The Doctor and The Lioness

lionessI grew up, as did many folks my age, watching shows like Wild Kingdom and Flipper and Born Free. After years of such fare, I either internalized a phenomenon that I couldn’t articulate until after my son was born or, more likely, I just bore witness to behavior I would acquire on my own.

Said phenomenon was a set of behaviors centered on an attitude. Before Chef Boy ‘R Mine, I attributed the onset of these behaviors and that attitude to any number of things: my sense of justice, PMS, love, exhaustion. After Child-of-Mine’s birth, we coined a phrase to label this state of being, force of nature, whirlwind of 6’ woman with hair on fire. We called it Don’t-Fuck-With-The-Mama.

Think for a moment on every story you’ve ever heard or read about the mama bear, the lioness or the normally sweet-tempered family dog who turned into a wailing banshee of hell’s fury unleashed when the pups, cubs, kittens were endangered.

My child was a medical miracle and his first few months of life involved a lot of doctors and an insurance company who did not understand DFWTM.

I don’t yell. I don’t, generally, curse when confronting the problem. I don’t flail about or commit bodily harm – at least I haven’t yet. But I am either an immovable object or an unstoppable force. I say “unacceptable” a lot.

mama bearDFWTM extends to anyone I care deeply about though it is much stronger when my son is involved. Go ahead; ask me about the time I interrupted a board meeting of a health insurance company to question their decision to deny my son a surgeon with actual cleft-lip repair experience? Or the time my son was bullied to the point of blood on a school bus and the driver let him off at the regular stop as if nothing had happened. You’ll not want to ask me about the principal at the local elementary school unless you have a lot of time. It’s probably best that we don’t get into the Unfortunate Incident With My Mom’s Doctor or the ridiculous employment rules that endangered my ex-husband’s life.

I am fiercely protective of who and what I love.

The past months have been DFWTM. This time it’s not my son, but my husband-in-fact-if-not-legally. It’s further indictment of the sad state of healthcare in this country that most of my truly epic DFWTH moments center on medical folks. I have many stories about the wondrous effects medical professionals have wrought. I give praise where it’s due. And I put on storm trooper boots and wage battle when they err. Sometimes the iron fist is velvet-gloved as in the recent statement, “I believe that I must insist you consult with his transplant team before you continue” and other times a tad more confrontational such as the, also recent, “You will not talk to me that way especially when you do not know what you’re talking about.”  But it’s pretty much a given that the shit is about to hit the fan, when I quit dealing with the person responsible for the mess and pick up the phone to involve someone else.

After these events, when I sheathed my talons and the adrenaline has receded, I wonder how it is that some of these folks have habituated these behaviors? Do they not deal with lionesses protecting cubs? Or are the lionesses losing their ferocity? Or are the lionesses submitting to an authority who hasn’t earned the privilege of trust?

Taylor Mali’s quote on authority comes to mind, particularly as I have just written an entire paragraph of questions.

I entreat you, I implore you, I exhort you,
I challenge you: To speak with conviction.
To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks
the determination with which you believe it.
Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker,
it is not enough these days to simply QUESTION AUTHORITY.
You have to speak with it, too.

I entreat you to advocate, vigorously, for those you love. Lives depend on it.

A new trend in female grooming?

It really gets tiresome.

I collected a machete and box of Band-Aids and took them to the bathroom. I got out the razor and the shaving cream.  I sighed.  For 38 years, I have performed this unpleasant and, sometimes, dangerous task.

I shaved my legs and, while doing so, wondered who, exactly, introduced this practice. I also wondered why it went viral. And I wondered if it was ever ever ever going to be passé.  [Note:  I do know Ancient Romans were into de-haired legs.]

Immediately following the car wreck of 2007 and for months thereafter, I had heaps of medical appointments. Between the chiropractor, physical therapist, podiatrist and orthopedist, I was to-ing and fro-ing much too much. I think the record was 8 appointments in one week. Bear in mind, I owned a body that had been infiltrated and colonized by pain endorphins. Work and doctoring were all I could manage. Shaving my legs was not physically possible and even if I could have managed it, I probably wouldn’t have. There’re only so many hours in a day.

During these appointments where I sat naked wrapped in paper with my hairy legs chill-bumped, I would read whatever magazines were in the exam room. It seems that doctors’ patients are uncommonly fond of gosspip rags. Either that or the docs are. [Exception: my shrink’s office is filled with the New Yorker and Car & Driver. Go figure.]

I wonder how often Miley shaves?

Slowly, inevitably perhaps, I became well-versed about Lindsey Lohan, Brangelina, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus and all those paparazzi-chased folks.

Perversely, it started to interest me. I would tut tut when reading about LiLo’s latest boondoggle. Sneer at Paris Hilton’s cluelessness. Horrified that Jessica Simpson doesn’t brush her teeth daily.  I also looked at the fashion faux pas and fab fashion pics – sometimes thinking the fab was more of a faux pas, but those folks are never going to hire me to be the fashion editor.

Eventually, the myriad of medical appointments came to an end along with my celebrity gossip. I started itching to know the recent state of Brad and Angie’s marriage and whether or not Lindsey had learned how to disguise her alcohol monitoring bracelet as a cool fashion accessory.

I started going online for my gossip. While not as satisfying as a magazine, it more than meets my needs.

[Of course, you understand how much it pains me to admit to all this, but it is germane to leg shaving and I will get to that.]

I started reading the Huffington Post regularly during the last presidential election. They have one of the greatest celebrity gossip pages around. When I click on a link, it will often take me to a gossip rag or blog I haven’t heard of. It’s like a treasure hunt.  [Angelina Jolie may be pregnant again.]

Tonight after the unpleasant hacking at my legs and sick of the election (and sick about the election), I went gossiping for some fluffy, banal entertainment. One link led to another and then another and I found myself reading an article with the blaring headline – Natalia Vodianova Reveals Hairy Legs at Harper’s Bazaar Party. [Let’s not even get into how bizzare it is that a major magazine has nothing more important than this to publish.]

I hadn’t a clue who Natalia Vodianova was, but I was rather intrigued at a woman who would show up at a Harper’s Bazaar party with unshaven legs and, presumably, wearing something that revealed such.

Peach fuzz, I tell ya.

Frankly, it was a lot of hullaballoo about nothing.
Because Natalia (who is a super model, I learned) may have a habit of this, the writer thoughtfully provided another link proving she’d done it before.

Well the accompanying photographic proof got my attention – imagine being a super model and doing a fashion shoot in short shorts and NOT shaving your legs. Still and all, my primary thought was if the hair on my legs looked like that I would never shave.

But in the same article, there’s a reference (linked) to something called Team Mo-‘Nique. In the interest of research, I clicked. Mo’Nique is an actress or something. But she has some bodacious hairy legs (I can relate) and flaunts them regularly. Lately, it seems she presented her hairy gams at the Golden Globes.

She says, I must show America what a real leg looks like . . . because it’s too much in the morning, every morning, to shave, to cut, you got Band-Aids baby, she said. I really think hair on a woman’s legs is a black woman’s thing.

Girl! We could be twins!

If she’s right, I may masquerade as a black woman. But probably not. I’ve been conditioned to think a hairless leg is more attractive than a hairy one. And I can’t figure out how it is that she isn’t walking around scratching all the time.

She and I have pelts of similar hairiness. If I go too long without shaving, it itches and ingrown hairs develop and it’s altogether unpleasant.- more unpleasant than contorting my body in the bathtub or shower on a regular basis.

Which means, of course, that if Natalia and Mo’Nique are trend setters that are going to start a viral change to female grooming, I’m still going to be pretzeled in the shaving-legs asana – perhaps not as often as I do now, but still… Being the trendy person I am, I would hate to commit such a fashion faux pas as displaying smooth, denuded legs.

Clearly, if Team Mo’Nique sweeps the Olympics of Personal Grooming Habits, I’m going to have to wear pants on the days intense itch provoked shaving instead of wearing pants on the days I don’t shave. Either way, I am not going to be able to wear dresses as much as I like lest I assault someone’s, perhaps my own, standards of female pulchritude.

 [And don’t get me started on the price of razor blades.]

The Beautiful Babette

The Beautiful Babette

The heat and humidity of this summer is fading. It’s been rough on all of us – all of us being me and the three dogs.

What I thought was just heat-induced malaise turned out to be my incorrigible thyroid further torturing me. And if that wasn’t enough, the monthly shots that have kept my pernicious anemia under control for years became insufficient. It’s a double whammy – both disorders provoke exhaustion.

Like most areas of my life, the puppies were neglected while I slept away every nonworking hour. A routine visit to the doctor led to some blood work and – voila! – I was prescribed an increased dose of synthroid and my monthly B12 shots are now weekly.

I’m beginning to feel like myself again. This is a good thing, because the health department was getting ready to condemn my house and the dogs were fixin’ to run away from home. Indeed, two of them did.

The Traveling Toddlers

Chef Boy ‘R Mine called last spring and broached the subject of whether or not Terrific Trudy and Wonderful Willy could go live with him. Hell, yes, I said.

The three dogs have been a huge part of my life, but I’ve been a terrible dog owner for some time. My work schedule (and malaise) meant that walks in the park and cuddling on the couch came to a complete stop. The puppies spent a lot of time alone. I consoled myself with the fact that they do entertain one another, but it was clear they were puzzled and saddened by my neglect.

The Familiar Boy and the New Yard

Labor Day weekend, my mom and I did a shotgun trip to Charlotte to deliver the two youngest dogs to my son who had just moved into a dog-friendly house. Again, I felt guilty – this time because leaving them produced little sorrow, probably because I know my son will adore them and they now have a huge fenced yard to frolic in. Still, I wonder at the ease with which I gave them up.

So, it’s just Babette, the shih tzu, and I these days – two old grand dames enjoying one another’s company. She was a rescue dog and I’m not certain of her age. The vet guesses she’s about 14.

The vet and I are also baffled by her skin disorder. Babette scratches near constantly which provokes hot spots, lesions and whatnot. All sorts of remedies, prescription and otherwise, have been tried. The only one that works is puppy steroids and her kidneys are too ancient for a daily dose.

Checking out the new yard.

My mother, bless her heart, worried about Babette rattling around alone in the house while I’m at work. Babette was often disgusted by the antics of The Toddlers, but she also was accustomed to sleeping with Trudy and Willy, and, some times, playing with them. Mom is now operating Doggy Daycare. Each morning, Babette and I get in the car, drive the few yards down the hill to Mom’s house and drop her off.

Babette loves going to Grandma’s house. After just a few days of the new routine, she dances and prances, eager to get going, as soon as she sees me pour coffee in my car mug.

Pitiful, I tell you. Pitiful!

Mom is an optimist. She is convinced that with proper care, various lotions, etc. etc. Babette will stop scratching. When her care had no effect, Mom got really serious about it. I arrived home one day to find a pitiful little dog. So pitiful that being the terrible Puppy Mama I am, I burst into laughter.

Mom had shaved every square inch of Babette except for her face. The Beautiful Babette looks like some sort of mutant rat. It’s just pitiful.

And Mom did this when the temps started dropping and nighttime in this house is downright cold. For the first time in her life, Babette shivers. For years, she has refused to get under the dog blankets preferring to sleep on top of them. Both of us now cocoon deep in the down comforter – something else Babette adores about her new life, sleeping with Mom.

Shaving Babette has had no effect on the scratching, but we’re both adapting quite well to life without The Toddlers. Her fur grows fast and I’m afeared that after re-growth, she’ll quit burrowing deep into the covers with me.

We’re both glad to see this long, hot summer come to an end. It’s been a trial, but things are looking up. I can stay awake and Babette is getting lots of attention. It’s all good.

Yogini Again-y

This is an actual asana (position). It's one of my favorites. Now c'mon people - why did it take me a week and the purchase of a book to force myself onto the floor to do this - knowing I would feel better?

I really dislike being a cliché, but, yes, I’m just another middle-aged woman with a bunch of bad habits who thinks yoga is going to rescue me from myself.

There are worse delusions.

A few years ago, I regularly practiced a very lazy form of hatha yoga. My reward was a flexibility that surprised doctors and which I took for granted. I have long attributed yoga as being the reason I am not in a wheelchair. As my neurosurgeon said, “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.”

Well. I didn’t.

In April of 2007, I was in a car wreck that looked to be minor. There was $400 damage to my car and $32,000 (and counting) damage to my body. The first six months were lost in a miasma of pain and medical appointments – orthopedist, podiatrist, chiropractor, physical therapist, massage therapist. There were pain pills, outpatient surgeries, a walker, crutches, surgical shoes, ice packs, steroids and much complaining. Yoga was impossible when simply getting out of bed or up out of a chair exhausted my physical reserves.

The acute phase of my injuries passed and I thought I had reached a point where I could return to yoga class.

The yoga class I attended at the time of the car accident barely meets the definition. It is terminally a beginner class – ideal for out-of-shape Westerners with no interest in the mental aspects of yoga. I began attending this class when the woman who introduced me to yoga retired from teaching. I miss her still. She, too, didn’t press us too far outside our western sensibilities, but she did gently push us into more challenging poses and did discuss how our brains could become as flexible as our bodies if we paid strict attention to our breath, the position of our bodies, and our attitude towards the world.

Shiva Rea doing what I could almost, but not quite, do at the peak of my practice.

I was intrigued enough that I studied on my own and practiced on my own. Most yoga folks will tell you that a formal class is indispensible, but that daily home practice is just as necessary.

I’ve done neither for the better part of three years. I tried to return to class, but ongoing problems with my foot and hip made formal class a debacle. On one occasion it took the instructor and a classmate to get me up off the floor. More importantly, my return to class resulted in a return to pain. A cardinal rule in yoga practice is Do No Hurt – the very antithesis of no pain, no gain.

Still. I should have done what I could at home. There was much I could have done without pain. I should have stayed in the formal class – sitting out the poses that stressed my injured foot and hip. I should have done things differently. But I was appalled at how much I had lost and embarrassed at needing help with poses I’d been doing for years. Vanity will always get us in trouble.

This is why a formal class is indispensable – it keeps you motivated and humble. The closest I’ve come to yoga at home is to push aside my unitard in search of a pair of leggings to wear to bed. Foolish me.

This past December I had what I hope is my final foot surgery. Unlike the previous two surgeries, this one seems to have taken – the pain is finally gone and my foot works like a foot should.

Due in part to the novel about India I just finished, I’ve been feeling like a back-slidden yogini. [And, yes, I do hate that word for its pretentiousness, but I have no other to use.]

More importantly, I’m about as flexible as a potato chip and everything hurts. I’ve lost a lot of ground in three years.

I could do this - and do it well. It's a lot easier than it looks and my back feels so good during the pose.

It’s been hard to get started. I have the books. I have the mat. I have the DVDs and audio tapes. I have the unitard. That formal class still meets every Tuesday. That vanity thing again. I have to start over from the very beginning. Lie on the floor, arms and legs gently flexed and relaxed. Breathe in. Breathe out. Push your spine flat to the floor. Hold. Release. Remember to breathe.

I’ve been mentally preparing myself for a return to regular yoga practice. Mentally was as far as I got. I simply could not force myself to get up and lay on the floor to begin despite the fact that under normal circumstances yoga has always, ALWAYS, been an activity of deep contentment – even as a beginner, especially as a beginner. There was a time I rushed to the mat to begin the descent into the pleasure of a united brain and body.

I am very aware of the mind/body split. I can get lost in what Diane Ackerman terms Deep Play – a time when my brain behaves like a Ferrari – effortless coasting at high speed and cornering like a dream. I can get lost in the physical sensations of hard work while gardening or working on the house – reveling in muscle fiber stretching, relaxing and increasing. Yoga joins those two states of being.

I could not, cannot, understand my reticence to begin practice again. I did everything except get on the mat and begin. I suppose discovering how debilitated I’ve become was part of it. Part of it could be sheer laziness. Mostly it is chagrin. I didn’t do what I knew I should.

Today, I went to the book store to escape the humidity of this hot, stormy afternoon. I ended up in the yoga section, squatting on the floor, cursing the pain in my hip and the ache in my back. I was looking for the Holy Grail of DVDs or books. I looked at the jacket of each offering trying to decide if this particular one would have the phrase or the image I needed to get me on the mat. All the while I told myself the problem was a lack of discipline and no book, no DVD was going to provide the impetus I needed.

After struggling to get up off the floor, I walked over to the café with B.K.S. Iyengar’s Yoga Wisdom & Practice. Iyengar is credited with creating the yoga renaissance of the past few decades. It’s a beautiful book of lithe bodies, gorgeous symmetry, the power of simple words that sound stupid to people who haven’t experienced the mind/body fusion of yoga.

It turns out I was wrong. In spite of the balance in the checkbook, I bought the book. Just looking at those strong, flexible bodies, or perhaps it was the expenditure of money, provided the impetus to begin. I came home, dragged out the DVD most appropriate for a beginner, put on the unitard and made it through 28 minutes of a 40 minute program. I’m pleased I listened to my body and stopped when I should.

I feel good. My hip aches far less than it did. As I moved from seated positions to standing ones and back again, each successive rise from the floor was easier. By the end of the 28 minutes, it was hard to understand how it was I’d had so much trouble getting off the floor at the bookstore.

I expect to continue.

Below is Shiva Rea who is pushes a type of yoga called Vinyasa Flow Yoga. It’s a beautiful dance-like form. I don’t expect to ever be this good, but . . .

Locking Great Aunt Bertha in the Attic

I’ve noticed the more extreme the situation, the more apt I am to use clichés.

All I can say is it is hotter’n’hell and there’s a reason Great Aunt Bertha went insane and had to be locked in the attic.

I am near tears with the misery of this heat and the indignities of menopause.

The lack of air conditioning in my life means I’m focusing on one minute at a time – what I can do to get through the next 60 seconds.

When I left the house this morning, it was 80 degrees at 8:45 a.m. It was 94 when I left work. Besides hot, the area around me is water logged and continues to be under threat of violent thunderstorms. These storms rundle through with great crashes of thunder and lightening. The temperature drops 10 to 15 degrees and then ratchets right back up, more humid than ever. The weather people mutter about stalled fronts and whatnot.

Gills would come in handy about now. I don’t know the biomechanics of such, but I’m certain the body’s processing of a cup of water or so to every breath must entail some wear and tear on the lungs. More than likely, it increases body temperature.

It is only June. This sort of meteorological nightmare shouldn’t emerge until late July or August. If I try to imagine a whole summer of this, I may start screaming and never stop. 60 seconds of life at a time in this heat is all I can manage.

According to all manner of happiness experts, one moment at a time is the best way to live life under any circumstance. I am whining one moment at a time. This is probably not what they meant.

Periodically, I stop to cogitate on how for most of history folks lived without air conditioning and how for a good couple hundred years they did so while wearing a lot of clothes. I keep telling myself I should be thankful that I can strip down to bare skin while refreshing the Weather Channel website in hopes that an updated forecast promising unseasonably cool temperatures will appear.

When my grandmother went through menopause, air conditioning was unheard of and she was forced by societal norms to wear a heap of clothes – bras and girdles and hosiery and slips and gloves and all manner of layers of fabric. In the era before hers, long sleeves and long skirts were de rigueur.

Novels and stories abound about women locked in attics because they went insane and their people had to do something with them. While I don’t know for certain that menopausal women wearing a lot of clothes went crazy and had to be locked in the attic lest they run through town naked and raving was ever a norm, the idea doesn’t seem too far fetched. I do wonder where they got the energy to run.

The big white floor fan and the ceiling fans are the only reason I haven’t been locked in an attic. Well, that and the fact that I don’t have an attic and there’s nobody here to witness my madness.

Thunder has moved into the neighborhood while I wrote this. The temperature inside the house has decreased by a degree or so. I can feel the air freshening. Perhaps, I won’t wake in a pool of sweat later in the night and, even better, maybe I’ll sleep through the night. Maybe, just maybe, this will be the storm that drives the stalled front out of here.

For the next 60 seconds, I will hope and focus on the maybes.

Installing Telephone Jacks for Dummies

The bent metal prongy things are bent wrong.

I grew up during a time when girls weren’t educated in the art of home repair. We took home ec, the boys took shop. They had tools in the trunk of their cars, we had dimes to make a phone call to AAA.

Things have changed. I’ve picked up a few things in the intervening years.

I can jumpstart a car now, although I can’t change a tire (Lord knows, I tried). I can fix minor leaks. I’m fair to middling with a jig saw; and I can wield an electric drill with the best of them. But I’m afraid of broken things with wires.

Wires are usually buried deep in the innards of something and require tools to open if one doesn’t want a broken nail. Oh sure, shoes can work as hammers and butter knives screwdrivers, but sometimes you just need something Sears markets under the Craftsman name. HMOKeefe bought me a spiffy little toolkit that I’ve given a good workout. (There are some things in there I haven’t a clue as to their purpose, but I suppose I’ll learn in good time.)

Nifty Tool Kit

So, yes. I’m afraid of wires. I watched HMOKeefe hang my kitchen light and other than holding the thing in place while attaching gizmos to watchits, I think I could handle installation of a light fixture. That learning experience emboldened me to replace the pesky phone jack.

When Verizon installed my DSL there were multiple problems; chief was the interference that no amount of filtering could eliminate. After 6 hours at my home trying to uninterfere the interference, the technician muttered a few curse words and asked if it would be okay if he “shot all the DSL to one jack.” I said, “Fine with me,” seeing how he was installing a wireless modem.

So? What are these for?

Well. If all your internet connectivity is channeled to one jack in the house, it’s absolutely critical that jack be functional. If not, you can’t just pick up your wireless modem and move to another room.

The phone cord from the modem to the jack was too short, so I had the thing strung across the room. I tripped over it one too many times. The little bent metal prongy things bent in ways God never intended and the internet light wouldn’t come on.

Uh oh.

If I fiddle-farted with it long enough and held my tongue just right, I could get everything back in place so that the internet light happily flashed.

I am an internet addict. I use the internet for news, movies, television shows, email, Facebook, Twitter, blogging, and instant messaging. My friends and beloveds are scattered around the world and without internet, I don’t know what’s going on in their lives less’n I rack up long distance charges to call them.

That phone jack has been unhappy for two months. In the process of painting that room, I rung the jack’s death knell. All of my reshaping the little bent metal prongy things was to no avail.


See how little the Little Bastard is?

The Little Bastard (aka my gallbladder) is rocking and rolling and I feel exactly like the crap I keep throwing up, but I was starting to go into DTs from internet withdrawal. With a sense of impending doom, I went to the Lowe’s and looked at telephone installation stuff. I thought I’d managed to find the thing I needed, but it was only $3.98. I didn’t figure my entire social life and cultural awareness could hinge on a $3.98 part, so I pushed the red button for customer service.

A guy in the nifty red Lowe’s vest answered the “Customer Needs Assistance in the Audio-Visual Aisle; Customer Needs Assistance in the Audio-Visual Aisle.” [If I had to listen to that robotic woman’s smarmy voice all day, I would scream.]

I held out the $3.98 thingie and asked, “Is this what I need?”

Ta Da!!!!!!!!!!

Even in this day and age, trained sales clerks can’t read minds.

“Ma’am, what is it you’re expecting it to do?”

Now if that ain’t a loaded question.

I expect it to widen my horizons, draw my inner circle closer, enlighten me, empower me, and give me an occasional chuckle as well as provide a dial tone in my home office.

I explained the problem. H e assured me that it would make my universe whole.

He was a nice guy, so I asked about the wires. From my tone of voice, a casual passerby might have thought we were talking about female circumcision. He took it out of the package and did his best rendition of Installing Telephone Jacks for Dummies.

It sounded simple enough. I bought it and 50 feet of phone cord and went home.

After drowning the Little Bastard in Pepto Bismol, I grabbed the nifty toolkit and went to the study.

Five minutes later, I had an internet light.

It was way too easy. I’m now a whole lot less afraid of wires than I used to be although I did break a nail.

That broken dimmer switch in the dining room may be getting some attention soon.

[Home Repair Girl twirls her cape and heads into the sunset.]