Author Archives: sdeden

First and Lasts

So it’s Tuesday, the day after I usually post, and I will tell you that this is the first time I forgot to post. I thought of it over the weekend, perused my usual half-baked ideas, and then it all fell out of my head as Monday came and went. But I will cut myself some slack; I’ve been experiencing a lot of “lasts,” what with the kid heading out to college in 9 days. I’m determined not to get all hand-wringing and empty-nest mopey on you — that’s not my style, but I have been surprised by the little things that have hit me. Grocery shopping and realizing I don’t have to buy those specific apple/grape juice 6 packs anymore. Or at least not for a few months. Which is great, because half the time the store is out of them anyway. 

All that is cluttering up my noggin, which, let’s face it, has never been a bastion of reliable memory preservation. Add in North Korea and Cheeto flea having a toddler screaming match, where the toddlers have access to nuclear weapons, and hate groups assembling under the guise of free speech, and I’m pretty much toast over here. I actually had the thought last week that this might be it, but North Korea is standing down for now, so I live to forget another day. 

But I refuse to give in to despair. For one thing, my grandparents and dad had a pretty frightening, shitty time of it in Holland during WWII, and my other grandfather, when he had food at all in his childhood, ate primarily salt pork and beans and lived well into his 80s; it’s in my genes to keep going. For another, there’s plenty of positive things going on. People are working to make things better and there are countless acts of kindness going on all around us all the time. Yesterday, I was canoeing on a quiet river, and the beavers and birds I saw going about their bird and beaver business reminded me there is a balance. That, and life on a quiet sleepy, river might be a good plan B. 

So, once the kid is launched, I will take a deep breath and continue to contribute the best I can. In the meantime, I’ll keep forgetting things, but I promise to do it with peace and hope. 

Love That Dirty Water

When I first set foot on the algae slimed, goose-poop covered banks of the Charles River in the summer of 1983, it was love at first sight. For the first time in my life I felt truly at home. I never left, and while I still love Boston, I can sometimes take it for granted or forget how much I love it. 
Last week good weather and a decent work load combined to propel me outside at lunch to take a walk along those very same banks. It’s much cleaner now, although most people prefer to enjoy it from a sail boat or a kayak. I walked along the bank, lost in thought, until I realized it was time to head back. When I turned and saw the view, I fell in love all over again. 

Exhibit A


That’s a view of the Longfellow Bridge, better known as the salt and pepper bridge because of the shape of the 4 central towers. The state has been renovating the bridge and they took each “shaker” down to restore it and this was the first time in 3 or 4 years that I have seen all 4 back again. Add the sail boats from Community Boating, and you have the quintessential Boston/Charles River picture.

Here’s a close up of the salt and pepper shakers. 


So there I was, giddy and gushing over my city, on my walk, when I came upon city workers posting these signs.


No matter that I had just seen a dog standing in the water and lapping it up, and a while later saw a man sitting in it, communing with nature. We still love that dirty water. Boston you’re my home. 

Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth

I was struggling to write a post this week; I was torn between two topics. Going for the laugh and making fun of the fashion resurgence of jump suits, also called, lord help us, jumpers. Can these things just go away forever? You cannot easily go to the loo in this clothing mishappery, so that should automatically strike it from every designers’ drawing board. Forever. Which was a funny idea, until it then meant I was going to completely ignore the Cheeto flea’s tweets declaring transgender folks need not apply for military work.

And as my brain was swirling around, I came across this perfect piece by humor writer Aprill Brandon in the Boston Globe Magazine on Sunday, “Dark Humor About Politics Is Everywhere, But It Hurts to Laugh.” With this tagline: A “snowflake” laments politics unusual as it continues to unfold in Washington. Writes Brandon:

“I have spent over a decade shoving all my anxiety down my computer’s throat and am the happier for it. Instead of pills, I have boob jokes.

But then came 2016.

Followed by the first half of 2017.

And it is becoming harder and harder to find the humor in anything. Knock, knock. Who’s there? Oh, just the Evil League of Evil taking control of our government! Ha! Ha!”

Yes, exactly. She said it better than I could have so please read on for her take.

Thanks Aprill, you took the words right out of my mouth, and that’s no meatloaf.

 

Squeaming Is for the Squeamish

When I first published this a few years ago, I excitedly announced that it was my 7th post! I could be snarky now about my own enthusiasm (did I have so little confidence that I would actually get that far? Seriously, 7th post?). But my fatigue from all of the activities this summer is making me crabby enough, so I’ll instead take it as a reminder to be positive, whether it’s the 7th or 181st post, it is saving my bacon, and for many of you it will be the first time reading it. Win-win. Also I would like to dedicate this post to my colleague at the hospital who is retiring, and may very well have been the guy who had to make the poster mentioned below. May your life be forever anal complaint free, my friend. So, here it goes…

I’m squeamish, sensitive, and emotional, so I’m not sure how I ended up in hospital communications. I have a cartoon pinned to my cube wall that shows a doctor saying to a patient, “This procedure is not for the squeamish. Squeaming is for the squeamish.” That pretty much sums me up. The main reason I can actually work there is that most everything I write is about data, metrics, redesigning care procedures, and information technology—it’s beautifully bloodless. I could never do my colleague’s job—she writes moving profiles about patient care, like how a nurse finds a key psycho-social element to care for a dying patient. Those stories always have me bawling, which is kind of uncool at work, even in a hospital. It doesn’t help that my desk is located in the hospital building. My squeamish coworkers and I call our administrative area “the bubble.” Once we serpentine through the less public halls to get to the bubble, the rule is to avoid leaving it at all costs. Over the years I have cultivated a number of additional tactics to help: I bring my lunch most days so I don’t need to go to the cafeteria, but I also found the back way to get there. If I have to interview someone, we either meet in the bubble or a neutral place like the cafeteria. I once had to interview a doctor in the Emergency Department, but my therapist says I shouldn’t dwell on it. I do occasionally have to go to the ATM which involves running the gauntlet of the main corridor plastered with posters. For the most part though, the posters and the signage are sensitive to the fact that patients also see them, so they generally don’t get too graphic. They mainly publicize hospital support programs and celebrations for nurses’ week or patient safety week. Even the more medically related ones are pretty tame and use smaller print for the medical case details. It’s easy enough to walk by quickly without being able to read them, which is normally what I do. Except for last week.

This poster stopped me cold with its 200 point type bold headline: “Managing Common Anal Complaints.” There was no escaping this thing, but after my initial squeamishly scientific reaction (“Ewwwwww”), my brain paused, ruminated, and then started a steady fire of questions I didn’t necessarily want the answers to: how could there be enough kinds of complaints to warrant a whole lecture on just the common ones? How many are there in total? Thanks to Preparation H commercials, I know there are hemorrhoids, but what other “complaints” could there be? And if they are so common, why don’t we see more commercials for medicines to relieve them? It’s not that big of an, er, organ, if that’s the term, and it only has one function, so how on earth can that many things go wrong with it? And dear god, what the heck is an uncommon anal complaint?

Even though I was able to retreat to the bubble, my mind was trapped in front of the poster like a witness to a car crash. I couldn’t stop thinking about it—is this some kind of silent epidemic that needs to have a campaign ribbon (you know what color it would be) and a month named after it? Common anal complaint awareness month? What unlucky health problem would want to share their month? Would they have a national conference and draw straws? You could just see the pink breast cancer awareness people wrinkle their noses, while other health awareness groups pressured the “Fruits & Veggies – More Matters Month” group to team up; “Your topics are kind of related,” they’d say enthusiastically. As I was considering the fruits and veggies group’s response, I realized something.

Not only had my squeamish tolerance increased, it had taken a horrible nerdy turn. In all my ponderings I never once went to that place: you know, the teenager place of farting, pooping, sexual innuendo, and pain-in-the-ass jokes. Which is probably the more normal way to think about it, rather than imagining, say, “Common Anal Complaints Awareness Month.” OMG! What have I become? A common anal complaint nerd, that’s what. Now that’s a real uncommon pain in the ass.

I Almost Fell for It

If you have been following this blog for a few years, you know my travails with my tomato plants. And by plants I mean 2. My dear friends Becky and Susan raise tomato plants (and many others) lovingly from seed, carefully place a few in my hands, and before you can say “fresh tomato and basil” I’m sending them frantic pictures of their hapless babies, crawling with bugs or curling up and withering away. Usually accompanied by a text in all caps, “WHAT DO I DO????”

Last summer was a particularly spectacular failure. Right out of the gate the poor plant was swarmed with aphids, and I sprayed the hell out of it with soapy water, but it was too late. I got 2 tomatoes last year.

So this is my last summer at this apartment,  and I have increased the pot size (were the others too small?), stopped putting fertilizer  (have I used too much in the past?), and let it be. I’m a Zen gardener now, not attaching  to any particular outcome.

And the little struggling plant grew. And grew. Leaves unfurled effortlessly and soon yellow flowers burst forth in unbridled enthusiasm. I merely glanced and smiled serenely. Soon actual tomatoes swelled from the receding flowers, green ovals of promise. I even left the plant for three days,   while we went to college orientation, and lo, it rained.

Nearly 6 weeks in, all was well. I hadn’t made it this far before without a panicked text, or a sinking feeling.

And that’s where I made my misstep. I began desiring those green ovals, anticipating their ripe redness. I was actually going to do it this summer! Have more than a handful of tomatoes! And Buddha laughed.

This morning I went out to water my plant, and there they were. I don’t know what they are–mites, midges, bugs. To me they are the little white bastards, and the Zen gardening is over. Those little bastards picked the wrong plant to mess with. Oh, yeah, I sprayed the hell out of them this morning after I rubbed half of them off with my bare hands, like Scarlett O’Hara grubbing desperately in the dirt for food.

As god is my witness, I will have fresh tomatoes this summer. I will.

Bringing in the Reinforcements 

In the last few weeks I’ve shared a link with three different people, and it occurred to me others may benefit from it. No, it’s not the secret to landing a coveted limited edition of the retro Nintendo gaming system coming out this fall, the SNES. What? I know fair number of gamers and this is what they talk about. You keep track of the Kardashians, and I keep track of gaming minutia. Also, sadly, it’s not a secret website where legally foolproof impeachment information is being collected against the Cheeto flea. That’s just a personal fantasy of mine. A girl can dream while she’s fighting for truth, justice and the American way. 

It’s the website of the Aging Life Care Association. If you are middle aged, you are most likely dealing with aging parent issues. You might also be lucky enough to have kids, so you get to be the sandwich generation. Unfortunately that does not come with fries and a pickle, but you get serious bragging rights and no one should question your drinking habits. 

There’s plenty of information about how to find care for kids, probably too much. But for aging parents? Not so much. Unlike kids, which you can throw into a reasonably clean, safe daycare situation and they will be ok, each parent situation is so very different and complex. Plus these are fully formed adults who rightfully don’t take kindly to “Because I said so,” even if they said it to you. Or maybe because they said it to you. 

There’s no manual to this, but there are these amazing people called geriatric care managers, and you can find one on the website, which covers all the states. They can help you in all sorts of ways, even if it’s just listening to what the issues are and make suggestions. They generally know the resources available in your area, and can point to other experts you will need in this adventure: elder affairs lawyers, house cleaners, companions. The women we hired also come to my mom’s doctor appointments and help us synthesize the information. 

Of course you need to do your homework and interview them to find one you think best fits with your family situation. And when you do, it’s a great relief to be heard by someone who’s experienced and say, yes, I get. Here’s how I can help. 

So, that’s my public service announcement. This week I’m off to the kid’s college orientation, staying in a dorm, no less, so I should have plenty of funny things to tell you next week. Or at least something funny after a few glasses of wine. Don’t worry, I’ll work it for you guys. I’ve got to go now and order a side of fries and a pickle. 

Photo credit: http://www.centerforworklife.com/stuck-in-the-middle/

Odds and Ends

First, happy Fourth of July to anyone who feels like celebrating it. Here in Boston, we’ve had absolutely perfect summer weather all weekend, so I feel like I’ve won the weather lottery. Perhaps it’s because we spent most of the spring in cold rain. The rain we needed; the cold, not so much — I really didn’t need to see that my heating bill for May and June looked a lot like March and April. I don’t live in the far north; heating bills in June are simply wrong. But the weather has been so lovely and uplifting lately, I may actually throw myself into the Boston fireworks fray tomorrow. Or I’ll just watch them from my driveway. We’ll see…

Second, I’ve been collecting photos from my commuting travels that have made me giggle. Maybe you will, too.

The Tank

I learned to drive with what we lovingly called The Merc or The Tank, our 1968 Mercury station wagon with fake wood side paneling. It was the perfect car for a new driver because you could back into anything without getting a scratch. Except a fire hydrant, but I swear, dad, that wasn’t me. Someone must have hit me in the parking lot. Rude bastards. The Merc’s other claims to fame were the gas tank falling out while my sister and brother were waiting at a stop light, and the frame rusting clean through during one of my drives. Other than that, it could hold all my friends and was totally awesome. Those are just fond memories though, right? I mean none of those italicized words above even exist anymore. Or do they…?

I saw this in Boston, near North Station a few months ago. As far as I could tell, it had its gas tank intact. The ghost just adds to the “car of teen years past” moment.

ab_merc

Follow the Guy with the Black Briefcases

There must have been a 70’s vibe in the air, because not long after spotting the Merc, I saw this guy on the train. Who has two of the exact same cases, the perfect size to carry money or diamonds? What else could they be? Seriously, these are the “mistaken identity” suitcases of any 70s detective show or heist movie. You know, one has the diamonds that were stolen in a meticulously planned jewelry store heist, or, alternately, the priceless Queen of Sheba Black Diamond stolen from the Museum of Easily Lifted Artifacts. The other suitcase is usually owned by a hapless woman with lots of granny underwear and nighties. Hilarity ensues when the robbers grab her suitcase instead of the diamond-laden one. And she wonders how she’s going to sleep in diamonds. What I couldn’t decide was if this guy was one the of the original thieves who locked the lady in the closet and grabbed both suitcases to open at a secret location. Or was he the surprise third character who is also after the diamonds and locks up the thieves and the woman in the closet together. I decided it wasn’t worth risking getting thrown off the train or stuffed in a closet to get a closer look at him, so we’ll never know.

 

ab_switchedsuitcases

The Dancing Shoes

So this one was on my walk to the train, actually not far from the place where I found Barbie’s walk of shame dress on the sidewalk. It certainly is a lively neighborhood. I walked by these for a couple of days, and they reminded me of the fairy tale, “The Dancing Shoes.” In the story 12 princesses are locked in their room at night with new dancing shoes (they were always locking up the women back then) but in the morning their beautiful shoes are all danced to pieces. Sounds like a good time to me. The king can afford to replace them, but he doesn’t like not knowing what his daughters are up to. So he decrees anyone who can find out what’s going on gets to marry one of the daughters and gets the kingdom when the king dies. However, if you try to find out and fail, your head gets cut off. Pretty high stakes and the princesses gleefully drug all of the arrogant princes who try to find out, and they sleep the whole night away. Royal heads are rolling. A humble, injured soldier meets an old women, who essentially sells out the princesses by telling him not to drink the wine they offer him. And she gives he an invisible cloak so he can follow them! I guess girl power wasn’t a thing yet. I mean c’mon, all they are doing is dancing and wearing out shoes. How terrible, they must be stopped! So of course he follows them, and discovers they have been hanging out with 12 princes from an underground kingdom and dancing the night away. But the jig is up, the oldest has to marry him and her sisters were “condemned to be placed under a spell of enchantment for as many days as they had danced nights with the princes.” You’d like to hope that in 2017, the three princes/princesses/generally fun people who owned these shoes fared better.

ab_dancing princesses

Beauty’s Where You Find It

This is also on my walk to the train. Some of the walk is classic urban grit, like this rusty fence and broken stone wall that’s part of a bridge. The train goes underneath it, and the road is busy, and it’s near the airport, so right at this point I’ve forgotten about dancing princesses and absorbing the trains, planes, and automobile ambiance.

ab_rustywalk

But then when I take a few more steps , I come upon this:

ab_sweetpeas

A riotous symphony of color of totally wild sweet peas. Perfect.