Archive for August, 2009

Just a Housewife
August 28, 2009

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What I do, what I choose to do
May be dumb to you
But it’s not to me

Craig Carnelia (from “Working the Musical”)

My refrigerator is a tacky receptacle of fun and interesting refrigerator magnets that stick quite a collection of photos, artwork, reminders, invitations, favorite comic strips and “stuff” to its surface. Nothing but the invitations and reminders are ever removed; the other items are just too special. I don’t know what I’m going to do when this refrigerator dies and I’ll have to remove my gallery of memories. (note: the fridge pictured above is NOT mine)

One of the most precious pieces of art on the fridge is circa 1990. That year, Shannon was four years old and in pre-school over at River Oaks Baptist School. Her teachers, Mrs. McDaniel and Mrs. Boone, would embellish a student’s good work with a smiley face that had a curlicue of hair twirling upwards. 

At that point in time, Shannon had a good grasp of her letters and was sounding words out and even writing some. “FISH” was the first word she ever sounded out on her own without having ever seen it in a book (we were in the car behind a truck with that word on it, and she pointed and said, “FISH!” Boy, was I proud!). 

One day that year, I was cross about something. I do not recall why, but apparently, Shannon noticed, and she carefully drew me a smiley face with that familiar curlicue of hair. She then wrote a note with her drawing, and presented it to me. The note said, “CHER UP MOM”. Of course I dissolved into laughter when I envisioned myself dolling myself up like Cher would at that point in her career, but of course understood that I was to CHEER up, and cheer up, I did.  

Fast forward to 2009. This past weekend, Pure Sound (the youth choir that I have adopted) presented their annual summer musical, Babes on Broadway. This is a musical revue with a story line that weaves in between songs from the theater, movies, television, radio and such. In this particular show, one of my sweet girls presented the powerful and poignant number, “Just a Housewife” from Working the Musical

Whitney is in the 11th grade and has no basis on which to relate to the words of this song. But she did a knock out job as she sang about how marginalized she had been made to feel because she chose to stay home and raise up her kids as opposed to going off and having a high flying career. She sang passionately about how important this was to her, and I wrote to her afterwards and told her I much I admired her performance, because I chose the same route years ago, and was also made to feel small by certain career women. 

Why do I mention this? Because also stuck on my refrigerator is a very meaningful essay that my husband cut out of the Wall Street Journal years ago. I just re-read it with Whitney’s song reverberating in my head. Written by William R. Mattox, Jr., the essay affirms me even to this day. Mr. Mattox writes of taking his 8 year old daughter, Allison, to Take Your Daughter to Work Day (“as conjured up by the Ms. Foundation to better raise girls’ self esteem by exposing them to professional career women”). 

Mr. Mattox had planned a day where he would introduce Allison to all sorts of powerful women, smart, connected and impressive. But he said he most looked forward to the drive home when he would tell her that her own mother used to have a job similar to the women she had met on that day. Then he will say to her: “Allison, you must be a very special young girl. Your mother could be using her talents and skills in all sorts of jobs in the workplace, but she has chosen instead to use them at home teaching you. She must love you very, very much and think you are very important.” 

He continues, “Somehow I think that at that moment, my daughter’s self esteem will rise to a level heretofore unimagined by the organizers of Take Your Daughter to Work Day. And for that I owe a debt of gratitude to my wife, whose esteem-building job as a mother at home rarely receives the public esteem it deserves.” 

I, too, walked away from an excellent job to stay home to raise up my precious Shannon. She is now grown and off on her own, and I think she is a fine young lady with a good head on her shoulders, very responsible, smart, hard working, frugal, thoughtful, loyal and caring. I like to think my influence had something to do with all of these positive characteristics, but who knows? Maybe she would have turned out that way even if I had chosen the other path. 

But what I cherish most about that clipping is that Joel thought about me when he read it and took the time to cut it out for me. He wanted me to know that he appreciated what I did, even if society didn’t. 

And so to Whitney (my “adopted daughter”): Never, ever forget this when the time comes for you to make a choice. I am so very proud of you for doing such an outstanding job!

Scat Cats
August 22, 2009

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Our house is a very, very fine house
With two cats in the yard…
                                                                                                                                                                                         -Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young “Our House”

Since when did we start having to take our pets to the vet’s office twice a year? It seems as if time is being more and more compressed as I age, and it just seemed like yesterday when I last took the cats in. The veterinarian clinic recently sent me an e-mail reminder, which I ignored for awhile, and then out of guilt, I finally made the appointment. 

It was only then did I notice that it was for a “semi-annual exam”. For heaven’s sake! These are indoor cats who have never been exposed to the outside world. I faithfully give them monthly treatment against heartworms/hookworms/ear mites/fleas and other nasty cat scourges. While I do love my vet, I am seriously thinking about scaling back to just one visit per year unless there is some obvious problem. 

As you might guess, the cats do not like going to the vet. Mimi and Trixie are eleven year old sisters from the same litter, but obviously with different fathers. Mimi is a shorthair calico; we call her our Pentecostal cat because she has a flame of orange on her forehead. Trixie is a longhair tortoiseshell. Both have the same stunning green eyes. 

But that’s the only thing they have in common. Mimi is purposeful, and Trixie is a ditz. There you go. Each time we do a vet run, I have to surreptitiously sneak the cat carrier to the back door, so that Mimi will not notice it. At the appointed time, I must casually close off the kitchen doors, block off the lazy susan corner cabinets and only then bring the carrier inside. 

For when I do, Mimi freaks, while Trixie thinks, “oooh! A new thing to explore!” And into it she goes. I close the door on her and try to capture Mimi who is squalling up a storm and who does her best to splay her legs out so that she won’t fit into the door. 

(note: if I am not secretive about this process, Mimi will go find a spot somewhere that I will be totally unable to extricate her. I can tell you stories…the lazy susan is an example: the last time we went through this experience she managed to wriggle her way into the very back corner behind the circular cabinet… I had to pull her out by one leg. Other times, she would run upstairs and settle under the bed, knowing she was just out of my reach.) 

There is yowling all the way to the vet, at which point the two hunker down in a plot to not voluntarily exit the carrier. The interesting thing is that once at the vet, it is Mimi, the recalcitrant one, who is docile, and Trixie, the easy one, who is problematic!   

Long story short, $400 later, we are on the way home. I must add that that rather LARGE sum includes six months worth of  meds for them plus some dog stuff like toothpaste and skin care items. But dang it, I forgot to pick up Shadow’s arthritis medicine, which he really needs! 

The vet asked me to collect a stool sample from each cat, which I agreed to, but then as  I thought about it, I wonder how in the heck I’m going to do that! They use a communal box; how will I know whose poops are whose? 

I guess I’ll be doing some cat stalking over these next few days. Brother! The things we do…  

note: to follow up this post, I did manage to collect two obviously different poop samples, but had no idea which belonged to whom. Neither tested for parasites, so all is well!

The Shady Side of the Street
August 14, 2009

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No, I will be the pattern of all patience; I will say nothing.
William Shakespeare (King Lear 1605-6)

It goes without saying that it is hot in Houston during the month of August. Running during this time of year takes an extra dose of stamina and resolve. The only way I survive is to run early, carry a bottle of ice (which melts into chilled water) and to wear an ice water soaked bandana around my neck. Along my route, I delight in running through sprinklers and running on the shady side of the street whenever possible.

There is a sunny sidewalk near my house which bakes in the morning sun, and to get to any of my usual 3-mile routes, I must pass that way. However, on the opposite side of the street, the trees offer a shady alternative. Problem is, there is no sidewalk on that side.
So I run along the narrow painted strip that marks the road side; while I’m technically on the road, I’m not impeding traffic or anything.

This morning, as I was running in this shady strip, a car drew near. HONK!!!!!! The driver was a man who must have some serious anger management issues. He gesticulated at me that there was a sidewalk on the other side, perhaps suggesting that I cross over? Seriously!

Of course, I just ignored him and continued running in the shade. I would have loved to gesticulate back at him to show him what I thought of his rudeness, but naturally, that would have just made things worse. What I cannot understand is what possessed him to harass me like that. I mean, it’s not like I was blocking him or anything; he flew by me without slowing. Get a life, buddy!

My father (bless his heart) was a fine man, but he had patience issues, and he honked his car horn with abandon at any small indiscretion that other drivers might exhibit. Oh! We would absolutely cringe in mortification when he’d let fly. You would have thought he had been raised in New York City or something (not!). I’m a bit surprised that he wasn’t shot dead in a road rage incident.

Myself? I can barely find my car horn when pressed to do so, perhaps when somebody has not looked over his or her shoulder to see that I’m in their blind spot, or when someone is otherwise pre-occupied and hasn’t noticed that the traffic signal has turned green.

One can honk a horn politely, and that is my style. Perhaps it’s a resolve to not be like my father in that regard, but more than anything, I usually try to give others the benefit of the doubt.

Life is too short to be rude.

The Soundtrack of my Youth
August 7, 2009

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And stay right here, ’cause these are the good old days… -Carly Simon (“Anticipation”)

My sister Camille gave me a book for my birthday this year, “Girls Like Us” by Sheila Weller. It’s an intertwined biography of three musical icons from the 1960’s-1970’s, Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon. I am almost finished with it, and it’s with a pang that I am so. Don’t you hate it when you really love a book and then you have to finish it? 

Back when I was a 6th grader in 1966, my grandparents gave me a spiffy transistor radio with an earplug! It had a brown leather case, and it was probably four times as bulky as my cell phone is now. I remember tuning in KILT (the big 610!) and KNUZ (1070?) , both AM radio stations, to hear the latest popular songs (all pretty saccharine stuff back then) by Hermann’s Hermits and Paul Revere and the Raiders, or how about the Monkees? Peter and Gordon come to mind, as well… 

Obviously, the stations I listened to offered only mono sound. I did have access to FM stations on my little radio, but I certainly did not have the stereo experience. Back then, those stations had a reputation of being edgy and maybe a little dangerous (with music by the Rolling Stones, the Doors, etc.). That was the new wave back then, and when all of a sudden, those frequencies became more accessible and overshadowed their AM cousins, the music that they played flooded my life. 

It pains me to say that I think I purchased my small stereo turntable with S&H green stamps. My pitiful stereo was probably pretty awful to listen to back then, but I didn’t know any better. Heck, it beat a transistor radio! I was pretty proud of it, and I would spend my babysitting money to buy 33 rpm albums. 

There was a device that allowed one to play multiple albums over the course of the session; when one album was finished, the needle returned to its cradle, and then the next album would plop down… the needle would then find the beginning of the new album, and so on. Of course, when all your albums had finished playing, you had to manually flip the entire stack over and set them up to play the B side. 

In the 10th grade at Lamar High School (1970), I was besotted with James Taylor and his music. Add to that mix Carole King’s “Tapestry” and several of Joni Mitchell’s albums, and my record player probably wore those albums down to scratch. Of course I had the requisite James Taylor poster hanging on my wall! (just as a lot of boys had that Farrah Fawcett poster on theirs) People my age know exactly what I’m talking about. 

My friend Polly and I would listen to this music and moon about boys as we ate cream puffs and other delectable fare from Moeller’s Bakery (which used to be in the Rice Village. Note: we would either walk or ride our bikes, because neither of us could drive, but even if we COULD drive, we didn’t have cars… so all that exercise canceled out our indulgences). 

Carly Simon? On my first date with my now husband way back in 1972, her chart topping “You’re So Vain” was what we heard on the car radio as we cruised around. Whenever we hear it now, we always nudge one another. I never was a big fan of hers except for that one song, which hearkens back so many fond memories. Reading about how she fit into the mix of the music of that age has been very interesting. James Taylor wound through all three ladies’ lives, eventually marrying Simon. 

It’s been eye-opening to read about all the warts that the revered singers of my youth had. Of course, back then, no one spoke of such things; now, alas, every flaw of every “celebrity” is exposed on a daily basis. It’s probably best we young people didn’t know about the loose morals in that transitional era between proper behavior and anything goes. Or maybe I was just naive? 

Now, in the “BEYOND anything goes” era, the new music is rather indescribable. That’s a safe way of saying that I don’t like most of it and I don’t listen to any of it. But I’m rather certain that my parents said the same thing about James Taylor, Carole King, etc. back in the 1970’s. 

Funny, isn’t it?

Note: my young readers might wonder what in the heck S&H green stamps were. That’s a subject for another blog…

Dancing with the Doctors
August 1, 2009

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So do not worry about tomorrow,  for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.  -Matthew 6:34  

In the wee hours of the morning, I was tossing and turning as I mulled over the latest report from my rheumatologist. We had discussed my treatment options the prior day after she’d seen the results of my MRI, which showed her exactly where this Rheumatoid Arthritis was manifesting itself in my hands: three fingers worth, two on my right hand and one on my left. 

The good news was that we’d caught it early and there was no bone loss. Dr. J. described my case as being “mild to moderate” and outlined the various drug therapies available to me. Given that I don’t have a severe case, she felt that a less aggressive approach was warranted, and she prescribed an oral medication for me to begin taking. 

The bad news? In an aside, she mentioned that, although rare, this drug can cause blindness, and so I’d have to go get my eyes examined every six months. How lovely! Another doctor to dance with! And oh, by the way, she forgot to mention that as with any auto-immune disease, there is an increased risk for lymphoma when one has RA. 

The final blow came when she admitted that I’d have to have another MRI at some point to see what effect, if any, the medicine was having on my three fingers. I made it through that first one (see July 18 “And She Lived to Tell About It”), but I had hoped to never have to do that again! It sounds like I’d better get used to them, because I’m betting I’ll have others in my future… 

Happily, Dr. J. said I could continue my normal activities (like running, gardening), so that’s good. As for diet, I can just continue to eat normally and even enjoy wine with my dinner (hooray!). She wants to see me back in two months, and I intentionally booked the appointment for the week after our vacation to Santa Fe, so that I would have no new worries to think about while there (for instance, if this drug doesn’t work, the next one in line involves daily injections… yuck). 

All this to say that in the wee hours of this morning, I kept thinking, “What if?”…”What if?”…”What if?” This is a totally useless exercise, and yet I couldn’t manage to distract my brain. I finally told myself, “Quit dwelling on ‘what IF’ and instead focus on ‘what IS’!” 

For some reason, this made perfect sense to me, and although I never went back to sleep, at least I relaxed a bit. I went ahead and got up way early, and after breakfast, as I walked Bailey and watched the sun rise to begin a new day, I was at peace. I do believe that I have now moved on to the next chapter in my journey. 

So this is the end of Chapter One. My prescription is filled, and I’ve made my eye exam appointment. Now it’s time to just live my life. No more will be said about this subject until a new chapter takes me down a different path! 

Note to Bill: Sorry Dr. D., you keep getting bumped down my dance card… one of these days, I’ll darken your door again!