Dressing to the Nines

31 05 2010

I suppose the decline of my wardrobe began when I left the corporate working world.  I didn’t just suddenly get rid of all my suits, skirts and dresses.  But I didn’t replace them when either.  Gradually my closet started looking like casual Friday.

However, as long as we were dressing up for church I maintained a few half-decent things to wear.  But eventually the dress code even there softened, and now if you attend the contemporary service no one will give you a second glance even if you wear blue jeans.  So my closet looks more like kick around the house Saturday.

When I was diagnosed with MS, in a fit of rage? self-pity?  hopelessness? I got rid of all my high heels and sleeveless shirts.  The shoes because while you might embarrassed falling down while wearing flats, you would feel even more stupid if you were prancing around in heels.  And the sleeveless garments because the red spots from the injections were making me crazy.

Over time I came to decide that the arm injections happen on Sundays and Thursdays, so with some planning there are plenty of days when I can go sleeveless and be spot free.  So tank tops and the like have worked their way back into my wardrobe.

No Thanks!

But I still avoid high heels.  Common sense and a desire for comfort have won out over fashion sense.

When I discovered LeSportsac pocketbooks, my choice in handbags took a swing away from fashion as well.  Those babies are so light weight you can suddenly think you’re not carrying anything, and look down in a panic, only to see it securely hanging from your shoulder.  I now own blue, beige, and gray ones; they’re all I carry.  They may not be trendy (and unfortunately they’re not cheap), but they’re great!


Last week I was rare position when business attire was called for.  And I was reminded how much effort goes into even a single outfit.  So many things to coordinate!  Slacks, dress or skirt?  Stockings have virtually disappeared so unless you’re prepared to go barelegged better stick to pants.  Color–bold or retiring?  Or a print?  Matching shoes, handbag and belt?  Jewelry selection?  Are you prepared for the heat of the outdoors and the chill in the air conditioning?  Will you be able to walk the distance?  Pass through security checkpoints without stripping?  How will you carry necessary documents?  I’m spent before I even get out the door.


“It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over”…And Now It’s Over

27 05 2010

I believe I’ve written about how happy I was that my college freshman son played on the William and Mary club baseball team this year.  How it’s the closest he’s ever come to pick-up baseball.  How the kids, who are by this time, admittedly, young adults, ran the show.

It seems somehow fitting that this particular team, as it turned out, was also the most successful team he’s ever played on.

Several weeks ago they played for their conference title.  We drove to Maryland to see a couple of the games.  The field was much nicer than what the team was accustomed to, but again, the audience consisted of a smattering of girlfriends and parents.  This time there was actually someone in charge, but just the one person.  Who was actually a grad student doing it on the side.  When he came down from the booth to snap a couple of photographs during one of the games, the scoreboard stopped getting updated.

And guess what!?  They won the tournament!

Their victory earned them a trip to the World Series of the National Club Baseball Association (Division II) in Pennsylvania last weekend.  And they actually were given the top seed, against schools such as Penn State, Rice and Northeastern.  So once exams were finished, and dorm rooms were cleaned out, they headed north.

But alas, another tournament victory was not in the cards.  But no one will say it wasn’t a great season.  Congratulations are in order!  I guess you were just waiting for us to get out of your way all along.

Being Patient for the Patient

24 05 2010

As I peered at my neighbors’ porch I noticed instead of a front door they had a large piece of scrap wood pushed up against the house.  I know my neighbors well enough so that I was quite confident that they would not board up their house and abandon it to whatever drug dealer might want to set up shop in our neighborhood.

So when I spotted the lady of the house outside, I flagged her down.  It turns out she had grown tired of looking at the weathered aspects of her front door, and took it down to re-sand and re-paint it.  But the re-painting took multiple coats.  And she stressed how important it was to let the paint dry COMPLETELY, lest you end up with red paint all over your weather-stripping, but not on the door.  About that time she decided that the dog scratches on the interior side of the door were intolerable, so they might as well flip it over and work on that.  Her husband applied the final coat on that side and she was unhappy with his handiwork…but she was getting tired of not having a front door…

It all sounded like a lesson in patience.  We have fast food.  We went from snail mail to e-mail to instant messaging.  You can get your hair cut or your oil changed without an appointment.  You can get your cable TV hooked up this afternoon and your dry cleaning will be ready tomorrow.

But if you’re lying in a hospital bed trying to recover from septic shock from a tick bite, everybody is just going to have to wait.  We wait in hospital rooms and waiting rooms.  We wait in traffic on the way to the hospital.  We wait for test results to come back identifying the infection as ehrlichiosis.  We wait to talk to the doctor or the nurse.  We wait for the sedative to take effect, and then we wait for it to wear off.

Patience isn’t just a virtue; it’s mandatory.

Fighting the Good Fight

20 05 2010

My sister-in-law (see previous post) was feeling badly last week.  The doctor told her it was the flu and gave her some medicine.

My brother-in-law returned from an overnight trip Sunday morning and didn’t like what he found, so insisted she go to the hospital.  She was adamant about not going, but he put his foot down.  The staff admitted her to the Intensive Care Unit.

Sunday evening was the last time anyone heard her speak.

She has a blood infection.  Is it something being generated within her body, or did something infiltrate from outside?

An infectious disease doctor suggested the situation looks something like Rocky Mountain spotted fever, carried by ticks.  Interestingly, one of her dogs had anaplasmosis, another tick-borne disease, last week.  That line of thinking looked promising.  Could ticks be the culprits that infected both of them?  The test to confirm it could take a week, but in fact she was already being given the antibiotic that would be used to treat it, which was, in fact, the same drug she had given the dog.  (If you’re thinking this sounds like an episode of House, you’re not the only one.)

So now it’s Thursday.  Three days have passed.

In the interim, her breathing worsened and she had a breathing tube put down her throat.  Her kidneys continued to fail and doctors started dialysis.

It’s curious how our spirits rise and fall based on comments by assorted medical professionals.  Comments which they may have tossed out without a lot of thought.

  • A doctor suggests that she may get worse before she gets better.   Pessimism.
  • A nurse comments she looks better now than she did earlier in the day.  Optimism.
  • A doctor warns us that she is a very sick woman.  Pessimism.
  • A doctor says he’s seen people worse off than Ann recover.  Optimism.

As the days slip by, we wonder if we should worry because another day has passed without measurable improvement.  Or should we be glad that she survived another day, giving the antibiotics time to work?

Are we sad that she’s not better?  Or glad she’s not worse?

Is this what dying looks like?  Or is this what healing looks like?

Be a fighter, Ann!

Aunt Ann’s Animal Assortment

18 05 2010

Aunt Ann is the family glue.

She’s the mortar that distinguishes a strong brick wall from a pile of bricks.

She’s the icing on the cake that keeps the layers from slipping all over the place.

If you’re wondering what everyone in the extended family is up to, you could call each of them.  Or you could call Aunt Ann, who has always already talked to everybody.

Every family, no matter how good, becomes better when it has a resident Aunt Ann.

To look at her, you’d think she’s the ultimate party planner, quick to offer her home for any gathering.  Quick to offer to prepare any fixings that might liven up a gathering.

I think it’s not really the preparing for the party that delights her.  It’s the gathering itself.  The people spending time with people.

Aunt Ann is my sister-in-law.  In addition to  being a people person, she’s a former biology teacher, and she likes animals.  But that’s equivalent to saying Rembrandt liked to do some sketches.

Ann is hard-core, and if you’re a mammal, reptile, or fish, she’s pretty much the best friend you could ever hope to have.

She’s not so much into giant, jungle-type, exotic creatures.  She favors reasonable, pet-sized things, including creatures you might find in your backyard, at the park, or in a nearby creek.  Since she was a little girl she’s had a whole parade of cats.  Since I’ve been married to her brother, her family has had three beloved dogs.  Also a smattering of gerbils and guinea pigs.

But what really sets Ann apart is the menagerie of woodland creatures that have taken up residence at her home, either temporarily or permanently, in various cages, manmade ponds, terrariums, tanks, and aquariums.  She has had eels, turtles, fish, lizards, crawfish and toads.

When one of her turtles was ailing, she took it to the vet and spent the next gosh knows how many days giving this creature daily injections.  (Where do you stick a turtle, you might ask, what with all that shell and what not?  Well, you stick it in right beside the leg where there’s a break in the shell.)

One Easter morning we found a salamander (black, with lots of Easter-egg-shaped yellow spots) clinging to life near our house.  We took him to Aunt Ann’s house (yes, she was doing Easter dinner) and in no time at all she had looked the little guy up in one of her wildlife guides, found out who he was, where he liked to live and what he liked to eat.  He took up residence in her little pond out back, looking quite comfortable by the time we were eating our blueberry pie.

Ann’s son Robert, who knows his mom as well as anyone, astutely commented in the midst of all the dinner/reptile shenanigans “Nothing says Easter like a salamander.”

We love you, Aunt Ann.

The Apple of My Eye

17 05 2010

By the time I post this, my older son will have graduated from college.

It’s got me thinking about milestones in his life.

When he was in the fifth grade, he really wanted contacts to replace his glasses, which had painfully thick lenses.  The eye doctor said he was a little young, but since he was a responsible kid he recommended giving it a try.

I was sad because it meant the end of mornings when he could roll out of bed, throw on some wrinkled clothes, down a bowl of oatmeal in a half-asleep stupor, and head out the door for the bus.  All in under ten minutes.

That day marked the beginning of a morning ritual that has only grown in length. Face washing, hair gel (!?), primping, and, eventually, shaving.


This year marks the end of long summer vacations.  Not to suggest that he’s spent his summers sitting around eating Froot Loops and watching The Price is Right.  His summers have been filled with travel, research, jobs, internships, classes.  But it was always something different from the rest of the year.  A welcome respite.

As a grad student doing research on a stipend, school doesn’t end in May and begin again in September.  It’s a year round thing now.

Childhood is fleeting.

Pushing Up Daisies

14 05 2010

When there’s a memorial service at church we often help the family by organizing a reception for afterwards.  I’m on the list of people who are happy to contribute to these efforts.

I usually have some combination of the following three jobs:

Make cookies.  I’m no Martha Stewart, but I can whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies as well as the next guy.  If I have time, I can even pull off some iced sugar cookies.

Help with set up.  I’m not terribly artistic when it comes to arranging cookies on a tray, but I’m tremendously qualified when it comes to the first job requirement: wash your hands.

Help with clean up.  In the course of washing the big glass platters, I haven’t broken one yet.  But, as the folks at Homeland Security keep telling us, it’s not a question of if“; it’s a question of when.

This time duties got mixed up a bit.

The lady who usually does the punch is on cookie duty.

And I was assigned to do some flowers.  Three medium sized vases for the food tables and three small vases for additional tables.

(I expounded on my previous experiences with church flowers (on the delivering end) here.)

Some folks at church are very serious about their flowers.  Before people on the “flower committee” are allowed to arrange flowers for regular Sunday service, they must complete a Flower Arranging 101 class by the head of the group.  She really knows her stuff.

I’m not one of those people, and I know nothing about flower arranging, except “Don’t cut everything the same height.”  But I bought a bunch a flowers and I lined them all up and I cut them at different heights.  And when it still didn’t look right I ran out and bought lots of ferns to fill in.

Nobody would mistake them for the professionally done flowers, but they were okay.  Anyway, if they were bad enough, I’ll be sent back to cookie making, which is just fine with me.