Monthly Archives: February 2013

Prediction starts with a Pee

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My horoscope didn’t say anything about stepping in pee this morning. Not even an oblique warning such as ‘Tread carefully, Virgo!’ or ‘Trouble underfoot!” There was no hint of the ‘golden opportunity in my path today,’ nor was I told I might ‘make a big splash.’

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You have ZERO proof it was me.

It didn’t tell me that ‘Trouble will dog your steps today’ or remind me to ‘Put your best foot forward,’ or that ‘Someone unexpected may offer you a gift today.’

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Give me one piddling reason why you think it was me.

It didn’t even tell me ‘You’re in for a surprise today.’ Urine…for a surprise. That would’ve worked. We humans can rationalize almost anything.

Sometimes I read my horoscope out of idle curiosity. It can be amusing. But as we’ve seen, it made absolutely no attempt to warn me that a dog was covertly doing her business on the small shag rug near my bed.

It did tell me that a little R & R was in order. A little rest and relaxation. This is something everyone needs from time to time; you don’t need a horoscope to tell you that. But it was nice to hear it, anyway, because I’ve been having that feeling for a while now- the hankering to get away, maybe visit my sister in Pennsylvania, and it was nice to hear someone, even a free horoscope app, validate that.

We all need a break, a little get-away, a bit of time to recharge our batteries. It’s hard to tell, sometimes, if we’re just a little tired or if we really need to get away. We humans don’t have a reliable ‘low battery’ signal. This is something that I feel should be addressed by science in the near future. We need some signal- something visible or audible, to let us know when we officially need to recharge our batteries.

Like my hearing aids, for example. When my hearing aids are running out of juice, they let me know. They go Boop.

It’s the low-battery tone that lets me know I have only a short time before the sound cuts out completely. Boop! Then I have to rummage around in my purse looking for that annoyingly small yet expensive cardboard packet of hearing aid batteries, Boop! And curse myself for not cleaning out all the rubbish- wrappers, receipts, pens, nickels, post-it notes with blog ideas, and breath mints, Boop! And if I’m not quick enough, there’s a little multi-note sequence, a downward crescendo, like when Pacman dies.

This battery is dead. Game over, deaf person!

Dammit.

The doorbell at work lets us know when its batteries run low, as well. It normally announces guests with a standard Ding-Dong, but after the continuous pressure of many fingers, the doorbell begins calling attention to its weakened condition. Ding, it will say, and then pause, as if drawing a breath. Dong.

Ding….ding.

Dong.

We laugh. Listen to that crazy doorbell, the kids say. The doorbell continues to amuse. Ding dong, dong ding! It starts ringing when there is nobody at the door. Ding dong dong, dong ding, ding! After a few days of this, it does actually sound more and more frantic.

Of course, once we know it’s just a matter of the batteries being low, the insertion of two fresh AA’s is all it takes to put it right.

But isn’t it nice to officially know?

I was thinking of this stuff as I hopped around my bedroom with one pee-soaked foot. Hopping, and dripping, and swearing, like you do.  Realizing that I had indeed forgotten to buy hearing aid batteries the other day. And knowing that I had to be at work in about 20 minutes, and then swearing some more. Feeling just a bit frazzled, shall we say.

And I thought, perhaps I should go visit my sister for a bit. Boop! I haven’t taken any days off work for a long time, ding ding, have I? And I could easily hop over to work and show my boss my wet foot and my iPhone and she could read the little horoscope and I’m quite sure she’d agree, boop dong, ‘cause she takes stock in those star chart things even if I do not.

Because everyone needs to change their batteries once in a while.

Especially when they get wet.

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Readers, how do you recharge your batteries? Have you got a lovely island get-away? (You do? Where is it?!) Or perhaps you just take a bath with lots of bubbles? What’s your sign? Have you ever stepped in pee? Did you see who did it? Was it that dog of mine?

I Screen, You Screen…

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There’s something unusual about the newer homes that have sprung up in my neighborhood over the past few years. My neighbor Peony noticed it during one of our walks. It’s not just that the new houses are big. Some of them are monsters. They’re houses on steroids, houses that could easily gobble up my house and still have room for a garage or two.

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This house is protected by Omnomnom Security.
Piss off or it’ll eat you.

We’d been feeling virtuous because here it was, the middle of February, and we were out trudging through the slush in pursuit of better health while the rest of our community huddled unhealthily inside their homes. When the snow was deep, we’d walk in the street. We’d walk, and talk, and occasionally Peony would pull me aside as a car I didn’t hear crept up on us from behind.

“So, do you notice anything about these new homes?” Peony asked, after casually saving my life for the second time.

Hm. Huge sweeping driveways, lofty white columns, decorative urns big enough to hold the entire cast of Downton Abbey… um, people with way more money than me live in them?

They don’t have any screen doors.”

I looked to my left, where a gargantuan estate, Jabba the House, squatted toad-like amongst snow-covered shrubberies. Cobblestones shaped like jagged teeth led to the front entryway, the door a massive tongue carved from burnished oak and adorned with long black hinges that really belonged on a kitschy medieval restaurant. I looked to the right. Another behemoth, this one more modern in style, its huge door a blindingly white sentinel with eyes of leaded glass.

Great balls of pretentious fire, Peony was right! None of the newer homes had screen doors!

I grew up in a modest neighborhood in Chicago, where every house had a screen door, and where every child heard that familiar admonishment, “Stop slamming the door!” But there was something satisfying about running out of the house on those warm summer days, when school was out and long sunny hours of unsupervised play awaited. The slamming of the screen door was the exclamation point after a gleeful shout. It’s summer, we’re freeeee! And bang! goes the door.

(“Hey, what did I tell you about the damn door?!”)

Nowadays, you hear a sharp noise like that and your first instinct might be to duck. The world doesn’t seem the same as it did when I was a kid. My neighbors and I are fortunate to live in a relatively safe area but the crime list on the local police blotter does seem to grow longer each year, with more and more burglaries and even the occasional brazen daylight robbery.

So why wouldn’t the owners of a brand new house want a screen door? It’s not as though they couldn’t afford them. Most of these mega-houses have multiple fireplaces, two-car garages, and judging by the amount of inflatable Santas and light-up reindeer in evidence just a few months ago, a whole wing for storing holiday decorations. But no screen door. Are screen doors becoming passé, old fashioned, a quaint reminder of a bygone era? Or perhaps those beautiful front doors are just so lovely that it would be a criminal shame to hide them. Is it all due to curb appeal? Or might there be something more?

Screen doors are the buffer between you and the stranger with his finger on the doorbell. They allow you to speak to someone from behind a thin shield of mesh and metal. Screen doors are your home’s comment moderators, if you will, allowing potential conversation without immediate entry. The screen is a membrane through which fresh air and all it may blow your way is welcome to come by for a spell.

Homes with front doors open and screen doors in say, We feel safe, living amongst these neighbors. We can hear the children playing and know that all is well. We can see that new couple walk by- looks like she will have her baby soon. We can smell the magnolia-scented breeze and realize that it is almost spring.

In my childhood memories, all the houses had screen doors. And they were usually unlatched.

Today, the big fortress across the street looks formidable, impenetrable. I’m peering at it through my front window. I don’t have the front door open right now, are you crazy? Didn’t you read in the paper- a woman was stabbed when she wouldn’t give up the keys to her car. Happened right out in front of her house in broad daylight, just a few miles from here.

Maybe I’d better go check the back of the house.

Gotta make sure I locked the screen door.

Are the kids in?

Good Milk Hunting

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Ever notice how guys can’t find anything in the fridge?

“Honey, are we out of milk?”

“It’s on the top shelf.”

“There’s no milk here, honey, better put it on the list.”

“No, we do have milk. It’s on the top shelf next to that Super-Tango-Mango-Ultra-Pro-Mega-Energy-100% Natural-Power-Burst with Whole-Grains-and-Vitamin B1, B6, and B12 Sports Juice you wanted.”

He looks up, down and all around. “No, we’re out of that, too.”

Men can’t find anything in the fridge. Now maybe you’re saying, “Hold on, there, happyzinny, I’m a guy and I’m offended. Just yesterday I found the tabasco sauce, and it had fallen way the hell back behind the lettuce.”

But of course I am not referring to you, dear reader. The fact that you have found my tiny little blog is proof enough that you possess good eyesight and grim determination. I am speaking only of the rest of mankind.

I used to wonder why guys had a hard time seeing a gallon of milk when it’s right there on the shelf. I came to the startling conclusion: Because it’s standing still.

This theory is my own, and is unscientifically backed up by decades of unsubstantiated proof. (I don’t want anyone to think I’m just making up this crap.) Furthermore, I frequently watch those Discovery Channel shows, and I’m pretty sure a lot of sciency thinking has soaked in osmosis-like. Yeah, I said it.

Anyway, for the reason most men have difficulty seeing stationary milk, we need to go back to Pre-Historic Hunter/Gatherer times. Back then, men would grunt and grow lots of hair and chase after animals with sticks, and the women were…well, we were picking berries, weren’t we? Even then we wanted to eat healthier. (And with this, we were learning about ‘ripeness’ by distinguishing between subtle shades of crimson, garnet and fuchsia. This is still beyond the talents of most modern men, who refer to all three as ‘not blue.’ Which, incidentally, might explain why guys sometimes eat food which is ‘not ripe’ and end up feeling ‘not good.’)

Anyway, stay with me here, for the tribe to survive, the male hunters had to be constantly on the alert for movement, because movement meant predators, movement meant prey. Movement meant you’d get a nice dinner or you’d be a nice dinner. Those survival skills were honed for millions of years. Every fiber of a man’s being has evolved with an instinct for detecting even the slightest movement. And that is why most men cannot see the gallon of milk.

If the milk was moving, they’d be on it like a monkey on a banana.

So I thought of a little experiment to test my hypothesis. I went out and bought a ‘Lazy Susan’ device, a turntable that I put in the refrigerator. It starts spinning as soon as he opens the door. (It’s easy- you just hook up a Testosterone Sensor, $17.99, Home Depot, Black and Decker aisle.)

Long story short- Door opens, light goes on, food starts moving, guy starts shouting. “Honey! I see salami! I see green olives! Honey, there’s a tub of butter in here, a tub of butter! Honey, there’s 2% milk! All this food is zooming around, sliding into each other- it’s like the Hawks and the Redwings in there, honey!”

It’s been a great revelation. I put Lazy Susans all over the house- in the bathroom, in the living room, on tables, on shelves. He takes his vitamins every morning, now that he can see them. He always knows where his keys are. He feeds the fish… those poor, dizzy fish. But there’s one thing he still can’t see, and I don’t know if science will ever be able to explain it.

The thing is, I put a Lazy Susan on the floor where he drops his socks every night. That thing has been spinning for two weeks now. It’s starting to look like that structure from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It’s a mountain of socks spinning round and round like some smelly carousel from hell.

And still he says, “Honey, I can’t find any socks. Am I out of socks?”

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HOT TIP! Sometimes, when you are helping guys find something stationary, and you don’t have a Lazy Susan device, it can be helpful to give them directions in a language they understand. Learn to speak a little ‘Man.’ I’m fluent in two dialects of Man: ‘Hockey’ and ‘WWII.’ For this situation, because the guy was in a stationary position, stooping in front of the open refrigerator, I would opt for the WWII dialect, ‘Bomber Pilot.’

“Eleven o’clock, O’Malley, eleven o’clock! The milk’s coming out of the sun at eleven o’clock! For God’s sake, look out!”

Instantly your fellow will find the milk!

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No cows were squeezed during the making of this post.

The Bicycle Horn

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Master Blogger and Seer of Smurfs Le Clown is suffering with a bad back. Hearing of his troubles reminded me of when my dad hurt his back, and all the fun we had at the hospital and rehab center…

The Bicycle Horn

There is nothing like a bicycle horn to rouse a person out of a deep sleep. As an adult who is nearing the age when the dreaded subscription offers from AARP Magazine start landing in my letterbox, I’ve been woken up by many sounds. I have heard barks, bangs, booms, and bawling babies, but nothing can compare with the vein-popping blast of the common metal bicycle horn.

I blame the people at my dad’s physical rehab center. They refused to give us one of those nurse call buttons when we left. We thought it would be funny when friends and relatives came to the house to visit. My dad could show them his nurse call button and everyone would crack up.

It won’t work at home! they would laugh.

It didn’t work at the rehab place either! we would howl back.

The button is attached to a cord that, in the rehab center, is medically designed to snake around the patient’s limbs and then hide under the sheets, just out of reach. When the device is finally retrieved and the button pressed, a signal is sent to a little light above the patient’s doorway.  The light glows red, which instantly alerts the medical staff that help is urgently requested within at least the next thirty or forty or fifty minutes.

You can go in the hallway and look for someone and tap your foot impatiently, but the only people you will see are other patients, who have crawled or wheeled themselves out to check if their own red lights are working; and people wearing the wrong color smock. There are throngs of people, hoards of people, all wearing the wrong color smock. You could be squirting blood from every orifice, but if the people are wearing blue or yellow or orange, they cannot help you. Even if you say something crazy like, Hey, my 86-year-old dad has to go to the bathroom, but he needs help because his fractured vertebra is hurting him, there’s really nothing they can do. If you pester them long enough, they may reluctantly offer a clue:

Maroon. You need to find someone wearing maroon.

But the maroon smocks belong to the little nurse’s aides and the little nurse’s aides are all hiding in the closet where they keep the supplies. They scatter like mice when the door is opened. If you have good reflexes you can grab one of them, and with a bit of pleading, they’ll help you. But don’t even think about trying to sneak her home after rehab, because nurse’s aides only thrive when allowed to huddle in little groups, and, once home, your little nurse’s aide will find your supply closet and burrow into it and eventually all you will find is a pile of fragile bones shrouded in red. And that’s no help to anyone.

Anyway, after a month of fear, pain, and dignity-shredding experiences at the rehab center (some of which was called physical therapy), my dad came home. He came home without either a nurse’s call button or a nurse’s aide. A friend suggested we get a bell, one of those domelike bells that you see in nice hotels- the kind that perches on the front desk like a silver boob and makes a chiming sound when you hit it. If my dad wanted something in the middle of the night, he could tap the little bell, and call me with a gentle Ding! It would be pleasant, almost like being awakened by a fairy.

We settled for a bicycle horn, that being the closest thing we could find in the garage. The horn was curvy and gleaming, a thing of beauty. From the black rubber squeezy bulb at the bottom sprouted a smooth, silver tube, which curled around itself and flared open, flower-like, at the other end. I tied the horn to my dad’s walker, pushed the walker within arm’s reach, and hugged my dad goodnight.

Now give me a toot if you need anything, I said.

     I will.

The next thing I remember, my face was pressed against the ceiling as I was blasted from my bed by a cacophony of sound- HONKA! HONKA! HONKA!  I hit the ground running. My brain was a blur, the only thought able to penetrate the insistent, frantic honking was that there was trouble at the farm! The goose was on fire, HONKA! HONKA! HONKA!  Wake up, must save the goose! It never entered my mind that we lived in the city, that we weren’t farmers, and that the closest thing we had to a goose was the box of chicken nuggets in the freezer. I ricocheted toward the source of the awful noise, pinballed off the hallway mirror, and arrived at my father’s room having made contact with the floor only twice.

     I wasn’t sure you heard me, he said.

I refilled his bowl of gumdrops. He took a green one and sank back under layers of cozy fleece.

     That’s a nice horn, he said mintily.

I lay down, trying to breathe in one nostril and exhale out the other, the way yogis do, willing my heartbeat to slow. When I was fairly sure I wasn’t going to die, I crawled back to my room, where I spent the remainder of the night staring up at the ceiling. Trying to decide the best way to kill the bicycle horn. I came up with 37.

It was a long, slow recovery for my dad. It took him many months to claw and scratch and honk his way back to living independently. But our experience with his recovery is not unique. In fact, it’s representative of the health care issues faced by the elderly and infirm in our country. Thousands of people reside in rehab centers or nursing homes, encumbered with red lights that don’t work, surrounded by a rainbow of smocks, none of them the right color. These places are notoriously understaffed. My best friend’s daughter, who recently graduated from nursing school, reports that at times she was responsible for twenty patients on her shift. Rehabs and nursing homes will become more crowded as the majority of baby boomers enter their seventies and eighties, and it’s very likely the staffing situation will only get worse.

So I didn’t destroy the bicycle horn after all. In fact, I may go out and buy a few more, before it’s too late.

Here are SIX HOT TIPS!  to keep in mind should you find yourself an inmate- er, patient at one of these hell holes of health:

HOT TIP #1. Do bring a bicycle horn if you can find one. Not only will it ensure prompt attention from the nursing staff on that floor and the floors immediately above and below, but it is a well-known fact that squeezing the rubber bulb on the end of a bicycle horn is an excellent and musical way to exercise weak or arthritic fingers!

HOT TIP #2.  A color-coded chart will help you keep track of the many smocks and scrubs you will come into contact with. Ask friends or family members to bring you some paper and a package of markers- but make sure the markers include off-shades such as puke green, leaky-catheter yellow, and dried blood maroon.

HOT TIP #3. Use the paper and markers to make a colorful list of all the TV channels at the rehab center because the numbers will not be the same as they are at home. You can also create medication charts and decorative notes such as this:

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Throw the note onto the ugly linoleum as far as you can- surely someone will be intrigued enough to pick up such a brightly worded piece of paper!

HOT TIP #4. Display a photo of your pet, the cuter the better. Even the stoic therapist from Finland will ooh and ahh over little Fluffy. In a short amount of time you will cease to be known as “The Bad Back in Bed B,” and will be affectionately referred to as “Fluffy’s Mommy” or “Fluffy’s Daddy.” The staff will stop in during their daily rounds to check in on Fluffy’s latest exploits, during which time you can casually mention that you haven’t received any food and it’s been twelve hours already.

HOT TIP # 5. Make friends with the other patients, particularly the stranger whose room you are now sharing. He has been there longer than you and can be a fountain of information- telling you where to find the birdcage or aquarium (every rehab center has one!) when the ventriloquist is supposed to come (so you can be sure you are indisposed,) and why you should absolutely, positively steer clear of the scrambled eggs.

HOT TIP #6. Try not to hurt your back. Seriously.

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Even the doctors will stop by to ask about Fluffy!