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Friday, November 30, 2012

Smart Phones, Stupid People?

I do not have a smart phone, but I don't have anything against them. Trent has a smart phone and really enjoys using it. I prefer using a phone of average intelligence and a tablet. I know that some of you are probably thinking,  "Well, that's just silly, Katrina! Why carry two things when you could do it all with one?"

It's true, I could theoretically do it all on a phone. I could write my blog on a phone. If I had fingers the size of an infant's. And where there are teeny-tiny keyboards, there are also teeny-tiny screens. Which could turn me into a squinting, cranky, eye-fatigued blogger in spite of my bifocals.

Oh, I am sure that shopping would be a real treat as well. I would click on the more info link for a pair of shoes and end up ordering some Hello Kitty nail polish. Nothing screams age-denial like a woman who combines bifocals and Hello Kitty.

What really bothers me about smart phones is some of the people I have seen using them lately. Trent and I treated ourselves to lunch in a restaurant today. A couple came in, sat down, and proceeded to ignore each other by both pulling out their phones. We both thought, why bother? They were occupying spots close to one another, but they were essentially miles apart. It made me think of one of my favorite movie lines from It's A Wonderful Life, "Youth is wasted on the wrong people!" They could have been holding hands and saying sweet things to each other and drowning in the deep pools of each others' eyes. Okay, well, that was kind of revoltingly sweet, but you get the picture.

We are increasingly seeing people who are driving full-speed and never looking at the road. We've done a lot of running around the last few days, and every time we have been on the road we have had people drifting from lane to lane. There's nothing like being in a little car and seeing a Ford F250 casually cruising toward your easily-crushed body. Then you notice that the driver is looking at the gps on their phone as they drift over to terrify the person driving on their other side.

I know that my readers are not the kinds of people I have just mentioned. Smart phones or not, they are smart people. Just keep your eyes open for the dangerous team of smart phones and stupid people. Yikes.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Brenda

On a lovely day in October of last year, we found ourselves headed to an appointment at University of Colorado Hospital. As a transplant patient, Trent has a higher chance of getting skin cancer, or other types of cancer, than the average bear. We needed to go in for an annual skin-cancer screening. Since it was early afternoon, we were worried that we wouldn't be able to find a parking space. If you have never gone to a clinic visit at UCH, let me tell you that finding a parking spot can be a challenge. I told Trent not to worry;  I would simply engage my "parking Zen" (complete with ritual smoothly flowing hand gestures) to get us a good spot. When we got there, I would hop in the driver's seat and park the car.

As it happened, I found a spot within seconds of getting behind the wheel. I managed to park the car, use the restroom, and get to the clinic before Trent did. When we got into the clinic, the receptionist said we were a week early for the appointment. I just had to laugh. We had enjoyed a nice ride, and parking was easy. No big deal. We decided to stop by the transplant clinic with some questions, and the afternoon was still young when we were finished there.

I suggested that we stop by one of the hospital gift shops; they had a purse that I had had my eye on for a while. Since it was less than twenty dollars, I decided to go in and buy it. Trent found something that caught his attention, and I wandered around looking at a few things. A display of knitted shawl-type scarves caught my eye. One was displayed on a mannequin bust over a t-shirt, and I saw a pricetag that said twenty dollars. Woohoo! These scarves were so lovely. Some had a large button fastener, and the others had a flower, along with sort of a tunnel on the back that you could run the other end of the scarf through to fasten it.

I just had to get a closer look. There was a lady in an electric scooter/wheelchair in front of the table, so I walked around to the other end to look at them more closely. The flower version came in purple, my favorite color, but I was undecided. Being the kind of person I am, I asked the lady in the scooter which one she liked better. She looked a tiny bit surprised, but smiled and pointed at the purple scarf with the flower. This pleased me immensely, and I thanked her for her help. She smiled at me again, and reached for her electronic voicebox device. Again, being who I am, I was unfazed. We chatted for a while about the scarves and how she wanted to get one for her daughter-in-law but wasn't sure if she would like it. She asked me what the price was, and then I saw that the price was not twenty dollars, but closer to fifty. I said, "Well, you're sitting down, I'll show you the price tag. It's a bit too much for my budget, unfortunately."

After helping her decide about some decorative items, I moved on to find Trent and my little purse, and pay for our purchases. When we were heading toward the door I saw that my friend was standing up with the purple scarf in her arms. "I found myself a purse," I told her. "Are you getting one of the scarves?" She motioned for me to come over to her and thrust the scarf and a fifty-dollar bill into my hands. "I want you to have this, and I won't take no for an answer." Trent and I were stunned and said we couldn't possibly accept. We both burst into tears at her generosity and she hugged me and said that she really wanted me to have the scarf, and that maybe some day I could do something for someone who had no voice. "You DO have a voice, it is in your lovely heart!" I replied.

The three of us talked for a few minutes and shared our names. Then Brenda said something that nearly broke my heart. "I am dying of cancer. The doctors are just using experimental drugs on me now because they know I can never get better." I thanked her for her kindness and told her that the scarf would become a treasured possession. "This scarf will be named Brenda. I will pass it along later in my life along with the story of how it got a name. And I will think of you every time I look at it." By the time we finished talking, I noticed that everyone in the gift shop had stopped what they were doing to watch us. I don't think that there was a dry eye in the group.

Dear Brenda, I hope you had some idea how much your kindness affected me. I have thought of you often, and if you are no longer among us, I am sure that you are enjoying your beautiful heavenly voice. Thank you for letting me learn how much I can touch someone's heart by the simple act of treating them just like everyone else. My brief time with you is a memory I will always love.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Lemonade

When Trent and I were dating, I suggested that we take his father out to dinner so that we could get acquainted. Sadly, Trent's mother had passed a number of years before, in case you wondered why it was only Dad. I asked Trent to make arrangements with his dad for our evening out. "Tell him that we will take him anywhere he wants to go."

The evening of the dinner arrived, and where did his dad want to go? Long John Silver's. I guess he really wanted to have some fish. He was diabetic and on dialysis, so he didn't get to eat food like that very often. I think Trent was worried that I wouldn't want to go to such a humble place, but it didn't bother me. If we could make a sweet old man happy by feeding him some fish, then it was fine with me.

When we got out to the car, I insisted that Dad should ride in the front seat. I lived with my Grandma for all those years, and I knew that getting in and out of vehicles can be difficult. Dad also had a little oxygen tank, so it just made sense for him to be up front. When we got settled in the car, Trent asked his father if he wouldn't prefer to go somewhere else to eat. His dad didn't seem too eager to go to a different place, so we carried on with the original plan.

While we were on the way, I remarked, "I am so lucky to be going out to dinner tonight with two nice gentlemen!"

Dad answered, "I LIKE you, you're sweet!"

To which I said, "Yeah, sweet like lemonade!"

Dad's quick response? "I LIKE lemonade!"

That was all it took. From then on we loved each other. In fact, Trent could tell or ask his dad something a dozen times and get no reponse. I'd say it once, and he'd say "yes, ma'am." Trent's dad advised him, privately, to marry me in a hurry before someone else caught me. When I found out about that, I thought it was just precious.

Once I asked him, "Dad, do you think your wife would have liked me?"

Without stopping to think for even a moment, he bellowed, "NO! She wouldn't like you, she'd LOVE you!" Maybe someday I will find out that she likes lemonade, too!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Canned Spinach And Other Demons

I mentioned long ago that I have an aversion to canned spinach. Were I a Popeye-type creature, I would have no muscles at all since I loathe the stuff. I told my readers that it was a story for another time, so today is the day.

When my father was put in jail for his attack on my mother, and my mother was suffering her last days in the hospital, my sister Liz and I were placed in an orphanage. It was a Catholic institution with beautiful grounds and the children were cared for by nuns. The children were, of course, separated by gender, and then into smaller units called "cottages." It sounds so charming, doesn't it?

A cottage was a group of girls that were all under the care of one nun. I was only seven at the time, but in trying to remember how many of us there were, I would guess twenty-five to thirty girls. Each cottage, although part of a much larger building, had a common room, large bathroom and bathing areas, and a large common sleeping area.

Every child was assigned a number according to their cottage. It was an identifier of who you were and was inked inside all of your clothing. We were in cottage 43. Liz was number 43-19, and I was number 43-10. Funny what you remember, isn't it? I can't remember the name of the nun who was in charge of us, but I remember my number. Perhaps because we were often called by our number rather than our name. Charming, isn't it?

Although I do not remember Sister's name, I do remember her attitude. Time has allowed me to give her excuses for her behavior. It is not up to me to judge whether those excuses are deserved. I believe she grew up in an era when a lot of Roman Catholic families felt that at least one of their children should become either a priest or nun. It was sort of an insurance policy, if you will, that ensured the family's passage into Heaven.

Sister had grown up in a wealthy family and gave her life to the Church and caring for orphaned children. I never felt any sense of loving kindness from her. I felt it more from some of the other nuns who barely even knew me. Sister made it clear that we were terrible sinners who deserved any and all suffering we had experienced or would experience. Every night as we were falling asleep, she would sit in her easy chair in the corner of the dormitory next to a small table with a lamp on it. She would tell us that we were terrible sinners and that Jesus' suffering on the cross was our fault. Every bad thing we experienced was our fault and our punishment for our sins. Once she went on so much about looking on your own flesh or the flesh of others, that if I caught a glimpse of my arm I was sure I was doomed to burn in Hell.

One thing Sister believed was that we should be grateful that we were being fed. And I was grateful for that. I believe there was more food available to me in the Orphanage than at home. One night, the main course at dinner was liver with a helping of canned spinach. Hey, I have eaten liverwurst many times. The taste does not bother me. But the texture of fried liver still seems pretty gross to me. But what really did me in was the smell of that slimy canned spinach. I was perfectly willing to have bread and water and call it a day, because that smell made me want to throw up. So eating only bread was what I did. Briefly.

The cafeteria was used by multiple cottages at the same time, so there were several nuns present during all meals. Sister noticed I was sinning by not eating my food, so she told me I had to eat it. I just couldn't do it, no matter how hard I tried. I would get the fork near my mouth and start to gag. So a lesson had to ne learned. An orphan was equivalent to a beggar on the street, and she had to appreciate the bounteous gifts that were given to her, even if they were undeserved. So a couple of nuns restrained me while a couple more forced my mouth open and shoved the food down my throat with a spoon. My screams and cries only made them shove harder.

So, my friends, one of the resolutions of my life became this: when I was "big" I would never eat canned spinach again. And I never have to this day. Spinach salads galore, and I love them. But no evil canned spinach, please!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Cheap, Cheap

While I was making dinner this evening, I decided to turn on the telly and see what I had recorded on the DVR while I was dogsitting. I have previously admitted to having an inexplicable attraction to shows that I call train-wrecks. Case in point, the shows about hoarding. I guess you could call it a horrified fascination. The wanna-be psychologist in me wonders how these things happen.

So, for some reason I had decided to record a few episodes of a show about cheapskates. I am not a cheapskate. I try to save on expenses wherever possible, but I do not think it is necessary to live a life of extreme deprivation just for funzies. I was stunned to see some of the things people will do to satisfy their money-saving obsession.

What could be so awful, you ask? For starters, two words:  toilet tissue. One of the two men on the episode I watched does not believe in buying toilet paper. His friend asked to use the facilities and asked where the t.p. was. He showed her a kitchen-sink sprayer attachment that he has rigged to the toilet tank. She decided to wait until she went home. I support her decision;  I like to air-dry my dishes, but air-drying in the loo is not cool.

Oh! There was another fellow who has a clothesline in his kitchen so that he can wash and reuse his paper towels. And dental floss, which he got free from the dentist. Did I mention the coffee singles that he hangs to dry so that he can make five cups from one teabag-type thingie before using it to wash his windows? His wife wanted him to take her out on a monthly date night, so he took her to a matinee at the movie theater. After eating the banana he had made her carry in her purse, he excused himself to throw away the banana peel. Then he dug through the trash can and pulled out a drink and popcorn container. Yes, he went to the restroom and rinsed out the drink cup, and asked for his free refills at the concession stand. And his wife was so thrilled he had gotten her popcorn and a soda! Ick! I wonder what her reaction was when she saw it on tv!

Trent sometimes lovingly teases me about my efforts to save money, but I don't think he will ever have to worry about me getting super cheap. So Trent, I promise you this: I will always want to have toilet paper. I will not ask you to launder paper towels. And when we go to the movies, I will not get your drink out of the trash.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I've Gone Viral

Yeah, I wish! It would make all my bloggy dreams come true if that happened! Would this be a good moment to ask my readers to share my blog with others? Since the subject has arisen, may I simply say that if you get some enjoyment reading these ramblings, your friends might as well. You never know.

No, my blog hasn't gone viral. I have not achieved the blogger equivalent of Gangnam Style, and am not sure that I want to. What goes up rapidly in popularity often goes the other direction at an equally dizzying speed. When I said I had gone viral, I meant my body. Isn't it amazing what something so tiny can do? Of the last forty-eight hours, I have been been conscious for less than twelve.

The scattered bits of awake time go something like this: try to figure out what time and day it is. Apologize to spouse for becoming one of the living dead. Hack, wheeze, snort, cough, and make other similarly disgusting noises. Get a little bite of something to eat. Realize how exhausted you are and go back to sleep. After having been sick for four or five days, try to blog coherently from your tablet while keeping warm under the bedcovers. Hope that your readers don't think you have deserted them. Hope that they don't desert you. Wonder if you are being coherent or if it is the fever talking. Give up after saying you will be back later. Keep well, my friends!

Monday, November 5, 2012

I Should Have Washed My Face

Every family has one. The person who knows everything. Which, as my grandmother used to say, is very annoying to those of us who actually do. Hey, I've told you before, she had a saying about almost everything. Tonight I am going to talk about one of those from the family in which I was raised. In the interests of respect I will refer to her as Aunt Jo. I loved Aunt Jo very deeply, but that doesn't mean I was blind to her faults. We humans are frail and imperfect beings, which is part of what makes life such an adventure.

In this family, it was traditional for the females to live with their family until they got married. I have spoken with my cousin Carole about this; we both think it was a great disservice to the women of our generation. Perhaps if they had been encouraged to find their way in the world and become the people they were meant to be, they might have thought more seriously about important life decisions. I am the only female of this generation whose first marriage did not end in divorce. But then again, I didn't get married until I was forty years old. I don't think any of these women made poor choices (although maybe some of them did), it was simply a matter for many of marrying so they could be out on their own, and then finding out later that they were not the same person who walked down the aisle in the white dress and veil.

Luckily for me, I was the least pretty of the group, and probably the most outspoken, so I seemed destined to stay single forever. This meant that after Gram raised me, I was able to help her as she got older. Gram was a hugely important part of my life; she represented home and was my only parental figure. When I was about nineteen years old, Aunt Jo said to me, "Gram looks terrible. She isn't going to last much longer." I was shocked and scared. I slept more lightly, always wanting to be able to hear if Gram fell or called out for any help. I still can't sleep properly. Gram lasted another eighteen years, incidentally, but if you keep predicting someone's death at least once a week, eventually your prediction will come true. As in the old saying, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

If you have read some of my older posts, you will know that at the age of twenty-nine I became very ill, and was diagnosed with systemic lupus. Very briefly, systemic lupus is a non-contagious autoimmune disorder. When the immune system switches on, it may run amok and attack any and all systems of the body rather than just germs and such. In my case, my immune system was attacking my kidneys, which were starting to fail as a result. Luckily for me, I had always been in fairly good health, so I had no idea what some of my test results really meant. For example, when I was released from the hospital, my blood pressure had come down to the level of danger of having a stroke. I had no clue! All I knew was that I was furious at being sick, and my doctor said that attitude would help me get better. Imagine my surprise several months later when I heard Gram tell someone that when I was in the hospital, she could see death in my face. I was stunned. Gram had seen numerous people come and go, and been at the side of many death beds. As I said, it was good I didn't know this at the time, or I may not have had the stubbornness to forge ahead.

Some months after I got out of the hospital and was continuing my struggle with lupus, Gram asked me one day if anyone knew what caused lupus. I told her that from what I had read, and what the doctors told me (hey, we didn't have home computers in those days, kiddos) nobody really knew. It was thought that there might be a genetic link, but there was no definite cause. I asked her what had made her ask that question. She told me that when I was still in the hospital, Aunt Jo had called her and said, "I've looked into this lupus thing. You get it from not washing your face properly."

I didn't know whether to laugh or to scream in disgust and anger. I am sure that there are places in the world where you could get internal illnesses as a result of using impure water to wash your face. To say nothing of the fact that I did, and do, know how to wash my face! I assured Gram that the near-failure of my kidneys had nothing to do with what I used to clean my face, and that I had not done anything at all that caused me to be so sick. We got a good chuckle out of the whole situation. Every so often, though, when my constant companion lupus has me feeling less than fabulous, I laugh and say, "Dang. I should have washed my face!"

  






Saturday, November 3, 2012

Jedi Mind Tricks

Once again I am dogsitting Bowie, a canine who is very loveable. Bowie could be fodder for a few stories, but tonight I am just going to talk about a couple of things. Bowie has been described by his human parents as a dog for whom there is no such thing as a stranger. Although he is willing to give his affection to anyone (by the way, Halloween was so much fun for him!), he has developed a special bond with me and Trent. It really can make you feel special when a dog actually scampers through the house when you arrive. There is a ritual that has developed over the years any time I come over to visit.

The first part of the ritual, obviously, is the scampering. This is accompanied by delighted greetings and head pats. Bowie then heads toward the kitchen, looking over his shoulder to see if I am following. He goes to the back door and I let him go outside. If the weather is warm and dry, I go out with him. He proceeds to the grass and sits down facing away from me so that petting him will be more convenient. This progresses to tummy rubs before we go back inside. No matter what the weather, when Bowie comes inside he will present me with his backside because he knows that I will scratch the spot above his tail that seems to put all dogs into a state of joy.

I have jokingly said that to Bowie I am not merely Katrina; his name for me is MyKatrina. I think this was proven to be correct when I came over and Thayne's son, Scott, was complaining of backache. I told him to sit on the floor in front of the sofa and I would massage his back a bit. Well, let me tell you, Bowie was not having it! He came over and started to nose my arm. When that didn't make me stop, he pulled my hand away from Scott with his paw. I could almost hear him saying, "Hey, back off, she's MY MyKatrina, not yours!"

Something that is as important to Bowie as love is food. I am proud to say that I am one of just a handful of humans whose arrival can make Bowie abandon his food dish. When I dogsit Bowie, he will try various tricks to convince me that no matter what the clock says, it is time for him to dine. There are various forms of showing off, and most of them include some form of happy barking. Lately, his routine has been to run off quickly and bring back a tennis ball, which he drops next to me a couple of times. He can only do it a couple of times; after all, he is dying of hunger.

This evening I mixed up a dish that included two kinds of kibble as well as some canned food. It was thoroughly enjoyed and the bowl was licked out many times. After he went out for some fresh air, I settled down to watch tv. Suddenly, Bowie jumped up and dashed around the house looking for his ball. As he tossed it next to me, I heard him saying, "This is not the Bowie you prepared dinner for." I looked him in the eye and said, "Your Jedi mind tricks will not work on me," and he immediately gave up and curled up for a nap. What a hoot! Bowie isn't the first dog to try Jedi mind tricks on me (Paris was a Jedi master!) and I am sure he won't be the last. But as long as the force remains strong in me, I think I'll be all right!