Monday, March 31, 2008

The Elephant Walk

There was a great movie starring Elizabeth Taylor called Elephant Walk. It's been ages since I've seen it, but I always like a movie reference.

My surgery is schedule for tomorrow at noon. Sounds, rather like a duel in the Old West, doesn't it? Well, here's to my opponent forgetting to load his pistols.

Since visiting my marvelous and confidence-inspiring surgeon on Thursday, I have endeavored to get my brain in the proper frame. Liz went with me to see Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day and we had a wonderful time. By the way, Liz has promised to record anything brilliant I say whilst under the influence of opiates. Coleridge wrote Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner blitzed to the stars, don't you know? And as my old friend 'D' likes to remind me, Edgar Allen Poe and Billie Holiday share the unique, ignoble fate of having been found stoned in the gutters of Maryland. Although, it is a true and curious fact - no worries, I shan't share their fate.

And so my friends, it is a brief adieu. If you should think of me, wish me swiftly home - safe from the drudgery and boredom that is a hospital. No matter the quality of the pharmaceuticals, nothing can over come the horror of the decor. At the least, wish me well-entertained.

I leave you with Billy Collins brilliant poem, "The Many Faces of Jazz."

There’s the one where you scrunch
your features into a look of pained concentration,
every riff a new source of agony,

and there’s the look of existential bemusement
eyebrows lifted, chin upheld by a thumb,
maybe a swizzle stick oscillating in the free hand.

And, of course, for ballads,
you have the languorous droop,
her eyes half-closed, lips slightly parted,
the head lolling back, flower on a stem,
exposing plenty of turtleneck.

There’s the everything-but-the-instrument look
on the follow at the front table,
the one poised to mount the bandstand,
and the classic crazy-man-crazy face,
where the fixed grin joins the menacing stare,
especially suitable for long drum solos.

And let us not overlook the empathetic
grimace of the listener
who has somehow located the body
of cold rage dammed up behind the playing
and immersed himself deeply in it.

As far as my own jazz face goes -
and don’t tell me you don’t have one -
it hasn’t changed that much
since its debut in 1957.
It’s nothing special, easy enough to spot
in a corner of any club on any given night.
You know it, - the reptilian squint,
lips pursed, jaw clenched tight,
and, most essential, the whole
head furiously, yet almost imperceptibly
in total and absolute agreement.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dune, Toilets, & Summoning Aliens

Have you ever been reading a book but somehow you feel like you missed a page, or there was something the author forgot to tell you? I just got off the phone with my younger sister and she shared with me an incident from our youth, that at the time made no sense to me. Now I get it and to be honest, feel a little bad about. It illustrates a couple of points, the least of which is how very weird my family is. My sister is not going to thank me for telling this story, but in my defense anything you tell a writer is fair game, that’s just the way it is. Love ya, kiddo.

Like most of my stories you need a little background material. My life story has footnotes. If I tried to tell the story without the footnotes, we’d never get to the punch line. Okay, my mother’s favorite book in the entire world, galaxy, and universe is Frank Herbert’s Dune. If you haven’t heard of it or seen the movie, don’t bother because it’s too late for you (or consider yourself spared). I’ve been reading and re-reading this book since my early teens and I still can’t fathom half of what it’s about. Second, my sister is eight years younger than me, so there were a lot of things that I was reading and watching that she probably got exposed to a little too soon. We like to warp young minds in my family - call it a hobby.

As a kid, Annie had this inexplicable fear of aliens. Many was the night that she stumbled into my room afraid that the aliens were going to get her. And I let her sleep with me, even though she kicked the crap out of me and I ended up in the floor. I let her sleep with me because I remembered being scared of stuff, and, as big and bad as I tried to be, there was stuff that still scared me – like zombies, but that’s another story. Anyway, Annie also had another issue. She didn’t like to flush the toilet (this is the part where she starts hating me). Many was the morning that the teenage Mrs. Fox would trudge out of bed only to find "unpleasantness in the facilities" (there, I tried to soften the blow). Like any good older sister I’d scream at her and call her names, but I never thought to ask why.

Today I learned why. See in the movie version of Dune (which was watched religiously in our home) they use these devices called thumpers to draw the giant, man-eating sandworms away from wherever the hero or his comrades were (I know I’ve lost a lot of you, but I swear that’s a pretty good layman’s description). Somehow, because of this, my poor little sister got it in her head that there was a specific sequence of noises that would summon the aliens. And of course, the loudest thing in our house was the toilet. So, poor little sis was afraid that if she flushed the toilet the aliens would come and get her.

I know! I feel like such a jerk for yelling at her!

So there, in addition to compounding her childhood fears I’ve published them for the world to see. Aren’t I the best? You know what’s worse? My mom’s gonna be mad that that’s all she got out of Dune.

If you've survived this far through my story, let me say thanks to all you beautiful people who responded to my last post. Thank you for your support and kind words and understanding and all-around divinity. You are jewels without price.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

My Manifesto

Self Pity
I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself

This isn’t a post that I really know how to make. It can’t have been lost on you that I am an intensely private person. Even with my family I try to keep a stiff upper lip and soldier on – much to their frustration and consternation, I know. I also know that they love me very much and tolerate if not forgive my fierce independent streak. I am an eldest child, it is my job to take care of others, not the other way around. You can’t erase a lifetime of duty just because life chucks you a curveball.

I quote D. H. Lawrence above for a very important reason. I do not have much patience for pity, much less self-pity. Painted at the top of my stairs, the first thing you see when you walk into my home, is the line “I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself.” It’s true. Those creatures who live closest to God do not bemoan their fate. They live every moment of their lives instinctively, vibrantly, freely.

In November of 2006, at the age of 31, I was diagnosed with a high-grade, malignant, sarcoma of indeterminate origin in my left forearm. It is very much my style to develop a zebra disease rather than an oatmeal one. I do hate to be boring. I named my tumor Fred and waged war against Fred emotionally, medically, allegorically, psychically, psychologically, metaphorically, and spiritually. And they cut Fred out and Fred was dead, and life was good. But Fred left Fredlettes. In August of last year a small rebel colony was found in my lung. And they cut it out. And life was good. Last Friday, Good Friday no less, they found another rebel enclave in my lung and now I am back under the knife.

I tell you this because it seems hugely deceitful to continue blathering about poetry and fashion when there’s an elephant in my living room. I can’t ignore the elephant. The elephant necessitates scalpels and hospitals and evil nurses and bed rest and time away from you, my darling friends.

I won’t pretend that there aren’t moments when I feel angry, but I try very hard not to give into them because there are people in the world who have much harder lives than mine. There are people in pain, without homes, without food, without family or friends. I have a beautiful life, surrounded by warm, loving family and friends. I have a husband without equal who fills my life with laughter and unconditional love. My life is good and I thank God for every second.

So, having acknowledged and introduced the elephant, know that I do not feel sorry for myself, that I prefer to live as normally as I can, that I detest being molly-coddled or patronized. I’ll keep you posted, but this isn’t going to become a blog about cancer. It’s about me and there is much more to me than the elephant.

My heart is a wild thing that lives and loves instinctively, vibrantly and freely.

For more information & inspiration about living with cancer , I highly recommend Kris Carr's Crazy Sexy Cancer Blog

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Gertrude Stein

"Dear Professor James, I am sorry but really I do not feel a bit like an examination paper in philosophy today."

Jennie at Falling Down the Rabbit-Hole gave me this lovely award recently.

I am passing it on to Gathering Grace and Posy.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

At Home With Mrs. Fox

This is one of those moments when I'm thinking, "Why are you posting this? Who would care?" but I'm doing it anyway. It's where my brain is today.

I thought I would share some photos of my favorite room in the house. Like so many things about me it is probably a little weird. There's that horrible toilet element that we aren't going to talk about because it has nothing to do with why this is my favorite room in the house. This is my favorite room because I LOVE to soak in the tub. I am a marathon bath taker. My record is 4 hours and 3 refills. My secret to not getting pruney toes and fingers? Read a book and prop your feet on the tile.

Here is my vanity where I spend too much time trying to feel pretty. Yes, those are deer antlers. I keep my rings on them. My grandmother kept her rings in the same manner, and it is my little nod to her. And before anyone gets angry at Officer B for killing Bambi, he isn't responsible for this particular deer. His dad is.

By the way, this area is usually a total wreck with junk everywhere. It only exists in this condition on one Sunday morning a month.

And yes, that's a pin-up calendar. I bought it. It's mine. I get a lot of hair-do inspiration from that calendar. Plus it fits into the scheme of the room - you'll see.

These are my World War II propaganda pictures. The furthest one is for the U. S. Air Force, the second is the classic British "Keep Calm & Carry On" and the third is a "Nazi's Are Everywhere So Watch What You Say" themed poster. I love them.

There are three smaller ones over that thing we aren't talking about. The top one is an American Eagle crowning the British Lion with a victory laurel. The second one is tips to be more fuel efficient. My favorite piece of advice is "Do No Demand Hot Water 24 Hours a Day." Ha! The last one is a poster for the Women's Auxiliary.

So, that's it. In retrospect I can only say that it very difficult to photograph a long, narrow bathroom. I hope you've enjoyed the tour.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Rear Window

I know. I know. This is my second recent post on old movies, but I can't help what catches my interest. You're gonna have to bear with me. Yesterday, while Officer B was cruising the web for kevlar vests for K-9's (that's a developing story that I promise to tell later - and yes, our dogs are fine.) I ran across Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window on TCM.

The first time I saw this movie I was 17 (Can you believe that no one bothered to educate me sooner?). It was a Saturday and I was getting ready to go to my crummy job as a clerk at the local drug store. I hated that job, but I liked having pocket money. Anyway, I noticed that my mother was engrossed in something she was watching on TV. This was pretty rare because there was very little on the television, other than football, that mother considered worth her time. She generally referred to it as the Idiot Box and tried to discourage my sister and me from spending any time worshiping in front of it.

I was procrastinating so I sat down and got sucked in too. "What are we watching?" I interrupted. "Rear Window," she whispered, her eyes glued to the screen. I had to leave for work about the time that the little dog was digging in the flower garden. It was hard to walk away. What was buried in the flower bed? Did Mr. Thorwald kill his wife? What outfit would Grace Kelly wear next? Mother wouldn't tell, "You'll just have to watch it." I spent my entire shift thinking about it. I stopped at the video store after work and rented the movie (see, the advantage of having pocket money). My life has never been the same. This movie is solely responsible for my addiction to mysteries. When I think of all the money I have spent on mystery novels and movie tickets, I almost cringe - almost.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Tells A Good Tale Award

I really like precocious children. They usually have the most amazing ideas and talents. Sometimes they can also make you feel incredibly old and slow. Jackie's daughter, The Fixer, over at Mother's Pride created this award, and rumor has it she's developing some ingenious means of tracking it's progress across the web. It's freakin' me out! Seriously, though, I'm very flattered.

I'm passing this lovely on to Whatever and Blogjem

Friday, March 14, 2008

Fabulous Friday: Charade

This is one of my favorite movies. It's perfect. Absolutely, perfect. I love the part where she takes his glasses and says she bets he doesn't need them. It would have been so easy to overplay it, but Audrey is just charming.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Snark, snark, snark

"She's vanilla, but she thinks she's dark chocolate."

I've started reading "Twilight" by Stephenie Meyer and the above statement is my tidy analysis of what is annoying about her heroine. I'm a fan of character driven plots and there isn't a single main character who has wooed me. It is chock full of cliches. The story concept had been beaten, killed, buried, exhumed, made into a marionette, beaten, buried, exhumed, sold to the circus, beaten . . . And yet, I keep turning the pages! God help me, its fascinating in the same way train wrecks are fascinating. You just can't look away from the scattered limbs and twisted metal. I have to recommend it, even if every literary fiber in my being shrieks against it.

BTW - It's Liz's fault that I'm reading this tripe.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

When you care enough to send your very best!

Good friends will go to New York and frown at Cinderella for you. Even better friends will take a picture. Thanks, Liz!

Little kindnesses

Yesterday, was one of those days when I am reminded how much we, all of us, need each other. It isn't my place to air other people's laundry, but one of my neighbors had a terrible day and all I could really do was sit and hold her hand.

Over the years I have learned that sometimes the best thing you can do for someone is sit and listen - and, know when to tell a joke. It can be so hard to just listen. We all have a desire to fix the problem, to offer well-meaning, but perhaps not relevant, advice. Most of the time people just need to talk, to sort out the chaotic mess in their heads. I don't pretend to be an expert, not by a long shot. My internal editor frequently has to remind me to clamp teeth to tongue.

At the end of the night, you hope, you pray, that you helped just a little bit, that you didn't add to the person's burden or open fresh wounds with unintentional blunders. My studies in Buddhism tell me that life is full of suffering, that all human beings suffer, but our compassion for one another (and a willingness to stop wanting what we cannot have) can mitigate that suffering. These aren't easy ideas, but they help remind me that we are all in this together. Life isn't easy, but we can help each other make our way. Sometimes we help most by being present, a witness, to remind one another that no one has to do this alone.

P.S. It wasn't my intention to sound so pessimistic. Life is beautiful too, but those aren't the parts we struggle with. The good things, most of us, handle pretty well. :)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Fabulous Friday: Snow Day!!!

It was supposed to start snowing last night but at 6:00 AM this morning there wasn't a flake to be seen. Resigned to my fate, I was sure school would be open, but to my surprise the website said closed. I had to read it three times to make sure I wasn't still sleeping. Big B got up and made breakfast and then we went back to bed.

It was disappointing that there wasn't any snow but I was glad I didn't have to go to work. Sleeping late is such a luxury. When I got up at 10:30 and looked out the window, joy of joys, the snow had arrived.

I threw on my boots and coat, rounded up the dogs, and headed outside.

B's patrol car wasn't going anywhere without a defrost.

The Rapunzel view of the back yard from the deck.

The irises and daffodils had just started to come up.

Wasabi says, "Put that stupid camera down and make me some snowballs!"

Mommy's snowballs weren't very good, so Big B came out to help.

"Hurry up!"

"Must destroy the snow!"
B decided he needed to put on some gloves. Gerrard is new to the snowball game and didn't really get Sabi's fascination with them. (Our neighbors just built a new shed which is why there's so much junk over there. It doesn't usually look like that.)

Kill the snowball!
It's a little hard to see but she has a giant snowball at my feet that she is happily smashing. Gard's starting to get the idea. Poor B had to go to work later (hopefully it will be a slow night), but we all had fun playing in the snow together.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Puss In Boots : The Farm

There once was a lovely girl named Anna. Anna’s family was not wealthy and they all had to work very hard on the farm to manage even the meager life they shared. Anna was the youngest of three children, as well as the fairest, kindest, and most helpful. Unfortunately, she was not the brightest. This small failing was easily overlooked considering her genuine good nature and desire to please. Her two older brothers however took advantaged of her simplicity whenever they could. It was not unusual for dear sweet Anna to be found working at her brothers’ chores while they were off fishing or hunting. So it was no great surprise that when her parents passed away, her brothers split the farm between them and gave Anna the cat.

Now, he was an especially nice cat with long gray hair, a fine fluffy tail, and piercing yellow eyes, and for many years he had served the family well chasing mice and lapping up spilt milk and table scraps. However, as far as inheritances go a cat isn’t much of one. Anna, na├»ve child that she was, was still smart enough to know that her brothers had taken advantage of her yet again. The truth was that Anna was tired of life on the farm, and for sometime had been thinking of traveling abroad. So with a simple smile plastered to her face, and her cat in tow she waved farewell to her selfish brothers and took to the wide, open road.

Anna had never been on her own before, and it wasn’t long before she started talking to the cat to stave off loneliness. Coming upon a crossroad she turned to her furry companion and asked, “Well, Pickles, which way should we go, left or right?” The cat had never had a name on the farm, but it was difficult to carry on conversation with “cat” or “Hey, you,” and Anna thought Pickles was a very good name. Having never before had a name, Anna was even more shocked when the cat answered her.

“Let’s get one thing straight,” Pickles hissed, “My name is not Pickles, it’s Joshua and I am quite capable of walking on my own four legs, thank you so very much!” With that he leaped from her arms and proceeded to clean himself.

Anna fell to the ground in shock. She had only been on the road a day and a night, and that was way too early to start going mad! Nevertheless, her cat, formerly Pickles now Joshua, was giving her a fierce scolding on the finer points of how to properly carry a cat. “And finally one should not haul a creature of the feline persuasion like a sack of potatoes! Among God’s creations we are the most elegant and sophisticated and should be treated like the aristocrats that we are!”

“You talk!” Anna declared.

“Gads! You are simple.” Joshua huffed. “I do talk, and have been doing so for many minutes now. I suppose that every well-crafted word as flitted in one ear and tumbled out the other.”

“Oh, No!” Anna said proudly “Cats shouldn’t be carried like potatoes, and you are one of the finest creatures in the world.”

“Well, at least you got that bit.” Joshua acknowledged with a huff.

“Why haven’t you ever spoken before?” Anna asked, desperately trying to sort out the rather unusual turn of events.”

“For one, there wasn’t much of anyone to talk to, and secondly if those heathen brothers of yours new I could speak I’d still be back at that miserable farm eating soured milk and garbage. I probably would have kept my mouth shut, but it was either speak-up, or let you go on calling me Pickles! Gads, girl couldn’t you think of anything more dignified?”

“I’ve lived on a farm my entire life, ‘Pickles’ is about as fancy as I get.”

“Point taken,” Joshua conceded, staring down the road to the right. “Tell you what, I’ll make you a deal, Anna dear. You let me choose our path, and do as I tell you, and I guarantee that I will increase your fortunes.”

“Sounds fine to me.” Anna said although she didn’t know how a cat, even a talking one was going to accomplish that.

So the two new friends began their life together by taking the road to the right, which, incidentally, took them to town whereas the path to the left landed them at a farm even more miserable than their own. “What books have you read?” Joshua asked trying to pass the time with intelligent conversation.

“I can’t read,” Anna replied.

"Can’t read! Gads! How on earth . . . “ Joshua sighed morosely, “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, you are human after all. Alright, let’s start at the beginning. ‘A’ is for apple . . .

Mrs. Fox 3/6/08
Painting "Her First Place," by George Dunlop Leslie

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


I have a gift. Well, a gift and a curse. Sometimes when I really don’t want to do something the universe will coalesce in such away that I get out of whatever it is I don’t want to do. Maybe I don’t want to go to an appointment and the person I was supposed to meet conveniently has an auto accident (nothing serious) and we have to reschedule. Maybe a friend annoys me and, strangely, odd pieces of his vehicle start falling off. Or, maybe I’m angry at my hubby and for a week he repeatedly bangs his knee into things.

Today I was mad at the phone. It had failed me. I’m sure most of you have figured out that my husband works in law enforcement. Officer B works the evening shift. He leaves for work before I get home and he doesn’t get off of work until after I’m asleep. This makes our lives weird in a plethora of ways. Simple things like what to make for dinner, and when, and how much, become maddeningly complicated. Evenings out with friends – rarer than solar eclipses. Communicating important information like “I spent $40 dollar on shoes today. Please deduct from budget,” often falls through the cracks.

Most days the telephone is how we stay in touch. Only lately, my conversational skills have atrophied. I get all excited about calling him but then I can’t think of any thing to say. I feel dumb in a girlie sort of way. I get frustrated. In my overly superstitious mind I decide it’s the phone's fault.

Yep, you guessed it. My phone died. No lights. No music. Nada.

The question is how do I explain to Officer B that I need a new phone because the old one failed to inspire sparkling repartee and I voodoo’d it?

P.S. (2 hours later) Good news! It decided to resurrect! I should probably delete this post so, there's no incriminating evidence . . . nah, I always tell on myself anyway. Plus, it'll make a good icebreaker when I call him this evening.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Not a lot of snow, but SNOW! This was the view from the deck this morning (or as far as I was willing to stick the camera out the door). It's pretty wild to have snow today considering it was in the 70's this weekend. Wasabi, my little Shiba Inu, was in heaven. I couldn't get her to come back in the house. I tried to get pictures but she was just a coppery blur. Gerrard thought the big flakes were fun but needed frequent pit stops in the warm house.

The wigellia shrub in the front yard had started to bloom. The pink blossoms coated in ice were beautiful.

P.S. I am on the mend! A little residual stuffiness but that's about all.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Tag Your It.

Mother's Pride tagged me for this book meme.

The rules:

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

I'm going to cheat and do two books because being in my husband's office the actual nearest book is amusing, but not, I think, what they're looking for.

The book: The Official Gun Digest Book of Guns & Prices 2008, 3rd ed.

The sentences:
Introduced in 2003 this over-and-under shotgun is offered in 12, 20, and 28 gauge with a choice of 26" or 28" vent rib barrels with choke tubes.
Single-selective trigger.
Checkered X-Tra wood stock.

Enlightening, no? Actually, it says the aforementioned shotgun is worth $1,800 in best condition. That's a fair amount of cash! And, isn't it nice to have all those options? Just count your lucky stars that the closest book wasn't the Criminal & Traffic Law Manual.

OK, now for something you'd actually be interested in. The nearest book, that belongs to me is "Lion In The Valley: An Amelia Peabody Mystery" by Elizabeth Peters.

The sentences:
"You left out all the important details, Amelia.
Ramses' daring rescue - "
"I will elaborate at another time, Emerson. "

Rather different from Officer B's reading material.

I know I'm supposed to tag 5 people, but I'm ready for breakfast and some more cold medicine so, like Amelia, I will elaborate at another time.

Have a lovely weekend!