Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Thoughts as 2008 fades away . . .

As this year's last Alberta Clipper thrashes through town today, it seems to be blowing stale, bad vibes out with it. Where I grew up in Northern Illinois, it would have brought stinging snow/ice and bitterly cold temps, but it's not that cold here today. The clouds are blowing through so quickly, the sun has no trouble warming things up. Every year is filled with beginnings and endings -- 2008 was no exception. We mourned the loss of family members and friends. And we celebrated the births of new lives. On the other hand, the wars continue; leaving all of us to question why so many lives -- on all sides -- are being sacrificed and for what. The world economy took a scarey nose-dive leaving everyone wondering how and when it will recover. On January 20th a job that I cannot imagine anyone with half a brain would choose will be turned over to a man who is making history. A man who must feel compelled to serve; who is willing to put himself out there because he believes in his mission and his ability to fulfill it. He and the team with whom he is surrounding himself will be under a critical microscope as never before. However, their success does not rest solely in their own hands. Every American has a stake and role in re-constituting our caring, principled society. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights have been battered and our business practices are disgraceful. Naivete and apathy are no longer excuses. We, The People are accountable for the state of the Union. We, The People must be able to trust the leaders we choose. We, The People need to unite behind new leadership and get our shit together, dammit!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Just for fun . . .

1,000 Words

On Christmas Day, the Washington Post published an AP photo taken at a Christmas party in Port-au-Prince, Haiti at the Presidential Palace. The two young girls pictured were dressed in Santa-themed hats and pinafores over what were likely their Sunday best dresses. Neither child smiled. Both seemed wary and anxious. Their shoulders were hunched. One of them had raised eyebrows as if she was hopeful, but her arms were crossed defensively across her chest. The other girl, lips slightly parted, looked as if she was ready to turn and run at the slighest provocation. merry christmas. . .

Monday, December 29, 2008

Desperation or weird fantasy?

A magazine ad caught my eye. It pictures a pretty woman in a sexy black bra over which, in white type, appears the words "President-elect Barak Obama. . ." This seemed a bit odd, so I read the entire block of black-bra-verbage to learn that it was an advertisement for a plastic surgery outfit. The essence of the ad is that Barack Obama is bringing needed change to America so, even though the economy is in shambles, Americans still can enjoy amazing plastic surgery transformations -- financing available. Monthly payments might be a good idea. If, once the swelling goes down and the bruises fade, one is not satisfied with one's transformation, just quit paying for it! What are they gonna do -- stuff the fat back in or undo the tuck?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

What is it?

. . . runners among the stars?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Oops!

Spouse helped with laundry today, so it's not totally my fault, right?
We always wash new clothes before wearing them. I received a cozy, wine plaid flannel nightgown for Christmas, so in with the darks it went.
Unnoticed by me, all of spouse's light gray sweats, a favorite knit shirt and a pair of his tighty-whities went in as well. I thought he'd be howling angry at pink sweats, bright pink undies and pink strips on his formerly blue and white striped shirt, but no! We both guffawed about it and hope a color safe bleach will reverse our mistake.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas c. 1963

When school let out for the Christmas break [we were allowed to call it that back then] we kids rolled into our house eagerly anticipating what was to come in the following days and weeks. We usually started our Christmas shopping then, walking into town with allowances and a little extra provided by Mom and Dad to buy gifts for everyone. Baking and decorating cookies of several sorts then began in earnest. If time allowed, we'd make ornaments for the tree and to give to friends. Being naturally greedy kids, waiting for Christmas morning was nearly unbearable. Some of our friends' families opened gifts Christmas Eve -- but not ours! Sleep came only after hours of fidgeting and restless minds spinning with imagination. Often before the crack of dawn, I'd hear one of my two brothers tip-toe down the stairs from their bedrooms in the attic to retrieve their stockings. "Santa" left them outside our bedroom doors in hopes of having a little more time in the morning to drink the first of several cups of coffee and prepare a special breakfast. Patty and I shared a bedroom and squabbled about how long one was allowed to stand on the register on a cold winter's morning. Flannel nightgowns billowed with warm air as we took turns. Of course we'd have already dragged in our stockings, stifling their bells so that Mom and Dad wouldn't hear. Usually, each contained a Chapstick, orange, apple, candy cane, mini packet of Kleenex, a pad of paper, pencils, a magazine and other, age-appropriate trinkets. The aroma of frying bacon and coffee wafted up to our bedrooms and we knew it was almost time to go downstairs. It also meant that it was time to get dressed. No one was allowed to eat breakfast in night clothes, even on Christmas morning. Hungry as we were, it was hard to focus on breakfast knowing there were wrapped treasures within mere yards. But Mom insisted that we clean our plates. She knew we would have no interest in lunch after opening our presents. I still don't like scrambled eggs, but managed to choke them down with the help of a homemade sweet roll, bacon, juice and hot chocolate. Keeping us waiting for what seemed like days while Mom put the breakfast dishes in the sink, Dad lined us up by age, then slowly and ceremoniously lead us into the living room. In addition to dozens of candy canes, the tree seemed to have taken on extra sparkle. He didn't wear a costume, but Dad became Santa, doling out gifts -- one at a time -- to each family member. Only when all had opened, admired and thanked for their gifts did another round get distributed. TORTURE!!! When this ritual was finished, all gift wrap worth re-using (recycling wasn't a common habit back then) was carefully folded, along with gift boxes, some of which showed up year after year. Ribbons and bows that were not being worn on various body parts were trashed. Then and only then, it was time for serious play. Exhausted parents hugged on the sofa and drank another cup of coffee while we kids played with our new treasures. Looking back on many Christmas mornings, I remember the tired yet contented looks on Mom's and Dad's faces. Some years were lean, but they always managed to get each of us the one, special gift that we just had to have! They went without so their kids could feel special. Just over a week ago, I drove Mom to the airport to begin three weeks visiting three of my sibs in the Midwest. Driving through the parking garage at National, I realized that this year, for the first time in my life, Mom would not be celebrating with me. I'm happy for her and my sibs that they "get her" for Christmas for the first time in years, but I'm feeling a little lonely at the idea of Christmas without her. Have to remember that she'll be back in January. Tomorrow, spouse and I will spend time and enjoy supper with Janet and her clan in Southern Maryland. Eight-year-old Alex decorated the tree and is exceedingly proud of it. Must remember to stifle any giggles when I see it. Ben, Julia and nearly 0ne-year-old Lily are driving down from New York to join us, so it will be a special day. Hope you create and enjoy sweet memories with your own families and friends. Merry Christmas y'all!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Epitome of Arrogance

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is either delusional or incredibly canny. Either way, in my opinion, he's a total screw-up and major-league schmuck. It hurts me to have to say that because I was born and raised in Illinois. At a relatively early age, I knew that the first Mayor Richard Daly was a manipulative, cantankerous boss of Chicago who used any means necessary to get what he wanted. An incredibly brave journalist by the name of Mike Royko was probably on the top of Daly's hit list for reporting on his "under-the-table" dealings. Nevertheless, the city seemed to "work" under Daly's iron-fisted, convoluted, political machine. Rod Blagojevich ran for governor -- I believe -- not to lead and build on the state's strengths, but to fill his pockets and those of his family and friends. Of course this is nothing new in politics. Power often corrupts even the most well-intended people. It would have been one thing if Blagojevich had started out honest. He didn't. His bold, continuing deceit and conceit are beyond explanation. His own, taped conversations trying to sell President-elect Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder seem not to matter to Blagojevich. Is it possible that, given Illinois' embarrassing gubernatorial history, he still thinks he can get away with this?

Monday, December 22, 2008

You thought you'd seen it all?!

Making a last minute, quick stop at Staples, I nearly ran into a new display. It was DVD movies selling for $4.99. Now we all know, you can't buy a DVD for that little, so I had to ask about them. Turns out they are disposable! Once the seal is broken, the active side turns black within 48 hours making the disc unusable. Cue the theme from "Mission Impossible." Remember how the instruction audio tapes self-destructed (smoke and all) once it was played by the secret agent? I'm assuming there's no smoke when these things self-destruct. Isn't our society disposable-crazy enough? What is the logic behind yet one more throw-away?!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Freebies Not to be Missed

I wonder how many of us take advantage of the free concerts every evening at the Kennedy Center. I hope it's not just tourists. The Millennium Stage hosts a wide variety of performances every evening that are also broadcast live on the internet at 6 p.m. EST. So . . . if you cannot get there in person, log on to www.kennedy-center.org/millennium and enjoy some good music during supper. It's way better than listening to disheartening news on the boob-tube and, with performances ranging from Bluegrass to hand bell choirs, so there's something to please every taste. Disclaimer: No, I do not work for the KenCen. I just like what it offers to D.C.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Took this one while my P.C. was in the I.C.U. Don't know the date, but hope you're not too tired of all my sunset shots. I'm constantly amazed by the colors and variety!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

P.C. Withdrawal

Since last Thursday, I have been without email, blogging, word processing -- the whole shebang! My computer had two nasty viruses that necessitated professional help. I just brought "Dell-a" home today! She has a new hard drive, so I have to reinstall everything. Thankfully, the guys at Staples were able to save all my data and pictures, so if and when I figure out how to put them onto the new hard drive, I'll be back in business. It was shocking how out-of-the-loop I felt. As with a microwave oven, I had put off buying a home computer believing I could live quite nicely without one. HA!! I admit to needing a P.C. fix almost every day! Nevertheless, I'm still fighting the inevitability of owning a cell-phone. After Mom's "nightmare before Christmas" flight to Chicago yesterday -- without her cell-phone -- it looks like my time to buy one may come sooner rather than later. I so look forward to checking up on my blog buddies but felt it was important to let you all know where I've been. I've missed you!

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Mother and Son Reunion

This is the second in an unknown number of rememberances from my nephew's stints at Children's Hospital. It's been eight years since his last surgery but to me it still seems like yesterday. Having no children myself, I never dreamed I would be spending so much time at CNMC. The nurses there will always have a special spot in my heart. No one in our family expected the newest son/brother/grandson/nephew to have any problems. Every baby born in our extended family had been fine. The shock upon learning of his numerous problems started us all on rounds of fervent prayers. Friends who belong to prayer chains also joined the vigil to support Alex, his family and doctors. Within days of her release from the hospital, Mom drove Janet to Children's Hospital. I met them there. Janet was bent forward in an effort to accommodate the staples in her tender belly. Riding the moving ramp up to the main floor from the garage, Mom and I worried about her being able to walk the distance to the NICU. She clearly was sore, but nothing was going to stop her from getting to her baby. The first few times I saw Alex in the NICU, I hadn't really noticed so many tiny and very sick babies in their own isolettes. This time, I felt like an intruder walking past family members in various stages of worry and hope. Janet was single-minded and shed just a few tears upon seeing and touching her cherished little boy. The sympathetic nurse who was caring for Alex soon had Janet seated in a comfy rocker and Alex in her arms. Mothers must have instincts beyond common knowledge -- she knew right away how to handle him and all his attachments! Also, for the first time, Alex opened his eyes. He recognized his mother's scent, voice or just her being there. That's when I lost it. It was also the first time I really felt hopeful that he would come through this terrible time. Observing my sister's extraordinary strength for the next three months and how Alex reacted to it is something I will never forget. I could fill an entire gratitude journal with the people and events surrounding Alex's recovery! CNMC nurses became part of our family during his two stays in the hospital. Their practical, professional approach to caring for sick babies gave me hope that Alex's situation wasn't as dire as I feared. The value of their gentle yet strong support of babies and families cannot be overstated. Doctors and other professionals came in and out of the scene and, of course, played important roles in his healing. Still, it was the nurses who helped to sustain hope. Perhaps their most valuable contribution is in encouraging and guiding parents to care for their own babies. For example: having a father change his preemie's diaper makes him feel less helpless and more pro-active. I do believe babies sense and benefit from a positive atmosphere. CNMC is simply filled with loving, skilled professionals who care for the most vulnerable among us. It truly is a gift to our region.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

5:09 this evening

Children's Hospital Odyssey -- Episode I

Being a long-time member of DINK (double income no kids) society, I never gave much thought to Children's Hospital. We had no kids and siblings who did lived miles away. HA! I hope that my family's story will inspire more DINKs to donate to this extraordinary institution. You just never know. . . .
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
In May of 2000, my youngest sister, Janet who lives 60+ miles from D.C., gave birth to her second son. It was immediately apparent that he had serious, life-threatening problems. His esophagus was attached by a fistula to his windpipe, making swallowing and breathing extremely difficult. In every other way, Alex looked like a healthy infant.
Minutes after his birth, he was ambulanced to Children's, leaving his mother, father and big brother miles behind. Janet told me later that she hadn't even had a chance to touch him. As she recovered from a C-section and Dad took care of big brother and the home-front, Auntie Peg (me) was designated Alex's official visitor.
As thrilled as I was about my new godson's birth, I wasn't sure I was ready to see him in the hospital. Eager anticipation turned to anxiety as I entered the hospital's garage. Clearing security, now wearing a fluorescent green badge bearing the iconic CNMC Teddy bear, I headed for the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). It took a few minutes to get clearance into the NICU inasmuch as I was not a parent. The first thing every visitor had to do was roll up her sleeves, remove jewelry and scrub her hands and forearms. I almost felt like a surgeon wielding the brush I'd always seen TV docs use. Having accomplished the several-minutes-washing-ritual, I pushed the button to open the door into the NICU proper. I was soon greeted by a smiling nurse who led me to Alex. The only way to describe his accommodation is as a clear plastic tub, lined with a thin mattress and cozy blankets. Above is a unit that contains a heating element and lights. Behind the baby's head are all the nozzles and apparatus one sees in an adult patient's hospital room. Wearing a receiving gown, his knees supported by a folded towel lay Alex. A huge tube ran out of his nose and he was out cold. Wires came out of his gown, but I really didn't want to know what they were. I stood and stared at his expressionless face and small body for quite a while. Some of his blonde hair had been shaved for a now removed I.V. line. A nurse caught me weeping and walked over to reassure me that Alex was doing fine. Ya, right! She said it was OK to touch him, but I was afraid to. After she left, I saw that his hands and feet were blue with cold. Aha -- my mission became clear!! The whole time I quietly sang to Alex and warmed his feet and hands, I don't think he was aware of anything around him. He never opened his eyes, moved or made a sound. Monitors assured me that his heart was beating and that he was breathing, but that was it. When I left after what seemed like only minutes, Alex's tiny hands and feet were pink and warm. I was comforted to know that I was able of help him at all. I reported this feat to Janet after I got home. She seemed pleased but I could hear her longing to get to her baby as soon as possible. Next episode: Janet's first visit with her new son. Please read more about Children's by clicking on this link Children's National Medical Center - Washington, DC . Feel free to make a donation, too. They never turn away a sick child for lack of insurance thanks to donations like ours.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Things I already miss about Summer. . .

. . . a cold beer on a hot evening . . . thousands of cicadas looking for love . . . the gentle tickle of a bee's wings flying near my leg . . . Cubs baseball . . . damp nighttime aromas of boxwood and distant flowers . . . salty-sweet smell of spouse's head . . . impromptu picnics at Hains Point . . . going outside to warm up when the AC is too much . . . silent, flickering lightning bugs . . . more daylight!