Friday, June 28, 2013


Yesterday, my daughter had a medical procedure. (It went well and she’s fine, thankfully.)

But the procedure required her to have an IV – and my daughter HATES needles.

She comes by this honestly. When she was small, she had another health issue (that, thankfully, also turned out fine) which required multiple IVs and blood draws.

And I know, as her mother, that NO ONE has EVER been able to get her on the first try. They always have to stick her more than once, drag the needle under her skin hoping to hit a vein, leave her with bruises.

Back when she was small, one nurse, when she finally succeeded, dipped something in my daughter’s blood (maybe the needle?) and drew a smiley face on her arm with it, chirping, “All better!” My daughter brings up this memory, which is seared into her brain, every time she faces a needle.

So, for yesterday, I, in the interests of making things easier on her, called her doctor who prescribed a Valium.

The phlebotomist was clearly put out. My daughter had asked me to be with her while she got the IV. This woman said snippily, “Don’t you think she’d be more comfortable without you?” My daughter, literally nodding because of the Valium, mumbled, “Whatever.”  I stepped outside.

It took this phlebotomist two sticks to get a working IV. She had to drag the needle around. She left a bruise.

Still, I heard her say at the end, “See? You could have done this without taking anything.”

Lady, the Valium was the only thing keeping my daughter from clinging to the ceiling by her fingernails.

I wish people wouldn’t be so judgy. Is it really so difficult to assume that other people have reasons for doing what they do?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Do You Sprinkle?

"If you sprinkle
When you tinkle,
Please be neat
And wipe the seat.”

I admit it: I am one of those women who does not sit down on toilet seats in public bathrooms.

I know it doesn’t make sense. Multiple studies done by the people who research such things (the poor saps) show the cleanest place in a public bathroom is the toilet seat. (The germiest is the floor.) These experts say you can just go ahead and plunk your bare butt down with no fear … after wiping the seat in case someone peed on it.

That someone would be a woman who doesn’t sit.

I swear: if I sprinkle, I am neat and wipe the seat

In fact, if I am in a restroom and someone before me has peed on the seat, I will wipe it off (using copious amounts of toilet paper so there’s no chance I’ll touch their pee) even though, because I hover, it’s not a problem for me.


Because I don’t want the next woman in line to think I’m the pig.

Judging from the state of some public bathrooms, I’d say no one else does that, for their own pee never mind anyone else's.

And now I've read that those public-bathrooms researchers say you shouldn’t stick around after you flush. The flushing action of a toilet can throw germs as far as 20 feet, so you don’t want to be closed into the bathroom stall with one that's flushing. You particularly don’t want to be leaning over the toilet wiping up pee, possibly someone else's, possibly with your mouth open.

Clearly, I’m going to have to rethink my whole public-bathroom protocol.

Aren’t you glad you read this?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sleep is a Wonderful Thing

Image courtesy of
Witthaya Phonsawat
Whenever I read about some super-charger who prides themselves on sleeping only 3 hours a night, I assume they are bat-shit crazy and that I wouldn’t like them – or like to be them, no matter how much money they make.

Still, it can be difficult to get enough.

One problem is all the interesting stuff around to keep you up. I have never been as well-rested as I was in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, when we were without power for two weeks. Even my kids, who told me about a billion times that they might die if they didn’t get internet access soon, now look back on the period with fondness.

Another problem is common with many afflictions: the affliction itself keeps you from solving it. The last thing an addict wants to do is quit taking the drug. An anxious person gets caught up in worry at the thought of making an appointment with a therapist. And sleep-deprived people (at least this person, when sleep-deprived) can’t get it together to go to bed on time – because they are tired. It’s the very definition of a vicious cycle.

A couple of things that work:

Power Nap. Didn’t sleep enough last night? Feel overwhelmed? Irritable? Is all your effort going into making yourself concentrate and nothing is getting done? Don’t press your nose to the grindstone even harder. Make yourself comfortable, set a timer for 15-30 minutes and nap.

Set An Alarm. I read this bit of genius here. Set this alarm, not to wake up, but to go to sleep. Set it in the evening for 20-30 minutes before your ideal bedtime. When the alarm goes off, get to bed.

It is astonishing what a difference some shut-eye can make.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

My Closet

As I mentioned previously, I am clueless about fashion and clothing.

Generally, I wear tee-shirts and jeans. Because I now live in Texas, where it is currently, at almost 7 at night, still 97 degrees and 98 percent humidity, I have been forced to get serious about owning shorts.  When I buy shorts, they must not have pockets with flaps. Shirts can’t have them either. The reason: I know I am never going to iron this piece of clothing (or any other) and those flaps are just going to be a crumpled-up mess.

We have two walk-in closets in our bedroom: my husband has all of one and half of the other, with one quarter being my stuff and one quarter just sitting empty.

In my one-quarter of a walk-in closet, I have a few dresses (some of which are older than my kids, who are teens) and other dressy clothes in a plastic garment bag (to keep the dust off) for those rare occasions when I am forced, as in at gun point, to dress up.

I also have a rack of hoodies in different colors, including a couple, made out of fancier material or with a slightly fashionable design, that I refer to as “my dress hoodies.”

I have a drawer of tee-shirts, most of which came into my possession for free, some given to me when I participated in some event, others “hand-me-downs” from my daughter.

I have sneakers and flip flops and a pair of waterproof, indestructible hiking sandals that caused one woman, when she saw them, to declare, “My God, you could climb Mt. Everest in those.”

Well, at least I won’t ever have to hire a professional organizer to fix my overstuffed closet.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Clueless About Clothes

Image courtesy of
Ambro at
I don’t know exactly how, but I missed the memo other women apparently got about how to “do” clothes. 

But in recent years, clothes-shopping has become easier for me.

It's because more and more clothing retailers allow their shoppers to leave reviews and even ask each other questions on their websites.

I feel like I am getting a crash course in fashion. Going online now, I get sisterly advice on everything from how clothing should be constructed to how outfits could be accessorized, about what’s the “right” thing to wear on a cruise, as the mother of the bride, at a business function, if you are "curvy" as opposed to "straight" or short as opposed to tall:

“I love the surplice front of this [bathing] suit. It is very flattering and hides a multitude of faults … Unfortunately, the seat portion of the suit is very poorly fitted … The elastic literally hangs, and when you walk, the suit goes WAY up into the hinterlands.”

I love to see these women’s thinking. Because, unlike me in a fitting room, they ARE thinking. They KNOW stuff. They don’t just try something on and groan about how bad it looks before they rip it off themselves.

I can’t tell you what a revelation it was when a reviewer of a dress I was interested in said the fit wasn’t exactly right but it was an easy and inexpensive fix at the tailor. 


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Things I Wonder About

A recent New York Times essay suggested that the meds used in suicides should have their tablets individually sealed in blister packs. The idea: having to push 50+ tablets out one by one might slow a person down enough to stop the attempt.

Got me wondering which other difficulties are on purpose and which have no good reason.

Public Bathroom Toilet-Paper Dispensers. You know the ones: they only let you tear off one square at a time. Clearly, this is meant to reduce the amount of TP you use. What a miserable business.

Car Door Locks. It's late as you stop for the red light at a deserted intersection. And that's when you see the homeless man gesticulating angrily at his imaginary friend and realize you didn't lock your doors. Too late now. Hit that button and he will hear that distinctive ka-chink sound. Inadvertent.

Angled Parking Spaces. Painting the lines of parking spaces on a diagonal in a parking lot doesn't really make things easier. Or it's only easier 50% of the time, when you approach from one direction, but not the other. This little difficulty is meant to steer you in a certain direction.

Smoke Detector's Low Battery Alert. Both intentional and unintentional. The intentional part: those annoying little beeps are clearly meant to drive you to action (or out of your mind). The unintentional part? On ours, the alert only sounds at odd intervals and there's no blinking light on the detector to tell you which one of them is going off. You need to wait like an idiot, ears pricked, to figure it out. Somebody's idea of a joke?

Those New-Menu Options. Have you ever called an automated call-answering system and NOT have it tell you to listen to the entire message because "menu options have changed?" They have not. Just dumb.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Blood-Sugar Levels High, Expectations Low

When I was a little kid, as my mother tells it, I was a very easy child, except that, every once in a while, inexplicably, I’d get really, really crabby.

My grandmother was the one to figure it out. “That kid’s hungry!” she declared. And sure enough, feed me a snack and I was back to being easy.

To this day, as an adult, it can be hard for me to step back and realize that, when the world and everything in it looks like shit, it might be because I am hungry … or tired … or about to come down with something.

My friend once told me about when he had another friend come to visit him in New York City. They were about to embark on a day of sight-seeing when his friend said, “I stop every hour, for a sit-down, even if I just get a soda.” My friend said his heart sank.

But he was telling me this because he and I were going to spend a day going to museums and he was planning to stop every hour. Because it works.

When our kids were small, my husband and I adopted a mantra: “Keep blood-sugar levels high and expectations low.” Frequent sit-downs, keeping hydrated, not letting ourselves get to the point where we were starving and, most importantly, when the kids (or we) got tired (or ideally, right before everyone got tired), we were done. I remember seeing a hyped-up man at the Bronx Zoo, his toddler child wailing in his stroller, saying to his exhausted-looking wife, “But we need to see everything!” No, no, you don’t.

We’re not super-efficient machines; we’re biological bodies. It’s good to keep that in mind.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Don’t Let Your Daughters Grow Up To Be Hoochie Mamas

A few weeks back, my daughter and I went to her high school’s spring sports banquet.

As we walked in, we bumped into one of her teammates, who was wearing a tight skirt that barely covered her butt cheeks and ridiculously high heels that she struggled to walk in. She came alone and I figured she had made an immature and unsupervised decision on what to wear. But then, when we got to the table and saw the rest of the team, three of the other girls, out of about a dozen, were also wearing the shortest skirts you could possibly wear and still try to argue that your ass was covered, with sky-high stilettos. And sitting next to them, beaming, were their mothers.

Not only did these girls have a hard time walking in their shoes, they struggled to not flash the rest of us.

Here we were, at an event meant to celebrate these girls’ athletic endeavors and they were wearing, with their mothers’ happy approval, clothes that hobbled them and put them on display as sex objects.

The rugby coach stood to give out awards. She beamed at the assembled team and parents, but then her smile faded.

“Why all you all dressed like hoochie mamas?!” she barked. “If you were my daughters, I’d never allow it!”

Girls are constantly bombarded with the message, from peers, most often other girls, and from the media, that their value is in being a set of tits and ass. Some parents say nothing because they don’t want to be politically incorrect or uncool; others, depressingly, believe the message themselves.

But what we should be doing, as the adults, is calling bullshit.

So, thank you, Coach.

Monday, June 3, 2013

I Swear

A lot.

In front of my teenagers.

I figure it’s good for them.

I don’t see the point of pretending that swear words don’t exist or in getting discombobulated when my kids hear (or use) one.

And I really don’t get the people who “almost swear.” When they exclaim, “Oh, sugar,” you know they mean “Oh, shit” and they know you know. I mean, really, what’s the point?

These approaches just make you look like an idiot. Your kids know, as all kids do, that swear words exist and that they have power.

So, I swear and my kids swear and we watch entertainment, most notably stand-up comedy, where swear words are used in all their glory. Stand-up comics are, in general, smart, articulate and quick-witted, astute observers and wonderful story-tellers. Why wouldn’t I want my kids to be exposed to them?

Yes, sometimes, I need to explain the jokes, sometimes we need to talk about them, sometimes I need to define the swear words and point out how and why and to whom the comics are using them.

And yes, I let my kids swear and allow them to hear me swear ... because my goal is to teach them how to and, by extension, how not to swear.

In my house, while it’s fine to say “fuck,” it is absolutely not OK to hurl slurs, which I define as any word used to attack a person’s very being, derogatory references to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender (like the word “bitch,” which some people inexplicably think is OK), but also to someone's looks, their smarts, their value as people.

I’ve taught my kids that it is far worse to tell someone "You're stupid” than it is to say “Shit!” when you stub your toe.

Because, really, it is.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Hooray for Graffiti Writers!

I just wrote an article about graffiti artists in Houston for The Buzz Magazines, which you can find here.
Picture of the graffiti artist GONZO247, taken while he was working on a mural
commissioned by the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Photographer: Jeremy Moore

And it was a lot of fun.

Talking to anyone who is being creative – no matter what form their creativity is taking, it could be graffiti, it could be gardening – is fantastic. When someone is pouring their energy and passion into creating something new and different, something that, until they create it, exists only in their minds, well, it feels like they’re putting more oxygen into the air.

Taken at Houston graffiti mecca, Kingspoint Mullet.
These kids, one of whom is my daughter, are actually drawing on the table.

A piece, by the graffiti artist known as Chus, to commemorate Valentine's Day.
Can you see that the whole thing is his name?