Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Female Troubles

No, I don't have any. At least not at the moment. But it struck me as odd this morning that the term "female troubles" is still in use. I thought we had progressed past vague euphamisms for bodily functions. Practically everyone I know will tell you about their colonoscopy, or the ten reasons why they refuse to get one. You can't turn on the news without learning about a new study that links breast cancer or testicular cancer or ovarian cancer to something or other (hopefully not to each other). Everything is out there. Everything.

And yet, in some circles women are said to have female troubles. This phrase encompasses a lot of stuff: irregular periods, endometriosis, fibroids, a difficult menopause, a falling uterus, you name it. Doesn't it sound a tad sexist? To have "female troubles" is almost to be troublesome ourselves.

"Eh, she's on the warpath again. Female troubles, ya know."

I find it rather significant that men don't have "male troubles." Why don't they? Is it because men are never troublesome? Is it because in a man, nothing falls, bulges, migrates, or fails to be on time? Um . . . I'm not going to answer either of those.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Rose Gardeners Beware (serious!)

On Saturday a rose thorn stuck me hard in the back of my hand. It really hurt going in, so I went inside and made it bleed, then washed it. My hand ached that night, and yesterday morning I could see a red streak going into the knuckle at the base of my ring finger. As the day went on, most of my hand hurt more and more. I went to see Suzanne's new house-in-progress in the afternoon (gorgeous), and then I went food shopping, and my hand was pretty useless at the supermarket as I couldn't hold onto much of anything with it.

When I got home I noticed the red streak had gotten longer, now heading for my wrist. I know that roses are associated with a couple of kinds of dangerous bacteria and a fungus, and I know of two people who ended up having surgery after being pricked by a rose thorn. One lost part of a finger. So although I really really hated to do it (the loss of time . . . the cost . . . the gas . . . I was tired!), after I put my groceries away I got back in the car and drove to the Emergency Room. Both the triage nurse and the doctor said rose thorns can be quite dangerous, and nothing to fool around with. He (the doctor) didn't think any part of the thorn remained in my hand, but he said it looked like I had a bacterial infection. The area was red, swollen, and hot. He prescribed ten days worth of antibiotics, gave me one to take immediately and one for this morning, and also gave me a tetanus shot.

It's not like me to run off to the ER. Had I not known about the evil side of roses, and had some online rosarians not pushed me—hard—out the door, I would have blown this off. That might have been a bad mistake.

This has been a public service announcement.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Short Story: Casual Friends

How about a little light fiction for a change? This is one of my rejected (by Woman's World) romances.

Casual Friends

         I think there should be a word to describe someone who’s more than an acquaintance but not quite a friend.
         Friends are the people you talk to on the phone, and invite into your home. Friends have you over for dinner. Or lunch. Or no reason. Friends send you emails. They might even remember your birthday.
         Acquaintances have names and faces that you recognize, but the only things you know about them are what other people have told you. Most of the time they don’t even rate a Christmas card.
         I’m not sure what’s in between. “Friendly acquaintance” doesn’t quite do it for me. Maybe “casual friend”? Whatever the word or phrase should be, Will Shaw was it.

          I’d never invited Will to my house, and I had no clue about his birthday. But I could make a pretty good guess what year he was born because we graduated high school together. And I knew quite a bit about him—stuff he told me himself. Because we did talk. But we only talked on the road in front of his house, when I happened to be driving past.
         After high school, Will had studied photography in New York, while I got my teaching degree at a state college. He eventually came back home, moving into his parents’ old farmhouse after they retired to Florida. Will didn’t talk much about his photography, but the word around town was that he did quite well with it, selling his prints through a major gallery, wherever that was. We didn’t have a “major” anything in our little neck of the woods.
         I never saw Will in his studio, although he sometimes had a camera or two slung around his neck when I’d see him outside his house. Now and then I’d take the back way home from school to buy eggs down the road from Will’s place, and if I saw him outside I’d stop to say hi.
          “How’s life in second grade, Molly?” he often asked.
          “Noisy,” I sometimes replied. Or “Sweet,” if we had celebrated a holiday involving candy. (When you teach second grade you learn that almost all holidays involve candy.)

          On this particular day, I answered, “Chaotic.” School was one day away from breaking for summer vacation, and second-graders weren’t noted for their patience.
          “What do you have going on this summer?” Will asked, leaning on the shovel he’d been using to dig a hole.
          “Nothing much, really,” I said. “I need to work on my house . . . get rid of some clutter . . . paint the shed . . . tend to the garden. Grow more flowers. The usual.”
          “And then there’s your annual stack of summer reading,” he said.
          I laughed. “Yes, there’s always that.” I wasn’t sure why, but I was pleased that he remembered.
          “How about you?” I asked.
          “Nothing too exciting,” he said. “Except for the new lens I got this week—I’m excited about that. I’ve been out every morning photographing dewdrops.” He grinned.
          “Yup, dewdrops. You’d be amazed at how they look close up. Perfectly round and sparkling. Like tiny crystal balls. Except when I blow up the prints to 11x14 or so, they’re not so tiny anymore.”
          He added, “You should see them.”
          “I’d love to.”
          It was true. I’d often thought about asking to see his work, but I didn’t want him to think I was inviting something more. I remembered those old stories where lecherous men invited young women to “come up and see my etchings.”
          I thought Will might take the opportunity to invite me in, but he didn’t. Instead, he changed the subject.
          “Did you hear George Kinkade got married?”
          I remembered George from high school: A tall, thin geek, intense about his schoolwork. “No, I didn’t hear that. Who’d he marry?”
          “No one we know,” Will said. “He imported her from Rhode Island. Probably someone he met in college.”
          “I did hear that Joanie Klein and Bruce Altman got married, though. And Denise and Ray.”
          “Denise and Ray, who need no last names,” he said, smiling.
          “I know. It’s been Denise-and-Ray ever since 8th grade.”
          I remembered someone else. “Oh, and just the other day I heard Cheryl Matthews got engaged to Ted McAllister. I wonder if some of our classmates are rushing to get married before they turn 30.”
          “How about you?” Will asked. He had dropped the shovel and was leaning against my car.
          “Me? I have a good eight months to go before I turn 30.”
          “That’s not what I meant,” he said. “Do you have any marriage plans?
          “Marriage plans?” I asked, startled. “Who would I marry.”
          “I don’t know,” he said. “That’s what I thought you’d tell me.”
          I laughed, a little nervously. “Nope,” I said. “No plans and no guy.”
          I tried to turn the conversation back to him. “What about you? Are you planning a trip down the aisle?”
          But he ignored my attempt, and said, “I seem to remember that you’ve been courted.”
          “Courted? That’s a rather old-fashioned word. I wouldn’t say the guys I’ve dated were courting. ‘Storming the gates’ was more like it.”
          Will grinned at me. “That sounds subtle.”
          “And accurate,” I said, “which probably explains why I haven’t dated anyone for quite a while.”
          I turned the key in the ignition, and the engine started up. “Gotta go home and get started on my end-of-the-year paperwork,” I said. He stepped back from the car and gave me a short wave.

          The following Monday I indulged myself by sleeping in until 8:00 a.m. I came downstairs, made myself a cup of tea, and brought it out to the front porch, where I found a large flat object wrapped in brown paper leaning against a chair. I put down my tea and removed the paper. It was a framed print of a stunning photograph: dewdrops—perfectly round and glittering in the sun—resting on the edge of a leaf.
          Later that morning, a floral delivery van pulled into my driveway. The driver came to the house and handed me a huge bouquet covered in crisp white tissue. In the kitchen, I carefully unwrapped it. Roses—white and peach and apricot—mixed with lilies, daisies, and wildflowers. It was enchanting.
          I removed the small envelope, almost afraid to open it. I didn’t want to be disappointed. Only one word was written on the card, and it wasn’t signed. But I wasn’t disappointed at all. The card read, Courting.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My Iris Addiction is Alive and Well

After accepting my own determined rule that I would not buy any new roses this year (see below), I rewarded myself for this stellar bit of self-discipline by ordering 15 new irises. Furthermore, I am actually going to plant them on time this year.

Last year I ordered around the same number, and set them out on newspapers on the butcher block because they arrived during a rainy spell. I got surprisingly used to seeing them there (well, actually that's no surprise, considering my housekeeping habits or lack thereof), and as a result the sun came out but the irises didn't. They got planted eventually, but in some cases too late to establish good root systems before the cold set in. I will do better this year. I will.

As usual, I chose most of them on the basis of appearance, with many of those picked because they are fragrant as well as beautiful. And then there were, as always, some that I included because their names triggered meaninigful memories.

Dear Dorothy, light purple and yellow, ruffled . . . that's easy. Dorothy was my mother's name.

Orinoco Flow, white stitched with purple . . . an Enya song, yes? Jill gave me that CD.

Carriwitched, fabulous dark purple . . . this is a bit of a stretch. Jill had a close friend name Ceri once, pronounced Carri.

Ascent of Angels, two lovely shades of blue . . . I have a dog named Angel. She's 15.

High Point . . . a mistake actually. I was thinking of a place in the Catskills where my dad spent a lot of time when he was young. But I realized later that he used to talk about High Mount. Oh, well, High Point is a very pretty bi-color, with pink-tinted white standards and plum purple/violet falls.

Rinky Dink, gorgeous, described as "greyed orchid and vanilla". . . don't ask me why, but this name reminds me of Mama. Something she used to say, no doubt. It makes me smile and remember the fun we used to have.

Dream of You, pastel blue, white on top edged in pale yellow . . . yes, I do. Please keep those dreams coming forever.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

I'm Quitting My Rose Addiction!

I'm determined to go cold turkey this year. Clearly, I'm not the rose gardener I thought I was, and that's okay. There's a few things I do well in the garden, like sunflowers. Sunflowers are good. If I can stay ahead of the slugs, rabbits, and deer, my sunflowers come out on top. Literally.

But too many things conspire against me with roses. Big things like winter. I always do my homework and plant hardy varieties (I would never choose a hybrid tea, for instance, and I've learned to avoid floribundas). But even so, most of my roses stay small while I, thrilled that they even survived, ooh and aah over every blossom. All three of them.

This year we had a lot of ice and a lot of freezing and thawing. I looked at the plants that didn't make it, and for the first time didn't feel inspired to replace them with more roses. However, all it took was one visit to a rose website to rekindle my desire to pick out new ones.

I don't think that's the best idea. Maybe we can blame it on my two elderly dogs, who interrupt my sleep a lot, but I'm tired! Tired of digging big holes, tired of wondering if I'm giving the roses proper care (I'm probably not), and most of all tired of trying to reconcile the glorioius images in my mind of large, healthy, blooming roses with the reality in my yard.

So.....this year I will enjoy the rugosas, which are popping out leaves all over the place as I write this, and the Bucks, and my intrepid Gertrude Jekyll, and the William Baffin, and the vigorous Robusta, and the Scarlet Meidilands, and (what's left of) the Abraham Darby, and the few unnamed antiques, and when I feel a craving coming on I'll prowl a iris website.

Sounds like a plan.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

What are you known as?

I never knew the names of the two female gym teachers who used to live a couple of miles down the road; they were always referred to as "the lesbian couple." (Actually, my neighbors didn't use the term lesbian, but we won't go into that.) Other nameless people live on the road as well. For example, we have "the retired teacher," "the artist," and "the woman who has peacocks." And how could I forget "the family with the pool"?

When we first moved here we were known as "the New Yorkers." I would hope at this point I've been given credit for my 32 years in this house, but you never know. I do know some people who used to think of me as "the flower gardener," but I doubt that applies anymore. I hope some still think of me as "the blonde," although these days that does seem doubtful. But some labels stick . . . and stick and stick. "The guy with the limp" will probably still be known that way long after he's had his knee replaced.

Labeling doesn't just happen in rural areas, of course. At a certain age, most of us are thought of, at least by strangers and casual acquaintenances, as "old woman" or "old man." Children are children. Teenagers are teenagers. Gays are gays, unless you live in a more evolved community than mine. As for colorblindness, I hope it will happen in my lifetime but I'm not counting on it.

Getting back to my dirt road, I've heard mention of "those people from Maryland," "the old man with the buckets" (he feeds his horses), and "Edna's sister's kid." As for me, I'm probably known as "that city woman who always has a camera around her neck" or "the one who lives in the Indian's house" (people from India lived here in the 1950s, but my neighbors have long memories) or "the one who doesn't go to our church." I don't know any of this for sure, but I know I'll never ask.

Oh, wait! I just remembered that our veterinarian calls me The Big Boob . . . because I founded the county's first La Leche League group. :-)

Friday, April 04, 2008

"Do you have a difficult Pit Bull?"

I had the TV on in the kitchen the other day, not paying much attention to it, when I heard someone say, "Do you have a diffcult Pit Bull?"

Oh, I thought, I wonder what they'll recommend? I don't have a Pit Bull, but the breed is controversial and I was curious. So I left the bathroom sink I was cleaning and went into the kitchen to look at the screen. I saw a woman rubbing something on her face. Pit Bull repellant, perhaps?

No, acne medication. It was a commercial, and the announcer had said, "Do you have a difficult pimple?"

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Grey Flannel Fleece

I realized the other day that I spent the entire winter in grey fleece, at least when I was home. There were the two pairs of Danskin yoga pants (and a navy blue pair as well, but I'm talking grey here), a Champion v-neck pullover (courtesy of my daughter), another pullover from the Gap (courtesy of the Salvation Army), and another SA find—an oh-so-useful longish grey fleece cardigan by Tapemeasure. I wore that cardigan over everything . . . on and off throughout the day, depending on the temperature. Big buttons, so I suppose it was made for old hands. Mine are getting there.

I have mixed feelings about putting away the grey fleece if and when the season changes (it's 18ยบ as I write this). I suppose it will be nice to see lighter, brighter colors. But fleece is soft. I like soft. And I like the fact that my winter wardrobe covered everything. Everything. And required no effort on my part. Like holding in my stomach.

Spring means work.