O Bamacare: It’s Candian eh


Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection an...

Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the White House (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What do you do when you want to bring health insurance to an entire nation? Call Canada of course. Canada, our friendly neighbor to the north, is the expert in bloated governmental bodies bringing health care to the masses, having had a publicly funded national health insurance system since 1984, coincidentally the same year for which George Orwell predicted a reign of post-apocalyptic social Darwinism. Our government, not wanting us to miss out on the same success the Canadians have had, hired CGI, Canada’s largest tech company, to build the Obama care website, apparently unphased that fellow Canadians in Ontario had just fired CGI last year for failing to deliver a different health-care IT project on time. Orwell, er oh well. Any minute now the website should be up and running again. In the meantime, let’s sing a tribute to Obama care.

(Sung to the tune of O Canada)

(Want the accompaniment? Click here.)

O Bamacare, health care for one and all.

Click on the link, and watch the website stall.

With anxiety, we sign in for free, to avoid the penalty.

Then we try to call, as our last hopes fall,

There’s no Obama care for me!

God keep us from, social anarchy,

O Bamacare, when will you ever be?

O Bamacare, when will you ever be?

© Huffygirl 2013

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Bad plastics


” I just want to say one word to you. Just one word…Plastics.”

-Mr. McGuire, The Graduate

As regular readers know, I recently injured my face in a serious bicycle accident. Fortunately, although I still look bruised and swollen, I’ve recovered to the point of getting out and about and going back to work. Through it all, what has surprised me the most is the reactions I’ve gotten when people see that I just don’t look right. I’ve been somewhat amazed that not one person has exclaimed “What happened to YOU?” I’ve seen a few double takes, but for the most part, people look, flinch a little, but don’t say anything until I offer the information.  Then I see the look of relief wash over their faces as they murmur polite commiseration or say things like “Well I did think you looked a little…different.” Until today.

Today, I walked into the skin care center at my dermatologist’s office, and the receptionist nonchalantly asked, “So, did you have your eyes done?”  My first response was, “If I had, I hope I would look better than this,” and “why would you think that?” Without missing a beat, she informed me that she sees so many skin care center clients coming in bruised and swollen after cosmetic surgery, that she naturally thought I had done the same.

Русский: Хирург Эльчин Велиевич Мамедов на опе...This all gave me quite a pause. First, I was horrified to think that all the people I’d met who politely said nothing about my hideous appearance just thought I’d had bad cosmetic surgery. Equally horrified to think that anyone who knew me before would think I needed cosmetic surgery, because, quite frankly I didn’t think I looked bad enough to have anything lifted, tucked, lasered or Botoxed. Cosmetic surgery is so far off my radar, that it would never occur to me to choose to do anything elective to my God-given face. Botox just seems plain silly to me, and why anyone would want their face paralyzed on purpose is beyond anything my sensible self can comprehend. Other than the necessary surgery I’ve had to repair my face, that I really had no choice about having, I plan to go out from this life with all original parts, wrinkles, lines, and everything else that comes from living life.

Still, society has accepted Botox and cosmetic surgery as a “normal” part of looking one’s best, and many people are no longer secretive about “having work done.”  What about you? Have you had anything nipped, tucked or cosmetically altered? Would you tell others if you had?

© Huffygirl 2013

Visiting an old asylum


"Building 50", the former Northern M...

“Building 50″, the former Northern Michigan Asylum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Northern Michigan Asylum opened in Traverse City, Michigan in 1885. At that time, physicians believed that kindness, voluntary work, and exposure to beauty were the mainstays of treatment for patients who at that time were called “insane.” Towards that end, the hospital buildings were designed in a beautiful architectural style resembling  castles, with balconies, turrets and detailed architectural embellishments. The grounds included gardens and  barns where patients assisted in growing food for the hospital and raising livestock.

The asylum, later renamed Traverse City State Hospital, closed in 1989. The buildings were abandoned and fell into disrepair, and many of the original buildings were demolished. I first saw this place years ago while vacationing near Traverse City, and saw the castle turrets peeking up through the trees. I wanted to know what this castle grounds was doing in the middle of a bustling northern Michigan tourist town, and made Best Husband drive around until we found the deserted grounds. My children sulked in the car while I walked around with my camera, dodging broken glass and taking film photo after photo of the dilapidated, but once beautiful buildings.

In recent years, a forward-thinking developer began restoring the property into a mixed-use community of shops, office space and apartments. Though much of the property has been restored, many buildings remain shuttered, awaiting restoration, and stand in sharp contrast to the fresh paint and red-roofed turrets of the restored areas. On this trip, I visited the shops in the lower level of building 50, ate lunch in the restaurant that once housed the fire department, and took more photos, of the restored and the remaining untouched areas. I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the story.

© Huffygirl 2013

Related link: New York Times tells the restoration story 

Hideous Girl


I’ve discovered I have a new power over others, and am not quite sure how to wield it. With my bruised and swollen face and barely understandable speech,  I’ve found that strangers fear me. (*disclaimer)  Passersby are extremely polite and hurried. Any entity that has a waiting room wants to hide me, although they call it “having me wait in the back where I’ll be more comfortable.” And store clerks? Store clerks are terrified of me, and thus, ready to do my bidding.  They do not want to make me unhappy, because then I might make a scene. And it turns out that no store clerk wants the handicapped lady making a scene in their store.

Case in point. I needed a large quantity of oral syringes. Turns out they are difficult to buy, as all the local stores give them away for free. But here’s the catch – they only give you two or three at a time, and I needed several every day. And so I sent Best Husband on a mission to convince the store to let me buy a large quantity so he would not have to run to the store every day to get a few free ones. Day after day, he talked to the clerks, the manager, begged, cajoled, without results. Finally, I decided to put my powers to the test. I appeared with my husband at said store and asked for the manager. When he saw me, I watched his expression turn to that of fear as I stood there explaining my plight in front of all the customers, Then I watched the magic. “Let me make a call,” the manager said, and seconds later returned with the verdict. Ten cents apiece and 100 “free” syringes could be mine. We agreed and the manager jumped into action. He grabbed a large bag and was literally flinging syringes in, while a fumbling assistant helped. Satisfied with the transaction, we paid and turned to leave, but not before I caught the look of relief flooding his face. Victory – he had gotten the handicapped lady out of his store without a scene.

How will I wield this new power? I have decided to only use it for good, though it would be tempting to use it just to mess with people. Do you need your interest rate reduced? Want a better cable rate? Need to negotiate payments on your bills? Whatever the problem, call Hideous Girl. I’ll be there to help.

*Disclaimer: Before I go any further, let me first acknowledge that any person who has lived with a disability has no doubt had the same experience hundreds of times, and I write this in no way intending to belittle their experience.

Related link: Why I will bike no more (huffygirl.wordpress.com)

© Huffygirl 2013

Why I will bike no more


Bike Helmet

I used to bike a lot. Not professional cyclist or racer, just recreational cyclist. Best Husband and I, once freed of the penury of child rearing, developed our own hobbies and interests and eventually invested in good road bikes. We’d spend hours out of every summer biking together, enjoying the scenery and companionship. I will miss biking, but I will bike no more. And here is why.

Flash backwards about four weeks ago. I’m sitting on the side of the road, a good vacation gone bad, with blood pouring out of my nose. One friend is holding my head steady while another is staunching the blood with tissues. Meanwhile horrified onlookers stand by while I’m sobbing and trying not to sob at the same time, shaking hot and cold and wishing I had never ridden my bike that day.

A fun bike ride with friends had turned into every cyclist’s nightmare:  a face first over handlebars freak accident. Soon  the ambulance arrives, and my husband and I ride to the barely adequate  urgent care clinic. Once there, a third-year resident who acts more like a third-year med student takes over my care. Everyone asks me the same questions incessantly, writes them down, but no one looks at the answers. My jaws are sloshing painfully back and forth and I finally motion for a clipboard. Then, holding my swollen eye open so I can see, I write a pretty coherent med list, allergies, and answers to all their questions, while the medical indifference swells around me. As I sit in the clinic bay, no blanket offered, I realize I’m getting woozy and faint, chilled and hot at the same time, and suggest they might want to think about getting me a blanket and starting an IV.

Later, I endure an ambulance ride across the Mackinac Bridge and farther south to get to the closest real hospital, about 45 minutes away. With my face and body throbbing, I convince myself that moaning softly and keeping my eyes closed will relieve the pain, since no one has offered to give me anything to soothe the awful  throbbing during what is normally a very pleasant drive.

After x-rays and CTs, it is confirmed. My face is broken. All of it. The orbits, the delicate maxillae, and my already somewhat crooked nose – smashed into shards of bone. A week or so later I have grueling surgery to put it all back together. The plastic surgeon using screws and plates, delicately reassembles the puzzle that had become my face. The shards of bone, now held in place with metal, have put my face somewhat back together, though it no longer feels like my face. Places that once were soft are now hard, metallic, crooked, numb. It is not a perfect face, though,it was a pretty ordinary face before. Time will tell if it becomes the face that I had before, or something close enough to it, or if it will remain a hideously skewed semblance of a face that makes polite people look away and rude people stare.

No one told me that I must give up biking. I had biked nearly 5,000 miles, with no hint of a serious accident, and chances are, could bike another 5,000 in my lifetime without incident. But, it somehow feels wrong, to take my patchwork of bones back out onto the road, where anything might happen in the blink of an eye. It seems like an insult to my surgeon, and to myself and my family for all we’ve gone through, to tempt that fate again. I feel grateful to have a face, to still have life, and to not have suffered more serious injury than what I already had. And so, I will bike no more.

© Huffygirl 2013

Fitness Trackers: Are they for you?


exercise bikeBecause I write about exercise and fitness, I was invited to review the fitness website, SlimKicker (SK). SK is an online tool to track exercise and weight goals and get feedback from the online community.

Signing up was easy – I just had to create a user name, password, and enter my goals. I entered my perennial goal of 10 pound weight loss, and SK gave me a suggested daily calorie amount, broken down into grams of carbs, fats and protein, based on the data I entered for gender, height, age and activity level.  Later, I found how to calculate this number again, entered the same data, and got a slightly different number. Hmm.

Next, I started entering the food I had eaten that day -  a small bowl of Raisin Bran for starters. As soon as I recorded this, a pop-up message appeared: “Cereal does not have any protein. Maybe you should have eaten a three egg omelet with vegetables and feta cheese instead.” A three-egg omelet? Seemed like big breakfast for someone of my size, especially since SK told me I only get 1,266 calories for the day (or 1,279, depending on which day I calculated it.)  Protein is good, but I think I would start gaining weight if I ate this breakfast of champions every day. Discouraged, I didn’t bother to enter any other food that day, afraid that SK would start recommending a Big Mac or a large steak.

Next, I tried entering exercise. Since I had ridden my bike on the trainer for 30 minutes, I went to the cardio section. I searched on “bike.” None of the choices that came up were right – mountain bike, bike to work, etc. Next I tried “stationary bike,” and found one that fit. From there it was easy to enter the number of minutes from the drop down menu. Once you enter an activity, you can save it as a routine, so you can reuse the same entry on another day.

Then I tried entering “weight lifting” as an activity. I had hoped I could just enter “weight lifting, moderate, 40 minutes.” But SK wanted me to individually enter each weight lifting activity, such as bicep curls, how many reps and how many sets. This proved to be too cumbersome and I gave up on it in no time at all.

Finding my initial experience with SK less than stellar, I set is aside for a couple of months, then recently gave it another try. Best Husband has been participating in a similar program at his workplace wellness program, where participants log their exercise and steps, earn points, and can challenge each other in specific fitness goals. BH has been having a lot of fun with the challenges at work, so I decided to try the challenge section. I searched challenges that I could join, and found things like “give up soda for a week,” “no take out pizza for a week,” and “eat a salad a day.” I’m already doing those things, so I put out my own challenge to the members: Don’t eat cheese for 14 days.” So far, no joiners.

The part of SK that I liked the best is the “log your weight” section. Click the drop-down arrow for the date, then add your weight in digits in the box. SK then plots your weight on a large graph. The graph is big enough that a small change up or down looks huge. Of all the features of SK, this is the one I’m most likely to use, as I think it would be satisfying to see my weight progress down on that big graph. That is, if it ever does.

Who should use SlimKicker or other fitness tracking web sites? Anyone who enjoys participating in an online community with feedback and postings similar to Facebook. To get the best benefit from the online support, I suggest using the site with a buddy or group of friends with similar goals, and use the online challenges to help each other stay on track. Will I keep using SK? Probably not, although, I might keep using that big weight-tracker graph. Seeing that move down, down, down would be golden.

© Huffygirl 2013

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My husband is the most popular man on earth


Uncle Sam I Want You - Poster Illustration

I’m a  lucky dog; I’m married to the most popular man on earth. And how do I know he is? Because, everyone is after him right now. He gets fistfuls of personal mail daily. Multiple phone calls from strangers. People stopping by the house, leaving notes on the door that say “Sorry I missed you” and “I’ll be back soon.” So “why is everyone after your husband Huffygirl?” you might ask. Unfortunately, not because he is so good-looking, smart, or cool, although he is all of those things (well maybe not so much cool…). No, it’s because he is turning 65 soon.

Yes, hard for both of us to believe, but my husband is about to become eligible for Medicare. And every company that sells any kind of Medicare supplemental insurance wants him.  It’s a veritable dog fight to see who will get him first. Right now, he’s as popular as Jack Nicholson on Oscar night.

The mail started trickling in last fall, a good six months before he would be Medicare-eligible. Well-known insurance companies, plus ones we’ve never heard of. Yes, best husband, we want YOU, and here’s why. Then the phone calls started. Night after night. Thanks to that wonderful invention, Caller ID, we can avoid speaking to most of them, but that does not stop the ringing. His phone is ringing like the head cheerleader’s two weeks before prom night. Everyone wants a date with him.

Now, with his birthday looming closer (April 2nd, in case you’d like to send him a card) they’ve stepped up their game. Insurance agents are starting to appear uninvited at our door. They leave perky hang tags on the doorknob with hand-written notes: “Best husband, sooooo sorry I missed you. I’ll talk to you soon about your Medicare options. Can’t wait! XOXOXO” Apparently they think that just because my husband is turning 65 soon, he’s sitting at home during the day with his cane, just waiting for them to drop by.

As April 2 looms closer, I expect they will step up their game. I’m hoping for swag – not coupons for Metamucil, diabetes supplies from Wilford Brimley, or $50 off a Hoveround. No, I’m hoping for serious swag. Restaurant dinners, weekend getaways, wine of the month, vacation trips. Sure, I know there are plenty of 65-year-olds out there to fight over, but hey, mine is special. With all the biking and running we do, Best Husband should be one of the least expensive 65-year-olds out there to insure. Perhaps, they’ll even start paying HIM. After all, he IS the most popular man on earth. At least for now anyway.

Huffygirl with THE most popular man on earth.

Huffygirl with THE most popular man on earth.

© Huffygirl 2013

Run Camp


 It’s that time of year when nearly 1,000 people converge on my gym, filling the hallways, classrooms and restrooms, to spend the next few weeks honing their running skills, or for most, starting a brand new running career. They are young, old, fat, thin, male, female. Most are sporting a brand new kit of running gear from head to toe: bright neon jackets with Icebreaker wool shirts and gators sticking out at the neck; Lycra tights that still have their out of the box sheen, and pristine running shoes, with laces still lily-white and toes unstained by mud or rain. They’re loud, laughing, excited; their nervousness is palpable. They cling to their friends and offer disclaimers to the run leaders signing them in. They clutch up in the hallways and block the entrance to the gym, where I must pass through their gauntlet to get to Saturday morning spin class. They sit in the walkways, feet splayed out in fresh new SmartWool socks, begging to trip me, as I make my way past to spend the first part of my Saturday in a dark room on a bike that goes nowhere.

Last year, I hated them. I endured Saturday after Saturday wrestling my way through the rabid run campers to get to spin class. I resented them more each week. Not only were they clogging up the gym, blocking the way and taking our parking spaces, their fresh-faced enthusiasm at fever pitch, but they were running and I was not. Between years of arthritis, a bad ankle and an old hamstring tear, I didn’t think I could ever run again. Biking was going to have to be enough for me. But I watched them week after week: overweight, out of shape people caught up in the flurry with their running peers. I watched them struggle through the snow as they left the building for group runs, their spanking new shoes getting wet and dirty while they straggled along at the back of their group, some not even making it to the street before they tuckered out and walked. And, they inspired me.

So, as everyone knows who’s been reading this blog for a while, I had my own run camp. It lacked the benefit of group camaraderie, lectures from trainers and inspirational talks. But I started training and ended up a runner. Not a fast runner, not a long distance runner, but enough of a runner to satisfy that longing.

So this year, I empathize with them. They are new runners, entering into the unknown, exposing their novice skills to hundreds of others, in the quest to run a 5K, a half, or maybe even a marathon. They’re trying something new where they might fail, might get hurt, or worse, quit before they find out what they could become. Now, when I put up with the inconvenience of hundreds of runners clogging up my gym for a few weeks, it’s okay, because, now I’m one of them.

© Huffygirl 2013

Photos courtesy of http://www.mlive.com

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How to poison your family and make it look like an accident


It’s almost Thanksgiving again, and time for the age-old debate of stuffing versus dressing. I originally posted about this  conundrum on November 25, 2010, and thought it worth repeating just in time for this Thanksgiving. After all, it’s not every day you get an opportunity to poison your relatives with a delightful holiday dish!

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Stuffing Versus Dressing

A stuffed turkey

In the states it’s almost time for Thanksgiving, an annual holiday where everyone eats too much turkey and pie, and watches the Lions lose again. For the Thanksgiving cook, the meal preparation always brings up the age-old debate – stuffing vs dressing. They both start out the same – dried bread cubes, seasonings, sometimes broth, margarine or butter, and water, made into a conglomeration that is either stuffed inside the turkey (stuffing) or baked separately in a dish (dressing). Everyone has their own opinion on which is best, and families line up fiercely divided each year on which way this delectable Thanksgiving carbohydrate should be served. Accompanying this debate of which way is tastier is the issue (some myth, some fact) over which way is healthier or safer. Who knew that dried bread cubes could raise such ire among otherwise friendly people?

In my family growing up, we always had dressing. I’m not sure why, but I think it was in part due to the fact that: it was easier. The dressing could be made while the turkey was cooking instead of earlier in the day when the turkey was ready to go into the oven. It was quicker. Stuffed turkey is supposed to take longer to cook than unstuffed (although in my own cooking experience I have never found this to be true.) It was safer. My family and others believed that the stuffing could become contaminated with bacteria from absorbing the meat juices and turn an otherwise delightful day into a merry trip to the emergency room.

Then I met my future husband whose family was all stuffing, all the way, and why would anyone consider doing it differently? What could be better than bread cubes infused with savory turkey juices and the two pounds of butter that Buttterball and others inject into their turkeys before sending them off to the store?

So what’s a girl to do? I have to admit I found both ways tasty, although sometimes the stuffing did not look quite as appetizing as the dressing, depending upon what colors it turned from the meat juices it absorbed during cooking. Eventually when I took over hosting the Thanksgiving meal, my compromise was to make stuffing and dressing. The amount of stuffing that would fit inside the turkey was not enough to serve everyone at the table anyway, so I would serve a dish of each, or sometimes mix them together, which I guess gives you something which is neither stuffing nor dressing, but there is not really any good combination word you can make from combining stuffing and dressing.

This compromise did not come without a cost, however. Members of the dressing contingent would make sly comments like “Make sure you’ve cooked that stuffing to 160 degrees so we don’t all get food poisoning, ha ha,” while members of the stuffing contingent would say “Who would want to eat that dressing? It always turns out so dry.”

And when it comes right down to it, where did the whole stuffing/dressing custom come from anyway? Imagine the Pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving. They’ve had a horrible year. First, all that travel and they couldn’t even earn any points from it. Then, having to build a settlement, squabble with the Native Americans, endure hardship, disease, cold and hunger. Finally, the ones who survived prepared what was probably a somewhat meager feast in celebration. There was no Kroger stores in Plymouth, so they had to hunt down their turkey, then pluck it, cut off the inedible parts, and remove the disgusting innards. After going through all that, and wrestling the turkey into a heavy cast iron roaster, you’d think that the Pilgrim cooks would have had enough of turkey prep for one day. But some creative person, staring into the empty cavity of the just gutted turkey said “hey, wouldn’t it be a great idea to cut up bread into cubes, add water, lard and spices and stuff this sucker?” And the rest as we say, is history.

Whether you eat stuffing or dressing, may you all have a happy and grateful Thanksgiving!

© Huffygirl 2012

(Dedicated to Aaron and Chris, my stuffing-loving relatives who will be eating someone else’s stuffing this year. Miss you!)

Born to run or not: 5K update


Mission accomplished. Here’s my son Mike and I prior to my injury-free 5 K race. Mike did great – we started together and seconds later I never saw him again. I kept my usual slow pace and managed to complete and remain injury free. But I’m dialing it down for now – no more 5K’s for a while. I’ll stick to my two miles two or three times a week, and behave. Maybe we are born to run, but at least for me, only in short, slow distances.

Kudos to blogger buddy Martin at Thoughts from Finchley who recently dusted off his old cycling jersey and got out on his brand new bike. I expect to see him passing me by any time now.

Meanwhile, cold weather is moving in here, making it almost impossible for a sissy like me to get outside and run or bike. For the next few months I’ll probably be mostly stuck in the gym, getting all tangled up on the treadmill, or slogging through yet another spin class. What do you do to stay active now that the weather is turning colder?

© Huffygirl 2012

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