Friday, December 28, 2007

The battle of the sexes

Apparently the difference between the male and female brain, the disconnect that makes it so difficult for each sex to understand the other, shows up at a very young age.

The walls are thin in my new office. We can almost always hear voices coming from the beauty shop next door, and today I could clearly hear two small children playing on the other side of the wall:

Little girl's voice: "Hello?"

Little boy's voice: "Hello, this is the FBI!"

Little girl's voice: (Muttering too softly to be audible.)

Little boy's voice (much louder now): "NO! I said, 'This is the FBI!'"

Little girl's voice (in a placating tone): "I know you did, but now I want to say, "You have the wrong number.'"

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Angels among us

Christmas of 1968, I think, was the last year my daughters believed in Santa Claus. In this photo, the magic is still in their eyes.

By the following year, due to an unfortunate set of circumstances and a misguided sense of justice, we had spilled the beans to them. It didn't ruin future Christmases, but it put a bit of a damper on that one.

What thrills me now is that we didn't ruin the part of those little girls that allows them to hope and dream, the part of them that even today holds a sense of possibility and wonder. I saw that part of them in their faces on Friday.

Some time ago I wrote about my mother's amazing ability to find a good parking place in the most crowded lot and, more interestingly, the fact that her children and grandchildren seem to have inherited that ability since her death. Except that it doesn't feel like an "ability," exactly; it feels as if we're being guided to just the right place.

That earlier post generated a lot of comments. I certainly understand the skepticism, but the fact is that a year and a half after I wrote that post, nothing has changed. We still get excellent parking spots -- all the time -- and it still strikes us funny and makes us happy. It always, always makes us think of my mother.

This past Friday, my daughters and I decided to have lunch together. It's rare that all three of us are available at the same time, so we looked forward to going to one of our favorite restaurants. Despite plans to get there early, we arrived exactly at noon, just at the peak of lunchtime traffic. The parking lot was so full that cars were lined up in a caravan that extended from the road through the parking lot. By the time we turned into the lot, the cars in the long line were unable either to move forward or to turn around.

We debated what to do. There were so many vehicles in line ahead of us that we felt sure we were in for a long wait. We discussed parking at the restaurant next door or across the street at the mall if we could ever complete one loop through the parking lot and head out onto othe road again. Because of my knee problems, neither of those options appealed to me, so I suggested that the girls let me out of the car as soon as we made it near the front door, then they could park wherever they wanted to. As an afterthought, I added, "Who knows? Maybe Mama-Too will find us something."

No sooner were those words out of my mouth than the cars ahead of us began to move. We watched them, one by one, pass slowly by one row of filled spaces and turn onto the next row, equally as full. Then, as the car directly in front of us made that same turn, taillights came on just ahead and to the left of us. A car began to back out of a space that we were perfectly aligned to pull into. It happened to be a space right in front of the restaurant door, just one row back.

We were immensely pleased -- but not entirely surprised -- and we laughed and said aloud, "Thank you, Mama-Too." Whether Mother had anything to do with our good fortune, I can't say for sure, but it's wonderful to imagine that she did. Either way, she was right there with us in that moment. Our hearts were full of our love for her and hers for us. We were three adult women, connected in the wonder and mystery of the moment, suspending disbelief and willing to accept at least the possibility that there was an angel among us.

It's the magic of that possibility that I wish for you during this holiday season, along with best wishes for peace and love and hope. Pay attention when you feel any of those emotions. You might just sense the presence of an angel of your own.

The song is "Angels Among Us" by Alabama.
Thanks to estera53 for posting the video and lyrics on YouTube.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


It's been exactly a week since my last post -- a week of running as fast as possible to touch all the bases and still running (breathless now), trying to reach home plate. (For anyone who's keeping track, that may be the first and only sports analogy I've ever used on this blog.) Thankfully, I'm almost there.

Last Thursday morning, because my prescriptions were all expiring, I went to the doctor. It was time for a check-up and time to discuss all the recommended testing I'd refused up until now because I didn't have health insurance. I'd intended to enroll in Medicare before that appointment, but didn't get it done in time. Nevertheless, we developed a plan for what needs to be done and a timetable for doing it.

I'm really lucky to have a doctor who understands my financial limitations as well as my health needs. The last time I went to see her, she changed most of my prescriptions to generic versions, which meant I could get them filled for $4 each at Wal-Mart. That saved me a bundle of money each month. On this visit she changed the prescriptions to 90-day (instead of 30-day) refills, cutting out two Wal-Mart visits each quarter. She noticed my delight at this suggestion and commented that it would save me from impulse shopping while I waited for the prescriptions to be filled. That's true, but that isn't what delighted me. All I was thinking about was saving the wear and tear on my feet and knees.

After the doctor's appointment, I called the toll-free number for Social Security, planning to set up a time to visit the nearest office to sign up for Medicare. As it turned out, I was able to enroll over the telephone, which saved me both a trip into Baton Rouge and a morning or afternoon of missed work. In addition to assisting me with Medicare enrollment, the Social Security representative thoroughly explained all my options for drawing Social Security benefits. She was friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable (not at all the bureaucrat I'd expected), and I hung up the telephone feeling much more hopeful about the prospect of eventual retirement.

Since that call, I've been scrambling to get certified copies of marriage and divorce documents, the last of which came in the mail today. I'll mail those off tomorrow and scratch that project off my to-do list for now.

My other urgent project this week was to begin Christmas shopping, which I did on Monday and Tuesday nights. Both nights I came home, unloaded bags from the car, then collapsed without putting anything away. I was too tired to even read at bedtime. Last night I stayed home after work, did a little gift wrapping, and once again went to bed early. I'm hoping that my shopping muscles are broken in now and will hold up until I finish.

The good news is that I'm off work now until the day after Christmas. And the even better news is that I realized, at some point in the middle of Tuesday night's shopping expedition, that the Christmas spirit has finally arrived and kicked the bah-humbug right out of me. It's about time!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Puppy Love

Most of the extra trips to Baton Rouge that I complained about two posts ago were trips to the vet for Kadi. She'd had blood work done last year that revealed a liver abnormality, and it was time to test her again to see if anything had changed.

This year's blood work showed the same problem as last time -- no better, no worse -- and the vet said that was good news. Apparently, a dog's liver has multiple sections or lobes. When one goes bad, the others "kick it up a notch" to make up the difference. The fact that there's been no change indicates we don't have to worry about any loss of liver function.

The blood work did turn up one new problem: a low thyroid level. I had to take Kadi back for additional testing, which verified that test result, and now she takes thyroid pills twice a day. She didn't seem to feel bad before all the testing, but they tell me this should make her feel better and -- BONUS -- reduce hair loss.

Once all the testing was complete, it was time for dental cleaning. Unlike Butch, who was born with bad breath but good, solid teeth, Kadi has teeth that accumulate plaque at a phenomenal rate. Now, though, she's all fixed up, and her doggy smile is once more beautiful. In addition, she's had the first of two vaccinations that are supposed to inhibit the growth of dental bacteria. (Boy, do I wish they'd come up with a vaccine like that for humans.) We have to go back right after Christmas for the second shot.

All this animal health care is pricey, but times like last night convince me it's money well spent.

Watching the sentimental finale of "Kid Nation," I got into the spirit of the show and began shedding happy tears -- accompanied, of course, by noisy snuffling. I was focused so intently on the TV that it took me a moment to notice that Kadi had climbed onto the sofa and rested her chin on my shoulder. I turned to look at her and found her staring, big-eyed, right into my face. That's when I realized she'd wrapped both front paws around my arm and pulled it close to her body. Bless her heart. That was very nearly as good as any human hug I've ever had.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

It's a small world, after all

My sister called this afternoon and, as usual, we had a delightful chat. After we checked on the well-being of each other's families, she mentioned a bit of news that set my mind off on a six-degrees-of-separation tangent.

This photo was taken in my mother's home on my first wedding day. That's 18-year-old me at center right, holding a cup of lime sherbet/ginger ale punch, and that's the man I'd just married with his back to the camera.

The news my sister gave me in passing today was that the man at left in the photo, in the background, died recently. This was my husband's best man, his former boss, who was an East Texas automobile dealer. In fact, it hadn't been in our plans, but we ended up spending our wedding night at this man's fishing camp -- along with him and his entire family. (If that sounds weird to you, I assure you it felt even stranger to me.)

I didn't know this man well, although we'd socialized with him and his wife a number of times. They were in their mid-thirties and I was half their age. I didn't have a lot in common with them. Often, when we visited them, I managed to avoid adult conversation by calling on my babysitting experience and entertaining their children until it was time to leave. All of my visits with them were before the marriage. We moved out of town right after the wedding, and I don't remember if I ever saw any of them again.

Some years (and another husband) later, I was reminded of this man when I learned that his daughter had moved to Atlanta, Georgia and had just won the title of "Miss Georgia." I saw her on TV and was horrified to realize I was old enough to say truthfully that I once piggybacked a Miss USA contestant. She had grown up to be a beautiful woman. Ted Turner liked her enough to give her her own talk show when CNN was in its early days.

For those of you checking out the six-degrees-of-separation thing, there's me, then the pageant queen I piggybacked, then Ted Turner. That's just two degrees. If we take it one degree further, Ted Turner married Jane Fonda -- who, coincidentally, is my eighth cousin, twice removed. (Yes, I'll admit it: I'm distantly related to -- but separated by only three degrees from -- Hanoi Jane.)

Anyway, back to the immediate story:

According to what my sister told me and what I've read on the Internet since her phone call, this man who was best man at my first wedding became somewhat politically active in the years after we left there. One of his good political friends was Charlie Wilson, the flamboyant Texas congressman who is the subject of Charlie Wilson’s War, a book by George Crile. I haven't read the book yet, but after reading this excerpt and finding on page 10 the names of my husband's best man and his daughter, I definitely will.

The book has been made into a movie that's due out this month. I saw an Oprah show about the movie and was interested in seeing it even before I discovered the connection. It has a great cast, including Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and (you guessed it, Kim) Philip Seymour Hoffman.

So, here we go: First there's me, then there's my husband's best man, then there's Charlie Wilson, then there's Tom Hanks. That's four degrees. But wait; it gets better.

Tom Hanks did another movie you may remember called Forrest Gump. Holly, better known to some bloggers as CreekHiker, worked on that movie. Isn't that cool? Holly (in Los Angeles) and I (in Louisiana) were separated by only five degrees long before we ever heard of each other.

(Sigh.) I love this game.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Gimme shelter

This is one of those times when the ordinary functions of life, the mundane processes we repeat to get from one day to the next, seem burdensome and unmanageable. I don't know why.

Maybe it's the weather. With the outside temperature changing from 84 degrees one day to 38 degrees the next, I can't seem to set my thermostat correctly to make my home comfortable. Wardrobe decisions are equally iffy, so I shiver or sweat at any given moment.

Or maybe it's all the little decisions nagging at me right now. My prescriptions are on the last refill, which means I need to make a doctor's appointment, which I didn't want to do until after I signed up for Medicare, which I've postponed because I haven't been in the mood to sift through the various plans and make choices. I'm be-whiched.

It could be the three extra trips to Baton Rouge this week, trips that used to take twenty minutes and now (post-Katrina) can take twice that long at the wrong time of the day. The trips I made took place, of course, at exactly the wrong time of the day -- either before work or after -- replacing precious stop-and-smell-the-roses hours with take-care-of-business time.

It may be the holiday season. It lost a big chunk of its appeal for me when my children grew up, and now that my grandchildren are either grown or practically so, I no longer see the magic of Christmas through their eyes. Now, unfortunately, it's just another deadline.

The main thing, I think, is that it's just so easy for us introverts to run out of emotional "gas" when we don't take the necessary quiet time to reflect and "refuel." Lately I've been too distracted to notice and appreciate the little things that normally nourish me: The brightest star in the night sky. The movement of light and shadow as the sun goes down. Brown leaves dancing in the air in front of my car as I drive the curvy river road. Hundreds of identical acorns in the driveway and one funny, bald-headed one, its empty cap lying right beside it. The leaning tree beyond our back fence and the few clusters of green leaves engaged in some sort of endurance contest on its otherwise bare branches.

I'll make it through the end of the work week, because making it is what I do, and then I'll crawl inside my shell and stay there until I can come out again with my head on straight and my rose-colored glasses balanced perfectly on the tip of my nose. I hope you'll wait for me.