Wednesday, August 31, 2011

All of life, in one day

Today, I …

• Noticed how beautiful the sky was. The green of the Millennium Park trees looked so pretty against the clean, pale blue.

• Wrestled with a difficult project, but I think I conquered it

• Followed up with Cigna about my short term disability claim

• Was mad at my shrink for not submitting my bill to the insurance company yet, as I asked her to weeks ago

• Then got home to receive a message that she won't be seeing any patients at all until October 1, "family emergency." I think it's related to her husband's cancer. Now I feel guilty.

• Joked with Kathleen about my stapler cyst.

• Admitted I was afraid about my upcoming surgery to one of the (very nice) higher ups who came by my office to say he'd heard I was going to be out for a while, that I'd be missed, and (while he didn't want to pry) he hopes I'll come back healthier than before.

• Apologized to my mom for being so weird.

• Listened to my oldest friend complain about her selfish former in-laws and entitled son.

• Worried about money.

• Played with the new purse I bought.

I feel like at one point or another today, I felt just about every emotion. Happy, sad, guilty, cheap, wicked …

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 30

What Not to Wear. I saw my first episode of the new season! I like how the cameras drop in on the episode's subject a few weeks after the "big reveal." It's good to see if the new clothes, make up and especially hair are easy to keep up.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I'm soooo not good at this

I'm coming unglued, waiting for surgery. I really am.

Yesterday my oldest friend called to tell me she's NOT coming in to hold my hand. This is not a surprise. I just wish we hadn't have done this dance. It tired me, trying not to hurt her feelings while still surreptitiously working on Plan B: My Mommy. She's been very patient with me.

Then I read a letter from my insurance agency. I'm pre-authorized for Friday and Saturday nights in the hospital. Yea! Except for one thing -- Kathleen is on deck to drive me home from the hospital on Monday. That's what my doctor told me: 3 nights in the hospital. Kathleen is leaving town with her family on Saturday morning and won't be back until Sunday night. So I have no ride.

I spoke to my doctor's assistant and she told me not to worry about it. Insurance companies do what they do. She will see to it that if I need that third night -- and she's confident I will -- that I will get it. She reiterated that my huge stapler cyst, while creepy to the max, is most likely not malignant and that if the lining of my uterus is, we're catching it early. Okay.

Then there's my cough. See post below. I. Can't. Help. It! But because it's so disruptive, it's also top of mind. So when the lab called, saying they wanted to discuss my chest x-ray, I freaked out. I can't have this surgery rescheduled! I can''t! My x-ray is clear and normal.

I feel like I'm pulled as tight as a piano wire. I wish this waiting was done so I can look back on this surgery and say, "It wasn't so bad ..."

I. Can't. Help. It!

I have a bad cough. A hacking, horrible cough. I sound like a barking seal. I know! I know! You think I don't hear it? You think it's not hurting my throat? You think I don't miss breathing comfortably?

I don't have a fever. My chest x-ray came back clear. I cover my mouth with a tissue (a disposable tissue -- better than a sleeve). I only have four more work days until I take a month off -- I can't just stay home.

I. Can't. Help. It!

Today, while sitting in my office, I was visited by someone who had sat in on a conference call in the next office. "Are you OK? Do you need help? The client could hear you and asked what the noise was!"

I was mortified.

And if we lose an account because of my cough, I sincerely apologize.

Girl Power

I have been watching Gone with the Wind when I can't sleep. I know it's considered an epic and a love story. But to me, it's a portrait of two very different kinds of great women.

Scarlett is tough and shrewd. Yes, she's selfish and spirited. But she faces her problems head-on and deals with them. It was Scarlett who defied the odds and managed to keep a roof over the head of her family and food on their table. If you have only seen the movie, her fixation with Ashley might confuse you. So pick up the book. As Margaret Mitchell describes him, he's more Robert Redford than Prince Charles.

Melanie isn't as tough or willful but she is strong. Her strength comes from decency and faith and a good heart. She knows Ashley better than he knows himself, understands him and loves him anyway. Likewise Scarlett. Melanie's not the deluded fool, she's just wise and chooses to see the good. When times are tough, she's the one -- never Ashley -- who is at Scarlett's side, making sure they prevail.

Part of why I think Rhett rocks is that he sees both of these women -- and Mammy and Belle Watling, too -- so clearly and appreciates each one's uniqueness and good qualities. I can see him living comfortably in the new millennium. But not even Rhett is as powerful as Melanie and Scarlett. Nothing keeps Scarlett down for long, and the only thing that can stop Melanie is death.

(I'd like to be more like Melanie, but in reality I've got a lot of Scarlett in me. I have a very bad temper and a stubborn, unrealistic view of relationships.)

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 29

$3.99 on sale! Feline Pine, that is. My cat, Charlotte, is very loving and devoted to me and tries to be a good influence on wildcat, Reynaldo (alternately chastening him with a stiff paw to the cheek or affectionately tending to his ears and eyes, as the situation requires). But she hates my big old tomcat, Joey. She just does. Every day he tries to be her friend, every day she screams at him like a banshee and pounds on him. Never mind that she's a fraction of his size. Never mind that he lived here first. He simply offends her.

To the point that he's not allowed to ... um ... defecate in her box. I don't know how she enforces this, but she somehow she does. Joey is so much larger than she is that I can tell where he goes, and it's always in the other box, the one I refer to as "The Men's Room."

The Ladies' Room uses grainy scoopable litter and The Men's Room is filled with Feline Pine pellets. The difference in texture and scent make it easier for Joey to differentiate the boxes. Joey, a gentle giant with many sterling qualities, has never been the sharpest knife in the drawer and I'm afraid that if ever I switch brands in his box, it could lead to confusion and chaos.

I have boxes and jugs of scoopable litter stockpiled, but I forgot about Feline Pine. My convalescence could become very odoriferous and unpleasant without an extra sack of Joey's litter. So in an otherwise rather shitty day (no pun intended), Feline Pine on sale at Dominick's was the highlight.

Monday, August 29, 2011

"Hello, my name is Peggy."

This was me attempting to report my short-term disability claim to Cigna. Normally when I deal with them, everything goes smoothly. Today ... not so much. The rep didn't speak fluent English and we ended up just frustrating each other. (My favorite part: when she asked me if I have ever been treated by any doctor for anything before. She can't possibly have meant that question.) Here's hoping nothing was lost in translation.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 28

Movies! Not only the one I saw at the theater (see below) but look what I found on Comcast On Demand. The ultimate escape!

Movies are such a reliable, cheap high.

Thank you, Ryan Gosling

I have been obsessing about my upcoming surgery. I know that accomplishes nothing and I try not to do it, and yet ... Look, I'm about to be gutted like a fish in order to find out if I have cancer. It IS kind of a big deal!

So today I did what I always do when the going gets tough: I go to the movies. This afternoon it was Crazy, Stupid Love. It's a very funny, completely charming movie starring Steve Carrell. But the revelation in it was Ryan Gosling.

Last time I saw him was in Blue Valentine, where he played a loving but balding, underachieving pot-smoker/house painter. Jacob in Crazy, Stupid Love could not be more different. He's slick and snarky and funny ("the skin under your eyes is starting look like Hugh Hefner's ball sack") and oh, my!

It's a movie-stealing performance. I found myself waiting for him to reappear. And his Jacob made me forget about my compromised innards for a while.

Sunday Stealing

Sunday Stealing: The August 20 Question Meme

Cheers to all of us thieves!

1. What's for breakfast? Cheerios.

2. Do you read a newspaper daily? Monday through Friday. I read it each morning on the train to work.

3. What do you do when you can't sleep? Read one of the books or magazines near my bed for just that purpose.

4. Say a word that sums up your mood. Impatient!

5. Do you remember your dreams? Just the really wacky ones. Like the one where Burt Reynolds tries to intimidate me before I can testify against his son.

6. Name something from your dream last night. I can't recall last night's dream. Had to do with Hurricane Irene. I don't recall the specifics -- meaning Burt Reynolds must not have been harassing me.

7. Name a food that describes you. Eggs. I am a woman of many moods -- ranging from over easy to scrambled.

8. Today you are wearing: Shorts and a t-shirt.

9. What's in your pockets? Lip balm, a tissue and some change.

10. Did you sing in the shower today? Oh, God. I did. I sang along with Captain and Tenille on shower radio. "Do that to me one more time/once is never enough/with a man like you ..." I can't remember where I left my keys, but I have retained all these lyrics. Oh well, at least it wasn't "Muskrat Love."

11. What's the last song you heard? "Sweet Nothings" by Brenda Lee. It's on the soundtrack of An Education.

12. Looking forward to the holidays? Yes. I'm looking forward to seeing my friends in Key West.

13. Where do you want to be this instant? One month in the future! I want to be looking back on my upcoming surgery, instead of fearing it.

14. What's for lunch? There's some ham in the refrigerator ...

15. What's something you would like to do soon? Hug my best friend. I miss him something awful.

16. Reading anything now? What is it? Mini Shopaholic. Becky Brandon (nee Bloomwood) is Lucy Riccardo for the new millennium.

17. What's for dinner? That feels like a lifetime away!

18. A favorite part of the day is: Early evening as the sun goes down

19. Are you happy? Usually I'm happy. But at this particular juncture, no. I don't feel well.

20. Guess how many people will do Sunday Stealing this weekend? 41

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Well, that's done

I didn't do much today because I'm feeling a little depleted emotionally. I went in for my pre-op chest x-ray and bloodwork. Then I stopped at the pharmacy for the pre-op bowel prep. Ew. Ick. I have an annoying cough. And I'm still as sluggish as I felt when this adventure started.

I want it to be a month from now so I can look back on all my fear and trepidation and say, "Now weren't you just being silly? Surgery wasn't so bad!"

JFK vs. Prince Charles

I'm watching a documentary on Princess Diana, and as always, I miss her. It would have been nice to see how that kindergarten teacher-turned-icon would have evolved in middle age. It would have been wonderful to see her touch more lives with her charity work.

I also think about how she compares with my all-time idol, JBKO. After all, their lives had more than a few similarities -- enjoying the adoration of the world yet deprived the fidelity of their husbands, tormented by the paparazzi, admired for both their fashion sense and their devotion to their children.

But one big difference between them was in their husbands. Prince Charles pined for Camilla Parker-Bowles, even as he was married to Diana. JFK had serial affairs but they were compulsive and carnal and he didn't understand why these "meaningless" flings bothered his wife so damn much. (Mad Men, anyone?) While each man's deplorable behavior had a devastating effect on his wife, it's easy to see how Jackie could comfort herself by believing she was her husband's one true love. Diana was deprived that solace.

Prince Charles was perplexed and annoyed by Diana's fame and impact on the public. After all, HE was the born royal, HE was the future monarch. JFK was too smart and confident to look at his life that way. He was proud of Jackie's star power and knew how to use it to his advantage. For example, their "triumphant" state trip to Europe was really Jackie's triumph. She was the one who created an international sensation. President Kennedy was embarrassed by his meeting with Krushchev and got nothing from DeGaulle, yet he basked in laughs and applause upon their return to the United States by announcing, "Perhaps I should introduce myself: I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris. And I enjoyed it."

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 27

"The happiest days are when babies come." So said the wise Miz Melly Wilkes in Gone with the Wind, and of course she was right. I woke up in the middle of the night -- a little after 2:00 AM -- with a sudden coughing jag and went to the kitchen for ice water. On the way back to the bedroom, I stopped at this here old laptop checked my email. Imagine my surprise to find a pair of baby photos and a birth announcement from one of the best people on the planet!

My buddy is a great guy, one of those people who does nothing by half measure. When he was single, he was one of the horniest horndogs ever, but he never lied to or exploited any of his hook-ups. He genuinely likes women. He's always been a dear, sensitive friend … a hardworking coworker who never skimps on the integrity … and an adoring son. From the time I met him nearly 15 years ago now, he always said that someday he wanted to meet the right girl, marry her, and have a happy home like the one his parents gave him.

Well, now he's truly on his way! After 3 years of marriage, and his wife welcomed a 7 lb., 7 oz. baby boy to the world. I am so happy for him, and for the baby who is going to be showered with love.

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: I Fought the Law

1. Have you ever been on the wrong side of the law? Prepare yourself to be shocked by my lawlessness: I jay walked in front of a police car. It was the Chicago Loop! Don't they have real criminals to think about? Apparently not. A cop actually used his loud speaker to call me out for it. "Lady! Woman in the black coat! Stop!" Of course I didn't. He followed me for a couple of blocks and gave up. Sheesh!

2. What was the last thing you described as either “surprisingly good” or “surprisingly bad?” Ryan and Tatum: The O'Neals. I began watching it by accident -- it came on after the show on Sarah Ferguson I had been watching. I never watched Sarah again, but I never missed an episode of this show. Ryan reminds me -- for good and ill -- so much of my late uncle! Overwhelming temper, terrible regret and undeniable charisma in one volatile package. And just as my uncle loved his cat, Bennie, Ryan has an ineffable soft spot for a puppy named Mozart.

3. When was the last time you unintentionally surprised someone else? At the office. As I was reaching for the frosted-glass doors, someone suddenly opened them from the other side.

4. When was the last time you deliberately surprised someone else? I don't recall.

5. What was the last really funny movie you watched? Horrible Bosses.

6. What is something that you've never done that you secretly are dying to do? Cross Abbey Road barefoot.

7. What do you hope is different in your life by August 2012? I hope I'll be looking back on next month's surgery and thinking how much better I feel.

8. Who is the last person you greeted at your door? Oh, no you don't! These last two questions were asked just two weeks ago!

9. If you could live in any ancient city during the height of the quality of its society and culture, which one would you choose? The nerve!

Friday, August 26, 2011

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 26

Freedom from worry. I'm OK financially. Not as good as I should be, not as good as I want to be, but OK. And right now, to borrow from Bruce Springsteen, "that's all right with me."

Assuming the worst case scenarios for my September surgery, my hospital bill is estimated to be $13,000. My insurance covers 80%, or $10,400. That leaves me with a possible bill of $2,600. Of course I'm not happy about it, but I'm relieved and grateful that it's not the whole thing.

And I'm always getting balance transfer offers from the bank. I know I shouldn't rely so much on credit, but you know what? In this instance my conscience is clear. I wrote myself a BT check for $2,000 and deposited in the bank so I'll have cash on hand when the bill comes. Again, I'm not happy about this, but I'm relieved and grateful that I can cover my medical expenses without dipping into my emergency fund.

And today I met with the HR representative at work and I will be paid 100% for up to 8 weeks off, 50% if I must be off for 12 weeks. It's estimated that I'll be back to work in 6 weeks, so again I'm relieved and grateful.

So all I have to worry about over the next two weeks is my health. I realize that's something not every woman in my position can say.

Nothing but crickets

That's all I'm hearing from my oldest friend in California.

She offered to come out and hold my hand through surgery, sit with my mother while the procedure went down, and stay with me for a few days after I'm released from the hospital. I was afraid to trust her. For, while I believed she sincerely wanted to be there for me, I didn't see how she could. She hasn't been at work since February, living off workman's comp after a tumble at her job. Both her son and her daughter are very troubled. She simply doesn't have the resources to drop everything and come 2000 miles to help.

Yet she won't admit it. First she was angry and hurt because I was rejecting her offer. She reiterated that she would be here for me. PERIOD.

Last week she dialed it back to "gonna try like hell." Because now she may not be able to get a cheap flight, or her own follow-up surgery scheduled (!), or a high school counselor to come over every day and take her daughter (soon to begin her sophomore year) to school. And now there's no way she can be here for both the surgery and the aftermath.

This week I haven't heard a single word from her.

Is she embarrassed? Blue? Has her own surgery been scheduled yet? Is something happening out West that requires her to need my help? I get very frustrated with her.

But I must breathe deeply and remember three things:

1) This is who she is, she's not going to change
2) Her intentions were golden, and that matters
3) No one makes me laugh like she does, and it would be nice if she could make it out here. If not, well, I'm fortunate enough to still have my mom and my friend Kathleen.

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 25

Peapod. My groceries were delivered tonight. I placed the order yesterday afternoon from the office, updated it last night from home (after I confirmed the ketchup situation) and they arrived at my front door tonight. One less thing to do this weekend, so I can get over and have my pre-op bloodwork done, and then concentrate on decluttering and cleaning.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011




I love Don Draper. I love the 1960s. I even love "the ad game." So naturally I love Mad Men, and therefore am sad that the new season isn't set to premiere until March 2012! This TT is designed to help me as I jones.

#1 Don and Peggy

Don: It’s your job. I give you money. You give me ideas.

Peggy: But you never thank me.

Don: That’s what the money is for!

#2 Roger

“Well, I gotta go learn a bunch of people’s names before I fire them.”

#3 Don on his secretary, Miss Blankenship

"I would have my secretary do it, but she's dead."

#4 Roger

"Remember, every time God closes a door, he opens a dress."

#5 Trudy Campbell on the events of 11/22/63

"I don't care what your politics are. This is America! You just don't shoot the President!"

#6 Peggy seeks creative inspiration

"I'm Peggy Olson and I want to smoke marijuana."

#7 Don seeks creative inspiration

“What you call love was invented by guys like me to sell nylons.”

#8 Bobbie Barrett

"Pick a job and become the person who does it."

#9 Joan waxes philosophical

"That’s life for you. One minute you’re on top of the world, the next minute some secretary’s running you over with a lawnmower."

#10 Don

"If you don't like what's being said, change the conversation."

#11 Don and Midge discuss their future.

Don: Maybe we should get married.

Midge: You think I'd make a good ex-wife?

#12 Don and Pete discuss their future

Pete: I'd follow a guy like you into battle blindfolded. And I wouldn't be the first, would I, buddy?

Don: Let's take it a little slower. I don't want to wind up pregnant.

#13 Don's way of getting past calamity

"Move forward. This never happened. It will shock you how much this never happened."

To learn more about the Thursday Thirteen,
or to play along yourself, click here.

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 24

Being known so well. Out of the blue, my best friend sent me a work-related memo to critique. Since we no longer work for the same agency and consequently don't know each other's projects backward and forward anymore, it took me a little time to figure out what it should say, and then to revise it so he's presenting his point-of-view in the clearest possible way.

We used to do this all the time. He has good, sound ideas, but he's not terribly visual. A little bold here, a few bullets there, breaking up his single seemingly endless paragraph helps. And I was happy to be of service. He hasn't asked me to help like this in a while.

When I sent it back to him, he responded with: "Thank you. Now was that a distraction?"

So he knew how tough days like yesterday are for me, he knows that if I'm left to my own devices I'm just going to obsess, and he was trying to keep my mind off my future surgery. It made me smile.

A better day here at the ranch

Today we have achieved just the right amount of busy for this old Gal. Client input came in reliably, turnaround times are reasonable, we're reviewing new creative internally at 4:00 ... It's not as maddeningly, deadly slow as yesterday was, but not as frantic as I feared today would be because our Thursday in-person presentation has been scaled back to a conference call. That means that, instead of needing everything in the world done before 6:00 this afternoon, we have until sometime tomorrow.

Image: graur razvan ionut /

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Loooong rainy day

It's been pouring since before noon. My boss joined most of the account team for a presentation at the client's office, so there's no one available to review the work I've been concentrating on (and will be presenting Thursday). So I'm enduring that frustrating boredom that comes before tomorrow's flurry of activity. You'd think after 30 years of doing this, I'd be able to better calibrate my moods and reactions!

Image: Ambro /

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 23

Breakfast with the Books. Bookmama, her mother, Snowbird, and her two book loving kids took time out of their trip to Chicago to visit me! The Lego-loving older brother was so patient and well-behaved, eager to tell tales of his trip to the Lego Store at Water Tower Place. His shy, picture-pretty younger sister was a fan of the American Girl Store. And chatting with Bookmama and Snowbird was so warm and comfortable! I got to hear the history of their unique family tradition, Thanksmass. I'm honored that two such nice women carved out more than an hour of their getaway just for me, and I'll remember this -- my first cyberworld-to-real-life experience -- always!

My stapler cyst is so clever

It knew to wait until now to make itself known. For, according to their website, "In Spring 2010, the hospital made a transition to privatize rooms for patients." No roommate for me! Yea!

This is not from my hospital -- they don't have room photos on their site -- but I chose it because it's comparatively no frills and it has a window. A window would be nice.

Monday, August 22, 2011

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 21

Well, that's done. I finally have a date for my surgery: September 9. I got the information I need for having my pre-op bloodwork and x-ray done. I feel less like there's a specter hanging over me and more like I'm moving toward improving my health. And I can make plans for getting my home ready for whoever is staying with me for a few days afterward. (That's all still up in the air. I'm a little frustrated about that, but I'm trying not to harsh my buzz. I found the pony in this shitty situation and I'm clinging to it!)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Another bag to Goodwill

That's three trips to Goodwill in 8 days. Most of what I have parted with are books. That makes me happy. Obviously I am very attached to my reading materials or I wouldn't have accumulated so many that I'm confident I simply don't have the time to revisit. But I like thinking about them finding new homes and being appreciated anew. And, of course, there's the Goodwill aspect. Goodwill helps the disadvantaged find jobs. That's so important now.

And I'm happy I can see so much unfettered floor!

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 21

Back-to-back-to-back episodes of I Love Lucy.

I am feeling so stressed about friends, my upcoming surgery and the arrangements that need to be made (but can't yet), my presentation down at the client this Thursday, which no one but me seems to be anticipating ... So I'm taking refuge in life with the Riccardos at 68th Street in Manhattan, the Tropicana, or all across Beverly Hills. I prefer Lucy & Ricky's black and white world.

Sunday Stealing

The Heaven Eleven Meme

Cheers to all of us thieves!

1. If you could live in any other time period, which would you pick? I'd love to have come of age in the 1960s. The Kennedys, The Beatles, political idealism ... and prevalent air conditioning.

2. What is your favorite topic to write on your blog other than a meme? According to the tags, it's movies.

3. What are some traits that you admire in a lover? Generosity of spirit and a sense of fun. And good hair.

4. Could you adjust to life in another country? If I wanted to ... which I don't.

5. If you could study anything, what would it be? I'm trying to teach myself Spanish. I suck at it, but I continue anyway.

6. What is your favorite possession that cost less than $15? My Hollywood snowglobe, a gift from my best friend.

7. Which color do you wear most often? Blue

8. What has been your “theme song”, or favorite song this summer? "Amy, Amy, Amy," that wise and funny exploration of how helpless we gals are against good old-fashioned lust, by the late, great Amy Winehouse.

9. What's the most romantic thing that's ever been said to you? That when Bob Dylan wrote "Emotionally Yours," he could have been writing how my then-boyfriend felt about me. I like this version by the O'Jays better.

10. What would be your dream birthday cake? Chocolate with vanilla frosting and milk chocolate on top.

11. What is the coolest thing you’ve ever done? Kissed Bruce Springsteen.

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 20

My Mommy. She has been making plans, all on her own, to get us to the hospital and then stay here with me after my surgery. I don't want her here. Of course, I don't want anyone here. I like to be left alone when I don't feel well. But she is on it.

My oldest friend has told me all along that she will fly in from LA to be with me. And I have suspected all along that she won't be here. Yesterday she told me that she's scheduling her own surgery on her arm "ASAP" so that she can get it done and over with in time to hold my hand here in Chicagoland. Then there her very troubled children and her own precarious work situation.

I would love to be wrong about my friend. Of everyone, I think I might be most comfortable with her here when I feel shitty. But I also know that, at her core, she's never been one to suck it up and choose the more difficult path. She wants to come out here and be with me when I need her, she sincerely does, so she said she'd do it -- even though she didn't think through the sacrifice it would take on her end. Just as she wanted to move to California and so she did, without thinking about the consequences of doing it the way she did.

And then on the other end of the spectrum is my mom. Who has seen my oldest friend and I do this dance for years. And who wisely, quietly began making plans on her own to be there with me at the hospital and then for a few days when I get home. I'm so relieved to have a Plan B and to be able to count on her.

It made me cry.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'

1. In a relationship, have you ever hung in even when you knew for sure it was over? Yes. Partly because I was addicted to the drama, partly because EVERYONE had been telling me for so long that he was a dick and I was so used to defending him that it didn't occur to me I could leave.

2. If you had the ability to perpetually alleviate any pain on your body, what would it be? My gut

3. What place would you visit if money were no object? Chateau Elan, just outside of Atlanta. I haven't been to this luxury spa/vineyard in two years because it's soooo expensive and Colonial Williamsburg has a very nice spa, costs less and has that added shopping/historical thing going. But sometimes I just yearn for the beauty and pampering of Chateau Elan. It's like being in a sensory deprivation tank, away from anything in the outside world that can stress you out.

4. What is one thing you would love to change about yourself? My impatience/lack of discipline

5. Do you think your parents were too strict growing up? My mom was probably too lenient, my dad was strict about the wrong things.

6. In general, how many old friends do you have that you talk to at least once a year? I don't know how to answer this because I'm wondering if you mean"talk" literally, or if birthday/holiday cards and Facebook count.

7. What was the last compliment you received? "You're the glue that holds this team together." I heard that Wednesday afternoon from a coworker who is a bit of a hardass, which made it mean all the more.

8. Have you ever told someone you loved them but didn't really mean it? Yes. But I thought it was OK because I wanted to love him ...

9. In your opinion, would it be harder to lose someone close to you more as a child or harder as an adult? Oh, I dunno! It's never easy.

Friday, August 19, 2011

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 19

Cat naps. And I mean that literally. My big ol' tomcat, Joey, was asleep on my bed when I left for work this morning. When I got home this afternoon at about 2:00, he hadn't yet moved. Since I was home early, an exciting event, he roused himself and stretched contentedly. The sight literally tugged at my heart. He must be 15 years old now (he was an adult shelter rescue, so it's impossible to know for sure), and I'm glad he's so happy and has enjoyed such a good life.

Joey truly is an inspirationally happy soul, always has been. In the 13 years we have known each other, I have only ever seen him display temper once -- at the vet. And he's frightened by thunderstorms and leaving the house. But other than that, his life is completely copacetic. He loves all humans and felines he meets. He seldom turns his nose up at food and he never begs. And he always, always wants a good head rub.

Hey, Chicago, what do you say? Cubs are gonna WIN today!

There was a lot of drama within the Friendly Confines today. First the Cubs fired long-time GM Jim Hendry. I'm completely ambivalent about this. I believe it's past time for him to go, but it's always sad to see someone spend their adult life with a company and get the sack.

Then the Cubs won -- in extra innings! -- against the Cardinals!

Watching this game on one of my final short summer Fridays was a good way to try to get my mind off the screw up about scheduling my surgery. The oncologist and I had a date set (9/2). In order to get the paperwork started, his office asked me to call my gynecologist and let him know. My gyne responded that the oncologist couldn't possibly mean 9/2 and he would get to the bottom of it, and call me back today.

He didn't.

So I called my oncologist's physician's assistant and she said she'd get it straightened out for me ... by Monday.


I need to tell them something at the office so they can hire a free lance writer in my stead and so I can get short-term disability pay. I need to let my friends know the dates so we can work out who can care for me (and my mom) and when.

I'm sick of waiting!

In the interim, I'm drinking pina coladas and watching the Cubs beat Cardinal ass. It helps.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 18

Hot dog and fries, outdoors! Near the hospital where I visited with the oncologist is my favorite hot dog stand. Because of this summer's oppressive heat, I haven't been there. But today, as a reward for being such a brave girl, I not only had a single (dog, fries and root beer), I dined at one of their picnic tables. There's something about picnic tables ...

Meeting with my third doctor

So today I had my first -- and hopefully only -- appointment with my oncologist. I really liked him. He was extremely blunt, but also thorough and I came away feeling confident that he knows what he's doing and is honest with me.

Unlike my GP and my gynecologist, his focus isn't on my ginormous ovarian cyst. He seemed more interested in the build up of the lining of my uterus, unusual and unnecessary for a woman in menopause. So today he tried to do a biopsy. Uh-oh. He couldn't. There's a lot of residual scar tissue on my cervix* and doing an in-office biopsy was impossible. Since everyone agrees that I'm having a complete hysterectomy, he can't see putting me through a D&C. So while knowing whether or not there's malignancy in my uterus before he cuts is a "nice to have," it's not a "has to have."

He and my gynecologist are going in with a long, high vertical incision and yes, it's going to be quite a scar. He also told me that, depending on what they find when they're in there, he may have to take a portion of my bowel. If that happens, I'll have to be in the hospital longer than three days. Part of why he recommends I take 6 weeks off work is to make certain that there's no post-op swelling in my legs.

I didn't enjoy hearing that, certainly. But I appreciated how frank he was. And he did -- this is so important -- emphasize that everything is more likely benign than malignant. And if that's the case, when I wake up, he will be long gone and my gynecologist will resume my care exclusively. That's why we hope we'll never see one another again!

My surgery will likely be 9/2, maybe 9/9. I'll find out for sure tomorrow.

Thank you for all the good thoughts, everyone! And please, keep 'em coming!

*Yet another reminder of Stephen Doe. No, I don't forgive him for what he did to me. And I can't forget, because it keeps cropping up at unexpected times. Bastard.

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 17

Shame on me! I forgot to post this yesterday! But at least I did remember to be happy.

It was the sky on Wednesday. So beautiful! And the way the buildings looked, reaching into them. Yes, Chicago is, by far, the most gorgeous city EVER!

The TV Meme

Thank you, Ms. Kwiz.

Pick your five favorite tv shows (in no particular order) and answer the following questions about them.
Don’t cheat!

1. Mad Men


3. Law & Order: SVU

4. The Closer

5. Royal Pains

Who is your favourite character in 2? Duh. Leroy Jethro Gibbs. You deserve a head slap for even asking the question!

Who’s your least favourite character in 1? Betty.

What’s your favourite episode of 4? The ones with Charlie, Fritz' troubled niece. She was played by Kyra Sedgwick's real-life daughter, and the chemistry between Charlie and Brenda was engaging.

What is your favourite season on 5? I get confused on the seasons with this one because it premieres and reruns on a schedule different from other shows. Still, I liked the season that introdued Hank and Evan's dad (Henry Winkler). It explained a lot.

What is your favourite relationship in 3? Elliot & Olivia! I can't believe they're writing Elliott out without them ever getting a chance to do it.

Who has the bad relationship in 2? Tony and Ziva, or TIVA, as they are known on fan boards.

How long have you watched 1? I got hooked in the middle of season 1, but I have caught up and seen them all.

How did you become interested in 3? I was a huge fan of the original L&O.

Who’s your favourite actor in 4? Kyra Sedgwick, aka My Girl Brenda

Which show do you prefer, 1, 2, or 5? You're making me choose between Mad Men and NCIS? Between Don Draper and Gibbs? OUCH! I guess I'd have to go with Mad Men because it's such a smart show. NCIS is a lot of things, but it's not intellectually challenging.

Which show have you seen more episodes of, 1 or 3? 3. There simply are more episodes to see. I doubt I'll watch any of the next season's episodes, what with all the upcoming cast changes. (No Olivia and Elliott? No Gal.)

If you could be anyone from 4, who would you be? Brenda. She really loved her cat.

How would you kill off your favourite character in 1? Do I have to? OK, I'd have Don die of a heart attack while in bed with an aspiring copywriter named The Gal Herself.

Give a random quote from 1. Peggy says, "You never say thank you." To which Don replies, "THAT'S WHAT THE MONEY IS FOR!"

Pair two characters in 3 that would make an unlikely, but strangely okay couple. Munch and the M.E. (Do we know her name?)

Has 4 inspired you in any way? No

Over all, which show has a better cast, 3 or 5? Until this moment? #3. But with the upcoming changes to Law & Order: SVU, I don't think that will last.

Which has better theme music, 2 or 4? Oh, 4. "Rely on yourself/trusting someone else is a path for the silent ghost."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Thursday Thirteen #137


13. The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage by Daniel Mark Epstein. The best of the lot. Abraham and Mary Lincoln -- two extraordinary people -- are viewed the prism of that most ordinary institution -- marriage. It's beautifully written and compassionate. They both come to life and by the end of the book, I missed them.

12. The Cat Who Went Up the Creek
by Lillian Jackson Braun. An oldie (2002) but a goodie. From Shelfari, "Qwill and the cats -- Koko and Yum Yum -- are at the Nutcracker Inn in Black Creek when a drowned guest puts a damper on their stay." It's not a thrilling thriller, there's not a lot of action, but it moves at a good pace and the characters are charmingly eccentric.

11. Port Mortuary by Patricia Cornwell. A new Scarpetta! This time with Kay back narrating! From Shelfari, "A young man drops dead, apparently from a cardiac arrhythmia, eerily close to Scarpetta's new Cambridge home. But when his body is examined the next morning, there are stunning indications that he may have been alive when he was zipped inside a pouch and locked insider the Center's cooler."

10. Bright Lights, Big Ass. The subtitle says it all, "A Self-Indulgent, Surly, Ex-Sorority Girl's Guide to Why It Often Sucks in the City, or Who Are These Idiots and Why Do They All Live Next Door to Me?" A funny memoir by Chicagoland's own Jen Lancaster. It's my least favorite of the three I have read, though, because it's so mean-spirited. She has railed against those who compare Bush to Hitler, yet makes it clear that she would like to "pee" on the campaign signs for a certain "socialist" candidate displayed on her neighbor's lawn during the 2008 Presidential campaign. She thinks it was funny that she and her husband (both admittedly overweight) knocked small children over while hurtling downhill on a sled. By the end of this book, I thought the "she-could-be-a-gf" vibe I got from her other books was by mistake.

9. Between a Rock and a Hot Place by Tracey Jackson. A woman deals with menopause by any means necessary, and shares her experiences. She has a great sensitive of humor and an accessible writing style. She also has a lot more resources, alas, than most women do as we struggle through this.

8. Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster. Now this is the funny one. This is the Jen whose voice you like having in your head when you're at the grocery store or the gym. It's about her struggle to lose weight, and it's both inspirational and a riot.

7. Robert Redford by Michael Feeney Callahan. An in-depth look at a very private, very stubborn, very smart man. In a way, like Gatsby (who he rather unsuccessfully portrayed in the 1970s), he's not well understood, nor does he seem to be wish to be.

6. Sixkill by Robert Parker. From Shelfari, "On location in Boston, bad-boy actor Jumbo Nelson is accused of the rape and murder of a young woman. From the start the case seems fishy, so the Boston PD calls on Spenser to investigate." I don't know how I felt about it. It's not a great Parker effort, but it's the last Spenser he finished himself before his death, so I savored it.

5. The Help by Kathryn Stockett. It's a good book. It's not a great book. It's not To Kill a Mockingbird or any of the other classics it's been compared to, but it's an example of spellbinding storytelling. These are women you care about and root for!

4. Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher. It's slim and superficial. But so what? Even a mediocre Carrie Fisher memoir is a witty thrill ride.

3. Mommy's Little Girl by Diane Fanning. A chronological retelling of the Caylee Anthony murder. There's little that's new here, but having the story laid out in this way is chilling.

2. The Ultimate Weight Solution by Dr. Phil McGraw. I'm not Dr. Phi fan -- not by a long shot -- but this book is so full of common sense that I had to respect it. Once my current health problems are behind me, I look forward to putting them into practice

1. Against All Odds by Senator Scott Brown. Yes, I'm reading a book by a Republican. A really hot Republican. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that his looks make his politics easier to take. But it also must be said that he's had an amazing life. And he's an independent (if not especially deep) thinker, not an idealog, and his decisions are informed by life experiences and compassion.

To learn more about the Thursday Thirteen,
or to play along yourself, click here.

This is rich

Look what my self-centered kid sister just posted on Facebook:

BREAKING NEWS: The Pity Train has derailed at the intersection of Suck It Up & Move On, and crashed into We All Have Problems, before coming to a complete stop at Get Over It. Any complaints about how we operate can be forwarded to 1-800-waa-waaa . This is Dr. Sniffle reporting LIVE from Quitchur Fussin'. If you like this, re-post it. If you don't..suck it up cupcake, Life doesn't revolve around YOU. (HA.)

Pardon me as I try to think of a single bad thing that has happened in her life that she's taken remote responsibility for … Nope. Can't think of a one.

Not MY Jackie!

While I hope the rumors of her affairs are true, I cannot believe she ever discussed them with anyone on tape. No way did she blame LBJ for the assassination. And most insulting of all -- NO WAY WOULD SHE EVER HAVE SUCH LIMPY-ASS HAIR!

Now, sit back and enjoy!

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 16

Calendars for Christmas! The Border's Going Out of Business Sale includes 2012 calendars that they are just now putting on the shelves! I got page-a-day's for my friend Mindy (Jeopardy!) and my oldest friend (Film Fanatic's Trivia) and a Beatles wall calendar for my nephew -- who not only is, in his words, "a massive Beatle fan," but is also switching rooms with his older sister soon and will have more wall space going into the new year. That was $46 worth of Christmas presents for $20.40! I'm trying to find ways to economize and so this makes me very happy. After all, I don't want to cut down the quantity or quality of what I put under people's trees this year, just the expense.

And, since I felt ghoulish being so ecstatic about a sale that springs from neighborhood jobs being lost, I took care to make an economical karma-protecting purchase. There was a book about that old standby, Barbara Millicent Rogers (aka Barbie Doll) that came with a real-live fabric tote, made of official Mattel/Barbie-brand fabric (aka the same crap they make Barbie Doll clothes out of). I know that, at 6 or 7, I would have found this staggeringly cool, and I assume another little girl will, too, so I picked it up for my Toys for Tots box. Another smile and happy holiday memory for someone for just $2.40!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I figured it out!

I know why I was so exhausted last night! I rode the train all the way home with The Saddest Boy Ever. And he's one of those people who, while very nice, is just such a big, gaping wound of intense need that being around him for 45 minutes just wore me out.

After an extended period of unemployment, he got a part-time retail job at Macy's, which means he and I share almost exactly the same commute from our jobs in the Loop to the condo building we both live in.

He must be nearly 45 now and spends most of his days caring for his mother -- a stroke victim who was unpleasant and hygienically challenged even before her health took a turn for the worse. He's always alone and never mentions any friends. He used to work part-time at the local Jewel, but he quit/was let go (I have trouble following the story) after an on-the-job accident. As he has recounted to me time and again in the laundry room, they blackballed him from working for any other grocery store chain in the Chicagoland area -- really? -- and then he came down with gout. "My doctor said, 'you should be dead.'"

So now he's feeling strong enough to work 20-24 hours/week at Macy's. The el makes him nervous, he's not used to "a big corporation like Macy's" because they have sent him to sensitivity training already (I wanted to ask, "Good God, what did you do?", but I decided I don't want to know), and he works in crystal and fine china, where he doesn't see an awful lot of customers. I think his biggest problem is loneliness. And my heart goes out to him, it does.

But he also seems to have a crush on me, and I'm never, ever going to have any romantic feelings for him, so I am wary of spending much time with him. And frankly, he's a human remora, and sometimes I'm just not up to being a big fish all the time. It can be exhausting!

But I don't want to be mean. He has a good heart and he seems very alone in the world. The original "Eleanor Rigby." But geez! I can't do this every day. So from now on, when I leave the house and get on the platform, I'm going to look furtively to the left and right, darting my eyes about at all times, so I can hide behind a pole or a tree if I see him.

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 15

My ticker. I got the results from the tests I had done back on August 2 … and my heart is fine! Both my oldest friend and my buddy John suffer from heart problems. My dad died of a stroke. So I want to stay on top of my own heart health.

I had four tests done -- for carotid artery disease, atrial fibrillation, abdominal aortic aneurysm and peripheral artery disease -- and they all came back "normal." Not "normal for a fat middle-aged woman," but simply "normal." No next steps required.

But I have been warned to lose 20 lbs. I'D LOVE TO!!!!!!

Five hours later ...

I got home from work, plopped down on the couch, and was just going to close my eyes for a moment. Really. Care to guess what happened? DAMN! I blew an entire night of de-cluttering, and I really can't afford to do that.

Image: Ambro /

Monday, August 15, 2011

New bra

I should have adjusted the straps more carefully this morning. My boobs are smashed flat and it looks like I'm sporting a pair of veal cutlets under my sweater.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ah, Sisters ... Part 1

While we were growing up, my older sister was not unlike Casey Anthony. She lied about everything and was promiscuous, or at least highly sexually active, but denied it. I walked in on her orally servicing her high school sweetheart, and later she told me to my face that never happened. She worked very hard to come between our mother and our grandmother. She told our mutual friends, acquaintances and relatives lies about me and insisted they choose between us. She also beat me regularly until I moved out.

She hit my mother once and we all ended up in family therapy. It was there I learned that she had been a high-maintenance baby -- which was hardly her fault -- who needed a great deal of my mother's attention. When I came along when she was little over a year old -- which was hardly my fault -- she never learned how to handle it. Consequently, her relationship with my mother has always been complicated. For decades I have dealt with all of this by withdrawing. She alternately reaches out to my mother and then punishes her, a painful dance they have been doing since before I was born, I guess, and it confuses me so I stay away. Plus, since my older sister meant me harm, I avoided her. I needed to protect myself.

With my mother's advancing years and medical problems, I have become more receptive to my older sister's overtures of friendship. She wants her new husband to think that we're like a Norman Rockwell portrait and it would make my mother happy if we got along better, so what the hell. I've grown into a strong, self-sufficient middle-aged woman -- I simply won't allow my older sister to hurt me anymore. And if agreeing to see her for dinner once or twice a year when she's in town will make her and my mother so happy -- and if her husband will pay for my steak -- it seems like a small sacrifice.

My mother has told both my sisters about my cyst and upcoming surgery. There's a possibility that I have ovarian cancer. I don't like saying this, but it's true. It's more likely that I don't have it, especially since the CA-125 blood test came back negative, but it's there. And it's hard for me NOT to take it seriously since both my friends Ed (prostate cancer) and Kathleen (breast cancer) were told that the odds were great that they didn't have cancer and well, guess what. I have been honest with my mother because I don't want her to feel sucker punched if the worst comes to pass. In turn, she has told all this to my sisters because she needs to talk it through with someone.

My older sister has been a shock. She sent me an email saying she loves me. (Really? In my whole life, she has never said such a thing.) She is sending her 21-year-old daughter to stay with my mom while I'm in the hospital and recuperating because (1) I'll need help and someone to drive and (2) my mom will love having the company. Also, her daughter wants to come to Chicagoland to see everyone.

Still, it amazes me. My older sister is being so sensitive to my mother's concerns, her daughter's sense of loneliness and isolation and my condition. It's so unlike her. I can't put too fine a point on how not like her this is.

I don't trust it. I can't, really. I feel too vulnerable with all that's going on inside my own body to deal with any more. But it would be nice to believe that my older sister has actually evolved and become a happier, more decent person at this stage in her life.

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 14

My guest room/den is virtually done and ready for company! All I have to do in there is dust, and I think I'll wait for the last minute to do that. It took the better part of four days to do it, but it's done! The bright side: I've cleared out so much stuff that I can use this room to put the tree up in this Christmas -- provided my Bad Cat, Reynaldo, will let me.

Next up is the living room/dining room. I must be careful to not just move all my crap back into the den …

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sunday Stealing

Sunday Stealing: The 31 Meme, Part Two: In Memory to Clyde

Cheers to all of us thieves!

16. What's the longest shift that you worked at a job? While working on a presentation, I was at the office 19 hours straight. I'd like to thank the good people who make Monster Energy Drink for making that possible.

17. What was the last concert that you attended? That would be his lordship.

18. What the last DVD (or Blu Ray, of course) movie that you watched? Grey Gardens.

19. How did you like the film? I'm a big Little Edie fan, so I loved it.

20. What comedian do you love? Kathy Griffin

21. Do you ever sleep in the nude? It's been known to happen

22. Have you ever had a long distance relationship? Yes. It was my happiest relationship. My shrink observed that's indicative of my issue with genuine intimacy. Note she said "issue," not "problem." She also observes my issue with genuine intimacy doesn't seem to be making me especially unhappy.

23. What do you think of astrology? Sometimes I'm very into it, other times I forget to even check my horoscope.

24. What's you're favorite lyric quote from a song? It changes. Currently, it's Amy Winehouse: "From the picture my mind drew/I know I'd look good on you." She really was a clever lyricist.

25. Tell us something random about yourself. When I wear yellow, I look like a jaundice victim.

26. Have ever attended a theme party? If yes, do tell. Nothing springs to mind ...

27. What is your favorite thing about winter? I like the clean, white snow crackling under my boots.

28. What was the name of your first pet? Tommy

29. What have you done so far this weekend? Gotten stuff out of here! First a bag of food for the food pantry, then two bags of STUFF for Goodwill. Now I'm looking at a box of books to donate, as well.

30. Has your humor ever been called “sick”? Almost daily

31. If you could have one thing, what would it be? To know when my surgery will scheduled!