Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I Love Halloween

Technically, I’m only 54. In three days I’ll be 55, and while I’m fairly optimistic about being around to celebrate the dubious honor of turning double nickels, I’m positively giddy with excitement that Halloween is tomorrow. Seriously!

It all started when I was a little girl living in Chicago. When the days turned chilly on their way to being outlandishly cold, the leaves turned crayola shades of gold-tinged brown and yellowed butter, and the days fell into nights starting in the late afternoons, my friends and I knew Halloween was just around the corner. While everyone else obsessed about costumes, I combed through my mother’s collection of used grocery bags or tattered pillow cases for the perfect receptacle to hold all the popcorn balls, bubble gum, tootsie rolls, and other candy treasures I planned to collect. I didn’t care what I wore Halloween night; I only cared that, except for the one box of chocolates we bought MoM every Mother’s Day, and the loot I was allowed to collect on Halloween, there was never any candy in our house.

DaD would occasionally try to circumvent MoM’s authority and bring home some sweet bit of contraband he bought at one of the big box stores he sold electronics to. But, it never lasted past the day it arrived, and I had to share it with sweet-toothed starved brothers and a father! To be fair, MoM did buy exactly one 6 bottle carton of Diet Rite Cola every week or so. . . .I just never remember drinking any of it, but by the time she went back to the grocery store the following week, the bottles were mysteriously empty and patiently sitting in the cardboard carrier to be returned for small change credits. Hmmmmmm.

But back to Halloween. In my childhood neighborhoods, both Chicago and Phoenix, there were only two important strategies regarding Trick-or-Treating–how long could you stay out, and who in the neighborhood was handing out the full-size Hershey bars this year? Once the sidewalks started emptying, it was time to head home, dump our booty in guarded piles, and start serious trade negotiations with Older Brother and easy persuasion with Younger Brother (who was 5 years younger). Amassing popcorn balls from Younger Brother was easy since his front teeth hadn’t grown in yet. Being a chocoholic meant trading a lot of Butterfingers and Malted Milk Balls for the chocolate bars I coveted.

Before the Halloween sugar buzz wears completely off, it’s my birthday! It’s a veritable love fest all day, as friends, teachers, acquaintances, and even strangers congratulate you once they know it’s your birthday. I feel special all day, and can’t wait for my birthday party even though everyone I grew up with had the identical party! A white tablecloth drapes over the dining room table with a big round birthday cake in the center, topped with miniature figurines and candles. Nearby is the Pin-The-Tail-On-The-Donkey poster, taped to the wall. (I really sucked at that game–no depth perception here whatsoever.) Before the last child leaves, we will have played “Duck, Duck, Goose” and it’s taken me years to realize there’s no way to win the game.

Instead of planning my trick-or-treat route now, I roast the pumpkin seeds from the pumpkins that Daughter #1 comes over to carve. She’s 25, but I love that she still treasures the tradition and races to the door to admire the little and not-so-little trick-or-treaters and hand out candy. (There’s not much Halloween in her condo complex.) I’m proud to say that our house is always considered a “quality” candy house by the neighborhood ghosts and goblins. I’m celebrating my birthday this year by going to the Phoenix Suns’ opening season home game against the Lakers–Go Suns! The office has scheduled a special staff meeting the morning of my birthday. Again, hmmmmmm. And Daughters #1 and #2 have been corresponding long distance in order to put together their birthday wishes. Not to be outdone, Husband and I already bought my birthday present together–hey, it fits and I love it!

Thinking about it, I don’t know why MoM let us hang on to our personal stash of Halloween candy until the last few pieces were stale and forgotten, but I like to think it’s part of that Halloween-Birthday mystique I remember and still treasure today.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I've Got A Secret

Actually, I've got a whole book of secrets. Tonight, Daughter #1 and I went to hear Frank Warren talk about his new book, "A Lifetime of Secrets" and his not-to-be-missed web blog, PostSecret . Frank spoke to the humanity involved in the creation of, the keeping of, and the release of secrets. As he shared previously unpublished postcards of secrets, the crowd of about 200 alternately "oooh'd", "aaah'd", laughed, or looked pensive. Because the secrets on his website and books mirror the secrets we carry in our own lives.

I don't want to compete with Frank and collect secrets (he does it so well and with such commitment), but I started wondering about the impact that secrets have on us. Daughter #2 couldn't keep a secret longer than 5 seconds if her life depended on it. Secrets literally fall out of her mouth. When she was about 5 years old, I made the mistake of telling her that she and her sister were giving Daddy an expensive shirt for his birthday. Later that day, we gathered as Husband piled up his birthday loot and grabbed the girls' present first.

"Oooh, I wonder what this could be?"


Actually, what she said was more like "A SCHWERT, DADDY! IT'S A SCHWERT!" because her front teeth were missing. She's 21 now, and still can't keep a secret, often asking us, "Can I just tell you what it is because it's burning a hole in my pocket?!".

Daughter #1 deals with secrets differently. She snoops. I have to admit, she's pretty good at it, and over the years, it's become a family challenge to try to keep a secret from her. (This should drive her crazy when she reads this post. . .do we or don't we have a secret she doesn't know about?)

In the twilight time of my Dad's Alzheimer's, before his speech failed but after his memory had been severely impacted, he shared many secrets with me. For that, I am profoundly grateful, and I think about those conversations from time to time since his death.

MoM, on the other hand, will lately tell me something matter-of-factly to which I respond, "What?! You never told me that!" She doesn't consider these tidbits secrets, but since she rarely shared anything personal with me for most of my life, I'm calling them as I see them. . .secrets.

I've heard secrets today and I've held secrets today. I didn't share any secrets today. . .maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Did You Miss Me?

I took a month off to breathe and heal. A few too many stresses, lack of sleep, aches and pains, and lupus can really kick your b**t. So here's a bullet point recap of what you've missed this last month. . .

* MoM finally got her hearing aids back from repair, and I called her saying, "It must be nice to be able to hear again on the phone." She replied, "WHAT? I didn't catch that." (Sigh)

* 3,000 miles away, Daughter #2 got off to a rocky start this collegiate year (the first of two "senior" years) stressing out about classes, professors, health issues. . .you name it, she stressed out about it. She averaged 10-15 cell phone calls a day until Husband told her he had printed out the admission application for our state university. Things are improving.

* Husband was excited that his beloved Diamondbacks made it into the playoffs. They just lost their second playoff game in a row. Husband is depressed.

* Daughter #1, well known for being an excellent snoop, discovered my blog after borrowing my computer. Husband still doesn't know about it, and when he occasionally asks what I'm doing as I type away on my laptop, I answer, "Just typing" and he goes back to watching his ball games.

* The Bells Palsy is much, much better. I'm told you can't tell I had it, but I still have some internal symptoms. At least I don't look like Quasimodo anymore.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Not My Kid

A friend of mine called and asked if I would mind helping the son of a friend of hers. Apparently, the son was having trouble finding a job in his chosen field, despite graduating this past Spring with honors. It was just my luck that Unemployed College Graduate’s chosen field was the same field I work in. Anyway, I agreed to meet with the young man and asked that he forward a resume to me.

Yellow Flag #1
Unemployed College Graduate’s resume arrived via email and looked like something he had knocked out in 5 minutes. There was decent content, but horrible presentation. This was a graduate of the Honors College? Did he skip the composition courses? Daughter #1 had a better looking resume when she was 16 and applying for a sales position.

Yellow Flag #2
I called the number on his resume, got his voice mail, and left a message introducing myself and asking him to call me so we could touch base. It took him several days to call me back.

Reddish-Yellow Flag #3
I offered to pull several associates from my office into a meeting with Unemployed College Graduate and we would brain storm about networking and possible openings in the market. The meeting was set for this past Monday at 10 am at my office. At 9:50 am, Unemployed College Graduate called and said he was going to be late.

Red Flag #4
My associates and I, dressed in suits and business dress, filed into the conference room to meet Unemployed College Graduate and confronted the following sight. There he sat, in a rumpled polo that couldn’t decide if it was clean or dirty. His hair was disheveled and in desperate need of a haircut. His pseudo beard had either thrown in the towel and quit trying to grow, or he had just started growing it a few days ago. Either way it was a good thing because the few straggly hairs helped to cover up the wide expanse of acne. (Why would ANYONE put up with acne in this day and age of great dermatologists and meds?!) In front of Unemployed College Graduate sat a solitary copy of his resume. No paper to take notes, no pen.

Really Red Flag #5
We decided to surge ahead, closed our gaping mouths, and sat down at the conference table. I opened the meeting by introducing Unemployed College Graduate and asked him to bring everyone up to date about his job search. There was total silence for a full minute. I finally jumped in and uttered a few summarizing sentences based on our telephone conversation and what I remembered from his resume. My associates took pity on me and started rattling off suggestions, good contact names, and great questions about what he had done or not done in his job search.

Solidly Red Flag #6
Not having a pen or paper with him, Unemployed College Graduate simply nodded or mumbled “yes” or “no”, and took no notes.
After a few minutes of this, I practically threw my pen across the table to him and said, “Wouldn’t you like to take some notes?!”
He turned over his resume and scribbled something on the back shooting me a furtive look.

Mercifully the meeting finally ended, and muttering “Thank you” to my associates, I slunk away to my office. As I sat stewing about the debacle, I decided share the debacle with the friend that recruited me to meet with Unemployed College Graduate. She was, predictably, shocked and resolved to educate the young man’s mom about why he might be having trouble finding a job.

So here’s the punchline. The next day as I was about to leave work, I received the following postcard by email:

I’m feeling a little guilty.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Is Anybody There?

I started calling MoM as soon as our car left the airport garage to tell her we had landed safely and were on our way home. I usually do this because she will talk nonstop for a good half hour pausing only long enough for me to mutter, “uh huh” here and there.
But the line was busy.
I kept calling.
For 25 minutes.
About 2 blocks from our house, I finally got through.
“Helloooooo”, she answered tentatively.
“Hi, MoM”, I replied cheerily. “Just wanted to tell you we’re back!”
“Back from where?”, she asked.
“Back from Las Vegas–remember we went up there this weekend for my niece’s baby shower and to visit my mother-in-law?”
“What do you mean, no?! I stopped by your house on Thursday and reminded you we were leaving the next day. And I called Friday night from the airport and left a goodbye message on your answering machine!”
“Nope, didn’t know anything about it.”

Then MoM started recounting in infinitesimal detail the weekend Diamondback baseball games. She does this the entire baseball season despite the numerous times I remind her I would rather watch paint dry than watch baseball. Desperate to get off the phone, I told her we were pulling into our driveway, and that I would talk to her tomorrow.
“Okayyy” she happily responded.

I wonder if she’ll remember this conversation?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Lost and Found

I lost my old Polaroid camera. I didn’t know it was lost until one of my staff at work came around asking if anyone had a Polaroid camera she could borrow. “I do!”, I exclaimed, and offered to bring it in tomorrow morning.

Except I can’t find it.

I checked the old standby, the hall closet, aka the coat closet except for the fact that no one wears a lot of coats here in the desert. Instead we pile up the travel umbrellas (don’t generally need those here), the afghan scarves (we use when we venture East during the winter), the “tv” tables (now those we use!), and a motley assortment of odds and ends that have no home anywhere else in the house.

I did find the cables and manual for the digital camera that was stolen, my Dad’s old SLR Nikon camera that no one knows how to use, a solar radio that once entertained us all for a day at the beach 15 years ago, and all the boxes from the various mobile phone systems I kept buying until I found one my mother could hear on.

I’ve lost more important stuff than the Polaroid camera. The earliest thing I can remember losing was my lovey blanket. MoM says she offered to paint my nails in exchange for the ratty blanket, and I agreed, thinking I would go retrieve it after I got my nails painted. (Not a bad strategy for a 4 year old, don’t you think?) I obviously didn’t factor in my devious MoM, and when I went to retrieve lovey blanket, it was gone.

When I was 15 and visiting my dad’s cousin, this wonderful lady of many warm smiles and beautiful songs disappeared into her room and reappeared with a little silver ring in her hand. “Would you like this ring, because I have no little girls to pass it on to?” she asked. Wow, a gift for no reason, and a pretty gift besides! I wore that ring every day after that.

Until I lost it at a hay ride not a year later. Remember the old saying about finding a needle in a haystack? I still cringe every time I hear that expression.

As I got older, the losses chronicled the changes in my life. I lost my room at home, coming home from college to find a billard table squarely in the middle of my former bedroom. I deliberately “lost” my car in the middle of Manhattan one day--frustrated with parking in the city and the petty theft of any movable parts on the car, I called up a salvage company, told them where the car was, and had them mail me a check for the car. After I got married and tried a double last name, I found that most companies were losing my original last name but keeping my husband’s last name. That didn’t work for me, so I “lost” my husband’s last name and kept my original last name. (Husband and Daughters #1 & 2 have been so understanding about it.)

The people losses are the toughest losses. There’s a scene in the movie, “Peggy Sue Got Married” that always makes me cry. Through movie magic, Peggy Sue is able to go back in time before she got married and her marriage soured. She experiences being a teen again, and part of that experience is seeing her grandparents again. She kneels next to them, and revels in their touch and being able to hear their voices again. Ah, it’s the best part of the movie–go to one of the rental places that carry old movies and rent it.

But back to the Polaroid. I’ve combed through every closet in the house, and even peeked in the garage (it’s like a giant warehouse in there). I’m thinking that I also lost my memory because I have this vague feeling that I lent it out to someone. . . I just lost the WHO part.

I found stuff too. So much that I could easily have the mother of all rummage sales. After spending so much time tonight searching for something lost, I think I’m going to concentrate on things found tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

From Here to There and Back Again

I love to travel. But I hate the journey. There’s that mind-numbing waste of time sitting in the airport waiting to find out if your plane will make an expected appearance or keep you waiting like a hopeful old maid. And you can’t beat a coach seat for spawning creative ways to cross your legs in less than 3 inches. But mostly I hate the journey because, no matter how great a place I’m traveling to, inevitably, I end up packing until 2 am and getting up earlier than mankind was made to get up in order to catch a plane that doesn’t puddle jump across the country.

So I arrive exhausted.
And achy.
And cranky.
Husband, on the other hand, thrives on no sleep, and arrives at our latest destination ready and willing to talk dinner reservations.

Vacation Day #1 - 6:15 am
Me: aaaaaah, what is that? What is that?
Husband: Sunrise.
Me: I’m melting......I’m melting.....
Husband: The cab to the airport is here.
Me: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

The past few years, Husband and I have repeated this dance every Labor Day weekend, flying across the country to go play in New York City. At home, it’s still 300 degrees and you move from one air conditioned sealed environment to another. In Manhattan, the weather is starting to change, it’s a balmy 78 degrees, and half the population has left the city for the beaches so there are only a few million left on the sidewalks. We checked into our usual hotel, The Helmsley Park Lane, just across the street from Central Park. I was tempted to ask the concierge what he thought about Leona Helmsley leaving $12 million to her dog, but Husband said to leave it alone.

We had a great time doing things we never do at home; buying junk food from street vendors (there are none in Arizona because it’s 300 degrees outside), shopping in stores twice the size of their branches at home (they actually carry my size in NYC), going to Broadway shows (the theatres in NYC are old, gorgeous and full of top rate theatre productions--the theatres in Arizona are modern anticeptic blocks filled with “B” road companies), strolling through Central Park (if there are any trees in Arizona parks, they’re usually mesquite trees, and again, it’s 300 degrees outside), dining at one fabulous restaurant after another (restaurants at home fall into one of two categories–Mexican or Hunk-of-Meat), and exploring the wonders of one great museum after another (most Arizona museums are about 3,000 year old indigenous Indian tribes).

Daughter #2 and Boyfriend even came down from College Town and met us for a couple of days. On Sunday, we put them into a cab to go to the train station, and we got into another one for the airport. Thanks to all the bills we put on our credit card, we had earned enough frequent flyer miles to snag first-class seats on the way home. I love flying first class. Our plane even got in 20 minutes early. All in all, it was a wonderful vacation.

Until we went to claim our luggage.

The terminal was nearly empty with only one flight listed ahead of us on the baggage board. The Chicago luggage came and the people left. The Las Vegas luggage came and those people left. When the Atlanta luggage came, and their owners left too, the crowd from our flight started getting ugly. Husband was pacing and muttering, and as the baggage board flashed a new message that the St. Louis baggage was now arriving, Husband bolted for the nearest service desk. It was now almost 50 minutes after we landed, and the sheen from our wonderful trip was wearing thin. Husband returned with the encouraging message that somehow the luggage handlers had forgotten to off load an entire plane of luggage! Really? We hadn’t noticed. I should probably mention at this point that if you have the opportunity to fly US Air, don’t. I’d go into details, but that would take another blog to describe it all.

At home now, I think about the journey from here to there and back again. It’s not unlike the little journeys we take every day, full of unexpected joys and stumbles. Sometimes our trips are uneventful, and sometimes (if you take US Air) it takes us longer to complete our odyssey. Wonderful Mother-in-Law (really) thought her journey with chemo and radiation was over, but this week she travels again to the Cancer Center for treatments to knock down the latest re-occurrence. We’re hoping it’s an easier journey than the last one.

We’ll travel again this weekend, along with Daughter #1, to visit Wonderful Mother-in-Law and Wonderful Father-in-Law (really, him too), to attend Niece’s First Baby shower, and to visit recently widowed Aunt S. We’ll be carrying a lot of baggage, but most of it will be in our hearts and minds.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Code Words

When my daughters were young, we came up with code words for certain situations. There was one for “secure pickup at school”, which frankly, I don’t think any of us ever remembered. Another one to tell the alarm company when one of us accidentally set off the alarm code at home; although we had to finally ink it in a cabinet bottom because, again, no one ever remembered it and the police come out pretty quickly in our town.

But there was one code word that the kids took to like ducks to water. “Interesting”. The idea was to replace a jarring one-word description in sensitive situations with a more palatable one. Or at least that was the original idea. It started out well at first.

Great-Aunt (retired teacher): How do you like your teacher this year?
Daughter #1: She sucks.
Me (clearing throat): Ah_hem
Daughter #1: I mean, she’s interesting.

But the girls soon figured out that they could also use this word to their advantage, and have a good smirk at the same time.

My MoM: Did you enjoy reading that article I gave you on new ways to combat diarrhea?
Me: Uh, um, well I, I started to read it. . . .
Daughter #1 or #2: Yeah, mom, remember, you said it was interesting (and here she smirks).

Give the word some credit, “Interesting”, actually is a pretty versatile word, and is good for lots of wiggling room in delicate situations. It got me thinking about how we use lots of code words every day to mask the message or lessen the impact. Daughter #2 leaves early tomorrow for college Leaving On A Jet Plane and started to complain yesterday about a dry scratchy throat. She has a propensity for getting sick very quickly, and this past winter dealt with a lot of asthma attacks and bronchial illness—2,694 miles away at college. So, when she asked me to look at her throat yesterday, and I leaped off the couch in concern, she quickly said, “It’s probably not red, mom, it’s probably just allergies. "Allergies" and "red" being a code words for “don’t worry, mom, as soon as I get out of the dusty desert Monday, I’ll be fine and even if I’m probably getting sick, I don’t want you to worry about it.”

So both Husband and I responded with our own code words. “You’re probably right but why don’t we just plan on hitting the Urgent Care Center first thing Sunday morning since you’re leaving on a plane the next day? (Code for “Geeze, she’s gonna be sick and she’s getting on some germ and bacteria covered plane tomorrow–we are so going to the Urgent Care Center!”)

In the most serious situations, code words are even comforting, giving us a sense of security we can’t reach by ourselves. On Friday, Wonderful Father-in-law (really) called to tell us Wonderful Mother-in-law’s (really, her too) cancer is back. The last scan, which was only 5 weeks ago, was clean, but this one was not. Wonderful Mother-in-law was sleeping while we talked quietly with Wonderful-Father-in-law so we didn’t get to talk to her until later that night. The doctor thinks he can knock this latest bout of stage four lung cancer back down again, and he wouldn’t ask her to go through treatment again if he wasn’t confident she could tolerate it and get some benefit. When the phone rang later that night, it was Wonderful Mother-in-law. She talked to each of us in turn, asking about work, social life, and other little things. We all desperately wanted to hear from her directly that she was willing to restart the treatment regiment, but didn't want to ask her. It was a normal conversation except for the life preserver she threw us at the end in code, “I’ve got my boxing gloves on”.

Sometimes code words are just better than explicit words.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Leaving On A Jet Plane. . .

I dread this time of the year. The last few days before Daughter #2 returns to college. . .2,694 miles and another coast away. Everything speeds up as Daughter #2, Husband, and I discover more things we forgot to buy/return/resize/appear at/modify/fix or file before she leaves.

We’re running out of time, and I’m getting sad because in 2 & ½ days, I’ll be reduced to smelling her scent on her bedsheets after she’s left. I know, I know, this is what young adults are meant to do-- grow up and be independent. And Daughter #2 has done a great job. She was born, raised, and educated in the Southwest with 365 days of sunshine, yet she lives and goes to school in Boston competing against hordes of East Coast educated students from private schools, and trudging through Nor'easter storms. And she excels. It’s time for her to leave, but I’m really going to miss her.

The frequent visits to Walgreens, Daughter #2's favorite drug store, have been multiplying at a frightening rate as she keeps remembering “one more thing” she needs to get that apparently doesn’t exist in Boston. I should probably explain at this point that when she leaves, her car stays here. In Boston, it’s either hoof it by foot, take the “T” train, or call Boyfriend for a ride. So, I can’t blame her for stocking up. Until the Mastercard bill comes.

But back to being sad. This is the fourth end-of-summer-and-back-to-college time, and she’s never been done packing until the last minute. The various piles have been all over the house for a week, and it’s both comforting and depressing because it will all be gone Monday morning. . .along with her.

We’re going out for a Momma/Daughter breakfast this morning. Just the two of us. Husband’s turn is Saturday. On Sunday, Daughter #1 will join us in looking sad. And on Monday morning, after Daughter #2 has left, Daughter #1 will call from work to console me and tell me, “I’m still here and I only live 2 minutes away!” We’ll track Daughter #2's plane online until it lands, and come home from work to our once again empty nest. It’s going to be strange for a while.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Best-Laid Plans . . . .

Today was pretty much a typical Sandwich Generation Day, or put another way, it was a frickin’ disaster compared to how I INTENDED to spend my day.

I’ve behind at work thanks to my reduced visual ability last week from the Bell’s Palsy (which is healing exceptionally fast–hooray!) So I was counting on today to really catch up now that I once again have two big brown functioning eyes.


Daughter #1, the one with the impossible work schedule because she works in the TV news industry, called and needed someone to wait for the Cox Cable repair guy. Her new precious purchase, a large size flat-screen plasma TV, has been buzzing since she got a HD cable box. Since she isn’t home for any of the usual repair hours, she has to wait for weekend appts, and both Best Buy and Cox Cable have been on site previously blaming each other. (Sound familiar?) So, in typical mother fashion, since I do own my business, I offered to leave the office and wait for the return of the Cox Cable guy.

Daughter #1: Thank you, thank you, thank you, mom. I love you!
Me: Um, you’re welcome. He’ll be there between
12 & 2, right?
Daughter #1: Yes, thank you, thank you, thank you.
(She’s good at repetition)

So, I drive 30 minutes into work, go into a meeting that lasts twice as long as I hoped, and work through about a half inch of my overflowing IN box. Then it’s back to the other side of town to wait for Cable Guy.

While I wait, I clean her laptop of 58 spyware, defrag it, and run maintenance on it that she hadn’t run in over a year. I make her bed, empty the garbage, and re-arrange the pillows on her couch. Daughter #2 comes over to visit for a while before she has to leave for one of several last minute doctor visits she has to cram in before she returns to college Monday morning. We bond briefly.

Cable Guy finally arrives at 2. (Sigh)

And spends an hour trying to figure out the problem. He actually figures it out, but it’s not good news for Daughter #1. There’s a problem with the electrical line and/or circuit breaker tied to the socket the TV and cable box are plugged into. The new TVs and HD cable boxes are really sensitive to electrical current irregularities, and this will necessitate another home visit from an electrician.

Cable Guy and I leave. Early rush hour is now beginning as I drive back to work. I call MoM on the way to see how she’s feeling.

Bad idea.
MoM feels awful. What’s wrong, MoM? “I just feel awful”. Exactly WHERE do you feel awful, MoM? “All over”. Do you want me to come over? “No, I’m going to go lay down.” I’ll talk to you later, Mom.

Back at the office now, it’s late afternoon, and I’m starting to feel a little funny. I realize I have forgotten to take my morning pills, which includes meds for my lupus and leaky mitral valve. Luckily, in my morning rush to get to work, I had grabbed the pills and stashed them in my purse to take later. No problem, I thought, I’ll take them now.

A half hour after taking my pills, I notice that my office is blurring, and I’m feeling very relaxed and sleepy. I realize with horror that I must have accidentally packed up two oxycodones instead of two plaquenil pills that are eerily similiar. I need a ride home fast, and since Husband is my business partner, I totter down the hallway, and pull him out of a meeting.
Me: You need to drive me home. . .now. I accidentally took two
Me (Starting to hum and sway)
Husband: Ok, we’re leaving! I’ll bring you in the morning to get
your car.

On the way home, my muddled brain signals my vocal cords, and I manage to warn Husband not to let me fall asleep before I take my mega dose of Prednisone for the Bell’s Palsy. (You don’t want to skip a massive dose of Prednisone in the middle of a treatment). No problem says Husband.

Once home, I down the prednisone, and grateful for my bed, fall asleep.

I forget to check on MoM.

And six hours later when the oxycodone wears off, I am now wide awake from the mega dose of prednisone and can’t fall asleep until 4am.


Today, I wake up and find out that I didn’t win the lottery again. And my IN box is now overflowing.

I quit. For today.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Why Not Me?

This past weekend, Husband and I each bought Powerball Lottery tickets because the jackpot was an insane $200 million dollars. I even went ahead and bought an additional ticket for the relatively paltry Arizona Lottery jackpot of +$1 million–thinking maybe with everyone distracted by the g’normous Powerball Lottery jackpot, my ticket might sneak by and win the +$1 million dollar prize.

I had it all planned out in my mind. First, I’d call Daughter #1 and tell her not to worry about her condo mortgage payments anymore. Oh, and to get a larger, safer car immediately. Then Husband and I would call a staff meeting and announce that we were turning over the business to our employees. Next, I’d concentrate on setting up a non-profit foundation for grants and gifts, and work on snagging the beautiful place that Husband and I have been coveting on Mission Bay in San Diego (balanced, don’t you think?).

So, I was really bummed to wake up Sunday morning, and find out that Husband, Daughter #1, and I would all have to show up to work on Monday morning. The Powerball Lottery is now up to $245 million. Someone ELSE won the local Arizona Lottery so that prize is back to a measly million again.

I can’t help it–I’m going use my daily chocolate money on lottery tickets again this week. The drawings are Wednesday. Wish me luck.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Let Me Say Thank You

Remember when you were little and you skinned your knees? Remember all the loving attention you got? I felt like that again when friends, family, co-workers, and even some of my fellow bloggers deluged me with supportive phone calls, emails, cards, and visits in light of the Bell’s Palsy I’ve contracted.

At the tender age of 54, I haven’t really missed those bloody painful knees I got when I ditched my training wheels. (Remember how they hurt every time you bent your knees?) But until the Bell’s Palsy, I didn’t realize how much I missed that kind of attention and concern. For so many years now, it’s been my job to take care of Daughter #1, Daughter #2, Husband, Aging Parents and In-Laws, and even those young staffers that work for me. I was always the one handing out compassion and advice. Until now.

I won’t bore you with all the gory details; suffice it to say that Bell’s Palsy is pretty devastating both physically and emotionally until you start to get better. And I am getting better. I’m sure the heavy duty amounts of prednisone are partially responsible. But the genuine empathy and supportive inspirational contact from everyone filled an equally important prescription. You can’t beat human contact for good medicine.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Hell's Bells

I can’t whistle. I can’t drink through a straw. And blotting my lips is impossible. Late last week, I thought I was coping with a bad eye infection that didn’t seem to be healing. In fact, it was the beginning of something else that is now in full effect. I’ve contracted Bell’s Palsy.

If you’ve also won the misfortune lottery, then you know what I’m talking about. For the rest of you, let me explain. Bell’s Palsy occurs when the 7th cranial nerve to your face is damaged, and as a result, all the facial muscles weaken, sag, and go into a semi-paralyzed state. I’m clueless as to how my now least favorite nerve got damaged. But according to a website I found, both the chicken pox virus and the cold sore virus that linger forever in your body can suddenly wake up and go hunting for a new home. . . .like the 7th cranial nerve. My Lupus probably isn’t to blame, but no one is ruling that out either.

In my case, the entire left side of my face is affected. It's easy to see my drooping left eye and eyebrow, and when I talk and smile, only the right side seems to work. The left side of my mouth is on sabbatical. Some syllables come out a little mangled because of the constricted lip movement.

Husband: How many should I make the dinner reservation for?
Me: Sis
Husband: Sis?
Me (2nd try): SIS!
Husband: Sis? You don’t have a sister!
Me: Six (holding up 5 fingers)

My biggest problem is that because my left eye doesn't blink automatically with the other eye, my eye is constantly tearing up and burning. So, I 'm either patching the eye closed, or putting in heavy duty eye drops. And always clutching a handful of kleenix.

The good news is that this condition usually is not permanent, but the bad news is that it can take anywhere from 2 weeks to many months for the nerve to regenerate and heal. In the meantime, reading or computing for long periods of time is challenging, so work is definitely going to be a challenge as I work with spreadsheets, numbers, and computers all day.

Yes, it sucks big time. Yes, I'm having a tough time dealing with the symptoms. Yes, I'm vain enough that it bothers me immensely. Yes, I'm worried about a complete recovery. And yes, I need to say it again, this sucks.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Do You Hear What I Hear?

I’ve been yelling at MoM for months. So have Brother #1, Brother #2, Doctor, Ex-Sister-in-Law and Kindly Neighbor. It’s the only way she could hear us. She might have gotten her hearing aids fixed sooner if it weren’t for back-to-back stints in the hospital and a prolonged seating assignment in a wheelchair.

The hearing aids didn’t die outright–first they started falling out of her ears and we would frantically call the restaurant, the doctor’s office, the ballpark, or wherever she had been to see if anyone found a used hearing aid (ewww). Then MoM started complaining that one of the hearing aids stopped working. She limped along with one working hearing aid as her TV blared across the patio home complex, and phone calls became increasing difficult. . . .until the other hearing aid waved the white flag and died.

I planned to take off work an hour and a half in order to take MoM to the Hearing Aid Dealer. Knowing she doesn’t move fast, I told her to be ready at 10am this morning to make an 11:00 appointment. She was ready at 10am–ready to begin eating breakfast. As she started eating S-L-O-W-L-Y and sipping her coffee, I stood in place glowering at her and muttering to myself. “Sit down and make yourself comfortable”, she said, oblivious to any time constraints. “I LIKE TO STAND”, I growled.

Breakfast finally over, I loaded her into my car, and hoping I wouldn’t throw out my back, hoisted her wheelchair into the trunk after several tries. Off we trooped to the Far West Side 25 miles away to see the Hearing Aid Dealer that abandoned the location twelve blocks from her house. I drove with the handicapped placard flying from the rear-view mirror despite law enforcement’s preference that you NOT obstruct your view while driving. MoM insists that we should drive with it proudly suspended right in front of my field of vision. . . because she does.

The Hearing Aid Dealer couldn’t have been nicer (maybe because I called him in advance pleading my mother’s case and asking him for help) and MoM couldn’t have been bitchier. I spent most of the time saying, “Thank you so much” hoping he wouldn’t turn on MoM although I wouldn’t have blamed him. Turns out the hearing aids were plugged with debris (don’t ask), the batteries were dead, and the reason they were falling out was because she wasn’t putting them in correctly. We spent a good hour just trying to teach her how to insert them completely, and she failed every time. EVERY TIME.

Hearing Aid Dealer capitulated before I did, and inserting them himself in MoM’s teeny little ears, we left to begin the drive home. It was quiet in the car as I drove and tried to calculate how far behind I was going to be at work. Suddenly MoM whipped out a Starbucks’ gift card and said, “Why don’t we stop for a treat?” Now I’m a regular at the hunter green logo’d drive-thru, but MoM? Then she explained, “Remember when I had you drop off my prescription at the new drug store after the last hospital visit? Yup, I remember. I remember driving out of my way past at least 5 drugstores because she insisted her prescription had to go to this particular store. Because she knew she’d get a Starbucks’ gift card.

I missed 4 hours of work. But I got a mocha frappacino out of it. I think she loves me.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Guilty Pleasures

I dropped Husband off at the airport at the crack of dawn this morning–he’ll be gone until Wed mid-day. And while I’ll miss him, there is something nice about occasionally having 100% of your personal time reserved for, well, Me. Let the dinner dishes soak overnight in the sink--no problem. Watch an old sappy chick-flick on TV instead of changing the air conditioning filters--why not? Curl up with the newspaper in the Living Room without someone calling out, “WHERE ARE YOU, AND WHY ARE YOU IN THERE?”--of course!

Why is it so hard to carve out Me time? Are we any busier than we were when we were teenagers and burning the candle at both ends so we didn’t miss a thing? Everything then was all about doing what we wanted to do, even when it wasn’t popular with the parents. Somewhere along the line, we started toeing the line more, paying attention to duty and responsibilities, until we got to the point where Me time was a guilty pleasure. Spouses, babies (not always in that order) and aging parents each vie for “just a few minutes”. And there’s the never ending maintenance call that comes with owning a house or an auto (why is it a leak in the house is always followed by a leak in your car, or vice-versa?). I love that my adult children still want to spend time with me and ask for my opinion, but I just sat down–do you really need me to come with you to pick out an earpiece for your cell phone?

So you’d think that when I finally have the chance to recapture some Me time, I’d do something grand and worthy like re-reading "Atlas Shrugged" while sipping a chocolate martini, or spending all day receiving spa treatments. Um, yeah . . .that’s what I should have done. But here’s what I did do. I frittered the day away. I couldn’t tell you about a single significant thing that I did today. Except to tell you that I’m soooooooooo relaxed.

Monday, July 30, 2007

When Are You Too Old For A Pen Pal?

About seven months ago, I suddenly heard from the boyfriend I had when I was 16--my first love. He tracked me down from a relative that appeared in the news, writing to the relative to ask if I was any relation. So, at 54, I acquired a pen pal and we now correspond regularly talking about our children, our spouses, our aging parents, and Life. It's different than talking with contemporary friends or co-workers--this is someone that knows the Me before all the layers of growing older and all the attached experiences piled on. Although he's taken a very different route religiously than I did, we keep finding parallels in our lives that are freakily (yes, I know that's not a real word, but it is freaky)similar. And as we share our life's journeys, it gives both of us a chance to explore where we've been since we were teenagers.

I bet you're thinking, "Uh oh. . .trouble". Nope, nothing like that. Both marriages are great. It's just nice to talk to someone that remembers Young Me.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Sky is Falling

My Aunt woke me up at 3am last Friday to tell me that my beloved uncle had died. I cried with her and told her I would hug her tonight when I fly into the town where she lives. We were going to celebrate my uncle's birthday in the hospital on Saturday, but now the family will gather to celebrate his life instead.

Then, as I straggled into work to finish up some things so I could fly out, Daughter #1 called from work crying to tell me that two news helicopters had collided and crashed . . .and one of them was from her station. The copters had been following a car chase between the police and a thief, and somehow one got too close to the other, and there were no survivors. Daughter #1 was actually producing the live segment when they lost contact. The surreal part of this is that Daughter #1 and her co-workers had to keep covering the story as they sobbed and worked from the time of the accident for over 8 hours without commercials.

It is now 2 days later, and Wonderful-Mother-In-Law (really)went back to the hospital in an ambulance--the cancer is actually in remission, but she doesn't eat or drink and it was time to go back and get stabilized. . .again.

And Husband called from Wonderful-In-Laws' home to tell me that Wonderful-Father-In-Law (really, him too)has some medical problems too.

Sometimes I feel like an entire generation I love is slipping away from me one at a time. And there's a helpless feeling you get when your child (even a grown one) is in pain no matter how hard you try to shore her up.

The sky really seems to be falling all over us right now.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Blah Blahs

I get a lot done when my mother calls. You know those normal pauses in conversations where someone injects a question or comment? Well, MoM rolls right through them, talking nonstop usually about some body fluid or Margie's friend's stepbrother's twin sister's mole. Usually, I put the phone on speakerphone and go about my business, just leaning in occasionally with "Uh huh". One time, after listening to MoM drone on for over 40 minutes, I made the mistake of throwing the portable phone at the couch--which made a lasting impression on Daughter #1, Daughter #2, and Husband. Delighted with my hissy fit, they gave me a portable I've-got-to-go buzzer for MoM phone calls. The various buzzer buttons included a doorbell, fire engine siren, delivery guy, and phone static. I played the phone static button for Husband but he said it didn't sound like real phone static. As soon as I can figure out how to post the sound file, I'll add it on. In the meantime, thank goodness for Caller ID.