Monday, June 29, 2009

Dad Might be the Road Warrior....

But the Kids Bear the Scars.

It's all over the news. Dad travels, bad things happen. Take Jon and Kate Plus Ei8ht and all their convoluted New Math...Jon goes to Utah with his 23-year-old NotBabyMama and Kate has to file for divorce and get a manicure and have the Hedgehog Hair trimmed in the same day. And that governor goes to the Appalachian Trail, no wait, maybe it was Buenos Aires for Father's Day weekend with his NotBabyMama and his four kids are left with glittery handmade cards and no one to bestow them upon.

Tragedies, for sure.

I speak from experience. My own personal father was often on the road. Consequently,

my mother served beets.

Tuna salad, which is a lovely Daddy-is-Away Dinner; and canned beets. Beets were never on the menu when Daddy was home.

Fifty years later, I feel compelled to speak out. Perhaps because my precious, precious granddaughter is sampling vegetables.

Beets are pretty, don't get me wrong. Such a lovely color. But they taste like dirt. Not that I've ever tasted dirt. They taste like pavement smells when a rain storm sets in. That's fine for the Great Outdoors, but a little weird for dinner. They are too big to swallow with milk (believe me, I've tried, even though I HATE milk...) You can sneak them to the dog, because frankly, what's a little dirt to someone who chews on sticks; but there will be purple stains on the carpet before she finishes them.

There is a really good book, entitled, "The Beet Queen", by Louise Erdrich. Enjoy the read. But please, don't foist that dirty dish on your children. They could be scarred for life.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fool Me Once, Shame on You...

Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me!
(Life in RenoLand...the Second Time Around.)

I always swore I would NEVER AGAIN live in a house undergoing renovations. Clearly, I am a liar. Because here I am, with my merry band of hounds, and Foster the Kitty; smack in the belly of the beast.

Because the hounds are extremely aged and high-maintenance, and because Foster is extremely young and high-maintenance, they cannot hang out at the already-renovated and usually-empty other house while I get this one ready for market. They need Staff. And that would be me, because I can work pretty much wherever I'm planted; as long as I have a torch to melt precious metals and a whole bunch of expensive bending tools that look eerily like bending tools at The Home Depot. So the six of us, along with Foster's precious stuffed RatRat, are hanging out here for a few weeks. And I am melting things, and serving as "Staff."

This is a four-point project. Part one, new appliances in the kitchen. Cake. Deceptively easy, in fact. So easy that the Appliance Switchers encouraged me to allow Foster the Kitty to "supervise", a role he takes rather seriously. They pulled the old cook top, Foster inspected the existing wiring for code violations. They installed the new cook top, Foster sat on top to test load recs. And he shared RatRat when they broke for Chick-Fil-A. There is something innately incongruous about a Fetching Kitty on a construction site.

Part two. The icky 1987 shiny-tiny white tile and peach entry marble had to go to its just reward. A Supervising Kitty and a jackhammer is not such a great combo; and the hounds insisted on "warning" me with every blow of the hammer...Danger, Will Robinson! So the six of us retreated to my basement studio. Where hounds found renegade beads and precious metals on the floor and consumed them; causing precious and quite attractive poop. And Foster, with his innate 1/2 Siamese wisdom, employed ancient feng shui principles to rearrange my workspace. My Sam's Club bottle of Acetominophen has seen a great deal of action this week.

We are now embarking on Phase 3. Refinishing floors gouged by a collective 80 dog toenails for a good ten years. None of which will TOUCH the finished product...the are going to wear socks from here on out. Because the fumes are quite unpleasant, we will vacate the property for a couple of days. Which means that tomorrow, between reveille and 0900, I have to gather absolutely everything we might need for the next 5 days and stuff it somewhere in the rental car. My personal car, an Audi tt, is really just a go-kart with a roof. I couldn't possibly pack five days of stuff for a herd of dogs, Foster the Kitty and myself in its minuscule self. I had to rent a Hyundai SantaFe or Similar Vehicle from Budget Rent-a-Car.

Then, finally, there will be Phase Four. We will paint the walls and trim floor to ceiling. I am certain that Foster will have our best interests in mind as he oversees the spraying process...

And then...through the magic of the Internet we will connect with the exact person who wants to inhabit our lovely, renovated Atlanta Zen Zone.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Ice, Ice, Baby!

My cousin says that I "seem to have problems with things that are supposed to be cold." She says this because it took my Fix-It Guy a month to put in my new air conditioner; and that happened to be the exact same month I was under doctor's orders to stay cool and refrain from sweating, because I was mid-treatment for skin cancer BROUGHT ON BY MY AFFINITY FOR WARMTH. And then, not two weeks later, the ice maker in my nearly new and dreadfully stylish French Door GE Profile Refrigerator fritzed. And, of course, being a fan of Facebook, I couldn't wait to share this delicious tidbit with my family and friends. So my cousin came to her logical conclusion...

Not even knowing that, 20 years ago, the predecessor of the French Door GE Profile Refrigerator (may it rest in peace) had ice maker issues, too. Sears tried, unsuccessfully, to fix it on three different occasions. Son One, aged 10 at the time, claimed he could solve the problem. He was told, in no uncertain terms, that he was NOT to disassemble the refrigerator; which he did the next time I went to the grocery store. And fixed the problem so well that the predecessor refused to die. I finally pulled the plug. Without remorse. That thing was UgLy with a Capital L.

Anyway, the French Door GE Profile Refrigerator had been making ice cubes nicely since it moved in. Enough for drinks, and the occasional Reverse Hockey Game for Foster the Cat. (Ice puck on rubber floor. Smack, chase, smack, chase.) And then I left it alone for 3 days. Which generally resulted in an overpopulation of cubes, but this time...nada. Nothing. Zero.

A cursory quest for the refrigerator manual turned up...nada. again. I know I put it in a good place, though.

On line search: Gloom and Doom, and story after story about the failure of ice makers in the dreadfully stylish French Door GE Profile Refrigerators.

And helpful advice about "troubleshooting."

One article advised that I check to see if the "toggle switch" is in the correct position.

To find the "toggle switch", one must remove the "faceplate" of the ice maker. I figured that out.

Aha! A switch! Which, unless the Toggle Switch Fairy showed up to remove the faceplate while I was away, no one has touched since the fridge was installed.

But, just to be sure, I looked to see what it was set on. There are two choices:

O and

Or is it

0 and

"Off" and "Ice"?

"Zero" and "One"?

What the...

The article also advised that I check the "integrity" of "connections." I tugged on water lines. I wiggled the "sensor arm." I flipped the "toggle switch". I crammed the "faceplate" back into position. I said a prayer, I crossed some fingers; and listened carefully.

And heard the distinctive "thunk" of an ice cube in the "Harvest Cycle."

And, by the end of the day, I had a glass full of ice.

It might be a miracle; or perseverance. It might be plain old dumb luck.

But I have conquered cold. For the moment.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Around The World In Eighty Years?

I have an intense fascination with beads. Quite possibly, an obsession. Beads have been around since the dawn of humanity. They were (and still are, in some places) our first form of currency. And, best of all, you can wear them! Our wise forefathers, deciding that the safest place to keep their valuables was under the woolly mammoth skin, on their very person; invented the hole. Which caused the bead. And eventually, led to Bling. Then again, it was probably our wise foremothers who invented the hole. After the forefathers whined one too many times, "Honey, have you seen my striated agate trade stones? I know I left them on the shelf by the entrance to the cave when I emptied my mammoth skin pocket. But they aren't there nooooooow..."

I love local beads. The ones made of recycled soda cans in Mexico. Lava, in The Ring of Fire countries. Moose poop in Alaska. (I did not make that up.) I have spent a great deal of time in Indonesia; consequently, I have a lovely collection of Bali silver beads, Indonesian "mosaic" beads, and recycled Java glass.

Indonesia - Java, in particular, has been producing recycled glass beads for a long, long time. These beauties can be found in a rainbow of colors. They are frosty and rustic; and I love to combine them with shiny sterling silver. It is a happy and balanced combination.

The last time I was on Bali, I stopped by a favorite beading haunt; where I found the yummy lemony-yellow beads I featured in my "Jumpin' East of Java bracelet", shown above. My shopkeeper-friend had only a handful of them; she had gotten them from a market on Java. They were clearly quite old; and not frosty, like typical Indonesian recycled glass. I was dazzled; I bought the handful. Made and sold several "Jumpin' East of Java" bracelets; kept one for myself.

Fast-forward to yesterday:

I have bunches of vintage crystals, and some of them have a secret. They are Vaseline Glass; which was made around the turn of the 20th century. For the amusement of those stuffy Victorians, who thought that having jewelry, and even tableware, that would glow under ultra-violet light might be fun. (Ooh, gut-punch to all the aging hippies - we did not invent black light to light up our Free Love posters! Johann Ritter discovered it in 1801! Way before posters!) So, glass artists added a little uranium to their glass recipes to make the glass glowy - no worries, it is not a dangerous level; and the glass is a natural barrier anyway - and made all kinds of fun stuff. Including some really awesome beads!

Most of the Vaseline Beads were made by the popular beadmakers of the times, the Italians, Bohemians and Czechs. Eventually, This War and That War gobbled up the uranium reserves, and Vaseline Bead production fizzled.

So, anyway. Yesterday I had this notion that I would like to make some Vaseline Glass earrings. I went down to the studio with my portable black light, to scan my box of crystals for glowy beads. Lights off, black light on, dozens of glowy crystals in the crystal box, and...whoa...what was that I saw out of the corner of my eye? The. Java. Beads. Were...GLOWING!!!???

Indonesia didn't make Vaseline Glass. I knew the shopkeeper who sold me the beads. I knew she got her stock on Java. How the heck did the Vaseline Glass get to an Indonesian island?

The plot thickens.

A little research turned up a strand of beads that matched mine exactly. They are Bohemian, made in 1915; for trade to Mali. Mali, with an "M"; close phonetically to "Bali" but far away, in Africa.

These rare little gems left Old Bohemia in the early 20th century, headed to Africa. Sometime between 1915 and 2007, they found their way to Java, and then to Bali. Then, via Singapore, to Atlanta, GA...and now they are scattered to the US winds. Oh, the stories they could tell...

Like I said,

I have an intense fascination with beads. Quite possibly, an obsession.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tough Medicine - The REST of the Story!

When we last saw our fair and quite splotchy heroine, she was clutching a prescription for - Hallelujah! - steroid cream that would stop - Oh, Sweet Heaven! - the chemical reaction that had turned her face into one hot mess. Let's follow her as she wheels the Audi tt to the pharmacy at the closest grocery store!

By now, my face had been naked for some two hours; and my major worry was that I would grin when the pharmacist handed me the salve, and my lips would split in two and my forehead would part like the Red Sea and I would ooze all over the pharmacy counter. I shouldn't have worried. THAT didn't happen. In fact, smiling was not a remote possibility. I waited semi-patiently while the lady in front picked up three prescriptions; two of which she thought should have reflected Senior Discounts, but did not; and one that wasn't hers. Which she did not discover until she had emptied her purse on the counter to find the flyer with the list of pharmaceuticals which SHOULD have been discounted (she didn't find it); and then, in agonizingly slow motion, wrote a check, messed it up, tore it into little pieces; asked for a trash can, wrote another check, signed for the medications and noticed that someone else's first name was on the third one. She decided she only had two things to pick up after all, and wrote another check. And slowly, very slowly, gathered up her purse contents, said "Hey" to some passersby (it was Senior Wednesday) and...LEFT...THE... COUNTER!!!!

I was dancing on the inside at this mere moments I could slather my face with yet another unnatural cream! Suddenly, there was no Pharmacist, there was no Pharmacy Tech, there was no Intern from the local pharmacy college. I was pretty sure it wasn't The Rapture; because there were still a lot of people in the store. Maybe donuts in the break room? Designated potty time?

No, there they were. Over there by the. Drat. Computer. With puzzled frowns. Pushing buttons, checking wires. Hello, my face hurts! Do you want me to ooze all over the counter? I think I drummed my fingernails lightly on the Formica. OK, maybe I pounded it a little bit...they sent Alexis the Intern over.

She tried not to stare. And told me that "Actually, the computers are down." I could leave my prescription, and retrieve it later in the afternoon.

At that point, I believe I channeled Thelma and Louise. I also harbored deep hostility toward people who use the word "actually."

"Alexis, I am in a great deal of pain. I do not intend to leave this store without my steroid cream. I am going to shop a bit, and check back. Hopefully, we can figure out a way for me to leave here with my medication, even if the computers are, actually, down." Not one of my finest speeches, but combined with the fact that my face looked like a Flame Broiled Boca Burger, it appeared to make an impact. Alexis all but bowed, asked me to give them half an hour, and I found myself in the produce section.

Let me just tell you, when your face is cracking like hard-boiled egg shells, salad dressing starts to look sexy. Ooh, just imagine the silky feel of Marie's Blue Cheese against this parched landscape. And, don't ever EVER find yourself with Chemo Face in the Extra Virgin Olive Oil section. Morality goes right out the window. The thought of breaking the seal on that sweet and lush potion...

And then, over the PA system: "Will the lady with the TERRIBLE, DISGUSTING SKIN RASH please report to the pharmacy?" In fairness, I think they used my name. But, judging from the faces of the folks I passed, I'm not entirely sure. Especially since most of them had cataracts.

The pharmacy had only one tube of the medication prescribed. And it was for half the amount my doc recommended. I should come back tomorrow.

I'm not sure if I grabbed Alexis by her lapel. The one that had her Pharmacy School Sorority Pins on it. But I did suggest that I was going to stand in line and look ugly until I got my half-sized tube. And that I would be more than happy to pick up the second half-sized tube another day. And then...Sweet Jesus and All the Archangels...I had it! The Cream! I signed some stuff, and I was free! With The Cream!

I made it as far as my car. Slathered...not

Tried not to cry, failed; which also stung.

My Great Expectation was to - today, one week post-chemo - post my pretty new face. But, patience is a virtue. Stinging is history. I still look like a prize fighter; but I am a cancer-free prize fighter. TKO.

Would I do it again? You bet. But I would lay in my supply of steroid cream before I needed it. And I would probably invest in a nice burka.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Tough Medicine: The Sequel

So, today was The Big Day. The Day of Reckoning. Judgment Day. The Final Exam.

The day I was to find out if I had to do Round Two; a fresh hell of Carac Chemotherapy.

What was left of my face was a bloody, scabby, itchy, burny, dry, yet oozy, mess. My very own hand, the Applicator of Creamy Doom, had become my worst enemy. The voices in my head, arguing about whether we "Must!" or whether we "Can't!" smear the flesh-eating Horror in a Tube on the ravaged landscape yet another time, reached crescendo after crescendo; screaming like banshees in between. I was alternately ecstatic about my doctor's visit; and abjectly terrified.

I awoke 4 hours before my 8:30 AM appointment, so I would have plenty of time to fret. There was still product in my chemo tube. What if I hadn't used enough? What if I had used too much, and would now require surgery to repair the permanent scarring? And, what if...what if...I had to do this all over?

I had read the statistics. 30% of people prescribed the Carac treatment cannot finish the first round. I realized that NOWHERE in the literature is the failure rate of second rounds addressed. I would imagine that is because there are no known survivors.

CoffeeCoffeeCoffee; the whole time knowing that I had to wash my face, removing the chemo cream that was holding it together at the moment, and then refrain from applying sunscreen - the same sunscreen that stung and burned and made me want to climb in the freezer and close the door behind me and rest my head on the Double Brownie Lowfat Double Churned Active Culture Frozen Yogurt and freeze to death - and yet sunscreen was mildly moisturizing and seemed to hold some of the blood in where I had chasms that could hold full-sized rivers. No sunscreen for me this morning, no sir! Au naturel.

I did the math. It would take me exactly 6 minutes to get to my doctor's office. So, if I washed my face 10 minutes before my appointment time, I would only have 4 minutes of naked pain before I got my marching orders.

Of course, any medical practice worth its Biohazard Box is running a half-hour late before it even opens. So there I was, nakedfaced and burning; trying to read a book about quilts that just happened to be in my trunk, because a friend had given it to me the night before. No, I haven't got the foggiest idea how to quilt. And, even though I remembered my reading glasses (which hurt to wear, by the way,) I had read at least 2 chapters before I realized the book was upside down.

Weeks later, my name was finally called. Someone in polyester scrubs featuring woodland creatures, escorted me to my next waiting area; noting that, "WOW! That's quite a rash you have there! It must hurt!" Fortunately my pulled hamstring was aching...I have a pretty decent karate kick when I feel good.

The Woodland Creature Lady assured me it would be "just a sec" before Doc appeared. Let me pause to define "sec". A "sec" is the time it takes Doc to see Patient A and her Band-Aided chin, talk into the tape recorder regarding Patient A; see Patient B who was referred by her daughter, talk into the tape recorder regarding Patient B, talk in the hall to two co-workers, talk in the hall to someone, presumably the Woodland Creature lady about me, and knock on the door. I know this because the walls there seem to be made out of mostly thin air, with some small amount of fiber added to hold generic white paint.

My face, which is now sans any type of goo for a couple of hours, is pretty unhappy; not to mention flaky and so dehydrated that the corners of my eyes have drawn together. I have univision. I feel terrible. If I don't get a good report; well, let's just say it won't go well for someone.

Doc gasps when she sees me. She says, "You must hate me!" I assure her that "hate" is an awfully strong word. I am more in the "dislike" camp.

Sensing my hostility, she is quick to say that I have had an "excellent reaction." That I "really lit up." and that she is "so pleased."

That makes one of us.

She sends me off for steroid cream, to stop the chemical reaction, I am done. DONEDONEDONE. For two years!!!!!

All I have to do is go to the pharmacy, to get the 'scrip filled. What could possibly go wrong?

Ooh! Cliffhanger!!!