Monday, May 31, 2010

In An Instant

I walked into the first Tumor Board last Tuesday, much less apprehensive than I would have thought. I had my jump ready with the pics of the cases that Dr. Woods took last week while I was at a different site.

I greeted the oncologist. "Hey Jim."

"Oh, you're presenting? Where is Brent?"

"He is in NLR, this week. We are tag teaming this conference. We're both really excited about it. He took the pictures, but I reviewed them about an hour ago. I'm all set."

Jim was busy setting up the computers with the radiologist, and I walked over to his nurse and put my jump in the USB port. The conference room was full - around a hundred doctors, nurses, technicians, and administrators settling down with lunch.

I've known Jim for a few years - first met him in the doctor's lounge and have had many cases with him in my short stint at Baptist. He is a handsome man in his early 50's - slim with wavy silver hair and an easy smile. His slow, Southern drawl automatically soothes - especially when we are dealing with a tough patient. A few months back I became alarmed when a diagnosis of mine, made with a senior partner, needed to be changed in light of new information. She said, "Don't worry, it's Jim's patient. He understands - this happens sometimes. I'll talk to him."

I remember when I first met him, I bounced his name off on my Dad. "He is a great guy. Had esophageal cancer a few years back, and treated it with an Ivor-Lewis. He is doing well. Did you know he is a musician? And he loves motorcycles."

Setting up for conference, I asked Jim who he was presenting first, to get my cases in order. "We are doing JM. The melanoma."

"Oh. The one with the recent re-excision and metastasis. The surgeon just did it at the end of last week."

Jim looked at me in surprise. "What? I didn't know about that!"

"You didn't? That is what my pictures are from. I thought that is what you were presenting."

He looked confused and frustrated. This was his show, and it was about to start.

I laughed. "Jim, don't worry. Show me what you are going to talk about, and I will present that path. A melanoma is a melanoma is a melanoma. Who cares? I'll just pretend my pictures are of whatever you are prepared to talk about. Let's just make sure all the other cases match up, so we don't look unprepared in front of everyone."

We quickly went over the rest of the cases, and everything was in order. I giggled with his nurse over our almost tumor board party foul. The conference was well received, and I tried to congratulate Jim afterward, but couldn't get to him - so I slipped out the back door of the conference room to get back to my own work, and vowed to call him later.

The next day, I left him a message mid-morning. I got a call around noon.

"Jim, that was a great conference. I'm getting tons of good feedback. All of the pathologists and the surgeons think you are filling a hole that has long been needed. Chest conference is great, but we see lots more than heart and lungs. This is going to be good for the whole hospital."

He responded humbly. "Yeah, I think it went good. I encouraged the surgeons there to bring cases next month. I think once a month is going to be perfect."

I agreed. "More would be too much. I talked to Brent yesterday afternoon and he was happy to hear it went well. We are definitely on board."

I spent a wonderful holiday weekend with family and close friends at my parent's house. Everyone cleared out around 3:00 today, and the kids and I laid around and gorged on corn salad, boiled shrimp, guacamole, and ice cream. I loaded them up around 7:30 to head home for bedtime - they are on summer break but I've got to get to work tomorrow. We were singing in the car on the way home, when I got a text signal. I expected it to be from my nanny about coming in the morning. I was wrong. It was from my Dad.

"Jim Grissom died in a motorcycle accident this afternoon."

The shock of it hit me so hard I pulled over into the Graffiti's parking lot and shed silent tears uncontrollably.

"Mom, what's wrong?"

Fuck. "I'm OK. Just needed to stop. Lost a friend. A doctor."

Sicily doesn't know many of my doctor friends. "It wasn't Ramona, was it?"

"No, sweetie, Ramona's OK. It was another doctor. A guy."

I pulled back onto Cantrell and called some of my partners. Have you ever read Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking? I'm still hoping I will get to work tomorrow and someone will tell me this is all a big hoax.

Jim Grissom's cool factor was as high as Dennis Hopper's, if not higher. His service to his patients is his legacy. A lot of people are going to miss him - many of my partners have known him a lot longer than I have. May he rest in peace, whatever that entails.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Nano Knife

This week will not stop. For anyone, at work. The pace is dizzying. Good news - first Tumor Board conference went great. I learned all about the Nano Knife that the radiologists were using, and was so proud my hospital put up the dough for this new technology. I'll try to explain:

When the radiologist goes to blast a metastasis in the liver or the lung (after I've diagnosed it on core, of course) they use either hot (radiofrequency ablation) or cold (cryotherapy). Problem with both of these, is that if the lesion is too near the inferior vena cava or the portal vein, it is off limits - don't want to fry or freeze either one of those structures.

In comes the Nano Knife. When the geneticists were trying to pull DNA out of or put it into a cell to study the alterations, they learned that the right amount of electrical impulses could create pores in the cell to allow this to happen easier. But too much -- OOPS! Apoptosis. Cell death. Now there's an idea. Billions of dollars later, we have the Nano Knife. Take two probes about the size of an 18 gauge core needle (one positive and one negative), place them on either side of the lesion (a 1.5 cm lesion requires three pairs), and approximately 1.5 hours later (you really want to get those positive and negative ends lined up parallel to prevent disastrous consequences), you turn around to the juice box and hit the juice. 44 amps, for this lesion. The patient needs to be deeply anesthetized to prevent them from flying off the table.

We are one of only about a dozen or so institutions around the world using this technology. And as of this month, we probably have the highest 'n' - subject population.

So I got to be the path part of the path/rad/onc team that presented to over 100 people at the first Tumor Board. It was electrically engaging, and I learned a lot about the implications of my diagnostic decisions. Can't wait until next month. Hopefully I will have my camera in place by then - waiting on some software glitches to be resolved.

My summer nanny started this week full time - so the kids are having fun making rounds to the racquet club, the Purple Cow, and Chuck E Cheese. Glad they are happy. Was a little worried the last week of school when John's favorite song was this one:

I never saw that movie, - the song came in a mix from a friend. At first I thought it was horribly cheesy, but I've found myself enjoying singing along. And we like to make up our own weird pie fillings at the end, to supplement the banana cream and butterscotch. We do not limit to food groups. Fecal matter and insects are allowed.

So we've been going back and forth between this one and Sicily's favorite this month:

Sunday, May 23, 2010


I'd like to try to
Detach someone's fingernails
With my pearly whites.

Doesn't matter whose - it is the action that is needed for relief. Good that I'm alone tonight.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Texts From Last Night

Work has been wonderfully busy and challenging lately, so although I miss the hell out of my kids, it is nice to have a kid-free weekend to hang out with girlfriends and get some things done from my personal to-do list, which is ever so long when you are going through a divorce.

Last night, I went to Conway to a lab tech get-together at a fabulous Mexican restaurant with my friend Laurie. We sat at the calm end of the long group of pushed-together tables - the one where the older people were nursing sweet tea and Negro Modelo's (sp?), not the crazy end of the tables - where the youngsters were already on their third pitcher of margaritas (I hate margaritas - too sweet) by the time Laurie and I showed up at 6:30. Still, it was fun to put names to Conway faces, and I particularly enjoyed talking to the husband of a lab assistant who is a SAHD (Stay at Home Dad) of young kids and described his charity mission effort in detail while I listened hungrily.

"I went to Nepal, in my former life as a pastor, and stayed at a church that doubled as an orphanage for kids. The experience changed my life. I've been working ever since on how to give back to them. I worked hard to learn how to make the curry that I enjoyed so much while I was there, and now Stoby's (a popular restaurant in Conway) donates their kitchen to me and some other folks one night a week. We batch cook curry based on online orders made during the week and deliver it all over town the next day. All of the proceeds go to those kids in Nepal. I found a woman in town who knows about importing tea, and my next project is to try to market the smoky-flavored tea I fell in love with when I was over there, to try to get more money to those kids."

His wife is a lab assistant at the hospital. She must make a minute fraction of what I do. I felt humbled by his description of their life and existence.

Laurie and I made it back to my house by 8:30, and we YouTubed Glee songs until well past 11:00 p.m. I am officially addicted, even though I've never seen the show. Yes, I can YouTube in my house - but it only works in the kitchen when Laurie is present. I told her I'd pay her to move in with me.

This morning, I spent a delightful two hours with my stylist. She did my hair, we processed our lives, made plans to get the kids together next weekend. She shared a text that her best friend sent to her the night before. I tried to memorize it - I haven't laughed so hard in ages. I know I won't do it justice, but I'll try. I'll start with her friend.

"Dude, my guy just woke up, walked in the nursery, stretched his arms over his head, and pissed all over the crib. What a fucking mess!"

"LOL. Was he drunk?"

"I HOPE so! When I tapped him on the shoulder and told him that wasn't the toilet, he just kept on going."

"I use enjoy products."

I looked up. "Deeds? What the hell does that mean?"

"Oh, she had asked me earlier about some hair products."

Back to the text.

"I am trying to clean it up now with his boxers. The pink walls, the crib, the carpet - everything is soaked in urine. It stinks like hell."

I looked at the time on the text, and was surprised it wasn't 2:00 a.m. Nope, only 9:30. I remarked to my stylist. She said, "That's West Coast time! It was only 7:30!"

I shook my head and tried to stop laughing. "That is insane. I've heard of some crazy sleepwalking antics, but that takes the cake."

"I know, can you believe it? I posted it on 'Texts From Last Night.'

I didn't even know about that website.

Despite my long list of things to do, I managed to squeeze in some pool time with Mom today and enjoyed a lovely dinner with Laurie and Padma, a nighttime histotech, at P.F. Changs. Padma was obviously a regular - all the hot waiters knew her and hovered around our table in between her telling stories about growing up on a remote island in India. People lead amazing lives, and it is nice to get away from a work environment to observe them open up and glow. Attracting male attention is the last thing on the planet that Padma would want to do, so it was fun to tease her about it. She said she'd never been on a date, despite the fact that she is my age - although she looks much younger - and Laurie and I resolved to try to double sometime to break her in if we ever find a guy (oops - her situation is looking futile).

Needed a relaxing weekend. Glad it happened. Hope to continue tomorrow, before things kick back into high gear on Monday.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Uncharted Territory

What I've been doing, today and tomorrow. Not already set-up bad computer system territory. It's completely uncharted.

Off site, but close by. This morning, I set up a new dictation system, developed ways to get special stains ordered, and started working on a backlog of cases that might take days to catch up on. I wasn't really targeted for this job - it was by default. A paperwork glitch. No one knew exactly what we were getting into. But it was really fun.

All this started at 8:30 a.m., after breast conference. Breast conference was a blast. Here is a highlight:

Breast surgeon: "I think I am going to start walking into the patient room and instead of saying 'How have you been,' I am just going to say, 'How are your breasts?'"

I laughed out loud. This was a response to other clinicians, cancer and surgery specialists, talking about patients that asked for curbside consults during their visit. There were lots of funny examples. My favorite: "Doc, can you pull my wisdom tooth?" Patients are really clueless, about what we do. An oncologist is the very last person (beside myself) that I would want to pull my wisdom tooth.

One of the older, more experienced, quietly serene but occasionally dry and funny as hell breast surgeons voiced her solution. "You are just a pup. You still have hope. I give my patients a video to watch. Of me. Whenever they have a question, I say, 'Watch the video. If it doesn't contain an answer, then call me.'" She added, "The older you get, the more efficient you become with your time. Time is golden."

I met lots of cool people at our new work site today. My favorites were nurses. One was a personal assistant to the head doc. Another assistant told me over lunch in the break room, "You've got to get in good with her. She teaches us how to cuss in Arabic. Our favorite Arabic cuss word is what we call the boss. He still doesn't know what it means." The boss was at the head of the table, eating bacon burgers and onion rings, listening without judgement. I remarked on his meal - he was very in shape. "You must work out a lot, to be able to eat like that at lunch. How do you not fall asleep for afternoon clinic?"

Another nurse showered me with funny clinic anecdotes during my mid-morning break. She was verbose, and hyper - I learned at lunch that she was on steroids for a latex allergy and wasn't usually this on.

"You know doc? He has a lot of followers. Girls that come in short mini's with garter belts and fishnet hose. For their colonoscope. Can you imagine?"

"Is he married?"

"Yes! Happily so. He is one of the good ones. Has two kids. That makes his groupies all the more hungry. I have to turn them away. I told one of them - you are overdressed, for your procedure! Go home and change into something more decent."

"Did she?"

"Darn right she did. Would you disobey me?"

I looked up at the fiery, steroid-laden redhead. "No. Never."

Got another wonderful personal story, in the afternoon. It was a birth experience, in 1973 - the year I was born. It was her first son.

"The anesthesiologist ignored me, when I told him the epidural wasn't working. I had a curved spine, see (I thought yes - kyphosis)? No one had diagnosed it. When I was screaming in pain, they said it was my fault. I tore, big time. My OB, he's a great guy, didn't show up until the damage had been done."

I imagined a nightmarish fourth degree episiotomy. A young woman having her first delivery, and experiencing all the pain. A medical team surrounding her, at a loss, blaming her while she was trying to deliver. How awful.

I told her, "It's no different today. I read a blog post the other day by a physician who had a similar birth experience. It gave me goose bumps and nausea - what she went through. It doesn't make it any easier, but you are not alone. It is still happening. I like to think that is why I, and others similar to me, went into medicine. To try to humanize it. An uphill battle, but a noble one."

She said, "Well doctor, you've got a lot of work there. I'd better leave you to it. It's great to meet you. See you in the morning."

I'm really looking forward to it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sitting On Top of the World

Good ole Lenny. He says it.

This week, I've been a squeaky wheel. In a good way. I'm back on my home turf in LR, and work is tough, but I'm rising to the challenge. Here's an example.

Monday, I got paged to the OR around noon. One of the cardiothoracic surgeons is doing a new procedure once a week. EBUS, stands for endoscopic bronchial ultrasound-guided biopsies, or some such. Basically, the surgeon is doing bronchoscopies in the OR. Guiding lights down the trachea, and doing not-so-blindly guided biopsies through the tracheal mucosa into the bronchial hilar nodes. The ultrasound (not a perfect picture - I'm sure you all remember those embryo pics) helps to tell him where to stick the enlarged nodes, in hopes of getting a diagnosis.

I wandered into the gross room and chatted with the techs while my slides were being prepared. Happened to glance over at the first two smears, that had just been stained.

"What stain is this? I don't recognize it."

"It is the modified dif-quik."

My mind screamed in alarm and I reacted poorly out loud.

"What? The modified? I've never read that stain before!"

Three of my partners who read cytology prefer the modified, on immediate evaluation. Me and my estrogen lifeboat - she is currently on a cruise - like the dif-quik. A much quicker, easier stain to perform on dirty evaluation.

I yelled, "What makes anyone think I want to read this stain! I never read this stain. This is patient specimen, you are compromising. This is bullshit."

I called the supervisor of cytology, who was out to lunch. Quickly instructed the tech to go to the OR and instruct the nurses to air dry the subsequent smears, to perform my stain. Shook my head in disgust.

"Who planned this protocol? And why weren't Michelle or I informed?"

"Um, don't know. They thought it might be easier, to train his nurses on one protocol."

"As if M and I haven't been reading the same stain for, oh, three years for me and five for her, now? What made anyone think an immediate eval in the OR might be, oh, different? And does anyone think that any nursing team that the surgeon has is not intelligent enough to handle two protocols, like everyone in radiology?"

I sat down at the scope and stewed. Called a partner that prefers the modified and told him to be available for the next few minutes, in case I needed him. Luckily the specimen was no good, modified or not. Predominantly blood and benign bronchial cells.

Another tech, the one who made the protocol, wandered in. I apologized for my earlier rant.

"This is an immediate eval, on a patient. I'm scared of screwing it up, and that is where my anger came from (isn't that where all anger comes from - fear?). But what kind of harebrained person decided that M and I might suddenly switch our stain preference in a critical situation?"

"It was me, Dr. I wasn't thinking. Not hare-brained, just no-brained. I promise I will revise the protocol right away."

Jesus. OK. Everything went well, and the patient didn't suffer.

Also having a glut of FNA's this week - each patient experience deserves a blog post of its own. I'll refrain, and hit the highlights of a particularly moving one.

A woman, status post laryngectomy, was sent to me by her specialist to evaluate a new lump near the stoma site. He was worried about recurrent cancer. It was extremely painful to her, so I wasn't surprised to see inflammatory cells under the scope, and performed appropriate cultures in order to attempt to discover the offending culprits. After I made my final pass, her partner said, "She's been through a lot, this girl."

He listed numerous hardcore surgeries she had been through in the past few years, then moved on. "She lost both of her sons. Previously healthy. Freak accidents, in their young adult years. No woman should have to go through that."

I got all teary, and looked at her. She was teary too, but I had already made her that way by sticking a needle into her neck three times. So I wasn't sure where it was coming from, but grabbed her hand anyway, and looked into her eyes.

"I have two kids. God, what you must suffer. Just bringing kids into this world is facing a potential loss that is unimaginable to me."

I looked away. Couldn't go on, in front of the tech and the student. The tech helped her out of her chair, and I was thankful that I hadn't diagnosed a recurrent malignancy, which is what the clinician was fearing. I collected myself, and started in on the paperwork. As she walked out the door, I looked over at her.

"Nice to meet you. Good luck."

She walked over and grabbed my hand. "Thank you doctor. Very much." More wet eyes. Stuff emotion. Damn it.

I've got to prepare for early breast conference with the surgeons and oncologists. Need to bone up on metaplastic (chondroid) carcinoma, so I might sound intelligent. Work goes on.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Frida Kahlo

I became infatuated with her a couple of years ago when my beautiful, Hispanic, ageless, tiger-like, Degas-loving partner Maria gifted me a t-shirt for my birthday from a Kahlo exhibit she recently attended at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Didn't know much about her, so I rented the Salma Hayek movie and got to know her. Loved her beautiful, tragic, artistic, sexual self.

Tonight I went to see my astrological twin Deidre's boyfriend Jerry play bass in his band. We had a blast playing groupies. A woman caught my eye - her long, wavy dark hair framed an exotic Spanish blood-featured face. She looked to be in her late thirties or early forties. She wore a long, flowing, patterned Bohemian flower print shirt covering jean shorts that hugged her torso and ended below her knees - cuffed. She walked with a cane. I couldn't keep my eyes off of her. She was with a guy, and they had backstage pass necklaces, so I shouldn't have been surprised when Deidre spontaneously told me her story.

I missed the beginning - the connection - the band was loud. But I caught the rest.

"She was in a big accident a couple of years ago."

"A car accident?"

"Yeah. See that truck?" Deidre pointed to a half-semi behind the stage.

I nodded.

"A guy was driving a truck like that, and he had a heart attack. She saw him coming, sensed his loss of control, and knew he was going to hit her. Both of her kids were in the car, and she turned it in such a way that it would hit her, and not them."

I got goose bumps.

"She was in the hospital for months. Fractured pelvis, and broken leg bones. Still in rehab."

So it was Frida. But not a barren one.

Later in the evening, when Deidre snuck backstage to get us free beer from the keg, a hauntingly beautiful pre-teen boy walked over and grabbed a third chair sitting on the other side of the one holding my friend's purse that I was guarding. I caught the eye of the (I guess?) dad, and silently assured him it was OK. This was the son. Sitting next to the daughter. The ones that were saved by their mom's sacrifice. More goose bumps. I like to think that I would do anything for my kids, and seeing her physical display of my internal devotion moved me beyond words.

Kept sneaking looks at Frida all night, and finally caught her eye. Smiled, and was rewarded with one in return. It filled my heart.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Shitty Week

I'm mad. It's been a bad week - record caseloads. Running back and forth to Conway four days this week has taxed me to the limit. I'm sick of having to ready the house for a potential viewing every day. I'm sick of long work days. I had one lunch break on Wednesday, and even though I should have spent it working on everything from bills to birthday invitations - I called my friend Alyssa and just vented for a half hour. Then I listened for another half hour. It was therapeutic.

I had a lab situation that smacked of domestic violence, and it kept me awake too long last night. Freaked me out.

My Conway leftover pile was almost as high as my new cases in L.R. pile today. Worked non-stop.

I had an uncharacteristic meltdown to my estrogen lifeboat on the phone yesterday. Felt guilty.

I'm not alone. My senior partner was even venting about stress - the rock. Mr. Even Keel. That grounded me, a little. Everyone is working overtime. In the hospital, you can't predict the ebb and flow of work - it just comes and you have no choice but to attack it. This was a week for everyone, it seems. Feast, not famine.

I won't even go there in personal divorce matters. I am weathering that well, but it gets tough at times. Monday was a low point. Since then, it has gotten better. Up and down. In and out. Back and forth. How many more months? Lawyer says three. Looking for a trial date. Working out summer custody. I learned some new lingo - 2/2/1. Dad gets 2 weeks in June, 2 weeks in July, 1 week in August. I cringe at the thought of being away from my kids for a week at a time. Then I think about what he must feel like - I've got more time with them overall. More guilt. Anger. Guilt. Empathy. Anger. Selfishness. Guilt.

T.G.I.F. Had a great dinner with brother Matt and three new buddies and kids at the Pizza Joint tonight, while my gorgeous summer nanny made the pizzas. Enjoyed watermelon and popcorn with the kids afterwards, watching the DVD from John's end of the year school program - he starred in Five Green and Speckled Frogs, You Are My Sunshine, and some Biker song. We played tickle raspberry time until 9:00 - luckily I didn't tickle them so hard they puked, like the other night. Both of them. Sicily first - rainbow snow cone comes up like mud pies. John caught the pukes like that pie-eating contest in Stand By Me. It was hilarious, but exhausting to bathe the kids past bedtime. I promised no more tickle/raspberry time. I lied.

Am I allowed to be mad, on my blog? I am the ultimate Pollyanna. To a fault, mom says. Kids are still up, complaining about tummy aches and bad dreams ("You haven't even been to sleep yet? How could you have had a bad dream?"). I raise my voice. Demand settling. Feel guilty. Assure them I love them, even when I am mad at them.

Countdown to the end of naps for John, forever. Only four more days. Thank God.

Jazz night was a blast. Music is my happy place. And books. And wine. Time for that, now.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Jazz Night

Tomorrow night, I've got a date with the dialysis nurses. I'm over the moon excited.

After eating Pauline's strawberry cake a few weeks ago, I became addicted. Wandered back up to the dialysis unit to see an apheresis patient a while back, and I frantically asked Pauline, "Is it someone's birthday today?"

She looked at me, puzzled. I said, "Is there any more cake?"

Pauline laughed. "No doc, not today, but tell me your birthday. I'll plug it into my iphone."

I was flattered, and gave her the date, but also sad. August is so far away. But then I thought it might be better that there isn't cake. That divorce tapeworm I talked about? It has long been cleared from my system. I am back to daily maintenance. Weighing daily - I am convinced accountability is the only way to keep it real. Run/walking 3-4 days a week. Three modest meals a day with healthy snacks in between. Moderation sucks, but it is the only way to stay on the right track. Those people that claim they can eat anything because they have such a high metabolism? Watch closely. They are pushing food around on their plate, trying to hide their meager intake. Once we all hit 30, it takes effort to stay in shape.

Pauline said, "It was Shelly's birthday last weekend - we had a night out at the Afterthought. Wish you could have been there."

I said, "Oh! Do you know who plays at the Afterthought? Rex Bell! He has a standing spot once a month."

They looked at me incredulously. "Dr. Bell!!??! Why didn't we know this? What does he play?"

I told them he played jazz piano, and we hatched a plan. I called Rex and found out his next Thursday was on May 13th.

Shelly said, "Oh, I am on call."

"Well switch call, then! I am off. We have to go."

I hadn't seen them in a few weeks, so I called from Conway today. "Are you all going to stand me up tomorrow night? Or do we still have a date?"

Shelly laughed. "We'll be there around 7:30 or 7:45."

I am excited to hang out with them - they save my ass in so many ways. Hypotensive patient? Needs an IV bolus. Itching? Needs Benadryl. Respiratory distress? Call the real clinician. I am too lost in my scope to deal with these patient matters, and they are much better at it than me.

I called my partners Dianne and Maria, and they are going too. Dianne was a little surprised at my effort, "Giz, you are such the social butterfly! That sounds like fun."

It will be fun. I am looking forward to it - I'm having a week in Conway. Drowned in frozens today, so tomorrow there will be a lot of cancer cases to clean up. A night out with the girls and jazz piano (more hands!) is just what I need.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Dream More

So foray into single life has started.

After my dad left Ferneau on Saturday night, I stuck around with my brother to watch the jazz band. Chris Henry was busy at a benefit downtown, and didn't show up to join us until around midnight.

I could never figure out the name of the jazz band, but the keyboard player was amazing. Don't really remember what he looked like in the face, but I watched his hands all night. As the bar filled up with young, beautiful twenty-somethings, including the strange striped-dress one that danced like a robot on speed, I had to crank my head around to see them.

Two of my brother's friends joined us at the table (right next to the keyboard player). He, and his friends, are eleven years younger than me. Ryan and Dave were both sweet to buy my wine. Ryan said, "I know you can afford to buy your own drinks, but we just can't let you do it. It doesn't seem right. In exchange, introduce us to your doctor friends. The ones that want a stay-at-home-dad to raise the kids. We'll be game."

Matt's other friend Dave just passed the bar. He is a tall, dashing young man, who's going to make a great catch for a lucky girl. He asked me, distracting me from those hands, "So how is single life?"

I gave him my pat answer. "I'm just focusing on the emotional well-being of my kids, right now. It's about all the strength I can muster." He nodded as if he understood. Then he asked me, "So how old are you anyway?" I told him I was 36. He looked incredulous. "I didn't know you were that old!" My friend Alyssa told me I should take that as a compliment. At the time, I felt like a dowdy old woman. I replied, laughing, "Way to make a divorcing woman feel good."

It was about time for my wine/hour, so Dave got up to refresh me. As he sat back down with the over full glass of Cabernet, he accidentally spilled the entire glass onto my lap. He looked alarmed, and I looked down. "No worries, it wasn't intentional. But I think I'm going to have to go to the bathroom to fix this one."

I wandered into the too-crowded ladies room, and assessed the damage in the mirror. Wiped off the wine dripping down my legs into my new short cowboy boots. My short dress was dark brown with white and blue flowers -- all the white was wine red. I decided to take my dress off and wash it in the sink. I apologized to the women around me. "Someone just spilled a full glass of wine on my dress, so I am going to wash it."

I expected a bit of sympathy and camaraderie, but it was like I suddenly had the plague, standing there in my white cotton bra and hipsters. I decided it didn't matter, and concentrated on my task. Many more young girls came in and out, looking at me with quiet judgement. I ignored them. Who the hell cares?

After the dress was rinsed and all the excess water squeezed into the sink, I retired to a stall to get decent. When I came out, there was a girl dressed in white at the sink. She looked at me.

"Did you see that girl in her underwear?"

I laughed. "I was that girl in her underwear." I explained the situation. She sympathized (finally!).

"Can I ask you a question?"

"Sure." I looked at her white jeans and blouse, and was thankful that the wine was not spilled on her outfit. She might not have recovered as easily as me.

"What were those words on your panties?"

"Oh! These are my favorites. I bought them recently. Dream something - hang on, I can't remember."

I turned around and flipped my dress up to check it out in the mirror. Oh yeah. Lime green block letters on a royal blue background. "DREAM MORE."

She looked on appreciatively, and I told her to have a good night. Returned to my brother, checked my watch (it was after midnight) and asked him to walk me to my car. My dress was wet, and I was cold, and the band was scheduled to play until 2:00. I couldn't stay a minute longer, hands or no.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Skunk Holocaust

Whew! I need a little break from the sun. Laying out in the backyard and reading The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard (highly recommend).

El Rancho Mom and Dad-O has been converted into a bachelor pad (-O - hee hee) since mom's out of town for two weeks and my brother Matt just finished his first year of law school (Congrats!) and has come back to AR for R&R for a week. I headed over last night with pizza, garlic bread sticks, beer, and wine - dad got the Chinese food and more beer, and someone, I am guessing Matt, brought some whiskey. Lordy lord! When mom's away . . .

It was actually a rather tame evening, at least until I left at 9:30 or so. Three of Matt's buddies came over, we all made the food disappear quickly, and I settled onto a chair in the den with a glass of wine and listened to some wildly entertaining stories about wild animal eradication. My dad's was my favorite:

"When we moved out here, there was a skunk hole in the front yard, near the front door. I never saw them, but mom and I could smell 'em all the time. First I tried cayenne pepper around their holes, but that didn't bother 'em in the least bit. Next I tried to cover up their holes, but they just dug them out again."

Matt's friend Patton said, "They probably had an underground maze!"

Dad went on. "I tried to cover up the holes with those big concrete blocks, but they just dug around them and made new holes. So then I went to the hardware store, and I found this contraption/adaptor. One end had a narrow cone, that you hook a hose up to. The other end has this radiator clamp, that you hook to the exhaust pipe on your car. You put the hose end in the skunk hole, and run your car for about thirty minutes. I covered up the hole, and haven't seen 'em since."

Everyone started laughing. "Doc, you got all Hitler on those skunks! You did a skunk Holocaust!"***

Dad said, "Well, either one of two things happened. They dug a new hole and moved away, or . . ."

One of Matt's buddies finished the sentence "You buried 'em."

I decided if the story came up around Sicily, the former ending would have to be told, or Grandpa might fall off his pedestal.

I asked Matt today, when I went to mom and dad's to work on taxes and lawyer stuff, how late they stayed up.

"Oh, it really was a tame night. We fished off the dock and all went to bed around one. All my friends have jobs now, and I'm tired from finals."

I had girlfriend plans tonight, but everyone got sick or canceled - I decided that was serendipitous (not that I would wish illness on a friend). Dad and Matt want to go to Ferneau for dinner and I can't think of a better way to spend a Sat. night than listen to Chris Henry loop while eating amazing food. I ran this morning and had salad for lunch, so I'm ready to gorge. Maybe some of Matt's friends will come out and I can hear more about pest control. A fabulous topic.

Dad's still working on the barn swallows. That's a story for another day. He's already given me some hilarious blog fodder.

***I, my dad, my brother, nor any of my brother's friends in any way support anti-Semitism. I have lots of Orthodox Jewish relatives on Sicily and John's dad's side of the family, and would hate to offend them. In fact, if Hitler was here right now, I'd probably get all Hitler on him. A Hitler Holocaust. Hook up that exhaust pipe to his face and run the car for eternity. I need to stop now, having too much fun with this torture scenario.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Quilting Scrap

Read it, if you want, over at MiM. Click on the blogroll to the right.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


My house. If anyone has ever seen it, you wouldn't recognize it. It has been transformed into a showcase, over the last week and a half. Everything, from the corners of the closets - to the display cases in the kitchen - to the eaves in the attic - is so eye-poppingly, artistically amazing that all I can do is wander around in a daze from room to room. Thanks Eric, you and your four (or five? I lost track) helpers are incredible!

My toes. I got a new color. Shiny turquoise blue. I might get stuck on it all summer. I was going to go with a metallic, but got inspired by the girl next to me with luscious, chocolate brown skin, who was doing a purple-y fuchsia. She said, "Girl, your skin is gorgeous. You need color." We had a fun time picking one out. When she went to pay, she apologized to the pedicurist for all of her ones. "I told my man I was gonna look like a stripper, paying with all of these ones!" I replied, "Well, at least he gave them to you, and not a stripper." She looked me in the eyes and smiled. "That was a good one."

My body. I got a 90 minute massage yesterday, by my favorite masseuse, Connie. I told my decorator it's like she's thinking about sex the whole time she is massaging you (or was that me?). She applies a nice, medium to deep pressure - broad pressure, not a pointy one, and takes me to this place I've never been before. Sometimes I don't get there, but this time I did, toward the end. It's this peaceful feeling with an amazing light show behind my eyes - all rolling deep purple clouds/smoke on an ink-black background - who needs religion? Illegal drugs? Fasting? I've got Connie.

This week, I was worried I might not reach that massage nirvana, because I was so loaded up on coffee for working out, getting the kids to school, and grocery shopping (so much easier Mon. a.m.!) before my 9 a.m. appt. My head kept bouncing around thinking about random things and I eventually cracked myself up imagining places for a first date (I'm going to be dating again soon!). Here's what I came up with:

1) A seedy motel.

2) The woods (bring blankets). Then I worried - it's tick season. Then I remembered Off, and decided the application could become a fun activity.

3) The back seat of a car.

4) Mom and dad's basement. This might not work as well as it did 20 years ago, but I smiled remembering my first boyfriend luring me over to his house to tutor him (was it physics? I can't remember).

See, I'm a cheap date.

Uh oh. Head shake. Gotta go get the kids.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Feelin' Purr-ty

So I am going through this divorce. For the most part, it feels like I have the plague. I got one nice letter of encouragement from one of my book club friends, and I cling to it like flypaper, when I'm feeling blue.

But something else weird is happening. I'm starting to notice that guys look at me. Did this happen before, and I wasn't aware?

Here are some examples:

Doctor's lounge a couple of weeks ago - a surgeon tells me, while I am cranking out coffee from the oil machine, that I look like a teenager. Normally, this would make me blush, but I smiled and engaged him in small talk.

Doctor's lounge a month ago - a specialty surgeon engages me in small talk and gives me way TMI about his history, family life, and divorce. I listen and assure him that I will send any cute single ladies I know his way (although he has already given off enough strange signals that I wonder if this is a good idea, for anyone I know).

My decorator has been helping me organize and get the house ready for market all week. He's playing matchmaker - sending guys 12 years my junior my way - flagrantly showing off the heterosexual eye candy in his life.

When I was at Les last weekend - I walked to the bar to get a beer. Noticed the cellist was cranking his head in my direction - he had a strange political mask on so I've no idea what he looked like but he could play the hell out of the cello. Crick in the neck? I like to think so. Maybe not.

I made a cute histotech blush the other day. He went red from neck to forehead. It was endearing.

I feel like I've got this strange power - one that was maybe always there but I've never been aware of. Makes me feel strong, self-confident, and (yes) alluring.

But let me make things abundantly clear. I'm not looking. Leos are nothing, if not loyal. Fiercely loyal. Even when they humiliate themselves on the internet - yes, embarrassingly loyal.

Still, it's fun to feel pretty. It's been a long time.