Preventive maintenance.

The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.                 ~ Mark Twain

Yep!  Today is mammogram day.  As Mark Twain said above, I’d rather not.  Even though my chest doesn’t look like the woman in the cartoon, it feels as if it does.  Mammography gives new meaning to compression.

I don’t remember when my exams started to fall in October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  I guess it’s a good thing, though, since I have many pink bows and public service announcements to remind me.

As it happens, my doctor’s office is in the same building as the imaging center, so I decided I should go upstairs and get my flu shot.  Back in September my doctor told me to just drop in, that I wouldn’t need an appointment.  I took her at her word.  Unfortunately, the staff didn’t get the message.  Or maybe the doctor didn’t understand all the steps one must go through before being inoculated.  More likely, some of the staff were anticipating the weekend and they put their brains away early.

I did my dactyloscopy check-in.  Then the young woman at the desk asked for my name.  I’m not sure why they have to ask for your name once they’ve checked your hand print identification.  It took about two more seconds to figure out that the poor child was clueless.  Long story short — I went from the front desk to the nurses’ station to the front desk to the nurses’ station.  At one point a woman in check-out asked me if I was checking out.  I said, “No, ma’am, I’m just going in circles.”  She said, “okay” and gave me a sweet smile.  As I was leaving twenty minutes later, I stopped to check out and she informed I didn’t need to check out.  Go figure.

So here I am, immunized and aching all over.  Flu shots always do that to me.  I have serious questions about whether they’re actually effective, but I keep going back year after year in the hope that they are.

Oh, and the nurse who gave me the injection apologized for the confusion and told me the woman who checked me in is soon to be moved to a department more suited to her skills.  I’m happy for her.  And for the patients.

Note:  My spell check suggested I might need cartography, not mammography.  Hmmmm.  Maybe I do.


Looking back, but leaning forward.

I always knew looking back on my tears would bring me laughter, but I never knew looking back on my laughter would make me cry.             ~ Cat Stevens

I cry a little every day.  I have done so for almost six years now.  Maybe it’s cleansing, but I’m getting rather tired of it.

I grew up being the dependable, strong child in the family.  That sounds like a good thing, but it wasn’t necessarily.  I was the middle of five children and what I was really doing was trying to keep the peace.  Discord terrified me because my dad was a violent alcoholic, and at times violent while sober.  I tried to soothe my younger sisters and I begged my older angry brother not to make waves at the dinner table.  Then, when my brother didn’t take my advice and Daddy dragged him from the table beating him with a belt, buckle and all, I would plead with my dad to stop.  I learned to plead from a distance else my dad would give me a whack on his back swing.  Dinner was fun at my house.

I’m not sure why that last paragraph popped in on this post.  I think it’s the fact that I was scolded for crying when I was a child.  For example, I would be crying when my father finally let go of my brother and he (Dad) would scream, “Stop your damn crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!”  So I learned not to cry.  Maybe I’m just catching up now.  All those unshed tears from my youth are finally allowed to flow.  And so they do.

Does this mean that my ex-husband did me a favor by leaving?  He saw how desperately I needed to cry so he decided to help me out?  Gave me a reason to cry?  Gave me many reasons to cry?  My tongue is firmly in my cheek now and I’m not crying.  I’m laughing.  It feels good to laugh.  It reminds me that I still have a sense of humor, and I can laugh at myself and my situation.  This would make great slapstick.  Maybe I’ll write a play.  I’ll call it “Now That You Broke My Heart, What’s Gonna Pump My Blood?”

I saw my ex on Saturday at Stella’s birthday party.  (She’s six.)  I recognize now, and have for some time, that he’s nothing like the D I once knew and loved.  Sometimes I may sound like I want him back, but I don’t.  It simply means I’m having a weak moment.  Or I’m feeling lonely.  Or maybe I’m remembering and longing for what was a long time ago.  We had a lot of good years together.  There’s much to remember fondly.  But wanting it back is fantasy.  It doesn’t exist now.

Happy tears.  Sad tears.  They’re all good.

Bitterblue by Cat Stevens at Royal Albert Hall (1970s)

Oh Happy Day!

At 11:19 last night, my cell phone announced a text.  My day had started early so I had turned in early.  I was sound asleep and considered ignoring the phone.  As is usually the case, my maternal instinct awakened enough to make me pick up the phone and read the message.

It was my oldest granddaughter EJ.  She was announcing her engagement to John.  “I got engaged!!!!!!!”  I woke up just enough to respond, “Yay!”  Then I rolled over and went back to sleep.  I sent a more detailed response at 7:00 this morning.

Today, as I’ve contemplated my future married grandchild I can’t help looking back with a sense of nostalgia and even a longing for the baby and little girl she was.  She was a joy from day one, and still is.  I love this photo of her.  I think she had just played a softball game. The sun had brought a sprinkle of freckles across the bridge of her nose.  She was about eleven.  Grammy’s little athlete.

I remember when she was a snuggle-y, sweet-smelling babe-in-arms.  I would rock her and sing to her and wish there were some way I could bottle the smells and the satisfaction I felt with her in my arms and in my life.  My first grandchild.

I remember how she used to call me and “report” her parents whenever they did something she didn’t like.  How simple were her complaints back then.  She learned to dial me up before she could even read numbers.  When I asked her how she knew how to do that, she told me she had watched her mom punch the numbers and they took the shape of a house.  I knew then and there that she was a genius.  I still think that.

And now the sophisticated young business woman is getting married.  Planning a wedding.  We’re moving forward with gusto and anticipation and delight and great happiness for the handsome couple.  Where did the time go?

We (the families) have known for some time that the engagement was imminent.  John had sent an email to family members and asked us to make short video clips encouraging EJ to say yes.  Our assignment was to make our appeal using only three words.  We had great fun discussing and coming up with just the right message.  John then took all the clips and made one video show.  I hope to see the entire video one day.

Here you see the garden flag I made for my video clip.  Now that she’s seen the video I can send her the flag.

All day I have had the words “Oh Happy Day” ringing in my ears.  It’s a wonderful old Southern gospel song.  I found a marvelous video of the Soweto Gospel Choir singing it.  No one does this song better than they do.  They are in full colorful costume, so they’re “eye candy” too.  Even if you’re  not a gospel music fan I think you’ll enjoy it.

In my mind I’ll be singing “Oh Happy Day” as I attend the wedding.

A perfect day.

Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence. ~ Vince Lombardi

I seem to get philosophical when I do yard work, especially as I mow the lawn, or in today’s case, as I mow the hay.  I’m pretty sure there’s enough to bale.  Or there will be when the job is finished.  I’m taking a break to let the battery recharge.  Mine and the one that goes in the lawn mower, she says with a grin.

Some aspects of maintaining a house and lawn try both my body and my soul.  More often my body, I guess.  That’s what I was thinking as I moved the hammock off the grass and back under the pine trees.  When the children are here they pull it down on the grass because it’s more level there.  They never remember to pull it back up.  Maybe it’s too difficult since it’s uphill.  I would never scold them for it.  It isn’t that important — until I try to heave-ho by myself.  I slowly move one end at a time until I get it out of the path of the lawnmower.  It’s heavier than it looks.

Actually, the hammock belonged to my ex.  I bought it for him for a birthday or some other occasion.  I don’t remember.  I suppose I should have left it for him when I moved my furniture, etc., from our house, but I didn’t.  I never once saw him relax in it.  The children loved it from day one.  I took it for them.  I knew they would enjoy it.  And they have.

I was upset that I was having to move by myself when half the “stuff” was his and I had to go through every room and mark what was going with me and what stayed for him to move later.  It was the hardest job, physically and emotionally, I had ever tried to do.  I wasn’t feeling very kindly toward D.  He should have been there to help.  He wasn’t.

I think it may have been that day when I really understood what a coward he became once he decided to end the marriage.  He either couldn’t or wouldn’t face me.  He fled.  Ran away.  I suppose the fact that I can still get angry at him helps to assuage my guilt for taking some things that weren’t mine to take.  Actually, he can have the hammock now if he wants to come and get it.  I don’t deliver.

Hey!  Where the hell did my perfect day go?  Maybe it just went from perfect to excellent, but I’ll take excellent.  Excellent is good.

So why is today an excellent, if not perfect, day?  Because I stand on the deck and look beyond the pergola at the blue sky.  I work in the yard in ideal weather — sunny with a high temperature of about 68 degrees.  I’m happy outdoors.

Though it’s sometimes a challenge, I am physically able to care for my lawn and house.  I’m grateful for that.

I’m able to take out small pieces of sadness and/or anger-inducing aspects of my past, but I no longer have a need to wallow in any of it.  It is what it is.  It’s part of who I am today.  I have more happy days than sad ones, I think.

Today is one of the happy ones.  An excellent day.

So…how’s your day?


Things I ponder as I walk.

Are cats vengeful?  I used to have a lovely African violet sitting in my kitchen window.  It has thrived there for a couple of years.  Enter Lulu.  Lulu the Cat loves to sever the leaves.  Sometimes she chews them; sometimes she discards them.  I surrounded the plant with other items in order to leave no space for said cat.  For a time it worked.

This morning Lulu was playful.  I heard her bouncing all over the kitchen and den.  I eventually went in there to join in the fun.  I quickly started to feel more hostile than playful.  There on the floor were about eight or nine violet leaves as if they were trying to compete with the shedding tree outside the window.  All the bouncing had apparently been Lulu jumping up to steal a leaf, losing her balance and dropping back down, taking a leaf with her.  Grrrrrrrr.  Poor, poor, pitiful plant.  See all those sad leafless stems?

I have now done what I always did when I had small children: I put the plant where the cat can’t get to it.  Behind closed doors.  In my bedroom.  Lulu’s not allowed in there because of my allergies.

Is it time to move beyond awareness October is breast cancer awareness month.  I wrote about this last year, in a very positive way, I think.

I don’t take awareness lightly.  It’s the first step toward eradicating a problem.  And breast cancer is a major problem.  As are all cancers.

I have several friends who are breast cancer survivors.  And one dear friend who didn’t survive.  I recently asked my closest friend L, who is a survivor, “Are you sick of all this pink ribbon stuff?”  Her immediate and unequivocal response: “YES!”

I think it’s safe to say that the “pink ribbon” has become the universal symbol for Breast Cancer Awareness, and there’s the rub.  L’s concern, and mine, is that it is being misused to make money, to make a profit, by companies and/or individuals who have no intention of contributing to the cause.  I don’t know how prevalent this practice is, but I do know I’ve seen many tacky items with some cheap version of a pink ribbon, and I simply couldn’t believe they were legitimate.

Whenever I think of charities I always return to March of Dimes.  Is anyone else old enough to remember what that organization did to polio?  They funded research which resulted in the development of both the Salk and Sabin vaccines thus eradicating polio.  With that mission accomplished, they turned their focus to the prevention of birth defects.

When I was in elementary school we had “dime” drives with cards that held dimes.  We children collected dimes at a time when, for many, they were hard to come by.  Everyone was in on this fight.  Even parents (mine) who couldn’t afford to give to charity contributed a thin dime or two to the card of their child.  No child wanted to take in an unfilled card.

My family didn’t understand the full significance of the March of Dimes until my baby sister contracted polio at the age of two.  The doctor sent her to a hospital in another city.  Fortunately her case was mild.  She spent only a month there.  Imagine my parents’ surprise when the hospital administrator told them the bills would be paid by the March of Dimes.

I don’t really know whether it’s fair to compare these two charities.  Times are different.  There were most certainly some who “cheated” March of Dimes, but I was too young to know that.  I do know that many played fairly because we were committed to a very important cause.  And we delivered.

I’m idealistic enough believe that cancer research can be streamlined and standardized and we can beat it.  Franklin D. Roosevelt started the March of Dimes.  Maybe what we need is presidential prodding.  Cancer is nonpartisan.  When we seriously focus on a problem we can be nonpartisan, too, and we can accomplish anything.  Let’s do it!  Maybe one day we will have a cancer vaccine.  It could happen.

A Stella(r) day!

Stella – originates from Latin; means “star”

Stella is my youngest grandchild, a kindergartner.  Her other grandmother Nana has been very ill.  We wanted to do something special for Nana.

We bought a cedar bird feeder which was very nice in its  natural state, but Stella and I love color.  She took one look and informed me that she wanted it to look like a rainbow.  She selected her colors and got to work.

Stella’s dedication to the project was inspiring.  She painted and painted, never complaining.  I asked her after a time, “Are you getting tired?”  She told me she was very tired and she needed me to rub her back.  I gave her tiny shoulders a brief massage and she went right back to work.

“When we finish,” she said, “I want to go to the Fall Festival.”  And so we did.

First we visited the “bouncey house” (I don’t know what it’s really called.) and let her bounce out some of her pent-up energy.  She had sat for a long time.

OK, I looked it up.  It’s called an inflatable bounce house.  I like my version better.  🙂

We got her a purple balloon dog on an orange leash.  Then a couple of sparkle tattoos.  She had an Italian ice.  I passed.  She painted a face on a pumpkin, but we forgot to go back and get it after the paint had dried.  I thought of it later but didn’t mention it to her; didn’t want to ruin our wonderful day.  I wonder if she’s remembered yet.

We visited the petting zoo twice.  Stella was fearless around the animals, but she confessed to me that she was a little scared of the goose.  It was a beautiful goose with curly feathers.  Someone commented that she looked like a bride in all her finery.  Her honk was the loudest I’ve ever heard.  I can see why it scared Stella.

Stella’s favorite was one of the rabbits.  She said its fur felt like Lulu’s.  She sat down beside the rabbit cage and put her hand through the wire and stroked the little captive for a long time.

I’ve been thinking about the petting zoo today.  If Susannah had been with us, I know what she would have done.  She would have been very vocal about the poor conditions the animals live in, and about the obvious inadequacies in their care.  She has a huge heart for animals and people, especially when she sees them being mistreated.

I’m not going to enumerate the problems I saw simply because this is about a happy day with my little girl.  And it was a happy day!

See Stella’s beautiful finished rainbow bird feeder below. 


A tiny speck…

I’m concentrating on staying healthy, having peace, being happy, remembering what is important, taking in nature and animals, spending time reading, trying to understand the universe where science and the spiritual meet. ~ Joan Jett

This NASA photo of earth strikes awe and wonder in me every time I see it.  It seems appropriate to put it in a post and ponder its (in)significance and mine in the grand scheme of things.

It’s sobering to contemplate my smallness in the big picture.  I look at this globe and find the approximate spot I occupy on it, and it’s a little scary.  I mean, if earth is a tiny speck in the observable universe, and the universe goes on and on ad infinitum, and I’m a tiny speck on the planet; then my sum total is less than a grain of sand.

There are hypotheses that suggest that beyond our universe, there are other universes.  (Wikipedia)  I asked one of my teenagers, “What is the universe?”  She responded without hesitation, “It’s everything.”  This particular granddaughter is a woman of few words and I like that about her.  I also like her answer.  So if the universe is everything, how can there be other universes?  A better question would be, “Who cares?”  Or better yet, “How did I get myself into this deep line of questioning, and how the heck do I get out?”

I back up and I look at this remarkable picture and appreciate it for its aesthetic qualities.  It’s a work of art!  Focusing on how tiny I am does not serve me well.  Since my divorce I have felt way too small already.  I must not exacerbate the problem by comparing myself to a grain of sand.  I’m a work of art, too.  So are you.  I hope you feel like one.

So…from serious Joan Jett to fun-loving rocker Joan Jett, let’s dance and enjoy this  moment.

“I love Rock and Roll” by Joan Jett


Hanging out at the garage.

Environmentalists have a very conflicted relationship with their cars. ~ Tom Arnold

I think I have one of those faces.  I’m not sure what it is.  Do I look friendly?  Do I look like everyone’s grandma?  Maybe I appear to be interested in what strangers have to say.  Do I look lonely, so they want to cheer me?  Perhaps they are lonely and need to talk, to share.  I’m sure I look fairly non-threatening.  In fact, I used to wish I were taller and bigger so I could threaten the occasional uncooperative student.  Since I had neither heft nor height, I had to put on my pleasant face and figure out creative ways to discipline.  Apparently that face has stayed with me.

So, what the heck am I talking about?!

I’m here at the Honda dealership for my routine maintenance and service.  My “caregiver” for the job today is Dave.  In these large garages, car service is “like a box of chocolates.”  I never know what I’ll get.  Some are grumpy.  Some are super-efficient, no-nonsense.  Some try too hard to be funny.  And then there’s Dave.

I think Honda service is Dave’s day job.  His other job is preacher/pastor.  His wife is an assistant principal at a school one county over.  She’s working toward a Ph.D.  She has several years before retirement.  The advanced degree will increase her current salary, and then her retirement benefits.

Dave and his wife celebrated their 20th anniversary recently and intend to grow old together.  He thinks they will make it because “God has his hand on” their marriage.  That means no man, nor woman, will be able to destroy it.  (Or “put it asunder” as Preacher Dave told me.)

Isn’t it shocking how much one can learn about a Dave in a five-minute check-in?  As I sit here in this state-of-the-art waiting room, looking at a grand and beautiful aquarium, I’m thinking maybe I should go find Dave before I check out and ask whether he has children and how Mama’s doing.

Oh, yeah, and why didn’t he invite me to his church?  I thought all preachers did that.  Maybe it was because I momentarily went on defense and told him I have a church already.  Am I sounding cynical?  I don’t mean to be a cynic, but I’ve learned that some over-zealous types can get pushy.  I didn’t want that.  Then our friendly tête-à-tête might have become not so friendly.

After about forty-five minutes, Dave quietly interrupted my writing to tell me my car needed clean power-steering fluid.  What?  I’ve never heard of it.  All I know about cars fits in a thimble.  He explained it to me.  Told me he could give me a discount because I’m a retired teacher.  Sweet.  I gave the go-ahead.

About twenty minutes later Preacher Dave came to tell me my car was ready.  I told him I had checked out power-steering fluid on the internet.  He smiled, raised an eyebrow, and inquired, “And…?”  I told him, “And… you were right, it did need to be changed.”  He said, “I wouldn’t mislead you, Ms. Patricia.  I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I did that.”

I believe him.  And it wasn’t my face after all.