Wednesday, June 29, 2011

a matter of Pride, or dikes on bikes, take your pick

I wake up in this shady suburb of Minneapolis and the household is slow to rise on Saturdays. I have the rare pleasure of reading in bed before I brush my teeth. It is good to be in the home of two adult women.  Matters flow smoothly and we go about our personal business without someone expecting a meal or a shirt ironed.

It is Pride weekend, a two-day event of which I will never see the likes in my redneck town of  farmers and pool hall customers. And Jane and I check it out.

And baby, is this a party or what and even Mardi Gras will have trouble matching this kind of manic festivity. No faction of human society is more imaginative, more inventive, more humorous than gays for tragedy is truly the root of comedy and tragedy they own.  Glitter everywhere and women in crew cuts with t-shirts announcing "Boobies are Great" and "Lesbian Recruiter" and men in their skivvies and do you think that's a rolled-up sock in there, Jane wonders.
It's easy to like Minneapolis.

Later I take my walk on a nearby hiking trail and no one makes eye contact, big cities are great for their anonymity.  Back home strangers would try to lure me in, start a conversation, want to introduce me to their dog, jeesh.  

Sunday, June 26, 2011

salmonella poster boy

Browned some chicken breasts and then headed out the door to pick up  grandchildren and redistribute them to different locations around town according to our crazy summer vacation schedule.  I come home to find Big Dave actually washing out the pans, thankful that I finally cooked something and two of the chicken breasts had gone missing.  Knowing they were still raw enough to walk out the door I realize their destiny was my husband's belly. "They weren't cooked," I announce, good gawd, they were 87% raw and I am wondering if this is the last sentence I will ever say to him.  "Yeah, I thought they were kind of different."  I think he's looking greenish.

I hope he doesn't expire anytime soon as I have plans for the weekend and he is involved.  I'm heading north to Minneapolis to visit my friend Jane and he needs to drive half of the commute.  Jane will pick me up at a Sunshine market in Chatfield, Minnesota as I do not do highways.  Nothing that involves speed has ever agreed with me and that reminds me of my first and last horse ride, barreling down the hillside and I am clinging sideways to Old Bessie, my arms and legs wrapped around her belly and back, my face buried in her shoulder.  I was twelve years old and I knew I was about to die and my friend, Mary Agnes who slapped that mare's butt and got it all going, is laughing so hard she wet her pants.  I am still uncomfortable around large animals.
Jane is the one person who understands my addiction to fountain diet Coke in large unbiodegradable cups filled with luscious, crunchy ice.  It's what friends are for - they either share your addictions or allow you them without judgment and Jane qualifies for the first group. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

preaching to the choir

At long last a Planned Parenthood office opened up in this town and it's wedged between a tattoo joint and a boutique that sells chain-link necklaces and torn t-shirts.  Bright yellow signs began appearing in church rectory yards announcing the devil had come to town.  I had left my pew during a family wedding and was waiting in the vestibule for the sermon to be over. This overly zealous priest was droning on and on about Adam missing a rib and then suddenly Eve was on the scene and why are we still selling this crap to young women, it's demeaning.  I was shuffling through the pamphlets and then I saw it, a sign-up sheet for protesters in front of the Planned Parenthood office. The local Right to Life chapter would provide the signs showing bloody fetuses with proclamations like PLANNED PARENTHOOD MURDERS CHILDREN. I can't think of a national movement that scares me more than these guys except maybe the National Rifle Association.

I am not an advocate of abortion.  When I became aware of each of my three pregnancies my imagination was already watching that child's college graduation. A little cluster of cells? - no, an upright human being at my supper table, yes. But it's none of my business what decisions a woman makes about her own body and Big Brother governing agencies need to look elsewhere to meddle.  I have a problem with men carrying those anti-abortion signs, well, I do. 

Government should exist for a minimal amount of reasons.  They need to protect us from the creepy unshaven guys wandering our neighborhoods and the madmen across the ocean with their  terrorist ideologies. And justice, the system needs to be swift and honest and we're still working on that one. All the rest should be handled by the citizens at large.
Abortion is a deeply personal affair and  the majority of women who show up for this procedure are unresourceful and uninformed and in some cases, just plain dumb.  These unfortunates need our compassion, not our judgmental displeasure and they need a program that teaches not patronizes. If only it were that simple. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

the mammogram

No other phrase strikes so much fear into the hearts of American women, except maybe, all sales final.
My annual mammogram was coming up and I began sweating it early like the serious hypochondriac I am.

It is 1985 and Jane and I were in Des Moines facing another round of governmental training.  We were eating at a tex-mex place and the hostess had a strange harness attached to her arm and I am staring at it.  "That woman had a mastectomy," Jane said.  And then I am telling her about the discharge I had from my left nipple.
There was blood in that discharge smeared across the microscopic slide and I am being trundled into surgery.  Afterwards my surgeon looms above me, Butterfinger candy bar fragments around his mouth.  I turn and see my mother, my aunt Leona, I have no husband at this time.  Am I all right?  They nod yes, gratified.
Twice more in the next few years I am on that gurney.  One lump I discovered myself and the other found on a routine mammogram, grains of sand scattered in the tissue, a change, cause for concern. 
I am lucky.  All three biopsies were benign, intraductral papilloma, pre-cancer cells caught early.

I'm not ready to die yet.  And I know my control of this situation is tenuous and not totally up to me.  I exercise and eat broccoli and I put away those cigarettes a long time ago, god, I miss them.   I want to see my grandchildren grown, hold their babies and chuckle with Susan about our bad boy days.  So I go in for those annual mammograms even though they scare the bejezus out of me.  There is cancer in my family and I'm going to take our twenty-first century technology and kick it in the balls.  Women, get your mamms grammed and Carrie, this means you.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

br-ring! br-ring! it's your tumor calling . . .

Whoa, that's strong stuff, but once again the headlines scream, "Cell Phones Cause Cancer!"  Lordy, we're going to visit that place again.

I didn't worry when the first reports of cell phone malignancy made the news.  It was years ago and I didn't have one of the trendy gadgets.  This time around I do but I don't use the darn thing much because I'm not a phone person.  The irritating tool is just a way of passing  information or receiving it and socialization is not its purpose for this kid. My calls are brief and then the little guy with the turquoise and magenta plaid cover, so fashionable, is tucked away in my backpack far from my ear.  One small observation is cited towards the end of the article.  "Of special concern are persons who use their phones as alarm clocks because the cells are near their heads all night exposing them to a greater amount of  'whatever it is that they're supposed to have.'"  Okay, I would be that person.  I keep a ticking time bomb near my brain when I sleep because I prefer to wake up to the tinkling notes from my cell and not a radio DJ's choice of tunes.

Take any medical issue today and odds are what they are reporting as unwholesome now will be undone next week, and then back again.  I wish these research people would double check their petri dishes, take  time to think and talk amongst themselves, and then finally after great deliberation send the material out to the publisher. Mr. Science need to slow things down before he gets us all overly excited.  Just a suggestion.
And then there's the fact that everybody from fourth grade up has a cell phone.  Wherever I am there is radiation piercing through my soft tissue from countless phones owned by people I don't know.  Think I'll just stay in the pool.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

sonny's sock mystery

Cameron and I visit Sonny. The toddler is hungry and  I'm scrounging  in the back of his freezer for ice cream and my father says, "I want to show you something."

"I think this is really incredible," he says, his voice quiet and awed. I expect something big, alien abduction, an angel sighting, Einstein's relativity theory proved wrong.   He places a black sock on the table.

"Your mother used to darn socks."  I remember, our big house on the cottonwood shady street, Marie sitting in her chair after supper, housecoat and slippers, her shapely legs crossed.  She held an old light bulb with a sock stretched over and she would make a patch of crisscrossed threads over the hole.  Special thread, five strands woven into one, stretched over cardboard balls, colors in her basket.  Night after night after night our socks got darned, darn it.

When I married I moved a hundred miles away and then I saw it, a hole, in my husband's dark work sock.  Call to mom, you need to teach me to darn socks.  Pssht, she, psshted, annoyed at my request.  Just go buy a pair, they're only 39 cents, hello 1973.  I realized that she darned because she needed to keep her fingers busy.  Even when it was time to relax she needed to be productive, oh, Marie.
"When we moved to this townhouse thirty some years ago," my father says, "she said she was not going to darn socks anymore."

So yesterday my father is putting his socks on and he feels a small darned patch.
"I never noticed this before and I rotate my socks like I do all my clothes."  Translation: Sonny lines up his socks, underwear, t-shirts, etc; and he wears the front socks and when they are laundered they go to the back of the line.
"How could have I missed this sock?  Could it have been there all this time?" Sonny wonders.
Anyone who knows my father knows that yes, he would have thirty-year old socks in his drawer.  He shops frequently at second-hand stores and wears his corduroy pants until the bottoms are shiny to the chagrin of my mother and me.
"I know she didn't come back to darn my sock but do you think that was a signal from her?  That she is here and thinking of me?"
Oh, yes, I'm going to say yes to that one, Sonny.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

amused in Kansas

So we travel to Kansas City, Kansas - not Kansas City, Missouri which is right across the Missouri river from Kansas City, Kansas.  How confusing, how many ales did the city elders consume before they agreed to these names. And it's Missourah, not Missouri, because these hillbillies don't know how to talk as they are practically Southerners.  Accents, I don't have one.  Midwesterners speak in a bland, stretched-out fashion and in my town we still have German remnants like "Yah (yes), zinc (sink), crick (creek), and my favorite, warsh (wash.)  My well-traveled son cringes at some of my words, "it's produce, not prahduce and say soda, not pop," but we are always understood, I remind him, and nobody asks us to repeat anything.

We are visiting my son-in-law and daughter-in-law and they do not fall into the pre-mentioned category, they do know how to talk, and well. They have degrees from Colorado and their children's bookshelves are bursting with good titles and my daughter-in-law's blogs give reference to their children being trained in etiquette, a strong Christian faith and a straight forward integrity. 
We go to an amusement park to be amused, I guess.  The majority of the afternoon I spend walking around soaked clear through to my bloomers from sitting in rides that mimicked white water rafting. I didn't mind, it kept me cooled and I am glad I did not choose a thin white fabric for my blouse today.

I don't care for the South. The fact that many Southerners sport a Confederate flag in the back windows of their pick-up trucks offends me. I dated a boy from Tennessee when I was 16 and he was an obnoxious cad.  But he wore tight lemon yellow pants over his nicely chiseled buttocks and for me that excused his lack of character.  He had a jaunty attitude with an enticing pirate's sneer, a real bad boy and I found him adorable but every time I spoke he would ask me to repeat.  I finally stopped the repetition and he would answer me but always a few seconds later.  I asked, why, you're obviously hearing me. "Well," he answered, in a sultry drawl,  "we Southerners just don't talk slow . . . . we think slow."  Well, there you have it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

a toad or two

Be nice, Dave clucks at me. I am driving and this lumnuts cuts into my lane making me  lose twenty miles per hour really fast and I respond loudly.  I address his relationship with his mother, his lack of social status and his love of all things country.  I don't apologize for my driving.  I'm a fast woman and a busy woman and I need to get there and back.

God, it's hot. I sweat more as I age and this surprises me as every other body function seems to be drying up. My outdoor exercise regime leaves me red-faced and almost panting, sweat is good, my mantra.  Dave doesn't like spending money on creature comforts and if I didn't say something the air conditioner would remain off or set at eighty-three degrees.  We might as well sit outside, it's cooler.

Last day of school, drat, that went fast.  This summer children will live with me four days weekly. It will take time to acclimate to the invasion. I will attempt to set boundaries and they will evaporate and dissolve and then form again and there will be days when I wonder, when did I lose control of this situation.  I will spend the majority of the summer in the car, transporting children to necessary places.  But we chill in the pool a lot and  perhaps catch a toad or two and in the end it will fill up a space in me.  I walk in my garden, muttering to myself, what must the neighbors think, hoo-ha . . .

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I have to do this

The phone rings early and it is my oldest son, Jason, calling from Viet Nam.  We are twelve hours behind his time and  while I am making my breakfast choice he is preparing his bed roll.  Two years will pass before we see him and I am grateful for the gods of techno magic who gave me Facebook, Skype and email and we stay connected.
Jason is the unassuming American, the obscure tourist and he enters a new country to study and observe and he will not leave a mark of any kind.   Americans want coddled, flashy vacations and those are the ones you see walking into a McDonald's in Paris.  We whine and demand and non-Americans see us as ugly and demeaning and downright rude, and they are right.
This trip has brought Jason to Laos and Cambodia, Thailand and now Vietnam and he is enjoying this little country with the unfortunate history.  
The villagers point and laugh at this small white man and many of these remote bergs are not on the map. He is seeing how most of the world lives, a shack, home sewn clothes, a goat and pig, rice and corn crops. The urban areas are crazy loud and he describes Hanoi as a city on steroids.  Jason bought  a motorbike that he will sell  before leaving the country. I  picture him put-putting down a dirt road trying to avoid the chickens.
Jason reminds me that he and I had talked about going to England for a few weeks to commemorate my 60th birthday next April, oh, this was long ago.  I hem and I haw, this trip has always been thrilling as long as it was anticipatory, in the future and I can't imagine myself so far away from my Iowa home.  But I have to do this, have to do this, my aunt Gloria out in Arizona tells me, her voice rising, you do not want to regret not going.  I will live out of a knapsack and bunk in hostels and that means widening my boundaries regarding personal space.  Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.  Luckily, I will be with a seasoned traveler, one who has studied hundreds of maps all over the world.  The Cowboy will  not be going.  He would insist on eating at McDonald's and would try and make the Buckingham Guards laugh.  And Susan, I'm still interested in going to Mexico for lobster.