Category: ironic

Asked/Answered, Irritating People by Informing Them

My ole buddy Arab who learned lots with clicker and food rewards and also with classical training methods … he gets regular hand feeding now because he is nearly toothless. But he still enjoys any training session I want to offer him.

Do you ever reply to questions in Internet groups you’re in? You’re not one of those people who says stupid stuff, are you? I guess I am…

I wrote a reply to a woman who had posted a horse handling question on a Facebook group I’m in. She wrote, in response to some advice I’d offered, IN ALL CAPS! so she was yelling at me. She obviously didn’t want a stupid, behavioral, researched, positive-reinforcement kind of answer.

She believes I was off-target and didn’t understand what the problem was with this biting, kicking, angry mare. Oh yeah, that’s me.

What was I thinking? I knew I probably shouldn’t clarify when she brushed off the first person’s answer. But she was not getting it. Ugh! I have problems with leaving people in-the-dark when they are asking for some light on a solution.

Alas, elsewhere ignorance reigns. And the horse suffers – quite seriously in this case. Which is probably what spurred me on.

Should I have responded at all? Easy answer … Noooo! Do people actually honor FREE advice … mostly Noooo! Ah, they say thank you, but with no cost to them, there is also no value or commitment to the advice. Of course, this person didn’t say thanks…

The first person answering offered – how about clicker and positive rewards. I thought the questioner worried about the horse biting if she offered food rewards for behaviors. She wrote – “It bites.” So I said how to deal with resolving biting when offering treats … wrong.


I almost let it go. But then I did respond because, OK, I just didn’t want to let it go … and people who use negative reinforcement and punishment like it when it works. It’s a nice, for them, closed system – no thinking. Hence they tend to escalate their yelling or rude actions. Escalate, escalate, escalate … more, do it more, because it will work with MORE. But, what they don’t consider is it’s not good for them. It’s not good for them to be that way, it turns them bitter, shuts off their empathy and leaves them angry.

So I wrote, “You are absolutely right (I was being affirmative), the horse did need a different training approach (I was repeating her words) and that was offered by everyone who responded to your query.” (I wasn’t the only useless advice giver). And, I wished her all the best (definitely true –  plus I didn’t want her to yell at me anymore. Her negative reinforcement was working…grr).

Unwritten I wished some more stuff…

I didn’t say that her ALL CAPS shout was ironic. Although it was. It made me snort when I read it.

I didn’t chant, “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” since she had written that she used positive reinforcement. I wonder what she thought she did that the horse would think, yay, positive reward. Yay, you didn’t whip me! Yay, you quit jerking on my face! Yay, you quit bothering me by removing the pressure of your presence. Yay, you slapped me  and said **gibberish**.

(–Aside whisper– If you don’t know the difference – positive means added something the horse likes and negative means something aversive  taken away to reward behavior … the examples were negative reinforcement, the slap might be considered punishment and the gibberish, well is gibberish**horses don’t know English until taught words by connecting them with actions, but they do know threatening body language/tones)

I didn’t say, don’t take in horses to train when you know so little about — HORSES…

Or; How do I even know what the question really is when the writing is so lacking in key information…like not mentioning that she only wants new approaches in the same vein as what she has been using, just new, but the same … OK.

To be fair, horse training is mostly the use of negative reinforcement, advance/retreat, bits, whips, spurs, pressure – the good trainers are very specific and measured with its application because they don’t want to push the horse into too much fear or anger. And it works, horses remember. They are a high-fear animal and running away is their claim to fame. Beautiful runners.

Rougher trainers tend to work (find some success) with the calmer horses, because they can get away with it (they’d wreck the hot-blooded Arabs, thoroughbreds …) This horse was sent on to a rougher trainer, one who would ‘lay it down’. Euphemism – for tying up, throwing down and restraining until the horse gives up (learned helplessness, mental shut down and strong risk of physical damage).

What would you think are the chances of this ending well? And, who will be blamed? The horse.

Right …  The positives like food, eek! The anti-food line is a big, wide gap between what research says and what many horse trainers do. No, we don’t use food to train … that would be … cheating. And the horses might like it. They would come too close to us, get too enthused and we don’t know how to train them if they aren’t more afraid. We don’t know what to do when it comes to using food, except avoid or only give it once we get done training.  There is a long tradition of using the tools we use. They need to respect us (euphemism for fear).

True, that’s pretty much the way it rolls.

Yup, I gave her an example of how food could work to start to repair the inter-species rift, silly me. Will I do it again? Well not to her, but  …. oh heck, probably yes.





Right to health? Health and interventions are not the same.

Right to health, what? What do you mean by right to health? Right to medical intervention is not the same as health, in fact it’s far from it. Access to preventative screenings is several steps closer to giving people the information they might need to promote their health – assuming the screening is accurate and not prone to false negatives or positives. In the ideal setting the intervention would be early enough that it was minor and effective.

Healthy people generally have the least contact with the medical field unless you are part of the medical field (as I was). So I’ve had lots of contact, just not many interventions.

The current system rewards interventions with payment and interventions breed more interventions. Iatrogenic mortality (one source) is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. (medications, surgeries and hospital based infections are often fatal). Basically, if the system drives illness-based-wealth, we will get more illness. Because there is money in it, lots of money, goodwill and power. Why else would churches be a main player in hospital ownership? Hm, religion is a player on the field.

Non-healthcare people generally seem to believe the medications they take are keeping them well. Most medications only control the symptoms of being unwell, they do not cure the underlying disease or chronically poor behaviors promoting the disease.

The great exceptions are antibiotics, which are rapidly being undermined by stupid use (meat animal growth enhancement and as placebos for viruses) driving evolutionary changes in bacteria. And vaccinations, which are a proven prevention strategy, being undermined by misinformation and fear (and inadequate understanding of the risks of the diseases being prevented).

One of the reasons surgeons are the rock stars of the medical profession is because with a scalpel they can cure disease (sometimes).

Let’s take for example the approach to an ever increasing chronic problem overweight/obesity. The answer, the weight loss industry – diets and surgery.

As a dietitian I know something about it although, because I’m an idealist, I never partook of its riches – it seemed wrong to me. The best predictor of unintended weight gain is going on a weight loss diet. The efforts to find one main cause for the obesity and subsequent diabetes epidemic have not really uncovered ‘a’ culprit, but the ‘best predictor of unintended weight gain is dieting.’

If you never, never were restricted, shamed, never went on that first diet…and next and next it is exceedingly likely that you would weigh much less now. It is more likely that you would have maintained the internal system for hunger and satiety cues that those without weight issues use to maintain their body weight. You wouldn’t be charmed by recipes or be entranced by foodie shows or have undeniable need to eat when not hungry. You wouldn’t be a prime candidate for adult-onset diabetes.

However if I wanted to partake and make money off weight loss systems I would use some modified diet, controlled portions, an external system. Because then you would continue to need my services ($) after great initial success and praise, then, oh darn you failed, lost your focus, lacked willpower, but some people succeed and you could be like them! See they’re famous on TV.

Or I would get aligned with a weight loss surgical team and do counseling about how to deal with minimal stomach volume. Lots of clients, effective surgery (people definitely lose weight following surgery) and follow up issues usually related to absorption problems or eating through – regaining and need for another surgical intervention. Nice economic system. Justifiable because of the serious health problems that come along with obesity.

If I wanted you to be able to really become free of this chronic problem I would have to help you see it in a completely different way and you would have to resist the multiple forces driving you towards dieting, food policing, scales, portion controls, fast change, elective surgery and whatever newest and greatest extreme exercise craze. And nutrition and exercise would be of the gentle long-haul quality, something you could and wanted to continue forever without will power. You would pay attention to your own body, how it reacts – you would be aware. Sounds spiritual, it is.

Makes you think – maybe. But we don’t want to have to change our behaviors, they are ours and we’re used to them. So what if they are making us sick, making us feel sick, making us less than happy.

It is the government’s responsibility to make the decisions that will benefit the whole country. Decisions like ensuring clean air, clean water, untainted food sources, fairness in economic systems and security in those systems. Perhaps being the police force for the world is part of that, probably not. It is also important to prevent endemics of diseases that would threaten the population and the population’s ability to produce healthy food and a reasonable living, which ties into education. The government which we deride, is us. We vote, we buy, we accept, we want, we demand, we blame and we ignore our responsibility to think choices all the way through.

The financial system is a completely made-up, arbitrary system. Its consistency important only because it stands for other things. Its regulation is very important because of that factor. Money means nothing if there is no health, no clean water, no clean air, no untainted food, no way for the majority to have security, except of course those with the most will be able to garner the last of the supplies and sway the ones who also want the power of money.

Having people driven into insolvency, poverty and death instead of being a productive member of society is tragic. Having subsidies, benefits, cheap loans for companies who will significantly damage the air quality, water quality, food quality, devalue employees, is idiotic, and amazingly short sighted; except if your over-riding purpose is to quickly accumulate money – which is most corporations primary goal.

Continuing to support a system that benefits from illness is dumb. Continuing to promote systems that encourage the formation of morbid chronic diseases is also less than brilliant.

Yes we should have freedom to choose with informed choice, but then we also get to have the results of those choices and how educated are we in our choices? Are the repeated pieces of marketing doing all the education? Are students even taught how to evaluate the risks vs the benefits of a health care protocol? How many men get treated for prostate cancer, when the statistics show that 49 will get the treatment and only one will benefit by not dying from that cancer. The other 48 get the side-effects and no life saving, but you don’t know it, you might be the one who is saved. Would you be tough enough to say no if your doctor told you of your cancer and what he could do to possibly save you?

We have tried this current system of private insurance health care for a while now and the results? Well U.S. does not have statistics that support continuing as we have been. But the players have a lot of money on the field and it is better for them financially if things continue and people already in ‘disease’ are afraid.

Afraid of the things they might lose, afraid they won’t be saved, afraid in a culture that keeps death at arm’s length and wants to hide from the declines of aging. Afraid medications won’t be there, in denial that sick old people often just want it all to end, denial about the level of mental illness in the population…  Do you think fear and denial make a strong country or are they more likely to set up ill-thought-out panic? Scare mongering seems amazingly blatant lately.

And everyone in the system can’t see a way out of the system, that’s the way it is with systems, they overtake ones whole perspective. They blind us to the potential benefits of other ways.

But yes, I call for choice in interventions. However I think there needs to be proof of homework, proof of viable research for the choice being made. Where is the risk/benefit ratio? How likely is this intervention to actually produce a healthy recovery. Would a surgeon from another medical center agree to have it done to him?

Choice based on proof of quality of life after intervention and understanding of the likelihood of little benefit and a myriad of unpleasant side-effects.



Deer season opener- Wisconsin

Warmer, snow covered, unfrozen ground with moist 20-30 degree weather welcomed those stalwart, orange-clad deer gun toting hunters today the first day of gun deer hunting 2014.indexSongs were being sung and excitement was building throughout the end of this last week – smiles gracing the faces of otherwise  somber, bearded, flannel-shirted middle-aged men.flannel

Sigh. As per usual I’m sticking close to buildings and wearing orange to ward off random poorly aimed slugs. A large percentage of the deer, also knowing what season it is, have moved into thickets, soggy marshes and closer to buildings to ward off being targets. I saw the tracks of a small herd crossing my horse pasture and headed for a stand of trees and brush bordering our property – they have successfully hidden out in this spot for several years.

There is no hope for respite from the collard, Brussel sprout, apple tree eating, fence busting furry hoard. Not at this level of white-tail-ness.deereatinggarden

This year, since 24 deer per square mile is inadequate concentration for successful hunting, there are no doe tags in our county.

deercarcrashThe level of concentration of deer is quite adequate for deer/vehicular collisions and a boon to auto repair shops, building the economy locally, one deer at a time. Remember, there’s seldom just one trying to cross the road in front of you … more like three or four.

With the advent of off-site registration much of the gatheringdeerregistrationjpg deer-registration joy and storytelling tradition has gone down the road. Social traditions and beer drinking with a bloody buck on the hood or hanging out the back of the pick-up truck be damned. Take a photo from the right angle and he’s shore a big’un. Onward facebook dead deer photo sharing.

Eight more days of wearing orange. Good luck everybody, stay out there ’til you get your buck … remember, don’t shoot at moving orange, or still orange or really anything that doesn’t have all the traits of a deer.


Have heart, have palpitations

Normal EKG contrasted with atrial fibrillation

Back in September, on a very early Monday morning I decided to go the emergency room for possible heart problems. I felt it was probably just a waste of a fairly large chunk of money ($1424 for labs, EKG, physician, x-ray), but if it wasn’t, I didn’t want to kill myself, I should just go in and be evaluated. That’s how I think now at this age (is this likely to kill me?).

I don’t know if you know the reasons women are supposed to go in, but they are pretty sketchy; dizziness, nausea, upper-back pain, anxiousness, prolonged palpitations, sweaty-ness and then the same things that men have; chest pain …. Well I’d had dizziness (but I have inner ear vertigo sometimes in the fall/winter), some nausea (but when I have vertigo I get a little sick to my stomach), sweat (yippee, I’m still in the zone of hot flashes), prolonged heart palpitations (this is the one that decided me) and anxiousness (well the prolonged palpitations plus the lack of sureness about the other symptoms did make me anxious enough to decide to go to the hospital).

So I drove in (yes, I know experts say call an ambulance, but really I couldn’t tolerate the excitement). And I spent several hours getting tested.

Surprised, nope, absolutely nothing showed up as abnormal in the tests. But, I know what I was experiencing wasn’t normal for me. The ER doctor offered me a prescription for beta-blockers, that didn’t make sense to me as I didn’t have high blood pressure (110/74) and my resting pulse is 60 to 66 so I declined. They also gave me a handout for lifestyle changes and wanted me to contact my regular physician for a visit. Yah, yah, yes, agree, let me leave.

Things that seem to drive heart  arrythmia or electrical problems (palpitations or fibrillation=rate 110-350) are: smoking, caffeine, alcohol, salt, stress, inadequate sleep, inflammation (overweight, inflammatory foods – like Omega 6 fats, sugar, corn-fed meats), inadequate or excessive exercise, hyper-thyroid, anemias (iron and/or B12) and chocolate and/or other heart issues.

I am overweight (as is most of America) and I like some coffee and chocolate and some salty things and my exercise plan had waned a bit (I’d had a series of injuries – ankle, knee, foot and these made it easy to skip workouts), I eat many healthy but goiter-causing hypothyroid, but not hyperthyroid, foods (collards, broccoli) and am mostly vegetarian (so B12 [anemia] possible low normal). My part-time job as a proofreader is stressful because of the perfection rush, and having hot flashes and palpitations interferes with good sleep (no kidding).

So I increased exercise walking daily, joined a two times a week weight lifting course offered by UW-Extension called Strong Women – which was great but made some muscles in my chest sore (?chest pain anyone), went decaffeinated (or at least tried to), reduced salt from an already low salt diet, gave up most of my chocolate, added Brazil nuts for selenium (protection for my thyroid) and still had palpitations that woke me up, often nightly. But they were a lot less than what I’d had for the several days before I went to the ER.

This went on for several months, as did the reminder calls from the local hospital/clinic that I was supposed to make an appointment with my provider. Yes, yes, I have a HSA with high deductible health insurance and so I dislike spending my healthcare dollars on useless (?) visits. Mostly palpitations are benign. Plus, over and over again lifestyle changes trump medication as far as real effectiveness in resolving a problem instead of just treating symptoms and giving you side-effects (I know there are exceptions; antibiotics, vaccines, and several others).

So I endeavored to follow a much more focused healthy lifestyle. The extremely cold weather and snow didn’t help much, but I persisted.

Well, things were going along (I have a whole bunch of decaff/herbal teas that I ended up not being able to tolerate – need some?) until I had a whole rash of palpitations despite my continued care for following a healthy program, so I finally scheduled a provider visit, which happened a week later when there were no symptoms.

More tests (labs were normal – below 200 cholesterol, good HDL,  LDL) I agreed to wearing an EKG monitor for two weeks. More sleep disruption with box and cords hanging off me. Push the button and it records whatever is happening to your heart. Get three recordings and dial-up the nurses to send them (usually at 3:45 am) and then they ask you “What were you doing when you made the recordings? (sleeping) Any symptoms? (fast, hard heartbeats) How are you feeling now? (fine) We received the recordings, there is no reason to contact your doctor.”

My most difficult thing was avoiding caffeine as decaffeinated isn’t really caffeine-free and I also seem to react to artificial/natural flavors so lots of things were eliminated. Lots of things, like stuff with natural vanilla flavor isn’t really vanilla, nor is anything that says natural _____whatever flavor. If the flavor was real it would just say the ingredient vanilla or honey or ginger on the label. I liked the taste of Celestial Seasonings herbal vanilla honey chamomile, but couldn’t tolerate it because of the “natural honey and vanilla flavoring.”

Recently studies confirmed that avoiding artificial flavors/colors (note ‘natural flavor’ is not real) is more effective than medication in helping ADD and since I felt jittery and felt better if I was moving (couldn’t get comfortable sitting/lying still) I figured maybe I was reacting just like the kids did. This was mid-monitoring when over and over there was nothing to report on my heart rhythm per the called up nurse.

Eliminating artificial and ‘natural ___ flavoring’ removes a whole lot of processed foods – almost all of them. Just take a look at the labels. Even Real Mayonnaise has ‘natural flavoring’ added. Eh, I like to cook, just get the real item basics and skip the rest. Seems difficult? Not so much, at least not at home.

Beverages are a problem: There’s water and milk, but I don’t like milk. Juices are made from cooked down concentrate re-colored naturally and re-flavored naturally to make them look and taste good again – the whole fruit is better anyway.  There’s plain soy, rice and almond milk, which are OK in small quantities.

The teas I like and are really caffeine free and only contain real mint and chamomile are Bigelow herbal mint and herbal chamomile. I put 12 cups of water in the coffee pot, put three tea bags (2 camomile and one mint) and brew it and leave it out. Hot I add some honey, but room temp I drink it plain. My homegrown mint, which I only dried a small amount of because I didn’t have a use for it then, is much more flavorful and better than the bagged tea mint. This year, now that I know I’ll want it, I’ll dry much more. That goes for all my herbs.

Then salt … well salt is added to lots of things in amounts that are surprising – bagels with over 300 mg per each, tortillas with 310 mg each and then all the pork and chicken with added salt (broth for flavor). I don’t each much meat, but now really not.

Calcium supplements have also been connected with heart rhythm problems esp. anything over 500 mg., remember high school chemistry? Ca++, sodium, potassium? Electrolytes that need to be balanced for proper muscle function? The heart is a muscle.

So I did all the things you do to avoid heart burn/acid stomach without using calcium (Tums or other product); raised the mattress at the head of the bed, quit eating by 8pm, avoided overeating even really good stuff – stopping when almost satisfied, used plain almonds, apple, lemon water as tools to settle acid excess. I put a little baggy of almonds in my bed drawer, in my jacket pocket and a plastic container of them in the car so I’d have them if I needed them. They work and eating the right amount of food at meals to keep me feeling good is a great side-effect.

I recorded and recorded and wrote my patient diary about my palpitations. I had three different times when my ‘palpitations’ or whatever were really worrisome to me and each time the Life Watch nurse said the electrodes weren’t connected (but I think they were – maybe). The second time this happened into ER I went, with the same result as the first time. Perfectly normal EKG, nice blood pressure, great pulse and more detailed handouts on palpitations, fibrillation and lifestyle interventions. I liked this ER doctor very well, she was reassuring and helpful with information – adding more details (I like details because then I can make better decisions). She said that if she had a heart problem she’d rather it be electrical than clogged. Well OK then.

The third time I awoke wondering ? V-tach?, hit the button to record, dialed in the recording, they said bad connection, I had new electrodes on, hmm I decided, whatever, since I felt fine and never really had any other symptoms and they, obviously weren’t able to tell me anything. I peeled the electrodes off and put the monitor in the mailer ($1100 worth of monitoring). The result – normal.

So whatever is going on is not bad enough to  find by the current system. There are multiple studies that show that too much contact with the healthcare system is bad for your health. As a previous member of the system, I know it’s true – the third (maybe second) biggest cause of mortality and morbidity is iatrogenic (caused by the system – medications, infections or other interventions).

Now – and these are not for you because you may be having a heart attack, but knowing what I know, I add to the list of warning signs 5-minutes of nausea (not caused by vertigo or bad cooking), same for dizziness, sweat that doesn’t build like a hot flash does or become cold just because it’s 40 below windchill out, chest pain sitting in a chair not caused by too many tree-hugger moves weight lifting, palpitations that don’t go away as soon as you get in the car or see a doctor.

I don’t want whatever is going on to progress, and keeping on doing the same things gets the same results.  So I tried to quit my stressful part-time job (I’d learned what I could from it – it was a good run, yah, yah so I’m still helping them) the stress from it was no longer worth the minor paycheck. I added vit B12 since I’m even more vegetarian than before. I added some Vinyasa yoga practice, which I am liking immensely, other than certain body areas that don’t particularly want flexibility. I quit recording or timing any palpitations (except for unusual quantities of them, which occur on a 4-week cycle, hmm)  I felt I had given them enough attention so I covered the night-light clock and if I wake up with palpitations I go right to yoga breathing which resolves them if they haven’t already resolved.

The other day when I declined a friendly offer of wine (alcohol) and reminded my friends I was a no alcohol, no caffeine. low salt. no chocolate (because you do need others help to make it so – unless you become a hermit).

Asked by a new acquaintance what I did for fun. Do you think she was dissing me? I think she was, but I pretended it was a real question and I started to list, but a different friend did it for me – play guitar, artwork, play with dogs, horses, sing … OK so maybe my embrace of healthful practices is irritating. (I worked with a big guy who was a serious weightlifter, now he was irritating. Nothing was important enough to interfere with his eating and weight lifting schedule. He had to eat at certain times, certain foods and when we went to a restaurant young teen boys would follow him and he’d ignore them. It was funny and irritating.)

And that’s the thing. It isn’t about the restrictions, it’s about finding things I like to have instead and making those available and easy. It’s about being healthier and following my body’s feedback. It told me I needed to change what I was doing. I’m stronger, resolved some things I didn’t know could be fixed and feel better than I did, but I also feel less invulnerable and that’s a good thing, because I can make changes now and not have to hit some sort of ‘bottom, bad zone’ and need major healthcare intervention before doing them.

I’ve gotten rid of things that weren’t good for me, tried blends of real things, planned more to do in my garden and read more labels than I have in years. I learned a bunch just because I needed to. I also wondered if some major change happened in the food industry  and I’m just one of the canaries.

Grocery shopping is definitely faster since there are so few reasons to go into any aisles, convenience stores are not really convenient – although KwikTrip has real bananas, onions, potatoes, fruit, herbal tea… it’s my gas station of choice. M & M’s have gone by the roadside. And yah, the Wisconsin brewery tour is not on my list of ‘gotta do it.’

I hope my litany of stuff is helpful to you if you’re dealing with any of the same worries. All the best to you, be well.

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Garden gate/Snow gate

Want to see a contrast? Garden gate/Snow gate … 6 more weeks of winter, hmm.

More snow is in the forecast and the windchill is again 25 below, I’m getting more and more Wisconsin-Alaskan; very weather hardy.  I just put on the layers and keep the boot heater running. I’ve heard the real up-northerners don’t actually have much snow and parts of the great dogsled race have had to be rerouted due to its lack.

I’d be glad to share. Here’s my garden gate, I’m not sure it will ever swing free again.

Snowgate, 4 feet tall, snow equally as tall here due to drifting, it's the same on the other side of the fence and the bunnies are just hopping over.
Snowgate, 4 feet tall, snow equally as tall here due to drifting, it’s the same on the other side of the fence and the bunnies are just hopping over.
Garden gate, 4 feet tall and 8 feet crossbar above.
Garden gate only a fond memory, 4 feet tall and 8 feet crossbar above.

We had that one 25 degree day – it was so warm the horse blankets ended up soaked from melting snow, my boots were soaked too, I got too hot outside – very irritating. But anyway, the frozen hydrant was unfrozen! Yeah! water for the horses without sledding it.

I don’t know if I believe the second photo will ever come true. But since it never seems to be getting warmer (our winter temps are supposed to average in the 20’s) I’ve resigned myself to hikes whatever the temperature and I’m starting to think 25 below windchill isn’t all that bad … however, the supposedly 50 below windchill morning did have me turning around – frozen eyes, I needed goggles.

Hope you’re doing well and that your windchill is above 0.

Road trip thru 7 states! I’m back.

English: The busiest thoroughfare in Chicago.
Chicago. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I still feel the road, instead of jet lagged I’m car lagged. Even though I only got realigned by one hour of Eastern time zone by spending eight days there, my body’s confused today.  Rise and shine, it’s 5:30 am. Coming off of 24-hours of driving is like caffeinated partying too much, with odd aches and headache.

I drove I-90 almost the whole trip starting on May 8 traveling south in Wisconsin – toll road from Illinois to Massachusetts and back, driving matching the other traffic, the roar of the wind, the trucks, the radio trying to out shout the trucks. I can still feel the thump, thump of the wheels hitting the seams in the highway. My ears aren’t used to quiet, they feel like I was at a rock concert.triptoMasswithObe2013 002

This was a get there as fast as possible, a couple brief family visits in Omro, Wis., “hi, can I sleep here?” and Wadsworth, Ill., “hi, how’s everything, time to leave,” and Cambridge, Mass., “great photos of your Spain trip, wow, I wish I could stay and see the beach front property, let’s eat!” otherwise no sight-seeing along the way, then do the same on the return without the family stops. The purpose of the trip was the time in the middle in Northampton, Mass., visiting my daughter and getting her set up with the puppy guard dog I brought her – not the journey. Although on the journey I listened to books on tape to occupy my mind with vampire fiction, humorous relationship fiction, a couple of classics I dismissed before the first CD was over, beyond the mindlessness of continual driving.

There are no toll roads in Wisconsin. Illinois has toll roads and the system there is mostly yucky and awful; pay, get going briefly zooming in a pack of cars through underpasses and overpasses, slow down and pay, get going briefly until oops someone 4-miles ahead had an accident and now creep along at stop-start turtle’s pace for….and the lanes closed for construction make narrow passages threatening orange, smashed cones and fines for speeding, speeding, everyone’s speeding.  The minimum fine for speeding in a road work zone is $350 and so what. They like to threaten ya in Chicago. The information signs advertise how many deaths have happened so far this year, 348 on the way out and 352 on the way back. Oh ya hey, I wasn’t one of them.

In Chicago on the Dan Ryan Expressway I was in the far left lane, getting ready for a I’m not sure, but it’s coming up left going exit when a cop car zoomed up on my tail. Hung there for a little while, flashed and whooped momentarily, I’m thinking oh, oh why is he doing that? So I moved out of the lane to the open lane to the right and ended up in the process missing my exit. He just zoomed on by going ? 80?. I had to loop back to re-catch the exit, I looped — oops not quite, looped again, eek need to go further back, looped again – ya got it. By the time I re-found my way I was wishing for automatic video…I wanted someone else to see what he was doing – really what was he doing?

Indiana next has rough roads and looks like rough life cities and $4.11 per gallon gas, hmm when here in northern Wisconsin we’re paying #3.89. In Indiana the signs were inaccurate and so when 2 miles were up and I took the exit, it was not the right one. I drove around in some pretty countryside, under the toll road – well that’s it but no way to get on, then in Gary for a while, thought about just driving Hwy 20 east, but then I did find a way back on the I-90.

Ohio has good, smooth toll road, easy to get on, easy to get off, 70 mph limit, with nice and clean wayside rest areas and I stayed overnight at a lovely, apple blossomed, lilac blooming small hotel next to a beautiful treed walking area. Friendly people, flat farmed countryside, I think $11.50 for the toll road ride.

Then Pennsylvania, but only briefly –  I was passed and flipped off for only going 5-miles over the 65 mph limit – not fast enough, it made me laugh. Oh the ridiculousness of illegal but ‘righteous’ anger.

New York state toll roads, zooming through beautiful tree covered hills. I picked up a toll pass at one side of the state and paid $12 for the ride at the other, seemed very efficient. The clothing and the people changed, more hats and hiking apparel on older more fit looking women travelers.

Next Massachusetts, my destination state. The hills were steeper, the road more winding but very beautiful, I picked up my pass and when I got off the toll, the toll booth keeper took it and said thank you, no charge.

Reverse; Massachusetts toll road across the state, no charge – it wasn’t a fluke! Or maybe I’m special.

If I were to do it again I’d get an Epass. In Ohio I saw that they were cheaper and faster than paying cash – who knew? Well I knew they were faster because I wouldn’t have to stop, just slow down. And they work in all states except Illinois, there it’s Ipass.  And I’d pack more cold drinking water, somehow paying $1.69 for 20 oz. seemed very wrong and if only there was a way to avoid Chicago…

List of toll roads in the United States
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The worst speeding? Just outside of Boston on a road marked 40 mph all the traffic was going 70, this was matched in Chicago. Just think of the fines if blocks of traffic were pulled over and ticketed :), wow! But really, it would be unfair, as trying to go the speed limit could get you killed, run down, mowed over…thump, thump, thump and then the sign would have 353 written in lights.

Pretty spring morning

“Aprils have never meant much to me, autumns seem that season of beginning, spring.”
Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s

This spring April hasn’t meant much in the realm of ‘change of season’ and anytime can be a beginning.

Sunshine on the new fallen snow, hahaha, more new snow at Wester Ave. in Wisconsin. But it was very pretty and felt kind of springlike this morning mostly because of the bird song and sunlight. Cardinals flashing red in the maple treetops singing their own praise. Mourning doves surprisingly loud and hairy woodpeckers adding the jungle-like squeaks and echoing tree drumming.

“It is a very beautiful day. The woman looks around and thinks: ‘there cannot ever have been a spring more beautiful than this. I did not know until now that clouds could be like this. I did not know that the sky is the sea and that clouds are the souls of happy ships, sunk long ago. I did not know that the wind could be tender, like hands as they caress – what did I know – until now?”
Unica Zürn

The promise of spring

The promise of spring brought robins, but they are skating on ice.

Lucky to find a patch of open ground where the worms are warm enough to move.

The promise of spring brought cranes, they are walking through snow.

Chuckling with their spring calls, wishing for family starting weather.

The promise of spring brought juncos, snowbirds, oh well, they know what they are doing.

They get to the feeder and join the rest of the over-wintering gang.

I stagger through the icy, crusty, wet mud dirty old snow with new snow on top, soaking my feet with errant steps.

More and more snow is coming tonight, tomorrow freezing.

Is this really April?

The promise of spring.

Reflection of snow bank in the mud puddle. It will freeze tonight.
Reflection of snow bank in one of many mud puddles. It will freeze tonight.