Sunday, April 30, 2023

Out Of Network And Out Of Pocket

Hubby Tony and I go to the same dental office, staffed by two older men who had practiced together for decades. Late last year one of them announced his retirement, and the other quickly followed. The practice was sold to a man who had only been out of dental school for a few years. I called the office to inquire about insurance after the change. The person I spoke with told me that the new dentist was allowed to continue under the previous contract. She did not offer any other details.

At my fall cleaning I briefly met the new dentist when he came in to check my teeth after the hygienist finished her cleaning. On the way out of the office I made a six month appointment. Eventually the insurance Explanation of Benefits appeared, showing everything was paid.

In mid-March it was time for another six month appointment. I showed up at the office, checked in at the front desk, had a set of x-rays and a nice cleaning, then stopped by the office again on my way out. It wasn't until then that I learned that as of the first of the year the practice was no longer in-network for the dental insurance both Tony and I have.

The main reason Tony and I have insurance is to minimize the out of pocket costs! Our plan covers the complete cost of the biannual cleaning and check up. I told the billing person I thought it seemed reasonable to expect them to notify us when the provider's in-network status changed.

She could not answer my question about why they hadn't contacted us in the two and a half months since the year started to give us the news, or why she hadn't talked to me before I went back to the treatment area. All I got was an apology, and an offer to give me information about a discount plan they offered.

I told her I was not happy, and would be starting the process of finding a new dentist. She did not have a response.

Several weeks later the EOB I received showed the insurance (as I suspected) only paid a small portion of the bill. I composed a letter to the practice outlining my concerns and letting them know I expected them to waive the rest of the balance.

I haven't received a response. I suspect I won't get one.

Five years ago today: Pop Up Pallet

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Feel The Beat

This morning after breakfast I headed to the Y for a Spinning class. One of the things I like about the class is that the resistance level on the bike is whatever you want it to be. Of course, an appropriate level gives the most effective workout, but today my energy level was low. When the instructor suggested we give the resistance knob a big turn to the right I barely moved it.

Until this song came on. Then all of a sudden my energy level went way up and I was easily cycling to the beat. (If you don't want to watch the mini-plot at the beginning, the music starts at :59)

Thursday, April 27, 2023

My Brought From Home Lunch Can Wait

Mid-morning Hubby Tony and I decided to go walk in downtown Kirkwood and see what was new. We planned on being gone for a couple of hours, and I figured I would get hungry before we got home, so before we left I threw together a lunch that could be eaten on the go and threw it in my string backpack.

Tony drove, and five minutes after we left the garage we were parked in a Two Hour parking space. We started walking east, then turned north when we got to Kirkwood Road. It was too early for many of the stores to be open, but two blocks later we stopped at an international grocery store and browsed the aisles of unusual items. The only thing we left with was a bag of navy beans for tonight's dinner of ham, beans, and cornbread. 

We crossed Kirkwood Road at a stop light and headed south. We passed the Pioneer Bakery Cafe, which does a great job training people with intellectual disabilities to work in the baking field, but we didn't stop to see what was in the display cases. The cat cafe wasn't open yet, but we peeked into the window to see the cute felines sauntering around. We poked our head into a new biscuit and gravy restaurant to look at the menu, but decided to try it out some other day. 

Continuing down the street, my eyes automatically swiveled over to the chocolate shop as we passed it by. I thought about stopping in, but decided against it. The popcorn shop a couple of storefronts down was closed. At the next street we turned left and saw a doughnut shop. According to the posted hours it should have been open, but the interior looked dark. We passed on going into the feed store and the gift shop.

At the end of that block I saw an interesting-looking yellow sign across the street. Neither Tony or I could read what it said, so we crossed the street to get a closer look. The sign was for Mr. J’s BBQ, and an arrow pointed to the right. The area turns residential there, so we guessed it might be pointing to the Farmer's Market catty-corner from where we were standing.

We would have headed to the market anyway, but as soon as I entered the area I could smell the wonderful barbecue smoke and I knew I was in the right place. 

Mr. J's turned out to be a small setup under a pop up canopy. There were two industrial-sized smokers at the back, a preparation station in the middle, and an ordering table placed at the front. Tony and I talked with the owner and learned that he was there every Thursday, he also did catering, and he hoped to eventually open a brick and mortar place.

After our conversation we felt like we should order something. Since I had lunch food with me I wasn't looking for a huge meal, and we told Mr. J we would split a hot link sausage combo, which came with a bag of chips and a drink.

Mr. J turned our order fulfillment over to his assistant and took care of the payment part. He offered us each a bottle of water, and a couple of minutes later a Styrofoam tray. When I opened it up I was amazed to see he had set us up with two sandwiches instead of the one we ordered. Each perfectly-toasted roll contained a split sausage with a spoonful of potato salad on top.

Of course I ate the whole thing, and half the bag of chips. After our meal we meandered back to our car and back home. There, I put my lunch food in the freezer to take with me when I run errands tomorrow.

Five years ago today: 25 Signs That You Have Grown Up

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Predicting Amusement

Give me a standard-sized keyboard and I can touch type quickly and efficiently. However, on a phone keyboard my fat fingers have me stumbling all over the tiny keys. I type J instead of H and q instead of w.

Enter predictive text, where your device suggests logical next words . It's great and convenient when it works. But sometimes my brain has trouble evaluating the recommended words at the bottom of the screen and I click the wrong one. Then I have to go back and correct the mistake, which makes the typing take even longer. Or I don't see that I chose an incorrect word and send out something wrong.

 Today while I was waiting for the laundry to finish in the dryer I saw this silly meme

I decided to give it a try. I experimented with both my phone and my iPad to come up with

  • Kathy as the host yet
  • Keep at the house you
  • Karma and the horses you
  • Kathy and the house you

The answers were more nonsensical than wacky. Pretty much the story of most of my predictive text fails.

Five years ago: In The Zone

Sunday, April 23, 2023

The Family Vacation That Wasn't

Last week was Spring Break for the grandchildren in the San Jose area. A month before that DIL Nicole rented an AirBnB close to Yosemite big enough for the entire family (two grandparents, three children, two spouses, and six grandchildren) to be together for three nights. After checking out, the fun would continue. Son Tony and family, along with Son Donald, would return to their Central Valley home. The rest of us would spend one night at a Great Wolf Lodge, then pick up Donald before returning back to Brian's house for some unscheduled time before Hubby Tony and I flew back. 

There were lots of moving pieces, but the only part I had to plan was getting to the airport at the right time. 

The night before we our flight we got a call from Son Brian. He said a virus had been running through his family, and he woke up that morning with a sore throat and cough. He and Son Tony had talked it over and decided that it would be best to cancel the AirBnB.

So just like that Part One of our vacation was gone. When Tony, Donald, and I arrived in San Jose on Thursday afternoon we checked into a hotel that Nicole had arranged, then walked to a park and watched Grandson Jay's baseball game. Afterwards we stopped for dinner on the walk back to the hotel.

Friday we picked up a car, met Brian and Nicole for lunch, then made the drive over the mountains to Son Tony's house. We stayed there until Monday morning. During our time we got lots of cuddle time with Grands Gee, Evee, and Ian. We helped Tony do some yard work, and went to a farmer's market and a minor league baseball game (the Modesto Nuts, the Single A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners).

On Sunday we learned that the Great Wolf Lodge portion of the trip was also a no-go, so on Tuesday Tony, Donald, and I drove back to Brian's house. Donald left for home on Wednesday, the same day Brian and Nicole went back to work.

Nothing about this family vacation had gone as planned, and to add insult to injury, the nanny for Grands Dee and Ell ended up with a stomach virus and couldn't come. Instead of spending quality time with Grand Jay, he went to a a camp. Grandma and Grandpa did their best to help wrangle two active three year olds.

It would have been nice to have the entire family together in one place, and we're already talking about strategies for next time.  

Five years ago: Floral Design On The Cheap

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Airplane ear

Last night Hubby Tony and I flew home from our latest trip to California. (More on that adventure in another post 😁.)

During my past few flights I've had a terrible problem with the Eustachian tubes in my ears stopping up, an issue commonly known as airplane ear. I know what to do to prevent the issue (stay awake, chew gum, and yawn during the descent) but I never remember to actually do them. After de-planing I had a hard time hearing what Tony was saying, and back at home I would have told you the radio in the family room wasn't on. It was, and at its normal volume.

I tried the Valsalva Maneuver, where you close your mouth, pinch your nostrils together, and blow softly. That sometimes leads to a satisfying ear pop, but last night all I felt was a tiny pressure release. I went to sleep with both of my ears stopped up and ringing. It wasn't uncomfortable, just annoying.

This morning the ringing had stopped, but I still felt clogged up. There are many ways to take care of the situation. None of them are difficult, but some are time consuming. I had a lot to do, and preferred not to add my wonky ears to the list. 

Fortunately, after a nice steamy shower I tried the maneuver again. The issue resolved itself with the satisfying ear pop I was looking for. Thank goodness.

Five years ago: I Never Thought About It That Way

Wednesday, April 19, 2023


If you read here on a regular basis, you've probably figured out that I do a lot of walking...mainly through residential areas with sidewalks, as opposed to trails. 

One of my walking pet peeves is people who allow their plants to grow onto the sidewalk.

When I partner up with Hubby Tony on walks we like to travel side by side. If a sidewalk is blocked by plant life, we have to go single file. Or one of us will stay on the sidewalk and the other will step into the street.

As I'm navigating a greenery hazard I always wonder about the people who let their plants go wild. Do they not walk on their sidewalk to realize there's a problem? Do they just not care? Or do they think that they're so important that other people's comfort isn't?

Five years ago today: Have A Ball

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Always A Good One

I've seen this story quite a few times, but it always makes me stop and think.

The telephone rang. It was a call from his mother. He answered it and his mother told him, "Mr. Belser died last night. The funeral is Wednesday."

Memories flashed through his mind like an old newsreel as he sat quietly remembering his childhood days.

"Jack, did you hear me?"

"Oh, sorry, Mom. Yes, I heard you. It's been so long since I thought of him. I'm sorry, but I honestly thought he died years ago," Jack said.

"Well, he didn't forget you. Every time I saw him he'd ask how you were doing. He'd reminisce about the many days you spent over 'his side of the fence' as he put it," Mom told him.

"I loved that old house he lived in," Jack said.

"You know, Jack, after your father died, Mr. Belser stepped in to make sure you had a man's influence in your life," she said.

"He's the one who taught me carpentry," he said. "I wouldn't be in this business if it weren't for him. He spent a lot of time teaching me things he thought were important. Mom, I'll be there for the funeral," Jack said.

As busy as he was, he kept his word. Jack caught the next flight to his hometown. Mr. Belser's funeral was small and uneventful. He had no children of his own, and most of his relatives had passed away.

The night before he had to return home, Jack and his Mom stopped by to see the old house next door one more time. Standing in the doorway, Jack paused for a moment. It was like crossing over into another dimension, a leap through space and time. The house was exactly as he remembered.

Every step held memories. Every picture, every piece of furniture...Jack stopped suddenly...

"What's wrong, Jack?" his Mom asked.

"The box is gone," he said.

"What box?" Mom asked.

"There was a small gold box that he kept locked on top of his desk. I must have asked him a thousand times what was inside. All he'd ever tell me was 'the thing I value most,'" Jack said.

It was gone. Everything about the house was exactly how Jack remembered it, except for the box. He figured someone from the Belser family had taken it.

"Now I'll never know what was so valuable to him," Jack said.

"I better get some sleep. I have an early flight home, Mom."

It had been about two weeks since Mr. Belser died. Returning home from work one day Jack discovered a note in his mailbox. "Signature required on a package. No one at home. Please stop by the main post office within the next three days," the note read.

Early the next day Jack went to the post office and retrieved the package. The small box was old and looked like it had been mailed a hundred years ago. The handwriting was difficult to read, but the return address caught his attention.

"Mr. Harold Belser" it read.

Jack took the box out to his car and ripped open the package. There inside was the gold box and an envelope.

Jack's hands shook as he read the note inside.

"Upon my death, please forward this box and its contents to Jack Bennett. It's the thing I valued most in my life." A small key was taped to the letter. His heart racing, as tears filled his eyes, Jack carefully unlocked the box. There inside he found a beautiful gold pocket watch.

Running his fingers slowly over the finely etched casing, he unlatched the cover. Inside he found these words engraved: "Jack, Thanks for your time! -- Harold Belser."

"The thing he valued most was my time!"

Jack held the watch for a few minutes, then called his office and cleared his appointments for the next two days.

"Why?" Janet, his assistant asked.

"I need some time to spend with the people I love and care for," he said. "Oh, by the way, Janet, thanks for your time!"

Five years ago: Unfamiliar No More

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

A Healthy Way To Eat

Do you know about the Harvard Diet (also known as Healthy Eating Plate)? The plan says that at each meal:
  • Half of the plate should be vegetables and fruits, with a greater emphasis on veggies.(Potatoes don’t count as vegetables on this plan.)
  • A quarter of the plate should be whole grains, like whole wheat, brown rice, barley, oatmeal, quinoa, and foods made with them.
  • A quarter of the plate should be, poultry, beans, and nuts. Eat limited amounts of red meat, and avoid processed meats such as bacon and sausage.
  • Limit dairy beverages to one or two servings a day, and have only one small glass of juice. Otherwise, drink water, tea, or coffee (and stay away from sugary beverages).
  • Have moderate amounts of healthy fats (olive, canola, soy, peanut, corn, or sunflower oil) and avoid trans fats.

 Five years ago: Don't Do It

Monday, April 10, 2023

A Bunch Of Branches

Each night Hubby Tony tosses his change into a glass mug on his dresser. The other day he realized that mug was full, so it was time to take those coins to the bank and cash them in. 

There used to be quite a few branches of our bank that had coin machines for customer use, but since Covid there are fewer that offer the service. I looked on the bank website and wrote down the closest ones, including two city branches that were ten minutes apart. In my experience the website isn't always accurate, and if the first one no longer had a change machine there would be a second option.

This morning Tony and I decided to combine that errand with a trip to a different branch of the YMCA. I also had a package to mail and decided to take care of it at a post office branch along the way. After breakfast Tony and I gathered our things, got in the car, and headed east. 

Tony and I have been to five branches of the Y since we joined earlier in the year. Each is different and seems to have its own personality. 

During my visit today I realized that the people at this branch were the friendliest I've run into at any YMCA. I was using one of the machines, and the man sitting at the one across the aisle struck up a conversation with me. When a friend of his walked by he also jumped in. 

Twenty minutes later I was leaving the equipment area. The second man was standing there and stopped me to talk again. When a woman he knew walked by, he introduced her by name. From there I went downstairs to use the locker room. A man who had been playing pool started yet another conversation with me. In the lobby the cleaning person looked me in the eye, smiled, and asked how my day was going. All in all, I was quite impressed.

After the gym Tony and I put our things in the car and walked through the nearby blocks of red brick bungalows. When we got back to the car we thought our next stop would be the bank, but my directions weren't the best. By the time we figured out the problem it made more sense to go to the post office first. There was no line and I was in and out of there in five minutes. 

The second bank branch was easy to find, and Tony immediately saw the change machine in the far right corner of the lobby. We headed in that direction, but the teller saw what we were doing and told us it was out of order. When I asked, she said as far as she knew the closest working machine was in St. Charles County. Her announcement was disappointing, but we left with coin rolls to fill and return to our local branch.

Back at the car, Tony asked if I wanted a cup of coffee. I did. We stopped at a branch of a small local roaster, where our pour over coffees were served in a beaker.

 Five years ago today: 'Willow' It Grow?

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Small-Scale Scoop

When Hubby Tony and I were in California over the summer, the family had a lovely Hot Pot meal at Son Tony's house. It was a large group, so each end of the table had an electric warmer filled with broth. The rest of the table was filled with platters of meats, seafood, and vegetables. Each person took the ingredients of their choice and cooked them in the simmering broth.

One of the broths was a simple combination of tom yum powder and water. I'm a big fan of the hot and sour Thai soup, but had no idea it came in a shelf-stable version, Shortly after I got back home I saw the powder at the Asian market and it came home with me.

I never used it to make official tom yum soup (which usually has shrimp or prawns), but I found out the seasoning mix was a great ingredient to add to chopped cabbage, bok choy, frozen vegetables, or even beans. The first ingredient on the label is salt, so it's really just a seasoned bouillon, but it has what I think is the perfect combination of sweet, sour, and spice.

Eventually I used up the container and added tom yum mix to my Asian grocery list. The only thing on the shelf was a different brand, but I decided to give it a try. Last night I needed something to spice up some Napa and reached for the tom yum.

The first thing I noticed was that this container was different. Instead of the plastic jar with a screw on lid of the first brand, this one was a heavy cardboard canister with a pop-off top. Inside the canister there was a sealed plastic bag...and a folded spoon to use for scooping out the powder. I had never seen anything like it!

As you might expect, the spoon was pretty flimsy, and felt like it was going to break when I straightened it out. The opened spoon was four inches long, and half that folded up.

The directions on  the side of the can said to add two teaspoons to two cups of boiling water. However, the provided spoon didn't look like a standard teaspoon, so my spoonfuls were heaping. At the end of the cooking time I forked out a piece of cabbage and tasted it. The new brand had less hot and sour and more pepper. At first I wasn't sure if I liked the taste, but by the time I finished my cabbage I was a fan.

Five years ago: Spring, Where Are You?

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

More Than Just A People Mover

When my alarm went off this morning it was cloudy. An hour later the sky turned black and it rained intensely for ten minutes. According to my weather app, the next few hours had a good chance of being more of the same.

On Wednesday mornings I stop at the grocery store just down the road from the church (a local chain called Dierbergs) for ingredients before heading there to prepare the staff lunch. Knowing that there would be a decent chance I would get rained on, I modified my plans and headed to the Dierbergs closest to my house which has a parking garage tucked underneath the building. 

I usually choose surface parking at this store because I can get in and out faster, but during inclement weather it's nice to have an option. 

I parked my car close to the door, walked into the foyer, and rode the escalator up to the store. When I shop at this Dierbergs I'm usually only picking up a few things and don't use a cart. Today I grabbed one from the row and headed into the store.

I had purchased some of the ingredients on Monday, so today it only took me 20 minutes to pick up a box of pasta, two loaves of garlic bread, and a package of brownies for today's menu of mac and cheese, pulled pork, roasted green beans, garlic bread, brownies, and carrot bread (like zucchini bread but with carrots). I also added a gallon of milk for the pastor and a couple of things the associate priest requested.

Except for the gallon of milk my items all fit into one bag. I could have easily ditched the basket and carried everything, but I decided to try using the dedicated grocery cart escalator next to the human version, something I had never done before. There were too many people around for me to video my experience, but it was pretty much like this one:

Five years ago today: "Dog" Detox

Tuesday, April 4, 2023


Today is my area's April General Election.

St. Louis City has some big issues on the ballot. St. Louis County and the municipality I live in, not so much.  There are just two propositions (one from the municipality and one from the county), both asking voters to pass a tax on recreational marijuana sales. Normally there would also be school board elections, but this year there were just enough candidates for open seats.

As of 1 pm, the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners indicated that 9.92% of voters had gone to the poles, and I suspect the final results won't be too much larger than that. Given the paucity of issues thirty year old me probably wouldn't have taken the time to cast a ballot, but sixty year old me did. After a trip to the gym Hubby Tony and I stopped by a polling place that was on the way home. We were the only voters there, and the poll workers looked bored. 

It took me more time to receive a ballot and find a seat than it did to fill it out. After I put the completed ballot in the scanner, the worker invited me to take a sticker. In addition to the standard red/white/blue ones there was a selection of more colorful ones. I picked one of them. I told the worker that I would be throwing my sweaty gym shirt into the laundry as soon as I got home and would save my sticker until I changed. 

After my shower I purposefully chose a shirt that would coordinate with the sticker.

 Five years ago: Eye Drop Adventures

Sunday, April 2, 2023


Today Son Brian made another trip around the sun.

Since he lives halfway across the country it was hard for Hubby Tony and I to know what type of birthday present to get him. After discussing the matter we decided to make his gift something edible. After all, who doesn't like food?

I would have liked to have sent something homemade, but in the end there wasn't time to pick out a recipe/make it/wrap the item securely so it wouldn't get banged around in the box/find a box to mail it in/get the box to the post office.

I did some research and chose a couple of options from a mail order food company. Tony made the final selection from my list, and I did the ordering. When it came time to choose a delivery date the company offered a range of dates for free shipping. I didn't care for the range, so I paid extra to have the package delivered on a specific date.

Needless to say I was not happy to receive an email three days before my selected date that the package had been delivered. 

I went to the company website to get contact information so I could lodge a complaint, and eventually I found a phone number. The automated system told me "all representatives were busy" because "they were experiencing a higher volume of calls than normal" (which seems to be the stock statement every company uses), but they offered the option to leave my number and have someone call me back.I took them up on their offer.

Fifteen minutes later I was speaking with a sweet-voiced representative. I explained the situation, and she quickly said she would credit my delivery fee. She also asked if I would like an apology note sent to Brian. That wasn't an option that would have occurred to me, but I thought it was a nice thing to do. Before she ended the call, the representative asked if I would like to order anything from their catalog and save 20%. She didn't seem particularly surprised when I told her I wouldn't.

Five years ago: Is It April Or December?