I've been a little under the weather for the past couple of days with costochondritis. Costochondritis is an inflammation of the cartilage that attaches the ribs to the breastbone. This connective tissue is what gives the rib cage its ability to expand and contract. When the cartilage is inflamed, the chest wall hurts, sometimes so severely it's difficult to breathe properly.
I get these attacks three or four times a year and they last a couple of days. Generally, it's just an irritant on the order of a minor sore throat. It's there, it hurts a little, but it doesn't stop me from going about my business. But this latest episode poleaxed me. The tiniest upper body movement was painful, breathing was limited to very shallow breaths, and forget trying to sleep. It hurt the least if I stayed upright, and sleeping upright is not a talent I ever mastered, so I dozed in fits and starts. After a couple of lousy days, I woke up this morning feeling much better and able to breathe normally. I just have that wiped out feeling similar to what one gets after recovering from a bout of the flu.
In the middle of this attack, I took my mother to meet my aunt and cousin for lunch. My husband thought I was crazy and told me to stay home, but that would mean admitting to my mother I was not feeling well, and she's the type to go off the deep end if anyone in the family gets so much as a paper cut. It was easier to suck it up than deal with her drama. Besides, the lunch date had already been postponed twice.
I really don't know how I got through those two hours. I was forced to move very slowly, but my mother moves slower, and because she has to hang onto me when walking, my own ambulatory problems were, fortunately, masked by hers. I just wish she didn't hold my hand in such a death grip. Then, because I had no appetite, I was going to order tortilla soup, but realized I would have to assume that hunched over posture people use when slurping soup, and that would pile on more pain. I finally settled on quesadillas. After lunch, we walked, or rather my aunt and cousin walked, my mother and I shuffled, over to a little gift shop owned by a friend that I thought my relatives would enjoy browsing through. By the time we left the shop, said our good-byes, and shuffled back to the car, I was trying to figure out how I could get my hands on my mother's hydrocodone stash without her knowing about it.
At any rate, I'm feeling much better and hope I don't have another costochondritis attack like this last one.
P.S. In case you are wondering, no federal laws regarding the proper dispensing of prescription drugs were broken.
My daughter is at Cedar Creek Lake for a few days. She and her girlfriends wanted a little R & R before they scatter like roaches for various colleges. The picture above was taken at that same lake in May after senior prom.
The first thing most of them will undertake, once they get moved to their respective campuses, is sorority rush. When I was a freshman at Texas A&M in the mid-70's, sororities and fraternities were just getting started. There were no chapter houses and the whole "Greek Thing" was viewed with enormous distrust by the university administration and the vast majority of the student body. University officials didn't like a system whose membership was based on social standing, legacies and Daddy's money. The student body, with the Corps of Cadets being the most vocal, said the only fraternity that mattered was the Aggie Fraternity. Despite the negativity, I went through rush because both of my parents were Greeks in their college days (Sigma Kappa and Pi Kappa Alpha), and they thought I should have the experience. I had other plans, however, and dropped out before bid day. For 35 years I never regretted, not once, not being a sorority member. Then it all changed when my daughter started preparing for her own rush, and it occurred to me that my lack of sorority experience could be problematic for her. Not because I think she will have trouble getting in -- quite the opposite, in fact -- but simply because for the first time in her life, I had no answers to her questions and no advice to offer.
In February, the local area Panhellenic hosted a conference at the University of Texas at Dallas. While there I learned only one thing: I have no freaking idea what is going on. They tossed acronyms around like rice at a wedding -- RIF, PNM, ARC, MIF, LOS -- and warned us that if we didn't keep to the deadlines (notice the plural), our daughters' chances of getting bids would be less than zero. Even the moms who, unlike me, had been smart and pledged Chi Omega or Kappa Kappa Gamma in their day, looked nervous. That made me feel the teensiest bit better, but only just.
So I did what any mom concerned for her child's happiness and social standing would do: I went home, had a stiff drink, and put all our sorority notes and papers away in a corner in the dim hope that somehow, someway, the problem would magically resolve itself, and I could say RIP to the RIFs, whatever they were.
Of course, that didn't happen. Just like the time, when I was eight or so, I thought I could avoid punishment by secretly burying a broken porcelain bird in the trash. Reluctantly, we sat down one day, Paige and I, read and re-read every scrap of paper we had and, voila! it still made no sense. With the clock ticking, sure Paige was going to spend four years at Texas Tech a social outcast, I turned to help from friends who had older daughters. We robotically did what we were told, often having no idea just why we were doing what we were doing, but trusting in their knowledge and sheer blind luck. Slowly, it started to come together and one night, the light dawned. Funny how simple things are once you understand them.
To say that rush (they call it recruitment these days) has changed since I was in college is putting it mildly. Rush is an enormous undertaking for girls, requiring dozens of recruitment packets with three different photos, resume, high school transcript, cover letters, and SASE envelopes. Then there's the registration with the campus Panhellenic and mailing more photos and more paperwork. By contrast, boys who are interested in pledging a fraternity do none of these things. I suspect recruitment for boys involves a gigantic inter-fraternity keg party and bids go to all those who are still standing upright at midnight. I really wouldn't know because neither of my boys cared a hoot for the frat life, but this is how I picture it.
When Paige mentioned the other day that she was getting nervous about how she would be accepted during the rush process, I discovered I did have some advice to give after all: just be yourself.
I am taking my 86-year-old mother shopping tomorrow and already I'm dreading it. Mom insists on buying the kinds of things she bought 30 years ago, which would be fine if they still made those things. As a result, our shopping trips often end with my mother upset at the march of progress, and me extremely put out with her unwillingness to be a little bit flexible.
Case in point: neck pillow. There used to be a store in Houston, where my parents lived for many years, called Kaplan's Ben Hur. Kaplan's carried items you weren't likely to find in the big department stores. It was a fun place to browse and even as a fashion-conscious teenage girl, I found some beautiful clothes there. In fact, my high school graduation dress, a margarita-green knit wrap-around with a floaty skirt and cap sleeves, was a Kaplan's find.
But I digress. Back to the neck pillow. Mom bought one at Kaplan's. It was made of U-shaped foam rubber and covered in baby blue satin that could be removed and washed. Jump forward 30-some years later, and the blue satin has the texture of one-ply toilet paper and the foam rubber has chunks missing. Mom finally decided it was time to retire the old neck pillow and purchase a new one. Easy, right? Lots of neck pillows out there, right? You can find them at Walgreens for crying out loud, but no one carries that particular kind of pillow. The ones made now are inflatable or stuffed with those teeny, tiny white polystyrene beads that, if they escape whatever they are confined in, cling to everything and are impossible to completely remove. I know this from personal experience because our old bull terrier got bored one day, chewed a huge hole in a bean bag chair, and then, deciding she hadn't made a big enough mess, dragged it through the house, disgorging its contents on the living and the non-living alike.
Again, I digress. Back to the pillow. I toted my mother all over town trying to find an exact replica of the Kaplan's pillow. None of the 562 neck pillows we looked at were suitable. The fabric was wrong, the filling was wrong, or the color was wrong. They were too firm, too soft, not washable, or too expensive. As a last resort, I scoured the Internet, and I had no luck there, either. Mom still has that awful little pillow.
Another item we wrangled over was kitchen gloves. My mother is a big believer in kitchen gloves. For as long as I can remember, she bought yellow Playtex Living gloves, the ones "so flexible you can pick up a dime". She used them for just about every household chore imaginable and her hands, unlike mine, look very nice, even at the age of 86, which I'm not. A while back, she needed new gloves to replace the old ones that had sprung a leak, so we headed to the grocery store and the aisle with the cleaning products. Hanging right there at eye level, they have Playtex Living gloves (yay!), they have her size (double yay!), but they are all purple (crap!). They had an off-brand in yellow, but I knew better than to try to talk her into buying generic; she is suspicious of anything generic. But I truly thought she'd swing with purple; they are just lousy kitchen gloves, right? Wrong. For five minutes, we stood there while I gave her every argument I could muster to persuade her to buy the freaking purple gloves (I was on my high school's debate team). She wouldn't budge, and if you will pardon the pun, we left the store empty-handed. Eventually though, the leak got bad enough that she was forced to buy those purple gloves. Interestingly, the last time she needed new gloves, they had Playtex Living in yellow. I would have bet the house she'd want to go back to her old pal, but she was fine with purple. There's just no figuring her out sometimes.
I could go on: bedroom slippers, bath towels, knee-hi hose, Max Factor Pancake make-up (there's a whole blog in that one), and pens are just a few of the things that have nearly institutionalized me. Tomorrow, we will be looking for a summer-weight robe, some casual pants and underwear. Wish me luck!
If there is one thing I hate, it's tattoos. I associate them with ex-cons and Hell's Angels, because when I was growing up, those were the people who got them. Nowadays they are mainstream and acceptable and my daughter thinks they are cool. Perhaps my priorities are misplaced, but my biggest fear with her isn't that she's going to get pregnant or addicted to drugs, but that she's going to get a tattoo. On the flip side of the coin, if this is my biggest worry, I suppose I should be grateful. My boys, thankfully, have no interest in them.
I have friends who have them. I know teachers who have them. They are all nice, upstanding, decent people. Still, there is something jarring about seeing a shoulder tat on a lady I know who's my age, been married nearly as long as I have, has three kids, and works as a school librarian.
Last summer when we were vacationing on South Padre Island, I went with Paige to a tattoo parlor for the very first time in my life, tho' I have a sneaking hunch it was not her first time. Granted, my experience with tattoo parlors was, and still is, extremely limited, but this appeared to be a nice one: big, well-lit and clean. The reason we were there was so Paige could get her belly button pierced. I was so afraid that when she turned 18 in the fall that she would get a tat, that we compromised on a belly ring. For her, it satisfied a need to walk on the wild side. For me, my thinking was that if she ever gets tired of it, unlike a permanent tattoo, all she has to do is remove it and no one will be the wiser. I was with her when she had it done and hounded her for weeks after to make sure she kept the area clean and disinfected. It's been a year and she's never had a problem with it, and I've gotten used to seeing a heart or a flower or whatever it is, I don't look too closely, dangling from her navel.
But back to tats. The absolute WORST tat I've ever seen was on a teacher aide I worked with a few years ago. She had a dog, a bichon frise, she was crazy about. So crazy, in fact, that she had a picture of her beloved pet inked onto her chest, immediately above her left boob. (Or it could have been the right one, I didn't look too closely there, either.) She had a tendency to wear shirts that were a tad low and it was disconcerting to see this fluffy dog peeping out from her decolletage. Now, I can identify with her love for her dog because I'm just a step or two away from being the neighborhood crazy cat lady with 27 cats, but no way in hell would I have a cat inked onto my chest, or anywhere else, for that matter.
So this brings me to the point of this blog. Last night, my daughter sent me a picture of a tattoo one of her best friends got this week. As near as I can make it out, it appears to be a butterfly and it's right behind the left ear. Her friend is an awesomely beautiful girl and I can't help it if I feel like someone just vandalized a priceless painting. I know that by sending me the picture, Paige is hoping to wear me down enough to change my mind. And why not? Where she's concerned, I've changed my mind about a lot of things over the years. Like when I wouldn't allow her to drive at the age of eight, but changed my mind when she was 15. Or when I refused to buy her thong underwear when she was 11, or get her ears pierced at six, or stay home by herself when she was five, but all those things changed as she got older. On this issue, however, I will not budge, so we will have to have another talk on the "perils" of tattoos. My mother has no idea how easy she had it; it would never have occurred to her to caution me against getting a tattoo. Funny how things can change in just one generation.
Tit for tat,
I've only been at the business of blogging for two weeks, and already I'm wondering if maybe I should have waited a bit. Things typically slow down in summer, and the current heat wave has put the brakes on more than usual. (Have I mentioned we're in the middle of a heat wave?) There's just not a whole lot to write about when life is crippling along like a snail on a salt lick. The following is a little of this, a little of that:
My younger son, a senior at Texas A&M, is graduating from LDAC at Ft. Lewis, WA today. LDAC stands for Leadership Development and Assessment Course (also known as Warrior Forge) and is required of ROTC cadets who wish to commission as 2nd lieutenants when they graduate from college. Later today, he hops a plane to the other side of the country to Ft. Bragg, NC, to train with the Green Berets for a few weeks. Brent was one of only 40 or so cadets from all over the country to be picked for the honor of shadowing and training with this elite group, and the only one from from Texas A&M. Maybe, his summer Army training will be the subject of a later blog, once he's home and I've had a chance to talk to him.
My daughter frequently babysits for the couple across the street. I know that babysitting fees have gone up considerably since the days when I charged 50 cents an hour, but she has lucked into the mother lode of babysitting jobs. They pay her so well, that I'm tempted to ask Kimberly if she will hire me from time to time once Paige leaves for college. Bonus: they have a swimming pool. It's hot, in case you haven't got the message yet.
Paige's college roommate got them bumped from the eighth floor of Chitwood Hall to the second. Suddenly, the move I've been dreading next month seems like a piece of cake. Yes, it will be hot, but we won't have to wait 30 minutes in line with a bunch of other cranky people to use the elevator, or, God forbid, haul bins and bags up seven flights of stairs. I haven't met the roommate yet, but already I like her!
Mitch, my older son, is working in Tyler, Texas this week. Next week, he'll be in Austin. Austin may be home to the Aggies' biggest rival, The University of Texas Longhorns, but there's no denying it's a cool place to visit. The next time I'm down there, I want to see the bats as they fly out of the Congress Avenue bridge. It's reputed to be the largest urban bat colony in North America. I like bats. What's not to like about an animal that consumes annoying skeeters for dinner?
Keep Austin bug-free,
Brent: U. S. Army photo by Jesse Beals
When I set the table for dinner guests the other day, I used my good china and crystal and sterling. It was not a formal dinner. No dinner can remotely be called formal if Jell-O is on the menu, the hostess is trotting around in her bare feet, and cats are fighting under the table. I just happen to enjoy setting a pretty table, even if it requires a lot of washing and drying by hand afterwards. I know my guests appreciate the pampering, and food, even Jell-O, just tastes better. To me, it's worth it.
When I was growing up, my mother rarely used her best stuff when she had guests for dinner. Instead, she dragged out her mother-in-law's old china, a very meh Noritake pattern of pink roses climbing a trellis. I can only remember twice, Mom setting the table with her good Lennox china, and one of those times was because I asked her to. The pattern is Tuxedo, a classic Lennox design that is beautiful in its simplicity. So, no surprise when I chose Tuxedo when I was planning my wedding.
Eventually, my mother gave me her Lennox pieces. Her collection is 63 years old and because it was hardly ever used, every plate and cup looks brand new. What's the point of having nice things if you aren't going to use them? Since my kids were small, they have dined on fine china, sipped milk from crystal, and speared peas with the heirloom silver. They may not have understood what the fuss was about, but I noticed they minded their manners better whenever I hauled out the good stuff.
My mother has a beautiful antique cup and saucer I gave her one Christmas for a display piece. Because she's so afraid the maids, who come every other week to clean, will break it, she keeps it stashed away in a box in a dresser. There are times I'm sorry I didn't keep the thing for myself, because I guarantee you in my house, it would be out where it could be seen and admired. I may not have maids with dusters, but I do have cats with long tails.
One of these days, I will inherit the Noritake. And I betcha, with just the right tablescape, I can make those pink roses look pretty.
Lenox Tuxedo: http://www.antiquehelper.com/item/295571
Talk about the gift that keeps on giving. My daughter's friend, a very nice young man, "surprised" her with this tiny, snow white, blue-eyed kitten three days before their date to the senior prom. I say "surprised" because I have a strong hunch Paige finagled him into doing this, but she swears she's innocent. However it happened, John paid the grand sum of $5.00 for this month-old spitfire at the local animal shelter, gave her a bath, tied a red ribbon around her neck and, in proper dead-beat dad fashion, promptly saddled us with her care and feeding for, oh, the next 15 years or so. It wasn't quite a ding-dong ditch, but as I write this, he's only been by once to see his cat. My husband and I grumbled at the impetuosity and short-sightedness of 18-year-old boys, but we knew we were beaten. There was no way I could justify returning this little creature to the shelter. As for Richard, he melts into useless goo whenever his daughter bats those baby blues at him. And now there are TWO pairs of baby blues, human and feline, looking at him. The man is a lost cause.
When Penny first saw our other cat, Phoebe, she made an immediate dive for Pheeb's underparts hoping, probably, for an after-dinner snack. Phoebe, who's just a dried up old maid, went ballistic at this assault and sent the little beast rolling across the floor with one smack of her paw. It didn't faze Penny in the least. Nothing fazes Penny.
Kittens know two speeds: comatose (see picture above) and mega-warp. Compared to Phoebe's matronly physique, Penny is a gangly pre-adolescent. Compared to Pheeb's grace, Penny is awkward and inept, leading one of my sons to ask if she was retarded. When she runs, her tail --- held vertical --- follows her like an exclamation point !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! all through the house. Come to think on it, it's not a bad representation of her rear view.
There really is nothing like a kitten for pure entertainment. Everything and everybody is fair game: paper bags, Phoebe, the furniture, Phoebe, stuffed animals, Phoebe, and any exposed skin. In Texas in July, there is a lot of exposed skin. Those little claws are sharp and the needle teeth sharper. When she gets too wild, a blast of water from a spray bottle will put a stop to things briefly. But life is just too !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! to keep a good kitty down for long.
There's a saying in Texas that if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes. This is very true in the spring. Spring weather in north Texas is manic. Mild blue skies can give way to thunderstorms, hail and tornado warnings within an hour. Ironically, basements, the safest place to be during a tornado, are practically non-existent here. So your next best bet is an interior room with no windows, preferably a bathroom because the surrounding pipes give the walls additional stability. Luckily, we have such a bathroom and that is our designated tornado shelter. Thankfully, we have never had to use it for real, but there have been a handful of times over the years when I have tossed blankets and beach towels and the family pets into the bathroom "just in case" we had to take cover. The pets go first because the last thing I want to be doing is dragging a snarling cat out from under the bed when all hell is breaking loose. Interestingly, when the sirens go off, the noise brings people OUT of their homes to stare up at the sky. "Look, Doris! Does that look like a twister forming over there to you?" I admit I have been guilty of doing just that.
But that saying about Texas weather holds ---literally --- no water in the summer. It hit the triple digits on July 3 in the DFW area, and the highs for each day since have been 100 or above. It's expected to continue in the triple digits through next week with no chance of rain. Looks like it's going to be a long wait before we will see some relief, like maybe a balmy 97 or 98. My husband keeps pointing out that at least it's a dry heat. The next time he says that, I'm going to smack him.
Our next door neighbors moved here from Utah a few months back. They weathered (ha!) their first Texas spring and asked, "Is it always like that?" And I said, "Yep." Now they are less than a month into their first Texas summer and they asked again, "Is is always like this?" And I said, "Yep." It'll be interesting to see their reaction when winter gets here and we get a sprinkling of snow or an eighth-inch skim of ice and the entire DFW metroplex comes to a screeching halt. Yep, they will think we are crazy!
Hot and bothered,
I grew up with dogs. My parents had an Irish terrier they purchased from a pet store about a year before I was born. Then, when I was seven or eight, they went completely 'round the bend and bought a Yorkshire terrier. For reasons unknown, my parents, who had always been very sane, decided to go into the dog business. They were going to breed, raise, show and sell these little rats with long hair. They even had a name for their kennel picked out: Yorktown Kennels. The business was an abject failure, mainly because my mother couldn't bear to part with any of her precious dogs, and also because my father had no patience for the constant grooming and upkeep those long coats require. We had yorkies out the wazoo until the last one, Bernard, finally choked on his Kibbles and Bits. This did not happen until several years after I became a married woman.
Five years ago we bought a kitten from a cat rescue group. We named her Phoebe. Two years later my husband surprised me --- a gross understatement --- with another cat, one he literally picked up off the street: a scruffy, skinny, dirty, flea-infested, ear mite-riddled tomcat with an eye searing stomach problem and fangs that made him look like a walrus. We named him Wallace. Somewhere along the way Wally lost his tomhood, but whether they fell off or what, I couldn't say.
If I was appalled, it was nothing compared to Phoebe's feelings. She was outraged. She promptly chased him behind the toilet and poor Wally lived back there until he finally called her bluff. The two of them eventually hammered out a truce of sorts. As my father used to say, our cats had a love/hate relationship; Wallace loved Phoebe and Phoebe hated Wallace. That pretty much summed it up.
My husband's rationale for acquiring this cat was that Phoebe needed some excitement in her life. Considering that Pheebs, like all cats, sleeps most of the day, an iron supplement, or maybe a line of cocaine, would have been an easier alternative. Anyhoos, one extra large litter box and one very happy vet later, Wallace blossomed into a really nice cat, all 16 pounds of him. Even his stomach problems went away...for the most part.
Granted, my experience with cats is fairly limited, but there is no doubt that Wally was one smart cookie. An Einstein of cats. Maybe living outdoors and having to fend for himself had something to do with it. He learned his name and came when called, a concept Phoebe still hasn't figured out. He taught himself to open doors, drawers and cupboards, a handy trick when he needed a place to hide during thunderstorms; he was terrified of them. His inquisitiveness would get him into trouble sometimes because as smart as he was, his thought processes only went so far...he was a cat, after all. Phoebe, who has never had an original thought in her life, would try to imitate --- badly --- anything he did.
So when we found Wally stretched out dead on the living room floor one night, barely more than a year after he came to live with us, we were all devastated. Even Phoebe missed him. She lost weight and took it upon herself to stake out his favorite spot by the fish tank, something she never did until he died.
We gradually adjusted to a life post-Wallace, but something was missing. My husband and I would occasionally look at cats available for adoption through rescue groups, but nothing clicked, as cute as they all were. And then when we least expected it, along came Penelope.
And that's a subject for another blog.
I dragged my daughter to the mall the other day so we could make a dent in her college shopping list. Here are some observations:
1) Boys are much easier to shop for than girls. Boys don't care if the sheets are a scratchy 200 ct or the softer 300 ct. They don't care if the blanket is the wrong shade of blue, or that the towels don't match the comforter. It is not necessary to drive all over town for the "right" wastebasket, and they do not want to cover their bulletin boards in coordinating fabric with ribbon trim.
2) Good luck finding twin-XL bedding that isn't ugly.
3) Apparently Texas Tech co-eds of a generation or two ago were taller. My sister-in-law, a Tech graduate, is 5' 9" or thereabouts. My daughter, her niece, is 5' 4". We had to purchase a step-stool --- pink, of course --- because the mirrors over the built-in dressers are too high.
4) It's going to be hell hauling this stuff up to the eighth floor of Chitwood Hall on move-in day. I mention this because schlepping bags and parcels from the mall to the car in Dallas in July during a record heat wave got me to thinking it's going to be worse in Lubbock in August. Much worse.
5) It is impossible to shop with an 18-year-old girl without making frequent detours to the clothing, shoe and cosmetics departments.
6) Apparently shopping in the "wrong" mall can scar one for life. In Dallas, NorthPark Mall is THE mall, and with good reason. Normally, that's where we shop. But for this trip we headed to another mall because they have a store that stocks the aforementioned twin-XL bedding. It's actually a nice mall, but you'd have thought we'd gone to a Wal-Mart in east Texas the way Paige carried on.
7) Boys are much easier to shop for than girls, part two. Dorm decor for boys generally consists of a poster or two of half-naked ladies and beer cans stacked in a pyramid. The more ambitious might spring for a lava lamp or an ashtray shaped like a toilet. Girls, however, require a trip to a home decor store. In our case, it was Hobby Lobby because it was all 50 percent off. Based on her purchases, my daughter must have trouble remembering her name because nearly everything she bought had her initial on it: a big, glittery, neon-purple "P", an ornate "P" in a black frame with rhinestones, a picture frame with -- you guessed it -- a "P" on the side and also in rhinestones, and a throw pillow with a "P" embroidered on it.
And we aren't even close to being finished.
Shopped and dropped,
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