Friday, December 30, 2011

It's A Girl, It's A Girl, It's A Boy, It's A Girl, It's Almost 2012

As I write this, we have survived the celebration of four birthdays in the last week - my two girls, me, and Jesus. That is a lot of celebrating even when you do it all rather simply.

Our season of celebration began with the arrival of Offspring No. 1 from Chicago. She is home with us for three weeks. For me, this alone is reason to celebrate; she has not been home for an extended stay in a while. This being our first holiday season in “our home”, everything was new - starting with creating a space for Brooke when she got here. She is staying in our craft room, a room that is furnished with the bunk beds (no longer bunked) and book cases that were in her room as a child. The room itself is Weber’s childhood bedroom. So as I put fresh linens on the bed that I first made twenty years ago, he was watching the room that was his first man cave be transformed for a twenty-two year old woman. For different reasons, it was an odd feeling for both of us. We were all further transported back to childhood days when Brooke asked for, and we gave her, a Lite Brite for her birthday. I believe that she got her first Lite Brite for her third Christmas. The 2011 version of this perennial childhood favorite now sits on the desk in Weber’s room . . .no, the craft room . . .or is it Brooke’s room.

Once home, the first order of business for Brooke was a trip to the grocery store. The most pressings items on her list were those necessary to make Offspring No’ 2’s birthday cake, an Arnold Palmer Cake. This was a time consuming endeavor but resulted in a magnificent cake.

The first piece even came out clean and upright!

As an aside I must add here that Brooke and Weber went to Central Market without me. When I inquired to the success of their trip the response I got was, ‘we only spent ten percent of our total grocery bill on beer.” No, the beer had nothing to do with the impending birthday cake and everything to do with a holiday bonding experience for the two of them.

Erin, who was celebrating her nineteenth birthday, is a little more mature than her older sibling; no likes of Lite Brite for her. Also no ice cream for her birthday cake - unless she makes it herself with her new ice cream maker attachment for her Kitchen-Aide mixer.

We also had a nice celebration of Jesus’ birthday. The whole gang was at our house - both girls, one boyfriend, Mike (my ex) and his partner, Jason. (Maybe thats two boyfriends . . ) Anyway, we had all of our family together for food, gifts, games, and fun. It was great watching everyone open their gifts. Now that the girls are old enough to do their own shopping, there are more surprises on Christmas morning. The day was all that I had hoped for and more. And for those of you who are wondering, I was indeed stoned, but not grouted, for Christmas. Paul did get all of the stonework on the fireplace done and even put up a temporary mantel so we could hang our stockings!

Mine was the last of the birthdays. Though it was a “monumental” birthday, I did not want any overdone celebration. Weber, being a smart guy, honored my wishes. We had a nice family lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, Cotton Patch, nothing fancy. The feeding frenzy continued that evening with a pancake dinner with a couple of my knitting buddies. Brooke also made me a birthday cake - complete with a marzipan rose atop.

(She had us buy her some Play-doh presumably so that she could practice making the rose. Personally, I think it was all just a ploy to get some Play-doh. Remember, this is the 22 year old kid who wanted a Lite-Brite for her birthday!)

I also received many cards and text messages with birthday wishes from friends far and near. Turning 50 was not so bad. I am grateful for and blessed by all of my family and friends. who helped to make this a special birthday for me.

With all of the birthdays behind us, we are left with one last party - the ushering in of 2012. We will celebrate the dawning of the new year much like we did the beginning of the next year of each of our lives - with family, friends, food and fun. What better way to begin a new year?

May each of you be surrounded by those things that bring you joy in the year to come.

Monday, December 19, 2011

I'll Be Stoned For Christmas

Up until this moment, only a very few people know that one of the things on my bucket list is to get stoned. Well really, I just want to smoke pot. I’m not sure whether to be embarrassed by or proud of the fact that to this day, roughly one week shy of my fiftieth birthday, despite having spent nearly a decade on college campuses as a music major, I have never been stoned.

Now that it is about time for Santa Claus to come to town people are asking me what’s on my Christmas list. I am careful not confuse items on my Christmas list with those on my bucket list. I am also reminded of the song lyrics. “He sees you when your sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been good or bad.” And, I have learned that he also knows if you secretly desire to get stoned. It’s kind of creepy, but true. Imagine my surprise when Santa decided to grant my wishes a little before Christmas and left me this!

OK. So Santa was a little confused. Or maybe he knows that I am a nice girl and couldn’t possibly have meant that I wanted to do anything as naughty as to get stoned smoking pot.

So now what do I do with a pile of stones?

The truth is that these stones were on my Christmas wish list. One of the last big things to be done in our seemingly unending home remodeling project is to add stone facing to both the kitchen island and the fireplace. I am happy that this may be done before Christmas. Right now, we have no place to hang our stockings. I’m not worried about the fact that they may not be filled by the scary guy in the red suit but rather I was disappointed because I hand knit all of our stockings, finishing the last two this year, and there may be no place to display them. We have five days to remedy this situation; I have faith that indeed our stockings will be hung by the chimney with care ( not necessarily with any hope of St. Nick soon being there) come Christmas Eve. Paul, one of Santa’s lesser known elves, arrived early this morning to work on getting us stoned.

As always, he was supervised by Frankie, who thought the pan of mortar sort of resembled a large and poorly maintained litter box.

Adidas spent the day wondering why he gets in trouble when he forages in the litter box but Paul spent all day playing in it and nobody yelled at him and said he was gross.

By the end of the day, The entire island was stoned. (I was not not.) Tomorrow it will be grouted and the fireplace will get stoned. ( I will not.)

For now I will cross off nothing from my bucket list. I will be happy with our stoned island and fireplace and will find joy in simply being high on life.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

It is hard to believe that Thanksgiving and Black Friday are over and we have started the official countdown to Christmas.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving despite a few obstacles. It was perfect in that both girls were here with us. The obstacles were, in hindsight, minor - the kitchen is still not finished and Wednesday morning the dishwasher decided that it would cease to function properly and thus would be unavailable until addressed by a repairman on Monday. Neither of these things was enough to keep us from enjoying our time together.

Another thing that made it a great Thanksgiving, at least for me, is that I was responsible for very little of the actual meal preparation., I made one pie, the dressing, and green bean casserole for Erin; with these tasks completed, my cooking responsibilities were fulfilled. Weber smoked the turkey. Brooke did everything else! It sure is nice to have a kid in culinary school! She made roasted brussel sprouts, leek bread pudding, a cauliflower tart, bread, and two pies - and no mess! She has always been a pretty exceptional cook. It seems that greatest skill that culinary school has taught her how to clean up as she goes - quite a valuable skill considering our non-functional dishwasher and the somewhat compromised kitchen accommodations.

Weber and Brooke spent Wednesday morning grocery shopping. (I spent the day at the yarn shop knitting. Have I mentioned how great it is to have a kid who cooks?) Brooke had been planning her menu for some time. She then made her shopping list and checked it twice and off they went to conquer Central Market on one of the busiest grocery shopping days of the year.
Once home, she began cooking . . .and didn't stop for about twenty four hours.

Her sister thought that maybe she should have checked her list another time or two. Leeks and cauliflower? For real? There are mashed potatoes and green beans, right?
Even thought Erin did not want leeks or cauliflower, she, and the rest of us, managed to have more than enough to eat.

We let our meal settle for a few hours before having pie and then heading out at midnight to mark the beginning to our Christmas shopping season. Yes, we were some of the crazies who went to Target for their midnight opening. We weren't looking for anything in particular so the outing was one of low stress. (It was one of no stress for Weber; he was in bed by 11:30.) The rest of us had a fun time wandering around Target and people watching. There is probably a great sociology or economics dissertation in studying this kind of shopping environment.

We got home about two and all settled in for good night's sleep.

Still stuffed from the night before, the kids began the day with a game of Clue rather than breakfast. Having been left out of the previous day's feast, Frankie was not going to be left out of the game playing also.

About the time they had figured out that it was "Mr. Plum in the kitchen with poison," Paul arrived with the missing kitchen cabinets. Installing them took most of the afternoon. Frankie was not going to be left out of that process either.
Though it was a little weird, we had a fun holiday with much for which to be thankful.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Do you read the instruction manuals for all of your household items? If not, you should. Not necessarily because they may enlighten you on how to properly use whatever it is that they came with . . .though they might; but rather because they are often a great source of entertainment and hysterical laughter.

The following is from such a manual.

"11. Do not touch the parts that are not intended for manipulation."

I kid you not. Any guesses as to the product whose instructions offer such guidance?

HINT: It did not come in a discreetly marked box intended to protect us from embarrassing assumptions by the mailman.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Visiting Hours

How is it that two dogs, one neutered and one spayed, and two cats, also one neutered and one spayed, can spawn litters of offspring all over the house? And how can they do so at the same rate as rabbits? Oh, wait. those aren’t whole puppies and kittens; it is just huge balls of fur shed by the aforementioned spayed and neutered dogs and cats that have collected in every corner. What a relief. No more mouths to feed. Only vacuum cleaner bags to fill.

Looking around at the fur balls that occupied every corner when I got home from school Thursday night made me glad that I was not expecting any company that evening. It was not a pretty sight around here. This scenario made me start thinking about what night is a good not for unexpected guests.

Thursday is definitely not a good night. By Thursday night, a week’s worth of fur has collected all around the house as has a week’s layer of dust. The laundry basket is overflowing with a week’s worth of dirty work clothes (not that you would see this if you stopped by). My desk is covered with a week’s worth of papers to be graded. And, I am pretty tired and grouchy by this time of the week; that in and of itself makes Thursday night an undesirable time to visit.

Friday is cleaning day. So, on the surface, it is a much better day to visit than Thursday because the dirt is gone. However, don’t come by expecting dinner or even an after-school snack. By Friday, the only things in the refrigerator are leftovers. And, because I have spent the day cleaning, I am often grouchier and more tired than I was Thursday evening. Enough said.

Saturday is grocery shopping day. The leftovers from the previous week are replaced by many choices of fresh food. Sometimes we get distracted while we are ostensibly out grocery shopping and find ourselves embarking on other Saturday projects. Some of these projects cause there to be big boxes, or multiple pieces of unassembled objects such as bar stools and shelving, or rain barrels and decking to be strewn about from one end of the den to the other and sometimes beyond. This is just temporary clutter, but it makes for a less than welcoming environment for unsuspecting guests.

By Sunday, Saturday’s projects have been completed and any evidence of the previous day’s clutter and chaos has been erased. The gestation period of the next litter of puppies and kittens has just started and usually is not visible to the naked eye. We often eat out on Saturday evenings so the refrigerator is still well stocked. And sometime between Thursday evening and Sunday the laundry gets done. This is sounding like a good time to stop by. Oh wait, the school week starts the next day. we are busy grading those papers that have been sitting on the desk since Thursday or Friday and making sure the week’s lesson plans are in order. You can stop by anyway if you’d like. Make yourself at home and help yourself to whatever is in the fridge but try not to make too much noise. We are kind of busy.

Dinner on Monday evenings is usually pretty good. You are welcome to join us. Don’t trip over the backpacks right inside the door. And I promise that I will wash the dishes from the lunch boxes that are sitting on the counter when I do the dinner dishes. I’ll have all that done by 7:30 or so. That would be a good time to come by. There is usually hot coffee brewing by then too. If you are one of those people who doesn’t drink coffee at night, maybe you should stop by at another time. We don’t believe in decaf ...ever!

Tuesday and Wednesday nights are rehearsal and book study nights. If you time it right, you can join us for a quick dinner or a late night dessert and cup of coffee. Remember, no decaf! I suspect the litters of puppies and kittens are noticeable at this point, but we aren’t home long enough to be aware of them. This is probably a good thing because if I noticed them, I would feel obligated to do something about them right then which would require staying up even later than usual which would in turn necessitate more coffee. Now you know why we don’t believe in decaf.

Wow! . . .we are already back to Thursday and it all starts over.

The moral of the story . . .we are always willing to extend hospitality to anyone who wants to come visit. And, we will always offer the very best that we can to our guests Just keep in mind that the specific details of this agreement are subject to change without notice.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Birthday Boy

Today is my four-legged boy’s seventh birthday.

"The Birthday Boy"

"The Birthday Boy almost 7 years ago"

If you subscribe to the belief that a dog year is roughly seven human years, then Adidas is forty-nine. That means that for the next fifty six days he and I are the same age. I thought it might be interesting to see how much age 49 in a dog and age 49 in a human actually have in common.

  • We are both a little stiff in the morning but it is nothing that can’t be remedied by a good stretch.
  • We both appreciate a hearty meal. I am a little more discriminating than Adidas. He enjoys any meal he can find - one from his bowl, Harley’s bowl, the cats’ bowl or any available trash can.
  • We both drink a lot of water and thus never pass up a potty stop.

  • We enjoy the same spot on the couch. Not simultaneously. We both don’t fit in said spot so there is often a power struggle for which one of us gets it. Adidas is more assertive than I am. He usually wins
  • We are both carrying around a few extra pounds. I worry about that. He doesn’t.
  • We both enjoy a late afternoon round of frisbee - me on the throwing end, Adidas on the receiving. I don’t mind being on the receiving end but he has a little trouble throwing.

  • We both know the importance of a good night’s sleep and an afternoon nap.
  • We both know the value of a pat on the head, a rub on the belly, and a scratch behind the ears.
  • Neither of us has a Facebook page.
  • Neither of us needs a Facebook page.
  • Neither of us wants a Facebook page.
  • We both believe that every day should start with a cookie.
  • And, we both know that you can never show too much love.

To 49 . . .or 7! Happy Birthday Adidas.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Fair Day

For some reason, I seem to be exhausted by the end of the school week. It’s not like I am over-extending myself. In fact, there are several things that I want and need to do that just haven’t gotten done because I run out of steam by the time I have accomplished all the things that have to be done.
Despite being tired and wishing for a day that didn’t start before 10 am, we decided to go to the Texas State Fair on Saturday. I think I wanted a funnel cake more than I wanted a morning to sleep late! Aside from the funnel cakes, the fair is the epitome of something I loathe - big crowds. I don’t like controlled crowds of well-behaved people; and, I really don’t like huge crowds of rowdy people hyped up on sugar and alcohol. I also don’t like crowds where the number of strollers equals the number of mobile people and those strollers are being pushed by mobile people under three feet tall. In my opinion, the State Fair has great potential for providing a miserable experience. But, it never has.
We rode the DART train, Dallas’ fledgling mass transit system, to the fair. Many other people chose this option as well. It is much cheaper than parking and much less stressful than driving. We got on the train at one of the earliest stops on this particular route and, to my surprise, it was already standing room only. We stood for a few stops. As the train slowed at the next station, we could see that a large crowd was about to board. It was clear that my personal space was about to be no more. At this point we were about half way to the fair; the trip would be another 20-25 minutes. We were standing by a seated family that consisted of grandparents, two of their children and spouses, and four grandchildren. As we scrunched to make room for the onslaught of new riders, the grandmother tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to an empty seat. Her family had doubled up the children so that three of them were sharing a seat intended for two and the fourth was on dad’s lap. This was a welcome but certainly unnecessary gesture on this family’s part. I will gladly admit that we were ever so grateful to arrive at the fair grounds with our legs and feet not already tired from having stood for forty-five minutes.
As the massive crowd disembarked from the train, everyone took their turn. There was no pushing or shoving. This controlled atmosphere continued all the way into the fairgrounds despite the slowdown as we all went through the narrow gates and past the metal detectors.
Next it was on to purchase a ticket. The fair employees did their best to direct people to the shortest lines, keeping everyone’s frustration levels at a minimum. During our brief time in the line, people were sharing extra discount coupons and even a few tickets with others . It was a bright spot for me to see a mass of strangers from all walks of life doing what they could to help others to save a few dollars and enjoy a good day at the fair.
We stood in a few more lines throughout the day in order to get drinks and the coveted funnel cake. Everyone was polite. People were quick to ask if you were in line before they took their place or to point to the fact that there were multiple lines being served. I observed as a patron shared food coupons with someone who had stood in line and was two tickets short for what they wanted. As the day went on, my faith in humanity was refreshed.
And, I was not hit by a single stroller powered by someone who could not see over the handles - or, for that matter, any other strollers.
Our fair day was a fun day. It was a good day.
Spending a day at the Texas State Fair is not an inexpensive outing. Admission tickets are reasonable, but bottles of soda that are 79 cents at a gas station are nearly four dollars at the fair. Funnel cakes are close to $5.00 (but worth every penny!). The rides average around $5.00. It doesn’t take long for these things to add up to a pretty pricy day, especially for a family.
I wonder if people were so pleasant and in such good moods because this year going to the fair was a big treat for themselves and their family. Did a day at the fair represent several weeks or months of saving? Is this a family’s vacation for the year? Are people so worried and stressed about the economic conditions that they vowed to leave that all behind for a day and enjoy themselves whatever the cost.
I don’t really know why all of the fair-goers were on their best behavior last Saturday. I do know, however, that I am grateful that they were. It made for quite an enjoyable day.

In a later post I will share how our memories of the fair will live on. That’s what souvenirs are for, Right?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

That Crazy Little Thing Called . . .

I have written before about how I believe it really is the small things in life that are the most important.   I am not talking necessarily about things that we might take for granted, but more about things we just don’t think about on a daily basis - like your thyroid gland.  How many of you have thought about your thyroid gland today?  This week?  This month? This year? I hadn’t either until about a month or so ago.
When I had my physical last month the doctor said that everything was great but he did notice that I had a goiter on the right side of my thyroid.  Goiter?  An enlargement, swelling, a lump.  In this day and age anything that is described as a lump strikes fear in our hearts and minds.  So I began the journey to get to know this goiter, this enlargement, this lump a little better.  I started by learning about “its relatives” on the Internet.  This is never really a good thing.  There is much conflicting and even more just plain wrong information out there.  I remembered from writing research papers in high school that if you find the same information in three sources it is assumed to be common knowledge.  I went with that.  If I read the same thing on three or more different websites I deemed it reputable.
Then, at the request of my primary care doctor, I sought information from the specialists.
First I had a radioactive scan.  This cut into two of my days.  On day one I had to go swallow a radioactive iodine pill.  It didn’t take long; it was simply an inconvenience.  The good part was that I got to go out for breakfast with a friend afterwards, something I don’t normally get to do during the school week.
The next day I went back for the actual scan.  I wasn’t too worried about the procedure until they had me lay down on a table and then started sliding me into one of those machines whose entire persona is a big, black claustrophobic hole.  Sensing my panic, the tech told me to relax, that it was not entirely closed in.  She also told me not to turn my head.  Well, the part that I could see was closed in.  The part on the sides of my head, where I was instructed not to look was open.  With a few mind games I was able to survive without embarrassing myself or my friend who went with me.  And, for being a pretty good girl, I got to go out for breakfast again on a school day!
A healthy functioning thyroid absorbs iodine.  By swallowing a radioactive iodine pill, the doctor was able to see how my thyroid was functioning.  The scan revealed that I have a “cold nodule” on the right side of my thyroid.  Though my general thyroid hormone levels are normal, this cold nodule means that a portion of my thyroid is not functioning.  A “hot nodule” is one where the thyroid is overactive.  Hot nodules are almost always benign.  Cold nodules can be cancerous.  Armed with my cold nodule in the right side of my thyroid, I went next to see an endocrinologist.
As an aside, I had this procedure done right around the tenth anniversary of 9/11.  We were watching a television special about the various commemorative activities being held in New York City and the security measures surrounding them.  One of the segments talked about how they had technology that could spot radioactivity - including people who had had any time of medical procedure using radioactive materials during the past two weeks.  Fortunately we weren’t going to New York City.
The endocrinologist looked at the scan results and told me that it was great that I had the scan, but that we were still at square one because what we really needed to know was whether or not the nodule was cancerous and there is no way to tell that from a radioactive scan.
He then said that he wanted to do a sonogram to determine the actual size of the nodule, another piece of information that seemingly was not shown by the first scan.  Nodules of one centimeter or less are rarely cancerous and do not require any further attention unless they grow larger.  Those nodules that are larger than a centimeter require more “getting to know you.”  Mine is 3.2 centimeters, which the doctor classified as “kind of big.”  Surprisingly, I hadn’t felt it.  Thyroid nodules can interfere with breathing, swallowing and can cause hoarseness, none of which have I incurred.  I am a visual person so I had to find something that was 3.2 centimeters.  The end joint of my own thumb is about that size.  It is hard for me to believe that I have something the size of almost half of my thumb in my throat and I didn’t even know it was there.  Sometimes now I think I can feel it but that just may be like that tiny spot on your shirt  - once you are made aware of it that is all you can see or, in this case, feel.
After assessing the nodule’s size the doctor said that he would need to do a needle biopsy.  He stuck a needle into the goiter, the enlargement, the lump, the nodule - four samples he took.  It didn’t hurt but it was a very strange sensation.  This was the first time that I actually felt like there was something in my throat.  As the needle penetrated the nodule, it pushed against my trachea and esophagus.   Like I said, this was a very weird sensation.  The entire procedure took only about ten minutes.  He then told me that it would take a week before he had any results.
How is it that nearly everything in this world seems to take only seconds and this was going to take a week?  I can order almost anything I want from and have it tomorrow.  And Amazon seems to have a hand in just about everything.  Can’t they branch out into medical testing?
The doctor told me that though thyroid cancer is out there, only about 5-10% of all nodules are cancerous.  He also said that thyroid cancer is treatable.  (Both of these things I knew from my research on the Internet but it was nice to hear them from a medical professional.)
As it turned out, it took only six days to get the biopsy results and they showed that the nodule is benign.  So for the time being it and I will remain constant companions.  The whole relationship will be re-examined in a few months.  If the nodule becomes too needy with regard to space, he will be surgically evicted: we’ll have to wait and see if such harsh measures are warranted.
In conclusion, in the past month I have learned a lot about that little thing called the thyroid gland.  Here are a few more facts (collected from my conversations with the doctor, not from my own travels on the Internet).

  • About 50% of the adult population has thyroid nodules.  Most people have no idea that they have them.
  • Modules in general are more common in women but cancerous nodules are more common in men.
  • Only 5-10% of all thyroid nodules are malignant.
  • Most thyroid cancer is curable.
  • This little gland has a big job.  Its primary function is to regulate metabolism
This may be more information than you wanted to know about the thyroid, but if you are ever told that you have a goiter, an enlarged thyroid, a lump, or a nodule you will know exactly what that means.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Contracting Friendship

Time flies when you're having fun, at least that is what "they" (whoever "they" is) say.  The reality here is that time flies whether you are having fun or not.  I have had a crazy start to the school year - lots of little things that have kept me just enough off-balance that writing here has not happened.  I have written a little for other things and I want to share that here.

Earlier in the summer I came across an essay contest that asked the question, "Who are you most surprised to be friends with?"  Finding an appropriate subject was not the difficult part; limiting the essay to no more than 300 words was however quite challenging for me.  I wrote and edited and wrote and edited.  Once I had something that I thought made me happy, I had several of my closest friends (the ones that I did not write about in the essay) read it and offer constructive criticism.  I made some changes and then submitted it.

My entry did not make it into the group of finalists.  That's OK.  I enjoyed telling my story and just entering was a positive step for me.  I could not publish it any place else until the contest finalists had been announced.  Since that has now happened, here is my story about a surprising friendship.


A year ago my husband and I were married – “take two” for both of us.  The biggest decision facing us as we planned for our life together was where to live.  The choices were my country house, requiring a hundred mile a day commute, or his city house, much nearer to work for both of us but holding unhappy memories and needing considerable updating.

The economy made the decision.  With gas prices,
commuting was a poor option for us and the environment.

We searched newspapers, considered fliers taped to the front door, and checked bulletin boards at home improvement stores for a contractor. Nothing felt “right.”  Then a friend suggested Paul.

Paul carefully listened as we explained that we needed him to make the house “different” enough to ease my husband’s ill feelings and restore the happy memories from his childhood. This was the house in which he grew up.  Paul said, “I can do it.” Work began.

The morning after our wedding we received an email from Paul that said, “Congratulations and thank you for letting me take part in creating your new home.”  We were deeply touched and knew we had definitely chosen the perfect contractor.

During this time Paul was caring for his aging mother and his only sibling, who was fighting a losing battle with cancer.  Each day we checked on the house and Paul’s brother.  On a September evening I suddenly felt a nudge to check my email.  “Marc is gone.” read Paul’s words sent only moments before.  This is not the kind of thing that happens between contractors and clients, but between friends.

Through our remodeling experience we have grieved together, healed together, reminisced together, laughed together (often about pink paint and glow in the dark stars) and grown together into true friends.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Summer Wrap Up

Despite the fact that it is still 107 degrees and we are a month away from the autumnal equinox, for those of us who work in education, summer is officially over.  School is starting either in earnest with children arriving on Monday morning or with preparations for college classes that begin the following week.  As is always the case, the ten or so weeks that we had off over the summer went quickly; looking back it is hard to account for where all those days have gone.  In an attempt to begin the school year with a clean slate, I thought I would I follow up on some of my summer posts.

At the beginning of June I began with a post of pictures of a promising garden.  Through the last three  months we have had an abundance of basil, a respectable crop of okra and jalapenos and, well, that was it.   Though we had five 4 foot high tomato plants with lots of blossoms we never saw even one tomato.  The squash and cucumbers tried very hard to produce but when all was said and done we only had a few of each to eat.  As the hundred  degree plus days mounted and days of rain became something only of dreams, the garden became a pretty bleak sight.  It was costing more to water than we would spend buying produce.   I know that we lost most of our squash and cucumbers to rabbits.  It was hard to get angry; the little guys were so hungry and thirsty.  First they ate all the tiny fruit from the vines.  Then they ate the vines.  They were so desperate for food that they did not even scamper away when I went out to water in the evenings.  I think they were just waiting for this time each day.  I finally began taking a handful of purchased vegetables out to them.  For me this scenario makes clear the intensity of relation we have with all of the creatures of the earth.

Also in June we attended Offspring No. 1’s graduation from the University of Chicago.  She is now following her bliss and chasing her dreams.   Less than a month after graduation she had been accepted to and began her studies at Le Cordon Bleu to become a pastry chef.  We are looking forward to checking her homework and helping her study for tests!

All of the four-legged members of our family have loved having someone home with them almost all the time.  Us going back to school may be a bigger shock to their canine and feline systems that it is to ours.  Hopefully they will not choose to display their unhappiness.  The potential for disaster is great when disgruntled dogs and cats have the entire house to themselves for eight uninterrupted hours!  We’ll hope that they opt for eight-hour naps during the day.

June’s giant step on the kitchen is the only step that has been made this summer.   Lots of other things have been accomplished around the house but we are still minus a fully functional kitchen.  Hopefully that issue will be addressed this week.  Having Paul around working on the kitchen will also make the animals happy and thwart any plans of mass destruction.  This sounds like a Win-Win situation!

Weber has now had his second cataract surgery and I still like the eye doctor.  Since he had been so amused by Weber’s patch adornment at his first post-op checkup, we felt obligated not to disappoint with the second. 

Again he was amused.  Mission accomplished!

The eye doctor also recommended an internist to us since neither of us had a primary care physician  We have both now had physicals with the new doctor and I have to say that he too meets my criteria for a doctor - he does have a sense of humor.  Unfortunately I was the victim of his wit.  As is to be expected he reminded me that it was time for my annual mammogram.  In our discussion of scheduling this procedure the doctor allowed that perhaps the nurse could call the mammography center and they might be able to SQUEEZE ME IN right then.  My beloved husband started laughing followed almost immediately by the doctor.   If my beloved hadn’t already been equally discomforted by a prostate exam I might have been a little more upset.  Despite laughing at my plight as a woman, I do really like this doctor.  And, he gets a “two thumbs up” because his nurse also has a sense of humor! 

We happened to be in the doctor’s office on the nurse’s 12th wedding anniversary.  She asked us how long we had been married.  I told her that we had been married a year.  She got this rather shocked look on her face.  Then I clarified for her.  I told her that we had been married forty-six years but only one year to each other.  She got a good laugh from that.

As part of the routine physical, the nurse took me for a chest e-ray.  When I got back to the exam room I said to Weber, “I now know when the staff of the doctor’s office thinks you are old.”  The nurse got this terrified look on her face because she had been nothing but friendly and polite to me.  When Weber asked, “How?” I told him that they no longer ask if you are or could be pregnant before they do an x-ray.  The nurse got a chuckle from that as well.

So here we are at the beginning of a new school year.  I spent several days this week helping Weber get his classroom ready; he is still not allowed to lift anything because of his surgery.  I had a fun time arranging tables in his room and creating his bulletin boards.  You don’t get to do much of that at the college level  .I think now we are both ready to go back to school Monday morning!

If only the weather would now decide that it is fall!

Monday, August 8, 2011

TV or Not TV

On August 3 Steve Blow, columnists with the Dallas Morning News, wrote a column titled, “Free at Last from the Grasp of Bad TV.”  This is a nice thought.If only it was true.  Steve Blow was rejoicing in the fact that The Bachelorette and all of its drama are finally over.  I second his “Hallelujah” to that.  Unfortunately, I am sure that there is more bad TV out there.  In fact, a quick trip through the TV guide reveals that there may actually be TV that is even worse!!  Scary, but true.  I’m not even going to list the possible candidates for this distinction here because I don’t want anyone to actually put my assertion that there is TV worse than The Bachelorette to the test by watching these other “shows.”
Steve Blow also refers to an article in a recent issue of Time magazine in which historian David McCullough is asked, “We often can’t understand how people in the past could have owned slaves or not educated girls.  What do you think people will wonder about us?  McCullough’s response was, “How we could have spent so much time watching TV.”
Why do we as a society spend so much time watching television?  And more importantly, why do we seem to enjoy it so much?  I have several thoughts on these questions.
One of the reasons we spend so much time watching television is because TVs are everywhere.  They are like a great big germ that has caused a national epidemic.  Nearly everyone is exposed to the numerous strains of this infection - LED, LCD, HD, 3D, Plasma -many times a day and nearly all of us have been infected by this chronic, if not terminal, dis-ease..  There are televisions in restaurants, doctor’s office waiting rooms, train stations, our cars, and nearly every room of some people’s homes.  It seems that there are more televisions than there are those fancy hand sanitizing stations.  H1-N1 has nothing on HD TV with regard to epidemic status.  
Why are there TVs everywhere?  Are we not capable of sitting quietly while we wait for a doctor?  Do we have nothing of interest to talk about with those with whom we are dining?  Can kids not play license plate bingo or color or sleep in the car like we did before cars came standard with TVs and DVD players?  What has changed?  What is at the root of the TV epidemic?
I believe that what has changed is that, generally speaking, we are an unhappy society.  We watch TV to escape our own lives.  We fantasize about being the next American Idol, or The Bachelorette, or  the winner of an extreme home makeover.  Or, we feel powerful because we are not as fat as the people on the Biggest Loser or as pathetic as those on Hoarders.  For the hour that we are enthralled in these shows we think we are happy.  Unfortunately, as Steve Blow points out in his article, research shows that watching television actually causes depression.  Really?  Who knew? And I’m not even talking about the news.
I am not trying to pound the TV industry into the ground here.  TV is a business.  Like any business the producers are out to make money.  Money comes from advertisers buying time on shows that people watch.  People watch crappy shows.  Crappy shows then make the money.  Producers like the money.  They make more crappy shows.  People watch them.  Business booms.  As you can see, it is a vicious cycle.
As with many things, I suspect that I am in the minority with my perception of the quality of television these days.  That’s OK.  I’m content with not knowing who the latest Idol winner is.  I may be culturally illiterate by current standards, but I’m happy.
Oh, and FYI, Desperate Housewives is going off the air.  I suspect that depression will be on the rise!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

What's Missing?

When I was redesigned my blog, I debated with myself as to whether I should change the description of what I do here from “musing on the life of a teacher, mother, writer, knitter, human being.”  My role as a mother has changed since I began writing my blog, but I am still a mother.  Fortunately for my children, they have moved on to college and beyond and no longer serve as an unending source of material for posts. 
 Though I don’t write about it much, I love being a teacher.  One of the reasons that I steer away from this topic is because so many teachers have gotten in trouble for posting comments about their students and their jobs on various public forums.  Granted, many of these comments have been less than complimentary.  That is not an issue I would have.  I love my job and love my students.  Enough said.  
Being worn down by the dreadful heat here, having a list of things I need to do, and worrying about various people and situations and knowing that I have no control over either, is making me feel pretty human right now so I guess I still can claim human being.  I am not going to speak one way or the other about  whether or not I can call myself a writer. 
 That leaves knitter.
I am still a knitter though admittedly I don’t knit as much as I used to.  In and of itself, that is not necessarily a bad thing; it is the result of having more (good) things to do - one of which is a heavier teaching load at school.  Did I mention that I love my job - and my students?  Anyway, the responsibilities of such cut into my knitting time.  For the record, let me state here that it’s not watching Clean House and Happily Divorced on TV, or doing crossword puzzles, or writing blog posts, or playing Angry Birds that is compromising my knitting time; It is definitely my school/job related activities.  Really.  It is!
I have knit.  I do knit.  I am knitting.  The problem is that I have not finished much lately so there isn’t really anything to write about or to show you.  My bag of unfinished items may be further confirmation of my humanity.  In my own defense, I have started and finished a few baby gifts.  I gave them away without photographing them so I can’t prove that.   They were cute.  Trust me.  I also have taught a couple of knitting classes but I myself have not yet finished these projects.  Does it make me a good teacher if I tell you that I have not finished my own sweaters because I have spent a goodly amount of my time at the knit shop helping others finish theirs?  I did finish one of Weber’s birthday socks in time for his June birthday.  Its mate is still unfinished. Well, truthfully, it is still un-started.  It is 105 degrees here.  He doesn’t need wool socks now anyway, right?  I know that wool has a wicking effect but trust me, he is not going to wear wool socks any time soon.
Despite the fact that I have several “overdue” knitted items to finish, I am looking ahead to holiday knitting.  The other day I committed one of the knitters’ deadly sins; I was looking at yarn at a “craft store” rather than at the knit shop.    Not only did I look, but I bought.  I bought yarn and a pattern book.  (More support for my human being status.)
While we were looking at the pattern books, Weber made a disturbing discovery.  Thumbing through a book he noticed that several pages had been ripped from its center.  We’ve all seen this kind of thing before - the page with the recipe ripped from the magazine in the doctor’s office waiting room, which is inevitably the page that, on its other side, had the conclusion to  the fascinating article that you were reading.  tThen there are the coupons that have been lifted from the Sunday paper and the missing journal article that you needed to finish your research in graduate school.  It’s all the same - selfish people doing selfish things.
The thing that made this whole scenario of the book with the ripped out pages at the craft store even sadder is that it was a pattern book of knitted prayer shawls, shawls that are made and given to those who are facing tough times.  The intent is that the knitter “knits” prayers into the garment as they work.  What kind of prayers does someone who has stolen the pages from a book knit into their prayer shawl?  Maybe Knit one prayer of hope and healing for you, Purl two prayers of forgiveness for me.  At least that would be a step in the right direction.
The mother, writer, teacher, knitter, and human being in me says, Please don’t steal the pages out of newspapers, magazines, journals, novels, or knitting patterns.  Thank you.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

What's Up, Doc?

Despite the fact that my grandfather was a doctor and I loved him dearly, medical doctors are not my favorite breed of human beings. Many of them are pretentious. Most of them think that their time is more valuable than mine or yours. And, a good many of them would rather be at the country club playing golf that listening to their patients enumerate their ills. The truth is that I don’t respect doctors any more or any less than I respect teachers, food servers, cashiers, airline pilots, or you. This is both the good news and the bad news for doctors with whom I come in contact. It is bad news because I don’t put them on a pedestal and worship the ground on which they practice. It’s good news because I recognize that they are human like you and me and can’t perform miracles.
Having said all this, I do have several doctors that I like and respect. Both my dermatologist and the surgeon who removed the skin cancer on my arm a few years back are awesome. Based on my personal experience they are fine medical professionals, but this is not why I think they are awesome. They earned this praise from me because they have a great sense of humor. If a doctor has no sense of humor, he or she is not the one for me. I put them all to the test first crack out of the barrel.
When I had my pre-op visit with the surgeon regarding the removal of the skin cancer, he went through all of the possibilities - if we do this the incision will be this big; if we have to do this it will be a little bigger. I told him that I wanted the scar to look like a Smiley face. He promised me that he would do his best. When I came out of recovery he greeted me with an apology that the incision more resembled a “whatever” face so he drew a smiley face on the bandage as consolation. I was amused and he earned my respect.
Nurses are even more uptight than doctors. It is my experience that wit and a sense of humor are detrimental attributes for those applying to nursing school. Knowing this, I love to harass nurses, especially those that work for pretentious doctors. Here is an example.
When I first was diagnosed with lupus I was seeing a well respected rheumatologist in Dallas. His waiting room was always packed with people who sat for an average of three or four hours to spend fifteen minutes with him. He is one of those who thinks that his time is more valuable that mine. As is often the case, his nurse does the routine vitals when you finally get to the exam room. On my first visit she sent me to the restroom to give the obligatory urine sample. She didn’t give me the usual instructions. You all know what those are. When I looked around the bathroom I saw that there were both paper cups and plastic containers. Unsure of which to use, I stuck my head out and asked her if she would lprefer this in paper or plastic. Rolling her eyes and preceding her response with a grand sigh she muttered “plastic.” She was not amused and I was not impressed. I don’t see this doctor anymore. My choice; they actually didn’t kick me out.
I had a similar encounter with a nurse when I had my skin cancer surgery. As part of the pre-op procedures she had to do a pregnancy test. I told her that if it were positive I would be rich since I could sue the doctor who had done my tubal ligation and it would be an immaculate conception. Her only response was “the sooner you cooperate and get this done the sooner we can get you in and out of here.” Okay then. Definitely no sense of humor and possibly no personality of which to speak.
Weber had cataract surgery last week. The doctor who performed the surgery is the ophthalmologist that he has seen since he was fourteen and whom he greatly admires and respects. I had met him once, very briefly, but did not see him the morning of the surgery. I did however have my customary fun with one of the surgery center nurses.
For some reason when they took Weber into surgery they left his street shoes on rather than giving him a pair of those $99 hospital footies. So, when I met him in recovery he had on a hospital gown and his Toms. In her most serious voice the recovery nurse told me that he was awake and I could talk to him. The sight of him in the hospital gown and his shoes made me laugh. The first thing I said to him was, “Wow, if you were going to wear a dress you should have shaved your legs.” He smiled. As usual, the nurse was not amused.
He came home with a hard plastic shield taped to his eye. It was kind of an injured pirate look. I decided that we needed to have a little fun with the look so we found pictures of eyeballs on the Internet, printed them, cut one out and stuck it to the patch.

I asked Weber if he thought that his doctor had a sense of humor. He said that he thought so but wasn’t sure. You know what’s coming next. I was going to find out for sure. We left the eyeball on the patch when we went the next day for his post-op visit. As he signed in at the office the reception giggled. She passed the test. The tech who did the initial questioning in the exam room was not amused. She failed the test. The doctor got a good laugh and greatly appreciated our sense of whimsy. So much so that he had me text to him the picture that I had taken so that he could show it to his wife. It was hard for me to imagine that in forty plus years of practice that he had never had a patient do something like this; but, that seems to have been the case. This doctor moved way up on my acceptable doctor list!