Sunday, July 14, 2019

Sunday Stealing


Have you ever been teased because of the things you like? Oh, of course. Hasn't everyone?

Do you hold grudges?
Yes. If grudge carrying was an Olympic event, I'd bring home (at least) the bronze.

Were there any classes you enjoyed because of the teacher?
Not really. I had a wonderful English teacher in high school, but he encouraged me in being more involved in something I was already drawn to. I'm not diminishing his contribution -- I appreciated it at the time and remember it fondly -- I'm just answering the question as it was asked.

Was there a dress code at your school?
Grade school, yes. High school, no. Though I did wear just about the same thing every day -- white t-shirt, jeans, tennies.

Have you ever been a bad friend?
Yes. I'm sure I've fallen short at times. But I do work very hard at the friendship thing.

Has a friend ever replaced you with somebody else?
I think my friend Barb has. She moved to Hilton Head and I really don't hear from her much anymore. These things happen.

Have you ever disliked something just because it was popular?
No. I have met pretentious people who do that -- my friend Joanna's recent beau being one of them -- but that's silly.

Have you ever watched a movie just because it starred an actor you liked?
I think that's a great reason to choose a movie!

Are there actors/musicians you have met?

Do you ever judge people based on the music they listen to?
I don't base my complete assessment on music. But yes, I suppose I do.

What about your top five music albums?
This is hard! But these are the ones that come to mind.

1) Beatles White Album
2) Born in the USA
3) Barbra Streisand's Second Album
4) Dusty Springfield's Greatest Hits
5) The Boss by Diana Ross

Do you remember the first album you ever owned?

Do you still use an mp3 player, or just your phone?
We were just talking about this yesterday! Yes, I still use my iPod.

Do you like Elton John?
More than I used to. He's grown on me. :)

Have any celebrity deaths hit you hard? Which one(s)?
John Lennon's murder felt like a blow to my solar plexus.


A good day from morning till night

I was a little melancholy Saturday because it was the day I was supposed to celebrate my friend John's birthday at Wrigley Field. But he's been too ill. Fortunately, my nephew was a terrific seat filler. When he was a little boy, we used to read the Sunday Sun Times together, checking out the Cub news and standings. I had no idea that he was going to become a super fan with a passion for Sabermetrics.

It was a terrific game. A seven run first inning, and our ace, Jon Lester, helped his own cause with a home run. Really, we saw a virtuoso performance from Lester. This is a nice recap of the action on the field.

It was too hot (90º) and humid at the ballpark. For some stupid reason, I neglected to apply and reapply the sunscreen that I had in purse. Oh well. I'll try to consider my Lucy Riccardo-level sunburn just another souvenir of the day.

After the game, we tried to get into Manager Joe Maddon's new restaurant, but it was just too crowded. Good for Joe!  There have been rumors that he's in trouble with management. Good to see that he's still loved by the fans. (We're in first place, people! Be happy!)

After the game, we wandered around Wrigleyville a bit and ended up at a pizza/wing joint. My nephew cannot eat enough pizza! We talked for hours, catching up on his new job (McDonald's) and his summer and his poli/sci classes at Western Illinois. He seems happy enough. I wish he had a busier social calendar, but that's me projecting my values onto him and I really should cut that out.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Bonanza (1959)

1) Bonanza ran on NBC for 14 seasons. Today it's rerun on
Hello, Cowboy
Me-TV and TVLand. Were/are you a fan? Very much! I loved Little Joe when I was a very little girl, and I rediscovered it a few years ago when I had a cold a few years ago. The Cartwrights were good company when I felt bad. I have also developed a posthumous crush on Adam. He was so strong and steady and mature. Sigh.

2) The show centers on The Cartwrights, who lived on a massive ranch in Nevada. License plates in Nevada read, "The Silver State." What's on your license plate? Land of Lincoln.

3) Ben Cartwright made his fortune as a cattle rancher. What's the last beef dish you ate? There was ground beef in the lasagna I had for dinner on Friday.

4) Patriarch Ben had his eldest son, Adam, with his refined, bookish first wife, Elizabeth. Unfortunately, Elizabeth died in childbirth. Still Adam inherited her love of the written word. What's the last book you finished? A Common Struggle by Patrick J. Kennedy.

  5) Ben's second son, Hoss, was born to his second wife, Inger, who was killed as the family traveled West by wagon train. Hoss inherited her open, friendly manner and her way with animals. Are there pets in your home? These two. The gray and white girlcat is my lap as I answer these questions.

6) Ben's youngest, Joe, arrived after Ben married a third time to the passionate Marie, who died in a riding accident when her son was only five years old. Little Joe inherited her impetuosity. Do you consider yourself more spontaneous or predictable? Yes. My oldest friend likes to tease me about how I love to have "a plan" when we travel. I don't even have to execute the plan, I am just comforted by having one. So that would make me predictable, right? Yet in matters of emotion, I am spontaneous. I go by my gut.

7) Samuel Clemons was a reporter in Virginia City at the time when the Cartwrights would have been there, and a fictionalized version of Mr. Clemons appeared in an episode of Bonanza. Without looking it up, do you know Samuel Clemons' famous pen name? Mark Twain.

8) Hair was a big deal in the Bonanza dressing room. Three of the original four stars -- Lorne Greene, Pernell Roberts and Dan Blocker -- all wore hairpieces. (The fourth, Michael Landon, began dying his hair while still in his 20s because he was going prematurely gray.) Have you ever worn a wig or a hairpiece? I wore a short, curly wig under a man's hat and was Harpo Marx for Halloween. Does that count?

9) Random question -- Tell us the story behind one of your scars. I have a short, vertical scar on my lip where I once had a mole. (I'm very fair skinned, and it seems that every year or so a mole acts up, concerns my dermatologist, and has to go.) The plastic surgeon did a nice job. It looks less like a scar than a little wrinkle.


Friday, July 12, 2019

Three hours is our limit

I had a nice, three-hour visit with my Cousin Rose today. She was visiting her dad's side of the family in Michigan and brought her sister's kids, and their kids, to Chicago for the day. After visiting Sears Tower and Navy Pier, they picked me up at 4:00 and we visited The Bean, and Crown Fountain, and then had some pastries at Toni's. They hit the road at 7:00, heading back to Plainwell. I got on the train and came home.

It was a lovely visit and a happy time. It meant a great deal to me that she wanted to see me.

Yesterday was a bad day. My friend Henry had an ugly confrontation with a volunteer at the library and called me in tears. It was so unexpected, so sad, and I couldn't even spend time with him because I had to go and beaten up for hours at a condo deconversion meeting.

So being with Rose was like a balm to my soul. But I don't think Rose has changed, and I'm sure I haven't either. If we spent more time together, we were bound to generate friction. So I'm grateful we had the these three hours together today.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

I'm my mother's daughter

Like her, I believe that a refrigerator is more than a place to store food. It's an opportunity for self expression!

Welcome to my kitchen, new refrigerator.

I hate being busy

I am a slug. I like nothing better than staying stationary with a book, or Farmville, or watching baseball. It relaxes me. And now, with "open seating" at the office, which leaves me piteously exposed all day every day, it's like a lifeline. And this week, I'm afraid I won't get much lazy alone time.

Monday. Movie Meetup. Pride of the Yankees. I do love this 1942 film about Lou Gehrig. And it was nice to get together with Will again. Plus, this week is the All Star Break, which means no Cub games until Friday,* so it was good to get my baseball fix.

Tuesday. Henry's newspaper article. The local Key West paper did a profile on Henry! It was a very affectionate piece with lots of photos and it made him happy. And it was a nice counterpoint to all the intimate, sad online oversharing Reg has been doing about their personal lives. So I was delighted for Henry. But when he phoned last night -- during the All Star Game -- the call went on too long, as calls with Henry invariably do. The conversation got sillier as Henry got more fatigued (and perhaps consumed more wine). I felt guilty that I was relieved to hang up. Henry had good news and wanted to share it, and I am honored he chose to share it with me.

Today. New refrigerator. I'm sitting here, waiting for the new one to arrive and the old one to be hauled away. Sometime between 8:30 and noon. I've got my furniture all moved out of the way and am waiting for the "we're on our way" call to empty the refrigerator. After the guys are finally done, I'll load up the new frig and put my stuff back ... and take a nap.

Thursday. Another condo association meeting. We're busy at work, so I really don't need this shit. Oh, and it will be shit. My neighbors are, quite understandably, concerned about whether or not their homes are going to be sold out from under them. Many unitowners feel that, as a board, we haven't been doing a very good job of communicating. I agree. But as board secretary, I can't share information I don't have, and Brian -- our board president -- has been a complete prick. I am not enthusiastically looking forward to this meeting!

Friday. Cousin Rose. I got a text from her that she will be in town for the day, as she travels between Florida and Michigan. I don't know what all is on her agenda, and this is rather sudden. But I told her I'm free after my doctor's appointment at 3:30. I know Rose loves me and I treasure that. She can also be prickly and difficult. Plus it's going to be 88º and humid. I don't know what she wants to do, or how long she has to spend. Sigh. I like plans and there's no plan!

Saturday. Ball game! I'm thrilled to be going, of course. It's a little melancholy, though, because I'm going with my nephew and not John. This was supposed to be our celebration of his birthday, but he's simply too ill and tired to go. And again, hot, humid weather is predicted, and that will be exhausting.

Sunday. NOTHING! Yea!

*Though Javy Baez, Willson Contreras and Kris Bryant were NL All Stars.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Sunday Stealing

1. Are you satisfied with the way your life is right now? MEH. I feel fine, and I don't take my health for granted anymore. I'm not thrilled about having to buy a new refrigerator, and I wish my housing situation wasn't still in flux. But while it's not great, my life is OK.

2. Do you drink enough water? I'm better about water than I used to be.

3. When was the last time you ate at Burger King? I don't think I've been this year! Five Guys and McDonald's, but not Burger King.

4. Do you prefer the beach or the mountains? Mountains (though I like the water, too)

5. How do you usually feel when you wake up on a morning? Scared. Let me explain: my cat, Reynaldo, frequently gets bored and awakens me by knocking things over.

6. Would you rather take someone on a date, or be taken on a date? I'd prefer to stay home and watch a Law & Order rerun.

7. When was the last time you wore high heeled shoes? Decades. I've been told that, because of my heel spurs, high heels can actually cause further damage.

8. Vodka or wine? Vodka.

9. How often do you cry? Probably not often enough

10. Ever had a crush on a teacher? Yes

11. Can you wire a plug? No

12. Do you wear socks to bed? Well, when it's really cold I wear slipper socks. Does that count?

13. What is currently bugging you? See Question #1. (I really should read these before I start answering.)

15. Can you change a car tire? No.

16. Have you met more than ten celebrities? No.

17. Do you sleep naked? I have.

18. What was the best music gig you’ve ever attended? Sir Paul at Wrigley Field. 2011. My favorite guy ever in my favorite place on earth.

19. Have you ever had sexual feelings for anyone you follow on line? No.

20. Who is someone who has changed your life positively. So many people! Lately it's been two of my newest friends, Nancy and Joanna.

21. Favorite city? Chicago

22. Can you drive? No.

22. Cigarettes or alcohol? Alcohol. Cigarettes, literally, stink.

23. Favorite and least favorite accents? Downton Abbey English is my favorite. The Polish lady at the end of the hall who I can't understand is my least favorite.

24. Did you play Red Rover when you were a child? Yes

25. Do you like 1980s fashion? I remember it fondly, but I wouldn't wear it now.


Saturday, July 06, 2019

Not as expected

Something happened overnight Friday night. I don't know what exactly, because I was asleep at the other end of the apartment. But when I woke up this morning, my refrigerator was no longer running, the light inside had blown, and my microwave clock read 00:00. They're on the same circuit, so I flipped the circuit breaker a few times. The microwave came back to life, but it seemed the refrigerator was a goner.

Of course. I could get a microwave for $75. A refrigerator is hundreds and hundreds. Not to mention the food that's in there, spoiling. Not to mention trying to explain to Reynaldo that he can't have his luscious canned food.

Oh yeah, and I might be moving within the next year, so I don't want to spend a lot. But then again, I might not be moving and food safety is kinda sorta important.

I hate being a grown up.

So I spent the morning comparing online and by 9:00, I'd made my decision. I tried Sears first because they are struggling and they gave me my start. Alas they didn't have anything they could deliver before Friday at the earliest. So I went with a small(ish) local chain -- six locations -- and I will have my new, sale-priced refrigerator on Wednesday. $565, including tax, delivery and hauling away my current frig.

Of course, by now my refrigerator began showing signs of life. Because that's how life works. However it is 13 years old, wasn't top of the line when it was new, and I have no confidence that it won't crap out again. So I went out and bought a refrigerator thermometer to monitor for food safety. And then I got a fresh pedicure, which was supposed to be the The Big Thing of my day.

Oh, well. At least I'm still working and can afford to buy a new refrigerator. And it was on sale, so there's that. And I have unused personal days, so I can be here when the delivery truck arrives. So it's not as expected, but it's not as bad as it could be.

Good for what ails me

Friday I spent the day with Joanna, having lunch, wandering through The Chicago History Museum, and then having a little dessert afterward.

The museum is a cool building, nestled in a neighborhood (instead of on The Museum Campus, like some of our better known attractions). Got to see Ben Zobrist's World Series game worn jersey, which tickled me. But my happiest moment was climbing around on a real steam engine. It was built in the 1830s and was in service in and out of Chicago for decades. I spent so much of my life on trains, and I find that period of history so romantic, that it was a kick to handle the throttle and play with the valves.

As always, Joanna was interesting. We're both opinionated and neither of us is shy, so it could get contentious. But we are very fond of one another, and our disagreements were never disagreeable.

She told me about a neighbor of hers who had surgery and really needed Joanna's help. My friend was happy to help, but said her neighbor could be "odd" and "difficult" because she was often monosyllabic, and it can be hard to keep a conversation going. That's not a problem Joanna has with me!

One thing I feel kind of guilty about: Joanna was talking about another friend of hers who is "interesting" and "self taught." "She read all those books you and I should have read in college but didn't." I let the moment pass without admitting I never finished my freshman year. Here I am, 61 years old, and still ashamed that I didn't go to college.

Saturday 9

America, the Beautiful  

Unfamiliar with Frank Sinatra's 1945 version of this song? Hear it here.

1) In 2016, a group recommended that this week's song replace "The Star Spangled Banner" as our national anthem. They maintain it's just as beautiful but easier to sing. How do you feel about this? I'd prefer "America, the Beautiful" because it's about our natural gifts, not war. On the other hand, I understand the value of tradition. So I guess this is one of those issues that I'm firmly on both sides of.

2) Katharine L. Bates said her lyrics were inspired by a trip to Pike's Peak. What's the most beautiful American spot you've ever visited? It's one that I take for granted: Lake Michigan. It's hypnotic, it's awe-inspiring. With all that fresh water, it keeps us alive.

3) The music was written by organist Samuel Augustus Ward. Both Bates and Ward were very formal when signing their names professionally -- she including her middle initial and he with his full middle name. How about you? When you sign checks or documents, do you use your middle name or initial? Yes. Most of my credit cards, my checking account, my mortgage ... they all include my middle initial.

4) In 1945, when this version of the song was recorded, America lost Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Frank Sinatra said, "I lost a hero." What late, great American hero from our past would you like to honor today? Watch this. Really. This was a great man.


5) Also in 1945, a 19-year-old "hoofer" waited outside the Los Angeles radio station where Sinatra was being interviewed. That was the beginning of the friendship between Sammy Davis, Jr., and Frank Sinatra. Tell us about your oldest friend. We met in Kindergarten. We Beatle bonded, her falling for George while I staked my claim on The Cute One. She currently lives in California, and I miss her every day.

6) The Fourth of July means we're in the middle of summer. Are you careful about applying sunscreen? Yes

7) Mosquito bites can be a major summer annoyance. Are you scratching any itches right now? Little dry skin related things, but right now, no bug bites.

8) Emergency rooms report an increase in wrist injuries in summer, with people falling off bikes and skateboards and jamming their wrists catching hard-hit softballs. Have you  been to the ER or Urgent Care during 2019? No.

9) New York is home to Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest every year on the 4th. Will hot dogs be consumed in your household this weekend? Yesterday I had a hotdog and chips in cafe at the Chicago History Museum.

Friday, July 05, 2019

An unexpected act of kindness

I have been blue because of John. We can't celebrate his birthday (7/3) as we had planned this year because of his battle with heart failure. He expects to be feeling better within several weeks, and we have a quiet get together planned for the first weekend in August. But the reality of his illness has cast a pall over my holiday weekend.

Also, things have been getting under my skin and annoying me more than before. For example, earlier this week, at the office, when the gravity of John's condition washed over me anew. We were talking about our plans for the long holiday weekend and when I said, "John is too sick to celebrate ...," my art director snapped, "I hate martyrs." I responded that he wasn't a martyr, that people die from what he has. Embarrassed, she mumbled something and grabbed her purse. This is not the first time she has exhibited a marked lack of concern for what I'm dealing with in my life.

My friend Joanna and I are planning to do something patriotic this weekend: a trip to the Chicago History Museum, with its exhibit on Abe. I chose to do it on Friday, not Thursday, because train schedules will be more predictable. That might have been a mistake, since I was feeling quite low on the 4th itself.

I'd promised myself I would scrub my beautiful bathroom. There's no window in that room and mildew can be a problem. If I cleaned it up, and swapped out a new shower curtain liner, I might feel better about life. (Side note: I cleaned just about every surface with Dawn Platinum; love that stuff!)

It was then I heard from Nancy. Via Facebook. She saw my holiday posts, realized we hadn't seen one another in a while, and spontaneously invited me over for "burgers and brats on the grill" with her family. I declined -- I know me well enough to understand that if I abandoned my Thursday bathroom project it would never happen.

Still, it made me feel better. More connected and less isolated. It made a difference.

She and I are getting together later in the month and I'll have to tell her what her invitation meant to me. It was one of those little things that didn't feel little.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Happy 4th of July!

The flag in the Pavilion of the JFK Presidential Library. If you've ever been there (and you should go!), you know that the Pavilion is both breathtaking and just about impossible to photograph, so I consider this picture from the library website a real gift to us all. That's President Kennedy's beloved sailboat, the Victura, on the lawn.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019


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? Let's Play Two: The Legend of Mr. Cub, The Life of Ernie Banks by Ron Rapoport. As a lifelong Cub fan, I revere Ernie. I know the stats: 512 home runs, back-to-back MVP awards, 14 All Star games ... and no World Series ring. I adored his upbeat public persona, but knew little about his life off the diamond. 

His life was not at all what it seemed. The man who never turned down a kid who wanted an autograph was more isolated than I ever knew. The man who always had a grin for the fans was smiling through Jim Crow, divorce, and regrets. Ernie died in 2015 -- he didn't live to see the Cubs finally win The World Series in 2016 -- and now the people in his life felt comfortable sharing freely to this author. It feels like I'm finally getting a full portrait of the husband, father, friend, and peerless ballplayer who was Mr. Cub.

2. What did you recently finish reading? A Common Struggle, by Patrick J. Kennedy. This is a serious, downright wonky book about how Americans view and treat mental illness and addiction. Patrick Kennedy is uniquely qualified to present this to us. A member of the House of Representatives who helped craft and pass health care legislation, he's also bipolar and an addict.

He's the son of Ted Kennedy, nephew of Jack and Bobby, but this book contains no juicy stories about his famous clan. Instead, he uses his family to emphasize the universal nature of addiction and mental illness. For example, when his brother Teddy was diagnosed with cancer, America showered the family with compassion and well wishes. When, around that time, his mother Joan's emotional and alcohol problems became obvious, they were met with gossip and judgement. Yet Joan was just as ill as her son Teddy. Depression and addiction are sicknesses, not character flaws. They are illnesses that have likely touched you, your family or someone close to you. Battling them is, as Kennedy explains, a common struggle.

3.  What will you read next? Not another biography. Maybe a mystery or perhaps some chick-lit.


Sunday, June 30, 2019

Sunday Stealing

Unusual Music

1. A song that gives you goosebumps. "Tears Dry on Their Own" by Amy Winehouse. Damn, she was good.

2. A song you hated once but now love.
"Rocket Man." I used to think it was oblique and over played. Now it reminds me of the olden days.

3. Do you remember your first CD?
I'd already purchased it twice, and scratched it twice, on vinyl.

4. Has your music taste changed much since childhood?
I'm more open now. I used to dismiss Sinatra as a relic, like white gloves and rotary dial phones. Now I appreciate him as a singer (and actor). The man was a genius.

5. Favorite genre?

6. What’s a genre or style of music that you just don’t understand? Classical. It alternately bores and annoys me.

7. Do you have a process for listening to music, such as listening to the instruments more than words?
I love the sound of the vocals.

8. What’s your favorite thing about your favorite song? "September" never fails to lift my spirits.

9. Do you have a favorite decade for music?
The 1960s.

10. Can you play any instruments? No.

11. Do you remember your first favorite song?
It was a Halloween/witch song from Kindergarten. "Stirring and stirring and stirring my brew. Woo woo, woo, woo. Tip toe. Tip toe. Tip toe. BOO!"

12. What was the first concert you ever attended?
Bobby Sherman. I was still in grade school. He had fabulous hair and good teeth. Don't judge me.

I'm doing something wrong

Had an ugly exchange with my fellow condo board member on Thursday night. Literally yelling at one another in the parking lot before we each turned on our heels (me going in the front door and he through the back).

I can't stop thinking about it. It continues to bedevil me. It's disturbed my sleep. I've begun taking Valerian again, to calm down and relax and perhaps sleep better.

I don't know why I'm letting this disturb me so much. I have no doubts -- zero, zip, zilch -- that I was correct on both substance and style. I have no regrets about what I did or how I behaved.

So why do I keep replaying the exchange on a continuous loop? Why do I let this asshole have so much space in my head?

Something is wrong with me these days. Things get me down and keep me down longer than they used to.

I think perhaps it's gravity. What my friends are dealing with, what I'm dealing with, is more serious than the problems of days gone by. Where once we talked about being passed over for a promotion, we're talking about being forced into retirement because we're too old to hire. We used to worry about weight or acne or fertility, now we talk about heart disease, diabetes, brain injury and stroke.

Thinking of strokes ... after visiting his once vital, suddenly incapacitated father in the hospital, John F. Kennedy said to friends, "Old age is a shipwreck." He was so right. And, since none of us is getting any younger, I better buckle up, toughen up and figure out how to deal with this.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Ooh La La (2013)
Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) "Ooh la la" is defined as an interjection said when you think someone or something is "surprising, unusual or attractive." Looking back over this week, did you come across anything that deserves an "ooh la la?" On Friday, I was impressed by the dexterity the vet showed when clipping my cat Connie's nails. I cannot emphasize enough how vehemently she resists this procedure, but he was fast and sure. The man is a pro.

2) In this song, Britney Spears sings that she's eager to accompany you, even if you're not a millionaire. But let's say you suddenly become really rich. What's the first leisure trip you would take with your new funds? Who would you bring along? I would take the TCM Classic Cruise and bring my oldest friend with me. Days at sea, watching movies, and laughing together.

3) Britney is eager to dance with you, even if you don't wear designer clothes. Let's say you need to add a blouse (or shirt) to your wardrobe. Where's your go-to for clothes shopping? Lately it's ThredUp. It's a resale website, and it's great fun.

4) The video begins with Britney at the movies with her two young sons. Will you be seeing any family members this weekend? Nope.

5) This is a theme from the movie Smurfs 2. A Smurf is a little blue creature who lives in a mushroom-shaped house in the forest. Assuming that your home is not shaped like a mushroom and isn't in the forest, how would you describe your abode? (Mansion, ranch house, farm house, high-rise, igloo ...) It's a four story, brick, multi-unit building.

6) Britney admits to smoking and biting her nails. What bad habit do you wish you could break? I'm a slob.

7) In 2013, when this song was popular, Pope Benedict resigned. Thinking over your working life, have you been more nervous on your first day of a job, or the last one? In real time, it's probably the first day. But the more vivid memories are of the last ones. As messy and unorganized as I am in my personal life, I'm hyper responsible in my professional life. I am always uncomfortable with tasks I inevitably left undone when I left a job.

8) Also in 2013, golfer Phil Mickelson won the British Open. When did you most recently golf? I mini golfed back in 2016.

9) Random question -- On what part of your body was the last itch you scratched? The inside of my left ankle.

C is for "comorbidity"

Learn more about it here
Books sometimes find me, entering my life just when I need them. Such is the case of A Common Struggle by Patrick Kennedy. Published in 2015, I picked it up for free at our local library book sale in 2016. Where it's languished in my TBR pile ever since. Why did I start reading it now? The reason is astonishingly superficial: it's just over 400 pages long. I recently finished The President Is Missing, which is massive and took me for freaking ever, and I wanted something shorter. No, really. That's why I grabbed it.

Patrick Kennedy -- son of Ted, nephew of Jack and Bobby -- is bipolar and an addict. He is very frank about this. The reason why he called his memoir A Common Struggle is that he maintains mental illness and addiction are something we all face, in way one or another. His family's money, fame and power haven't insulated them. And that, if his readers think about their family and circle of friends, they likely know someone who has struggled with these issues, as well. I am certain he is right about that premise.

This book has introduced me to a problem I never considered before: comorbidity. It's a medical term for having two conditions simultaneously. Frequently the treatment of one complicates the treatment of the other. In Patrick's case, it was the havoc his antidepressants played with his addiction. Introducing comorbidity has me thinking about myself and the people in my life differently.

For example, me. I have both spinal stenosis and kidney stones. When I take an NSAID for one, is it masking the pain of the other? How do I really know, how can my doctor really know, how I'm doing?

My oldest friend is being treated for heart disease and bipolar disorder.

John is dealing with heart disease and diabetes.

Henry is living with depression as well as the aftermath of a traumatic brain injury.

This book is making me more patient with the "patients" in my life. Meds they take for one condition and enable them to function in their daily lives could actually be masking or even impeding the healing in another area. I must remember that everyone, including the doctors, are doing the best they can within this challenging paradigm.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Him, too

I love this picture of Connie and Reynaldo. It shows how comfortable they are with one another, what good friends they are. And so I feel much better about leaving them alone, knowing they will keep one another company.

Yet it shows Connie bright eyed and alert, and Reynaldo asleep. My little beige demon, my skinny wildman, sleeps more and more. More and more often. More and more soundly.

He's 15 years old. That's the equivalent of a 75 year old human.

He still enjoys food and he's mad about cuddles. He gets bored if I sleep too long and knocks things over to get my attention. And, at least twice a day that I witness, he chases Connie around. So he's not in any distress today.

But I can see it. He's fading.

Just like with John, it hurts me to see this.

Things hit me harder these days, and stay with me longer. I don't know why I can't shake the blues.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

I hate this so much.

For his birthday, John and I were going to the Cub game on Saturday, July 13. Now we aren’t. He’s still too ill, still too weak, and afraid that he’ll become woozy in the crush of 40,000 fans. He no longer likes to travel far from home and is skipping all Chicago’s summer street fairs. This news makes me sad, because it’s so not John.

He is battling heart failure, and it has diminished him. John was once on the cutting edge. He was the one who was bored with the latest trend before I even heard about it. He was out every weekend. He was the charismatic one, always making new friends from different generations, different walks of life. He was curious about everything.

That's not who he is anymore. 

•  Technology makes him angry. He doesn't do Facebook or Twitter -- which isn't a good thing for an advertising copywriter whose clients use social media.

•  He hates Uber and Lyft because they mean fewer cabs on the street ... and his phone won't accept apps. 

•  He needs glasses but he won't wear them. At dinner, he'll ask the waitress if they serve what he wants, rather than looking at the menu. At museums, he stares at the exhibit for a moment but doesn't read the cards ... because he can't see them.

*  He doesn't get his hair cut anymore. He wears it pulled back into a little gray ponytail.  

•  He can't move. I am, literally, a foot shorter than he is. I'm fat and out of shape. And John can't keep up with me when we walk up the street.

•  He complains about new people. For silly things, like one of his neighbors has a dog. And he hates crowds.

His doctors wanted him to get a pacemaker in 2009, but he refused then. A decade later and they're not talking about it anymore. His new cardiologist put him on Entresto, and hopes that will enhance his heart's ability to pump blood without any device implementation. 

I'm afraid that 13 years of battling heart disease has made him old. I'm afraid he's running out of time. I'm afraid I'm watching my friend die.

He is 64. I am not ready to say goodbye to him.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Sunday Stealing


1. Are you a happy person? More often than not.

2. What is happiness for you?
Happiness is in the moment. The way my cat Reynaldo curls his paws, or watching Anthony Rizzo swing for the fences, or eating Raisinettes in the dark from a movie seat.

3. What do you think is the color of happiness?
Pantone 294, aka Cubbie blue.

4. Can money buy happiness?
Money can buy freedom from worrying about money.

5. Is happiness a state of mind?
That's a little superficial. Some people struggle with depression, and which is real and serious and not something they can choose their way out of.

6. What are three things that make you happy?
Books and cats and the Cubs.

7. Does having a pet make you happy?

8. When was the happiest time of your childhood?
This is a particularly fond memory: When I was 7, my parents surprised me by taking me and my oldest friend to see the Beatles' HELP! at a drive-in. I was riding my bike and the three of them pulled up in an unfamiliar car, a blue station wagon. My dad had swapped cars with a coworker so we could have the back of the wagon to bounce around in when we screamed and cried over The Lads. It was an uncharacteristically thoughtful gesture on my dad's part.

9. Can you be happy if you are rich?
Of course.

10. Do you think happiness lies within you or does it depend on other people and external things?
Yes. I mean, your happiness is ultimately your own responsibility. But it's ridiculous to ignore all the outside factors that influence us and our well being every day.

11. Are single people happy?
No. Every day it's a battle not to take my own miserable, single life. I apologize for breathing and using air better used by married people.

12, What is the effect that animals/pets have on people to make them feel happy?
As I answer these questions, my cat Connie is in my lap, so let's use her as an example. First of all, I love how affectionate she is. Her purr is audible and every now and again she rubs her head up against my arm. Second, I love how clear and bright her eyes are. When I first brought her home, she had an infection that left her with a perpetually runny nose and cloudy, light sensitive eyes. It brings me joy to see how healthy she now is. And sometimes she's very funny. The mesh bag that I once used for washing my lingerie is in the middle of the kitchen. Connie somehow decided it is her mortal enemy. She battles it and then proudly parades around with it. Thank God she's keeping me safe from that mesh bag!

13.  Can you be happy if you are poor?
I don't think so, because I would be worried about paying my bills.

14.  What is there to be happy about in today’s world?
We live in America, where we still have a free press. That should inspire joy, especially on Sunday morning when we have both the Sunday papers and long-format shows like Meet the Press, Face the Nation and This Week to inform us.

15.  How happy are you compared with your friends.
"Compare and despair." Words of wisdom to live by. Happiness is not a sport.