Hypochondria and the Art of One Upmanship

Most everyone knows at least one hypochondriac. They are those folks who turn a case of the sniffles into pneumonia, a headache into a tumor, and a freckle into cancer. I know this because I have something of a hypochondriacal mindset myself.

One hypochondriac can be fun to mess with. Say, “You know that cough sounds pretty serious. I hear there’s a bronchial disease making the rounds. High mortality rate. Very bad.” Then stand back and watch them scramble for an appointment at Convenient Care.

But two hypochondriacs in one room can be really interesting. Let’s listen in on Gloria and Zelda at the birthday party of a mutual friend.

Gloria: Zelda, darling, it’s been ages!

Zelda: I know! I’ve just been in so much pain. Gallstones, you know.

Gloria: I had gallstones last year! They were awful, but not nearly as bad as the kidney stones I had last month. I swear, my doctor said mine were as big as a Buick! It was like giving birth to a freaking Buick!!

Zelda: Oh, my kidney stones were worse than that. It was like a roll of double-edged razor blades was trying to escape from my body. Just horrible. The doctor said he’d never seen anyone in so much pain. Of course that was nothing compared to when my youngest was born.

Gloria: You’re telling me! My first baby weighed 10 pounds, 6 ounces. A Buick sized baby! It took me 15 hours to push him out. I couldn’t sit down for a month! I swore I’d never have another, but I’m extra fertile you know.

Zelda: Me, too! I was in labor for four days before the doctor decided to do an emergency C-section. Thank goodness that was my last child. The doctor said it took three hours just to stitch me up. I’ll tell you, I’ve never been quite the same.

Gloria: Three hours is nothing! That’s how long it took for the surgeon to make the initial incision for my tonsillectomy back in ’08.

Zelda: Were your tonsils Buick sized?

Gloria: Well, yes! How’d you know?

Zelda: I just had a feeling. Listen, I’d love to talk longer, but my back is killing me. I think I’ve ruptured a disk, and the doctor wants to run some tests. They’re going to inject some dye into my spine. I’ll have to be immobilized for 24 hours. I’m afraid he thinks it might be a tumor.

Gloria: I know! When my back was out the doctor wanted to do exploratory surgery. You can’t imagine the pain! It was like having hot pokers rammed into my spine. Over and over again. Hot pokers the size of Buicks.

Zelda: I hope we run into each other again, but if I have a tumor this might be it for me.

Gloria: Well, I’d tell you to keep me posted, but I’m having surgery on my sinuses at the end of this month, and you know they’re going to be working close to my brain so there’s a possibility I won’t make it. Or even worse I’ll be a vegetable.

Zelda: Or a Buick.

Peace, People!

Remembering September 11

IMG_2311-0           I don’t often take this blog to serious places, but it is difficult to ignore September 11 as anything other than a serious date. On 9/11/01, I was at a conference in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C. The day was beautiful. Bright blue skies beckoned outside of our conference room, and a group of us planned to head into D.C. that afternoon. It was my first trip to the area, and I couldn’t wait to take in all of the sights in our nation’s Capitol.

Our group was engaged in a lively discussion, but then, in the middle of the conference session, cell phones began buzzing. We laughed at first. It seemed amusing that we’d all get calls at the same time. Then one of the presenters stepped out to take her call. When she returned to the room her face was devoid of color, and she said we were adjourning to the lobby of the hotel.

There, we gathered around a television and watched footage of a plane crashing into one of the World Trade Center buildings. A coworker began sobbing. Her parents had a business next to the building and she excused herself to try to call them. We stayed focused on the screen and watched in disbelief as yet another plane crashed into the side of the second building. The dawning comprehension that this was not an accident registered immediately. Some cried. Some cursed. Some prayed.

My room was on the first floor, just around the corner from the lobby. I felt the urgent need to be alone, so I went to my room and got down on my knees. I prayed for the families of all those on board the planes. I prayed for those inside the buildings. Then I prayed fervently for those who had perpetrated this unimaginable act to be forgiven.

When I emerged from my room I began hearing all sorts of stories: the Pentagon had been hit, the White House was under attack, another plane had crashed in Pennsylvania. I wasn’t sure what was real and what was rumor. I tried to call my husband who was en route to Houston that day. When I finally got through he was frantic. He knew how close my hotel was to the Pentagon–15 minutes by Metro.

He’d had an intense day. Studly and eight of his coworkers were traveling in a white rental van from Kansas to Houston. They’d planned on playing a few rounds of golf on their trip. When they received a call from their company’s vice president to find a spot to convene a conference call, they found a bank in a small Texas town. The bank had locked its doors and required Studly and his coworkers to present picture i.d.s before admitting them to the building. Their Houston meeting was cancelled, so they turned the van around and headed to their respective homes.

I’d never wanted to be home as much as I did that day, but all flights were cancelled. Colleagues began trying to rent cars, but those were hard to come by. One of my closest friends urged me to stay put. The hotel said we could stay at no expense until we could arrange for travel and our company promised to take care of us until we could find a way home. So for three days we stayed in the hotel, checking flights and watching the news. On Friday morning we headed to Dulles, hoping that our flights would be cleared.

I’d never seen lines that long at an airport–around the terminal and out the door. People were beginning to feel a sense of desperation. First we were told our flight to Dallas was cancelled. I was ready to give up and head back to Tyson’s Corner, but again my friend urged me to stay put. That advice paid off when a gentleman came through our line to gather those of us ticketed for the Dallas flight.

We boarded the plane and then sat on the tarmac for two hours. No one spoke. The silence was more unnerving than anything I’d experienced in the previous three days. Finally, we were cleared for takeoff–the first plane to depart Dulles after 9/11.

When we landed safely at DFW a palpable feeling of relief surged through the cabin. One of the flight attendants broke into tears. I cried with her. I had to catch another flight to Amarillo, TX. The flight attendants gave us instructions on fighting off attackers. Use anything you have they told us. Purses, pillows, wallets. The whole experience was surreal.

When I made it to Amarillo and to my car I sat and cried in the parking lot for a long time. I still had a four hour drive in front of me, and I remember very little of it. When I pulled into my driveway in a Dodge City, Kansas, Studly came out to hold me. Home never felt so good.

Peace, Please People!

Karma Rides Again

I learned a valuable lesson this past weekend. Studly Doright invited a couple to spend the weekend with us. A couple neither of us particularly care for. The husband is odd and the wife even odder. Now, Studly didn’t want to invite them, but the husband pretty much backed Studly into a corner using the age old principle of guilt. I don’t fall for guilt. Studly does.

Poor Studly. When he texted me with the news that Odd and Odder were going to be our guests for the weekend I texted back, “I’d rather eat goat sh*t.” He asked what kind of wine paired best with that. So, he brought home a nice Cabernet Sauvingnon.

Of course I turned to my Facebook friends to gripe, and they responded with wonderful suggestions: “turn off the lights and pretend you aren’t home,” “fake an illness,” “tell them you’re needed in Illinois,” etc. I honestly considered each of these as viable options. But then one friend said that I should look at this as an opportunity to gather good karma. That I should be welcoming and hospitable to this couple.

The more I thought about it the more I knew he was right. I drank that bottle of wine and opened my arms wide to Odd and Odder. I made sure I was a smiling, happy, slightly drunk hostess.

And I enjoyed Odder. Once her husband and mine left to play golf she became more normal and I realized that her oddness is, in large part, a reflection of her husband’s oddness. I’ll have to rename her. Less Odd? Slightly Odd?

Will I seek out her company in the future? Maybe. After they’d left I visited with my daughter and told her that I’d racked up some good karma this weekend. Her response: maybe Odd and Odder were payback for some bad karma I’d accumulated in the past. Damn. She’s probably right! So does my good karma cancel out any bad karma? I think I need more wine.

Very Inspiring Blogger Award Nomination

Many, many thanks to Marilyn Hannan for nominating me for the “Very Inspiring Blogger Award.” Her blog is amazing, and can be found at http://hannamar.wordpress.com. Please check her out. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Here are the guidelines for the award:

Thank and link the amazing person who nominated you.
List the rules and display the award.
Share seven facts about yourself.
Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they’ve been nominated.
Optional: Proudly display the award logo on your blog and follow the blogger who nominated you.

Seven facts about this blog

1. I promised myself I’d post once a day for the first 30 days. That makes the quality a little uneven, but it sure makes me at least write something.

2. I started writing the blog, in part, because a friend’s blog inspired me (thanks Hunny!)

3. My favorite posts so far have been those about my family.

4. I do all of my work on my iPad and my iPhone. Do I get some kind of award for that?

5. I usually write the title first and see what develops. Often, I’m surprised!

6. I haven’t quite figured out all of the technical stuff yet. Instructions? We don’t read no stinkin’ instructions.

7. My top blog posts thus far:

Not Just Any Man
Dancing with my Grandaddy
What’s a Gingy?
Finding Love at the Piggly Wiggly
38 Reasons Why
Rower’s Remorse
Snake Eyes
Just for Gaffes

Now, I get to nominate inspiring 15 bloggers!

Janie Christie Heniford at hunnyshabitat.com
Hope Nwoso (StoriesWithoutBorder.wordpress.com)
Tiffany Hall at http://Liberalchristianconfessions.blogspot.com
Trudy’s Treasures
A Holistic Journey
Christian Mihai
Love Happy Notes
Stephanie’s Blog
Clare Flourish

Take a moment and look these for these bloggers. Maybe you’ll find some inspiration, as well.

Again, thanks to the very inspiring Marilyn Hannan. Please check her out, as well.

Peace (and Inspiration), People!

Alter Egos

Most of us are familiar with the idea of an alter ego. It’s the very basis of our superhero fiction. Mild mannered Clark Kent becomes Superman. Uber rich Bruce Wayne becomes Batman. Scientist Bruce Banner transforms into the The Hulk.

Even my kids had alter egos. When our son was very small he decided that he was no longer a little boy and for several months insisted that he was a pig. For a time he ignored anyone who called him by the name Jason, insisting that he was Pig. During this phase he did a great deal of snorting and rolling around the floor in pretend mud. We considered taking him out to search for truffles, but by that time he’d outgrown the pig phase.

Similarly, when our daughter was four she became so enamored by the musical, “Annie” that she began asking everyone to call her “Ashley/Annie.” She even coerced her dad into getting her hair permed Annie style. I’m not totally sure she ever gave up on the Ashley/Annie personality. It wouldn’t surprise me to find her sporting a big permed hairdo and belting out “Tomorrow, Tomorrow!” even today, today.

So both of my children had/have alter egos. Most superheroes have one. I want one. I want something badass–the perfect counterpoint to my nice girl image. Like Walter White’s “Heisenberg,” I want it to be on the cerebral side.
Hmmm. Here’s how my brainstorming went:

Madame Curie. No, too reactive.

The Headcase. Too close to the truth. Everyone would know.

Wonder Woman. Already taken. Although, I do wonder a great deal…I wonder where my phone is, where my keys are, what I’m cooking for dinner, if these pants make my butt look big….

Mara Jade. No, I’d always have to explain the relevance to non-Star Wars Universe people. Exhausting.

Then I realized, I already have an alter ego! Nana Noyz! It’s alliterative, as a good alter ego often is, and it fits me perfectly. Just don’t misspell it in the comic book version of my life.

Peace, People!

Update: Swimsuit: Revenge of the Long Torso

You know the anticipation and delusions of grandeur one has before the arrival of a product one has ordered? Then you probably also know the disappointment, the letdown upon delivery of said item.

I wrote last week about the difficulty of finding a suit to fit my long torso body (link below) and that I had found something called the “extra high waisted skirted tankini bottom.” I hoped that this suit would be just the thing for me to wear to my water aerobics classes.

It is indeed high waisted. Very nicely so. No complaints there. And skirted. Boy! Is it ever skirted! I look like someone’s idea of what women in the 1900’s might have worn to the beach. Picture Shamu in a tea length gown.

Can swimsuits be altered? Could I take this to some knowledgeable seamstress and have the skirt shortened? I know nothing of these domestic goddess matters. All I know is I’m not venturing outside in this monstrosity.

In addition, I thought I had ordered the suit bottom in black. The description said “blackberry” which my mind translated to “black,” like “sage” is green, and “sea foam” is green, and “yucca” is green. Apparently, blackberry is a deep purple. It’s certainly not black. If the clever marketing folks would standardize their descriptions online shopping would be much simpler.

So I’m still sidelined from water aerobics. Even if I can’t have the suit altered I think I’ll keep it. Halloween is just around the corner, and I feel sure I could press it into use as a costume: Shamu? Prune in a skirt?



Today’s blog is interactive. No “likes” unless you also leave a comment. Sorry to be such a crotchety old woman, but this is important. I’ll compile your comments into a future post. Anonymity is guaranteed unless I’m given the ok to use your name.

Here are your questions:

1. Did you have a mentor, other than your parents, to guide you during your youth?
2. Who mentored you? (Ex. Teacher, coach, etc. You don’t have to name names.)
3. In what way(s) did he/she/they act as your mentor?
4. Have you ever acted as a mentor to a young person other than your own children?
5. In what country do you live?
6. May I use your name?

I’m looking forward to reading your responses.

Peace, People!

Close Encounters of the Bear Kind

My mother-in-law spent much of her childhood near Pie Town, New Mexico, growing up in the shadow of Poverty Peak. One day we’ll write her stories but I’m still learning this craft, and her memories are too wonderful to entrust to me just yet. So, this tale is mine, and it took place more than 20 years ago during my first trip to her childhood home.

The occasion was a Parker family reunion. Parkers from near and far had come together for a weekend at Moriarty, New Mexico, and then members of the Buck Parker clan, my mother-in-law’s branch of the family tree, went on to camp for a few days on the grounds of their old home at the base of Poverty Peak.

We were quite a crew. Mema (my beloved mother-in-law) and several of her siblings, their children, and great grandchildren, made the trip from Moriarty to Poverty Peak. All told there were probably forty of us in attendance, ready to camp, and hike, and explore the place the Parker siblings had called home during their formative years.

Now, I’m not a camper or a hiker. To me, roughing it means staying at a hotel without a concierge. If God had wanted us to camp He wouldn’t have built Wyndhams and Hiltons and Crown Plazas. But for the sake of Mema and the good of the family I’d give it a go.

One of the highlights of the trip was a hike to the summit of Poverty Peak. It’s not a huge mountain as mountains go, but to a girl from the plains of the Texas panhandle it was pretty daunting. Nevertheless, I, along with Studly, Mema, various uncles, aunts, and cousins, set off as a group to conquer the peak. We ranged in age from four to sixty-four with every age group well-represented.

Studly’s middle sister had a head cold and as we climbed she found it increasingly difficult to breathe. When the group came upon a clearing she decided to cease climbing and rest there until the climbers made their descent. I jumped at the chance to stay with her having decided five minutes into the hike that I should have left the hiking to those who enjoy such activities.

So for the longest time MO (the middle one) and I caught up on each other’s lives. There was a big, steep rock, at least four and a half feet tall, in the center of the clearing, and periodically one of us would climb up on it to sit a spell. We had plenty to talk about–kids, work, friends–so the time passed quickly and pleasantly.

When we heard a crashing in the forest we looked up expecting to see our intrepid explorers. Instead, we saw a big brown bear running at full speed straight at us! My first instinct was to run. Fortunately MO grabbed me, and somehow, magically, we found ourselves atop the rock. I’m not sure how we did it so quickly and effortlessly. I have long suspected that MO scooped me up and teleported us onto that rock.

I have to confess I played the role of blubbering fool to MO’s calm heroine. The bear was less than 10 feet away from our rock, swinging his big shaggy head back and forth, as surprised to find us in his forest as we were to see him in our clearing. Our situation appeared to be at a stalemate, and then we heard our kids coming down the mountain.

MO and I started hollering. Not yelling, not screaming, hollering. There’s a difference. We both could picture what might happen if a scared bear encountered one of our bite-sized children. The thought still makes me shudder. We got the attention of our menfolk (strong, manly men) and they came charging down the mountain, waving their arms and herding the bear away from us.

I’ve often wondered what might have happened had MO and I not been rescued by our group. Would the bear have given up and wandered on? Would he have chosen to attack? Would our bleached bones still be on that rock in the middle of a clearing on the way to Poverty Peak? I’m glad we never had to find out. One thing I do know–bears hardly ever attack at a Crown Plaza.

Peace, People!

Just Catty

Cats are infinitely superior to mere humans as this interview illustrates: Me: Good afternoon, Fluffy. Fluffy: Are you addressing me? Me: Well, yes. It is after all just the two of us in the room. Fluffy: I hadn’t noticed. (yawn) Me: Listen Fluffy, I want to get to know you better. Fluffy: Whatever for? Me: Well, to strengthen our bond. Fluffy: (Sniff) Me: What would make you happier? What do you need? Fluffy: I need it all. Everything. Sunshine. Insects. Birds. Food. Treats. Naps. A new feather on a stick. Your pillow. The clothing you had planned on wearing today. Me: About that. I notice that you feel the impulse to lay on anything I place on the bed. Can you explain that? Fluffy: The bed is mine. Everything on the bed is mine. Just remember, it’s all mine. If you want something of your own, get a dog. Me: We had a dog. You terrorized him. Remember? Fluffy: You mean that sniveling excuse of an animal you called Barney? He smelled like dog. Me: Well, he was one. Fluffy: That was no excuse. And he tried to lick me. Ew. Me: He just wanted to show you some affection, and you repaid him by sticking a claw in his left nostril. Fluffy: That was amusing. Too bad he had to go on a nice long vacation. Me: Barney was a good dog. Listen do you have any feelings for me at all. Fluffy: Such as? Me: Maybe gratitude. I buy only the best canned food. You always have fresh water. You get treats three times each day. I made your cat bed from the softest sheepskin I could find. You could at least purr once in awhile. Fluffy: Purr. Purr. Me: That wasn’t a real purr. I can tell the difference you know. Fluffy: I think it’s time for my nap now. Me: Not so fast! Would it kill you to let me pet you occasionally? Fluffy: Have I been vaccinated for that? Me: Forget it. I’m going to the store. Fluffy: Meow!?! (Purrrrrrrr, purrrrrrrr) Me: Oh, sweet kitty! I’ll bring you a new feather on a stick, yes I will! Mama’s little bitty kitty! Fluffy: Sucker.

A Slight Case of Cancer

Several years ago I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. I can say this easily now, but when I first heard the word “cancer” attached to my name I pretty well lost it. My doctor’s nurse called and told me over the phone–not at all the best way to get the news–and then I got to tell Studly. I did fine with the “I have” part, but when I came to the c word, I got all choked up. He cradled me like a baby while I sobbed for a long, long time.

A diagnosis of cancer is one of those events that makes you go through an endless list of what ifs. “What if it’s worse than they think? What if I lose my breast? What if I lose Studly because I lose my breast? What if I don’t lose my breast, but it’s disfigured? What if I, dare I think it…die? What if my grandchildren don’t remember that I ever existed and loved them with my whole heart and then some? What if no one cares?” I got pretty maudlin, to say the least.

When I had to inform folks about my diagnosis I couldn’t say cancer without breaking down. I’m a word person. Words have so much power in my world, but I didn’t want this stupid word to have power over me, to make me bawl like a baby every time it was uttered. It seemed like the key lay in disarming the power of the word. But how?

One morning as I showered I pondered my inability to say the damned word and thought to myself, “Woman! Get a grip!” So as I showered I began saying “Cancer, Cancer, Cancer,” over and over again. At first I cried, my tears mingling with the warm cascade of water from the shower, but before long “cancer” became no more than two meaningless syllables. No power, no tears. I got out of the shower and tested the word. “Cancer.” Nothing. No tears, no what ifs.

After that I only had one more crying jag over my cancer. It wasn’t when I was at the doctor’s office discussing my options. There were no tears when I met with the oncologist or the radiologist. Of all places I broke down at the chiropractor’s office. He’d asked me how I was doing, and trying to be funny I quipped, “Oh, I’m fine except I have a slight case of cancer.” Then I dissolved into hiccuping sobs.

The poor guy stood there patting me on the back and seeking to reassure me until I could compose myself. I got more than my money’s worth that day–an adjustment and a back rub–how’s that for manipulation?

It has been more than seven years since my diagnosis. I came through the lumpectomy and radiation no worse for the wear, and all of my what ifs were for naught. Yea me! I can still talk about my experience tear-free. I do get pretty weepy over cute kitten pictures on the internet, though. Maybe I should try the repetition therapy: “Kitten, Kitten, Kitten.” So far, so good.

The rest of this post is a Public Service Announcement: Ladies, schedule your annual mammogram (that’s how my lump was found). Gentlemen, have that annual prostate exam! Everyone over 50, colonoscopies save lives!

That is all. Carry on.

Peace (and good health), People!

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