Monday, January 19, 2009


Last Wednesday morning I woke up early as usual, wondering what time it was, if Paco had left for work yet and what the heck was wrong with the left side of my face. I felt like I had a bee sting, someone had maybe injected my lower lip with Botox and someone else had socked me in the jaw, all at the same time. How odd, I thought, I don’t remember being in a barroom brawl at my cosmetic surgeon’s office yesterday.

By the time I dragged myself out of bed Paco had left for the office so I had no one to give me a second opinion on whether or not I was imagining this or did, in fact, have some strange malady. I decided that whatever it was probably wasn’t fatal but not getting to the office on time could prove to be, given how unpredictable my deeply flawed and bi-polar boss Mr. S can be. I put on my game face (and some clothes) and went to work.

Once there I emailed Paco:
Me: “I woke up with a swollen jaw this morning. I look like a chipmunk. Do you think I should call Dr K? The left side of my face is flushed and swollen, too. It doesn’t really hurt, just achy. Or should I call my dentist? My teeth don’t hurt but there’s definitely something causing this.”

Paco: “Well, I don't know. You might have just slept funny... too much on one side. If you're not in pain, it might go down during the morning on its own. I've sometimes slept on my face and feel a little beat-up the next morning. Maybe you took too many sleeping pills last night. You're not mixing them with Brandy again, I hope?”

Me: “No, no. This is more than that. I think if I had slept on it funny it would be going down by now. I’ll give it awhile longer before I call Dr K. Maybe it will go away on its own.”

My sypmtoms grew worse, however, so I went to see Dr. K, our wonderful internist who is brilliant, funny, energetic, inquisitive and YOUNG. He is younger than me by at least 20 years and always looks like he just got home from school and is in search of his afternoon snack. He swung open the examining room door and started talking, as usual, before the door was completely open.

Dr. K: (all toothy smile holding his lunch box) “Well, tell me what’s wrong with you today…oh my, I see it already!? (walking over to my hunched frame sitting dejectedly on the examining table). “Okay, now smile, do your lips like this, frown, smile again, wiggle your eyebrows. Hmmm. OH, I KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE! (Oh, oh, I know the answer! Choose me, choose me! Dr. K, there in the back. Please tell us your answer!) and Dr K said “YOU HAVE BELL’S PALSY!!!” Somehow I knew he was going to tell me this. Sister K had had it a few years back and my symptoms were similar to hers. So I said “I thought you would say that. So how did I get this? Where did it come from? I can’t move the left side of my face, my lip is swollen and my left eye is drooping. And I haven't been anywhere near Dr H's office in months" (my aforementioned cosmetic surgeon). After Dr K explained that no one really knows what causes it he nevertheless wrote out several prescriptions for mega doses of steroids and an anti-viral drug and I was soon on my way, after being cautioned to call him immediately if my symptoms grew worse, blah blah. I also had to cancel my upcoming visit with Dr H, which was far worse than waking up with Bell's Palsy. But certainly cheaper.

I spent this past weekend hyper-focusing on my Jumbo Weekly Pill Holder, you know the one you see next to your grandmother’s bed that contains approximately 37 different pills per day so she doesn’t get mixed up on which ones to take when? That was me. I was by turns jumpy, irritable and bone-tired from all the meds but gradually I started to feel better and am now down to the last 20 or so pills. I went back to Dr K this morning and he was even more excited to see me this time since my symptoms are so much improved. He was all smiles, having just discovered the fudge brownie left over in his lunch box. He is so cute and cheerful, so cuddly and smart, it made me happy that he was happy. I hated to burst his bubble but I had to ask him something. “Are you sure I have Bell’s? I mean, I feel so much better and I can move my face again. I thought this was supposed to last for months and months,” I said. Was I cured this fast? A dark cloud fell across his face, his science project in ruins, the judges pinning the Blue Ribbon on the moldy bread experiment display instead of his homemade Neutron Bomb formula. “Yes, you did and do have Bell’s. But you got here in time and we started treating you early enough to alleviate your symptoms quickly.” I felt terrible that I had questioned his diagnosis. I had to make this right before he called his mom to come pick him up early. “I’m sorry, Dr K, I don’t mean to second-guess your diagnosis. What do I know? I’m sure I have it and you got me on the right meds quickly and I will no doubt recover much faster now. Thank you so much. You are a wonderful doctor.” His mood brightened and he perked right up. The judges had reconsidered and the Blue Ribbon was his after all! “No, no, second opinions are often vital, don’t worry about it. But your symptoms are classic and I am sure you have Bell’s. You’ll be fine. I’ll see you in 6 months.”

In the meantime, the steroids are making my face slightly puffy and causing my wrinkles to be somewhat less noticable, thus saving me the cost of the Juvederm. Maybe Bell's Palsy isn't so bad after all.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Lorrie assigned me the letter “U” after I cavalierly suggested that I wanted a forlorn, cast off and oft-over-looked letter on which to heap praise. This turned out to be harder than I thought...

1) Ultracrepidarians What the heck is that, you say? Well, I’m here to tell you this is a prime example of the power of the letter U and it is a dandy word. According to my dog-eared copy of Webster’s, an Ultracrepidarian is someone who gives opinions on matters beyond his or her knowledge. Sort of like my Crazy Boss, Dubya or Madge the Manicurist. Or bloggers. Not that I could ever be accused of being an Ultracrepidarian, of course. Ahem.

2) Ubiquitous The other day there was one of those annoying people in the car ahead of me who was busy talking on her cell phone when she surely should have been driving. I don’t think talking on your phone while poking along at 32 MPH on the interstate shows much concentration. I am tired of the ubiquitous cell phone, texting and internet surfing that seems to have stolen the soul of two-thirds of the population. Whatever happened to the art of conversation as practiced at the dinner table rather than alone in your car?

3) Umbrage I take umbrage to the ubiquitous cell phone. See#2.

4) Umpires I love umpires because for one thing they wear a nice dark suit to work and look like businessmen. I hardly ever see men wearing suits anymore and if I do I automatically assume they are undertakers. It's nice to know that not all men show up for work these days wearing jeans and Deaf Leopard (sic) tee shirts.

5) Über The new 'designer word" which popped up after people got tired of using boring, if perfectly serviceable words like “super” or “extreme”. And BTW, the two little dots are called Umlauts, which is another U word but did not make my list because, well, they're just little dots.

6) Umbrella I love umbrellas because so many nice people seem to carry them: Gene Kelly in “Singing in the Rain”, Julie Andrews in “Mary Poppins” and all those English people that just use them as walking sticks. James Smith and Sons in London sells some of the finest umbrellas in the world and you can pay over $300 for one of their top-of-the-line brollies. There is something comforting about a really good umbrella. Not the cheap, pop-up ones that always seem to turn inside-out at that first puff of wind. I mean the sturdy wooden ones with ivory handles like Sebastian Cabot carried in "Family Affair".

7) Ukulele These little guitar things are cute and endearing and I tend to think that laid-back people are the ones who take the time to learn to play the ukulele. Unfortunately, Don Ho is no longer with us so the ukulele's days may be numbered. Maybe someone should compile an "All-Time Greatest Ukulele Hits" to ensure its popularity is passed down to the younger generation. Or instead of "Guitar Hero" how about "Ukulele Hero"?

8) Underachievers These folks have tons of potential and the very word says so. If they weren’t capable of achieving something at some point they would be called “neverachievers” or “don’t hold your breathers”. Underachievers are simply achievers who have not gotten with the program yet. Perhaps they are too busy learning how to play the Ukulele (see #7).

9) Unbridled People who are unbridled are happy, carefree, devil-may-care and capable of experiencing pure joy. People who carry umbrellas can be unbridled, like Gene Kelly and Mary Poppings (see #6).

10) Unicorn Anyone who has ever read Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” will understand what is so captivating about these mythical creatures. Personally, I don’t collect them because I already have enough stuff in my house collecting dust but I loved it when Laura Wingfield lost herself in her unicorn collection to escape the drudgeries of the apartment she shared with her mother and brother. Maybe if she had owned a ubiquitous cell phone back then, however, she wouldn’t have had time for her herd of Unicorns and would have spent her days texting and surfing the internet (see #3).

Monday, January 12, 2009


I think I can understand why Ernest Hemingway spent so much time down at his favorite watering hole in Key West. As I understand it, he wrote from 8am until around 2 pm each day and then put the cover on his Smith Corona and headed to Sloppy Joe's for a few cocktails. Maybe that was to avoid the inevitable Writer's Block that seems to afflict most Serious Writers.

I keep a list of potential blog titles for those rare times when I can't think of anything to post about and am tired of Music Monday (like today). So here they are:

1) "Spinach is a Verb"The uncertain consequences of eating healthy

2) "The Price of a Penny For Your Thoughts Has Gone Up" Racie’s household money-saving tips

3)"My Next-Door Neighbor is Crazy and Unstable" Self-explanatory

4) "Mercenaries Are People, Too" Unlikely job alternatives for these uncertain times

5)"Why Didn’t Any of the Cartwright Boys Have Girlfriends?" Didn’t they all get tired of Chinese food?

6)"I Am Tired of Calling India For A Repair Man" Am I being charged for this long-distance call?

7) "Gratuitous Vacuuming" The Dyson siren song

8) "Does This Diet Make Me Look Fat?" Why do I gain weight when I diet?

Obviously I haven't used any of the above titles yet in a post. If any of them seem of even vague interest, please leave me your comments and I will expand on one of them. Right after I get back from Sloppy Joe's.

Friday, January 9, 2009


I used to have an annual Boxing Day party at my house, mostly back when I had someone from Across the Pond living under my roof. Being as he was of Foreign Persuasion and in his country it was an actual recognized National Holiday it only made sense that we should recognize it in this country, too. Or at least in our own household. Although not a religious or nationally-recognized holiday in this country, I nonetheless felt justified in recognizing it and throwing a party in honor of the Day After Christmas.

Time passed and the Foreign Person no longer used my address to receive his mail and I found myself without a good excuse to throw a Boxing Day party except for the fact that the ones in years past had been very popular with our British and Anglophile friends. So I just kept having the party, albeit not every year. This year Paco and I decided to stay in town for the holidays and thus the idea of having a Boxing Day party seemed like a sound move. I designed and sent out a clever invitation addressed to our nearest and dearest and then began a three-week massive overhaul of our house: carpets professionally cleaned, furniture cleaned and spruced up by Paco and me (don’t try cleaning linen furniture yourself, BTW), heavy silver polished and food and wine bought in liberal amounts. I also borrowed some additional serving items from Sister K, chief among them two very nice silver chafing dishes in which to serve the (homemade) Vegetarian Curry and Basmati Rice.

Boxing Day dawned bright, if unseasonably warm, and slightly after the appointed start time our guests began to arrive. We had lots of folks show up, many of whom eventually migrated to our deck to escape the growing line crowded around the dining table. Luckily, Paco and I happened to both be standing next to the said table at the same time, along with a few other guests not already outside eating and drinking. Suddenly, and totally without warning, the Denatured Alcohol warming one of the chafing dishes decided at that moment to boil over, engulfing the dish in flames and spreading to the linen table cloth underneath. Just like one of those movies where everyone is watching something horrific happen as if in slow motion, we all stood there, frozen in our spots as the flames shot upwards and the entire contents of the chafing dish started to burn. Since I had not bothered to replace the kitchen fire extinguisher since the last time it was needed (I will save that for another posting) we had nothing to douse the flames until Paco finally yelled for a wet cloth. I ran into the kitchen, flames starting to spread to the table itself, grabbed a tea towel, ran it under the faucet and threw it to him in time for the flames to be extinguished. The flames were so intense, however, that they actually melted the soldering on one of the legs of the chafing dish frame and the entire thing collapsed into a heap, spilling curry everywhere and necessitating Paco bravely picking the entire mess up and throwing it from the deck, much to our horror. At that point everyone stood there in complete shock, me wondering what damage had been done to the dining table and starting the “well, it could have been worse” self-talk. It surely could have been worse, as in the entire dining room, if not the rest of the house, ending up on the 10 o-clock news that evening: “House burns to ground in Vegetarian Curry Drama”.

The damage proved to be less than at first thought, albeit Sister K’s chafing dish is in the shop, her linen tablecloth ruined. Fortunately, she had the forethought to place a table pad underneath the table cloth so even though both burned completely through, the table only bares the scars of a slight singe and will probably provide countless hours of retelling the great Boxing Day Fire. Ironically, the person in who’s honor the party was so many years ago thrown was not present to witness the drama. Good thing, as I would never have heard the end of it. Of the many possession over which we argued when we parted ways, the dining table was chief among them. The house could have burned to the ground but I would have been expected to somehow save the table.

On second thought, maybe I should have let that frappin'table burn to a crisp out of pure spite.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Monday is usually reserved for my weekly music selection but I am making an exception today because of what arrived in my mail over this past weekend. It was a white envelope with something lumpy inside and I started shaking it to try and figure out what was in it (because tearing open the envelope would have been too easy and spoiled the suspense).

Paco: “I don’t think you should shake it, whatever it is. It’s making those ‘crushed’ noises. For pity’s sake, please just open the frappin’ envelope. You’re driving me crazy.”

Finally I decided I had to find out so I opened it and out popped a large packet of wheatgrass seeds as pictured here. There was a note in with it that read “Grow Your Own Yoga Instructor!” and was signed Sheila and Sweet Hubby. I completely cracked up and, laughing hysterically, showed it to Paco. For those of you who follow “The Continuing Adventures of Sunshine Wheatgrass” you will recognize the reference to my yoga instructor, who I often do battle with over issues of personal space, yoga blanket protocol and wardrobe choices.

Paco examined the packet and the note and then said:
“I don’t get it. Why did they send you a packet of Wheatgrass seeds and can you eat them?”

Me: "Yes, you can eat them after you grow the grass, but that isn’t the point of the joke. They sent them to me because of my posts about my yoga instructor, Sunshine Wheatgrass. Oh, never mind. I forgot, you have never visited my blog so you wouldn’t know about Sunshine except what I mention to you after class. And please remind me again why you won't visit my blog."

Paco: “I don’t visit your blog because I am living it everyday and get to experience the real thing first hand. I couldn't deal with also having to read about it. That would be too much, even for me."

Thank you Sheila and Sweet Hubby. I will plant the wheatgrass seeds just as soon as the ground thaws out and also thank you both for being Kool-Aid Drinkers. Maybe one of these days we can get Paco to take a small sip.

Friday, January 2, 2009


I had one of those bad dreams the other night that woke me up from a sound sleep, made me sit up in bed and fill me with dread. You know the ones, where you aren't sure if it was real or a dream?

I have to preface this by mentioning we have some really annoying neighbors. The kind that will never, ever move and make me want to put a skunk in their basement.

Back to the dream. I shook Paco awake, in utter fear that I had just done something awful and not sure at all if I had or it was just a bad dream.

Me: "Please tell me I didn't just open our bedroom window and scream at Larry 'For God's sake, Larry, it's 7:15 Sunday morning. Stop throwing your empty beer bottles in your recycling bin. It's right underneath our window in case you hadn't noticed' and then slam the window down."

Paco: "No, I don't think you did. I think you dreamed that."

Me: "Are you sure? How can you be sure? Oh geez, I am so embarrassed."

Paco: "No, I was right here. You didn't scream at him."

Me: "Are you sure? You were asleep, too. How can you be sure?" (I am frantic).

Paco: "I'm sure you didn't say anything to him."

Me: "How do you know?"

Paco: "Well, for one thing, today is Friday."

I fell back onto my pillow, feeling foolish yet totally relieved. I probably need to explore why it is so important to me not to offend my neighbor while at the same time fighting the urge to put a skunk in his basement.