Monday, December 31, 2018

It's Almost Over

A few hours until 2019. One more posting day for Holidailies. Soon the (mostly) bendable posable collection of Christmas figures will be packed away. The leaf for the dining room table (expanded for the puzzle) will be returned to its tucked in position. I've already stuck the unsent holiday cards in the closet. I sent 94 and got 50 according to my records. I will be tossing some I received in the trash or recycling. I'll save a few beauties to put out again next year. The tiny tree and its tiny ornaments and tiny fake packages will be packed away. Ditto the Nutcracker figures.
Will I ever drag this stuff out again? One doesn't know what will happen in the next 300 plus days.

I got up on this last day of 2018 and drank a bunch of coffee. I had to fool around with the satellite TV box because it had crashed or something. It finally came back to life. It hadn't recorded a Showtime show we wanted to watch completely so I spent a few minutes figuring out how to get Showtime on the Roku. Technology overwhelms me these days! Yes, I was 'in the business.' But I've been retired for 16 years. We watched the show we wanted to see which aired yesterday and I worked the NY Times puzzles. FFP sauteed some chicken and we made chicken tacos. I tidied up a little in the kitchen. I took pictures of all the Christmas decor. It's funny how many pictures we take now that it's digital. And how many are on our phones these days.

I made a card for my tennis buddy who will be 88 years old this week. Yep. Eight-eight. I need to do something for her birthday. Think I'll take some bagels to the courts on Thursday. I usually organize a luncheon. I've been too lazy to do it this year. If I were going to make a resolution this year, it would be that I wouldn't take anything too seriously. It's all motion. Goals realized are not much more important at the end of the day than goals abandoned. Clean things get dirty. Things break and wear out. We pass, too.

Tonight we will have dinner and get home hours before the new year. We will probably doze in our chairs reading all those 'year-in-review' lists in the papers. Tomorrow I'll check in with the blog. Holidailies will end. And, maybe my blogging will end for now. Or forever.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Going Through the Motions

There is something about this holiday gap between Christmas and the New Year that always makes me feel lost. On Christmas Day, I drank two Bloody Marys. Started drinking early, too. I actually don't think I had another drink, but one can't be sure this many days later.

Anyway, I feel lost. Yesterday, I went through my regular routine. I was up a little late (7:30). I had coffee and did the puzzles in The New York Times. (It was Saturday and I conquered them all so that took a while.) I turned the TV on because it's cold outside and I use it to warm up the room. Haven't had the heat on all winter! Put it on BBC News. I read the rest of the Arts section that I found interesting and then almost finished looking at yesterday's papers, save the front page of the NY Times. I got interested in a couple of stories in it and have yet to finish.

We walked across the footbridge to Trader Joe's because I wanted salad for lunch. (I'd already had a taco that FFP got from the Farmer's Market Taco Deli stand.) I didn't have any 'green stuff.' We get a mixture of kale, spinach, and chard called Power to the Greens. Came home with a Fuji apple, a birthday card for my nephew-in-law, some cheese sticks that I'm going to add to the appetizer plate for tonight, a fake chicken in orange sauce frozen thing FFP wanted to try, chicken tenders (actual chicken) for a dish he's going to make tomorrow night, a small baguette, a microwavable Indian Tikka veggie thing I wanted to try, some olive tapenade (for the apps for last night) and five Lemon Luna bars (why five I don't know, FFP added to cart). And, of course, the greens. The total was only $24.94. The bill always seems cheap at Trader Joe's!

I made a salad. The greens, some chopped apple, some broccoli, some raisins, some carrots, shredded cheese, green onions, and Greek Feta dressing. I read a little bit of today's The Wall Street Journal while eating. I put away the food I'd drug out.

Then I sat at my computer. Pondering cash flow to pay my bills, my 'to do' lists and where we stood after the wild week on Wall Street.

I decided I deserved to sit in my chair and read, perhaps to doze.

Around 4p.m. I put together some appetizers for the event last night. I ended up with a lot of choices for what to include and how to combine it. Some endive topped with olive tapenade or Boursin cheese, some celery with pimento cheese, little toasts with paté and a sliver of gherkin, and zucchini topped with Boursin. Something like that. Challenge was figuring out how to get them in something we could walk across the lake on foot with. I managed it and we made it there. We had dinner with food brought by the other couples (much tastier and better thought out), drank wine, watched a show of singers giving tribute to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong backed by a number of musicians from the local scene plus a bunch of the Austin Symphony.

Today was cold and rainy. I got out for my lunch with some girlfriends. We chattered about growing old and our various challenges. I ate fried avocado eggs benedict. Which somehow sounded better than it was. I didn't do anything constructive all day. FFP wanted to go out to the restaurant down the street (Fixe Southern House) for dinner. I had a couple of Manhattans with some gumbo and fried chicken and kale salad.

Sloth isn't becoming, but I do it so well. I would make resolutions to do better in 2019, but why? I wouldn't keep them. If I need resolutions, I only need to look back.

Saturday, December 29, 2018


On Christmas Eve we scheduled a meal with a friend in the evening. I'd been suffering from allergies and I hadn't put it on the calendar but, in the back of my mind, I knew that Albert & Gage would perform at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar at noon. (This is an event with sale booths showing art and gifts, booze for sale and bands performing constantly.) We decided to go. That's fun to just do something impulsively even though the timing has been in your head all season. We've gone to hear this band at this time for several years. An impulsive tradition?

What if I didn't have a schedule? What if I didn't invite people over or agree to go to events or buy tickets or make dates for meals? When I see a blank day on the calendar, I breathe a sigh of relief. I see myself getting things done. I see myself getting organized. I see myself getting rid of magazines and newspapers because I've read them.

Yesterday wasn't blank. We had a lunch date. Also appearing on the calendar was a haircut. Not for me, but for the husband. It was on our calendar. He also put a sticky note on the back of our door where he'd see it when he got his coffee and oatmeal. Because it was at 9a.m. and he didn't want to forget it if he got up a little late and didn't look at the calendar! We also tentatively decided to go shopping after lunch for the ingredients for apps for an event we were invited to tomorrow. (And accepted, obviously.) It's one of those musical events with bistro seating where people can bring food and buy booze. The music is that of Ella and Louis. (If you have to ask, you aren't a jazz fan.) We did go in the afternoon to Whole Foods. Bought endive, zucchini, smoked gouda pimento cheese, country paté, nice olives, and little crispy toasts from which, adding some crackers and Bousin style cheese and maybe some salami that we have on hand will make some random apps to take to the party tonight.

Not having any commitments? What would that look like? Of course, there are always things hanging over my head on the real calendar or the one in my head. Tax duties, make quarterly payment, pay bills. What if someone else did that for me?

Most days I keep to a bit of a routine in the morning. I get up, make coffee, check our computers, extract the Arts section from The New York Times, look at Facebook memories, try to work the puzzles in the Times, all while watching CNBC if it's a day the stock markets are open. If there's time, I read the articles that interest me in the Arts section. (Or sections on Friday.) A twist on Sundays is that the puzzles are in the Times Magazine so I make a couple of copies of the page with the Ken-Ken and crossword so that FFP (the husband) can read the magazine when he gets up if he likes. If it's a tennis day, I don't always get the puzzles done before time to drive to the tennis courts.

I guess these routines give a hint to how I would spend the day if I didn't schedule things and if, by some magic, someone else completely took care of my bills and taxes and such. Maybe I'd do more than work puzzles, play tennis, read. Maybe I'd take even more random serendipitous walks. (We do that a lot now, but I've been staying inside a lot due to allergies and such.) Maybe I'd get back to doing some gym time.  Maybe I'd write. Not just blog but write short stories, essays, and books. Maybe I'd take up computer programming again. Maybe I'd learn Python and advanced WEB development.

Fact is: I could do any or all of the things on my calendar and fulfill my (admittedly not so difficult) duties to finances and bill paying and also add the writing, learning, more walking, more reading and exercise I talk about.

Just got to start on it. Once I start something, I almost never finish! But I do make progress.

Yesterday, I did read. I did carefully go over some tax stuff I have to deal with immediately at the new year. (Info for forms the CPA will do for mortgages we own and Quickbooks copies for her for our business and its tax forms for income, Federal Unemployment and such.) I watched mindless British crime drama. I watched a couple of Jeopardy episodes. And news.

So just start doing those other things. The ones that aren't scheduled and that involve learning and creating and exercise and not taxes and accounting (and housekeeping!).

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Last Haircut

This tree has a weird assortment of stuff on it. It was in a shop on 2nd Street methinks.

My apartment is still decorated. After all, we have one and only one guest during this time period and she is coming tonight. We are watching 'Giant' and eating barbacoa tacos and drinking bourbon. Well, maybe wine.

Anyway, I'm going to shower shortly and go get my last haircut from Jane the Barber who has been cutting my hair for twenty-five years or so. She is retiring. Which is only fitting since she's a couple of years older than I am. I will find a new person to cut my hair. Hopefully, I will find a closer place. Maybe one that I can walk to. Jane was only about a mile from my old house. Then she moved further north and I moved downtown. It's now an 8.5-mile car trip. I have gotten appointments at times of the day when the traffic wouldn't be too bad, but closer would be better. I'm considering a friend who is a stylist and is 3.5 miles away. But there are walkable barber shops and stylists downtown. I can walk to my dentist. I can walk to doctors and clinics (although I never go to doctors if I can help it). I have to drive a few miles to the Optometry place I go to once a year. But it's only about four miles away. Is my world getting smaller? Yep. I hate to drive places. I do drive myself about five miles (each way) to play tennis. We make bigger car trips, of course, and even road trips, but in the husband's car and with him driving usually.

I quit typing here and went about my life.

Yep. I have a short haircut. The last one from Jane the Barber. I'm not much on style and grooming. I like my wash and go haircut although I've always liked it in between the cut she gives (too short on top) and the shaggy, in-need-of-a-haircut mess I usually have before I get another. Sigh.

I didn't post this yesterday. We tidied the apartment in a desultory way. We had our friend over to watch 'Giant' and eat tacos. (We included barbacoa as a choice as I said above. Does anyone know the movie?) We drank some wine she brought. I was in bed earlier than usual and now I'm up a little earlier than usual. I woke up worrying about my end of the year obligations to the tax man. And, also, for some reason what those giant, fat disks with movies on them were called. The ones as big as an LP but thicker. Laser disks, it came to me later. Oh, the failed technology. (And, why was I thinking about that?)

And so it goes. As my dad used to say: "There's always something to take the joy out of life."

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Boxing Day

I guess I should box up these guys and send them back to storage. That's not what boxing day is all about. And I'm also not doing that yet. We haven't had a single person over while the decorations have been out. We have one friend coming over tomorrow. I'm going to leave it all up so someone sees it in person (and not just my friends in cyberspace).

A bit of depression has set in. Boxing day is about giving to the less fortunate? Or the elites casting stuff off to their workers? Well, I'm definitely very lucky. We can weather the stock market faltering. We have some income, no debt. But we've already given (or at least placed on credit cards) our giving for the year. (And to continue to not have debt I have to pay those off shortly.) It's not the stock market's decline or the state of the world that gets to me. It's just all these ridiculous tax forms and such. And, oh, by the way, be sure to send in your quarterly payment to the IRS by January 15. Are those guys even there to acknowledge it? I usually do it online and presume that will work.

My annual meet-up with girlfriends has been thrown into disarray. The organizer can't make it. This is the frequent status of this particular get-together. Oh. Well. Finally, it's moved to Sunday at a new venue, but one we've been to as a group many times.

We are going to a Boxing Day party tonight. It is a great group of people, young and old. Many talented creative types. At the home of a stellar cook with a master chef son-in-law. That will be fun.

I need to do some tidying and cleaning before the friend comes over tomorrow night. I'm just going to hit the high points and hide the mess. I have all this time, but how do I spend it? Reading. Mostly papers. (Although I'm quite a way through a small book I bought myself for Christmas.) We also listened to a lot of music yesterday. And drank Bloody Marys. Leading to a nap or two, maybe. We watched a bunch of Brit Crime drama, too.

I'm just rambling today. I'm going to keep doing that. Today. Maybe past the Holidailies end. (January 1.) It's helpful, somehow. I've also been reading other people's entries. I used to really rely on that. But now there is also Facebook to allow you to see other people's travels, troubles, etc.

I failed to post this before the day was out. I had to shower. I had to go to a party. There was quite an impressive thunderstorm (although we missed the worst of it going and coming to the party). The party was great. Good food. Booze. Multiple generations of friends.

Spent the rest of the evening watching Brit Crime and getting alerts about lightning on my phone. Which I really didn't need because I could see and hear a lot of the storm. Fell asleep with my book with the rain still coming down. It was an unusual storm for winter.

So I'll post this. Maybe I'll do a few more of these before Holidailies is over. Will I reach beyond that? Maybe not. There are all those tax forms....

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

All is Merry and Calm

We are here, surrounded by books and Christmas figures. Since early this morning we've been listening to Christmas jazz on radio stations over the Internet. I've finished numerous cups of coffee. I put up the last cards we got before Christmas and checked my database. I sent 94 cards and received 45. (From people. I don't count businesses and non-profits.) Didn't send to all families I received from. Didn't receive from all I sent (obviously). I've read a bunch of today's newspapers. And prior days, too.

I didn't buy a single gift save bottles of wine taken to hosts of parties. Unless you count the books I 'let' my husband (FFP) buy. (I also got a couple in this exchange. And I bought myself a French page a day calendar from Amazon.) I used to buy scores of gifts, from the ridiculous to the (maybe) sublime. And wrap or package them. I miss it a little. But not much. I got a couple of packages from my niece in Colorado. One had gourmet cheese, crackers, and sausage. One had a puzzle and some homemade macaroons. (My favorite cookie.) She said she got the puzzle secondhand although it was still shrink wrapped. (I like that. My family has, in the past, had secondhand or homemade Christmas. It was fun.)

We've had a relaxing day. I worked puzzles in the papers. We ate brunch: banana 'pancakes' (they are actually just bananas and eggs mixed up and grilled) with maple syrup, chicken sausage, and Bloody Marys. I didn't fall asleep after the alcohol but FFP did.

All day I checked my phone for text messages or Facebook and lots of other people marking the holiday with current or vintage pictures of Christmas celebrations. My niece sent texts of pictures of her boys and their gift exchange.

I can already feel the month-end, quarter-end and year-end tasks hanging low over my head. Taxes make this time of year have a bit of a cloud.

We have a few more holiday events. A Boxing Day party tomorrow. We are having a friend who has never seen the movie 'Giant' over on Thursday to watch it and it's iconic Christmas scene. I'm meeting girlfriends for our annual holiday get-together this Friday. On Saturday we are going to a Holiday Pops concert. New Year's Eve is an early dinner at a club with a couple of girlfriends then home to avoid late revelers.

And so it goes. I try to enjoy the time to read and think. But things hang over my head. Must do a bit of straightening and dusting and vacuuming before having that friend over, too.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Am I Better Now?

Remnants of a bendy Santa. Weirdly, I couldn't find the rest of him!

Every day seems to be something. That something for the last several days has been allergies. I already complained about that the last time I appeared on the 'almost but not quite daily' postings. I am almost fully recovered from injuring my foot/ankle in a bizarre deal where I was trying to walk off a foot that had fallen asleep and my ankle turned extremely. I barely feel it now except when I would push off on it or stop running and plant it in tennis. Not playing tennis for a bit because of the holidays. Walking isn't a bother, but I haven't been going outside because of the pollen. I'm a mess. I think I feel better today. I'm going to try to walk across Lady Bird Lake to the Palmer Events Center and see a band we like at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar (Albert and Gage). And later we are going to go to Trader Joe's (it's only about 100 yards away) and get some fruit and such to have tomorrow when things are closed. Tonight we are going to an interior Mexican restaurant we've been going to for many years for Christmas Eve dinner. I'll have some tamales! Maybe some Molé Enchiladas with Cheese. A Margarita. The allergies have made my appetite a little wonky. Maybe I feel better because all that sounds good even though I'm not hungry.

Well, we will see how I do outside with the pollen.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

I Wasn't Here Yesterday

Strange things kept me from the keyboard. Oh, nothing like the scene played out above. No, an attack by the scourge of Austin...Cedar Fever. Actually, caused by a reaction to the Ashe Juniper Tree, sometimes called the Mountain Juniper. A wet fall, a strong wind. I got outside to play tennis and walk around and boom. First eyes water, feel a little dizzy. Then drippy nose, fierce headache from congestion. I had two parties to attend yesterday. I made it to one, barely stopping the pain and dripping with diphenhydramine and phenylephrine. Since the other was outside and on the side of town where the trees are and mostly for kids, I skipped it and used cold rags on my aching face where the sinuses were in rebellion. It could be worse. I could have the flu or something.

Now I'll just try to stay inside except for going to parties. I've washed the sheets and clothes I'd worn outside. I haven't done the cleaning up around here I'd hoped for. But is there anything more miserable than sneezing and blowing your nose and not even being able to read or watch TV comfortably because your eyes hurt?

Thursday, December 20, 2018

It's Almost Christmas

I've got all the decorations sitting around. We've gotten thirty-four cards (from families, I don't count ones from charities or businesses). I sent 94. It's a losing game from that point of view.

We have two parties tomorrow. On Saturday a party (albeit an engagement party, it's at a venue that will be decorated to the nines for Christmas) and a show at a club where we'll meet up with some friends. (We've been doing a lot of friend meet-ups and it's been a lot of fun.) On Sunday, another party. One that always has the best entertainment and food. On Christmas Eve we are going to a restaurant we've been going to for forty years with a friend. It's interior Mexican. We'll have some tamales for sure. Christmas Day, we'll probably spend watching videos, reading and eating leftovers. Then there is a Boxing Day (December 26) party. We are having one or two friends over on the 27th for a showing of our favorite movie to watch at Christmas (great Christmas scene in it, too), "Giant." I'll meet up with some long-time girlfriends on the 28th for tea. Then on the 29th, we will go to one of those pop concerts where everyone brings food. Winding up the season, we will take a couple of girlfriends to an early dinner at a downtown club on New Year's Eve and then fall asleep before 2019.

We haven't really gotten each other gifts or gifts for anyone else except the occasional bottle of wine to a host. I did order myself a calendar on Amazon and the husband bought a 2019 datebook at the bookstore when I got a book I wanted.

I would like to be invited to a White Elephant party. I think these are hilarious and fun. Gift-wrapping some stupid (or even nice) thing you don't want and then having an exchange. Does anybody do those things any longer? Well, I miss them.

So the holidays draw to a close. Then it's just tax season and a new year to waste. Sigh.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Perils of Paper

I love my newspapers. I love my books. I love magazines (most especially The New Yorker).

But they get out of control. They threaten. One wonders if there will soon be shoulder-width paths and they'll be collapsing on the bed and invading the ill-used oven. If we'll be found in a sure enough fire hazard.

Today I'm trying to control the papers. At least the ones right next to my chair (all at least two days old). Maybe I'll attack the last couple of days (minus a few sections I've tossed) on the table.
Maybe I'll get to these. They crept into this bin in the last cleanup because there was still something I wanted to read.
When I read the papers, I find books I want to read by reading reviews. Yesterday I bought this one and started reading it instead of finishing even the day's papers. supplanted the book about Edward Lear that I was reading bedside and am getting close to finishing.
Maybe if I get through the papers I can attack the piles of magazines.

It's not like I read every word. Since we get The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the local paper (The Austin American-Statesman), and, from time to time, various give away rags, there is repetition. Sometimes of the exact story when the local paper picks up and truncates the story from the NYT. I glance over the obituaries of the famous in the national papers and the locals (paid for relatives) in the local paper. Did I know them? How old? How did they die? I usually start the day with the Arts Section of the NYT. I try to work the Ken-Ken and crossword. I make a copy on M-W for my husband to try. I usually then read anything in that section that interests me. An art exhibit, film or theater review. A book review. (I really want to read that. Oh. No.) Later I may get to puzzles in the other papers. And the front page stories. I don't read sports. Directly to recycling, thank you. I am interested in tennis, but there is so little about tennis I don't bother to look. Except maybe during Grand Slam events.

Certain sections of the paper tend to suck me into long reads. Sunday NYT's Sunday Review can have one or two fascinating, not-to-be scanned stories. I can dispense with Style sections in a trice, however. I often find things that I want to find online and post on social media so others can see them and discuss them.

When I have these great ideas about cleaning out it usually ends like it did today: ink on my hands, a few sacks for recycling and, no, I'm not caught up. But I love the papers.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Between the Lines

I have a theory about why some of us have pastimes like a sport or hobby or reading habit. Life is chaotic. These things can make our lives seem more predictable and knowable.

When I'm on the tennis court, usually playing doubles, things are organized into two sides of the net, Each is 39x36 feet. The service box is 21 x 13.5 feet. There are rules about where the ball must land. There is containment. The points are counted off. The teams change sides. It's all prescribed and rule-bound although the ways things go are still infinite. It is so much simpler than life.

I like the predictability and yet the surprise. It allows me to step outside a messy life into a merely interesting fake world. It is a form of meditation. Waiting to receive a serve, deciding where to stand, assessing the server's habits, strike the ball. Waiting to serve, everybody ready, decide on a spot in the service box to try for, toss, racket back, strike, move to return. So much and yet so simple.

And then it's over. Back to a messy life after trying to get all the clay off my shoes so I don't track it into the apartment.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Health and Hope, My Medical Nihilism

This is a recent sunrise from our apartment, zoomed in from the balcony to the Rainey Street area. Our views keep getting more and more restricted. So it goes. Things change. But if you live another day you will see the effects of us spinning toward the sun in a daily event we call sunrise but which we all know if just us spinning around old Sol.

I am a medical nihilist. I learned this from one of the last doctors I saw regularly. I was describing how, generally, I felt things would get better on their own or, if not, that the diagnosis and proper and effective treatment was a pipe dream. He said they learned of such patients in medical school and they were called 'medical nihilists.'

I know how this attitude came about.

When I was about ten, scaly red patches that had some 'structure' (seeming to go into layers of the dermis) appeared on my body and scalp. My dad took me to a doctor who correctly diagnosed this as psoriasis. I learned to spell it. I learned that there was really no cure, only treatments. Pine tar baths. UV. I was actually treated to an intense sunlamp in a clinic with the nurses carefully exposing specific areas of skin for timed minutes. If I got one of those beach sunburns that we did in the 1960s, lesions would magically disappear, the only evidence being an unburned circle of skin. (You are thinking skin cancer, I bet. Maybe I have it. Hasn't been diagnosed.) So I had something that wasn't going to kill me but wouldn't go away except when you hurt yourself. I'm 70 and neither disease nor cure has killed me.

When I reached puberty and started having periods I felt the worst most unrelenting pain I'd ever felt. My mother took me to doctors. Not when I was in pain, mind you, that would be gross to visit a doctor while bleeding. The doctors (male and female alike) assured me that it was 'normal' or 'all in my mind.' I remember telling one female doctor that I bought OTC pain meds and abused them by taking lots more than the directions said was safe. That was OK, she said. I suffered monthly. I used heating pads and pain meds. Noone really cared except for my mother and sister. They seemed to feel helpless. After college when I was working I was living temporarily with my parents. One Saturday I got up and was going to Denton to see some friends. (I went to college there.) I felt weird. I wasn't having my period, but I had a little abdominal pain. Not as bad as a period. But I had this weird feeling that something was in my gut tugging on my insides. If I'd been having a period, I'm sure I would have thought nothing of the pain or feeling. My mother worried I had appendicitis when I described the pain on the right side. She drove me to a nearby osteopathic hospital instead of letting me go see my friends. The doctor on duty pressed his fingers into the right side of my abdomen and released quickly. This is apparently a time-honored way to diagnose an infected appendix. It did hurt. Then I think they took blood, saw a high white blood count and took an Xray. After the Xray, the doctor stopped them prepping me and rushed me to an operating room. His distress was apparently palpable because my mother became distressed. I had been given a sedative preparatory to anesthetic and, being very susceptible, was out of it. I believe the surgeon thought my appendix was ruptured. He did an abdominal exploratory and discovered not a rupture but an outsized ovary, an infected appendix and many adhesions attaching to stomach, intestines, abdominal wall, etc. He believed it was endometriosis, a condition where endometrium tissue appears in some other place than the lining of the uterus. But he sent some of the tissue from the removed ovary and adhesions to a lab for testing. My mother was distraught, certain it was cancer. She finally found my dad and he sat up all night with me. It isn't pleasant to have such surgery without advance notice not to eat or drink. But, yes, all my pain in the past? It was real. But it was only diagnosed when my appendix became infected, perhaps incidentally, perhaps because of the monthly internal bleeding and sloughing into my abdomen. It wasn't cancer. At least this was curable (get rid of the misplaced tissue, which the surgeon did amazingly well apparently). But what a way to finally get a diagnosis. I had never heard of the condition. I later learned that it often kills people with bowel obstruction and other things.

Something will kill me. Maybe the flu. Although I get a flu shot these days in spite of my nihilism. I do it for the 'herd' hoping that mine and others vaccinations will save other people. Maybe a heart attack. Maybe a stroke. (My sister had a hemorraghic stroke when she was 55. This is a genetic weakness of a vessel, aneurysm, in the brain that ruptures or leaks. My mother acquired a mysterious convulsive condition at 55 and I wondered if she had an aneurysm that just never burst. I was glad to glide by 55 without either condition.) Maybe I'll get cancer. My dad had prostate cancer. The treatment nearly killed him years later. He was diagnosed in the heydey of the PSA test. They biopsied multiple times to find a small cancerous tumor. Today it might not be treated. The radiation scarred him so that years later he started to bleed to death from it. My mother died from Multiple Myeloma. After a few years of frustrating misdiagnosis and treatment of my mother as a someone who had psychosomatic illnesses (sometimes by the family), she was diagnosed at stage four. I'd never heard of the disease. It finished killing her in three months. She never got to come home from the hospital. At the time this cancer was a certain death sentence, essentially incurable and barely treatable. A forgotten blood cancer. Things have changed some in the last sixteen years, but it's still not pretty. It's hard to see how my mother's 'care' really helped her.

So, yeah, something will kill me. But I mostly eschew drugs and tests and doctors. Oh, I might discover something 'early' and survive instead of succumbing. But really, I am happy to be 70 and not suffering that much. I can still walk good distances. I need to lose weight and exercise more and eat better foods. But you can't really cure old age. I wonder what my end will be like. Through the lens of social media and the experience of close friends and family, I see many endings. Dementia, stroke, heart attack, accident, cancer. One friend has survived Multiple Myeloma for twelve years albeit with all kinds of invasive and debilitating treatments. I have friends with ALS and MS diagnoses. Another friend with a recent Multiple Myeloma diagnosis. I lost count of the people I know who've been treated for breast cancer. My husband had a diagnosis and treatment for a rare cancer, sebaceous cell carcinoma. He was very lucky. was not caught early and rather misdiagnosed for over two years.

I'm sure I'll pay a price for my casual attitude toward the wonders of medicine. I'm not anti-science. All the rest of you should get tested for everything, take statins, etc. etc. (And get a flu shot for heaven's sake.) I'm the control group. Some of us have to get old without all that intervention. My first goal was 70. Now I'm looking at 75, which, really is enough for anyone. I'm just hoping to avoid dementia so I can appreciate my victory!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Enjoying the Holidays

The picture is of our building (with the red and green lights for Christmas) and the new, as yet unoccupied office building across the street. I shot it as we walked through our magical urban neighborhood the other night.

I think I'm enjoying the holidays this year more than any other year. It's calm and very much about doing what we please. I haven't bought and wrapped a single gift. (Money went to my sister and her clan.) I sent 87 holiday cards and have gotten, so far, 20. Most days one or two come, mostly from people I already sent them to. I got one from a friend I met over four decades ago that included a trip report from her visit to my company when we met. She found it while cleaning out her workboxes stored away in a basement. In the report, she mentioned meeting me and my husband (who also worked for the company). What a weird surprise.

We've been going to parties and going out for eats and drinks with people. We've seen a holiday chorale, a musical "Christmas Carol" and "The Nutrcracker." We've gone out to eat and drink, just the two of us. Today we walked to the University of Texas to see a Women's Basketball game.

We've finished our annual puzzle. We are watching cable and Netflix and Amazon Prime shows. It's a delight to sit in the apartment and read.

Best holiday ever.

Saturday, December 15, 2018


There's FFP (the hubby) adding the last pieces to our holiday jigsaw puzzle. We like to work them but we only allow one during the December holiday season. Otherwise, we'd waste too much time on them. When we started this 1000-piece puzzle I wondered if we'd finish before the new year. We invited someone over on the 27th so I wanted it done, admired, deconstructed and perhaps even given away by then.

I find it interesting to observe how people do puzzles. Most people start a jigsaw by finding the edges and assembling them to give everything a frame of reference. We sort pieces by color or shape sometimes. During this puzzle, FFP sorted out the X-shaped pieces at one point. At the end, we just pushed all the remaining pieces around the edge and tried to fit them in.

I had one job where we started putting a jigsaw in the break room. We'd all work on it over lunch or coffee breaks. I found observing my co-workers strategies instructive. I found looking at it for a minute or two would take my mind off some gnarly computer code and help me refocus on that when I went back to my desk. Some manager thought we'd perform better without such distractions and decided we couldn't have a puzzle around! I guess I see the point since I only allow myself one a year but I really doubt it hurt our productivity. Programming work is subtle and often gets done during distractions like showering or driving to work. The kind of chores I do in retirement is more time-sensitive...stuff like dusting, scrubbing the shower, balancing the checkbook, or vacuuming.

I find it amusing to observe myself attacking Suduku or Ken-Ken or crosswords, too.

Here's our finished jigsaw:

We will enjoy looking at it for a day or two and then probably give it away. 

Friday, December 14, 2018

Books, Books Everywhere and No Time to Read!

We have a lot of books. Ten years ago when we moved into the condo we jettisoned a bunch. Boxes full of Kennedy Assassination books and monographs. Stacks of computer books. A couple of bags of books on Bridge. Inevitably, if we become vaguely interested in something, we collect books about it. Sometimes our interest remains and sometimes it doesn't. Often the books stick around. I have quite a collection of Nabokov novels as well as a collection of his lectures, probably some letter collections and his autobiography (Speak, Memory). Also a story collection. I have a shelf full of James Joyce biographies, copies of novels (several of Ulysses), etc. Even our artwork can take on a book theme as seen in the altered books of Lance Letscher. 

All these books and how many have I actually read or consulted? I keep one beside my bed at all times and, usually, finally finish it. My husband reads about four times as many as I do and so there are lots that he has read and talked about and that I want to make time to read.

I think I could become a recluse and never venture out to bookstores or the library or get another newspaper or magazine and could read for years without reading the same thing twice. As it should be, I guess. Never be short of words. I even have old yellowing copies of The New Yorker in my car just in case I ever am caught without words to read. Of course, these days we usually have a gadget that links us to books, news stories and more. 

Even our annual jigsaw puzzle is on theme:

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Retirement Routine

Retirement is 'doing whatever you please,' I suppose, but really every life needs some routines. One of mine (when I'm in town and sometimes when I'm away as well) is to get up every morning and have coffee and work the NY Times crossword. If it is Monday-Wednesday, I copy it first and try to get FFP to play along. If it's Sunday, I copy it a couple of times just so I'll have worksheets and won't interfere with FFP reading the NY Times Magazine where it appears.

I find myself looking forward to getting up at 7ish and doing this coffee and puzzle ritual. I often work other puzzles in other papers. (We get the local rag, The Austin American-Statesman. and The Wall Street Journal.) If it's a weekday, I turn the TV on to CNBC to see how the financial markets are doing. If it's Sunday, I've recently taken to turning on a Sunday morning jazz station. I record CBS Sunday Morning and watch it later.

Another routine I have when in town is to go to my club and play casual tennis on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

A lot of days, after the coffee and the stab at the puzzles (I also do the nearby Ken-Ken puzzles in the Times), my day is shaped by things we've agreed to do: entertainment, meals, events. Sometimes with others, sometimes just us. Sometimes we take a walk and have a meal or snack and see what's happening within the three-mile or so radius that is our limit. But the routines, the things we usually do, give life some shape. Sixteen years after retiring from the life defined by work routines, it gives some comfort.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

My Boycott of Football

A 1950's page from the Sears Catalog.

I was born into a culture of football. Not that my dad had a lot of time to spend thinking about football when I was a kid. (He ran a little farm where we lived and grew a little cotton and corn and had dairy cows and pigs and some beef cattle and, mostly, sheep. He also worked a midnight-8a.m. shift at a VA hospital as an attendant.) But one of my favorite stories he would tell was about he and a buddy who got away to see a University of Texas football game in Austin one day and then drove to College Station for a game that night. I think that's how the story went. It was a big deal to go that far away from our home on the farm. Plus two places? Plus football. When I first heard this story, I had probably not been to any football games except maybe our Junior High or High School ones.

Football was, in my world, the school. In Junior High, we sold booster ribbons to pin on for games to raise money for activities. I worked for the activities director. She supervised the cheerleaders, variety shows and football concessions. (She was also a dynamite history teacher, but that's another story.) Sometimes our Junior High band performed for football. We didn't have uniforms, but we bought some matching sweaters and slacks or something. The band existed for us to learn music, but mostly for pep rallies and football, right? I played in the band in High School. We had actual uniforms (which I loved). We had concerts, yes, but really we existed to support football.

I was a girl, of course. (Although not always happy about it.) I wanted a football and, if I'm honest, a uniform. I finally did get a football. I learned to throw and kick it. And sometimes catch it. I didn't often have a playmate on the farm, though, so I did a lot of kick, retrieve, kick. Football was everywhere even before we had a TV. Real players were boys and men. The main thing about schools was football and football was for males.

In college, I was attracted, let's say, to the counterculture. We sort of ignored football. (It was easier at my college where the team wasn't that great.) Still, football. I began to watch on TV. Got to see a Dallas Cowboys game in person. It's a fun sport to watch even if you aren't allowed to play it.

I watched a lot of football. The man I married liked to watch sports, but not play them. He knew players from decades back for the University of Texas. UT was and is football first, everything else an afterthought. I thought I could detect correctly penalties and bobbled catches. Of course, I usually watched on TV while doing other things during the boring parts.

Then, two years and some months ago, I quit. I refused to read about football, listen to sports news on TV about it, watch it, etc. I would literally turn away from a TV in a bar with football. And that includes the ads, too, because I don't want to hear about products advertised in football spaces.

If you read this far, I'll bet you have questions. Here are some answers.

1. Why?
Because football has become equated with the school. It overshadows everything about the school. Because of CTE. (Someone who played football when I was in high school suffered from it. The sport kills and in a quite unpleasant way.) Because of assualts, crimes and sexual harrassment forgiven because school=football so if you play football you are more important than the victims.
2. But what difference do you make?
None, probably. But I won't be complicit. I grew up in what I know now was a toxic atmosphere that promoted this game as a central element of school and life. A game only played by men and boys. And only the biggest, baddest and toughest. And then: we hurt them in a terrible way sometimes. 
And, I think, one does what one can do to escape things in the culture that are, after all, not all that great. We can and should as individuals reject them. That's how society grows more just and reasonable.
3. How does it feel to withdraw from football?
Like most habits you kick, there is a nice liberated feeling. And, of course, the temptation to just watch a little. Mostly, though, I see the periphery of this major phenomena. People on the street in their team's gear. Sometimes they are drunk. One time in the elevator of our building a rowdy drunk reveling in the victory of  'his' team grabbed my husband's shoulder and injured him. (This has ended his watching of football, too, which has made my boycott easier.) I see pictures of small children and their parents at football games on social media. I think: "What is that little girl thinking? She's wearing a miniature cheerleader's outfit? Does she think that's what she should aspire to? Does she think whatever she does in school will be in service to this game for big, tough boys and men? What is that little boy thinking? He's wearing a miniature jersey? Does he think he should aspire to be on that field and represent the school?" I see how upset people are when the team loses. As if it reflects on them. And I see how defiant and unreasonably elated people are when their team wins. From where I now stand, it all looks pretty silly. But I remember being there and feeling those things. And lingering over a page like that in the Sears catalog.
Isn't it funny that boycott has 'boy' right in it? Although I have just this minute learned that the etymology of the word boycott and it's an eponym!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Many Prompts I Couldn't Follow

I didn't write a blog entry yesterday. I started one. The title was: "Objects of Desire." This was an old topic that I've written about until I seem to have exhausted my enthusiasm for it!

Yesterday I really had no excuse for not writing. I have, after all, made a list of over a hundred topics for my 'by the numbers' memoir. And I never showered or got out of my sweats that I slept in. I didn't leave the apartment. I put a few pieces in the jigsaw. I worked crosswords. My husband made some lunch and dinner. I wrote a few Christmas cards and letters and reviewed my bank accounts and bills. I read some of the three newspapers that arrive every day.

But I just couldn't write a blog entry!

I did get out of my jammy sweats to go out and play tennis today. And I took a shower. And I voted in a runoff election. We walked around taking a few pictures at hotels and other businesses of decorations. (See above.)

I still have lots of topics I want to explore: my boycott of football; the dynamics of keeping up with friends; graffiti; my aches, pains, injuries, and medical nihilism. But not today.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Culture is a Funny Thing

As soon as we start to stumble along on our own we take a look at the people, things, and events around us and adopt some of it as our own. This is me. I'm four or five. Maybe Christmas has just come because I have a toy six-gun and a cowboy hat. Oh, and a doll. The doll is a 'boy' doll in that it was dressed in pants. Already showing my preferences by picking toys, huh? I'm sure I begged for the gun and the hat. The doll was meant to try to interest me in dolls, I think.

We grow up with this set of cultural things associated with our parents' beliefs about religion and life. We see what girls are supposed to do and want. We desire things we see touted to us, by society or marketers. No one is immune. But from a very young age, we may pick and choose and question. We may accept some things only to reason out a rejection later in life. I recently rejected football and years of being caught up in the vast cultural sinkhole that football is in our culture. And. I don't own guns either!

Saturday, December 08, 2018

The Spirit of the Season

Some people are always willing to inject that little bit of fun into things. My mom worked to do it. She cooked, made stockings, decorated, invited people (lots of people) to come to the festivities. But my dad? He just made the fun. He told stories, true or not. Here my dad on the left (RIP) is amusing his brother-in-law, my Uncle E.C. (also RIP) with some story. The gift he has unwrapped is a pack of long matches for lighting the fireplace. Fire-building was his job. My Uncle E.C. loved to tell a story, too. They both enjoyed a bit of the spirits, too. I miss them both.

Friday, December 07, 2018

The Holiday Card Conundrum

Every year I wonder: Should I do holiday cards? What should they look like? Who should I send them to? How many should I order? Should I write a letter.? This year's answers: 

Yes, do a card. See design above. (That's a screenshot from Snapfish of my order. The Paramount Theater provided the photo. And, yes, they really put our names up there to shoot it. The small text says: "And make your New Year theatrical." The template was a Snapfish one so that was my entire contribution after sticking in the picture.) 

I ordered 140 flat cards with blank envelopes. I have written a template letter and, if I feel writing a letter is appropriate for the family or individual, I modify it to personalize it and print it out. So most cards won't have a letter included.

So far I've distributed 46 of the cards. Some I sent after I got a holiday card from someone. Some I sent because I expect to get a card. Some I sent with gift money enclosed.

I have hand-written both addresses and return address. 

I have a database of people's addresses on Access. It has 714 entries. It has many names where I've lost a proper address. I frequently 'scrub' the deceased and handle the couples who have parted ways. There are people in this database who no longer seem familiar to me. And I know a lot of people who aren't in this database that I interact with regularly or am 'friends' on Facebook with. They just never came into the 'snail mail' space although their emails may be in my contacts.

I have written something with a red pen on the back of the flat cards. 

I'll check the mail today and if I get cards from people who haven't been sent one, then I'll respond. 

I have exhausted this topic for yet another year. It makes me tired. I feel like the introvert I am at a cocktail party full of people I know but I don't know what to say to them.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

I Meant to Post Yesterday

I spent a lot of time yesterday in my chair, working puzzles, reading papers and watching the interminable memorial for the 41st President. I saw Jimmy and Rosalyn looking at their watches. I'm a generation younger. I would have needed a bathroom break before the thing started. I have gotten our Christmas tree out. (Normal size ornaments are shown for reference.) I still have a few tiny rubber animals to put on it. Ho. Hum. Or Bah Humbug.

Anyway, I spent time with my injured foot up so that I could walk a mile or so down the trail and go to a joint called Pool Burger near Deep Eddy Pool to celebrate someone's 55th birthday. The burgers were really good. They mixed me a couple of Manhattans. There was a big crowd of a lot of locally-famous people. It was fun. We took a rideshare home street level and I put my foot up and watched episodes of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." What I didn't do was write a daily entry here. So soon to fail.

Off to play tennis on my injured foot again. I was pretty tentative Tuesday. I think it's better but still swollen and bruised. Sigh.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

And So It Begins...The Holiday Puzzle

There are certain things inextricably associated with holidays: food, drink, games, and puzzles. My only disappointment in spending Thanksgiving with relatives was that they spent the afternoon watching football (which I'm boycotting...more on that later) and there were no jigsaw puzzles or games. These things have always been a tradition that delighted me on holidays. So we are starting a thousand piece puzzle, having expanded our dining table to accommodate it on one end.

Monday, December 03, 2018

It's Always Something

Today's picture was taken in the house where I lived from about age 10-18. This was back when we put those silver icicles on the tree by tossing them up in the air and letting them fall. I recognize a couple of ornaments, the plastic angel for one. This tree looks pretty sad given the ones you see today. There are a lot of presents, but I really don't have any idea what year this was or what anyone got wrapped in those boxes.

Today I stood up when my foot was asleep and stepped awkwardly and turned my ankle. I expect to walk and stand a lot this week. I iced it but have some soreness and a bit of a bruised knot. Oh, and I'm supposed to play tennis tomorrow. Ah, well. This should be interesting. I already had a niggling after-effect of allergies.

I did get my Christmas decorations out of storage (but not put up) and I expanded the dining table leaf to accommodate the jigsaw puzzle. So, ready for Christmas season but actually falling apart.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Such an interesting time of the year for children who, like me decades ago, look forward to ripping off that colorful paper and having what the heart desires. Or maybe it would appear, unwrapped under the tree while you slept. These days, for us, there are rarely wrapped presents and no live, lopsided tree. I'm thinking this was at my grandparents' house in McKinney, Texas years ago although I could be wrong.

My husband and I are childless and orphaned (the parents would be 108, 102, 98, and 97 if they hadn't died at 100, 94, 91 and 80). This year we will go to parties, decorate in our own silly way, attend our annual performance of "The Nutcracker" by Ballet Austin, see "A Christmas Carol" at Zach Theater and a Holiday Chorale at The University of Texas.

We will put together a jigsaw puzzle: this year's choice is a 1000 piece image of a bookshelf!

I may make Welsh Rarebit from Fergus Henderson's cookbook, a tradition I tried to start last year after going to two St John restaurants in London in the summer and having it at both. Because: who doesn't like cheesy toast? And this recipe involves Guinness Stout.

 It will be quiet for us on the actual holidays although we may go out for dinner and jazz on Christmas Eve.

It's possible no presents will be wrapped. Or maybe we won't even have presents.

We will probably walk around downtown and the Capitol Grounds and take pictures of decorations in public spaces and shop windows. We will treat ourselves to some movies. We will watch lots of shows and movies on DVD, satellite, Netflix, Prime, etc.

There will be no anticipation or surprises (or disappointments) in gifts. I will trot out my 30-year-old red blazer and consider myself holiday-outfit worthy.

Truly, I enjoy the peaceful times, the days when we haven't scheduled any events and other people are gathering in masses. (Or attending masses: we aren't religious.)

So, have yourself a Merry Whatever.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Holidailies-Repetition Brings Reputation

First, a random Christmasy photo to celebrate the 'season.' (This was taken at an annual charity garage sale here in August at the beginning of November. They had lots of decorations for sale.)

I have written nothing in this space since I completed the last set of Holidailies posts. (This is a portal where people who pledge to write every day from December 1-January 1 post links to their entries.) I wrote about the phrase 'Repetition Brings Reputation' last year about this time as I geared up to write for Holidailies. I won't bore you with that again, but basically, if you want to do something (write) then you need to do lots of it! Right?

I have been considering writing a hypertext memoir. I dream up weird things like this to distract myself from completing anything or really writing. The title of the thing would be 'About 100 Things Concerning About 100 Topics Shaping My Life.' Each paragraph or short vignette would be categorized by one or more of the topics and would allow back and forth navigation between the relevant passages. One could simply read the memoir in a linear order or one could follow threads like 'photos' or 'links' or 'years' or 'beginnings' or 'endings' or 'people' or 'articles of clothing' or 'crosswords' or 'words.' This elaborate project isn't going much of anywhere beyond the 100x100 list which keeps growing. It would be a feat of HTML and thought. And, of course, it will just exist as an imaginary work like several novels and short stories in my head.

I did write one vignette about words the other day (that was also about crosswords): "In today’s (11/26/2018) NYT crossword, there was a clue (amasses?) and the answer was 'hoards' and FFP wanted to put in hordes. (We both do the NYT crossword on M-F by making a copy.) I had thought of using the word horde the other day in describing, I think, a gaggle of my cousin's family who planned to I go out for Mexican food the night before Thanksgiving. (As in 'I think I'll let you and your horde do that and we will have a quiet dinner by ourselves.') This is a most interesting homophone pair. They don't seem to have originated together although one could make a case that they could have. I looked both up in my old American Heritage Dictionary. Something I used to do quite often before the miracle of the Internet. I miss the serendipity of what else happened to be on the page where you were looking.
Horace was an answer in today's NYT puzzle, a Saturday that I couldn't quite finish. It was clued as 'Roman who wrote "Whatever advice you give, be brief!"'

And there's Bob Hope!

Anyway, I'm not good at brevity or getting to a point. But I'll be writing and rambling along for thirty-one more scintillating entries!

Come along. And read better stuff at,

Monday, January 01, 2018

Getting My Affairs in Order

If I have any resolutions (I don't really do them unless I do), it is all about 'getting my affairs in order.' People who are given a fatal diagnosis are often encouraged to do this. But we will all die. And I worry about troubling those I leave behind with pesky details.

I'll probably live another twenty years. (And outlive my money.) But you never know.

When FFP and I were first married, we read an article in a magazine. An elderly man had 'willed' himself to live during his wife's last fatal illness and then lived long enough to see her memorial headstone erected on her grave. I told FFP he needed to do that for me. I'd like to hold him to that only I worry about the things I do in our domestic and financial partnership that I haven't sufficiently explained. I worry about possessions that I'd leave behind that would seem burdensome. I went through first my mother's possessions, then my dad's and then FFP's parents.

We are taking down the Christmas decorations. The ones above are on top of a cabinet that you have to get the ladder out to reach. I haven't done that yet. What will someone make of all those bendies when I'm gone? And even more so, when both of us are gone. I'd like to get a jump on tossing stuff. (Although I think the Christmas 'toys' I put out this year are going to stay until I'm gone.)

I'd also like to feel like FFP could figure out the bills I pay, the WEB space and domains we own, how I organize various things, how I continuously balance our cash accounts, how I account for his Subchapter S business and communicate with the CPA to get all the tax forms done.

I don't know how many times I've started on this task and how many ways I've tried to do it. But maybe 2018 is the year. If I'm lucky.

Speaking of luck I ate black-eyed peas and cornbread and collard greens. We attended two 'good luck' New Year's Day parties. At one they grilled sardines which, I learned, some believe to be a good luck food. Fine by me because I love sardines and these were delicious.

And good luck to all the Holidailies folks out there who've been writing this month. I've enjoyed reading a few. Until next year.