Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Diets, Doctors and the Box in the Basement



I’ve had the same internist for almost fifteen years. He’s a skinny-mini and I’m pretty sure I could bench-press him if I was so inclined. He’s got a new computer program and he showed me a flow chart that tracked the ups and downs of my weight through the years that I’ve been going to him. Up three pounds over this past six months, down the six months before. Ya, that’s my pattern. Got the message, doc. Accountability. I tried playing the jokester during this weight conversation. It usually works with him but this time he didn’t see any humor in me saying that I was on the Trump Stress Diet, eating everything in sight that isn’t nailed to the wall. He replied, “Well, you’d better find a different way to deal with your stress because he isn’t going anywhere.” What did I expect him to say? “Here’s some coupons for Cold Stone ice cream,” would have been nice, “go get your sugar buzz on.” 

My thyroid test numbers are wacked out again. We’re going to lower my dosage which, hopefully, will make it easier for me to sleep but won’t throw me back into a chronic hives cycle. I’m allergic to myself. If he had a flow chart on my thyroid and hive history overlapping it would show that I’m almost due for another five-six months bout of daily hives. A few years ago an autoimmune specialist finally concluded that thyroid antibodies have been causing the chronic hives off and on since I was a baby, but what’s new now is there is an infusion available to stop the hives in their track, if you can get the insurance company to cover it and a doctor to order it. But which doctor? The autoimmune specialist who takes four months to get into see? The internist who seems to be letting too many things fall through the cracks lately? Or the allergy doctor who would refer me back to one of the previously mentioned doctors but only after a few months of loading me up with useless tests and pills? I don’t know what was going on with my internist this week, he sure wasn’t his usual self. But then in the wake of what’s going on in the world, are any of us our usual selves?

I should be cleaning my house right now instead of hanging out at the computer. Ya, you read that right. I’m cleaning before my cleaner cleans. Actually, it’s more like picking up stuff and putting it where it belongs. I have a habit of littering the house with shoes and putting papers that need filing on top of the filing cabinet instead of inside it and I leave clean clothes hang in the laundry room too long. I don’t want to fest up to how messy my kitchen table/desk top looks the day before my cleaning service shows up. It’s embarrassing. I also go through the house and pick up temptations like my cell phone, iPod, house keys, jewelry, sensitive mail, my purse, medications, etc. and I put them in the car. Then I’ll have to pick up all the dog’s toys. Right now his tiger is trying to suck the dust out from under the stove and his squirrel is trying to figure out how to get outside the door he’s been stalking.

Have you heard of the Million Letters Campaign? Andrew Carroll, an author and the director of the Center for American War Letters will be in town later this month and is giving a presentation at the senior hall. We’re being encouraged to bring in letters we have that were written from war zones to donate to the campaign and I have a huge box full in the basement from the Vietnam era. And that presents a dilemma for me. Is it time to let go of those letters? If so, what do I do with the carbon paper copies of the letters I wrote to the guys on my penpal list? Am I really ready to give up on the idea that I’d like to write my own book on that era of my life? I have four choices, I think: 1) Hand them over minus mine; 2) Keep them all but put the contact information for the Center for American War Letters on top with instructions if I’m died, please mail this box to them; 3) get off my duff and write the book; and 4) do nothing under the illusion that I’m going to live forever and have plenty of time to decide later on. 

I suppose I could try reading some of letters and decide if there is any historical value in letters written back and forth between strangers. I don’t remember them being filled with any Red Badge of Courage-like stories. I remember them as being from young guys eager to hear from a college girl. Guys eager to get perfumed letters that got them teased by the others at mail call. I remember crushes. I don’t remember there being much talk about the topics the Center’s website says the letters they collect show: "---love, humor, faith, death, homesickness, grief, anger, courage, peace, human resilience, camaraderie, reconciliation, patriotism and historical events.” But it’s been decades since I’ve read those letters so my memory might be selective. Do you think it’s time to let go? What would you do? I’ve only got fourteen days to decide. ©

42 comments:

  1. I wouldn't think about sending in my personal letters from friends and family during the Vietnam era. It's just me, but that's just too personal.

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    1. I thought about the privacy of the letter writers but what I gather is I'm the legal owner of them so I'd have the right to release them to the Center. I don't remember there being a lot of personal stuff, not like family would write back and forth. I've read books of letters from other wars and I do believe in preserving things like that and these almost 50 years old. I have some my husband wrote from basic training to his folks but he wasn't in a war zone so so they aren't interested in those.

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  2. hives that much? Yikes! But does 'infusion' mean 'biologic'...? Those scare the crap out of me. Usually the potential side effects are more deadly then what they are prescribed for. :(

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    1. I get infusions for my bones with no problems and I was really nervous the first time. I've talked to a nurse that does them for hives and she said she's never seen anyone react negatively to those. It's just a more direct way to deliver medications. And trust me, if you have chronic hives you'd do anything to get rid of them.

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  3. The cartoon at the top of your post is so true! I have a family get-together coming up, and desparately want to lose weight before that - damn difficult!!

    I'm really impressed at your thoroughness, in "pre-cleaning" the house. Its the correct thing to do (why put temptation in front of others). Plus it makes the house-cleaners task easier to properly vacuum an area clean. Btw, how's the house-cleaner's baby situation working out?

    I hate throwing out letters. I kept letters from my husband (he was posted overseas for a time) for a long time. Just recently, I looked at the beribboned bundle, and before I could re-think, I tore them up, double-bagged them and threw them. I didn't want anyone else reading them.

    I feel my mortality close enough at times that I know what I can, and cannot, do in the remaining time left to me. A masterpiece is definitely not on that list! Then remember people in their 80s who have written bestsellers, become famous painters, etc. So, you go, girl! ~ Libby

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    1. We touched on the topic of the girl's baby really briefly. She's feeling the desire to have a baby but the timing isn't right for her. I told her he time will come. She's cut down her hours at the cleaning service and is babysitting to get face time with a couple of young kids. She seems to be doing well.

      I think letters between spouses would be more personal than mine. I want to be sure I won't regret whatever decision I make. I hope you don't.

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  4. I've been dealing with a hives outbreak for 13 days now. A nurse friend suggested a thyroid test and the bloodwork came back within normal limits (.67).Yesterday hives were gone, woke up covered again this morning. I've had stress hives before with my husband's medical problems, but nothing like this. Everyone seems to be at a loss. Primary care just wants to give more steroids, which only seem to change the welts to teeny dots. Do I request the allergist referral or the dermatology referral, or just quietly (maybe not so quietly) go crazy! Anyway, after reading today, I know I'm not crazy! As far as the letters, I would read them and make copies for myself, or keep the originals and send them the copies. But, that's just me.

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    1. I don't think the medical community really understands how awful it is to get hives (Urticaria). You want to crawl out of your skin. I've seen allergy doctors, dermatologists, internists and an autoimmune specialist. I've been on tons of antihistamines but a steroid only a couple of times. I've had doctors try to relate my hives with stress but, for me, I think that's bull because I didn't have them during or after the most stressful times in my life. Just getting the hives stresses you out! My allergist (and the Mayo Clinic website) thinks it takes a combination of drugs to turn off the hives, once they start. Have you found the message board for people with hives? It won't cure you but it helps make you not feel so alone. https://www.dailystrength.org/group/hives Lots of personal stories and what people have tried.

      Thanks for weighting on the letters.

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  5. I have a good friend with the same chronic hives as you've had. She just got the injection, but it must take awhile to get in your system, as she still had the problem the next day.

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    1. I hope you'll come back and update me on how/if it works. Do you mean an injection at the doctor's office or an infusion that you have to get done at an infusion center where it takes a half hour? The infusion is new to me and I've never talked to anyone whose had it. An injection in the office is probably a steroid. Not sure what's in the infusion.

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  6. I heard the word "infusion" for the first time last week. A counter clerk at a local ship's chandlery was going in to get her regular infusion for bone density. I don't know any details, but she did mention she's had several without any side effects, and that it takes about a half hour to forty-five minutes. Thus endeth my contribution to that topic.

    Oh, weight. Up and down and down a bit more and then up. There is no mystery to this for me. If I stop eating sweets, in between meals, and late at night, it should be just fine. Well, we'll see. My goal is ten pounds off in October. Two down, eight to go.

    As for the letters? My solution has been to keep a few and let the rest go. Likewise for family photos. Of course, I think it's different for me, since I'm quite literally the end of the family line. There won't be any kids or grandkids to pass things on to, and there aren't even any cousins who'll care. I only have three, and they're just not interested. So: some of my mom's things, like her oval-framed photo and hand-crocheted baptismal dress are going to the museum in her home town. My dad's stamp collection is being doled out a bit at a time to other collectors. And those letters? A few between my dad and his brother in the Pacific, or my letters from camp? Eventually, I think I'll just throw them away myself, rather than leaving it to someone to throw them away after I'm gone. If they're going to get tossed, I want to be the one to do it.

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    1. Ten pounds in a month---you go girl! This is actually a good time of the year to diet because you're in control over the holidays and easier to resist all the extra stuff around. I need to take my own tip to heart.

      I donated some stuff to small town museums. It's satisfying. Letters from camp? I love that and if they were mine I would probably plan a blog around them, adding research and photos of the camp.

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  7. Only had hives once and can not imagine having them every day. They drove me up the wall with itching. What ever it takes, get rid of them, do it.
    I think solution 2 is a winner.

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    1. Option #2 is my favorite. I'm getting very good at labeling things and I have two nieces who I know will respect my wishes. I do give them and my nephews things now that I know they'd like.

      I itch just thinking about getting the hives. I've even had the inside my ears!

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  8. I actually got my teenage weight back just through getting back to regular exercise. I wish you all the best!

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    1. I'd be thrilled if I could do that, even though I was a bit overweight back then, too. I agree exercise helps but I get so bored with it.

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  9. My friend got a shot in each arm two days ago., but has had the hives since. I believe it was Xolair or something like that....no infusion. Is there an infusion?

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    1. Xolair is a newer drug for hives and I've never had it. Her other shot was probably a steroid or anti-inflammatory. It's often a trial and error to get them to stop and often times the wind down, not stop suddenly. I don't really know a lot about the infusion for hives but I think it's only given when there is a long documented autoimmune cause for the urticaria. Not everyone with hives is going to be a candidate.

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    2. My friend did indeed get a shot (not infusion) and it was Xolair. One shot in each arm and she has to carry two epipens (sp) with her in case of a bad reaction. She got this shot last Wed and has still had hive outbreaks. So she resorts to predinzone to stop them. Her Dr. told her the Xolair can take up to two months to kick in. She does take thyroid meds and has upped the dose, but to no avail. She is really having a hard time. She has had them a couple of times in years past sometimes lasting 6 months. Hope yours aren't this bad.

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    3. Yes, mine are as bad if not worse. I've had them over my entire body and so badly distorting my face I couldn't go out. Two months is a long time but not unusual based on my experiences with other hive treatments. They dwindle off, not stop quickly. I hope she didn't change her thyroid dosage on her own! Get her some Angel Mine (a Dollar Tree brand) baby oil gel with lavender and chamocmile. It's not a cure but it gave me relief from the itching for about a half hour which is a blessing, trust me.

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    4. No the Dr. changed her dose as she supposedly has Hashimotos syndrome.
      Thanks for the baby oil tip!

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  10. I think I would make copies of the letters and give them the copies--and I would keep the letters until I was sure I wanted to get rid of them. Maybe that's why I have so much stuff. :) BL

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    1. I'm a saver, too. And sentimental about too much. They will take copes, though so that's a thought. Thanks for weighing in.

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  11. I'm definitely for option 1. I think handing the letters to someone who values them and will respect them is great. So many people have a hard time thinking about getting rid of their stuff, not so much because they don't want to part with it but because they would like to see it go to someone who appreciates it for what it is.
    You could keep copies for yourself, if you really thought that a book was in your future! Otherwise I think you are doing a service to the people who will see them and appreciate their content.
    I am someone who was handed all the letters that I wrote to my mother when I was travelling in Europe in the early seventies and impulsively I burned them all without a glance. I never regretted that decision!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. Option one is getting the seems to be the front runner in my straw poll. I think I need to read a few before I decide. I don't remember them being easy to copy because of the airplane paper and fading ink.

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    2. I mean airmail paper...thin as onion skin.

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  12. I love your post header image. It's so true! I think back over the years, and I realize that I have never really been happy with my body image. Ever. And I've been every single size from 0-20. And found serious fault with every stop on the continuum. It's sad and stressful. It's to the point where I don't recognize my own reflection or my image in photos. I'm such a project, I know.

    It's so difficult to know what to do about some possessions, especially if it's gotten to the point where you need to ask, "Do I own this, or does this own me?" If it were me, I'd grab a few from various areas of the box (top, middle, bottom), and read. If you see real value or feel real emotion, then they're Keepers. If you are unmoved, take them out and get rid of them immediately.

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    1. I remember once looking in a mirror and wondering who is that person. I truly didn't recognize myself. That was years ago or I'd wonder if senility was sinking in. LOL

      I love how methodical some people like you are about deciding what to do with stuff you've kept for decades. I don't really feel like anything I have owns me but I occasionally do fantasize about what it would be like to live a sterile life (like a monk) with few possessions. I really don't think I'd like it.

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  13. I have kept the letters sent to me over the decades, but I honestly don't know why I've done that. The letters from my mother are critical and insulting. I do have letters that I received from my first mother-in-law that are humorous, informative and loving. Nevertheless I don't reread any of them. So why keep them? Perhaps I thought my son would want them, but I know in my heart that he doesn't. None of these letters have any profound thoughts or great description, but maybe I'm just too lazy to do anything with them -- even throwing them in the trash.

    I have no experience with hives except when I was about fourteen and going through mononucleosis. My mother thought I was just being lazy, but I would get up and make my bed and be so worn out that I had to lie back down again. I had hives at that same time. The doctor said I had mono and was allergic to wheat products. Well, as soon as the mono was treated, the hives went away and I have eaten wheat products the rest of my life without reaction.

    Obviously with the release of the Ken Burns documentary about Viet Nam someone is wanting to write a follow-up book to cash in on the nostalgia. What they don't seem to understand is that boys of 17 to 25 are not very philosophical and do not find it easy to share their feelings with anyone, even close friends. The letters they will receive will, I'm afraid, not fill the bill as far as the soul-searching thoughts they're looking for. Oh, they'll get a few, but not what they really want. Most of the guys I know who went over there wanted to get out as soon as possible. And they were as loathe to admit fear as were the World War I and II soldiers. A few might talk about drug or alcohol use, a few will write that so-and-so got killed or captured, but they are not going to share their innermost thoughts. My husband would talk about some of his successful feats when we first met, but it has not been until lately (32 years later) that he is talking about how the government and Westmoreland screwed them over and how horrible it was to kill men, women and children, either on purpose or accidentally. He was a sniper in Special Forces and mostly concentrated on important political targets. The war was terrible. While he was fighting the war, I was here in the States protesting the war. And yet we both have the same outlook about it -- it was all done for money and political advantage, never for the published reasons.

    As for the banner you used this blog -- it is unfortunate that most women are not comfortable with their physical appearance. Everywhere you turn you see articles about how we are too thin/too fat, too buxom/too flat-chested, our complexions are to wrinkled/too acned. We're never good enough. Luckily I don't buy into any of this anymore or I would be spending hundreds on supplements, makeups, plastic surgery... My daughter is great about all this, much better than I ever was.

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    1. No doubt the hives and your mono were connected. Glad they are both in your past!

      The Million letter campaign is not just about an author wanting to write a book. They are being archived by a college department to preserve them. I wouldn't even consider just giving to someone who wants to write a book. That would make him no different then me, keeping letters for that reason. But your third paragraph is right on target, I'm guessing. Most they collect will not be worth archived. Although, who knows how much life will chance in the future to make old letters interesting. Just the fact that we had to wait weeks to get answers to letters is something the text generation will marvel at.

      I don't know why you kept your letters but I keep things because they are part of my personal history and I have a hard time letting go things that helped make me me.

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  14. Your story about your thyroid brought up the story about my wife Mary Lou. She went to have an x-ray and after her doctor was worried about the results. He told her that the x-ray showed a black picture. Mary Lou laughed and told the doctor that she only had one thyroid. He had the x-ray done again and it did clarify that she only had one thyroid. I told my wife that was the reason why I married her. Ha,ha,ha.
    Your story about the Red Badge of Courage reminded about my high school. We read that book in grade 12. I've forgotten what the book was all about. As years go on we forget about it but I never forget the name.
    Have a great day Jean.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. My mom would have had the same black picture on a x-ray. Her thyroid was killed off with radiation. It's amazing the things people go through---medical-wise.

      Red Badge of Courage is about a teenager who joins the Union Army (Civil War) expecting a lot of glory but found something different. I tried to read it in the last couple of years because it's a classic that I didn't read back in high school like everyone else does/did. Couldn't get into it.

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  15. "On the Trump diet." Ha! That's a good one. Your doctor should let you off the hook for that one. I sure hope my doctor doesn't get that computer program. I don't want to see my fluctuations, thank you very much.

    I have some of those Vietnam era letters, too. I'm not sure I could donate them. I would probably opt for putting a note on the box as to where to send them.

    I can't imagine having hives for months. I would be one irritable witch.

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    1. It feels like I'm thinking about giving a way a piece of myself to give the letters away.

      I've lived in a bathtub full of oatmeal slurry with the hives.

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  16. My sister had her tonsils removed using radiation. Now she has to get her thyroid checked every year for cancer. Those radiation treatments also slowed down her height and caused her problems trying to get pregnant. I can't imagine hives or infusions. Infusion is like a transfusion, isn't it. Needle in the arm, connected to a bag and all that stuff.

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    1. I was scared of the infusion for my bones before I had my first one and yes, it's like getting a transfusion. I had mine at a center where at least 20 people were in a big room getting them for all kinds of things. Lazy-Boys, TV warm blankets. It's painless. Piece of cake, really.

      My mom had lots of trouble after the radiation treatment, too, but at the time (1940's) it was the way they stopped the thyroid storms that were endangering her life.

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  17. That surely was true for me when I was young, thinking I wasn’t thin enough when I really had a good figure. Part of my perception was probably the contrast I presented with my good friends who were usually tiny and petite, shorter than me, so I was big by comparison though only 5’6”.

    I have difficulty parting with many items, as you say, because they feel like I’m getting rid of part of me. Had thought I’d practice a suggestion I read somewhere to take pictures of items before parting with them as would be easier to divest myself of the item. Haven’t tried it yet.

    Do you give up content rights to those pen pal letters if you donate them? Since you’re in doubt about parting with the letters, donate copies, or affix note to box with where to send after you’re death, I guess.

    I had a touch of hives once, either from something new I ate, or a new gift body cream. I avoided both ever after. Hives weren’t as severe as some describe, but not pleasant. Have never received infusion, so can’t help on that.






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    1. I've written about taking pictures of stuff before giving or sell stuff. It does help. I've already gone through a major downsizing 16 years ago and smaller one 4 years ago.

      On the donation form to donate letters you can check a box to keep the copyrights or to give them up. It's a 2-3 page document that you fill out and they do take copies. Although, the shear volume of them and their age would make it a time consuming project to copy them. I'm hoping I already did that years ago and just don't remember, back when I started a book. When I have the time this weekend I'm going to open the box.

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  18. Let the letters go. What else would you do with them? And when you are gone, someone will just dump them in the garbage.

    As for picking up after oneself, you are fortunate to have a cleaning lady. I would love to have one but instead I have my hair colored. It's about the same cost. We are good at keeping things picked up and the house looks neat, but I know it needs to be cleaned better than we do.

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    1. We all have our priories, don't we. Coloring my hair would be way down the list from having two hours of house cleaning. LOL

      I've been going to estate sales my entire life and know that finding a pile of personal letters is not that unusual and someone always buys them...I've done it myself. Two of the people to inherit my estate are into antiques and history so I'm pretty sure letters from the '60s wouldn't get dumped and would be offered for sale. I'm going to the lecture about war letters tomorrow so I'll make my decision after that.

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  19. My doctor owered my thyroid levels a little way back. I am not too tired as such, but I am not as much of a night owl as I was and I have this afternoon period where if I dont get up and move, I might fall over.

    Just a thought, I am in the process of using my smart phone to photograph all of my family memorabilia and put it in the "cloud", could you do that with these letters?

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    1. My doctor doctor lower my synthroid medication too, said I might notice I'll sleep better. It's only been a few weeks so I'm not seeing much of a change. I'm more worried about the change causing weight gain and/or hives.

      Funny you should mention photographing family memorabilia, I've been thinking about doing that as a winter project. Putting the letters in the cloud might work, too. The lecture about war letters is tomorrow so I plan to talk to the guy then and see what he thinks if there is historical value in letters between strangers.

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