Saturday, July 26, 2008


As I said before, it is our parents who shape us into who we are. Perhaps that is why my sister Carolyn and I are at the extreme opposite end of the pendulum from Mom, when it comes to pain and illness. Right now Carolyn is strapped into a torture machine that forces her new knee to bend, straighten, bend, straighten, at ever increasing angles, for two hours at a stretch. I was sitting here at the computer, visiting with her and trying to distract her as the pain increased. She didn't really need me though, for she came up with her own distraction. She is doing her best immitation of Meg Ryan in the diner scene from "When Harry Met Sally", synchronized to the raising and lowering of her knee, and I have probably left a wet spot in her desk chair, I have laughed so hard at her numerous variations.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


I have always heard that you cannot become a good writer until you are willing to write about the difficult and embarassing parts of your life, too. For me, that would be my parents. Up until now, I have never been willing or able to deal with them. I loved them, and they loved me. There was no doubt in my mind about that. However, they also drove me crazy, and you could never understand who I am today without knowing about them, for they were the force that shaped me. I always thought I would wait until after they were both gone before turning over an honesty leaf, but since there is absolutely no chance that Mom will ever read this blog, and I think I can trust all of you not to intentionally hurt her by sharing any of this with her, I am going to be brave. . .

On our way to Prima Care, Mom changed her mind. She was afraid they wouldn't have the proper equipment to take care of her, and wanted to go to the ER instead. She has been to the ER about a hundred times, and she knows the drill by heart, as do we all. In spite of all that, she has never stopped believing that she is somehow more special than anyone else who might also be waiting there, that everyone would recognize that fact this time, and then they would bend over backwards to accomodate her. She was sadly disappointed yet again. The good news is that, after about 5 hrs.of Mom pitching hissy fits because they weren't taking her right in, and saying nasty things about everyone in the waiting room, in a very loud voice, they finally told us that it was nothing more than a sprain. Boy, was she disappointed.

Unfortunately, Mom loves a sympathetic audience, and with each new person who came up to ask her questions, her story got bigger and better. She is completely unable to discern what is appropos to this specific event, and what is totally unrelated, so she told them everything that's ever happened to her, and made it sound like it was all part of this one falling incident. When they asked if she had any head pain, she said "Yes, I have EXCRUCIATING headaches!" Finally I said "Woah, Mom. Stop a minute! You have to clarify that, and explain that you've had those headaches for years, and not as a result of this fall!" She said "But these are new headaches! They're different!"

As a result, after the doctor explained that the shoulder was no biggey, she continued with "But we are really concerned about why she is still falling and having these headaches, even after they took her off the coumadin, so I'm ordering brain scans, blood work, urine work... She could have bleeding in her brain from the coumadin, or a deadly bladder infection, or.... " And this was at 6:00, when we'd already been there 5 hours and thought we were about to go home. Mom and I both started crying. She, just because she was tired and hungry. Me, because I now had visions of them keeping her overnight, just when I'm supposed to be fetching Carolyn home from the hospital. I finally begged "Couldn't we please go home and have her regular physician run these tests?" The doctor was not happy about this decision, but finally agreed, after making me sign papers saying I am removing her from the hospital against their recommendation, and I have sworn that I would get the testing done elsewhere.

I am probably going to be arrested for elder abuse, but right now, I really don't care! Mom had pitched a fit in the ER about needing to leave because she was diabetic and needed her dinner and her medicine and her shots right this instant!, but then got pissed with me because I wouldn't go out of my way to stop and get her some apricot fried pies on the way home. Also, she asked "Did you write that doctor's name down? I really liked her. She's not like my regular doctor. She paid attention to what I was telling her. I want to come back to her for all my tests." She just doesn't believe me when I tell her that she will have to wait in line with all the peons for another 10 or 12 hours if she does.

P.S. This morning she hasn't mentioned a word about shoulder pain or having a bad night because of it. It's almost as if it never happened. No, now she has zeroed in on something new - the excruciating head pains that the nice ER doctor was so concerned about, and what tragic malady might be causing them!


I am not the least bit concerned about taking care of my sister this week. No, the big problem is going to be Mom. Have you ever heard the fable about the boy who cried wolf? Well, Mom has been "in excruciating pain" every single day of my entire life, for one reason or another. We have absolutely no way to tell now, when it is truly serious, and when it isn't. One thing we know for sure though, is that she is not going to be happy with Carolyn being my primary concern this visit, and is likely to have some kind of "episode" as a result.

My sister was a nervous wreck the night before her surgery, so I took her to dinner and to see Mamma Mia - the perfect antidote. We were both laughing and singing our little hearts out before it was done! The next morning my niece took Carolyn to the hospital, and I was left in charge of Mom, who was in high spirits. She absolutely loves it when I come to town and she has me all to herself, with no one competing for my attention. She convinces me to run fool's errands for her, that my sister would know better than to undertake, and makes me hem and alter all the new clothes she has ordered, that will never get worn because she hardly ever bothers to dress anymore. She was as happy as could be, as long as I was sitting by her elbow, ready to fetch and carry, but when I told her I needed to go to the hospital after dinner, to relieve my niece, things started to go downhill.

The next morning Mom walked in and announced that she had been up all night with excruciating pain in her shoulder. She said it was from a fall she took several days before I arrived, and she didn't know if she had broken it or what. She screamed and cried every time she moved, but when I suggested I call someone else to come take her to the ER, she didn't seem interested. We had a nice morning, she ate lunch, and then seemed to be OK with me going to the hospital afterwards, where they wanted me to observe Carolyn's session with the PT, so I could help her when she got home. I stopped and picked up Mom's favorite guilty splurge for dinner, Long John Silver's, and she was happy as a clam when I got home. She even watched a movie with me afterwards.

This morning I made the mistake of asking if she was feeling better. "No! The pain is 100 times worse! You don't know how close I came to getting you up in the middle of the night, so you could take me to the ER," she replied. I told her that I could call my other sister Kathy, and make her take off work, if she really needed to go today, or we could let Mom's visiting nurse, who comes tomorrow, check her out. If he thinks she needs x-rays, then my niece Steph would be off and free to take her, but that I needed to be available since Carolyn was probably coming home today. She just shrugged. "I guess you don't feel up to getting your hair done then, huh?" I asked her after breakfast. "I suppose I could try," she answered with a sigh. "And maybe you could take me to that Prima Care across the street from it," she said, lighting up. I said yes, I would do that if she wanted me to, but if they kept her waiting a long time, and Carolyn called saying she needed to be picked up, I might have to leave her there and come back for her. She just gave me a fierce scowl. She didn't mention the pain once while at the salon, or while eating lunch at her favorite restaurant, IHOP.

Now we are back at the house, and I have finally talked to Carolyn. It looks like she may not be coming home until tomorrow. Mom's eyes lit up at the news. "I just might get you to take me to Prima Care yet!" I drooped in defeat. "Whatever you want, Mom. It's your call."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I've finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up...a professional art-class-taker! I was flipping through the catalog of classes available out at Laguna Gloria not long ago, and found a listing for a class on travel sketching, something I have been obsessing on ever since I picked up The Art of Travel with a Sketchbook, by Mari Le Glatin Keis. Of course, there is that old phobic thing I have about not being able to draw, and not wanting to look stupid while I learn, but the catalog swore that it wasn't necessary to be an experienced artist to take the class. This one is not about creating a finished piece of work to put on display. It is about discovering another way to keep a travel journal, and even another way to travel. So, I took the leap.

We arrived at 9:00 on Saturday, and after a brief intro, our instructor (Eve Larson) walked us down to the shores of the beautiful lagoon that the villa faces. She gave us a little demo on how to frame a scene with our fingers, do a very quick minimalist sketch in pencil, use our water color pencils to add a few splashes of color, and then add just a few details with pen and ink. After a short while I became so absorbed in what I was doing that I totally lost track of time, and was shocked when she told us it was time to head back. But first, she said, we should look around and pick up a few things - leaves, moss, flowers, whatever - to practice sketching after lunch.

We took an hour break, and most of us gathered in the museum's cafe/gift shop, where we chatted about our various backgrounds and reasons for wanting to take the class. When we returned, Eve gave us another quick demo, this one on doing contour and gesture drawings, which would come in handy when we wanted to add people to our travel sketches. Since most of us would not have the time, skill or even the desire, to do detailed portraits of people whilst traveling, the trick would be to learn how to do lightning-fast sketches that just give the idea of people sitting in cafes , playing in the park or whatever - thus, gesture drawings. We took turns posing on the model stand while the other students sketched us, then spent the rest of the time sketching and coloring the little finds we had brought back from the lagoon. Never has a day gone by so quickly!

On Sunday, our class didn't begin until 1:00. I was dying to practice my sketching, so I headed out early and stopped for lunch at Mama Fu's, a great little Asian bistro at the Southpark Meadows shopping center in S. Austin (I drool at the thought of their sesame encrusted seared Ahi tuna dishes). Since Mama Fu's, along with several other cafes and an Amy's Ice Cream, all back up to a central playground, and each has outdoor dining, I figured it would be the perfect place to practice some people sketching. Unfortunately, I learned an important lesson. Since I had found it difficult to complete my gesture drawings in class, given that each pose only lasted a couple of minutes, imagine trying to sketch kids who never stand still for even 2 seconds. Not ever! Fortunately, the tuna and potstickers alone were worth the trip.

That afternoon Eve gave us a few pointers on perspective (my biggest challenge), then we strolled up to the villa and spent the afternoon sketching architectural details inside. Now I can hardly wait for the fall classes to be posted, so I can decide what I want to enroll in next. I am taking away two very important gifts from this adventure. First, I've finally realized just how silly it was to feel like I needed to be an accomplished artist before I could take an art class. Isn't that what they are for? To learn? Second, and probably even more important, I learned how very critical it is to be cautious when you go about gathering leaves and twigs, otherwise you just might end up with poison ivy in places you can't even talk about. Bummer.

Monday, July 21, 2008


I know just how Napoleon felt, as he headed off to Elba. I'm on my way to Dallas this morning to take care of my mom while my sister is in the hospital having a knee replaced (different sister from last time), and then to take care of both of them for at least a week after Carolyn gets home. It's not that I don't enjoy being with my family, it's just that it's hard being away from home for that long: no swimming in the Blue Hole, no Meeting of the Muses, leaving my right arm behind (my Mac), no herbs to cook with, lots of dead plants when I get back..... I should be able to get on my sister's computer and check messages, maybe even add a few ramblings to the blog, but there will be no accessing my photos or any new finds to write about. Finding comments from you guys will be the highlight of my poor, sad, lonely days (hint, hint, wink, wink), so keep in touch!