Who’s On First, British Version

The scene is a ward of a hospital in Southern England.

I am chatting with a friend, another speech therapist who’s from South Africa. She and her roommate are joining us for dinner that evening. She’s asked if she can bring anything. I suggest that she could bring a dessert.

As we are parting company, she says, “So I’ll see you at six with pudding!”

I reply, “Pudding? How nice!”

She looks at me oddly. “But that’s what you asked me to bring.”

I answer, “Well, I just said dessert, but pudding’s great!”

She starts to frown a bit, “Isn’t that what you want?”

I’m worried that I’ve offended her by suggesting that I don’t like pudding. “No! I love pudding!”

“But you seem surprised. Do you want me to bring something else?”

I’ve really screwed this up, it seems, and I’m not sure how to fix it.

“No! Pudding is fine! Really. Any flavor.”

A nurse sitting at the desk is swiveling her head back and forth like she’s watching Wimbledon, but played really awkwardly by two people who don’t quite understand the rules and are using salad tongs instead of racquets.

“Flavor? Did you have something specific you wanted me to bring?”

“No, any kind is great.”

“But you want me to bring pudding.”

“Only if you want to.”

“But you asked me to!”

“Any dessert at all is fine! Really!”

“But that’s what I’m bringing!”

I’m worried now that 1) She’s going to pelt my front door with ambrosia salad, and 2) the nurse is going to sustain a neck injury.

“But anything is fine, really, pudding or whatever you want.”

“So you don’t want me to bring a dessert?”

Maybe we should just give up food.

“I would love for you to bring a dessert. It just doesn’t have to be pudding.”

About this time I’m seriousy considering that I’ve made a monumental mistake becoming someone who helps others with communication. Cause I suck.

The friend says, after a pause, “Wait…do you think pudding and dessert are different things?”

“Umm…I think pudding is a sub-class of dessert. Creamy stuff, comes in chocolate and vanilla? Sold by Bill Cosby?”

“Who?”

“Never mind. Do you think pudding and dessert are different things?”

“No. In this part of the world they both mean the treat you eat after dinner.”

“Really?” I ask.

The nurse looks at me. “I could have told you that.”

“Well what do you call the creamy stuff made from milk?”

My friend asks, “Like a custard?”

The nurse says, “No, I think she means a blancmange.”

“No!” I say, “Pudding! The stuff made by Jello!”

“We don’t say ‘jello,’ we say ‘jelly.’”

And now all I want is a gin and tonic.

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Liquid Motivation

There’s gotta be something right?

Something that can help me over the hump?

Just a little pick-me-up?

Because I admit it. I am motivationless.

Laundry? Still unfolded.

Cat hair? Still unswept.

Hair? Still unstyled.

Mascara? Still raccoonesque.

Garden? Still amok running.

I made a HUGE tactical mistake a couple weeks ago. Huge. Massive. We’re talking Def-Con 4 conditions.

I started watching HGTV again.

I’d cut back. I had learned my limits. I was doing much better sticking with Bones re-runs and an occasional sporting event. I could handle those. Nothing there played into my neuroses. (Although I do get a little annoyed at the portrayal of MD medical examiners in skin-tight ruched dresses and stilettos heels. I can’t even go to nightclubs dressed that way, and this woman is using a rib-spreader?) I was ok. I was functioning.

And then…oh, it started innocently enough. Just recording the new Candice Olson show. That’s all. Then a little “Househunters International.”

I should have known better. I should have thought of my family.

Now I’m fully hooked again. Right back where I was before. Drooling over fixtures and finishes, stylish storage solutions and crown molding.

But no I have no time, no energy, not one single spare minute for tiling, painting, lighting or…let’s be honest…even cleaning. 

So I need something. A little something. Something that’ll give me the motivation I need to wax the driveway and wall-paper the cats. I just need a little push so I can find the necessary impulse to carry on with my quest for unchipped dishes and unstained placemats.

Answer me this: If alcohol is liquid courage, what’s liquid motivation?

And don’t tell me more coffee. That doesn’t give me motivation, it gives me tachycardia.

The answers out there. Somewhere. I just know it.

If only I had the motivation to find it.

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The Five Stages of Car Buying

I need a new car.

For clarity, you should know that in Lori-speak “new car” never means an automobile with less than 50 miles on it that is being sold in the year it was manufactured. Never.

Because amongst my charms is my cheapness.

I hate car shopping.

I detest it.

Despite being several degrees of longitude east AND west of svelte, I would rather buy a bikini.

My problems are thus: I’m never really willing to pay the amount that the car I want is, and when I get to the back-and-forth part between the sales guy and finance guy I want to chew the showroom’s all-weather carpet into little bits and force the fragments under my own fingernails because that will actually be a more pleasant experience.

I’ve realized that there are stages to dealing with buying a car. I went through them all this week.

Denial. I don’t need a new car. This car is fine. I like being adhered to the upholstery by stale ketchup and that grinding in the transmission only happens when I shift into gears one through five. Or reverse.

Anger. WHY ARE CARS SO &%$#ING EXPENSIVE??? I could feed a small far east country for a MONTH with this! This isn’t a car price, it’s the downpayment on a house in Cancun!

Bargaining. Can’t we get this price down a little more? How about if I dance? Or throw in a coffee maker? Or a kid? More cleavage?

Depression. I can’t do it. I can’t sit at that little table. Hair gel makes me break out in hives. Please don’t make me.

Acceptance. Fine. I’ll sign. I don’t care what the interest is. I don’t care what the payment is. I don’t care if I’m agreeing to shuttle the dealer’s mother-in-law to her monthly foot callous scraping. Just finish and be done with it.

But after all that, I did not get a new car this weekend.

Because there is still my charming cheapness to consider. And for all the shiny bumpers in the world I’m not letting go of that.

 

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New Rules

It’s official. I can’t keep up with my life. My life is racing ahead of me, accruing debt, getting dirty, eating all the food in the house, and I’m straggling many days behind hoping that my direct deposit hits before the mortgage check does, mopping up only the most extreme messes (did you know that eggs explode in the microwave??) and pulling out all the culinary stops to create dishes for the family using only pasta from the Ming dynasty and a jar of pimentos.

There are no Martha Points for me here. Martha Points of the positive sort are a distant memory. Like being a size 8.

I’m tired of it. I can’t live like this any longer. But since I have no ability to change my life in the foreseeable future, I’m simply going to redefine success.

So here are the new rules.

1. Laundry is now a hip design feature. Post modern and deconstructionist, piles of laundry are the new bean-bag chair.

2. “How High Can You Pile the Junk Mail” will be competitive sport requiring its own game show. And I will go on the game show, I will so win the gameshow, and with my winnings I will hire back my housekeeper, Martha, to help disassemble the training center.

3. Knowing the interests and activities of my children will be replaced with remembering how many I have. Teenagers want you to be less nosy anyway.

4. The “jungle look” is in. For the yard or your legs. Take your pick.

5. Gray is the new black. Which means that all the dust-covered surfaces in my house – the furniture, the floor, the cats – are now the height of haute design.

I think I’ll write a comparable set of rules next week about personal hygiene. Because if we could just all agree that three-day-old mascara is hawt I could get an extra twenty minutes of sleep every day and say good-bye to Mr. Chisel.

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Tasty and SO good for you!

I’ve been awfully excited about this for a while, but, having learned the hard way that there are in fact consequences to counting chickens before they’re all in one basket, I kept it to myself.

But the eggs are now hatched, so I can speak.

A piece a wrote is featured in the current issue of Delish Magazine.

The piece is a personal essay about the need for rejuvenation as a woman and a mom, and is woven through the story of a lovely day in the Wine Country with Nichole, from In These Small Moments.

Photo credit for the picture of Nichole and I to the babe-a-licious Cheryl from Mommy Pants.

I am so very thrilled to have my writing in this lovely online publication. It’s just a quality production from start to finish.

So what are you waiting for? Go read! 😉

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No Sunroofs on Planes

It is a little known fact that I’m a white-knuckle flyer.

That being said – I fly a lot.

I’m mostly fine. Nothing a few screwdrivers in the airport or a Xanax can’t fix.

Except I never actually have either of those things. More’s the pity for the people around me.

I’m in Portland right now.

The plan is for me to come home Monday evening, as there are patients and cats who expect my return by Tuesday.

We’ll see.

The trip up Friday evening was eventful solely for a full flight and high-number Southwest Airlines boarding pass that put Himself and I nearly last on the plane. There were only middle seats left. At which point I announced to the cabin, “I’m going to be digging my nails into someone and I’m sure everyone would be happier if it was my husband.”

A kind gentleman moved so I could gouge the arms of a man that the state of California considers it copascetic for me to.

The flight was fine, a little bumpy as flights into Portland always are, at which point I always regret being too cheap to buy a $9 cocktail.

Then Saturday morning I woke up to see that a Southwest flight from Phoenix to Sacramento had to make an emergency landing when a hole tore open in the roof at 36,000 feet.

Now, a few things about me and flying.

Despite the fact that the odds of a flight disaster are in the same probability class as winning the lottery, I never buy lottery tickets yet remain convinced that my plane is destined for a precipitous reunion with the ground.

I am also unshakable in my belief that the only thing holding the airplane aloft is my laser-focused concentration. I stare straight ahead and hiss hostilely at the flight attendant who distracts me by offering me a package of stale pretzel fragments because, my god woman, I have a job to do here! Don’t make me start flapping my arms!

So imagine my state of mind knowing that a plane that shares the same paint job as the one I am going to be flying home on had to make an emergency landing because of the unexpected addition of a window in the ceiling.

Now, I know we can’t agree on a whole lot as a population, but I think we can all safely reach consensus on planes having roofs.

Call me old fashioned.

Call me a coward.

Call me anything your bloody well want, but I draw the line at getting on a plane that bears any resemblance of any kind to Swiss cheese.

So this afternoon, think fond panic-free thoughts for me.

And think positive thoughts for Himself and the integrity of the skin on his forearms.

 

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Proctor and Gamble Owes Me $4000

And I want payment in towels.

I have three teenagers. Because of the four year spread in my kids’ ages, this means that the Teenage Era is from 2005 through 2016.

There are Asian dynasties that came and went faster than that.

And while I am blessed to have even tempered, relatively low-angst teenagers, there are some inescapable inevitabilities that accompany a household full of fluxing hormones.

And my towels are paying the price.

I am sending any number of shareholders’ children to prep school, swanky summer camp and ivy league colleges with the sheer amount of money Himself and I spend on face washes and topical anti-blemish creams. Not to mention forkin’ over a sizable chunk o’ cash that could otherwise be spent on MY children’s experiencing higher education beyond the local junior college level on Retin A and prescription strength antibiotic ointments.

But the one that is going to drive me round the ben and into the arms of a bartender with a bowl of peanuts and double scotch is Clearasil.

Do you know what the active ingredient in Clearasil is? Benzoyl Peroxide.

Now, I’m not a chemist, but I’m pretty sure I remember that peroxide is also the active ingredient in “Blond Hair on the Cheap.”

And what it does for those who come to blond by way of a sink basin and a brown bottle, it also does for anything else that it comes in contact with.

Namely my towels.

Let’s do some math.

The average teenagers uses four clean towels per day, seven if there’s a date involved.

I have three teenagers.

That means the average daily towel exposure to Clearasil in my house each day is roughly one luxury SUV’s worth.

This then means that every single towel we own – hand towels, bath towels – no matter what the original color, is now a mottled tortoiseshell.

Green towels are now shades of dappled sage and faded wheat.

Blue towels are now blotchy watercolors of aqua and navy.

Red towels now look like something used to try to clean up the evidence in a crime scene.

This is NOT getting me any Martha Points.

We briefly experimented with whites and creams to hide the bleaching effects but…but…

Well, if you have kids, have ever been a kid, have ever let a kid into your house, you know you just don’t use light-colored towels with that population if you ever want to sleep at night. There are some things you just must NOT see the physical evidence of.

So I’ve done a little adding in my head and I believe that Proctor and Gamble owes me 416 towels. And I’m not fussy – I don’t need the luxury Egyptian cotton towels from Nordies.

Target is fine. Seriously.

But even Target towels add up.

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My Particular Species

There are so many…

The Northern Lace-Crested B-Cuppers

The Great Plains Domesticus Flaticus

The Boom-Boom Chakalakas

The Double-D Dippers

The Maidenform Warbler

The Horned Silicon Plunger

The Red-Cheeked Bishop Teasers

The Transvaal Massive Marvels

The Lesser Western Areoli

And my particular species…

The Southward Migrating Teton Roosters

But I wish I could get my hands a pair of upward pointing wandering tattlers.

Sadly I lack the proper net.

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Practice makes…umm…I dunno. Pick a word.

So, with stardom for my brilliant illustrated posts lurking somewhere close by, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to keep practicing.

Because you know I have all the tools now.

I am destined for greatness.

And if this illustrated blogger thing doesn’t work out, you know what else I have? A can of spray-paint and a bunch of virgin ceiling.

But one magnum opus at a time.

So with stylus in hand and inspiration banging on the door of the bathroom, I opened a fresh file.

So now I’m feeling pretty confident so I decide to try An Impressive Landscape.

And this would be way impressive indeed.

If, when I saved it, I hadn’t called the file “Ocean.”

Maybe I should stick with speech therapy.

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It Takes an Apple

While working a very busy job as the speech pathologist between several hospitals, the therapist who normally handled home-health patients took a vacation. Why? At the time I concluded principally to inconvenience me. She may in fact have had other motivations. So of course, on a particularly busy day, I got a call that a home health patient had been referred. To make matters even better, the patient was nearly an hour away. I complained. A lot.

She was a hospice patient. It was a little unusual to have hospice referrals, but they did happen. Swallowing problems are in the purview of my discipline, and a terminal patient sometimes needs help there. Such was the case on this day.

After driving for over an hour and getting lost twice, I found the little cottage where the patient lived. I climbed the stairs and made my way to her. She was bundled up in her bed, covered in blankets, thin and bright-eyed. She told me her problem: she was having difficulty swallowing, and wanted  – more than anything – to eat a steak. It was all she was hungry for.

I had reviewed her chart before walking into the house. And although her history and her diagnosis were there for me, one key piece was missing: her prognosis. While hospice means terminal, it could be anything up to a year. I looked at the thin face with the attentive eyes I asked, as kindly as I could, “How long?”

“Two, maybe three months,” she answered.

The numbers failed to match the strength of the voice that responded to me, and while trying to resolve the incongruity in my head, my mouth opened and I said, “I’m sorry. How do you feel about that?”

To this day I do not know why I asked the question. If I had thought clearly, I would have labeled it stupid, invasive, clueless or all three at once. I regretted the words as soon as they escaped.

So imagine my shock when she answered simply, “Emancipated.”

I blinked. “Emancipated?” I asked. “Why?”

And she told me. She told me how before she knew about the quick terminal illness, she’d been diagnosed with a slow, progressive one. How the thought of the slow, progressive one – which would day by day drain her body, her mind, and her bank account – terrified her with its inevitable debility and dependence. How she was afraid she would exhaust her friends and family in her demands for care. How she was afraid of what her world would look like when she ran out of funds. How she was terrified of her quick mind slipping away without even the ability to recognize the loss.

But now she would go quickly. With her loved ones around her, her finances intact, with even a little left for the people who mattered most to her. She would have medical care that would keep her as free of pain as it could until the end. An end coming in quick months with her mind able to appreciate each day she had left, instead of slow years where one day would bleed memoryless into the other.

And in that paradox was her emancipation. Her freedom.

“I see,” I said once she had explained. And I did. With so much depth and clarity that I could feel its resonance in the moment it happened, clear through my body and down to my feet resting on the braided rug beside her bed. Understanding struck in that moment: a gift wrapped in the orange glow of the vanishing afternoon sun. I did not need to ponder to find appreciation, there was no slow realization. I was blessed to see and feel it all in that single glorious instant.

I wracked my brain for her, pulling up every trick I’d learned in my years in the field to make a piece of steak edible for her. She didn’t want hamburger – nothing chopped or ground. She wanted steak, and I wanted her to have it.

And as I left, walking down her stairs while the sunset painted the sky radiant reds and yellows, I savored the moment when “I have to go see this patient,” became “I got to go see this patient.” Because what I wanted to remember most was that moment of transition – when my sour outlook was swept away by a joyous one, when an inconvenience became a celebration. I needed to remember – because the next time my psyche sank into a state of cynicism and my perspective could see no further than the next annoyance, I might not be so lucky to have an apple fall from the sky onto my head.

Apples simply don’t fall like that every day.

Details about this patient have been purposefully changed or obscured to protect their privacy. Although I think if I had thought to ask at the time they would have been happy for me to share them in full.

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