Making the Rounds

I took today off from work because i had planned a barrage of routine medical appointments. I figured i might as well get them all over with at once.

Well, except for the oh-shit-do-i-really-have-to colonoscopy that was recommended. I’ll hold off on that until i need to lose 5 pounds fast.

My day started with my first routine physical in a couple of years. First stop: Height and weight.

The nurse asked me to hop on the scale. Because, you know, if she had just asked me my weight, i would have lied and made myself five pounds lighter. And apparently she knew this. Then she took my height. I have to say, i haven’t been this excited about growing 1/4 inch since before the Age of Disco.

I was forced to switch doctors for this exam, so this office and its staff had never met me. Had no knowledge of me whatsoever. It was good, in a way, because their opinions were gloriously unbiased. But on the other hand, because they had no knowledge of me, they didn’t know my norm.

“Ummm… That can’t be right. Let’s try the other arm.”

“Ummm… I still don’t believe it. Let’s try the first arm again.”

“I think something is wrong with the cuff. Let me try a different one.”

“I’m just gonna get someone else to try…”

I finally decided to speak up…. “You probably heard right. My heart rate runs low and my blood pressure runs high. But i feel wonky when it gets outside my usual range, and i feel fine now.”

She still got another one to take it. She shrugged when it only came up marginally lower and typed it into the record.

Next it was an ekg, which, as usual, takes five times as long to set up as it does to run.

“You sure you feel ok? Any fatigue or light-headedness? Your heart rate is rather low.”

“Yup. I’m good. I promise.”

“You must be in great shape. What do you do for exercise?”

“Ummm… A few sit-ups on my inversion table. And i just started learning to tap dance.”

This brought out a look of incredulity. Then, once she realized i was serious, she giggled. “You have blue hair, tattoos, and you are learning to tap dance. You are an interesting woman.”

Oh, if you only knew…

The doc comes in and starts putting her hands in places  that haven’t been felt up in far too long. It would be awkward and invasive except for the fact that  she is sweet and listening intently to my answers to her questions. This turned out to be pointless, since i realized at every point after that, that i had forgotten to give the staff half of the relevant information. Way to go, Ms Electronic Medical Record.

The rest of the day was a cavalcade of lab work, nurse questions, doctor pokes, and for the last thing, the recommended boob portraits. Because, you know, no woman’s physical is complete without squashing the shit out of her tits and taking a picture. (I wish they would send us snapshots on our phone. That way, when someone obnoxious asked for a nude pic, you could send him your mammogram as a passive-aggressive coup de grâce. It would be way more fun than just telling him to piss off.)

I survived it all.

And then i came home and tap danced.

At the end of the day, it is most likely my results will be as they usually are: Mostly healthy. And for that i am grateful. I can’t help getting older. And tho i don’t like it, it could be worse. What is worse than getting old? Getting old and decrepit. In spite of the aches and pains, the wrinkles and sags, and a blood pressure you’d expect from Ralph Kramden, i’ve got a ways to go before i get to the decrepit stage. My heart rate may be low, but my enthusiasm is high. It’s a good life. Even if i forget to tell them half of it.



From The Hair On Your Head To The Hair On Your Toes

So i’ve been reading a lot of articles on natural beauty. Part and parcel with the whole “Give up meat, use less plastic, be less fake” philosophy that has been growing on me. And it has me thinking… We women put a whole lot of money and effort into being “beautiful”, and even more so when we are trying to be “natural”, if for no other reason than “natural” products and services take more money and effort and to find.

I mean, i know there is a growing movement of women out there who don’t shave, wax, or pluck. I know plenty of women who don’t wear makeup. I know women who don’t care about their pores or their split ends or their scratchy heels. We are born with that hair on our legs, and our eyelids weren’t meant to be gold gilded. But most of us, when we talk about “natural beauty” are talking about doing the same beauty rituals we have always done, only with more earth-friendly products. Definitely better than mass-market beauty, and certainly better than the days of lead-based face powder and carcinogen-laden hair products. But still not really “natural”.

That being said, i can’t see myself going wholly “natural” regardless.

I DO care about the wrinkles over my lip and the lack of color in my cheeks as i get older. I DON’T like when my leg hair grows out and wiry spikes sprout halfway between my eyebrow and temple, like spearmint springing from the ground 3 feet from the rest of the herb garden. I DO like some opalescent sparkle on my face. And for the life of me, i can’t truthfully tell you why.

There is the age-old argument that we do it for men. But i will be honest here, even furless, accentuating my best body features, and spending time on makeup every morning, i still have no need for a social calendar. Dates come as rarely for me as oases spring up in the desert. So either the man theory isn’t true, or it just ain’t working.

Then there is the argument that we are brainwashed by the media. I grew up loving fashion magazines. I still do, tho i get a bit depressed at the lack of older women in them. And i take the photos with a grain of salt. We all know that these images are unrealistic; the models genetically gifted, and photo-shopped within an inch of their lives. I know that i can’t wear a dress to work that contains an actual, living fish. And no one wants to see my ass hanging out of my 3-inch rise dress slacks. But even still, i love the photography, the artistry, and the illusion of grandeur… Even if i will never master the Manolo-esque stiletto.

So maybe i do it because it is ingrained in me. Growing up, all the women in my life de-fuzzed, dyed their hair, and worked hard to look comely. Very few went without makeup, and even fewer let their grey hair or pit hair run wild. So it isn’t like i had a bunch of earthy-crunchy women setting the standard. I have to say, tho, that no one in my family ever barked at me for whatever macquillage i was sporting at any stage. When i took to wearing men’s clothes, or all black, or my combat boots with everything, my family accepted it. When my hair was short, blue, and combed into a perfect DA, my family made no more notice of it than they did when it was long and the black of my youth. Truth be told, my family has been supportive of nearly all of my appearance conventions – The lone exception being my decision, after 40, to let my white hair grow out. That caused all kinds of controversy.

Nothing having to do with me, i think; and everything to do with it making others feel old.

So why, then? Why do i do what i do to alter my appearance? Is it any of those things i mentioned? Is it all of those things i mentioned? I think it is at least partially the latter; and not just for me, but for all women. After all, it’s not like we see the bulk of men worrying about the sparseness of their eyelashes. Or giving themselves bunions and broken sesamoid bones so they can rock a slut shoe. Or paying money to have someone rub acid on their face, in hopes it will make them look 10 years younger. Hell, men score extra points just for wearing the right amount of cologne. So, obviously, there is a gender bias.

But even knowing that, i can’t imagine myself not going to at least some length of primping.  I can’t imagine being comfortable in public with a completely unadorned face unless forced. I can’t imagine going to the beach unshaved and not worrying i looked like i was smuggling rabbis under my arms. I can’t imagine going out on a (painfully) rare date and not putting in some effort…


Maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s the act of putting in effort. Not necessarily what i do to make myself look “my best”, but the fact that i am willing to go to lengths. For my (phantom) date. For my coworkers. For myself. Proof that i care enough to do something. I do less now than i did when i was young: I no longer spend an hour on my makeup, and if a shoe isn’t comfortable, i won’t wear it. (Unless it’s for Liam Neeson. I’d wear them for Liam Neeson.) So i guess you can say that the amount of effort is relative. If you are male or female, young or old, city born or country raised, meeting a mere mortal or meeting Liam Neeson; the bar for acceptable effort moves.

I know that we as women should be content with the lot God/Goddess/Universe gave us. He didn’t make me to look like a model for a reason. Maybe because GGU knew that, as depressing as it is thinking no one is looking at you, it is far worse to think everyone is looking at you. Even if i get caught at the market with jacked up hair, the number of people who will find out is only marginally larger than the single digit number of people who will give a damn. If i had the level of objective beauty i pine after, my bad hair day would become the conversation piece for more blogs and websites than my ego could handle.

Thank you, Universe, for not making me a starlet.

So back to my original thoughts… Tho buying cosmetics that are made of beet juice and and free-range, wild-harvested sea grass is better for the environment than the chemical compounds marketed by the taste makers, i’m not sure it’s any better for our psyche. The implied message is still that we need this stuff to be “pretty enough”. And while it may be true that there are very few “natural beauties” in this world, each of us possesses our own “natural beauty”. Yes, we are all beautiful in our own way. Even unshaven and un-powdered and unadulterated. The Universe and the ones who love us see that beauty, and any adornment is unnecessary. Heaven only knows if we will all learn to see ourselves that same way, to love ourselves as we are and do the primping just for fun. (Tho i can’t imagine anyone waxing just for fun. That shit hurts!) And would it still be fun if it wasn’t considered more beautiful? I don’t know.

As for me, i know better than to think i’ll ever get to that point. I get more comfortable with myself with each passing year, but i doubt i will ever be satisfied. I will likely always strive to be more. Because, you know, there’s always that slim chance i could score a date.

I’m still holding out hope for Liam Neeson.


Next Week, It May Be Pink

So, i’m in Ulta killing time while my son shops for comic books. I notice they are having a great deal on some Urban Decay lip glitter, so i am trying the testers to find some colors for my oldest daughter who embodies that Urban Decay look. When i see one that i can’t find the tester for, i ask the salesperson. She points out one that would look good on me. So i explain that these are for my daughter… I am far too long in the tooth to be wearing that kind of statement lip color.

“But, ma’am…” She says, with a duh look on her face and a rather pronounced eye roll that you could almost hear, “You have purple hair.”

Ok, yes, i have purple hair. This week. It was blue last week. But that’s beside the point. My ultra-short funky-colored hair isn’t as noticeable as full-on silver glitter lips. Is it? I mean, wouldn’t that put it WAY over the top? I’d look like some sad woman trying to recapture her youth.


It’s a fine line between being a silver-age woman with independent and funky style à la Iris Apfel… And being a joke.

I’d prefer to be the former.

But truth be told, i am a bit of a joke. Case in point:

My son and i are watching his new favorite show, Designated Survivor. An ad comes on for some new drug, and as expected, at the end a bland male voice lists the common side effects: Fungal infections, false test results, elevated liver enzymes… And my son and i start adding on our own…

Excessive flatulence

Bad breath

Suspicious hoof growth

Elevated gas prices

Hermaphroditical tendencies (I swear he made that word up)

Lack of Christmas spirit

Inexplicable craving for hockey and cottage cheese

You can imagine the rest. We have so much fun with things like that, as nuts as that may seem. I know it is more expected to have a kind of Tom Hanks humor (Which we love, don’t get me wrong…), but in reality, my family is more Coen brothers and Eddie Izzard. Smart, dysfunctional, sometimes daft, sometimes sick. It’s the liquid in the glue that holds us together. Not surprising, i suppose, to anyone who reads me regularly. And probably adds credence to the purple hair and glitter gloss.

Or maybe not.

Maybe there is nothing that explains a 51 year old woman with purple hair. Glitter gloss or not. One who takes up tap dancing instead of joining a gym like normal people. One who, after raising three amazing weedlings, makes an effort to live life unapologetically. One who writes a blog saying a bunch of stuff that probably would better off if left in my head.

But then, the few of you who get it might not know you aren’t alone.

Besides, my head might explode from holding all this in.

And my weedlings, just like their Ma, aren’t the best at cleaning… I can’t leave them with that kind of mess.




The System Went Live, And All I Got Was This Pay Check

It has been a hell of a couple of weeks.

The new career culminated in a system GoLive that was on par with the day after a county fair chili eating contest. In other words, a shit show. Apparently, that is normal. Being a clinical medical person up til now, i am not used to that. Because we had patients on the line, it wasn’t a shit show unless the patient actually, you know, shit. Basically, no matter how bad things got with computer issues or patient condition, you were running on adrenaline. You’d adjust and move on, with no time to think about it til later.

Without a patient to distract my brain squirrels, the big day was a lot different than a patient with an active heart attack. First off, instead of adrenaline, i was running on string cheese and hummus… Neither of which are a good idea in excessive quantity. Second, it was hard to drum up appropriate panic for the user who couldn’t find the exact study they wanted because it was listed under “cardiac” and not “heart”. (Most “critical issues” actually were, but sometimes these eye-roll kinds slip thru, and you have to hope against hope that the user is just having an off day.) Third, the level of noise when you cram nearly 300 people into a giant cubby farm meant for 125 is enough to disturb the zen of the Dalai Lama himself. Fourth, it is a painful irony that when you most need a day off / a walk in the woods / a visit with your therapist, you don’t have time for it.

I was cranky. I was frustrated. I was exhausted. And i lost count of how many times i talked myself out of ceremoniously exiting the building with a straight back and a one fingered salute on each hand.

But even in the midst of all that, there were moments that warmed my soul.

I came home one evening to find that my oldest weedling had folded the clothes in my dryer, even knowing that i am level 10 particular about laundry. I could tell she worked hard to mimic my OCD folding requirements. And i damned near cried when i read the note on top that said, “Love you, Ma. I tried my best.”

My son uttered nary a complaint, and required no extra requests, to get chores done. He even did some of my chores so i could roll into bed when i got home. And he did it all with virtually none of the snarkiness implicit in a 15 year old boy.

I received an after-hours voicemail from a user whom i had helped. It was a genuine and sweet thank you. It’s a simple thing, but the fact that she took the time after her own long workday to make a phone call meant more to me than she could ever know.

Friends and family have been generous with their patience. It isn’t easy to stay connected with someone who is socially running on fumes. But there has been no chiding for non-response. No nagging to answer the phone. Only the random supportive message or funny meme. It helped to know that i was forgiven without question. I couldn’t ask for better people in my circle.

There is still a lot of work to do. But i am better prepared for this than i was for the job in the beginning. I have learned a lot and acquired some great co-workers. And i survived the biggest hurdle of this new career: The not-real-shit show.

As things start to settle down and we can at least see the light at the end of the tunnel, where we get to work normal hours and have a bit of life outside of the cubby farm, I am reminded of something… Tho wading thru the last week felt like The Great Molasses Flood   (It’s a real thing. Click on the link if you don’t believe me) – An onslaught of unexpected stickiness and suffocating waves coming at a fast pace… Setting everyone back in shock and disbelief that this is actually happening for real… It’s everywhere and you can’t escape it… Oh-my-god-does-this-mean-there-won’t-be-any-rum??… Oh no! What a mess!  – In the path of the cleanup, it leaves a lingering sweet scent of a job well done.

Unfortunately, it also leaves sticky spots and bugs.

But at least it ensures continued employment.


Distinctive Similarity

Sitting on the front porch, cup of Lapsang Souchong, messaging a Brit friend of mine, and watching the remnants of Nate pass thru… Siri had been at my side, but then she saw a chipmunk and took off. I messaged this to my Brit friend, and then i got to thinking. A few Google clicks later, i discover that there are no chipmunks in England. Seriously. Zero. But i’ll bet they still have rodents that dig up the bulbs in their garden. He bet that his cats, familiar with chipmunks or not, would chase and eat one.

They don’t have groundhogs in the U.K. either.  But i’m sure they have some other kind of cute-but-destructive whistle pig.

I have friends in Australia… If i went there and saw a Tasmanian Devil, i’d be awed, even tho we have our own version of the “Trash Panda”, the American Raccoon.

I suppose it is natural to assume that all places and people are both the same and different. Parents work, kids learn, and politicians make rules that they don’t follow. But not all parents work an eight hour day and come home for supper. Not all children get to go to school. Not all politicians are criminals. All cultures have music, but each has it’s own melodic sound. We all eat bread, but indigenous grains make it taste different in different cultures. And we all tolerate idiots, regardless of what language we speak. Same in principle, different in detail.

Let me tell you a story:

During the Gulf War, i spent time in the Middle East. Even having a full schedule with my Navy duties, i still occasionally had time to explore. For example, a friend and i had heard about this great hole-in-the-wall Turkish restaurant on the edge of the city where we were temporarily stationed, and ventured out one night to go there. Now, the city wasn’t a large place, but somehow we still got lost. We ended up in an outskirt neighborhood after dark, and one of the local kids came over to us.

“My mom says this isn’t a good place for you to be. Why are you here?”

“We were looking for a place to eat that we heard was very good, but we got lost.”

He runs to his mom and tells her. She motions us over. She is stirring a big pot over a fire in what could essentially be considered a dirt floor garage. There are other women around her, and a whole mess of kids running around playing. Thru her son, who is maybe 8 or 9, she tells us we were nowhere near where we were headed, will never get to the restaurant on time and were welcome to eat with them instead.

We take her up on her hospitality. Some of the kids stick close by to translate. I ask about her recipes, her husband, her family. She asks about our children and what it is like to be a woman in the military. Someone starts playing music… Unfamiliar to me, but upbeat and pop-ish. Periodically, a young weedling will come tug at skirts. I can’t understand the words per se, but i’m sure it is something like, “Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. MOOOOOOMMMMMMYYYY!” Sometimes, after this, i see Mom’s eyes roll, and then she looks at me and laughs. She knows i know what it’s like.

We shared a delicious, if humble, meal of lentils and flatbread. More talking and laughing and friendship afterwards because, tho of different backgrounds, the concepts of “Family” and “Meal” are universal. Tho literally on the other side of the globe, as women, as mothers, we are sisters.

As we got up to leave, we handed the woman money. She vehemently refused. Her son let us know that she would not take money from our children’s mouths. Hospitality was part of their culture, and the exchange of money wasn’t allowed. It wasn’t til we explained that we had been given this stipend by our government specifically for eating, and that it was not taking anything from our family, that she relented. We reasoned that our experience that evening was something every government should encourage. And then we laughed and hugged, and her son gave us directions back to our hotel.

I relay this story because even tho from two different worlds, the woman and i were the same. Different language, culture, lifestyle… Everything that, on first glance, would make you think we had nothing in common. And yet, we were both “Mom”, both curious, both building a bridge with a total stranger. Our children were dressed differently, would be educated in a completely different way, and certainly had different opportunities… But our kids were all loved, raised, and taught to be kind. She had likely never seen a chipmunk, and i have never seen a jerboa, but we both know a rodent when we see one.

Differently the same. Similarly different. All of us. Everywhere. We all have blessings. We all have problems. We all know friends and family and music. We all know bills and illness and assholes. We all seek the pleasure in little things. We all seek the occasional epic event. We all cope with politicians. We all deal with rodents.

But maybe those last two are the same thing.



At this age, the main thrill you get from a birthday is that you are still alive and enjoying it. Tho some birthdays are benchmarks, like turning 50, the noteworthy numbers are fewer and farther between at this time of life. It doesn’t mean that the date is bad. It’s just harder to muster enthusiasm for a number of years that doesn’t have a specific relevance attached. So turning 51 yesterday was kind of anti-climactic.

While wondering if this indifference was justified, i had the bright idea to Google the number.

It wasn’t just me.

I mean, there were some very cool references: 51 is the number of Doc Hudson in the Cars movies, it’s the direct dial code to Peru, and it is the source of speculation that is Area 51 (For you non-U.S. citizens: This is a government facility that supposedly is for flight testing but, according to popular tale, also harbors recovered alien aircraft and extraterrestrials).  But for the most part, the references were mathematical: Cyclic Gilbreath Permutations (Which apparently have something to do with the shuffling of cards), Stormer numbers (Which, oddly, do not reflect on the weather), and Perrin numbers (Which have nothing to do with steak sauce). Kind of interesting, if you’re bored enough. But there was nothing in there that was like, “WOW! How did i not know that?!?” Nothing that made me think i should be excited about it. I’ll bet, if i conducted a survey, it wouldn’t even be on anyone’s list of favorite numbers.

Not that it’s bad. It’s just “meh”.

I didn’t really expect this birthday to be exciting. And i didn’t expect it to be particularly depressing. So i shouldn’t be surprised that 51 isn’t a magic astrological number, or the number of calories in a cup of  Häagen-Dazs, or the average number of dates a single, middle-aged woman has in a year. (Tho it is the atomic number of Antimony… Which, if it were the opposite of matrimony like it sounds, would be a great thing…)

I suppose, in the end, i got what i expected… Another year on this Earth to make people smile and laugh. Another year to watch my weedlings grow to become extraordinary people. Another year to try to make a positive difference in my little corner of the world. So even as i find out that 51 has no celestial promise for magnificent mojo, or a free facelift, or a surge in calorie metabolism; i am a lucky woman indeed.  My expectations were fulfilled.

And i have already checked… 52 has promise.


A Knight in Battered Armor

This is where i admit that i’ve a soft spot for people, men and women both, with a bit of grit. I’ve never been one for the pretty boy or the stately beauty. Show me callouses, scars, and the look in their eye that, in spite of all they’ve seen, they still find me worthy.

Those lists – the ones made by fashion and gossip magazines – of the hottest celebrities… Rarely do they show the kind of people i lust after. The millionnaire bachelor with his perfect cheekbones and professionally trained physique hold very little allure for me. Don’t get me wrong, i understand why others carry the torches. The aesthetic of the Hollywood-groomed woman, of the couture-suited man, they beg to be noticed. The ones who have acquired that old-style grace, and the ones with the dry wit… There is a reason they are PR’d that way… Because the masses love it.

The perfect bit of 5 O’clock shadow. The golden skin and curve of a silk and tulle clad breast. We all wish we had it – Either for ourselves or in the form of a lover. But to me, they have always rung as a bit fake. To say you’ve had a man with cut abs and  larger than life junk in his trousers… When i was young, i thought that was a great accomplishment. I thought it proved something about me. And i suppose it did.

It proved the shallowness and short-mindedness of youth.

Physical attraction is important. Yes, scientifically, it ensures the continued population of the species; but more importantly, attraction means sex. And sex is good for our physical and mental health. It’s one of God/Goddess/Universe’s greatest and funnest gifts. It is an affirmation of life. Or should be, when it is done well and with the right person.

Each of us has our own idea of the “right person”. What attracts us, engages us, and keeps us entertained is different for each person. One may like a chiseled face. One may like a muscular ass. Others are all about the hair. More power to them. As for me, i want someone whose face and body tell a story of survival, passion, and depth.

Show me the scar where he got his ass beat getting his best friend’s back. Show me calloused fingers where she worked her way up in a man’s world. But most of all, show me that look in their eye. Those eyes that have seen pain and joy. The ones that hold lust and wisdom. The ones that promise their heart if you can get thru to it. I want someone who has seen a lot, been thru a lot, and respects others who have done the same. THAT is someone who i can open up to and melt for. That is a degree of sexiness that won’t diminish with age, circumstance, or loss of limb.

I’ve always held this view, but it’s been made worse by binge watching Game of Thrones.  Too many sexy scar-bearers in that cast. And me, laid out on a lot of bedrest after some surgery… Filling my time by ogling them and getting wrapped up in the drama. (You think you’ve found the perfect fantasy character… Then they either get killed or do something terribly evil…. It’s a tease of volcanic proportions.) (If you think about volcanoes for a second… The waxing and waning of smoke, and the lava overflowing or not, depending on the whim of the gods… It makes even more sense.) 

Friends have told me for a long time now that i would love this show. It is the kind of epic fantasy that i devoured as a kid, but have less time for as an adult. After watching this series, tho, i think i need to start making time for it. No, i won’t get to ogle the sexy people as easily in a book; but a good writer brings that sense of duty, honor, and passion out in a way that is even more sexy. (And then you get to picture them in your head and make them your own… There is no bigger tease than the one we create in our own mind.)

And why am i writing about this today? A combination of too much rest (I’m not good at “resting”) and post-op narcotics, i suppose. This idea has been sitting in my draft bin for over a week, but i was afraid to publish it til i had been off the pain pills for a bit, lest i regret it in a literary “morning after.” The equivalent of waking up with your best friend’s little brother after a drunken dinner party. Except the brother has armor. And a sword. And a convoluted claim to a crown. And a scar across his cheek. And that look in his eye….

Oh my.