Monday, December 31, 2018

She better treat him right

My favorite Cub, Anthony Rizzo, got married Saturday. They are off to Zanzibar for their honeymoon.

I really would like to hug him. He's a great ball player, a great role model, and I want his happiness so much.


Christian Bale is terrific as Dick Cheney in Vice. He completely disappears into the role. You forget that you're watching the actor who was once Batman and the sad/bad brother in The Fighter. He's got the voice, the minimal hand gestures, the stillness that can seem avuncular and/or deliberative.

Amy Adams is also good (isn't she always?) as Lynne Cheney. As an old-school feminist, I've always found Mrs. Cheney's public persona appalling, and this movie does nothing to change that.

Which is rather the problem I had with it.

Vice presents Cheney as evil. Non-ideological, power hungry, malevolent. Except for loving his lesbian daughter -- and he lets her down in the third act -- he is completely without redeeming qualities. In that way, the screenplay lets Bale down. He is valiantly trying to play Snidely Whiplash as a three-dimensional person.

Also, the movie makes the staggering assertion that Lynne Cheney's father murdered her mother. Or, to be precise, that Lynne and Dick Cheney believe that her father murdered her mother. I've done some internet searches and can find nothing to back this up.

The movie is obviously a cautionary tale for the Age of Trump. I get it. If you are even a casual reader of this blog, you know where my heart and my politics are in these matters.

But I worry about history. I've seen enough movies and miniseries about the Kennedys to know how myths can take hold ... and sully and obscure the truth.

So despite the performances, I'm sorry I paid to see Vice.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Sunday Stealing

1. Are flowers a nice gift to give someone? Yes. But you have to take their circumstances into account. Do they have allergies that flowers could irritate? Do they have a cat (like mine) who will view a floral bouquet as a salad bar?

2. Do you wear any jewelry? I wear a ring on my left hand, a watch on my left wrist, earrings and a necklace.

3. Have you ever laid in a field of flowers? No.

4. Do you like tea? Hot tea, yes. Iced tea, no.

5. What would you do with a million dollars? Before or after taxes? I want to know how much I'm playing with before I start fantasizing.

6. What word do you have trouble saying? "Halcyon."

7. Favorite fairytale? Rapunzel is the first that springs to mind.

8. Do you sleep with stuffed animals? Nope. But frequently this real one curls up with me.


9. Do you prefer the city or the country? City

10. Are you a big fan of makeup? Yes

11. Favorite drink? Coca Cola

12. What’s the longest amount of time you’ve stayed awake? 17 or 18 hours.

13. Have you ever traveled outside of your country? Yes

14. Do you like spring? Yes, because it means BASEBALL!

15. Lipstick or lipgloss? Chapstick

16. Favorite color? Cubbie blue. Especially when worn by Anthony Rizzo. The Cub first baseman reportedly got married this weekend.

17. Do you like to decorate? Not especially.

18. Do you ever go barefoot when you’re outside? I have.
Christmas Eve in Key West
19. Are aliens real? Today, our sermon was delivered by a Romanian immigrant. He looked very real to me.

20. Does you zodiac sign fit your personality? According to, a Sagittarius woman is "unfussy and liberated" and "never really seem able to save." That's true. It also says that men who have loved me "pine" after me after I'm gone. If that's true, they're very good at hiding it.

21.Favorite sea animal? Manatee

22. Are you a nice person? I try.

23. Favorite word? "Gubernatorial." It's just fun to say.

24. Night or day? You are the one. Only you beneath the moon or under the sun ...

25. What would make you happy right now? The million dollars you mentioned in #5.


More than Henry

Henry's accident last October was such a big event that it's elbowed everything else out of the way. When Henry was still in the hospital, I was obsessed with raising money for his care. I relentlessly pressured all my friends to contribute to his Gofundme page. I sent giftcards and postage stamps (since I knew Reg wouldn't have time to go to the post office). It was all I could do, since Henry was in a coma and Reg was incommunicado.

Once Henry got out of the hospital and began calling all the time, I admit he has exhausted me. It was an adjustment that I'm still making -- he sounds like Henry, he has all Henry's memories, but he's not yet the same Henry.

I have allowed this to distract me from my other friends, and that's not right. Women I care about will be ringing in 2019 in heartache, and I must pay greater attention.

Joanna has been in a long-distance romance with the brother of her neighbor. He's semi-retired and lives on a sailboat in Panama. He came in for Christmas and she's been eager for me to meet him. She's also been excitedly planning a New Year's Day open house, themed to her New Orleans girlhood.

She texted me often when I was in Key West, wishing me a Merry Christmas and asking, "When will you be home, Darlin'?" Turns out they had a blow up on the Sunday before Christmas. "His loss," she texted bravely. But she is upset and it's manifesting itself by her removing both him and her neighbor from the guest list for the open house.

I wasn't going to attend the open house. Since I got home from Key West I've been seriously cocooning. Plus, Joanna and her friends can be intimidating. She brought a handful of them to one of our movie meetups and they talk about architecture and classical music and things I know nothing about. Not to mention that they're all very put together, and I have two new pimples on my chin.

But she's only invited 20 people. Not everyone is going to show up. This party is important to her and much planning has gone into it. So I'm heading over there on New Year's Day. Because she needs my support right now. I can do this.

My oldest friend is depressed again. Maybe it's been continual. She's been rather remote since spring. She has abandoned Facebook, seldom emails, doesn't want to talk on the phone. I thought that getting confirmation that she's cancer free would perk her up, but it hasn't.

I need to nurture our connection. I've been asking her questions -- via text -- about The Godfather (one of her passions). I got an EOB from my insurance company about my recent trip to Urgent Care that I'll run by her. I can figure it out on my own, but it won't cost me anything to acknowledge that this is something she's good at.

It's time for me to step it up and extend myself a bit more.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Winter Wonderland (1968)
1) This is an unconventional take on an old familiar song. Over the holidays, do you prefer traditional carols? Or do you like to mix it up with with more contemporary fare? I like Christmas music, everything from Frank Sinatra to Judy Garland to George Michael to Sha Na Na. What I don't like is choirs. They sound ponderous and elite to me.
2) Now that Christmas is behind us, are you enjoying a relaxing week? Or do you have socializing/celebrating/chores to do? I am working hard at being lazy.
3) Winter is a time for cocooning. What book or movie did you enjoy in 2018 that you would recommend to your fellow Saturday 9-ers? The Astonishing Thing by Sandi Ward is a sweet, slim volume. It's the story of a family in turmoil as told by their cat, Boo. It's not at all saccharine, because cats are, after all, edgy creatures. When the book was over, I found myself wondering what had ultimately happened to the characters.
4)  Looking back on the past year, what was one of your happiest moments? I enjoyed visiting my nephew, the newly-minted freshman at his dorm in western Illinois. We had a good time, and I was thrilled to see how much he enjoys life on campus.

5)  What was the smartest thing you did all this past year? Finally finished my bathroom renovation. It makes me happy every time I enter the room.
6)  As 2018 comes to a close, what are you most grateful for? That Henry is healing after his life-threatening accident.
7) This week's featured artist is Herb Alpert. Because of the style he popularized and the name of his band, people assume he's Hispanic. Yet his parents were Jewish immigrants from Romania. What's something we'd be surprised to learn about you? I read slowly. I also eat slowly. I don't know why, as I enjoy both activities. Maybe I do them slowly because I enjoy them. Anyway, it takes me longer to finish a book or a meal than it takes my friends.

8) He performed an instrumental version of "The Star Spangled Banner" at Super Bowl XXII. How did your favorite sports teams do in 2018? My Chicago Cubs have made it to the post-season for the last four years in a row. In my entire long life of Cub love, I've never had the pleasure of watching a team as good as this one. It feels positively luxurious.

9) Random question: When did you last check your social media feed? I just checked Facebook before I began answering these questions.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Not as good as the original ...

... but then, how could it be? After all, Mary Poppins was practically perfect in every way.

Mary Poppins Returns is fine. Emily Blunt can't sing especially well, but she moves and speaks like Mary would. Lin-Manuel Miranda is fantastic. He sings and dances well enough for everyone ... in the world. Yes, Dick Van Dyke has a cameo, and if it doesn't touch you there's something wrong with you.

BUT the actor who plays grown-up Michael just got on my nerves. Ben Whishaw plays a weak, overwhelmed man, on the verge of losing everything and apparently heedless of the impact this will have on his three children. Whereas the original Mr. Banks was well meaning but work obsessed, the dad in Mary Poppins Returns is almost clinically depressed, wrestling with the loss of his wife and his dreams and the family home.

None of the songs is particularly memorable.

I'm not sorry I saw it. I genuinely enjoyed some parts. But I was a little disappointed and would have been just as happy to see it on video. EXCEPT that the audience applauded when Dick Van Dyke appeared as Mr. Dawes. I would have missed hearing how welcome he was.

Look! I'm Nature Girl!

In the decades that I've been going to Key West, I have never visited The Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. I don't know why, really. Just never got around to it. Well, this year, on Christmas Day, I righted that wrong.

As soon as I entered, a butterfly landed on me! It was so cool. I think it was my Cubs t-shirt. Even butterflies want to go to The Friendly Confines.

Here's a butterfly having Christmas dinner. They are very still as they eat, sucking the fruit juices in through their proboscises.

There are two in this shot. Can you spot them?

My favorite picture. Pretty and peaceful.

The Conservatory is more then butterflies. There are also turtles and these two: Rhett and Scarlett.

My first stop after the Conservatory was Margaritaville. This City Mouse can only take so much nature!

Christmas Eve at the Beach

I was at the southernmost beach in the continental United States, wiggling my toes in the sand and surf and saying hello to The Sandman.

Christmas on the Road

Christmas comes but once a year, and I couldn't let Henry's accident spoil it. I went out of my way to appreciate the decorations in the airports and brought some holiday cheer with me for my hotel room.

Overhead at O'Hare
Was this Christmas, or The Beatles, greeting me in Miami?
Santa jingling on my hotel room doorknob
Cubs ornament on wicker dresser
Tiny nativity on my nightstand

62% Merry

Three and a half of my five days in Key West were fine. And that means they were very good. For me and for Henry.

In October, he was in a terrible crash that shattered his ankle and left him with a traumatic brain injury. He nearly died and was in a coma for two weeks, On the one hand, his recovery has been miraculous. His memory is in tact. His motor skills are fine. His ankle has been rebuilt. But he is still not well. Brain injuries take a long time to heal completely. He is still on a cocktail of medications and he still drinks too much -- at least two or three drinks a day. All this combined can leave him moody and erratic.

Day One: His birthday. He was waiting for me in the airport Saturday evening. What a sight for sore eyes! He looks the same. His hair is longer, since getting to the barber shop is not a priority, but it looks good. He and Reg had a little tempest over where we'd go for his birthday dinner. Once we settled on Italian, everything was fine. We all chatted amiably, everyone seemed happy. I was in my hotel room before 10:00 PM, but that's OK. It had been a long day of travel and emotionally fraught -- I hate flying to begin with and was worried about my reunion with Henry and Reg. It was good to get to bed, feeling the dinner had been a success.

Day Two: A movie and the Royals. I took an Uber to their home and visited with Henry and the dogs while Reg slept. (He's working very strange hours around the holidays.) I was happy to see how involved Henry was with "the fur circus." Initially, after his accident, his lack of concern for the dogs he'd always doted on worried me. I'm happy to report he's old self again when dealing with "the puppies."

He was watching a PBS special about Queen Victoria when I arrived, so I opined about reports that Meghan and Kate are not getting along. He became snarky with me. "Who cares?" Well, I do, obviously, I replied. And then I said, "I suppose Royals are only interesting when they're in period garb?" He laughed and we were fine. Here's the thing -- I was an invited guest in his home and he's not a child. He can't be a jerk towards me. I deserve better than that (everyone does) and while I will make allowances for his condition, I won't infantalize him.

We had pizza and watched a movie. We laughed a lot. It felt comfortable. I am sorry that he hates being touched because I just couldn't help myself -- I did hug him frequently. It was so good to see him so well again!

Day Three: A late lunch and tall tales. Christmas Eve. I felt bad that I couldn't go to church, but it just wasn't logistically possible. And I know that being there for my friends was a way of honoring Jesus, so I made peace with it. We got along fine, and after our meal, Reg joined us and we laughed a lot. But I could see Henry was getting tired. He was a bit like a key wound toy, winding down and getting slower somehow. He snapped at Reg, "Why are you looking at me as though I have two heads?" and he said some things to me that were just batshit crazy. He wasn't lying exactly. I believe he was completely sincere in everything he said. I just don't see how these odd things could have happened. I didn't confront him. I mean, why? He had a brain injury and he's doing the best he can, and these silly flights of fancy don't really matter.

I do worry about him at work, though. Does he say wacky things to his coworkers? Are they able to chalk it up to the brain injury and meds? I would hate for him to be doing damage to himself professionally through no fault of his own.

Day Four: "Don't be a dick." Christmas Day. Our only really bad day. There had been drama about whether to eat out or cook in. I told both Henry and Reg, over and over, that I didn't care, that the important thing was that we three were together. They decided we should eat out. OK, which restaurant? Back to Day One. Guys! I don't live here! This is your turf, not mine!

Ironically, we ended up at my favorite little Key West restaurant, Duffy's. It's not haute cuisine, but I've never had a bad dish there. I was happy, but it was definitely a compromise choice for them.

I'd been so excited about my gift for Henry: a Frida Kahlo tshirt with "Viva la Vida" emblazoned across the front. He loves Frida, the message was positive, and I was going to tell him that I hoped that he could turn his accident into art the way she did hers.

He took the package from me and said, "Oh, a shirt," before he even opened it. Then he held it up and said, "Who is this supposed to be?" He knew it was Frida Kahlo. The tshirt designer just didn't include her unibrow.

"Don't be a dick," I said. I told him how happy I'd been with my find, how I looked forward to presenting it to him and making a connection between his writing and her art. "But you're not going to let me have that Christmas joy, are you?" He literally just shrugged. He never thanked me for the gift.

I asked both Reg and Henry how their families were this Christmas. Reg was going to call his parents Christmas night so they could open their presents "together" over the phone and over the miles. Henry said he wasn't calling his mother. He hadn't called her on his birthday, either, as was their custom. He just didn't feel like having "the same conversations every year." Wow. So I knew I wasn't the only one getting Henry's "dick treatment" on Christmas.

Strangely enough, the dinner turned around when we started discussing the Robert Blake 2005 murder case. I don't remember how we got on the subject, but I recalled a lot about it and Henry was really quite animated when we were talking about it. Not your typical Christmas fare, I know, but then this hadn't been our typical Christmas!

Day Five: Silver bird. I told both Henry and Reg that, if I needed to get myself to the airport, I was more than capable of doing so. I'm a grown up, I enjoy traveling alone, it will be fine. No, they both said they wanted to say goodbye.

I'm happy to report that Henry was wearing the Frida shirt! "So you do like my present!" I exclaimed. He just shrugged. But he was wearing it. And he told me that he looked online to see what "Viva la Vida" meant in Frida lore. This meant a lot to me.

He was pretty silent at breakfast, nursing his bloody mary. Reg and I picked up the conversational slack. As I was boarding the plane, Reg held me tight and didn't want to let me go. It helped him to have me there. It was good for Henry to have someone other than Reg to talk to and it was good for Reg to have someone see, firsthand, what goes on with Henry on a day-to-day basis.

Henry is trying. Henry is healing. His accident exhausted him, depleted him. But he's working at getting well. I just hope that next year, he will be even better and stronger, and more of his sweet old self.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Happy Holidays! (from the archives) 

1. Sam loved giving her annual wish list to Santa. Yet some children are reluctant to climb into Jolly Old St. Nick's lap. Did you enjoy the tradition or were you shy? Or did you by pass it altogether -- either because you wrote him a letter or because your family didn't celebrate Christmas?  I would have preferred to write a letter. I felt I could have been far more specific for Santa by copying out page numbers from the Sears Christmas Catalog. But my mom got a kick out of seeing us with Santa, so that's what we did.

2. Are you currently on the Naughty or Nice list? How did you get there? I've been pretty nice this year. I've done good work and tried to be a good friend.

3. Did you ship any gifts to friends and family this year? If so, which one traveled the farthest? I sent this book about the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum to my oldest friend in California. When she lived in Chicagoland, she enjoyed our trips to Springfield to see Abe so I'm sure it will make her happy. This slim volume traveled about 1,940 miles, courtesy of the USPS.

4. Did you buy yourself a gift this year? I gave myself a new pair of glasses. New prescription, blue frames. Interestingly, my prescription is a little weaker this time than it was in 2016. It surprised me, but the eye doctor says that's not unusual.

5. What's your favorite holiday-themed movie? Have you seen it yet this year? My favorite is Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. I haven't seen it yet this year. I may bring it along with me when I leave town. Maybe I can watch it when I'm waiting around to change planes.

6. Thinking of movies, Christmas is lucrative for Hollywood. Have you ever gone to a movie theater on Christmas Day? No.

7. Have you ever suffered an embarrassing moment at the company Christmas party? No.

8. What's your favorite beverage in cold weather? This year, I've enjoyed Rumchata.

9. Share a memory from last Christmas. Last year, during the Christmas Eve service, I
started to cry. I was overwhelmed with sadness and worry about Napoleon the Cat and his homeless humans, Caleb and Randi. Chicago winters can be brutal and I knew they were trying to get by in their tent. This year, I'm happy to report that they have made it off the streets and sleep indoors in a makeshift studio apartment above a garage. Of course, the problem of homelessness persists and people still need our help. Christmas is a good time to keep them in our prayers and maybe do something more tangible to make their holidays brighter.

Enjoy your holidays, Everyone!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

I hate this

Henry called again last night. He had a fight with Reg, which ended with him having to get a ride from his friend, Phyllis, who scolded him. And that turned into a two-hour call to me.

He can't live in Key West anymore. No one supports him. Everyone treats him as though the accident was his fault. Everyone insists he has a brain injury. He wants a divorce.

It's exhausting.

Especially when he begins to rehash the accident and his time in the hospital. I tell him what I always tell him -- I don't drive, I can't begin to speculate what happened at the moment of impact; he was not put into a coma for two weeks for his ankle, and if he wants to know about his brain, he should talk to his local, trusted GP who has all of his medical records.

I told him that if he really wants out, he has to be smart. The house they both live in is in his name. Is he prepared to throw Reg out and sell it? Is he single-mindedly devoted to rehabilitating his ankle, so he can move to another city and get a new job? That seemed to distract him and refocus him. He wants to give Reg another chance. He wants to save his marriage.

I looked at the phone. We had just hit the 1:44 mark. The remaining 20 minutes were really rather pleasant. He can't wait to see me Saturday. Then I had stomach cramps and diarrhea. It might have been the greasy, cheesey lunch I had with my nephew. But the stress of this call, and my upcoming visit, didn't help.

I know it's only been two months. I know he's doing the best he can, trying to work through the horror of what happened to him and the aftermath. I know it is a testament to our friendship that he turns to me.

I am not a shrink. I am not a doctor. I am just a friend who loves him. I feel inadequate and overwhelmed.

Earrings, gloves and a cat toy

That's what I got from my nephew for Christmas. The earrings are square bits of pale blue glass, which means he's made note of what I wear. The gloves are emblazoned with a Cubs logo (duh). Unfortunately, the cat toy is not impressing the feline denizens of my household. Connie does, however, like the white plastic string that attached the tag to the toy.

I gave him a cap from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. He and I have discussed how the Library is more than $9 million in the hole. So, since he loves caps and he loves Abe, I know he appreciates that his gift will help. I also gave him a gift card to Walmart. The Walmart near his campus is his hub for everything -- groceries, toiletries, clothes and (I suspect) Christmas shopping.

We had a cheesey lunch at a restaurant walking distance from his house. I had grilled cheese and he had pizza. He updated me on his exams (all good grades, thank you) and the friends he's made in his dorm. We talked about the upcoming Cubs season (will we get Bryce Harper?) and politics.

It was a good Christmas visit, but it left me more tired than it should have. I just can't lick this cold and cough!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018


WWW.WEDNESDAY asks us 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?  
Shadows of a Princess by P. D. Jephson. Am I the only one who has a hard time imagining Princess Diana as a grandmother three (now almost four) times over? This book, a memoir by her personal secretary, takes us through 1987 to 1996 -- the dissolution of Diana's marriage to building her life as a single woman. So it covers the years where I see her most clearly in my mind's eye: glittering fashion icon, young mother, unhappy wife. Jephson left Kensington Palace before her relationship with Dodi Fayed and the fateful trip to Paris in 1997.

Published in 2000, Shadows of a Princess was controversial at the time. The author maintains it's an honest portrait of his time in the Princess' employ. Her partisans said it was a hatchet job. I wonder how I'll feel about it, 18 years out.

2. What did you recently finish reading?  
Sorry, Spenser
Silent Night by Robert B. Parker with Helen Brann. The is The Spenser Christmas Mystery. Taken as such, it's fine. We get to see our favorite private investigator enjoying the holidays in Boston. There's snow on the Boston Commons and Christmas shopping at Filene's. Throughout he's planning an ambitious turducken dinner to be prepared at Susan's house on Christmas Day. All that was fun. 

The mystery left a little to be desired. A guy named Jackie Alvarez runs a shelter for homeless boys. Someone wants Jackie to close his doors. He's getting threats. Does someone want the real estate the shelter sits on? Is this harassment tied to Jackie's brother Juan, the high-profile, nouveau riche exporter? The story has too many coincidences and each action sequence has a predictable outcome. 

Still, I'm glad I read it. I like knowing that "Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer" annoys Spenser and that Pearl the Wonder Dog gets a special breakfast on Christmas morning.

3.  What will you read next?  
I don't know.


The old and the new

My movie Meet Up had our holiday flick last night. It was a typical, soapy "women's picture," Penny Serenade (1941) takes an average young couple from courtship through marriage and finally, separation. Of course, this "average" couple is spectacular looking -- Irene Dunne and (sigh) Cary Grant -- and their life together includes a glamorous interlude in Asia.

If this sounds like I didn't enjoy it, NOT TRUE! It was a delight. Cary Grant is terrific: Sweet but vainglorious, immature but sincere. He got a well-deserved Oscar nomination for this role.

I quibble with considering it a holiday movie. There are scenes that take place at Christmas and New Year's, but if that's the standard, then Die Hard is indeed a Christmas movie and we should screen it next year. But this is a small complaint. A lovely movie and a chance to see Will and Betty before year-end. (Unfortunately Joanna couldn't make it. But we've been in touch. I'll try to see her next week, or maybe on New Year's.)

I also saw this year's Oscar-buzzy Green Book. Loved it, too.

It's been slammed for being predictable, and yeah, it kinda is. But here's the thing: it's based on a true story. Both of the men depicted (Tony Lip and Don Shirley) knew it was being made and approved the direction the script took. So if this is the way they remembered it, I accept that.

Viggo Mortenson is Tony. Every time he opens his mouth, something goes in (cigarette, sandwich, soda pop). He's dumpy, loud, and ignorant. He's also savvy, strong and crazy in love with his wife and kids. He acts as driver and body guard for African American musician Don Shirley during Shirley's 1962 concert tour through the Deep South. They bond, and formed a friendship that lasted until they died, months apart, in 2013.

My favorite scene in the movie involves Bobby Kennedy. He doesn't appear on screen, but his distinctive Boston accent is heard and heeded by a character at a critical moment. It reminded me of the 2013 movie Loving, where Bobby played a similar unseen role. This reminds me of why I'm a Kennedy Girl -- it's the role of government to do for the individual what the individual can't do alone, and I long for days when people thought they could look to Washington DC to lift them up, not hold them back.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

What I did today instead of laundry

I was awakened this morning at 4:00 AM. Not by Reynaldo, but by a stabbing pain in my right calf. The suddenness frightened me. It passed quickly (less than 2 minutes?) but it was sharp and new and upsetting. I drank some water, played a little Farmville, fed the cats (who thought this was the official start of our day), and went back to bed until about 7:30.

At 9:00 AM, as I was preparing to multitask by watching Meet the Press as I touched up my pedi, it happened again. Same pain, same spot. My face felt hot. I remembered what my doctor had told me about calf pain last fall -- that it could signal something dangerous and I shouldn't wait to get it "looked at." So I took a shower (standing on my right leg the whole time so I could see if it was weak; it wasn't) and went to Urgent Care.

Because the pain was on the outside of my calf, where there are a lot of ligaments but not many blood vessels, it was likely not life threatening. Plus, I just had an ultrasound in October which revealed no clot.

However, because I am over 60, and overweight, and my right calf is larger than my left (likely from edema), and October was 2 1/2 months ago, they couldn't completely rule out a blood clot.

So, the doctor said, he was giving me an order to go to the ER. He told me it was "precautionary." He said if a blood clot was ruled out, I should wear compression hose at night and see a sports doctor.

He seemed so sure it was nothing that I almost didn't go. Then the nurse came in with the paperwork. As almost an afterthought, she asked me about my holiday plans. I told her I was flying to Florida and she cut me off, saying, "Then it's good that you're getting this checked out."

She was right. So I walked up the street to the ER. It was a different world than Urgent Care! More cramped, more institutional gray, older. Everyone was very nice. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon before Christmas and the Bears were playing the Packers. Lots to chat about as the processed my paperwork, trying to keep me from being scared. I appreciated it.

They put me in Screening Area #2, where I was for hours. On a gurney, in a gown. With my book. A nurse came and checked on me frequently. A very nice doctor -- with a kindly manner and a white beard, just like in the movies! -- chatted and gave me a nebulizer treatment for my cough. ("Why not? You're waiting here anyway, right?")

Finally they were ready for me in Imaging. The sonographer was very nice -- also a little older than I expected, but it was Sunday and this was their Emergency staff -- and assured me she always kept  her "goo" at room temperature.

Then I was wheeled back to #2, where Friendly Dr. Freud came in and told me to go home. "I don't know what caused your pain, but it's not life threatening." And he gave me a script for an inhaler. He actually seemed more worried about my cough, which is a relief in the scheme of things.

On the way home, I picked up a slice of pizza. I was in bed by 6:00. Exhausted by the stress, but happy to be in my own bed.

I am grateful for insurance, so I can afford to rule out a blood clot. Today cost me a little over $200, which I'm not happy about, of course, but I realize the price tag without insurance would have been completely prohibitive and I would've been playing the odds with my life.

I am grateful that I have an Urgent Care almost literally across the street and a hospital 15 minutes away on foot. It's not the hospital my doctor practices at, or the one affiliated with the Urgent Care facility. Those are newer, more modern and frankly, more pleasing to the eye. But this one was nearby, they took me, and everyone was unfailingly gentle and sensitive.

And I'm worried about Frances. She was the little girl in Screening Area #1, and she was in Imaging next to me, too. Because of the curtain "walls," I never saw her, but I heard her. She sounded about 10 years old. She was very scared and, for some reason, no parent or family member was with her. From what I could tell she had some kind of urinary or bladder issue, and she was very scared. Very embarrassed that she had to be in a diaper. She never actually cried, but I could tell by the conversation that she was -- literally -- attached to the ER nurse. Finally the nurse agreed to go with her to Imaging, which I thought was very kind.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going back to bed to watch Law & Order reruns and try to relax. It was an exhausting day, even with the positive outcome.

Sunday Stealing


What season has your favorite looks? Fall, I suppose. I'm always happy to see my sweaters again, and I enjoy shopping for new ones.

    Formal or casual? Casual.

    Thrift store, boutique, or online? I have begun appreciating thrift stores more. A lot of it is the thrill of discovery. My greatest find was last spring, when I got a like-new black trench ($175 MSRP @ Nordstrom's) for $14!

    What’s your favorite decade for fashion? OH, definitely the 1960s! I love Jackie's clean lines.

    Do you like to accessorize? No. I think less is more.

    What does your basic outfit look like? Jeans and a pullover. If it's a dressier occasion, I'll wear a t-shirt with a shrug in spring/summer or a jacket/cardigan in fall/winter.

    What piece of clothing do you spend your money on the most? Winter coats or boots are the most expensive. I buy lots of sunglasses because I lose them.

    Do you wear hats? Nope. Hoods or earmuffs, please.

    What is your opinion on wearing socks and sandals together? I have a low opinion of this.

    What colors do you like to wear? Blue, black and gray (which I guess is really just a muted black, isn't it?)

    What are some of the strangest outfits you have seen? On the el, I've seen some interesting looks. I'm especially fascinated by overweight women wearing sexually suggestive t-shirts ("You wish you could handle these," "Give me something to scream about," etc.). I wonder where they're going that this is appropriate attire, and whether they really believe they're all that.

    What fashions do you hate? "Hate" is a strong word, but I really don't get distressed jeans.

    What are your favorite styles? I like tailored looks. If I still had the body I had when I was 25, I would love to wear Emma Stone's Oscar 2018 look.

    What do you think of body piercing? It's not for me.

    Do you like dyed hair? I like mine dyed. Been doing it for (gulp!) almost 40 years.