Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Grateful for Health

I can finally say with some confidence that I currently have no more melanomas on my body. This is always a good feeling, but one that’s hard to hang onto. My internist and my dermatologist both recommended visits to two more specialists before reaching that conclusion this time. It turns out that this most deadly form of cancer sometimes chooses to appear on the back of the eye or on the genital area, both out of common sight. So I had an ophthalmic exam today and a GYN exam yesterday. Both showed no evidence of melanoma.

The 3" incision on my leg is healing nicely. It’s uncovered and open to the air at this point. No more need for Neosporin or antibiotics. I even toyed with the idea of taking the stitches out myself next week since my visit to Dr. Braun conflicted with a class in which I was enrolled. Sue at his office quickly offered me a different appointment when I mentioned that idea.

I can say with all honesty that I am doing everything in my power to stay ahead of this recurring threat. So far I am winning – 4 for 4. I hope the odds stay in my favor because I really do love life and there is so much more music I want to play!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Time to Retire?

All day long I have been impatient with people who were not doing their jobs properly. Here’s a litany of my encounters:

– A survey stat asking numerous questions about a spec I drafted for her review, which should have originated from her.
– A new employee who has been here 2 days without a computer because the people we request this from just didn’t deal with it a week ago when we first made the request. Nor did people in my office follow up on it adequately. I learned a long time ago that these kinds of things never happen without a lot of prodding.
– An error in a 2004 allocation rate because neither the programmer (my employee) or the subject-matter analyst bothered to look at it before it was declared final. Today was the press conference for the release of this data. Apparently the error was discovered yesterday and no one on my staff told me about it. Instead I learned of it from someone in another division.
– No one following up on a training request for the same new employee. The course starts next week.
– An error in a production program run earlier this week. I wasn’t even aware that there was a change being made to this program. Apparently the change was not properly tested. Nor did the math stat verify the production run in the 2-hour window before the release of the file. The bottom line is that it’s too late to do anything about it.
– I had logged a problem report on a WordPerfect issue last week. When I called today to check on the progress of its resolution, I was told that Claude was researching it would give me a call. He never called and instead went home. The person I finally spoke to said that Claude was actually working on a problem for their branch chief. So much for the priority of my problem! Claude could have at least called to tell me that himself.

In all of these cases, I was less than cordial, and probably down-right accusatory and insulting. I really hate incompetence. I also really hate finding out about mistakes that could easily have been avoided.

Maybe my intolerance is just one more sign that it is time to move on, to exchange these problems for ones that are more under my control.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Making Peace with My Skin

Every year, Yom Kippur offers us a chance to make amends for the sins of the past. This would usually involve people whom we might have wronged and an opportunity to apologize and clean the slate for the new year.

Rebecca has decided to observe the high holidays for the first time in many years. If you really do this right, it amounts to a lot of hours in services and a day of complete fasting.

We talked on Sunday about this whole concept of asking forgiveness and what each of us might want to achieve. She suggested, given my recurring bouts with skin cancer, that I try to make peace with my skin – that I ask its forgiveness for all those hours on the beach while I was growing up, bathed in cocoa butter instead of SPF 45 sunscreen. I’m not so sure that amends are possible at this point in time, when the damage was actually done so long ago. But, hey, it’s worth a try!

She is going to embark on a project to make peace with the Torah. Rebecca doesn’t have a lot of formal training in Judaism. Her one attempt to read the Torah about 15 years ago ended with her throwing her copy in the trash can when she got so upset about what she was reading. She has thought of this as the equivalent of a mortal sin ever since and would now like to be absolved. I told her teasingly, “Before you know it, you’re going to be up there on the bimah chanting from the Torah.” Her response, “My dead Poppa really likes to hear you say that.”

As for the fasting on Yom Kippur, I have never had the commitment to do it. Instead I am always sneaking lunch at the break between services. Rebecca suggested that we both try it this year, drinking water but eating nothing for 24 hours. Maybe I will.

More Music and Face Time with a Real Author

Last evening was filled with luxurious moments I really enjoyed so much. Ever since I returned from Chautauqua, I have been wanting to hear the Telemann sonata with all four parts. I put together a quartet made up of Liz (flute), Nancy (violin), and of course Deborah (bass). We played through it several times, carefully working through the more difficult sections and reminding myself of those places that still need some work. It was incredibly beautiful. Liz is every bit as good as Roz, our flautist at Chatauqua, was.

We then played through 3 pieces from the Claude Bolling Suite for Flute and Piano, which also includes bass and drums. We don’t have anyone to play drums yet, but we had the other 3. WOW – Is it ever fun to play jazz, where rhythms are just what you make them to be. This piece is incredibly hard for me, so I will have to work and work to make it even come anywhere close to the recording I am addicted to. But it’s the kind of piece that you really look forward to practicing.

It was my turn to choose a book for our couples book club. I picked a book by a local author who is also a friend of mine. Liz is also the talented flautist mentioned above. This was the first time in 8 years of our book club’s existence that we have had the author attend our meeting. I set up a BLOG for pre-meeting comments that were intended to include our usual reaction to the book and comments on things like character development, plot, etc. The purpose of the meeting was to offer members a chance to ask the author all those things that had occurred to them as they read the book and to find out just how an author goes about crafting her work. The good news is that perhaps everyone had read the book (which doesn’t often happen) and they came prepared with good questions for Liz. After the last questions had been answered we gorged ourselves on strawberries, brownies, and ice cream, and everyone got to know our latest additions to the book club, Deb and Neal.

I really enjoy all of these people so much. This is the kind of evening that adds a real richness to life!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Who Reads My BLOG?

I always think that no one ever reads any of this stuff that I write. Today I actually had two phone calls that proved that I have an audience!

Rosa and I worked together in the International Division of the Census Bureau for many years. I was always intrigued by her close relationship to her parents and to her 6 children. She was something between a surrogate mother and just a friend to me, depending on what I needed at the time. She retired a number of years ago and lives by herself in an assisted living community. After having both knees replaced, she is still actively involved in the lives of her various family members and in the local school system. Rosa complains that her memory isn’t what it used to be, but she is still amazingly on top of things. She knew about my biopsy last week, but had to read my BLOG to learn the outcome.

Freddie Lee is one of my best friends from the age of 5. We were born on exactly the same day in the same year and grew up in Panama City, Florida. Her father was my pediatrician. She came from a family of 10 children, being the third oldest. I hadn’t heard from her for months, which is not unusual, because she is not nearly as addicted to e-mail as I am. Last I heard, she was in China with her son John. For all I knew, she had never come home. But that is apparently not the case. In fact, she has just taken a job as an airlines stewardess. I am always amazed when people make decisions to do things like this. She will be wonderful and everyone will love her and they will never guess she is 56 like I am.

I’m sorry it took something so serious to elicit these phone calls, but I was delighted to have a chance to talk to both of these friends. It’s people like these that make life definitely worth living!

Another Round of Melanoma

I went in last week to see Dr. Braun, my skin doctor of many years who specializes in skin cancer. I showed him one mole on my leg that had a dark center and I thought had changed slightly. He did his best to look at it and decide whether or not it was a problem. He even used a special lens and alcohol which helps him see inside the mole. When in doubt, my response is always, “Just do a biopsy.”

Four days later the results came back: “Melanoma, early stages, in situ.” Believe me this is actually about the best news you can get if the first word is melanoma. “In situ” means that it is encapsulated, fully contained, that you are not going to die from this one. The treatment does not involve radiation or chemotherapy, but instead just additional surgery to take out a larger patch of skin around the offending mole.

I had the surgery done yesterday. I had planned to go over to Deborah’s house for dinner and music last night afterwards, using my usual tactic of just ignoring my situation and carrying on as though nothing had happened. But I was so wiped out after that surgery that it was all I could do to drive home – especially since I have a car with a clutch and the 3" incision is in my left inner knee.

After sleeping for about 12 hours, I feel much better today. I am staying home from work, which is most unusual for me. I plan to read and perhaps play the piano and just hang out at home today. It’s nice to have a whole day with no plans.

After one of these episodes, there is always that lingering question of how many more melanomas as lurking somewhere on my body. I see 2 different doctors each twice a year just to have someone look for new problems. Deborah also advised me to have an eye exam, as the eye is second only to the skin as a possible site. Dr. Braun also suggested a thorough GYN exam. What about all those places that NO ONE can see? At some point, you just have to hope and trust that it is not your time. Rebecca, who claims to know how everyone is going to die, once told me that this was not going to be the cause of my death. This is a time when I hope I can believe her!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A Bizarre Visit to Boston

We are in Boston with the express purpose of delivering a car to Rachel. We arrived on Thursday evening and she has worked most of the time we have been here. She works in 2 different restaurants, where many of the staff are now on vacation. This experience will in the long run serve to remind her why she is getting a getting a degree and why she doesn’t want to have anything to do with the food industry for a living.

David’s secondary purpose for coming to Boston was to hook up a printer to Rachel’s now aging laptop computer. Sounds simple enough. But it has taken him most of his waking hours and he has been on the phone with idiots in India who have been trying to troubleshoot long-distance to no avail. The end result is that there is still no working printer hooked up to the computer and our plane leaves in just 5 hours.

We had a couple of dinner experiences with the parents of Rachel’s housemates, that even included Rachel on Friday night. It was fun to discover just how much we have in common.

And me – what have I been doing over this long 4-day weekend? I brought my music with me in the hope that I might find a practice piano. I found the music department on Friday morning. The only pianos that I found in the unlocked practice rooms were so bad that they were virtually unplayable. Then I ran into a woman who was tuning pianos who let me into a locked room containing 2 Steinway grands. A big improvement!

On Saturday I wasn’t initially so lucky. When I arrived the building was locked up tight. I say a Tufts policeman out front and persuaded him to let me in and disable the alarm system. Then I started wandering around looking for a piano. I finally found a real prize in a room that should have been locked, but wasn’t. So my accomplishment for the weekend was 4 rewarding hours of practice on pianos much bigger and nicer than my Baldwin Acrosonic. Why did I need to come all the way to Boston to play the piano?

Friday, August 19, 2005

An Arranged Visit

We’re in Boston to visit Rachel this weekend. David has been talking about having us get together with his cousin Don and his famous wife Nina Simonds, the author of some really good Asian cookbooks, ever since Rachel came to college at Tufts 3 years ago. When he first contacted Don about this trip, Don had said, “Sure, we’ll get together for lunch or dinner on Friday.” Then it turned into, “Why don’t you stop by between 3 and 6 in the afternoon.” Suddenly the food component was gone. What had happened?

We showed up with Rachel a little after 3. Nina acted as though she had never seen us before. A lot of the conversation centered around Rachel, since she goes to a “prestigious” school that is becoming harder and harder to get admitted to. Their son Jesse is a rising senior with a passion for sports and not a lot of good grades it seems. So they are in a panic about where he will go to school.

We were offered a choice of lemonade or sparkling water to drink. The only food was a small bowl of salted almonds. So much for oriental cooking! At one point Nina introduced us to her son, calling me Susan. Obviously my name had not made a lasting impression.

At about 5:30 Nina started looking at her watch and suggesting routes we could take back to Medford. It was time for us to go home.

Rachel had initially suggested that we walk around downtown Boston on this glorious pre-fall day. That would probably have been a better use of everyone’s time!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Reading with Santiago

Yesterday I took Santiago, Jerry, and their mom to the library so that the boys could get their own library cards. I also wanted to return the 26 library books we had checked out the week before on MY card and let them check out books on their cards, not knowing if we would be able to even find all 26 books again if I waited much longer.

Both boys signed their library cards. Jerry wrote his name all in caps, but very readable. I was astounded at Santiago’s ability to write in cursive script. He obviously has good eye-hand coordination.

Their mom limited them to 6 books each. Santiago did throw in a math book and a math puzzles book. But the rest were books from the “Arthur” series – probably about third grade level.

When I dropped them off at home, I suggested that Santiago might read to me for a few minutes. He chose one of the Arthur books and looked a little nervous. I was pleasantly surprised that he knew about half the words by sight. But he didn’t have a clue about how to decode the others. He didn’t know what a contraction was. He couldn’t name the 5 vowels. It was as though he had never been taught one thing about reading. We developed a system of breaking down the words into smaller and smaller pieces until he could sound the syllables out with a little help. Then we would put them together and he would have a word and a big smile would come over his face. I don’t think anyone had ever worked with him like this before. What a shame and what a waste of 11 years!

We had read about half the book when he noticed his older brother getting ready to go play basketball. That was a bigger draw than reading so we were done. Upon leaving he said to me, “Miss Barbara, you are the nicest lady I know.” What a compliment!

I never expected so much enthusiasm or so much demonstrated potential. I feel like those test results are somehow masking the true ability of this child. Where can I find someone to unlock the doors to let Santiago learn to read?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Childhood Music Revisited

I had arranged for 4 of us to get together tonight to play the Telemann Sonata that I so enjoyed playing at Chautauqua. At the last minute Liz declared she was not feeling up to it, as she had Lyme Disease and suffers from chronic fatigue as a result. Deborah and I decided not to bother for just 3 parts.

Nancy, who was planning to ride with me to Deborah’s house, came over anyway. We played through all 4 movements of the Telemann. She was remarkably good, given that she had never played it before. (Nancy is 75 years old. She majored in music at Skidmore and taught violin for a while after graduation.) Then we moved on the Scribner Library of Music for Young Children, Book VIII, which has piano-violin duets, It is a veritable smorgasbord of music: Spring Song and Traumerei and Minuet in G, you name it! Some of them were actually quite nice arrangements. It was a true test of my sight-reading ability. I don’t know if my skill is actually getting better, but my confidence and ability to fake it and just keep going have improved considerably. What a fun evening!

Nancy’s life is filled with so much stimulation. She plays golf every week. She plays in an orchestra in McLean. She takes poetry classes at AU. She attends services at Temple Micah regularly. And she drives everywhere in her new car. She hardly seems 75! She says she forgets where she puts things from time to time, but that’s true of most of us who are over 50...

Monday, August 15, 2005

Flourishing Friendships

We had a dinner party last night so that Bill C and I could introduce our spouses to Deborah and Neal, the people we hung out with in Chautauqua. Deborah came over early so we could get in just a little music before dinner. We played the best we ever have. It is obvious that being rested helps. (Last Thursday we played after a day of work and it showed how tired from work and heat we were.) We tried several of the selections from Claude Bolling’s Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano, that also include a string bass and drums. It is incredibly much fun to play this music. I am so unused to the freedom of jazz, which begs for you to just run away with the melody.

I am really learning how to entertain simply. Deborah brought a salad and Kris brought a dessert. I made chicken divan ahead of time and threw out some bought appetizers. Minimal cooking. Minimal cleanup.

We ate and drank for what seemed like hours as friendships wove themselves together. We all have children of similar ages, so children was a big topic. It’s also interesting to hear about the reality of being a doctor, a story you don’t tend to get when you go in to visit your internist. We talked about the book club, since Deborah and Neal are joining our 8-year-old couples book club. And then it was time for everyone to go home. Deborah packed up her huge string bass and hauled it out to their car. The Caseys walked home.

I am feeling happy today to have good friends like these, but a little tired from way more wine than I am used to drinking. It would have been nice to have another day in the weekend!

The Aging of Skin and Bone

I know that every year of age means new problems to deal with physically, from here to the end. It’s just like with an old car after 150,000 miles.

My skin is an ongoing problem. I am carefully scrutinized 4 times a year, twice by each of 2 eminent dermatologists. Just today I went in to see Dr. Martin Braun, Sr. He froze two things on my face, one of which was pre-cancerous. Then I showed him a newly blackened spot in my left inner knee and said, “If you have any doubt, just get rid of it.” He did a biopsy using a “shave” approach, which at least avoids an inch long incision if it is not a melanoma. If it is, the incision will probably be two inches long. I will know in a week. I wish I could just get rid of all those little dots that are a cause for concern.

My other physical dilemma is a stiffness and mild sporadic pain in my thumb, which Rebecca says is arthritis. That is certainly not good news for anyone who plays the piano. Deborah says to ice it after I play. What a pain in the neck! I like problems that have solutions, even if it is as drastic as surgically removing the problem!

So my body is starting to remind me that I am 56 years old. I can color my hair and use makeup to hide the wrinkles, but there are certain other problems I can’t seem to avoid. It’s hard to grow old gracefully.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Books for the Boys

I finally got around to doing something I have intended to do all summer. I took Santiago and his little brother Jerry (children of Morena, the El Salvadorean woman who cleans my office) to the public library in Oxon Hill, MD. They both needed something special to do since they have a new baby sister who is occupying their parents’ time these days and the alternative today was sitting indoors with grandma watching cartoons on TV.

When we got to the library, I told them they could each check out 10 books. Santiago is a non-reading 11-year-old, so he gravitated toward books like the “Arthur” series that have lots of pictures and just a few words. Jerry just found books that had interesting looking covers. I threw in “Stuart Little”, “Charlotte’s Web”, and a book of math puzzles. We ended up with 26 books, all charged out to my card since they do not yet have a library card. That’s next week’s project. I sent home an application form for each of them (in Spanish). Their mom will need to come in and show an ID for them to get library cards. They are so excited!

Then we went to McDonalds for lunch. Santiago suggested one (of several choices), where there is an indoor play area that Jerry especially likes. He knew exactly what to ask for for Jerry – a hamburger in a bun with NOTHING on it. He suggested that his grandmother might like one of the fruit salads. We had taken books into the restaurant and I can guarantee you that we were the only people in that McDonalds reading library books! Jerry explored every inch of the indoor gym area and never seemed to wind down. Santiago kept a watchful eye on him.

I was so impressed with both boys’ behavior. They did exactly as I asked at all times. Santiago was so attentive to his little brother. At one point he told him to lower his voice in the library. I was surprised that he knew that rule. He made sure Jerry’s seat belt was always buckled. He happily accompanied him to the bathroom in the library. He is so thrilled that he is going to the same school as Jerry this fall. He vowed that if anyone bothered his little brother, he would beat the s–t out of him. Jerry absolutely idolizes his big brother.

Santiago was thinking ahead to our next outing. He suggested that we go to the library again, that we go bowling, and that I might come with them to the beach. I really should have started this sooner, instead of just one week before school starts.

I’m already starting to worry about Santiago in his new school. This is the child that needs so much special attention if he is ever going to learn how to read. But I see a spark of interest and I just have a hard time believing that he can’t learn under the right circumstances. If I was only retired, I would devote a lot of time to working with this child. I may figure out how to do that anyway.

Meanwhile, I hope they keep track of all 26 library books, so that I don’t end up with a big bill from Oxon Hill Library. But most of all, I hope they read them or at least look at all the pictures.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

My Capitol Hill Neighborhood

Sometimes I feel as though I live on Capitol Hill instead of in suburban Virginia. I go to yoga and morning meditation at Capitol Hill Yoga. My massage therapist and my Wednesday night meditation group are at Healing Arts of Capitol Hill. My dentist is on East Capitol Street. My friend who plays the bass is on Mass Avenue NE.

I have learned my way around. I now know which streets are one-way and when. I know multiple ways to get to the SW Freeway. I even know what days they clean certain streets, thereby restricting parking.

I now know at lot of people who live on Capitol Hill. In addition to all those mentioned above, most of those who participate in my yoga and meditation groups live on the Hill. Many Temple Micah members also live there. And there are others.

Just today as I was buying my daily “short skim latte” in the Starbucks at 8th and Penn, I spied a contractor from my office and had a good chat with her. As I walked outside, I was hailed by someone across the street. On closer examination, it turned out to be someone I had worked with for many years.

I seldom walk down a street on the Hill without talking to someone, often a perfect stranger. People are just so friendly. They are really a community in the midst of a big metropolitan area.

So how does this differ from suburban VA? For one thing, where I live, most people drive; they don’t walk or ride their bikes. For another, you have to walk a long way to get anywhere. Whereas, on the Hill, most everything is within several blocks. So being friendly is just not as easy in my neighborhood.

Will I be moving any time soon? Probably not. I would have a hard time buying a place one tenth the size of my house on Capitol Hill. And it would definitely not sit on half an acre. But there are days when a small row-house on a postage stamp size lot sounds like a good idea to me!

Just One Night

I wake up and throw the covers off. I am never drenched in sweat as I have seen described of some people. I’m just hot enough to not want anything over me while I sleep. And then after a while I pull the covers back over me as I cool off.

The worst part is that once I am awake I frequently have the urge to make a trip to the bathroom, a remnant of my childhood training when I was a sometimes bed-wetter. Once I am back in bed, I find that many times my mind has already started to churn on something and it is hard to get back to sleep.

When did this habit of getting hot and then cold while asleep start? I can’t even remember. But it is now a familiar pattern. I suppose I really can’t complain because none of this causes any pain. It’s just that I sometimes long for just one night of uninterrupted sleep, where after my head hits the pillow, the next thing I know my alarm clock is going off.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Sex at 56

I have always been a little behind when it came to matters of sexuality. When I was in high school and some people were already having sex, I was just learning how to kiss boys. I’m sure I lost my virginity well after most people did even in the late 60s. So it’s little surprise that at 56 I am just starting to get the thrill out of sex that most people get in their 20s.

For most of my life, I didn’t really care one way or the other about sex. I seldom initiated making love, although I must say that seldom a week went by when we didn’t over the last 30 years. It just wasn’t a high priority for me. But all of a sudden, I find that I am the one initiating lovemaking. I’m the one after all these years suggesting that we try some new things. Who could ever have guessed?

We saw “The Kinsey Report” last night – a great movie, well acted with a very interesting story line. Kinsey collected sexual histories from hundreds of thousands of people, both male and female. What he found is that people were a lot more sexually active, a lot more adventurous than had been previously thought. He also rated people’s sexual preference on a scale of 0 to 6, where 0 was completely heterosexual and 6 was completely homosexual. He found that many people were somewhere in between.

I have never had a sexual relationship with a woman. I never much thought about it, although I understand that many people in their adolescence experiment with homosexual relationships. The Kinsey movie made me wonder what my true number really is. I do have really close female friends. Would they ever be more than just friends? I find that thought terrifying, as it would threaten my entire lifestyle. As tolerant as I am of others’ sexual preference, I react with disgust at the thought of being a lesbian. But the truth is that I may die without ever knowing.

Meanwhile I have all this excess sexual energy, probably saved up over all these years. I am throwing it into playing music for lack of a better outlet. I really love my life right now. It’s so much more exciting than it used to be. But this is one aspect of my “awakening” that I was unprepared for.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Moonlight Poetry

We have struggled to find a date for our “Poetry by the Light of the Moon” night. We finally decided on September 17, hoping that at least some of those people who didn’t RSVP at all can come. There are still details to work out.

For example, where we’re going to do this. Deb had suggested the Jefferson Memorial. However, when I called the National Park Service, they told me that food is not allowed at the Memorial. Last night we drove around West Potomac Park, East Potomac Park, Haines Point, and the Tidal Basin, checking out possible sites.

** There is a nice grassy stretch along the river in West Potomac Park with a view of parkland and street parking nearby. But there are no picnic facilities or bathrooms there.

**At the tip of Haines Point there is a very cool statue that emerges from the ground. “The Awakening” is a five part cast aluminum sculpture created by J. Seward Johnson, Jr. for the 1980 International Sculpture Exhibition and Conference. Placed in conjunction with the National Park Service, the “giant” is situated on the grounds of Haines Point and the banks of the Potomac River. Here is a URL: This would be a great site if the view across the river were not a string of bright lights.

**There is a grassy area across the Tidal Basin from the Jefferson Memorial that provides a great view of the monument and plenty of parking.

I’m sure there are many more appropriate places, but it is confusing enough having to choose among these three!

I’ve given up wanting to know exactly who is coming. My part of the deal will be to supply plentiful beer, wine, water, and paper and plastic eating products. Everyone who comes should bring some sort of food to share. Yes, we could end up with all salads or all desserts. But would that be so bad? I think any effort to organize the food will not really work. And this way the food and the attendees will be a total surprise!

The real purpose of the evening is poetry. Everyone should bring several of their favorite poems to read. We will come up with ways of combining people. For example if there were 32 people, we could have people group by the season in which they were born, giving 4 groups of approximately 8 people if probability can be counted on. Then after everyone has had time to read one or two poems, we could recombine the groups by some other combination of birth months or some other algorithm. I will consult with my genius husband on this one.

At the end of a moonlit evening, we will collect copies of all poems read and afterwards issue an anthology for “Poetry by the Light of the Moon.”

This evening is in honor of Florence, our 90-year-old friend who had a stroke earlier this year. I made a deal that if she survived that ordeal, I would make her wish to “Dance by the light of the moon” at least partially come true by a moonlight poetry reading.

I just hope the weather cooperates...

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Pink Shoes

I seem to keep running into examples of ridiculous pink shoes. I just read Rebecca’s BLOG post entitled “In Appreciation of Drag Queens and Show Girls” about shoes she wore for a hot date last Saturday night:

I understand WHY they wear those very high heels - they're dramatic, they lengthen the leg, push up the butt and make the wearer feel tall and sexy. But HOW they do it I can not understand.

Saturday night I wore the coolest pair of high heels - definitely not the sort of shoe you would ever see a show girl wearing -- Fluevog pink heels with a yellow stripe around the place where the foot slides in, funny heels and black plastic lug soles -- they're R Crumb heels and I love them. A gift from a friend last Halloween.

Saturday was the first occasion I had to wear them, to dinner with Don. We strolled back to the hotel after dinner, kind of a lengthy walk in heels, though not at all a big deal in regular shoes, so I didn't understand what I was doing to my body. Actually I was having so much fun, I didn't care.

In fact, I didn't realize the impact of that walk until my massage today. Wow. Feeling much freer since receiving all that work on my lower back, legs and feet, feeling determined NOT to take half mile walks while wearing heels in the future. But I still love those shoes, and today I am in great appreciation of anyone brave and tough enough to walk around in high heels as a matter of course. The things we do to look good!

If you want to see a pic of them, go to
They're called "Lily Darling." Once you see them, you'll want a pair, too. Who wouldn't!

Lily Darlings are regularly $185, on sale for $140 on this site.

Just today, I was visited by Tondrea, the 40-ish mother of Aisha (who was shot and paralyzed about a month ago) and grandmother of Ja’miya (Aisha’s daughter). Tondrea was all in pink and looked remarkably well for someone who has been in constant vigil in her daughter’s hospital room for the past month, where she has been praying to God and asking for her daughter’s recovery as she placed her hands on her daughter’s body. Tondrea stopped by to give me an update on Aisha and to let me know that she had been moved to rehab at John’s Hopkins and that she is hoping for a full recovery. How they are paying for any of this is beyond me. As Tondrea sat and talked to me, she was working on tying the ribbons that extended from her very pink shoes – sandals that sat on top of acrylic spikes that looked like toothpicks. I can’t imagine how anyone could walk on such shoes. When I asked Tondrea about her very spiffy new shoes, she said that she had gotten them at the $10 store for $9. They were at least as uncomfortable as the Lily Darlings, but at a fraction of the price. They obviously made Tondrea feel happy today as she prepared for yet another day of healing her daughter.

Should I be looking for some pink shoes?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Revisiting Contentment

I’ve continued to think a lot about contentment over the past week, after my revelation that I never seem to be content – or at least not for long. I can truly say that I found out what true contentment might be like as the week at Chautauqua wore on and I got more and more excited and less fearful about group music.

But after I came home that contentment gradually started to unravel as I realized that I had no one to play with most of the time, that I had to go to work and deal with contentious situations, that I didn’t have any real plans to do anything. By Friday, I hit rock bottom and came home from work in a bad mood, complaining about anything and everything.

What I came to realize is that I am happiest when I have plenty to do and plenty to look forward to. Long expanses of unstructured time scare me and I tend just to go to sleep early. What a ridiculous way to be! Did I learn this behavior or was I genetically wired to be this way?

I started this discussion today with Rebecca about contentment after she had advised me yesterday to just breathe as I accustomed myself to my current situation, in which I said:

“My coping mechanism when that (a sudden crash after a busy time) happens has always been to find things out there in the future to look forward to – I’m playing with Deborah on Thursday night, Deborah and Neal are coming over to dinner in a couple of weeks, I’m taking a bike ride with Rebecca in the fall? Having some fun things to look forward to is no different from your idea of going out with someone every Saturday night. It allows us to get through the intervening days, sometimes doing things that aren’t always fun. I don’t think that’s such a crazy approach to life. I don’t quite get what you suggested – get used to where you are and just breathe. I will always continue to breathe as I attempt to find a balance between the things I have to do and the things I want to do. Anytime I fall – figuratively or literally – it’s always about reestablishing balance. Any new high in life throws off one’s balance and makes it necessary to readjust. That’s what I think of myself doing right now, not just convincing myself to be content. In reality, you can only be content when you have had a lobotomy or when you are too senile to know that there are ebbs and flows in life and you just need to be getting ready to catch the next wave.” Whoa! Did I say this?

She questioned the last part where I stated that most normal human beings are simply not content. I replied that we can probably only find contentment in a utopian situation, like a week at Chautauqua, which if prolonged would amount to stagnation in eternal bliss, but which just isn’t reality. She replied that she would consider eternal bliss to be dynamic, not stagnant. She said, “To me, contentment is the ability to just be with whatever is happening.” My last retort was that I would totally welcome eternal bliss (dynamic or stagnant) if it were in fact a possibility. But last time I looked, I still live in a world which expects me to go to work and doesn’t provide the necessary opportunities to do what I really want to do a lot of the time. By the way, her response sound awfully Buddhist for someone who claims not to be a Buddhist!

One of my goals for the next year is to focus on this idea of contentment – to see if I can realistically achieve a certain level of contentment in my normal everyday life, without having to immerse myself in a world that isn’t like reality. Maybe my new mantra for meditation will be, “Breath in contentment. Breathe out discontentment.” That, of course, assumes that I will always know the difference...