Monday, August 31, 2009

I was watching

Mom and Dad, Somewhere in Europe. I doubt dad was missing T.V. then, and now.

I found myself watching the CMA Music Festival tonight. It just kind of happened. I suppose it had a lot to do with the HiDef picture and the beauty of understanding the simplistic, audible lyrics. More than I can say about rock music these days.

Three songs into it, I felt myself welling up. My dad was missing it. My dad loved country music and used to watch every country music show. He appreciated the young ladies with poufy hair, and the simple songs about love on a front porch. I realized that if he was here, he would be cooing about pretty Taylor Swift, and calling me to tell me what I was missing (cause he knew I wouldn't be watching.) And yet tonight I was watching. Without any provocation.

Then I had an epiphany. If my dad was alive, he would be in Russia with my mom. He wouldn't even be at home! Hell! I'd still be sitting here alone, watching it. I sucked up a tear, and a smile crept over my face. I turned my tear-stained cheeks to Scot.

"Oh no, " he said. He had noticed the wet eyes. "What's going on? "
I let him in on my private little moment. From feeling sad to the realization that if my dad were alive he wouldn't be stuck indoors with the boob tube on this hot August night. He would have been in St. Petersburg!

Scot had only been half-listening to the show. First of all, country music is not his favorite. Then, for as loud as the T.V was, he couldn't hear it well. When the program started he had been doing homework with the kids. Then later he was yelling at the kids to brush their teeth and yelling at Patrick (humping dog) to "cool it." Not really the space and time for the introspection I was managing.

"Shooooot, " he said, fanning himself. "He might be better off where he is."

We looked at each other straight faced, giggled, and started to laugh.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sexy Horiscope

fun quiz for myspace profile and blog

Can You say "Grrrrr" "Purrrrrrrrrrrrr" and "Yowza!!!!"
I'm going to be referring to this often, as a reminder of the vixen I am. Under the flour (from making banana bread) and the anatomy textbook a dazzling cheetah lurks.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Looking for signs

Scot's out of town. My mom is in Russia. YES! she went, good for her. A weekend with no adult conversation has me talking to people who aren't here. Dead people. Well, just my dad.

My mother and I both talk to my father. My mother's favorite place to dial-up Norm is in the car, on the way home from my house. Sometimes I talk to Norm in the car, too. Usually the kids are with me, but they already think I'm crazy. Last night I took the kids for a bike ride and tried to channel Norm through the clouds. Mary and I constantly ask him to give us a sign. We have to believe we are receiving them.

On June 4th, the day of my dad's surgery, the weather in Arizona was unseasonably cool and cloudy. Around the time my father came out of surgery, there was a rainbow in the southern sky. Tim, Scot, my mom and I were just wrapping up dinner out back when we all noticed it. I took it as a positive sign for my dad's health.

The next rainbow I saw came on June 22. Scot and I were leaving Blue Adobe, where we had just sat down with my mother and the restaurant manager to plan my father's memorial. As we drove west towards home, an enormous, vibrant rainbow illuminated the dusky sky. It was so startlingly 3D, so near, you wanted to touch it. My mother took note of it on her way home too, and saw a man pull his car over to get out and take pictures.

After my dad's service, I drove over to my mother's house to be with family. As I cruised up the mountainous road, I took a moment to glance west at the cactus and barren hillside. Above it all was a magnificent cloud. And under it a rainbow. I caught a small cry in my throat. I felt the presence of my father next to me. I imagined his slightly plump hand abutting mine on the arm rest. If it's possible to feel comforted by a spirit, I was. I took pictures of all three rainbows, and in a grievous error, deleted them off the card.

My mom has had her own share of hunting's and signs. I will share one with you. Forty years ago, Mary made Norm choose; the priesthood, or her. She promised her love and commitment, and handed him a book of Robert Frost poetry. Earmarked was her favorite poem, "The Road Not Taken." Obviously, my father picked that path, and it did make all the difference. A couple of years ago, I found a tote bag for my mother that had the most famous stanza of the poem silk screened on the side.

Two weeks ago, my mother returned home to find that Annie had gotten into mischief (I know that dogs don't necessarily die from eating chocolate; this dog has put away half of a chocolate cake and a 2 lb. bag of M&M's.) My mom found some plastic wrap (contents gone) and a corner-chewed paperback book on the middle of the family room floor. She picked up the book, flipped it over, and quickly realized she had never laid eyes on the book before. She called me, and asked me if the book of mixed poetry was mine. I dismissed it, and couldn't recall seeing it at her house before, either. The next morning, my mom thumbed through the book. She checked out the publishing credits, and learned that it was put out by Grand Circle Travel, my parents' travel group.

And on page 41, (the year she was born) she saw it. "The Road Not Taken."

Now I look for rainbows. And if gays hadn't cornered the market on them, I'd be buying cheesy rainbow sun catchers and posters. My mom looks for divine signals from her aging lab. When it's all you got, I guess you look for it everywhere you can, and take it where you can get it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Max'ed Out

Enough with these dresses.

It's not that they're not pretty, or don't have a certain appeal. A sophisticated, I'm so confidant I can cover my body with a bag look. I suggest wearing them at a poolside resort restaurant, or a garden ladies lunch. They have their place.

But I'm seeing them every day at school pick-up. With flimsy flip-flops. On young women who weren't alive when the whole President- Reagan- getting -shot thing went down. Also, Such dresses need a certain level of classiness. And a cellphone stuck in the cleavage isn't very Audrey.

I don't think you asked, but I thought you should know how I feel.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single phone call - Confucius Bell

In 1992, I was having a fifth-of-my-life crisis. Should I choose to be young, semi literate, and married, or do something risky, life altering, and potentially awesome? The answer seems easy now, but I was a frightened girl of 20 at the time.

After consulting several self-help books, I got up the nerve to take a risk. I dumped the boyfriend and spent 4 months in London. It changed me forever.

A couple of weeks ago, I came across hand written quotes on my "Toni Helber" stationery. That list was tucked into a corner of my dresser mirror for months , many years ago. I kept it, because I still find the literary morsels on risk to be inspiring.

Here it is:

Don't play for safety-it's the most dangerous thing in the world. - Hugh Walpole

Try everything once except for incest and folk dancing. - Sir Thomas Beecham

You can't build a reputation on what you're GOING to do. - Henry Ford

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. - Thomas Edison

I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean. - G.K. Chesterton

Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs build the ark; professions built the Titanic. - author unknown

One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time. -André Gide

Every man has the right to risk his own life in order to preserve it. Has it ever been said that a man who throws himself out the window to escape from a fire is guilty of suicide? -Jean-Jacques Rousseau

On Tuesday, I registered for Bio 160- Human Anatomy. I'm scared, but thrilled. I am beginning a new era of my life.

Not only did I want to share these favorite quotes with you today, but I also wanted them as close as my laptop. Just in case I need them.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Sunday seems as good a day as any to drive 30 miles and witness how the other half lives. Apparently they live by the gun. By that, I mean hunting of course!

Near the new Cardinals Sport Complex in Glendale, Arizona lies Cabela's. It is the ultimate "outdoor" store; 160,000 square feet. My outdoors is comprised of flowers, bikes, and Rollerblades. But the folks out west mean "outdoor" as if you might hunker down with your fellow militia-folk and make a life off the land.

We wandered from department to department, admiring plastic and foam deer target dummies, meat preserving kits, and $5000 gun safes. We walked through the aquarium, stocked with local river and lake fish, and listened to the "living" animal displays. Scot found a Turkey "beer cozy" which he couldn't live without. I resisted the temptation to talk with a twang at the register, and I suppressed a chuckle when I heard a man wrangle his children, Delmont and Harley.

I'm kind of sorry I didn't need a stainless steel industrial meat mill. They had a great one. But now I'll know where to find one shall the neighbor's cat ever encroach on my grass.

I'm kidding!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dear Developmental Pediatrician,

I made the appointment for your office in late June. I have been gearing up for the two-and-a-half hour consultation since. In the past six weeks, I spent two hours filling out the almanac of information you wanted on my kid. I slaved over answers that made the slightest distinction (i.e. sometimes/often.) I attached our family picture to the front of the Encyclopedia Maggie. Finally, I lovingly tucked the whole kit-and-caboodle back into the manila envelope. And that was just the the paperwork.

I alerted the school the Maggie would be late today. Her father changed a scheduled call so that he could be present at the appointment. I woke early, showered, donned a dress and applied makeup. I looked palatable. So much so my daughter called me "pretty mama" and her father looked at me. Do you see where I'm going with this? The day in itself was becoming an event.

So, when I reached your office at 8:30 a.m. and was told that I had CANCELLED the appointment in a voice mail last Friday, I think I had a right to be livid. NO, I called and RECONFIRMED the appointment last Friday. I s..l..o..w..l..y enunciated the word CONFIRM into your answering machine (because no one EVER answers the phone) and told you "we will be there."

Which brings me to the problem. You should not make your clients call back and reconfirm what they already know. I made this appointment six weeks ago. This is not the same as me being drafted to Iraq; you might have to chase me down to fulfill that appointment. I made the first call. I want to come and see you. I've been waiting with expectation for this day. A call to remind someone they have an appointment is fantastic. By insisting your clients CALL BACK and reconfirm their appointment is RETARTED. Especially when live human ears do not answer the phone, and I'm trusting that the Voice Mail Gods deliver the goods.

We left your office, unseen. My daughter was delivered to school, and my husband and I tooled around Barnes and Noble for a bit. I wasn't about to waste these fresh pits scrubbing the kitchen. An hour later, the front office called and rescheduled us for next Tuesday. I told your scheduling woman NOT to call me to re-confirm. It's four days from now- short of being hit by a truck or losing my short-term memory, we will be there. "Sorry for the confusion this morning " she said. "We've had other people forget to call back and reconfirm, and we canceled them, too."

I had called. I had reconfirmed. I bit my tongue. It's not a tumor on the neck- that is a problem. It's just a inefficient system that could use some retooling. Would you like my help?



Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Back in the saddle

I have recurring dreams, quite often. One is that I'm late to my own wedding. I can't find my shoes, and someone is applying sky-blue eye shadow to my lids. The other common anxiety dream is that I'm in College Algebra. Again. Because in real life, the first three times I took College Algebra I fell into Dante's rings of hell. I was scarred and burned. I Failed. Eventually, I did what every mathaphobe does. I selected a major where I could take College Math instead. Breezed through that with a D, and graduated.

I'm doing the previously unthinkable, and thinking of going back to school. In the allied health care field. Where there is some amount of math involved. The nightmares are returning. I've narrowed it down to Dental Hygenist, and Respiratory Therapist. I've weighed the amount of schooling, prerequisites, and general potential disdain I will harbor for my choice, after I choose said career path.

It's come down to this: Hygenists make more money, but breathe a stream of constant bad breath and work for cranky, suicidal dentists. On the positive side, I like helping people, especially ones who are in a prone position with no ability to yell because my hands are in their mouth.

Respiratory therapy is near and dear to me, as Nora has asthma and my father suffered from IPF. The downside to that field is old people hocking sputum, and the constant threat of airborne H1N1. On the bright side, the only math required is Intermediate Algebra. I had that. 3 times. That might make my choice right there.

Joking aside, I have felt a calling to get involved with health care. I appreciated all the sweet souls who took care of my father, and saw myself in their shoes. The lure of a secure, vocational job with a name tag has a great deal of appeal, too. I am leaning in the aforementioned direction, but am open to suggestions. Just please remember the little problem I have with advanced math.


Monday, August 10, 2009

A show of hands for hotness

My brother was out for two weeks this summer. We see each other about twice a year, and it's never enough. I adore Tim. He's generous, funny, and has a genuine zest for life.

We've never been able to figure out if Tim looks like my mother, his father, or the shoe salesman at Younkers. But it doesn't seem to matter. He's a hotness all his own. The ladies out west fawned over my brother during the time he was here. I fielded questions and inquiries into his marital status. We can now add "hot," and "muffin" to his list of attributes.

Lap it up, Tim.

Something tells me you'll be back for a visit soon.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A small, well not so small, correction.

Well, there was some cancer. Just because you don't see the words "malignant" and "positive" in a medical report doesn't mean it wasn't there. Another big, scary word like "adenocarcinoma" should have had me sitting upright, at attention. I guess it's just that my brain has always been taught that positive and malignant are the words that should strike fear, where cancer is concerned. I'm sorry for the confusion there. That's what you get when you let a medically uneducated civilian read a wordy medical report.

So maybe he didn't die in vain. But did he die way before the cancer would have gotten him? My dad was alert, talking and sitting till his third day post-op. On day 3, my father got confused and agitated, and needed sedation. We were told that his confusion was from high ammonia levels in his brain. The high levels were a result of clogged bowels. By having a bowel movement, he would flush the ammonia and insure the reconstructed plumbing was working correctly. After all, he had his gallbladder removed, 1/3 of his stomach removed, and the head of the pancreas removed. By day 4, when he still hadn't pooped the doctors did a turn-about and pinned his listlessness of pneumonia. He did indeed contract pneumonia, but what happened to the importance of clearing the toxic levels of ammonia? Why, when the obvious symptoms of gangrenous bowel were present, didn't they take action ? Instead we were told his mental confusion was caused by the pneumonia and perhaps alcohol withdrawal. WHAT? Why was a social drinker pumped full of Ativan, an alcohol withdrawal drug? We repeatedly told them my father was not an addict. In the end, his pneumonia cleared, and his heart and liver were strong. It was the damn gangrenous bowel that took his life.

I can now return to a state of peace and acceptance surrounding my father's ultimate fate. In the end, he would have died of pancreatic cancer. But I continue to be in turmoil about how and why he died in the hospital. We are now pouring over 1200 pages of documentation taken during my father's 15 day stay. I will not rest till we investigate every angle of these medical reports.

Boy, isn't is a friggin' laugh a minute reading my blog lately? Thanks for sticking with me.

On a good note, the kids' both start school tomorrow. Maggie will be entering 2nd grade, and Nora Ruby, kindergarten. Poor lambs. Out the door at 7:30 a.m., to be fed to the real world sharks. I will be sure to take pics of the big day.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Just when I thought I had found peace...

Yesterday would have been my father's 69th birthday. Before we went out for a celebratory beer my mother stopped by the hospital and picked up my father's records.

My father's cause of death was "gangrenous bowel, with perforation."
The bowel was obstructed due to re sectioning of his pancreas and intestinal organs, as part of the Whipple Procedure, which was performed for Pancreatic Cancer.

The pathology on the tumor came back "negative." The "lemon-size" tumor the surgeon mentioned was actually 3 1/2 cm's, about an inch and a half big.

My father was told if he did not have the Whipple surgery performed, he would have 18 months to live. Yes, that's if it's a malignant cancer. Unfortunately, growths in the pancreas are not biopsied. It's a "go in and rip it all out until you die" exercise.

I'm starting to think my father died in vain.

I am mad. Really mad.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hermosa Beach

We've returned from the beach. Our 11th annual boondoggle. The first year we threw an air mattress in my parents room for 3 nights, and this year we spent 9 nights in a large room with kitchen. The funny thing is that we'd still mooch, were in not for the two children we now have.

It was wonderful. Hiking to the supermarket in flip flops for beer, tipsy Scrabble on the beach, Target with sand on the legs, and a nightly pilgrimage for ice cream. The perfect vacation.

Every year, Scot and I feel like it could be the last. How long can the crazy place exist before it self destructs or has its own apocalypse? Yet in the midst of plastic people and trashed-up freeways beautiful fragile tulips spring up on dingy curbs. California is wacky; but its appeal is hard to resist.