Friday, December 29, 2006

House Call

"Gynecology office!"

"Hello, Perky. Is Doctor Lee in?"

"No, I'm sorry, he isn't. May I help you with something?"

"He was supposed to call me an hour ago to discuss treatment options. When will he be in?"

"Let me check." She shuffled around on her desk a bit, clicked through a few computer screens, then chirped, "In about an hour. He's going to want you to come into the office, though. Can you be here in thirty minutes?"

"No, I can't. It'll take me an hour and a half to get there. I'm at my parents'." That information wold have been extremely helpful before I'd driven out there. I resisted the urge to bang the receiver on the countertop and scream, "Hello, you empty-headed twit! Why didn't you tell me that yesterday!?!"

Nurse Perky, of course, was oblivious to my rage. "Well, get here as soon as you can, then. I'll let him know you're coming."

When I arrived at the office, I was ushered to a room. No need to undress this time - it was just a consultation. Dr. Lee rushed in, chart in hand. He looked at me, eyes wide open behind his heavy glasses. He pursed his lips, then took the glasses off and sighed heavily.

"It's worse dan we thought, Mouth. You have three places dat are bad." He showed me a sketch he'd done of my cervix during the last visit. "Dis one and dis one, day not so bad. Dis one, dough," he tapped his pen on some boxes with a big X over them, "dis one cancerous. We need to wemove it. Schedule surgery with Perky on you way out."

So that was it. No explination. I knew where it came from, of course. There are commercials all over television right now talking about cervical cancer caused by a virus, how you can have it and not know it, and now they have a vaccine for it. It's too late for me to be vaccinated, of course. I've already got it. It's already doing it's damage. The surgery is scheduled for mid-February. My appointment for a second opinion is in one week. We'll see how that goes.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The C Word

"Good morning! Gynecology office, how may I assist you?"

"Hello, Perky. Did you get any results for me yet?" I'd called every day this week.

"Dr. Lee isn't in until tomorrow," Nurse Perky responded.

"I understand that, but I'm travelling tomorrow at noon. I just want to know what the results are."

"He'll call you in the morning, then, and you can go over treatment options."

"Perky, I don't want to discuss treatment with you - I just want to know the results of the test. What did it say?"

"You have cervical cancer, Mouth. Dr. Lee will call you in the morning. Cheer up, though. At least we caught it."

I wanted to scream at her to cheer up while I shoved the receiver through her ridiculously broad smile and down her choking throat. Instead, I very politely said, "Thank you," and gave her my mobile number.

I don't know how bad it is, or how long it's been there. I don't know what the coming months will bring. All I know is that the new year is four days away, and I'm supposed to get on a plane bound for Tennessee to meet M's family tomorrow. I'm supposed to go down there and smile. I'm supposed to be gracious and charming and fun. What I want to do is crawl under my bed and sleep through the weekend, until the bells at the cathedral sound midnight on Sunday.

What I'm going to do is somewhere in between. I'm going to charge my phone tonight to make sure it's got power when Dr. Lee calls in the morning. I'm going to go pick up a new prescription from Dr. Internist - some new wonder-pill he's found for chronic pain. I'm going to call and confirm my appointment with the other GYN's office, so I can get a second opinion on Dr. Lee's treatment suggestion.

After all that, I'll probably sit down and have a nice, long cry.

2007, here I come.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Seven to ten business days

I sat on the examination table, swinging my naked legs, wondering just how much some one walking through the door could see through the gaping back of my hospital gown. Finally, a nurse peaked in. "All finished?" she asked, entirely too perky for my mental well-being. I nodded as she opened the door wide to let in the doctor.

"So, wha's dee pwobwem?" Dr. Lee squinted at me through thick glasses. I explained that I believed I had an infection, that my abdomen hurt, that I was tired all the time and had aches and pains everywhere. "I see. Lay back and le's take a wook."

There's nothing more uncomfortable than laying on a clinic table, legs spread, with nothing between you and the world but a see-through cotton sheet and a paper gown that doesn't close in the back.

"Oh yes, definitely infection. Wen did you have you last annual pap?" It had been two years, with my trip overseas. "I give you medicine for dis infection, you come back in one month for pap. He snapped off his gloves and walked out. I was still sprawled on the table when he pulled the door closed.

One month later, I was back on the table, spread-eagled and exposed. "You wiw get notice in two weeks of wesults." I asked him about the abdominal pain. I'd already been to see an internist about the other symptoms. "You just adjusting to birth control." He was gone before I had a chance to question him further.

Two weeks went by. Two weeks of checking the mail, two weeks of waiting for the postcard with a smiling woman saying, "Your OB/Gyn cares about your health!" Two weeks, and nothing, and then it was three. At the end of the third week, I called the office.

"Let me grab your file!" chirped nurse Perky. When she came back on the line, she wasn't nearly as excited. "There was a problem," she said. The news wasn't good. There were some abnormal cells in my pap - possibly pre-cancerous. "We'll need to get a closer look and possibly take a biopsy." I set the appointment for a week later, and sort of dazed through until it was time.

Dr. Lee showed me a five-step scale for the levels of cervical cancer. "I think you awound level two," he said. That gave me a 70% chance of recovery within twelve months, without treatment, and a 30% chance of developing cancer over the next five years. The plan was to do a visual inspection with a magnifying device, then take a biopsy if it was needed. They wound up doing a scraping of my side wall, a tissue sampling from behind the cervix, and two cervical biopsies. When he was finished, the doctor told me to prepare myself for the results. I was closer to a level three or four than a two, which gave me somewhere between 60 and 75% of developing cervical cancer in two years, if I didn't already have it.

"How long?" I asked, shaken, but still in control.

"Seven to ten business days," he said over his shoulder as he walked out the door again. I made a mental note to change doctors, and marked my calendar for the results.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Freedom

6am - December 23, 2005

I woke up to the clang of the phone ringing. Eyes closed, I fumbled on the nightstand, looking for the receiver.

"What time is it?" I grumbled, my voice muffled by the pillow.

"I don't know. Are you up?" My mother. One of two people audacious enough to call me at that hour.

"I am, now."

"Look, when you get up - well, when you get out of bed - and you go to check your email... I just want to tell you I'm sorry. Mo, are you listening? You need to be prepared when you see it."

"Prepared for what? When I see what?"

"George sent you an email this morning, Mouth. He wants a divorce. I'm so sorry."

"What? How do you know that?" I asked, eyes opening painfully against the morning light.

"He sent a copy to your father and I."

"Why would he do that?" I frowned.

"I don't know, Mo. Call me if you need anything."

-click-

I laid in bed for about an hour, thinking about why we'd decided it was best that I leave Bahrain, why I'd come home, and why he'd ask for a divorce two days after I'd had a third heart-breaking miscarriage. Then I thought about money - or the lack of it. It was the end of the month. There was $500 in my checking account, and I didn't have a job. My mortgage was due in less than ten days. I heard his voice in my head, a conversation from three days before.

"I think you should wait to get a job. Get your classes started, figure out how much time and energy you'll have after you're established in your coursework. Then, if you still want a job, get something part-time, on the weekends."

At the time, it had seemed like he only wanted me to be successful. Had he planned it? We'd argued the next afternoon when I came home from the hospital. He perfunctorily asked if I was alright, and moments later laid into me. It hadn't occured to me at the time that the argument meant the end of us.

"It's them or me, Mouth. You canbe faithful to your husband, the man you pledged to love, honor, and obey, or you can keep hanging out with your friends. Them or me, Mouth. Which is it?"

I hadn't answered him. All I'd said was that I wasn't going to let a man dictate to me who I could or could not spend my time with, husband or no. I didn't think it was fair for me to have to give up my support group, people I'd known for years, because of his insecurity. He thought surely a woman couldn't be surrounded by men all the time and not give in to temptation. I'm made of stronger stuff than that. The argument didn't end well, but I didn't think he'd leave me. Not so soon after the baby. Not two days before Christmas.

I called him. The phone seemed to ring forever on the other end. Finally, he picked up.

"Are you sure?" was all I said.

"I'm sure."

"What do you expect me to do about the mortgage payment? It's going to take me a little while to get a job."

"Gee, Mouth, I don't know. Since those friends of yours are so great, why don't you ask them for it?" The line went dead.


... a few months later...

"I miss you, Mo, and I love you. I think I made a mistake."

"Is that an appolagy?"

"No, I still don't think I was wrong, I just don't want to be without you."

"Then we're no better off than we were in December, George. I tell you what: I'll give you a year. One year to the day after you told me you wanted a divorce. One year to figure out what you want, and to get it right. After that..."

I didn't finish the sentence. It didn't seem necessary.

... today.

A year ago, today, I obligated myself to waiting for a man who didn't want me. A man who didn't love me because I wouldn't obey. A man who made our private life public to my family and friends.

Today I got my freedom.

It's a strange feeling. Strange, but welcome.

"Free at last, free at last,
Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last!
The very time I thought I was lost!
Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last!
My dungeon shook and my chains fell off!
Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last!
This is religeon, I do know!
Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last!
For I never felt such love before!
Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last!"

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The F Word

I've never had a tremendous immune system - I get sick at the drop of a hat. Things have been a lot better since they took my tonsils, but I still seem to develop pneumonia every time some one around me gets the sniffles. M calls me a walking pre-existing condition - not a very flattering pet name, but it's unfortunately reasonably close to accurate. For the past eight months or so I've been down more often than usual. I'm having all sorts of strange symptoms: numb limbs, strange aches and pains not related to injury, fatique. It's been nearly impossible to carry on a normal life - I constantly feel like I have the flu.

After a forth bout of missing three consecutive days of work, feeling lousy every day for a month straight, and not having the energy to even visit the grocer, I finally broke down and made an apponintment with another doctor's office - an internist. It was my third appointment for the same problem - the previous two doctors had sort of patted me on the head, prescribed ibuprofen for the discomfort, and told me to take it easy for a few days. I didn't think he'd take me seriously. In all honesty, I thought I was buying a one-way ticket to the looney bin. One thirty-minute consultation and seven vials of blood later, the doc called me at work.

"I don't know what's wrong with you, but I can tell you what isn't." We ruled out some of the major illnesses that have symptoms similar to mine. It was a big releif.

"Okay. So we know what it isn't," I said. "Any idea what it is?"

"Well, given your family history, your symptoms, the duration of your complaint and the bloodwork, I believe you have fibromyalgia. I'd like for you to go see a specialist. I'll perscribe some medication to help treat the symptoms in the meantime."

So now I'm loaded up on pills - for pain, for sleep, for fatigue - and I have an appointment with another doctor on February 5th. Both my aunt and my grandmother have it. I called my aunt, so I'd know what to expect when I got to the specialist's office. "Incurable" she'd said, "but managable."

I'll have it for the rest of my life. It's regulated by diet, stretching exercises done twice daily to keep the muscles from breaking down, medication, and careful, constant inspection for things not quite right with the body.

Incurable, but managable. I hope she's right.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tryptophan... mmmm!

You'd better watch out! You'd better not cry! You'd better not pout! I'm tellin you why - Mister M is comin' to town.... along with 20 or so of my family and their friends.

As we gathered around the table(s) to celebrate a few thousand buckle-shoed pilgrims living in wood huts way back when, I smiled at M over a deliciously fattening plateful of everyone's favorite holiday foods. he flew up to spend the weekend with my family and me, and what a brave soul he was! He handled my psychotic sister deftly, withstood my abrasive aunt's sarcasm, and made my mother melt with his culinary skills. Who could ask for a more perfect introduction to the family? I knew he was in like flint when mother asked him to make the gravy - she won't even let me in her kitchen.

The kicker, though, was when they giggled conspiritorily together around the stove.

Mother: "You know, you're welcome back any time."

M: "Madam, don't you think we ought to, at the very least, invite Mo out for dinner during my visit? It's really the least we could do."

Mother: "What for?"

Are mothers allowed to like the people we bring home with us more than they like their own children? Isn't there a law against that somewhere?

Monday, November 27, 2006

20 Questions

I recently applied for a promotion in Cubby-Gopher Land, which may seem a bit ambitious to some, given that I've only been there since April. No sense wasting time about it - I'm more than qualified for the supervisory position I put in for, and there's really no good reason I couldn't feasibly be bumped up.

No good reason, of course, except that I interviewed with Corporate Barbie herself. Daphne sat across the table from me, fresh out of anorexia rehab (quite literally), fidgeting with her pen and nervously asking generic, straight-off-the-page questions.

"How do you deal with conflict?"
"What do you say to an employee who you believe is calling in sick, but who you feel is lying."
"How will you handle a situation that could arise if your co-workers believe they should have been promoted instead of you."

I nearly fell asleep in my chair, it was so dry.

She just sat there, batting her Maybeline lashes and twittering prettily, as if it'd have some effect on me. She tried to read the page seamlessly, which I'm sure she was coached in during some corporate training program. Unfortunately, it made her look more like a stammering idiot. She did, however, get the cutest little wrinkle between her brows - practiced, I'm sure. It was all I could do not to reach over to pat her on the head, and coo, "There, there, sweetheart. Don't you worry your pretty little head about it. Mouth's gonna make it all better." Ugh.

I'm supposed to find out by the end of November whether I got the position. Wish me luck?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Next Generation

Court and I went shopping for holiday foodstuffs straight after work a few weeks back. It was late, we were both beat, and thank God we only had a few armfulls of junk to buy, cuz I think blood would have run from my ears if I'd have had to wait in line. We hit the Express Lane behind a hottie Latino. Shaved head, high cheekbones, big, gorgeous brown eyes. Definitely the type you don't mind seeing naked in your bedroom with the lights low.

As he's turning to leave the register, he runs smack into the empty shopping cart parked behind him, nudges it out of the way, and keeps on walking.

"Um, excuse me," I say, hands on the cart, moving it towards him. The implied message, of course: Aren't you forgetting something?

He spins around, flashes a million-dollar smile, puts his hands up on the classic I-didn't-touch-it move, and says,"Oh, that ain't mine," then spins again and keeps on walking walkin. He didn't even break his stride.

I sigh, shake my head, and continue on behind the guy out the sliding glass doors. He watches me walk over and put the cart away, then flashes that smile again. I curled my lip and snorted at him, thinking, "Sure, it's easy enough to look at, but I bet it leaves its underwear in the floor."

Don Juan sort of raises his brows - surprised, I guess, that I don't turn into a puddle of girl-goo right there in the shopping mart entrancyway.

When I got back in, Court was laughing. "So, what did he say?"

"Nothin'." I shrugged. "Not a damn thing." As we walked out to the car, we both laughed about it. "And you wonder why I date older men? They don't do things like that."

"Yeah, but most of 'em are old enough to be your dad!"

"True," I concede, "but at least they're not completely unconscious."

Court stopped dead in her tracks, grocery bags dangling at her sides. "You're gonna blog about this, aren't you?"

Yup. I sure am.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Dangling Chads

--------------------------
The true greatness of a nation depends upon
the character of its ethical ideal
and the energy with which it pursues it.

(Jacob Gould Shurman)
--------------------------

"I need to leave work by ten to 6 tonight." I stood next to my boss's cubicle, peering over the squat gray wall into her little box of self-expression in our cookie-cutter cubbies.

"Why?"

"I need to drive out to the 'burbs to vote. The ballots close at 7, and it's a 45 minute drive."

She smiled at me. "We plan to let every one out by five so they can go vote."

And let us out at five they did. Awfully surprising, given the overtime we've been pulling lately. It's good to see that the bosses haven't completely lost sight of supporting grunts like me.

Some of the girls and I walked around the corner and dropped into our Happy Hour bar for a cold one before we headed to the polls. I had, by far, the longest drive of the four of us. We toasted a birthday, hassled a waitress (she deserved it - more on that later) and generally laughed off the day. The clock struck 5:45 (yeah, I know - it's an odd hour. What do you think this is, Cinderella?) and I upended my glass, waved good-bye to my fellow cubby-gophers, and started the walk home.

The old gals at the polls seemed deliriously happy to see me. It didn't occur to me that I'm probably a rare sight. I hate the fact that people actually thanked me profusely for voting, because so few people in my age group actually do it.

I signed the book, showed my ID and registration card, and waited for instruction. The last time I voted (which happened to be the presidential election), the county was still using #2 pencils and bubble forms. I remember feeling like I was retaking the SAT.

This time, they'd brought in some new-fangled machines, where you had to push in this cassette to activate it, and walk through the auto-prompts for all the different provided selections. Half the elections on the ballot were positions I didn't even know existed, much less recognizing the names listed. Some of the slots only had one name, and then a section where you could enter the name of your choice that wasn't already listed.

I contemplated voting for myself as Secretary of Treasury for Paperwork and Filing, but decided against it. I didn't have an acceptance speech prepared.




Friday, November 03, 2006

Letters to God


I saw this on the news popup when I went to check my email this morning.

News Story: Unanswered Prayers


Letters to God, tossed into the ocean in a garbage sack. Person who did it had the best of intentions, no doubt, but sad, all the same.

Apparently addressed to some priest who died a few years back. I'm no Catholic, but I'm pretty sure he was supposed to actually do something with them, rather than just let 'em sit around and pile up. Didn't even open 'em. Maybe he got too busy.

Then again, we're all too busy any more, aren't we?

Story says the guy plans to sell 'em on Ebay. Seems a shame. You shouldn't sell things like that. Just isn't right.

So I wrote to Frank, the guy who runs Post Secret (if you haven't been, stop reading this and go now).

------------------------------------------------------------------------
Frank:

... maybe you could contact the guy, get him to let you have the letters? Maybe you could post them (or some of them, anyway) one of these Sundays. Maybe you could put them in one of your books.

I don't know. Just seems like, with what you do and all, you'd be able to help.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Maybe Frank's too busy, too.

Damn shame.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Goblin-less


"You goin' to the boss's Halloween party?" a co-worker asked me.

"Nah."

"Why not?"

There are all kinds of office stories about
Halloweens past, where so-and-so got too drunk to walk, then fell down a flight of stairs, and this and that person snuck into the toilet together and locked every one out for two hours. There's no telling which stories are true and which ones are just passed around for ease of boredom, but I certainly didn't want my name inserted into any of them.

"Mister M's flying me down for the weekend. You'll all be getting sick on Jell-o shots, and I'll be walking on the beach, watching the sun set." I smiled. I was looking very forward to the weekend.

And it was lovely. We had breakfast with a friend of his, dinner with some family, and spent the rest of the time loafing around and relaxing. I suppose the introduction to family and friends is a major milestone in a relationship. The last time he was in KC, he met my parents for a few brief moments. Then again, we've been seeing each other, at least casually, for around eleven months. Time flies, I guess. It seems a long time, when you put a number on it. I haven't noticed.

I spent Halloween evening at my parents', just like I do every year. It isn't really a family thing; it's mostly just dad and me. He loves to see the little ghosts and goblins parading up and down the street, giggling and running and having a good time. This year, thought, my folks are in an apartment. They didn't close on their farm til the day after Halloween. Unfortunately, that meant my dad spent the majority of the evening sitting in front of the open door with a bowl of candy in his lap, looking forlornly out at the parking lot, waiting for even one child to scamper by.

None did.


When 8 o'clock struck, I asked if he wanted to pack up and drive to his church, and pass out candy there. He sighed, saying no, he'd rather wait here, just in case. His porch light was the only one on in the entire complex. No children were going to stop by, and we all knew it, but none of us had the heart to discourage him.

Mom got the brilliant idea that we should drive out to the farm so I could see it. I hadn't yet been out, what with the family feud and all. We tried to get dad to go, but he was determined to stick it out by the door. When we got back about an hour later, he'd gone to bed.

He never did get any trick-or-treaters.




Monday, October 30, 2006

Stand Up



I suppose it was bound to happen, eventually. Every one goes through it, at one time or another. At least, any one who's on the market for any length of time.

I got stood up.

And we're not talking one of those corny, "I'm sorry, my grandmother's uh... sick... yeah... she's sick," and then he goes slinking off to the game with his buddies. We're talking the classic no-call, no-show. Didn't even deign to make an appolagy until late the following evening, and that came by email.

It probably wouldn't have bothered me in the least, had I not been looking so forward to it. We'd been out to coffee before, which spilled into a leisurely lunch and a few hours of engaging conversation. That was about a month ago - our schedules just didn't line up. So finally we work it out that we can meet up for dinner last week, but neither wanted to nail down a place.

After a long and drawn-out back-and-forth, where he was cheerfully unwilling to offer suggestions, and I was ridiculously indecisive (not unusual, when it comes to me and food), I made the call the night before, and shot him an email with the time, place, and my phone number - just in case he'd lost it in a blizzard or something.

I rushed home on date-night, a fire lit under my ass to shave enough time out to get cleaned up and changed, and low and behold, the boy hadn't responded to my email. Being the thorough young lady that I am (and thinking that with his terrible internet connection, perhaps he hadn't been able to get the note), I called - three times. Three times, I got the annoying beep-beep of a busy line. I sighed, set the phone down, and looked at my watch. We were supposed to meet up in ten minutes.

The question was, did I drive down there and sit and wait, hoping he just hadn't reponded due to time constrictions, and risk looking like Little Miss Lonlihearts, or did I blow it off, and risk beng the one standing him up? I figured without a response on his part, I was under no obligation to show up, and figured he had the number, and he could call if he found I wasn't there. It was, after all, a mere five minute drive from my apartment, and about two from his (chosen more for location than ambiance, I'm afraid - what can I say? I'm a hopeless romantic).

So as a last act of courtesy, I shot him another email, saying that I'd called and hadn't gotten an answer, so I wasn't going to sit and wait, and that was that. Slight blow to my ego, for sure.

Can't get a standing ovation all the time, I guess...

Monday, October 23, 2006

"Houston, we have a @$%#ing problem!"



-----Email-----

Mouth:

Want to know something mindblowingly weird? I'm 90% certain I'll be moving to to a job in KC next February.

How @$%#ing weird is that?

-Doc

PS: How ya been?

----- Response -----

Doc:

90% certain, huh? And yes, very @$%#ing weird. And exciting, if you're a girl who happens to actually be in KC. Plan on asking me to coffee? Bringing Mrs. Doc with you?

And I've been fantastic. Fan-@$%#ing-tastic!

-Mouth

-----No Response-----
One month later...

Mornin Doc!

Whatever happened to you heading towards KC?

-Mouth

-----Response-----

Mouth:

May 2007. But as far as you're concerned, nothing, after your foul-mouthed, ill-judged reply awhile back.

-Doc

-----Response-----

Doc:

I'm sorry?? I thought perhaps I'd let a word or two slip, but when I went back and re-read my last several emails to you, there was nothing in them that I thought you might find offensive.

You sure it was me?

-Mouth

-----Response-----

Doc:

Nevermind, I found it. If seeing the word @$%# disturbs you, then I'm certainly sorry to have offended. It wasn't my intent.

I think you're being over-sensitive, and it probably would have been more effective to say, "Yanno, that really bothers me. Please don't do it," but whatever works for you, man.

Funny thing is, that word isn't even a part of my regular vocabulary. I was having a great day, and was elated about some life goings-on. It came out a bit over-exhuberant, I'll admit, but I'm not certain it's something I'd break contact over, were it me.

Enjoy the day!
-Mouth

-----End Communication-----


I swear all the men I know are ragging right now. What the hell? Can't a girl get a break for just a week or two? Please? You guys are killin me....

I don't know whether I'm confused, offended, or hurt.

Okay, nix on the hurt. I'm confused and offended. Why is it okay for a man to use that type of language in casual communication, but not a woman? It isn't something I say every day, and it's certainly not something I let slip around folks I'm not comfortable with.

I don't get it. I just don't get it...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Follow the Leader

A friend sent me a link to a CNN clip about a school near Boston banning Tag! as a recess activity. The school claims it's an unsupervised contact sport, and that children can get hurt.

Other schools have also banned games where contact is involved, specifically dodgeball, which was deemed, "exclusionary and dangerous."

I remember moving every 10 months growing up. I remember always being the new kid. It didn't help that I was overweight and awkward. I was always picked last, and often not picked at all. I remember standing alone on the sidelines, or with one or two other "unwanteds" - kids nobody wanted on their team because they weren't fast enough, or couldn't hit a ball hard enough, or were just plain unpopular. How I wished that some one would have come along and told the other children, "You can't play that game any more. If every one can't play, no one can play."

The memories of that period are still painful, but looking back as an adult, I wouldn't change them. I'm glad no grown-up came to rescue me. Through difficulty, I learned resourcefulness. Through loneliness, I learned how to be aware of others' needs for interaction.

Children of my generation didn't suffer micromanagement by school officials. Our nation was still under the impression that parents should be allowed to... well... parent their children, and that school was a place for book-learning and studying. The "do-s" and "don't-s" of day-to-day interaction were expected to be taught in the home.

My generation was also the first to have children mass-murdering other children in schools. We were the first to have classmates strap explosives to themselves and walk into a crowded gymnasium. We were the first to take bitterness and anger from being excluded from recess games and twist them into justification for revenge. Because of my generation, the children of today aren't allowed to decide what games to play during their breaks.


"What's next?" My friend queried. "A ban on hugs?"
"A ban on smiles," I said, sighing heavily.
"I think they're trying to ban contact," he chuckled.
"Sure, for now. Eventually, though, smiles will be seen as a distraction."
"Your probably right," he agreed, heavy-hearted.

Said one parent, "Playing tag is just part of being a kid."

Even the PTO is at odds with the ban. " I would say it's kind of silly, and there's no reason for it- for them not to be able to play tag." (PTO President)

Why, then, has the ban not been lifted? Parents disagree with it. Teachers disagree with it. Surely that counts for something? Apparently not, when their voices are out of synch with the school principal's agenda.

I'm sure, at this point, you're thinking I'm a bit over the top. Inferences to conspiracy theories and likening the school principal to a Nazi leader probably doesn't sit well with most folks. In truth, it's only a vague musing. Think on this, though:

When the German leadership decided to move in the direction of what we now call the Holocaust, they didn't start out by blazing in with guns firing and mass-murdering people. They started out by smiling at the children. By molding and sculpting young minds as they grew to follow the crowd instead of think independently, they convinced an entire nation to participate in genocide. It all started with one simple phrase:

This is for your own good.


---------------------------------------
First they came for the Jews

and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists

and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists

and I did not speak out

because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me

and there was no one left

to speak out for me.
(Pastor Martin Niemöller)
---------------------------------------

Monday, October 16, 2006

Foot-in-Mouth Disease

I spent the weekend in Austin, attending a wedding for my Bohemian cousin. All her hippy friends flew down from Portland to spend the weekend in drunken revelry.

I'm sitting on a barstool in a dive on the infamous 6th Street, talking to a gal who's got to be eight months along. The bar's so full of smoke I can barely see to the opposite wall, and she's sucking cigs down like they're candy straws. Despite the fact that it breaks my heart, I hold my tongue.

The waiter comes by. "Can I get you ladies anything?" he says, sweet southern drawl melting us both like butter.

I order my customary beer. She follows with, "I'll have the same." He returns in a few minutes toting two perfectly poured, frosted mugs. Finally, I pipe up- I just can't hold it in any longer. I know, I know - I'm a judgemental bitch. I have theories about why I feel justified in saying something to a gal I've only just met, but we'll go into that another time.

"That's healthy," I say as she takes her first sip.

"What?" She blinks at me, all wide-eyed and innocent.

"The beer," I say, nodding to her glass.

She frowns. "You're having one."

"I'm not pregnant," I quip. She raises a brow.

"Neither am I."

Ouch.

Stage Fright

You know, being female has it's advantages - the inability to poop in public places is not one of them. There are any number of places a girl can't drop a brick. They include (but are certainly not limited to):

Friend's house
Boyfriend's house
Parent's house
In-Law's house
Sibling's house
Shopping Centers
Hotel Rooms
Bars and Nightclubs
The Office
The Grocery Store
The Woods

Pretty much anywhere anyone may be even the slightest bit exposed to our utter lack of femininity while we're grunting one out. Pooping is a gal's dirty little secret. I've had more than one male friend comment that his girlfriend never poops. Hate to break it to ya, guys... she does it, she just waits til she gets home.


Ever have your girl stay the night, and go to bed frustrated because she won't put out? She doesn't have a headache - she's carrying a load, and is worried that she might fart while you're smackin her ass from behind... or worse, that she might pinch off a pill during the yoga you like to call sex. Ever try to hold one in when your ankles are up by your ears? And you thought that was her O-face...



The bottom line is (yeah, sorry bout that pun), while men seem to feel free to share the product of their bowels with the rest of the world, women would be mortified if the next person in the powder room caught a whiff of anything other than roses. That's just how we are.

For a lot of us, there's a "Poop Threshold"- a time when we determine you've been around long enough that the sound of a splash on the other side of the bathroom door isn't going to make you run screaming. We'll still lock the door, turn on the water, and fog the bathroom with air freshener, but at least there's some relief.


I pity the woman who goes out of town with a boyfriend before she reaches the Poop Threshold. If she keeps sending you to the store for "forgotten" toilettries, or asking you to go pick up dinner instead of calling room service, you can bet she's overflowing. Do be kind enough to ignore the overwhelming scent of perfume permeating your hotel room and spilling out into the hall, and God save you if you mention that you know what she was doing while you were out. Better invest in Vaseline, that's all I'm saying. You might be takin care of your own business for awhile, and I'm not talkin bout squattin on porcelain.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Pipe Dream

"I had something I wanted to tell you all day, and now I can't remember it." I sighed heavily, laying down my knife and dumping onions into a stew pot. I was half-way through putting together a batch of chili for a work-sponsored cook-off, and the day was wearing on my stamina.

"You can't remember at all?"

"No... I really can't.... Oh wait, yes! I remember!" I slapped the cutting board down on the countertop, triumphant.

"Well?"

"Oh shit!"

"What?"

"The sprinkler head just popped. I gotta go!"

I don't know if I hit the off switch on the phone, or if I just dropped it and ran. All I remember is hearing a boiler letting off steam, checking the pots, then realizing there was water pouring through the doorway of the pantry. It wouldn't be at all surprising for the sprinkler in my apartment to go off. I'm notorious among family members for burning water (literally).

It only took a moment to realize it wasn't the sprinkler, but the connecter hose to the washing machine that had torn. Using the lid of my chili pot to deflect the scalding water that was spraying from the hose like a geyser, I cranked the spigot handle down as hard as I was able, then stepped back to assess the damage.

I stood in about an inch and a half of water. All my stores of paper towels, most of my small appliances, and the kitty litter box were all soaked. I sighed, getting down on my hands and knees in the pool to fish wads of cat hair from the floor drain so the water would run off. That done, I rescued what I could of the paper towel rolls, and started pushing the flood towards the drain.

Half an hour later, the water is mostly cleaned up. The airline kennel that houses one of the cats has been upended to air dry, and what remains of the kitty litter has been salvaged as well as can be expected. It's too late to go to the store to retrieve new litter - the babies will just have to wait til tomorrow.

In between battles with the tidal wave in my laundry room, I've managed to finish my chili and bake a double-decker pineapple upside down cake for my boss's birthday tomorrow.

Some time tomorrow, I have to call and negotiate a carpet installation, get the service folks for the apartment complex to come out and fix the washer hose, get the parking company to reimburse me $80 they docked from my pay without permission, and sing the Happy Birthday song to a gal nearly old enough to be my mother. I've spent two weeks on my hands and knees, tiling my kitchen and bathroom, mending a fence, repairing a wall, painting, spackling, sawing, drilling, nailing, and plain old tearing out pieces of my house out in the 'burbs. My body's exhausted, my mind is exhausted... I could really use a break.

Anybody feel like taking over for awhile?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sister Act



"A younger sister is someone to use as a guinea-pig in trying sledges

and experimental go-carts.

Someone to send on messages to Mum.

But someone who needs you - who comes to you with bumped heads,

grazed knees, tales of persecution.

Someone who trusts you to defend her.

Someone who thinks you know the answers to almost everything."

(Pam Brown)



--------------------------------------
1986 - in a clinic for developmentally challenged children

"I don't know how she did it. but somehow, she got Jenny to talk to her," my mother stated.

"Well, she did something. Jenny seems just fine now." The doctor eyed my sister and I, playing quietly in the corner together.

"How can a four-year-old teach a three-year-old how to talk?"

The doctor smiled. "They're sisters," he shrugged. "No one knows what goes on between them but the girls themselves. Is she potty training yet?"

"She'll go with Mouth," my mother said, shaking her head, "but refuses to even get near it when there's any one else in the room.

"That'll pass," the doctor reassured. Give them time. She'll come around."

--------------------------------------

1990 - Driving cross-country from Alaska to Texas

"We can't eva let them sepawate us, Mo." She blinked straight ahead into nothing with big, liquid-blue eyes. Her teeth were bucked just enough to give her a little bit of a lisp.

"I won't let that happen," I said, petting her head. We sat like that a lot - Jenny's head in my lap as I sat on the sofa in our Winnebago, watching the American scenery cruise by at 55 mph.

"Weally?" She turned her head so she could look up at me. I smoothed her hair behind her ear and smiled at her.

"Really. Promise." She turned back to stare into nothing, satisfied that I wouldn't let any one take her away from me.

-------------------------------------

1992 - New York

"Mo, stop reading to your sister. Make her do it herself."

"She can't."

"It's only because she doesn't try, Mo. You have to make her do it or she'll never learn."

"Mom, she can't!" I put the book down and walked over to my mother, all ten years of my life experience weighing heavily in the grave expression on my face. "Jenny can't see the words like I can."

a few months later...

"Ma'am, your daughter is dyslexic. That's why she can't read. It's also why she writes most of her letters backwards."

"Dyslexic..."

"Yes ma'am. She doesn't see words on a page the way you or I see them. Her brain processes them differently."

"I see," said my mother, eying me suspiciously.

-------------------------------------

1994 - Pennsylvania

"Mo, look! We got our tests back!" Jenny ran up the driveway waving two big, white envelopes. She thrust mine at me as she frantically tore hers open.

"See!" She crowed. I told you I'm a genius!" She waved her score page in front of my face, not holding it anywhere near still enough for me to see.

Mom laughed. "Quite an accomplishment, Jenny, coming from our family." The score was no surprise. Both my parents, all my grandparents, all my aunts and uncles, and all my cousins rate above the genius level on IQ tests. Since they'd figured out she was dyslexic and enrolled her in classes to overcome it, Jenny had done nothing but absorb knowledge.

She took off down the street, score sheet in hand, ready to rub her friends' noses in her superior aptitude.

"And what did yours say?"

I grinned and gently began working the flap of my envelope open. "Oh, just open it, Mouth!" Mother took the envelope from me and tore it open. She pulled out the pages and flipped through to the last sheet. Her brow furrowed, then she forced a smile. "That's good, Mouth. Very good." She handed the papers back to me and walked inside. I watched the screen door slam, then looked down at the score sheet.

Slightly above average.

--------------------------------
1996 - Kentucky

"Hey Mouth, wait up!" A classmate chased me down the hall. "Is it true what they're saying about your sister?"

"What's that?" I asked, slinging my pack over my shoulder and trying my best to adopt a 'cool' stance. Other students milled around us, strutting and preening in the halls of the high school.

"That Jenny slept with the quarterback and got pregnant. That your dad flew into a rage and now your parents are sending her away to boarding school, and that they're going to make her have an abortion. Is it true?"

My parents don't believe in abortion. Nor was it likely that the quarterback, who's dad happened to work for mine, would have any interest in my sister. She was only 12, for crying out loud, and he was the quarterback!

"Of course not," I snorted.

"Well, that's not what they're saying. You'd better talk to your sister. Everybody's talking about it. You'd better talk to her, like, now!"

Being the well-behaved child that I was, I told my parents. My parents decided not to say anything to Jenny. A few weeks later, at the Sunday breakfast table, Jenny proudly announced that she had, in fact, bedded the quarterback. Dad pushed back from the table, walked out of the house, climbed into his truck, and drove off. Mom went to the phone and made an appointment at the local clinic to get Jenny on birth control. Jenny went back to eating her pancakes as if nothing at all had happened.

I sat quietly, watching her.

------------------------------------
1998 - Tennessee

"Why won't she just get up!?!" Jenny yelled, slamming the phone down.

"Shhh." I tried to get her to calm down. Jenny was having none of it.

"I don't care if she hears me. I hate her!"

"You do not. Stop it. Mom will get up when she feels like it. Look, I'll get the water." I hauled myself off the couch.

Mom had been in bed for months. She wasn't sick, exactly... she just couldn't seem to muster the energy or drive to get out of bed. A few weeks back, she'd had a second phone line installed in her bedroom, on a different number than the house phone. She used it to call us, from her bedroom to the living room, to ask for food and drinks. She never had to raise her voice to get us to hear her, and she never had to leave her bedroom.

"Hey, Mo? I didn't mean to scream at you. Will you take me to the doctor, later? My stomach hurts." Jenny made a face.

"Sure, tweet. I'll take you. Lemme take care of mom real quick, then we'll go, okay?"

She smiled at me from the sofa and went back to watching cartoons.

----------------------------------
1999- Kansas

"Your nephew's adorable."

"My what?"

"Dink. Your nephew. His name is Dalton, right? Y'all call him Dink? He's super-cute. It's nice that Jenny's able to keep in touch with him."

"I don't have a nephew."

"What do you mean? Jenny showed me a picture."

"Cute little blond kid, brown eyes, about two years old?" I ask.

"Yeah... Dink."

"Dink is my sister's ex-boyfriend's nephew."

"That's not what she said."

later that week...

"Why would you tell them that!?!"

"Well, because it's the truth."

"So? Do you know how embarrassed I was?"

"I'm not going to lie for you, Jenny."

"I hate you. I fucking hate you!" She slammed her bedroom door. At that moment, I honestly believe she meant it.

--------------------------------------
2001 - Kansas

"I don't believe it," my mother huffed. "I just don't believe it. How could she do this?"

"What are you gonna do?" I asked, staring up at my bedroom ceiling as my mother rambled on into the phone.

"I don't know. I just don't know! I mean, he could go to prison! He could be court-marshaled. It's the end of his career, at the very least."

"Alright." The military police had just left my parent's house (MPs because my dad was still active-duty Army at the time).

The reason for their visit? Jenny had told several of her classmates that my dad had pushed her down the stairs, and beat her regularly. She also inferred that he molested her. Apparently, it got back to one of the teachers, who called the cops.

None of it was true, of course. My dad may have been absent through most of my life, and maybe he'd spanked us harder than he should have sometimes, but he certainly would never violently attack her, and he definitely wouldn't have laid a hand on her in any way that could be anything but fatherly. They'd argued about something, and she concocted this story as a way of mentally retaliating. I don't think she meant it to ever get back to him - she just didn't think about those things.

"Hey Mo?"

"Yeah, mom?"

"Can she come stay with you? At least until she graduates? She's only got six months left."

I was eighteen years old. I'd just closed on my house a few months before. I was barely able to make ends meet as it was.

"We'd make sure you weren't put out, Mouth. We're not just going to dump her on you. We just need some... space." She waited a while before continuing. "It's either that, or we're sending her to military school."

I couldn't help but thinking back to the little girl with her head in my lap. -We can't eva let them sepawate us, Mo.- I promised I wouldn't.

A few weeks later, Jenny moved in with me. It wasn't long before her homeless friend, who's parents had kicked her out and who had been living out of her car for a month, moved in as well. Both the girls worked and went to school. My parents stopped calling. Jenny and I argued and made up, we screamed, we yelled, we threw things at each other, but we finally reached our goal - she graduated from high school.

The day after graduation, Jenny moved in with her boyfriend. Her final statement of gratitude as she drove off with a pickup full of stuff?

"Man, am I glad to be getting out of here!"

------------------------------
2002 - Kansas
"What do you mean, she left?"

"I don't know. She went to California." My dad sounded tired. He was to have retired a few months ago, but was being held because of 9/11.

"When is she coming back?"

"I don't know."

"Well, how far behind is she?"

Dad sighed. "Three months."

"And they're just now calling you?"

"Yes."

"Alright," I breathed. "Alright. I'm coming."

We met in front of the house she and her old homeless friend had rented together. Neither one of them had any credit, so my dad had called in a favor with a friend of his to get them the lease. I unlocked the door and walked into the house. Dad was right behind me. The sick-sweet smell of mold and decay hung heavy in the air. Dad spun, ran out the door, and got sick in the yard. 31 years of military combat training, years of being a Ranger and going to war and teaching soldiers how to kill, and the smell of that house was overpowering to him. It was making my eyes water.

Inside, we found dishes that had sat with food on them so long that mold grew up over them like a carpet. Two bunnies were in a cage in the kitchen. One, very thin and barely moving, laid dying in the corner. The other wasn't breathing. The cat box was filled to over-flowing, and the cat had started to use the furniture, rather than the dirty litter. Windows were broken, the carpet was stained with who-knows-what. The floor was strung with a variety of trash and broken objects. We literally cleared several of the rooms out with snow shovels and garbage sacks. There was nothing worth saving.

Two days into the cleaning process, Jenny came back from California and shacked up in my parents' basement. There was still a lot of work to do at the house, but she never showed up to help. She did, eventually, call and yell at me for throwing her mementos and keepsakes away. Photographs, trinkets, things of that nature. Things that mixed and mingled with the trash in an indecipherable pile of rubbish. I tried to explain that there was no way we could have known, but it didn't matter. She just wanted to unleash on some one. I let her scream. When she was finished, I hung up and went back to helping dad haul out the rest of the trash.

----------------------------------
Eight months ago...

"Mo, my hair's falling out!" Jenny sobbed into the phone.

"What do you mean, your hair's falling out? It's supposed to. I'm sure it's fine. Calm down."

"No, I mean, like, in clumps. It's just falling out into my hands!"

I knew what was going on. I'd started showing for alopecia while I was overseas. When I came home in December, I still had some leftover bald patches that hadn't quite filled in.

"Alright. Well, calm down about it. Stress is only going to make it worse."

Later that day, she showed up at my house. Sure enough, there were several large, bald patches missing from her head. Problem was, the bald patches had stubble.

When alopecia makes your hair fall out, the skin is slick because the hair falls out at the root. Jenny's spots were shaved.

I wrote to my parents, who were in the Middle East at the time, explaining the situation to them and asking for guidance. I told them I thought her shaving her head was the first stage of self-mutilation, and that I was worried it would progress into more serious issues if it wasn't dealt with immediately. I thought if the three of us could address the issue together, maybe we could figure out a solid way to manage the situation.

My parents' answer was, "We're sorry, but there's nothing we can do from here. You'll have to figure it out."

So, I did the best I could. I had breakfast with her every Saturday morning. When she started talking about how sick she was, or her hair, I simply got quiet and ignored her. It wasn't theatrical, but it definitely coaxed her away from those topics of conversation. I honestly thought she was doing better... for awhile.

-----------------------------------
Six months ago...


"I'm so sorry to hear about your sister, Mouth." Dee, my neighbor, laid a sympathetic hand on my shoulder. "It's so sad, and she's so young. Give my best to your parents, won't you?"

I stood in a daze. I'd heard rumors Jenny was telling people she had cancer. She'd started shaving her head a few months before, just after telling me she thought she had alopecia, claiming it was just too hard to watch all her hair fall out slowly, and she just wanted to get it over with.

I started asking around. It's a small town. News travels fast, and tongues wag freely.

From the boytoy: "Jenny? She's got a big bottle of diet pills she pops almost constantly. She really ought to stop that. Between that and the chemo, she's starting to look gangly."

From a gal at the local diner: "Yeah, Jenny told me about the bone cancer. It's really sad. It's nice of you to take off every Monday and come drive her to chemo, though. Real nice."

From her boyfriend: "She called in the middle of the night last week, drunk as hell and trying to drive. Don't know what she was thinking. She knows she's not supposed to drink, with the radiation and all that. She doesn't even have a license any more, since she passed out behind the wheel a few months back."

So that was it. Jenny had thoroughly convinced every one in town she had cancer. She'd taken off work, been toted around and waited on hand and foot by friends and acquaintances, been pitied and cared for and looked after for months.

On top of that, she and her friend were renting my house. I couldn't afford to ask them to leave - I needed them to pay the rent, because I can't afford both the mortgage and the rent on my apartment in the city.

It made me sick, and there was nothing I could do about it.

----------------------------------
One month ago...


"Where's your sister?" My parents stood in the airport terminal, bags in hand, waiting for me to pick them up.

"Well..." I started. "Let's walk out to the car."

We stopped at a local pub and had some appetizers and a drink. I explained that Jenny had told every one she had cancer, and that her room mate had found her out. Jenny's boyfriend broke up with her, she got fired from her job, she lost all her friends. Every one hated her, and no one trusted her. She'd checked herself into the hospital on suicide watch three days prior.

"Is she okay?" mom asked.

"I don't know." I didn't have any desire to see her or talk to her. I handed them a sticky note with the phone number to the hospital, and took them to their hotel room.

"We're going to go visit her tomorrow. Do you want to go?"

"No, I'll stay at home. I'll see you guys in a few days." I kissed them both and drove home. She was held in the hospital for five days, then released with a sack full of anti-anxiety and anti-depression meds.

------------------------------------
Two weeks ago - 3pm - in the middle of my workday


TEXT MESSAGE: TAKE CARE OF MOMMY AND DADDY. I'M SORRY.

I contemplated calling 911, then dialed Dad instead. I told him about the message.

"I'm on my way over. I'll let you know how it goes."

He called back an hour later. Jenny had taken all the medication she'd been prescribed during her hospital stay, along with any other pills she'd found in the house, then laid down in the bathroom floor and text messaged me. When I didn't respond, she text messaged her entire phone list with a dramatic good-bye message.

"You know that means she didn't really want to kill herself," I said.

"Mo, she took a dozen bottles of pills. She didn't mean to not kill herself."

Two hours later, he called back. Jenny had a seizure and rolled off the bed in the hospital, smashing her face on the concrete floor. She'd broken a tooth, given herself a black eye, and fractured her nose. Dad said she looked like she'd gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson.

All I could think was, "Good. I hope it hurts."

---------------------------------
This morning...

"I need to talk to you."

"I'm in the middle of something, Mom. Can I call you back?"

"Sure. Of course you can. You need to know that your sister had a stroke last week."

"What do you mean she had a stroke?"

"Well, she has somewhat limited mobility, and she keeps having seizures. She's shaking - it's a form of palsy, and she isn't able to speak the same way any more. She can't eat without spilling half of it down her front. It also gave her turrettes. She makes humming and growling noises now, and she has a tic."

"Why didn't you tell me sooner?" A whole week? And nobody called me?

"Well, we wanted you to have a good week."

"I see. Is it because of the pills?"

"Yes."

"Is it permanent?"

"Yes."

"Okay."

"She's nervous about seeing you."

"She's got nothing to be nervous about. I don't intend to see her."

"At all? Mouth, she just had a stroke!"

"I know that. I'm not saying never, just not right now."

"Well, think about it."

"Mom, I have to go. I'll call you back."

-------------------------------

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

1,000 Marbles

I got this from my cubby-gopher neighbor today. It's about the only worthwhile piece of junk mail I've received at work thus far.





Oh, and just in case you were wondering - 2668.




--------------------------------------------------
1,000 Marbles
-Author Unknown-

The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday mornings. Perhaps it's the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it's the unbound joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable.

A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the garage with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Saturday morning turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time. Let me tell you about it:

I turned the dial up into the phone portion of the band on my ham radio in order to listen to a Saturday morning swap net. Along the way, I came across an older sounding chap, with a tremendous signal and a golden voice. You know the kind; he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business. He was telling whom-ever he was talking with something about "a thousand marbles". I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say.

"Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you're busy with your job. I'm sure they pay you well, but it's a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. It's too bad you missed your daughter's dance recital." he continued. "Let me tell you something that has helped me keep my own priorities."

And that's when he began to explain his theory of "a thousand marbles".

"You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years. Now, then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and came up with 3700, which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime. Now, stick with me, Tom, I'm getting to the important part. It took me until I was fifty five years old to think about all this in any detail," he went on," and by that time, I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays. I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy, so I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round up 1000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack next to my gear.

"Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away. I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life. There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight."

"Now, let me tell you one last thing before I sign off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast. This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure that if I make it til next Saturday, then I have been given a little extra time, and the one thing we can all use is a little more time.

"It was nice to meet you, Tom. I hope you spend more time with your family, and I hope to meet you again here on the band. This is a 75 year old man, K9NZQ, clear and going QRT, good morning!"

You could have heard a pin drop on the band when this fellow signed off. I guess he gave us all a lot to think about. I had planned to work on the antenna that morning, and then I was going to meet up with a few hams to work on the next club newsletter.

Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss. "C'mon, honey, I'm taking you and the kids to breakfast."

"What brought this on?" she asked with a smile.

"Oh, nothing special, it's just been a long time since we spent a Saturday together with the kids. And hey, can we stop at a toy store while we're out? I need to buy some marbles."



-------------------------------------------

Thursday, September 07, 2006

American Idol

"Hey, this your sister?" I ask, picking up a photograph from my boss's desk. Lonnie nods her ascent, completely absorbed in the glowing comp screen in front of her.

"She looks like that gal on your desktop."

"What?" Lonnie's brow creases. She looks at me, looks at the photograph, looks at the background on her computer. "She does not!"

Ah, denial - what a friend you are to the insecure. There's no denying the resemblance between Lonnie's sister and the spit-shined super-star mug of Jessica Simpson. The funny part is that Lonnie and the rest of the self-titled Plastics absolutely worship Jess. They'd pay top dollar for used toilet paper on EBay if they could find it. It's more than a little ridiculous, given that they're all in their mid-twenties.

"Why do you like her so much, anyway?" I ask, wrinkling my nose. Jess has a lazy eye and a callogen smile. Her features are too sharp, and her overall look is too manufactured. I don't think she's beautiful at all.

"Oh, she's so pretty, and so talented!" Lonnie gushes, turning her star-struck eyes back to the glowing image of Jessica in daisy dukes, car-wash sponge in hand and soap suds up to her elbows.

"Okay, so she's pretty and she can sing. Lots of pretty people can sing. What makes you choose her above every one else? I mean, I understand she's this mega-super-starlette and all that, but does she ever do anything worthwhile with all her celebrity and money? Does she ever do anything for any one other than herself??"

Lonnie pursed her lips, no doubt mentally sifting through all the recent In Touch articles she could remember, searching for some shiney little tidbit of humanitarian activity stored back in her memory banks. It's funny - Lonnie could probably tell you what color shirt the star was wearing in last month's fashion rag, but can't seem to remember anything of import Ms. Simpson had actually accomplished since becoming America's sweetheart.

"She did some stuff in Africa. You know, read to starving children and stuff." She nodded, assuring herself that her demigod was worthy of attention, affection, and loads and loads of cash.

"I see." Because starving children really need to read The Cat in the Hat before their bodies start digesting their internal organs in a desperate bid for calories. Pretty big accomplishment. Lonnie had already become re-absorbed in the glowing box, Jessica Simpson dancing happily in still in the background.

Lonnie's a sweet gal, she's just... empty-headed. It's a shame she spends so much time looking at Daisey Duke posters, wishing she looked more like her idol. She really is an attractive girl. Too bad there's not more going on upstairs. Ah, well... She'll make somebody a great trophy wife some day.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Get Down with the Sickness

I've been on my deathbed since Monday. I had to leave work two hours early. Apparently, pitching my stomach into my desk wastebasket was disturbing my neighbor.

Unfortunately, I'm one of those poor fools who was cursed with a weak immune system. I get just about every bug that rolls through the office, and I seem to get it before any one else does. Most of the time I suck it up and go in anyway, but I'm not much use to any one when I'm blowin lava in both North and South America.

So I'm laying here in bed, wishing there were some type of super-antibody out there I could infuse with my bloodstream. Something that could come in and kick the living shit out of all the icky virussy things attacking my poor defenseless bod.

I thought of all the horrible, awful diseases that could be prevented. Then I remembered an article that was posted to a message board I frequent a few months back.

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Viruses May Be Fattening

Scientists find evidence to suggest viral infection may be cause of human obesity.
January 30, 2006

For years, scientists have wondered whether viruses should shoulder some responsibility for the wave of obesity sweeping the planet. On Monday, a U.S. medical journal released a study establishing such a link in chickens.

In all of human history, obesity stands alone among chronic diseases for the rapidity of its spread. In fact, the pattern of its quick rise looks very much like that of an infectious disease epidemic.

Six viruses have already been shown to produce obesity in animals, but University of Wisconsin, Madison scientists have now shown that a human virus can cause obesity in chickens, a strong suggestion that it could make people fat, too.

(posted on Red Herring)
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First, Americans were fat because we inhaled fifteen Big Macs in a week. Later, we sued McDonalds for not telling us deep-fat-fried foods were unhealthy

Then Americans were fat because we were clinically depressed, and the anti-depressants and memories of our traumatic childhoods caused us to overeat.

Then Americans were fat because we had "fat genes", and it was hereditary.

Now we're fat because of a virus.

Are you kidding me?

I can see Merck having a field day with this one...

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Just come by our office for the new anti-viral FAT SHOT! We'’ll pump your veins full of the best antiviral concoction your money can buy!

Disclaimer: The FAT SHOT should not be used in conjunction with personal responsibility. The FAT SHOT is not right for every one. Some patients may experience a loss of accountability, motivation, inspiration, perspiration, or drive, laziness, listlessness, loss of appetite, and low self esteem. The makers of The FAT SHOT are not responsible for death in association with the use of this product, when death is brought on by stomach rupture due to over-eating. Ask your doctor if The FAT SHOT is right for you.

===================================================================

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Civic Duty


"Jury duty!" Mister M snorts. "Of all the things I didn't have time for this week... Jury duty."

"I take it things didn't go well?" Thankfully, the phone muffles enough that he can only faintly here the smirk in my voice.

"The prosecutor's a damn idiot," he huffs. "A damn, raving idiot. Trying to pervert the definition of 'intent'. I'll show him intent!" I can almost see him shaking an angry fist in the air. "Hopefully I made enough of a stink today that they'll release me tomorrow, though."

I execute one of my patented pregnant pauses. He continues.

"I asked if they'd dismiss me, before it all started. They were having none of it. 'If we excused every one who worked, Mister M, no one would ever serve on a jury.' Well, it's not exactly like I'm flipping burgers at McDonald's! I'm a productive member of society. I don't have time for this! Surely they can get somebody else."

That did it. My tongue slipped from it's firm grip between my teeth.

"What if it was me?" I ask.

"Pardon?" Ever so polite.

"What if I were the defendant."

"My dear, I'd storm the prison."

"Ha. You're very cute, you know. Seriously... What if it were me?"

He stops for a moment and thinks. "What are you getting at?"

"Well, what if you were the only sane, rational, mature individual in the line up. What if you were the only thing standing between that prosecutor and the herd of cows sitting in the jury box with you? Would it still be too inconvenient?"

He sighs. "Do you have to be right all the time?"

Hey M?

Yeah... I do.

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I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

Edward E Hale

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Pour Me a Cold One

The Quaff is seated on prime real estate, wedged under some apartments on a main stretch of downtown. Half the city pours down that street as they commute to and from work every day, so it makes sense that the bulk of The Quaff's business stems from the worker bees who support the downtown honeycomb. They buzz in and out all day for lunch, then head back at the end of the day to quench their thirst.

Every Friday, a group of cubby-gofers I work with kick up their heels at a local pub's Happy Hour. The service sucks, but the beer's cheap, the music's loud, and the pool's free. This week, however, one of the gofers gets the bright idea to patronize The Quaff, which has $4 draws (that's a lot for the Midwest, folks). It's the guy's birthday, so nobody puts up much of a fuss. The whole group heads down after the 5 o'clock whistle blows.

I stroll in late with a gal pal of mine after running home to freshen up and walk the dog. The Quaff is split into three rooms; the center portion is the largest, sports the most floor space for large groups, and holds the dart board and some pool tables. They're not super-busy, but the place isn't empty, either. Our party is taking up a good third of the center portion. The table's crowded, but they nudge around and make room for two more. We grab some chairs from an empty table nearby, and slide 'em over.

Seconds later, we're accosted by a tiny sprite of a waitress. "Those are my chairs," she spits, hand on her hip, other hand lofting the tray at her shoulder.

"What do you mean?" my buddy says.

"Those chairs are from my section. You have to put them back."

My co-woerker shrugs and starts pushing hers back to the table we nabbed 'em from. Keep in mind that the table was empty. It was completely bussed and wiped - no evidence of occupancy whatsoever. In fact, that entire half of the room was empty, aside from an older couple playing pool, who were very obviously occupying a smaller table in the pool corner.

"So where do we get chairs?" I looked down at the top of the snippy gal's head, who happens to be sportin' a major camel toe in her too-tight white denim short-shorts.

"Ask your waitress," she snaps, before spinning and stomping off. What a brat.

Thankfully, this adorably sheepish busboy swooped in just before I gave in to the impulse to reach out and snatch her ponytail.

"I'll get you some chairs. Where would you ladies like to sit?" We indicate the table and stand at the end while we wait for him to return with the chairs.

"What are you doing?" one of the girl-gofers asks.

"Waiting for chairs, I guess." Maybe there was a party coming in or something, and the table was reserved. It sure wasn't marked, but ya never know. It became less of an issue when the busboy returned a few seconds later hulking two chairs. He pulled them out for us with a slight bow. Cute kid.

"So which one's our waitress?" I ask the gopher-boy next to me.

He points. She's got an ultra-dark fake-bake tan and long, dark, over-processed hair framing a face that mildly resembled a rat, hammered-to-center teeth and pinched expression included. We're there for a good ten minutes before she realizes that more have joined our party. She wanders over to my gal-pal and I.

"Can I get ya somethin?" she asks my friend.

"No thank you."

"Yeah, I'd like...." I trail off. She's already walking away.

Another ten minutes go by. She returns with a pitcher and some cups of beer. I sit and wait patiently for her to make it to my end of the table. She drops her load and goes to walk past me. No eye contact.

"Excuse me? Miss? Can I please get a beer?"

"Sure. Whadya want?" She smacks her gum, disinterested. I order a bottle. Before I can pull anything out of my pocket, Super-Waitress is gone.

Fifteen minutes later, she's still giggling with a high-top full of frat boys in the corner. She's been to the bar twice. I still don't have my beer. Frustrated, I scoot back my chair and head into the next room to the bar. I order a longneck. The owner/manager, who recognizes me (because I go often enough and have one of those faces people don't forget) snags my elbow. "Aren't you at a table?" he asks.

"Yeah," I say, takin a pull from my beer.

"You have a waitress."

"I know. And if I could get her to wait on me, I'd use her." I walk off, and see him out of the corner of my eye making a b-line for Super-Waitress. I wouldn't have said anything had he not stopped me and questioned why I'd gotten my own drink.

I head back into the other room and rejoin my party. The gophers were laughing. Apparently the waitress, who'd been completely inattentive up until that point, noticed I'd gotten up and walked to the bar, and had come over to ask what that was all about. "She wanted a beer," a gopher had shrugged.

They claimed her response was, "Well, fine, then!" Sounds about right.

Couple seconds later, the owner/manager walks up and puts his hand on the back of my chair. "You guys make sure you're letting your waitress handle your drink orders. They get in trouble if y'all get up and go to the bar."

"If she'd come around, we would," I say. He walks off. No apology, no assurance of better service.

Just after he leaves, Super-Waitress swings by and asks if anybody needs anything. "I'd like another," I lift my bottle so she can see what I'm drinking.

"You already have one," she answers.

"I'm sure I'll be done with this one by the time you bring it." She rolls her eyes and takes off for the bar, presumably to retrieve the drink orders she just took from our table. Sure enough, about twenty minutes after I ordered, I drained the last of my drink as she was setting another one in front of me.

Now, I'm not a serious drinker. I'll have a beer or two every other week or so, but I don't drink fast, and I don't drink heavily. This gal was slow, and there was no way around it. To top it off, she definitely wasn't interested in waiting on anything that didn't have meat and potatoes in it's shorts.

Our party started breaking up around midnight. Had I been there alone or with one or two friends, we'd have left, but I didn't want to be rude and bail on the guy's birthday.

Yanno, about thirty minutes before we left, some folks finally wandered in and took that empty table we borrowed the chairs from. Super-waitress was on for the rest of the night, making sure everybody got what they needed and actually doing her job for the most part.

Honestly, I didn't mind getting up and getting my own beer. I do it at our regular place all the time- like I said, the service sucks, but at least they know it and make up for it in the price. Sometimes a bar gets busy, or the waitress knows the customers at another table will drop a load of cash if she pays special attention to 'em. It's not a big deal, but don't chastise me for taking matters into my own hands. I wasn't pissed about it... I just wanted my beer.

As I left, I passed by the table full of frat boys she'd been hanging around most of the night. I slipped a few bucks in front of her.

"Thanks," she said, barely turning her head enough to see who left it before diving back into flirting with the frat boys.

"No problem, hot stuff," I thought to myself. "I won't be back."

Damn shame, too. They have good chicken, but I can get shitty service anywhere.