Good humor makes all things possible.
-Charles Schultz-

With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.
-Shakespeare-The Merchant of Venice-

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mister Carson. (Not that Mister Carson.)

I'm uncomfortable with surprises at the best of times

This place is incredible

I've had a number of cats in my lifetime, but I haven't actually selected a cat in seventeen years. This time is no different.  An adolescent tomcat named Mister Beast recently found himself on the short end of the pet-ownership commitment stick, and suddenly he had nowhere to live.  Oh wait--yes he did.  My house.

One look at his exotic eyebrows and fancy black tailcoat, and it was clear that  Mister Beast demanded a title upgrade.  He is now Mister Carson.  He arrived late yesterday and spent the night under house arrest in the hall bathroom while the resident cats decide how they feel about the new kid.  He slipped out of the bathroom this morning and met Chase nose-to-nose.  That encounter actually went fine because Chase evidently cannot see, hear, or smell much of anything these days and wasn't particularly concerned about this dark shape wavering in front of him.   Mister Carson is young enough that he instantly rolled over in submission.  It was a draw.  Chase has already forgotten how many cats live here.

Huh? meets Gaaaaah!

Because all of his basic kitten medical care has been neglected, next week he has to go to the clinic salon and have the veterinary special deluxe spa treatment, which will reduce the name "Mister" to honorary status.

You may not believe this, but there are trees inside this house

So far so good, but Lottie spied him through the slider and now refuses to come inside.  I'm hoping that since he's (a) still basically a kitten, and (b) a boy, they will be able to work out an amicable hierarchy.  Girls, and especially that girl, run the world, you know.

(drag-and-drop cats that stop bouncing, refresh, and don't forget to make it rain!)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fifty five

So last week I had another birthday, my fifty-fifth.  And no, I'm not fishing for comments wishing me many happy returns of the day, in fact, I'm uncomfortable with birthday attention in general. The mailman brought three birthday cards: from my sister, my step-mom,  and my insurance man.  I guess if I had a significant other I'd appreciate a nice dinner out but, as I do not, I'd just as soon let the passing of another year go unnoticed.  I don't mind getting older, particularly--it beats the alternative, as they say--but it reminds me that time is marching on and I probably should have made a little more hay while the sun shone, so to speak.

It's just a little smaller than it looked in the ad, but I don't mind.

Sam and Lillian are getting me another television.  My heavy awkward ones became extinct, one by one, and the electronics recyclers cheerfully hauled them away and threw them into the LaBrea Tarpits or some such place.  Last Mother's Day they got me my first new Sony.  I love it!  Sam wasn't happy enough with that one--because he is a boy and of course is sure bigger means better--so he determined that the 32" one would be exiled to my bedroom and he'd get a 42" for my living room.  

I'm extremely grateful; I'm terribly proud that he's doing well enough to indulge me; but I'm sure that besides wanting to order new toys from Best Buy he's probably a little embarrassed that Ma Ingalls his obstinate mother insisted that her old televisions were perfectly fine.  Fortunately for everyone, those all died.

A picture of a boy wishing there were even bigger  fossils

My mother has a rusty old electric wall heater from the fifties that provides all her heat.  It costs hundreds of dollars every month to run because it is so inefficient.  So my sister and I picked out a sleek new oil-filled radiator which fits neatly on the hearth and will keep her house cozy for a fraction of the cost of the wall heater.  The first time I visited to check on the radiator she had unplugged it, and the last time I went there she had dragged it into the garage because it was an eyesore that was in her way and she liked her old heater better. 

Fine, I get it.  The new television, which is so up-to-date it hasn't been invented yet, will be here soon. Happy birthday to me!

Post-test: How many dinosaurs do you see?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

I'll take that challenge!

No sooner did I announce that Lillian would never clean up her room and make space for the new pink nightstand, than she did it!  She put her lamp with it's funky yardsale lampshade on top, temporarily relocated some cute accessories and books, and even snapped the picture with her iPhone.

But in the spirit of truth in reporting, she backed up a step and took another picture.  Lillian is a saver--and she has a lot of things to save, because she also collects a variety of treasures--from books to vintage accessories.  Her room is small with a lot of furniture in it, so it's difficult to keep tidy.  She also telecommutes to one of her jobs, in there--on the phone and her laptop.

When she was little and would leave for a weekend to visit her dad, I'd go in and clean it all up because the cluttered mess was so frustrating for both of us, and she was always sincerely determined to keep it nice.  Now, though, Lillian is an adult and I have to accept that it's her decision to have her room however she can stand it, even though she (like most of us) appreciates a neat room, and often cleans it [most of the way] up.  I only ask that no leftovers or dirty dishes stay in there, and we agree to disagree on the rest.

She certainly won't live here forever, and although she will eventually move away, I'm not in a hurry to see her leave.  She's good company and we have a lot of fun together.  When she's gone, will I be happier because that room is empty and clean?  Hardly.

It's just stuff.  Who cares?

Monday, October 15, 2012

The tale of two pink nightstands

For a long time Lillian has been looking for an old bar-cart or AV stand to use as a bedside table. Her IKEA bed frame is a little higher off the floor than is standard, which is great for stowing suitcases full of sweaters and shoes, but means that the usual nightstand is lower than the edge of the bed, which decorators frown upon.  It also makes Lillian feel like the Princess And The Pea atop a stack of twenty mattresses, unable to reach her lamp, her book, or her tea without tumbling head first out of bed.

Mom!  Mom?  Mom! Mom!  Will you bring me a drink of water?  Mom? Mom!  Mom!

Then I remembered that Grandma Ruth (my mother), who lives nearby, had this old metal utility cart in her garage.

When I was growing up it lived in our kitchen, but it got evicted when Mom finally agreed to replace her forty year old, "coppertone" (sixties-speak for dark brown with darker brown ombre edges--so fine!)  refrigerator.  I don't remember where it came from originally, but I do recall Mom spray painting the cart brown.  (Everything old is new again: brown!) I also remember that our previous, very old, refrigerator expired one summer when we were out of state and we came home to find a big white coffin full of warm food which had thawed and leaked out all over the kitchen floor.  Mom used to be a fearless DIYer back in the day,  and also spray painted the original turquoise range hood and oven door.  For decades the stovetop (not a good candidate for spray paint) remained turquoise as a reminder of a more colorful era.  It recently got the heave-ho when she bought all new appliances (almond, which, although already out of date and which had to be special ordered, was as modern as she was willing to go.)

Anyway, I crammed the cart into my trunk and brought it home, and today I cleaned it up with sandpaper and denatured alcohol, and spray painted it with Rustoleum Ultra Cover in Gloss Berry Pink.

Orchard Supply Hardware sent me a $5 off coupon for my birthday this month, making Lillian's new nightstand free, which is my favorite price.

Of course I ran out of paint before I was entirely done with the last coat. Back to OSH!

Lottie is fearlessly watching for lizards and rats.
She fools them into thinking she is asleep and the coast is clear.  So sneaky.

Chase  is not interested in DIY projects, unless it involves turning on the bathroom faucet (not that much!--just a dribble--there now leave it for ten minutes while I drink), which he would like me to do about twenty nine times a day.
And also at night.

And there it is!

Yes, we do both have [slightly different] pink night stands, but it really was the right color in both rooms. If Lillian ever gets her room clean enough to show this little table neatly arranged beside her bed, I will take a picture and post it.  That, however, could take a long long long time.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Chasing the clouds away

How to have a really fine weekend: Get some very positive news, take a few deep breaths, and smile.  We received an update from my friend J's wife, B:

. . .Four days into his gene therapy and he is feeling much, much better! A huge difference. His appetite is getting better with each day (need to make up the 20 pounds he has lost). We were told that these new drugs have very fast and robust responses, and it is true. He will eventually develop tolerance (6 months to a year) and then he will have to be in a drug trial at MD Anderson for the 2nd generation drug which is currently in phase 3 trials. But, we are all set up to go there. We changed local oncologists to a Dr. who has a bedside manner more suited to J's personality and who is willing to coordinate care with MD Anderson in Houston. We are feeling much more hopeful and encouraged! J was even doing his Susan Hayward impression when asking me to get his "dolls" (pain pills). He is actually cutting back on the "dolls" because his pain is not as great. So three cheers for medical science, thanks to all those praying, and Praise to our merciful God. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Hope is a waking dream


Against all odds and the Sunset Garden Book, those plumeria are thriving in Austin

For the last few nights I've sat on my porch in the cool, quiet, early fall evening, and looked at the moon and thought about life.  Or more specifically, death.  The terrible specter of death has crept into my life. My beloved friend J is gravely ill.  Maybe.  Of course not.  I don't know.

Just two months ago, we all spent a wonderful weekend laughing and cooking and eating and feeling immortal, or as immortal as middle-aged people have any right to feel.  If you had asked us to vote on who seemed the healthiest, ate the best, exercised the most, and led the godliest life, J would probably win.  He was coughing a little, perhaps, but this has been a harsh year for allergies, and the smoke has been constant.

We didn't know.  

He is so clever, so funny, and so dear.

J and his sweet wife went home to Texas and he drove his daughter back to college.  Then he  went on a cross-country road trip, relocating his Navy son from San Diego to Maine.  But when he got back, he suddenly started to feel awful.  So he went to the doctor for a check-up.

He got the news nobody wants.  He has a very rare, aggressive lung cancer.  It has already spread to his liver and bones, although not his brain.  His pain is unbearable.  Life is suddenly very different, precious, and frightening.

J and B--two halves of a perfect whole

In  truth, this is not my story to tell.  I feel greedy claiming pain and fear because his family has cornered the market on pain and fear.  I have no right to expect constant updates or medical information.  Would I feel better if I had that?   Does carrying some of the anxiety help to bear it, or just duplicate it? Am I exploiting them by posting about it?

I feel compelled to be brave and optimistic, but it's hard.  I suppose the correct path is to presume that medical science will throw everything they have at this and J will rally.  That he'll recover.  That this will be a dark chapter in their fine, long marriage, but he will see his grandchildren, yet unborn, grow up.  I made a little bracelet with his initial, which we share, to wear every day until he is well again, because I can't keep my fingers crossed that long.  There is literally nothing else for me to do.

My tears won't help at all.  If they did, he'd be better already.

Everyone he knows wants him to get well, not just me.  J is my old friend--not my husband, my dad, or my son.  I don't presume to want it more than they do because that's impossible.

But make no mistake:  I want it so much.  So much.

 J was a snappy dresser even  in 1975, and he made sure I had a proper white orchid for our senior prom.
He wore his cool Johnny Carson suit, and I wore a black tee and a long black silk skirt, which I made.
He was not responsible for my matching black eye.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

If I knew then

Today is Lillian's birthday.  She is twenty three.

She is the baby I didn't think I'd ever have.  My surprise third child; born a month too soon into a sad and crumbling marriage, just one year after I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  Her dad left soon after she was born.  I was lost: I hadn't quite graduated from college, I had three little children, an uncertain medical future, and was alone in a city hours from family and friends.

But I had a funny little baby to hold onto when I cried, and she was with me while I threw all my husband's things into the street and packed up and moved into a smaller house.  I found a job, and together we drove around the city delivering medical transcripts to doctors' offices so we could all eat. She was in my arms while I made the decision that if I was going to be poor, I might as well be poor surrounded by people who loved me, and the four of us moved back to my hometown.

We all went to school--I went back to community college to learn a marketable skill, Sam and Annie went to first and third grade at my old elementary school, and Lillie went to preschool.  Things went from really grim to just difficult, but we scrimped and thrift-shopped and eight years later, we bought a little house for all of us to live in.  One by one my kids grew up and moved away, as it should be.

When the going got tough in Chicago, Lillian did what I did twenty years before--she moved home.  And as it was for me, I know she'll get back on her pegs and fly away again.

But at least for now, she's once again my partner in crime, driving around with me just like we did all those years ago in Sacramento, singing along to the radio.