Mar 31 2010

it’s a chick thing

I live with two men, a male dog and four cats, one of whom is male. So I am pretty much outnumbered. And I deal with it just fine most of the time.

There is a lot of sports. A lot. As in, there is always a television (or even 2 or 3) tuned in to a game of some sort or another. Always. If my husband is home, there is sports. Even if he is lying there, eyes closed, and snoring (which in my mind means he is asleep), there is sports. But if I try to sneak in and change the station, or turn it off, he wakes up and says, “What’s the score?” Seriously.

I don’t mind, really. It actually works out okay for me because then I have time to do the things I like. Artsy things. Writing. Reading. Knitting. Gardening. Folding laundry. (It’s still better than football).

But my house is small, so in the background, always: sports. I know things about sports because of this. Player’s names. (Best one ever: Jerricho Cotchery.) Player’s scandals. (I get a little tired of these.) Johnny Damon (Have you seen Johnny Damon?) Rules of the game. (Still learning, but sometimes I even surprise myself.) It is amazing what you pick up when you’re not really listening. Audio osmosis.

But recently, there’s a new thing that kind of threw me for a loop. My husband, the jock, has suddenly started watching…Gossip Girl. Oh yes, you read that correctly. And he giggles (yes giggles!) while watching it. He actually stays up past his bedtime when it’s on. And he keeps inviting me to come and watch it with him. (I’ve tried, but I just can’t. It’s that bad.)

Should I be worried? Is he finally getting in touch with his inner “sensitive-new-age-guy?”

I’ve checked his forehead, no fever. I’ve teased him about it, to no avail. Even his 25-year-old daughter thinks it a little, well, odd.


I kind of like it when he giggles.

Mar 29 2010

if i were…

keeping my eye on the sky, i’d look like this:

if i were playing along with julochka and debi, i’d look like this…

if i were a month i’d be october, full of light,
if i were a day i’d be friday night in front of the fire,
if i were a time of day i’d be midnight,
if i were a font i’d be handwritten,
if i were a sea animal i’d be a dolphin,
if i were a direction i’d be north and teach you to find me at night,
if i were a piece of furniture i’d be a strong chair to sit in,
if i were a liquid i’d be tea,
if i were a gemstone i’d be lapis lazuli,
if i were a tree i’d be a willow swaying in the breeze,
if i were a tool i’d be my grandfather’s wrench,
if i were a flower i’d be monkshood,
if i were an element of weather i’d be a soft misty rain,
if i were a musical instrument i’d be a harmonica played by dylan,
if i were a color i’d be periwinkle,
if i were an emotion i’d be longing,
if i were a fruit i’d be a blackberrry,
if i were a sound i’d be a swallow’s chirp,
if i were an element i’d be copper, like my hair,
if i were a car i’d be a 1967 chevrolet impala,
if i were a food i’d be, without question, chocolate
if i were a place i’d be the adirondack mountains,
if i were material i’d be wool,
if i were a taste i’d be cinnamon,
if i were a scent i’d be sandalwood rose,
if i were a body part i’d be a foot,
if i were a song i’d be mr. tambourine man,
if i were a bird i’d be a hawk and fly myself like a kite,
if i were a gift i’d be a handmade sweater,
if i were a city i’d be seattle,
if i were a door i’d be french and frame a pretty garden,
if i were a pair of shoes i’d be sexy but comfortable,
if i were a poem i would never, ever tell you
the meaning behind the words.

Mar 27 2010

morning tea:
some reflections

I have a love/hate relationship with our health care system. And since it seems to be on everyone’s mind these days, this morning I was doing a little reflecting…

About six years ago I got sick. It turned out to be something that could be fixed. And for that, I love our health care system. Technology has made it so that we can fix things, repair things, replace things, in ways we almost never imagined possible.

But here’s what happened to me along the way…I’ll try to keep this short, but it’s a long story.

I was 41 at the time. The first thing I noticed was that I couldn’t make my normal run around my block. I couldn’t breathe, and if I finished, I got tunnel vision and felt like I was going to pass out. And then I would be extremely exhausted. (Usually I’m energized.)

Then I noticed that I got out of breath after climbing a short flight of stairs. And I was dizzy a lot. Nauseous. About half the time I ended up back in bed. And I should add that I take pretty good care of myself in general, eat fairly healthy, exercise regularly, etc. So there wasn’t any obvious reason for the way I was feeling.

I went to the doctor. I could tell right away she didn’t take me very seriously. My blood pressure, usually quite low, was higher, but still within normal, so that was dismissed. “Do you drink enough water?” was one of the first questions she asked me.  She started with blood work: normal. And then she decided it must be acid reflux disease. She gave me a prescription, although I insisted that wasn’t the problem. No results. I was tested for asthma. Normal.

At one point, after several more fruitless tests and visits, I was asked by my doctor, “Do you think you’re just getting older?” Seriously? You’re telling me that in one year’s time I have aged so much that, at 41, I can no longer run around the block?

Around this time I started looking on the internet. Which can be a big mistake, because you suddenly find that you might have every horrible disease known to man. However, in my case, I figured out my problem. Sort of.

When I punched in all my symptoms, the thing that kept coming up was kidney failure. I mentioned this to my doctor. She instantly waved it aside, saying that would have shown up in my blood work. Instead, she ordered a full heart workup that included being injected with something nuclear, yes, nuclear, and then a scan that created a three dimensional image of my heart. I can only imagine how much that cost. They put me on a treadmill to stress my heart, only they finally had to tell me to stop running because nothing was happening. Because there was nothing wrong with my heart. Every test came back normal. They put me on beta blockers anyway. After that, I was tested for multiple sclerosis. Normal.

At around this time, my doctor, clearly stumped, told me to just keep looking on the internet. She actually said that. She also said that sometimes weird things like this happen and they just get better on their own. She then scheduled an upper endoscopy, as she clearly still thought I had acid reflux. I called the day before the procedure and told her I didn’t want to do it because I was sure it wasn’t reflux. After a little back and forth, I let her convince me to go through with it. I went. It was normal.

But the doctor that performed it said he wanted to check my gall bladder, just in case, and scheduled an ultrasound. I knew it wasn’t gall bladder either, but, desperate, went through with it anyway. During the ultrasound, the technician said something to the effect of: “Are you having any problems with your kidneys?”

I just looked at her, and she said, “Your right kidney is huge.”

At this point I almost jumped up off the table and hugged her. She couldn’t tell me any more, but when the doctor called with the results, I actually said, “I can’t tell you how happy that makes me!” Long pause. I said, “Oops, that didn’t sound right, but I am just so happy that someone finally figured out what is wrong with me.”

One of my ureters was being blocked by a blood vessel (apparently that IS a getting older thing) and my kidney couldn’t drain properly. It was blowing up like a balloon. The more tea (or other fluids) I drank, the larger my kidney got and the worse I felt. I never made the connection. I thought drinking lots of fluids was good for you.

So, to end this saga, I had laparoscopic surgery that fixed my problem. I was down and out for a couple of weeks. Apparently, if that method hadn’t recently been developed, I would have had an incision going all around my torso, and they would have had to cut through my ribs. And I would have been down and out for 4-6 months.

So, you can see why I have the love/hate thing. There are so many miraculous things they can do these days: fix kidneys, replace knees and hips, repair bad eyesight, and even, finally, come up with a pill that cures migraines (my favorite besides the kidney thing.)

But first, they have to stop and figure out the problem. And that means taking the time to listen, really listen. I can’t imagine how much all those tests cost. But I know how many unnecessary pills I took. How many hours I wasted in doctor’s offices. If my doctor had just paused when I said “kidney failure,” if she had just investigated further, maybe all of that could have been avoided.

Yet I’m grateful, so grateful, that they were able to fix what ailed me. In many ways, that experience changed my life in a positive manner. I appreciate my life, my health, so much more now.

And I have a new doctor. But even though I really like her, I simply hate going to see her. For anything. I put it off unless it is an emergency. I have lost my faith in the system.

But not the technology.

And that’s a sad, sad state of affairs.

Mar 25 2010

block party?

This was originally going to be titled “mrs. mediocrity takes a stroll.” Well, hopefully something better than that, but it wasn’t going to be called block party.

Yesterday was sunny and beautiful, so after I finished work I decided to take my man’s best friend for a stroll. I was planning to take a nice walk, snap a few photos, perhaps show you my neighborhood. Well I’m still going to do that in a way, but as the saying goes, it ain’t pretty.

I live in a rural area, and a walk around my block is four miles long. There are quite a few houses, but a lot of it is farm fields. Wide open spaces. I like that. Things started off just fine, the sun was low in the sky, it was 55 balmy degrees, and little signs of spring were everywhere. And then about 30 yards from my house, this:

And then another, and another, and another. I stopped counting after 47. In front of my favorite spot, a small pasture that reminds me of something you would see in England, there they were, scattered everywhere:

And then in front of my beautiful swamp, just down the road from my house, more, everywhere:

When I saw the first few, I figured it was probably kids…partying and being crazy. But clearly, this is so much more.

Now I am not trying to take the moral high ground here, Okay, I am, about the littering, that’s just wrong. But not the drinking.
Okay maybe a little about the drinking.

Now I like my wine as much as the next girl, so I can’t get too high on my horse about that part. But…seriously? Is this person drinking/chugging one of these things on the way home every night and then tossing it out the window? While driving?

The whole thing just made me sad. And angry. And then sad some more. I was sad to see my road, my swamp, my block, littered like that. Mad to see it that way. Sad again when I thought about whoever is doing it.

Who is this poor soul guzzling a bottle of whiskey on their way to and/or from home on such a regular basis? Where do they live? And why can’t they find somewhere better to toss the evidence? I don’t want to be mean, it was really, really sad on so many levels. But after a while, it began to border on the absurd, the surreal.

So, instead of feeling calm and relaxed after a nice long walk, I felt disillusioned, disheartened, disturbed. And my pretty post about my walk around the neighborhood ended up littered with someone else’s dysfunction.

Well, maybe they need someone to listen. Or pay attention. Or notice them. Maybe they need someone to care. Even if I knew who it was, what would I do? What could I do?

Help is what they need, more than anything.

And more than anything, I hope they find it.

Mar 23 2010

the more things change,
the more they stay the same

On Sunday I went antiquing with a friend. (Well, I couldn’t vacuum, so I had to find something to do…) I came across a newspaper called The American Woman from 1909. Over one hundred years old! I was drawn to it because it had an illustration of a Gibson-style girl on the front with swallows flying around her head, and I love swallows. It looked all sweet and nostalgic…

It is amazing to hold a newspaper in your hands that is so old, newsprint seems so fragile, but obviously it has staying power. When I got home, I made a cup of tea and sat down to read it. Because I am a graphic artist, whenever I read the paper, even though I intend to focus on the news, I always end up looking at the ads. I go through the entire paper without reading an article. Well, it would have been no different if I lived a hundred year ago.

And apparently that is true of a whole bunch of things.

Women were concerned about having high-efficiency appliances…

They liked to spend their time being crafty….

They had trouble keeping their weight down…

They had a cure for what happens when your cordless vacuum breaks down…

And, well, all I can say about this one is… what was he planning to do, beat it out of you?

So when you think that you are all alone in your trials and tribulations, just remember, women everywhere, since the dawn of time, have been concerned with exactly the same issues.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and see if they still sell
that stuff for FITS…

Mar 21 2010

this sucks. or rather,
it doesn’t.

Apparently I’ve done something to anger the appliance gods.

I’ve already mentioned a few times that I have 4 cats. And a dog. Which also means that I have lots of hair. Lots. Really, seriously, lots. As in I can’t go anywhere without checking my butt first….

So, I vacuum a lot. Pretty much every day.

I have a big vacuum. It weighs about 200 pounds. Okay that’s an exaggeration, but it is heavy. It’s a model made specifically for pet hair, with this cute little attachment that gets the stuff off your couch, chairs, butt, etc. When I first got it, I loved it. And it does a really good job, but it’s heavy and cumbersome and loud and all the animals hate it. Still, I lug it out once a week and move the furniture in search of hair balls and let me tell you…they are everywhere. And it takes me about two hours to find them all.

I used to sweep every day in between, which, by the way, is not at all effective against hairballs. Because they just dance around the broom and laugh at you. It’s true. I’ve heard them.

Then, about a year and a half ago, I came across the latest, greatest thing: a cordless stick vac. Now if you are not yet at a certain age, you probably don’t understand what it is to get jumping-up-and- down excited about an appliance. But all I can say is… just wait. You will.

And I fell in love with this one. This appliance literally changed my life. It was love at first use. Oh yeah, I said that. This little baby can zip around the whole house in 15 minutes, it doesn’t break my back, and it works almost as well as the big monster. (Except for edges and corners.) And so, my love affair began… I’ve used it every day for a year and a half. Fifteen minutes to a cleaner house (in my “good enough” kind of way)… and swooning I was, swooning.

I still get the big monster out once a week. Last Sunday, just as I was finishing up, I started to smell burning rubber. It was bad. And then, right there before my eyes, the monster ceased to function. I cursed, took it apart, couldn’t see a problem, tried again, cursed some more. Nothing. Except burning rubber.

I said, “Okay, Mr. M., time for a new vacuum.” Thinking I could tide myself over with my little friend until I get a new one. But then it happened. Yesterday, sniff, sniff… my favorite appliance of all time stopped working as well. Again, took it apart. Again, nothing. My heart…er, hoover, is broken.

Stellaaaaaa! I mean, Hooverrrrrrr!

And this is the part where I also have to mention that in between the Death of Two Vacuum Cleaners, three light bulbs blew, my ipod stopped working, and now my thermostat is on the fritz.

What is going on around here? What have I done to so anger the appliance gods? I treated them with kindness. I charge the batteries religiously. I clean the filters. I put them away after every use. Oh, what have I done?

I’m not sure, but as my mom would say, (and pardon my French):

“That’s enough to piss off the Good Humor man.”

Mar 19 2010

just this

If you’ve never stared off in the distance,

then your life is a shame…

Adam Duritz, Counting Crows

Mar 17 2010

running it out

When my son was young and in school and played sports, there were, of course, times when he got hurt. Hit by a baseball, a too-hard tackle.

Always, the coach’s response would end with this: “Run it out.”

And then there would be a little trot down the field and back, and it was over. The hurt was gone. Well okay, probably not gone, but we all understood that we should act as if it were. The message behind the phrase was: Get over it. Move on. Stay in the game.

My husband, being very good at sports, has perfected the art of running it out. He will get up and run ten miles without a second thought. Even if he hasn’t run in months. Even when it is 20 degrees outside and windy and he will come back looking like this:

He didn’t feel that icicle while he was running, didn’t realize it had grown down his face. He was focused on one thing: getting there.

Because the alternative is staying where you are, standing still and crying, giving up.

Or the only thing that would be worse: running in circles. Caught in the same cycle, over and over. Wallowing.

I tend to over-think things, especially emotions. When I am hurt, injured, off my game, physically or emotionally, I can get stuck there, circling around inside that negative place for far too long. Trapped.

I’m learning though, to run it out myself. Straight past whatever is bothering me. Through it to the other side.

A good run, at the very least, helps me shed all my stress. Oh, it will still be there when I am done, waiting at the finish line to grab my hand. But sometimes I walk right past it. Pretend it isn’t there.

Sometimes I forget all about it.

And that is enough to keep me moving.


Mar 15 2010

the early bird
can have the worm

From what I can tell, there are two kinds of people. Early birds and night owls.

I myself am a night owl, which is why this post comes now, just after they (yes, the giant proverbial “they”) crept into my room at midnight and took back an hour of my sleep. Well, I didn’t want to give it back. I put it in the sleep bank last October, and that is precisely where I wanted it to stay.

Okay, I know am being a big baby. But I really hate having my sleep messed with (just ask my cats). I don’t know if it’s because menopause is looming over my left shoulder, or if I am just a naturally light sleeper, but these days it is hard for me to get a good night’s sleep. And one of the things I have learned is that if I follow a strict schedule and get to bed by a certain time every night then the whole sleep thing works better for me. But twice a year “they” mess with that schedule and I have to start all over again.

Oh, I’ll get over it, in a couple of weeks I’ll forget all about it and go back to my usual habits, which means going to bed around midnight and getting up at six thirty or seven. Given my druthers, I would actually stay up even later, but I know I have to get out of bed and work in the morning so I’ve settled for midnight.

My husband is just the opposite, he is a perky early bird who wakes up bubbly at three a.m. and goes to bed around eight every night. We have learned over the years to adjust to our unsynchronized sleep patterns… I know that I will have several hours to myself every evening, and he knows not to talk to me until I’ve had at least two cups of tea in the morning.

He also takes a lot of naps. I never nap, because then I have to start all over with the waking up part, and I’m really, really grouchy, and it just isn’t worth it. Our internal clocks are different… early to bed and early to rise seems to be the way my husband’s is naturally set. And because of this, I guess he gets a lot of worms.

But you know, that’s okay, because I don’t like worms.
(actually, I’m terrified of them, but that will be a different post…)

And I prefer to stay up late and spend my time knocking around in the dark, hunting for something that is never quite there.

I can’t help it, that’s just the way I am.

(The owl I managed to insert into my photo above is from The Graphics Fairy)

Mar 13 2010

patience is a virtue

Just the other day I took this photo of an oakleaf hydrangea that grows in my garden. It looks like autumn, when really we are just a week away from the first day of spring.

This plant likes to take its time emerging from winter. In fact, the year after I planted it, I thought it had not survived the cold weather. But I was glad that I didn’t pull it up and throw it in the trash heap, because weeks later it emerged from its long winter nap and joined the party of green in full swing all around it.

One of the things I like best about gardening is that it teaches you patience. As a requirement.

Not one of my best traits, in general. The world we live in these days is so fast-paced, we don’t like to wait, we want everything now, instantaneously. We are getting used to things working that way. I would love to wake up one morning and see all my flowers full-size, in bloom, and well tended.

But nature doesn’t work that way. It takes its own sweet time, it doesn’t care, really, what we humans have to say about it. And it likes to surprise us, with its ever changing litany of rage and fury and smiles and cheer and days of weeping and quite a bit of just plain gray.

We can’t predict the weather.

We can’t take it for granted. We can’t make it go away, or hurry up, or stop and stand still, or be what we want when we want it.

There’s a lesson in there.