere, Crabby's life is now controlled by lists of what she can and can't eat, keeping medications straight, phone numbers she might need and more.

This stuff is exactly what she never wanted in life. But here's the thing: for all these years of studying ageing, being as healthy as she was until now, Crabby never really “got” what most old people live with. According to Kaiser Health News,

”The majority of adults 65 and over have multiple chronic conditions that contribute to frailty and disability, according to a 2013-14 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [pdf].

“The percentage of chronic conditions among people 65 and over has increased over time, too. The percentage of people reporting hypertension, asthma, cancer and diabetes was higher in 2013-14 than in 1997-98, reports the CDC...

“About 57 percent of women and 55 percent of men age 65 and up reported hypertension. Another 54 percent of women and 43 percent of men reported arthritis.”

Obviously, Crabby Old Lady was lucky for the first 76 years of her life and she never fully appreciated how much time chronic diseases and conditions steal from elders' lives nor the personal effort required day in and day out to maintain as much health and well-being as possible.

Having spent a great deal of time thinking over all this, Crabby has come up with a few new words to live by:

Get over being a professional patient. It is what you are now. Live with it.

Accept the changes the disease is placing on daily life. They are your new normal.

Focus on what is possible now, not how life was before.

Crabby suspects that many of you, dear readers, have already been there, done this and Crabby Old Lady is just now catching up with you.



Crabby Old Lady and the Internet of Junk

You've heard of the Internet of Things? Well, forget that.

This once-wonderful means of electronic communication that has become essential to our financial, health, family, civic, educational and social lives has deteriorated into such a deep morass of crap, it can only be called the Internet of Junk.

Crabby Old Lady has sung praises of the internet since she got her first 2400 dialup modem sometime in the mid- or late-1980s.

When the World Wide Web came along a few years later with the first, primitive, graphical browsers and Crabby saw her first webpage, she was hooked.

In 1996, she left behind decades of work in television, signed on as managing editor of cbsnews.com, helping to build one of the first two U.S. news websites ever to exist.

Now, 20 years later, the internet of junk is fraught with scams, viruses, identity theft, malware, data and privacy breaches, spam, stolen bank accounts, spyware, phishing, trojan horses, worms, keylogging, ransomware – shall Crabby go on?

Maybe it should be called the Internet of Scary Junk. But although privacy and security breaches can screw up people's lives for years, that's not what has pushed Crabby Old Lady into rage territory.

What has done that is the day in, day out, page by page, minute by minute onslaught against her eyes, ears and, most crucially, her brain. She is fond of her brain, relies on its proper functioning in old age more than ever and has become convinced that the internet is harming it.

Let Crabby count the ways for you:

Dozens, nay hundreds, of websites Crabby visits interrupt their text with moving gifs – those six- or seven-second repetitive videos going round and round and round - some supposedly "enhancing" the text, others advertising. Often there are even more on the same page flickering in the right column, a constant distraction to eye and mind.

Crabby can barely control her fury when within one or two seconds of arriving on a page, before she's even figured out what to do first, a pop-up covers most of the screen asking her opinion of the website. Let's be clear: this happens before she has even had a chance to glance at the page. Irritating to Crabby but from a business point of view, it's stupid.

Sometimes Crabby tells them what she thinks – in the most colorful language as she can muster.

Equally maddening are pop-ups breaking Crabby's concentration asking her to sign up for a newsletter which is - wait for it - how she got to the site in the first place.

Crabby has come close to putting her fist through the computer screen over this one: she is comfortably settled into reading, maybe three paragraphs in and getting a good feel for the story when suddenly an advertising pop-up covers exactly the paragraph she's reading.

Wait. It gets worse. Every one of the websites that do this - many - are experts at obscuring the X that allows the pop-up to be closed.

By the time Crabby can find the X hidden in a new corner or blending into the background color so it is almost invisible, she has forgotten not only where she was in the story, but even what the damned thing is about.

There was a time, back when Crabby worked on the internet, that it was verboten to assault readers' eyes and ears with autostart video. Now, it's ubiquitous. Every day, additional sites add this aggravation to their growing list of interruptions to one's mental health.

And here is the sneakiest part: sometimes a video, usually unrelated to the story Crabby is reading, buried miles down at the bottom of a page among a blizzard of unrelated images, blasts to life a minute or two into her reading and fries her brain before she can find it.

This is not to say that one or two of these abominations happens now and then. It is dozens, dozens of times every day from the best-known, otherwise most professional websites in existence as well as the shoddy ones. (For many good reasons - see above - Crabby Old Lady doesn't go far afield from generally secure websites so we're not talking sleaze, porn or ripoff webpages.)

The irritation factor is beyond tolerable now. Further, although Crabby is obviously not a neuroscientist or psychiatrist, she doesn't believe she needs to be one to know that constant audio and visual distraction damages the ability to think and reason.

As the The Telegraph reported earlier this year:

"According to scientists, the age of smartphones has left humans with such a short attention span even a goldfish can hold a thought for longer.

"Researchers surveyed 2,000 participants in Canada and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms.

"The results showed the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000, or around the time the mobile revolution began, to eight seconds.

"Goldfish, meanwhile, are believed to have an attention span of nine seconds."

Did you get that? Goldfish for god's sake.

This is not the only study to show vastly reduced attention spans. It cannot be good for humankind and it is certainly not good for Crabby Old Lady's mind.



Email Bankruptcy

[EDITORIAL NOTE: It tells you something about Crabby's week, if not life, that you are getting missives (read: complaints) from her two days in a row. Aren't you lucky.


Every day, Crabby Old Lady struggles to keep up with email. It's been a losing battle for years. She slips behind several days then schedules a few hours to catch up and the most common result is that her tush turns to stone in the desk chair as the hours creep by and she still hasn't finished.

Of course, Crabby is not alone. Not infrequently she reads of busy people who have 20,000 or 30,000 unread emails in their inboxes. Hers stretch “only” to hundreds.

It helps – to a degree – that Crabby color-codes some types of incoming. Bills are fluorescent pink, for example, and the emails she receives of every comment posted to this blog and The Elder Storytelling Place are red. The latter means she doesn't need to constantly check online to keep up with comments through the day.

Personal friends are purple. Certain newsletters are blue. Elder Storytelling Place submissions are green. And Crabby has forgotten what orange is for. Everything else is black including junk by the daily dozens that bought her address from websites that undoubtedly assured her they never sell addresses.

If you don't count those sleazy retailers, Crabby's junk settings generally work quite well; it has been years since a fake Nigerian has asked her to wire money.

There are a plethora of apps, add-ons and, most of all, advice from self-styled experts who, with fake patience, purport to have the answer for cleaning out your inbox. The item that each one of them seems to think no ever thought of before is to read email in reverse order of receipt.

Come on. Anyone older than 25 has been doing that since email was born.

Crabby has been trying to get out of email bankruptcy for so long, there's nothing she doesn't know about it – what works (not much) and what doesn't (everything else).

Undoubtedly, Crabby's largest difficulty is that she feels obligated to answer almost all email from real people. She is talking about the (mostly) kind people with questions, suggestions or general thoughtfulness in regard this blog. (What would Saturday's Interesting Stuff be without all those ideas flowing in?)

But what has prompted today's blog post is that due to busy-ness, old-fashioned sloth and maybe creeping old age (she seems to be slower in general lately), Crabby is now about two weeks behind in blog-related email and that adds up to - as of this moment - 761 unread emails.

And so, as soon as Crabby is finished writing this post, she is going to take the most extreme solution there is for email bankruptcy: she will highlight her entire inbox and click “delete.”

There is nothing else she can do and remain sane. It will rid her of the guilt for not answering and give her a clean slate.

If any of you reading have sent an email in the past ten days or two weeks that you believe must have an answer, okay, send it again. But please, Crabby is begging now, think it over carefully. She desperately needs a break from email.

Emailbankruptcy2


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Maureen Browning: Fuzzy Math



By the Hair on Crabby Old Lady's Chinny Chin Chin

Before she even gets started, let Crabby Old Lady be clear: she is deeply grateful that so far – at age 73 – she has escaped the common conditions and diseases of old age. No arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. and no recurrence of the one little basal cell carcinoma from five or six years ago.

Crabby knows how lucky she is but that doesn't mean she's sanguine about the minor afflictions of age.

Floaters anyone? Not a day goes by that Crabby isn't trying to brush little black bugs off her food.

The only time of day Crabby can escape her tinnitus is in the shower when the sound of falling water neutralizes it. But silence? Crabby hasn't been without noise in her ears for six or eight years.

Toad spots (seborrheic keratoses) – harmless but ugly – come and go. The only grace is that when they appear on Crabby's face, they are usually skin color, not dark brown like the others.

All these are annoying enough but the worst is chin hair which in Crabby's case extends to her upper lip.

The reason for them is boring enough: old women have hardly any estrogen left so testosterone takes over and that means hair – just not where she wants it on her head.

Just as there is no cure for baldness, there is also no cure for excess facial hair on women and the available treatments are awful.

Electrolysis and laser treatments - if they work at all – are successful mostly on dark hair and hardly ever on light hair like Crabby's. Besides, it takes six to 12 treatments to show results, is hugely expensive and must be repeated about twice a year. Forever.

Waxing is best done professionally, is painful, expensive and must be repeated about once a month – and you know how fast time flies when you're old.

Over-the-counter creams and strips are no better. They're messy, hard to apply and too often damage skin. Trust Crabby, it is a horrible procedure.

Plucking or tweezing don't work for Crabby. They are painful and although the hair does come out, little red bumps erupt on her skin where each and every hair was pulled out. No thanks.

All that is so depressing that Crabby might consider becoming the bearded lady in a circus (do they still have those?). If only there was more hair on her chin and upper lip, but alas. So Crabby is left with shaving.

It is a myth that shaving makes new growth thicker. The real difference is that shaved hairs have blunt ends instead of the tapered, softer tips of hair that has not been is shaved.

Crabby uses a cute little electric razor made especially for old women's facial hair problems. Actually, she uses it when she remembers to which often doesn't happen until she can nearly braid the hair on her chin.

Okay, Crabby exaggerates – she's slightly more diligent than that. But she has come to understand why a lot of men hate shaving and she's not happy that this latest item on her list of irritating old age afflictions will, like all the others, last until she dies.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: This Old Man