Once a mouse; always a mouse?

(Please be sure to click on the picture!)

Not if you’re a ballet dancer in the Hilton Head Dance Theater’s annual Nutcracker Suite.

If you’re at all familiar with the Nutcracker Suite, you’ll know that the Mice appear early in the show, all done up with little spiky ears, pink noses, and tails on their tutus.  They’re all under the age of five.  There are usually many, many of them.  Some run offstage as soon as they arrive, seeking comfort from their back-stage mothers; others take to the spotlight and have to be forcibly removed.  Cameras click and families strain to see if they can identify their “mouse.”  They can’t, but it doesn’t matter.

The Mice are wonderful. They put us in the Nutcracker mood.

We’ve had the pleasure of watching our own “mouse” morph into other, more glamorous, more taxing Nutcracker roles.  Fittingly, and through hard work, training, and commitment she’ll dance the Sugar Plum Fairy pas-de-deux this year.

We’ve followed our dancer and her friends from Mice to English Crackers, Soldiers to Candy Canes, Marzipans to Flowers.  We’ve watched them change, grow, take baby steps from ballet slippers to toe shoes, inch their way from the back of the stage to the front.

It’s a community they’ll never forget.  Whether they continue their dancing or not, the value of their collective accomplishments through the years is a wonderful thing.

They might not understand that right this minute but it will all be there for them, some day, when they need it.

 

Photo courtesy of the South Jersey Ballet School

The Time Has Come

 

 

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,

To talk of many things.

Of shoes and ships and sealing wax

Of cabbages and kings,

And why the sea is boiling hot

And whether pigs have wings.”

 

The time has also come for Life on the May to take a short hiatus.

Children’s stories so often have relevance that we need to hear.  And heed.  So, I’ll scare up my copy of C. S. Lewis’ “Alice in Wonderland.”  And perhaps read a little A. A. Milne while I’m at it.

But I’ll be back.  Soon, I hope.  Please don’t go away.  I’m just taking a brief journey  down the Rabbit Hole.  I’m pretty sure they still do marvelous tea parties.  And if memory serves, the March Hare will offer wine.

Maybe you’ll join me there.  I’d like that.  It should be fun.

The Stuff In Between

Uh, Oh, Oreos.

Every people-friendly pantry has a package of Oreos.  You never know when you’ll get the urge to dip one in a glass of cold milk, make cookie crumbles for ice cream or twist off those chocolate wafers to get to the yummy stuff “in between.”

That’s my personal favorite.  That stuff “in between.”  I think that’s where “it’s at” and I’m not just talking cookies here.

Sure, those chocolate wafers are crispy and good and they make a nice shell for the stuff in between.  Sort of like birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and so forth. Those big events hold us together and give us reason to celebrate.  They’re our bookends.  Our markers.

But so much of the good stuff arrives differently, doesn’t it?   When you least expect it,  It just slithers in and quietly becomes part of your life.

Watching a cat sleep.

Starting a good book.

Laughing with friends.

Cocktails on the porch.

Stuff.  Just ordinary stuff.   Every day stuff.

That yummy, delicious  “in-between” stuff.

 

Change

Our favorite television character, Sheldon Cooper of the Big Bang Theory, says: “They say change is good.  But it never is.”

Sheldon tends to look at things in black or white so I don’t agree with him all the time but there’s been a change in our neighborhood recently that made me think of him.

The food bank at the church next door has recently moved.

We happened to be leaving our house early on the day of the move.  I saw bins and baskets being stacked in cars.  Shelving was dismantled and trucked.  Folding tables were put into vans. The food bank equipment was going to its new home.  It made me sad.  Surprisingly so.

I had happily volunteered at the food bank for three years.  Our group did the set-up work.  We filled the bins and baskets with bags, stacked the shelves with pantry-goods, stuffed the fridge with produce and dairy products.

The food bank clients would come in the following day and gather their needs.

There was a routine.  A pattern.  A ritual.  A comfort level.  Sheldon would have loved it.  I did, too.

Yes, I know the food bank needed to move to a new space and I know it’s still doing its good work.

But I miss having that regular, reliable, routine stuff going on next door to me every week.

For better or worse, change happens.

 

 

 

Hiccups

“A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.”

So sings Mary Poppins.

I always study the medical column in the New York Times Magazine with its tales of difficult-to-diagnose-cases and their ultimate solutions. Understandably, I’m usually lost until some smart doctor or nurse comes up with the answer and solves the problem.

Not so a couple of weeks ago. I may not have grasped the entire picture but I sure could have helped.  Long before the doctors did.

It seems that a man had been suffering from hiccups for days on end. He’d tried all the home remedies….drinking water upside down, holding his nose while drinking water, asking people to scare him, etc. He finally went to the hospital and they gave him a bunch of harsh drugs. He went home and kept on hiccupping.

Back to the hospital; more nasty drugs, MRI’s, Cat Scans, etc.

Poor guy still had hiccups. He was exhausted, losing weight, going crazy.

And I’m sitting there thinking: “Why isn’t someone simply giving this poor man a spoonful of sugar? “

Well, it turns out he did indeed have a little issue (way over my pay grade) that was part of an underlying cause of the hiccups and they fixed it. For the most part.

When he was going home from the hospital, still with more than a few hiccups, one of the nurses said: “You know, there’s a really simple cure for hiccups. Just put a spoonful of sugar under your tongue. Let it dissolve and Ta Da!  All gone!”

Finally, I said to myself, a little common sense.

And some seriously long-delayed comfort and peace for the poor hiccupper.

It works, by the way. If you didn’t already know.

Sign(age)s of Age

No, I’m not talking about wrinkles, creases, sags, and bags.

I’m talking about sturdy old houses, acknowledged for their role in Bluffton’s history.

The Bluffton Historical Preservation Society has recently finished a sterling and thorough job of identifying and dating all the historical buildings that exist in Old Town Bluffton.   And it has generously awarded each its own handsome sign.

I walk past several of those houses every morning.  Many date back into the 1800’s.  One even to 1795. I admire their longevity, their stateliness, their beauty.   Oh, sure, they’ve had a little “work” done.  Wouldn’t you if you were that old?

There is, however, more than one house on that registry that was built as recently as 1940.  Now, that’s getting dangerously close to my own date of birth.

It makes me wonder…

Am I “of historical significance?”

Should I sport a sign so everyone would know exactly when I was built?

Will people take pictures of me?

Do they comment on how well preserved I am, especially given my age?

Does anyone note that my shutters are slightly off center?

The mere thought of all that is quite sobering.

It calls for a stiff drink or two, a  little “work,” and definitely a celebration.

After all, just like those sturdy old houses in Bluffton, I’m still standing.

A Place to Call Home

I went back home a couple of weeks ago.  I’ve been making that trip in late August for the last eight years.

It all started when our daughter-in-law was air lifted from a hospital in Ohio to the intensive care unit of the University of Michigan Hospitals in Ann Arbor.

We were told that her best chance of recovery would be in their capable and knowledgeable hands. Her husband, our oldest son, the Mister, our cats and I followed by car.   We were all leaving our home bases.  And our comfort zones.

We settled into a motel, scared and alone.  Visits to the hospital and the grocery store were our only excursions.

For the most part, I hung out in the motel with our cats.  The SICU at the hospital was not set up for visitors.  All the energy went to their patients; our daughter-in-law being among the very sickest.

It was on our first day there that I started my travels to Three Pines.   I immediately became a part of that small community.  Its residents accepted me, sustained me, made me laugh, kept me warm.

During those three months in Ann Arbor, I ate warm croissants for breakfast from Sarah’s Boulangerie.  I read Ruth’s poetry and laughed at her foul mouth.  I spent hours in Myra’s bookstore.  In the evening, I joined the crowd at the Bistro for drinks and gossip. Of course, Superintendent Armand Gamache and his wise wife, Reine Marie, were there to bring us all together.

I was NOT alone in that motel room.

I was part of a community.

Three Pines is, of course, a fictional town in Canada, brought to life by its creator, Louise Penney.  Her books are always published on the last Tuesday in August.  Her latest book, “Glass Houses” quickly flew up to number one on the New York Times bestseller list.

So, two weeks ago, new book in hand,  I retreated to my nest and again savored my time in Three Pines, enjoying the characters I feel I know so well.  I emerged refreshed but sad that I have to wait another year.

Until I get to go back home again.

Flags

(Please click on picture for full image)

We frequently fly a flag in the front of the house.   On most occasions, it’s the American flag.  Ours was given to us by a soldier on the occasion of his safe return from Afghanistan.  We hang it with great honor.

But we occasionally fly another flag.  It’s a distress flag.  A Maritime distress flag, to be specific, but we stretch those boundaries just a little bit.

We use that maritime flag to symbolize the distress that we, and I in particular, feel from our country’s relaxation on many environmental restrictions.

I think I feel the pain most acutely because I’m a born-and-bred West Virginian.

West Virginia’s known for its beautiful mountains.  That’s why it’s called the Mountain State.

The mountains and their valleys have always been rich in coal and natural gas.  Both have contributed abundantly to our energy use through the years.

But the time has come to phase out our reliance on them.  The gas wells have run dry; the hills have given up most of their coal.

The only way to continue coal and gas production is to rape and plunder Mother Nature.  It’s called “strip mining” and “fracking.”  And with those atrocities go our  mountains, the valleys, the streams and their beauty.  I feel that pain intensely.  West Virginia roots run deep and strong.

And that’s one reason why we hang a distress flag from our front porch.

 

 

Intelligence Promotion

I’m one (mis) step closer to joining MENSA.   That elite group of nerdy, brainy people.  I’ll explain.

See, I fell a few days ago.  It was a big fall.  A shoe caught on an uneven piece of sidewalk and down I went.  Knees, wrists and face.   In that order.  Happily, I only got a few cuts, some bruises and a bit of gravel in my face.  Nothing broken, sprained or sliced.

I clearly recall that as I thudded to the ground, I uttered a four letter word and it wasn’t “rats.”

I also remember that as I was trying to stand up, I saw a man drive past me who couldn’t possibly have missed my splayed-out body on the ground.  He didn’t so much as say: “Hey lady, you OK?”  I called him a name.  It wasn’t a nice name.

I dusted myself off, limped home, treated my wounds and scolded myself for being so careless, if not outright stupid.  I also took myself to task for using such un-lady-like language.

But then I remembered.

Michael Adams wrote a book, “In Praise of Profanity,”  in which he says that the effective use of profanity has proved to be an indicator of verbal skill.  If not intelligence.

The Marist College has recently published a report supporting that premise.

Given the utterances that flew out of my mouth so spontaneously, so effectively and, I believe, quite appropriately, I decided that I’d earned an intelligence promotion…15 points on the IQ scale, at a minimum.  Look out MENSA, I’m on my way.  I may not arrive all in one piece but I’ll be there.

All in all, it was a very satisfying day.

 

 

A Beautiful Day Today

Saturday, September 9, 2017

It’s a beautiful day today.  Right here on the May River.

Blue skies.  Low humidity.  Temperatures in the 70’s. Birds chirping.  Butterfly’s flitting.  You get the picture.  It’s why we live here.

There’s just one little problem, of course, and her name is Irma.

On my walk this morning I saw several people I know.  The question we asked of each other was not “How are you?”  We all know the answer to that one.

The real question is “Are you staying or leaving?”

We all have our reasons for our decisions and not one of them is easy to make.

There’s really nothing more to be said.   All we can do is wait and see.

We only know that wherever Irma goes, there’s bound to be catastrophic devastation.  And for that, we are deeply, deeply saddened.

Bureaucratic Ninjas

That’s the title I’ve bestowed upon the wonderful women who work with breast surgeons.  They’re the women who guide a new breast cancer patient through that  scary world, its language and procedures.  Their official title is Breast Navigator.  But one of the things they do so well is slice through red tape.   Hence my preferred title: Bureaucratic Ninja.

It’s been a year now since my little cancer oopsie and it was that time again.  Mammogram time.

I called to set up an appointment.  Just out of curiosity, I asked if it would be half-price, given the fact that now there’s only one.  I was informed that it was a bi-lateral mammogram.  But I’m uni-lateral, I argued.  Why do I have to pay for two?  Because that’s just the way it is, she said.

I told her I thought that was “milking the system.”  Perhaps an inappropriate metaphor in this instance but true nevertheless. Eye docs only charge for one at a time when they do cataracts.  Orthopods certainly don’t charge for two knee replacements when they only do one.  What’s the big diff with mammograms?

I lost that battle.  There were bigger ones on the way.

The day came for the appointment.  I had jitters; I think quite naturally.  I sat in the outer-waiting room (there’s an inner one, too…bi-lateral waiting rooms?)   I waited and watched as many who arrived after me left before me.  Time and time again.  Come and go, in and out, and there I sat.

At last I inquired.  Well, they said, your order says to do the left side and, as we look at your records, it’s clear we can’t do that.

You’re right about that, I said, so what’s the problem?

We have to obey the order.

That’s a physical impossibility so let’s be reasonable here.

We can’t.  We need another order.

I’ll fix this one, I offered.  Give me a pen.  I’ll cross out left and put in right.

No can do.

Then let me into the inner sanctum and I’ll demonstrate the obvious. We’ll go from there.

Nope, can’t do that either.

Just exactly how long is it going to take to get this straightened out, I asked, because I’ve been sitting here for well over an hour.   I’ve been patient and quiet so far but those other, not so well behaved, dogs are desperate to get out and it’s not gonna be pretty when they do.  Trust me on this: You don’t want that to happen.

Enter the Breast Navigator, aka, Bureaucratic Ninja.  She had remembered me from last year, had come to my rescue more than once back then and, Bless Her Heart, there she was again.  In less than five minutes I was on my way.  Happy to have it over and happier to have a good report.

I don’t know what she did to make it right.  All I know is The Mister was so grateful for her help that he sent her flowers the next day.  I stop by to just say hello if I’m in the neighborhood.  She doesn’t have an easy job and she sure does it well.  She deserves the occasional, out-of-the-blue and heartfelt “Thank you.“

 

P.S.  Life on the May turns three this month.  The blog is still a “do-not-reply” site.  My personal email or the “contact” page on the site is the only way for a message to come to me. Anything else goes into the ethers, never to be seen again.   I value any remarks you have.   It’s my way of staying in touch.

 

A (Single) Word Matters.

It was a wickedly humid, blisteringly hot morning.  To take a walk or not to take a walk?   That was the question.

After much backing and forthing, the healthy twin won and off I went.  I needed a knife to cut through the slog.  Every step felt like ten.

My  routine takes me to the end of Calhoun Street and back again.  A gentleman by the name of Robert lives in a house near my turning point.  We’ve met once or twice and have agreed to wave and say good morning to each other as I walk by.

He usually sits way back in his dark garage, radio blaring.   I can’t be sure if he’s there or not but I greet him regardless.

If he’s there we say good morning to each other.  Otherwise, I just wave into the vacuum.

This morning was business as usual.  I waved as I went by and got a nice “Hello, there.  Have a good one.” in return.

As I walked on a few steps, I heard someone else speak.  And what I heard made that sloggy, mushy walk worth it all.

Hey, Robert,” said the other voice from deep inside the garage.  “Who’s that girl wavin’ at you?

And with those words, especially that one word, the humidity lifted, there was a spring in my step and my ego, at least for a brief moment, was flying high.

With that kind of jump-start to the day, I think I should go to the liquor store.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll get lucky and they’ll card me.

Porch Musings

Even in this terrible heat, our porch gets a lovely breeze.  It’s a little like a warming oven.  Not hot enough to cook in; just warm enough to take the chill off an over-air-conditioned person.

I always take a book with me when I retreat to the porch.  I’ve been reading The Bettencourt Affair by Tom Sanctus.  It has everything one would want for summer escapism: “hidden secrets, divided loyalties, frayed relationships, fractured families.”  All based in France around the world’s richest woman and her cosmetic company.

I skimmed over the historical data.  Why get bogged down in facts when there’s  another juicy scandal just around the corner, on the next page?

One little sentence caught my eye and has stayed with me.

It said:  “Doing good makes no noise; making noise does no good.”

As I read that, I happened to glance up at the river.  I saw a sailboat….lovely, gracious, silent.  And seconds later a super-charged power-boat surging past … .noisy, disturbing, wake-making and dock-rocking.

It was a clear, visual illustration of what I’d just read.

I’ve thought a lot about those words in the past week.  The river situation was an obvious example.

I’m also pretty sure those words have relevance beyond the river.    I’ll think on it a bit more.

Women’s Rights.

The very words “Women’s Rights” seem strident.  Very 60’s and 70’s.   Political.   Divisive.

How about “Women’s Issues?   Better, softer maybe, but “Women’s Issues” are, in fact, everyone’s issues.

Regardless of the wording, I deeply care about women’s “issues” and  “rights.”

Many years ago, back in the 60’s and70’s, I was a self-declared “feminist.”   If anyone addressed me as Mrs. instead of Ms., I took offense.   I worked, happily, and for very little salary, on behalf of women’s rights and issues in the workplace.

And I loved it.

At a  recent seminar, I spied a sign-up sheet for a “women’s rights” group.   I put my name right on that list.  Quick like a bunny.

The first gathering was called.  We listed the concerns that we hoped to address and support through our efforts and interests.  There was enthusiasm and hope.

It wasn’t until I got home, had a glass of wine and looked at my notes, that I realized that the list of issues and hoped-for-rights, was exactly, almost to a word, the same as it had been in the 60’s and 70’s, when I was so intensely involved and committed.

My energy for that level of involvement and commitment is not the same as it was over 40 years ago.  I think that’s both understandable and acceptable.

What’s not understandable or acceptable is, that after 40 years, that list is still the same.

 

 

 

 

 

Anxiety.

It’s one of the things I do best.  Get anxious.  Overwhelmed.  Way too worried.

Turning molehills into mountains is child’s play for me.

I was feeling all that last Friday morning.  I knew what I had to do and I knew I had to get it over with.   A deadline was approaching.

I washed my hair in readiness.  Put on more “face” than I normally would on a Friday morning….or any other morning for that matter.

I chose what I believed to be a becoming shirt for the occasion.  I wanted to present a nice image.

I put an extra sweater…..or two…..in my carry-all to ward off what I was certain would be  a chill in the too-airconditioned space.

In readiness, I also packed some light  snacks.  Experience has taught me that the process can take some amount of time and I certainly didn’t want to be hungry when my number was called.  I was stressed enough without having a growling stomach.

Of course, my Kindle was also at the ready.  It was charged  to the fullest with what I  thought was an engaging book to occupy the time.  One that would get me through the interminable morning….and perhaps into early afternoon.  I even had a back-up book.  Just in case.

I also had both sets of eyeglasses which I knew I would need.  Distance and near.  Couldn’t be over prepared.

When I arrived, the parking lot was full as I knew it would be.  The clouds had just released a torrential rain so all that hair and face preparation went down the drain, so to speak.

Soaked to the bone, I had barely settled into a fairly comfortable seat when it all started.

They called my number.

Things proceeded so quickly, I never had time to worry.  Next thing I knew, it was over.

After five minutes, yes, five short, and I might add, very pleasant minutes, I had a brand new driver’s license.