Saturday, November 29, 2008

Farmer's Market - the Real Deal

I'm still up in the hinterlands. Bro #2 and I will head back to Villa DeCay this evening, hopefully well ahead of the first snowstorm of the season. (Or so the Weather Hysterics have led us to believe.)

First stop today is the Farmer's Market. My city is about ten times the size of my home town, but has nothing even comparable. I'm trying to be a locavore, but it's nearly impossible without a good Farmer's Market. Whenever I'm back for a visit, I go overboard at this excellent market, in business for 70-80 years.

There are always things I love, things I've never seen, things I want to try. Besides all the fresh, local produce, there is a nice selection of homemade crafts, and locally made items such as jams, cheeses, and baked goods. I got a recipe there for a zucchini pie (yes!) that is just out of this world, and no one believes the main ingredient is zucchini. It's the only place I know where I can buy a dozen homemade keiflies, an almost unbearably rich Polish pastry. I love buying and trying new jams and butters: homemade pumpkin butter, tomato preserves, hot pepper jelly.

And it's my last opportunity to buy a Rosemary plant. Every year, I bring my delicate Rosemary inside, and every year, it survives the winter, only to die a week or so before the last frost. So the Thanksgiving trip always includes the purchase of 2-3 Rosemary plants, to keep in reserve. Fickle, fickle, sit on a pickle. From the Farmer's Market, of course!

Friday, November 28, 2008

You Are Rich If...

  • you have a warm, safe place to go
  • you have people there who will welcome you and who care about you.
  • there is food on the table, maybe even enough for second helpings
  • you can reciprocate, and sometimes cook and share a meal with others
  • you have a clean, warm place to sleep at night
  • you can read
  • you can keep yourself clean, and wash your clothes regularly
  • your have friends and family who will provide help whenever you need it
  • you enjoy general good health and mobility; or even if you have a few aches and pains, they're manageable
  • you are mentally alert and aware
  • you have good dental health, including regular cleanings and the ability to take care of any problems
  • you have leisure time, and can pursue hobbies and develop interests
  • you have a means of transportation at your disposal

Think of all the things that might have distressed you the last week. Was it traffic? Finances? Family squabbles? Job pressures?

There's a world full of people who don't have a warm, safe, clean place to sleep or know where there next meal is coming from, or if there will be a next meal. Who think having a change of clothes would be an almost unimaginable luxury. I'm not saying that your problems and pressures aren't very real, and very troubling. But every once in a while, take a step back and view them as one element of The Big Picture.

Would most of the world trade their problems for yours in a heartbeat?

It's so easy to lose perspective and indulge in self pity, but most Americans enjoy comfort and a standard of living beyond compare. So join me in celebrating our wealth. Have compassion, take pity on the kings and queens, titans and tycoons, all the poor slobs who have only money.

(ADDENDUM: You are also rich if you are lucky enough to share your life and home with one or more of the furry critters we call "pets." Clever you, enjoying unconditional love, loyalty and affection, every single day.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Go See...

Separated at Birth? - funny photo comparisons
WalMart Bingo - I'm ashamed of myself for laughing (only a little)
Pop-Up Cards - How to, from simple to advanced

Over the River and Through the Woods

For the last several years, we have given my mom the option of moving the Thanksgiving feast to Brother #1's house. But each year, Mom chooses to host the starving masses. As long as she is willing and able, we are happy to oblige. I hope you know, Mom, that you can pass the baton, or the drumstick, whenever you want.

It's a little bit less work now that Bro #1 also makes the turkey and brings it in from Chicago. He cooks it on his Weber grill, and let me tell you, it is probably the best turkey this side of Mars. I don't know how they manage to resist pulling over and attacking it; the turkey actually makes it all the way. It's like a Thanksgiving Miracle.

Bro #2 is in town. He arrived yesterday, and tomorrow we will drive together up to the hinterlands for Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, my talented, handy, patient Bro #2 is slowly working his way through a considerable "honey do" list. That's my Thanksgiving Miracle.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Lot of Wine & A Little Goading = ...?

As questionable as my taste in men may have been over the years, that's how good my taste in friends is. Somehow I have managed to fill my life with truly outstanding individuals. Not just garden variety nice folk, but really exceptional friends.

Two years ago, one of those friends underwent surgery that was really going to debilitate her for several months. She's a fellow single; not many of us around at this age! Those of you with spouses and children probably don't realize what a terror it is for us old girls, not just to be ill, but also helpless and immobile. I felt a special obligation to be as helpful as I possibly could, because I could imagine myself in the same situation. For the better part of those 8-10 weeks, I made every effort to help her with anything she needed, and in word and deed, she expressed her gratitude. Our friendship deepened considerably.

Of course, I never imagined the roadblocks and detours that were waiting for me. Now, for the better part of a year, this same friend has returned the favors tenfold. On the rare occasions that I've asked for help (y'all have become so adept at anticipating my needs), she is always the first to volunteer, always with a smile, without a hint of impatience. She is one of the most big-hearted people I know, and I know a lot of kind people.

One evening a few weeks back, after a lot of wine and a little goading by her girlfriends, she was persuaded to join one of the dating websites. Then she gathered her courage and responded to someone who sounded interesting. And this delightful friend has met a terrific man who really seems to appreciate her. They're only a month or so into dating, but so far, no sirens or alarms. It couldn't happen to a nicer girl, and I'm so happy for her.

I hope, as this romance unfolds and they get to know each other better, that he really is as great as he seems, and worthy of her. But if he's not, if he hurts her, even inadvertently, I will hunt him down like a dog and make sure he experiences great pain, too.

And this all got me thinking about my possibilities, too. Although I haven't dated for a long time, I also haven't completely ruled out the chance that I could still meet mybeshert.” But, since my diagnosis, I have not met another single MM patient. Everyone in my support group is married; I think all of my internet MM pals are married, too. So... putting the cart miles ahead of the horse here... I wondered, how and when would I tell a potential beau about my MM? As soon as possible? As late as possible? And how exactly would that explanation be worded? Am I damaged goods? Should I just give up that flicker of hope? How would I feel if the roles were reversed?

So far, I only have questions.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Food No-Nos

My SCT handbook has post-transplant activity and nutrition guidelines ("Neutropenic Diet for Autologus Patients After Discharge"). Supernurse G said they're not carved in stone, just suggestions, but honestly... why go through all this and then take any unnecessary changes?

Among the food NoNos:

  • Any unpasteurized or raw cheese, milk or yogurt products; cheese that contains chili peppers or other uncooked vegetables; cheese with mold (Bleu, Stilton, gorgonzola, etc.); sharp cheddar, brie, camembert, feta
  • Raw or undercooked meat, poultry, fish, game, tofu or eggs; meats and cold cuts from delicatessens; hard cured salami; cold smoked salmon or lox; pickled fish; tempe or tempe products; all miso products
  • Unroasted raw nuts; roasted nuts in the shell; unwashed raw fruits; unpasteurized fruit or vegetable juices
  • Unwashed raw vegetables or herbs; raw vegetable sprouts; raw mushrooms; salads from delis; refrigerator-case commercial salsas
  • Raw grain products (I don't think I even know what these are); patients should not make mix or knead any product containing yeast
  • Well water (unless tested yearly and found to be free of coliforms); cold-brewed tea
  • Unrefrigerated cream-filled pastry products
  • Fresh salad dressings containing aged cheese (Bleu, Roquefort, etc.) or raw eggs
  • Raw or non-treated honey or honey in the comb; herbal and nutrient supplement preparations; brewer's yeast, if uncooked
It is also suggested patients who don't have a dishwasher rinse cleaned dishes with 1/2 ounce chlorine leach per 1 gallon of hot rinse water, and allow dishes to air dry.

So far, I've done pretty well. I've blown it with the cheese: I've had both hot pepper jack cheese and brie. This is a quality of life issue; I don't want to live in a world without brie.

The Activity No-Nos

The same caveat from my team: these are guidelines. The list starts with a slew of rules for port care. Thank goddess that no longer applies. With very few exceptions -- pets & houseplants -- I consider these carved in granite. Again, why take chances?

  • Wash your hands before and after every meal, and before and after using the bathroom
  • Brush teeth after each meal and at bedtime
  • Wear your mask in the hospital and at the doctor's office
  • Avoid crowded places
  • Avoid anyone who is sick. If a person in your household gets sick, avoid close contact and wash hands frequently
  • If you have a pet, discuss this with your BMT physician
  • Do not clean attics or basements or any areas with a lot of dust
  • No gardening or raking
  • Avoid construction areas, direct contact with pesticides, solvents, paint, strong chemicals and fertilizers as they may suppress your immune system
  • Avoid standing water like ponds and lakes
  • Do not sunbathe
  • Take naps as needed. Do not stay in bed unless you plan to sleep.
  • Avoid well water.
  • Do not sit in hot tubs.
  • Restrictions are based on recovery of your immune system. Remember that recovery of your immune system will take longer than recover of your WBC and AGC. Your doctor will tell you when some of these restrictions can be discontinued

There are a few others about returning to work (ha) and sexual activity (if only). The caution about pets is really a concern about handling pet poo. We're not supposed to clean a litterbox, pick up doggy doo, etc. I bend this rule when I walk Miss Molly, but I'm usually wearing my mask or a scarf across my face.

And while I don't stay in bed, or go back to bed, I do take a lot of naps. It's one of the few things I do really well.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Big C Update

Yesterday was my transplantiversary: two months! I think I'm doing fairly well, but I don't have the specifics from last week's blood tests to confirm it. However, I'm sure I would have heard if something was seriously out of whack.

I'm still surprised at the scope of side effects from the superdose of Chemo (Melphalan) that is the first step of the transplant: fever, chills, body aches, back pain, easy bruising/bleeding, nausea, hair loss, breathing problems, confusion, weakness. Thankfully, I've only experienced a few of these. And I had a wonky body thermostat even before the Chemo. So my 60-second "power surges" are far preferable to the night sweats I had last spring, when I thought there was a very real danger of going up in flames.

But I'm experiencing some bone pain and muscle cramps that are strong enough to wake me up several times a night. And I'm having severe numbness/tingling in my arms and hands. It often feels like my hand "fell asleep" from lack of circulation, but it's the hurty kind, and it takes a long time to go away – sometimes more than a day. I'm taking magnesium 2x/day, which is supposed to relieve some of that.

The confusion/fatigue continues. I don't really see much improvement there, but I am discovering some troubling -- and some amusing -- aspects. I seem to have hidden my only piece of “real” jewelry, prior to my hospital stay. I hid it so brilliantly that I have absolutely no idea where it might be. Not a clue. I threw away my favorite eyeliner. Now, I remember doing this. The confusion is, why in the @!# did I do that?? I accidentally gave my almost-brand-new electric blanket to charity. And there are a hundred little episodes of setting something down, or sticking it in a drawer, and suddenly it is lost forever. Chris printed a stack of Rx charts for me last Friday. They have vaporized, and I'm too embarrassed to ask for another stack. Eyeglasses, fuzzy socks, spare car keys - poof! I must have gremlins, or a whole colony of Borrowers... or Chemo Brain.

I am definitely experiencing the frustration I was warned about. It seems as if I should be much further along, at least energy-wise. And now that the truly cold winter weather has arrived, I can do very little walking outside. I will have to become one of those mall walkers or something. Yeesh.

Follicle follies: Arm hair and leg hair are all gone. Eyelashes, eyebrows and ...other hair... more than half gone. On top, there is peach fuzz, there is definitely peach fuzz. However, the shedding also continues. I guess I will just reach a stage where it is coming in faster than it is falling out. Meanwhile, at least my head no longer resembles a baby's butt. Unless you have a really scary baby.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Martian Child

I'm pleased to put my crankyness on a shelf long enough to offer a rave review. Recently, I had the pleasure of watching The Martian Child, starring John Cusack.

Caveats: I'm a big John Cusack fan (Joan, too) and that probably added to my enjoyment of this sweet, gentle movie. And in the interest of sanitizing the story for broader appeal, the son's earlier abuse and the father's homosexuality were omitted. Too bad, it might have made the story more interesting. Now, on to the raving.

Everyone at one time or another has felt that heartbreaking loneliness of being a weirdo, not fitting in, being too different. This is a story about a science fiction writer, David, who has become a very lonely widower. He remembers being the kid who didn't fit in, and when he decides he's ready to love again, David sets out to adopt a kid who shares those same oddball qualities. It's a very rocky road as they first study each other from a somewhat detached, scientific standpoint, then slowly learn how to open their hearts to each other. The best parent in the world (by birth or adoption) is one who loves us not despite our weirdness, but because of it.

I enjoyed one of the Extra Features as much as the movie: an interview with author David Gerrold. The story was based on his real-life experience adopting his son, now an adult who also offers a few comments. Their bond is evident, and it is clear that they saved each other. If you want a good story without violence, sex or profanity, here's a contender.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gone But Not Forgotten

My friend and neighbor Susie passed away two years ago. Another tragic case of misdiagnosis: after more than a year of strange, seemingly unconnected symptoms, she finally found out she had cancer. And she died ten days later.

Susie was an odd, sad, lonely person, but very kind and big-hearted. The first year I lived here, we discovered our birthdays were a week apart (in May), and every year we traded birthday gifts in addition to holiday gifts.

She was a much better gift-giver than I was; after she died, we found most of my gifts to her still in their original bags or packaging. I, on the other hand, have used and enjoyed virtually all the gifts she gave to me. This heating pad is one of my favorites. It's about ten years old now, I guess, but I put it in the microwave for 2-3 minutes and it's just about the only thing that relieves my back pain. It's not electric; I don't have to worry about burning down the house. I've learned not to over-heat it. And I think it's the best heating pad in the world.

Susie was also a huge gadget-hound. She had every imaginable tool and gizmo and gadget. I teased her about it all the time... and yet, she never hesitated to lend them to me!

After she died, I (along with her brother and her only other friend) discovered that she wasn't just quirky or idiosyncratic; she was profoundly mentally ill. I suppose a professional would call her "high functioning" or something, because I can honestly say we had no clue about the scope and depth of her problems.

Because I seem to use her wonderful, clever gifts so often, I think of her almost every day. I don't know if there's any kind of afterlife, or any kind of connection between that world and this one. But I think I learned some important lessons from Susie, just in time to do me some good. I hope she has some way of knowing that, and that I'm grateful, and that I miss her.

Angels with Feather Dusters

There was a knock at my door at 8:30 this morning. I had just finished getting dressed and making my bed. (Mom, I'm sorry it took me 100 years to get in the habit of making my bed. It takes two minutes, and there are so many good reasons for doing it.) I grabbed one of my new hats and was glad that I was at least presentable and able to answer the door.

Surprise! It was the house cleaners from Cleaning for a Reason. My chemo-addled brain completely forgot about my appointment, even though it was written in my calendar. There were two house cleaners, a young man and an older woman. Between my cold and my achin' back, I really haven't done much around here besides make my bed. So there was plenty for them to do, and they cleaned for about an hour and a half. I was afraid to move after they left. Like the Peanuts character PigPen, somehow chaos and messyness just surround me. They cleaned the floors, they cleaned under things and behind things, not just my weekly token swipe at dirt and dust.

Of all the wonderful things I've experienced since my diagnosis, this has got to be in the top three. I'm so grateful one of the social workers at the hospital thought to mention this program to me. If you find a few extra bucks available for a charitable donation, here's an organization that really makes a huge impact in the lives of cancer patients.

Just before they left, the woman reminded me I get two more free cleanings, and suggested I think about any special project I might want them to tackle. "Like your kitchen..." she grimaced, insinuating that a team of cleaners could spend a week in there. (Yes, I know, but I think it's important to present my immune system with some real challenges.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What Cancer Cannot Do

(Source unknown)

Cancer is so limited . . .
It cannot cripple love,
It cannot shatter hope,
It cannot corrode faith,
It cannot destroy peace,
It cannot kill friendship,
It cannot suppress memories,
It cannot silence courage,
It cannot invade the soul,
It cannot conquer the spirit.

An Auspicious Beginning (Beshert)

The Yiddish word beshert means destined, or fated to be. Mom believes that meeting my dad was beshert.

The story goes that Mom (C) went to a frat house to return a borrowed book. Returning after a baseball game, Dad (E) screeched to a halt as violins were heard in the distance, and hummingbirds and butterflies flew overhead.

E accepted the book on his frat brother's behalf, then inquired how C was getting home. "Oh, I'm taking the bus," she replied. E saw his chance: "Wait right here a minute," he said, "and I'll give you a ride." He took a twelve-second shower, changed into clean clothes and bounded back down the stairs.

And he gave her a the bus stop!

Oh, my poor Dad has endured some teasing about this over the years, as you might imagine. But the truth is -- and he's never offered this in his own defense -- I'm sure the truth is that Dad was very much a gentleman, and he simply didn't want to ruin his chances with her by being too "forward."

And Mom...why did she go out with him after that? "Oh, I thought he was so cute and had such a good sense of humor!" Yes, it's true, fellas: we all want a guy who can make us laugh.

E wasted no time pursuing C. Parents were met, approvals were granted. E and C were engaged two months after they met, then married two months later. So it was a bit of a whirlwind romance, certainly by today's standards.

And if she'd if she'd borrowed the book from a different student... or if she'd returned the book ten minutes earlier or ten minutes later... or if Dad's game had gone into extra innings... who knows? But it was beshert.

Last month, they celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Count Your Garden by the Flowers

Author Unknown

Count your garden by the flowers,
Never by the leaves that fall.
Count your days by golden hours,
Don't remember clouds at all.

Count your nights by stars, not shadows.
Count your years with smiles, not tears.
Count your blessings, not your troubles.
Count your age by friends, not years.

Humble Pie a la Mode

I had a good laugh over this picture. My date -- we'll call him Norbert -- invited me to an awards dinner, a fancy-shmancy hullabaloo. Norbert was a bit of a sanctimonious, self-righteous jerk. (In hindsight, I see that we had that in common.) I know we dated on and off for at least a year, because I went to this shindig twice with him.

This was almost 20 years ago, and I was already becoming dress-resistant. I bought this jumpsuit (yes, it was a jumpsuit) for the occasion because it seemed formal enough. But honestly, the real reason is it was a size 5, and I was awfully smug about being 30-something and still fitting into a size 5.

Yeah, life had a big slice of humble pie in store for me.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Movies, Mysteries, Medicines

I'm horribly sick, and horribly proud of myself for keeping it to myself. I missed Dougie's soirée on Saturday night, and the chance to see his new digs and meet his three new (kitty) roommates, and to ride down and back on the Hoodie Bus with a designated driver. I frequently complain about those miserable, rotten people who can't stay home when they're sick; they insist on going to work, school, shopping, etc. And what do they do? They make the rest of US sick! Selfish bastids. And so, filing this under Practicing What I Preach, I stayed home and kept my germs under quarantine. Yay, me. (I'm not really horribly sick; I'm a little sick and horribly pathetic.)

So it was a movie-watchin', book-readin' kind of weekend. I watched the 2007 Academy Award Nominated Short Films, both animated and live action. Except for the first one, At Night, about a cancer ward (oh, those wacky Scandinavians. What's more fun than a cancer ward? Dysfunctional families and suicide!), I really enjoyed all the live action stories. They are funny and charming and fast. I'm sure it's a real challenge to the directors to tell their stories in 10-15 minutes. The first two animated movies were so bad I just skipped the rest of them.

I watched Arranged, a mostly sweet Chick Flick about a developing friendship between two young public school teachers in New York City. They lost me, however, in the very last scene. It didn't exactly ruin the whole movie, but it was a real clunker of an ending. Then I watched In The Land of Women, in which a supposed writer of soft porn films moves in with his grandma to help heal his broken heart, and gets drawn into the lives of the women who live across the street. I wanted to fall back in like with Meg Ryan, but this movie never got me there. In fact, her "trout pout" lips were so flappy, she often sounded like she had a speech impediment. Olympia Dukakis as the wacky, forgetful granny was more of a caricature; what a waste of talent. I think my lesson was to read at least a couple of reviews before adding a movie to my queue.

And now the raves: I'm hip deep in Janet Evanovich's "Lean Mean Thirteen," with bounty hunter Stephanie Plum at the helm. This one is even funnier than usual; the put-it-down-and-laugh-for-awhile kind of funny. With the usual irresistible cast, Stephanie is trying to find a lowlife who leaves a 20-foot snake to guard his trailer, and a taxidermist who's planting bombs in his projects, while Stephanie herself becomes a suspect in the disappearance of her ex-husband. Like McCall-Smith, Evanovich always leaves me wanting more, more. (Especially more of Steph's boyfriend Joe, and boyfriend wanna-be, Ranger. Sizzlin', those two.)

A call to my doc has me on antibiotics as a precaution. The big guns, which will probably give me ear infections, eye infections, girly bits infections. Yeah, love those broad-spectrum jobbies. But since I've gotten worse every day, I figure my traumatized little immune system is just not up to the task right now. With regards to antibiotics, my motto was always "don't use a cannon if a slingshot will work." In other words, don't use the expensive, new antibiotics if a little generic E-mycin would do the trick. I'll probably be needing those cannons for a long time.

Sit! Stay! Good Puppy...

Copyright Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Obama hasn't even been inaugurated yet and he's already being blamed for everything, including the fragile, fickle economy. I just can't see how Obama will be able to "reverse the Titanic" in just four years. The Congresspigs would have to realize that they, too, have a chance to be part of a history-making agenda and restore much of what was once right with America. We might repair our badly tarnished image and be seen once again as a leader, a defender of just causes, and not just the world's loudmouth bully.

The Congresspigs would have to want that more than they want to continue stuffing themselves at the public trough. They would have to put the public interests ahead of their own. I don't know if I've ever seen that in my lifetime.

It saddens me that Obama is almost certain to be a one-term president. I hope I'm wrong. Barack Obama has already exceeded everyone's expectations, so chances are good that I am wrong. Wouldn't be the first time.

(The best of Designers for Obama here.)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Bus Leaves Without Me

Once upon a time, there was a foolish Hoodie who moved away. Maybe not foolish, exactly, but we sure haven't been able to figure out why he did such a thing. Former Hoodie Doug missed our BS so much, a few weeks ago he invited us all over for supper on the 15th.

It's enough of a shlep that Nick arranged to borrow, as he calls it, "the short bus," so everyone could all ride down and back in one vehicle -- planet friendly, and only one Designated Driver required. But today was the day that my week's worth of sniffles finally manifested into a full-blown cold. I spent all day trying to convince myself that I felt better, but it was for naught. I'm SICK. I knew this morning that I would have to miss the dinner. (I'm less than 8 weeks post-transplant, so even a cold is a scary development.)

I had called dibs on dessert right away, so today made my first pecan pie. I can't vouch for its flavor (yet) but it was a thing of beauty, with its shiny concentric circles of extra-large pecan halves. I arranged for the bus to stop here, but I stayed and the pie went.

Tomorrow, I hope to get good reviews on the pie. But tonight, I have a full evening planned, what with watching Shrek again, and feeling sorry for myself.

Dreams Die Hard

If you missed it, Margaret told me the luxurious villa right next to George Clooney is available... for $85,050 a week! Holy guacamole, $85K a week? Even with my million, that would only give three months. I'm devastated (and George would be, too, if he had any idea.)

You're right, Margaret, it is time for Plan B. Not sure exactly what that is yet, but it may involve something that could be construed as stalking, in which case I'd better hold something back for the Bail Fund...

By the way, $85K is more than I paid for Villa DeCay, which is also waterfront property!

UPDATE: Okay, I've had a look, and Villa Vincenzo is probably worth it. So if you would all just send me $10,000 or more, close your eyes, and click your heels together three times... you can make a poor cancer patient's dream come true, not to mention George Clooney's!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Spending My Million

You know, it's not like one of those $100 million lottery jackpots. A million doesn't go as far as it used to, so you need to have a plan. Here's mine; at least, Phase I.

First, I'll give significant chunks to some of my favorite nonprofits: Human and Animal Welfare Societies, Planned Parenthood, Medical Students for Choice, maybe a veteran's advocacy group, maybe a college scholarship for public school teachers.

Then I'll buy a dozen or so new cars: my immediate family, Supergirls #1 and #2, and yes, Joyce and Susan, you're on the list. College funds for Supergirls #3 and 4. Oh, I know: they'll all have their own million bucks, too. But this is something that I would still like to do for them. I'd remodel Villa DeCay, sell it, and buy something much nicer, still here in the 'hood, of course. That will be my summer home. I'll buy a winter home in Austin. (I'm tempted to get a New York City apartment, too, but it makes more sense to just stay in a fabulous hotel when I visit.)

That's all pretty mundane, right? I'll be doing quite a bit of traveling, of course. I thought about an apartment in Paris, but for a nice flat, I'd have to blow the whole million. Whereas, I could probably rent a darned nice place for... oh, let's say $4 grand/month. A whole year - less than $50,000. Or... maybe I could rent the villa next to George Clooney on Lake Como. It would be really convenient to be able to just pop over and borrow a cup of hot sex now and then. Margaret, can I get a nice palazzo for $4 grand/month?

Oh, hell, for George, I'd double the budget.

What about you? Got a plan for your million?

The New Jackie O?

The last time we had a vibrant young couple in the White House was also the last time my state voted for the Democratic candidate. Yes, it was a long time ago.

Jackie O (still Jackie Kennedy then) was a style icon, and American women were delighted to have someone youthful and hip to set the trends. Although I haven't worn a skirt in a century or so, I can appreciate the classic cut. Here are Ma & Pa, (circa 1966?,) Ma in the hot look of the day: the Jackie K. suit and the "bubble" bouffant hairdo. I doubt that the bubble 'do will ever return – it involved some very time-consuming styling, not to mention poisoning the ozone with truckloads of hairspray – but I think the little suits are still chic.

I don't know if Michelle Obama will be as much of a trendsetter, if only because she's extremely thin and 6' tall. But it will be fun to see what kind of choices she'll make for herself, and for her daughters.

And hey, Mom, great gams!

Go See...

The Eyeballing Game - test your accuracy!
Treeshapers - not a hobby for the impatient
300 Million Americans - check out prices and stats below
Oopsy Pics - guaranteed to make you feel better about your day

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


by Countee Cullen

Once riding in old Baltimore,
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me.

Now I was eight and very small,
And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
His tongue, and called me, "Nigger."

I saw the whole of Baltimore
From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
That's all that I remember.

I happened upon this poem not too long ago, and thought of it, of course, in respect to the President-Elect. This is one of the few poems that, although written in 1925, is still relevant and moving. As this epithet becomes less and less acceptable, its use makes it more shocking. The poem’s conclusion is heartbreaking, especially imagining the author as an eight-year old child. Ironically, Cullen did not want to be considered or referred to as “a Black poet” but this is his most well-known poem.
(Countee Cullen biography here)

Redefining "Chutzpah"

The old joke is that the definition of chutzpah (nerve or audacity) is the man who kills his parents, then begs the judge for mercy because he is an orphan. Dubya is already carving a similar path. Today, he admitted he regretted using the "Mission Accomplished" banner, because he now realizes it was misleading.

Nov. 12 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush said he regrets the display of the "Mission Accomplished" sign as backdrop for a speech he gave about a month after the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

"To some, it said, well, `Bush thinks the war in Iraq is over,' when I didn't think that,'' he said in a CNN interview today. "It conveyed the wrong message.''

... "I regret saying some things I shouldn't have said,'' Bush said.
Umm... what was the message you were trying to convey? What mission did you think was accomplished? He never shares that, at least not in this interview.

She's got legs

"The world's smallest man, He Pingping, and the woman with the longest legs, Svetlana Pankratova, met at the 2009 Guiness World Records book launch."

Ms. Pankratova's legs are 52 inches long. Her LEGS! Since last year's spine crunch, I am 59 inches tall. I am 7 inches taller than her legs. And I'm not even the shortest woman in my family. The article doesn't say how tall Ms. Pankratova is, although if she held a record, I'm sure it would have been mentioned. I'm surprised her knees aren't black & blue. She must bang them into things constantly

Mr. Pingping actually holds two records: smallest man in the world, and cutest name in the world. And judging from this picture, he seems like a good sport. I'm seriously considering moving to China and marrying him, just so I could be La Cootina Pingping.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


I can't remember where I first heard this idea (Chemo Brain! Chemo Brain!),maybe the girls on The View? or maybe I just dreamed it, but I think it's brilliant: Instead of the $700 Billion-with-a-B Bailout for the fatcat Titans of Industry, let's try this: There are just about 300 million Americans, so let's give every American one million dollars. We'll figure out the logistics later.

Here's the reasoning: if you get that money in the hands of consumers, we will pay off our mortgages and car loans, and that should help out the banks. We will buy new cars and lots of consumer goods, and that will help out both retail and manufacturing. We will probably buy some new homes and second homes; that should rescue the housing market. We may even put some into savings! That might ease some of the burden on Social Security. And we won't be adding to the massive debt load our grandchildren will inherit.

All of this for less than 5% of the original figure.

Oh, sure, some people will spend it on drugs, and maybe kill themselves. That's just Darwinism in a compressed time frame, isn't it? Some people will still manage to burn through it in a month, maybe by gambling, or foolish ventures. Well, that'll just be too bad: there are no do-overs. (On the off chance that anyone's taking this seriously, we should at least make available some kind of 1-hour "How to Not be an Idiot with your Windfall" seminar.)

Copyright Chattanooga Times Free Press

We couldn't do any worse than the proposed bailout, which will allow CEOs and other executives to give themselves huge bonuses with this money. There are virtually no restrictions on their handout. I say give the American consumer the same shot. Write to President-Elect Obama and ask him what he thinks of the idea.

Other than cheating the Congresspigs and their lobbying whores out of another big party, I can't see what's wrong with the plan. If it fails, we can still try a $699.7-Billion-with-a-B Bailout, but I sure would rather try it first.

Monday, November 10, 2008

How's That Working Out For Ya?

Follicle Follies: I think I'm still in the falling-out phase so I'm not completely hysterical yet...but my hair seems to be growing in back, and a little bit on the sides. I'm completely bald on top, in front, and on the upper sides.

In other words, yes, put a moustache on and I'm a Dr. Phil Mini-Me.

Baggy Pants and No Static Cling

It's officially The Changing of the Seasons here at the Villa. This involves two projects: the Switching of the Wardrobes, and the Cleaning of the Humidifier.

The Switching of the Wardrobes isn't going to be too bad this year. Last spring, I found that most of the previous year's spring/summer clothes were too big. It's been a long time since I had that problem; for the last decade or so, my weight seemed to go in the other direction despite all my best efforts. So I had a lot of comfortable, loose-fitting clothes, they were just a little looser. This summer, in between tantrums at the food stamp office and sofa surfing, I managed to work in a few thrift shop excursions. My focus was PJs for the hospital stay, and a few pairs of pants/jeans. Good thing: the pants I bought are already a little loose, but I think they will get me through the winter.

The Cleaning of the Humidifier is next. This would be a much easier chore if, at the end of each season, I emptied and rinsed it out. And every year, I swear I'm going to do it...Yeah, haven't managed even once. Last fall I imposed on Bro #1, who had come for a visit. And I seriously thought about waiting 2-3 weeks, when Bro #2 will be here...but I'm already waking up with that choking-on-a-dustball feeling. I have a dry, dry nose; I can already feel static electricity in the air. So I'm going to practice Not Being a Whiny Crybaby, and clean it myself, or at least give it a shot.

I wuv my humidifier, I sparkly pink heart my humidifier. It's a Sears floor model that Bro #1 and S-I-L sent when I first bought the house, and it was not brand new then, so it's got to be close to two decades old. I coddle it back to life every year. When it needed a part -- a belt -- a few years ago, I actually found a schematic of this model on the Sears website and was able to order the part. I was awfully impressed with Sears... and with myself! And at least once or twice a year, I will shop at Sears while I'm picking up a new filter.

I think some of this comes from Grandpa Harold who, in his entire life, owned four cars. (I think he owned each for an average of 15 years.) He even had a car on blocks for years through WWII. When he could finally get parts and tires again, he meticulously, methodically, put it all back together and brought the car back to life, to the amazement of friends and family. He drove it for many more years.

If something is made well, and it's taken care of, I think it should run forever. My sewing machine is close to 60 years old. I had a 13" black & white tv for 20+ years. It finally went to appliance heaven, and ever since, I've had to buy tvs about every 2-3 years. And I recently, regretfully, gave up a 40+year-old Hoover vacuum. I could have had it serviced again, but it weighs more than a Buick, and I was persuaded that it was time for it to find a new home. (I hope my folks really did take it to Goodwill, and didn't heave it into some dumpster when no one was looking...)

They don't make 'em like they used to. I think I'll be lucky if the new vacuum lasts five years. Manufacturers realized that building things cheaply not only increased their profits, it guaranteed future sales when the item irreparably broke down -- and spawned the phrase "planned obsolescence." Wouldn't it be nice if, in the name of environmentalism or anything else, manufacturers of cars and appliances started taking pride in their products' durability and reliability?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Four Generations

There are some disadvantages to being the oldest child: high expectations, responsibility for younger siblings, etc. But mostly there are advantages. (Don't argue with us; you're outnumbered.) And those include being able to meet a great-grandparent. Bro #1 had that privilege; the last "great" of our generation died the year I was born so I didn't get to meet him. And here, Bro #1 is pictured with Dad, Grandpa K., and his firstborn, Supergirl #1.

SG#1 set the bar pretty high for those who followed. She is smart, funny, kind, thoughtful... very super in every way. Today is her birthday. I will be hunting for that adorable baby picture I know is around here somewhere. Meanwhile, Happy Birthday!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Literary Jewels

I couldn't read while I was in the hospital, or for the first few weeks at home. I've finally got enough functioning brain cells to read again; how I've missed it.

Grandma Flo had a button box that, to me, was as good as any jewelry box on the planet. There were a few exotic carved wooden buttons, beautiful rhinestone buttons, some irridescent pearl and abalone buttons. And there was a pair of fabulous bakelite buttons that looked like little pineapple upside-down cakes. I never tired of playing with them; it was a thrill every time I opened the button box.

I feel that way about Alexander McCall Smith's books. I always know I'm in for a good read and he's never let me down. There are eight books in The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series. I just finished the sixth, "In the Company of Cheerful Ladies," and each one is more charming than the last. They are almost written as folk tales although the modern-day Botswana characters have modern-day dilemmas.

Why hasn't anyone made a movie or six out of these? Or even a TV series? Initially I imagined Oprah as the protagonist, Precious Ramotswe. But I've changed my mind; I think Queen Latifah is a better choice if she can manage the accent. (She has to be a woman with "a traditional build.") And Mma Makutsi, her sidekick/assistant...I can see Jada Pinkett Smith although it might be a stretch for her to play "plain." Really, Hollywood, get with it already.

I have to read them in order and I'm waiting for "Blue Shoes and Happiness" but in the meantime, I have David Sedaris' "When You Are Engulfed in Flames." Sedaris is a laugh-out-loud author, occasionally a scream-out-loud and laugh-til-you-cry author. The only thing better than reading his books is getting them on tape/CD and hearing the author read them. Sedaris is a whole 'nother button box.

Love of reading runs in the family.
Bro #1 was a great reader, with a flair for the dramatic!

Big C Update

I'd normally have lots to share, but I'm losing a terrible battle with a backache. Backache 10, Cootina 0.

"Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln..." Other than that, I'm doing pretty well. I'm still struggling with some bone pain and nausea, but it's manageable. Over all, I really think I'm one of the luckier cancer patients. One day of harvesting - I still have not even heard of anyone else who hit their mark in one day. Fifteen days in the hospital. So even though my crumbling spine gives me some trouble, I still think I'm ahead of the game compared to so many others who have a much, much harder time of it.

I don't think my mental state has improved much; I still have almost no focus or concentration so I'm going to milk the "chemo brain" excuse as long as I can.

I'm not quite sure what that "rapture" business is, but I thought that after Obama won, there was at least a chance I might just vaporize, disappear in a fit of ecstasy. On many levels, I'm relieved just to still be here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Russians Aren't Coming

Another good thing about this election is that Sarah Palin will be going back to Alaska. Thank goodness, Mom reminded me, we can all sleep at night knowing that Governor Palin is manning, er, womanning the frontlines, keeping an eye on those pesky Russkies from her back yard. Now that they know she's well armed and not afraid to use 'em, I think that's one border that won't be a problem for us.

Darn tootin'. You betcha.

(I got the picture here, with an interesting story about Gov. Palin.)

Yes, I'm Ready, President Obama

I stayed as long as I could last night at Bill’s but finally at 10pm I had to call it quits. I was frustrated that a winner still had not been declared: that was a moment I really wanted to share with my friends. (And here in Idiotana, it may still be disputed: Obama defeated McCain by about 13,000 votes; less than half of one percent. A record 2.7 million votes were cast here, and it took until 2am for the state to declare for Obama.)

Around 11pm, sitting here on my sofa with my eyes propped open, I had the absolute thrill of seeing and hearing Barack Obama declared the next President of the United States.

I sat amazed and dumbfounded as I listened to McCain’s concession speech. (Transcript here.) Who was that sincere, patriotic, gracious man...and where has he been the last two years? I’m glad I got to see it because I believe it was absolutely John McCain’s finest moment. It was a relief to see him end his campaign, and begin Obama’s term, really, on a note of bipartisan conciliation and... we keep saying it... grace.

I managed to keep my eyes open a little longer, because I was determined to hear Obama’s acceptance speech. (Transcript here.) It was quite a bit more subdued than I expected, but in hindsight, that may have been a wise choice. There were thousands of people in Grant Park and I’ll bet that most of them, like me, were close to hysterical already. Whip them into a lather? hmm ....maybe not!

I think this is one of the most exciting, most historic, most moving moments of my life. I’m so proud to be an American today. (See Jamie Lee Curtis' eloquent "Thank you, Barack Obama.") It’s kind of a strange feeling; it’s been a long time since I felt this way! I’m absolutely ecstatic that Michelle Obama will be First Lady, that we will have smart, lively, young children in the White House. I’m flying my flag, and ready to serve.

I’m ready to start the protests if Obama and a Democratic congress still can’t get anything done. I believe that Obama was elected to institute change, not just talk about it, and the congressional old-timers need to get on board or get packing. WE HAVE VERY HIGH EXPECTATIONS FOR YOU. I’m ready to start persuading the few Republicans who still admit it that Tax & Spend is better than Borrow & Spend.

Whatever Obama wants from me, I’m ready to help, to sacrifice, to serve, I'm even ready to try and get over the fact that the President of the United States might be younger than I am.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I sent in my absentee ballot more than a week ago and I'm a little bit sorry I did. I'm sorry that I'll miss the THRILL of voting in person this election.

In my lifetime, our country has matured from barely passing the Civil Rights Act...

In a nationally televised address on June 6, 1963, President John F. Kennedy urged the nation to take action toward guaranteeing equal treatment of every American regardless of race. Soon after, Kennedy proposed that Congress consider civil rights legislation that would address voting rights, public accommodations, school desegregation, nondiscrimination in federally assisted programs, and more.

Despite Kennedy's assassination in November of 1963, his proposal culminated in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson just a few hours after Senate approval on July 2, 1964. The act outlawed segregation in businesses such as theaters, restaurants, and hotels. It banned discriminatory practices in employment and ended segregation in public places such as swimming pools, libraries, and public schools.

Passage of the act was not easy. House opposition bottled up the bill in the House Rules Committee. In the Senate, opponents attempted to talk the bill to death in a filibuster. In early 1964, House supporters overcame the Rules Committee obstacle by threatening to send the bill to the floor without committee approval. The Senate filibuster was overcome through the floor leadership of Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, the considerable support of President Lyndon Johnson, and the efforts of Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen of Illinois, who convinced Republicans to support the bill. (Source)
to possibly (probably?) electing the first African American to be President of the United States. I'm proud of and excited for all the first-time voters that I'm even refraining from asking any of them, "What the hell took you so long?" News reports here are that there was a rush-hour crunch of voters which caused some minor delays, but virtually all the polling places have been steadily busy all day. At the end of the day, they are going to have to also count close to 100,000 absentee ballots so I'm not sure how long it will take before the news crews start offering partial results.


This evening, I will be celebrating with my Hoodies at Bill's. Celebrating! When was the last time I celebrated election results? It's been a looong time.

We are evolving! I'm so proud of us, and so relieved.

Monday, November 3, 2008

President Gump: Life is Like a Box of Tax Credits

Every day for almost eight years, I have thought about "Being There," the book by Jerzy Kosinski. (It later became a movie starring Peter Sellers and Shirley MacLaine.) Why? Because it's a story about a retarded man who almost becomes president of the United States. Yes, a retarded man who almost becomes president.

Really, I wonder if all the people who voted for President Gump, er, Bush, feel differently now. I truly believe that history will judge him not only as the Worst President, but also as the Stupidest. And somehow y'all elected him TWICE! You elected him again AFTER he started a war...with a country that never attacked us, never had anything to do with 9/11, never harbored Al Queda (at least not until then), and didn't have any WMDs. Once was bad enough...but twice??

"Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream."
(LaCrosse, WI, 10/18/2000)
"They want the federal government controlling the Social Security
like it's some kind of federal program.
(St. Charles, MO 11/2000)
"And so during these holiday seasons, we thank our blessings..."
(Ft. Belvoir, VA, 12/2004)
"How can 59,054,087 Americans be so dumb?"

(Cover of Britain's ‘Daily Mirror’ after GWB was re-elected, 11/2004)

Last December, some of my Foodie girls came for a visit; their first after my big C announcement. They brought wonderful gifts of soup, tea, magazines, books... and a calendar: The George W. Bush Out Of Office Countdown Calendar. Each day features an idiotic quote from GWB; how the editors narrowed it down to 365, I can't imagine. But I looked at it today and realized that no matter who does get elected tomorrow, it WON'T be GWB again.

"Greenspan's an idiot."

How is it possible that Pulitzer Prize winner Studs Terkel passed away Friday (NY Times obituary) and I don't remember hearing any news about it? He was 96 years old. The last couple of decades he concentrated on finding and recording oral histories. He had a radio talk show for many years; almost everyone would recognize his distinctive voice and direct, unflinching interviewing style.

“What have I got to lose? I'm 90 years old." Studs declared, in taking off after Bush. "We have a mindless boy right now with the most powerful job in the world. And that is perilous. We have an attorney general [Ashcroft] who is like the guy Arthur Miller described in The Crucible in Salem, Massachusetts, 300 years ago, who urges people to spy on other people, witchcraft and all.”

As for the Democratic leadership in Congress, it “will be renowned for its gutlessness and its lack of principle and its cravenness.”
-- Studs Terkel, 2002
Sharp to the end
Just a week ago, Terkel was interviewed by Edward Lifson. He was excited to share the questions he'd like to ask Barack Obama. He also called Sarah Palin "Joe McCarthy in drag" and proclaimed Alan Greenspan "an idiot."
Edward Lifson: Studs for Obama

Another author remembers the irrepressible journalist who inspired others:
Studs Terkel: He'll Never Be Silenced

One of the home-bound people I used to deliver library books to was a BIG Studs Terkel fan. She worked her way through almost all his books, one at a time, and we'd often discuss the subjects. I'm interpreting this as sort of a positive omen. I think if Studs believed there was even a chance that Obama could lose the election, he'd have hung on another week, just to set us straight and make sure we did the right thing.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Copyright Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Go See...

My Favorite Liar ...and other good stories
50 Strange Buildings favorites is #30. #40 is just scary.
Copycat Recipes ...browse by restaurant or by recipe

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Vet Who Did Not Vet

A Seuss-style tale about what could happen...
It's less than 3 minutes long. Tell your friends.

And now that you've had dessert first, let's
ALL do something about the
McCain-Palin Strategy of HATE.
It's decidedly unAmerican.


available at Cafe Press