Tuesday, March 29, 2005

On the flip side

I feel like some of the things I said about my grandparents yesterday were pretty harsh. On the one hand nothing I said is untrue. On the other hand I feel like a little balance is in order.

My grandfather used to wear just hilariously awful combinations of clothes. Horizontally striped shirts with plaid pants both in shades of lime green and lemon parfait yellow. I also have a hilarious picture of him dressed as a (not so pretty) woman and making my grandmother crack up. (Note to self: just get the damned Flickr account already! Also, a scanner.)

My grandmother cooked some of the best white trash esque foods ever. Shrimp salad rolls on white bread hot dog buns, lasagne with sauce from a jar, punch made from Hi-C and ginger ale, shrimp wiggle (essentially canned shrimp, water, flour, salt & pepper, peas) served over saltines.

My grandfather had the biggest, craziest, most prolific vegetable garden on the planet.

My grandmother constantly had the most flawless manicure of anyone I've ever seen who does their own cooking & cleaning.

My grandfather used to play this ridiculously fun game when he came to visit. We'd see them drive up and by the time we got out to the walk he'd be walking with his head down asking if we knew what was growing on our walkway. There would be coins sprinkled between the stones and we got to keep what we found, and he always knew where it all was so we wouldn't miss any. Now, the disturbing corollary to this is that when I was much older my grandmother told me that he used to do the same thing with her weekly pin money only he'd do it in dollars and he'd sprinkle them on the stairs from their front door up to their bedroom. So didn't need to think that over too carefully. The wonderful corrollary is that my good friend Mrs. Batch lived next door to me during the coin growing era and she would come over for the harvest most of the time. When she got married my grandfather sent her a handful of change that my mom wrapped up with a message that he'd found it growing for her.

My grandmother knew all these hysterical G rated cheers and rhymes that for some reason are just as funny at 36 as they were when I was 6. "Fuzzy Wuzzee was a bear, Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair. Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn't fuzzy, was he?" "Rip rah ree, kick 'em in the knee! Rip rah rass, kick 'em in the other knee!" "Millie fell in the toaster and burned up dead? No! Millie fell off her coaster and bumped her head!"

I could probably go on forever like that but you get the idea. Not bad people, just not people I had a lot in common with...unless you count the silly jokes.

Monday, March 28, 2005

It's all about Personal Connection

I go to this career counsellor, been doing it for over 3 years and it really helps. One of her big repeat lessons is that things are accomplished with Personal Connection. If you want to become a teacher, then talk to a teacher, you probably have a friend who teaches, or a friend with a kid who has a teacher or you could go back to your old high school where presumably they still keep the odd teacher around despite all the cutbacks. After 3 years with her I believe. It works! Truly.

So it's odd to me that I fully missed a personal connection for myself. Not in terms of something I wanted to do or learn but more...well, you'll see.

My great aunt thinks we killed my grandmother. After my grandmother died she wrote down the name of the drug we used (morphine, to dull the pain from the final stages of the congestive heart failure, also we allowed the hospital to use it, there was no druig adminstered by the family) and kept it in her pocket for a long time, she may still have it there. Every little while she'd whip the paper out and check it, usually while telling us, "I've got it right here, I'm telling the doctors not to let you kill me! No..." (consults paper) "Mohfeen." (She's from Maine.)

You can't really blame her. She is/was 11 months younger than my grandmother. She had never lived a day on this earth without Grammy Fern. She'd come to live with Grammy and Grampa when Grampa got sick a couple of years before and she'd never left for more than a day or 2 since and in that last year not even for that long. When my grandmother was told that her kidneys were failing and that time would be short just around Thanksgiving her sister made her promise to stay until Christmas.

I got called on the 8th of December, I believe. I arrived on the 9th. At noon on the 10th Grammy died.

While my grandmother was a great proponent of telling the truth I have to say that I've learned in retrospect that she was not above yessing you just to make you feel better.

Like my mother, Aunt Rena doesn't like to be yessed. She was mad, she was sad, she was paranoid, she yelled, she hit, she threatened, she stomped, she cried, she packed. It was a strange experience and has made me increasingly wary of her. Though this happened in 2000 she still had a major freak out 2 summers ago when my mom and I visited. Accused us of backstabbing the uncle and his family, came storming into our bedrooms late at night, it was awful. So I wasn't terribly inclined to declare her cured. But my mother sees her fairly frequently and talks to her every week and has said that she's doing much better, being kinder and more understanding and hardly has the screaming mimis anymore.

Imagine my surprise when I talked to my mom last night and mom said, "I just called Rena again, she was in good spirits. I spoke to her last night but she was angry saying that she couldn't trust me or [the uncle] to take care of her and she was glad that she had spoken up when she was in the hospital."

"She was in the hospital?"

"A long while ago."

"Oh right, I knew about that. Why do you think she's bringing it up now?"

"Oh I think it's the Terry Schiavo case."

Well, duh! How could I not have made that connection? Because denial is my pageant-talent and I'm a regional champ!

My mom's side of the family is pretty pro DNR and no extraordinary measures. Rena stands out like a flamingo in the duck pond. She doesn't believe that there is anything after death and she doesn't want to go where there is nothing. Her doctors thought she'd have passed away at least 2 years ago, she's had cancer, she's broken bones, she's got congestive heart failure but she doesn't want to go and she isn't going to if she doesn't want to. That's her choice and I am both impressed and frightened by her ability to stick by it.

Obviously I can't speak for her but I think I know why she's anti DNR and pro extraordinary measures. She's always been the caretaker for the the dying in her faimly and she's never been the decision maker. She never married and she was the younger sibling. Her father died when she was a baby so she never met him. When her mother became ill Rena cared for her but Grammy Fern made the decisions.

After Grammy died I drove Rena back to the house and she told me 2 stories about her mother. The first one was about the day of the family reunion when Grammy Allen probably had a stroke. Rena didn't know what to do but to wait for Fern and John to pick them up. When they came Rena wanted to take Grammy Allen to the doctor but John told her there wasn't anything they could do and they loaded Rena's insensible and drooling mother, a woman previously of some dignity, into a wheelchair and sat her in a corner at the reunion then drove her and Rena home and left Rena to take care of her. The night that Grammy Allen died Rena lay in the bed they shared spooning her mother and counting her breaths. In 2000 she told me this story as though it had happened the night before. She counted 4 in then 4 out, 4 in, 4 out, then a pause, 4 in, 4 out, pause and the pause just got longer and longer and finally she died. No one who made the decision was there to see the result and the person who stayed to the very end wasn't able to make the decision.

My grandfather was diagnosed with leukemia shortly before his death. He chose neither to get treatment nor to tell most of his family, including his only daughter. Rena took care of him.

The uncle asked my grandmother what she wanted to do after her short timer's license was issued and she said, "Keep on trucking." No treatment, no changes in her life and she didn't tell anyone else, either. (Is it any wonder I have a big thing about the people I love being open and honest?) Rena took care of her.

While we sat in the hospital room listen to my grandmother's tortured breathing Rena kept repeating that her sister had promised to stay until Christmas. When everyone else went to the cafeteria I held my grandmother's cold hand and told her that if she needed to go she should go. I was naive enough to think she needed permission or cared what any of us thought she ought to do. Just not her style.

I still don't agree with Rena. I wouldn't have kept my grandmother alive any longer. By the time I got there she was pretty well gone and I know that she wanted to go naturally. But I do agree with Rena's anger. How anyone could make a decision to let a loved one go and not see it through I don't understand. It is sadly typical of my grandmother and grandfather to have made a decision like that and not to have owned up to the uglier parts of it. To leave Rena alone as the caretaker despite her differing opinion. They weren't bad people but I wouldn't describe them as warm or sentimental. And maybe she didn't tell them how she felt. You have to admire her, too, for continuing to care for the people who put her through some of the more traumatic events in her memory.

I have not read every word written about Ms. Terry Schiavo, nor have I been anywhere near her family but, if what I have read is true, her husband, having made the decision to let her go according to her wishes, is staying with her while she dies. I find that right and admirable and I hope that people are able to see the honor in the way he stuck by his beliefs. I'm just sorry that it's making my very old, very frightened Aunt Rena so angry again.

I am grateful to both sides of the Schindler/Schiavo case for speaking out on their beliefs. It seems clear to me that we need to make our wishes known, not just to the person who we ask to carry them out but to anyone who will listen. I am grateful to the friends who have discussed the case with me and shared their thoughts and wishes with me, too. Despite the historic longevity of my family members I am an only child who remains single while she pushes forty so I rely heavily on my friends to carry out my wishes and they have unstintingly agreed.

Tell people what you want. Write it down. Do an interpretive dance on the subject. Sing a song. Paint a picture. Carve your desires in stone. We need to know what you wish.

Mani Mishap

Can nail polish remover go bad? You know, expire? Outlive its usefulness or something?

My mom had nail polish remover, same bottle, never refilled my whole childhood. It always removed the polish, though.

Maybe it's the namby pamby good for you kind of remover I got. It's purple. Also store brand. I used it a couple of weeks ago and it seemed fine.

Last night I decided to remove my marginal manicure and do something simple but clean and neat to show off my brand new, beautiful ring. I rubbed and scrubbed and twisted and gripped until my fingertips were pruny. I practically had a carpal tunnel flare up and this morning, having washed my hands maybe 4 times since the remover incident, my fingers still smelled like remover. However, the polish? Not so much removed.

I decided not to even wear the shiny new ring for fear of attracting attention to my fingernails which now sport scraggly smears of 2 week old nail polish that will not come off. This has never happened to me before. Wearing polish for like 6 weeks and having it look scraggly and awful, yes, but being trapped in a bad manicure despite industrious good intentions, not so much.

On my way home I'm springing for the name brand, old school, flammable, singe the polish out from under your nails and scorch your lungs in the process stuff.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

2 faced coin

It's a good day to have a snuggly dog who curls up around your feet and keeps them warm.
It's a bad day to have a dog that requires walking...outside...in the sleet and hail and snow and buffeting wind through the sluddles (slushy puddles!) and across the ever slickening surface of the streets and sidewalks.

It's a bad day to be a good dog community member and perform your end of the dog walking barter.
It's a good day to pay your debts to the other dog walker who has, admittedly, gotten the shittiest weather during the winter barter period. She came to my house and walked my dog in the snow and brought me back potassium rich drinks and Jell-O when I had the stomach flu, too. Teddy's Mom ROCKS.

It's a good day to walk a dog like Teddy who, as you're debating whether to go the extra half block in the aforementioned weather, turns toward home and refuses to budge until you follow him. Teddy hates descending precipitation of any kind. Once he even walked precisely under my elbow so that the rain wouldn't hit his face.
It's a bad day to have a dog like the Principessa Emmolina of Gowanusovia whose coat is so thick and water resistant that she doesn't realize there IS weather of any sort until you've been out in it 20 or 30 minutes. She positively perks up in a good head wind.

It's a good day to live in a place where, for an extremely low price, lovely people will deliver your groceries straight to your door. www.FreshDirect.com
It's a bad day to have to clean all the disgusto food out of your refrigerator to make more room for the new and improved non-spoiled food. (Any day is a bad day for that. Long live rubber gloves!)

It's a bad day for having to get the stupid bus full of stupid people who won't move all the way to the back.
It's a good day to be the last day of the work week! (Viva my new trabajo!)

Despite all the waffling it's actually a pretty good day.

Cute or creepy?

I like to have candy on my desk. Just in case. And it's not like I'm eating 6 chocolate bars a day but if you've worked with me for any length of time you know that you can count on me to have some chocolate around if the urge hits you.

In the category of seeing oneself through someone else's eyes: we have a college student visiting our office today and suddenly I wondered where the line is. When does it stop making you young and hip to have candy around and when do you become someone's grandmother doling out sweeties to the young 'uns?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Dear Luke Danes

I love you. You know I love you.


Her house is a 5 minute walk from your diner. Less by car. I don't care how early your deliveries are, when a girl looks at you that way AND asks you to stay you ARE going to be getting some and it's going to be good. So, you stay for cripes sake!

Hugs and kisses and many other dirty things,

Who is writing this shit? Tipper Gore?

Chicken? Or egg?

You know how when you have to pee the need gets more urgent as you approach the toilet? Is that because when we were getting potty trained our parents and guardians were always whipping open our buttons and bows and belts and buckles and we learned that the spot right in front of the pot is meant for urgency? Or is it a natural urgency and our parents and guardians were running the race against our new found toddler control over it?

While we're on the subject, let's say you were headed into a 3 stall bathroom and as you hit the doorway to the main room you noticed someone else coming in behind you. Would you take an end stall giving the person the opportunity for a one stall separation or would you take the middle stall and give her no choice? Particularly if you knew you were going to be adding some odor to the room?

Confidential to the lady from the office down the hall: Thanks for nothing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Birthday of a Bean

Shout out to BeanChili on her birthday.

At 2:17pm she turned 6 years old.

Whenever I think of her I see a picture of her completely asleep in her grandmother's arms in the middle of her first birthday. She's bigger than that now, and a lot more verbal. Just as cool, though.

Happy Birthday Bean!

Quick Change Artist

I yearn for the days of one outfit that properly carried me through a whole day.

It has to cover dog walking, weather conditions, standing and walking and sometimes ice skating for the commute, office attire, possible social event after work and evening lounging about the house.

Back when I was teaching kids to dance everything was covered. Everything I did had to make me look presentable but comfortable, able to move, able to walk for a long time, layers to accomodate the different temperatures of the different buildings I worked in and the travel between them and I was under 25, what social event couldn't be covered by sneakers, jeans, a tee and a nice pair of earrings?

Now I'm a perpetual advertisement for a crappy remake of Working Girl. The new job allows me to dress down but it's still an office. So I end up with office pants, passable sweater and my sneakers...with gym socks. It's just not pretty, or trendy. What's nice about me is that I can still make myself put on all my new fancy makeup every day and yet be too lazy to change out of my sneakers when I get to work.

That's the crux of it, a combination of the ridiculously slothful and the rabidly efficient. I don't want to bother taking off my sneakers because it involves bending over and it's another 3 minutes when I should already be trying to look busy at work like I'm doing right now. So then I justify.

"Well, I'll do some work and change before anyone else gets in."

"Well, I just have to run an errand at lunch, why waste work time changing my shoes twice?"

"Well, I'm just going home in 8 hours anyway."

The same thing happens when I get home. I'll change my shoes to walk the dog, reasoning that she needs as long a walk as I can muster and I'll walk longer in better shoes. Then I come inside for the lounging portion of the evening and I'll leave my sneakers on for no reason. Despite my feet being hot or itchy or sweaty or up on the couch.

"I've only got to go out and walk the dog again in 3 hours anyway, why waste time changing my shoes?"

I am one mullet away from being Joan Cusack circa 1985.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Morning TV

I checked the onscreen guide this morning to see which episode of Buffy was playing and got this:

"Angel returns to help the gang battle a demon looking for a powerful weapon."

That could be almost any episode. The Angel part narrows it down some but not a lot. I mean, Angel returns from where? From hell? From Los Angeles? Are those 2 at all different?

Turned out to be the one where everyone finds out that he's back from hell and Faith's new fake watcher tries to use the Glove of Minagon.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Know what's cool?

It's cool to have been born before computers were even well known. To have grown up when computers were the size of whole rooms and required special terms to do even the simplest things. Then to be an adult walking around your very own apartment carrying your computer in one hand, not connected to any wires at all, because it is playing a TV show that you don't want to miss a second of.

Technology is cool.


Somebody said to me this weekend, "I check your blog once in a while but it doesn't change very often." Now I'm feeling this pressure to post, early and often. Which of course translates to: Nothing. Got nothing.

Ate a lot of fried food this weekend.

Went to a couple of weird gatherings.

Had an MTA enforced endless circling of the major neighborhoods of Brooklyn.

Watched an old movie that I should have seen long ago. "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

Am back for my second week at the new job and there's still nothing remarkable to tell except that I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop while understanding that it probably won't. People here just don't yell or threaten or call you stupid, it's just not done. Which is as it should be, but I'm not used to that yet.

That's it.

I mean, someone had a baby and someone else got engaged and a third one is going to the Middle East (for FUN!) and another put a bid on an apartment. But those stories really belong to them and I certainly haven't got a humorous take on them.

I've got a blind date on Thursday! That's funny! Watch me get drunk and give him the address for this blog. He'll be so glad to know that he was funny (and by that I mean funny-strange not funny-great sense of humor) before I even met him. So, I think rather than shoot myself in the foot before I even go on the date I'll wait until after.

Uh huh, that's me, optimistic. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, March 07, 2005

My people? They live a loooooong time.

Everyone please give a hearty congratulations and a chorus of For She's a Jolly Good Fellow to my Great Aunt Rena. She turns 90 today. She tells me that every year, even at their most poor, they always had a birthday cake so this will be her 90th cake. Technically her 90th and her 91st since mom made one and Rena made one but once you hover around 90 cakes why get picky?

I sent her a cookbook I started (it's progressive) from recipes that her sister (my grandmother) gave me and she loved it. Even thought I was very clever. That isn't always the case. I mailed it to her in plenty of time because I don't trust the postal service but marked the envelope with helpful notes like, "Not to be opened by recipients younger than 90." However, Rena was tired and a little sad when it arrived 2 days early and she thought, "I'd like to know what's in this." So she opened it up, sat down and spent an hour or so reading it cover to cover. Then she wrapped it back up and opened it again today.

I'd write more about her but that story? It describes her perfectly and anything else I say will just be icing.

Happy Birthday Aunt Rena! And many more.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

My brain

Don't you hate it when, right before you fall asleep, you think of something you really want to write about and the next morning that's all you can remember, that there was something you really wanted to write about?

There were examples and everything.


Saturday, March 05, 2005

Final Count

I just watched Norma Rae for the first time. There's a lot to be said about the movie, clearly, but one little thing struck me. Since November it's wonderfully encouraging to see any vote go the "right" way. Even if it's fictional.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

It'd never happen now

I'm watching the first few episodes of The Forsyte Saga. Last night I finished up the Brideshead Revisted series. Back in the day, whenever that day may be, from the 19th century through the first few decades of the 20th, men were apparently renting extra apartments and houses for their mistresses willy nilly.

Most of the 2 income families I know now can barely afford to get and keep one apartment or house. Granted I probably wouldn't have run in the same circles as the Bridesheads or the Forsytes but damn! Where are all these people with all this disposable income? So much that no one notices when they're buying a whole new dwelling? I'll say it again, damn!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Trapped in America

My passport is expired, I'm trapped in America!

For my new job (did I tell you I quit my old job?) I had to fill out all the employment type forms and they require 62 thousand forms of ID or one passport. Fortunately for this it can be expired or valid. But I'm trapped in America! I can't go anywhere until I renew my passport.

No, I don't have a trip planned.

No, I don't have a relative or a friend that I might have to leave the country to rescue.

NO! I'm not a fugitive, which, by the way, if I was I wouldn't have to renew my damn passport I'd just go to the seedy section of town and get a fake one and that would be that.

NO ALREADY! All right? I don't have any reason at all to leave the country. I just don't like the idea that I can't leave if I want to. I've always been like this, ask my mom.

And yes, if you must know I DO remember looking at the passport about 2 months before it expired (a YEAR AGO) and thought, "I should renew this so I'm not trapped in America." You want to make something of it?