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Make a list of important papers. Now. Don’t procrastinate.

May 20, 2019

If your house burned, would you have a copy of your important papers somewhere else, or at least a list of information so you could recreate your important papers?

If you became incapacitated, would someone know what bills to pay? Or who could dog sit your dog?

If you were gravely ill, would the person closest to you know your wishes about health care? Would the person you want have the authority to make decisions on your behalf? (Do you have a health care directive and durable power of attorney documents, in other words?)

Is your will or trust up to date?

I’ve always had an “important papers” file and files for everything from car titles to the dog’s rabies papers. But with the questions above in mind, I just spent the day reorganizing my important papers and creating a master list. (I uncluttered files while I was at it and tossed old info.) And we decided to update our wills, health care directives and durable power of attorney documents. 

A master list could address:

Birth certificates (birth dates and where each person was born in case birth certificates are lost)

Marriage certificate(s)

Death certificate(s)

Grave sites

Health care directive, including wishes about burial or cremation

Social security cards

Passports (and expiration dates in case the cards are misplaced)

National Park Service Senior Lifetime pass (Keep a copy because the government doesn’t keep track.)

INSURANCE (except health) Read more…


Safe lawn treatment for dandelions & creeping Charlie

May 14, 2019

I’d like a nicer looking lawn. But I don’t want to use toxic chemicals to kill weeds because of those chemicals’ effects on humans, critters and the environment. It’s easy to get overwhelmed trying to figure out how to meet both goals.. and do nothing. But this year I did some research and just ordered two products.

A friend highly recommended this Fiskars 4-claw weeder dandelion-digger, which does not require bending, stooping or getting on my knees prayerfully and which she promises is easy on hands that have some arthritis.


I paid $50 for it on Amazon, which seems like a lot of money until you consider that I usually spend $40 for the chiro after I dig dandelions.




Creeping Charlie is racing around our back yard and creeping into the yards of neighbors who spray religiously. (Sorry, neighbors. I try to be a great neighbor otherwise.) It’s tough to get rid of. But the University of MInnesota’s lawncare website pointed me to this product, which killls weeds because it has iron, the mineral, in it–Fiesta Turf Weed Killer. We’ve ordered a gallon, which we’ll mix. We’ll put 5 ounces of this in our sprayer to each gallon of water. Apparently the weeds keel over and kick up their heels right away, and we’ll be able to plant grass seed within a day or so.



It’s rather expensive, like $120 for a gallon. A person could spot treat, even though that would be a little comical, because this stuff makes the grass a funny color for a while. (Sorry again, neighbors.)

Here is research about iron-based alternatives from the University of Maryland.

If you value the health of humans, critters and the environment more than a uniformly green manicured lawn, give these products and try and let us know how they work for you.

Here comes the delivery truck! I’m off to dance with dandelions!

A restful (not) night in my own guest room

July 27, 2017

They say you should sleep in your own guest room to see how restful it is. So, last night I did (due to a broken air conditioner, not my marriage), and I’m exhausted. Between the pecks on the window, storm, scurrying in the ceiling and growls, I didn’t get much sleep.

First rain pounded the window well cover just over my head while thunder crashed. I flashbacked (I just created a verb) to two summers ago: the window wells filled and forced waterfalls through the tiny cracks under the windows, which soaked the beds and the carpet far into the basement. Was this happening again?

I leaped out of bed, ran upstairs for a flashlight, raced back down and examined the window wells. Our landscaping worked. No lakes in the window wells. No impending waterfalls. No need to dry out mattresses by slicing the mattresses and inserting the leaf blower.

The storm subsided. I lay back down, comforted that our guests would not know this waterfalls history, would not have PTSD symptoms and might be asleep by now instead of wondering where the leaf blower is these days.

Then the knocking on the windows began. Tap. Tap. Probably a bug, I thought. Tap. Tap. Pause. Tap. Tap. I imagined a bird or a gnome crouched in the window well. I leaped out of bed, stood on the bed and shined the flashlight in the window wells again. Nothing.

I lay back down. What was it, I wondered? A frog? A poltergeist? A ghost? When would it strike again?

I must have eventually fallen asleep because I startled awake to a low growl.

Growl. GROWL.

My limbic system kicked in. Fight or flight? Fight! I leaped out of bed, grabbed the flashlight, ready to kill.

Feet hit the floor above me. Oh, the growl was from Edmund Dog. The feet belonged to him and Husband. Yes. Husband had chosen to sleep in the hot main bedroom instead of the cooler, more restful basement guest room. Husband had also chosen to let the beast sleep with him, which violates both our prenuptial pets contract and our dog acquisition contract. Husband had chosen to believe Edmund when he said he’d already gone potty. Husband had not actually witnessed him pottying, which violates our ongoing dog dealings contract. Or Edmund had played the game where he gets out of sight, counts to ten and then saunters back inside, pretending he’s pottied.

I heard Man and Beast’s footsteps across the wooden floors. I wondered what else a guest can hear. Conversations? Um. Noises from the upstairs bathroom? Whispers?

I lay back down. I told myself to get back to sleep.

In that haze between sleep and wakefulness, there was scampering above my head. This was not a man or canine.

These noises did not bother me. Much. Well, just a little. I knew who they belonged to, more or less. They belonged to whoever visits the basement ceiling but never shows himself. Two pest control guys failed to find the entrance or figure out the mystery. Chipmunk? Small squirrel? Apparently not a skunk.

Later today, I assured myself, I will call a third pest control company. And check for frogs and things in the window well.

I did not look at the clock. I stood on the bed and knocked on the ceiling.

I lay back down. I went back to sleep. Sort of.

My search for a ‘lumps and bumps’ dermatologist

May 22, 2015

mole-checkI need a dermatologist. For nothing scary. Just a check on some “lumps and bumps” and moles and body parts that saw too much sun exposure the summer I drove a tractor on a tree farm. (Oh my, I was so proud of that tan on my pale, pale Kentucky skin. Only time in my life I looked “tan and healthy.”)

 I ask my friends for referrals. One suggests Mayo. Somehow I don’t think my lumps and bumps require Mayo. One suggests someone not covered by my insurance.  

 Finally I ask my new doctor for a referral via “My Chart.” The referral refers me to the dermatology department within their clinic network. Well, duh.

 I decide I’d rather have a good FEMALE dermatologist studying my bod from head to toe. I click through the many female photos and profiles. I reject the ones just out of school–they can practice on someone else. I stifle the urge to reject the ones who looks too pretty and too made up. (Did they spend much time studying in med school? Or were they reading fashion magazines behind their textbooks?)

 I reject the doctors who don’t say much in their profiles. They probably just skimmed by in med school, too, and buzz through their exams of moles. How can I trust such a person to take my lumps and bumps seriously?

 I wonder if I care how many kids each doctor has. Will a doctor who has more college tuitions to pay find more reasons to have me come back or charge me? Do I care if she does volunteer work in Africa? Not while she’s examining my lumps and bumps. Do I care if she specializes in molluscum contagiosum or other things I can’t pronounce? I’m not sure. What if she finds lumps and bumps too boring to bother with?

 Finally I click on a woman who needs a fashion consultant. Her cheerful face is square and her forehead is very high. Clearly she needs rounded glasses and bangs and a feathered hairstyle. She has not read fashion magazines. And her profile reads: “…I enjoy seeing patients with… skin lumps and bumps….” I re-read this. Seriously. A doctor who speaks my language. A doctor who treats MY condition. Have I found my doctor?

 I read further. She teaches at the U of M part-time. Good. You have to know your stuff to teach it. She was a top student. Good. She was paying attention to school, not fashion magazines. She’s also a dermatopathologist. Good. Maybe she won’t remove benign freckles like the last dermatologist. Her hobby is cooking healthy meals. Wow. A doctor who respects nutrition and maybe discusses diet instead of just lotions and pills. She rates well on Rate a Doctor or whatever it’s called. Then I discover she has twins. Uh-oh. Two college tuitions at the same time.

 Oh well, the other factors trump the twins. I make an appointment quickly… before everyone else gets the skinny on my great new dermatologist.


P.S. “Gets the skinny” means learns “what’s going on.” How could I resist this pun? 

Play and visits–too important to skip

April 3, 2015

We human folks are supposed to play a bit. And we’re supposed to reach out to others. It energizes us and gives our lives meaning.

A past centerpiece....

A past centerpiece….

This week’s to-do list is long. A big project had a deadline today. We’re hosting a meeting here this weekend. Plus family is coming for Easter dinner. (Um, yes, back-to-back company means just one house cleaning, not two.) There’s grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, yada, yada. Plus I’m still jetlagged from being up all night last Sunday with some gaggy superbug.

So I thought I’d skip making a centerpiece. And I’d just send a card instead of visiting my elderly friend. But something didn’t feel right. And I was draaaaaaaging.

Then my heart beat a little faster when I saw the inexpensive potted plants at Trader Joe’s. Wouldn’t it be fun to plant a few of those tulips and mini daffodils in a pot or basket, dye a few eggs and make a centerpiece? Ooh. Natural jelly beans. Cool….

Before I knew it, my brain was singing, trying to figure out a centerpiece. And I was deciding I had time to visit my elderly friend if I skipped cleaning a certain room (again). And suddenly my to-do list seemed quite happy and doable… an honor, really, instead of a list of chores…. (But, yes, guys, some of these chores still have your name on them. Find your own happy brain sauce….)

Hubby spins a yarn

March 17, 2015

IMG_0297If your husband or male friend said, “I want to take a spinning class,” you’d assume he wanted to take one of those trendy new group stationary bicycle classes, no doubt led by a leggy blond in Spandex. Well, when my husband said he wanted to take a spinning lesson at our friend A’s house, I knew he had something different in mind—old fashioned spinning of yarn on a spinning wheel.

You may know that Husband goes through hobbies the way some people go through diets—he tries one for a while and then sets it aside for the next one. This is why we have equipment and books around our house for everything from bonsai to scuba diving to bird watching. Yes, we will notify you if we ever have a yard sale.

Anyhow, back to the spinning class. Last Friday we went to A’s house for Husband’s spinning class. For the record, she was wearing a lovely sweater that she’d made from scratch—she’d readied the wool, dyed the wool, spun the yarn and knitted the sweater.

This guy is, she said, a natural at spinning. Wool is in his part-Irish blood. And as he confidently pumped the pedals of her spinning wheel and spun orangish yarn, he explained the project he has in mind. He’d like to make a sports jacket. “A sweater?” she asked. No, a sports jacket. Okayyyyy.

When I passed Husband’s computer, I noticed two computer screens lit up with spinning supplies. I am envisioning lots of packages arriving at our door. Books about spinning. Spinning wheels. Carding thingies. Fleecy stuff. Spindles. My head is already spinning. So is the bank account.

I’m hoping the spring-like weather will put this hobby on hold until next winter… before it spins out of control.

Son says be glad the aforementioned spinner is not into break dancing head spinning.



Square Foot and Vertical Gardening Looks Fun!

March 10, 2015

verticalgardenIt’s March, the sun is out, and thoughts go to gardening. Saturday I attended a fabulous seminar on square foot and vertical gardening. The advantages of this type gardening are many. With raised beds, there’s no need to test the soil, the soil is loose and easy to work with, drainage is efficient, and it’s easier on the gardeners’ backs and knees. And of course, vertical gardening—growing “up”–means being able to grow more on a smaller footprint.

Joan James, the seminar leader, co-owns a company called A Backyard Farm here in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. The company will design, install, grow, maintain and harvest an organic vegetable and herb garden right in your own backyard! And James is generous about sharing her knowledge at seminars such as the one I attended.

James recommends the following: 20-year weed barrier(unless you’re creating gardens on top of an existing garden): 2″ x 8″ x 8′ cedar or pine or untreated lumber held together with decking screws; and soil created by mixing one third peat moss, one third vermiculite or perlite, and one third compost (a combo such as chicken manure, cow manure, worm castings and leaves except NO black walnut leaves). She also recommends using a drip irrigation system specially made for raised beds and square foot gardening since this loose soil requires more water than a regular soil garden. James usually creates beds that are 4′ x 8′. She uses 4’ if she has access from both sides, 3’ if she can only access one side.

James loves trellises for vertical gardening. She creates trellises from EMT conduit pipe, and buys pipe that is 0.5″ x 10′. She pounds 3/8 inch rebar four feet into the ground, then sets the trellis on top of that. She builds trellises that are 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide and uses tomato netting for plants to grow on or through. Plants such as beans and squash will easily go up the trellis. Tomatoes have to be trained a bit. (A tomato tip: Be ruthless with plucking off suckers; you want lots of fruit, not lots of green.)

verticalgarden2James extends the growing season by creating mini greenhouses. She crisscrosses two PVC poles, putting all ends into the ground, and covers these with three mil painters’ plastic. Imagine gardening from March to November in Minnesota!

James recommends organic insect control products such as Pyola for Japanese beetles, Escargo (or Slugg) for cutworms and Soap Shield for fungus.

She recommends the following resources: the Square Foot Gardening books by Mel Bartholomew, Gardens Alive for products (, and drip for drip irrigation. Bartholomew’s first book has more information on soil.

Contact for A Backyard Farm: 612-296-8507 or

I have plenty of garden space and no need for this type of gardening at the moment, but I plan to adapt some of the ideas for my regular garden… and tuck the info into my back pocket for some future day when I have less space.

P.S. My apologies about the inconsistent use of numerals and spelled out words for numbers. I do know better. I am experimenting with using voice recognition software. And I’m also experimenting with letting go of some perfectionism! Now back to my seed catalog….