Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Times Are A-Changin'

My mother hates January.  To her it's a gloomy month after the festiveness of December.  There's often the threat of snow, which makes her mood even darker.  She's normally a very staid and stable person emotionally, but a weatherman's prediction of freezing precipitation is the one thing certain to change that.  (Well, that and the appearance of a mouse.  Housewives in 1950s Tom & Jerry cartoons have nothing on my mother in terms of hysterical reactions to rodents.)  I, on the other hand, love January.  I always have this huge list of resolutions and I always go into the new year confident that this is the year I get it together.  The house will be constantly clean and organized, I will slip into those size 8 pants I haven't worn since my daughter was born, I will deal with my children with Carol Brady's calm and cheerfulness.  I'm always so damn optimistic on New Year's Eve and it carries into January.  Yes, by the end of the month my resolutions are pretty much shot, but on December 31 and most of the following month I'm certain this will be my year.

On this December 31 I do indeed have a list of goals for the year, but unlike past ones it's much smaller, much more reasonable, and (dare I say) doable.  Many of them focus on process, rather than result.  Let's get control of the overly unenthusiastic eating and if those pants fit by the end of the year, bonus time!  Let's work methodically on decluttering this house, a small chunk at a time, and if it all gets done by the end of the year, bonus time!  You get the idea.  This also applies to my goals for writing and organizing and exercising.

I'm not sure why I made the shift this year.  I think it's partly due to that damn shoulder injury from February.  It will be 11 months tomorrow since I took the fall heard round the world.  Thanks to the cursed frozen shoulder that developed, I'm still trying to get full range of motion back.  The ring and pinky fingers on my left hand still tingle or hurt or are numb (they rotate through the symptoms in the course of a week or so and start from the beginning).  The pinky also doesn't work too well, so forgive any typos I miss involving keys like a, q, or z.  Or if I SUDDENLY BREAK INTO ALL CAPS, you can blame the fact that I hit the caps lock instead of shift...again.  Don't get me wrong, I'm seriously grateful to have this much function back.  When that arm was just dangling and completely useless and I couldn't even wiggle my fingers, I would have been thrilled to be in the position I am now.  If it doesn't get any better than this I'll be fine.  (And I really do wonder if I did permanent nerve damage that will leave my fingers feeling funky for the rest of my life.)  It's just that the injury, coming so early in the year and screwing up so much of my functionality as a human being, totally consumed my year.  Way too many hours were spent in physical therapy and doing home exercises and stretching with that dreaded pulley and taking magnesium baths.  All my goals went bye-bye and by December I was just happy the arm worked well enough for me to put up the Christmas decorations.

The other blow this year was dealt to my beloved dog, Frank.  Just after school started in August he was diagnosed with lymphoma.  Now, Frank is an old dog.  He showed up in the neighborhood 10-1/2 years ago and at that time the vet thought he was around two years old.  For his size and breed(s), he's past his life expectancy.  He's had a very happy, healthy life.  And I'm so, so, SO not ready to lose him.  He could be 20 and I'd still be lamenting the fact that he's sick.  After a couple thousand dollars worth of tests, they decided the best course of action was an oral chemo med and Prednisone.  He's been taking that for about three months now and he's doing very well.  He has no side effects, other than increased thirst and appetite.  The former results in a few too many doggy accidents in the house, but he's an old man and you can't be mad at him for a little incontinence.  The latter makes him, for the first time in his life, a tad food aggressive.  Our other dog, Jimmi, is typical hound dog, i.e. always prowling for edibles.  She's used to bossing him around and stealing munchies out from under his nose and pushing him out of the way to be the first in line for treats.  Frank is no longer accepting of that.  I had to whack them both in the head with a bag of garbage when they got into it right at my feet over a few stray pieces of kibble near his bowl.  All I heard was growling and all I saw were flashing teeth and since I already had that Glad bag in my hand...

Frank also can't see worth a darn and his hearing is almost entirely gone.  On a daily basis I approach him as he's staring out the window, talking loudly the whole time, only to have him jump out of his skin when he feels my touch, so startled is he that there was anyone behind him.  On an afternoon walk a couple weeks ago he got in his greeting stance when he spotted a couple dogs in the yard we were passing.  He looked genuinely perplexed at their lack of friendliness.  Hard to make him understand they were Christmas lawn decorations.  He frequently stares out the window barking at nothing.  Last week he was barking nonstop and I found him sitting on the steps barking into the air.  I mentioned it to my husband who said, "Oh, yeah.  I've seen him do that when he gets tired.  He sits on the step and can look out the window by the door and bark."

Frank in his youth.
It's inevitable I'll lose Frank this year.  If you find me writing a post about him 365 days from  now, no one will be more shocked than his mommy.  He's old, he's got a terminal disease.  We might have lost him in 2014 with or without cancer.  That doesn't make it less painful.  That dog adores me in a way no other dog ever has.  I've always felt that he knew I was the one who saved him and he's always been slobberingly grateful.  He's loyal and sweet and good with the kids and kind to the cats.  And when he goes it'll break my heart.  And I know it's coming.

So, I have my list of things I hope to accomplish in 2014.  A year from now I'd like to see them all checked off as done.  On the other hand, if the house is still a little messy, my pants are a couple sizes bigger than I'd like, and the only writing I've done is the occasional blog post, but many hours were spent on dog walks, van rides, McDonald's hamburgers, and cuddle time, I'll call it a successful year.

Hoping 2014 brings you all your heart's desires.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

It's Not Kitty Carryall, But...

I have been coveting my daughter's American Girl doll.  Not the doll itself but the fact that there exists a 70s doll with such groovy accessories that I drool each time a catalog arrives.  My daughter has the 1930s Kit doll and Kanani, the doll of the year from Hawaii she picked out on our trip to the American Girl Store in Chicago.  They both sit on her dresser shelf.  I mean, they just sit there, gathering dust.  I thought that was a shame when I could easily change Kanani's name to Marcia Brady.  My daughter suddenly decided she liked her dolls when I showed a keen interest in one of them.  I had my mother sew a fab dress for "Marcia" from the material of one of Foghorn's toddler dresses (a gaudy flowered pattern Carol Brady would be proud of) and left the newly attired doll on the shelf.  It was less than an hour before Foghorn appeared downstairs, eyes full of fire and demanding to know what this was doing on Kanani.  I said, "Her name's not Kanani.  It's Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!  And she's mine."  That dress was whipped off so fast it was just a psychedelic blur and my hopes of taking over her doll were dashed.

I don't really want the 70s American Girl Doll.  I can think of lots of better things to do with $100.  I do, however, desperately want those accessories.  How I long to have that little record player and tape recorder and bed with the beads hanging around it and the tiny plastic terrarium.  If I can't live in the real Brady Bunch house, I want it in miniature.  Well, my yearning apparently was heard by Santa because on Christmas Eve my sister presented me with this little beauty:

She's an American Girl-sized knockoff from JoAnn's.  She has the long 70s hair and it's reddish, which I much prefer to the genuine blonde Julie doll.  The outfit was crocheted by my sister from a vintage pattern meant for a Barbie-sized doll.  This means my sister did math to adjust the pattern to fit my new toy.  You have to understand, my sister is a complete loss with numbers.  On several occasions she's attempted to open the wrong hotel room door because she got confused about the number to her own.  It's a kind of numerical dyslexia.  She also can't add or subtract easily, as evidenced by the befuddled look on her face when trying to calculate the tip on a restaurant bill.  Very similar to the expression I saw on a chimpanzee with a Rubic's Cube on Nova.  Anyway, she successfully redid the outfit and I'm only minorly miffed about the yarn.  No, I'm not bothered by the colors.  They are just, just...groovy.  My umbrage comes from where she acquired it.

Who wouldn't love these?
Every fall we celebrate Aunt Nancy Day (or now known as Uncle Chester Day).  In 2012 my mother and I took her to lunch and an excursion to the James Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio.  As an extra little gift, I knit her a collection of dishcloths in the 70s avocado and tangerine colors that she loves loathes so much.  Yes, the gift was designed to make her scream and writhe in pain.  I thought about writing a blog post on "101 Ways to Torture Your 70s-Hating Sister" and this would have been in the top ten.  They were handmade, so her conscience wouldn't let her just throw them away.  They were, to her, too ugly to use.  So, they sat...for over a year...untouched and unloved.  Until she got the last minute, bright idea of the faux American Girl doll and quickly unraveled all my hard work to make my doll's dress.  I must say, though, the outfit is just...just...groovy.  Then again, so were the dishcloths.

The most obvious choice for a name for my doll would have been Marcia, of course, but some reason that didn't seem to fit.  I bounced around various other Brady Bunch or Partridge Family character names, but nothing was quite right.  She needed a hippy-sounding name.  The Mark Lindsay song "Arizona" kept going through my mind.  My sister asked about the name of the runaway in the Patridge Family episode where they sing "Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque," but it was something ordinary like Maggie.  Then I thought of David Cassidy singing "Echo Valley 26809" (with a brief flashback to the concert where he almost took my cellphone for the spoken portion of the song, but some other bimbo shoved her phone right under his nose while he was reaching for mine and ruined the whole thing...not that I'm bitter).   Foghorn is furious, but I think the name Echo totally suits this doll.  My daughter, may I mention, also hauled my doll around all Christmas Eve at her grandmother's, insisting it was hers.  Fat chance.  And I want my flower power dress back from Kanani.

Echo got her first accessory the day after Christmas when I sat down with Foghorn and her awesome Shrinky Dinks jewelry set full of yellow smiley faces and peace symbols and flowers.  I made my new best friend a necklace which says it all.