Saturday, February 27, 2010

We interrupt this program.....

Sunday we fly out to MD for my bi-annual NIH checkup. With Excy's hospital drama this week, I haven't had time for my 'one- week-countdown-blues,' which would be a good thing, had I also had quiet time at home to center myself for the shit-storm that is a week of tests and doctors. And time with the animals to soak up before we leave for the week. Oh Well, that's life.

I'm prepared to hear the worst. Maybe it's even time. Whatever's necessary. Highlights will be seeing old friends and dinners out. We get back Friday - that's the plan, anyway, so it'll be next weekend before I'm back. I plan to have a lap-top for the next trip so I can keep in touch. Blessings to you all.

Here are some funnies a friend sent yesterday:

What do you do with 365 used condoms?
Melt them down, make a tire, and call it Good year.

Why are hurricanes normally named after women?
Because when they come, they're wet and wild, and when they go, they take your house and car with them.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Week that Wasn't

Sunday: started co-facilitating a workshop 'Uplift after Loss.' Participants -- all women this time -- are there for a variety of issues from health, death, job loss, and depression. Spent the first hour teary eyed and the last laughing.
As we leave, someone who overheard our laughter, said "This is a grief group?!" All agree this will be a profound experience.

Monday: Excy goes in for an arteriogram to determine the extent of the heart surgery he needs this spring. We wait from 11 a.m to 1 p.m. He's hungry. I'm sore from sitting so long. Test reveals everything's as expected -- no by-pass needed, just aortic valve replacement. At 4 p.m. they get him up to walk before we leave. He's been flat on his back all day. Feeding your husband like a baby is odd. Holding a jar while he pees even more so.

When he gets back they discover his hematoma. He is told to get back in bed another 2 hrs. They place a 10 lb. sandbag on his thigh. This hurts. At 6 p.m., nothing's changed. He has to stay overnight for observation. This is a day-care facility and he's been on a gurney too short for him all day. We're pretty much alone by now except for one beleaguered nurse and a near-useless, loud-mouthed nurse's aide. When his feet hurt from dangling off the edge of the gurney I push a cart underneath them. By 10 p.m. his pain is severe and I'm tired of not getting any answers to my questions. Excy's groin has been poked and prodded so many times he's accusing them of allowing people to come in off the street to torture him. My usually sweet man is very surly and pissed. Morphine doesn't touch the pain. At 11 p.m. he has a CT and ultrasound to reveal small bleeds but nothing critical, despite the pain. Nurse Ratched, despite all the charm weapons in my arsenal just hasn't 'come around.' (To give you an example of her empathy, when Excy told her I had cancer and was leaving for NIH Sunday to see about when I needed to have surgery and then dialysis and a kidney transplant, she peered at me, blinked balefully, and said in a monotone, "Hope you have good insurance." I considered the irony of a nurse getting her own hematoma from an angry person wielding a cane). Through Darvon and Ambien he got to sleep. By midnight I'm home giving an IV to our geriatric cat.

Tuesday: They will do a procedure to shut down the blood supply to the hematoma, but he's hurting so they decide to put him under. Because he ate breakfast, he must wait until 1 p.m. I race through chores to get there by 1 p.m. They move him to a hospital room. By 5 p.m we are still waiting. He hasn't had anything to eat or drink since 8 a.m. The hematoma is getting bigger and angrier. So am I. I'm concerned that by the time they get around to him, it'll have gotten so bad the simple procedure will be ineffective. That the day staff will leave and a less-competent night staff will take their place. That he will get a headache from not eating or drinking......after repeated calls to speak with the doctor and radiologist they take him in. They end up giving him a local, so he didn 't need to wait all day anyway. The procedure works well. He's back by 6 p.m. Has dinner, finally. I leave at 10 p.m for home. At midnight he's out of bed and on his feet for the first time in two days.

Wednesday: He's waiting for an ultrasound to make sure all is 'normal.' The dr tells him this can happen to 'tall, skinny people with strong pulses.' Why they didn't take precautions against it we have no idea. He has the ultrasound at 11 a.m and all is well. I tell him to call me when he's discharged and I'll pick him up, as we are leaving for my hospital trip Sunday and have loads to accomplish before then. We get home around 5 p.m. Excy looks like he's been in a car accident. I have had my share of hospital bruises, but never like this. He is literally black. By tomorrow he'll be able to lift more than 8 lbs, and the dr swears he'll have no problems flying out Sunday.....

Sigh. Hospital hell. What an ordeal. We scheduled his heart surgery for April 19.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wanderlust vs "Settling?"

As a happily married woman of 19 years, maybe it'll sound glib to comment, but I found it interesting and the author has a valid point. There's been a lot of ink spilled and blogs raging back and forth about Lori Gottlieb's book Settling: The Case for Settling for Mr Good Enough. I read her article in the Atlantic, heard her on NPR, and she wrote another article for the Washington Post. She says she gotten "flamed" and "inviscerated" for simply confessing she gets lonely to share companionship with a man and wishes she hadn't been so quick to write off potential partners in her 20s and 30s for not being "perfect"."Look for important qualities in a partner and let go of stuff that won't matter 5/10/20 years down the line, when you're more focused with child care and contented companionship than you are about height and hairlines." Sounds like a no-brainer to me.

According to a scientific survey, a majority of single women responding said if they only got 80 percent of what they wanted in a man, they'd be 'settling.' But the majority of single men interviewed said finding a woman with 80 percent of the qualities they wanted would make them 'a catch.' What's up with the discrepancy?

Women accused her of ageism, sexism, and being anti-feminist simply because she admitted she wanted to be married and regretted her earlier views that she believed one man should be "perfect." Because here's the thing. Every single person reading this post who is in a long-term relationship/partnership or marriage knows no one person is going to possess all the qualities you drum up in your head as the 'perfect' partner. And it's not fair of you to demand they do. Here's the other thing: she was never using the word 'settling' literally. Now that she's older - and wiser - and her choices have diminished, she's realized, I think, she was being unrealistic. And she'd be happier in a relationship where compatibility was emphasized over passions and sexual chemistry - not those qualities aren't important - but that they don't remain on the utmost top of the list.

I didn't find her 'desperate' or 'an affront to womanhood' for changing her perspective as she's matured. I think she was pretty brave to have the guts to suggest woman can't always 'have it all.' Because let's face it - no one can. Everyone, man or woman, is a 'package deal,' as she says, with many wonderful and desirable and also less-than-wonderful and desirable qualities. It's just not fair to anyone to expect them to meet all your standards of perfection. What a heavy and unrealistic burden. Find out what your absolute qualities are and what you can let slide. I've been married and divorced before Excy. When my step daughter married and then divorced within a year, I told her to take it slow in the next relationship; she now knew what her deal-breaker issues were. It's really too bad we had to learn them the hard way, but learn them we did.

I've known too many single friends in their 50s and 60s who have regretted leaving relationships or not giving a relationship a chance because they were unwilling to compromise on some pretty trivial things. One friend tossed men aside like used Kleenex if they made an ill-timed remark or she didn't like they way they dressed. (Did she not see When Harry Met Sally?)

She now concedes there were at least three men she feels she could have had a happy partnership with. Contrast this with a male friend who remarried in his late 50s, saying he realized he was getting more and more set in his ways and if he didn't go ahead and marry Ms. 'Almost Perfect,' he would be too 'fixed' to make concessions. A dear friend in her 80s, once told me that not getting married was like walking in a forest: I'd come across a splendid tree, and would admire it. But then I'd think, I'm sure I could find an even better tree, so I'd keep walking....and looking, and sometimes I would, but I always thought I could do better...and all the sudden I realize I was out of the forest and there weren't any more trees.

She sounded wistful and regretful. It sounded like a sad story to me. She lived a full life with good friends, a good job and adventure, but had her regrets. Who hasn't? Not 'settling' so to speak. Being mature enough to know when one person fits the most of your most basic requirements for love, companionship and happiness -- now that's someone to hang onto. Wow. I am so glad for Excy in my life. I'm going to hug him a little tighter tonight.

Monday, February 15, 2010

All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go

Excy and I made reservations for Valentine's at one of our favorite (and not just b/c some of his art hangs on the wall and I've taped two radio stories there) restaurant, The Starving Artist Cafe. Owners Paula and Jason Morell have made a delightful restaurant, with eclectic decor and all manner of local artwork hanging floor-to-ceiling on buff brick walls. The cafe tables are even painted by individual artists (also available for sale). Paula's an accomplished writer who teaches creative writing and is co-owner of a small publishing house (and mother of three kids under the age of six! Geez!). Jason's an award-winning chef who has cooked in cities all around the world before returning home. His menus are splendid mixes of the sublime -- melding taste, textures and color - true feasts for the eyes and stomach.

So we were really looking forward to our three-course dinner. I even carted myself off to a day spa earlier in the week for some 'detail work.' And I splurged on lingerie. (Excy's never said a word about the t-shirt I sleep in that says 'cat person,' or the flannels decorated with steaming cups of coffee -- but not having anything to say about my sleep-wear strikes me as maybe not such a good thing...spicing up the sleep gear seemed an appropriately adult thing to do)....But we were thwarted again. It rained and then snowed until late afternoon and then got icy. As we were debating our options we heard the fire engines screaming down the road---the twisty mountain roads always surprise as much as we looked forward to our three-course dinner and cocktails, it was 60 minutes away, and then an hour home on icy streets. So we canceled.

We're not the only ones who were tripped up by the weather, of course, but we're the only ones I know who seem to lose out every time we plan on having some fun for a holiday, an occasion, even a f--ing meal. It's a good thing we're low-key, roll-with-the-punches types. Because I have learned the hard way too many times, I had back-up Plan B. I unthawed steaks and we had twice-baked potatoes and marinated mushrooms, and I made a chocolate chess pie. My mind is still lodged on the meal we missed, so I'm hoping we go out to make up for it soon. The cats, anyway, were glad we didn't go out and leave them without a lap.

Never-fail, Easy and Delicious Chocolate Chess Pie

1 1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. cocoa
2 T. flour
1 c. evaporated milk
5 1/3 t. butter
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 t. vanilla
1 9" pie shell, unbaked
1 c. pecan halves

Mix dry ingredients and set aside. Heat milk and butter until melted, and add eggs and vanilla to milk mixture. Stir in dry ingredients and mix well. Pour into pie shell and sprinkle with pecans. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until it's not 'jiggly.' Allow to cool before cutting.

It's lovely to make some whipped cream for the topping.....unfortunately I didn't have any heavy cream in the fridge...

Friday, February 12, 2010

GM Makeup Session

Story if I just could've done something with my hair and the lighting.....

Fab Finds Friday: Would You Let This Man Touch Your Face?

Yesterday a makeup artist for Giorgio Armani (GM) came to Little Rock (finally! good product!) for a day to demonstrate the spring line. Keith Cavaleri (hereafter referred to as Cutie-Pie -- or CP for short), is based in LA, and has worked for GM five years, working NY fashion week and for Hollywood stars. In short, he knows his stuff.

My appointment yesterday was for 11:40 a.m. When I got to the department store, right on time, there was a black leather couch and club chair, a plastic ficus tree, and a table set up with bottled water, coffee, and chocolate. Three makeup stations had been lined up and all the 'high chairs' were occupied. Makeup assistants were buzzing around prepping faces before CP stepped in and did his magic.

I sat down, and being the introverted sort I am, immediately struck up a conversation with the two women waiting their turn. Their appointments were scheduled for the same time. Gaaaa! I hate that. Having a fourth of a kidney means I have to carefully calculate my time before having to run back and forth to the bathroom, and I already had my cup of green tea that morning. No more liquids for me as I waited. (I stopped going to a hair stylist for double-booking. I could never understand it -- seems he'd be just as productive concentrating on one client at a time, and no one would be sitting around with wet hair reading an old Vogue waiting for him to put on color or finish a blow-out.....)

One woman waiting was in her 20s, a working mother from Russia. She was pretty in a fresh-faced way, and said she hardly wore makeup at all, having little time for it between caring for a toddler, running a house, and having a full-time job. The other looked to be in her late 50s and well cared for, in that 'ladies-that-lunch' sort of way. Glancing around, all the women in the chairs were between 40 to 60, and I was able to observe before-and-afters on a range of skin types from porcelain to yellow-ivory to the darkest of skin tones. I was able to see how the GA product would work for aging skin and attendant issues of age -- wrinkles, sun spots, redness, capillaries.....

I was called last, which actually worked in my favor, as my BFF M. pointed out, since by the time I took a chair, most of the others were finishing up and there was a gap between appointments. I had CP's pretty much undivided attention for the 15 minutes he concentrated on my makeup application. I learned the poor man was booked with 50 appointments that day! He shrugged and said he liked it that way, saying he'd rather keep busy.

Before he began, however, as he was finishing another, an assistant prepped my face, applying OMC3 moisturizer, crema nera serum/primer, and crema nera eye cream. (I came in bare-faced to make application easier). The moisturizer/serum/primer felt smooth and absorbed quickly -- I firmly believe in a primer to prep your 'canvas' and help makeup 'hold' -- but the revelation was the under-eye cream. It appeared to act as an instant under-eye lift and brightener. She put on one side and then showed me the difference in the hand mirror, and it was pretty amazing. Next came a color corrector under the eyes, which did an outstanding job of brightening and evening out my under-eye issues.*

I use concealer and foundation 'as needed' --not everywhere. I'm pretty much of a "is she wearing any?" kind of girl. For a decade, I've strictly been a Bobbi Brown user for this reason. But seldom wearing any color - and feeling it unsuccessful when I do - I have felt in a bit of a rut lately. So when I started interviewing Mr CP (old journalism habits die hard), I was pleased to learn he had started out working for BB, so he knew where I was coming from and the 'look' I was comfortable with. CP said the main difference between BB and GA was that GA concentrated on a more "sophisticated" palette. "You can see there's more color, more polish...the look is still light, but it's not bare-natural, just more enhanced," he said.

When I asked him what, in his opinion, were the bare-minimum things to apply when one has little time in the morning, he answered without hesitation. "Eyeliner, mascara, and lipstick." The eyeliner part was a surprise but it made sense considering how it defines your eyes. When queried what features he notices he replied good skin and eyebrows. He liked the brows to be rather full and natural with a strong arch. For spring, lips are going to be 'in the pink,' and shades of lilac and plum popular. "We're doing only pink lips for the Oscars," he volunteered. "I don't do anything gimmicky. I like to make up a face you can wear from work out to dinner and feel great about, maybe just reapplying a strong lip and gloss."

As with all good makeup artists, I learned a few tricks of the trade, mostly about what I had been doing that wasn't quite right. But CP doesn't believe in rules (good thing, neither do I), and we both agreed makeup is supposed to be fun. I was pleased with the end result. Nothing looked heavy and there wasn't anything I wanted to wipe away or take down a notch. I looked like a better, more, well, sophisticated (to use his word) version of myself.

There was even a photographer to take photos of the transformation; a nice touch. Unfortunately, I can't post the picture here now -- despite assurances it would be emailed last night it hasn't materialized yet. But I'm sure it will and I'll post it when it does. I had been clearing out my old product and using GA samples for a few months to see how it lasted on my face, so I was ready to buy most of the GA makeup product. (I'm happy with my Dermalogica, Keihls, and Clarisonic skin care). Still, I advise you to chose carefully. GA is an expensive investment. Fortunately, I don't wear makeup every day and I apply it with a light touch, so it lasts forever. Running errands that afternoon, several woman complimented me on the color of my red sweater. I like to think they were noticing my over-all 'new look.' And Excy was approving, that's the main thing. Tossing out my worn-out product and washing my brushes, I felt pleased to be starting fresh in the new year.

*Of course, they were sold out of this product. Annoying! I do wish they would fully stock before having big promotions like this, as it is very disappointing to be excited about something only to find it's not available.....

Monday, February 8, 2010

No Good Deed...

One morning several years ago, the doorbell rang as the cats and I were sitting in bed watching the birds. I was having my usual cup of green tea and slowly waking up. Excy had gotten my tea, as every morning, and had gone back out. The cats and I stiffened. It was pretty early, and I didn't feel like rushing to the closet for slippers and a robe, and then rushing to the old part of the house -- by the time I did chances are they'd be gone anyway, since I can't move quickly -- so we sat there, having made the executive decision not to do anything at all.

Next thing I know, a man has walked around the back of the house, up onto the terrace, and is peeking through the sliding glass door. He doesn't see me with the bedroom drapes drawn, unless he angles another way, but since the walls to the bedroom are glass, if he did twist a certain way he could see into the bedroom, so I scooted out of bed and down the hall.

The phone rang thirty minutes later. It's Joe, a guy we didn't know well from church, calling for Excy. Excy comes in later to tell me Joe is "down on his luck," and wants to park his horse trailer in our drive and hook up to the tack room for electricity. "Just for a few weeks," is all he asks. In exchange, he'll do chores around the place. He says he's made plans for eating and has a bathroom in his trailer. Yes, that had been Joe peering in the glass looking for us. I told Excy to tell Joe in no uncertain terms was he to ever to walk around to the back of the house again. But he always seemed a nice enough guy, and had done some cowboy-ing and had horse sense, so I didn't think it'd be a problem to have him stay a short while. We didn't want to turn someone down that needed a little help.

Every once in awhile he'd help Excy with a light chore or two, but that part of the bargain didn't work out very well. Most of the time, he hung around, appeared to be slightly drunk, and wanted to corner me and talk about how rough his life was. One time I asked him to help dig a garden bed with me. He took the shovel for about 10 minutes. The next thing I knew, he was siting off to the side, taking his blood pressure with a cuff. "Never mind, Joe."

I took him a meal on occasion. Weeks turned into months. After four months, I told Excy I was tired of Joe's horse trailer in the drive, and Joe hanging around, and it was time to encourage him to move on down the road. Excy's more patient than I, but even he was losing patience with the situation. When Excy suggested Joe might want to re-double his efforts to find another place, Joe's answer to that was to bring over his three horses that somebody had been boarding for him. We already had three horses in the corrals by the house, and the wild ones have the run of the pasture across the street. Excy let him put his three in the corrals across the street but warned him to keep them up. Joe was too lazy to feed them, though, and he'd let them out of the corral until Excy spied them grazing loose.

Six months after Joe burrowed in, I was in the throes of getting ready for a party. Things were down to the wire and I was flying around like a mad woman, fixing last minute things in the kitchen, cleaning up, getting myself dressed, when the doorbell rang, and Joe came in to ask if we had any light bulbs. His reading lamp had gone out and he couldn't fix it. Excy starts to try to fix Joe's lamp while I do a slow burn. "Joe's got to go."

It took another 4-5 weeks, but Joe finally hauled his home on down the road. I don't know where and I didn't want to ask. A few weeks later we discovered three of our mustangs were pregnant. Seems domestic horses get along with wild ones very well. The three foals born set off a mini territory dispute, and things were a bit shaky at the start -- one mare tried to kill a newborn -- but eventually that got settled out. We never heard a word from Joe after he left. Not even one thank-you.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Last Word

I enjoyed this rather heavy-handed obit I read a few weeks ago. It's doubtful the chastising made much of an effect on the people it was intended for, though, but the insertion of it in someone's obit made me giggle. They pay for obits by the word, and this was a long one, so the writer felt strongly about having 'the last word...'

Elsie-May Macinkinash,* age 87 (go, Elsie!) ...was a sweet, enthusiastic, cheerful, inquisitive lady and continued to be sweet in her last year's while suffering from Alzheimer's....She began teaching English at age 19. Even though she was not much older than her students she never had trouble with discipline and enjoyed it. (Did that come out the way it was intended?). After marrying she spent 15 years rearing her children, but with her children in school, she resumed teaching English in a high school not far from __. It was a terrible experience. While all her students in __ were good and most of her students in the new school were also, there were a number who were disruptive and anything but good. She had never met or had to deal with such young people. She even visited a number of the student's homes after school to meet with the parents but to no good. After that year she taught at an elementary school in another district for a couple of years with much more success.......**

* I always make up the names.....
**Poor Elsie! But I bet those 'bad students' aren't reading the daily obits.....