News, updates, and happenings with the Kragnes family: Phil, our Seeing Eye Dogs, and (me) Rebecca.

Archive for July, 2014

A long over due update

As is the normal pattern around here, it’s after midnight, and I’m wide wide awake. I was dragging earlier in the day and thought I might be hitting the sheets early, but after the dentist appointment, the day improved greatly! It probably helps that the caffeinated Pepsi I drank, the colored light I’m watching, and the jamming music I’m hearing are mega-stimulation. Our little group who goes out to eat once a month went to Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Company in Mall of America at Phil’s request. Getting around the echoing transit station and even the intense sounds at Mall of America was tricky, but the three of us with dogs followed the one sighted person with a cane-using couple on her arm. I don’t regularly do the Light Rail, and every time I do, I learn something. That was true going from Downtown and again coming back to the station where we caught the bus home. Learning something doesn’t necessarily mean a pleasant experience, but the food and the company made up for it. The salad and salmon veggie skillet over rice was heavenly, but don’t worry. I had to have the bad-for-me calamari and other fried treats in the basket to balance things out — and of coursed there’s all that Pepsi too.

Phil’s overall health has been amazing overall since the infected thumb hospitalization with pain killers which made him sick in late May and early June. Tonight at his bed-time, I had a little blast from the past as he moaned in agony over something he did to his hip. His prosthetic got stuck as we were coming off the train platform, and we’re both hoping the ice pack I brought him and the Tylenol he took does the trick overnight. He has a presentation tomorrow at a conference here in town. Sometime this fall he’s presenting at a conference out of state, which I know he’s looking forward to doing. It’s such a thrill to have him home at night instead of dialysis three nights a week. The kidney and pancreas numbers are good, and he’s doing regular stuff like tandem biking many Friday nights and working out in the yard during the weekends. He’s made two favorites we’ve both missed during the dialysis days. We had a friend over for Phil’s spinach onion lasagna after a trial run in the new lasagna pan which has been waiting close to three years in the cupboard for use. And of course you can’t have good lasagna without some garlic bread! He also had to make sure the blender still worked, so we could have our banana, nectarine, sugar, milk, iced blender drinks —fruit and dessert in a big plastic glass. This last time he substituted a cool cup of Café Escapes milk Chocolate Keurig cocoa for the milk, and that wasn’t bad either.

The first part of the summer was truly remarkable at the Malt Shop on Sunday nights. I was making two or three times normal tips. But the last three weeks haven’t been so hot even though the restaurant itself is very busy.

I’ve also had to transition from the therapist I’ve been seeing going on four years because of some insurance decisions. The woman to whom I was referred the first time didn’t want to start with me, because she’s not sure she’ll be taking the insurance we have much longer. A new office opened in the same building as my former therapist, and they are getting their contract set with my insurance company. Because they are more of a clinic, one very positive thing is they take the flex spending funds credit card. The other woman couldn’t take cards, so we had to write a check and be reimbursed. The new therapist sounds very nice over the phone, and even though it’s tough to transition to a new person, my former therapist used the analogy of retiring a guide dog and then starting work with a new one. I’ve certainly been through that more than once.

So far, the pups are holding steady though Garron turned nine this past Thursday, and Zane will be nine the day after Christmas. Garron is on some meds for arthritis, and Zane went through a pretty severe ear infection and a much-needed teeth cleaning and extraction of one tooth this spring. The sounds of a dog coming out of anesthesia are not for the faint of heart. They brought tears to my eyes. My vet’s office compared the dog’s experience to coming out of a frat party and being so drunk he didn’t know how loud he was. But wow! If anyone wants to hear a drunken Zane, let me know, and I’ll send you the audio files. I think it should be mandatory listening for guide dog handlers who are going to have their dogs’ teeth cleaned. I wish someone had warned me!

Speaking of audio files, this is probably a good place to remind you about the folder I have for my radio shows. Most of them are Blessing Blend my show of mostly Christian music, but occasionally I’ll substitute for someone else who can’t do their show. I should upload those too. If you’re not a Christian music fan, I hope to bring the Keyboard Kaleidoscope to The Phoenix very soon. I’m just waiting for the time of the show to be settled. I’m trying to push for a weekend show, so people might have flexibility about being able to listen live. I appreciate those of you who have tuned in to Wednesday evenings 10 Eastern or Thursdays 3 AM UK time for Blessing Blend. I love being on the air, because I remember how many presenters have made my day a little brighter on their Internet Radio shows. Meanwhile, here’s where you can download past shows.

I continue to be so pleased with the wonderful book club I started over the phone for people across the country who listen to talking books from the National Library Service. Most of us download the books from a site called BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download), so it’s informally known as the BARD Book Club. We have hbooks planned for the rest of this year and into January of next year. We rotate people choosing a book, and in November, we read a group choice which keeps coming up in discussions throughout the year. Last year we read 11-22-63 by Stephen King on the fiftieth anniversary of that day. We have mostly read fiction, but this September, I believe we have our first nonfiction title.

Technology has been my friend and my foe as always this spring and summer.
Last Wednesday Amazon and I had a bit of a showdown, but thanks to a wonderful customer service guy who actually knew what a screen reader was, we are settled about how to download music. My iPhone continues to be my best friend with all of the ways I can interact on social media. I have two ways of reading books audibly on it, and maybe if Braille displays ever come down in price, I’ll be able to use my iPhone with one of them. Of course I listen to Internet Radio on it, although using iTunes on the computer to transfer stuff to the phone is still beyond me. In addition to the usual Facebook and Twitter, I’ve gotten back into Audioboo. People record all kinds of fun stuff or discuss something on a recording. I still love dice World and have about sixty games going at once, although of course I usually play about one turn per game per day. A friend got me hooked on this Orange Tree game which is not competitive but just fun. An Audioboo also introduced me to a game called Lost Cities. Although it isn’t the accessible Uno game for the iPhone I would love, the colors and numbers emulate that aspect. I have never played Solitaire, but I’m told playing against the computer is like Solitaire. I haven’t played a game against a human yet, but I’m playing the third of four computer “people” progressing from easiest to hardest with some successful wins. I still don’t understand why the game has that title, but it’s a lot of fun! My user name for all games is RebeccaK425. It seems like there are apps for just about everything out there. I read the menu at Bubba Gump’s from an app, and we used another to determine the next bus and train arrivals. I have a cool metronome app, and would really like to be able to record in stereo on my phone. I have a digital recorder which has some speech, but not like the phone. We are due for an upgrade this September, and I’m hoping the next generation might record in stereo. If not I’m doing preliminary research on the best stereo recording attachment for the way I use my phone. I’m slowly starting to think about music ideas, although between the mountains of my laundry which never seem to get any smaller and other things, I’m not at the piano yet. I hope its coming but believe me, I can’t force it. It doesn’t work that way.

Now it’s almost three AM, so it’s definitely time for me to close. I’ll try to blog a little more often than I have, so they aren’t this cotton-pickin’ long!


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