Sunday, October 24, 2010

It’s all my daughter’s fault …

Okay, how many times have we heard it, “It’s all my mother’s fault”?  Doesn’t matter what it is, Mom probably is as the core of it.  Freud was famous for blaming all your problems on poor potty training (now, really, is dad going to train the kid?  No, it’s mom’s job, so, again, it’s all her fault), but as radical as his thinking was proclaimed to be at the time, was it really all that earthshaking? Come on, people have been blaming mom for all their problems, shortcomings, bad habits, about as long as Jewish mothers have been making their kids feel guilty (although I must admit that it's not just Jewish mothers that have mastered that technique.) So I thought I’d switch things around and blame everything on my daughter.  After all, I know she blames me for all her problems, and I’m not getting any younger, so she’ll have lots of time after I’m gone to blame me for things when I’m not even here to defend myself.  So here goes.  Let’s see, there must be something I can blame her for.  Ah, yes:  Coffee.
Now, that doesn’t mean she’s to blame for all coffee in the world.  Really, how silly that would be.  I mean, that would be taking the blame thing way too far.  For this to have any real meaning, I’ve got to keep it realistic.  Just ask Freud.  Oh, wait, he’s dead.  Well, never mind.  Keep reading and you’ll get the idea.
See, I’ve been a teetotaler all my life.  I blamed it on my British heritage, but that’s because I didn’t have anywhere else to put the blame.  My mom didn’t drink that much tea, and my father used to love iced coffee in the summer and hot coffee in the winter, and I must admit the smell of it was rather enticing, but the taste!  Yuck!  He said it was an acquired taste, and I saw no reason to put any effort into acquiring anything so revolting as a taste for that bitter stuff.  No, tea was fine.
I grew up in the U.S.  Let me tell you here and now, the U.S. will never be known for its fine tea.  Uh-uh.  I used to drink my tea black.  It was perfect, or so I thought then.  When I was about 13 I went to England for the first time.  My aunt offered me tea and asked how I took it.  “Black,” I stated emphatically, “no sugar.” She gave me a genuinely puzzled and astonished look and repeated for clarification purposes, as though I must have been speaking a foreign language, “Black?”  “Yes,” I said, thinking that my American accent surely wasn’t all that hard to understand, especially when I only said one single word, “black.”  “Okay,” she sighed, and made a nice cup of hot tea for me.
Well, I couldn’t swallow it!  It was so strong that, if I had gotten it down, I’m sure all my hair would have fallen out instantly!  I was not to be beaten, however.  “I think I will have a little milk with it,” I said softly, and poured about half a cup of thick, rich British cream into the cup of steaming liquid.  It was without doubt, the best cup of tea I’d ever had in my whole 13 years of life!!!
But it spoiled me.  I was hooked.  How could I buy Lipton’s anymore?  It was dishwater.  So my search for stronger, more flavorful teas started at an early age, and still continues today.
When I moved to the South twenty-some years ago, you would have thought I brought in a novel idea every time I asked for a “cup of tea” at a restaurant.  I finally got into the habit of asking of “hot tea” so that they’d realized I did not want it iced.  Sweet iced tea must be the “national” drink of the Confederate states, followed by bourbon, sour mash and mint juleps. Even when I got across the idea of an actual cup of HOT tea to the waitress, I then had to fight for milk, cream, anything other than a slice of lemon.  Drinking hot tea with lemon is something I only do to clear phlegm from my throat, not to enjoy with a meal.
I lived in Washington State for three years and still never touched coffee. If the South is known for its sweet tea, Washington must be the coffee capitol of the U.S.  And no wonder!  With 9 months of the year being overcast, you’ve got to stay awake somehow.  As a result, coffee bars are everywhere!  In gas station parking lots; lobbies of every sort of store, office building, hospital, even funeral homes; drive-up coffee houses in every supermarket parking lot.  Yeah, We Southerners now have a Starbucks in the mall and local hospital, but, I kid you not, coffee houses in Washington State are as plentiful as churches in the South or bars in the Irish section of Chicago.
After three years of thinking I had some fatal disease causing me to sleeping 18 hours a day, I moved back to the South to find out that it was nothing more than lack of sunshine.  Who knew?  But then disaster struck.
I’m not sure how it happened, but my daughter somewhere along the line had become a coffee drinker! And just like the alcoholic who needs company while he drinks, she introduced me to the start of my addictions:  the latte!  Thought she loathed Starbucks and was appalled when they took over Seattle’s Finest, that was where my downfall started.  First it was once in a while, then once a month, then every Saturday as a treat on my way to Weight Watchers at 7:00 in the morning.  But addicts just can’t stop!  It became, I’m ashamed to say, every day.  Then twice a day.  I would get one on the way in to work early in the morning and another on the way home at night.  The one on Saturday was not sufficient; I had to stop in the middle of the day to go to Starbucks once again for another Venti nonfat, no foam, no sugar vanilla latte.
Becka had a calendar on her wall about, well, what else, coffee!  On the cover was the most expensive and rare coffee beans of all, the Kopi Luwak.  You’ve never heard of them?  Well, then I guess you can’t afford them.  Of course, neither can I, but that’s not the point.  Seems these coffee beans, most of which come from Sumatra, are (now get ready for this) excreted by the civet cats who eat them for the yummy fruit that surrounds the bean.  Then they poop them out, at which point they are collected, washed (thank goodness) sun dried and ground. Why, you ask, must one only use the beans after they’ve been pooped out by a civet?  Well, apparently the digestion process creates shorter peptides and more free amino acids resulting in an aromatic blend with less bitterness.  I’ve wondered about the “aromatic blend” part, but I’m now hooked on coffee, so I’d love to try it.   
I mean, look at that cute little critter!  Isn’t he adorable?  Oh, come on; do not even dare to cringe at the thought.  I mean, look at where eggs come from, and chickens aren’t near as cute as civets!
One day I figured out that I was spending over $100 a month at Starbucks. Yeah, that was the end of that.  Thank goodness I got a new job, one that supplies me with unlimited amounts of coffee and Crème Brule creamer.  I go through at least 8 cups a day, and it’s all my daughter’s fault.  Yeah, she’s to blame.
Then there’s technology.  Well, not all technology.  I did have her growing up with computers, after all.  But a coworker asked the other day how I wound up with 5 iPods.  I blame my daughter.
You see, she introduced me to the portable CD player, or was it called an MP3 player?  I don’t know.  But it was round and heavy and you put a disc in it and carried it around with you to play music.  Wow, it was almost as good as the transistor radio we all had plugged into our heads as teenagers in the ‘50s!  Just without the DJs and only one album at a time.  But cool, nonetheless.  She showed me that I could get a tape that plugged into the cigarette lighter, the tape deck in the car and the MP3 player so I could play CDs in the car!  Boy, was I impressed. 
Well, unfortunately they tended to break a lot.  I mean, you couldn’t just pop one in your pocket and go for a walk.  They fell off counters when you were working in the kitchen and forgot that you really didn’t have the music in your, not even attached to you, except by a pair of earplugs. So I wound up with a lot of MP3 players.  I still have them too!  Some need rubber bands around them to keep them closed; others probably don’t work at all.  But they are still here in my dresser drawer, along with about a dozen of those tape deck thingies to make them work in the car.  Of course, now my car has a built-in CD player.  But who cares.  I don’t use that anymore either.  It’s so passé.
I vividly remember the day I went to Circuit City to buy yet another MP3 player, having broken the last one I had.  I walked and walked around in a circle, followed by my daughter, looking everywhere for those stupid things and finding none.  What kind of an electronics store is this, I wondered, where not a single player was in sight?  I finally stopped a salesperson in the section where I presumed such items should be kept and asked, extremely miffed by this time at the absence of visible players, “Where are your MP3 players?  I’ve looked everywhere and can’t find any,” I whined.  My daughter said nothing.  He looked at me with a confused daze and swept his hand around in a huge arc, pointing to walls and walls of things that looked like cell phones.  I had no idea what that poor, obviously simple, fellow was trying to convey, so I asked again, this time more slowly and distinctly, attempting to describe through simple words accompanied by hand gestures exactly what I was looking for so that he would not be confused by the question.  I assumed he was one of those mentally deficient people that needed a job and I applauded Circuit City for hiring him.  I certainly did not wish to cause him any grief, I just wanted a simple portable CD player.  “No, these are things that are round,” I described, making a 6-inch circle with my hands so he’d be sure to get the picture. “You put CDs in them,” I explained, “but you can walk around with them,” I smiled, hoping I had finally enlightened him. He slowly turned to his left, sweeping his hand in the direction of a small display hidden at the end of the huge section of electronic things that he’d been showing me previously.  “These,” he asked incredulously.  “Yes,” I affirmed, glad that I could be of some help in educating the lad.  Still my daughter said nothing, but I’m pretty sure she was smirking all the time.
Yeah, it seems that the age of iPods had arrived.  All those cute little gadgets he had pointed out to me, I found out much later (about the time I needed another replacement player), were a variety of itty-bitty players that did so much more than my cumbersome portable one did, and you didn't even have to feed them with CDs to make them work!  
I heard about the iPod Nano somewhere and was determined to get one.  So as soon as it came out, I bought a Nano.  I wore in on my collar all day long at work and figured I’d never need another MP3 player ever again.  I mean, this had something like 1 gig of memory!  My daughter tried to dissuade me from buying it, saying it wouldn’t hold much, but what did she know?  I mean, how much music did one need?  I knew that with that little piece of technology, I would never need another MP3 player ever again to replace it.
Today the Nano has gone through 6 generations. (Hmm, sounds a bit like Dr. Who.)  The newer ones have 16 gig, an FM radio and a pedometer. 
Within a short period of time my Nano outgrew its usefulness, having quickly filled up with no way of expanding.  But by then it was too late, I was hooked again!  Not by coffee, but by technology.  
I bought my next iPod off e-Bay.  That was before I learned how to play the e-Bay auction game, so I’m sure I paid more than I should have.  But it was a refurbished iPod, and I still have it today.  It’s weighs about as much as a small laptop, but it was cutting edge at the time.  I never had a good relationship with that iPod, however.  I named it and everything, but it often refused to work right.  Turns out, as I’ve learned since, that it had its own special cord and could not adapt to using any other iPod cord.  Madeline is a very finicky iPod.  Still, it was serving its purpose of entertaining me, and I did have quite a lot of music on it, enough to give me a great variety.  I was sure it would never need replacing.
My daughter took pity on me one day, probably after hearing me complain about Madeline over and over and over, and she gave me an iPod that she had earned as an award in her work for USAirways.  She was living in Arizona by then and had no idea that I had, meanwhile, ordered another iPod to replace Madeline.  But my new one had not yet arrived and by then I felt that one could never have too many iPods.  Nano was no longer used, Madeline resided in the kitchen plugged into a speaker system, so I really needed something more powerful and better to fill up with all my music and magazines.  Yes, I now found I could download audio magazines to my iPod.  What’s more, I could still use those silly tape deck thingies to run it in the car!  What else could one ask for?  So Gabriel joined my collection, soon to be followed by Kermit who came to me via the US Mail (yet another eBay purchase, but this time it was new, not refurbished).
But then I discovered podcasts, and that meant I needed still more gigs!  I started putting music on Gabriel and magazines and podcasts on Kermit.  Madeline was still in the kitchen, and Nano is still lost in the house, though I know where her cord is: it’s on the floor of my office. Someday I’ll find Nano and introduce her to her cord and bring her back to life again.  Meanwhile, I'd discovered the iPod Touch!!!
By this time I’d learned how to get the best price on eBay, and before too long Magellan joined the household.  Oh, my goodness!  How did I ever get along without him?  He’s sleek and powerful.  He holds all my music, my podcasts, my magazines, audio books, TV programs (yes, he has a screen!!! Can you believe it?  It’s like having a TV in your pocket!)  Plus, my calendar; card games; a program to track service time, return visits and placements for the ministry; a Spanish dictionary; the internet … oh, I could go on forever!  I mean, what more could one ask for?
So here I am, the proud owner of five iPods, and I blame it all on my daughter!  Of course, with my absolute love of technology, coffee and especially my favorite iPod Magellan (shhh, don’t let the other iPods hear that), I’m ever so glad she expanded my horizons!  Wonder if some day when she’s blaming me for stuff she’ll feel the same.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Grandma Simms, the memory maker...

I woke up at 1:30 in the morning thinking of Grandma Simms and remembering how I used to brush her hair.  It’s been years since I’ve thought of her and I don’t know what brought her to mind now, but there she was, fixed in time in my mind’s eye and thoughts of her overwhelmed me.
I was fortunate enough to have had both my grandmothers alive growing up, Grandma Simms on my father’s side and Grandma Ashley on my mother’s. Today grandmothers have cutesie appelate, like Nanna, Bubba, Mammaw and such.  Mine were just Grandma Simms and Grandma Ashley.
Grandma Ashley lived in England and I was 13 years old the first time I ever saw her, but I knew her as well as anyone might know their grandparents.  We had corresponded from the time I learned to read and write. I can remember looking forward to receiving those little blue airmail letters that unfolded into my own personal slice of private time “talking” with my grandmother. And those little letters were mine, addressed directly to me, and full of love! They folded up and over into a little rectangle sealed on three sides to keep them closed.  Then some unseen and untold number of people worked diligently to bring them all the way over the ocean and right to my door.  How carefully I used the edge of a pair of scissors to slice open those three sealed edges, making sure they opened without tearing, for I did not wish to lose one precious word.  Then, gently, I unfolded them from that compact little square into a full size letter with every visible space, front and back, pouring with information from my grandmother across the sea.  How close I felt to her.  I sometimes use that experience when speaking to people about studying the Bible and how that letter from God can bring us so close to him though we may not be able to see him physically.  It’s our own personal letter from our Heavenly Father.
Grandma Simms, on the other hand, lived for many of my formative years right upstairs from me. We had a small house in Lodi, NJ. One of those little Cape Cod style GI homes built after World War II for the many homecoming vets and their brides.  I was two years old when we moved in.  I can remember the unfinished attic with a wood floor and lots of pink insulation in the walls.  Why we had a bed up there I have no idea, but I vividly remember taking a nap one day with my mom and waking up all scratchy from insulation.  Funny the things you recall.
When I was four, my grandmother lived a few blocks away in a small apartment upstairs from some kind of store or bar or something.  I remember climbing up the stairs to get to her apartment where I would go after school, kindergarten or first grade, I can’t remember which. Life was really different then. I lived a mile from school and I can remember walking home each day, or at least to Grandma’s, with my friend Jimmy Pounds. Now our kids can’t go anywhere without being watched constantly for fear of predators, pedophiles who often live right next door to you without you ever knowing it.
I don’t remember how old I was when Grandma Simms moved upstairs, but I can remember my father and Uncle Herbert working diligently to expand the unfinished attic to make an apartment for her to live in. I thought it was magic.  One moment the house had the common Cape Cod look, and the next, they had cut holes in the roof line and pushed it up , building sides to each of the two openings they had made, one on each side of the front of the house, thus making a kitchen on one side and a living room on the other. Wow, I was impressed.  And they didn’t work alone because other uncles helped.  How amazed I was at their abilities, although none of them were carpenters by trade.  And then, when it was all done, Grandma moved in.
When my grandmother was seven, she had fallen on a pair of roller skates and hurt her leg.  Perhaps nowadays that would be a small matter, but for her it wasn’t.  It left her lame, and immediately following her accident she spent a very, very long recuperative period sitting indoors. While other kids her age were out playing and running and biking, she learned to crochet and knit and sew, skills that she later passed down to many of her children and to grandchildren, or at least to me and my cousin Jackie. No one ever knew it, but I grew up with a fear of roller skating, and you combine that with my own lack of coordination, is it any wonder I never learned to skate?  I remember receiving a pair of skates when I was seven, the same age my grandmother was when she fell. I feebly tried for a short time to use them (not master them; just become mildly comfortable using them) but I was so cautious for fear of becoming an invalid like my grandmother that my heart wasn’t in it, and they were soon put away in my closet, never to be used again.
I spent many hours with my grandmother and learned a great deal. No one will ever really know how wise she was, but I do.
She was diabetic and had to give herself injections every day.  As a child I was in awe of the fact that she could do that.  Not just that she had the talent and ability to inject herself daily, but that she had the fortitude to do it!  I remember thinking, if were me, I’d rather die than have to give myself injections.
She had 16 children over her married lifetime, half of which lived, and half of which died. My brother and sister-in-law have painstakingly found and recorded the names of all of the children, along with their year of birth and death, to be found on I never knew the names of those who died. I often wondered how she dealt with the pain of losing so many babies, but she never spoke of it with sadness. It was just as though she took it all as part of life.  And though she never said so, I had the distinct impression that her life had not been an easy one at all.
I remember my father talking about living all over Jersey City growing up, a few months here and a few months there.  I always attributed my gypsy ways to some sort of inbred need to wander, but in reality I think there was a much more commonplace reason for the moves.  You see, my grandfather was an alcoholic, from what I was told.  I now look back and wonder how many of those moves were made out of necessity and lack of funds. Raising 8 kids when your husband’s pay goes out as quickly as it comes in to pay for booze is not going to allow for much permanency in your dwelling place. So while raising her 8 kids, she also picked up jobs like washing and ironing.  And then there was the bread.
It seems my grandmother had a really great potato bread recipe, so good, in fact, that Dugan’s Bakery somehow heard about it. Dugan’s was at one time a very famous, very large East Coast bakery. They not only supplied the mom & pop “grocery” stores, this being a time before supermarkets, but they had a truck that came around each week selling bread and cupcakes and the best crumb cake ever!  Those were the days when your milk was dropped off at your front stoop and deposited into metal boxes that stood beside each front door, the scissor sharpener man came past jingling a bell periodically, shouting from the window of his truck, “Scissors, get your scissors sharpened,” in kind of a sing-song fashion, and Dugan’s supplied the other necessity of bread and cakes, all without you stepping more than 20 feet from your property line.
Grandma told me of the day that someone from the bakery came to her home and offered to buy her recipe.  If I remember correctly, they offered her $100 (but I may be wrong on that figure as bread back then was selling for something like eight cents a loaf and $100 seems like a terribly large amount to pay for a recipe.)  Anyway, she “sold” them the recipe.  I don’t know if they ever made the potato bread; what I do know is that she never got a dime for the recipe.  I can only imagine how crushed she might have felt if she were at all like me, planning in advance how to best spend that money, only to be disappointed at it never materializing. But she told the story without anger or rancor; it was just a story that was part of her life, and she knew I loved to hear them.
I spent hours upon hours doing jigsaw puzzles, playing card games, crocheting and knitting, and cutting out pieces for quilts.  She loved to make quilts.  How sad I am now that I let mine slip away.  It was for a single bed and I wore that thing out, but I really wish I had that quilt now. And all the time we did those activities, she’d tell me about people she knew and things she did when she was younger.
So I awoke in the middle of the night to the memory of brushing her hair.  It wasn’t long, flowing hair.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a picture of Grandma Simms with long, flowing tresses (though I’ve never seen a really young picture of her) but her hair was fine and silky, so soft to the touch, with a texture just made for a young girl to “style.”  The front and sides were very light in color, but somehow she knew that the back was more on the yellow side, and she hated that.  She wished for a headful of solid snow white hair. She had these curved metal clips that were about two or three inches long with teeth along the inside and which opened and closed at the top with a spring-like action.  You’d put those in wet hair and the end result was waves upon waves.  I never tired of playing with her clips and her hair. Sometimes I just brushed her hair till she fell asleep.  I really enjoyed brushing her hair, and I think I enjoyed it more because I knew how much she enjoyed having it brushed.
I grew up in a British family, not short on love, I’m sure, but very short on demonstrating it.  There weren’t a lot of hugs and cuddles, and I was a kid who needed that. So growing up, I had a sense of not being loved.  Silly, I know, but I’m sure lots of kids feel that way growing up.  I was the only girl on the block, so there was no one to play with.  When I was seven, my brother was born.  He didn’t get much more cuddling than I had.  I remember creeping in his bedroom when he was crying and holding his hand through the bars of his crib and singing him to sleep.  I didn’t resent my brother, but it did make me feel somewhat less loved than I already felt, so somewhere along the ripe old after of seven or eight, I turned into a terror.  I had decided that being a cute little angel hadn’t gotten me anywhere, so I was just going to be obnoxious until someone realized that I needed attention and offered me one day where I could have anything I wanted.  I never really wanted anything, actually.  All I wanted was the offer.  In my mind, that was all that I needed, recognition that I wasn’t invisible.  Of course you can’t tell anyone that that’s why you’re misbehaving; they have to come up with the solution all  on their own and willingly offer the magic words that would instantly turn me back into the darling little girl they’d known before the birth of my brother.
I’m not sure how long that lasted, but I know it was exasperating to my parents, especially my mother.  Both my parents worked full time and, certainly, my obnoxious behavior was probably the last thing they felt like coming home to after a long day at work.  I do know that that went on, though, for at least a several months, and I was getting no closer to having my wish granted of finally being recognized.  Then one day when my mother was upstairs talking with my grandmother I overheard her complaining about my attitude and expressing in dismay that she just didn’t know what to do with m anymore.  My grandmother said, You know what?  I think I’d offer her one day to have just whatever she wanted and let her know that that was it, there wouldn’t be any more.  Maybe that would make a difference, she said.
I don’t know if anyone ever took her advice seriously, but I’m glad I overheard it.  That was all I ever wanted, and although the offer was never made from anyone, my entire attitude changed.  My wish had been granted, perhaps not the way I envisioned, but, nevertheless, my grandmother knew and understood me, and she loved me!  What else could one wish for?  I was no longer invisible, at least to someone.
I all too soon became a self-absorbed teenager and the hours and hours formerly spent with my grandmother now gave way to hours and hours with friends and outside activities.  I would come home from school and see her sitting in her living room window upstairs in that house in Lodi, but I didn’t spend much time going up to visit with her.  After all, I had homework to do and studying, and I needed to get it done so I could spend the rest of the night on the phone with my friends. I had a cousin who came each Friday night to have dinner with her.  They lived quite a long distance away, but Janet and Bob were there like clockwork every week. I remember waving to them as they came in each week, as I sat in the couch watching TV, talking on the phone, and looking so attractive with my head festooned with giant rollers so I could look my best the next day at high school.  It was now my own hair I was more concerned about, not my grandmother’s.
I was 20 when she went into the hospital and still obviously self-absorbed. My parents told me I should visit her, and so I did.  I never even asked why she was there; I still don’t know.  I remember her sitting up in bed, chatting and smiling as she always did. I’m not sure what I thought, if I gave any thought to it at all, but she looked perfectly fine to me and, in typical self-absorbed fashion, I wondered why this visit could not have waited till she came home.  I have no memory of anything we spoke of that day, it was such a short and insignificant event in my life.  Surely if her visit to the hospital had been anything serious someone would have told me something, but they hadn’t, and so that short visit has long ago passed into oblivious with no memory whatsoever of what passed between us after all those years of intimate conversation.
At her funeral I was inconsolable.  “Stop crying,” ordered my mother, “you know you believe in a resurrection!” But I couldn’t stop, and to this day I’ve never explained to my mother why I was so tearful and distraught. You see, no matter what your belief or how strong your faith, there is nothing in the world that can ease your pain when you finally realize you’ve lost your last opportunity to say, “I love you, Grandma Simms.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all those sweet memories.”

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I need a vacation!!!…..

Okay, so in desperation I posted that message last week to my Facebook page, and I really meant it:  I need a vacation!!!!  I got several wonderful responses, which I will tell you about, but first I need to explain what preceded that plaintive cry for help.
See, a few weeks ago my daughter came up with a huge list of FREE cruises!  Yes, I did say free, and I meant FREE!!!  Oh, they were everywhere!  Egypt (believe it or not, you apparently can cruise Egypt), Alaska, Europe, the Caribbean, Africa.  I wanted to go on them all (except for the Africa one with the Somali pirates; I could let that one slip by easily enough)!  Unfortunately, many leave from ports like Rome (and I don’t mean Rome, Georgia, which I'm sure doesn't even have a port, being extremely landlocked!) or Lisbon.  On top of that, the cruise started in one city and finished in another, meaning multi-city airfare.  Now we’re talking $2500 - $3500 for tickets from both me and my daughter. No, I don’t think so.
But while I was concentrating on an 8-day cruise that left out of NYC and returned to San Juan, PR, my daughter fixed her eyes on a cruise that departed and arrived back in the same city, Ft. Lauderdale.  Well, I said, that would be a lot cheaper than a multi-city plane ticket, wouldn’t it!  So she booked it on the off chance we’d be able to go.  And that's when the desire started! 
After I perused the various flights, one for her from Phoenix and one for me from Greensboro or Charlotte, I got around to looking at my calendar.  Whoa!  Guess I should have done that first, huh?  It was chock full of patients scheduled, not just for itty-bitty, 20-minute mid-term visits, no, but overflowing with end of study visits, the ones that require labs and physician exams and drug reconciliation and diary comparisons and…well, you get the picture.  But even then I thought there might still be hope.  See, when you get sucked into an all-encompassing desire … well, just look at what happened to Adam and Eve.  Yeah.  And all they were offered was a lousy piece of fruit!
Okay, so I was grasping at straws, but, hey, I was desperate!!  So I sucked up my courage and sent a text message over the weekend to my boss, planting the possible kernel of an idea in my boss’ head.
Granted, my boss was at the beach at the time trying to unwind from a very hectic and stressful week.  But timing has never been my long suit.  Why improve now?  I just couldn’t wait for her to say, Oh, sure, Sandi, we can manage without you.  We have nothing better to do than take care of all your end-of-study responsibilities and patient visits along with all our own work.  Like, duh!  Only someone who has never been involved in coordinating a clinical trial would even dream that was a possibility!  So what was I thinking?  Well, I wasn’t, obviously!
As expected, I soon received a text message back saying, We really can’t do anything till Monday (or something to that effect.)  Why? I thought.  The patient load will still be the same Monday as it is right now:  Impossible!  But I still kept hoping throughout the weekend it would work out. Then I looked at the cruise itinerary.  Oh my goodness, what was I thinking?  Not only did it come at the busiest time possible for me at work, it was a 15-day cruise!!!!  I eally must learn to do things in a more progressive, organized fashion.  Two weeks away from work?  Not likely!  And on Monday my thoughts were confirmed.
I’d already come to the realization over the weekend that this was never going to fly, but when I got the bad news that it just wasn’t possible (you know, when reality rears its ugly little head and sticks its tongue out at you, and then wiggles that nasty little tongue,  saying bleh-bleh-bleh-bleh, smiling all the while), well, I got depressed!  Soon, however, my brother and sister-in-law came to my rescue – well, almost.  See, they’d found a cabin in the mountains in Luray, VA.  Nothing but peace and quiet and cool, crisp, clean air.  Just what the doctor ordered, or I’m sure he would have had I asked.  They were coming down to visit my mom over the Thanksgiving weekend and wondered if, instead, we might not meet halfway and have a soothing, peaceful weekend without phones and internet and all that other stuff, just to play board games and socialize.  And if my brother cooked, so much the better!  But, said my sister-in-law to my mom, don’t tell Sandi until you’ve decided whether you want to go.  Unfortunately, the instructions should have been, Don’t tell Sandi if you DON’T want to go, although I’m not sure it would have made any difference, because, as it turned out, Mom did not want to go, and she told me all about it, and then we looked at their e-mail with the cabin nestled far away from neighbors and noise.  Here I was with a picture of a glorious cabin in the woods haunting my every waking moment.  True, not two-weeks in the Caribbean, but I always said I was a cheap date.  Wow, a weekend in Luray, VA!  How cool is that, I thought, determined to change mom’s mind. 
My mother is nothing if not stubborn.  There is nothing save a stick of dynamite that could possibly move her once she’s made a decision, and I’m not so sure the dynamite would even be able to come out on the winning end.  The trip to Luray was off.
So … “I need a vacation!” I sailed over the internet for all the world to hear.  And yet others tried to rescue ne!  “We’re going to Hawai’i; you can stay with us for free,” said one family very kindly inviting me to join their family trip.  “Why don’t you come to Seattle?  You can stay with us,” said that same family.  “Come to Olympia; I miss you,” chimed in my “other” daughter. “Why don’t you come to Arizona; Cirque du Soleil is playing in November,” said my firstborn.  So I poured over my generous offers and spent untold hours on Expedia, Kayak, Cheapflights, and half a dozen more to find what I could afford and where I could go and when.
Do you know how long it takes to go from NC to Hawai’i?   Well, perhaps if you paid about what my house is worth you might get a direct flight from somewhere in this state, but $1200 only bought me a 17 ½ hour flight with two layovers, and then another one just a few days later to come back home.  As tempting and Hawai’i was, being high on my list of places I really would like to see sometime before I die, I’m getting too old to spend 35 hours traveling for a 4 or 5-day holiday.  I mean, I might need those 35 hours sometime, and look what I would have had to show for them.  Then when you figure the whole 15-day cruise with airfare for my daughter and myself was going to cost about the same amount, well, I’ve never claimed to be “frugal,” as my mom calls cheapness, but even my poor accounting skills can see that one is a bargain and the other, even with free lodging, was a long, long ways away.  So back to being depression.
Finally, I made the decision!  I had to cheer myself up.  I’m going to Arizona, I decided.  I can have a whole week and two days, whooee!  I can sit at the pool and read!  Whoopie!! We’ll go to see Alegria!  Hooray!!!  And best of all … I’ve got a non-stop flight!!!!!!!!!!!
I quickly perused the websites of Expedia, Kayak, Orbitz, Jet Blue, USAirways, Cheapo, and the list goes on.  Okay, so it wasn’t so quick.  I mean, there was a lot of comparing to do.  I found the perfect flight on USAir … but, alas, I was totally out of money and two weeks away from payday.  When, however, has that ever stopped me?  Except when my cards are also maxed out, as they just happen to be at present.  Ooops.  Still, I’ll keep searching, and search I did, finding that if Orbitz packaged my car and flight together, I saved $200.  Now, who could pass up that deal!  So I called up my part-time job and said, I need $700 right away, and, like a shot, poof, it appeared in my checkbook the next day!  Thank you part-time job! 
Back on line I went to once again to find the perfect flight and car combo.  I’d already found one at least six times and had been stopped each time by one thing or another, I mean, silly things, like no money, or no credit, or having to leave the computer before I could actually scheme a way to get it all together.  But there it was, the perfect vacation package once again, and now I had the money to pay for it!  And that’s when it all went … well, let’s not say it went wrong; let’s just say it went predictably ME!
I tickled the little keys on my keyboard, brought up all the info, and was ready to purchase when, with my finger poised ever so slightly over the Send button, almost shaking with anticipation, I decided to follow the instructions about checking over your itinerary once more to make sure it was correct!  How silly, I thought.  I’ve just spent a week working on this itinerary, but I always obey the instructions, at least when I read them, and I’d made the mistake of reading these.  Or was it a mistake?  I noticed that the non-refundable vacation package I was about to purchase was to Washington State, Seattle to be exact, while my daughter and the tickets I’d bought for the Cirque performance were several hundred miles away in Arizona!  Whew, I thought, willing my hand to draw away from that Send before it took on a life of its own and clicked it anyway.  See, that little hand had already spent way too much time searching and was prepared at this point to take me anywhere, just as long as the internet search would come to an end! 
Back I went to Orbitz, correcting my information, and found the perfect flight, oh, except that it wasn’t non-stop.  As a matter of fact, there were NO non-stop flights anymore.  But, whatever!  I was ready to go and what’s an extra hour or so changing planes in Dallas.  Of course, I’ve never been to Dallas when they haven’t closed down the airport due to thunderstorms, but surely, given the odds, there had to be at least once when I could just breeze through there, and I was going to be positive and believe that this would be that time!  I punched that Send button and saved that flight and car before I could change my mind!  I’d done it!  Depression disappeared and now I could settle my mind back on the important things in life, like the meeting I was going to that night.
Off to my meeting I went, feeling truly marvelous, when suddenly, halfway through, I had a thought tickling at the back of my mind.  It wouldn’t let me concentrate, so I figured, okay, I’ll give it full reign so I can get back my concentration, and that’s when it came to me, hitting me in the head like the proverbial ton of bricks:  I’d booked my flight to leave on Saturday; I had a one-day assembly to attend on Sunday! Oh, no, I thought!  Surely I’m wrong!  I yanked out my iPod and, sure enough, I was leaving on the 13th; the Assembly Day was on the 14th!  Yikes!  Now what? 
As soon as I got home I got on the computer and found that, if I left on Monday instead of Saturday, not only would I be able to get to the assembly , but I could get a non-stop flight!  Figures!!!  Okay, what do you have to do to change flights with Orbitz?  Don’t ask!  And don’t try to do it, either!!  I spent about an hour reading over all the instructions and, yes, I could change my flight, after I pay the airline $100 penalty, oh, and Orbitz has a $30 penalty, oh, and you can’t change airlines, and did we mention that the one you booked for the Saturday flight NEVER has non-stop? Yeah.
So I’m going to Arizona. But I took out trip insurance just in case. Even Pollyanna has her lucid moments!  By the way, the Bible text for the next day?  "Oppose the devil and he will flee from you."  Hmm, maybe I should have read that earlier.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Going green all the way .....

Okay, remember how I said I wasn’t morbid but definitely was a fun person?  Well, this might seem like a morbid topic, but I’m obviously confused and need guidance.  After all, I’m not getting any younger, am I?  Don’t answer that!
See, I happened upon this ad for a new burial service (I guess that’s what you’d call it):  EcoEternity.  Yep, eco-friendly, green burials.  Seems there are at least six forested parks on the East Coast from NY to right here in the good old Piedmont that offer you the opportunity to pick out a specific tree in the forest, the base of which will be the location for what’s left of you after you’ve been reduced to ashes when you die.  Yes, they’re part of the “Natural End” provider network.  Now, lest you think this is as easy as walking into your neighborhood forest and bidding a fond farewell to Uncle Harry as you scatter his beloved remains to the wind, let me remind you, nothing in this life is easy --- or free!  But you do, of course, have choices.
Apparently, there are several different tree picking plans in these forests.  You can choose the Family Reunion Tree where up to 15 family members (including Fido if you so wish) can be buried for up to 99 years.  I guess if Aunt Grace dies one day after the 99 years lease is up, she’s going to have to find a tree of her own, or hope she has enough family members that want to join her in another 99-year lease of that same tree.  Of course, if Aunty Grace and Uncle Waldo didn’t have any kids and were only children themselves, do not despair!  There is always the option of the Community Tree.  Yes, they can share their spot with up to 13 other lonely, barren, unloved people who also didn’t have families to join them in a Family Reunion Tree.
Ah, but then again, if you hate your family but love your Facebook friends (or perhaps the New Caledonian Friendship Society or any other group with which you wish to spend eternity), you can lease the Friendship Tree.  That’s where you and 14 of your closest buddies can be found, or not found, depending on how much it rains after the interment.
Now, not to complicate things too much, there is also the combination Family and Friendship Tree.  I suppose that’s for people who hate their family but don’t want to say that to their faces, so they will go along with being under the same tree as long as they can take a few beer buddies with them.
But, hey, it’s not as easy as just scattering those charred remains hither and yon.  No, silly!  Your ashes are buried at the base of a mature tree in biodegradable urns where, “Over time, the roots will absorb the nutrients and create a living memorial for friends and family to visit for generations,” or at least up to 99 years, not that you there anymore, having been sucked up by tree roots!  Family and friends gather around for a memorial service in a wooded glen overlooking a lake, sporting their cowboy hats (if you don’t believe me, check out the photos on the website) and then wander around playing with the tree frogs.  Hey, if you add a New Orleans band leading you out at the end, I’m in!  Love that Zydeco!  But this is not a memorial service for the faint of heart, or the arthritic.  I mean, it’s a good long walk in that forest, so if most of your family members are elderly when you die, I hope you chose a tree on the edge of the forest and not one in the middle.  Then there’s the picture of the couple hiking up a hillside to visit their loved one’s tree, through waist-high weeds, and all I can think of is, Gee, I wonder how many ticks they’re going to take home with them.  If they die of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or Lyme disease, do the ticks get buried with them?
Now, I’m not downing this whole idea, although you may think I sound a bit snarky about it.  No, really, I’m not!  Actually, I much prefer it to the whole pay a fortune for a top-of-the-line mahogany (oops, there go the rain forests) casket with bronze handles and silk interior (with the deluxe pillow of course) which you all admire for about an hour or so and then bury it.  Talk about a waste of money!  I could have spent that on a vacation to Marrakesh!
I’m sorry.  I hope my radical view of funerals and burials do not offend anyone, but personally, I don’t want to be remembered lying there in a coffin, and that’s not how I want to remember anyone else, either.  I mean, growing up in an Italian Catholic neighborhood where there was always a three-day “viewing” at the funeral home before the big event took place, I heard enough passersby saying, “Oh, doesn’t it look just like him,” which really meant, Man, Guido looks awfully pasty in that coffin, and does he have lipstick on?  I remember my Uncle saying at his wife’s funeral, Yeah, they did a good job; it looks just like her, except her mouth is shut.  Nah, I’d rather be a bunch of white crunchy ashes in a biodegradable urn, if those are the only choices.
I did look up local laws to see why we needed to actually pay for such services and couldn’t just sprinkle away to our hearts content anywhere we liked, you know, like Jessica Lange in the film Bonneville (great flick, by the way, you’ve got to see it!)  but, at least here in NC, they use the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for scattering ashes.  Seems that no one wants to weigh in on whether it’s legal or not, regulated and not, or anything else or not.  I guess electoral candidates don’t want to touch that one for fear of losing votes to those with strong views one way or another, especially when they’re in such an emotional state, so they just kind of ignore it and hope it dies down.  (Get it, “dies down”?  Okay, it’s after midnight and you know what happens to my brain after midnight.  It’s like the hungry little Mogwai that got fed after midnight and turned into a Gremlin.  Totally out of control!)
As for me, I’m just mad I didn’t think of it first!  I could be raking in the dough right now!  No more worrying about retirement; spending my last few years making people happy as I plop them under tree after tree in my forest, along with their friends, family and cherish pet rat Ben, and running off to the bank with my new found loot.  There are so many “inventions” that come out and I’ll so often say, Man, why didn’t I think of doing that and actually selling it.  With the right ad campaign, you can sell just about anything!  And the more complicated you make it, the more options you offer for different price categories --- well, who can pass up a bargain?  Certainly not me!   How do you think I became the proud owner of five iPods?
Of course, there’s always that problem of having to choose.  Anyone who has ever gone to a restaurant with me will know that I’m always the last to order, I mean, way last!  My daughter used to order my meals for me after I spent about half an hour perusing the menu and still not having made a choice.  She would say it was so I’d try something different and not order the same old thing all the time, but I think it was more a matter of self-preservation, not to mention the waiter whose tip money would be severely depleted by the fact that the nuts at Table 8 took 3 hours to order.  No wonder they never offered me a wine list!
So for me the bottom line is this:  I can’t decide where I want to live, so how can I decide where I want my remains.  Scatter me somewhere windy, please, perhaps Kitty Hawk.  You think those Wright brothers picked that spot just for the view?  No, if nothing else, I think they hoped their plane would fly just from the wind factor there.  Then the wind can carry me to all the places I’ve always wanted to visit and never did.  But please don’t do it during the day.  Someone might see you and “ask,” and then you’d have to “tell,” and that could open up a whole other can of worms!  But at least I won’t be worm food; I’ll be feeding trees!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How are you at multitasking? ….

I hate job interviews!  Thank goodness I love my job and the crew of people I work with, because I don’t have it in me to ever, ever go on another job interview!  While I’m too young to retire, and couldn’t really afford it anyway, should this job disappear tomorrow, there will be no more interviews for me.  I’m too old to hire at this point, anyway.  People want to look at someone that they can foresee continuing on way into the future with them so they only have to train one person, not a succession of people.  No, my next step would be to become an illegal alien in Mexico and throw myself on the mercy of some friends I have down there to adopt me as their abuelita (little old grandmother). 
Back in my interviewing days I had a book I found at Barnes & Noble on how to interview successfully.  Granted I have a passion for reading, but to be totally honest, I skimmed most of it and concentrated on the interview questions and how to answer them. 
There is an art to interviewing!  Another art I never acquired.  But at least I’m not as bad as the friend I had in Washington State, newly married, and apparently going out for her first real job interview (at least I hope it was her first). We were all standing around in our congregation after the meeting and a group of us surrounded this little gal to see how her interview went the day before.  “Well,” she said, “I think it went pretty well.  But there were some questions they asked that I found hard to answer.”  “Like what,” we asked.  “Well, they asked me what my biggest fault was.”   Little warning signals started running through my head as I waited to hear her response to the big question.  “So I thought about it, and told them that I have trouble being on time.”  A collective moan went through the gathered group of women, and at that exact moment in time I think little Amy knew she wasn’t going to get that job.
I worked with another woman who totally loved interviews.  She had a very secure job and enjoyed it very much.  While not actually seeking other employment (though I’m sure she wouldn’t have any qualms about jumping from one job to another should the offer of a lifetime be thrown into her lap), she would apply for jobs solely for the opportunity to go on interviews.  She enjoyed them; besides, she liked to keep up her interviewing skills, she explained.  Okay, to me that’s on par with G. Gordon Liddy seeing how long he could keep his hand over a lit flame to build up his tolerance to pain.  (Okay, kiddies, if you don’t know who G. Gordon Liddy is, it’s Google time for you!)
But there were always two questions I had no problem with:  How organized are you, and, Can you multitask.
Well, I’d always thought of myself as very organized.  True, my organizational skills are not always visibly apparent.  Take for instance my jumbled up desk that overflows (occasionally into the waste basket).  But that wastebasket is just in a very poor location; and the desk is only half the size of the others in my office, or at least it looks like half the size.  Every time I see a patient, I apologize for having to move everything from my desk to the top of the printer, or the floor, or another book shelf, or whatever spare piece of anything I can kind to which it can be moved.  But I have an organization to the pile of stuff.  Really, I do!  Let’s not forget, you’re talking to the gal who alphabetized all her spices in the kitchen cabinet.  But the real forte was multitasking! 
At present I have a fairly good recall of several clinical trial protocols, am overseeing three of them, and I’m in charge of the database that is the keeper of all information that keeps us a well-oil organization.  Or at least I like to think of myself as such.  So imagine my surprise yesterday when I came to the somewhat sad conclusion that perhaps I’m not such a multitasking genius as I thought.
To start with, my boss came to my office to mention a prescription someone was taking who wished to be in a study with us.  Immediately, the little mice in my brain started running on the tiny little wheel up there and I started thinking, hmm, could that be a prohibited medication for this trial?  I ceased midstream in what I was doing to Google the drug classification.  Meanwhile, the phone rang.  The mice in my brain started running on a different track.  In a matter of milliseconds, it passed through from little synapse to another telling me to answer the phone as the front desk was not being manned.  My right hand clicked away at the keyboard, my left hand picked up the phone.  My right hand took a quick second to tap in the numbers necessary to pick up the front desk line on my line and then rushed back to the keyboard to start scrolling down the list of categories Google had popped up for me.  As I perused my Goggle choices trying to decide which one would be the most likely to give me the answer I wanted on the first try, in the back of my mind I was wondering why the person on the phone had even bothered to call since they weren’t saying anything.  Oh, I suddenly realized!  I’d forgotten about the part where you actually introduce yourself to the caller.  Ooops! 
My hand paused midstream while clicking away on the down arrow keys while my brain switched to official receptionist mode.  Oh, no, I thought!  This person is waiting for me to say something and for the life of me, I can’t recall who I am, the name of the facility I work for or what we normally say when we answer phones!!!  “Uh, Hello,” I asked.  Yeah, that was me, not him.  Like, whoa, how professional was that?  Then to top it off, knowing it was a totally unprofessional and still not able to recall where I worked, I started laughing!  Yup.  I’m so glad it wasn’t a new patient calling.  As it turned out, it was a monitor from a pharmaceutical sponsor calling, one with a really good sense of humor!  He started laughing too.  For about a minute or two we both sat there laughing our heads off, while my boss sat in the chair next to my desk probably wondering what it was in my initial interview that even allowed her to hire me in the first place.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, I had a meeting that night to go to in which I was to be a participant in a part that I had not yet had an opportunity to practice.  I called the friend who rides with me to ask if she could be ready a bit early so we’d arrive early so I could practice my part with the other participant before the start of the meeting at 7:30.  Sure, she said.  And I was set.  Like a well-organized machine, multitasking my way to victory, I managed to dress in a matter of minutes, grabbed my bags (yeah, I did remember both of them this time) and reached out for the keys hanging on the cute kitty key hanger next to the front door.  Juggling my bags and keys, I swept out of the door, locking it, closing it and heading off to the car in one fluid, time-saving motion.  I dumped my bags in the car, hopped in the front seat and fumbled with the keys to feel for the correct one to put in the ignition.  Where was it, I wondered.  And why does this key ring seem to have so few keys on it?  And why is there this key chain that doesn’t feel familiar in my hand?
I really do have to start using lights in the house.  I’ve been accustomed to doing things in the dark for 60 years now, so it’s hard to change.  I mean, I get dressed in the dark (which has often led to some interesting clothes choices, not to mention the multiple times I’ve gotten to my destination only to have someone ask my why my blouse was on inside-out), and I grab my keys and leave the house in the dark, which in this case led to me sitting outside in my car with the keys to the poolhouse.  Not exactly what I needed at that point in time.
But I had the presence of mind to call my friend to tell her I might not be picking her up as early as planned since I had no way of getting back into the house to retrieve the car keys, and then I called another friend to tell her that she just might be having a part on the meeting that night should I not make it in time.  And then I looked around the parking lot of any cars that would tell me which strong men were still at home.  Now, that’s a model of multitasking, isn’t it?
Of course, the neighbor who just the night before had measured my poor sagging windows for replacement windows had also managed to close them all (a feat I have yet to accomplish) and lock them so that they would stay shut now that the weather was turning rather chilly!  I was ever so thankful as the kitchen window had been open about 7 inches for the past two months.  However, I wasn’t quite a thankful at that point in time when I needed to break in.
By this time I had come to the conclusion that while that neighbor wasn’t home, the visiting uncle to my next door neighbor was!  Hurray!  I went next door, enlisted his help and explained the situation with the locked windows.  But, I said, we’ve had to break in here before, so part of the frame inside isn’t in the best shape.  I think with enough strength you could actually break in without breaking the glass, I smiled.  Well, between his brute strength and some utensil he retrieved from his sister’s kitchen, he managed to jimmy, and shimmy and open the window (gee, sounds like the big bad wolf blowing down the houses of the little pigs, doesn’t it) and saved the day, or the evening as it were!  Thank you, neighbor, for your ingenuity.  Then he helped me get the darned thing closed again, which is a two-man job, and locked up for the next time we need to break in. 
Thank goodness I’ll be getting new windows, hopefully some that are a little more difficult to jimmy open.  But I think I’d better replace that spare house key I used to have on me for the next time my multitasking skills hit the drain, which is most likely to be sometime later today.
So, how am I at multitasking?  Well, going back to my last blog, I suppose that too is a matter of relativity, one that hopefully I will not have to answer again in what’s left of my working life as I vow never to take another job that requires an interview!  McDonald’s, here I come!  Oh, wait, way too much multitasking there!  Now does that burger go in the fryer or is it the biscuit?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The theory of relativity…

So today I thought we’d tackle an interesting subject:  the theory of relativity.  No, silly, not the Einstein theory, you know the E=mc2 thing.  Didn’t you read my first blog?  Remember when I said “erudite I am not”?  Well, then you’d know I’m not speaking of relativity in those terms!  No, I’m talking about the relativity that each and every one of us determines for ourselves every single day.
How rich is rich?  How poor is poor?  Do Bill Gates and Oprah think of themselves as rich?  Good golly, I sure hope so!  Or do they think of themselves as comfortably well off?  How thin is thin and how fat is fat?  Oh, let’s not go there.  I knew I was overweight, but when I figured out my BMI and discovered I was “morbidly obese,” well, let’s just say I was distressed.  Oh, not over the fact that I was overweight.  Like, duh, I knew that!  I just didn’t like having the label “morbidly” attached to it.  I mean. I speak a couple of languages.  I know the term morbid comes from the Latin and refers to a diseased or unhealthy state and the root of the word stems from the Latin for “death.”  But, hey, for those of us who are not doctors who deal with death and disease all the time, to us common folk it usually conjures up ideas of ghoulish delight, black moods and, well, just not fun!  I’m fun! 
But I digress.  The whole point is that everyone, everyone, views everything differently.  And that’s a good thing.  Oh, we may have friends and acquaintances with whom we have more in common than others, but we still view things through our own individual whacky perspective.
Take the rich part we spoke about before.  I got caught in the middle of an argument once between an older friend from Chili and a teenage friend staying with her from Mexico.  Seems when I walked in, the older friend was highly insulted because her young Mexican friend had said, Wow, you must be rich, after seeing the mink stole in the closet.  So who do you think she turned to for an explanation that you do not have to be rich to own a mink stole?  Yeah, right, me!  Well, gee, I was totally in agreement with the teenager from Mexico.  I mean, I could have listed in five seconds flat the things I’d much rather spend money on than a mink stole.  Our little Mexican friend could probably have listed in that same time at least 20 necessities her family could use, and I don’t think a mink would have been on that list!  So I weaseled my way out (pardon the not very good pun) by falling back on my being a vegetarian and not approving of mink stoles, so I didn’t have an opinion.  Yeah, I know, more of a chicken than a weasel!
My mother is a pragmatist.  I’m a dreamer.  We could not be more distant in our personal views than any two people could be.  She calls herself frugal; I just call it cheap.  But she went through the war in Europe living off Spam and Brussels sprouts and I grew up during the good old Happy Days where you waited for nothing and charged everything.  She’s British, and they seem to take great delight in suffering; I’m American and suffering generally means having to wait in a very long line for tickets to a long-awaited concert.
I remember once taking her to Home Depot with me.  It was back when my daughter was young and we had a little house in Yadkinville, NC.  I saw these really great plans for a play center (jungle gym, swing set, a little clubhouse thing on top) and I was beside myself with ecstasy!  Oh, I thought, what a great idea.  I could just see my daughter having a ball on that thing.  And the fun of putting it all together!  Well, enough said!
The plans were $30.  The lumber was all listed out on the plans with the approximate cost attached, about $275.  (Those Home Depot folks are brilliant, aren’t they?)  I could get the plans now and the lumber when I was actually ready to build!
But my mom was with me.  “What do you want to waste your money on that for,” she queried with great disdain.  “You know you’ll never get around to building it; it’s just a waste of money and you can’t afford to through away $30 on junk like that.”
I put the plans back, said nothing, and went into a deep funk for a week and a half, and determined never to take my mom to Home Depot ever again.  After a while I finally sat myself down and tried to determine what was depressing me so much.  I knew she was probably right and I’d never get around the building the thing.  It was really cool, though!  But it wasn’t the fact that I might never get around to it.  I finally figured it out.  It wasn’t the completion of the project that was important to me; it was the dreaming and planning.  Man, I could have ridden that dream for at least 1 ½ years, maybe even more!  Even with a conservative estimate of 1 ½ years (547.5 days) that $30 would break down to about five cents a day! What a bargain!!   And if I got 2 or 3 years’ worth of dreams out of it … Whew, that’s a bonanza!  I could pull them out periodically, make lists of materials, go to Home Depot at least 10 times to check out prices and plan on what to buy when, do a budget looking forward to buying the materials in stages, figure out the sun and how it affected the ¾ acre yard so I could settle on just the perfect spot.  Then of course, there was ground preparation to think about, as well as what kind of treatment to put on the ground to prevent scraped knees.  Oh, given the time, I’m sure I could have stretched that dream out to perhaps 4 or 5 years.  By then Becka would have been too old for it and I could put the plans away, but, dang, that’s a whole 5 years’ worth of draming!!!  But it wasn’t to be.  My dreams were snatched away by the level-headed, pragmatic mind of my mother, who never, ever learned how to dream.
There is one thing, however, on which I agree with my mom:  haircuts.  I wanted to take her to get her hair cut last month.  She’s been complaining and complaining about it.  She doesn’t like the style.  When the style was changed, she doesn’t like that one either.  Now she’s saying she should get a perm.  Her hair is as straight and limp as can be!  And it’s short!  Not much styling you can do with it, I’m afraid.  And now, 90 years old and she wants a perm!  She hasn’t had once since she was around 45 or 50!  But I told her I’d found a stylist recommended by a friend and at least she could get a good haircut, have it shaped nicely so that she could have something more stylish that she could care for.  First words out of her mouth were, “How much?”  “Only $25,” I said delighted that I’d found such a bargain and knowing that it would probably be more in the end, but planning on paying the extra myself and never telling her that.  “I’m not spending that kind of money on a haircut,” she snorted.  And that was the end of that.  Even when I told her what haircuts usually cost, she was not deterred.  That was TOO big a waste of money.
And what about me?  I’ll pay $4 for a latte from Starbucks, buy cookbooks I have no time to use and have a house full of gym equipment upstairs and down still waiting for me to set up a regime, dust them off and really use them.  A couple of months ago I bought a ukelele.  Well, I’ll get around to learning how to play it eventually.  Really, I will.  Of course, that means giving up the time I’ve spent unsuccessfully trying to learn to play the piano.  And there is that part about the strings on a uke not staying tuned which does annoy me.  I probably should have bought a mandolin instead.  I wanted a banjo, but with arthritis starting, I’ll probably never get around to learning to pick well.  And when I tried the violin, I’m sure they gave me a smaller one than usual because my fingers were too fat to place on the strings properly.  Of course, the guitar is still collecting dust in the corner, but at least it’s always there should I got back to playing that.  I just had such trouble with those pesky chords that required a wide had span.  Oh, where was I?  Oh, yeah, haircuts. 
So the question is:  will I spend money on a haircut?  What are you, crazy???
Well, I have convinced myself that the reason I won’t do that is not because I’m cheap like my mom, it’s one of protest!  Yes.  Remember, I am a child of the Protest Generation.  We protested everything we possibly could.  Still I recall that couple marching in front of the White House during my senior high school trip.  It’s really hard to take a protester seriously when on one side of their sign they have in big letter “Bomb Hanoi,” and on the other side they have, “Rent a protester, $11 an hour.”
But getting back to the haircut protest, I had a local guy who cut my hair for $12.  Yeah, tell me about it!  Bargain, huh? Well, in all fairness, he didn’t have to wash it (I did that before I went there and it was usually still wet when I got there) and he just cut the thing down to a nub while he ranted about politics, or kids today, or how a lot of contestants on Sheer Genius (a reality show for hair stylists) were really not much more talented that he was.  And then he charged me $12, plus I gave him a $4 tip, and that was it, until the next time I couldn’t stand my hair anymore and went back for another pass of the lethal scissors.  A lot of people stopped going there because no matter what they asked for, they all got the same short, short, short haircut.  I don’t think he meant to do that; he was just too busy ranting about other things.
But that did not dissuade me.  No, what turned me off was the fact that you never knew what you were going to pay or when you would get in.  I went once for a 5 o’clock appointment (yes, I made an appointment!) but he was the only one working and had one person in the chair and another who was sitting, waiting to be seen.  So I said, Okay, I’ll go get a latte (I mean, any excuse, right?) and come right back.  So Becka and I went for a latte at the new shop two doors down and, in the meantime, someone else came in and sat down who he was going to take ahead of me because they came in while I was gone.  I left, having way to many other demands on my time that day, only to be told at my next appointment that I had never shown up for the last one.  Whoa!  I was there at the appointed time; I just couldn’t stand around waiting for all the walk-ins to go ahead of me, I protested. 
So I got my haircut, went to the register and said, “How much?” as I always stupidly do.  “$12,” he said, looking me up in the computer/cash register/appointment scheduler thingy.  “Okay,” I said, pulling out a $20 bill.  “Oh,” he said, looking at the cash in my hand, “I mean $14.” Yeah, not the first time they’d done that to me, but it was the last.
So, as you know, for the past two weeks I’ve been working so hard I didn’t even have time to write!  My hair had grown and grown to horrible lengths.  I was thinking of changing my name to Rapunzel but wasn’t sure how to spell it.  This weekend was the first one I had without work in months!  So Friday night after work I thought I’d treat myself.  After weeks of hair falling over my bespectacled eyes and having to shake my head like Cher every two minutes to get it off my face, I had to get it cut!!!  Yep!  I got home, watched some telly, ate some dinner and then …..  took out the shears and cut off all my hair! 
Now, that’s not totally out of my mind.  I mean, sure, I usually cut it myself, and sure I usually use scissors, but the offending mop on top of my head and gone too far this time!  I couldn’t spend all weekend snipping here and there (especially behind my head where I can’t see, it takes a very long time for me to cut it all evenly, you know), so I just shaved it all off.  Now, don’t get excited, it’s not like that bald Irish singer chic whose name I can’t remember; it’s respectably short, just really short.  But come on!  What was I to do?  I did get a compliment on it today, so it can’t be all that bad.  Besides, to my way of thinking, I can’t mess it up too much, ‘cause, before long, it will have all grown back.
Really, we’re not talking brain surgery here, and you don’t have to be a genius to cut your own hair.  However, speaking of geniuses, Einstein really could have used a good pair of shears.  But I guess it’s all a matter of relativity