Sunday, November 27, 2011

Oh...What a Tangled Web We Weave

I’m sure I’m not the first to say…if you’re not Einstein, then you have not, nor will you ever master the science of Christmas light untangling. I have never in my entire life come across an art form such as the free form ball of lights. Most people plan to take a day to hang their lights with time for other activities they may want to do. I plan an entire day just to untangle those f**kin' strings of stress. The next day I save for hanging them, with time to spare for other things.
I usually take Thanksgiving weekend as the holiday lighting ritual. Thursday is turkey day. That’s just a day exclusively for eating and being with family. Friday is just for recovering from being with that family you only wanted to see once a year but over the holidays have to see them more often then you wanted. Oh, wait, oops…I mean Friday is for recovering from over-eating on Thursday; working out and resting from the meteoric caloric intake. Then Saturday is for the untangling ceremony. Come one, come all…let’s decipher the expert level Sudoku puzzle of Christmas lights. And Sunday is for hanging…[The lights, I mean.] I have decided I will never move from my house because I have masterfully hammered in thousands of nails to expertly place each strand of lights. Every nail has been strategically positioned so that the lights form a certain pattern to make anyone gasp in awe when they see them.
Unfortunately, Saturday has arrived…I drink my eight cups of coffee, gearing up for the very unpleasant task of the detangle. Then I take a valium to try to keep myself calm so the neighbors don’t hear me screaming and swearing eight hours into the task at hand, pulling and tugging and contorting, with lights hanging from my head. I take a deep breath and open up the enormous, chock full box of Christmas crap: lights, dancing Santa, wreaths, giant lighted Santa sleigh, mini lighted Christmas tree, and so on and so on. Nope…no sign of the Jew in this box…[My grandparents are turning in their graves.]
I pull out one string of lights and out come the entire contents of the box in one gigunda ball...everything included. The ornaments are hanging from the Santa, which is hanging from the sleigh, which is hanging from the extra large, lighted lollipops, which are attached to 10 strings of more lights. OY! I'm so happy it's 83 degrees and sunny on November 26th so that I can tan on the front lawn while I'm untangling Christmas paraphernalia. A little sunshine to an otherwise dreary undertaking. [Christmas in California just isn't the same as it is back east.]

OK, deep breath. And the untangling begins...the race is on to see if I can beat my time from last year. It's a little game I play with myself to help the time and frustration pass a little more smoothly. Doesn't really work. I've gotten some of the bigger pieces removed from the bundle of joy. I've set them in the garage so there is no chance of them getting caught back in the web of madness. I still have about 10 strings of Christmas lights yet to untangle...but finally it happens. Do you know what an accomplishment that is? I'm sure you do. It's like striving for the impossible and actually achieving it. It's like when you get a knot in your thinnest necklace while it's all tangled up with your other necklaces...and actually get them apart. Then with your stubby, little fingers, you get that microscopic knot out of the teeny, tiny links. I’m not sure why we have to get the knot out. Unless you have Superman vision, you would never notice it anyway, but you still have to remove that itsy bitsy teensy weensy miniscule knot. Welllllll...I did it! Night has fallen, meals have been eaten...[by others]...but by golly...I did it.
I placed all the strings in rows trying to remember which string goes on which part of the house and which strands go on the tree. Yep, that's right...not only does the good little Jew that I am put lights on the house...we also have a tree. What's Chanukah without Christmas lights and a Christmas tree? It's Chanukah...duh. Do you think my kids were a little confused growing up? We won't go there. That would be fodder for a whole other blog. (Note to on "How I f**ked up my kids.")
Hanging the lights is a feat. That fear of heights I've discussed in other blogs comes into play quite often on this holiday. The lights outlining the garage aren't too bad...I only need to go on the 2nd step of the step ladder, but even that makes me sick to my stomach. Fortunately, the girls didn't inherit that fear and have no problem standing next to me while I go up on that step trembling. They are there for support. The princesses don't do the actual work. They keep watch hoping they don't have to catch me if I get dizzy and fall. No...Just kidding...they do help with the lights. Sometimes. OK...rarely.
I finally attach one string to the nails around the door of the garage, get the extension cord all set up after trying to remember what cord goes into which outlet, plug in the lights and NADA. Nothing. Not one light goes on. Oh...that's right...I stupidly forgot to check each strand to see if they still work. Luckily I have so many extra ones that I can just switch it out. But still...nothing like making extra work for myself...because I'm not frustrated enough and not panicked enough about going back up on the ladder. Another OY.
Eventually it all gets done. Lights all working, flickering sequences adjusted to where I like them...looking unbelievably fantastic. I'm so excited it's done to the perfection I want. And now for the unveiling of this incredible undertaking that I call my masterpiece. I step back into the street so I can take it all in and........Check it out.......

                                   Pretty frickin' impressive...dontcha think?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Country Strong

How does a Jewish chick from NY end up at a country western club, dancing the two-step? In my wildest dreams, I never imagined I would be amongst the cowboy boot wearing, ten gallon hat toting, down home country western crowd. But there I was. And I have to admit...I quite enjoyed it.

There was a time, [actually that time was my entire life], that I couldn't stand country music. Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, (ok...that's about all I know as far as singers go), with those twangy, annoying sounds emanating from their vocal cords was enough to drive me out of my mind. If ever that music came on the immediately was turned off. Not that it ever came on the radio intentionally...only if I was traveling to other parts of the country and it transitioned onto the station I had been bopping out to. I couldn't listen long enough to hear their tragic life stories that were the lyrics to their songs. Being so sheltered in my upper middle class neighborhood where I grew up, the only thing I knew from country was Hee Haw. And the only reason I knew about Hee Haw was because I would click past it on Sunday nights. Seeing Minnie Pearl in her gingham dresses, her hats with the price tag, and that god awful “how-deeee”, was enough to turn me off for 40+ years.

I could not relate to anything they would say or sing or wear; especially what they would wear. Those clothes...geez...who dresses like that? The frills, the aprons, the tight plaid shirts that were 2 sizes too small. And that hair. They had to have air pumps inside their bouffant to keep it up so high and wide. I much teasing could that have possibly taken to get their hair to have the volume of a hot air balloon? Can you imagine combing that out at night? I guess really all they had to do was remove it from their heads and set it on their styrofoam mannequin. 

When my girls were younger, and I 'believed' I had a little more parental control, I would forbid that music in my house or in my car. I would make them listen with headphones, behind closed doors, with the volume way down. I didn't want one decibel floating down the hall into my inner ear.

But when they went away to college, and I did quite a lot more traveling in my car to visit them, I slowly allowed a country radio station to permeate the air waves in my vehicle. The first time I had no choice because it was all I could find on the radio when I had forgotten to bring my CD’s. And when one of the girls would be driving with me, I succumbed to her wishes. They seemed to have that power over me for some reason. The first few times I would try to tune it out. I don't want to say it was like nails on a chalkboard; however, it was just short of mental torture. But as time went on, I found myself less and less anxious while it was playing. I think what really turned me around, was going to see ‘Country Strong’, the movie. It wasn’t actually the music that I started liking, but one of the leads was just a tad good-looking and when he sang, you could melt.

After downloading all his songs from the movie and listening to them incessantly, the music kinda grew on me. And the more I drove up north through cattle country, the more I listened to Country. It’s nothing like what it was back when I was a kid. I think there was only one kind back then (horrible). But now it seems there are different genres. I guess the one I kind of like is Country-Pop.

My daughter’s birthday was last week and she wanted to go to the Cowboy Palace Saloon with all her friends, to dance. To LINE dance.  And she asked me to go, too. Well…having taken Zumba for a couple of months, I figured, no problema! If I can somewhat move in Zumba, of course I could pick up line dancing and the two step and whatever other dances they do. Right? HA! Who was I kidding? It’s amazing how you can fool yourself into thinking you know how to do something and then realize how absolutely inept you really are. Those people had some real talent. What I couldn’t figure out is how they knew what dance to do when the band didn’t announce the dance. Do certain songs automatically go with certain dances? I’m still baffled. But I was so impressed. (Doesn’t take much).

And what an experience the whole night was. Forget about the dancing part…but walking into the place…it felt like I was on a whole different planet. I was in a world I had never entered before. I was in……..The Hee Haw Zone. Yee haaa. There were more false eyelashes, plaid shirts and boobs popping out then I had ever seen in one place. And as soon as we walked in, everyone turned and stared at us as we walked to our table. I’m sure it had nothing to do with us looking totally out of our element. I felt like the kids in ‘Animal House’ when they walked into the bar to see Otis Day and the Knights.

As we got settled in, the kids started dancing and picked up the moves immediately. When Waylon Jennings and Buck Owens asked me to dance, I graciously declined, but I did go out on the dance floor a few times, and believe me, it wasn’t pretty. If you’ve ever watched or experienced country western dancing, you will know that there are dances where they partner up and move in a circle around the circumference of the dance floor. And it’s a steady flow; everyone moving in sync with one another.

Well…not when I was on the dance floor. I slowed down just a little, trying to get into the rhythm of the song and trying to figure out the dance steps and…BOOM.  A five couple pile up behind me. A domino by one, crashing into me. I decided it would be best for me to move into the inner circle where I didn’t have to move in step with anyone else.

But you know what was so incredible at that club? Everyone was so genuinely nice. It was like no other bar I had ever been in. Somewhere else, if you accidentally bumped into someone, they would give you a look or say something derogatory, but there…they were just good ol’ folk. No one made us feel out of place. No one snickered when I looked like a complete fool on the dance floor. And everyone, including the women, was more than happy to help us learn the dances. I really had entered the Hee Haw Zone. And although I never thought I would admit this to anyone…gosh darn it, I’m a country girl. I think my next vacation might just have to be to Dollywood!

And you know what’s frightening…I recognize songs now on the radio. And you know what else…I know the words. And lastly…I would like everyone to start calling me…Jaime Lou

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tunnel Vision

I don't know if you've ever had the pleasure of an MRI, but for those of you who have, you may understand the fear I go through every time I have one. Especially if you are claustrophobic.

Last week I was going in for two on each shoulder. And that was just the beginning of my upcoming scans of various body parts. Being claustrophobic, I opted to be anesthetized. was actually not an option, it was a desperate plea to put me somewhere in between euphoria and complete oblivion. And the more drugs the better, but usually some heavy duty valium would suffice. Every so often they gave me an I.V. of whatever it was; but whatever it was...for the one second before I went into la la was like the greatest.

I didn't need the anesthesia just for my fear of closed spaces, but knowing that I had to lie still for 20+ minutes per shoulder, would send my body into complete itch mode. I rarely have an itch. But knowing that I have to be immobile for any length of brain decides to fool me into thinking every body part needs a little bit of scratching. And not only in the reachable areas, but in the middle of my back where no human arm could possibly get to. Maybe if I was an orangutan or a spider monkey, but since my arms are just a touch shorter, and my shoulder pain inhibits the radial reach...the middle of my back is in the outer limits. So therefore...bring on the drugs.

I should have known early that morning that the day was not going to go too smoothly. The imaging center was sending a car to pick me up, since no one could get away from work to give me a ride. The fact that they forgot about me and their car service never showed up, was an indication of things to come. Fortunately, my daughter was still home, so she ended up taking me. When I got there, they were so apologetic that they gave me a gift card to a local restaurant. Now THAT'S class. How often do you find someone in the medical field understanding that your time is just as important as theirs? I was quite impressed.

When I arrived, like always, I filled out that 800 page history of my entire life, even though I had just been there 6 months ago, and did it back then. I don't think my grandmother passing away 20 years ago has had any changes since then, unless she was resurrected. I've had no reversible surgeries in the last 6 months; my tonsils have not grown back, cysts that burst back in the 80’s, well...they still burst back then. So why I had to fill out this gigunda questionnaire again is beyond my comprehension. But hey, I just follow the rules.

They brought me into the back to get into the very fashionable gown that makes you feel like a toddler just learning to tie a bow. Why can't they just use snaps? Those are easy to deal with; definitely easier than a tie. It’s really quite difficult trying to tie a bow behind your back. And you wouldn't feel like a fool worried that your tushy may be sticking out the opening. Or at least put 5 ties on there instead of just the two...since the bottom one does absolutely nothing. They may as well just ask me to walk around naked, or in a sandwich board with big letters written across “CHECK OUT THE BUTT BEHIND ME.”

I was then taken into the anesthesiologist’s office so he could ask me if it was ok to have an I.V. instead of just the Valium pills. It would be quicker for sedation since we were running late because they neglected to pick me up. Well...duh...bring it on Doc. In could up the dosage if you really want it even faster. Except...I would really love to enjoy it so could you inject it a little slower so I can get like 10 seconds of euphoria before conking out?

They started the I.V. and la dee da; there I went into a little bit of heaven. I remember chatting up a storm for a few seconds and then the technician asked me what kind of music I wanted to hear with the headphones (to drown out the sonic boom sounds of the MRI machine that makes you feel like there's a jackhammer in your head). I responded with "My daughter recently got me into country let's go with that." Huh? Did I just say country music? Are you f**king kidding me? I never listen to country...I used to ban it from playing in my house and car. But there it was...coming through the headphones straight into my cochlea. I listened to it all through the first MRI of my right shoulder. [I don't really remember but I'm assuming.] When they pulled me out of the tunnel, like I was human drawer, I said, "Did I ask you to play country music?" "Yes, you did." "Well...PLEASE GET IT OFF! Put on anything else...but no more country."

After a few minutes of them making sure the pictures were clear from the right shoulder, it was time for the left one. I was feeling good but I wasn't as foggy as I had been at the beginning, but still ok to go back into the miniscule hole of hell. I almost asked for more drugs because I didn't want it wearing off in the middle and my worst fear coming to fruition...being stuck in the coffin like machine looking up at the ceiling only 2 inches from my face. I kept drifting off becoming lucid every few minutes when all of a sudden...BOOM.

What the F***? Everything shut more noise, no more lights, no more pounding, no more nothing. Not one sound. ‘Am I dreaming? Am I that drugged up that this could be all in my head or some practical joke?’ Panic was setting in quickly...I mean really quickly. That was a claustrophobe's worst nightmare and who else would it happen to? Suddenly...3 people came charging into the room, yelling to me "Don't worry...we're gonna get you out as fast as we can. Don't panic." Well...too late for that. That would have been 5 seconds ago. It took all three of them as they struggled to pull the table out from the tunnel since it usually slides out at the push of a button. And it wasn't an easy feat, but they did it. The high winds had blown out a power line. Really? Today? Of all days?

I sat there in the dark for what seemed like hours, but probably was only about 2 minutes. "Did you happen to finish the pictures?" "No...We still have about 10 minutes more to go. Can you handle it or did you want to come back another time?" Come back? Are you out of your frickin' mind? I don't think so. "No...I'm good. Let's finish it." Yeah...sure I was good. About as good as I would be if I stuck a fork in my eye.

Once the power came back on, into the mausoleum I went. I was still pretty doped up so back into la la land for a few more minutes, and then it was over. They got me up and off I went to get my clothes on. The driver was there waiting to take me home. We had about a 10 minute ride home on the freeway but because of the winds, there were power lines down, and tree branches all over the lanes, slowing down the traffic. We sat there for quite a while inching along, at a speed of about 5 miles per hour, when all of a sudden…