Friday, January 17, 2020

New Year's Resolutions

The quickest way to get somebody to gnash their teeth, roll their eyes and groan right about now is to ask them how they’re doing in keeping their resolutions. It’s safe to say that easily ninety percent of the resolutions made a little over two weeks ago have probably fallen by the wayside. And that’s not an entirely bad thing. In fact, it actually makes good sense.

The majority of professional development counselors suggest allowing a period of evaluation before following through on changes that can have a major impact on your life. Dr. Snerdly J. Quandaree, author of “I’m Okay, You’re Okay (But Those Guys Over There are all Sorts of Screwed Up),” advises his clients to allow at least two week’s time for the potential impacts to become apparent before accepting a course of action, or change, as permanent.

Now would be just about the right time to rethink those resolutions made in haste just before we plunged into the new decade. Speaking strictly from personal experience, any and all resolutions made on December 31, when in the heat of partying the old year away, should be the first to be stricken from the list.

If you do not agree that those resolutions made on New Year’s Eve should be jettisoned immediately, ask yourself this question: Is it prudent to mold the next 50 weeks of my life around the irrational thoughts and faulty conclusions of someone so intemperate as to require the use of a cab to get home? (If your answer isn’t a resounding and immediate, “I think NOT!,” would you help me find my car?)

Resolutions previously made and not kept should also be automatically and immediately discarded. Why borrow trouble? It’s obvious the resolution was too hard to follow once before. How could it possibly be any more reasonable, or any easier to keep now? Such repetitions are pointless, and in fact, are a detriment to the well-being of those who would make such second attempts. Frankly, it does no good to continually set yourself up for failure. It can only lead to a crippling reinforcement of poor self esteem. And too, the same failed resolutions get old after about the second or third decade.

Losing weight is the number one resolution
The perpetual resolution to lose weight is an excellent example of the type of failed resolutions pulled out and dusted off with every ringing in of the New Year. In addition to the possible harm dieting failure could inflict on a person’s self-esteem, there is also solid financial justification to avoid dieting resolutions. One of the reasons diet resolutions should be given the heave-ho is cost. All the fancy, special diets seem to focus on the most expensive foods available. I suspect those diets might work, simply because one can’t afford to eat.

“Okay, here’s the first day’s dinner. Boy, it sure sounds good: crab-stuffed halibut served on a bed of baby asparagus.”

By the time you’ve paid for the diet you’re so stressed out worrying about how to pay for it all, bingeing on high calorie, high carbohydrate comfort foods only makes sense.

Another doomed to failure resolution is the “I will exercise every day” resolution. Sure you will, if you count things like reaching across the table for a third helping of biscuits and gravy at breakfast, or an extra stick or two of butter for your second helping of mashed potatoes at dinner, as stretching exercises. Let’s all face facts: the word exercise is very subjective. What is one person’s casual exercise is another’s strenuous workout.

“Whoooeee, baby! That oughta take a few pounds off!”

“Look at you, all red-faced and breathing hard! What’d you do, go for a long run?”

“No, carried in the groceries. They were having a sale on ice cream, so I really stocked up. Darn bag musta weighed fifteen pounds!”

In my estimation, as a means of maintaining good health, all health-related resolutions need to be discarded immediately. Doing so would improve a person’s overall wellbeing because it would eliminate stress. Numerous studies have shown conclusively that stress createsmore health problems than most other causes. Never argue with proven scientific facts.

Another group of resolutions in desperate need of being scrapped immediately is the self-improvement category. These resolutions are based on a sincere- and more often than not, unrealistic- desire to better the world by bettering oneself. We’ve all made those kinds of foolish resolutions. Here are a few examples along with what would have been more reasonable alternatives.

Instead of – “I resolve to read literary classics in lieu of watching any reality television shows,” try this: “In 2020, I resolve to learn all the lyrics to Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”

Lighten up by skipping – “I will learn to speak fluent Latin,” and go with: “I will memorize all the names of the NASCAR drivers this year.”

Replace – “I will spend more time studying the brush techniques of the Renaissance Masters,” with “I will expand my knowledge and appreciation of Asian culture by becoming intimately familiar with the take-out menu at a nearby Chinese restaurant.”

If you find yourself tempted to follow through with all this resolution nonsense, consider this: New Year’s resolutions just might serve as crutches for folks too weak to face their own flaws.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Prostate Cancer Part 2

Not so much, anymore
NOTE TO READERS: The subject of this blog is prostate cancer, written from recent personal experience. While still maintaining a humorous approach to the subject, this material is written in an honest manner. Some readers may find the subject and the manner in which the material is presented indelicate. If you might fall into that category, please do us both a favor and skip this blog.   

If you missed part 1 of this saga, click here.

Two weeks after the biopsy Mrs. Poynor and I reported back to the doc. After a short wait he stepped into the room wearing his best, official white doctor coat and wearing a very neutral professional expression. After brief salutations, he got down to business. The doctor apparently had given similar speeches before that were, perhaps, not well received. He approached the subject very gingerly and explained what the biopsy had shown – yup, there was cancer. He also mentioned something called the Gleason score. (In return, I mentioned I was never a big fan of ‘The Honeymooners,’ and wouldn’t do well with the quiz. Not even a pause. Tough crowd.)  Without going into too much detail, a Gleason score is assigned by the pathologist and runs from 2 to 10. The higher the number, the more aggressive the cancer. My number was in the “moderate” range.

I had always wondered what it would be like to hear you had cancer. To be frank, I definitely didn’t feel like breaking out into song with Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying.” If I felt anything at all, it was lack of surprise.

The doctor presented three options. The first option was to take a wait and see approach. The second option was to treat with radiation. The third option was robotic surgery to remove the prostate.

The wait and see approach seemed like a good idea to me. (Personal motto: denial is always easier than action.) However, after the doc mentioned I’d be repeatedly experiencing the “Ride of Captain Nemo,” the glow of that option dimmed considerably. Besides, wait and see what? The cancer is there. It isn’t as if it’ll go away, and there’s a chance it could spread. Eventually there would likely be a decision between options two and three.

Radiation sounded simple enough, but the doctor said much of his work involved “fixing issues” resulting from radiation therapy. In the interest of full disclosure, however, I need to point out my doctor specializes in robotic surgery.

Replaces hands, but can it remove a prostate?

The robotic surgery option would, in all likelihood, eliminate the issue permanently. That is, providing there was no spread of cancer to the surrounding tissues. There would be side effects to be sure – incontinence and impotence – but they are normally temporary. That sounded like a good idea, and after a few days of thought it was the way we decided to go. I say “we” because such a decision affects the spouse, too. As it turns out, Mrs. Poynor had been secretly rooting for the surgery from day one.

A robotic prostatectomy is a lot like that old game “Operation,” only it’s done with more tweezers that are operated remotely. I also suspect there’s no buzzer, but I can’t swear to that because I slept through the whole deal. The instrument used is called a da Vinci System, and it looks much like a Star Wars medical droid – only not as cute. Of course, I just HAD to look it up online. What I saw provided no comfort.

Day of the surgery the doctor and his assistant showed up for a few encouraging words. “Right there,” he said, pointing just above my navel. “That’s where I’m going to put the camera.”

For the life of me, it took a few moments for that that statement to sink in. At first, I was baffled, thinking to myself, “He’s going to record the surgery? What’s he got, a GoPro Navel Model?” Then it hit me, “No, he needs to see what he’s doing.” Suddenly, his comment seemed rather ominous. The prospect of someone cutting near, by, or on my navel gave me a serious case of the willies (no pun intended). Unfortunately, before I could come to my senses and ask for a negotiation about the location the doc had walked off.

For those of you who had your tonsils removed as a kid, do you remember the promise of “all the ice cream you can eat?” Oh yeah, that con has been around since the dawn of tonsillectomies. And since the days of Hippocrates, the medical profession has made an art form out of downplaying discomfort. It has been no different with the prostatectomy.

There was brief mention of being catheterized during the procedure and having to keep the catheter in for a week after the surgery. It makes sense. The procedure involves disconnecting the urethra from the bladder to remove the prostate, then sewing things back together. Things would get messy in a hurry without a catheter. What the medicos didn’t mention is that a Foley catheter is used.

Eliza Doolittle meets Frederic Foley
Even if you’ve never had a catheter, if you watch late night television, or the Outdoor Channel, you’ve seen catheters; those slick, smooth, skinny little tubes. Yeah. Those are NOT Foley catheters. Foley catheters have two tubes, one inside the other. One allows the urine to drain. The other is, basically, a long-necked balloon. The balloon sits in the bladder and is inflated with sterile water to prevent the patient from doing what only seems natural: PULL THAT STUPID THING OUT! Of course, since the Foley is comprised of two tubes, it is roughly the size of a garden hose, perhaps larger. To make matters worse, to make sure the Foley stays put, a holder for it is glued to your thigh.

By week’s end, I had called Frederic Foley every name in the book and cast aspersions on his lineage at length. My joy at the prospect of having it removed was reflected on that glorious day.

“Are you humming?” my wife asked on the way to the clinic. “It sounds like ‘Get Me to the Church on Time’ from My Fair Lady. You hate musicals.”

“I’ve got my own lyrics. It’s a mantra of sorts.”

“I’m almost afraid to ask, but do you want to share?”
“I’m getting’ rid of this damn Foley!
Ding-dong the bells are going to chime!
They’re pulling out the stopper and freeing up my flopper.
Just get me to the doc’s on time!”

Yes, use LOTS of alcohol
The Foley came out, but they didn’t remove the holder stuck to my thigh; patient, heal thyself. The doctor also pulled most of the staples. I say most because when he started plucking the ones on the incision in my navel, which was the largest of the six, he had second thoughts.

“Hmm… looks like that one could use some more time to knit. We certainly wouldn’t want that incision to unzip.”

I would say not. An unzipped navel presented all sorts of macabre scenes in my mind. “Let’s leave them, doc. Heck, I could learn to live with them.”

“No, no, they have to come out, but we’ll wait three more days. That should do the trick.”

Once home, it was time to remove the last vestiges of the Foley by getting rid of the holder glued to my thigh. I don’t know what the heck they use to attach those things, but I’m guessing it’s the same adhesive used to attach the heat tiles to space shuttles. There’s even a warning printed on holder: REMOVE WITH ALCOHOL. They aren’t kidding! Bet I drank half a bottle of Jack Daniels before I had enough nerve to rip that puppy off.

At this point, all that’s needed is a follow up PSA test in a few more weeks. If the results are zero, things will be wonderful. To be honest, if one must get a form of cancer, and if it’s caught early enough, prostate cancer is a good form of cancer to be saddled with. The key to take away from that last sentence is early detection. Get checked guys.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Prostate Cancer

My former approach
NOTE TO READERS: The subject of this blog is prostate cancer, written from recent personal experience. While still maintaining a humorous approach to the subject, this material is written in an honest manner. Some readers may find the subject and the manner in which the material is presented indelicate. If you might fall into that category, please do us both a favor and skip this blog.   

“I’m not worried about prostate cancer. There’s no family history. Besides, I don’t have any of the symptoms.”

Those words, almost verbatim, had been repeated every year at my annual medical humiliation since I turned fifty. Like most guys, I wasn’t enthused about the possibility of the dreaded “digital rectal exam.” (More commonly referred to as a “DRE” because that sounds much less unpleasant.) For those of you who may not be familiar with a DRE, that’s where the examining medico tries to reach a male patient’s tonsils by inserting his index finger into the patient’s rectum. Along the way, the patient’s prostate gland is given a cursory mash, or two.

Just as an observation, it is interesting to me that the female health providers I’ve had over the years seem much less inclined to perform a DRE than their male counterparts. That strikes me as being unfortunate as their fingers are, as a general rule, much smaller. Personally, I think male providers – particularly those with massive hands – have no compunction about preforming a DRE because they see it as shared misery and a way to bond with their patient. Just guessing.

The alternative to the DRE is a lab test called the PSA test (for prostate specific antigen). Use of the PSA test for diagnosing prostate cancer has been under debate and study for quite some time. There are times when the test can show cancer where there is none, and the test can also falsely indicate no cancer. For those reasons I never had a PSA test until I had a female physician in New Mexico. In April of 2018 she insisted I get the test (see above paragraph about aversion to DRE). The results showed an elevated number, and the doc suggested I wait a month and retest. The second test showed a significant increase. Time to go see a urologist – AKA the plumber – which was a two month wait.

Picture of DRE in action
 Urologists delight in performing DRE’s. The guy I saw in Las Cruces had hands only slightly larger than those of the Incredible Hulk. He also was pretty blunt in his assessment: “Well, the good news is that you’re not going to win any prizes with that thing. However, I want another PSA run in two months.”

You guessed it; the numbers were up again. Unfortunately for Dr. Hulk Hands, when he started talking about a biopsy appointment, I informed him Mrs. Poynor and I had already decided we were moving to South Dakota. The doc seemed somewhat disappointed – I’m guessing over lost revenue.

Fast-forward to Rapid City, SD. New primary care physician, new plumber, more DRE’s, more PSA tests, same results (only worse on the PSA). By May of this year, everyone (including myself, finally) was in agreement: time for a biopsy.

The procedure for a prostate biopsy is performed in the doc’s office. It’s a simple matter of being mechanically violated. A probe called a TRUS (for Trans Rectal Ultrasound guided) is inserted into the victim’s… er patient’s rectum. The probe has hollow needles that are injected into the prostate gland, through the rectum wall, to take very small core samples for pathological examination. That’s the textbook explanation.

Biopsy sample - 2.5 cm equals 1 inch. Not big.

From a boots on the ground perspective, it’s quite a bit different. The biopsy thingy feels to be the size of a Trident submarine. While the doctor plays Captain Nemo, twisting and maneuvering the submarine, the nurse acts as navigator, calling out coordinates for the missile strikes. 

“Left anterior proximal section,” the nurse directs.

“Firing missile one!” the doctor responds, and a click is heard and felt, then the next target coordinates are called out.

Roughly halfway through the procedure the Captain Nemo remembered there was someone else in the room besides himself and the fire control officer. “You doing okay?” he asked.

I couldn’t help myself; had to be honest. “This is definitely not going to make my list of things that make for a fun Saturday night.” For that, I got a sympathetic pat on the butt.

Rare picture of a TRUS being prepared for a biopsy
All in all, twelve missiles were launched.

It wasn’t the worst office procedure I’ve ever experienced, that’s for sure. I will say, however, there are some side effects. The worst of which is feeling like you’ve jumped on a bicycle only to discover its seat has been removed.

After the procedure I was scheduled for a follow-up appointment in two weeks to discuss the results. I’m just going to toss this out there: the health care system we use is set up so that one can check test results online as soon as they get back from the lab. To the people who run said site: NOT posting the results lets the patient know immediately things ain’t good. Just sayin’. You might as well put out the facts.

Check back for part 2.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

That's a Wrap... Finally

What we started with in February
In the last post on our kitchen remodel the cabinets were in and everything else needed to get the kitchen functional was waiting on installation of the countertops. We were very excited about being so close to completion of the project. We should have known better.

When we ordered the countertops, we ordered one style for the main counters and another style for the island, just to create a little interest. The main countertop material came in, but material for the island was nowhere to be found. After a little investigation the dealer discovered what we wanted for the island was no longer made – this was April 5.  

“But the good news,” the dealer said cheerfully “is that we can install the countertop we have, and you’ll have a functional kitchen. You just need to pick out a replacement style and I’ll put a rush on the order.”

What we ordered
Great. Another trip to the showroom and a substitute countertop was selected. The material was more expensive, and I do have to give props to the dealer for selling it to us for the same price as the original. And he wasn’t kidding about putting a rush on it. By April 19 the kitchen was finished except for tiling the backsplash.  

There had been a six-week lag in getting the tile. (The tile is made in Italy. It is shipped to the U.S. by rowboat.) There was great jubilation and numerous high fives as we happy-danced around the island upon notification of its arrival. This was April 25. FINALLY! The completion of the project was in sight! We would be done in time for our daughter’s visit the end of May. 

What we got, and returned

Not so fast, Fluffy. Upon opening the first box of tile it was apparent the wrong tile had been ordered. Trip back to the store to return and reorder. Two days later we were informed the tile we wanted was backordered. It would not be a six-week wait; it was an unknown wait. With that bit of news, we cancelled the tile order completely and started an intense search for something suitable that was in stock locally. Our efforts paid off when we found tile that was just the right shade of green and even had a much more interesting pattern than simple circles or squares. The backsplash would be a masterpiece!

Lots and lots of little pieces to cut
We opted to do the tiling ourselves because… well… we are stupid. Mrs. Poynor does the tiling and grouting while I do the cutting. It has been a successful symbiotic relationship for decades. She gets to do something she enjoys, and I get to swear – lots.

The tile we selected was one of those mosaic types where the pieces are attached to a mesh in roughly one-foot squares. The mosaic pieces were of two differing shapes and two differing sizes. The biggest was two inches at the widest; the smallest was an inch and a half. It took less than twenty minutes into the effort for the question, “What the HELL were we thinking?” to escape my lips. It was a question I offered up frequently as we proceeded.

On the top and bottom of the backsplash, mosaic pieces would have to be cut. Not just in half. Oh, no! That would have been way too simple. In the end, 256 little pieces had to be cut. And let’s not forget going around the electrical outlets. In the end, all I can say is that it is very fortunate tile saws use blunt diamond blades, not ones with teeth. Otherwise, I would be typing this with my elbows.

Master grouter at work... do not disturb!
In the end, however, the finished product was as nice as we had hoped. AND we got it done with three days to spare before our daughter and her family arrived.

The finished project, and we're very happy with it.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Bomb Cyclone

I’m sitting here, looking out the front window. A very light snow is drifting down on what could pass for a scene out of Hitchcock’s classic The Birds. The trees across the street that had just started budding out five days ago are covered with snow and ice, but alive with robins. Robins who appear to be confused, uncomfortable and looking for an excuse to turn carnivorous.

It’s the 12th of April for Pete’s sake! Robins should be singing loudly in sunny skies with temperatures pushing 60 degrees (roughly 16 degrees for Celsius fans). Not huddling in ice crusted limbs, mumbling bitterly while gazing out over 18 inches of snow on the ground in 25 degrees (again, minus 4 for Celsius). This is the aftermath of what the Nasty Weather Service dubbed a “bomb cyclone.” I don’t know if the NWS actually coined that term, or somebody in the media decided it sounded better than “really big-assed storm with lots of wind and snow,” but nonetheless here we are in the wake of such an event.

Bombed cyclone preparation?
There was plenty of warning about the impending apocalypse. Weather reports let everyone know well in advance something nasty was about to descend. There was plenty of warning to prepare: stock up on food items, Jack Daniel's, batteries, wine, etc. and more wine. It was a drill we had just completed less than a month ago. This latest storm will, hopefully, be the culmination of an “unusual winter.”

Unusual. That is the term most of the locals have used when I’ve asked about this year’s winter. (Actually, there were other terms used that were vastly more accurate, not only in the physical description but also in emotional release. However, those terms are not suitable for this generally PG-rated blog.) This winter has provided more than double the usual snowfall and temperatures that have consistently been below normal since late December. February was the third coldest on record – being beaten out by 1899 and 1936.

Okay, it’s been a tough winter by normal South Dakota standards. So what? To be truthful, this winter, here in Rapid City, has not been that exceptionally brutal compared to many experienced in Alaska. And that is the real issue for me because I don’t know my neighbors that well.

When we moved here and began meeting people, the usual questions and answers ensued.

“Where did you move from?”

“We moved up from New Mexico.”

That answer was normally met with a confused look and the second question. “Did you move here for work?”

“No, we’re retired.”

At this point, the confused look was exchanged for one of total disbelief. “And you moved to South Dakota? You do realize we have winter up here, right?”

“Well, that’s one of the reasons we moved here, for a little winter. See, before we were in New Mexico, we lived in Alaska for 35 years. We discovered we really missed winter.”

Their look of total disbelief was exchanged for one of deep concern for our mental health before walking off shaking their heads.

Rapid City witch trial of 2019
As winter progressed, particularly in February, the demeanor of people shifted from the South Dakota friendly and cheerful toward more of a Russianesque type; not unfriendly, but more fatalistic. “Hello, comrade! So good to see you as we all prepare to freeze to death.”

I also noticed our introductory conversations began to elicit looks of suspicion instead of disbelief or concern. Although never verbalized, when we uttered the words “missed winter” people seemed to view us in a different light; one that I imagine was common during the Salem witch trials. 

The bomb cyclone of March was heralded as the dying gasp of Old Man Winter. Following in its wake a spate of nice weather followed, providing days of sun and above normal temperatures. The improvement in moods and outlook were palpable. Life was wonderful, and neighbors went back to waving at us cheerfully. Then came bomb cyclone number two. Roads closed, schools closed, businesses shut down and the community collectively hunkered down to ride it out, scowling.

A scant 4 days after sunny and 70 degrees
 In truth, I’m grateful for the high winds that accompanied this last bout of winter blast. I am certain they kept blowing out the fires under the kettles of tar and scattered the feathers. I just hope the sunny, quiet weather predicted to arrive this weekend materializes. I would genuinely hate to move again.

Friday, March 29, 2019

IRS - not here to help

In Saturday’s mail was a letter from the IRS. Officially, it was form LTR 5071C. The letter advised me that they suspected fraud involving identity theft with my 2018 tax return. I can truly appreciate the diligence the IRS showed in protecting me against identity theft. I have had my identity stolen before and can tell you from that sad personal experience it is not fun trying to straighten everything out. (However, to be perfectly fair about the matter, the thieves were ultimately kind enough to return my identity to me, although I thought doing it with a sympathy card was a bit tacky.)

According to the letter the entire matter could be easily straightened out with a simple visit to the IRS website to verify my identity. Wow! Usually anything involving the government is a long, drawn out ordeal. Not this time Bunky, it would only be a simple matter of going online. Oh, glorious day!

With a happy, pattering heart I typed in the URL for IRS identity verification, only to be bitch-slapped with a digital brick wall. I was informed I had to create an account with the IRS. Create an account? I don’t have one? What do they call everything I have submitted to them for the past 47 years associated with my social security number? I’d say there should be more than just an account. Seems to me I should be in line for at least an engagement ring.

At the “Create an Account” page one is assured it will only take a few minutes. It all starts out with the usual information: name and SSN. Immediately after that, a trick question is thrown at you: “What was the address used on your last submitted tax return?”

I believe a judge’s ruling is needed on that question. Are they talking the very last SUBMITTED return, as in 2018 income tax, or the last ACCEPTED tax return, as in 2017 income tax? It was a stab in the dark, and I went for the former – at least I thought that’s what I typed in before clicking the enter button. I was immediately informed that I did not exist but might want to try proving my existence again. It seemed ironic the IRS told me I didn’t exist, but on the other hand maybe I didn’t. After all, there was an excellent chance I had been stolen. No matter, there was a chance to redeem myself.
I do too exist!

I re-entered the information being very careful to ensure the address was entered correctly and was immediately informed my SSN didn’t match. Well, it’s hard to verify the SSN entry when only dots are displayed. Not a problem, we can do this again. Being ever so careful, the information was entered a third time, reviewed as best I could and submitted.

Well, nuts! I still didn’t exist. Having struck out I would have to wait 24 hours before playing “Give That Answer” again. At that point the decision to call the IRS directly on Monday was made.

So, first thing Monday morning, before coffee or anything, I called the contact number listed on my LTR 5071C. Again, I want a judge’s ruling: is it really okay to suggest immediately upon answering calls on a Monday morning that the caller might want to try back Wednesday or Thursday? Is the hold time that long? Is everyone that hungover from the weekend? Is everyone that zeroed in on the donuts before they become stale? More importantly, why didn’t I have that message option when I was working?

Being fearless, I decided to hold and see what happened. In less than thirty seconds my call was answered. The lady did not sound happy that I hadn’t taken the Wednesday/Thursday option. In fact, she sounded not only hungover, but like she had also missed out on the donuts. I explained that I had received an LTR 5071C and needed to verify my identity.

“Have you gone to the identity verification website?” she asked.

“Yes ma’am. According to you folks, I don’t exist.”

“I guess we’ll have to do this over the phone, then” she said. Quickly adding in a threatening manner, “If your answers don’t match my information, you will be required to appear in person at your local IRS office to verify your identity.”

I tried to sound pleasant, as though talking to someone from the IRS was the highlight of the new millennium for me. “Yes, ma’am. I’m ready.”

“Do you have the previous year’s return in front of you?”

“Yes, I have my 2017 return right here.”

“No. Your 2018 return.”

“Yes. I have both 2017 and 2018.”

“Both 2017 and 2018? Good.” Then she tried to trip me up with, “And all the supporting documentation… W-2’s, 1099’s and other supporting information?”

She made it sound as though she might make a few things up, but I assured her I had mounds, in fact a veritable plethora, of supporting documentation. And so, the Inquisition began. It started out with simple information: my name, SSN, date of birth, mother’s name, father’s name and current address. I was waiting for something really tricky, like who won the 1953 World Series, but instead she started asking about the returns.

“Who did you get your W-2 from?”

We file married joint return on our taxes, so I answered, “We’re retired, we don’t get W-2’s.”

“I’m not asking about WE,” she snapped, “I’m asking about YOU. Who did you get your W-2 from?”

“The answer is the same, ma’am. I am retired and don’t get a W-2.”

“Well, what did you get to show your primary income?”

Briefly, ever so briefly, the response, “A paper bag that previously held money from the drugs I sold,” passed through my mind. However, fear of complicating matters forced out the answer, “A 1099.”

“What kind of 1099, and where did it come from?”

And so, it continued, on and on, until the contents of both bulging envelopes containing the past two tax returns had been disgorged and spread out upon my desk.

“Okay, it would appear we can verify your identity,” she finally conceded. “We can now proceed to process your tax return. It will be nine weeks before processing is complete, and we can issue your refund. If you do not hear something in nine weeks call our support line.”

“Did I hear you correctly? Did you say nine weeks? It only takes six weeks to process if a return is mailed in! Mine was filed electronically.”

“You don’t understand. Your return was frozen, placed on hold. It will be nine weeks to process it,” she explained slowly, as if talking to a small child. And then added, “It used to take up to 180 days to verify identities, so really, things are much better now.”

Funny, things don’t feel much better.

What I'll look like by the time the refund gets here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

A Week of Non-remodeling

Day 1 of plan was a cinch
This post was supposed to be the wrap up to the kitchen remodel tale. (To see the first segment click here.) Well, it’s not only late, it’s not a wrap up, either. Normally, my laziness would explain the delay of the post. Not this time, however, as I have a legitimate excuse – or several to be more accurate.

You know how when there is a plan of action that has steps that require the completion of other steps before the plan can continue?  And how sometimes the completion of those required steps is just elusive? And then when things finally do get squared away and the required steps get done and all looks to be fine and dandy, there’s this blizzard? Welcome to my world.

Before the kitchen remodel started our contractor sent us his estimate on how things were to proceed. His estimated time frame, give or take a couple, was eight days. (After that, digital measurements would be needed for the new countertops, which would take two to three weeks for cutting and installation.) It was a great plan. 

Notice lack of cabinets on left side

Day 1: Remove existing cabinets, appliances and countertops.
Day 2: Frame 3-foot high, 6-foot long wall from corner to past oven. Electrician and plumber will run electrical and gas lines to new oven location.
Day 3: Subcontractor will install ducting in floor for downdraft oven vent. Sheetrock, mud and tape wall when subcontractor is finished.
Days 4 through 6: Install new cabinets per new kitchen layout.
Day 7: Assemble kitchen island.
Day 8: Install knobs and pulls. Install trim and kickboards.

Day 1 was February 25th, and the contractor adhered tightly to his schedule for two full days. After that, things went south.

On Day 2, the new appliances were to be delivered – a new refrigerator, dishwasher and range. Of the three, the range was critical. Because no vent had originally been built into the kitchen, we chose is a downdraft style of range. The vent ducting must match up to the underside of the range. Hence, no range meant no ducting work. No ducting work meant no installation of the floor cabinets on the west side of the kitchen. 

The appliance store where we ordered the range assured us it would be delivered on March 5th, so the subcontractor was rescheduled for March 6th. In the interim, all the upper cabinets and some of the lower cabinets could be hung. All was right in the world, until the appliance store called on the 4th to state the range would not be delivered on the 5th of March. In fact, at this point the store was suddenly unsure when the range might show up.

*Sigh* There is no "try" only DO!
William Congreve coined the phrase, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” I’m sure he had no idea what a dual fuel, downdraft range could possibly be, or even the concept of a kitchen remodel, when he penned those words in 1697. However, I can state with a good deal of certainty had he seen Mrs. Poynor on March 4th, 2019, the phrase would have come out a little different.

I don’t believe I have ever seen my wife so enraged. While she was engaged on the phone with the store manager, I gathered up all the sharp objects and double checked the gun safe to make sure it was locked. She was never rude or profane, just extremely determined to extract a promise of delivery and a firm date. She firmly rebuffed all attempts at mollification. There would be no nebulous promises. There would only be results. Although she never quoted him, Yoda would have been proud of her insistence. In the end, her unyielding approach worked. The store agreed to obtain the range at another store in Nebraska and deliver it first thing on the 8th. The venting subcontractor was rescheduled for the afternoon of the 8th.

Just when things started going smoothly...
Things were finally going our way. Thanks to my wonderful wife, we were back on track. What a wonderful feeling, albeit short lived. The subcontractor canceled on the morning of the 8th, rescheduling for the 12th. After less than three hours on the 12th, the venting was in and the contractor could proceed to Day 3 of the grand plan. 

Sixteen days after the initial start of the remodel, the contractor completed what should have been the third day. That was also the day the blizzard hit. Two days of wind and snow. The contractor dug out and finished setting all the cabinets on March 15th. 

And here we sit, twenty-two days after the start of the remodel. The counter measurements have been made, and now we wait two or three weeks to be finished completely. In the meantime, we have the finest plywood counters available. 

There's nothing to this making counters thing.