Thursday, November 29, 2007

Another volley fired in the garbage wars

My ongoing love-hate relationship with the local "waste management" company has been the topic of so many posts that I don't want to tackle the job of creating links to them. If you're all that curious, you can go to the blue bar at the top of this post, type the word "garbage" in the white box at the left, then click on "search blog." Otherwise, I'll just note here that the battle continues.

For more than ten years now, my neighbors and I have clustered our cans side by side at the curb. We've done this out of consideration for the trash collectors, thinking this arrangement would save them some steps. Apparently, the company has recently managed to eliminate a few jobs by mechanizing the physical process of picking up and dumping the cans into their truck. That's fine. Whatever. But if they wanted us customers to begin doing things differently, it would have been nice if they'd mentioned it up front.

Instead, they surprised us. I came home for lunch on trash-pick-up day and found this (click the photo to enlarge it):


I cropped off the company name and contact numbers just to be nice. And to not get sued.

As you can see, my neighbors and I unknowingly violated the "improperly placed cart" rule. And, in case the explanation on the card wasn't detailed enough, somebody kindly wrote a few words to explain it in more clearly: "Cart need to be divide apart." Well, all righty then. I get it now, and I will divide cart apart in future.

If you look closely at the photo, you'll see what appears to be a white circle at the upper left. The circle is actually a hole in the card. There's a slit from the edge of the card to the hole, so I assume the card was designed to hang from the garbage can handle. Instead, this one was lying in the driveway and another one just like it was in the middle of the front yard. After I traipsed through the wet grass to get the second card, I had to deliver it in person to the neighbors.

There's no telling what kind of problems we might have had if the card had blown away and the neighbors didn't know cart need to be divide apart. They might not understand why I put my garbage can off by itself on the other side of the driveway from theirs. They might think I believe my garbage isn't as stinky as theirs. Or they might decide I must have had a good reason for moving my can, which could lead them to put theirs right next to mine again, on the side of the driveway where we've never put them before.

We'd have the same problem all over again. Then the garbage picker-uppers would think we're really stupid.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I've been waiting for you

I heard about you years before I realized how important you might be to me someday, but it's only been in the last few years that I've fantasized about getting to know you better. I read the things that were written about you and imagined how my life would be different, more carefree, with you in it. If it had been left up to me, we'd have met sooner, but the people we've elected to make all the rules decided I wasn't mature enough to know you before now.

Nights when I lay sleepless, my body aching, I thought about you. When there was such a burning inside me that I found it difficult to breathe, I knew you'd be able to help me extinguish the fire. My mind was troubled sometimes, trying to distinguish between needs and wants, trying to determine which needs could wait and which demanded immediate satisfaction. With you, I knew, the choices wouldn't be so difficult. The mountains wouldn't seem so high.

But the time wasn't right. No matter how grown up I imagined myself to be, the law said I was too young for you. Well, now everything has changed.

I'm 65 now, Medicare, and I'm coming after you.

When my body aches and even the least expensive pharmacy charges $120 for Celebrex, I will lean against you and let you share my burden. When acid reflux threatens to burn a hole in my esophagus, you'll be there to ease me through the pain of paying for Nexium or Prilosec. From now on, when I think I need to go to the doctor, I won't be as hesitant. I won't be afraid of starting something I can't afford to finish.

I don't expect you to solve all my problems, Medicare; I know enough about you to know you don't work miracles. That's okay. I just need you to have my back, to offer a little reassurance now and then.

I'm excited about having you in my life. Please don't let me down.

Friday, November 23, 2007

How well do you know the person next to you?

Last Sunday I mentioned that Yajeev’s entry about imaginary friends reminded me of two posts I needed to write. This is the second one, and this one I must treat gently. If this story were made into a movie, my role would be that of a bit player. The main character would be a woman I’ll call “Gina.”

Years and years ago, I was one of seven secretaries working in a corporate office. Because there were so few of us, we knew each other fairly well. Gina was the newest member of our group. She was thirty-something, average in appearance, with a pretty smile we didn’t see often enough. During her first week there, we learned that she had standing doctor’s appointments twice a week. Cancer treatments, we were told, and the look on her face let us know she didn’t want us to ask any questions.

The rest of this story would be better told in a straightforward fashion, but I’m going to be deliberately vague. I'll beat around the bush a little now and explain why later.

Gina told us almost from the beginning that she was preparing for a "major event" in her life, an event that would be equally important to her "special man." She told us his name and his occupation, which, if I remember correctly, involved big red trucks with sirens. She brought in magazines dedicated to events of the type she was planning. She showed us pictures of several long dresses, white ones, and asked our opinions about which one she should order to wear to that event. She also talked about colors for the dresses her close friends would wear. She included us in discussions about invitations, decorations, and all the other details that needed attention.

This planning went on for months. The rest of us were happy for Gina, which we told her, and worried at the same time, which we tried not to show. She still visited the doctor regularly, and we crossed our fingers that she’d stay well enough to make it through her special day. And we did one more thing.

About six weeks prior to her special event, on an afternoon when she’d gone to the doctor, we got together and planned a "pre-event, gift-giving party." We decided which of us would be responsible for decorations, who’d bring what refreshments, etc. We also decided to have this party away from the office and to include her family and special friends. One of the secretaries approached the personnel manager, explained our plans, and obtained a phone number for Gina’s emergency contact, her mother.

We thought Gina's family would be pleased that she was well liked at work and had friends who would do something nice for her. We gathered around as our designated caller dialed the emergency number, identified herself and began to outline our plans. Then we watched as her smile changed to a look of confusion and her eyes darted from one of us to the other, indicating her obvious distress about what she was hearing. Her final words before hanging up the phone were, “I understand. I’m so sorry.”

Our co-worker became teary-eyed as she related Gina’s mother’s response: "I don’t know what she's been telling you," the mother had said, "but none of it is true.” There was no special man, no special event was planned. There was no cancer. There were doctor’s appointments, two a week, with a psychiatrist.

We were heartsick. All of us. I still feel sad and sick when I think about it all these years later. With good intentions, we had torn down a friend’s carefully constructed fantasy, and we had done it in a way that left her no room to work her way out of it. We'd created new problems for her both at work and at home.

Gina missed work the next day but showed up the day after that, long enough to submit her resignation. We apologized to her, and we cried before she did. All Gina said was, “It’s okay. I can’t explain to you why I did it, but it’ll be okay. There’s a doctor who’s helping me.” We never saw or heard from her again.

I’ve been careful about the words I’ve used in telling this story because I don’t know what happened to Gina. I hope she got better, but what if she got worse? Just in case her mental condition has deteriorated to a dangerous level and her computer skills have grown, I’ve tried not to describe this bizarre incident in phrases that might lead her, through a Google search, to this blog. If that sounds silly and melodramatic, it probably is, but I’ll tell you one more little piece of the story:

A couple of months after Gina began working at our office, the weather changed suddenly one afternoon. Snow began falling hard and fast, piling up several inches high in a matter of minutes. It was too late in the day for snowplows to clear the roads before afternoon rush hour, so driving would be hellish.

I knew Gina lived much farther from the office than I did, so I asked her if she’d like to ride home with me and spend the night with me and my family. The city would have the roads cleared by the next morning, and Gina would be able to ride to work with me, then drive herself home from there later. Gina thought about it for a few minutes and finally agreed. It made sense, given the weather conditions.

We made it home safely, had a nice dinner, visited and watched TV for a while, and then we showed Gina where she’d sleep. My younger daughter would bunk in her sister’s room for the night so Gina could have a bedroom to herself...almost. There was a bird cage in my younger daughter's room, but the bird (I won't name the breed) always went to sleep early. That night he sat on his perch with one leg pulled close to his breast and his head tucked under his wing. He barely cracked one eye open as we covered his cage with a dark cloth the way we did every night.

The next morning brought the usual rush as we got ready for work and school. Gina and I were dressed and having breakfast in the kitchen when my daughter came in crying. She’d gone to her room to give food and water to the bird, a routine morning chore. When she'd removed the cage cover, she'd found her pet bird lying dead in the bottom of the cage.

The bird was only two years old and had never had any problems. He'd seemed to be in perfect health the day before. Even so, we accepted his death as natural, a heart problem, perhaps, and we recognized the timing as unfortunate. I certainly didn’t want Gina, whom I believed was battling cancer, to think that a bird dying next to her as she slept was some kind of ominous sign.

My girls weren’t so sure that the bird’s death was natural. They didn’t make outright accusations when we talked about it later that night, but they asked several pointed questions.

Ever since I learned the truth about Gina, I've had questions of my own.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Grateful

I don't suppose anyone's life is perfect, but each of us, I believe, has experienced countless perfect moments. My favorite day of the year is this one, the day set aside to remember all the goodness that's been granted us and express appreciation for it.


Since my first Thanksgiving Day, which occurred the day I was born, today is the only Thanksgiving I've ever spent without the company of at least one other human. Because of step-families, in-laws, a play-off game and a special occasion, we've postponed our family get-together and feast until Sunday.

Today was quiet, reflective, different from all the other Thanksgivings I've known, and still wonderful in its own way. I didn't feel lonely for a single minute; my heart is too full, my joys too many. Besides, I've shared the day, a Hitchcock movie marathon, and crock-pot chicken and dressing with four loving pooches, each of whom has slept a portion of the day wholly or partially on my lap.

I'm grateful for a day filled with precious, perfect moments. Even if your day was quite different from mine, I hope you would say the same.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The way we were

Yajeev, whose young male mind sometimes seems to run along a parallel track to my old female one (except that his train of thought eventually steams off into high-intellect pursuits such as biochemistry, and mine chugs happily into all the Nora Roberts novels I can get my hands on) posted about his brother's imaginary friends. Now that the subject has been broached in this corner of the Blogosphere, I want to give credit to the imaginary people who were there for me and my family when we needed them most.

I personally had three of them: Judy Rubberband, Judy Rubberband's mother and Corny James. To be honest, I've forgotten pretty much everything about Corny James except his name and the warm, fuzzy feeling I get when I think about him. I'm thinking he must have been a nice boy but one who stayed mostly in the background. The other two, though, were my partners in crime.

These folks were part of my life when I was about three years old, before my real sister was born. Judging from the imaginary friends of other children I've witnessed through the years, Judy Rubberband and her mother must have seemed quite real to me. What's odd in retrospect is that even as I insisted they were real, I must have been aware on some level that my mother couldn't see them. And that obviously seemed like a pretty good deal.

If my mother walked into a room and encountered a freshly made mess, I'd say Judy Rubberband did it. She was a good friend, but I didn't hesitate to rat her out. If Mother walked in and found me in the act of doing something I wasn't supposed to do, well, then, Judy Rubberband's mother told me to do it. I couldn't argue with an adult, could I?

My brother was also about three when we first met his imaginary friend, who went by the name of Father. The bedroom/bathroom area of our house was divided by a central hall, and that whole part of the house could be closed off by a door between the hall and the living room. The door opened into the hall and was mostly left open. Father lived in the narrow space between the open door and the hall wall behind it. I always thought he would have appreciated having at least the whole hallway to call his own.

A few years later, my older daughter had two imaginary friends, Brownie and David, who lived with us when she was (you guessed it) three years old. Both of her friends were based on people she saw on television. Brownie, we learned, closely resembled Peter Noone, lead singer of Herman's Hermits. His name referred to their hit song, "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter." And David, we were informed, was David McCallum, then starring on TV in "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." Those guys might have been famous, but they sat around our living room all the time, and we got in trouble frequently for accidentally sitting on them.

I find it interesting that all the imaginary friends of our family were hosted by three-year-olds. Another weird thing happened when I was three, and I wonder if it's related in some way to whatever psychology lies behind the imaginary-friend phenomenon. I changed my own name. My older cousin Sandra had a real-life friend named Dorothy. Soon after I met her, I announced to my family that my name from then on would be Dorfy. Afterwards, I've been told, I refused to answer to my own perfectly good name. They could call me Dorfy or they could be studiously ignored; it was up to them.

I don't remember the actual name-change incident, but I clearly remember being Dorfy, and I remember that Dorfy had a near-death experience. I was at the grocery store with my mother, and a piece of candy became lodged in my throat. I remember feeling very distressed, then the grocer grabbed me up by my feet, held me upside down with one hand and whacked me on the back with the other. There's a very clear picture in my mind of that little store and of the green Lifesaver that popped out of my mouth, bounced once on the counter, then rolled across the floor.

That might have been Dorfy's experience, but the scars remained with me. For a long, long time afterward, I'd eat all the other flavors of Lifesavers, but not the green ones. Those, I'd generously give away. I'd share them, then sit back quietly and watch.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Tidbits

Time flew by since my last post, so I thought I'd spend a few moments to catch up on the non-events of the last few days:

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It might be mid-November, but the grass was still thick and green when we had our first frost this past Wednesday. Post-frost, it's begun to turn brown, which means the annual muddy-paw season will soon follow.

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Clouds to the left of me...


...soakers to the right...

When I saw these clouds yesterday morning, I thought we'd have some rain, but so far it's stayed dry -- and warmed up again, too.

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The people around here are having difficulty deciding what season it is, but our coterie of pea-sized snails believes the weather is perfect for a rally. In years past, the snails have mostly remained hidden near the roots of Winter's brown grass, where we don't see them unless they catch a ride on one of our dogs. This year, though, there are bunches of them on the patio right outside the backdoor, so many that quite a few of them have succumbed to a slimy death under the heels of a rushing human or animal.

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Butch is halfway through his high-powered antibiotics, and I don't see much improvement in what we sympathetically refer to as his "hurtie-heinie." He isn't due to go back to the vet until at least Tuesday, no later than Friday, so I hope we don't have a problem working him in around the Thanksgiving holidays.

I didn't mention in my last post that he's also getting treatment for another in a continuing series of yeast infections in both ears. He must have had at least ten ear infections in the nine years of his lifetime, and nobody has been able to explain why. The vet last week said it's "just very common" at this time of year. Because of his blindness, I feel very protective of his hearing and wish we could find a satisfactory way to prevent the recurrent ear problems.

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One more good book suggestion for the avid readers among you:
The Book Thief
, by Markus Zusak. I loved this story. All the way through it I thought about my German-born stepmother, who has recounted her own fascinating stories about running from bombs and spending hours in basement shelters.

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This afternoon I switched media and watched a movie that I also loved and recommend, one with the simple title of Bobby. It has a large cast of fine actors portraying hotel workers and guests whose stories converged when Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1968.

If you're old enough to remember 1968, you'll recognize the hairstyles and enjoy the fashion, but what will really get to you is the reminder of how hopeful we all were back then. And whether or not you were around in 1968, you'll be moved when you realize the similarities between key issues then and now.

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Yajeev, bless his heart, with one single post has provided me with not one but two blogging opportunities for next week. I keep a running list of things to write about "someday," but some of them are off-the-wall stories that would seem weird to post in the absence of a specific context. Yajeev's post flows naturally because it's current, tying in as it does to his co-worker's continued state of weirdness, so if I piggyback off of his post, maybe my own stories will seem relevant. Thanks for the segue, Yajeev.

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Except for a couple of hours tomorrow morning, I'm off work until the Monday after Thanksgiving. That time off will go very near the top of next week's gratitude list, right after my family, my dogs, and you, of course, dear readers.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Where my "extra" income goes

Here's a photo of Butch "looking out the window" (despite his blindness):


Notice his beautiful, fluffy tail. You'd never suspect it, but beneath that tail is a very expensive...er, um...orifice.

Just yesterday I made two flying trips to the vet in Baton Rouge and spent $213 on Butch's butt. That's the second time in less than a month he's been treated for an anal sac abscess, and he has to go back for a follow-up exam in a week or ten days.

This is supposedly a very painful condition, but Butch never showed any of the usual behavioral symptoms. And he's too large a dog to pick up easily, so I don't often come eye-to-eye with his butt. We were fortunate that the vet noticed the problem when I took the dogs in for shots. Unfortunately, the antibiotics prescribed on that occasion weren't strong enough to completely heal the abscess, and it came back.

Butch has more powerful antibiotics now and is happy to take each one disguised in a bite of ice cream. He also has tasty, chewable pain pills to take once a day. All in all, he seems to be a happy camper already, and I'll feel better once I know his problems have been resolved.

Meanwhile, I and my occasional hemorrhoid just suck it up and deal with it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Song for a wasted literary long weekend

You Made Me Read You
(Sung to the tune of "You Made Me Love You")*

The laundry piled up.
I didn't want to do it.
I didn't want to do it.

The dust and dog hair,
I didn't quite get to it,
Guess you could say I blew it.

I had three days off work and
Three new good books.
I wasn't thinkin'
How bad this ol' house looks.

Your words ensnared me.
I couldn't put the books down,
Just wouldn't put the books down,
Ignored the chores for fun,
More than one, not begun,
Completed none.
Give me, give me, give me,
Give me what I'm needin',
The self control
To not spend three whole days just readin'.
Three days and no work got done.


*Music by James V. Monaco,
lyrics by Joseph McCarthy

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The music in my head

Now that I've complained about non-stop Christmas music, I should probably mention that non-stop music has been a minor issue with me for years and years. The music I'm speaking of is the music in my head.

I'm not talking about the occasional pesky earworm. The music I hear constantly at a low, background level in my brain consists of an ever-changing playlist. All that's been missing is the DJ.

I can't remember when the music started. The first time I ever thought about it, it seemed normal to me, so I must have been hearing it for years by then. Frankly, I enjoyed it, except for a brief period in the mid-'70s. That's when we were in New York, and the company I worked for decided to pipe in elevator music at a background-noise level that couldn't overpower the music my brain was playing. It was as if I were standing between two radios tuned in to different stations, and it drove me nuts. Fortunately, my co-workers didn't like the piped-in music either, and the company didn't keep it long.

With that exception, the music in my brain always receded if I was listening to other music or engaged in really stimulating conversation, but even under those circumstances, I could instantly tune it in if I thought about it. And most of the time, whether I was reading, chatting, working, writing this blog, whatever, the music was always there.

I'd hear other people talk about songs "getting stuck" in their heads, so I thought for years that everybody's brain played music like mine. I was probably in my 40s when I casually mentioned it to a couple of people, and they had no idea what I was talking about. From then on, curious, I'd ask others about it from time to time, trying to find someone else who had the same experience. No one ever admitted it.

Then came the Internet. One of the first things I ever Googled was "music in my head." There were lots of hits, most of which didn't refer to the condition I was exploring, but I did find a few people who described the same phenomenon. So far, I haven't found a name or a reason for it, but my most recent online search turned up some speculation that it might be related to a type of attention deficit disorder. Hmm. That's a possibility, I suppose.

At any rate, I was prompted to write about this because of a couple of things that have happened recently. First, I noticed earlier in the week that there's been a slight change: The music is no longer there all the time, and when it is there, I can stop it if I want. Or not, if I happen to like the song that's playing. I can't imagine why it's changed, but I think I'm going to enjoy the quiet.

And today, driving to work, I had a different experience that's related to music and mental multi-tasking. I was singing along
with a CD, one I really like and know all the words to. A question popped into my head and my mind went off on a tangent, exploring possible answers to my question. After a couple of minutes of intense thinking, my attention abruptly snapped back to the music -- which I was still singing, word for word and nearly on the last verse. Strange!

It reminded me of the experience of reading a book, following the words with my eyes, turning the pages at the end of each odd-numbered one, then becoming aware several pages later that I have no recollection whatsoever about what I've just read. Now, surely some of you have done that!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A terrorist plot...

...to destroy Christmas is being carried out at a local radio station. I'm sure of it.

For several years now, the easy-listening station that wakes me up every morning has proclaimed December to be "all Christmas music, all the time." That much Christmas music drives me insane.

In the car today, I pushed the button for that station and immediately felt as if I'd driven into a time warp. This year, they've expanded "all Christmas music, all the time" to include the month of November! Who in their right mind wants to listen to two solid months of Christmas music? Santa Claus wouldn't do it, and I'll bet Jesus wouldn't, either. I'm with them.

I like to hear Christmas music sprinkled throughout the day in the weeks before Christmas, and I even enjoy constant Christmas music from the time the gift opening begins until the last scrap of red and green paper is put in the trash. But much more "Deck the Halls" than that assaults my ears, grates on my nerves and makes me count the days until Christmas is over.

That's why I think my regular station is involved in a terrorist plot. If all stations played non-stop Christmas music for two full months, a lot of people might run screaming to another religion by the end of that time. A less musical religion.

Who knew CD's and radio push buttons would be so vital to the preservation of Christmas as we've always loved it?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Dirty old lady?

Just in case anyone tells you I’m getting weird in my old age, I’d like to explain for the record what really happened:

A colleague of my boss’s came into the office today. I’ve known the man for several years now, but not terribly well. Our relationship has always been cordial and always professional.

When I opened the door to the lobby, I was expecting someone else, someone who was coming to see me, so I was caught off guard from the get-go. My boss had just told me good-bye, and I knew he was planning to leave in a minute or two through another exit. At that moment I wasn’t certain whether he was still in the building or, if he was, whether he’d want to be delayed. I decided to buy him some time to make a clean getaway if he chose to do so.

So there I stood, smack in the middle of the doorway between the lobby and the interior hallway, smiling and greeting the unexpected visitor. As I opened my mouth to tell him I wasn’t sure if the boss was still there, the visitor strode quickly and purposefully toward me, and, when he was mere inches away, he opened his arms out wide. He'd never greeted me that way before, so I recognized it as unusual behavior, but I did what comes naturally to me in response to that particular gesture: I reached out my own arms and hugged him.

In the split second it took me to realize he wasn’t hugging me back, it dawned on me that he’d stretched himself out so he could squeeze past me through the doorway and hurry on back to my boss’s office.

Heh. That was awkward.

I wasn’t going to tell anybody –- and hoped he wouldn’t, either –- but the more I thought about it, the more it tickled me. And a good laugh needs to be shared, even when the joke's on me.

Plus, it seemed wise to get my side of the story out there first. This is a small town. Juicy rumors spread fast.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Celebrating a Holly-day

Earlier in the week I had the pleasure of spending a couple of hours with Holly, better known to the blogging world as CreekHiker. She's visiting family here in Louisiana, and I'm so happy she could make some time for us to get better acquainted.

It didn't surprise me a bit that Holly is as warm, funny and interesting in real life as she is in her writing. In fact, one of the things I enjoy most about the blogosphere is that bloggers don't generally waste a lot of time with small talk. We write openly about what we think and feel, which makes it easy to get to know each other without a lot of pussyfooting around up front. Isn't that great?

Blogging, I think, has a wonderful way of equalizing people, pulling us from different places, ages, genders, races and experiences and letting us see that our similaries are far greater in number than are our differences. Holly and I talked about a lot of things, including why we like to write. I was touched when she told me that my blog had motivated her to write hers, and she seemed surprised to learn the story about how Alison's blog, Inspired Work of Self-Indulgence, inspired me to begin this one.

So now I'm wondering: Why did each of you decide to write down your thoughts and send them into cyberspace? You can answer as a comment here or as a post on your own blog, but if you do it on your own site, please leave a comment here so we'll know to go look for it.