Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Get Thee Behind Me Satan

It seems to me that a more sensitive bureaucrat could have arranged for my birthday present to arrive at my house before March 31, but no...there it was...in my little mail box just waiting to insult me on April 1.  I would have happily welcomed soggy toilet paper hanging from my trees, or even burning dog poop in a bag on my front porch, but alas, those happy days are gone.  What I received instead was a slap-in-the-face reality check.  "Happy Birthday, Mary," I thought as I opened the envelope and was greeted by an annoyingly perky new Medicare Card.  "You are now officially old."

It's not that I hate aging so much...after all, the alternative certainly doesn't offer any hope for my wine-soaked brain cells, I-Pad illiteracy or gelatinous thighs...it's just that I wish I could do it without watching.  You know....life could happen and I would always be three little paces ahead of it so I'd never have to stare it in the face.

So the big question is..how do I accomplish THAT?

I mulled all this over as I was getting ready for my big party a few days later.  I was already frustrated trying to find a stable spot for the toothpaste in my medicine cabinet which was overflowing with a variety of medicine bottles with adult-proof caps on them, hundreds of dollars worth of micro-sculpting regenerating serums, and a forlorn tube of Preparation H, when my daughter came in to the bathroom and promptly leaned into me to pull a gray whisker from my chin.  "Happy Birthday, Mom," she smiled.  Then said, "wait a minute, let me get the one growing out of your neck too."

"Your turn is coming," I muttered under my breath as I went into my closet to select some garment that would conceal my back flab.  I sat down on the worn cardboard box that was bursting with old report cards, children's drawings, a 1969 Time Magazine with a flag stuck in the moon on the cover, and the worthless 1972 Cosmo that sported a centerfold of a young and hairless Burt Reynolds.  I became aware that my little jaunt into the decrepitude of my future was hijacking my birthday mood and taking it to a destination much less festive.  "Hmmmmmm," I thought...."as a person who prides herself for staying on top of my emotional status....I feel......oh my God........crotchety."

You tell me....is crotchety better or worse than bitchy?

"Well!   I'm a nurse," my inside voice exclaimed, "problem-solving' are my two middle names.  I'll do what any good nurse does.  To resolve this attitude issue, I'll evaluate the situation, identify potential solutions, give it an enema and see what comes out!"

With serendipitous good fortune I rediscovered one solution the following weekend when my husband and I took friends to lunch.  Harry was a car buddy of my husband's, and I was stuck in the back seat with his wife, Sheila, while the men caught up in the front.  We turned into a parking lot that was obviously under some kind of construction.  Our restaurant was about a quarter of a mile over yonder.  I'm not sure if it was the rhythmic bobble and jiggle of my entire body or the scintillating conversation about Ford vs. Chevy engines taking place in the front seat that nearly lulled me to sleep.  Whichever, when we hit a large pothole I bounced in my seat and glanced up to see my reflection in the rear view mirror.  "What the hell is my grandmother doing here," I puzzled, shaking off my groggy stupor.

With some effort, I tuned out the drone of Sheila's dissertation on her nauseatingly capable daughter, and began to calculate how long it would take me to grow out my pixie haircut.  Surely a tight enough ponytail would diminish the crop furrows on my neck.  Though, I fretted, doing so might completely eliminate my ability to chew.  I frowned as I conjured up a life without Fritos.  This did not help the reflection staring back at me, so I placed a hand on each side of my face and stealthily began pulling up and out when Sheila said to me..."are you okay?"

"Oh yeah, fine," I fake-smiled, folding my hands in my lap.  It couldn't take rocket surgery to figure this out.

After we finished lunch, Sheila was complaining that she was frozen solid from the air conditioning in the restaurant.  The men were now discussing upholsterers when I said to her, "you know, Sheila, the vent for the heater works much better on the other side of the back seat.  I'll be happy to switch places with you."

She was grateful.  I was happy.  How could I have ever forgotten what any woman over the age of 30 knows.  Never sit behind the driver where, if you travel with your eyes open at all, you take the risk of seeing the Wicked Witch of the West glaring back at you.  It is a known fact that if you position yourself behind the front seat passenger, you will always be a young and beautiful princess!

Solution number one....check.

Over the next few days I continued to muse over the art of aging gracefully and sans crotchetiness.  So far I have come up with a short list, which, in parting, I am pleased to share with you.

1.  Frequent nursing homes.  It's good not to feel like I'm the oldest person in the world.  Plus, the greatest Generation has the Greatest Attitude.....ever.

2.  Hang out with anorexic smokers or speed freaks.  Even if they're ten years younger than me, they easily look ten years older.  It's okay...I've heard that freeway underpasses are safe.

3.  Work on your balance.  I don't need this kind of attention.  I learned this when I fell off my one inch heels while standing perfectly still waiting in line at Starbucks.

4.  Know your keys.  That red one is the panic button.  It does not unlock the door.

5.  Watch the diet.  It's pretty important to watch the calories, but I did hear Gloria Vanderbilt tell Anderson that if you give up a scoop of Jamoca Almond Fudge you can have an extra glass of Smoking Loon.

6.  Spend more money on a boob-lifting bra than you would on a stainless steel side-by- side.  One of my daughters turned me on to this.  It was really cool to become reacquainted with my ladies...I hadn't seen them that close up since I spent the entire month of February, 1973 standing on my head...trying to get pregnant while my husband was on R and R.

7.  Learn lip reading.  This works well for having any kind of meaningful conversation in an eating establishment.  Also for getting the message right on TV.  Recently, I mistakenly thought I heard John Boehner say something respectful about the President of the United States.

In case you missed it.....that's bitchy.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

What's the Difference?

I once attended a lecture, given by what I would call a rather daring psychologist, on the topic of "The Difference Between Man and Woman".  It was held in a small auditorium, so he lectured from a stage.  Several feet to his left, on said stage, was a stand with a bust of a man on it, and to his right a stand with a bust of a woman.  To the best of my recollection, this is what he said.  He approached the bust of the man, and waved his hand over it once.  "This is a man's brain," he began.  "A man's brain is made up of many compartments.  There is a compartment for his kids, one for the Lakers, one for feelings of sadness because his dog died, one for mowing the lawn, etc.  When he's feeling amorous, he goes into the 'Making Love with My Wife' compartment...finding in there all that he needs to accomplish that task, then he exits that compartment when he's finished, and moves into the 'Time to go to Sleep' box.  All very simple."

Several unimpressed "mmmm-hmmmms" could be heard from the females in the audience, as we all pictured our man unhurriedly meandering from one compartment to another.

The doctor pressed on, walking from the male to the female bust.

"This," he continued, "is the brain of a woman."  He immediately began madly wiggling his fingers and moving his hands all over the woman's head.  "A woman's brain is not made of compartments," he explained.  "The female brain is completely interactive.  By this I mean each activity and thought is directly linked to many other activities and thoughts, responsibilties and data that are housed in one single compartment.  The connections are perpetually racing, an electrical current sending messages...they never stop...not even during sleep.  Shifting, buzzing...all...the...time!"

At this point the therapist gazed over the audience, seeking out the males in the crowd and then nodded at them sympathetically, with a wistful smile on his face.

He continued.  "I know the gentlemen are asking themselves, "Why, whatever creates such a hullabaloo?  Why all the commotion?"  The psychologist began to enunciate his words - "This robust power grid in a woman's brain is ignited by...EEE-MO-TION."

"Heeeeeee're's Johnny", I thought, hearing Jack Nicholson cackling in my head as I snickered under my breath.

You could hear a collective male moan waft through the audience, "Ohhhhhh".  Then silence.

Well, I thought, that about sums it up!  Most likely men are not equipped with a compartment labeled "Understanding Women", or if there is one, its content is constantly changing its mind or reinventing itself.  Just ask Billy Joel.  I was starting to feel sorry for the guys.  We ladies do tend to spew those EEE-MO-TIONS all over the damn place.

My sympathy boat, however, was about to run aground.  The mental health professional was not quite finished.  A question came from a woman in the audience.

"Well, doctor, my husband and I can be taking a quiet walk, or just lying on the beach and I'll get a little lonely or bored and say 'Whatcha' thinking, honey'?

"Ooooooooo," I muttered.  I'd lived those 100 miles of silence on the road.  "Whatcha thinkin' honey?' I mimicked in my head.  Every female in the place knew what was coming next.

"He always answers, 'Nothing'.  Now doctor, how can anybody be thinking about nothing?  That's impossible."

"Oh no," the doctor was quick to explain, "it's simple."  I watched all the women in the audience move forward on their seats, ready for the long-awaited big reveal for this primordial question.

"You remember all those compartments in a man's brain that he goes into?"

The woman nodded.

"Well.....................one of them is empty."  He said with a self-satisfied grin.

Suddenly I was reminded of a book my daughter told me about.  You know, the one about men being from one planet and women being from another, in which, the good author explains, men like to go to their 'cave' sometimes, and just hibernate there.  Brilliantly I surmised this must be the empty compartment to which our very male doctor referred.

We all sat back in our chairs.  We glanced at one another and nodded in unspoken agreement.  Verrrry interesting.

I believe they were contemplating the same thing I was.  How limiting it must be to have to function out of containers!  Sort of like living out of suitcases, which, in my humble opinion, is a real pain in the patoot primarily because it causes me to waste a lot of time looking for things wandering around distractedly scratching my.....BING!  A light came on as I pictured the pile of dirty sweats on the bedroom floor my husband steps over every day and the unfailingly blank expression I receive when I mention to my husband that Mother's Day is Sunday.  Of course, I concluded.  A guy couldn't possibly have a box in his head for everything in life.  Right?

I want to be a man's equal, but that does not mean I want to be like a man.  What I want is his damn cave.  My slap-happy electrically charged hormonal currents wear me out.  I think I need a rest.  I'd put a little easy chair in there, with a lamp and a little fridge for chilled wine.  Nice stack of bestsellers.  And a window overlooking San Simeon Beach.  Oops.  I digress.

No..I don't think I want to be like a man.  If I were like a man, my children would have to become accustomed to me not really knowing what their exact birthdates are.  I'd be focused on protecting my crotch all the time and wouldn't have emotional energy required to empathize with Mary from Downton Abbey.  Some neighbor would come to the house and ask me to help fix his leaky toilet, and I'd have to give up my time sniffing my new grandbaby's neck.  I'd find myself scratching the itch in my git-a-long in public, experiencing absolutely no sense of social decorum because the door to my embarrassment container would be sealed tightly shut.

Well, I have to say our good doctor's revelations were really no surprise to me.  Men and women are definitely different, make no mistake.  If we weren't it would take my husband more than three minutes to shop for, clean up for and dress for a formal occasion.  He be at Gina's spa lying on her table allowing her to apply caustic substances to his face so that it would peel away.  And he wouldn't ask me to trim his eyebrows every six months, he pay someone to apply hot parafin to his skin and rip them off.

If men and women were the same, I'd have to climb out my bedroom window and balance precariously on my roof to wash the outside of the window.  I'd have to fish out the gaggy hair from the clogged bathtub drain.  I'd have to be the outside spoon when we snuggled in bed, freezing my ass off.  Nah.

I'll settle for grabbing a moment to read between peeling potatoes, re-patching my granddaughter's 12 year old baby blanket, clipping my mother's toenails, inventing new gluten-free recipes for my man, taking responsibility for picking eye boogers off the dog, and doing the Christmas shopping for every member of our extended family.  Oh, and having my boobs run over by a steam roller by my mammogram tech.

My grandson was here today.  He's exhibiting some signs.  I believe he was firmly entrenched in his homework compartment.  He was hungry and I had one hard-boiled egg left in the refrigerator.  I came into the kitchen and found its shell in the wrong side of the sink.  Smiling, I cleaned it out and threw it into the garbage disposal on the other side.  I looked around for the bowl it had been in and didn't see it.  Knowingly, I peeked in the fridge.  There it sat on my shelf.  Empty.

When his mother came to pick him up, I told her this little story.  Her eyes welled with tears and she hugged her son close saying, "Awwwwwww...my little boy is becoming a man."  She reached for the salt shaker left by his notebook and lovingly put it back where it belonged in the kitchen.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Christmas Letter

I haven't been writing much lately, but this post was inspired by a very recent conversation with one of my best friends, Nancy, whom I met in Mrs. Lazar's 7th grade P.E. class in 1961.  I have known her for 50 years and she can still make me laugh straight from the gut with her wit and her ability to just be real.  Thanks, Nancy...love you.

     People say they like to get my Christmas cards because my Christmas letter is funny.  I do try to make it so..life is amusing wallowing around in its surplus of irony and I can usually tap several events from the departing year over which to chuckle...but this holiday season I don't feel funny.  I don't know what to do about that.

     I mean, should I send my Christmas cards anyway?  Should I just wish everyone a Merry Christmas and sign our names?  I certainly get lots of those cards, and in my doddering years I appreciate the connection, but I have to admit up until now I found them a little annoying.  I mean if I haven't heard from you for an entire year you should at least let me know if you opted for a mini facelift or the full Monty, or why your daughter didn't send back the present I sent when she cancelled her wedding, or if your husband finally came out of the closet!!

     My dearest friend from junior high school tells me she hates getting Christmas letters.  "You know they're not telling you the truth.....everybody lies."  "Really?" I said, "you really feel that way?"  I had to ponder that for a minute, then found myself harkening back to Christmas letters my husband and I used to get from some Army acquaintances.  The ones whose three children had names that all started with the same letter (what the hell?).  They were written, naturally, by the wife, who put a heart over every "i" in her children's names.

     "Dear Family and Friends...Our life is blissful stationed here at the foot of Diamond Head (of course it wouldn't be Ft. Polk located deep in a Louisana swamp)...we have traveled to Monte Carlo, Tahiti, and Machu Pichu and had perfect weather at our five-star accommodations provided free due to the three months I worked for Triple A when I was single.  David, our quarterback, is captain of his championship team, and has a 5.0 grade point average.  Dixie, our Olympic gold medal winner was voted most popular girl in her class and is Cheerleader Queen...and little Divinity, recently voted most likely to succeed in her pre-school class has heen asked to dance with the Royal Ballet and will interview next week at Apple for the position recently held by Steve Jobs.  Richard, (never Rick like the rest of us called him) is now flying Air Force One, and I am President (isn't anyone ever a Recording Secretary?) of the Women's League.  Still, we have plenty of time to surf and scuba dive with the children (she had children, I had kids) when we're not working as
co-teacher's aides in their classrooms, leading walks for quadriplegics, or donating platelets.  Blah...


     My friend was right...everybody tries to make their lives sound perfect.  Well.  No one should ever doubt the veracity of MY Christmas letter....

     Here's what's not so perfect.

  • Being relegated to the obsolete pile.  I now get dinnertime telephone calls marketing cremation services rather than three day packages at Club Med.  In other words, I now get dinnertime telephone calls marketing Club Dead.
  • The idea that kids should no longer learn handwriting because humans now use computers.  How will they ever grow up to be doctors if they don't know how to fashion wreckage out of their own signatures on a prescription pad?  On a light note:  my 9 year grandson asked me if I wanted to see his cursive and I actually had to stop and give that some thought.
  • Groceries are really cheap at Walmart.  But all the fun stuff is at Trader Joe's. 
  • I can now afford to go to any where in the world to visit a tropical beach ......I just can't wear a bathing suit in public...or private. 
  • My daughter still comes to me to hem her daughter's pant leg.  Of course sewing is a nightmare, but it's not my job anymore.  I gave it up many Christmases go when I was trying to finish two adorable flannel nightgowns for my little girls.  A little screw fell out of my sewing maching sending the bobbin flying (bobbin...look it up).  I found the bobbin, but could never find the little screw even after I spent an hour on hands and knees patting my shag carpet with a metal spatula.\
  • My first grade teacher, Mrs. Fitzgerald, is still working her second job as a Flight Attendant.  Swear.  I know because I saw her on our trip to Miami.  It was a sad sight..pushing her walker ahead of her while she dragged the beverage cart behind.
  • My husband had to show me how to play a DVD on our new flatscreen 14 times.  After that I made my grandkids watch so they could show me.  They don't view it as dementia...just their own personal achievement.  All this was after he made me take an entire semester of "How to Turn On Your Own Television Set".
  • This year I realized that my jowls now bobble to the rhythym of my tires if I go over 40 mph on the freeway. 
  • The amount of time, money and effort it would take to get Congress fired.  If for no other reason I wish I could be 23 again, just to git 'er done.
     Actually, it's been a pretty good year...some ups...some downs.  Some of the downs make it tough to feel funny...but all of our family and friends make it easy to muddle through.  We are together.through thick and thin..hither or yon...watching one Republican candidate self-destruct, after another.

     Maybe next year there will be a little more laughter...like when the receptionist at my chiropractor's office snickered when I pulled out my Hallmark Date Book to write in my next appointment.  Ha-ha.  "You need to get an iPhone", she chortled.

     I've thought about getting a SmartAss or an AllAboutMePhone, or whatever...but I have to say it makes me nuts to attempt a conversation with someone who is scrolling north, south, east and west at 55 miles per hour entering deep self-hypnosis without even realizing it.  I don't want to go there yet.  I'm still trying to figure out how to text with my acrylic nails.

     "But it's so convenient", my nephew recently told me.  "You can write e-mail or check Facebook at work!"  "I'm retired" I reminded him.  I decided I didn't want to spoil the moment, though so I asked him to show me something the phone could do that would work for me.  He told me that I could enter an appointment and the phone would actually contact me and tell me what the appointment was and when.  "You're kidding me, right?"  "No," he said, "just listen...you'll love this feature."

     He fiddled around with the phone for an annoying amount of time...after all I had a perfectly good glass of Chardonnay warming up on the kitchen counter...but then he said..."Voila!"

     All of a sudden I heard a little voice say..."Reminder - Saturday, November 5th at 2:00 p.m. - Get Stella's Anal Glands Squeezed."

     "Now", I thought, "that's funny."     

                                                                      Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Not a Wet Eye in the House

     What I am, is an observer of human behavior...always have been.  I majored in Sociology, which, yes, yes, yes, we all know is the easiest major known to mankind.  Still, I really loved it.  It's the study of groups of people.   It's the reason I know words like "outlier" or "skew" or "cohort".  My nursing career included many years in mental health.  Human behavior just fascinates me....why do people do what they do?  I tend to watch people and how they behave.  Sometimes, I wish I didn't.

     Being an ancient, I miss having little kids and all the fun that comes with them.  Happily, life has given me eight fabulous, smart and adorable grandchildren (no, really).  Four girls, and four boys.  I get to be a part of their lives and recapture a time in my life when my own kids were busy with sports, and homework, scouts, and activities.  Sometimes, now, when my grandchildren's folks are busy at work, and can't get away, I am the substitute event-attender at award ceremonies and school programs.  This is a duty I cherish.

     It's November.  I was invited by two of my grandkids to their Patriot's Day Program commemorating and honoring our heroes and veterans.  They were both singing...my granddaughter with the school chorus, and my grandson with his third grade class.

     The theme was patriotism.  For my generation, born and raised just after World War II, this concept is pretty clear.  It was part of our upbringing at home and at school.  To this day I can still sing most of the lyrics to the Army, Navy, Marine, and Air Force anthems.  Of course. many of us were directly affected by that war...my sister's daddy didn't come home...my husband's dad came home with bad dreams and dark moods.

     As school children we were taught about the Patriots who founded our country and our Constitution..and how they incorporated liberty, honor, bravery, independence, and human rights to life and to expression into our every day.  We grew up on lessons, stories, books, and movies about courage, sacrifice, heroism, and selflessness.   Love of country..respect for others.

     Of course, in the 60+ years since the end of World War II, we have continued to produce heroes and patriots when our country has been at war or in crisis, or just in extraordinary circumstances.  I was heartened to know that our schools continue to respect and honor our heroes and patriots and that these concepts are not only being taught to our youngsters, but that the kids were excited to express this knowledge proudly in their program.

     I arrived just as the program was starting.  It was outside, standing room only.  Packed.  I didn't get the pre-program flyer..but obviously the parents did.  They were all dressed in red, white and blue.  Wow, I thought.  I am so proud to be here.

     The Assistant Principal welcomed us, introduced local patriots from law enforcement, the fire department and all branches of the armed services, and then invited all of us to join her in singing the National Anthem.

     The patriots, teachers and chorus sang and so did I.  The audience stood silent.

     I looked around...there were people dressed in our honored colors everywhere.  They shifted restlessly, glancing at times in the direction of the flag of the United States of America.  Land of the free.  Home of the brave.  One young woman took her eyes off the flag and made a 180 degree turn to momentarily check me out.  "Read my lips," I thought, "what so proudly we hailed, at the twilight's last gleaming.."  C'mon, be a rebel, I know you can do it!!!!

     The Assistant Principal then asked us to join in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America....to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and  justice for all.

     As I spoke the words, I saw a guy in the audience place his hand over his heart and felt a nudge of hope...but the crowd continued to stare at the flag, stone faced...marking time?   For what?  I thought.  The good stuff has started...this is part of the program!

     The kids began their singing program.  Well, now.  THAT woke folks up.

     Out came two hundred video cameras.  The parents of the children singing moved in and recorded the songs for posterity.  Presumably, to watch later...maybe they would catch a word or two of the song then.  It didn't seem to matter that they stepped in front of the rest of us, who might want to see our kids..most of the crowd began texting, talking on cells, or chatting with neighbors until their kid's class sang the next patriotic song.  Standard procedure, apparently.

     Now, I cry when kids sing.  It doesn't matter what they sing.  They can be singing in Cantonese on PBS....or about re-using paper bags at the local "Recycle" program.  Their precious, young, innocent, earnest, trusting voices send me over the edge.  I believe our schools do a really good job of assisting children to relate through these programs to their responsibilities as citizens and to our American traditions.  Our children have such potential to make this world a better, safer, nicer place.  I tear up because it so touches my heart.

     So...when the program ended with a dramatic resounding rendition of "I'm Proud to be an American" from the fifth grade class I was puzzled.  I stood there clutching at the lump in my throat and noted that I did not see one Kleenex being sneaked from a pocket....or one nose being steathily wiped on a sleeve.  Just tolerant stares...and the relentless video cameras plus more than one sappy Stepford smile. 

     The parents politely applauded and then just like that...the cameras disappeared...and a mad red,white, and blue-streaked dash for the car whizzed in front of me.


     Is it me?  I think we have literally lost our senses.  Are we Americans totally blind to the magnificence and rarity of living FREE?  Do we just assume that people in Darfur went to their children's school program today too?  Or that in Somalia their biggest problem is what to bring for soccer snacks?  Do we have any comprehension of what we have here...how we got it...and how precarious it is to hold on to?  Our patriots are dying out there, maybe today, to ensure that we have school programs to go to tomorrow.  Are we totally freakin' numb?  Deaf?  Dumb?

     When did it become uncouth to sing the National Anthem?  Lame, to recite the Pledge of Allegiance?  When did it become an embarrassment to proclaim our pride and loyalty to our country?  When did we lose the emotional connection to the brilliance and the originality and the democratic success story that IS the United States of America? 

     When did we become so entrenched in our belongings that we decided to record our kid's songs and watch them some other time rather than to really listen to the words, to get the goose bumps, to feel the pride, to experience the gratitude, the privilege, the joy of being an American among Americans celebrating our shared heritage of valiance and heroism with the youngsters who are our future hope?

     How are THEY supposed to feel it.....if WE don't?

     How will THEY sing the words and affirm their loyalty....if WE don't?

     It looks so much like indifference, doesn't it?  It smells so much like apathy, doesn't it?  It feels so much like complacence, doesn't it?  Get real...think about this.  Truly...isn't this more devastatingly dangerous to our country than any terrorist plot? 

     This isn't about being spectators...this is about being Americans.  Stand up folks.  Sing the words loud and clear for your children and for the world to hear.  Speak the pledge, folks.  Show the future of America what you mean.  What YOU stand for.   Proclaim that you care.   

You do care.....right?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

80% Chance of Sunshine

     What does it mean when the weatherman says there is a 20% chance of rain?  Really?  In my world, Southern California, just 50 miles southeast of Los Angeles, it means, at most, a muddy windshield when wet air settles overnight on an already very dusty car.  Why even mention it?

     We started this week at 110 degrees..not a wisp of a cloud in sight.  Then, like a miracle..we woke to clouds for the next two days..thick and rain-laden clouds.  According to the Weather Channel, thunderstorms were pending.  Thunderstorms?  Seriously?  My heart went pitty-pat.  But...ummmm....don't you have to have H20 for that?  What did we get?  Thunder for sure....lightning...absolutely.  And a trip to the vet for doggie Xanax.  Nada, zip, zero rain.  This morning I looked out my bedroom window and saw rain drops on our rooftop.  And that's all she wrote folks.  Thunderheads all around us.....and 12 drops of rain.

     Come on!!!  We need a GOOD rain.  We need the air cleared, the streets washed, heck, I need my landscaping dusted by God, rather my water bill.  Going months with only 12 drops of precipitation can feel like an unusually long stretch of celibacy in a very busy life.  You know what I mean.....it's that parched, antsy, cranky, unable to identify exactly what's wrong feeling.  A good rain..now that makes a person feel like her needs have been met, refreshed, content, connected once more to the glory of life and nature....purring like a little kitten..... a little smiling kitten.  I'm right.  Right?

     I think I must be the only Southern Californian who hates sunshine.  Well, I don't really hate it...I just wish it would go away more often.  I crave clouds.  Just seeing clouds makes me feel hopeful...hopeful that the awful monotony will be swept down our totally unused storm drains in one hell of a thunderstorm.  Just a little cloud will do that for me.  Raises my spirit right up!!  Embarrassingly, in my career I had a rather important management position, but when the bi-annual raindrop shoved its little self out of a cloud and plummeted to earth, I would bolt from my office, dash to the front lobby, and mash my nose against the window marveling at the water falling from the sky.  "Don't you want to go out and smell wet pavement?"  I would ask the forlorn, suntanned faces staring quizzically at me.

     It's reasonable that I feel as I do, of course.  In the 1950's, in Los Angeles where I grew up, just after Christmas in January and February, it would rain for weeks on end.  We didn't have fancy storm drains then, and the water would collect in our street, growing ever higher each day, until we experienced what my father called a "curb to curb".  A veritable river would travel down our block and merge into the confluence at the corner of 76th and Airport Boulevard.  From there the water traveled two more blocks until it dumped into Howard Hughes' bean fields (now the San Diego Freeway).  My mother would zig-zag camping rope all over the living room to hang her laundry and she would put the Army Surplus blanket over the card table to make me a cozy house....a nice place to sip my cocoa with marshmallows and play with my Storybook dolls.

     At school, I adored the rainy day schedule.  During recess we had to stay inside.  In the morning, the teacher would read us a story.  At lunch time, after eating from our faithful brown bags, we would play "Heads Up-Seven Up".  If you were smart you would cheat and sneak a look at the player's shoes when they went by, so that you too could stand in front of the classroom as one of the chosen elite.  But best of all was the afternoon recess, when, in desperation, the teacher would drag out a huge stack of comic books.  The room was as still as a remote mountain top in the dead of winter.

     As a child, I actually owned rain boots.  This tender memory nearly brings a tear to my eye...but I'm too dehydrated.

     Some 15 years ago my nephew moved to Seattle for a management job in retail.   Before that, I really had no idea where Seattle was, besides north of Oregon.  Well, actually, a college girlfriend an I drove through Seattle once, on an adventure to Canada, but we didn't really acknowledge it as a city, more as a place..with fish..along the highway.  When my nephew settled, of course I visited, and fell in love with it.  It is beautiful, that's all there is to it.  It is clear, cool, green and very chic.  There is a rather obvious reason for all that greeness, I learned.  It rains 156 days a year in Seattle, or truly, something amazing like that.

     This concept just blew me away.  Rain....regular, fresh watery rain!  Often!  Wow!  I was dying to move there immediately.  I bought the ever popular VHS "First Step to Seattle" and watched it over and over again.  I wanted nothing more than to slosh.  Slosh, slosh, slosh!!!!!  I dreamed of umbrellas, galoshes, Burberry raincoats, pitter-pats on the roof at night, living on a houseboat, drinking hot tea and baking cookies, curling up with a good book, and perhaps running into Tom Hanks at Starbucks, smiling shyly in a Meg Ryanish sort of way, with little droplets hanging from my eyelashes.    

     Reality systems..............check!

     They say, people in Norway, which gets approximately four hours of sun a day, until winter falls, have a high rate of significant depression, so isn't it logical that those of us who must endure sunshine 12 hours a day, 12 months a year might have similar tendencies?  It's the change I crave , of course.  Life is a challenge and we meet it daily.  We get up. deal with the same responsibilities, drive the same freeways, buy the same groceries, and we are fielding problems as we go.  Surely God means for us to have some variety in life!!  Why else would She have created Rush Limbaugh and Bill Mahr in the same century?  I know, I know....why would she create Rush Limbaugh at all?  But you know what I'm getting at.

     I am still holding out for the return of a rainy season here in dusty, desiccated SoCal, even though experts report that we have a better chance of producing a California state budget in my lifetime.  I have to have hope...hope that I'll finally get to use the adorable raincoat our daughter-in-law, who lives on the East coast, left in my closet five years ago.  Hope that the dying drought -resistant plants in my back yard will once more come to life.  Hope that the skies will open up and Malibu will slide into the ocean, and the happy taxpayers will never have to rescue the poor unfortunate rich people again.  In the meantime, I will just have to muddle through.  I'll make plans..that always helps.....we will have Thanksgiving out on our new deck.  We can go to the beach on Christmas, and to Palm Springs to play golf on New Year's Day.

     I'll bide my time having iced coffee on Panera's sunlit patio with my mother and my daughters.  I'll play in the pool with my grandbabies.  I'll stock up on sunscreen, and sandals, and sunglasses to wear while I'm out there in the 100 degree heat scanning the skies for clouds.  I'll be okay..I know I'm not alone on my quest.  I'm fairly certain our handsome local news weatherman feels just as I do.  He has hope in his heart too.  When he announces there is a 20% chance of showers on a cloudless, 85 degree day, his enormous and colorful backdrop optimistically reads "STORM WATCH".

     I'm watching too, you big lug.  But.....while we wait......don't you think you should maybe go out.....and find yourself a nice girlfriend?




Thursday, August 5, 2010

What a Pain in the Butt

     Maybe it started in Mrs. Boynton's ballet class doing back bends.  Or maybe it started when I practiced contortions in the Modern Dance class I took when I was a junior in High School.  Interesting term..Modern Dance..since it was conceived by Isadora Duncan in 1903.

     My actual point is...sometime in my youth..I tweaked my lower back.  Oh, at first it was just a little twinge when I hiked out on the sailboat, or free fell down the bunny slope.  No big deal.  Eventually it bothered me when I dug weeds, or reached under the bed to attack the mountain of dust bunnies.  Strangely, the tandem crash in "98 didn't bother my back..perhaps because I was distracted with trying to breathe with a punctured lung.  Then, there was one lovely Christmas morning, when, with all the family gathered to open gifts, I reached over the end of the sofa for a package hidden under the tree and was forced to admit..before Santa and all..that I was in serious trouble.  I couldn't sit back up!  If only St. Nick had left me an ice pack and a heating pad in my faithful old Christmas stocking!

     I just never knew what was going to set it off...but we came to sort of a truce...my back and me.  Of course I had to dig weeds while lying on my stomach, I had to assume a perfect leg extended up in the air behind me swan dive position to search for a contact lens lost in the carpet..and I could buy regular groceries, but was limited to carrying only those made of styrofoam.  The dust bunnies remained incarcerated under my beds like prisoners of war.  But all was quiet on the Southern Front.....of my back.

     Then one day, marching along looking for something else to be perturbed about..it came to my attention that my bathroom mirror had been lying to me.  This enlightenment came to me one early morning, when, although I was awake enough to stagger to the potty, my denial system was supposed to be fast asleep...shhhhhhh.  It woke rapidly when, on my way back to bed, I caught a quick glimpse of myself and, thanks to the miracle of my recent Lasik surgery, was flabbergasted to see that my upper arms were turning into Cream of Wheat!  What?

     I comforted myself with the knowledge that for every problem there must be a solution right?  Who better to help me than the ever faithful Internet.  I looked up mush-busting exercises.  All I needed to do, it instructed, was rest my hands behind me on the seat of a sturdy chair..and lower my bottom towards the floor, then push back up.  Three reps of eight..two times a day.  Piece of cake.  Guaranteed to firm up the old Malt'O'Meal in no time at all.

     Unfortunately, the cease-fire was over.

     Somehow, those exercises triggered a sharp pain in the left cheek of my rear end.  Really?  Any of you old timers who remember Grandpa McCoy know what I am going to say.  Sciatica.  Darn tootin'.  His exaggerated gimp was no act. 

     Of course, it only really hurt if I stood, walked, or sat.  All the time, actually, except when I was sleeping, tanning at the beach, or getting my teeth cleaned.  I had to drive with my left foot on the dashboard.  But, because my life was busy, responsibilities plentiful, and my work demanding, I managed to deny its severity for a year and a half.  It was when I retired, however, I admitted  that my little war...day in and day out was well.....a real pain in the ass!!

     I consulted my doctor.  Of course this wasn't the first time I had mentioned this problem to her, but this time I convinced her something needed to be done, when I told her how embarrassing it was to have to elevate my leg on the wine bar at cocktail parties.  "Do you wear a cocktail dress?" she asked me in a diagnostic sort of way.

     Her solution was to send me to a "Physical Medicine" doctor.  "What the hell is that?"  I thought.  Isn't every doctor a doctor of physical medicine?  What kind of cockamamie doctor is this?  Well, what she is.....is a very tall, big boned, expressionless, emotionless, mustache-less Czechoslovakian.........Hitler.  Only maybe not as friendly.  Without making eye contact with me throughout the entire four minute appointment, the dictator doctor made her assessment of my problem by tickling my feet and asking me how much wine I drank every day.  Her only comments about my back were..."effrybody hess beck problems" and "you need to haf thet mole on your beck checked".

     She sent me to "Beck Clesses".  I learned how to roll around on a ball the size of my living room sofa.  I can't remember why.  But the giant green ball IS more comfortable to sit on when I write than my old oak chair.  I learned how to do exercises that never improved my sciatica, but did aggravate other places in my back I didn't know I had.  I ended up at the chiropractor who adjusted everything but my crummy attitude.  Then.....I received from Dr. Grumpyczechnazi, instructions to attend a class on a Transcutaneous Electronic Nerve Stimulator.  Well, I thought, count me in for that kind of an adjustment!  But do I really have to learn about it in a class with other people?

     Suffice it to say, I didn't get the my fantasy adjustment..but that little TENS unit turned out to be my new best friend anyway.  If you must know how it works, sit through the beck cless yourself.  In a nutshell, it is a little contraption about the size of my 1960 transistor radio.  I stick a couple of gooey little patches on my back and attach some wires..then turn on the bliss.  So far no one has added my name to the No-Fly List, so I guess I'm not the only traveler who uses one to manage long airline flights......although it does fit my imagination's requirements for an underwear bomb.  Anyway...I felt free again, and maybe even a little ........young.

     What better for young people to do than dash off to Tuxie's Car Cruise.  For those of you who don't know what a car cruise is..well..it's a fast flash to the past.  It's a sea of cars that were new when I was.  My husband, the ultimate car guy, loves to see the workmanship, and to compare carburetors, upholstery stitching, headlight placement, tachometers, and transmissions.  I love to listen to obscure old songs by Don and Juan, Paul and Paula, Don and Phil, and Mickey and Sylvia.  I like the colors and the shapes and the styles.  I enjoy the milieu; my husband enjoys lying on his back in a filthy parking lot looking at engine mounts.  I learned a long time ago to take a couple of tiny bottles of chardonnay to sip from my Catholic University coffee cup along the way.

     It had been a long time since I had been to a Tuxie's cruise, and I was excited to return knowing that with my new stealth device in place I could comfortably walk the distance.  Chronic pain saps one's attention.  I knew now I could enjoy every single aspect of our trip down memory lane.  I was eager to return, if only for a moment, to those feelings of youth, freedom, fun and frolic.

     Forget it.

     It seemed the majority of the crowd was there to revisit its youth too.  I knew this immediately when I stepped from our cute little '28 roadster into the path of a motorized wheelchair.  It was driven by a white-haired guy who had a miniature oxygen tank rolled into his t-shirt sleeve, rather than his trusty pack of Camels.  I jumped out of his way just in time to stumble over the walker of another guy who was taking a picture of his girlfriend leaning jauntily on her cane.  Quickly I checked my little pocket pal to be sure it was safely tucked away..invisible to the world.  I can't be this old....I thought.  I identify more with the younger people here, I'm sure.

     Well, maybe not.  We were strolling down the row with the "souped up" cars, when somebody revved up an engine loud enough to trigger an air raid siren.  Yikes!  F***!  I jumped out of my skin!  I looked around.  We were in the young crowd.  Scary.  Tall,  tatooed scary.  Some guy walked by with a t-shirt telling us he was a laborer.  "I'm a carpenter..who can I nail next".  Nice, I thought.  Bet his mommy loves doing his laundry.  This isn't youth, I pondered, this is hell.  My gray roots would show in two days if my hair was ruby magenta.  I'd have to go to beck clesses for my neck if I was trying to hold my head up with that much metal in my face.  And how could I hide my magic machine in skin tight leggings?

     "Let's get out of here," I told my husband.  "My back feels great...let's go pick up the grandkids and go to the park.  Let's kick the soccer ball around, ride bikes, play on the jungle-gym.  I'm too old to feel young here......but I'm too young to feel old". 

     My ever-agreeable husband nodded and looked at me with, what....sympathy?  Empathy?  Apathy?  Oh yeh.....I recognized the look.  I reached over and turned on his hearing aid.  "Wake up, Little Susie" I said.  "We gotta go home".

Thursday, June 17, 2010

As the Worm Turns

     Any idea what happens when the earth spins 18,250 times?  Fifty years go by.  One year of kindergarten, twelve years of school, six years of college, a multitude of experiences, marriage, childbirth, a tragedy or two..a real mish-mash of training and learning at the school of hard knocks.  So, after all that effort, why do I feel like I might have ditched too many classes?

     I don't know where to buy pants that come up to my waist.  I'd rather volunteer in the root canal class at theTorment and Torture School of Dentistry than wear pants with a two inch zipper.  Who ever thought that Grace Kelly's elegant trim waist would be usurped by a fashion industry that dictates women of all sizes, ages and shapes expose belly jelly that would make Mr. Sumo blush!

     I think we should call the current young cohort Generation U....for Underwear.  While no female under forty has ever heard of a girdle, the brassiere industry is booming.  Directly above every unwelcome midriff exhibit is a bra, where a nice blouse used to be.  And, to make matters worse..if a young woman IS wearing a shirt...she flaunts the bra straps.  What's THAT about?  In my day, I would rather pin my Maidenform to my shoulder than allow the public even a tiny peek.  Seriously though, I'd rather stand behind a dingy bra strap in the grocery store line than a Fruit of the Loom label snuggled into some hot shot's booty crack.

     Nothing meant more to the kids of the 60's than music.  I am really struggling with whats considered popular today.  It seems we have now evolved from Elvis-like faux bumping to on-stage real-time humping.  The Beach Boys didn't have sex on stage at a concert...they sang about waiting until they were married.  Oh my God.  Wait?  A concept from the frickin' dark ages.  By the way, I did try switching from popular music to Country for a spell, but I was forever wiping my nose on my arm when I ran out of Kleenex in the car.

     Once in awhile I find myself listening to my parent's music, dreaming of a more innocent time.  Of course, the entire world was at war, and those girls were delivering their babies six months after the wedding too, but the music was romantic and sentimental.  Can anyone imagine Kate Smith waggling her backside in the faces of her audience while singing "When the Moon Comes over the Mountain"?

     If you're my age you'll remember in the olden days how the Lavoris commercial made us cringe when the man talked about "halitosis"?  GROOOSS!  Now his son talks about "E.D."  Seriously?  I get the message about how to keep a certain part of the anatomy straight.  The big mystery to me is how the guy in the commercial manages to keep his FACE straight.  And puleeeze Mr. Advertising Exec..having a period month after relentless month is hell enough.  Sell us a product if you must, but here's a news flash...we ladies are honestly very aware of the entire concept.  Jeez.  Shut up!!

     So...here is my question.  Whatever happened to modesty?  Innocence?  Decorum?  Or restraint?  Where did they go?  Gone with the wind are hats and gloves, respect for others, and manners.  Jeans at a funeral?  Really?  School teachers in tank tops? Excuse me?  Actually singing the words (or even knowing the words) to the National Anthem at the ball game?  Unheard of.  And while I'd just love to blame it on the young, it's just not so.  It was us...the people who lived the last 18,250 days who endorsed this sad evolution.  Somehow we have chipped away at the formality and the finesse of growing up in the fifties and sixties.  Why did we do that?  Why did we make ourselves and our experiences irrelevant in such a desperate world? 

     How fortunate we were when we were the young cohort.  Our folks' generation went without.  They lived their lives as an admirable mission to make their kid's lives better than their own.  They gradually gave us all they had lived without.....and it was a gracious plenty.  Still it was not enough for us.  We wanted more.  We sure made the most of the peace and freedom that were handed to us.  It seems in some fashion we rejected for our own lives, the lives our parents made for us.  Along with ridiculing their reuse of aluminum foil, their washing out of plastic bread bags, their used cars, their balls of string, their caches of rubber bands from the newspaper and their one bathroom homes, apparently we scorned their character, morals, sense of decency and responsibility as well.

     And boy, don't we regret it now.  The beat went on..and the worm turned and turned.

     I hold out a lot of hope for the next cohort though.  Thanks to the ongoing greed of our generation, the world has imploded financially.  While this is, and I know this personally, traumatic, humiliating, frightening, and seemingly unfair...based on the pendulum theory, it could be the life-changing wake-up call to what really matters in our lives, and for our families.

     Hold on....hang on.......let me get the soap flakes out of my eyes.  Sorry.

     Realistically, it could take at least another 18,250 days to get the world rearranged just the way I want it, so I'd better just stay focused on my own small daily challenges.

     I'd like to solve the mystery of how my backside migrated to my frontside.  I'd like to find a way to see the buttons on my IPOD without having to carry a magnifying glass when I take my morning walk.  I'd like to know why, if I finish up a roll of TP at someone else's house..there's never an extra roll to be found under their bathroom sink.  On that vein...I'd like to know if other people can change the TP without the roller clanging to the floor and rolling just out of reach. 

     And since I have digressed to the bathroom issues, let me just get this off my chest.  I think that instructions for flushing should be posted in the airport restroom.  I need to know exactly which button to shove with my foot, rather than kicking a hole in the wall or throwing my back out.  I am pleased to announce, however, that I have conquered the toilet seat cover issue.  After years of being gullible enough to believe the seat cover is actually going to alight on the seat rather than gently wafting into the next door stall...I now reassure my next door neighbor of my immpecable hygiene by pulling the seat cover out of the dispenser, rattling it around a couple of seconds, crumpling it into a ball and throwing it into the john.  What can I say?  We were a rebellious generation..

     Finally, there are the forever nagging doubts about the computer.  I really do not know the difference between a megabyte and a modem.  Actually I don't even know what either of them are.  It may be that I never know....but my 16 month old  granddaughter is learning how to talk......so I'm pretty sure, just as soon as she learns a few more words..... she'll be able to explain it to me.