Introducing Jimmy Dean Owens

It’s a name that sounds like a merger of sausage companies.  And for good reason.  Jimmie Dean Owens is a second generation captivity-raised wild hog.  Better Half bought him for bacon—and sausage.  (Yep, he’s retired and still bringing home the bacon.)  True to the wild hog nature, Jimmie Dean Owens is a mean son-of-a pork chop.  If he proves to be too entertaining, he may not live long enough to become a boar.  In that case, we will change his name to Sooner Sausage.

  Jimmy Dean Owens


ICE: In Case of Emergency

 ICE flash drive

Grand #7 has severe food allergies.  So Better Half and I went shopping online for a medical alert ID bracelet—just in case she has a reaction and can’t explain what is happening.  We decided on a tag that slides over a sport band—effectively hiding all her personal information.  The front says “Severe Food Allergies see reverse remove band.”  So her name and emergency phone numbers are protected from prying eyes and the wear and tear of being worn by an active eight-year-old.  We bought her two bands—one to wear, one to wash.  It’s cute and should arrive by Monday.  Her siblings are a bit jealous.

But it got us thinking about our own emergency preparedness.  I emailed PCDoc to enquire whether I need a medical alert bracelet and, if so, what should it say?  Her return email simply listed what should be engraved.  Dang it.  I’d have rather she said, “No. You don’t need one.”  I was just so darn grateful that she didn’t suggest I use the inscription “CAUTION:  crazy, hormonal woman.  Be prepared to run!” that I sent her a note of appreciation.  (I am, after all, pretty sure that she thought about suggesting that alternative.)  Whereupon, PCNurse emailed back a thanks-for-the-laugh kind of thing.  <shaking head bewildered>  I swear, half the time they don’t get my jokes; and half the time that I’m being serious, they think I’m funny.

I decided to save money on my bracelet and shopped on eBay.  I ordered the ID plaque from an engraver and will make my own bracelet.  I like to tinker with jewelry.  Part of the inscription reads, “see USB.”  While I am waiting for my ID plaque to be engraved and shipped, I put more detailed information into a .rtf text document.  There are no pictures.  And an .rtf document uses basic formatting, tables and all, while making a smaller file size than a .doc file.   I named the file “ICE for Nancy January.”  Then I exported the file as a PDF, which makes it an even smaller readable file.

When a patient can’t, or has difficulty, providing more detailed information than a bracelet or necklace can hold, emergency personnel look for an“ICE” file.  Since nearly all emergency rooms and vehicles have computers with USB ports, ICE flash drives are becoming increasingly popular.  There are many options available—including a subscription service for storing your information online and a customer service person to help paramedics with ICE information.  That’s expensive.  The least expensive, and probably most secure, is to just make your own and update it as needed.

I have a couple of old, small capacity flash drives that I haven’t used in about two years.  One is only 32 MB.  More than enough to hold all of the emergency information for me, Better Half, Red Dog, and all of our descendents.  I cleared off all the old files and downloaded  a portable PDF viewer to the flash drive. 

Portable applications run from the flash drive without having to be installed on a computer.  It’s a handy feature that lets you access your flash drive files without leaving anything behind on the computer you use to access it.  So I went to and downloaded the free PDF viewer.  It allows viewing, saving, and printing.  But not copy/paste or editing.  It’s a simple program with a footprint of only 1.4 MB.

My ICE file is only 0.06 MB.  So everything I need “ICE” takes less than 1.5 MB on my flash drive.  I will order a medical alert charm to put on the drive’s tether to mark it as my ICE drive just in case I have more than one flash drive with me if/when paramedics need my information.  In the meantime, I’ve printed a label and will cover it with transparent tape to help preserve it.

So what goes in an ICE file?  I found several helpful websites with a variety of suggestions.  Basically, it should include any information an emergency room will need to give you emergency care if you are unconscious and there is no one available to speak for you.

Mine begins with my name and description.  I don’t want to be “Jane Doe.”  And if I am in an accident in which my flash drive is found on the floorboard of the car and there are other females needing care, I want them to be able to identify which one the file belongs to.  So name, hair and eye color, height, weight, month and year of birth, and blood type.  Okay, blood type is not going to help them identify me.  But they might need that information quickly, so I want it near the top of the file.  My day of birth, address, phone number, and Social Security number are not listed to prevent identity theft if I lose the flash drive.

Next is my emergency contact information.  Better Half is listed first with his cell phone number.  But he is usually with me when I am away from home, so just in case he is unconscious from the same accident, I listed Baby Boy’s cell phone number.  Following that is PCDoc’s name and number.  Then comes my list of medical conditions that need to be known in an emergency.  I didn’t list “high cholesterol” because that doesn’t matter in the ER.  But I did include “sleep apnea” because, if I’m unconscious, they need to know that I need a CPAP to keep me breathing regularly.

Allergies are next, then medicines I take regularly—including dosage, frequency, prescribing physician, and why I take it.  Many medicines can be prescribed for multiple conditions.  So it’s important to let the ER know why I take each one.  After that I list my primary and secondary insurance companies, but not the account/policy numbers.  They can get those from me when I’m awake or from my emergency contacts.  Still, it will inform them that I do have insurance.  And that may influence the quality of care I get.  It shouldn’t, but sometimes it does.

I added a complete list of each doctor’s name, specialty, address, and phone number—beginning with PCDoc.  This list is also good for a quick reference when I need to find a doctor’s phone number, mail them something, recommend a doctor to someone, or have to fill out forms.

Finally, I have included the name and phone number of my pharmacy and medical equipment provider.  I can’t say that the ER will need this information unless they need to ask questions about my meds or get a loaner CPAP with the proper settings for me.  But, again, it is a handy reference if I need the information.

I am going to make an ICE file for Better Half and add that to my flash drive.  It would have been very helpful to have had that with me when he had his heart attack and I couldn’t remember his meds, doctor’s phone number, etc.  Who can remember essential details under such conditions?  I will make a duplicate ICE drive for him to carry.  That way, God forbid, if we get in an accident and only one flash drive is found, both files will be available.  Or if only one of us goes into the hospital, the other will have the essential information.

Paramedics are taught to look for ICE files in the refrigerator when in a person’s home.  I’ll put a note on our refrigerator to tell them where to find our USB drives with our ICE files.

For some people, simply adding “ICE” (instead of a person’s name) to their cell phone address book with an emergency phone number may be enough.

I hope you’ll take time to make your own ICE file—before you need it.  Whatever you use, be sure to label the location of the file with “ICE,” to make it easier to find in an emergency.

Red Dog Had a Hard Weekend

Honey in Leaves Spring2010

The Red Dog had a rough weekend.  She wandered around, fretted, couldn’t find the right hidey-hole, and wouldn’t eat or drink.  She wrapped herself around my wheelchair so tightly I couldn’t move.  She didn’t respond to voice commands.  None of this was normal for her.

So Monday, Better Half and I took her to the vet to see if he could figure out what she couldn’t tell us.  He’s a good vet, took his time looking her over.  X-rays confirmed his suspicions of severe arthritis, parasites, and a tumor.  He expected to find several cancerous tumors, but there is only one.  It’s a third the size of her heart and pressing up against it.

The Red Dog is fourteen years old and has been losing weight steadily for several months.  She is too old and weak for surgery or chemo.  The vet gave her some wormer, cortisone for the arthritis, prescriptions, and a new diet for a few days.

So now we have to feed her cottage cheese, boiled chicken, and rice.  We have never fed her “people” food because her digestive track turns it into a cloud that will fumigate the whole neighborhood and make horses faint. But now I am cooking for her.  She watches me through cataracts, but knows when I’m fixing her food.  I’m afraid it will be hard to break her of the expectation once she no longer needs the special diet.

It has, however, brought her appetite back.  All of her odd behaviors have stopped.  She is more active and alert in spite of the pain meds she now gets twice a day (and likely will the rest of her life). I will have to get her a pill box to sort her meds out and be sure she gets them when we take ours. 

We won’t be able to leave her as we have done when doctor appointments force us to be away overnight.  We’ll have to take her along or find a sitter who can get the pills down her.  She doesn’t fight the pills going in or bite.  But she is fairly good at spitting the pills out.  It’s a bit of an art getting her to swallow them on the first try.

There is good news.  Her vital functions are all fine.  No kidney problems, bowel obstructions, congestion in heart or lungs.  If she can gain some weight back and take her meds everyday, she should be with us a good while longer.

We’ll count it a blessing, even if it means we have to spoil her a little more.  And we’ll keep the gas masks handy—just in case.

Embers and Starlight


A few days ago we woke to rain.  The temperature had dropped and it looked like another dreary day. 

Then the sun came out and changed everything into a perfect afternoon—warm with a cool breeze. 

That evening Better Half built a fire—the first of the season.  We spent some time watching the fire, some watching the stars, and some watching the animal nightlife.  It was a pleasant evening, sitting and talking without electronic interruption. 

We had some “remember when”s and planned some more.  Quiet conversation in a soft circle of embers and starlight.

Kind of puts things into perspective and balance.

Makes me long to go camping…

So Busy


100_3263The past week few weeks have been…well, challenging. Thankfully, we’ve had a refreshing bit of a reprieve the last couple of days and expect a less stressful week ahead. I am looking forward to going in fewer circles in the weeks to come.

Youngest Son and Better Half seemed to have gotten the truck fixed. Apparently, a new part bought to replace a broken part was defective—working intermittently, giving the illusion that the replaced part was not the original problem and making the defect difficult to locate.

Auto mechanics was so much simpler before computerization. A person could dismantle an engine and transmission, examine each individual piece, visually determine what was broken, worn, misshapen, unaligned. Then correct the problem with adjustment or replacement, reassemble everything and drive off merrily on your way. Now the problems are usually hidden in a sealed black box, a computerized module, that can’t be visually examined and often can’t be externally tested without specialized and expensive equipment that only professional shops can afford. The number of shade tree mechanics diminishes with each new drive train innovation.

Still, when a vehicle is paid off and loved as much as our old truck, it’s hard to give up on it–even when it’s too expensive to take it to a professional shop. So Better Half and Youngest Son have tinkered with it for the past three years. They refuse to be outsmarted by a fourteen-year-old technology. Time will tell if they’ve solved the riddle. I hope so, I’ve missed the old truck. It will be nice to be able to take the travel trailer on trips and down to the lake. And it will save the minivan thousands of miles of wear and tear.

While the men worked on the truck, Grands #5, 6, and 10 helped me with a few chores around the gardens and in the house. They filled the bird feeders, weeded the window boxes, cleaned the flowerbeds in front of the house, and started weeding the raised bed vegetable garden. I hope to get everything planted in the coming week.

Inside, the Grands helped with odds and ends. Grand #5 vacuumed. Then we made a late lunch and celebrated with the first picnic of the Spring. Afterward, they all helped clean up and then played the rest of the day. Well, not quite. Ten-year-old Grand #10 wanted to make dinner by herself. We started with canned chicken and noodle soup, then she scoured the pantry for additional foods and spices for added substance and flavor. She needed just a bit of supervision choosing the right spices and getting the right “dosages.” It was wonderful and nourishing. I look forward to watching her integrate her loves of cooking and science.

Last week I found a few got-to-have books. Among them was a single volume collection of Dick and Jane readers. Four-year-old Grand #10 learned to read “Look” and “Oh” in various combinations. He read them, first with help, then without, after they arrived on Friday and on Saturday he needed no help. Sight reading, for sure, but still reading. I bought a spiral bound pack of fifty index cards, glued an unbound card to the front cover and wrote “My Word Book” on it. Then I tied a small sharpie to the spiral with a red string. (Did you know some sharpies now come with rings on their caps so you can put them on a necklace or tie them to a notebook?)

I used a pencil and lightly wrote each word he could read on its own page to show him how to “collect” his words. He traced them with the sharpie. He’ll be writing without tracing in no time—just needs to get the hang of using lines. Every time an adult hears him read a new word without help two days in a row, the adult can give him permission to write the new word in his word book (which will double as flash cards later). Writing one word on the front and one on the back of each page in his book, he can collect 100 words. By then, he’ll be well on his way to reading. Grands #5 and 6 said they wanted word books too. I’ll have to buy them larger books. Both are accomplished readers already.

Grand #6 went home with both the Dick and Jane book and a book of science experiments tucked under her arms. They are on loan. I put one of my sticky address labels inside the front of the book to remind them that these books are mine. That means they will be extra careful with them, being sure to only handle them with clean, dry hands. But more importantly, it will keep one from claiming ownership and remind all that the books have to be shared with everyone in the house. I don’t expect to ever get the books back. (But don’t tell the Grands that. They might forget to take good care of “Grandma’s” books if they don’t think I expect them back.) These books will be well read and loved, then passed on to other Grands.

While I was loading the dishwasher, Grand #10 came twirling into the kitchen behind me. “Gwanma,” he said, “I am busy, busy, busy….  Do you know why I am busy? Fwom spinning awound!” 

Perfect summary of not just our day together, but of my last few weeks.

In Equal Measure…

Grand #5 turned ten yesterday.  Her party will be on Saturday.  She chose “Science” as her theme.  Smart girl.  Takes after her grandmother….

An online friend who did not know this sent me a link to the perfect gift: a kitchen measuring cup.  My friend sent the link because she thought this item is unique and amusing.  When I saw the picture, I immediately thought of something my doctor had said, “I follow the science.”  And I wondered where a person would wind up if they followed this.  The question is intriguing.  Finally, my curiosity got the best of me and I ordered several. 

My granddaughter will certainly get one.  The others will be “shared” with friends and family who will report back about what this measuring cup inspires.  Curiosity?  Invention?  Creativity?  Inquiry?  Experiments?  Breakfast?

Check it out.  Equal Measure: kitchen measurements in a whole new light.

equal measure 1 equal measure 2

I just realized why sneezing feels like I’m blowing my brains out. And I’ve got half a mind to tell you. I can’t though. It’s full of milk at the moment.

The Long Winds Blow

Long Winds 2

The long winds blow today.

So I can not go out to play

Or fly my kite to amazing height

On this warm and sunny day.

Up from the south they blow

Full of pollen from Mexico.

I will wheeze and sneeze ‘till on my knees

I cry out, “My head aches so!”

I must stay in today

For the long winds want to play.

They call me out while I sit and pout

On this warm and sunny day.