Monday, February 19, 2018

A nice way to celebrate President's Day

Back in 2016, my friend John and I had planned to go down to Springfield to see the Lincoln sites. He was impressed that I returned to Springfield every few years, kind of like a geeky swan returning to American history's Capistrano. John has lived in the midwest his entire life, and in Illinois for nearly 40 years, and yet he's never seen the history just hours away. He thought I'd be a good tour guide. We were set to go.

And then he went into the hospital. And came out without one of his toes. It's hard for me to admit this, even now, but he nearly died from long-term, untreated diabetes. His rehab was long and slow and so we couldn't make our trip.

Earlier this month, John mentioned that he'd like to try again. So in June, we're heading down via Amtrak on a Thursday night. We'll spend all day Saturday getting reacquainted with Illinois' favorite son, and then come home very early Saturday morning.

Barack Obama was a state congressman in Springfield and announced his historic Presidential candidacy from the Old State Capitol, where Lincoln delivered his "house divided against itself" speech. So planning this trip seemed to be a fitting way to celebrate President's Day.

Well, that was weird!

I've been going to the same local accounting firm to get my taxes done for more than a decade. They
do good work, but they're expensive. When I got word this year that they were raising their prices 10% to 30%, I gulped. I paid $360 in 2017. My tax prep bill in 2018 could be (at least) $396.


I have charitable contributions, mortgage interest and property taxes to deduct. I have capital gains and interest income to declare. But even so, my return is not that complicated. I can't see paying $400 to have it prepared.

So I went to H&R Block. They're popular. They're venerable. They're $328.

But oh, the accountant who prepared my return was odd! She started by telling me she was mixed race and adopted by white parents. Um ... don't care. She was later reunited with her twin, who had also been given up for adoption. Um ... interesting story, but can we start on my taxes? She thought it was wonderful that I support my church, and said that she'd pray that I find love and a husband, like hers. Um ... uncomfortable. When we were done, she actually hugged me.

Compared to the CPA who has handled by returns in the past, her work was spot on. She got me a little more from the Feds, a little less from the State. And she charged me about 20% less. So I'm good.

Even though she is weird.

It's been a long time

My movie group took a field trip! We saw The Philadelphia Story on the big screen. The rest of the multiplex was packed with young people, in line to see The Black Panther. But our little group (six in all) met to see the TCM event.

It's the first time we've met this year. First we thought we'd lost our venue, but Will managed to work that all out. Then the mother of our moderator, Will, passed away. Dealing with her passing, traveling out east for the final goodbye, was naturally preoccupying him. But TCM planned this, so it was easy for him to just send out the invitation email.

Hepburn was glorious. Her leading men -- Cary Grant and James Stewart, for Christ's sake -- were beyond adorable. I enjoyed the conversation with fellow movie geeks. I wish Joanna had been able to join us. I realized that I need to go out more! It was fun. I always think I'm too tired when I get home from all the depression and sadness at work, but Sunday it occurred to me that it does me good to get out there.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sunday Stealing


1. What is your middle name and what is a middle name you'd rather have instead? Why? Since my nom de blog is The Gal Herself, I guess my middle name is "Gal."

2. How would you spend $1MM (you have to spend every penny!) I would pay off my bills and have a zero balance on everything. Then I'd fix this place up -- hardwood floors, finished bathroom, spruced up kitchen. Then I'd give my nephew some tuition assistance, and help my niece with her college loans. Then I'd help my friends: I'd pay for Reg and Henry's dogs to get the surgeries they need, I'd pay off my oldest friend's car, I'd help Kathy get new furniture for her new apartment. How much do I have left? This is fun!

3. Yellow light - speed up or slow down? Slow down.

4. What was the last movie you saw and what did you like/dislike about it? The last movie I saw was The Shape of Water. I loved the colors and the intensity. I disliked the violence.

5. If a movie was made about you, who would portray you in that movie? My go-to answer for this had always been Carrie Fisher. Now I have to rethink it. Maybe Valerie Bertinelli? I grew up on her, so that feels comfortable. (Even though there is no physical resemblance.)

6. What is the strangest thing you've eaten and what did it taste like? I once had shark. It was heavily breaded, with capers and tomato sauce, so it really just tasted like any other baked fish. But that's not the point. I felt very brave eating it.

7. What color is your bathroom? Pink and white.

8. If you could vacation anywhere in the world RIGHT NOW, where would it be and why? I would take off to Washington DC with my nephew. He really wants to see it.

9. What is your least favorite thing to cook? Anything. I hate cooking.

10. What is the dish you make that your family rolls their eyes at? Nothing comes to mind.

11. What are three things on your bucket list? I don't have a bucket list.

12. How many skeins of yarn do you think you are currently hoarding? None.

13. Today is my birthday.  What virtual gift are you going to give me? Since I don't know the Swap-botter this meme was stolen from, I have no clue. Perhaps a virtual gift card?

14. What is your favorite candy? It changes. Today, it's Chunky.

15. What is your favorite time of the day and why? Around 9:00 PM. Everything that's got to be done has been done by then. Now it's my time.

16. If you could call in sick for a day, what would you do with the time? Nap. Take a long bath. Take a long lunch. Read.

17. How much did your last crafting run cost you? I don't do crafting.

18. Can you play a musical instrument and if so, which one? I am not musical.

19. What is your least favorite craft that you still do? Why? Enough with the crafting questions, Swap-botter!

20. If you could have any job for just one day, what would it be and what would you do? I would work in the cat adoption room at an animal shelter. I would cuddle cats and clean cages and answer questions for prospective adopters.

Answer hate with love. Answer cruelty with kindness.

That's what this man advised schoolchildren to do. My bullshit meter is spinning. I imagine theirs is, too. After all, no one's bullshit meter is more sensitively calibrated than an adolescent's.


PS As I was composing this Sunday morning, our Tweeter in Chief chose to nickname Rep. Adam Schiff as a "monster." Way to foster an atmosphere of love and kindness.

In praise of low tech

I have two very old TVs. Produced around the turn of the century. So old they still have tubes built into the back. They work just fine. Picture quality is bright. No problem working with the Comcast/Xfinity equipment.

I love them. I love how they keep working ... and working ... and working. This is identical to the one in my bedroom. Keeping it tuned to old sitcoms (MeTV or Cozi) helps me get to sleep at night. When it crapped out last Wednesday evening, I was bereft.

I am most happy to report that the problem is not my little tugboat of a retro TV but the little cable converter box. Replaced for free by Comcast/Xfinity. So all is good.

I know, it's crazy how attached I become to stuff. But I can see no reason to add my tube TVs to a landfill before their time.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Baby Love (1964)

1) When this song was popular, the Supremes were known for their elaborate hairstyles, make up and full-length gowns. When was the last time you got dressed up? The memorial service for my friend's husband. Even in her grief, she teased me. "Gal! You're not wearing jeans!"

2) "The girls," as they were known to the engineers and executives at Motown Records, were Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson and Diana Ross. They began singing together when they were high school classmates. Are you still in touch with any friends from your high school days? Just one. I owe my oldest friend an email.

3) Mary Wilson was born in Mississippi and her family moved a great deal before settling in Detroit, where she fatefully met Florence and Diana. Were you uprooted often when you were a child? Or did you spend your school years in the same neighborhood? My family never moved. My mom and dad both grew up in that town. Both sets of my grandparents lived there, too. My kid sister raised her family there, as well.

4) The Supremes began as a quartet called the Primettes. In addition to Mary, Flo and Diana, there was Betty McGlown. In 1960, Betty left the group to get married and was replaced by Barbara Martin. In 1962, Barbara left the group to have a baby. They quit trying to replace the fourth voice, soldiered on as a trio, and made pop history. Have you ever found yourself in a position similar to Betty's or Barbara's, where you had to make a difficult decision and choose between your personal life and your career? In my 20s, I was involved in a very, very unhealthy relationship. We met at work, where we were both writers. When he found out that I made more than he did, he freaked out. Did all our friends know? Was I trying to humiliate/castrate him? So I did something then that has me shaking my head today: I quit and found a lower-paying job. It turned out for the best, though, because I really hit my stride creatively and I went from having a job to a career.

5) Thinking of babies and "baby love," is anyone in your life expecting a baby in 2018? Nope.

6) With twelve #1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, The Supremes remain America's most commercially successfully recording group, and this song (along with "Stop! In the Name of Love") is one of the most popular karaoke songs. If we handed you the mic this morning and absolutely insisted you perform, what song would you choose (any song, any genre)? This one. It has no notes that I can't hit.

7) Original group member Florence Ballard left the group in 1967. She died of cardiac arrest in 1976 at the age of 32. Since February is National Heart Month, it seems appropriate to ask: Is anyone in your life battling heart disease? My friend, John, suffers from congenital heart disease.

8) Florence Ballard's brother, Hank, wrote Chubby Checker's famous dance song, "The Twist." When did you last dance? I dance around the house all the time. I'm terrible at it, but it makes me happy.

9) Random question: Close your eyes and visualize the most beautiful place you've ever been. Now describe it to us. So you enter the structure and it's old. It's sunless and you can literally smell the history -- the beer and pretzel salt and hot dogs and sweat. Then you climb the gray cement stairs and VOILA! Everything is sunny and green and everyone is happy. That moment, when I see the outfield clock for the first time, never fails to thrill me.

Meanwhile, in Chicago ...

I realize that the country is reeling from yet another school shooting. This one in Florida. 14 students were mowed down on Valentine's Day.

I'm aware of it, of course. But it hasn't touched this old heart of mine. Because I simply can't handle it right now.

Because on Tuesday, this happened here.

Look at how she's holding her daddy's hand.

Commander Paul Bauer was technically off duty but in uniform here in the Loop. Right in the center of the nation's third largest city. At 2:00 in the afternoon. He had just completed a training session of some sort when he heard a radio call. A suspect in a weekend shooting had been spotted around the The James R. Thompson Center.

AKA The State of Illinois Building. It's a government building, right in the middle of our theater district, surrounded by courthouses.

Commander Bauer approached the suspect. He took off. Bauer followed. Bauer was shot six times. In a stairwell in a government building. At 2:00 in the afternoon. In the nation's third largest city. The suspect was wearing body armor and had a Glock with an extra clip.

I pass The Thompson Center every day, twice a day. That government building is busy at 2:00 on a weekday afternoon. Those streets are busy at 2:00 on a weekday afternoon. And a Police Commander in full dress uniform got plugged in a stairwell.

As the old folks used to say, "What is this world coming to?"

Commander Bauer's wake was held Friday, which would have been his and wife Erin's 16th wedding anniversary. He also leaves behind the little girl in that photo, Grace. He was 53 and had been a cop for 28 years.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


WWW. WEDNESDAY asks three questions to prompt you to speak bookishly. To participate, and to see how other book lovers responded, click here

1. What are you currently reading? Vulgar Favors by Maureen Orth. I read this book decades ago, when the Miglin/Versace story was still top of mind. (And make no mistake about it: here in Chicago, Lee and Marilyn Miglin were better known and more influential than Versace.) With American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, I found it on my bookshelf and decided to give it a reread.

2. What did you recently finish reading? The Lonely Lady of San Clemente: The Pat Nixon Story by Lester David. This is not a very good book, which is a shame because I learned while reading it that Mrs. Nixon lived many lives. She was a teenaged rebel who regularly "stole" cars from her neighbors and older brothers so she and her friends could go to dances and other social events, and went out of her way to dress in a way that raised eyebrows. She was a poor kid in a poor town, who lost both her parents before she was old enough to be on her own. 

Then she became a most serious young woman, 100% dedicated to absolutely everything she did. She was a teller who had to testify in court against a bank robber, a cleaning lady, and finally a teacher beloved by her students. Then the quintessential political wife, even though she hated politics and public attention. There's source material here for a riveting book ... but this ain't it.

For example, there's her courtship with Dick Nixon. Here she is, past 25, longing for a family. She was dating several men, almost to the day she accepted his proposal, but Nixon was the most ardent suitor. David supposes she was attracted to how much he loved her, and the security he offered. OK, I get that. Then, a scant chapter or two later, he talks about how unhappy she was when Nixon was attacked in the press because she was a woman who "deeply loved" her husband. Really? When did that happen? Was it their separation during World War II that made her heart grow fonder? The birth of their first daughter? When did she fall "deeply in love?"
It reads like one of those women's magazines my mom used to devour -- McCall's or Ladies Home Journal. It's breathless, simple and superficial. I hope I find a better book about her someday.

3.  What will you read next? Maybe another biography? Or a mystery. My TBR pile is stacked dauntingly high with both. 

Catching Up with the Whole Family

It's been more than a week since I saw Napoleon and his parents, Caleb and Randi. And Monday I saw all three of them, walking up Michigan Avenue. They were pushing their belongings --  two big roller bags and a cat carrier -- in a tall cart. Napoleon was in the carrier, looking every ounce the irritated teenager that he now is. At 9 months old, he's all attitude and energy and he clearly resented being in the carrier.

The snow has made it hard for them to panhandle. The areas where they usually park themselves are now either wet or covered in dirty snow. The damp has made it hard for them to sleep in their tent, so wherever they're sleeping -- I wasn't clear where -- is costing them money. But while it's not ideal, it's not as bad as it would have been a few months ago because ...

They're both working! Caleb drives a forklift four hours/night, four nights/week at a grocery warehouse. Randi "helps out" (answers phones, sweeps up, makes appointments) at a salon during the day. (They can't work at the same time because someone has to stay with Napoleon.) She says the women she works with at the salon aren't as welcoming and supportive as she hoped they would be, but at least she's warm and dry at work.

Hopefully, in two weeks, they will have the cash they need to pay two months' rent in advance on a room in a big house in Boystown. They will have a furnished bedroom and access to the kitchen and bathroom anytime they want. I worry about how Napoleon will make the transition. While being homeless is rough on humans, it's really a pretty spectacular life for a cat. He's literally never alone, one or both of his parents is always with him, lavishing attention on him. He's outdoors almost all the time -- though they report he likes sleeping in beds, burrowing under the covers by Caleb's feet -- and enjoys watching birds and shoelaces and leaves and paper that float by. I'm afraid that the boredom and confusion that will come from being left alone all day will result in destructive behavior on his part.

But won't that be a nice problem to have, after a year of not having a bed to call their own?

Monday, February 12, 2018

HBD, Big Guy!

It's 2/12, the day we Illinois schoolchildren used to get off. Today our favorite son would be 209 years old. Here's hoping that, with the gubernatorial race and the all the #MeToo talk in our state capital, Springfield begins to deserve the enduring affection Mr. Lincoln had for the city.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sunday Stealing

1. Do you prefer winter or summer? Why? I like snow. I like my sweaters. On the other hand, I like baseball and my sandals. There's beauty in all the seasons. (Though I really can't stand hot weather. Truly, I'm miserable as the temperature climbs above 85º.)

2. What are your favorite winter activities? I enjoy walking in the snow, looking at snowmen, listening to children playing. Kids get the glory of snow in a way adults don't.

3. Can you tell me about a time you went skiing or skating? No, thank you. I suck at both

and don't have many good memories. 

Now sledding! I loooooooved sledding! My favorite uncle would take me, my older sister and cousin. My oldest friend's dad, a lovely man, would take her and me, and often my older sister. Gliding down the hill like the wind! Dragging my sled back up while pretending my nose wasn't running. I treasure every moment.

4. Have you ever made a snow angel? Of course!

5. Is your house cold? Seldom. My place tends to run on the warm side. Today, the mercury outside hit 23º and I had to crack my living room and bedroom windows.

6. Do you have a fireplace in your house? No.

7. What do you usually do to keep warm in the winter? Down coat and long johns. I have an aerosol water repellent and I spray my boots liberally every day. Cold, wet feet are the worst!

8. Have you ever gone hiking in the snow? I consider them long walks.

9. Tell me about a snowball fight you had. I truly can't recall a snowball fight. An older kid once smooshed snow in my ear -- I can't recall why -- but that wasn't really "a fight" because I responded by standing there, stunned.

10. Have you ever looked at a snowflake carefully? Only in pictures.

11. Do you have a sled? Have you been sledding? See above. Obviously I don't read these questions before I start answering.

12. What do you usually do after a big snowfall? Hibernate.

13. What’s the best thing about winter? Snow! Christmas! My holiday trip to Key West (I love those guys)!

14. What’s the worst thing about winter? Cold, wet feet.

15. Have you ever been in a blizzard? Oh, yes. We're getting socked now. There's 11" on the ground now, and it's supposed to snow even more this morning. And in 2014, we got 18"! The grandddaddy of all Chicago blizzards was The Big Snow: 23" when I was 9 years old. They are all quite thrilling!

16. Can you describe ice for me? Smooth, slick and cold.

17. Have you ever slipped on ice and hurt yourself? In 2012, I slipped on my neighbor's driveway and landed on ass. Hard! For some reason the landing made a deafening noise in my ears. I went to the ER, and a CT scan confirmed I was OK. (I love having good health insurance!)

18.Have you ever had to shovel snow? Oh, yes. I sometimes think that's why my parents had me, so they could send me out with a shovel.

19. Will you be watching the Olympics? No.

20. If yes, what are your favorite events? Shrug.

When baseball and Peter Frampton collide

Ever since I heard the news, I've had, "I Want Yu to Show Me the Way" running through my mind. Of course, "I've Got My Mind Set on Yu" works, too. Ah! What a rotation we will have in 2018!

In happier news

I went to a community rummage sale today. It benefited several local charities. I was in search of a denim jacket, as mine is quite the worse for wear. I was unsuccessful, but instead found a black and white Liz Claiborne sweater.  I think it originally sold at JC Penney for about $35* and I got it for $3.

Next week I'll be in the office all five days -- no more work from home -- and it will make me happy to wear something new (or at least, new to me).

*Though isn't everything at Penney's always on sale these days?

I get it

Today is my friend Reg's 60th birthday. He denies it with a full-throated insistence that he's 59. (Again.) Oh well.

It's not the lying about his age that bothers me. It's the depression that has accompanied this birthday. According to Henry, he feels bad about his life. They are heavily in debt. Their home is in bad shape (no a/c, no dryer). They are down to one car, and it's not new. The trip they took to Puerto Rico last fall was the first vacation they'd been on in years. (It's important to note that, between them, Reg and Henry work three jobs. Their financial hardship is not due to lack of effort!)

Reg cancelled his own birthday dinner and went to bed at -- get ready -- 5:30! I tried calling to wish him a happy day and cheer him up, but he was already asleep, and Henry was in tears of frustration.

He loves his husband so much. They have been together more than two decades and have shared so much. It makes him sad that Reg values himself and his life so little.

It sounds so sad when Henry says it of Reg. Yet I could say all the same things about myself that Reg says. Crappy home, dead-end job, insufficient retirement account. Add to that -- I don't have a successful romantic relationship of 20 years+. What does it all mean? What's it all been for?

But today wasn't about me and my existential woes. It's about Reg. So I began listing all the furry lives Reg has saved -- beginning with the beautiful collie, Toby, who had been abandoned by the side of the road because his hips weren't perfect and he wasn't breeding material. We came up with the idea that, if Reg wants to "leave something behind," when he dies the obit can say, "in lieu of flowers, a donation to the Key West SPCA." I know, it sounds like a bummer here, but it made Henry happy in the moment. And that's what was important.

But the call left me so drained, I took a nap. Even though my taxes still aren't done, and I have a quick turnaround freelance project waiting for me.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: My Funny Valentine (1991)
Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) In this song, Ms. Kitt sings that her lover is her favorite work of art. Tell us about a piece of artwork you can see from where you're sitting now. (Yes, that crayon drawing created by your 5-year-old nephew counts.)
I love this handsigned and numbered print by Klaus Voorman. It eventually became the cover of The Beatles Anthology. I love it. 

Last time I posted this, in response to Sunday Stealing, two people actually responded by commenting about how they don't like the Beatles. Why would anyone do that? I had explained that it was handsigned and numbered, so I obviously invested something in it. And I love it. It's just plain ornery and rude to dismiss it because you don't like the Beatles. No one asked you if you like the Beatles. So there. Don't piss on my parade and I won't piss on yours.

2) She asks him to not change his hair. When will you next find yourself in the stylist's chair?
February 24 at 2:00 PM.

3) Ms. Kitt always wanted to be a performer and attended the New York School of Performing Arts (aka the "Fame" school). Think back to your high school self. In what ways would you be surprised by how your life turned out? I really never thought I'd live to be this old (60). When I was in high school. I lost two grandparents -- my mom's mom was in her 50s, my dad's dad had just (so unfairly!) retired at 65 and then, months later, died. So I just figured it was my genetic destiny to kick at a comparatively early age. I don't think that's going to happen. I've already outlived my dad and my mom's mom.

4) Ms. Kitt took over the role of Catwoman on TV's Batman. Name another Batman villain. Oh, the Joker was totally my favorite. Enjoy this delectable clip.
5) Ms. Kitt enjoyed tremendous success performing in Parisian nightclubs. Have you ever been to Paris? When I was just out of high school. I was too young to appreciate it. I'd like to go back some day.

6) The holiday is also known as The Feast of St. Valentine. Do you have a special meal planned for next Wednesday? Nope.

7) The phrase "wear your heart on your sleeve" began in medieval times. On Valentine's Day, men would celebrate the holiday by displaying their lady love's name on their sleeves. If you were going to adopt this custom, whose name would you wear?
And I love him.

8) Women buy and send more Valentines than men do. What's the last greeting card you received? My Christmas cards. I just send them to St. Jude's Ranch for Children in Nevada. The kids there raise money by recycling our cards and making/selling new ones. It's a feel-good way to extend a feel-good season.
9) Men buy and send more roses at Valentine's Day than women do. What's your favorite flower? Carnations. They are so hearty. They come in so many colors. They are so affordable.

On this day in history ...

I think about my favorite uncle all the time. But especially today. February 9 is the anniversary of the Beatles first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

That evening changed America and changed the world, of course. But that afternoon was what changed me.

54 years ago today was a Sunday. I was six. For some reason the clan had gathered at my Icky Grandma's house. I was getting bored and fidgety. My uncle suddenly rescued me from certain scolding by inviting me to join him on an errand. We ended up at Korvette's department store -- one of the few that were open on Sunday. I don't remember what we came for, but before we got in line to pay he was distracted by a group of young people. (He was, after all, just out of his teens himself.) They were surrounding a card table. He guided me over there and we checked it out, leaving with a record for 99¢ and a free balloon. The record was "Love Me Do/P.S. I Love You" and the balloon featured a pictured of these four young men that none of us had ever seen before. We returned to Icky Grandma's and, as the family gathering broke up, he reminded me watch The Ed Sullivan Show that night so I could see what all the fuss was about.

Today my Uncle Ted is in heaven. I want him to know that I remember, and I love him for giving me the soundtrack to my life.

Snow Day

4" to 5" of snow fell today. 4" to 5" inches more are expected to fall tonight. I love it. I got to work from home, in my underwear. I rewrote a letter to my client's specs and took a nap. Then I got dressed and did laundry.


I wish I was more productive, but I'm feeling wounded and depleted. There's just so much grief circulating around the office. I prefer being at home with my cats, with the window open so I can hear the kids next door, laughing wildly as they go down their backyard slide into a half-foot of snow.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Less a friend than an audience

The coworker I spend the most time with is on my last nerve. And it doesn't help that we sit on top of one another, all day/every day.

She doesn't want to converse. She doesn't even really want to work. All she wants to do is talk about herself, how fucked up her family is, how worried she is about all of it ... and how fabulously she's handling it all.

But she's not. She's obsessing. As a 24/7 obsessor myself, I would have more sympathy for her. Except that she's dismissive of me and my concerns. "Worry is a waste of time," she'll tell me. "Worry won't affect the outcome." When I repeated her admonition back to her, I thought she'd slug me.

When I told her what happened to me yesterday, why I wouldn't be in, she said, "Yeah, ok." I'm worried about a cancer screening, and she says, "Yeah, ok." She's made it abundantly clear in the last month that what I say is not of any interest to her and so she doesn't feel she needs to pay attention.

But what is her brother going to say to father? What is her youngest sister going to say to her father? What will her siblings decide together to do? How will her father respond? These nuggets I'm supposed to hang on as though they are the latest findings by the Mueller committee.

Her self-interest is why we can be friendly, but not friends. And why like, King Richard, I want to call out: My kingdom for a door!

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Me = Fine

I called my doctor's office first thing this morning. The receptionist promised me, rather aloofly, I felt, that I'd hear from her before 3:00. "Tell her I'll be sitting by the phone," I said. "She'll call you back between patients," was the reply. "Thanks," said I, waiting until after I'd hung up to add, "Bitch."

My doctor called me back within 10 minutes. "Oh, Gal, I'm so sorry!" she said, and at first I thought she was telling me my mammogram revealed something severe and dire.

It wasn't that, at all. "You're fine, you're just fine," was her next sentence. "When I saw you were my first call this morning, I checked your file and I think I know what happened."

She explained that her nurse yesterday was not her regular nurse. Elena didn't check to see that I gave my consent for voice mail messages to be left at my home number. My doctor apologized profusely for scaring me over nothing.

I was so relieved, I wasn't even angry. And really, when you think about it, Elena the Nurse was really just trying to respect my privacy. It was an honest and well-intentioned mistake. One that scared the living shit out of me and cost me a night's sleep, but a mistake nevertheless.

I am so grateful, I forgive everyone everything ... except Yoko Ono. I'm still pissed at Yoko.

I worked from home

I slept about 15 minutes Monday night. I was too scared about my mammogram to relax and surrender to sleep. As I was preparing for work Tuesday, the thought of going in with this hanging over me ... and dealing with my coworker's continual hand-wringing about her father and my boss' agita about his son ... and it just didn't seem fair or right. So I left a voicemail, explaining that I had to coordinate some tests and didn't feel like doing it out in the open so I'd be working from home.

I did. I checked my office email off and on all day. I got a new assignment, agreed to a Thursday afternoon presentation, and wrote the manuscript. I also took a long nap and went to Walgreen's, where I used my AARP discount and saved 20%.

I have to go in tomorrow. I just do, because it's my job and it's a job I want to keep. But I get so weighed down by my coworker's non-stop obsession with her father's new relationship -- which is, I admit, wildly inappropriate so soon after her mother's death. And I get so weighed down by my boss' dramatic relationship with his adult son -- which is, I admit, important and sad and perhaps unsolvable. I am not diminishing their pain.

Their pain is inescapable in the open seating atmosphere. It weighs on me. It's not fair, and today I needed to concentrate on me.

I Miss My Mommy

I'm having a hard, sleepless night. When I got home from work tonight, I saw I had a message. From my doctor's office. Her nurse wanted to discuss my Saturday morning mammogram with me.

I haven't ever received a call like this. Previously, in 2009, I received a letter recommending additional screening because of "abnormalities," and that completely freaked me out. Turned out then I had "microcalcifications," which are nothing to worry about. But in 2009, I was still in my 50s. I'm now 60. As we age, we are at a higher risk of breast cancer.

I called my oldest friend. Not only because she's my oldest friend, but because she spent more than two decades working with doctors and knows about this stuff. She never picked up. She never called back. I know she's dealing with her own formidable issues, but I also know she looks at her phone because she always wants her kids to be able to reach her. So she looked at it, saw it was me, and decided to screen me out. That hurts.

Then I called my friend Henry. He did text me, hours later, to see if I was OK. He had been in the theater and had turned his phone off. I just wanted him to comfort me a little, to distract me. There was no reason to call him back that late.

That's why I miss my mom. She always picked up and she loved to talk on the phone. She would have talked me through this.

Oh well, tomorrow morning I call the doctor's office, and we'll see what happens from there. Pray for me.

2017 Giving

While watching This Is Us, I organized all my 2017 receipts for my tax preparer. I gave to 28 charities in all, and here are my Top 10, the ones I donated to the most. This list feels like a snapshot of what's important to me right now.

My church

Tree House Animal Foundation -- a cageless, no-kill cat adoption center


Harmony House for Cats -- One of Chicago's smaller shelters, and it's struggling

Feeding America -- A national organization devoted to helping those in need

My local food pantry -- In addition to dropping off canned goods, I've begun donating cash.  When they shop, a $1 goes much further than when I'm at the grocery store.

Planned Parenthood -- With Trump in the White House, it's more important than ever to support women's health and freedom

Toys for Tots

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation -- Just because I can't afford to go back doesn't mean others shouldn't enjoy/learn

Fried's Cat Shelter -- One of my uncle's favorite causes. I generally try to keep my animal welfare donations local, and Fried's is in Indiana, but whenever I want to remember my late uncle, I make a contribution. Also, they, like other animal shelters, have been struggling lately, so I'm glad I have a chance to give them a shout out.

The couple you see in this photo are Hans and Lucille Fried. They escaped Nazi Germany and immigrated to the US in 1939. Upon their retirement, they sold their house, bought an old motel, and turned it into a shelter for cats. Why is this the way they chose to spend their golden years? Because they never got over what they saw in the land of their birth. I will let the late Hans Fried put it in his own words:

Monday, February 05, 2018

Unconscious Mutterings

Time for a little free association.

Week 783
  1. Tradition :: Custom
  2. Download :: Files
  3. Heroic :: Act
  4. Sacrifice :: Deprive
  5. Forever :: "... forever, you'll stay in my heart and I will love you ..."
  6. Backtrack :: Go back
  7. Release :: Catch and release, like in fishing
  8. Pay :: Day
  9. Fear ::and Loathing
  10. Jingle :: Jangle

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Sunday Stealing


1. January was National Mentoring Month. Have you ever had a mentor? Been a mentor? How would you rate the experience? When my friend Henry introduces me, he refers to me as his "former boss." I wasn't. I was just bossy. But he admits he learned a great deal from me. Through my career, I've worked with many art directors who credit me that way. It makes me happy.

2. What current trend makes no sense to you? Blindly condemning Black Lives Matter for having the temerity to question bias in local policing while blindly supporting Trump as he slags the FBI for bias in investigating him.

3. I saw a cartoon on Facebook highlighting a few 'weird' things that make you happy as an adult. The list included-writing with a nice pen, having plans cancelled, freshly cleaned sheets, eating the corner brownie, cleaning the dryer lint screen, and sipping coffee in that brief time before anyone else wakes up. Of the 'weird' things listed which one makes you happiest? What is one more 'weird' thing you'd add to the list? From that list: Clean sheets. My addition: Ordering Coke and getting it in a real Coke glass. 

 4. What's the last good thing you ate? The manicotti at La Cantina Tuesday night. It was freaking AWESOME. The shell and ricotta just melt on my tongue.

5. Describe life in your 20's in one sentence. Better than my teens.

6. It's that time of year again...time for Lake Superior University to present a list of words (or phrases) they'd like to see banished (for over-use, mis-use, or genera uselessness) in 2018. This year's top vote getters are -- unpack, dish (as in dish out the latest rumor), pre-owned, onboarding/offboarding, nothingburger, let that sink in, let me ask you this, impactful, Cofefe, drill down, fake news, hot water heater (hot water doesn't need to be heated), and gig economy. Which of these words/phrases would you most like to see banished from everyday speech and why? Is there a word not on the list you'd like to add? "Impactful," because it's a made up word. Here's my addition to the list ...
At work, we have "practice fire drills." By definition, a "fire drill" is a practice.
7. What's something you need to get rid of in the new year? POUNDS! CLUTTER! DEBT!

8. Where do you feel stuck? In my career.

9. January is National Soup Month. When did you last have a bowl of soup? Was it made from scratch or from a can? Your favorite canned soup? Your favorite soup to make from scratch on a cold winter's day? Tuesday night I had a bowl of minestrone with that fabulous manicotti. It, too, was tasty. I like Campbell's soups, especially chicken noodle and bacon/bean. Yes, I know they are high in sodium. I suspect that's why I like them.

10. Tell us one thing you're looking forward to in 2018. The Cubs play the Marlins on March 29.

Bland lunch, delicious conversation

I won't plan events with my friend Mindy. She's a very sweet woman, but oh! Can she ever be difficult! A former fatty who is now a gorgeous size 6, she adheres strictly and passionately to her diet, which severely limits dining choices. She is also (insanely, IMO) affected by weather. She's cancelled ("rescheduled" in Mindyspeak, which is "cancelled" to everyone else) appointments and gettogethers because of snow or even rain. Then there's her calendar. She really doesn't keep one. She'll say she can meet you, but then she realizes she has to work, or pick one of her (now adult) sons up from a train station or airport. I find this last one especially frustrating. How hard is it to write things down on your calendar and then check it as you speak to This Old Gal?

So I dumped planning our Christmas 2017 holiday gift exchange on my friend John. He ran into all the same issues I did, and we finally had it yesterday. John chose the venue -- Millennium Park Grill, so we could watch the ice skaters.

Mindy and her husband Alan (who is on a medically-mandated special diet) and John (who wasn't hungry) all had salads, which they admitted they really didn't like very much. Mindy even sent hers back (no surprise there!). I had the turkey sandwich, because it was the cheapest thing on the menu. Let's face it: the food was crappy.

Yet we had a great time getting together and catching up. For all my pre-meal exasperation, it was a lovely afternoon. I left feeling happy and loved.