How the story ends

Too little, too late.

Or, I did all I could and it wasn’t enough.

Or, this is life sometimes.

Take your pick. My head is spinning with these three phrases, deciding which one to apply to my Saturday morning. Here’s how it went: A friend and former co-worker arrives at my house so that we can carpool to the nursing home where another former co-worker and friend is in hospice care. It’s been a long few weeks trying to find this dying friend. Just when I had given up hope of seeing her, I received an e-mail with her address and the advice: Hurry.

That was Wednesday. Thursday and Friday were impossible. I had no child care and serious commitments all day. Saturday was the earliest I could make it.

Saturday was too late.

With the best of intentions we arrived early to a quiet facility along a busy road. We worked our way through the maze of hallways and nurses stations asking all along the way where to find our friend. Finally, at the end of the longest hallway on the top floor, we entered the hospice wing.

A nurse spotted us standing in the empty waiting room.

“Who are you here to see?” she inquired.

We told her.

Then came the look. Then the news.

“No one called you?” the nursed asked, noting that others had also showed up to visit our friend who had died the night before.

“Know that she passed on peacefully and surrounded by loved ones,” the nurse said. “She was never alone. Not for one second.”

After all that her family endured watching a mother, a grandmother, a sister slip away, the best final chapter of such a tale of suffering would be that she was enveloped in love and kindness and compassion. It was exactly how she lived her life. What she gave out in generous  portions in life: care, comfort, kindness and joy she received back doubly in the end. I’m sorry  her exit was so painful.

Now, please excuse me, I have a long letter to write.

Greetings from America's Left Hand

I am on Bossy’s (No) Book Tour

I’ve reduced myself to begging. When I read that Bossy was planning another cross-country odyssey to promote the book she didn’t write and meet other non-published bloggers to exchange autographs and rinse their mouths with high-quality vodka and micro-brewery beer, I had to find a way to lure her to Detroit.  Good news: She’s been here before. Bad news: She’s been here before.

How to lure Bossy, whose hair curls the most,

Statuesque Bossy who lives on the East Coast,

Bossy with the big, big dog,

Bossy of the funny blog.

On my knees I’ll plead and beg,

and if she shows, on my face an egg.

For she has written a fabulous (no)book,

and I have lured without a hook.

Since a handful of other Detroit-area and Michigan bloggers have secured coveted pinpoints on her proposed travel route, why not add the humble MomZombie to the itinerary? What could bloggers in sunny Southern California or the Mighty Rockies offer Bossy that we couldn’t here in the fabulous, calloused left hand of America? Could it be the 2 a.m. slider run on the last visit that perked Bossy’s nose in our direction?  Stay tuned for all the exciting details.

I’ve met some Detroit-area bloggers, such as Teacher Mommy of Diapers and Dragons, and Melissa of Rock and Drool. Discovering the person behind the persona is an experience in itself. Reading your blog, I learn your pet peeves, hopes, joys, sorrows and dreams. Sitting across from you at a table , I learn how tall you are, if you look 10 pounds thinner in real life than on your blog, what your voice (and your laugh) sound like, if you bite your nails and if we click. If the divine Ms. Bossy comes to Detroit or a nearby suburb I’ll probably faint, and when I come to, with a lump on my head, I’ll shake her hand and utter awkward, inappropriate things  until someone calls the police or pours water over my lumpy head. And that will be a very interesting blog post for the future.

On a less-than-happy note: Thank you, readers for your words of encouragement about my terminally ill friend. I’m still slamming into brick walls. At some point I may have to accept that I won’t be able to say good-bye to her. I understand that you can know a person for many years but stay a total stranger to her immediate family.

Two months old

11 months old

My kitten is now a cat and has settled down. In fact, he bears almost no resemblance to the cat we plucked from the shelter. No more toppled planters and shattered lamps. The curtains remain hanging on their rods. The scars have healed and faded. We all can sleep at night. The surge of feline testosterone that fueled his frenzy has slowed to a trickle now that the neutering has finally worked its magic.

Speaking of trickles, work comes my way in drips and drops. I’m grateful to take on anything I think is reasonable, but waiting 30 days or longer to get paid just sucks. I now understand the stories of the dirt-poor lottery winners who blow their millions in a matter of months on fuzzy pink guitars, cases of Cheetos and more lottery tickets. When I do get some money in my pocket, I have no desire to stash some into my deflated retirement accounts. Nope. It’s  off to the mall or hair salon or liquor store.

Patience and determination pay off in the end. My husband and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary in a few months. This is the longest relationship either of us has logged on our odometers. Since this is my second marriage, I’ve worked hard to make it work as the odds are stacked against us. I’m happy to report that marrying the right person for the right reasons makes a difference. That and a little begging now and then.

Wardrobe malfunction

Photo via Somewhere in Time on the Internet (Sorry)

This is what I’m supposed to wear to a party tonight.
I do not have this in my closet. Do you?
In the late ’80s I had a green jacket like the one the model is wearing. I’m thinking at some point in the ’80s or early 1990s I had some baggy pants that could have been modified to pull off this look. I even had the boots.
Yes, in the ’80 and ’90s.
But.Not.Now.
I have a very limited wardrobe that consists of stuff I wear to the gym, stuff I wear around the house and the very, very narrow choices for going out or meeting clients. None of it fits the criteria of the Victorian era. Nary a puffy shirt in sight.
I do not have knickerbockers, circa 1895, in my closet. Nor does any resale or vintage shop in my area. And the theater folks I asked? They told me to go sew my own …
Do you have this ensemble in your wardrobe? How about a time machine? A historical museum nearby with loose windows, easy-to-pick locks?
If so, could you FedEx any or all of them to MomZombie now?
Maybe I should just make my own time machine and deliver myself elsewhere in history so I don’t have to show up costume-less to this event.
I have about two hours to get in character. Otherwise? I’m showing up in street clothes. I’m hoping the extra bottle of wine I’m bringing will help smooth over this little oversight.

Why can't I say good-bye to you?

Photo by MZ

One of my friends is dying.

I think.

Doesn’t that sound odd?

I don’t know what is going on for certain. I rely upon e-mail and Facebook updates. My friend is a former co-worker, someone with whom I’ve worked off and on over the course of two decades. We kept in touch after I left my job. Until she got sick. Then she went underground. Or her family sequestered her for their own reasons. Whatever the story, I can no longer reach her by phone or e-mail or Facebook or through written requests sent by U.S. mail.

At first I was hurt. Then I brushed away my feelings, realizing that I was being self-centered. What did I know about terminal illness? Would I want a parade of visitors, no matter how well-meaning, filing past my sick bed or the sick bed of a loved one? Would I feel added pressure to somehow put on a brave face, have coffee and snacks available to feed my guests, worry about my house being a mess or about how everything appears to the uninitiated? My only experiences with death so far have been of the swift-moving type. Here today, gone tomorrow.

However, I know how comforting it was to have friends and family and acquaintances stop in to visit, drop off a cake or send a card after our family’s loss. So, I project this feeling on my friend’s situation. If I were dying and  no one called or wrote or tried in any way to visit me, wouldn’t I feel even worse? Maybe I wouldn’t know. Maybe the sharp edge of pain or the dulling effect of medication would keep me oblivious.

If  a long, wasting illness is how I exit this life, it will be my call how to handle it. This is her wish, or by proxy, her family’s call.  I must accept it no matter how much it tears at me.

Cancer isn’t discriminating. It sharpens the arrow and aims it toward any moving target. There aren’t any bull’s-eyes on the bad folks any more than there are protective shields on the good guys. I’ve watched as so many good-hearted, clean-living, health-conscious people in my life have stepped into its trajectory. I also marvel how others who seem to have a death wish just chug along, dodging all of death’s fast-moving arrows.

As crazy as this sounds, I sometimes dread logging on to my Facebook account and seeing that I have a message. The last one said: “She’s in hospice. It could be any time.”

How the hell am I supposed to react to that? My urge is to find her and rush to her side, to give her hand a squeeze, to tell her how thankful I am that she took me under her wing when I was a cub reporter, that she had my back, that she played a motherly role in my life when I needed it the most, that she made me laugh harder than just about anyone else on Earth, that I think she is one of the smartest, toughest, most caring and diplomatic people I’ve ever known.

I suppose the next time I see her will be at her funeral. I hope I’m wrong.

One of my friends is dying and I’m sorry I didn’t have one last chance to tell her how I feel.

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Take a moment today

By AprilZosia via Creative Commons

Is today a free day for you? No work? No school?

Take a moment today to consider the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  I attended a service yesterday and heard a few excerpts of King’s speeches. I have to admit, aside from the “I Have a Dream” speech, I’ve not taken the time to listen to or read this influential man’s words. Yesterday I listened and I was moved.

Here are a few quotes to ponder:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction….The chain reaction of evil–hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars–must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”

“Success, recognition, and conformity are the bywords of the modern world where everyone seems to crave the anesthetizing security of being identified with the majority.”

“Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.”

– from Martin Luther King  Jr., Strength To Love, 1963

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Attendance not necessary

Photo by MZ

Let’s get right to the point, shall we?

What? You were talking first? Sorry, but I think what I have to say is far more important.

What happened to manners?

I’m not talking about high-society etiquette and dispute over the proper spoon to use. I’m referring to everyday, common-sense, Golden Rule kind of stuff.

My nickname isn’t Emily Post. I don’t pal around with Judith Martin (but I adore her weekly column on social graces) and often I let slide things that maybe should be addressed. Rather than call out the store clerk who yaks into her cell phone headset while ringing up my order, I just grab my receipt and make a mental note to spend my money elsewhere. There does exist hope amid all the chaos: While scouring the racks at my favorite resale shop, I was pleased to overhear the owner taking to task two of her employees for “excessive texting” on the job. High five to you, woman.

Excuse me, I ‘m talking now. Please put down your phone. I see you over there.

I can trace this slimy little trail of behavior right back to the first cordless phones. When was it? Sometime in the early 1990s? Suddenly everyone was multi-tasking: They were doing their nasty business in the bathroom while being interviewed by a reporter; they blathered on about this bitch and that ho while steering a shopping cart through a grocery store. The sounds of ring tones bleating and chirping out all genres of musical hits during church services, movies, plays and children’s programs grew more commonplace and acceptable.

Next thing you know a new generation is reaching adulthood with this model of behavior as the norm. You cannot  blame parents for all of this. Spread it around to the cell phone companies and cable TV and reality programming.

In a search for common ground on this stuff, I find myself nearly alone in a field. My mother has a cell phone but she only turns it on when she wants to make a call. (Overly polite and from another era.)  At the other end of the spectrum is my daughter, who sleeps with her phone next to her pillow, eats with her phone in her lap and performs household chores with one hand while texting with the other. Sometimes she takes a break to log on to Facebook. (Unable to disconnect, ever.)

Here is a recent conversation I had with my teen, in which I explain how I went to a fine-arts fundraiser concert, at which we were asked to turn off our cell phones before the show, and how no one listened and just kept on texting and surfing the Net on their smart phones all through the show. What the freakin’ hell, people?

She: So? What’s your point?

Me: What do you mean, so? That’s rude. I hope you don’t do that.

She: Mom, it’s not rude to text during a show. Texting is silent.

Me: I don’t know about that. I can hear that annoying tap-tap-tapping from across a room. It’s not subtle. And it is rude to ignore the performer and chat no matter in what form. You think the people on stage can’t see what you are doing?

She: You need to lighten up. You’re the rude one with your stupid phone always ringing and vibrating in your purse. Half the time you can’t even find it and you never answer it. Talk about rude.

I reminded her that I keep my phone on vibrate these days and I return calls as quickly as I can. I’m even trying to respond to texts with something more in-depth than “OK” or “THX.”

She: Whatever.

Me: How is it OK to be in someone’s physical presence, yet ignore them in favor of chatting or texting with whomever is on your phone?

Apparently this is a gray area, one that I have a hard time wrapping my aging gray matter around. So, it’s not rude to ignore the person or performance in front of you as long as you are saying nice things about the performer on Facebook and Twitter and posting pictures from your phone to the Net? Is this how it works?

She: Do you want some kind of award for politeness? I think most people would rather be with someone real than with some prissy woman who’s trying to be perfect all the time.

Am I am pris? Am I not real? God, if she only knew me back in the day. Hah!

Why must I shut off my dumb phone while you tap away on your smart phone? In my one-person quest to uphold lost social graces, am I viewed only as uptight and outdated. Is there any hope?

While I considered whether I was a prissy perfectionist old skool mom, my preschooler interrupted our debate with this directive:

“Shhhh, mom,” she whispered and pointed to a Barbie doll “mom” seated at a miniature desk with computer and phone.”You have to be quiet. She’s working on her computer.”

Great, now I’m a hypocrite as well.

Why I'm mostly a vegetarian, Part 2

Photo by MZ

Take your pick: Thumper or Rocky.
I came upon this while thumbing through a cookbook at my mother’s house. The brittle, crumbling volume held together by rubber bands and tape was a wedding gift.
She was married in 1963.
Indeed, judging by the recipes for Swedish meatballs, Waldorf salad and beef Stroganoff and the overuse of gelatin and aspic, it was pre-Womens’ Lib. The suggestion seemed to be that women spent their days hosting card parties, luncheons and preparing the family dinner.

Even more entertaining than the recipes are the illustrations. The book opens with the picture of a trim bride with a tidy flipped bob wearing a starched apron tied at her narrow waist. Her wan smile is probably the result of a mixture of Valium and a bridge club cocktail. She balances a serving platter and gazes into the distance somewhere off camera. Is she watching the frolicking squirrels in the back yard, deciding how best to trap them? Is she wondering if little Susie’s pet rabbit would be missed? Is she debating if potato or rice best accompanies breaded rodent meat? Does she need to add a Jello-O mold to the menu or would pudding suffice for dessert?

I asked my mother if she’d ever cooked squirrel for us and then lied and said it was chicken.
She gave me one of those looks. It’s the look I always get when I ask probing questions about the past.
Speaking of recipes, check out these bloggers, who do a much better job making fun of old recipes and advertising images from bygone eras. They have quite the collection.

(Mostly) Wordless Wednesday

Photo by MZ

Photo by MZ

My Girl from the East is high energy. This is an understatement. She needs her daily exercise. When she can’t get it in traditional ways outdoors such as when the weather is too cold or too wet, she will improvise. She likes to run back and forth and jump around in our bedroom. It drives me nuts. It also reminds me how simple it is sometimes to find solutions to challenges.

Did you hear? Did you see? Did you discuss?

So this thing happened in the airspace over my city. Yet, I was blissfully ignorant of it for most of the day it happened.

I saw a quick headline online that said something about a problem on a flight.

It was Christmas Day. I had Christmas stuff to do. I have two children. We had to get on the rain-slicked roads to grandmother’s house in mid-state Michigan. Even over dinner that evening, the conversation barely touched upon the disaster averted. We were too busy debating political correctness at the holidays, Obama’s first year in office, and if striped cats are gassier than solid-colored ones.

By orvalrochefort via Creative Commons

It was not until our long, dark, rainy drive home that we switched on the radio and learned this airplane thing was more like a failed suicide bombing and it was here in Detroit. The next day at my mother’s house we talked at length about cheery things like if the plane exploded in the air, how big an area would the fallout cover? What was the typical incoming flight path of a Northwest/Delta plane? Are there parts of the area that are under flight paths more than others? We realized that no matter where it happened, if it had happened, it would have affected someone we know.

Beyond the bounds of family walls, I’ve heard squat. I mean the news media is squeezing every drop out of the story. But around town, the one that was in the would-be bull’s eye, as far as I can tell, not so much. I asked friends who traveled by air over the holiday if the incident affected their psyches or boarding experiences. Not much, they said. However, they traveled domestically. I didn’t talk to anyone who traveled overseas.

Huh.

This thing. It didn’t happen as planned. If I understand the story correctly, by the description of things, it wouldn’t have happened even if passengers hadn’t intervened. The guy didn’t have his chemicals mixed properly or something. He didn’t have all the details straight. Thank god. Most likely he terrorized his man parts. Oh, he did terrorize some of the passengers. I cannot minimize that nor will I make light of it.

Two things come to mind in the wake of this:

First, Jeez, can we ever get a break here? Must every bad story, losing sports team, failing industry, worst educational system, all emanate from the Mitten State and specifically from the base of the thumb of the Mitten? I know the situation was random, that it was not specifically designed to make Detroit look bad. One populated American city is as good a target as the next if you are the enemy and on a mission, right? Still, I had a Rodney Dangerfield moment in which I bemoaned “Why can’t we get any respect around here?”

Second, news about heightened security and full body scans horrify me. Are you among those who think nothing of it? Or, are you like me and shudder at the thought of some Dwight Schrute type sweating and giggling as he scans your bits and parts in search of weapons and hidden contraband?

Via NBC.com

I’m still creeped out about the jaw X-ray my dentist gave me a while back to “hang onto, please.” No further explanation. I took it home and looked it over and felt kinda itchy and twitchy afterward. Don’t count me among those who find skulls and internal organs and neural pathways to be interesting viewing.

via FOX News

However, we are a nation of entrepreneurs and mavericky rogues or is it roguish mavericks? I wonder how soon before an independent contractor sets up shop at the airport to sell copies of your scan as a vacation souvenir? You know how you can ride a roller coaster or go whitewater rafting and at the end there’s a booth with a picture of you all bug-eyed, mouth agape and you wonder where in the heck the camera was and then you pay $25 so you can have it as a memory of your experience?

Who doesn’t want a key chain or a framed collage of the family body scans from the Christmas 2009 holiday vacation?

While I love to travel and I’ve never had any fears of flying, I have come to detest airport security. My worst experiences were traveling both into China and around China. Aside from the trashing of my luggage and the suitcase searches were the confiscation of things that were in compliance with the posted guidelines. As baggage screeners dangled my stuff over the trash can, I’d point to the signs at the gate illustrating the 3-oz containers in small Ziploc Baggies and then wince as my Baggie was tossed into a trash bin anyway.  ”You cannot have” was the only explanation. I seethed as I had to continuously shrug out of both a backpack and a baby carrier and unload my purse. Apparently baby wearers with backpacks are No. 1 on the suspicious list.

Since then I clench up like a sissy boy in prison every time I approach security. Give me turbulence and crazy takeoffs. I can handle that. But don’t come at me with the latex gloves, Dwight.

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