Sunday, July 14, 2019

Jackpot

Clickety-clank clunk. Rattley-rattatattley-roll. Clang-y-clang-y-clang. Tink.

Diiiiiiiiiing!

I don't expect a jackpot.

Lately, the mechanical churn of the clothes dryer has been anything but dull in my house. Mid-cycle, the machine begins to resonate with the sharp metallic sounds of chaos.

I tend to follow the head-plunged-in-sand form of household detective work.

Had I been driving in my car, I would have held my breath and turned up the volume of the radio.

Had I been laundering sneakers that manage to kick their way free, I wouldn't have given the struggle a second thought.

The dishwasher made some noise last week that did sound right. I didn't even flinch. After all, what could that thing possibly do to me that is worse than not washing the dishes properly anyway?

But all this dread piling on pokes my consciousness into higher awareness. Has something else gone awry? Has an integral part shimmied free from the clothes dryer's bindings, sounding an alarm that catastrophe looms?

I've already managed to work around the door with a few screws missing. If I push it upwards as I slam it closed it will find its perfect fit.

The untimely death of its motherboard could orphan our bulky loads permanently.

No need to panic just yet ...

More likely it's just some loose change or a treasure stashed and forgotten: a drill bit; or a rock shaped like something extraordinary ... a heart, no doubt.

It is the rare resident who empties their pockets before tossing the day's togs in the hamper.

Not that I ever check to see if there is anything of value mingling within. I just stuff the lot of it unceremoniously into to the tub. Whites, Darks, Delicates? Pre- and spot-treat your garments? Psssssssssshaw. You are old enough now … but feel free to lodge any complaints with my wholely imaginary toll-free line: 1-800-DO-IT-YOURSELF!

Not that the toll-free line doesn't accept the other parent's credit no matter how much of his cash I have laundered over the years in these very machines. ...

You know ... like the two-day-old iPhone that inadvertently took a swim with the husband's work clothes … .

And the countless clothes (as well as the inside of the dryer drum) permanently marked by all the miniature sharpies a certain someone left in his pockets.

I'd like to think all the money that wound up in my coffers was figuratively a wash.

The room suddenly goes silent. An error message blinks unexpectedly.

I'm not worried. Sometimes it does that. Every device in the house harbors its own quirks.

I open the door, slide my hand into the whirl of warm fabrics, and check for dampness.

"Just a little bit longer," I tell the machine as if a soothing tone will make all the difference.

I reposition the clothes, reset the controls, and press Start again.

Nothing.

Once more ... with feeling.

This time the dryer comes to life, cascading the fabrics effortlessly and without the sinister clunking. 

This alone makes me feel as if I won the grand prize. Not that I expect a jackpot, just a couple of quarters when this cycle finally ends.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Best medicine

Every time the phone rings, I hold my breath a little. The air catches somewhere between my lungs and my throat. My heart beats faster.

Phone calls after prime time are the most affecting.

I always imagine the worst: An ending for someone, or at least the beginning of the end. 

Maybe it will start with a trip to a hospital. My heel rises and falls against the flooring to the rhythm of my own uncertainty. Will I be the one to decide if it will be-transportation-by-ambulance or if whatever it is that ails them can wait the 20 minutes until I get there?

Will I make the right choice?

The phone is still ringing.

I'm always ahead of myself. Mind racing with worst-case-scenarios until I lift the receiver.

A long pause between my tepid "hello" and some sunny voice -- the current ruse of  I'm-not-trying-to-sell-you-anything sales callers -- that isn't even human means I can hang up with neither pomp nor politeness.

I will inhale deeply and relax.

If there is an immediate voice at the other end of the line, it most likely belongs to my sister or my father. Sometimes both, as they live together and will trade off the handset like a game of hot potato. 

"Talk to him," she'll say with the exasperation of being able to move the stone wall in her midst. 

"Oh hi," he says. "What's up?"

"Sis tells me she's worried about you."

 All of us connected now, old school-like with tangled, tethered cords and modest fees for long distance despite our geographical locations separated by only 11 miles.

"Aw ... I'm fine. But I have this pain in my side. I didn't notice it until you left earlier today. Now it's just excruciating when I stand up and walk around. It doesn't hurt at all when I sit down, though."

He sounds a might anxious. 

"It doesn't sound too serious. Maybe you just pulled something."

I'm trying to sound cool.

For a moment, I wish caller ID could run the data for me. Check my work. Push a chyron of questions to ask so I could be sure my recommendation -- two extra-strength acetaminophen tablets and relaxing in a chair for the evening -- wouldn't amount to filial malpractice. 

But I don't have caller ID, and furthermore, I don't think I'd like a service that could cooly diagnose illnesses with ease of Dr. Google MD. I definitely wouldn't be about to fight my way out of that spiraling rabbit hole.

I trust the internets less than I trust myself. 

 All I can do is hang up and wait for the next phone call.

Which will happen in about 30 minutes ... 

Ring-ring ring-ring?

It's my dad.

"Hey, I gotta tell you something. I found a tick on the dog. It took me about a half hour to get it off of her. It was still alive! So as I was taking it outside, you won't believe what happened ...

"That pain in my side just disappeared."

The dam that had held back my breath finally broke, releasing with it a flood of laughter, the best medicine of all.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Bond fired

My boy tumbled off the school bus and into the house. He closed the door with a vibrating bang, did a little dance and let loose an echoing exclamation:

"Done!"

That wasn't the only word he used.

His declaration was more of a phrase uttered with attitude, a peppering of profanity, and, I'm assuming, some degree of cultural appropriation.

But I would be merely guessing.

Truth be told, the bridge between our generational divide - especially when it comes to nomenclature - seems a little more rickety these days.

It was the last day of school. And the first day of Summer. As a result, his binders, overfilled with papers, spilled out onto the floor.

A wide-ruled river of toil and turbulence overrunning its banks.

He had already swum ashore and into a kitchen with not enough snacks.

He harrumphed with disappointment before making his way to his room with a fistful of boring old crackers.

I stood in his way, elbows on hips. The universal expression of obstruction and determination. A dam.

"You need to take care of this mess."

Apparently, he'd planned a course of action ...

"Can we have a bondfire?"

I hesitated to correct him. But only for a moment. I couldn't help myself.

"It's bonfire ... without the D. ... BON-Fire."

He cocked his head at the angle that says: "I'm not sure I agree with your assessment there, deputy," but stops short of insubordination.

To which I recited from The online Dictionary of Etymology: "Bon•fire: 1550s, from Middle English banefire (late 15c.), "a fire in which bones are burned." See bone (n.) + fire (n.). Original sense obsolete and forgotten by 18c.; as 'large open-air fire for public amusement or celebration,' from late 15c. From 17c. as 'large fire from any material'."

He rolls his eyes -- the universally understood symbol of "School-is-over. I-am-not-legally-required-to-learn -any-new-stuff-until-after-Labor-Day."

"Burning bones, duuuude. How Goth is that?"

I deserved the blank stare that followed.

"You are lucky social studies is my favorite subject," he says with a sigh.

"So CAN we burn all of my last year's homework in a BONfire?"

Might have to wait for a snap of cold weather and use the wood stove; we're not zoned for open burning.

Still ... All that carbon. All that waste.

The kid in me can understand the appeal of taking your troubles and setting them aflame. But the adult in me can't help but temper the urge. The adult in me also knows that keeping this stuff will run the risk of creating a fire hazard all its own.

The adult in me wants him to find an equal joy in recycling it into smithereens.

"Hey … Let's SHRED!

Doesn't that sound fun? A shredder is something we might readily use as we try to curtail identity theft and fraud …

We'll need to go to the office supply place ... Hey! we can check out back-to-school stuff while we're there."

Funny how I managed to say all of that as he just stood and watched me, head cocked at the angle of disbelief, with a wide, wry smile.

"Yeah … I think I'm done here."

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Recidivists

We lounged on the porch drinking coffee and watching another Sunday morning go by. It was mostly quiet save for the random car and rhythmic thumping of bare feet against the floor decking -- the drumming was more of a nervous tick than an intentional beat. 

The odd clicking sounds coming from one of the phone keyboards we each had in our hands was an unexpected bonus. And one I didn't appreciate.

The more it draws my attention, the more I wish it would stop. This article I'm reading won't read itself, seeing as how I tend to keep my phone on silent mode.

The dog sat at attention as our less virtually active neighbors crisscrossed the sidewalk at the top of the lawn. 

Some waved if they happened to notice us watching from the shadows, not that the canine showed the least bit of interest. 

We waved back. She just stared. 

The dog perked up a little as others passed by with their pets. Her tail gave a half wave, sweeping the last of the maple seeds into an elegant curve, but she remained seated and calm. Her territory is decidedly further from the main road with its early morning trickle of traffic and truck noise.

A torrent is coming.

I wasn't feeling particularly territorial, either. 

I had mowed the grass and weeded the things near the flower beds that I thought were probably weeds. 

I'm not a gardener. I can never be sure what I'm yanking out by the root isn't the globe thistle I planted two years ago that never grew as prettily orbital as it did prickly sharp.

The cat joined us. Ever-so-slowly, stalking her way to the house from a thicket of shrubbery I had yet to trim. 

From time to time, she would stop and sink low to the ground. Moving not a single whisker.

Nothing moves in my scope of vision, peripheral or central. There is neither a chipmunk nor a catbird in sight. 

I wonder if she's losing her touch?

The mighty hunter, always on the prowl, finally growing long in the tooth.

It would be a bittersweet change. I certainly wouldn't miss rescuing rabbits or clearing the tiny corpses of mice from the feline's mortuary under the carport, where I also happen to keep my handful of barely used gardening tools.

But she's not alone out there in the grass.

A shadow of almost equal size wobbles out from under the forsythia and toward us on the porch. 

It's not a cat. I can tell by the white stripe along its back. 

For a moment I wonder if this juvenile
Le Pew has mistaken our Penelope Pussycat for its mother.

As she inches closer to our stinky new friend, I imagine something far worse. 

The dog.

My husband flies off the porch to scoop up the cat and save her from her questionable intuition while I grab the dog's collar and tow her into the house.

Of course, it will be the dog, in the backyard, two Sundays later in the middle of the night, who will inevitably meet the skunk face to bum.


That's how it works around here.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Repetition

I turned 50. I'm going to say it one more time and then never again: I. Turned. FIFTY. 

Now, this particular milestone happened some time last year. I'd tell you exactly when, but it's really none of your business and beside the point.

Of course, I didn't want to talk about it even though it occupied my every waking moment.

Didn't want to admit I'd reached the youth of old age. Especially not when I had spent the bulk of my middle years cheekily telling folks I was 27.

I want to think some of them believed me. Especially since my ploy – having continued to dress as if I were still attending high school (REM t-shirt and jeans, not lace tights and black nail polish) – is still in effect however dubious it may seem.

Instagram filters and lucky lighting have helped in this deception by allowing me to selectively curate my likeness to within twenty years of my actual age.

Also having the state-sanctioned ability to carry a license featuring an image of the second-year college me helps cement the illusion.

Having successfully avoided looking directly at any mirrors, or squinting protectively so as not to see the clarity of any details distorted though they may be by any reflective surface, I have even managed to trick myself into believing I haven't aged.

Of course, I have. But if I avoid those thoughts … or let them float away within the protective bubble of contemplative meditation … I don't  have to think about fitting into anyone's idea of me, especially my own.

But lately, I've been caught off guard by this person creeping around the house inside of the mirrors.

Eeeeegad! Whoisthat?

This person, upon closer inspection, is most certainly not a teenager. Or a college student. Maybe not even late 30s?

She has crows' feet and eye bags, and those strange little spots that old people have, and hair of an indiscriminate color at its roots.

Nothing about her looks rested. In a younger person, this could be shrugged off as burning the candle at both ends. In an older person, it becomes the early signs of dottery-old-ladydom.

Is this why women start shopping at Chico's? Is this why billowy, colorful clothes exist? So we can still look ridiculous but in an age-acceptable way?

Of course, it's not all about looks; she says as she pulls the skin back from her cheeks and up into her hairline. She is inspecting the chicken skin of her throat.

Oh, Third person! You have finally arrived to allow me the space I need to get to know the new me.

"Siri: Put. Moisturizer. On. The. Shopping. List."

"OK: Put most FBI Don the shoo-in lost."

The inevitability of the erosion of my abilities – especially as a person capable of harnessing modern technology -- is already showing wear at its raggedy edges.

The fact that my eCalendar has multiple entries for all national holidays (and I can't figure out how to delete them) might be Exhibit A in this Elder Self decline. However, the youthful me is still capable of arguing the fact that I use my smart phone's calendar AT ALL is totally and completely exonerating.

So what if I repeat myself?

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Solid ground

I have struggled for most of my pregnancy-capable life, trying to reckon what I believe in the abortion debate. Though never anti-abortion, I couldn’t make myself align with any of the familiar slogans. Even the word “choice” left me feeling off-kilter.

In my way of thinking, “choice” is a word for selecting shampoos or cuts of meat ... not for deciding the best medical procedure to ensure a patient endures the least harm.

What should have occurred to me sooner was obvious: abortion is part of basic medical care for women. 

Truly. There was so much I didn’t know about myself or my body. Or that other bodies could be so different than mine. There was so much I didn’t (and still don’t) understand about medicine, or how difficult it can be to get adequate care even in the best of circumstances, let alone the most trying.

I had no idea about all the medical situations that could necessitate an abortion later in pregnancy. Or how sudden these tragedies could present. I just assumed as a vast majority do, that late-term-abortion was a thing that should be rightly restricted.

But I was wrong. Late-term abortion isn’t even a medical term; but Triploidy, with a transverse lie, at 37 weeks gestation, is most certainly a medical event that induction can’t solve. Abortion would be the least harmful to the patient, but a doctor must do a c-section because of oppressive laws that the medically uninformed make.

Woman are living, breathing people who are entitled to the best possible care and the ability to decide just what that means for themselves.

In terms of statistics, I could count myself solidly among the three-fourths of women who went through her reproductive life with no need for abortion services. But I knew many who didn’t enjoy the same luck.

And then I had a daughter.

Having to imagine a life with fewer available interventions for her needs makes me furious.

For her, and for the person, I was at her age.

Why should any of us have to endure any shame or burden to prevent pregnancy, which can be as life-changing as any other serious medical condition we encounter.

Is it because an undue burden has always been on the person with the uterus - the patient? Why have the religious beliefs of the provider - even about the prescribing of birth control medication and devices - consistently outweighed the human rights of the patient? 

Pregnancy and birth are dangerous. Having had two c-sections and long-lasting complications from that surgery, I know the downside. But a cesarean is a medical procedure for a difficult birth. Imagine if we decided to take that off the table?

Abortion is a medical procedure women need for many, many reasons, none of which require the judgment of a priest or a politician. Nor should women be forced to walk through a gauntlet of hateful speech makers, or witness their doctors get murdered, as they navigate the complicated practice of reproductive healthcare.

And now as I watch states pass laws that will kill women and endanger health, as I watch us devolve, I feel the full weight and sorrow of having stood on the sidelines, thinking women’s rights were ever on solid ground.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Bloody Hell


That's what I might have titled the press release I was reading. "Bloody Hell."

Though, I imagine that's not what the writer had intended.

Our schools, it explained, would be getting medical kits and specialized training to stop a hemorrhage, thanks in part to seized drug money and rampant gun violence.

Not that it strung any of those words together in that order, either.

That's just how I read between the lines as the missive came through the ether into my morning news alerts.

It was a few days late, but it turns out May 23rd was second annual National Stop The Bleed Day, one of many toss-spaghetti-against-the-wall marketing techniques used by businesses and organizations to bring awareness to superfluous and serious causes alike.

You know ... such as the increasingly likely possibility that our children will bleed to death from a sucking chest wound at school (or witness someone bleed to death) because we, as a society, won't do anything about guns.

But since we can't just do nothing, we'll spend a small amount of resources to get out schools peripherally prepared for carnage.

My husband tried to calm me as I highlighted the bullet points of this "grassroots effort" by various government agencies to stop an unnecessary killer in our community: bleeding out.

The news report didn't specifically mention the type of bleeding this particular initiative was meant to alleviate, although four out of five random Google searches pointed to maternal hemorrhage and gunshot wounds in the medical tally sheet of the leading causes of preventable blood loss deaths.

"Now, honey .... when you write about this, try to stick to the preparedness part," said my husband as he watched my eyes flash while I tried to stammer out a framework of thoughts.

"You and I may think it's a dumb idea born out of an unholy marriage between Department of Defense overstock and the very stable marketing genius behind Homeland Security, but other people will say 'there's no harm in being prepared.'

"Also ... we talking about a budget of what? Six hundred bucks?"

He looks over my shoulder at the catalog I downloaded.

"I mean ... look it says right here that a group of surgeons and EMT organizations are supporting this initiative.

"Maybe make a case for more access to Narcan training, or expanding drug education in that same preparedness lecture -- strike that, I mean essay -- you've got churning around in your head."

He makes valid points: Basic first-aid experience is something everyone should have. From Heimlich maneuver posters to portable defibrillators, the average citizen becomes a citizen savior.  The same could be true of this, especially since we don't exactly know how many Las Vegas-style mass shootings or Boston Marathon-type bombings will be in our future.

Now that we've accepted the protection of gun, we must train everyone else to deal with their traumatic aftermath. 

And who knows, in a few years -- when we've made healthcare inaccessible (or illegal) I might feel better about this grassroots effort preparing our kids to heal themselves.