Category: miracles of science

Charlie Sheen and My Grandmother

Charlie Sheen and My Grandmother

Dear, dear Charlie Sheen.  Watching you implode before the public eye like a supernova hellbent on destroying itself and anything in its path has been riveting, I admit. To be sure, I don’t think I can keep track of the various news stories that have splashed across the screen in the past few weeks. Something about prostitutes, drugs, alcohol, allegedly threatening violence to various ex-wives, having your children removed from your care, stopping production of your sitcom… all you’re missing is a link somehow to the middle east and you’ll hit some sort of perfect storm of newsworthiness.

And your words,  your nonsensical, inflammatory language. It has been captured by numerous television and radio outlets, all falling over themselves to have you on in order to boost their ratings. People love to watch a car crash, and you, my friend, are an explosion tantamount to a fiery Indy 500 moment coupled with an atomic bomb. Several web developers have created sites which do different things with your random quotables, all in the name of grabbing their 15 minutes on your back.
It all has made me think of my grandmother.

I never really knew my grandmother, you should understand; she died when I was 11. My direct memories of her involved brief Sunday night phone calls where we talked about Lawrence Welk, trips to Nathan’s for hotdog lunches, and a painting of a rose she made for me which I treasure to this day. I never went inside her Long Island apartment; it was part of a residence filled with the newly-liberated, completely unsupported mentally ill of 1970s New York, intermingled with a lot of elderly people. It was far too scary a place for me, a little girl. I often wonder what it must have been like for her.

My grandmother was, in the parlance of the day, manic-depressive. She endured shock treatments throughout her life as well as many other treatments probably unfathomable to people nowadays. There were points in my father’s and my aunt’s lives where they were sent off to live with aunts and cousins while my grandmother was getting help. How frightened she must have been, and what was worse — the illness or the cure? Back then, mental illness was not only unacceptable, it was stigmatized. You were somehow a defective specimen of humanity. Dignity never entered into the picture.

But my gram attempted a life of dignity in between these times. It couldn’t have been easy, losing her husband pretty early on in all of this. And sure, there was the day when she went out and, apropos of nothing, put money down on a house.  I don’t ever remember her babysitting my brothers and me the way my other grandparents did. My gram was not a regular fixture physically near me; she was like a star I wished upon, but not for myself: for her.

And as I watch Charlie Sheen catastrophically exploding through the cosmos, I’m wishing on him. I’m hoping someone out there will stop him on this path toward self-destruction.  I pray that someone is helping him to harness that light for something better, stronger, and more positive for himself and for his family.

Blazes are not always glorious in my book.

Originally published at Smartly.Com

world aids day 2010

world aids day 2010

…because freddy mercury should be singing bohemian rhapsody and not elton john or axel rose.

if ignorance is a pet peeve of mine, then you can bet that ignorance about HIV and AIDS goes far, far beyond mere annoyance in my book. as i have known plenty of people who lived and died from the HIV virus — and I have a friend who continues to live with AIDS, probably far beyond what doctors predicted — i have been gobsmacked by the stupidity people have shown toward those with HIV, as if you might catch it by simply breathing the same air.  in the old office where i used to get my monthly IVIG, i had less fear about being around AIDS patients than i did with someone with something actually infectious. it wasn’t like i was going to be having sex while getting my IV — not that i could even figure out how if i even wanted to, of course. (and i’m quite sure none of those patients were interested in me, anyway.)

i can’t believe we’ve hit world aids day 2010 and there still isn’t a cure. there are a lot of advances, thanks to groups like amfAR. still, funding is an issue — i know, where isn’t funding an issue these days. and you might wonder why i care about this disease; i don’t exactly fit the profile of someone who might be engaging in behaviors that might lead to trouble (although no one is ever truly perfectly immune from anything, i believe.) i guess somewhere in the back of my bear-brain, i know that i have a condition where so little is known. there’s no primary immunodeficiency day out there; we don’t have celebrities talking about what it’s like to have a crap immune system. but i feel a kinship with HIV/AIDS folks — they, too, have crap immune systems. theirs is an acquired situation, whereas mine was something i was simply born with (apparently.)

maybe it’s a slightly selfish thing — i figure that maybe, if someone out there figures out how to help those folks, that maybe someday, that research will possibly benefit my children and grandchildren. after all, someone’s going to get my genes.

so i hope you’ll join me in commemorating world aids day 2010. i hope i see a day in my lifetime when they no longer have this commemoration because the disease has a remedy.

and then maybe, we won’t lose people like freddy mercury just because he loved often but possibly not always so well.

float on

float on

rest in peace, psychofish.

this past weekend, jools’ pet beta, psychofish, went to the great big fishbowl in the sky. truth be told, he went into a deep hole in our backyard, in accordance with jools’ wishes. i gave the boy the choice, of course: a burial at sea [read: flushed down the toilet], where psycho would ultimately rejoin his fellow fish in the chesapeake bay; or a hole in our backyard. BC protested about the latter; she didn’t want psycho dug up and eaten by some cat. but it was jools’ fish and jools’ decision, so he asked BS to go out back and dig a deep, deep hole with him.

i never wanted a fish. we don’t have dogs or cats because of our allergies. and we never thought to have a fish, either, until jools’ preschool graduation a few years back. along with a diploma, the teachers thought it would be incredibly cute to give each child a beta fish. they neglected to consult with any parents as to whether this would be a good present for the kids.

i could hardly contain my joy.

suddenly, we were in the position to have to run out to a pet store and find a more suitable home for the fish (assuming the sandwich bag would hold for that long) as well as food. oh, and how about some cute little plastic foliage for the fish to enjoy while we’re at it? and considering that the recipient has an older sister? make that two of each plus another fish to go, please.

talk about the gift that kept on giving.

anyway, BC and jools both named their respective fishes with normal, friendly names. however, as the lady who fed them and talked to them each day, i gave them different names, names that stuck. BC’s beta, who is terrified of his own shadow, was re-named scaredyfish. and jools’ fish? the fish that acted like a dog and actually sat on his tail and begged for food? the fish that came to the edge of the bowl and would look to me for conversation? what a mondo bizarro little dude. i dubbed him psychofish. and i’ll be damned if i didn’t get attached to the little guy.  he even seemed to like it when i played the police really, really loud.

when he started to fall ill about three months ago, i started to fret. he began hanging out in his pink palm tree more than usual. (fish in a tree? how can that be?) after awhile, he just plunked down on the rocks on the bottom of his bowl and remained listless. i came to realize that something was keeping him from swimming, like a disease of some sort that affected his fin or fins. we tried cleaning his bowl a bit. i ran out to petsmart and found some fishy tetracycline. we tried this other stuff that was supposed to kill all the nasties in his water.

but nothing worked.

when i found him at the bottom, bloated and not moving, i cried. i knew i had to get it out mostly before the kids saw me or else they, too, would completely lose it.  and when the kids came home from their swim, i said to BS: la poisson est morte.  (we always speak french, albeit grammatically incorrect french, when we don’t want the kids to understand us. this plan will officially backfire next year, when BC has announced her plans to take the language in middle school.) he looked at me sympathetically; i then announced a family meeting where burial plans were decided and men were sent out to dig.

after covering ourselves in plenty of bug spray, we ventured out into the deepest, darkest corner of our yard, thick with vegetation (that probably is where jimmy hoffa currently resides.) there, BS, with jools’ help, had dug a final resting place for psychofish. BS had wrapped psychofish in the garment of ages, a paper lunch sack, and placed him gingerly in the hole. as BS started to shovel the dirt over our fishy friend, we all said a few words about the beta. then, as three of us are red sea pedestrians, BC and i said mourner’s kaddish, leading me to wonder whether G-d would strike me down for saying kaddish for a fish. (then again, that moment also made me smile because BC has been paying attention in services enough to know exactly when to say certain critical parts of the prayer.)

and then, jools started asking for a bigger fish.



it’s official:  i am laundry-challenged.

i grew up in a family where my mom or dad pretty much did the laundry for everyone in the house; so when i got married, i figured that BS and i would just do giant loads of each other’s laundry and move on with life. after all, it doesn’t really bother me to do laundry; it’s not like i have to go down to the river and beat the clothes on rocks.  at the time, i was usually too bothered to separate lights from whites from darks.

this offended his laundry sensibilities; BS told me he would do his own.

for about 30 seconds, my nose was out of joint about this until i realized, hell, i only have to do my own laundry.

and so it went. two kids later, i am the primary laundress around here — though BS still does his own laundry. i wash the kids’ clothes except for certain key moments. like when there’s barf all over them. or, better yet, a bucket of swallowed blood.  then, my beloved spouse steps up to the plate and takes on the worst of the body fluids.

(which i sincerely appreciate, i would add.)

anyway, we have had our laundry-related mishaps. for example, there was the time when preschool aged jools left a red crayon in his pocket… a crayon which melted all over our clothes when it hit the dryer.  BS was not amused. while several articles of clothing simply could not be rehabbed and thus had to go to the giant hamper in the sky, i still needed to clean out the drum of the dryer, which had lots of red streaks splayed around it.

eventually, after researching the issue (and getting at least 15 different dirty looks from my clean-minded spouse), i discovered that i could clean it all out with a substance called goo gone. the only problem, of course, was that the label indicated that if the goo gone ended up in contact with heat, hilarity would not ensue.

oh, how i fretted! i did not want my laundry machine to blow our family to kingdom come. but i also knew that BS needed to do a load of whites, and he was going to be most unhappy should his clothing end up candy-striped. so i said a little prayer, took a little dab and wiped down the drum. and lo and behold, it WORKED! and more importantly, WE DIDN’T END UP RIDING OUR HOUSE THROUGH THE SKIES TO VISIT THE WIZARD OF OZ!


so now, i’m careful to check pockets, though a stray piece of gum or penny often escapes my search.

but i’m still mystified: somehow, even though i separate whites from lights from darks; even though i measure my detergent and follow instructions — i cannot get hellboy’s socks clean! what do these kids DO in their socks? i have tried bleach. I have tried baking soda. i have tried drinking a glass of shiraz to try and not care about it.

but Jaysus! my kids walk around in the dirtiest, stinkiest  socks on the planet. and short of buying new ones on a monthly basis, i am stumped as to what to do. i have clearly failed the laundry mom experience.

somewhere, my home economics teacher is laughing.

i feel good

i feel good

…and it’s all thanks to you, president obama!

i am not surprised by the lineup of state attornies general who are preparing to go to war over this law, though i have already called and emailed the attorney general in my state to cease and desist with his efforts. (i’m sure the intern charged with reading those things  is probably laughing his or her a$$ off at my verbage.) i don’t want my tax dollars wasted on a groundless and absurd effort to get rid of a law which frankly benefits me and all americans. but i’m sure these folks want to put on a good show (they are, by and large, mostly elected officials) for the portion of the electorate that brung them. which, in my commonwealth, would not include me.

(incidentally, if you’re in VA and would like to share your views with the attorney general, you can find him here.)

anyway, i want to share why i think this admittedly somewhat imperfect law is still the best freaking thing since sliced bread.

1) eliminating pre-existing conditions for kids immediately and for adults in 2014. unless you have what would be considered a pre-existing condition, you would have no idea what this means to a person, to a family.

i have often joked with BS that i married him for his sugar-daddy health insurance. of course, back then, i didn’t have a pre-existing condition. now, of course, i do.  if for some insane reason he lost his job, i would personally ding my entire family’s ability to get health insurance unless his next employer offered insurance without any sort of pre-existing condition clause.

this idea has hung over my head for four years now like an ominous cloud. when i first came home from the hospital four years ago, when i should have been focusing on getting well, i was instead completely wigged out at the prospect that should i ever need to get my own health insurance, i could not any longer. my family’s health was in potential jeopardy simply by virtue of being related to sickly me. how would i provide for my children’s medical care? it truly made me sad. it truly made me feel helpless, captive to a condition that i didn’t create for myself. it’s just in my genes.  and the only way to have a fighting chance at wellness was a therapy that cost upwards of $10,000 every four weeks. without insurance.

now, there’s a law on my side.

2) lifetime caps on medical coverage goes bye=bye: yes, those of us who have freakish illnesses that don’t simply require us to take an aspirin and call someone in the morning rack up an impressive set of bills, even with health insurance. honestly, no one ever expects to get sick; but when it happens, it happens. and if it happens with a hospital stay or lengthy and expensive treatment options, eventually, one wonders whether one will hit that point when his insurer and he will have to part company. someone i love had a fairly innocuous surgery, only to go into kidney failure, a coma, and infection hell and end up in the ICU for three months. (he’s better now, fret not.) that sort of thing hits the hundreds of thousands of dollars. in a lifetime, stuff happens, and you amass these costs… it’s not pretty.

but what is our choice? let people die? sorry, mrs. jones, but we can’t pay for your cancer treatments anymore. you’ve really fought hard over these past 5 years, and you’ve beaten certain odds impressively. but you’ve hit your cap. you’re done now. good luck and goodbye. GOOD LORD, it must never come to this. but i suspect for some people, it has.

and now, G-d willing, it won’t.

now a lot of people are up in arms over having to have health insurance. honest to G-d, people, you’re required to have home and car insurance by law. yeah, maybe it’s state law, but probably because that’s how it panned out at the time. who the fuck CARES whether it’s federal law? if you need to be prepared to pay somehow when your home is destroyed by fire or your car takes out another person’s car, then why the HELL shouldn’t you be responsible to have insurance about a certainty: you will one day become ill. maybe seriously. i, for one, really hoped for a public option to make things even easier for people who truly cannot afford insurance.

oh, right. it’s socialism, requiring people to buy health insurance.

let me give you a little lesson, john and jane q. teabagger. THIS is what socialism is all about. (i know it has some really big words, and i know because glenn beck isn’t providing his own special narrative that it might be difficult to understand. but i have faith in you: give it a go.) guess what: no one has taken private health insurers out of the loop. you know, health insurers are companies trying to take part in that great concept you know and love called capitalism? barack obama won’t be out there, lining people up and pushing them into some government clinic. it will still be your doctor, your country, your world.

and yes, i know the economy is awful right now. but if i have to hear one more bit about small companies possibly dying on the vine because now they have to provide their employees health insurance? well, maybe it’s that great capitalistic system telling you that you ought not be in business.  i mean, so you should be essentially using other people to make money for yourself — but not take care of them? i’m, sorry, but i don’t think so. this is a new cost of doing business. (and i’m sure a lot of you will find tax lawyers who will, in turn, find loopholes so you can escape this somehow. i’m counting on it.)

there are failings in the law, to be sure. for one thing, as i mentioned, i wished for a public option. while it wouldn’t directly benefit me, it benefits all the people who might not otherwise have the wherewithal to be insured. and i would be smacked upside my head by my BTD if i didn’t mention tort reform.

but hell. it happened. and i’m hoping that we, as a society, have not sunk to the depths of caring only about ourselves.  i’m thrilled beyond words that our elected officials — at least, SOME of them — actually put their necks on the line for something bigger than themselves.

and i feel good — really, really, good — for the first time in a long time.

world aids day 2009

world aids day 2009

(no awful ’80s earworms today. promise.)

today is world AIDS day, a day started in 1988 to bring awareness and education to the plight of those living with HIV and AIDS. years ago, when i worked at the US Dept of Education, i had the privilege of putting together two years’ worth of WORLD AIDS Day commemorations plus helping to develop training materials for fellow employees so that they would understand how to deal with employees who were HIV+/AIDS patients. (in short: treat them as you would want to be treated. you won’t catch the disease from working with people.) i was proud to volunteer the Department’s building to house part of the AIDS Quilt, which was at the time laid out on the National Mall for all to see.  while sadly, the quilt has gotten larger, we seem to be learning more about slowing the disease and helping those afflicted live longer.

i know people who have died of complications from AIDS. i also know people who are living with HIV/AIDS.

yesterday, i was talking with my kids about AIDS, which is not easy to do when the kids are 10 and 6. i explained that it stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. BC looked at me a little scared. don’t you have immunodeficiency, mom?

in fact, when i was first diagnosed with CVID, some people thought i had AIDS. i do, honey, i replied, but that’s different from AIDS. the A in AIDS means “acquired” which means doing something to get the virus. i didn’t do anything to get this immunodeficiency; i just was born with these particular genes. and you can’t catch it from me unless you have the same genes, too.

hellboy wasn’t getting this, really, but girlfriend was. and she continued. so what do you have to do to get AIDS? she asked.

well, basically, you can get it from other people’s body fluids.

she crushed up her nose. you mean, like pee?

once again, i am the one with the fun topical conversations, not BS.   well, things like blood, for example. before they knew more about HIV, they didn’t know much about the blood supply, so people who were hemophiliacs who got transfusions sadly ended up dying of AIDS.

what are hemophiliacs?

people whose blood doesn’t have the stuff in it to help them stop bleeding. a little cut could kill a hemophiliac if not treated properly.

girlfriend was connecting dots again. you mean, like when you had no platelets and were bruising? she looked sad.

that’s a different problem, and i’m better now. but sort of. (time to divert the attention in order to get her away from the thought of my demise.) anyway, people who share needles when they shoot up their drugs can give it to each other. so don’t do drugs and that’s one problem solved.

ewww! who would do that!!!! she exclaimed.

not anyone with any sense, i said. anyway, another way of getting HIV is… i looked over at the boy, who was probably busy thinking about star wars and continued cautiously…through sex.

girlfriend’s eyes now got HUGE.

we can talk about that part away from your brother right now since i don’t think he understands this the way you do. but know that there are things you can do to keep yourself as healthy as you can be.

girlfriend seemed satisfied with that answer, only stopping to note: mommy, isn’t that guy on EastEnders a guy with AIDS? (we’re so far behind in our episodes here in the US that Mark Fowler is still alive.)

yes, honey. and he still is living like everyone else on the show.

i got a nod from her, and then we moved on.

it’s never easy talking with your kids about AIDS, but i figure if i start early at ages when they can understand and in words that they can comprehend, maybe i’ll help them out somewhere down the road.

then again, maybe somewhere down the road, there will be a cure for this scourge and moms won’t have to have these sorts of conversations.

guilty pleasure monday: norwegian wood (beatles)

guilty pleasure monday: norwegian wood (beatles)

please, please, please cut me slack this week.

as i write this, i am trying to make it through perhaps the worst month, or at least one of the very worst months, i have encountered in my short but eventful career as a human. you may recall the start of the month when both my husband and my ceiling collapsed just over 24 hours apart. and yes, i left for san francisco, a story i have yet to finish here.

later that week, i took BC for a tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy, a simple operation with a short healing period everyone said. bring on the ice cream. only, too bad for the girl — she’s probably the only child on the planet who isn’t keen on ice cream, ice pops, or other soft, cold foods. additionally, the pain meds didn’t control her pain, and when they were raised, she threw up. on columbus day afternoon, she ended up visiting the ER to get some IV fluids because she was completely tapped out. when she returned, we thought we were going to turn a corner. and we did.

a bad one.

girlfriend was still not eating or drinking and getting sicker by the day, complete with a fever. anti-nausea meds were not making things any better. by wednesday morning, the ENT on call told me to take her back to the ER and possibly get her admitted to get her back on track. that’s exactly what happened. she and i spent wednesday through saturday noon at fairfax inova, a terrific hospital for pediatrics. we had a few challenges: one morning, we awoke to find the roof leaking onto her IV, so we were moved next door to a room where he child inside was confined because of “droplets” — a sure sign that someone in there had something contagious.

hospitals are important institutions, and i surely am not knocking them in any way, shape or form, as lord knows we have needed them in the past and will one day need them again, perhaps. but a hospital is not a great place to stay healthy.

i can’t be 100 percent certain, but i think that’s where girlfriend and i caught the flu.

when we were released on saturday, i thought the worst was over. girlfriend returned to school on monday. tuesday, i finally got my IVIG, albeit two weeks after i was supposed to get hooked up (i couldn’t schedule it while my poor little girl was recuperating.) tuesday afternoon, i started feeling poorly; at the same time, i received a phone call from the school clinic: come pick up BC. she has a fever of 101.5F.


so girlfriend and i proceeded to spend some more quality time together. we went to her pediatrician’s on wednesday as a follow-up for her hospitalization. the doctor, noting that she still had a fever and was coughing, asked us to start some tamiflu just in case. BC is not yet adept at swallowing pills, so we visited a local old-fashioned pharmacy to get the darn stuff compounded into a liquid. (for you trivia buffs, the actual compounding part? not covered by insurance.) just before noon, she started tamiflu.

and at 1:00? she threw up a little blood.

people had warned me that when the artery/ies behind the tonsils blow, you need to run, not walk, to an ER. halfway there, i pulled over. there’s no more blood, mommy BC pointed out. i called BTD because, after all, he is my Brother The Doctor, who talked me down from the ledge and told me that if it stopped, go home. if the levee breaks, you’d know it.

at 3 am that morning, the levee broke.

girlfriend tugged at my sleeve. mommy, my mouth is full of blood! sure enough, it was extremely clear what was happening. we put on our shoes, i grabbed my purse, and off we rode into the night. i ran red lights, i ran over a median at the hospital, and i parked the car in front of the ER. (thank you, G-d, for the parking space.) the triage nurse took her in pretty speedily — i am, pathetically, an experienced ER patient at virginia hospital center, you know; and this was much faster than when i had almost no platelets left in my body — and next thing you know, we are in a bed in the ER. the doctor talked for a minute and left. i looked at girlfriend. suddenly, she vomited up a tremendous amount of blood, more than i had ever seen in one place that was not in a transfusion or donation bag.

i was terrified!  i pulled open the curtain. please help! my daughter is throwing up blood!!

three nurses and the doctor came running to see poor little BC, spewing so much blood that i was terrified that she was going to faint. or worse. off came the clothes. in went the IV (not easily, either.) and soon enough, girlfriend was whisked off to emergency surgery to close things up.

i waited for about an hour until the doctor came out and told me that he’d closed up the leaker. normally, he’d send her home after recovery; but after hearing her recent history, he wanted to keep her for the day to make sure she was on the right track. if she behaved herself, he would send her home around dinner time.

i was frantically calling home on the hospital phone (i left my cell home when i ran out), only to remember that i had brought all the phones upstairs to my room so that ringing would not wake up BS, who desperately needed sleep and who was camping out downstairs. so i just continued to leave messages on his cell and on the home phone voice mail, hoping eventually i’d get a live person. and i did, two hours later. BS came to the hospital at 9, just after he’d gotten jools to school. this was a good thing. this meant that i could finally hit the doctor’s myself, as i was not feeling so great by this time. adrenaline had taken me pretty freaking far, but i didn’t think it was going to last.

because my doctor was booked, i ended up visiting Ye Olde Doc In The Box (aka the urgent care clinic.) lots of people wearing masks and a receptionist telling me that there was already a 90 minute wait were not stellar signs, but this was the only opportunity i was going to get, so i sat and sat with my mask on, trying not to pass out.  when the nurse called me in, she noticed my hospital bracelet, the one i got from earlier in the day. when i explained how the day had started, she was pretty startled. nevertheless, she noted, we need to test you for flu.

for the record, having pointy q-tips shoved hard up both nostrils is not pleasant.

long story short: doctor comes in and tells me that i have type A influenza. but hey, i protested, i had the regular flu shot last month!

well then, you probably have swine flu. but they’re both treated the same way, so does it really matter?

with apologies to gertrude stein: tamiflu is tamiflu is tamiflu.

i give the doc props — he actually called up my immunologist to double-check how i should be handled. they both decided that with my track record of bacterial infections, i should rock the zithromax as well.

so basically, BC and i have both been fighting the flu. poor little girl has been fighting it on top of recuperating from not one, but two surgeries. i am praying my husband and son do not get sick or this house of cards will crumble. as you can imagine, my creativity is the least of it at this moment.

so here’s my favorite song of all time. nothing to feel guilty about. completely unfunny, especially since it’s about a guy who burns down a woman’s house because she doesn’t put out. but still an incredibly beautiful song, even when john gets creepy at the end, as he does in this version.

i know i’ll be feeling better soon, everyone will be better soon, and the world will be right again. in the meantime, everyone wash your freaking hands, cover your freaking mouths, and take care of yourselves!!!

san francisco (be sure to wear flowers in your hair) : part two

san francisco (be sure to wear flowers in your hair) : part two

i know, i know. i left you in suspense since part one.

you’d be surprised how nice airline people and TSA folks can be. on that friday morning at an undogly hour, when the lady at the northwest counter started to help me check my bag [note to self: you needn’t have bothered. people took bags the size of wisconsin on the plane.], she asked me a simple question: are you okay?

in what may end up being my finest impression of mary tyler moore, i sobbed: noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

that lady came over the counter and gave me a hug. when she found out that this was my first solo trip since having kids, she said girl, my son needed a break from me when he was three months old. you need to get out. this will be good for you! so i got my bag checked and a mini-psych session. who knew!

i then dragged my tear-stained, hadn’t-slept-since-tuesday-night-face through the TSA area. i have been lectured endlessly that the humorless people of TSA are not to be trifled with. no jokes, no conversation, nada. in short: do not taunt happy funball. i’m a friendly sorta chick, but lucky for me, i was one stripe short of a flag. i dragged myself through. Mr. TSA Guy stopped me. oh shit, i thought. my very existence will get me flagged for something i have not done. time for the instant replay of everything i have done wrong this week: i’ve put some whites in with darks in the laundry. i’ve ignored a few emails. i probably dropped the f-bomb in front of the kids while swerving my way through DC traffic…

then, a deep voice: are you ok, miss?

a loaded question from a TSA person, right? at least, it was to a sleep-deprived, unhappy flier like me. but somewhere, the answer came:

i miss my kids.

TSA Guy smiled at me. i understand, miss. i smiled back and walked on through. SWEET! score one for crazy mothers everywhere. i did all i had to do, removed various articles of clothing, bought coffee, and got on the plane.

sadly, i couldn’t get a direct flight from DCA to SFO, so i had the pleasure of a three-hour layover in scenic minneapolis. i was pretty freaking happy to have that layover, though, as the plane ride from DCA to the twin cities was nightmarishly turbulent, so much so that the air hosts tried to start beverage service twice and twice failed. i’m not a happy flier to begin with; to ride a plane that feels like it’s a trampoline fest? priceless. (if i ever find that kind tax lawyer who talked to me through the entire experience, i will definitely see that he gets knighted.)

so spending three hours in the minneapolis airport was a godsend to a person desperate to be on the ground. i walked up and down and all around. i bought a powerball ticket, as BS and i have decided that people who win powerball usually live in places which can probably be bought, lock, stock, and barrel, by the dollars garnered by said winning ticket. [read: the deep south, the rural midwest. maybe minneapolis isn’t rural, but it isn’t far from rural places. (yeah, i know, i know. it’s not like the people’s republic of arlington is that far away from rural places…or rural places that are dotted with mcmansions, anyway.)] i got a hand massage — only my right for some reason — in the body shop by a lady who clearly thought i needed a break.  i watched endless CNN coverage of the selection of the olympic city. (as an aside, i was taken aback by the coverage, as the commentator was actually upset — UPSET — when chicago was first dinged off the list. walter cronkite shedding a tear at the news of JFK’s death? definitely defensible. this guy getting actually red-faced over chicago? SERIOUSLY? did this guy spend any time in J-school?)

after starting and finishing war and peace, it was time to board the second plane du jour.

a bigger plane. yay. a lovely older couple flying to SF en route to china beside me. fine. a little late departure? no problem. we’re up, then we’re down.

and i had finally arrived.

guilty pleasure monday: veronica (elvis costello)

guilty pleasure monday: veronica (elvis costello)

a special guilty pleasure. and not just because my beloved macca is involved.

elvis costello, in my estimation, is one of the best songwriters of the 20th/21st century. it was no surprise to me, then, when, in the late 1980s, he teamed up with paul mccartney (no slouch in the songwriting department) to co-write the album spike. (and paul plays that hofner bass on the album, too! squeee! okay. okay. i’m back now. i’m calm.)  i am not terribly fond of some of costello’s output in the mid-1980s, though upon reflection, there are some incredible gems that i simply wasn’t ready to appreciate in my younger years (like his magnificent modern jazz standard shipbuilding, for example. [bummed i can’t find a version with the incredible chet baker trumpet solo.]) but spike seemed to be a musical kick in the pants for costello — his musical energy rebounded, and he produced some fine work.

veronica actually ended up a hit in the united states; and what a curious subject matter for a hit record. costello writes about an older woman who is clearly battling with some memory-robbing illness — dementia, alzheimers, or something of the like. she floats in and out of lucidity, remembering the scary parts of life as well as the blissful moments.

i suspect this song has always made me think of my grandmother. my grandfather died about a year before this song was released; and i think when he passed, my gram as i knew her passed, too. though her body was in tremendously healthy shape, she started down that slippery slope of dementia, just as veronica did. it was very hard to watch; i will never, ever forget the feeling of having someone who loved me dearly not know who i was. but once i realized that my gram was essentially gone, it became a little easier to bear. i started to think of her in a more scientific way: i was fascinated to hear about the places where her mind decided to visit. some days, she was a young girl in new york. she’d speak yiddish, and i was at the mercy of my parents to translate how old she was in that time and what she was doing in her mind. (and unfortunately, their yiddish was not quite what it was, so sometimes, we just had  to smile and nod.)

and yet, there were those moments when she was there. by G-d, if you were not respecting her, she’d hand your head to you.

you never knew which lady you’d get when you dropped by the nursing home.

anyway, gram’s been gone now for nearly 13 years, but fortunately, the gram i remember is a feisty, tough-as-nails  lady.  the lady who wasn’t all there? that wasn’t really my gram.

Veronica sits in her favourite chair and she sits
very quiet and still
And they call her a name that they never get
right and if they don’t then nobody else will
But she used to have a carefree mind of her
own, with a devilish look in her eye
Saying “You can call me anything you like, but
my name is Veronica”

the lady may have had issues with her memory, but i’d like to think that she was going to hold onto her dignity no matter what.

and she did.

rocky raccoon

rocky raccoon

today, on stupid animal tricks…

seriously. i’m beginning to feel like the bill murray character in caddyshack.  i mean, yes, i know there are bigger issues to tackle: the economy, world peace, and why phil spector’s hair is so, so…er…lustrous and distracting.

but this is so all-consuming.

we live right by a park that is filled with wonderful fox, possums, raccoons, deer, and other furry friends. i love my furry friends as much as the next grrl, but i don’t love them in my giant county trash can. there’s a possum in particular who i have actually seen waddling away smugly after lunching in my bin. yesterday was the last straw. we had just discarded the zillion tons of halloween candy my kids had collected. (the standing rule in my house: when easter comes, the halloween candy goes and is replaced by… you guessed it: easter candy.) trash was due to be picked up on wednesday. and the night prior, my furry friends came by (their muddy paw prints are all over the plastic can), opened up the bin, and apparently had a sugarfest so wild, i bet they ended up in little diabetic comas. (for those interested, the animals apparently like reeses’ peanut butter cups and little chocolate bars over warheads.)

besides the obvious point that i don’t like the thought of wild animals eating things that could make them ill, i simply want to get these guys out of my trash bin. (usually, they just feast inside the bin; but tuesday night, they literally left a congo-line trail of candy wrappers in the street, down the driveway, and probably in my neighbor’s yard.)

i have tried attaching bungee cords around the bin. they get in. i have put a seriously heavy concrete block on top of the bin; they topple it. i don’t know what the heck these critters do in their spare time (pump iron?) but they are s t r o n g. i don’t in truth have the ability to store the trash in my garage;  and i would prefer not to keep the trash inside the house.

i’m channelling the spirit of bill murray’s character these days:

my enemy is a varmint. and a varmint will never quit.

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