Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bad news: It's a terrifying disorder. Good news: It's got a name.

     Last Monday, I thought I was going to die in the lobby of the Blue Springs, Missouri, La Quinta Inn. I'm not being dramatic here. I seriously thought I was going to die. Like, the end...finis...that's all folks! I had just sat down to breakfast with my husband and, before I could take one bite of food or drink, I started to choke. My throat completely closed up and I could not get any air in through my mouth or my nose. This went on for over a minute (which seemed like five) until I finally started gasping for air, just as I started to faint. The thing is, this had happened before - five or six times a year for, say, the past fifteen years - but never that bad and never for that long. I decided to see a specialist. Near death experiences will do that. I explained the situation to my ENT and, after a few tests, he offered the diagnosis: Laryngeal spasm, a relatively rare disorder in which, for reasons unknown, the larynx spasms shut without warning. (It's been described as a charlie horse in the throat). Most cases strike people with GERD. Mine is probably caused by post-nasal drip (now there's a sexy diagnosis: "not tonight, honey, I have post-nasal drip").  It turns out that mucous thickens as you age and certain environmental factors - air-conditioning, antihistamines and inadequate water intake - can make it thicker.  The doctor assured me you can't die from this. "You might pass out, but that would immediately open the larynx....so find someplace to sit down next time, just in case." He taught me ways to relax my throat and offered ideas for preventing another attack.
     It's amazing how learning the name for what you have and realizing it's really a "thing" can drastically reduce your anxiety level. I'd been a total wreck all week, reliving the trauma over and over, being hyper-aware of my post-nasal situation at all times. It's still scary, but information is power and I now feel like I can deal.
    Here's the lesson: Don't wait until you think you're dying to see a doctor for something that's clearly abnormal. The older we get, the more dangerous denial becomes.
   Take care of yourselves, friends.  (I'm getting a massage this afternoon!)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

RIP, Maya Angelou.

London. The early years.
Since Ms. Angelou's death yesterday, I've been trying to decide which one of her many quotes was my favorite. Impossible to decide, but I share this one with my single daughter a lot: "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." Here's a fitting verse, too.

In memoriam:

Phenomenal Woman
BY MAYA ANGELOU

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Letting off (a lot of) steam

All I wanted was a seam ripper and hem tape. Yesterday, I decided to let out that hem of my new dress myself. (See post below.) After all, my mother sent me to sewing class for the entire summer of '68.  I used to make my own dresses and scooter skirts. With zippers, mind you! I could, at least, let out a hem in time for the wedding tomorrow. Well, it turned out that the only fabric store was having a huge Memorial Day sale...fabrics marked down by 40%, notions 50% off or BOGO! I wasn't a bit tempted UNTIL I saw this little baby - a professional steamer at 25% off - and there was only one left!
My new BF posing in front of my now-obsolete built-in ironing station.
I've always wanted a professional steamer (versus an amateur steamer... I take my wrinkles very seriously) but I never felt I had the space for it. Nevertheless, I picked that puppy off the shelf, brought it home, filled it up and have, literally, been steaming ever since. God help me, I CAN'T STOP! By the time we leave for the wedding tomorrow, everything in my closet will be wrinkle-free. My dress may not be hemmed, but that linen will be smooooooth!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

J.Jill, you're getting to be a habit with me.

I have a wedding to go to this Sunday at 5 p.m. "What to wear? What to wear?" I thought, panicked by the reality of a closet void of nice frocks between formal and casual. Then, I found this little linen number at J. Jill....
which I loved so much, I bought at FULL PRICE. Unheard of, friends!  The only problem is the hem is slightly above the knee and I want it at the length seen above. Now, the quest for a late-notice, quick-turnaround alterations person begins or I will be left to my own devices with a needle and thread. On the other hand, I will know all of 7 people at the wedding, so I might just risk it and show a little more knee.  Dimples are in this year, right?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Professional couch potato: My true calling?

This morning, I spent two hours working as an extra in a commercial for AMC Theatres. All I had to do was sit in a movie theatre recliner and do nothing. (Sadly, they wouldn't let us eat the popcorn they gave us as props.)  The upside was, I met a couple of fun young women sitting next to me, one of whom is represented by my agency. She asked if I had gotten any bookings yet and I said, "Yes, a TV commercial." "Have you seen it yet?" she asked, excitedly. "It's not airing in my market," I replied. "I'll bet it's on YouTube," she said, as if to add, "Like, duh!" Sure enough, it is on YouTube. And, sure enough, there I am, sitting on a sofa doing nothing. It's not quite the sexy acting career I imagined for myself in my youth but, for doing what I normally do at home anyway, it's a pretty good gig.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Two more getting ready to fly....

My happiest days are the days after a party. The house is sparkling clean, the yard has never looked better, and the hosts are still tired enough to justify doing nothing all day.
Morning after nap.
Today is one of those days, yet the feeling is bittersweet. Yesterday, we hosted a party for my nephew who graduated law school. For three years, he's been parking in our driveway to walk to class (my proudest accomplishment was backing into his car only once) and sharing countless meals at our house. He moves to Denver on Thursday for a great job that's been waiting for him for months.
Grad party festive.
His younger brother graduated last week and is moving soon to Chicago to pursue a career in music engineering. My poor sister is about to take a double whammy right to the heartstrings.
The graduates watching the baby owl. Can you tell which is the musician and which is the lawyer?
Serendipitously, baby owl number 2 or 3 (we're not sure) made an prolonged appearance outside of the nest so that everyone in the clan could see it. The hubs made sure of that...
Who owns four pairs of binoculars, I ask you. Who? Whoooo?
We're expecting those babies to fly any day now, maybe even this week. The metaphor keeps giving and giving...

Friday, May 16, 2014

Commercial break workout

I look at a lot of exercise videos online, bookmarking them for future use to supplement my routine of swimming and intermittent, when-I-feel-like-it gym-going. Rarely, do I actually view them more than twice. I don't know why, but a lot of it has to do with the person working out on the video. Some of them can be off-puttingly peppy or just downright weird.  Case in point....

When the FitWeek folks sent me the video below, I gave it a look and was pretty impressed. I found Shana to be enthusiastic in a non-exhausting way and the exercises were easily doable, especially during commercial breaks of, say, "The Chew," my daytime TV guilty pleasure. And, even if our tank top days are long gone, who among us wouldn't love to have upper arms that don't wave back?
I



Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Our Smart Phones, Ourselves

Ever since giving up our land line, I've realized the importance of my iPhone.  Leave it in the car? Miss a call from my mother. "I never know whether you got my call or not," she worries. Leave it upstairs in my office? Miss a text from my son. "Happy Mother's Day, Mommy Dearest! When can we chat?" It's almost gotten to the point where I'm considering wearing a fanny pack to always have it on me. Emphasis on almost. Not the best look for me.
Then, last week, my Facebook account got hacked. Argh! The angst! The agony! Changing passwords, alerting friends who had alerted me, changing passwords again after notifying Facebook.... It was beyond the pits. I've been determined ever since to get more secure online, and especially on my phone. These tips from the AARP are very timely.  Taking the steps they suggest can be a pain in the butt, but mild in comparison to the pain of an all-out identity theft.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Baby owl drama

I didn't see the owls - mother or baby - all day yesterday. A giant thunderstorm swept through the night before and I feared the worst. The hubs came home from work at his normal time. "Any sight of them?" "No. I'm worried about little Bear," I said. (I never should have named the baby after my son. I'm a sentimental boob.) My spouse took a quick survey of the backyard, looking up at all the regular places. No owls. Then, he took the dog for a walk. At cocktail hour, he ventured back outside (he's a sentimental boob, too... a boob with a beer) and called me from the yard. The mama owl was perched on the railing of our backdoor neighbors' deck. "What the heck is she looking at?" we wondered.  Twenty minutes later, this photo appeared on my neighbor's Facebook page...
The caption read "Owlet stuck in my back porch. Now what?" I sent her a link to a local wildlife rescue organization and worried about what the poor little thing would eat until they got there.  I feared the mother had already lost one of her young and was probably sick with worry - like me. After dinner, we saw my backdoor neighbor and the other young mom on the block outside, covered in blankets and sipping wine. They had put their human children to bed in time to witness the mama owl free the baby, lead it all the way around the house on the ground and climb together, back up the towering tree. Today, all is well in Wild Kingdom. For now.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mint lassi

My mint is running rampant, so I Google'd "mint smoothie with yogurt" and found this recipe for a mint lassi.  I used Greek yogurt, substituted sugar-free coconut syrup and added a scoop of protein powder and...voila!... my first lassi! Who knew?!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day metaphor

The timing couldn't have been more perfect. Just as I was starting to feel the first pangs of sadness because my son isn't home for Mother's Day this year, my husband came running in from the yard, breathless and wide-eyed like a 7-year-old kid: "Come outside! The baby's out of the nest!"
One of our owlets getting ready to fly.
I followed my husband out to the porch and there he was (or, maybe it's a she, but I'm going with male to make the story better) watching us watch him. "And he shall be called Bear the Owl," I proclaimed, invoking the nickname of our son in Brooklyn. It won't be long before this one leaves the nest, too, but that's just how life goes, I guess.  Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. It's an all-consuming, bittersweet love. But, there's nothing like it.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Owlet watch!

Today, I will reap one of the benefits of early retirement - or, at least, stay-at-home part-time employment - as I monitor the exciting activity in our old, dead tree. We have babies! Two owlets, at least. (It appears the endless and noisy mating ritual has paid off.) I took this picture last evening when we realized we finally were with owlets and confirmed that the nest was in our old, dead locust tree. (Good thing we cancelled the tree removal.)
The baby is hardly visible, but it's there on the left side where we had a huge limb removed last year. The face is white and the eyes look like two pieces of charcoal.
Post feeding at the nest.
This morning, I watched the mother or father (not sure) hunt and feed for two cycles before I had to go inside to get dressed for an appointment.
Flying off to find more food.
I could be entertained like this indefinitely. Nature. Ain't it grand?!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Don't be silly, get the Tilley!

My early Mother's Day gift to myself.
You would think that a woman at risk for skin cancer would have a wardrobe of hats. But, not if that woman has the head the size of a bowling ball. I've been trying to find a flattering but enormous sun hat for years, but every cheap one that I bought just seemed to shrink around my skull....or maybe I bought them too small in the first place and hoped they would stretch. Finally, I decided to spend some money and get a Tilley, the hat my big-headed father always preferred. The cute "little" chapeau arrived today and I literally jumped up and down when I put it on. I love it so much, I think I have to buy another! Mother's Day is coming, after all!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Johnny Weir tops off the Derby

I knew nothing about this year's Kentucky Derby field. But, that didn't stop me from celebrating in traditional style, mint juleps and all. It's a family tradition, albeit one that makes no sense since we're not horse people, except for an aunt who raised cattle but showed hackney ponies. Let's face it, bourbon and hats are the main draw.  That said, I applaud NBC for injecting Johnny's brilliance into the proceedings this year. It made the event so much more of an event!
He said he picked Danza to win because "hold me closer, Tony Danza."
How I would love it if he could appear and commentate at all major sporting events from now on - the Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, NBA championship, Final Four. Heck, I'd like to see him do a cameo on Mad Men tonight, just to watch Don's expression.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Pastitsio with Pomi

I've watched a lot of TV this week. Illness and unseasonably icky weather will do that. Cooking shows continue to be my favorites and I've grown fond of The Chew.  I like the personalities on the show and the recipes all seem doable, even this one which I intend to try tonight, albeit with gluten-free pasta. The pastitsio recipe calls for chopped tomatoes, so I shelled out a little more money for what my Santa Fe cooking teacher called the best tomatoes you can use when you can't have fresh. Who knew? I found them at Wal-Mart, of all places, at about 2.75 a box....
although I've just read that Trader Joe's carries their own label of the same product at a lower price. I will investigate this today and report back.

Boomer Girl Review: Ultimate Oriole Feeder

I've still got a way to go before I'm feeding pigeons on the steps of St. Paul's (which I never thought was a bad thing to do ...