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.

 

 

“Beach-Reads”

Every summer the stores are full of them.  We recognize them by their book jackets.

Gauzy, beguiling, images of best friends, strolling arm in arm, by the sea.

Long-legged beauties, dangling their feet in the refreshingly cool waters.

Promises of clandestine affairs.  (Is there another kind?)

Tow-headed children, tanned a nut-brown by the sun, romping in the surf with their dogs.

Families gathered at dusk, dining on old farm tables surrounded by mis-matched chairs and adorned with wild flowers in Mason jars.

So, I’m tempted.  Always.  But I’m too smart to fall for that stuff.  I’m above all that.  I wouldn’t be caught dead with one of those books in my hand, a brown paper wrapping notwithstanding.

Blame it on the rain, or lack thereof.  Blame it on the backed up septic system.  Blame it on anything you want but the fact is I succumbed.  And did I ever have fun.  Couldn’t be pried from my couch.  Just leave me alone and let me ride this beach-read to its inevitable happy ending.

I figure I’ve earned more than one happy-ending book.

I hadn’t planned on admitting my weakness but, last time I looked, having fun wasn’t  a weakness.

 

 

What is a friend?

Click on the picture for a larger image

Earlier this summer, we had the opportunity to view an artist’s world-wide, four year photographic study of her 400-plus Facebook friends.   Through her photography, she took us into their homes, their families, their lifestyles.

The exhibition by itself was intimate and engaging.  But she took it a step further.

Her four-year study apparently compelled her to ask the question: “What is a friend?”  In her search for answers, she offered everyone who visited her exhibit an opportunity to respond to that question, via little post-it notes, handily positioned in the gallery.   She then transferred those responses onto gauzy strips of material and hung them, floor to ceiling, in the gallery along side the photographs.

We read as many as we could.  Most were general, some very personal.  All very thoughtful.

I particularly liked one that said: “A friend is someone you make with.”

No, the writer didn’t leave out a word.  You fill in your own.   As in make dinner with, make plans with, make art with.

I didn’t submit my favorite because I didn’t see the post-it-notes but if I had, this is what I would have said:  “A friend is someone who asks the second question.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Togetherness

The Mister and I like to do things together.  That’s  good  because we’ve been married for a really long time.

Just recently, we went, together, to the brand new superstore not far from home.  One of us was very excited about a great sale on our favorite wine.  The other one had nothing better to do than tag along.

The store was freezing and the wine department was way, way in the back. One of us was happy because big savings were within reach; the other one was really cold and not happy about anything.

One of us bought a whole case of wine and had a nice long chat with the wine manager.  The other one was twitching about, trying in vain to get warm.

Together, we went through the check-out counter.  One of us marveled at the amount we’d saved.  The other was sure that death-by-freezing was imminent.

So consumed were we, each with our own issues, that, together, we forgot our purchase.

When we got home we wisely decided to quit with all that togetherness stuff.

One went, a tad bit grumpily, back to the store for the wine.

The other went, blissfully, to soak in a hot bath.

 

 

 

SAD

SAD isn’t something we want but many of us get it anyway.

SAD stands for Seasonal Affect Disease.  It happens when the skies are too gray for too long.  When there’s snow and ice on everything.  When the trees are bare for months.  When the sun doesn’t shine for days on end.

We get grumpy, irritable, testy.  In a word, SAD.

So we move to places like South Carolina and Florida because we don’t want SAD.

I have SAD, too.  But, mine takes a different turn.  Mine happens when just the opposite occurs.  When there’s too much sunshine.  When the skies are not cloudy all day.  When everyone says: “Isn’t it a beautiful day today?”  Day after day after day.

I get my hopes up when there’s a chance of thunderstorms.  The possibility of a little hail does nothing but add joyful anticipation.

My heart goes pitter-patter when dark and ominous clouds form over the river to the west.

I celebrate a good strong wind, especially with the hint of even stronger gusts.

Hurricanes, of course, are a universal no-no.   Ditto tornadoes, blizzards and such.

But perhaps, just perhaps, those of us on the dark side….and I know you’re out there…. could be allotted  the occasional ominous cloud and teensy bit of inclement weather.

I certainly don’t wish the sunny-day people any harm.  I don’t hold their blue-skies against them.   I just yearn for the occasional spot of gloom.

 

Cloud image courtesy of Paxabay.com

 

 

 

Guided by Beeps

Wherever we go, whatever we do, we are audibly accosted by beeps, peeps, pings, and chirps.  Tweets, too, but that’s a different matter.

A friend mentioned this recently and now I can’t get it out of my head.

Our house beeps to tell us we have intruders, that the smoke detector needs a new battery, that the toast is done, the coffee is hot, the printer has balked (again), a text has arrived, the clothes are dry.

The Mister’s new car has its own set of beeps and pings.  Warning, alerting, demanding.  Annoying.

Beeps are a bit like naughty children.  Tend to their needs and they’ll go away.  But they’ll be back.  Soon.

This morning I heard a beep.  Then another.  I was initially alarmed.  What’s wrong now?  Can it be fixed and how soon?   I looked for the source, ready to do battle.   What I found was a little bird, happily peeping away in a nearby tree.

To mis-quote T. S. Eliot: “Is this the way the world ends?  Not with a bang or a whimper but a beep?”

preview of coming attractions

to my dear and respected poets:

sometimes….no, make that lots of times….i have trouble understanding poetry.  shakespeare and chaucer are lost on me.   i do quite like e.e. cummings but mostly because he never  capitalized anything.    my poet friends are well aware of my limitations.

forrest gump said that “life is like a box of chocolates……you never know what you’re gonna get.”     well, i think poetry’s a little like that,  too.

there was a ton of chocolate in our house when I was growing up.   my mother, a woman of taste, particularly loved godiva chocolates.    a beautiful box of those sumptuous goodies was an instant path to her heart.

on top of each layer of those yummy chocolates we’d find a road map for what lay beneath.    directions, if you will, for our munching enjoyment.    you certainly didn’t want to bite into a hazelnut when you were longing for marzipan.

for example, you might read: “this particular delicacy is bathed in a dark swiss chocolate, blended with finely shaved brazilian walnuts, carefully layered with argentinian caramel and a hint of oak-aged scotch.”

those tantalizing, seductive words urged us to dig deep and understand what made that chocolate so good;  to appreciate that little piece of candy intelligently, knowingly, happily.   the godiva people did that for me and i wish poets would do that, too.

oh, i know a little mystery is part of the whole deal, but every once in a while, i’d love to be prepared before i take my first bite.

so, dear poets, please help me out a little.   give me a few hints and clues as to what i’m meant to discover between the lines and the layers, under the lid of that beautiful box.

i think i might be able to savor the sweet stuff…and the journey… just that much more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jill. Or is it Jack?

(Please click on the image above to get the full picture)

Many years ago, we bought a marvelous iron statue from an sculptor in Ohio.  It was my birthday present.  I named her Jill.  Until I turned her to the side and re-named him Jack.

She/he is androgynous.  It all depends on your perspective and the angle of your eye.

Several years ago, she/he was poised in our front yard.  She/he is top heavy and vulnerable to tipping.  So we sunk her/him in the ground with concrete.

After she/he had been there for a bit, we received a complaint from the community’s Architectural Review Committee, stating that our statue was suggestive of nudity.

Granted, she/he was indeed unclothed.  She/he was, in fact, the very definition of nudity.  Which made her/him just that much more interesting.  And worthy of conversation.

We, including Jill/Jack, were very offended by the citation but we were obliged to comply with the covenants of the community.  Thus we decided to clothe her/him.

And that’s where the problems started.

How does one costume/dress an androgynous statue?

Is it Santa Claus or Mrs. Claus?

St. Patrick or St. Patricia?

Mama Bear or Papa Bear?

Uncle Sam or Betsy Ross?

Romeo or Juliet?

Adam or Eve?  Oh, that’s right, those two weren’t clothed/dressed either. Except for a wee-tiny fig leaf.  Which apparently never really upset anyone’s apple cart.

So I guess that brings us back to square one and Jill/Jack can just be her/himself again.

 

 

Occam’s Razor

Definition:  “Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.”

Or put another way:   “Keep it simple.  The most obvious answer is likely to be the right one.”

Apparently, there’s no Occam’s razoring when it comes to computer issues.   One starts with the most complicated, the direst, the most difficult, the tech-i-est, the most demanding, the most frustrating, the most complex, the most confusing, the most upsetting, the most time-consuming hypotheses possible.

For eight months now, we’ve been living in a world of hurt, confusion, and despair.

All brought on by malfunctioning computer systems.

At some point, I channeled Mr. Occam and suggested that the Mister’s new computer, and its equally evil twin, the printer, simply be returned and exchanged for new ones.  Sort of like an errant blender or bad toaster.   It seemed, to the uninitiated, to be a good idea.  And, besides, I had Mr. Occam on my side.

But, oh no.  That would have been far too easy.

The excuses for not following that simple suggestion were too many to mention.  And way above my pay grade to challenge.

Mr. Occam’s philosophy went unheeded.  Time and time again.

And this is how it ends.  Maybe.

Computer and printer are in the trunk of his  car.  On their way to being returned.  And exchanged.  Simply.  And, I hope, successfully.

Mr. Occam and I are not saying anything remotely like “We told you so” but we sure are thinking it.

 

 

 

LOCKED

On a recent morning the door on one of the upstairs bedrooms closed nicely behind me.  Just like it always does.  The problem was it wouldn’t open when I wanted it to, a mere few minutes later.  Initially, I found the situation amusing.  Three hours later my sense of humor had gotten up and gone away.

I wanted to be the one who got up and went away.  But I couldn’t.  I was locked in.

I was trapped in one room.  Which was getting smaller all the time.  Happily, my screams reached the Mister who tried….or tried to try….to rescue me.

After a frustrating and seemingly eternal period, the locksmith was beckoned. Tiny tools were passed under the door.  Door hinges were removed.  Nothing worked.  Getting me out was his job and it wasn’t going well.

We love this old house but the layers of paint which have been applied to all surfaces during the years did a wonderful job of keeping me securely locked in.

The mind does funny things when it has been denied access to normal everyday things.  It doesn’t take long to get squirrelly.

Everyone else was able to go up and down stairs, to talk on phones, to eat cookies, to drink coca-colas and attend to increasingly urgent and compelling personal issues.  I couldn’t.  And it wasn’t even my fault.

Obviously, we finally freed me.  I knew we would.  Even though I really thought we could have done it a tad bit sooner.

Captivity is not fun.  And, yes, captivity may be overstatement for my predicament, but the only way out of that room, aside from the locked and painted-over door, was a locked and painted-over window.  Two and a half stories above the ground.

In some small way, I take comfort in the fact that it took three hours to get me OUT.   Surely any sensible burglar attempting to get IN would give up long before that.

 

 

Role Models

I’ve had my share through the years. They’ve taught me, inspired me, been there for me when I needed them.  That’s what role models do, even though they don’t necessarily know they’re doing it.  They’re just there.

At my age, I should be the role model, rather than the role model-ee.  That gets us to the issue of age, among other things.    Surely, I’m too old to expect that there’s someone out there….someone actually older than I am.…who can act as an inspiration.

But wait.

My new role model appeared in our town newspaper just this week.   I know I can’t match her feats of energy, strength, get-up-and-go or bravery.  She is, however, someone to emulate and admire.

I’m personally skilled at finding excuses NOT to do those things which I ought to do.  Now, I look to my new role model and try to follow her lead.

She shows me that I really don’t have excuses for my excuses anymore.

I bemoan a little cancer?   She’s survived three.

Blood pressure’s a tad high?  She has aortic valve stenosis.

I’ve got a little tinnitus?  Her face is numb.

Woke up feeling a touch woozy?  She’s been diagnosed with vertigo.

Just feeling too old?   She’s got more than 15 years on me.

So what would she do with all those non-excuses?  She’d pop out and run a half marathon.  And along the way, she’d continue to raise mega-bucks for her favorite charity.

Granted, she’s exceptional.  But that doesn’t keep her from being there for me.  Even though she doesn’t know it.

 

P.S.  The blog itself is a no-reply site.  If you send me something to or on  it, it goes into the ethers, never to be seen again.  If you don’t have my email address, go to the contact page for the blog and write me that way.  I love to hear from people.  I hate it when someone tells me they were in touch and I know that message is out there in never-never land…never to be retrieved.