Friday, April 29, 2005

Scrabble Fodder

My best friend has invited Rog and me to her house for Scrabble this weekend.

Scrabble has much less to do with how many words you know and much more to do with strategy, placement, and doing your best to deny your opponent a good opening.

I know lots of words. But Bev and Don (her companion) must channel Alexander the Great as they are masters at strategy. And I value the times I've managed to win, because I've really had to work for it.

So Rog and I will, more than likely, be mere fodder for the Scrabble masters.

The real point of all this, though (besides having a tremendously good time) is Bev's Hair Test.

If Rog doesn't make Bev's hair go up, then he's probably safe to keep dating...Bev's ability to pick out scary weirdnesses in people is amazing (my guess is that Rog will pass with flying colors). When I was married, she figured out my husband was having an affair without even having met him. When she DID meet him, her hair went up (at the time, I wasn't a true believer, and brushed it off...but I shouldn't have). She's not infallible -- but she's damn good.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Initiation

Much to my son's dismay, there was no wine to be drunk out of skulls. No pentagrams, arcane knowledge, or mysterious handshakes were shared.

Instead, there was a speech by a gentleman who had participated in the Ironman Triathlon. I have yet to figure out exactly HOW that connects to the National Honor Society (the group he'd been asked to join). But it does illustrate the power of sports here in Boomer Sooner Land.

Even the cake afterwards did not make up for the lack of ritual, mystery, or scholar-related activities...

Monday, April 25, 2005

That (not so) Invisible Touch

I've always touched people. My kids, relatives, friends, strangers, co-workers. Sometimes it's a simple "I'm here for you" touch on the hand. Or an "I need your attention" finger on the wrist. A "gee, I like you" or "thanks, you're wonderful" hug (reserved for people I know well). A "what a cool fabric" touch of a sleeve or maybe even a tie, if the guy is approachable and it's really nifty.

I never thought twice about any of these being inappropriate.

However, in the initial flurry of dating, it came up over and over again.

As I've said before, people tell me things, sometimes things they've never told anyone else. And each and every guy I dated did the disclosure thing, and each and every one of them got a hand touch.

And with a few exceptions, they were discombobulated by it (oh, how I love that word!).

I even had one email in which the guy wrote, "we were having such a nice lunch and things were going well, even though I knew I was talking too much. And then you touched my hand. What was I supposed to do? What was I supposed to think? What did you mean by that?"

All but 2 of the people I dated commented on it, indicating that they didn't know what to make of a simple touch to the hand.

So tell me: did they think this was an invitation of some sort? Why? Are men so hungry for touch that my fingers on the back of a hand was crazy-making? I might have suspected that of teenagers, but guys over 50? Or was it me, and I inadvertently crossed some invisible boundary?

Oh, and BTW: the only two who weren't strange about it were Rog and Harley Guy. When I touched their hands, each put his other hand briefly on top of mine in a way that said: "I'm glad you understand." At least I think that's what they were saying.

Middle Aged Women

Rog and I went to see Kung Fu Hustle last night. It's funny (sometimes extremely funny) in a weird, sly, and goofy way. The film takes those kung fu movie stereotypes and turns them on their heads. If you're open to a little weirdness (okay, maybe a lot of weirdness), you should see this one.

One of the characters is a cranky, middle-aged woman with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth, who mostly appears wearing curlers, robe, and houseshoes. She terrifies the people around her but at the same time apparently cares deeply for them while rarely ever showing any softer side.

She is a tiger.

I like that. I would like to have that kind of inner strength. But I suppose there is strength in gentleness, too.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Return of the Art Field

Anne and I went back Friday night for another round of volunteering at the Arts Festival. We no longer wonder about the lack of volunteers for that time period!

Anne came with all three of her kids -- Gamine Marti, Emmy of the Amazing Hair, and Tyler (also known as Mr. Smartypants). Gavin got new games for his birthday and was glued to the computer, so I brought Mr. Laidback instead -- since I'd agreed to bring 4 volunteers with me --silly me thinking this would be a fun way to get to know each other.

It was a madhouse. There were a few wonderful kids and parents like those we'd had Tuesday night, but as time wore on, more and more parents were pushy and more and more kids were whiny, screaming, or demanding (sometimes all three -- and sometimes the parents were right there with 'em). It was all we could do to explain the crafts, dole out scissors, pens, glue, and other supplies, and STILL manage to assist the kids.

However, by the end of it, Mr. Laidback (or Rog, since I like him enough to let him have a real name now) admitted with a laugh that he'd had a wonderful time, and could he see me again?

Yes, yes, YES!

Friday, April 22, 2005

More Skeletons

Hah -- it's finally out -- Mr. LaidBack has a deep, dark secret too, which he reluctantly confessed Wednesday night.

He's a Trekkie.

He's been to several conventions and even has the uniform...and a phaser...and since he's tall and slender, I bet he probably looks good in all that lycra.

Plus he loves bad puns (although he didn't have to tell me that -- I'd already figured it out).

This has the potential to be even better than I thought. :D

Thursday, April 21, 2005

What the HELL is that?

The tiny, skinny towheaded boy sat on the floor in a pool of sunlight, totally absorbed in play. In front of him, a favorite toy, a knitted jute octopus about the size of a grapefruit. Off to the side, a giant pile of green plastic army men.

One by one, the chubby fingers pick up a Joe and set it in front of the octopus, like a supplicant. And then the singsong chant..."What the HELL is that?"

And one by one, the entire pile of Joes pays homage to the octopus, each with the same refrain, "What the HELL is that?"

And mom, barely able to contain her amusement, comes a little closer to absolutely losing it with each repetition, finally having to run into the backyard to indulge in a fit of snorting laughter.

Much later that day, Gavin and I had a discussion about Barbarian Words and why we don't use them...but I wouldn't have missed that performance for anything.

Happy birthday, Gavin! 16 today and still marching to the beat of a different drummer...which in your case probably includes steel drums and marimbas.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Art Field

Last night, my sister and I (not to mention 3 of our kids) volunteered at the Festival of the Arts. We were relegated to the "Children's Art Field" which actually is not a field at all, but a tent full of stuff guaranteed to spark a child's interest.

Anne is 6 years younger, taller, and, much, much thinner than I am (she's a size 3 -- between us we would make two average sized people), with curly brown hair and a pretty heart-shaped face. She also has what my daughter calls a "butt chin" -- which, for all you more adult people, is a cleft chin. (my daughter has one too, so I suppose she is entitled to call it anything she wants) Anne's also much more serious and I think she worries enough for both of us. Even so, she is absolutely adorable and doesn't have a clue that she is.

We wound up at the headband/necklace table. Since the other volunteers had made their own (they claimed "to spark the kids" but I know better), we did too. Anne started off with a simple headband with a couple of chenille stems sticking out like bee antenna...but as time went on, she kept adding to it until at last she had a flower garden waving and nodding above her head. And she never stopped smiling the entire time.

The kids had fun too (Gavin had a chenille handlebar villain-style mustache suspended from his glasses) but not nearly so much as Anne and I did.

So we signed up again for Friday night. I can think of worse dates, and not many better ones.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

It's Official...

I'm now old.

Despite the over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers, the pain has increased to the point that my MD decided to give me a temporary handicap permit for my car.

This is a good thing because the parking garage at work is 5 stories tall, there's no elevator, and anyone who arrives late (like me) winds up parking far, far away.

So I got my permit today. The doc also told me to get a cane...so now all you young whippersnappers better look out.

Um, are there old whippersnappers?

9:02

9:02 -- That's the exact time of the 10th anniversary of the bombing, and the time I will close my door and probably have a good cry.

It's also posted over the entrance to the OKC memorial; a giant gateway though which everyone passes to enter the park.

Inside, there is a still pool, that even in this windy city is never ruffled. 168 copper colored chairs -- 19 of them small -- glow against the green grass. And off to the side is the Survivor Tree, an elm which was blackened and broken 10 years ago but has grown and thrived year after year.

At the end of the park is another huge gate, and this one is labeled "9:03".

It was almost impossible to get to work this morning; Clinton and Cheney are in town and most of the main roads have been blocked off so their motorcades can get through safely. And I guess they couldn't tell the good citizens of Oklahoma City because that might have put them at risk.

The ceremony at the Memorial this morning is "by invitation only"; but the hearts and thoughts of many here are downtown anyway.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Skeletons in the Closet

It's a funny thing, but people often find themselves telling me things they'd never tell anyone else. Strangers on a plane, people in line at the grocery store, patients, friends, family...not that I mind...partly I'm naturally nosy, and partly I like to help people sort things out. This was a valuable talent when I did psychiatric interviews; my trauma patients and paranoid schizophrenic patients -- the two groups my colleagues had the most trouble getting information from -- were always willing to talk to me. Antisocial personalities -- that's another story. They don't tell anyone any truths unless it will get them something.

When I was 5 or so, I read The Jungle Book. I was fascinated by the story and by the way Mowgli charmed the wolves by looking into their eyes and not looking away or blinking. And I started doing that myself. It wasn't until many years later that a friend told me, "Jodie, it really makes me uncomfortable that you make so much eye contact -- it's too intense."

Really, I think this is why people tell me things. And sometimes even they are surprised that they told me.

So this weekend, Mr. Sweetie surprised himself by telling me that he's been married 5 times previously. We then had quite a long talk about his need to do things for his exwife (after two years of being divorced, he is still mowing her lawn, doing her electrical work, fixing her car...you get the picture) and why he continues to need her approval. So, no, no, no.

The relationship with Mr. LaidBack, though, is shaping up nicely. He brought his portfolio to show me his work (and WOW -- he is very talented). We went to the park and walked slowly, sat often (my hip hurts way more than natural childbirth or having a tooth drilled sans novocaine -- both of which I have experienced) and talked much, everything from music to the incredible variety of iris flowers blooming there.

There's nothing quite like sitting on the grass under a shady tree, while light breezes caress you, the occasional sunbeam warms your face, and someone gives you sweet, soft kisses.

And the rose garden should be blooming next weekend...

Sunday, April 17, 2005

In the Pink

People who love me have taken to giving me flamingos.

Not the real, feathery kind, but odd things...the somewhat creepy folk art painting of a moonlit witch flying over a field full of flamingos is probably my favorite.

Several years ago, my friend Bev told me that she'd always wanted a plastic yard flamingo. Bev was born on Christmas Day, and hadn't had much in the way of birthdays as a child...so now birtdays are a VERY big deal for her.

So, at the end of summer sales I bought her a flamingo. Actually, I bought her FIFTY flamingos, one for every year old she was going to be and hid them in my garage.

Christmas eve, my friend Dean and I (more than a friend then, but not now) stole out to her house and stuck all fifty flamingos in the frozen ground in front of her house (not as easy as you'd think in the middle of the night and the cold).

She was awakened the next morning with her partner making a crack about flamingos on the lawn. She figured that I'd come through with her plastic yard flamingo and opted for breakfast instead of looking out in her front yard...and then started getting, as she put it, strange calls from her neighbors.

Once she did look outside, she says she laughed for the rest of the day...and a week later, 49 of those flamingos had mysteriously migrated to MY lawn.

The next month, 48 of them flew back to her house....and then to mine...and back to hers...and finally we decided that maybe they needed to visit another friend...and another friend after that...

Until we'd had a year of fun with them. I'm not sure where they've flown off to now, but I hope someone else is enjoying them as much as we did.

The funny thing, though, is that no one is buying Bev flamingos...they buy them for me. Not that I mind. :D

Friday, April 15, 2005

How the Heck Do People Get Hooked on this Stuff?

My hip hurts. It's been hurting since the day after Dad died (which was also the same day the guy I'd been seeing for the past 4 years moved to Florida). At first (being a psych nurse and all, and the timing the way it was) I thought it was psychosomatic. But as time went on and it hurt more, I decided to go to the MD.

For those of you who aren't nurses and don't know any nurses, it's probably important to know that if you're in that profession, you are the least likely person to go to the doctor. Well...that's not quite true -- doctors are probably worse about not seeing doctors. But not by much. And they can write their own prescriptions.

First the doc sent me to Physical Therapy...which is expensive and hasn't helped. The pain is now so intense that it's almost impossible to walk to the building PT is in...so the next step was to have an MRI.

Thank goodness I am not claustrophobic and find small enclosed places comfortable. For 30 minutes I lay perfectly still inside a tube (with at most 2 inches of space between the tip of my nose and the inside of the tube) with all sorts of noisy clanking, buzzing, and hammering sounds assaulting my ears even with the ear plugs the tech was kind enough to supply. I kept my eyes closed after I realized that the inside of the tube was grimy. EEUWW.

I am still waiting for the results. In the meantime, my doc gave me some of the same stuff that Rush Limbaugh got into trouble with. And I don't understand why anyone would want to take drugs like this any longer than they have to. It barely takes the edge off my pain, I'm so fuzzy I can barely think, and I believe it contributed to the funk I was in yesterday.

I'd much rather be addicted to something that allows me to visit Wonderland, ride with Aragorn, run away from homicidal Luggage, or dance with Darcy.

Oh wait. I already am -- I'm addicted to books. Who needs any other mind expander?

Thursday, April 14, 2005

WHAM

The bright sun shines and the birds sing as you meander through your day...and then grief barrels out of the dark alleyway, bodyslams you, and suddenly it's all gone dreary. Today has been tough.

Herbal Remedies vs Traditional Medicine

There's a lot of negative rhetoric on either side of this when really, the whole point should be "what can we do to help this patient?".

One of the problems is that both groups appear to be so insecure in their beliefs that if they were to give any credence at all to the other side, then somehow the other side would "win".

So, one group eschews manufactured medicines because they are not natural, and therefore suspect...those manmade chemicals cannot possibly be as safe as those active ingredients found and used in their natural state. The other group avoids herbal remedies because they have not been through the rigorous testing required for manufactured drugs and are therefore suspect, because how can you really know what it does unless it's been studied and quantified?

And these folks are the rational people on either side of the debate; it's really fun when either side jumps in with the paranoid conspiracies, which (have you noticed?) are becoming increasingly common in our society.

Those herbal remedies are being studied more and more. Some of them are just as wonderful as promised. Some are turning out to be placebos or actually harmful. But at least someone is taking the time to see what good is being done with herbals. One of the problems, though, is that it is hard to quantify the strength of an herbal ingredient unless it is refined (which leads back to that whole manmade thing). Two plants of the same species may have differing amounts of the active drug, depending on how or where it was grown...which makes it difficult for the investigators to quantify how much of the active ingredient is being utilized by the individual patient...and if the amounts are different, is that why Patient A did better than Patient B?

The other side has been villified for so long (remember those days long ago when MDs were gods and no one else mattered?) that it is very hard to trust anything from the medical establishment -- and because they have been excluded from the medical establishment, they don't follow the medical model...so it's hard to get acceptance. And after years of no acceptance...well...there are a lot of people who simply no longer care whether those remedies are accepted or not. I know people who will trust an untested herbal remedy over a tested pharmaceutical, simply because the herbal remedy is "natural". Well, deathcap mushrooms are natural, too.

At the same time, when I have a patient who has trouble sleeping, I have them try the 1/2 turkey sandwich & milk before bedtime; failing that, a cup of chamomile tea; then tryptophan; and only then go to the prescriptive sleep aids.

It's a lot like those liberals and conservatives. Both sides unwilling to give in, despite the fact that a combination of both may be what's needed for the good of all.

What brought this up? Today I'm researching a homeopathic remedy which one of my investigators wants to test for use in oral cancer patients, post radiation, to possibly help with mucositis (horrible mouth sores). If we do a study with it -- whether it works or not -- I see it as a gain for both sides.

Monday, April 11, 2005


Alex and Emily, woodland sprites... Posted by Hello

Sprites, Bombs, Art...and Evil Week

Next week is the Festival of the Arts. Yes, there are artists, but what most people come for is the food -- Strawberries Newport, Funnel Cakes, Cheesecake, Gyros -- what, and there's art, too? There's also continuous live music by local bands, dance exhibitions, and it's all outdoors at the lovely, huge, downtown park. Mostly this part of Oklahoma is as flat as a pancake, but the park has actual hills and beautiful plantings.

My sister and I are hauling a kid each out to volunteer on opening night, April 19...the start of (according to my son) Evil Week, which ends with Hitler's birthday (and coincidentally, contains my son's birthday on the 21st).

Why is April 19th the start of Evil Week? Well, that's the anniversary of the the Murrah bombing, and this year is the 10th year -- so it's a milestone, a very sad one.

If you had lived in Oklahoma City for any time at all before the bombing, you too would have either known someone who died, or known someone who lost a significant person in their lives. The deaths that affected me were all second hand -- 1) the lost looking lady who had assisted my friend Bev in obtaining disability for her son as he was dying of cancer -- she worked on the first floor. 2) The husband of my daughter's daycare teacher -- he was in (I think) HUD on the 7th floor. 3) My ex-husband's boss' daughter -- a charming woman who worked in the credit union. And Monica, whom I worked with at the time, had just transferred her kids from that daycare to another one -- missing the bombing by a week.

How did it unfold for me? I was sitting on the table in the conference room in the Dept of Psychiatry (about 12 blocks away), being silly and waiting for a meeting when our building shook and there was a muffled rumble. We thought there was something wrong with the heating/cooling system but weren't particularly perturbed -- all our thoughts were bent around Bev, who was back to work for her first day after the death of her son, her only child.

One of the secretaries ran in -- "There's been an explosion downtown" -- and we all ran to the only TV on our floor. Monica started screaming, "It's the daycare!" And we kept telling her it couldn't be the daycare -- because none of us could wrap our minds around a daycare exploding.

Then the call came that all nursing personnel were needed in the ER -- although I wasn't yet a nurse at that time, I tagged along to help in whatever way I could. We loaded ambulances and waited...and waited...and waited...and then they started coming back empty. That was when we knew it was going to be bad.

My children were both close as well -- my son, Gavin, at a church daycare 6 blocks away, my daughter, Alex, at elementary school 10 blocks away. Gavin's daycare was evacuated. Alex's classmates thought a ladder had fallen down (some construction was being done on their building).

Psychiatry started getting bomb threats within an hour. To this day I believe that they were not malicious; I think some of our more paranoid patients became delusional and wished to protect us. We had a patient, so Bev stayed while the rest of us went home; later she said, "You know, I really didn't care at that point if I lived or died, it just didn't matter." The patient? Panic disorder. She later said that if she'd had any clue how bad it was, she'd have had a huge panic attack right there.

Alex's school, meanwhile, had been told that a different building had exploded -- causing one of her friends to have a screaming hysterical tantrum because her mom was in that building (her mom actually WAS injured; her office had a plate glass window which faced the explosion...luckily she had her back to the window and was filing at the time. She has some interesting physical scars but no emotional ones). Whitney, Alex's best friend (and one of the most intelligent people I will ever meet), had a mom in the Murrah building. Pam told me later that the floor broke off not two feet in front of her and she couldn't remember getting out of the building with her injured and blinded coworker...she showed up at the elementary school, covered in dust and had the principal drive her and Whitney home. Whitney later got a pass on a big homework project when she told her teacher, "My homework was blown up." If I could have had a third kid, I've have wanted it to be Whitney. She's going to be designing the next generation of hybrid or alternate power cars, BTW.

Had the bombing been two hours later, the area in front of the Murrah building would have been filled with schoolbuses full of 5th and 6th graders going to the Civic Center (just down the street) to see a Ballet Oklahoma performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream"...in which Alex had a bit part as a sprite. She was so excited that her friends would get to see her dance in a professional company -- and it never was rescheduled.

It's hard to see how your life intertwines with others in innumerable ways until there is a huge disruption in which so many things are broken forever, whether large or small.

The year Gavin christened his birthday week as "Evil Week"? Luckily, Easter was in the same week that year...and eventually I was able to show him that good and evil exist side by side -- so that he at least doesn't feel it's inevitable that he become an archvillain. Of course, he can still make that choice. He's certainly got the evil laugh down pat.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Helping the Homeless

Wow, I can't believe I let time get away from me like that -- a whole week since I've posted. Then again, I really wore myself out.

The garage sale for charity was a lot of fun. All the volunteers were women (with the exception of an elderly antiques dealer who looked like an antique himself...a particularly dusty one that's been stuck back in the corner so long that it's been forgotten). I was assigned to "kitchen/housewares", which encompassed everything from junky gewgaws to ancient glass coffee jars, small kitchen appliances and everything you could imagine. We got all kinds of buyers -- fashionable ladies in expensive clothing to people with no teeth and filthy clothes. It's hard to believe that people will ask if they can buy something marked $5 for a nickel (and those fashionable ladies can be the worst) -- we got a lot of those -- but we also got the people who'd walk up and give a donation for the dogs without buying anything. I think the homeless dogs received about $7,000 from this sale, so at least they won't go hungry.

I did get hit on at the sale...while he seemed like a nice person, he just wasn't for me. But that has seemed to indicate some kind of turnaround in the dating department...some kind of cosmic karmic shift...all of a sudden there are men everywhere. Most of 'em not even close to the right man -- but I only want one, anyway, so it's all good.

There's Mr. Corvette. Nice guy, good ole boy, retires in 4 years and is off to see the world on his Harley. Obviously our longterm goals don't match, but in the short term, all he really wants is someone to see movies/theater/concerts with, go out to dinner with, and walk with; he really loves the outdoors. He doesn't seem to be materialistic, but he does love his wheels.

Then there's Mr. Manic, who can't sit still, talks too much and has some odd ideas -- but he was also very funny -- leading to outrageous, snorting, guffawing laughter. If I were into diagnosing my dates, well, he'd be the grand prize winner...not sure if I want to see him again. Maybe.

And Mr. LaidBack, who is this Saturday's blind date. Nice on the phone and email, intelligent, starting a new career as a graphic artist. Liberal politics, kind persona.

Lastly, Mr. Sweetie, who seems to be very tender-hearted. Politically conservative (eek), active in church, but just a little subversive within that structure. Plus he claims to cook and clean. Our political views are poles apart, but...only time will tell.

Not only that, but Jamie found someone she wants me to meet. Looks like my dance card is going to be full for awhile!