Wednesday, December 12, 2012

what's a kidney between friends?

Here is a link to an article a local magazine wrote up on Cat and me. There is also a newspaper article out, but this is my favorite because it has our banter in it...enjoy...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I Am a Bitch

The night before I went into the hospital Excy and I were in the communal dining room of the Mason House, a transplant patient house, having a take-out Italian meal with our friend Karen, who had flown in that afternoon to sit with Excy through the first surgery. We were trying to play catch-up, and also decompress from the stress of the last several weeks, as much as one can, anyway, while awaiting major surgery.

Karen flew in from upstate New York, where she and her husband had retired after a lifetime in Washington, DC. We met when she was my first boss at the magazine, and have grown close as sisters in the ensuing thirty-one years. She and Dan had bought and renovated an old house, making it into a wellness center where she offered her massage services and taught yoga. Yeah, she's awesome.

The first surgery was the scariest and most difficult one, and she had called and volunteered to be with Excy so he wouldn't be alone while waiting, which is the type of incredibly generous person she is. Anyway, we hadn't seen one another in five years, and because she had spent a few years getting licensed and the house/center in shape, we hadn't spent much time on the phone, either, so it was a rare and precious visit. She was flying home the evening of the surgery, and I knew I wouldn't be in great shape for more visiting that day.

We were engrossed in conversation, and I was savoring my few precious hours with her (as much as I could, frankly, considering how chaotic and freaked out my state of mind was), when I noticed a woman circling in on our corner table (I purposely chose one away from the mainstream). The woman was hovering, like people do when they mean to pounce into the conversation. Here comes trouble I thought, attempting to convey through body language that this was a private conversation and I didn't really care to make 'new friends' at the moment. People with no filter, however, are often oblivious to visual clues, though, and she continued to bull-doze over.

XXX didn't have an 'inside voice.' Seeing as how MH was available only to transplant patients and their companions, this question was just an opening gambit. And because I was the only one at the table with bandages on her arms and a cane propped against the table, it was an easy guess.
Sigh. Amy. Freak Magnet.

"Um. Yeah...hi...I'm here with my husband and friend. Who just flew in from New York...we haven't seen each other in years and I go in tomorrow...we are just catching up over dinner..." (She obviously couldn't relate to the obvious).

"Well. I had a kidney transplant almost a year ago, and am with my parents for a checkup." She then plopped a photo album I hadn't noticed on the table, pushing aside a salad plate. I glanced beseechingly towards her parents, who pretended not to notice, no doubt relieved  XXX had found new targets and allowing them a respite. "See? My hair was this color, and it has grown in to this color I am in recovery, and here is a photo of my donor, who had been killed in a motorcycle accident..." She went on and on...

I tried to be interested. I tried to tell her this wasn't my first rodeo and she didn't need to delve into the details. My voice sounded flat and oddly familiar, and I realized I sounded like the boss in the movie Office Space; the drone who keeps asking in a bleak voice whether or not our hero had "seen the memo..."

Finally I had an epiphany. I didn't have to sit and let this windbag suck our evening away. I didn't have to smile and nod and pretend to listen to her rattle on with her life story and the fact she's writing a book about the experience. I wasn't obligated to be her captive audience. I'd never see her again. What did I care?

I hopped up. "Good luck to you. Come on, Karen, I need to go to the room." Karen and Excy, unfailingly polite, looked taken aback, but recovered quickly, and Karen followed me down the hall. Excy used the break to gather up the dishes and gently bring the soliloquy to a close.

Yeah. I can be a bitch. But I am unrepentant.  I've earned the right over the years, so it doesn't bother me much.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Reading Room

I like an eclectic reading list, and aside from a month post-surgery where I couldn't concentrate on anything longer and more taxing than a magazine article, I've been devouring books at a rate of one every two days. Some are sticking in my mind more than others and I thought I'd recommend them.

On top of 'bucket list' things to do before shuffling off this mortal coil, if I actually made a bucket list that is, is to go on an African safari (sans guns, of course).  Two books I loved that detailed this life and how guides live and interact with the wild animals around them have only served to whet my appetite. Don't Run Don't Look Behind You is hilarious and hard to put down. The guide writes of just starting out, learning to be a guide (think being thrown into the deep end of a pool with no instruction how to swim), and is now teaching in Africa on how to be a guide. Often funny and, on occasion, sad, particularly for people  like me who can't stand to see an animal suffer, is the occasional story of animal abuse or endangerment.  Fortunately, it doesn't occur in the book often.

The Elephant Whisperer, by the founder of the World Organization and former safari lodge owner Lawrence Anthony, is excellent and totally absorbing.  He wrote two other books, one about saving animals in the Bagdad zoo, and another that is coming out about rhinos. Think those are actually called The Bagdad Zoo, and The Last Rhino. You may know his name because when he died of a sudden heart attack this spring, his rescued elephant herd walked more than 12 miles out of the bush to hang around his house for two days and pay their respects. They showed up within hours of his death, and his family was baffled as to how they just 'knew.' Go to YouTube or Google him.

The Few, by Alex Kershaw, is the true account of seven American pilots who snuck into Canada and then sailed to England under false identities  to fight with the RAF (Royal Air Force) against the Nazis in the Battle of Britain, a year before America was drawn into WWII. Eventually there were almost 30 Americans flying with the RAF. But of these seven, only one survived and returned to America. And their American citizenship, which had been revoked, wasn't reinstated until the '80s, which was crummy. They would have been jailed had they been caught while leaving America to fly for the RAF. Most of them saw the writing on the wall as far as war went, but they also were aviation obsessed and just wanted to fly the fast planes.

You might like to read the newest Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Positive. It has some great stories. My essay on living with vHL is on page 335. If you aren't up to buying the book, read  it at the bookshop!

One book that is on the NY Times list and getting tons of publicity, is Gone, Girl. I really enjoyed it --right up until the final chapter, and then it really bombed. I cannot believe the editors didn't mind the huge gaping holes in the plot that made it fall short for me. If anyone has read it please let me know whether you had a problem with the ending as well.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

She's B-A-A-A-K...

I'm grateful to return to this blog to discover you haven't give up and abandoned me.

Having considered waiting until my favorite holiday - Halloween - to post, I decided just finally hearing from me may be shocking enough. And if I've learned much of anything these days, it is that when I finally summon the energy and willpower to actually DO something - anything - I'd better follow through with it, because the energy will pass quickly, and all too soon I'll be back lounging in bed dozing or reading a book.

I have missed you, can't believe it's been so long, and I intend to visit you all. As you no doubt surmised, the surgeries were more hellish than anticipated, and the recovery has been as challenging. Back-to-back surgeries coupled with the deficits from 14 previous surgeries, really took a toll. We had to stay in the hospital three weeks, and  the patient-transplant house on campus a month, not being able to flee for home until the end of September. We commute back and forth every week or two. We are hoping this ends by the first of the year and I can do the labs and monthly infusion here. It has been grueling experience, and I have literally been unable to do anything but the bare minimum. Last week I began feeling I am finally turning a corner and making progress. Out of the wheelchair, almost off the walker and back on a cane. Hope to drive in a week or two. Getting a handle on some of the worst side-effects. The good news is the new kidney has been wonderful. It works so well I call it 'Golden Champ,' because from the first hour it worked like a champion and when I was in the hospital whenever asked, I would say it was 'golden.' Other transplant patients named theirs 'Leroy' or 'Junior,' but I  wanted to honor Cathy's gift to me. And the other great news is Cathy sailed through with flying colors and no complications.

Now that I am feeling almost human, I'm eager to return to the land of the living, and look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your thoughts and well wishes, and patience. Peace.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Wild Life

We got home Friday night from the pre-op meeting. It's a 10 hr drive from Emory, with several parts of the freeway in Alabama and Tennessee under construction with delays and narrowed one-lanes shared with 18-wheelers, so it's a bit stressful. I am grateful for a week at home, soaking up Sanctuary and kitty karma, and intend to do a bit of energy work, meditation exercises, have a little fun, and do a lot of resting. I have a birthday this week, but don't have any plans other than relaxing at home and asking Excy to grill a filet -- I seldom eat red meat but once or twice a year, I crave a good steak. This afternoon a good friend and I had a lovely brunch and went to the movie Darling Companion, which is wonderful -- how can you go wrong with a cast of Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, Sam Shepard and Dianne Weist, anyway, but the movie itself was great...with a good ending (I'm all about comedy and good endings these days).

The cats were so relieved to see us again, though they are wary because the suitcases aren't being put up. Lenny in particular was so happy to see us but also so unhappy, he still growls and purrs at the same time. I keep telling them we will be gone about 6 weeks and it'll be harder on me than them, but so far they aren't convinced. I am a bit concerned that while we are away the stray we have come to love, 'Frodo,' will wander off, despite Corey moving back into the house while we're gone. I am hoping we can figure out a way to keep Frodo with us but for now he doesn't have his shots and hasn't been tested for the kitty AIDS, and we don't have time to try to integrate him into the house anyway. Besides, Frodo now has a 'girlfriend,' I'm calling 'Cow Kitty,' for now, since she is black and white with spots like  a Holstein cow, and a little black mustache on her white face....arresting, and Fro is smitten, letting her eat from his bowl at the same time he does.

We had a few wildlife incidents of interest I thought I'd write about as well.

Those of you who have read the blog for a long time know about Nubbins -- the raccoon that had been like a pet -- so named because instead of ears, he had little nubs...a genetic thing, since they weren't maimed or anything. I always had a soft spot for Nubs. When I was feeding the others, they wouldn't let him up for food, so I purposely fed him and shooed the others off. Soon they realized Nubbins was a meal ticket, and they began to treat him with more deference and respect. One night more than a year ago, I looked out the terrace and to my horror, Nubs was standing there with a huge bloody gash on his side. I could almost see bone. My friend Sharon, the 'coon whisperer, had told me once coons have an amazing ability to heal and seeing them up getting food again usually meant they were on the mend, so I was heartened. But other than one other night, we never saw Nubbins again, and I feared the worse.

He was  by then an old, overweight coon and I thought his time had come. We hadn't been feeding any 'coons for some time, but one, Sad Girl, had come up as a baby with her mom and as a young adult, she just didn't get the  memo, or at least refused to read it if she had. Every blasted night she sat on the terrace wall and stared at the house for hours. I finally relented when I noticed that she was nursing and began feeding her. Every night I'd tell her to bring up her babies, and one evening, she brought three about 6-week old coons up to the sliding glass door. Friday when I saw a coon on the terrace after we unpacked I assumed it was she and grabbed for the dog food... and gasped as Nubbins ran up and flung himself against the screen door. I ran outside. He was as happy to see me as I was him. And he  looked great -- sleek and fit. If there was a 'grecian formula for coons,' I'd swear he used it. He actually looked younger. But it was definitely Nubbins. No one was as friendly.That night he feasted on left-over chicken thighs and grapes.

The other thing that's funny is also kinda sad. Our neighbor across the street had a white goose that decided he wanted to be 'adopted' by a family of wild geese and their three goslings that were born and raised on our pond. They had two others, but I guess he didn't care for them. The domestic goose can't fly. His wings are clipped -- not sure who did it or why...The wild ones are  practicing flying, with short take-offs around the pond and outings of greater and greater distance. Saturday the white goose would not stop honking and we noticed the wild geese weren't around...later that afternoon some other wild geese landed but kept their distance from the domestic one and vice-versa...eventually the white goose's honking picked up in intensity and he waddled towards the pond as fast as he could, and shortly after the wild family made their aquatic landings...the white goose raced up to them and in their language really gave them a piece of his will be a sad day when he's left all alone...we are hoping he will begin to make friends with the three domestic ducks Corey bought and has raised from babies. So far, they are all keeping their distance.

We are off again on Sunday, and I will eventually feel well enough to write from Atlanta. Y'all be well...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

travels and travails

Sorry I haven't been too regular in the postings of late. Been a busy time getting ready for the kidney remnant removal and then the transplant in just a few weeks. This week we are off to Emory for more pre-op testing, and then we are home for a week and then off for good August 5. If all goes well surgery is the 7th and the transplant on the 16th. We are getting this 10-hr drive down. By the time the process is over we will be old pros on this commute!

I will post when we are back home before we go for good. Then there will be 'radio silence' for several weeks while I am in the hospital and recovering. We have to live in Atlanta probably 6 to 8 weeks unless the perfect 'cocktail' of anti-rejection meds are found. If I don't feel up to writing I at least intend to make the rounds of everyone else's blogs. Blessings to all...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sheet Dreams

If I were absolutely stinking, go-to-hell wealthy to the point of having staff like a full-time maid and cook, I would instruct my maid to change the bedsheets every day. I adore the feeling of sliding into crisp cotton sheets... the cotton sheets would be so crisp they would be slightly crinkly. I have always savored a luxurious bed...not a fan of the big bunch of pillows that decorators seem to prefer, but at least two king-sized pillows to lean into at the end of the day.

I once read that as First Lady in the White House, Jackie Kennedy insisted the staff change her linens twice daily -- in the morning, and after a daily afternoon nap. I suppose I wouldn't be too high-maintenance in comparison. I seldom nap, so once would be fine, thanks. Really.

So I was shocked to learn of a survey taken in Great Britain that revealed most people 'across the pond' (according to said survey, at least), change their sheets only once every three weeks. One in six doing so only once a month. And the article continued to state that in the U.S., people also waited every three weeks or longer.

Not to be all judgmental, but: EEEeeeewwwwww...

To me that is disgusting. "Experts" in the survey recommended once a week, citing dust mites allergens as the main reason to 'go to the trouble.' The article continued to address how much 'trouble' it is to strip a bed and remake it with fresh sheets. Please. It's all of five minutes' "work." And well worth the effort.

I have always been told one should have at least 3 sets of sheets per season--that way they can be rotated constantly. I have 4 sets for each season. In the cold weather we prefer flannel sheets, and I also have two heavier cotton sets that are a bit too hot in warmer months. I splurge with the best I can afford at the time and always on sale from outlets or the Linen Source catalog. I prefer white ones, so I can toss them in the washer with a bit of bleach if necessary. I have an eye out for a bamboo set, as I've heard they are well worth the expense.

For the record, I change our sheets twice a week. Even being slightly odd about this, ** there's only so much time on chores I'm willing to spend. Where's my house-servant when I need one?!

**A friend says her 'quirk,' are clean floors...she said when she was in the hospital, she begged family members to go to her house and vacuum and mop for her...

Another one of my chore hang-ups are dishes: I cannot go to bed with a sink full of dirty dishes, even if we've had a dinner party and it's 2 in the morning. Something about seeing a stack of grimy dishes on the counter the next day turns my stomach..other than that I swear to you, I am no 'Martha Stewart.'

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

RIP, Andy

There will be lots of posts today about the passing of Andy Griffith and how much he was loved. This post is one of them. One of my proudest possessions is the entire set of DVDs of the Andy Griffith Show. Yeah, I'm a corn-pone that way. When life gets too difficult, going back to Mayberry is always refreshing. I intend to have a marathon viewing when we finally get back from Emory this fall and I have to lay low for 4 - 6 months while the new kidney kicks in.

I find myself laughing at least once every episode. And if it's not a humorous episode, I will enjoy it as well. So thanks, Andy and crew, for all the many hours of laughter you've provided this family. Many years ago I gave the 'ancient p's' (don't you watch Monty Python?) a book of the entire cast and characters, as well as a cookbook of 'Aunt Bee's' recipes, and I still use Barney's beef stew - it is excellent!

I know Griffith was a talented actor and comedian, but to me, he's just Sheriff Andrew Taylor, dad to Opie, and a sole voice of reason in the life of his sidekick deputy, Barney.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Dog Daze...

If there was ever a time I enjoyed summer after reaching adulthood, I don't remember it. I am not a person for extremes -- and the summer HADES handed out each year and then unremitting freeze of winters are not for me. Though truth be told, at least in the winter one can usually get comfortable eventually. Not so padding around in the summer, unless you spend the entire season in some air-conditioned cocoon. I'm not much for air-condition, but it's a requirement when the temps hit the triple digits.

Mostly I have kept a low profile as the temps careen off into the hundreds. I learned the hard way last summer in June that my kidney remnant doesn't respond well to an over-heated body. My tongue has been dark as a chow dog's the past two weeks, and the metallic taste in my mouth tells me my remnant can't regulate my body as it needs to. Since I have spent the last three weeks having blood work and last-minute dr. appts to get the 'all clear' for the remnant surgery and then transplant scheduled at Emory this August, I am not going to over-tax myself and get into an emergency situation before the surgeries. 

So having both our a/c units out at the same time was a crisis situation. Eventually, after two weeks, the unit in the main part if the house was fixed, mostly -- the service rep warned us we needed to pump an additional $300 into it to shore up a leak...not that it's going to happen soon after shelling out $500  -- but the other unit in our bedroom addition is FUBAR. It has been a lemon since it was installed 8 years ago, and after spending $900 two summers ago, it grates on my last nerve that it needs a new compressor. The rep admitted the manufacturer realizes this model sucks (unfortunately, not hot air into cool), and the manufacturer is willing to replace it with a $5000 unit for $1200. Which may as well be $12,000 when one doesn't have it, and they are unwilling to let it be paid out in two or three installments. At least we can sleep in the guest room until we figure out a plan, or sell something. The editing I'm working on and the horse Excy is training won't sustain that amount. The cats are confused, though, and despite the intense heat still sleep on the screen porch off the bedroom until they are forced back into the main part of the house. Cats don't do change well. I wish the Universe would leave us alone and pick on someone else so my last weeks before having to live in Atlanta for six to eight weeks would be drama-free. Now there's a concept.

Despite the horse picnic/fundraiser last Sunday occurring on the first day the temps hit 105 degrees, we all had a great time. We started at 5:30 in the afternoon to dispel some of the heat, and the constant breezes from the hills and pond made it bearable as long as you were under the pavilion or a shady tree. The two guitarists were great, the Food Truck was outstanding, and the mustangs milled among the guests so there were plenty of photo ops. About 50 folks showed up. 

The sweet stray cat who has been living on our front porch for a month and sleeping on the swing at night didn't find a home, unfortunately. But there were so many friends milling in and out of the house that weekend it seemed every time I turned a corner, Frodo would be wandering up a hallway, pleased as punch to be inside the house, despite the tremendous heat. I think the other cats were so startled to see him inside, they never hissed at him. I hope to find him a home, and if we don't he may eventually become a studio cat. But I've got enough on my plate that for now it's not a pressing concern. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Some Things from School I'll Never Forget

No particular order to these memories, but there are some choice things I suppose will stay with me forever:

First grade. MF sits in the row beside me in class. One afternoon during 'art,' M carefully colors each of his teeth a different color from his box of crayons as I watch, fascinated. When finished, he sighs with contentment, and flashes a wide grin, revealing a rainbow-colored mouth. I could never figure out, all through first to fifth grade, whether MF was brilliant or a complete idiot. I tend towards the latter.

Second grade: Dad drives us to school every morning (my brother is a year and a half older). This day as I exit the car, I detect an immediate breeze. I realize I've forgotten my underwear! As I am in a dress as usual, this is a problem, particularly during recess when I usually climb the monkey-bars. I sit back in the car. Dad looks at me quizzically. When I tell him what I've forgotten, to his credit, he laughs and we head back home.

Third grade. A boy throws up his lunch immediately after recess, and is forever branded with the nickname "Earp," which follows him through grade school. Today he is a writer, but unfortunately for him, I can't forget the nickname or how he came to acquire it.

Fourth grade. The school nurse asks me what's wrong, and when I tell her "I dunno, I just feel crummy," she dissolves in fits of laughter.

Fifth grade. Weeks are spent on the playground playing Lost in Space. We enact the episodes we watch that week. I am always elected to play 'Penny,' because of my long brown hair.

Eight grade. When I tell mom a boy in my class is named Ronny Hinckleheimer, she makes me swear I am not making it up (I am prone to flights of imagination). She does the same thing a few years later when I tell her about Herron Higgenbotham.

The games we played in our neighborhood were epic. It was a golden age, and the entire block was filled with a tribe of kids roughly the same age. Hide & Go Seek is played with all the seriousness of War Games.  This afternoon, I am a half-block from 'safe' and the opposing team is closing in. I jump into the back of a laundry truck making deliveries and order the startled driver when he returns from the house, to drive me down the street as I dive under a load of laundry bags. For some reason, without saying a word, he does this, delivering me right up to the designated safe point. The other kids can't figure out how I eluded capture.

What, you thought I was going to talk about school subjects?!

Friday, June 8, 2012

I Am Soooooo Special!

...Or, 'It's All About Me!"
America seems to be obsessed with the cult of celebrity, and that sense of entitlement trickles down to us 'regular folk,' who now believe in the necessity of  thousand-dollar prom dresses, million-dollar weddings, 'push' presents, full-time nannies, and 24-hr Twitter feeds. (I'm pulling in my drive! Woo, glad to be home!)....But let us not forget the STARS with capitol S T A Rs, who feed the obsession by promoting themselves relentlessly and pushing forward this disgusting phenomena.

Here are a few stories that support my statements. I ran across this little gem in the paper: Madonna "rebuffed" a too-avid Journalist fan who had the temerity and clearly (too her) bad taste to present her with a bouquet of purple hydrangeas. OMG! The cad! Plus, he called her "my princess," which - well to be honest, was, yeah, yuck - but it isn't exactly like calling her an over-the-hill, clinging B-list singer or anything...She took the hideous flowers saying, "I absolutely loathe hydrangeas," stuffing them under a table. Really, Madge? It would kill you to be gracious and accept a well-meant gift of flowers (which, by the way, are lovely, as all flowers are), and keep your friggen' opinion to yourself for a change? It's not like he's going to give you a truck-load of them afterwards. Yeah, apparently she's that kind of out of touch gal. Said Journalist gets the 'No Deed Goes Unpunished Award.' And Madonna looks like an idiot.

Unfortunately, she's not alone.

Two more stories (that were told to me) underscore just how 'important' celebrities are and why they should be allowed special dispensation just for walking among us:

Exhibit A:"Ah-nold's" ex-wife, Maria (who may get a pass because, well, she was married to Arnold, and that may have sent her around the bend)...a friend was at a popular restaurant where they were standing in line for a table. She said Maria sallied forth to the head of the line, saying they were to be seated immediately. The reservationist pointed to the back of the line, saying that the wait was 30 minutes. "Do you know who  I am??!" She sputtered. He informed her that yes, he did know, and the wait was still 30 minutes. She hastened away (dignity slightly worn?).

Exhibit B: A friend's car broke down in Taos, NM, and she rode to the repair shop with the driver of the tow-truck, who regaled her with stories of some of the celebrities who lived in town. He said he was waiting in line for gasoline one day, and the wait was long so he got out of his car to chat with a friend he spied in line. A car cut him off as he was preparing to pull up to the pump. He walked over to explain that the car she had cut off was his and he was next in line for gas. "Do you know who I am??!" (AGAIN WITH THIS LINE). He said he replied with something like, he didn't care if she was Queen of England, he was first, and yeah, he knew she was Julia Roberts, the movie star. Eh. Julia Roberts; she of the toothy grin and inflated ego...My opinion of both of these ladies fell a few points short after hearing these stories.

Next, from a magazine I read in a waiting room, I learned about @Humblebrag, a Twitter account dedicated to false displays of humility. I don't Tweet, so I am glad they gave three examples, which I share:
'Millionaire' reality show host Patti Stanger -- "why is it men always tell me I'm beautiful when I don't have a stitch of makeup on? So crazy!" (Having never met her, I'll still have to call bull-shit on this one, having seen her in commercials. Jus' sayen').
Bill Maher -- "Just getting to Book Review section - forgot I had a book out! Seeing it on the New York Times bestseller lists is a thrill (it is pretty funny)." Really Bill? Throwing down the bull-shit flag on this one, too.
And finally, Ashley Judd -- "Awkward: boarding a sold-out flight and hearing the flight attendant announce the in-flight movie is one of mine: Dolphin Tale." Whereas she probably hung her head and said, ah, shucks....

Least I am accused of picking only on the celebrities today, here's a story an acquaintance told on her mom, actually bragging about it and seemingly seeing nothing wrong with her mom's behavior:
Her step dad made the 'mistake' of bringing home six red roses -- for no reason -- and her mother thanked him by taunting him and complaining bitterly because there were 'only' six....not a dozen, which she deemed the only "appropriate" number...she said he never made that mistake again...I wish that meant he never gave her mom roses again, but unfortunately it meant the poor guy towed the line and she hands him his balls only for special occasions.

This post can be filed under 'Amy is hitting the venom-juice again'...sorry to be so snarky folks...been one of those days...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Close Encounters of the Critter Kind

It's been quite some time since I have given you a wild critter update of the goings-ons around the Sanctuary. It's been a fun spring.

Two wild geese settled on the pond and are raising five goslings with the help of a vigilant "Aunt," a domestic goose from the next pond. They are getting pretty big and fluttering around trying to fly. Last week an eagle perched on the tall 'woodpecker' condo and was giving them the, well, eagle eye, so to speak, and mom and pop hunkered down and circled the wagons while some raucous jays dive-bombed him until he decided to gig a frog and leave for easier pickings.

Corey (stepson who lives in an Airstream on the mustang property), brought home three ducklings and they have been quite an endeavor. They are now fairly large and have shed their yellow feathers for white ones and are finally ensconced in a duck house he built. There's a reason for being called 'bird brain.' These three stooges are getting used to the pond slowly, though they are still intimidated by it. When they are adult they'll graduate to a floating island in the middle of the pond. We hope the wild geese will kinda show them the ropes since they were bought as young 'uns from Tractor Supply.

We have suspected for some time that there has been a fox lurking about, as they tend to hide their scat and scent by going to the bathroom on top of the horse manure. It's not Francis, since she would have come up to the terrace for food by now. A 'new' fox is shy, and primarily a creature of the night. So when we pulled in the drive one night last week and a fox tore out from under the pampas grass and down the drive we were thrilled, but not surprised. I'm pretty sure it is one of Francis's kits, come to claim her mom's territory as her own, now that Francis is gone.

The bachelor beaver has come and gone after checking his property. He usually stays at his Lodge a few days and trims up the willow and then goes on down the stream where food is easier to find. We'll be so glad to have him stay the summer once the willows are grown back.

Driving up the mountain Thursday afternoon I stopped in the road to watch a doe nudge her newborn fawn across the road. The fawn was the size of a medium-sized dog and wobbly on his legs.  He was scared to cross the road and hunkered down in fear while I sat there for a few minutes until mom finally persuaded him to finish crossing the road and go into the glade. He must have just been born.

A friend is raising a baby raccoon that I want to see, but he came down with distemper. We are hoping he'll pull through. We have pretty much stopped feeding the ones here, but for one female that just insists she's part of the household and won't go away, so we will feed 'Sad Girl,' a can a night. As soon as we open the door she knows to run into the back yard to get her food. She was brought up by her mom a few generations ago and is very tame.

That's all the critter news to report...the mustangs are all doing great. The drought has wreaked havoc on the pasture, though, so we are forced to buy hay and alfalfa cubes, which isn't great for our meager budget. We are hoping for some rain! If y'all have any, send it on down our way.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


I read an interesting article awhile back about micro-messages, a term coined in 1973. MM are two thousand to four thousand subtle, non-verbal signals that we send every day, which are automatic and almost invisible. Or hardly detectable, anyway. Nods, sighs, shrugs, grins, grimaces, eye rolls, doodling, eyes drifting, finger tapping or snapping, head whipping...all these are MM, which are either positive or negative.

Micro messages can be praised, supported, judged, goaded, adored, dismissed or ignored.

A micro-perp is what you'd call someone who exploits their power, like bosses who look at their email while you are talking to them. Or who gaze at their computer instead of being engaged in the conversation. Or doctors who ignore you and speak directly to your spouse. Or clerks who are polite but never look you in the eye. A final example of a micro-perp would be a friend who begins an apology by saying, "If that hurt your feelings..."

A micro-victim is simply the person on the receiving end. The student who, after never being called upon, stops raising his hand in class. A junior executive whose ideas are dismissed with a wave of a hand and a "we've tried that before," or  "anything else?" A woman who answers the door to a salesman asking if the lady of the house is at home. Words don't convey the essence of what we mean like micro-messages do. They make our feelings and messages crystal clear.

Roots of the micro-message are assumptions we make about our place in the world, our position in the social hierarchy, certain beliefs about individuals and groups -- pre-conceived notions about race, gender, ethnicity -- all filters - someone with hard-wired beliefs will support his way of thinking. Thus, my filters can distort your performance.

Most students learn by 2nd or 3rd grade if they are deemed dull or bright. Those perceived as dull begin to meet those 'expectations' of themselves. If someone you are talking to becomes inattentive, you'll grow angry, or frustrated, nervous, you might ramble or feel invisible, or you might be polite but cool towards them. You may sense what's going on and still be duped and end up faltering in conversation. It takes skill to keep someone engaged, just as it is a skill to be an active listener.

Some people intuitively confer micro-affirmations by engaging people, ignoring race or ethnicity, and bringing out the best in people, eliciting trust and loyalty.

Insensitivities result from an imbalance of power between two people. Everyone has been on both sides of this equation. Micro-inequities apply to everyone. Playing favorites, forgetting someone's name repeatedly, not paying attention, not remaining focused on someone's presentation...are examples of this.

A leader can change the entire tone of a room just through micro-messages such as facial expression, neutral comments, eye contact, active listening, etc. Silences can be loaded.

In short, micro-messages get to the DNA of culture change without saying a word. I'm thinking a lot of this is how we communicate with babies and animals. Any thoughts?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Baby, the Rain Must Fall

I can't believe it's been two weeks since my last post, but I am not really surprised. It feels more like two years, actually. I had a post already figured out but it occurred to me you might be (if only mildly) interested in why I've been away. I have been preoccupied with two friends and their recent diagnosis and fall-out and one murder. One friend's new DIL's husband (age 33) was just diagnosed with ALS (commonly known as Lou Gerig's disease). He had been sore and unable to lift an arm above his shoulder and they suspected a pinched nerve. Super-shock. The fancy-schmancy hospital in Little Rock has been their typical responsive nurturing self (read: horrid and unhelpful), and the final straw was when he began having trouble breathing, and they proposed a dr appt two weeks away. She (the wife) and I have become friends when she called to ask if I could help, and to ask how one lives with chronic illness. We schemed to get him to a good diagnostic clinic, if they couldn't get into NIH, and they ended up at Johns Hopkins. Unfortunately there aren't any clinical trials he can participate in, but at least they didn't talk down to them and they got the latest info (which the drs here were unwilling to provide them). They were glad they went, despite the expense and hassle of travel when sick and disabled. My other friend is in his early 80s. He and his wife landed in the ER midnight Palm Sunday when he wasn't getting better from what they assumed was a bout of food poisoning. Things went south from there -- from a stomach virus, to a blockage in his large intestine, to surgery for a tumor, to pancreatic cancer, that has spread to other organs. After 10 days in the hospital, he had his first chemo treatment last Monday. They are hopeful. But I have seen four friends succumb to pancreatic cancer. Perhaps the treatments will buy him a little time. If it doesn't seem to, G is smart enough to consider 'quality vs. quantity,' and fully intends to spend his remaining days savoring his time with M, his dogs, and his pipe. Last but certainly not least, a dear friend was murdered by an ex-BF two Saturday nights ago. W and I had been friends since 1994. He wasn't supposed to cut my hair that day, but we had such a rapport when we met, he became my stylist and it evolved to friendship outside the salon. I followed him to his second and then third salon jobs. About six years ago, he became really erratic and unreliable. It got to where I never knew if he'd keep the appt or not, and it was a real hassle. So I switched to the first stylist I had used, who had just moved back from Memphis. But W and I remained friends. And Excy still went to him. I was looking forward to returning as his customer. It wasn't until he went to a treatment center and later confessed to substance-abuse problems that I realized what had been going on (naive, I know). But I was so proud of how W cleaned up and turned his life around. He became involved in his church, going so far as to take several church trips to Israel, and also regularly helped feed the homeless in the city. Unfortunately, his dark past caught up to him. His ex 'friended' him on FB, and told him he was in dire straits. W, being the sweet guy he was, invited him to crash on his couch a few nights while he got it together. The killer showed up that night with another man. They tied W up, robbed him, then placed him in his car in the garage and set it on fire. Neighbors saw the smoke and called the fire department, who found W and tried to revive him, to no avail. I think W knew something was going to happen, because somehow he managed to let his two dogs out, who ended up at the neighbors. Those dogs were his kids and were so important to him. W didn't make good choices, but no one deserves to die as W did, particularly someone who worked so hard to turn his life around. We are heart-sick. The week before he died, we ran into him at the grocery store, and being able to hug him and chat for 10 minutes feels like a gift to me now. I know I will never stop missing him. Fortunately they quickly apprehended the killers, as well as the 'fence' who took his computers and television. But it's small comfort. The one bright spot in the last two weeks was my friend M's quick fly-by visit from Maine. Although we were only able to spend 4 hours together, those hours on the screened porch were a tonic for the soul. M and I have been friends since 1979, when we lived together in an odd green house in college for a year. And one thing that also cheered me up was learning she is finally divorced and finished with the crusty old asshole she married in what I can only assume was a moment of supreme weakness and confusion. As my dear friend S says, the man is a 'complete waste of oxygen.' M has always had horrible taste in men, apart from her first (and second) husband, who is wonderful, and still a supportive friend of hers. Time will out. She finally severed communication with her horrid ex asshole, who I have never liked. I tried, but the man has no redeeming qualities. The first time we met him, the instant Excy and I got in our car after the evening, we looked at each other and just said in unison, 'uh oh...' In 7 years we got together as a couple exactly twice for two ill-fated outings. I usually sucked it up and went alone if I couldn't get M to come over here or meet me alone. In an effort to lash out at her once more, he came after me in a final text, saying I was 'gaming' the 'system' with my chronic illness. Really?? WTF? By having cancer? By being on disability and not working? What does he know, anyway? It was all so BSC, I told M I'd be hurt if it weren't so pathetic, or gave a shit what G thought anyway...but thank god she is well out of it and hopefully leaving Maine and growing closer to her first ex again...I know. Drama. Here's the icing on the cake: we leave on Thursday for a pre-op at Emory. I am hopeful that despite the impending appointment, I won't be having surgery for a few more months, at least. Now that I have caught ya'll up to speed, my next post will be more fun. That won't be much of a stretch...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Perils of Country Life

The people who live in a trailer behind the church that is unfortunately several hundred yards off our property are the reason we spent more than $400 to dig a trench and line it with a rhizome barrier to plant a graceful arc of bamboo, which provides a living screen that looks beautiful in all seasons.

So far it has worked great, and for 7 years now, bamboo has been behaving and not taking over the mountain. Now if we could just find a sound screen! Judging from the sound of things, said neighbors have a billion yappy little dogs, all living outside. These people are clearly deaf. Every single weekend country-western music blares at concert decibel levels, and they fire up obnoxious noisy machines. I am pretty sure they don't have a concrete lawn, but it sounds like they are jack-hammering something, if not racing engines at mind-splitting levels. And every -- single -- day when they drive home, the yappy dogs begin a rousing chorus of discordant barking that lasts for hours. I timed three hours - that was the record so far. THREE.

I'd go over and introduce myself and tell them how impressive all this to me, (silly me, thinking country living could be serene), but I am pretty sure I am not a favorite of theirs, either. As I said, they are clearly deaf and I don't know sign language.

And several years ago they had a goat ((I don't know, it's the country, for gawd's sake)). This goat kept getting lose and ambling over to eat our plants and flowers, which were clearly superior to theirs. I would find said goat on our terrace chomping away on the container plants, and would wrestle the beast home. This went on three separate times. It finally appeared one day and scared the hell out of my old cat Xenon, who disappeared for a few days. We finally found him in the woods up a tree. Xenon was an old gentlemen at that time, and had no business living in the woods in a tree. We got him down, and he was traumatized for days. That was too much. You don't mess with my cats.

The neighbors came over shortly after that looking for the damn goat and asked if I'd seen it. "Yes," I replied. "It was delicious."

Damn if the silly thing never got loose again (I heard they found it). A friend suggested I present them with receipts from the plants the goat ate. Fat damn chance that'd do any good.

One time when we were out of town, our kitten dashed out of the house on a pet-sitter. Because she was doing all the wrong things to try to find her, I asked a friend to come over to try her hand at finding Phoenix. She walked down the neighbor's drive at 3 in the afternoon, and she said you would've thought she was sneaking through the woods with a mask on and a gun drawn by the reception she got. The man sprang from the trailer and acted totally whack (this is a petite blonde who doesn't look like she would hurt a fly). Meth lab, anybody??

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

bromance? bah!

The other day I caught the tail-end of the excellent movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and it got me thinking about all the insipid 'bromance' movies Hollywood has been churning out the past few years, and how they may be geared to young adults, but how very juvenile they are - more like for teens, even though the actors are well into their 20s and even their 30s.

Think of some of the classic buddy-bonding movies from the past. Besides the wonderful BC&tSK and Diner (covered in a recent post), there's The Sting, 48 Hrs., All the President's Men, Animal House, Midnight Run, Tombstone, Breaking Away...and those are a few just off the top of my head.

Not one of those movies relied on stupid, silly, dick and potty jokes and disgusting language. Although some had raunchy scenes and ribald humor, they were not as sophomoric and plain stupid as they are today. And yet they were as funny and absorbing as when they first came out. Will the Judd Apatow - Adam Sandler - Jim Carrey movies also hold up in the future? Highly doubtful.

I am no prude, and I can tolerate a fair amount of potty humor, if it isn't gratuitous, (though I'd rather not). Am I the only one bored of sub-standard movies touted as 'entertainment?'

And I'm not just picking on the boys here - am I also the only one less than enamored with Bridesmaids? Or Young Adult? Holy cow -- an Oscar nomination for one of the supporting leads in Bridesmaids? Really?!

Sadly, it was news that the movie focused on a comedy primarily made up of women - that women can't be as funny as men. Come on, Hollywood, mature women comprise your second biggest audience -- why do they feel it necessary to write about diarrhea/over-sexed moms? ( It seems that in the movies, all 'parents' over the age of 40 are oversexed, idiot losers....and all the women -- and men -- can't string a sentence together without saying fuck/shit/asshole, etc). Do you know these people in real life, not just reel life? If so, god help you.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

They Shoot (and Stab) Horses, Don't They - But They Shouldn't

One of my blog-buddies told me about a blog that was in favor of horse slaughter and the reopening of slaughterhouses in the US. I tried to leave this post but it was too long, so I am posting it here. It is a long one and I apologize for that, but it is a long and complicated -- and important -- issue.

I hope you don’t mind hearing a dissenting opinion on your blog from a stranger. I see that you have researched this issue. But as you yourself admit, there is a vast difference between animals raised for human consumption and companion animals. As you stated, horses have been loyal and constant companion animals to humans for hundreds of years, helping develop and settle this nation, riding into battle, and used for farming, work, therapy, show, racing, hobby, trail riding, competition, etc. They are featured on license plates. Cars are named after them. They’re a symbol of the American West – of strength, independence, and freedom. And they deserve better. They deserve our protection and our care. The key to solving this problem lies in responsible ownership and breeding. People must realize they have a responsibility to animals that can live up to 30 years. And if they become unwilling or unable to care for their horse, there are far better options than slaughter, which I will elaborate upon.

Seventy percent of Americans oppose horse slaughter. Horsemeat has never been popular in the country and it never will. Horses are considered livestock, but are in a gray area, because they are primarily considered companion animals.

But the arguments that I feel you will respond to most are the following: Horses have a total impact on the U.S. GDP of $112.1 BILLION (American Horse Council). If slaughterhouses close, the rendering industry will have a strong economic reason to start processing horses again, providing more jobs throughout the US than just the few horse slaughter centers that would be reopened. The positive national economic impact of retaining live horses is far greater than the negative impact of closing a few slaughterhouses.

Horses will not starve to death. The horses slaughtered only represent 1 percent of the current population. Horses will be reabsorped into the current population. Equine rescues, riding associations, therapy facilities, retirement homes, and sanctuaries will absorb them into the current population. Overflow can be handled. Horsemeat is not the preferred meat for big cats in zoos and wild animal parks – beef, pig, and sheep meat is.

Of more importance to your argument, horses are not raised as food for humans. Horses receive medicines that the FDA and EU ban – meds for worming, fly repellant, aspirins and for illness, etc., and there is no system in place for monitoring this – no way to remove horses from the food chain once they have been given routine medicines for a variety of reasons.

Finally, 92.3 percent of horses sent to slaughter are in sound health and good condition and can be absorbed into the population if people weren’t outbid by killer buyers at auction, who operate out of greed. Horse slaughter has declined in the past 20 years and the horse industry has absorbed the horses that would have gone to slaughter. (From 413,786 in 1990 to 66,400 in 2002 – just 1 to 2 percent of the population).

There is a long history of horrific abuse and neglect with slaughterhouses, including the three that were operating in the US. They were all in violation of environmental laws related to the disposal and death of the horses and other materials. Ending slaughterhouses won’t impact the federal government. If a horse needs to be killed, there are humane ways of euthanasia – which costs much less than the cost of a month’s care..

In slaughter houses, horses are typically not fed, watered, taken care of, are abused and whipped, and the typical way they are killed is to sever their spinal cord that leaves them paralyzed and unable to move or breathe, but still conscious as they are hoisted, bled out, and dismembered. Most are not killed by the contained shot method.

There are far better options for ‘unwanted’ horses that because of financial hardship, or horses that are too old or infirm, or injured to be wanted, or too dangerous, or just that people no longer want them, than slaughtering. As I said earlier – horses deserve better, and horse slaughter isn’t the viable option. I know this post is a long one, but the issue is complicated and involved. Thanks for letting me air this side.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Meet You at the Diner

I read Vanity Fair and enjoy the annual Hollywood issue. This year's issue had an article about the 1982 movie Diner. Apparently it's the 30th anniversary of the movie. If I weren't feeling old before, I really feel 'creaky' now! After reading the article I had to borrow the DVD I gave mom one Christmas to watch again. Diner is one movie mom and I usually watch during the Christmas holiday. I bet I've watched every year it's been out. It's set at Christmas in 1959 in Baltimore. When it first came out, I had just moved to DC, and later, by 1990, just outside of Baltimore. In fact, the scenes where 'Boogie' and 'Jane Chisholm' are horseback riding are just down the road from the Hunt Cup fields and from where Excy and I lived. We even ate at the 'diner' still situated (then) at Fells Point.

Not only do I cherish the memories of watching this movie with mom, but I fell in love with Diner from the first. The VF article argued it was the first movie that celebrated being 'about nothing,' and I guess that's right -- the movie is quiet; the guys are long-time friends, they hang at the Diner, one is getting married and gives his bride-to-be a football quiz she must pass before they marry, one has gambling problems he is trying to resolve...but I don't really see it that way...I see young men who are trying to grapple their way into adult hood and have one foot poised towards their future and another planted back with their memories and boyhood friends where it's 'safe.'

The movie made stars out of the leading actors: Kevin Bacon, Mickey Rourke, Ellen Barkin, Steve was the first film for Tim Daly and Paul Reiser...all fine is a lovely film that resonates as much today as back in the day. One of those movies that when I first saw it, I knew it would become a classic. And it has...typically, the studio executives didn't know what to make of it and hadn't even decided to release it, when a copy was slipped to the movie critic Pauline Kael, who wrote a review for The New Yorker. From there it was picked as a darling by other critics, so the studio had to release it or they'd look like idiots. (Imagine that).

The other movies released that year that were 'hot' included the top-money ranking films Blade Runner (at number 1), The Thing (2), Fast Times at Ridgemont High (3), ET, Gandi, Poltergist, Tron, and Sophie's Choice. Far down the rank at Tootsie, An Officer and a Gentlemen, and, at 37th, Diner. Well, some of those are excellent films, some classics. But as far as watching and re-watching? Diner has them all beat, for me.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Cat Who Fell to Earth

On our property across the street is a 60 ft. high, dead tree, that I call the 'Woodpecker Condo.' I will try to take a good photograph of it, because it literally has more a dozen holes in varying sizes running up one side from all the different woodpeckers who live in it.

Our 'neighbors' who live on that side are a semi-retired couple who roam the property and have always been so nice over the years. One day, J. came over while we were hanging out at the fire-pit by the pond and told us this story. His wife's favorite cat, a calico manx, had been missing for three days, but every now and then G. would think she could hear it meowing from a distance. (Their house is a fourth of a mile away from our property.)

The third day the cat was missing, G. again thought she heard something, so J. let himself in the gate and onto the property and started to walk around. And spied the cat at the very top of the 60 ft. tree. I'm pretty sure the mustangs didn't frighten the cat up there. I think it was interested in the birds. But the question became how to get the cat out of the tree. A ladder, even the ladder from the fire truck, wouldn't be long enough. J. walked back and had G. come out to see in the hopes she could coax the cat to make it's way further down the tree so J. might be able to reach him with a ladder. The tree, unfortunately, is so dead it no longer has branches and is more like a big stob.

Well, the cat saw G coming and proceeded to meow and act miserable, which it no doubt was, having been stuck in a high tree for three days and two nights..and no sooner had G. walked to the tree and looked up, but the cat leaped from the top of the tree and sort of airplaned/lunged to the ground -- flattened out like a flying squirrel does when it hydroplanes.

J. and G. were horrified to see their dear cat companion hurl itself into the air and then slam onto the hard ground before them.* Several minutes later, the stunned cat began to breathe again, came to, seemed to shake itself together, and let G. scoop it into her arms and take him home!

* If it had been me, I would have been staggering around with my arms outreached trying to catch the cat.

United we Fall

The visit to NIH was good, overall. The cancer in the kidney remnant hasn't spread and the drs said that at this point, the remnant would fail before I would need it out because of the cancer, so we can schedule the surgery and transplant at our convenience this summer. I haven't talked with Emory but most likely we will wait until July. The fistula isn't forming, but there is still a chance it will if I use stress balls 24/7-- giving it more time is a priority. Another ultrasound is scheduled for June. Unless the remnant fails, it isn't an emergency operation, and that's good news. It is miraculous to me how long it's lasted. The drs warned me it would only work a year or two because it would have to work so hard to compensate for the whole body, and five years later, it's still plugging along.

That's the diagnosis in a nutshell; I don't really feel like going into it too much.

Given this news, it seems odd I'm going to complain about something as mundane as air travel, but it's imminently more relatable; humans being who they are, it seems our nature to bitch about trivial inconveniences, regardless of circumstances in their life.

Because of having to buy government tickets due to the NIH stipend (which, believe me, we are grateful for, do not get me wrong), we are at the mercy of the cheapest airfares. Of course, there is the option of upgrading, but with a kidney surgery to pay for and meds that will cost between $4000 to $6000 a month, swinging for an upgrade or a direct flight on a different airline just wasn't in the cards, so we found ourselves, unhappily, booked on United.

The first leg we flew to Chicago, and then switched planes and went onto the tarmac onto a tiny commuter. To my mind, United is now tied with Skyways as the worst airline in the country. (Although United did manage to deliver our bag, which is more than Skyways ever did in the four times we were forced to endure their 'service.' They are nothing if not consistent, to lose our bag every single time, and once delivered it sopping wet after it sat on the runway in the rain for hours.) That said, everything about United sucks. I told Excy taking Greyhound would be preferable if there is ever a next time. Every employee, from the baggage check to the phone-it-in airline assistants, made it plain their customers were a pain in their ass, to be cattle-prod on and off the plane, and that the less they interacted with us all, the better. To add insult to injury, no wheelchair transfers were ever set up. In Chicago, we narrowly missed a connecting flight we had an hour to make, because we had to wait so long for a chair. I did not realize that Chicago O'Hare has one wheelchair, and thus it gets a lot of use.

The planes were packed to the gills, and they should have distributed packets of oil to slather ourselves with, so we could wedge into the tight aisles and tiny seats that only folks under 4 feet and 80 pounds would be comfortable in. I am not a 'big gal,' but even I had to practically be air-lifted in and out of my seat by Excy, and could only make it with the seat arm lifted out of the way. When the woman in front of me leaned her seat back, I remembered a friend describing an ill-fated airline trip he had taken where he felt he should be shampooing the person's hair in the seat in front of him, the guy was so in his lap. I literally could not use my drink table. But no matter, no snacks were distributed, and I could always hold the plastic cup in one hand and use the other to hold my book...

There were delays on all flights, due to people cramming their luggage in the overhead bins in sometimes vain attempts to avoid the $25 fee. Several squabbles broke out on planes between disgruntled passengers claiming 'their' turf from others, or even between the airline assistants and passengers about too-heavy was a quite interesting sociological experience, if I weren't so tired and scared that someone would be whipping out pepper spray. On one flight we sat on the ground forever waiting for the pilot to make an appearance. That was the same flight I had to be wheeled on the tarmac in freezing rain and then slowly climb the steep stairs. That was an especially miserable experience.

All in all, it was such crowded, cramped torture, it took two days both ways for the swelling in my ankle and foot to go down, and Excy felt a bit A-fib from sitting for hours in the origami positions we had to be folded into. As I said -- never again. I will find some other way to get us back on our beloved, direct flight by Southwest. Home never looked so good to me...

Saturday, February 25, 2012

hapless trails....

Dear all -- we are on the way to NIH (National Institutes of Health) very early tomorrow. I have been running all week getting ready and things done before we leave, not to mention starting up the Mourner's Path workshop for the next 8 Saturdays...I will blog when we get back. In a perfect world, we will be home Friday night with a schedule for the kidney transplant and all the tests will reveal that everything is status quo...I look forward to catching up with everyone's posts when we return....

Friday, February 17, 2012


Sooner or later everyone, if they work long enough, confronts the 'boss from hell' ( and if they are lucky, only one). Up to that point I had counted myself very lucky that almost a decade into my career, I had liked all my superiors. Sure they had ticks and quirks, but I ultimately got along with them and they were decent, intelligent, and fair. One editor-in-chief even played matchmaker and introduced me to Excy!

The irony of the B from H was I had met her a year earlier when she was a senior editor of another magazine, and she was utterly charming, and I assured the staff when her name was given as our new editor, we would all like working with her. OOPS. Well, she came, and within days she fired the entire staff save for myself and one other editor and the graphic artist. The staff members let go -- five in all -- were long-time, senior-level editors, and frankly I feel they intimidated her. Upon retrospect. L and I were junior editors, and I think she felt we would easily conform to her new regime.

DD ruled by cruelty and fear tactics. She tried to alienate us by forbidding us from talking to one another, be it in the hallways or even in the break room. She would patrol the hallways and if she saw anyone talking in the other's office she would quickly tell us to 'get back to our desk,' like we were errant little kids. This was even more awkward by the fact that working on a magazine is a collaborative effort, with everyone pitching in with ideas and editing help and whatnot. Not only are there staff meetings, but it takes a lot of team-work to research, interview, write, and edit, not to mention illustrate a story, column or feature. So DD's paranoia really hampered creativity and work on each issue.

DD chose to lead by focusing only on the negative. She never mentioned anything she liked, but would lambast what anyone did 'wrong.' The more people around to witness her humiliating diatribes the better. Her 'critiques' were mean-spirited and often personal.

Although she gladly trumpeted her status as 'editor-in-chief,' she firmly believed the 'buck never stopped' with her, and she never, ever, took any blame for anything, no matter now small and inconsequential the error, and whether or not she was, indeed, to blame.

We were taken to task for a story she had signed off on, if later some reader had a problem with it. She would immediately throw the writer under the bus, claiming she had no knowledge of it whatsoever. We were even to blame for her editorials, which were never written by anyone else, of which she seldom showed to us before they were published.

DD was truly a miserable, passive-aggressive person. She would wait, regardless of how long one worked after office hours, until you left, so that the first thing you would find in the morning was a memo on your desk dripping with venom about whatever she considered to be your latest transgression. She believed in busting morale.

She would even try to put restrictions on people getting together for lunch or after hours, sure that we were plotting against her or something. Of the new staff she hired, and the freelance writers who worked for us, she fired half of them in the 18 long, long months I soldiered through (I worked for the magazine 12 years so leaving was a hard decision). Our new graphic artist (the last was fired in a typically horrible way), wanted to attend his grand mom's 90th birthday bash out of town over the weekend. She refused to let him go - we had to stay in town and 'work over the weekend' if needed because the issue was almost going to press. He knew if he refused his ass would be on the line. I overheard him tell her, "that's okay...I'm sure she'll have another." Our technical editor's grand mom died, and when he told her he needed one day off to fly out of town to make the funeral, she asked in a nasty voice,
"She was old, wasn't she??"
"She was my grandmother, so yes. But I still want to attend her funeral!"

At the time I was also responsible for two columns. One was on new products, and the other featured news and designs still in production, and I cannot count the times she would order me to write up a product or design to please some person or manufacturer (she strongly believed in playing favorites), and then would chew me out after someone called with a complaint that it seemed we were currying favoritism. At design shows, she expected me to cover so many different things at the same time I was sure she thought I was a twin. If I showed her the appointment schedule or schedule of events and suggested she prioritize the logistics of meeting these demands, after being chewed out enough times trying to decide on my own, she would reply she 'didn't care' how I'd manage it.

On two separate business trips where we had to travel together and we'd be gone at least three days and often four, she'd show up at the airport without so much as a carry-on bag, and she'd wear the same outfit day after day. Her hair would grow greasy and I don't even want to speculate on her underwear.

In the end -- interestingly -- as soon as I quit, she hired me as a freelancer and the same writing she complained about incessantly she then had no problem with -- she fired every single person, even the people she hired to replace the people she fired initially. Even the editorial advisors and freelancers went to the publisher and advisory boards to complain about working with her. Numerous letters and petitions were circulated, and ignored, about her. I remember seeing one well-known and respected architectural critic's letter on her desk that stated he 'wasn't going to have anything more to do with the magazine until her disastrous reign was over.' Inevitably she was fired, but after several years the damage to the magazine had taken its toll, and a once-prominent architecture magazine had slipped in rank and reputation.

I heard she worked for an architecture column on a FL paper, and then someone else spotted her working at the counter of a department store back in DC. Then she surfaced as a scriptwriter for an HGTV show I did some writing for - as soon as I heard that, my heart sank, and sure enough, the work didn't pan out -- later confirmed by a production assistant who said she was badmouthing me. She's still floating around. As miserable, and making those around her, as miserable, as ever, I'm sure.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Write Stuff

"Ms Manners" says that while written thank you notes are the gold standard (noting who doesn't like to receive written cards or letters in the mail), they aren't the only 'right' way to say thank you anymore, and one must consider the source. For example, if you normally correspond in email, she says email is fine. She argues that the important thing is to acknowledge a kindness. That's true. That is always the important thing. That's one reason I usually shoot off an email to let the person know I've received their gift or whatever, and will be following up with a written note of thanks. My mom ingrained into me to write a thank you note within 24 hours. I still maintain, despite what MM says, a handwritten note is the only real appropriate response to acknowledge someone's kindness and thoughtfulness.

In the sour grapes department, for instance, I needlepointed a huge Christmas stocking for my darling grand daughter that took more than 3 months and cost upwards of $300 in materials and finishing costs, not to mention the time it took. Although it was something I wanted to do, I am still appalled my step daughter didn't do much more than smile when she opened it and put it aside. A lot of effort and love went into something unique that Parker will, I hope, treasure in her life as she grows older.

But back to writing--as far as birthday greetings are concerned? I'm sorry - if you're going to 'send' me an electronic greeting card, or post on FB after being reminded by FB, please don't bother. I'd even prefer an email note. I'm not much for phoning it in. I went to the store, picked out a card I thought would be amusing to you, and mailed it with a special stamp. If you can't be bothered, fine. But remember actions speak louder than words, and I'm one of those dinosaurs of etiquette who still conforms to standards that are fading away.

Talk Show, Dick Cavett's latest book culled from his newspaper columns and blogs, is excellent, to the point I have read his other two books. As clever as his shows were, I laughed at his anticdotes and remembrances on every page.
Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James, takes up 6 years after Jane Austen's most famous characters married, fared -- the murder mystery involves the younger sister Lydia and her earstwhile husband who Darcy had to pay off to have her married to prevent scandal so he could marry Elizabeth...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Nubbins, Resurrected

Yes, I was one of those crazy ladies who fed the 'coons. It began when they found the food I put out for the stray cats. It continued after they charmed me by bringing up the babies and using our flat bedroom addition as a sort of 'day care' when the mama 'coons wanted to eat and relax while keeping an eye on their broods and know they were safe. I enjoyed feeding a few of the brave ones pecans and vanilla wafers from my fingers as they gingerly took the treats from my hand with their soft dexterous paws. It ended a few years later when suddenly it seemed every 'coon on Wye Mt., began showing up nightly at 'Amy's cafe' and digging in my planters.

Throughout I befriended in particular one old 'coon I named 'Nubbins' due to his stubby ears -- which looked more like ears a bear would have. I felt sorry for him at first. The others seemed to ignore or bully him -- maybe because of his appearance -- but he was always hanging around the fringes trying to dart in and grab a bite or two before being run off. He was so timid but always sweet. I started going out of my way to make sure 'Nubbins' got some of the goodies. Eventually when I started tapering off the food supply, the others noticed my fondness for Nubs, and began pushing him forward towards the sliding glass door, to get their food. Nubs seemed almost apologetic about it. Every time he saw me, he rushed the door and put his paws up in greeting, seemingly as happy to see me as I was him.

Nine months ago I gasped when I saw him on the terrace with a huge gaping gash from his shoulder down his haunch. I don't know what happened to him but he looked awful. The blood wasn't gushing out but I could see bone, and he was moving in obvious pain. Still, he was there, and a friend who fed 'coons had told me they had an amazing ability to heal and as long as he was eating he should be alright. Unfortunately, after that one night, he disappeared.

After a few weeks passed I resigned myself to the fact he probably didn't make it. It's a hard life for the wild ones, and Nubbins lived a long time in 'coon world. Still, I missed him. I even found a small plastic 'coon toy and nipped his ears so he'd resemble Nubs and put it on our kitchen counter to remind us of the remarkable friendship we developed with the guy.

Three nights ago I looked out on the terrace and gasped. There he was! He came rushing up to the door as soon as he saw me peering from the glass, acting like he'd never been away. His fur is thick and full and he moved easily. He had two friends with him. We were so excited to see him, he got a treat of pecans and vanilla wafers; all he could eat. Later I sent out a chicken carcass rather than using it for soup. It is still incredible Nubs has been 'raised from the dead.'

Now if only Francis the fox would reappear again...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Bird Dog OR Don't Awaken the Sleeping Giant

A few years ago, we were visiting my in-laws out west. My mother-in-law fed the area cardinals, blue jays, and other songbirds by setting out birdseed in pie pans on their deck table. One morning our dog, a blue-heeler named Billie, was napping on the deck a few feet from the table when a mountain jay took offense of her presence and decided to run her off.

The large bird began scolding her loudly and dive-bombing Billie, who finally woke up. Billie continued to lay on the deck, doing her best to ignore the bird’s wild antics, until finally, while still in a semi-recumbant position, she jumped straight in the air about 5 feet and clamped her jaws around the unfortunate jay. The bird never knew what hit him as she knocked him down in one fell swoop. I noticed that after that, the other birds left Billie alone, and she never bothered with them, either.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

May You Live Interesting Times...

This year is proving to be more odd and eventful than usual and we are only 28 days into it. On the medical front, the fistula isn't forming and the surgeon proposed a 'procedure' where a catheter opens up the bifurcated vein with a 'balloon' and makes it more accessible and shuts down the errant vein. I worried all night about that one, and had Excy call the next day to make sure no dye would be used (Amy -- dye equals die). Apparently the form you always have to fill out in a Drs. office? The one in my case that takes up three full sheets and about 30 minutes? They never look at them. Despite my writing how highly allergic I am to contrast dye, and a crash cart and a week in the hospital was involved in the past, they were planning to use dye. When Excy explained this wasn't possible because I am allergic to it, the nurse answered brightly that she'd phone in a script for steroids the night before. Excy said it was impossible; I was even allergic to the prep drugs now. Acting like they didn't believe me, they called back to say there was "nothing they could do for me." So a $15,000+ surgery has gone south and there's nothing they can do??! When Emory and NIH won't touch you with dye why would a local hospital feel secure in doing this?

I felt better after talking to a guy who said his fistula took 6 months to form, but since NIH wanted me to have the fistula in place by the time we went up in Feb., and they need to remove the kidney remnant before the tumor metastizes, they are considering options with Emory on how to work around the newest problem. You know the Chinese curse - may you live in interesting times? I am quite sick of it.

In lighter news, I went to the Jan. WOW last night and had a great time. The ladies were on fire. And many were over-served. Quite a few hysterics, funny stories, and tears were shared. After watching B spill a glass of red, and pour 2 glasses of white to over-flowing, I told S that I may not drink at a WOW again it was so amusing to sit back and watch and listen to the carryings-on. (I stop at a half-glass these days to protect the remnant). Not to imply we are all a bunch of drunken sots. It was just a weird night and most of the ladies had tensions that spilled over the end of the week.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday Ranting about Nothing Important

Is anyone else rather disgusted (and totally not fooled) by the ubiquitous celebrity interview where the interviewer (typically a male interviewer does this) raves and swears that xx female celebrity is just "glowing....luminescent...line-less...despite not wearing a stitch of makeup..."


Female interviewers seldom write this, because as woman, they know better. They are savvy enough to realize any celebrity worth their salt has long been schooled in the 'art' of creating a natural appearing face.

You can bet their double-digit-carat diamonds some makeup artist has taught them how to apply all levels of looks, from natural to red-carpet ready, with all the tricks to emphasize their individual features. And they either know all the tricks or employ someone who does.

Unless the celebrity is in their 20s,* if they're being interviewed for a magazine, newspaper article or anything else, a trace of makeup will be found on their face.

Period. End of story.

* that is another annoying interview feature in itself -- since most everybody has great-looking skin in their 20s, raving about some one looking fabulously natural in the 20s?? No biggie...and the interviews where they 'bravely' have their photos take sans makeup?? Oh, please...

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Fateful Day

Yesterday we went to a luncheon given by a local paper. The function was called '20 for 20' honoring 20 people in the community doing good things in the state. Excy was nominated for his work with the wild horses. All we had to do was show up for lunch and get a certificate. Easy-peasy. Everyone was very nice and it was an eclectic crowd. And, they gave me the floral centerpiece at our table!~ which my cats are busily snacking on when they think we're not looking...

Then we ran across town that night for a cocktail/birthday party that evolved into the party that seemingly never ended - we finally left at midnight. The poor host - I think he must've thought he'd have to dig out the sleeping bags...there were still four people there when we made our exit. We didn't know anyone but the host and the honoree, but made several new friends.

I did have an unusual encounter, however. A young woman came up to me and asked if I had noticed that she was the only black person there.
Uh m. Yeah. Not that I cared about such things, but I do notice things.

Then she asked if I knew how many times black people washed their hair. I had no idea, but my black friends have mentioned their hair issues...I told her I had no idea; did she know how many times white people washed their hair? And would she believe I only washed my hair once or twice a week? (Gray hair doesn't seem to get oily).

She asked me why I used a cane, but before I answered she launched into a story about breaking her leg in two places...she was hyper and -- uh -- over-served, but sweet and funny...though I couldn't help wonder what points she was trying to get across when the conversation went off the rails...fortunately our host came over eventually and saved me...and she hugged me and pronounced me one of the few 'real' people she'd met, whatever that means.

Fortunately, I learned I wasn't the only one who couldn't figure her out.

When our host left his condo to walk us to the elevator to see us out and continue our conversation, she locked him out of his own house!~ I'm pretty sure someone unlocked the door, since I heard from him this afternoon and he didn't mention the incident...

Monday, January 9, 2012

between a rock and ...a rock?

Now that the mad dash through the holidays are over, I thought I'd allow myself some time to tread water. It hasn't exactly turned out that way, but at least I am getting things done in the new month of the new year that I've needed to attend to for some time. As I grow older I feel more acutely the energy I deplete that I won't get back, thanks to vHL.

Three days before Christmas NIH sent some bad news via email. I particularly commend them for their timing. They 'can't' pay for Excy's airplane ticket to accompany me up there for my annual tests, and, of more concern, they claim they can't perform the surgery to remove the kidney remnant because they're 'not set up for dialysis.' Since this has been the plan for the past 5 years (since they were responsible for my losing my right kidney), this crushing blow results in adding a $100,000 to the cost of the transplant. (A kidney transplant in this country is $200,000 with an additional $6000 for meds a month until they find the 'right' cocktail of drugs for your body -- NOT covered by medicare). That's a hell of a ho-ho-ho. We are still in negotiation with NIH so not sure -- I do plan to go up there in Feb -- I would like them to look me in the eye to tell me they're throwing me under the bus.

For now, I have been taking it day by day and accomplishing one project a day I have needed to do, and I am trying to keep my pact to myself to do some form of exercise every day, which really helps. I intend to go to everyone's blog to visit, since I haven't kept up for awhile.

I hope everybody has been having a good year so far. Thanks so much for stopping by this blog. I really appreciate you. (Smiley face here). I will get back to my usual snarky posts soon, I promise!