Healing Hands

I had a massage yesterday. I have a massage therapist who is absolutely phenomenal, and back when I was knitting a lot, I used to get a regular massage every two months or so. Then things got a bit tight financially and regular massages seemed like a luxury. With this recent shoulder issue, though, I decided it was probably time to go see my massage therapist again. It's no luxury to be able to work pain-free when you do what I do. 

I think that most people who want to learn massage techniques can study, attend school, and learn what they need to know about the human body to be able to provide a good massage. I also think that there is a small subset of those people who are actually gifted beyond that point with a sixth sense of healing. I can attest to the fact that when my massage therapist lays her hands on my back, it feels like an electrical current is running from her hands into my body. I have had lots of massages and I have only ever experienced that from her. 

She came in yesterday after I got situated on the massage table and ran her hands over my body about an inch from the surface. I deliberately had not told her about the nerve impingement in my shoulder because I wanted to see if she picked up on anything (it was not bothering me yesterday, by the way). Without a word, she moved to my right shoulder and began working on it. I kind of chuckled and commented that I thought it was interesting that she had gone right to the trouble spot without me saying a word. She responded that she could "see" that it was a problem area. 

I could hardly get off the massage table when she was done (almost 90 minutes later). She massages muscles but she also adjusts bones and aligns things back into their proper places. She's not necessarily gentle about it, either, but that's not a bad thing. It did make me wonder a bit, though—I have a really high tolerance for pain, and I am sure she is relying on me to tell her if she's going too far. There were a couple of maneuvers yesterday that caused a fair bit of discomfort for me. I have this ability, though, to disconnect myself and to look at the pain pretty objectively, as in, "Oh, when she bends my leg back like that, it really stretches out that muscle," or "I can feel it in my shoulder when she presses on that spot on my arm." I've also been going to see her long enough that I trust that she won't do things that will damage my body. But maybe I need to be a bit more careful with my personal pain assessment.* I am not a masochist, really. 

Sure enough, when I got up this morning I needed to take some Aleve, as I have had to do in the past. Sore muscles notwithstanding, I do feel a thousand times better. There were a couple of times during the massage yesterday when I could feel what I can only describe as "energy channels" being unblocked. It sounds very New Age-y and hocus pocus, but I firmly believe that the human body is amazing and there is a whole lot we don't know about it. 

*There have really only been two times in my life that I can remember having trouble handling pain. One was when I was at the Cleveland Clinic being treated for leukemia. They had sent some nurse in to take blood—it was before I had a port in my chest—and she stuck the needle in and missed the vein. Instead of taking it out and trying it again, she started digging around in my arm. I just about clubbed her over the head. I told her to get out and then I called and complained to somebody in charge. I found out later she had done that to other patients and I was not the first to complain. I hope they fired her. The second time was after giving birth to DD#2—without any drugs. For about six hours afterward I had cramps that were nothing compared to the pain of giving birth, but at that point they just about did me in. I had to ask for some heavy-duty Tylenol. Go figure. 


My account supervisor has bent over backwards to funnel extra work my way this month. It has been great, although it got a little problematic yesterday. I started working at 5:00 a.m. yesterday and got my doctors' reports done, then logged out to get ready to head to town. I had warned my supervisor that I would be gone most of the day and she was okay with that. 

I logged in when I got home at 5 p.m. I expected to see some reports from my doctors, but there were also a bunch of reports from one of the doctors who believes he is very special. He wants his reports done within four hours of submitting them. The MT who is assigned to Dr. Special has been out for this week, so the rest of us have been on backup. Unfortunately, I can't get to *my* doctors' reports until Dr. Special's reports are cleared out of the queue, as they have a priority code attached to them that shoves them ahead of my doctors. And it didn't look like anyone else was logged in and working on them. I worked from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. (not a good time of day for me) getting his reports cleared out of the queue, and that still left me all my regular work to do. I was up and working at 4:00 a.m. today. My reports were a few minutes late, but my supervisor noted that I had been working on Dr. Special's reports last night and she thanked me for it. Then she sent me another note to say that I was now also backup for one of the ortho docs. I've done backup for him before because he is very picky; apparently he only likes certain people to do his reports. The MT assigned to him is pregnant and overdue, so they want to induce her tomorrow. She thinks she's going to be back at work in a week—my supervisor and I had a good laugh about that. We'll see how long I am actually on backup for him.

Having plenty of work has been wonderful. Having to adjust my schedule has not been quite so wonderful; I don't mind getting up at 4:00 a.m. to work as long as I can get a full eight hours of sleep before I have to do that. It's kind of odd to have my usual quota of work done by 10 a.m., though. 


The last home football game of the season is tonight, and DD#2 and the rest of the cheerleaders are doing the halftime show. The husband and I are going to get some Chinese food for dinner and then head to the game. I am already dressed in my wool hunting pants (I may still put long johns on under them) because it's going to be cold and snowy. I plan to be bundled up. 


Like Death and Taxes, You Can't Escape Snow in Montana

A Pacific storm came through last night and this is what we woke up to today. The chickens are nice and cozy in their chicken mansion:


Rusty and Lila are hard at work holding down the pouf in front of a roaring fire. It's a tough job, but they are up to the task:

I, naturally, am worrying about the wild animals and how they will stay warm and dry this winter. I think it's only a matter of time before the turkeys start roosting on the porch at night.

It's still so interesting to me that Lila and Rusty have completely given up chasing the turkeys. In fact, the other night Lila was our on the porch watching them while they wandered around the yard. Somehow, the dogs went from viewing the turkeys as "things we chase and eat" to "things we guard and protect," or at least "things we guard and protect until we decide to chase and eat them." It bodes well for having a wandering flock of turkeys in the yard next year if we decide to do that.  


The husband and I visited with one of our neighbors last night. Her husband has been in another state for the past year or so, and she is here trying to hold down the fort. She's the one who breeds mastiffs. After we got home, the husband commented unfavorably on men who leave their wives alone and don't even come home periodically to check on them (her husband is not that far away that he couldn't come home for a weekend). She needs some wood cut up, so the husband is going to help lay in a supply of firewood for her this weekend. 

I know so many women whose husbands have left Montana to find work elsewhere. In fact, the husband was considering doing the same thing a few months ago when it looked like work had dried up here—and then the floodgates opened, as they usually do as soon as we get a frost and people panic about getting projects done before winter. It wouldn't have been the ideal situation, but we would have made it work, and he certainly would have made sure I had everything I needed before he left. Thankfully, he has enough work that he plans to stay here this winter. 

We got to play with one of the mastiffs last night. His name is Dimitri and she got him as a puppy from Hungary. He is now one of the stud mastiffs. He's my favorite of all her dogs. I love the way he looks. He's huge—260 pounds and he's not even full-grown yet, but what a marshmallow. I can't wait to see the puppies he sires. I wouldn't want to own a mastiff—they are too big—but they are fun to play with. We like to visit with them when we are out in the garden. 


Hunting season is officially underway. The rifle is propped up against the bathroom window upstairs in anticipation of food wandering through the yard. I still need to get a hunting license. The husband got his last week when I was in Missoula. It would be nice if we could get an elk (better than beef, truly), but I don't think that will happen. But maybe the bears have decided it's time to den up. 

The grocery store had winter squash on sale so I loaded up on butternut squash for $0.18 a pound. I think I spent a grand total of $8.00 on squash, and I have roasted it and made soup to put in the freezer. It's amazingly good. I doctored it up with some applesauce that I canned last year and some grated ginger and some heavy cream and it's like candy in a bowl. In fact, that's what I am having for dinner. 


The Things That Are Really Important

I was feeling a bit demoralized by the pay cut last Thursday, and it made getting up and working on Friday more difficult. DD#2 didn't have school Thursday or Friday (in-service day for the teachers). I decided she and I needed a weekend away. We would have liked to have gone to Seattle to see DD#1, but we comforted ourselves with a trip to Missoula, instead. My friend Susan's daughter Rosemary is back down there in school, studying for her master's degree. I told her we were coming down and she graciously invited us to spend Friday night with her. 

We hit the road around 2 p.m. and headed south. I love the drive to Missoula. I love any drive that takes me through the beauty that is western Montana, and having DD#2 riding shotgun was a bonus. My kids are great travelers. They are interesting people in their own right and fun to talk to. We wandered down to Missoula and arrived at Rose's in time to pick her up for dinner. She suggested a restaurant called Silk Road, which serves a variety of ethnic dishes. I thought it was a wonderful idea. We feasted on Chesapeake Crab Dip, Fried Raviolis (I only had a taste), Chicken Paprikash—which was not like Grandma Szabo's but was delicious nonetheless—and Roasted Garlic Eggplant. Rose and DD#2 topped off the meal with a piece of chocolate cake with Cold Smoke buttercream frosting (I had a taste). 

After dinner, we headed over to the mall to do some shopping. Missoula has stores that we don't have here up in the Flathead, and I had some coupons. While the girls were shopping, I went to Herberger's, which is our big department store. We have one up here, and they had sent me a "$50 off a $100 purchase" coupon. I thought I might see if I could use it. I ended up in the housewares department looking at stainless steel cookware. I have had it with nonstick. My family is not careful with it and it aways ends up getting scratched, which leads it to shed teflon all over my food. I prefer cooking in stainless anyway, and it's easy because I use lots of lard, butter, or olive oil. I am in the process of replacing all my cookware with stainless steel pieces. 

Cuisinart makes a line of quality stainless cookware. I have a couple of pieces and I am quite happy with them. Herberger's carries the Cuisinart stainless, and I saw that they had a 5-1/2 quart saute pan on sale. The sale sign said $59.99. I don't have a piece that size. They also had a lasagna pan on sale, for $39.99. I could use a lasagna pan, too. I did the math in my head and thought, "Great, that's almost $99, and I can find something small to add in to take it over $100, and then I can use my coupon."

I took everything up to the register. The cashier rang it up and said, "You need $22.02 worth of stuff to use your coupon." The sale price was actually $39.99 for each piece (why can't they just post the correct price on the sale signs?), so I went back over to see what else they had. I grabbed a 12" saute pan and took it up to the cashier. That got me to $119.97 and the coupon took $50 off, so I got all three pieces—normally $80 each—for $69.97. Yikes. 

We finished our shopping (I also got a bra for $11.97 on clearance) and went back to where Rose was staying and had tea and stayed up talking. I have known this child since she was four years old. She has grown into quite the young lady. 

On Saturday morning, we got up and the three of us headed for The Good Food Store. This is a local version of Whole Foods. I remember it when it was a tiny little hole-in-the wall store. It has grown to the size of a big grocery store. I had a list of things, so I dived right in: organic split peas, organic yellow split peas, organic arborio rice, organic black beluga lentils, organic green lentils, waxed paper bags for the husband's sandwiches, 8 ounces of citric acid for making cheese this winter, decaf coffee for me, Republic of Tea Cardomom Cinnamon and Yogi Vanilla Hazlenut tea, some Theo Chocolate for DD#2, me, and the husband (we toured the factory in Seattle this summer), and a few other sundries. I found everything on my list and then some. 

DD#2's only request was that we hit a few thrift stores in Missoula. At the first one, she found a sweater and I scored an LL Bean barn coat. The barn coat is perfect for when I need something to throw on to go out to the chicken coop or garden. I was thrilled. Rose also picked up a few things. We went to the Goodwill store and then decided it was time for lunch at El Diablo, a little Mexican place by the University of Montana that makes wonderful tacos and burritos and will make them "naked" (gluten free) if you want. 

We dropped Rose off after lunch and DD#2 and I headed for another part of Missoula for a quick stop at Barnes and Noble before heading home. The husband wanted a book which I was able to find for him. DD#2 shares my love of coffee and we are horrible enablers of each other's coffee habits, so we each got something at Starbucks before packing it up at 2 p.m. and driving north.

The last stop of the day was the Amish grocery store in St. Ignatius. The place was packed. The husband had instructed me to get another hunk of Lebanon bologna (seven pounds' worth) and some chocolate-covered espresso beans (DD#2's coffee addiction is not solely my responsibility). I also got him some candied jalapenos. 

All in all, it was a very productive trip. We had a wonderful visit with Rosemary, I caught up on what was happening with DD#2, and I came home much refreshed and ready to do battle with my job again tomorrow. 

And now I am off to cook something in my new stainless. Maybe some chicken paprikas. 


Race to the Bottom

Every time I think things have settled down at work, something else pops up, and yesterday's missive from the powers-that-be was most unwelcome. We were notified that our pay is being cut, effective next month. 

We have a two-tier pay structure at work. I am paid $0.08 per line (65 characters) for anything I type. One of my doctors is straight typing from start to finish in each report. My other doctor uses a template, which loads automatically with each sound file. There are places in the template where I have to add information, for which I am paid $0.08 a line, but there is also highlighted text which is already in place. I may have to add to or edit that information, but for the most part I don't have to do anything with it. It's referred to as "qualified text" and for that I am was paid $0.03 per line. 

The qualified text was a nice little bonus in my paycheck. Qualified text got me, at most, an additional $150 or so a month, but it made up for all the work I do for which I don't get paid, like verifying the spelling of doctor's names and looking up addresses. It made me feel valued by my employer (especially because when I was hired, the rate for qualified text was $0.025 per line and we all got a raise to $0.03 cpl mid-year). 

The note from our new management yesterday was quite negative and punitive. It basically stated that "things have changed for those of you who used to work for Company XYZ" and now we're going to be paid $0.01 per line of qualified text. It might not seem like much, but over the course of the year that's an additional $1000 or so that I won't be paid for doing the same amount of work. 

When I did the MT training course two years ago, a lot of people told me that MT work was going the way of the dodo. I stuck my fingers in my ears and refused to listen and trudged on. And I managed to find a Really Great Job after graduation, which I have now come to understand was a huge anomaly in the transcription industry. Those jobs don't exist anymore. They have been replaced by large MT companies which are in a race to provide transcription services to hospitals and physicians at the lowest rate possible. In yesterday's e-mail, the general manager noted that cutting the pay rate to $0.01 cpl for qualified text had enabled that company to retain some accounts they might otherwise have lost (I might also note that I doubt very much that management is taking a pay hit—I suspect that all of the cost savings are coming at the expense of MT pay). MT companies are losing accounts to firms who employ people in India. Think about that for a moment—your sensitive medical information is going overseas to someone whose first language is NOT English. They are also losing work to hospitals which insist that all their doctors—most of whom are now hospital employees—use electronic medical record (EMR) software to compile the narrative of the patient visit instead of dictating it and sending it to an MT. A lot of doctors dislike EMR intensely, but they aren't the ones calling the shots; the hospitals are. Oh, and thanks to Obamacare, which includes an EMR mandate, use of EMR software is only going to become more prevalent. 

So now we're in a race to the bottom to see which MT companies can pay the least amount of money and still retain employees here in the US. A well-respected MT I know has said that she thinks that by then end of 2014, there will be so few medical transcriptionists left in the US that one of two things will happen: 1) Pay wil rise in order to attract people back into the industry or 2) Everything will be done by MTs in India or via EMR software. It's a great example of how the free market works, on a rather grand scale thanks to globalization. I don't have to like it, but my choices at this point are either to agree to continue to accept less and less pay for doing the same amount of skilled work that I do or to look for something else. I have a problem with that first part. I find it insulting to be told, basically, "Take this pay cut or don't expect to have a job." And if they cut our pay for qualified text, what on earth will keep them from cutting it for regular text? I will stay where I am for the moment, but you had better believe that I am looking for something where I am not treated like slave labor. This information in my head—and what I do with it—is valuable. I have a role in the free market, too. 

[I have to say that it is also rather demoralizing to be sitting at the tire store waiting for them to swap out my regular tires for my snow tires and have to listen to a conversation between two men, one of whom is a truck driver in Alaska—most likely with a high-school level education—making well north of $200,000 a year. Why is it that his skills are valued and mine aren't?]


How Many Bugs Have I Eaten?

When we were making applesauce last week and talking about our gardens, I commented that I thought I should do a blog post about how many bugs I ate this summer. I kind of forgot about it until last night. I was washing lettuce that I had just picked from the garden, and I noticed that some of the leaves had what looked suspiciously like baby slugs all over them. They did not wash off, so I picked over all the lettuce and those leaves went to the chickens. 

I don't go around looking for bugs to eat, but I also understand that I am eating things that were grown outside, where bugs live. It is inevitable that I would have unwittingly ingested a bug or two (or five or six). I try not to get freaked out about it. As the husband says, it's just extra protein. But I won't be eating any chocolate-covered ants any time soon. 

The turkey is looking for some bugs, preferably sauteed in olive oil with a dash of balsamic vinegar and served on a plate. On the porch.

I am really pleased with how much better my shoulder is feeling. I was even able to knit while we watched the AMC series Hell on Wheels on Netflix last night. It's nice to be enjoying evenings with the husband in front of the fireplace. And slowly but surely, I am getting all the summer's accumulation of dirt out of the house.