I’m a flittery, fluttery, ADD elf.

Merry W. Va. Fur and Root

Yesterday, I started pulling stuff out of one of the closets-I’m-afraid-of with the intention of putting up, out, in or on every single Christmas-type decoration I owned.

Ahem. My ambition is admirable.

Today, I finished denuding the closet, trashed the kitchen, living-dining room, two halls, the staircase and the bay window in the process. I hauled out 4 contractor-sized garbage bags of Stuff-I’m-Never-In-A-Thousand-Years-Gonna-Use.

More of The Boy's Christmas Stuff

In doing all that, I ran across treasures I’d forgotten about – chiefly, the nativity set I “painted” for my son to put under his tree as well as the stuffed animals that lived in his tree’s branches.

[The story of “his” tree will have to be another post.]

The house was trashed and rather than attend to matters at hand, I ended up hanging forgotten dangly lights from the kitchen windows which means tomorrow I have to go in search of ribbon or fabric or something to give it a “finished” look as well as something for extension cord management. While looking for the extension cords, I ended up sort-of cleaning the laundry room and cleaning out the gift-wrap storage box. [You’ll note in the photo that I haven’t, actually, managed to put the decorations on the kitchen counter tree.]

As my dad would say, "Where's the stick?"

While all that was going on, the “big tree” was horizontal in the living room and I continued to flitter and flutter my ADD self about the house doing everything but attending to the mess in that room – a mess my dad would have commented on by saying, “Where’s the stick?” If I hadn’t heard that question several times a year since the year I was born, I might have responded with “What stick, Daddy?”

The stick you used to stir this mess up with.

I have gotten the tree vertical and the lights are all working without hours of futzing – a Christmas miracle. So, I’m cooking with gas now. I won’t finish it tonight, but I hadn’t expected to. Even so, the Barn is beginning to look very festive and I’m feeling virtuous with the dejunking I’ve done.

More importantly, I’m feeling very grateful for the life I’ve lived in which I’ve loved and been loved. Much of this stuff is imbued with memories that have kept me teary-eyed either from laughter or the bittersweet contemplation of people and times past. Decorating the “big tree” has always been a good-cry event. I’ve not even begun and the tears are flowing. If I get into the wine while unpacking the boxes littering the big room, I’m really going to be a spectacle.

Frontier – Rooting for the Underdog

Reviewing my notes while on the phone with Frontier's Customer Service Call Center.

I meant to post Part 2 of the Frontier Saga before now, but my life kept getting in the way.

When I left y’all, it was 3 p.m. and I’d raised hell with Frontier Customer Service which ended in a promise that a technician would be at my house prior to 8 p.m. At 8:05 p.m., I entered into chat with yet another Customer Service Representative who was anxious to get me off of her screen. She was exceptionally polite, but we went through rounds and round and rounds of linguistic gymnastics in which it became obvious she wouldn’t or couldn’t let me talk to her supervisor.

I settled in for the evening. We chatted. I used words like “unacceptable” a lot. I also used the phrase, “No. I’m not going to call that number – I’ve called that number several times already.” After assuring me it was both impossible and illegal for a Frontier representative to call me after 9 p.m., I settled into the sofa  even deeper and she and I stared at a blank computer screen for a good while – just under 15 minutes.

While sitting in chat, I sent an abridged email to Ken-The-President knowing full well I was spinning my wheels, but what the hell.

Apparently, tying up a CSR in chat for more than an hour gets one a lot of attention provided one is polite, but insistent.

My phone rang. A very nice gentleman from Frontier was on the phone and I disconnected from chat. I’m sure that poor woman Snoopy-danced all the way to vending machine for sorely needed chocolate.

Multiple phone calls later, the Very Nice Gentleman assured me he was on the case and I toddled off to bed right around midnight.

The next morning, I was astonished to find email from Ken-the-President. Said email was not of the “thank you for contacting Frontier where you can be assured…” Oh no. It was a real, detailed response to my email. Ken-the-President assured me he was On The Case.

All morning my phone rang with various people from Frontier. At roughly 3 p.m., I left my office to meet the service technician at the house. Multiple problems were found and Dan-the-Repair-Guy was surprised I ever had a connection that worked.

Since it was not raining, the connection was working. Nevertheless, Dan replaced my wiring, the box, and the modem. He gave me his cell phone number and told me to call him if it went down again.

It rained and I didn’t have a connection. I called Dan; Dan was puzzled.

Meanwhile, folks from Frontier are still calling me. I tell them all the same thing – the connection works fine until it rains. When it rains, I lose my DSL and acquire so much line noise that phone calls are nearly impossible. Some hours after the rain stops, whatever got wet dries out and the connection works perfectly.

Everyone is perplexed but On The Case. I still get multiple phone calls with questions that probe the exact conditions of the outages.

In my spare time, I surf the net for stories about Frontier’s acquisition of Verizon in West Virginia. The stories are Not Good. There are widescale outages that go on for more than a week. Fibernet, who use Frontier’s backbone, are especially not happy. The Public Service Commission is not happy. Lots and lots of people are not happy.

I search some more. I read business analysts who said before the acquisition that Frontier cannot possibly pull off West Virginia given Verizon’s mess.

I challenged Ken-the-President to “prove it” with respect to Frontier’s web page statement which reads as follows:

Welcome, West Virginia.

We are excited to be serving you.

Over the next few months, you will see that we do things a little differently than your previous Service Provider. Because for us, serving you is more than just a day-to-day operation. Our work is all about you, our customer. We have an ongoing commitment to servicing the communities we work and live in. It is about giving back, growing with our communities and supporting your needs.

It is remembering that you are a person, not just a customer.

As I told Ken, once I got in contact with a technician, I’ve been absolutely tickled by Frontier’s service, but that the call centers still need a lot of work.

I'm never going to pull off a back flip, but it's the thought that counts. Right?

I don’t pretend that any customer of any business should have to fire off an email to the president to get all of Customer Service on the same page, but I’m enormously impressed nonetheless.

I continue to read the news stories. Frontier is getting hit with just about everything that can go wrong going wrong. Powerful thunderstorms are wreaking havoc on an already havoc-ridden infrastructure.

Almost always, I root for the underdog in sports competitions (including politics).

I’m now rooting for Frontier to pull off the impossible – restore the communication infrastructure of West Virginia to a reliable state and, eventually, improve it without going bankrupt. Lots of professionals say it can’t be done. (Go Team, Go!)

My DSL still goes up and down like a yoyo. I still have the same problem – we’ve merely eliminated some potential causes. I fully realize that in terms of fixing the problem, I’m exactly where I was. But after years of Verizon’s nonsense, I have every reason to believe that Frontier does, in fact, care that my service is unreliable and is, in fact, Trying To Fix It.

In terms of the greater good, it is probably ridiculous that they stopped what they were doing elsewhere to work on my silly-ass little problem. On the other hand, they created an enormous amount of goodwill with me.

Welcome to West Virginia, Frontier.

[Connie dons a bizarre set of clothing which she hopes approximates that of a cheerleader and tries to think of a clever rhyme that will go well with pompoms and back flips.]

Locking Great Aunt Bertha in the Attic

I’ve noticed the more extreme the situation, the more apt I am to use clichés.

All I can say is it is hotter’n’hell and there’s a reason Great Aunt Bertha went insane and had to be locked in the attic.

I am near tears with the misery of this heat and the indignities of menopause.

The lack of air conditioning in my life means I’m focusing on one minute at a time – what I can do to get through the next 60 seconds.

When I left the house this morning, it was 80 degrees at 8:45 a.m. It was 94 when I left work. Besides hot, the area around me is water logged and continues to be under threat of violent thunderstorms. These storms rundle through with great crashes of thunder and lightening. The temperature drops 10 to 15 degrees and then ratchets right back up, more humid than ever. The weather people mutter about stalled fronts and whatnot.

Gills would come in handy about now. I don’t know the biomechanics of such, but I’m certain the body’s processing of a cup of water or so to every breath must entail some wear and tear on the lungs. More than likely, it increases body temperature.

It is only June. This sort of meteorological nightmare shouldn’t emerge until late July or August. If I try to imagine a whole summer of this, I may start screaming and never stop. 60 seconds of life at a time in this heat is all I can manage.

According to all manner of happiness experts, one moment at a time is the best way to live life under any circumstance. I am whining one moment at a time. This is probably not what they meant.

Periodically, I stop to cogitate on how for most of history folks lived without air conditioning and how for a good couple hundred years they did so while wearing a lot of clothes. I keep telling myself I should be thankful that I can strip down to bare skin while refreshing the Weather Channel website in hopes that an updated forecast promising unseasonably cool temperatures will appear.

When my grandmother went through menopause, air conditioning was unheard of and she was forced by societal norms to wear a heap of clothes – bras and girdles and hosiery and slips and gloves and all manner of layers of fabric. In the era before hers, long sleeves and long skirts were de rigueur.

Novels and stories abound about women locked in attics because they went insane and their people had to do something with them. While I don’t know for certain that menopausal women wearing a lot of clothes went crazy and had to be locked in the attic lest they run through town naked and raving was ever a norm, the idea doesn’t seem too far fetched. I do wonder where they got the energy to run.

The big white floor fan and the ceiling fans are the only reason I haven’t been locked in an attic. Well, that and the fact that I don’t have an attic and there’s nobody here to witness my madness.

Thunder has moved into the neighborhood while I wrote this. The temperature inside the house has decreased by a degree or so. I can feel the air freshening. Perhaps, I won’t wake in a pool of sweat later in the night and, even better, maybe I’ll sleep through the night. Maybe, just maybe, this will be the storm that drives the stalled front out of here.

For the next 60 seconds, I will hope and focus on the maybes.

Had Enough, I have I have.

It’s 50F in the house and I’m a wee-bit annoyed. The electrician that performed $1500 worth of re-wiring 15 days ago is supposed to “stop by” this morning to check things out. I’m afeared the snow will keep him from getting here. Or something else, like a paying customer – I have no intention of paying him a cent for today’s adventure; and I think he senses that. If I do open the checkbook it will only be after he does a lot of convincing.

While I have lights, I do not have hot water or heat; and the hot tub hasn’t kicked on to circulate water since yesterday afternoon.

Yes, I have lights, a space heater and a kerosene heater, but still I woke up to 49F in the house. As for the lights, they dim and flicker.

I’m more than just annoyed. I’m cold and mad. I have had enough.

Ancient burial ground? Or incompetence?

I drained the last bit of hot water to take a shower and wash the spackle dust out of my hair. I cannot find the blow dryer. So much for everything I learned in Girl Scouts – chiefly Be Prepared

[As for Be Prepared, I think that’s why I’ve been a gross over-packer for my entire life.  Now that airlines are charging for luggage, things could get expensive.  Well.  That was a stupid statement.  My entire life is getting expensive.]

I have the tea kettle on top of the kerosene heater – I think it seems friendlier that way. Besides, it’s a small (and futile) attempt to make the damn thing more aesthetically pleasing. 

The puppies are nestled in Cadillac of Dog Beds. Was my braving the perils of the Beelzebub of Bobbinhood a tempting of fate? Or Be Prepared? I also had a full tank of kerosene.  [I guess some of that Girl Scout training sunk in aside from over-packing for vacations and business trips.]

Things could be worse. I guess. I’m probably tempting fate by saying that.

So. I have a raging case of the Crankies punctuated by welling tears of frustration.

I’ve had enough. Winter needs to be over.

Every year about this time, the longing for Spring reaches fever pitch. The cooling that fall brings is welcome after the Dog Days. Finding the $10 bill in my wool coat always sets a nice tone to the beginning of winter. I rather enjoy hot chocolate in the early days of frigid temperature. But by Valentine’s Day, I am so so tired of winter and the ensuing challenges. That’s never been truer than this year.

I have had enough.

I need to begin thinking about 2010 Gardenpalooza.

One-Five-Nine (No Kidding)

You've got to be kidding me.

About 15 years ago, I went to my doctor and complained bitterly about brain fog, fatigue and general malaise. I was sure it was my thyroid. And sure enough it was.

As a child, I had been hyper-thyroid. Apparently, children as young as I was don’t develop thyroid problems at the age of 9. They’re either born with them (and often die before diagnosed) or it just doesn’t happen until later in life. Not only was I hyperthyroid, I was extremely so and had a goiter big enough to double as a softball. I’m in medical journals. There was no real protocol for treating children and I was a research hospital’s guinea pig. They did not want to remove the thyroid for a host of reasons. I endured weekly (and sometimes twice weekly) medical appointments and testing for the better part of two years.

The treatment was successful, but my parents were warned that I may never undergo puberty and might never have children. Well. I did undergo puberty – in spades – though I attribute my lack of cleavage to after-effects of massive doses of thyroid hormones. [Every woman on both sides of my family is very well-endowed to the point where breast reduction surgery is often undertaken. I’m a standout oddity.] I also have Chef Boy ‘R Mine as witness to my childbearing abilities.

I’d been complaining, 20 years ago, that something wasn’t right with my thyroid. For the first time in my life, I could pinch an inch. I couldn’t get enough sleep, etc. etc. I kept testing in the normal range. I tried to explain to them that although I wasn’t medicated, I had been somewhat hyperthyroid since I quit taking the meds when I was 10. I was on a downward slope, but I had no street cred with the docs and they couldn’t have cared less what I thought. Low normal was still normal – never mind that I’d been slightly hyper for years.

Fifteen years ago, I persuaded them to do the full thyroid panel and sure enough I was hypothyroid.

The full panel of thyroid tests reveals all sorts of things, but for people with my diagnosis – Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – the TSH number is the important one. 3.0 is considered the upper range of normal. Most docs don’t like for folks to get below 0.5 to 1.0 or above 5.0. I don’t recall what that first TSH number was – pretty big. I TOLD them I felt awful; I still don’t know why they were so surprised.

So. That was my second real indication that I’m pretty in tune with my body – the first was sensing that Chef Boy ‘R Mine was fixin’ to be a miscarriage before there were any real signs. I know when things are wrong.

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease of the thyroid. A simple explanation is that my thyroid thinks it is allergic to itself and keeps trying to commit suicide. Even missing my meds for just a day can provoke mayhem and carnage. Even medicated, periodic adjustments are required. A few years ago, I felt like crap and developed a goiter. I called the doc. My TSH was 39 –yes 39. Thirty-nine times the upper range of normal. He was astonished. I’d only missed three or four days of my meds.

The amount of Synthroid I take boggles the mind of my hypothyroid friends. Hypothyroidism is epidemic among women in this country. The last I heard, it was estimated that 40% of American women are hypothyroid with most of them undiagnosed. Since Oprah got diagnosed, I imagine that a few more are insisting their doctors run the thyroid panel. But regular hypothyroidism is not the same as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Look at it like this – there’s the common cold and then there’s bronchitis.

So, over the years, my thyroid acts up, I feel like crap, and I call the doctor. I’m always right and they no longer argue with me. We run the tests, we up the Synthroid, and off I go on my merry way.

Tired? I should be comatose.

I’ve been sleeping a lot lately, but I haven’t had brain fog and I don’t have a goiter. It’s been a cold, yucky winter and my stress levels are THIS HIGH. [Connie holds her hand two feet above her head.] I’m very in tune with my body and nothing was on my radar.

The family practitioner insisted we run a thyroid panel. I was opposed. I thought it unnecessary testing that would end up costing me a couple hundred dollars. We argued, she won. She also ran my cholesterol.

Well. My cholesterol is in the “needs medication” column and my TSH is, no shit, ONE HUNDRED FIFTY-NINE. One Five Nine. That’s 5300% higher than it should be.

Well, shit-fire, no wonder I’m tired. I should be near comatose based on past experience.

I’m inclined to think something went awry with this test. With a TSH of 39, I could barely get out of bed, every spot of arthritis in my body was screaming, my skin was so dry I was a cloud of dead skin cells, and I was thoroughly miserable. I was also unable to remember anything. At a 39 TSH, my world was wallpapered with sticky notes lest I forget something. No kidding, I had sticky notes to remind me to do stuff you wouldn’t think needed reminders. I had “brush teeth” on the medicine cabinet and “go to work” on the steering wheel of the car. I would forget what I was doing in the middle of doing it.

It was awful. If I do, in fact, have a TSH of 159, I should be too bumfuzzled and confoozled to type this much less actually awake at 8 p.m. The only hesitation with dismissing it out of hand is that my cholesterol is high. Traditionally, my cholesterol numbers are good when my thyroid is functioning well. Hypothyroidism correlates with high cholesterol. Many folk find that when they’re properly medicated for thyroid problems, high cholesterol problems go away.

So. Today I read that menopause is suspected to interfere with the body’s ability to process Synthroid. Upon reading that, I threw up my hands and ran amok in the hallways for awhile. Menopause’s unbloody hands appear to affect every facet of my life. I’m tired of it. And I’m tired. And I have a TSH of 159.

I’m still functioning and for that I’m grateful. I’m much too busy to crawl into bed for the 4-6 weeks it will take to get things up to speed.

If you know a woman who’s tired of being tired, suggest she get her thyroid checked. There’s no need to be miserable. Until they figure out why all of us womenfolk are having this problem, there’s not much to be done for it other than get a diagnosis and some prescriptions. (And if you have been diagnosed and medicated, but still feel like crap, get your B12 serum levels checked – B12 deficiency goes hand-in-hand with thyroid problems.)