Friday, October 30, 2009

Are you listening?

Laundry day.  My non-digital basement televangelist tells me, "Don't you know that you already know everything you know?"  Ok, I'm intrigued...he goes on as I press the touch up button on the dryer.  "So, if you're set to flappin' your gums all the time, you ain't learnin' a thing."

I love it.  It's so true.  Shut up and listen as much as possible, Julie.  I can't have too many reminders.

I've been doing a lot of listening the past few weeks.  It's been essential for my friend that I listen acutely.... and give thoughtful and crucial guidance... and above all, stick by her faithfully and unquestioningly even when some days it has seemed as if I was risking pieces of myself.  Emotional risk, messy history and heartbreakingly high stakes.  But my energy and devotion are received regularly with such gratefulness that I feel guilty at once as she thanks me yet again.  During personal crises without clear answers, friends will often run for their garages and punch in the lockdown code after dropping off the odd banana bread at the doors of the accursed.  But in the end a friend or two stay behind and get down in the mud and this time it's me.  I am relieved to know I have the juice to be this kind of friend.  I am empowered by it and the world scares me a little less as a result.

It's an especially beautiful autumn in southern Wisconsin.  I can't remember the colors being so vivid right outside the front door.  Mostly the days have been rainy so when a blue sky day comes along, it makes me appreciate the colors that much more.  The bright yellow and sky blue together.  Quite an extraordinary color pairing that wouldn't be anyone's choice of room colors but work together outside the confines of walls.

A long weekend brings about our first college visit.  Touring Northwestern, eerily I kept catching glimpses of a baffled-looking middle aged woman's reflection in windows across campus....trailing my daughter's reflection.  So weird.

Friday, October 23, 2009


A substitute school nurse this fall,  I still found myself coordinating a flu clinic of all things today....a thing substitutes usually would run screaming from in the opposite direction for its sheer definition of a commitment to mankind--something subs shun in principle.  It seemed a logistical nightmare to safely get 200 plus children immunized against H1N1 without parents bearing torches clamoring at the doors for one reason or another.

"You gave my child immunization!"
"You didn't give my child immunization!"

No winning in the public health arena.  There's no trying.

We excluded a few children unnecessarily due to bad paperwork and I dreaded a bit about how those parents might feel when they would receive the letter after school saying their kid had not been immunized due to our error....and then... to see the public health nurse coordinator return for the uncollected forms armed with several extra vaccines.  The last few children were immunized and everybody went home bolstered, or boostered in this case without incident.  Sweet victory.

Notwithstanding how needlephobic I am personally (I can give 'em, I just don't like to get 'em), I acknowledge vaccines save lives.  I made a pact with my maker a long time ago to shut my eyes and hug my kids as they each got jabbed for the vaccine du jour each time we headed to the pediatrician.  No bad outcomes for us luckily.  I refuse to overthink it.

I heard once from a well established immunologist that a lick from a dog had more inoculation of virus than any immunization and I chose to believe the words.  I had seen a nauseating amount of babies licked head to toe by a family dog as an unblinking family looked on.  As a nurse, I've also seen the effects of congenital rubella, PID, meningococcal meningitis and encephalitis secondary to chicken pox.  Nuff said.

Risk in much of what we do can have untold benefit.  Stock market, real estate, slot machines, love, immunization.

I got my H1N1 today too.  It made me feel funny.  I sat at the table with the last batch of second and third graders who received the vaccine and announced I also had received the vaccine.  We agreed it felt funny in our throats and gave us headaches and made us feel weird.  We acknowledged it might be just in our heads. The kids seemed delighted that at least one adult in the building had also received the vaccination they had.  Kids often trust and accept that stuff we do to them we never would do to ourselves.  So I was a novelty act at the observation table.

I sat down and they promptly made me read to them about kangaroos, as kids do.  We were in it together and I hadn't felt that kind of cameraderie in a long while.

Here's to these new dads, my niece the tinier of the two, and their many years of decisions around parenting from immunization to dating.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Arts and Travel Groupie

Living  life today in the world of travelers.  Two airports in one day.  I think what I am is a traveler groupie.  I love all the coordination and planning and the excitement of air travel, as long as I’m not the one going up in the air.

Like Ray Liotta on coke in Goodfellas,  I work in a manic fashion this morning to make this day work.  I am dropping Mom in Milwaukee and picking up Chip at O’Hare.

Wake up, feed the cats, feed the dog, check on Mom, make the coffee, get the girls going, take a shower, get dressed, walk the dog, load the car, drop Ally, drop Livvie, reminders about after-school chores, do you have money, do you have your cell phone, hug Nana goodbye, are we close?, you don’t have to come in, ok, come in, have a cigarette, up the escalator, walk to security, Mom, I can’t go past here…bye Mom, I love you.

Breathe.  A quick jaunt north and I'm on the doorstep of the Milwaukee Art Museum.  Peace.  I pull in under the giant bird on the lake and the doors are just opening to a quiet and empty museum. 

 Generally, I try to have a very important experience when I’m in a museum, but down deep, I'm a magpie.  I gravitate toward shiny and pretty objects.  So today, since I’m alone, I allow myself to just enjoy the pretty colors and the works of those not long dead if at all.  I’m not going to overthink the collection and I’m going to get to that elusive third floor.

First and foremost, I avoid the audio tour of the Warhol exhibit.  A little pang of guilt…but I let it pass.  My own intellectual purgatory, feeling I must be enriched following an exhibit.  But not today.   Goin' in dumb,  comin' out same.  Hey, his words are in the highbrow can he really be?

Second, I proceed directly to the third floor Bradley Collection, the furthest point from the entrance.   I’ve never been this far into the museum because even if I get close, I’m  tired, bored, in need of the loo or hungry so the visit is usually brief and distracted.   I pretty much ignore the Egyptian and Renaissance art coming in....sarcophagi, urns, little gold and brass thingies.  Usually I give them a passing glance to make myself feel cultured.  Aah, yes, that little talisman is very reminiscent of the Etruscan Period....yeah I don't think so.  And today, ignored!- gasp!

Familiar artists, American and French.   Artists original to me , Russian and German.  I purposely forget their names.   Some painters I just don't have to think about.  A whole room of works by Georgia O'Keeffe.  And an extensive folk art exhibit that is only too cool because it is the original idea and thought behind so much of American lawn art.

American Folk Art

Today, the art museum is my Pottery Barn.  I gravitate toward the pretty or the colorful or the striking.  I learn nothing in particular except I like sweeping away my own pretention.   I laugh at the Rothko, reminded of the Tate exhibit last year in London where even the curators hung one of his paintings upside down without knowing.

The middle school students swarm the exhibits by lunchtime with their notebooks and their need to touch everything. It's flu season.

I’m out of there.  Lunch alone at CafĂ© Calatrava overlooking the gray skies and gray water of a soon to be wintery Lake Michigan.

The coffee was especially good as the surrounding tables filled with all those people of midweek leisure.  Retired couples, women friends catching up over lunch, business guys, a grown son in from out of town visiting his mom, a preschooler with her mom and grandmom.  Easy to eavesdrop as a woman of a certain age.  I'm almost invisible.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

My own homecoming queens

Two new comments on my blog this week, one from a dear sister I wish I knew better and another from a dear stranger, have re-energized my interest in blogging. I know my faithful commenters, all six of you, might find me just a tad bit ungrateful. But to have a few new readers say nice things about how my writing has made them feel, well, it was kind of like sitting with Chip as Don Draper walked by and gave me the once over. My commitment is renewed to both the old and the new, but the new is just so sexy!

Homecoming weekend. I don't think homecomings were much of a scene in my youth as I only remember two games and certainly no dances. Kind of back to the fifties here in the midwest. I half expected to see greasers and a few Pink Ladies in the parking lot this weekend. The football game was won Friday night. Saturday, so much planning and coordination of moving bodies between hair and makeup application, picture taking, eating and dancing. God forbid we would eat where our photos are taken as we are so very very grand.

I did actually use a sewing machine, not well I add, to alter one dress and said a prayer to St. Gabriel, patron saint of God's strength, over the zipper of Olivia's strapless dress. Not unlike planning a military mission to Afghanistan, we spent many hours in the war room discussing covert operations in the use of a pashmina as emergency halter top. Prep started at 4pm and all were primped, photographed, fed, and tottling oh so precariously in heels toward the high school gym by 8:30pm. Chip and I dropped and Otto's for a strong, debriefing martini.

Friday, October 9, 2009

My mom's in town and everything's groovy

It's good to have someone to laugh with. --Mom in the car

I feel like I’m in purgatory. --Mom dragged through a craft mall

I won lots of times. --Mom in the casino

You're a good mom. --Mom anytime I prepare food for my kids.

That about sums it up. Having a wonderful time with my mom visiting. We can't convince her that living here would be good for us or for her. She says she doesn't want to be dependent but the fact is we'd be the dependent ones on her, for our sheer entertainment. From her mispronunciations of famous people names to her fondness for plastic bags, we cannot get enough of this old lady. But we'll take our two weeks and enjoy the extra snacks, the fussing at the kitchen counter about Ally's sore foot and Olivia's sore throat, and the worrying about everything from the cats to the weather. Oh, and the obsession with bad news, both international and local.

My mom and I took a little road trip the other day north toward antiques and tribal gambling. The great thing about out of town guests is you can take them to places you've always wanted to go but where your family never lets you stop because you're always on the way to somewhere else.

An antique store in Sauk City...a pit stop at Dr. Evermor's scrap metal ranch...

Another antique store and lunch in Baraboo....

Another antique store in the Dells.....a spin through the deserted Dells....Ho-Chunk for 90 minutes where I found a great slot machine called That Girl! which spins pictures of Marlo Thomas and her fashion items. I hit a jackpot of fifty bucks early because I matched her outfits! And no pictures of Donald which any woman my age knows is a good thing because that guy was not cute...not then and not now. And finally a stop for a cocktail at Green Acres just outside of Sauk City on the return trip where we ate salty bar mix and drank gin and tonics on green leather stools with backs and soaked up the Packer decor sprinkled across the vast paneled walls. A 'sconnie 'sconnie day.

A friend on facebook thinks antiquing and gambling are not dissimilar and that rings true. Searching for a treasure within the rabble of an antique store is not unlike trying to win a jackpot with one lonely little quarter. I do know I have quite a little treasure staying with me right now and I wish she would never go home. Ally says she misses Nana when she leaves because she likes to see her sitting at the kitchen counter when she comes home from school. Even if you have to tell her your stories twice because she overreacts to the wrong part of the story the first go around and you have to explain the whole thing over again emphasizing your true point that she missed because she's anxious about your foot or your throat.