27 March 2007

Trampled underfoot

When the doctor prescribed a night splint for my unfortunate foot injury, he queried me rather closely about whether I'd wear it. His questioning was pragmatic: this is a $250 piece of durable equipment, but he also admitted that he'd be unable to tolerate having the thing on all night. It's quite a contraption, too: a large piece of molded plastic with a padded footbase and multiple and straps and buckles and bits of velcro. It reaches nearly to my knee, and its raison d’ĂȘtre is to pull the ball of my foot towards my head all night long. The idea is to create a passive stretch in the arch and heel; the reality is something along the lines of medieval torture. Still, I've been in so much pain for so long that I'm ready to try just about anything short of amputation.

For several weeks now, I've been dutifully strapping the thing on at bedtime, only to wake about 2 hours later with a numb foot. No amount of adjusting the straps, buckles and bits of velcro changes this outcome, and I've become quite adept at unbuckling it in the dark and taking it off. Admittedly, I tend to become somewhat frantic when I take it off because it gets seriously weirdly uncomfortable. Still, I figure that two hours of passive stretch is better than none, so I continue to dutifully strap it on and equally dutifully remove it when it wakes me up.

The spouse and I were rather bemused one night recently when we were awakened by the loud thump of the splint hitting the bedroom floor. I'd half awakened a moment earlier to discover the toes of my right foot locked in the back of the splint, pushing it rather forcefully off my left foot. Who knew that my right foot could operate so independently and singlemindedly? I only fully woke up when the splint actually hit the floor. The spouse and I laughed a little at my heretofore undiscovered talent for escaping instruments of torture, and went back to sleep. It wasn't until I got up the next morning that I realized that in an act truly Houdini-esque, I'd gotten the thing off with all buckles, straps and bits of velcro intact.

It wasn't quite so funny the next night when I awoke about 3 am to discover the splint cozily nestled between my ankles. Five hours earlier, it had been firmly attached to my left leg. Morning light again revealed all buckles, straps and bits of velcro intact. It seemed impossible that I could be squeezing my foot out of this thing in the middle of the night while sound asleep...and I am not a sound sleeper.

I'm not sure how I will explain to the doctor at my next appointment that I'm wriggling out of his Iron Maiden for the foot in my sleep. He is already threatening me with terrible things (think Really Big Needles) if I don't follow treatment instructions to the letter (and I am; I AM!).

Worse yet, concert season is nearly upon us. I have to be able to gambol through airports and stand in puddles of beer for three hours straight.

And there is no way I'll be able to explain that splint to TSA if I have to lug it around with me.

22 March 2007

It's my life

I can only say one good thing about the cold I am currently suffering through:

It's totally ok to eat enchiladas at 9:30 in the morning.

Other than that, I am utterly miserable and in the worst mood EVER!

13 March 2007

She just wants to be

Yesterday, I got an email from a friend who characterized her news as "frumpy."

The picture that immediately sprang to mind was my mother, circa 1970, when I was quite young. I could see her in the sleeveless yellow nylon shell she wore with a pair of green bermuda shorts in the summer, tying a scarf over her curlers and carefully painting her lips with the lipstick of the moment--usually a sample from the Avon lady, who was generous with such things.

I was a young child in the age of Dippity Do, the green gunk that our mothers used to paste their curlers to their hair before sitting under the bonnet drier. There was a rhythm in our mothers' hair that went something like "permanent wave, cut and set" to "weekly wash and set." While she sat under that bonnet dryer, I remember my mother would sometimes paint her nails. She was a slave to beauty and propriety, was my mother. To leave the house in curlers was definitely frumpy. To leave the house without lipstick was not done.

Frumpy wasn't just curlers tastefully covered by a scarf if you needed to run to the grocery in an emergency. Frumpy was wearing a housecoat anywhere but the house. I didn't know many people who wore housecoats at all, and those who did were old in 1970. Frumpy was wearing a permanent wave that hadn't been washed or set, and just sort of sat there on your head like a stray poodle. Frumpy neglected the lipstick.

The women of my childhood had standards, by God. You wore a hat to church, Vatican II or no, and you wore it with a dress and hosiery. Lipstick was de rigeuer, and a gentle pat of tasteful rouge was acceptable.

While I can't say that my mother still wears lipstick to the store--she ditched the Dippity Do and bonnet drier decades ago--but she still has it on pretty much whenever she comes to visit.

I've never been especially good at the slave to beauty thing. My hands spend too much time in the dirt of my garden for manicures, and my finger tips are more likely to be stained brown from dirt than tipped a gentle, tasteful pink. Lipstick? Well, that's the crime. I love to buy makeup, but I never wear it. Permanents? Not since they went mercifully out of style in the 1980s, though my middle-aged locks are enslaved by the blow drier, not to mention the tasteful permanent color that comes closest to that I had before I turned 23 and got my first grey hair.

What are the standards of today? Anything goes. Around here, most women my age are more interested in showing off their boob jobs than keeping them tastefully covered. Then there is the dread "muffin top." By giving it a cutesy name, women of all ages think it's ok to leave it hanging over the top of their down-to-there jeans. Not so cute as they think.

And I have to own up to my lack of standards. I'll generally wear my good running pants to the grocery store, with a baseball cap tastefully covering my bad hair day. Sunscreen, most certainly, and Blistick with significant SPF, but nary a trace of lipstick. For all her quick trips out with scarf-covered curlers, my mother was probably less frumpy than I am.

12 March 2007

The story in your eyes

The daughter has little use for Barbie, the exception being when she was 3, she coveted nothing more on Earth than a Barbie birthday cake, and I mean a Barbie doll with a hunk of cake as an enormous hoop skirt. I rarely indulge my children's manias, but I did indulge that one, in part because a neighbor once made me a very similar cake for my birthday many, many years ago.

I don't remember when the daughter received her first Barbie doll, but it was from me. I know that Barbie has been outed for all sorts of heinous things: eating disorders, body dismorphic disorder, female math hatred, blondeness. However, I loved my Barbies. I never suffered even a momentary schism because 5 of my 6 Barbies were blonde and I wasn't. I never had the faintest qualm because Barbie was skinnier than me, had bigger boobs, longer legs and fairer skin. I excelled in math, all the way through college. In my book, Barbie was the best damned storytelling tool ever invented. She was the model for all my nascent clothing design, and I am a better seamstress because of all teeny tiny stitches in the Barbie clothes I made.

But Barbie suffered in those fabulous confections I concocted out of fabric from the remnants bin, bits of lace and stray lengths of ribbon. Her dream house rocked with earthquakes and hurricanes, the likes of which could never have been imagined by Irwin Allen. Ken married her, and cheated on her with her sister Barbies, married them, cheated on them, and married again (there was no help for it. I only had one Ken. Eventually, his head popped off from too much Barbie-kissing). The Barbie dream vacation van tumbled headlong off mountains, trapping Barbies in a movable feast of soap operas that were continued all throughout the long, hot desert summers. We mourned the Barbie leg that broke off and was buried in the backyard, only to be resurrected by the dog and eaten. We suffered over the disappearance of Malibu Barbie, who vanished in a pile of sand never to be seen again.

I still have all my Barbies (sans headless Ken).

The daughter's Barbies lie discarded, mostly naked and disheveled at the back of her closet, forgotten and unwanted. The daughter prefers Ken. She has several Kens, all named Tim, except for the one named Jake. Ken as Legolas was disdained because he didn't look enough like Orlando Bloom and was really just a Barbie in Ken clothes. And who lives in the daughter's Barbie dream house?

GI Joe.

He lies supine in the footed white tub intended for Barbie and sleeps the sleep of the just in a canopy bed. He consumes his breakfast cereal in a prettily purple decorated kitchen, and rides to the second floor in a cunning turret elevator. Occasionally, he and the son's Joes are called upon to rid the planet of Sasquatch and the Amazon Barbies. The Amazon Barbies ride around in a red Barbie VW with a flower in the vase, calling taunts and flaunting their Amazonian prowess. Sasquatch stands by and looks fierce mainly because he doesn't fit in the VW or the Barbie dune buggy that is the Joes' vehicle of choice.

Irwin Allen could never have imagined such terror and chaos.

10 March 2007

Dog years

There are many interesting things on the newswires today that I thought about writing about, but Americans Stuffing Their Pets with Drugs hit home, especially after yesterday's entry.

Obviously, it's a pet owner's privilege and responsibility to decide the extent to which s/he wants to treat a pet that is ill. And indeed, when the Bad Dog developed arthritis in her hips at the age of 9, we discussed it and decided to treat her with Rimadyl, the drug of choice for such things. Unfortunately, arthritis was a breed problem for the Bad Dog, and we felt that we could either treat it or put her down at a relatively young age because the pain was definitely affecting her quality of life. We were aware of the risks involved with the drug, and the ultimate question became, "would I do this for myself." The answer was yes; we put her on the meds; she thrived and never showed any adverse effects on her bi-yearly screens. We were fortunate that we could afford the cost of the drugs and the cost of the screens; for us and the dog, it was win/win.

The real reckoning came in October 2005. While making dinner, I heard rhythmic banging in the garage, and went out to discover that the Bad Dog was having a grand mal seizure. I held her head to keep her from banging it on the concrete until she stopped seizing, then called the spouse and the vet. She was treated that evening at the local animal emergency clinic and we were asked to tender $1000 on account for her care until they could determine what the problem was. In a dog who was nearly 15, it could be just about anything.

By late next day, most things had been eliminated through blood and urine tests. The ER vets wanted our go ahead to do an abdominal ultrasound and a scan of her head. They were looking for tumors, and cancer was our worst fear. Mostly because I'd long said that cancer was non-negotiable, and we wouldn't treat for it.

The abdominal ultrasound came back clear and we began to discuss the likelihood of a brain tumor. We made it clear that we didn't intend for a 15-year-old dog to face cancer treatment, and discussed our options for palliative care. Since everything else had been ruled out and treatment for her seizures would be the same with or without a brain tumor, we declined the scan.

Bad Dog did pretty well on the prednisone and anti-seizure meds that were prescribed for her. Our local vet fussed at me once, saying, "I wish we could do a scan. I'd like to see what's going on in her little head!" I told her that if she chose to front the $1500 for the scan, then she was welcome to go through with it, but that I was sleeping fine at night knowing the treatment she was receiving was what she would be getting regardless of what a scan revealed.

The daughter was not especially pleased with me, however, when I broke the news to her and her brother that Bad Dog was nearing the end of her life. She was adament that we should treat the disease. I gently explained to her that the Bad Dog was about 75-80 in people years, and that was pretty darn old for a dog. I also told her that if I was an 80-year-old lady, I would take the treatment that would make me comfortable instead of treating the cancer, and then I'd go someplace I'd always wanted to visit but hadn't gotten to. Since the Bad Dog wasn't really keen on traveling, I suggested that we make the time remaining the best time of Bad Dog's life.

And that was what we did. We'd always been big on walkies and she continued to get her walks. She got even better food because the pred upset her stomach a bit, and holy mackerel, did Bad Dog enjoy the warm chicken and rice that made its way into the food dish every night. She got a new "baby" at Christmas as she always did, and in some ways this stuffed penguin with the horrible honk seemed to be the best toy she ever got. She continued to do yard patrol with me, chase her talking parrot, and roll in the grass.

In mid-March, she began to seize again, and on the morning of March 20, it was clear that the tumor had gained control. We raced her to the animal ER again, but even then, we knew what we were facing, and that there was only one thing left that we could do for her.

When you love someone, you set her free.

09 March 2007

Dancing with myself

Spring hasn't sprung, but is definitely springing. The purple plums have begun to flower out; I noticed the first bud from the laundry room window a week ago, and now it is a shower of flowers. The weeds are rearing their charming heads and the grass has resumed growing. Which means I need to go out and mow it.

(It is a well-known fact that I am a bad Californian. I mow the lawn of my $1,000,000 + house and I clean said house, too. Of course, it's also a well-known fact that I consider California a temporary resting spot, even though I've been resting here for over 25 years. I am a woman without a state. This probably needs an entry of its own).

Anyway, mowing. We've had some hard freezes this winter, and very very little rain, so the yard has suffered and some things have died, and it needs attention.

(And while we're at it, please don't think that a) I want you to be impressed by the value of my house or b) that I'm impressed by the value of my house. Again, California. Unlike most of the people who live around here, I'm not only frugal, but also pragmatic and realistic. When someone recently said to me, "You live in a million dollar house; why are you mowing the lawn," what could my answer be other than "I don't need to pay someone to do this."? Okay, stopping now.)

You will note that I'm procrastinating on the lawn thing, which I really needed to start 20 minutes ago. But there's a reason.

My best gardening buddy died a year ago.

I get very zen when I'm out in the garden and I don't mind pulling weeds or mowing because it gives me time to explore that danger zone known as My Mind. But for years, I've had a companion out there. A not always silent companion, and certainly a rarely helpful companion, as her preference was following me and pooping while I was cleaning up her poop. She also upended me on more than one occasion by sticking her nose in my rear end while I was trying to pull weeds. And a cold wet nose in one's armpit on a hot summer day is not cause for celebration.

The Bad Dog was one of the baddest dogs I've ever had the privilege of knowing. She was a beauty with huge drifts of soft white fur (the birds loved the clumps that fell from her in the spring. Great insulation for nests). She barked at flies ("But dammit, this MY airspace!") and ate snails on the hoof (which was her best act in the garden although her smile with snail-filled teeth was gross beyond measure). She knew exactly what she shouldn't do, because she was well-trained, but usually did it anyway, if it was fun (and for this reason, the spouse has some certainty that Bad Dog was somehow my biological daughter). One of her favorite acts of defiance was to roll in the newly mown grass, which turned her from white Bad Dog to green Bad Dog. No joke. We have photographic evidence.

Bad Dog loved it when we were gardening because she loved to be with her people. She would streak across the yard, chase her tail or her talking parrot toy, or just run for the sheer fun of running and wait for the glorious moment when she could roll in the newly mown grass. And she danced with me. I usually take my Ipod out with me, and sometimes, just feel a need to bust a move while I'm trimming a tree. Bad Dog loved this and would jump up on me so she could dance too. Sometimes I'd hold her paws and boogie with her, though only for a moment because in her later years she was so arthritic I feared hurting her. Sometimes she'd just put her paws on my waist and hold on for dear life.

Now I have to dance alone.

The penultimate morning of her life, I went out to check the tomato beds, and the spouse said later he wished he'd had a camera. He watched the two of us standing side by side, heads cocked at the same angle, staring into the bottom of the bed. I don't know what we were looking at, other than tomato plants. Perhaps she was hoping for a snail.

We still see her out there sometimes. A momentary flash of white in the thicket at the fence line. A dainty wet footprint on the stone by the French door where she used to lay. And once in a great while, a hank of white undercoat, soft fluff stuff, detaches itself from its hiding place and drifts in the breeze across the yard.

07 March 2007

We are(n't) family

A girl is getting married this weekend. I have a passing acquaintance with this person, and have been invited to attend the wedding. I've sent a (very) nice gift, but have better things to spend my time on, so am not planning to sit through a nuptial Mass.

In point of fact, this girl is the spouse's niece, which would make her my niece by marriage. In point of fact, the spouse loathes the girl's mother, who is wife to his brother. He doesn't much care for his brother either. I have, as I mentioned, a passing acquaintance with the girl, and little to say about her despite 18 years of marriage to her uncle. She is pleasant enough and presentable, one of the rather dimmer bulbs in God's chandelier, but I assuredly wish her well.

Isn't that enough?

Apparently not. Furious emails have begun to fly.

There is definitely history here. The girl's mother really is quite unpleasant to be around, and we give her wide berth when we need to be in the same space. In 20 years, I've managed not to yank her chain too hard, and only for the sake of my in-laws. (The spouse frequently laughs that one reason he married me is that he witnessed me verbally dismembering a jerk from USC before we started dating. I know he wishes I would do it to this woman, but uh, shoot fish in a barrel much?) My youngest quails when she mentions the woman's "big fake smile." Not much love lost between the two camps.

And you know, I can live with that. I can live with disliking this person, but putting a pleasant face on when it's required. I'm not a back-stabber, so I keep my opinions about her largely to myself in any company but the spouse's. But I don't go out of my way to spend any time with her.

Is any of this the girl's fault? Of course not. But the more pressing question is does it matter to her whether or not I attend her wedding. Truthfully? Of course not. She got a (very) nice gift from us and she knows we wish her well.

For her, I know it's enough.