Thursday, July 30, 2015

Set adrift on memory bliss.

I was trying to be cool, working on my laptop at Starbucks. But I'm pretty sure I blew my own cover when I started belting En Vogue's "My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)."

Call it a hunch.

See, Big Doodle had his cancer treatment today, or as I like to think of it, BLADDERRAMA!. And BLADDERRAMA! takes place at the holistic vet office that's a solid 45 minutes from our house. Last week, I dropped him off, drove home, then turned around and picked him up, then drove home through rush hour. It was not efficient, unless my goal was to get all road ragey.

So, today, I packed up 57 pounds of laptop, notebooks, and printouts, and camped out at Starbucks near BLADDERRAMA!. I am not typically a work-in-Starbucks kinda gal. I don't drink coffee, and it's so easy to just people watch. So, I guess I was out of practice and ill-prepared.

I just wasn't ready for Starbucks to be blasting the music of my youth, the tunes of my peoples. Instead playing some horrible CD they were hawking, they had some sort of Pandora station set to the 90s. Oh, the 90s - when I graduated from high school and college. When I wore flannel shirts, body suits, and high-waisted jeans and considered Bud Light the ultimate classy beverage.

In the grand scheme of things, I feel like the 90s weren't that great of a time to come of age. The one time in my life I had a rockin' bod, the style was oversized everything. I weighed less than 100 pounds and wore XL sweatshirts. It was just morally wrong. Plus, I didn't remember the music being that great.

Until today.

I was trying to write a website about Medicare. But then, I was all bopping along to Jamiroquai. And trying not to sing along to Big Head Todd or Deee-Lite or New Radicals. I realized there were probably a gajillion girls who lost the big V to Mazzy Star's "Fade Into You" - although I wasn't one of them. And whatever happened to Lisa Loeb?

I really was trying to write about Medicare. But writing that website was a concern of Adult Becky. And Adult Becky had left the building. In her place was College Becky, who rocked those high-waisted jeans and hoped she could find a date to hayride. College Becky was really into "Counting Blue Cars" and knew on some level that these were good times that she'd look back on with fierce affection.

The thing about musical memories is that trying to share them is like forcing someone to listen to your dreams. It just doesn't translate. Musical memories are intimate, yours and yours alone.

Although I will tell you that "Counting Blue Cars" makes me want to stick my hands out of a sunroof and sing at the top of my lungs. Like you do when you've just turned 21 and everything is great and will be indefinitely.

What song triggers memories of your youth?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

I got a lot of problems with you people.

My dad joined Facebook and didn't accept my friend request.

He became friends with my mom and my brother and my husband a bunch of other people. But me, his firstborn? Naw.

My Guy kept casually mentioning it. "Oh, did you see I have a new Facebook friend? I don't think you're friends with him, but he's a really cool guy."

Sometimes it's OK to punch your husband, right?

Later, Dad claimed it was a computer glitch, and boy wasn't it easy to mess things up on the Internet? I think he was afraid that things might devolve into fisticuffs - we were meeting up at a family reunion. And it would be kind of a downer if we had a brawl in front of all the cousins.

But instead, we got along just fine, as is our custom. And we hung out with everyone from his side of the family - and I do mean everyone. His 2 siblings, us 8 cousins, the 13 kids of the cousins, all the various and sundry spouses. It was the first time we'd all been together since my grandma's funeral in 2002, and man, was it good for my soul.

My brother organized the whole shebang, and each night had a program. One night, the siblings talked about their childhoods. The other nights, us cousins answered questions about our memories of family times. I had forgotten about reenacting "The Towering Inferno" in Grandma's basement ... and no, I'm not sure what to think of my cousin's lingering fondness for O.J. Simpson based on that movie. But he's kind of embarrassed about it, and it's all just fine.

It's lovely to have shared experiences, and it's such a gift to have family that really is just that: family. The people who are important to you, whom you love in ways you can't describe - even if you don't see them for 10 years or you think they're mildly (or moderately) insane.

I'm blessed.

And I was blessed today to take another family member, Big Doodle, to the holistic vet who has helped Lil' Frankfurter. My giant dog who has been peeing blood like it's an Olympic sport and he's training to be a gold medalist?

Yeah. We're now treating it like bladder cancer.

But because he is family, we are pulling out the big guns with vitamin infusions and herbal remedies. And because Big Doodle is love covered in fur, he was quite happy to get yet another catheter, to let the techs shave his ankle and give him an I.V. It was OK - he had trust.

I trust that we're going to do right by this dog. I know I am blessed to have him - and all those other crazy jokers - in my family. We're all just trying to do right by each other, even if it means accidentally not being Facebook friends or some such nonsense. We've got the important stuff covered.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Book review: The Unlikely Pilgramage of Harold Fry

Another Wednesday, another book report!

If anyone would like to come over to my house and join me as I beat the hell out of my modem, that would be super-cool. You know what slowly but surely robs you of grace and dignity? An entire day of dial-up-esque Internet speeds.

But you know what book moves at a slow yet lovely pace?

That would be The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel. (How was that for a fancy segue?)

Harold is a retiree, a nobody who gets a letter in the mail from someone he used to work with. His former coworker is in hospice, and was just saying goodbye. Harold sets off to mail his reply ... and then becomes convinced that if he delivers the letter in person, he can keep his friend alive.

And so, Harold walks. Hundreds of miles in yachting shoes, with no cell phone. His wife is beside herself. What sort of crazypants idea is this?

The book unfolds slowly, carefully - like getting to know and appreciate an introverted person.

I don't want to share too much, as the beauty of this book is in how the story unfurls. I had a little trouble getting into it, because, after all? On the surface, it's just a lot of walking. But Harold's life, and his history with his coworker, the relationships with his wife and son - they are all told with love and brutal honesty.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is just a lovely little book. I give it 4 sauntering labradoodles.
Huge thanks to reader Karen for recommending this book about 17 years ago. My to-read pile is now only slightly taller than me. What great books should I add to it?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Book review: The Sisters.

This morning, I actually found myself saying, "You didn't eat the poopie - good job!"

Yeah, we're setting the bar really low.

I really am a literate, sort of educated person. And, I'm way behind on book reviews. So, today is as good a day as any to launch a new feature here at Noodleroux: Wordy Wednesdays. Each Wednesday, a new book review for your reading pleasure. Sometimes I recommend fab books. Other times, I read a horrible book so you don't have to. You're welcome.

In light of the dog poo comments this morning, today's book review is an attempt to get back any Klassy Lady cred I might have ever had. Obviously, this means reviewing a book about real life classy ladies.
The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family by Mary S. Lovell was on my list for a while. My pal Liza, who loves smart books, smart women, and a good, gossipy tale, raved about it. It just took me about 4 years to get to reading it.

Here's the scoop: the Mitfords were fancypants English aristocrats who had 7 kids right around the time of WWI. Six girls and 1 boy. The boy was everybody's darling, but the sisters? Whoa, the sisters. One ended up being a duchess, one was a communist, one wrote tell-all books based on her family, one left her husband for the head of the Fascists in Britain ... oh, and then there was the sister who became obsessed with Hitler. And then the quiet sister. But all of these women were troublemakers.

This book is well-written, carefully researched, and quite detailed. If you're interested in British history or WWII, you'll like it. Me? Well ... I mostly thought it highlighted that school is important. I just kept thinking that these obviously very intelligent girls would have had better outlets than, you know, becoming obsessed with Hitler if they'd been allowed to go to school.

That's right. Their mom thought educating girls made them pedestrian, and school wasn't proper for a society girl. The sisters begged to go to school and were consistently turned down.

Excuse me while my brain explodes.

I found most of the characters exhausting. Interesting, but not people you'd want to spend a lot of time with. But, then again, I spend my time with a dachshund who did a good job by not eating poop. Take my review with a grain of kibble.

My review: two of five dachshunds.
What have you been reading lately?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

I have a placemat for my VCR. If I still had a VCR.

The new phone book's here! The new phone book's here!
Or, rather, my new issue of Uppercase magazine. You know, the issue that features a piece by me? Yeah, I'm published. Whatevs.

Except it's kind of a big deal. It makes me happy, and is a gentle prod to keep keep keep writing.

You can see the issue here. However, the resolution isn't so hot, so here's my article for your viewing pleasure.


My grandma created many beautiful items. She crocheted baby blankets and tatted Christmas ornaments. Those of us lucky enough to be in her family have potholders and afghans crafted as her slim fingers flew, needle and thread in hand.

Grandma filled her home with lovely things, items that were arranged just so. She loved to have people over, and took pride in providing a comfortable, gracious home. That house on Lacey Drive was always spotless. Grandma took care of business.

So, when the kids encouraged “the folks” to get a VCR, preparations needed to be made. You couldn’t just plop the machine on top of the console TV – it might scratch the wood. And so, the VCR sat on the carpet until Grandma could crochet a placemat.

The placemat was perfectly sized and made of the same creamy yarn she used for countless blankets. It protected the TV from whatever evil was lurking underneath the VCR. We grandkids giggled as we reprogrammed the VCR’s clock for the umpteenth time, but we accepted that grandmas were just wired to crochet placemats for their electronics.

The placemat was in a box of linens that I’ve toted around since we emptied the house Grandma and Grandpa called home for 40 years. Now, I realize this is no ordinary placemat.

This placemat is a work of art. Even though it was created to hide under a VCR, spending its life in the dark, the placemat has a series of intricate patterns. Instead of row after row of plain stitches, it has ribs and meticulous designs. The patterns were thoughtfully laid out to create a perfectly VCR-sized end product. It was created with care.

Grandma loved handicrafts, and the way she and Grandpa lived their lives showed they believed a job worth doing was worth doing well. Discovering that the VCR placemat was no exception was not a huge surprise.

Grandma been gone for 14 years, Grandpa for 9. They were married for 69 years. I miss them every day.

But little things like the VCR placemat remind me that they’re here, that I have a history. And a little OCD isn’t a bad thing. And even work that will be hidden should still be beautiful.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Love is helping your honey walk around the driveway.

I have a crush on my octogenarian neighbor. He sits in a lawn chair outside his garage quite a bit, and is always quick with a smile and a wave when I walk by with the dogs. He's also the guy who told me that he was cleaning up his yard because his grandson was coming, and he didn't want the young man to think that his ol' grandpa was getting soft.

See? Crush. Deep crush.

I hadn't seen Cute Neighbor Man for a while, and I started to worry. But then I started seeing him driving past with his wife at the wheel. They would both wave, and I would wave in return, resisting the urge to throw myself in front of their vehicle and demand to know what was going on.

We are neighbors, maybe six houses away. I don't even know their names. But we smile and wave and exchange pleasantries. I certainly don't know them well enough to ask if everything is OK.

Recently, Cute Neighbor Man resumed his post in the driveway, this time with a walker and his wife by his side. Her hair is the most beautiful color of silver. And the walker seemed an unwelcome interloper.

The dogs and I walked by. We smiled and waved. It felt like such an invasion to ask about the walker and compression hose, so we chatted about a neighbor's remodeling project. I was talking about new windows, but what I really meant was, "You are brave and amazing."

A few days ago, the dogs and I walked by as Cute Neighbor Man was making his way down the driveway, aided by a cane. His wife was by his side, ready to grab her love should he falter.

Although they were just doing a little physical therapy in the cool morning air, I felt as though I had stumbled into a very intimate, private moment. It was a scene of trust and dedication and true partnership.

And then there was pride. Cute Neighbor Man was clearly embarrassed to be seen at a weak moment. Big Doodle trotted towards him, and my neighbor said, "I know, you say, 'Why's that guy walking so funny?'" He smiled.

I looked down at my huge dog with the hot mess haircut from his medical adventures, the lanky pup with a funny gait from having basically no hip sockets left. I smiled. "You know," I said, "It's fine, because he's walking funny, too."

I was talking about my dog, but what I was really saying was, "We all have our moments. We're all delicate. It's OK."

And we all laughed, and I took my dogs on down the street. Not because I didn't want to cheer on these lovely, good people, but because I was an interloper. They were in the thick of Marriage.

We celebrate youth and weddings. But I can't help but think we're missing the boat. We should celebrate the mate who drives you to your colonoscopy and doesn't make fun of you too much. Or the spouse that gracefully supports a venture that may or may not be crazy because their love is in love with it. There should be marriage merit badges, and ceremonies and parties for reaching certain milestones.

But it's all so intimate. I'm guessing my neighbors wouldn't want that kind of attention. But I just might make my husband a sash and some badges. It seems appropriate.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Traveling the country, like "Kung Fu" or "Highway to Heaven."

When Geriatric Poodle wasn't so geriatric, his spleen just kinda ripped in half for no reason.

We happened to be at the vet. He collapsed, like that scene from "Bambi" when the animals are learning to ice skate. His legs just slid out from under him. It was horrible.

A few hours later, I was driving across town to the emergency vet. I had a comatose poodle on my lap and a bag of donor blood in the seat next to us. I was barely - barely! - keeping it together.

In the parking lot of the emergency vet, a rather granola-ish lady was getting in her car. She stopped and visited with us. She said, "Your baby is very ill."

Although I was thinking, "Yeah, no shit," I did not have any mental reserves, and speaking without crying was a challenge. So I just nodded.

She said, "I'm a poiwnvoipuiyswekrhlkwyer healer. May I send healing energy to your dog?"

I literally have no idea what kind of healer she said she was. But I nodded, and she put her hands on my sweet dog. Healer Lady closed her eyes, and Not-So-Geriatric Poodle sighed.

And then Healer Lady told us to have a blessed day, got in her Corolla, and left.

After a scary few days, my poodle pal was just fine. We never found out what caused the torsion, but he didn't seem to miss his spleen. Who knew an entire organ could be so superfluous?

Sometimes I think about Healer Lady. I wonder if I imagined her, or if she was some sort of magician, just traveling the land from emergency vet to emergency vet, healing animals in the parking lots. I would totally watch that show. But if nothing else, I was and am so thankful for the thoughtfulness, and the energy.

Which brings us to this week.

I was back at the emergency vet, this time with Big Doodle. We thought he had a UTI, but now it looks like it might be something more complicated and/or sinister. He's one test result away from driving two hours to a vet school so they can scope a camera up his private parts.

All the vets we've seen have been so kind and complimentary. "I see a lot of dogs," one of them said. "This is literally one of the nicest dogs I've ever met."

"I couldn't believe it," said another. "He let me catheterize him like it was nothing."

High praise, indeed.

Of all the people we've seen, we haven't yet seen Healer Lady. I've seen a lot of Anxiety-Ridden Mom in the mirror, but I'm not feeling chill and centered. I'm feeling like I could probably go for an Ativan and a stiff drink.
Behold, the boy's amazing, ultrasound-friendly summer haircut.
So, if you would? Consider sending a little healing energy to Big Doodle. Or if you see Healer Lady? Direct her Corolla our way. Thanks.