Saturday, March 31, 2007

New England anomaly~


I stood on the sidelines at a high school baseball scrimmage today with my husband and two other Dads, watching our sons and chit-chatting about the coach, the team's strengths, the field needing work, the beautiful weather.

One man I didn't know-- his son played for the opposing team, a private school, although they live in town-- was chatty and pleasant on a superficial Saturday morning level. It turns out he'd lived in Ohio until ten years ago. He told us how unfriendly the people in New England are.

"But I don't even know your name, and I've been talking. My husband, too," I pointed out. Bruce dug his elbow into my side, unobtrusively, a warning I don't need. I'm subtle.

Apparently our talking, laughing, and joking with a stranger on the sidelines on a Saturday morning was somehow less friendly than an Ohio person's Saturday morning sideline chat. Maybe they serve breakfast to spectators in Ohio. I don't know how to be any friendlier than we were.

New Englanders don't open up quickly, he said. We're reserved.

I refrained from telling him about my recent pelvic scan just to prove him wrong. He wasn't talking about anything all that revealing either, and I briefly thought to put him to the test and ask him about his sex life. What do Ohioans reveal on a first meeting that we New Englanders don't?

Then he made a statement about our local school system, one struggling to stay afloat financially, a statement that simply was not true.

"I hear that the school's budget is bloated," he said. "Way out of control."

"Where did you hear that?" I asked sweetly. My husband did the elbow thing again. "Because it's not true."

A rational discussion of budget restraints-- Massachusetts educational mandates that are unfunded by the pols that make the mandates leaving local taxpayers to foot the bill-- ensued.

But then we were in Ohio again. Ohio had helicopter radar that bagged speeders on highways, Ohio had a volunteer fire department, maybe volunteer everything-- he mentioned a volunteer dogcatcher-- and if the volunteers were busy, other people just volunteered. I know not one person in my town who would run after a stray dog if the dogcatcher were busy. I elbowed myself, and kept my mouth shut.

"It was like that here when I was a kid," I said. I didn't ask if Ohio had changed in the years since he'd left. Nor did I ask why he moved to New England.

Later, I stopped at a local coffee shop. The man beside me ordered a double-double.

"What's a double-double?" I asked.

"Double the cream and sugar." He smiled broadly and I wondered if he was from Ohio.

But, no, who would guess? New England!

He lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but was originally from Massachusetts, then Maine. He was visiting his mother. We talked, chatted back and forth, and when his mother came out of the ladies room, she joined in. I know where she grew up, where she went to college and her age , and her son's, and lots more-- not because I asked-- just because we opened up and talked.

My husband says, because I've never lived anywhere else, I just don't understand the regional differences. That may be true. Or maybe I'm a New England anomaly. There are a lot of us around. We find each other. We're a well kept secret.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

To sleep, perchance to dream~


Dr. Sridhar H. Dasari is a "sleep medicine specialist." (A what?)

He's quoted in my local daily paper, "A lot of us don't realize how important sleep is in our daily lives. People take it for granted."

I am not one of those people.

Ask my husband, who's fond of saying, "Sleep is more important to you than anything." Do you know what he means by "anything?" That's right. He doesn't believe me when I tell him that's not true. Actions speak louder than words, he says.

I say, wake me up when you finally decide to come to bed. But I'm going off topic, here.

I read the article in the paper called, "Sound Sleep." I read everything I come across on the subject of sleep, all the magazines I see in the supermarket line that say: "Ten Things you never Dreamed Would Put You to Sleep," and "Lack of Sleep Causes Weight Gain." (Good excuse. I'll use it.)

Dasari says we're a driven society. We're a non-stop society. We don't have time to do everything in the day, so we sacrifice our sleep time.

Lack of sleep results in building a "sleep debt," he says, (as if the credit card wasn't enough). Interest payments include: dozing off during the day at meetings. I've done this. I arrange my head in my hand, aim my eyes at the paper on the table in front of me, and drift off. I've never been to a meeting worth staying awake for. Why do young colleagues take such pleasure in elbowing me awake? Why do they think it's so funny? I'm past needing to make an impression. Leave me alone. I've heard the information presented many different ways through the years. I'm tired.

Another consequence is dozing off behind the wheel. This is my worst fear, and I've come close. There is nothing funny about this and pulling off the road is recommended. I once fell asleep in my driveway. My husband's rapping on the window woke me from a dream, a good one. He wasn't in it.

Sleeplessness produces irritability and depression. I'm not quite there yet, although I can be irritable at any given moment. I just don't think, "I'm so sorry. I slept poorly last night," is a good excuse.

The trouble is, none of the problems the chronically sleep deprived suffer are mine. I don't have sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy or restless leg syndrome.

I have a husband who snores, and a cat that picks 2 a.m. to walk up my back. Maybe I should write a magazine article: "Ten Ways to Get Your Husband to Stop Snoring (that don't involve your elbow)."

The cat I can deal with.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Have a nice day (part two)~

I left the doctor's office, with an appointment for, among other things, a pelvic scan. From the description, I gathered the procedure would be just like the ultrasound I'd had when pregnant with David: drink 32 ounces of water to fill my bladder and provide a clear window through which to visualize the uterus; lay on the exam table while a cold gelled probe is run across my belly, directing rays of some sort into my internal parts.

At first it was exactly like that. Quick and familiar, done fully dressed, with my jeans unzipped. If I craned my neck, I could see my uterus on TV, not as icky as the show I watched when my routine age-fifty colonoscopy was done. The technician finished and told me to empty my bladder. Medical people never say, "Go pee."

I thought I was done, but there was part two. She told me to undress from the waist down-- they never say, "Take your pants off," either-- and lie back down on the table. There was an internal scan she needed to do.

"Now," she said, "before I show you the probe, I want to tell you that much of it is the handle."

"Okay," I said. Wild thoughts flitted through my mind, along with jokes I felt would be considered inappropriate, and might give her the wrong impression about me.

She turned, and held a white phallic-shaped probe that would be the envy of many a man, had it been flesh and blood. I relaxed. I could handle that, I knew. My first birth was completed with the aid of forceps, a salad-tong like instrument with the length and breadth of an eagle's wingspan, that is inserted in the vagina to pull the reluctant newborn down the birth canal. My third baby was nine pounds, four ounces. The probe looked harmless.

I lay under a sheet, on my back, in a position quite familiar to women. At her request I inserted the probe, then she took over at the controls.

I felt like a video game. The object was to find the fibroids and other internal creatures before they caused problems. The technician held the joystick, and played with an intensity I've seen in video game addicts. I refrained from mentioning the joystick image, afraid that she'd think I found some pleasure in the procedure. I didn't.

When it was over, I said, "I'll bet you never said, "When I grow up, I want to . . .'" I stopped, not knowing how to say what I was thinking.

She laughed. "I'm lucky," she said. "I got to do what I always wanted, to be a hairdresser. Then I changed careers, and I absolutely love this job."

Holding a finger to her lips, she hinted that things looked good-- internally. We chatted a while, found some mutual connections, there are always connections of some sort. Like me, her parents were teachers.

"Have a nice day," she said, leaving me in the dimly lit room to put my jeans back on.

---
Click below for more "nice days."

Have a nice day (part 1)

Have a Nice Day (part 3)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Night, Dave~


It was late. We should have been asleep, but we weren't-- David because he's eighteen, and me, because I lose track of time when I'm at my computer.

I'm usually in bed long before he is, reading or maybe curled with the cat. Sometimes he stops outside my door and says goodnight. Other times, he comes in, pats the cat, and gives me a kiss. If I'm really lucky, he stretches out beside me, and shares his day, talking about kids and teachers, making it live for me with his talent for imitation.

He's eighteen now, six foot four, already in charge of his own time and activities-- up to a point. But he's still my baby, so when I heard him whisper, "Night, Mom," when I walked past his room on my way to bed, I pushed open his door, and sat on the edge of his bed to give him a kiss.

"Remember when you used to fall asleep on the floor beside my bed?" he asked.

I do remember. It eased him through his nightmare stage. I'd lie on my back, so tired myself that I'd fall asleep too, often waking hours later to crawl into my own bed. If he woke in the middle of the night, he'd come and sleep on the floor beside me.

I was glad when that stage passed, when he learned what "it's only a dream" meant. I was glad when he'd go up stairs by himself to wash his face, brush his teeth, and put on his pajamas. "Night, Mom," he'd yell down the stairs from bed. "Will you come up and tuck me in?"

I was glad when the bed-to-living-room-conversations ended, too. Just when I'd settled with a cup of tea and a book, he'd yell down, "Mom?"

"What?"

"Who do you think would win in a fight? A Tyranosaurus Rex or Spider
Man?"

"Tyranosaurus. Go to sleep."

"Mom?"

"What?"

"What was your favorite thing to do when you were little?"

"Read. Now go to sleep."

By the time my tea was finished, my patience was drained as well.

To his "Mom?" I'd shout back, "WHAT?" It was a horrible sound, a shriek that escaped my throat with the force of a sneeze. Patient people are very scary when we snap.

After a pause he'd say in an aggrieved tone, "I was just going to say, 'I love you, Mom."

"I love you, too, David. Now go to sleep."

Who knew that I would miss those days? Who knew they would seem so sweet in retrospect?

Soon he'll be sleeping in a college dorm, the first tentative steps toward a life on his own. He may not need it anymore, but I'll whisper, "Night, Dave," when I turn off my light each night.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Have a nice day~


I stand in the exam room with my Johnnie tied tightly in back. My clothes hang on a hook, underpants and bra rolled and hidden in the pocket of my jeans. I look down at my brown knee-hi socks, trying to decide if I should leave them on. Of course I should, but they look weird, the way socks on a naked man making love look. I pulled them off.

Perched on the exam table, feet dangling, I wait for the doctor, flipping through People Magazine and wondering how the heck the two women on the cover managed to loose over 200 pounds each, when I can't even manage to lose ten.

The doctor, a slim forty-ish woman enters, and trips over the shoes I'd placed carefully out of the way to make sure she wouldn't trip. We laugh about that as she sits on the little stool on wheels that let her skitter from counter to exam table and back, without standing.

She skims the notes the nurse had entered in my chart, commenting to herself: takes multivitamins, occasional glass of wine, doesn't smoke, breast lump removed . . . hmmmm.

She spun to face me and said, "I see you had a period after going more than a year without one. Sixteen months."

"Christmas Eve," I said. "Not the present I was hoping for."

"That shouldn't happen after a year. Any abnormal bleeding needs to be checked," she said. "I'm going to set you up for a pelvic scan."

I remain surprisingly calm. No visceral reactions of the type I'm prone to when faced with an awful disease. Is there any disease we fear more than cancer when it comes to our reproductive systems?

But I ask anyway. "What would a scan show?"

"We want to see if the lining of the uterus is thickened," she says.

Drop it, I tell myself, but I'm not capable of that. "If it is thickened, what does that indicate?"

She pauses. "It's an indication of endometrial cancer."

Still I pursue information. "Well, it felt exactly like a period to me," I tell her. "I felt it coming on; I'm sure it was just one last hormonal hurrah."

"Maybe," she allows. "We're not all built like cars."

"Cars?"

"Well, everybody's body is different. It's not unheard of to have a period after more than a year, but it is unlikely."

A few more questions. Some more answers. Best to check it out she says.

She swivels back to my health records. "So, any concerns?"

"Well, just that I might have endometrial cancer." I laugh, but nervously.

"No, no," she says reassuringly. "It's just a precaution."

She stands and conducts a routine exam: eyes, ears, thyroid gland, heart lungs, breasts, belly, and them she tells me to lay back. I hear her pulling out the stirrups at the end of the table.

"Scoot down," she says. I know the drill: feet in the stirrups, knees bent, and butt at the end of the table. She sits at that end on her little rolling stool. I'm under the spotlight. I feel the warmth.

No matter how prepared I am--even when she warns, "I'm going to touch you now."--I jump. Always.

She says, "I'm sorry. It much easier to be on this side, I know."

Yeah, but I have a better view, I think.

I stare at the ceiling and the high window, listening to the clink of the speculum as she readies it, lubricates it. She doesn't warm it at the sink the way my former doctor, a male, used to do. It's cold, but quickly warms. I feel the strange internal pinch as she scrapes about, gathering cells that might also reveal disease.

When she's done, she wheels off to write in my chart. "Have a nice day," she says when she's finished.

I dress, and leave with instructions to schedule a pelvic scan, a mammogram, a bone scan, and a lab appointment for a cholesterol profile."

Have a nice day (part 2)

Have a nice day (part 3)

Friday, March 9, 2007

Showering with my muse~



I take a shower with my muse every morning. Actually, he's too much of a gentleman to follow me into the tub, at that time of day at least. He leans against the sink, and speaks through the mist in a whisper of words that blend with the shush of the water, but I hear him clearly through the shower's white noise. I listen, still half asleep, while water rinses last night's dreams down the drain in shampoo swirls.

The best thing about my muse is that he knows when to be quiet. He lets me ramble; he grants me my voice. And I chat non-stop-- internal chat, not spoken words-- rambling on about this and that, my feelings, my thoughts, my confusions, my joys. When he particularly likes something, he prods me in a gentle muse-like manner, "Remember that. That's good." So I repeat it, and embellish it while my muse nods in the fog.

I turn off the water, wrap in a towel and give my muse a great big morning smooch. He's good to me; I need him.

Then I put him on hold. It's life as usual. My day job begins, and continues in non-stop hustle and bustle until the final bell rings and the kids board the busses to go home. I head home too, and it's time to write. But it's still just another job.

For most of the time my muse takes a snooze. Ho, hum. Reporting a Selectmen's meeting is not his thing. Yawn. Am I still working on the explanation of the library's budget? Wake me when you finish the Garden Club piece, he says. I let him sleep. I don't need him yet. I can handle the statistics and small town politics. I can do the dirty work.

I know in the morning he'll relax in the steam while I wash my hair. He'll feed me my lead for the library story, a perfect blend of books and budget. He'll give me a phrase to make the Garden Club piece bloom. Then he'll fill me with ideas that I'll save for the weekend when I'm free to write what strikes my fancy. Just for the fun of it. Just for me-- and my muse.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Entire Universe~


The sixth graders in the hall were noisy. They were changing classes, slamming lockers shut, chatting loudly. A former student waved to me, her hand winging back and forth like she was wiping fog from a window. I smiled and waved back, a baby bye-bye fingertip wave, and shut my classroom door.

I faced my fifth graders. Together we'd explore "matter and energy," something fifth graders have little prior knowledge of, and lots of misconceptions about.

Everything in the world-- not just the *world,* the entire *universe*-- can be divided into two categories, I told them. Imagine that. The whole universe can be categorized into two groups. I was vastly oversimplifying for ten year-old minds, but they were with me, eyes wide.

Classifying, and categorizing things based on their attributes appealed to their sense of order. They liked knowing there was a place for everything.

We talked about matter-- something that has mass and takes up space-- and compared it to energy: the ability to do work, or make things move. I asked questions, they answered. They asked questions, I answered.

Then my question: "So if we put all the *matter* over here . . . " I motioned to one side of the room with a theatrical gesture, " . . . what would we put over there?"

A pause.

"Not matter?" asked one.

"Well, yes, in a way," I said. Matter *here,* and "not matter" over there. But what is the "not matter" called?

"Empty?"

"Yes, but what is the "empty" *called*? What have we just been talking about? The two things the entire universe is made up of. Matter and . . .?" I rolled my hand at the wrist like I was playing charades. In a way, teaching is a lot like playing charades.

"Matter and . . .," I repeated.

"It *doesn't* matter?" Steven asked tentatively. Kneeling on the seat of his chair, he searched my face hopefully.

No one laughed. Steven hadn't been joking. To the class, the answer made perfect sense.

The world is made up of "matter" and "it doesn't matter."

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Marriage~


It is tough being perfect, my husband tells me.

He says this in response to my remark. "My God, it must be absolutely wonderful to be so perfect!"

I know. My comment smacks of sarcasm. I don't deny that. I spat it out in the car on the way home from dining out at a local restaurant we often go to on Friday or Saturday night.

It all started well. We were chatting, conversing about all sorts of things: local gossip, local politics, the state budget, what the name of the man at the bar was-- on this we could not agree-- the family sitting behind us, those kind of married topics, safe and un-erotic, as married conversations often are.

The thing is, we were not bickering. This was a good thing. We've been in a bickering mode lately, and it followed a pattern: I would make an innocent remark. He would react, badly. I would softly explain that I was innocent of whatever crime he thought I committed. He would get loud and angry. Back and forth we'd go. I'd try to explain; he'd shut me down. I would laugh and make jokes. He would get really pissed. I would get sarcastic, in a sweet, innocent way, I thought.

This time my crime was that I never remembered anything he told me.

We were talking about a meeting he'd been to. He's the treasurer. At the last meeting, he was telling me, the only board members that showed up were him, and Lisa the president.

My comment: "You're kidding! Only the two of you? That's pathetic."

His bad reaction, "I told you that at the time. You never listen to a thing I say!"

Okay. That is true at times, I admit. My soft explanation, "Well, I don't remember. But if I was sitting at my computer . . ."

His loud angry reaction: "What the heck difference does it make where you were sitting? I told you. You don't listen. You never remember anything I say."

"But when I'm typing, I . . ."

"Don't say another word! It doesn't matter where you were."

"It does matter. I'm trying to say that when I'm . . ."

To make a long story short, he couldn't remember where I was when he told me about the meeting, and he couldn't accept the fact that I might have been distracted by typing, and needed a transition time to tune in to what he was saying. And I refused to be shut down.

"If you can't remember where you were, maybe you *didn't* tell me," I challenged lightly. This was becoming ridiculous and I recognized that. I made comments lightly, kiddingly. Ha ha, are you serious?

Yes. He was serious. He told me I never listen.

Sometimes I tell you things, and you don't remember, either, I remind him.

No. He'd remember if I told him. I only think I told him.

This is where I became sarcastic and told him how nice it must be to be perfect.

"It can be tough," he said.

I sat silent, thinking my own thoughts for the rest of the ride home. Thoughts of how much more perfect I was than he was. I at least admitted when I was *not* perfect. And I at least, saw how foolish this conversation was. I remained detached, laughing inside, not angered, damn it! While he was an absolute fucking jerk!

We pulled into the driveway, and he said, "The black family two houses down have moved." He spoke as if we'd just been having a picnic in the park on a sunny day.

" Oh," I said. "I never knew there was a black family there." I was calm, smooth. Normal sounding.

"They've been there for a year and a half." He walked ahead of me to unlock the house. He was silent, no doubt mentally shaking his head at my "lack of awareness" as he sometimes called it.

In case he was, I mentally gave him the finger as I walked through the door he held open for me. He turned on the TV; I booted up my laptop.