Monday, April 27, 2009

Thought Salad

This post won't taste good, even if you put your favorite dressing on it. I just have a bunch of completely disparate things to toss together. And, just now, EEEK! There's a big ant walking across my keyboard, but that's irrelevant.

Spring is here, or rather, the seasons seem to have skipped straight from winter to summer with barely a visible warning from trees and flowers. Right now it's 84, and reportedly it's planning to be 90 tomorrow. Help me. While the trees still look positively lacy, the weekend was hot enough to make us switch from storm doors and windows to screens, open the windows, run the attic fan, and even break out a small turbo space fan. It was the hottest weekend in recorded history for this region. I hate it. I have no problem with cold. I can always go around the house wearing sweaters and blankets to get warm when the house is 52, but I can't get cool without wearing garments that I consider inappropriate and/or embarrassing, and I sweat like a pig. It is completely out of character for the weather to be hot in April. In fact, it is not unheard of for a surprise little flurry to occur.

Where did this stupid ant come from? Go away, ant. I'm going to have to capture him and put him out. He is putting footprints between the pages of a document I was given by its author, archivist and historian at Old Sturbridge Village, "Mail in 1830s New England." But I digress.

The main evidence of "spring" is that the road termites are out prowling around, weaving madly, cutting everyone else off, and making outrageous left turns starting half a mile from the intersection, thus requiring them to ride up the wrong side of the road into oncoming traffic. This includes mentally unstable college girls and huge landscaping trucks with their trailers. Normally, any other time of year, this would simply be an obvious indicator that the license plates read Mass., but now it's just that people are buckwild crazya$ coming out of hibernation.

New word/title coinage: Tyke asks for eggs for breakfast on weekend. Dad is a master at eggs. Dad makes magnificent omelet containing all of Tyke's favorite flavors. Tyke howls for a full 30 minutes, "I don't want an omelet, I want scrambled." He sits at the table and picks. About then, Dad asks if I want some eggs. I say, "Sure, I'd like scrambled!" Dad goes berserk. "You're not helping me out here!" Hint, hint. "Actually, I'd like an OMELET." Then the big kid, G., says, "Who do you think you are, Dad, The Omelettier?"

Insomnia: I finally got two nights of sorta-sleep after four nights of wide-open eyelids. The primary reason was probably my anxiety over G's "final" surgery to remove his cardiac catheter, which took place Wednesday. The insomnia started Tuesday night. Then, Wednesday night, in case he needed help, water, food or meds I slept on the sofa and, for the comfort of the affected part, he stayed in one position on the huge comfy chair/ottoman.

I did get a few short-lived naps. But the cruelest thing is the meta-dreams. What the heck do I mean by "meta-dreams"? This is just evil, and my own head made it up to foist upon me. Here's an example. Wednesday night, as G snored lightly, I finally fell asleep and stayed asleep long enough to start dreaming. In the dream, G has come home from an evening at his girlfriend's house. Her dad has brought them back to our home in the van. As is often the case, I am talking to the congenial dad, and I tell him, "Gosh the last few nights have been murder; I can hardly sleep at all. All I get is a nap and then it's all over." He says, "Really?" Upon which admission I am rendered bolt-upright awake. Now Porky Pig stutters, not actually but metaphorically, "That's all, folks!" I hear every house and tree creak, mouse skitter, bird twitter and vehicle move in a ten-mile radius, see every lightwave and shadow, feel every little pain, my sinuses go berserk and I get a raging case of gas and heartburn that must be properly addressed. I am completely up until I'm supposed to be up, at which point I can hardly get up because I'm so tired.

Here's another one. In Thursday's dream I am in a whole other state of the union (who knows which one it's supposed to be) with a bunch of total strangers and none of my family. It's all adults and no kids. I start out in a gas station but the venue morphs into a very casual tiny Greek diner-type restaurant that has all outdoor tables on a flat lawn in back. People in the restaurant are raving and recommending a particular dish. It is described by them as huge wide noodles wrappped up with something like herbed rice inside (reminiscent of dolmades) with a thick, olive-laden sauce on top. I order it, and it is delivered to the white linen-covered picnic table where I wait. But---aaaaarrgggghh! It doesn't look anything like the item described. It looks like a pile of tiny dry burritos with a drizzle of what should have been green salsa, but which looks more like thick, golden motor oil. There aren't even any utensils or napkins. The sight of it in the dream made me need to throw up. It just shocked me in the dream because it was so unlike the dish described. Too unexpected. Once again, BING! Wide awake with the whole night/morning ahead of me.

We have conifers and Rotarians in our water supply: For the past almost week, our town has been one of ten locally that were identified as receiving "copepods and rotifers" in the water. No live critters have been found, according to the metropolitan water district. Furthermore, these particular strains of organisms are not known to cause illness and are present in almost all fresh water. YET we have been admonished to boil our drinking water "for at least one minute." Why? To beat a dead rotifer? Every day I look for a lift of the "boil order," and every day it's not there. The affected towns are now down to six, but ours is among them. I don't care if I DO boil my water; I don't want to ingest cooked rotifers and copepods, either. Fortunately, before this event I didn't think about the microorganisms in our water. Now I'll never be able to forget them, even if they're dead and known not to be pathogenic.

Friends were cleaning out their attic and found a lot of old books. Since I am a logophile, they gave me one called More Press Boners. It's a book-length list of funny grammar, typographical, spelling and punctuation mistakes made in the publishing media, primarily newspapers. For instance, "Read our new booklet, 'How To Increase Your Word Power, Think Better, Spell Perrectly,'" and "Mother can disassemble the boys at the end of play time and pack the little containers away neatly." (Don't I wish.) What's funniest to me, even more than the gaffes themselves, is the archaic nature of many of the topics and concepts in the book. If my boys were to read it (which they won't because they're lazy), they would find much of it baffling, because they wouldn't understand the context or some of the vocabulary. For example, there's a listing from a television guide: "9:00 p.m. Geo. Gobel show. 9:15 p.m. Geo. Gobel shot." They would never in a million years know who George Gobel was.

This is the other part of the book: The title cracks the boys up. They have another idea about the definition of the word "boner."

And now a note about customer service: I can't remember if I wrote about this months ago (or moths ago as might have been reported in Boners). We rarely dry clean our clothes. We try to buy exclusively washable garments, but there are the seasonal coats and heavy down comforter, and some of my summer linen items. Anyway, I went online to arrange an at-home dry cleaning pickup from the cleaners we usually use, only to discover that the company I had been using had been bought out and replaced by another company. I blithely signed up on their website. Within a few days, the van showed up and the guy collected my bag of cleaning.

Well, darn it, that's when the trouble started.

A couple of days later I got a call from a distressed woman who works for the dry cleaning company (which I will not name because I refuse to give them press). At first I thought something had gone wrong or gotten lost or the order was screwed up or something and this was a courtesy call to straighten it out. But no! This woman explained that she was the representative for a territory and my address was in her territory and that I should not have let blah-blah guy pick up my cleaning. In fact, I should call every time I need cleaning and ask for HER exclusively. Though she did not say as much, I'm guessing they work on commission and the guy who picked up after being alerted via web is her direct competition in this area. She had a whiskey voice and a mafioso manner. She practically made me sign on the dotted line that I would ALWAYS only use her as my pickup and delivery person. I felt summarily harassed. I hung up the phone feeling as if I'd been beaten up by a bully in elementary school.

Then I went to the internet and considered signing up for another company, called Edricks. When I was ready with a new bag I saw the Edricks van coming up the street and waited by the mailbox and waved. The Edricks guy stopped in the middle of the street, took my info and cleaning, was friendly as could be, got my info into their system and had the clothes (much more nicely presented than the other company) back at my door in a couple of days. Even before the items were returned, I got two courtesy calls from the company surveying about the service and confirming my order.

Okay. So, customer-service tip: don't bully customers if you want to keep them. Gees.

Boys will be boys: This is how it is when you have more than one boy-child. Big kid G is returning to school after being out almost all year for cancer treatment. So he's getting up Thursday to have me drive him to his big half-day start-off. He appears on the stairs in boxers, hospital sox (he loves them), and a face covered with shaving cream. He says, quietly, "Mom. Mom." My face is a question mark. He says, "Tyke took my disposable razor and used it to clean the gum off his favorite basketball shorts. So I went in your bathroom looking for the razors and couldn't find one. Would you give me one?" Said shorts are a pet peeve of mine. I've been trying to get rid of them for a year, but Tyke keeps retrieving them. I didn't know about the Heloise "put item in freezer and pick off the gum" trick. It wasn't a big wad of gum at all, but still, gross! I got the new razor for G. Then when Tyke came home I inquired. He admitted shaving the pants. I said, "But did you make a hole in them?" And he said, "Yeah, but they're reversible so they have a liner so it doesn't matter."

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Insomniac Journal

I was going to entitle this "sick thoughts at 4:00 a.m.," but they really aren't sick, just off-kilter, which I typically am.

Most nights when I have insomnia, I just try to burrow deeper in the dark blankies, wear a sleep mask (which is almost always completely light-permeable), hold onto a security pillow and rock a little. The rocking was not original to me, but my DH does it relentlessly and despite the annoyance I glean from his rocking, I sometimes find my own small foot wiggle is rather comforting and sometimes successful as a lulling tool. I definitely don't sleep, but I do achieve a sort of comfortable repose.

Anyway, the other night I had such hopeless sleeplessness that I just decided to throw in the blanket and sit up and turn on a reading light and read a little. But my own thoughts came buzzing in, distracting me from "The Secret Life of Bees." I was thinking about words that for some reason do not look right to me.

teargas (tee-ar-gus?) (tee Argus?) Argosy . . . Wide Sargasso Sea (I am a little sleepy, just not able to go all the way to sleep.

This one has thrown me for a loop ever since I first saw it:

biopic Many people are myopic. Or even cyclopic ("I can hardly believe my eye!"). But "biopic" doesn't look to me anything like what it is. It seems to be an ocular condition that fits just dandy with the other ones. I am always surprised when I see that someone is to star in a biopic, or that a biopic is to be made about some celebrity or historical figure. My mind ALWAYS reads and pronounces it bi-OP-ic. Are you myopic? I'm biopic.

Now, a little more esoteric:

t h e

Ubiquitous, we take it for granted. It sneaks into everything and almost every sentence. But look at it. It's nuts. See it by itself. Pathetic all by its lonesome. What in heck does it have to do with itself? It makes no sense. It is nothing. It doesn't look right; seems spelled wrong. It actually needs a noun to flesh it out and make it real, but then once the noun has come and gone it is just a sad phantom that briefly helped the perfectly self-capable noun get into a sentence. I wonder how many times and how much time in my life I've wasted spending my thoughts, reading eye movement, thoughts or mouth on t h e.

Why do I bother to examine it now? Oh, because I'm supposed to be sleeping. Well, I want to be sleeping! I don't have time for this three-letter anomaly bothering me in the middle of the night. Consider the marvelous concision of our communications if we did not use it. It makes me understand why whole languages dispense with articles. It has no identity and does not seem aware that it should have one. It's just an invisible lackey slinking its way into otherwise perfectly self-sufficient locutions. Why do we fall for it? I don't know. It feels awkward in your mouth, has no roundness or suppleness, and does not roll trippingly off the tongue.

Another hour of unproductive sleeplessness plunders by. I think, what are my favorite sounds? If I had favorite words, what would some of them be, and why?

It turns out that I had asked myself this many times before and the winners keep retaining their stations. I do not particularly like the letter "h" but find a strange consistency in the words I keep holding onto. It's just like hating the number "6," only in numbers "6" keeps never getting into the inner sanctum.

All-tiime favorites, some of which almost require a lithsp:
  • halcyon
  • hyacinth
  • heliotrope
  • helleborus niger
And suddenly the great ship, the renegade Helleborus Niger, loomed on the horizon, bringing thoughts of threat and horror to the castaways on shore. The anxious onlookers huddled together but soon saw another ship following in swift pursuit from behind: the battledore HMS Cistus Purpureus. (But, no, the Helleborus Niger is just the lowly and rather homely Christmas rose, grown in Greece and used to ward off witches.)

Then there's the mighty dicotyledon. "What color was her jacket?" "Oh, sort of an off-dicotyledon, you know, a little more yellow than chartreuse, a shadow off celadon."

"What was the cause of death?" "The autopsy report makes it clear that it was a rampant 36-hour infection by the dreaded amoebic dicotyledon." Not flesh-eating or anything, but still. Except that a dicotyledon is just a flowering plant with two cotyledons.

Plebeian. I love the order of the vowels. When I was a little kid I had a Persian calico cat who had previously been the red-light-district stray cat of the neighborhood but for some reason after spewing out about eight litters of kittens decided to become a domestic--at our house. She had a wonderful and cheerful personality and was more dog than cat. No matter how far away she was she would come running home when you called her (amazing). She put up with quite a bit of being dressed up as a Glamour Cat (Woolworth pearls, voile, crinoline, etc.) and riding around in carriages and other dumb things little girls do to "bond with" [read humiliate] their pets. I was always making up songs for Calico and one of them involved the word "plebeian" just so I could weave it into the song. It happened that Calico was ONCE plebeian but after she became part of our household she was actually royalty. One time my parents went out and my mother wore her fur stole and instead of hanging it up afterward tossed it on the sofa in the sewing room. In the morning we found Calico purring in the center of it. Plebeian? Certainly Not!

Don McLean has a wonderful song called "On the Amazon," in which preposterous words are deeply misunderstood and used in very funny incorrect contexts. I think one of the lines is, "On the Amazon, the prophylactics prowl!'

Oh, boy, here's part of the song [this is NOT my material; copyright belongs to Don McLean and whichever record company recorded it, and I do not for one minute claim this material is originally mine]:

On the Amazon, the prophylactics prowl.
On the Amazon, the hypodermics howl.
On the Amazon, you’ll hear a scarab scowl and sting
Zodiacs on the wing.

All the stalactites and vicious vertebrae
Hunt the stalagmites, while laryngitis slay
All the parasites that come from Paraguay in spring.
Snarling equinox among the rocks will seize you,
And the Fahrenheit comes out at night to freeze you.
Wild duodenum are lurking in the trees,
And the jungle swarms with green apostrophes!
Oh, the Amazon is calling me.

On the Amazon, the pax vobiscum bite.
On the Amazon, the epiglottis fight.
On the Amazon, the hemispheres at night all slink
Where the agnostics drink.
All the hippodromes that lie concealed in mud
Hunt the metronomes, that live in swamp and flood.
Then the kodachromes come out and drink their blood - poor ginks.
While velocipedes among the weeds will scare you,
And the menopause with hungry jaws ensnares you!
Frenzied adenoids infest the hills and slopes;
Everyone avoids the deadly stethoscopes.
Oh the Amazon is calling,
Yes the Amazon is calling,
Oh, the Amazon is calling me!

One of my favorite songs in the world. I believe I could SLEEP if I were in a jungle swarming with comforting green apostrophes. As long as they were in the right places. Otherwise I'd be up all night editing them. And I'm a bit worried about the pax vobiscum biting.

Then we come to another fabulous word, o-n-o-m-a-t-o-p-o-e-i-a.

Are you asleep yet? I'm not, more's the pity.

I try this:

o n o m a t o p o e i a

Only four consonants to hold this baby together! And it sounds like itself. How delightful. Do I have a vowel obsession? I dunno. Is it diagnosable?

Here it is. I think it has some merit. It might have potential to sail me off with the sandman. The word:


Even though I am wearing a black sleep mask, I see its letters as if projected on the ceiling. I chant it silently to myself, slowly: mo-no-to-nous, mo-no-to-nous, mo-no-to-nous . . .

Just by thinking of it and nothing else, I envision myself falling asleep. It is so monotonous, so like itself.

But my body can feel the precise time of morning somehow, which always throws me into insomniac hyperdrive. I first slept at 12:30, first woke at 1:30 and have been up until at least 4:30; that's only a couple of hours before everyone's alarms go on, and if their alarms don't go on I have to jump up and hustle them awake on time to get to school or drive to early jazz band practice . . . two hours isn't much to sleep, but it sure would be precious . . . But if I try to sleep now I'll just worry that I'll sleep through their alarms . . . I have to be awake for them . . . Then I'll have to get up and start calling them down . . .

Every night and morning is like this. No sleep at night but worry. M-O-N-O-T-O-N-O-U-S.


But instead of easing shut for, at best, a half-hour nap, my eyelids are banging open like Colonial shutters in a hurricane.



WARNING: Theater kid. Performing artist. Loves to make stupid faces. Wish the Jack Nicholson one were here, but I can't find it.

After an exhausting long day of scans, x-rays, blood-draws and appointments that took up most of Monday, April 6, on the morning of April 7 our son G, who just had his seventeenth birthday


We are doing the party dances. We are collapsing in crying, laughing silliness. We are having the ultimate, well-deserved emotional breakdowns that have been waiting in the wings for months.I haven't been able to get on the phone because I just start weeping and babbling uncontrollably.

Heartfelt thanks to all of you who prayed, helped, drove, called, asked about his welfare, taught and tutored, waited for belated work (his and mine), complimented his hair at various stages, and otherwise supported us and cheered us on. Thanks also for listening to our worries, grousing, and frustration when we had periodic breakdown rants and displayed other inexplicably weird, forgetful, or rude behavior! We apologize.
I hate the traditional "happy face," but actually went out and deliberately got a balloon of one today, and for once I wasn't even being ironic.

I got stupid stuff at iParty and made a shambles of an already hopelessly cluttered house. (Did you know, for example, that in the Children's Medical Center latex balloons are banned? I was so accustomed to that that I never even considered latex, but got mylar . . . these experiences stick with you in odd ways.) I got little strings of happy-colored Chinese lanterns and gobs of garlands and crepe paper and paper lanterns that don't seem to fit any of our lights, but who cares?

I dress up Al O. Pecia (his radiation therapy mask/bust) differently every day. In the photo above, he was Scottish, sporting my favorite knitted pillbox hat with a Celtic design.Today he is Truman Capote (will post pic later). He has also been quite gallant as George Gordon, Lord Byron, in Turkish Dress. G says he will put him on his piano, since everyone has a bust of a famous composer on the piano. And, if he gets in a real muddle, Al will double nicely as a pasta strainer. Good ol' Al O. Pecia. G's hair is coming back in like gangbusters, but oddly a lot lighter than before.


P.S. I sincerely regret leaving out anyone when I sent thank yous, and for some folks I don't have current contact info. If you know someone else who knows G the phenomenal music kid, please share the joy!
Typically abnormal. loads of medical attention was not able to cure this.

Pretending to behave normally. It's just a clever ruse.


Saturday, April 04, 2009

How to Cook Frozen Snacks

Just a short one this time.

Crazy schedules sometimes call for desperate measures. I had a measure a few days ago--I purchased a box of frozen snacks that are supposed to resemble a cross between a sliced bagel and a little pizza bit. I'm deliberately not naming the product because I don't want to give it any press.

I open the box, and, first of all, the snacks were about 1/2 the size they were advertised as. I guess that's not a surprise. I should be fully accustomed to being misled.

It was the box that really got me. The instructions baffled me. These items come arranged in a reflective cardboard "crisping tray." So if you want to heat the snacks to crispy . . . in bold capital letters, do not use crisping tray!

All right. I won't use it. Because it's not for crisping. I give up.