In Memoriam

I have a good friend who has been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). She is a member of my Red Hats group, the Scarlet Snickerdoodles. She put in a request today. She is planning her Memorial Service and wants to be sure that we attend in all our Red Hat Glory and plethora of red and purple garments, hats, gloves, pins, and whatever else red and purple we can drape ourselves in.

It socked me in the stomach and left me breathless. She's dying. She's not just terribly sick; she's over the top sick with a disease that there is no cure for. She is going to leave us soon and wants to plan a last big bash where she won't be attending.

If you were planning your own memorial, what would you do? What would you say?

Here's to Lois - my friend. Here's to a special person who is a friend to all who meet her, who has a daughter and granddaughters that adore her, who has a husband who thinks she's just tops; who is part of a group of nutty women who like to wear purple and big flamboyant hats.

Here's to Lois who only desires to make memories, lots of memories, everlasting memories.

Here is to my vibrant, living, breathing, very, very, very good friend. Lois.



Write-in for Vice President

I am trying to figure out why I don't like Sarah Palin. It's not that I don't like her. I don't like what's happening with the 2008 election process with so much focus on this one person because "she" is a "woman" and, yada yada yada.

Am I jealous of her? I don't think so. Maybe it's because on the list of qualities for her, I can say the same things about myself. I don't see myself as Vice President material. So is it a low self esteem issue? What?

I don't wear lipstick. Not for any fashion statement – I just find it kind of yucky and will chew it off by the time I hit my desk. So I simply do not wear it. Since I am 59 years old and could have been wearing lipstick since I was 16 (in case my parents would let me), I could have saved enough money in not buying lipstick over the last 43 years, that I could have developed a huge 401(k) plan (moot point – with the stock market dropping 500 points and all the other recession nastiness we are experiencing right now). But hey! I could have saved a lot of money.

So it's not the lipstick. That's on her list. It's not on mine.

Here's my list.

• I'm a mother of two boys;
• I change my own flat tires (maybe that's not on her list)
• I change my own light bulbs, fix my house when needed (repair windows, paint, replace worn siding, clean out the pipes under the sink, catch and dump dead mice, catch and release all other living creatures).
• Not on my list: I don't shoot living breathing Bambi's or Bullwinkle's.
• Not on my list: I don't fish – worms hate me
• I was a single mother for most of my sons' upbringing (not on her list)
• I have made financial decisions by myself without a husband; I bought my own house under my own name; I paid cash for my car; I have friends to repair my car.
• I work at a day job; I work as a parent; I work as a homemaker; I am my own wife.
• I am experienced in time management, project management, child management, career advancement for my children, nurse and fireman for my children, chauffeur, cook, bottle washer, and home schooling in the evening after the public school gives them enough homework to keep them in a coma for a week.
• I am not a hockey mom – it's not in my budget; I am a cub scout mom which entailed more hand's on, dig in the cupboard and garage and find everything you need to help your son build a cherried out stock car out of a small piece of wood.

Ok, back to this question. Why does it bother me so much? I said the same things about Hillary that I am now thinking about Sarah.

I think it is all the hoopla over her lipstick statement vs. Obama's lipstick statement and then McCain saying Obama wasn't being specifically offensive to Palin in his lipstick statement (totally avoiding saying that he, McCain, was the first one to say the lipstick statement months before Palin even arrived). So all the news blips are all about who said what about whom and nothing about what.

I blame the media on this big time. They snatch a phrase or even a burp and blow it way out of proportion and sidestep substantive issues – like taxes, stem cell research, health care, social security, world peace.

Ok – I think my list is longer than her list. Should I run on the independent ticket? Can I run as Vice President or do I have to have a President run with me?


Walking for a Friend

It was a beautiful sunny morning, perfect for a walk with friends. I arrived at 9:00 and donned my ret hat, took my sweater off to show my purple shirt and made my way to Mirabeau Meadows to join my other Red Hat friends from Scarlett Snickerdoodles. Whenever we gather, we have fun, we laugh, we giggle, we act silly, and we make a show of ourselves. People take our pictures, thinking we are some kind of circus act or parade performer. We are the Red Hats. We are getting up there in age and we are going to dance the whole way. We are not following rules and we are not going to be polite little old ladies with simpering smiles. We are going to wear purple – and pink and red and green and orange and we will do this with the most clash we can manage. We will wear feathers in our hair, jewelry on our fingers, wrists, ears, necks. We will wear lavish red hats with gaudy pins and plastic flowers and long fluffy scarves. We will laugh loud, hug long, and love deep. Most importantly, yesterday we were walking for a cure. A cure for ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis). We were walking for a fellow Scarlett Snickerdoodle – Lois.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a motor neuron disease, first described in 1869 by the noted French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot. Although the cause of ALS is not completely understood, the last decade has brought a wealth of new scientific understanding about the disease that provides hope for the future.

Lou Gehrig first brought national and international attention to the disease in 1939 when he abruptly retired from baseball after being diagnosed with ALS. Most commonly, the disease strikes people between the ages of 40 and 70, and as many as 30,000 Americans have the disease at any given time. | http://www.alsa.org/

The first thing I noticed was everyone laughing and hugging and the air of festivity rang through the park. There was a live band playing very good music and coffee and hot chocolate and krispy kremes were enjoyed by children, adults, people in wheelchairs, volunteers. It was a party! It was a celebration! This was the Walk to Defeat ALS, held at Mirabeau Meadows, Saturday morning, September 13, 2008. Three miles along a portion of the Centennial Trail. I estimated 400 walkers. Maybe more.

There were 12 of us from Scarlett Snickerdoodles. There were several groups of people walking for their loved one – some walking for two or more special people in their lives. There was Team Jason, Team Watts, Team Chicks for Chuck, and many, many others. One team “40” looked like it had 40 participants. I mention Chicks for Chuck because I loved their t-shirt. They loved our hats. I told one that “our Lois” would be arriving soon and she leaned into me and said their Chuck had passed on but his wife was carrying on his fight by helping organize their Chicks for Chuck for the annual Walk to Cure ALS.

We were a wonderful beautiful crowd of people filled with hope and love and anticipation. The cure for ALS is becoming a reality!


Lipstick on a Pig

There it is, that ominous phrase. Kind of like "When Pigs Fly."

I do not for one nanosecond believe that Obama made that statement as a slam against Palin. It has been said before by several politicians. By McCain himself. How can that possibly relate to Palin? I am thinking the Democrats protest too much over nothing.

The glorification of Palin is a rather bleak outlook on our society in general. If you have good looks, are female, represent Mother Earth, pro-life at all costs, hunt and kill dinner for your family, and are nicknamed Barracuda, you have just qualified to run for Vice President of the United States with the 150% chance of being President within 100 days of inauguration. O boy!

How can this happen???? Does being a mayor of a small community and then governor of a sparsely populated state really give you the credentials to be, by all accounts, the President of the United States?

When we vote this fall, in just eight weeks, we really need to look at the ballot. If you are voting for McCain – think again. You are actually voting for the Vice President because his life expectancy has been greatly reduced and is much shorter than you realize.

So this morning, the news is all about the innocuous phrase, "lipstick on a pig," where Obama is referring to change in America. Not once inferring that it was directed towards Palin. But the Dems are spending all their time and energy trying to make it so. This is the stage of politics that I really truly hate. It is enough for me to not want to bother with the elections. We are in for a huge, huge change in America no matter which way we go. But I fear for our country and our soldiers in Iraq if we go McCain/Palin. I fear for our President's own life if we go Obama/Biden.

I fear for our women, too. We have just back-pedaled 30 years where exploiting women was the rule of the day. Once again we will have posters in garages, not of models in swimsuits, but politicians in high heels and - - - - - lipstick. All the news and all the blogs are covering Palin and underscoring good looks, beauty, etc. as the proof positive that men still see us as sex objects, better if we are barefoot and pregnant. We have grossly erased the impact of Roe v. Wade and will eventually lose the right to our own bodies. Again.



Little Toes

I have been going through boxes of old clothes, toys, books, and dishes, all neatly packed over years and years of living in one house since my mid-30s sons were toddlers. O, the treasures I have found! Every box I open is like a looking glass to the past, when the two boys were small and almost identical even though they are 17 months apart. I am able to go through their childhood, layer by layer, grade by grade – I'm going backwards, you see – from 12th grade where my son bought and paid for with his own money 36 graduation pictures, wallet sized, still sitting in the box they came in. That is somehow sad. I remember his face falling when I told him he was responsible for the pictures. What I hadn't figured on was the circus salesman attitude of the photographer – guilting my poor shy son into buying 36 pictures for "all those girls just clamoring to ogle you in the privacy of their own bedrooms."

Then on to a box full of headless G-I Joes. Now there's a story! I just don't exactly know what it is. I remember the boys playing with their G-I Joes, mixed with a huge bag of rubber Army soldiers, a third smaller than Joe, and a mismatch conglomeration of Star Wars characters and one Weeble. Here they sat, most without their heads, laying spent on the floor of the box, their masters having gone off to bigger things like getting married, buying a house, paying bills.

I lifted up another box and found every stuffed animal my two hunkie men would not part with. Not for the bully next door. Not for money. Not for a new razoo Big Wheel. Here lay the loved, cherished, treasured fuzzy creatures that kept the two safe from boogeymen at night. They'd been everywhere. They'd been in the bathwater, in the tree house, dragged behind their Big Wheels, tucked in with the neighbor girl's doll carriage, tied to the back of the patient and long-suffering family dog. They had no fur. Some missing eyes. Some with big safety pins holding buttons where eyes used to be.

One more box was in the kindergarten layer of memories. Those wonderful days when the boys were still my babies, still fat, still eat-em-up chunkie. Here were finger-painting drawings of Mr. Sunshine, the [same] family dog, Stick-Mommy, and Stick-Brother in front of a little house with eyes for windows and a smiley face for a door. I used to have this and 30 or 40 others taped to my fridge – rotating as the boys moved up in grades.

And finally – the little red hand print of my oldest, done in felt, backed by lace paper, the shape traced from his fat little hand. And underneath it all a Plaster-of-Paris plaque of my youngest son's fat squatty foot, delicious little toes formed in the plaster and the instep painted in glittery gold. I sat back and instantly could see the 20 little five-year-olds running around barefoot in the kindergarten class as the ever patient little kindergarten teacher (not much taller than her charges) was orchestrating the procedures for memorializing all their precious little feet. Sweet memories!!! The days go by way too fast when it comes to our children. I can't hold it clenched to my chest hard enough – they continually travel by, memory by memory.



Attack of the Killer Kidney

I've been KO'd by a little kidney. Well, not so little – probably huge. Just what you wanted to read about over lunch: my bulging, growing, cyst-filling kidney(s).

I have Polycystic Kidney Disease, which is the most common inherited disease in the world (beating out diabetes!) and the least known about.

So Friday I woke up feeling like one of those commercials for Nyquil – tired, achy all over, sneezing, fever, backache, whopping headache, and nausea. I know you empathize with me.

I went to work anyway and then had to turn right back around and head for urgent care. Three hours waiting, I kid you not, and I headed to the pharmacy for antibiotics, pain killers, packs of Jell-O, and home and straight to bed. I mean, my significant other had wind burns as I passed him in his comfy easy chair, NOT working. (I'm the breadwinner in this family.) Seriously, I was hoping the doc would say, "You have a really bad and very contagious cold – go home, go to bed, stay off your feet." But, nooooooo.

The last time I had a kidney infection, May 22, 2002 (you don't forget these things), I had a CAT scan. The assistant fussed around with me to get me just right and then started this thing that can only be described as a metal cylinder that looks like the back end of a jet – and it will confirm this vision once the engine starts and I mean – you think you are going to take off into space. It's a huge rumbling spinning sound like a whole bunch of loose ball bearings are charging around and around inside that tube.

I was laying there thinking "be an appendix attack. be an appendix attack. be an appendix attack." But when the assistant came out, her eyes were huge, huge pools in saucers; "Wow, you have really HUGE kidneys." They are NOT supposed to tell the patient that. The radiologist himself is supposed to tell you that. Not the 19-year-old, gum chewing, zit-faced KID.

Now here I am again, waiting for the diagnosis of (cross your fingers), a COLD.

Nope. I had a kidney infection.

See, I hate the word kidney infection because it means that my kidneys are getting attacked again and they just don't need any more pressure from the outside world. They are deteriorating just fine all by themselves. This just adds salt to the wound – oh, but I can't have salt. Just in time for the three-day Labor Day weekend. . . . . . . . . . woohoo.

Now, I'd rather give birth than have a kidney infection. (I've heard the same about kidney stones, too.)

The thing is, you see, I pride myself on my happy attitude. I'm up! I'm positive! I'm cheerful! I'm always going forward! And here I am flat on my back with not even enough energy to flick the power button on the computer, let alone SIT there and try to think of something to write and my fingers and my brain are NOT communicating with each other at all. I'd just as easily hit the delete key as the save key and not know the difference. Maybe I'll have an already-made cup of Jell-O.

It's not that I like to dwell on my disease. We all have some cross to bear. I just don't like to go on and on about it. I like to think that my attitude, my positive thinking, my happy thoughts will slow the decline. Most people with PKD end up on dialysis or have a transplant. I should be very fortunate (and lucky) to just go along as I am now with the occasional kidney infection and sometimes the [very painful] explosion of small blood-filled cysts bursting inside my kidney. I tell myself that as long as I am keeping a good look on things, keeping a positive attitude, then these nasty little interruptions too shall pass into oblivion and I can go along like everyone else.

Still, when it knocks you out, you lie there in bed thinking, gee, could it happen to me? Will I have to go on dialysis? Will I have to have a transplant?

Well, I'm back at work – still climbing up the wall of feeling good. And back to my positive attitude. I will not be ruled by my body today.