It’s a Soap Opera World

November 30, 2007

As I’ve mentioned before, there are only two television shows that I watch regularly. One is House (love that Hugh Laurie). The other is General Hospital. The latter has been a long-term guilty pleasure of mine that goes back to the days of Felicia and Frisco.

You may remember that, in June, I attended a fan event for Bradford Anderson, the actor who plays Damien Spinelli, a/k/a The Jackal – the Assassin of Cyberspace. Spinelli is a quirky computer geek with a penchant for giving people nicknames. For example, he has called Sonny (the mob boss) “Godfather” and “Pacinoesque dude.” Sonny’s Number One henchman, Jason Morgan, is “Stone Cold” (portrayed by Steve Burton.) Spinelli sometimes refers to himself as “Grasshopper, gaining knowledge at the feet of his mentor, “Stone Cold.”

Anyway, what I’m getting at is that I’ll be attending another fan event tomorrow. This one features both Bradford Anderson and Steve Burton, and will be held in New Jersey. I’m going with Allison, a delightful young woman I met at the June event.

I’m pretty excited about this, particularly because Bradford has personally invited me to attend a meeting that will take place after the fan event. The meeting is about a product known as a “wellness elixir.” Monavie is “a blend of nineteen body-beneficial fruits – including the Brazilian acai berry, one of nature’s top superfoods.”

According to Bradford (with whom I have been exchanging emails over the past week), Steve Burton introduced him to Monavie, and “almost the entire cast is on it now, as is the crew, makeup, wardrobe.. practically everybody.” Many of them have reportedly experienced less pain and more energy. Bradford goes on to say, “As well as all of the antioxidants many of the ingredients have anti inflammatory properties as well. Derk Cheetwood (Max), his mother in-law has arthritis in her hands and after a week, noticed a stark difference.”

By the way, Derk Cheetwood will also be in attendance at the Monavie meeting. I just love his character, Max, and look forward to seeing him, along with Steve and Bradford.

I am usually extremely wary of this kind of thing, but, these people are well paid, so I can’t imagine that they’re doing it for the money. Out of curiosity, I emailed Bradford to ask a couple of questions about the product. I was surprised when he responded right away, but even more surprised (actually, astounded is more like it) when he offered to send me a couple of bottles. He wrote, “in case you don’t like it, it’s better if I just give you some!”

I was (and still am) amazed by this offer. And, yes, I took him up on it. Although skeptical, I’m still willing to try almost anything that might cause a decrease in pain and/or an increase in energy. Especially if it doesn’t cost me anything.

Bradford’s last communication with me was a response to my email letting him know that Allison and I would be attending the meeting after the event. Here’s what he had to say: “Hey Steph!” (Notice that he’s now calling me “Steph.” We’re tight like that. Heh.) “YAY!! Oh it’ll be so nice to spend the day with you gals!! The event will be great, and then we’ll have even more time to visit at the meeting. Exciting! Travel safe, see you Saturday!”

What a cool guy.

Song of the Day: It’s a Soap Opera World (a parody of Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World)

I come home from work, turn on the TV

My VCR’s taped my soaps for me.
So, don’t bother me. I’m watching my soaps.

The doors are locked, my phone’s off the hook.
Don’t have time to talk or read a book.
For the next 10 hours I’m watching my soaps.

I see couples in love, having fights and making up
On one show there’s a wedding while a building’s blowing up!
Another has a hunk and babe stranded in Zaire
And serial killers are everywhere!

All that steamy romance sweeps me away
Miracles happen. People get their own way.
And I think to myself, why can’t this be my world?
I wish life could be a soap opera world!

Accentuate the Positive

November 27, 2007

There is hope for all of us. Well, anyway, if you don’t die you live through it, day in, day out. ~Mary Beckett

This morning, I had to live through another appointment with the Independent Medical Examiner. When I got to the office, I ran into a co-worker, who was also there for an Independent Medical Exam. She was in and out before I finished filling out the forms! Honestly, she was in with the doctor for less than five minutes.

I, on the other hand, was with him for a good half hour. During that time, he told me about his Thanksgiving (he went to Plymouth to participate in the National Day of Mourning.) He also talked about fishing (among other things), and showed me photos of his grandchildren. I kid you not.

When I was able to get a word in, I reminded him that he had assured me that he would recommend a bone scan in his last report, but had neglected to do so. He said he would have to look into it, but I doubt that he will. He didn’t take notes, so I can’t imagine that he’ll remember much of anything.

This afternoon, I had to live through a disturbing phone call from Rebecca. Her primary care physician sent her to a hematologist because recent blood work revealed a low platelet count. The hematologist took more blood, and said if the results are the same, it will be necessary for Rebecca to have bone marrow drawn.

Now I get to go back to work and live through Parent/Teacher Conferences from 6:30 to 9:00 pm. Then I get to live through it again on Thursday.

I keep repeating to myself:

All shall be well,
And all shall be well,
And all manner of things shall be well.

~Dame Julian of Norwich, a thirteenth century mystic

Song of the Day: Accentuate the Positive by Johnny Mercer

Thanksgiving Leftovers

November 24, 2007

Wednesday evening, I went down to the basement to get my folding table and chairs, in preparation for the holiday gathering I would be hosting the next day. I looked everywhere, but my search was fruitless. I climbed back upstairs empty handed, scratched my head a bit, and then headed back down to do a more thorough search. Still no table and chairs. Rebecca looked, and so did Daniel.

Finally, panic set in, and I called my sister, Michele. Being the lifesaver that she is, she offered to bring her folding table and chairs over. When she arrived, she said she had a hard time believing that we couldn’t find objects as large as a folding table and chairs, and wanted to have a look herself. Armed with a flashlight, she explored every nook and cranny of my basement. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

Reconciling myself to the fact that my basement had eaten the table and chairs, I went to Overstock dot com and ordered a new set of chairs. (I knew that I would need them in the future, and didn’t want to forget.) After that, my sister and I went shopping with Rebecca. While Rebecca was in the dressing room at Mandees, she got a text message from Leigh inviting her to a party.

Leigh. Party. A light bulb went off in my head.

I took out my cell phone and sent Leigh a text message asking if she had my folding chairs. She texted me back, “I’ll bring them tomorrow.” To say that I was upset is an understatement. With shaking fingers I sent her another text message, describing what I had gone through, including the purchase of another set of chairs. She did not respond.

As soon as I got home, I went on Overstock dot com to cancel the order. It was too late.

Oh well. At least now I won’t have to drag oversized chairs from all over the house to the table when I host future family gatherings.

Thanksgiving Day brought more stress. The 70 degree weather necessitated a change in what I had planned to wear. The only suitable thing I could lay hands on (my lighter clothes had been packed away) was a taffeta dress I had never worn before. (Warning: Do not wear taffeta when you are preparing and/or serving food. The stains don’t come out.) Of course, the dress needed to be ironed. And I had to wear dress shoes instead of the comfortable boots I would have worn with the original outfit.

Let me tell you right now that my dogs were barking. I ended up walking around in my stockinged feet much of the time. I just can’t wear pretty shoes. It’s not fair. Sob.

Anyway, back to getting ready for my guests. At one point, I was upstairs in the bathroom, applying the finishing touches to my makeup, when I heard Daniel shout, “Bad girl!”

Ellie had gotten into the cheese and crackers, and managed to polish off half a block of Gorgonzola.

This shot was taken before the damage was done.

Fortunately, the rest of the day went off without further mishap. Here are some more photos.

From left to right: My ex mother-in-law, nephew Alex, and 96 year old grandmother.

This table was set up in the living room. From left to right: My sister, Patti, Leigh, my mother (standing), Alex, my father, nephew Matt, and Rebecca. Note that she’s talking on her cell phone. Jeez.

Ahh. That’s better.

Me and Patti. (Michele had dinner with her in-laws, but did drop by later in the evening.)

By the time everyone left, I was in agony. The worst of the pain was that blasted area around my right shoulder blade.

Friday was a day of recuperation. The temperature dropped quite a bit, so I built a fire. There I sat, knitting and listening to Bob Dylan and Radiohead.

Before I go, I want to share this video clip with you. The woman in the video found an injured lion, and nursed him back to health. When the lion recovered from his injuries, she made arrangements with a zoo to care for him. This video was taken when the woman, after some time, went to visit the lion to see how he was doing. The lion has quite a reaction when he sees her.

Song of the Day: The Lion Sleeps Tonight by The Tokens

Thanksgiving 2006 Revisited

November 22, 2007

Last year, I had to “celebrate” Thanksgiving only eight days after my brother’s body was recovered from the river. In spite of my overwhelming grief, I was able to come up with a list of things to be grateful for. This has been a tough year for me, and I don’t have much to add, so I’m just going to re-post last year’s D-Land entry.

Giving Thanks (23 November 2006 – 7:14 a.m.)

I’ve been filled with such anguish, I couldn’t imagine what there was to feel thankful for at a time like this. Yesterday, I didn’t even bother to wash my face or brush my teeth, let alone get showered and dressed. I spent the day crying and “sweeping up the heart” (a line from a poem).

Fortunately, my sister, Michele, is having Thanksgiving at her house, so that will force me to rejoin the land of the living. And today I realize that I DO have much to be thankful for.

I am thankful for my husband, Daniel. He has been wonderfully supportive. This burden would be unbearable without his compassion and understanding.

I am thankful for the comfort I have received from my daughters. There have been times when they held me up both literally and figuratively.

I am thankful for the generous outpouring of love and support I have received from the online community, as well as family, friends, and co-workers.

I am thankful that Mark’s body was found, and I am thankful to the man who found him. He was off-duty at the time, but wouldn’t give up his search.

I am thankful that Mark was blessed with good friends.

I am thankful for the overwhelming turnout at the calling hours. I am thankful that Mark was held in such high esteem by those who knew him.

I am thankful that my mother came to her senses, and apologized to her daughters, telling us we were right, and she was wrong. I am grateful to my cousin, who advised my mother to “get out of God’s way,” and let the rest of us do what needed to be done. Those words made an impression on her. I’m thankful that SOMETHING finally did.

I am thankful for my siblings. Frank acted as liaison with our mother when her daughters couldn’t deal with her any more. Michael was a tower of strength. He stood for six hours at the wake, and greeted every person in the line. Patti is the voice of reason and logic, and she helped me to make sense out of things. She was also a source of legal information. Michele is practical and nurturing. She hosted family gatherings, and fed people. I leaned heavily on my sisters for support, and they were always there for me. They still are. I couldn’t have gotten through this devastating ordeal without my beloved brothers and sisters.

Most of all, I am thankful for the thirty-nine years I had with Mark. I am thankful that I had him for a brother, and that my daughters had him for an uncle. He was a special child, and a special man.

“Book of Mark”

This last photo of me with Mike and Mark is from Patti’s collection, and I am thankful that she is letting me keep it.  (That’s Mark kissing me.)

Happy Thanksgiving.

Song of the Day: My Thanksgiving by Don Henley

I’ve got great expectations
I’ve got family and friends
I’ve got satisfying work
I’ve got a back that bends
For every breath, for every day of living
This is my thanksgiving

Scary Stuff

November 14, 2007

Yesterday, during homeroom, students were asked to fill out a survey to test their knowledge of world topics. The results from my class (ages 17 and 18) were disturbing, to say the least.

After looking over the survey, three students declined to participate because, “I don’t know that stuff.”

This is how the other twelve responded.

True or false: Hawaii was the 51st state. Six out of twelve said that statement is true.

True or false: Latin Americans speak Latin. Ten out of twelve said that statement is true.

What is the national religion of Israel? Four students left it blank. One said Israel is the national religion of Israel. Four said Muslim. One said Islam. Two said Christianity. Not one student got it right.

What language is spoken in the United Kingdom? One student left it blank. Another answered “Enishlish.”

Name two countries that border the United States. Two students left it blank. One answered “North and South.”

What is Darfur? Where is it located? Three students answered “I don’t know.” Three left it blank. One answered, “a country in the Middle East.” Another answered, “U.S.” Another said Darfur is “a midget.” I swear he was not trying to be funny. He read the word Darfur as “dwarf.” Yet another read the word as “draft,” and answered, “When the army pick you name to go to the army.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m scared.

Song of the Day: Scary Monsters by David Bowie

Thrift Lift

November 12, 2007

As far as the cold goes, I seem to have dodged the bullet. The symptoms never got any worse than a runny nose and slightly scratchy throat. (Knock wood.) By Sunday, I was climbing the walls and itching to get out, especially since I hadn’t left the house at all the previous weekend.

I know, I know. Considering the hectic pace of my life since I went back to work, I should be grateful for any lull in activity. But I still feel the need to get out of the house on weekends. So, I called my mother to see if she was going to the local Goodwill store. She likes to go on Sundays because that’s the day they have a sale on items with a certain color tag. It used to be that specially tagged items went for $1.00, but now it’s 2 for $3.00, or $1.89 for a single item. Even if items aren’t part of the Sunday Sale, they’re still quite a bargain at $4.99.

Our last trip to the Goodwill store was four or five weeks ago. I was amazed by the high quality items I found for dirt cheap prices. Like this skirt and blouse, for example.

Or this shirt and these lined, tweed Jones New York pants.

I also got a pair of dark green silk Jones New York pants for $4.99, as well as a jacket to go with them, but the picture I took doesn’t do the outfit justice, so I won’t waste the bandwidth.

Weeks ago, I thought I got quite a deal on this houndstooth coat. It cost $11.99.

But, on Sunday, I got this coat for $1.50. That’s ONE DOLLAR AND FIFTY CENTS.

I also got the jacket on the left for $1.50.

The one on the right wasn’t on sale, so it cost $4.99.

Check this out. A Jones New York suit (also houndstooth) for fifteen dollars.

This GAP sweater is really heavy and warm.

I just love this brown and black plaid skirt, and got a black turtleneck sweater to go with it.

Not bad, huh?

Here’s something else I did over the weekend.

I spent large portions of two days wrapping Christmas presents, and that’s not even all of them. I have thirty four people to buy for.

Hey! Maybe I should do my holiday shopping at the Goodwill store next year… It’s a thought, at any rate.

Song of the Day: Thrift Shop Junkie by Voodoo Glow Skulls

Out of Focus

November 10, 2007

The book, Simple Abundance, has certainly been thought-provoking. Some days, it’s downright eerie how personally I relate to the essays. On Monday, for example, the author wrote about Vesta, the most beloved goddess of Roman women. “She, like her Greek counterpart, Hesta, was the goddess of the hearth. Vesta is the one who urges women to be quiet, to sit, to gaze, to listen… to bring beauty into our daily round, to live through our senses, to create a sacred haven of security and serenity set apart from the world in order to protect all we cherish.”

Breathnach writes, “Focusing is the sacred art of Vesta. Focusing is also a crucial need for women who spend much of their time rushing to fulfill the inexhaustible demands of family and work. The faster we run, the more conflicted we become. As we get nowhere fast, we lose focus and clarity, existing in a perpetual state of confusion.”

Existing in a perpetual state of confusion… Yeah, that sounds about right. And forget about focusing. The whirlwind that is my life has me leaping from one thing to another, with little time or energy to fully devote to any of them.

This entry is a good example. I started it on Tuesday, and have made many attempts since then to whip it into shape, but I have been unable to focus on it enough to get it ready for posting. So, I’m just going to put it up as is, and beg for your understanding.

As my longtime readers well know, I have been faced with one bad (and sometimes catastrophic) situation after another for quite a few years. Somehow, time after time, I have found the strength to cope. However, I’m having trouble finding anything to celebrate in that. I’d much rather live a less challenging life.

I’m still grieving for my brother. It’s hitting me hard all over again, as I relive the days before his body was found. I’ve been torturing myself by re-reading the entries I posted over at D-Land during that time. On the other hand, I’ve also been re-reading the wonderfully supportive and compassionate comments my readers left. Those comments really made a difference, and I am still deeply appreciative.

Besides the emotional upheaval, I’m also in a lot of physical pain. The Fibromyalgia is in full flare. My neck is stiff, and my shoulders are extremely tender. The soreness in my right shoulder blade area is driving me to distraction. To add insult to injury, my back is killing me. Actually, the pain is mostly in my buttocks and legs, but that is related to the problems with my lumbar spine. By late afternoon, I have difficulty walking.

The pain makes it hard for me to fall asleep at night, and it wakes me up early in the morning. Sleep deprivation leads to fibro flare-ups. It’s a vicious cycle.

Another thing that leads to an increase in pain is overexertion. Lately, I haven’t been able to avoid overdoing it. The flurry of activity began last week when I had to go for a heart ultrasound. The results are not yet in, or, if they are, I haven’t heard about them. I’m not worried, though. I figure they’ll call me if anything is wrong.

On Monday, we had a faculty meeting after work, so I didn’t get home until 4:30 (instead of the usual 2:15). Leigh showed up at 5:30, begging me to go grocery shopping with her. By the time we left, went shopping, and got back, it was 7:30. That was twelve hours on the go.

On Tuesday, we had a Superintendent’s Conference day. It was even more brutal than usual. The afternoon workshop was unbelievably boring. All the facilitator did was read the Powerpoint presentation. The same material was given to us in a packet. We could have read it ourselves.

In my eighteen years with the district, that was the most excruciating workshop I’ve ever had to endure. It was so bad that people were text messaging each other with remarks like, “This is torture!”

I actually fell asleep a few times. At one point, I had my elbows on the desk with my head propped up in my hands. Suddenly, I was awakened when my elbow slid off the side of the desk. A friend of mine later announced to everybody, “She was OUT COLD!”

When I was walking home after the conference, another friend was behind me. He yelled, “Wait! They want us to go back for more!” Of course, he was kidding, but his words caused me to quicken my step as I headed for the sanctuary of my home.

I did allow him to catch up to me, and we walked the rest of the way to my house together. Bill and I go way back. He was friends with my brother, Frank, when they were little boys. I took the two of them to New York City to see Beatlemania.

After I got home, Rebecca and I went out. Again, I didn’t get home until 7:30.

Wednesday afternoon, I had an appointment with the Physician’s Assistant at the spine specialist’s office. This appointment was scheduled months ago, and the timing turned out to be perfect because of the increased pain I am experiencing. The PA was at a loss as to how to advise me, so she called the doctor in for a consultation. He, too, was at a loss. The only thing he could come up with is to send me for another MRI. Now I have to wait for authorization from Worker’s Comp.

Dr. Spine Specialist also referred me to a physiatrist. It just happens to be the guy I went to for dry-needling. I like and trust this doctor, so I’m pretty happy about the referral. Unfortunately, this, too, requires authorization. I hate waiting, especially when I’m in pain, which is all the damn time.

Thursday, I had a hair appointment after work. It was for color and cut, so I was there for quite a while. As a result of all this hustle and bustle, I didn’t have much time to myself this past week. Being overextended leaves me feeling befuddled. I lack focus and clarity.

To make things worse, it appears that I have caught the cold that has been making its rounds. Just in time for the holiday weekend. I’ve been so looking forward to this three day weekend. Spending it sick in bed is most definitely NOT what I had in mind.

Calling Vesta. Come in, Vesta.

Come, Vesta, to live in this Beautiful Home.
Come with warm feelings of friendship.
Bring your intelligence,
Your Energy and your Passsion
To join with your Good Work.
Burn always in my Soul.
You are welcome here.
I remember you.

-Homeric hymn

Song of the Day: Out of Focus by Mick Jagger

Simple Abundance

November 3, 2007

A few weeks ago, my cousin gave me a copy of Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, by Sarah Ban Breathnach. She picked it up in a thrift shop for twenty five cents. It was well worth a quarter because it makes me aware that I have to pay more attention to caring for my soul.

The November chapter opens with “Like a woman who has found her authenticity, November’s beauty radiates from within.”

I might not know how to go about finding my authenticity, but I do like the sound of that.

The entry for November 2nd, “Caring for Your Soul,” includes the following: “For we were created for no other reason than to love, nurture, nourish, sustain, protect, uplift, inspire, delight, charm, and comfort the beloved presence within each of us.”

Breathnach goes on to say that, “All Souls’ Day is a beautiful occasion for contemplating how we care for our own souls, the degree of hospitality we extend to these guests in our daily round, and the quality of their visit so far… It is through the small details of everyday life that we make our souls feel welcome.”

Although not intentional, I find that I have been working towards that goal. Of late, this has taken the form of making small improvements in my home’s décor. I can’t afford new furniture, so I had to be content with adding some new wall art, and rearranging some existing pieces.

Here’s my “mask wall” in the family room.

I just have to include this shot of the bandanna gourd the librarian I work with gave me.

My sister recently purchased a new living room set, and didn’t want this painting any more. Lucky me! I can’t get over how well it goes with the pillows I picked up the other day for five bucks apiece in a hole-in-the-wall dump of a warehouse outlet.

I bought this hydrangea print several years ago from – of all places – Avon. Yesterday, I moved it into the dining room, near a vase of dried hydrangeas.

Now if only I could replace the furniture and rugs that the dogs have destroyed… Sigh.

Speaking of decorating, October was “No Drama” month at the high school where I am employed. Everyone was invited to enter a theme-based door-decorating contest.

Here’s a shot of my entry while it was still in progress.

Most of the blank spaces were filled in by the end of last month. Along with graphics and photos of students, I also created some cheesy captions like, “Park your drama outside. Enter with a smile, dignity and pride!” and “Drama not welcome here. Wear your smile from ear to ear!” and “Just say no to drama. Join the smile-o-rama!”

Yesterday, during the morning announcements, the winners were announced. My door came in third place. (A music teacher with an artistic flair came in first, and someone who ripped off my idea to use student photos came in second.)

By the way, this activity was responsible for my Halloween costume. While I was searching for images of smiles, “the” picture of Flavor Flav came up. I couldn’t resist.

Song of the Day: Smile by Charlie Chaplin, John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons

Public Enemy Number One

November 1, 2007

Halloween was a hoot and a half. My costume was a huge hit with the students (and staff). After my first period assignment in the gym (where I supervise students who don’t have a class, or come to school late, or are waiting for the BOCES bus), I walked into the computer lab and totally disrupted the class that had arrived before me.

The kids were howling. Everyone wanted to try on my Viking helmet and clock on a chain. I did, however, stop short of letting them anywhere near my Public Enemy t-shirt or my gold grill.

Because their friends had spread the word, students were constantly poking their heads into my room. One girl said that she heard about me as soon as she got to school. Another told me that I am the last person she would have expected to see dressed as Flavor Flav. When I asked why, she answered that I usually dress nicely, and look so proper. I pointed out to her that you never know who the crazy ones are.

My favorite comment was made by a student who broke into a giant smile when he saw me and announced, “You are officially official!” (Whatever that means.) A young, new teacher declared that I had the best costume, hands down. He couldn’t stop staring at me. You would have gawked, too. I was quite a sight. See for yourself.

My inspiration:

photo courtesy of i.a.cnn.net.

All day long, I heard “FLAVAAA FLAAAAAVVV! YEAAAAH BOOOOOYYYYEEE!” (You, too, can hear it by clicking the link.)

I lost track of how many times I had to pose for students with their camera phones. And, later in the evening, a parent accompanying trick-or-treaters took my picture, as well. Now I know how stars feel about the paparazzi. (Okay, I exaggerate.)

Speaking of trick-or-treaters, at one point, I had a large group at my door, so I went out on the porch to distribute the candy. I glanced to the left of the crowd and saw something straight out of Deliverance. It was my sister, Michele, taking advantage of an opportunity for additional shock value over her unexpected arrival by mingling with a bunch of trick-or-treaters.

Here we are together, the dentally challenged gangsta rapper and redneck.

A co-worker also stopped by my house so I could see her children in their costumes. Her son loved my outfit, and said he wants to wear it next year. I let him try it on for size. Too cute!

In closing, I want to share something a student wrote on the board in the computer lab. I don’t know who did it because I was out of the room at the time. What I do know is that it made my day.

Song of the Day: This is Halloween from The Nightmare Before Christmas