Monthly Archives: December 2013

Birthday blues?

My birthday has me down. It’s not the age itself. As a matter of fact, there’s something appealing about the alliteration of fifty-five. It helps take the sting out of a number that it would be tough to argue is still middle-aged. No, this year, anticipating the number, which climbs inexorably every year, didn’t provoke anxiety or even mild teeth gnashing. The most I could muster was indifference, and that’s not like me.

I’ve always looked forward to my birthday, co-opting the date, December 25, as my own. I call it Judymas. Yes, I was born on Christmas. (When I say that, people ask, “Christmas day?” Yes, Christmas day, otherwise I would say Christmas Eve or the day after Christmas, or whatever.) It’s not the most convenient day to have a birthday. I’ve written about that before, so I’m sure you know the drill; no one to play with because everyone’s busy with their families, and thank goodness I like Chinese food because there are no other restaurants open. But despite the whole, “I’m Jewish and don’t celebrate Christmas,” thing, I do love the attention I get when people discover my birthday; that brief moment when I feel special. I don’t feel special any more.

Maybe I’m finally starting to grow up. I can no longer selfishly put myself above everything else that’s happening in the world to expect, nay demand, attention. Or maybe I’ve finally realized that I never was special. I generated my own PR and acted as a one-woman cheerleading squad. When I stopped cheering, things were strangely quiet.

I don’t want you to think that my husband and daughter failed me on my birthday. They didn’t. An appropriate fuss was made. There was breakfast in bed, with presents, and I got to pick the movie we went to that afternoon. My grousing is no reflection on them; it’s all about me (suggesting that maybe I haven’t overcome that selfish streak after all).

It’s commonly accepted that there are people who tend to get depressed around the holidays. Since the big one is Christmas, which I don’t celebrate, it doesn’t seem sporting of me to claim ‘holiday blues,’ but maybe that’s all it is. Yes, holidays and a touch of seasonal affective disorder—two sick parents, friends who are mourning, the loss of a beloved pet, disruption of personally satisfying pursuits—wait a second, I may be onto something here. That’s a lot of weight to have been carrying around (not to mention that I’m a stress eater and the last few months have been stressful so you know what that means). Could it be that on the run-up to my birthday I ran out of energy?

Yesterday my father had an encouraging doctor’s visit and we left feeling upbeat for the first time in a while. Our new kitten, Harper, is adorable (and we don’t really need a plant in the living room). Andrew likes his job and I’m confident that Hannah will go to college next year. Tonight we’ll be celebrating the New Year with friends. Objectively speaking, life could be worse. It seems obvious to me now; my New Year’s resolution will be to learn some new cheers, for me and you. Happy 2014.

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It’s not the needle that hurts

Phlebotomy is a funny word. It’s probably because of the f sound at the beginning, like the word fart. If you mention that someone passed wind, people will look away discretely; toot might make someone giggle. But it takes the word fart to get a guffaw. Think how funny it would be if it was spelled phart! Phlebotomists, themselves, however, are not a particularly jolly bunch. As a matter of fact, I’ve met a few who are downright surly.

In preparation for an upcoming doctor’s appointment, I went to get some blood drawn. I knew the lab was closed for lunch from noon to twelve-thirty, so I arrived at 1:15. Taped to the door was one of those flat, representational clocks whose hands stay where you put them. It had the little hand pointing to the 1, and the big hand pointing to the 6. I was not pleased. I had a 2 o’clock appointment and was concerned about cutting it close. I was shifting from foot to foot, trying to decide what to do, when a delivery man carrying two small coolers came up.

“Not open, huh?”

I knocked, hoping the lab person would take pity on me. She opened the door, saw the guy, and said, “I thought that might be you.” He squeezed by and disappeared inside as the door closed in my face. By now, a couple more people had joined me in the hall and I was no longer the only one feeling growly. The door opened and the delivery guy squeezed out again. I threw myself on her mercy, “I have an appointment. Can you open up?”

“I get a half hour for lunch and I’m taking a half hour,” she snarled as she shut the door. There was clearly nothing to be gained by pointing out that she was late taking her lunch, thereby inconveniencing everyone else. I cut my losses and left, planning to return later that afternoon.

I gave myself almost an hour before my final appointment of the day. I figured even if there were a couple of people ahead of me, I’d still have time. As it turned out, there was only one, and she was already in the chair. I sat down feeling optimistic. For the next few minutes, it was strangely quiet. There was no chitchat, no nothing. Then I heard the phlebotomist say, “Still waiting.” That was not a good sign, and it only got worse.

The phlebotomist and her client were discussing how they could get the lab work done when the order hadn’t been submitted properly. There were options; they could call this one, or that one, or take the sample and send it elsewhere. Each option was discussed, weighed, rejected, and re-examined in light of all the other options. I thought my head would explode. After twenty minutes I left.

I needed to have the blood work done a week in advance of my doctor’s appointment. If the lab results didn’t get to him before I did, the visit would be pointless. I got home feeling as cranky as a phlebotomist forced to have a late lunch. Then I checked the calendar on the kitchen wall and saw that my doctor’s appointment was two weeks away, not one. I could start chasing the phlebotomist again the following Monday.

I got to the lab before they opened and was the first customer. I was relieved when a different phlebotomist opened the door and welcomed me in with a smile.

Then she said, “The computer’s down…”

Who adopts who?

Nadine was crying. She seemed desperate for attention, but when I approached, the volume increased. She shoved an arm through the bars of her cage, and then pushed her little snout through as well. It was harder to yowl that way, but she gave it her best shot. I reached out my hand and she pulled back her face and stuck her other arm through, grabbing one of my fingers with both paws. She might as well have been speaking English her plea was so clear. She must not have known that there was a small plastic card taped to the top of her cage that said someone is thinking about taking her home. On the other hand, maybe she knew that in an animal shelter the fat lady doesn’t sing until she’s walking out the door with her adoptee.

Our boy cat, Boo, had only been gone three weeks when Hannah and I dropped in at the Windham County Humane Society in Brattleboro, Vermont, on our way to celebrate Thanksgiving in West Wardsboro. We often visited the shelter, but with two cats of our own, we only stopped for a quick cuddle and then we were on our way. Now that Scout was the only cat at home, I knew we’d be tempted, but I thought we could risk a visit. After all, without Andrew we didn’t have a quorum. I didn’t count on Hannah falling in love.

We adopted Boo and Scout from the WCHS eight years ago, when Hannah was still a little girl. She was not happy about getting cats, but we assumed they would grow on her. Well, we underestimated Hannah’s powers of resistance. It took a very long time before she was comfortable with them; years. She did come to love them, however, and she was as bereft as we were when Boo died, but I never would have dreamed that she’d be the catalyst for our next pet.

It was late in the day, the day before Thanksgiving, and the shelter was winding down for the holiday. There were only a few kittens in residence and I didn’t pay much attention to them. I was more interested in the older cats. Hannah, however, zeroed right in on a kitten the shelter volunteers were calling ChaCha and it was love at first sight. There was no way we were going to be able to adopt that day; the shelter was closing and would not be open for the holiday. We knew, though, that if we wanted to adopt the kitten there was a good chance that she’d still be available—if we got there early enough—the day after Thanksgiving. Now all we had to do was talk Andrew into it.

Andrew took a little convincing. He felt it would be disrespectful to get another cat so quickly, even though he wanted Scout to have company. I didn’t entirely disagree, but Hannah’s excitement was hard to ignore. The case she built included her fear that if we waited until after she went to college to get another cat she’d feel as if she’d been replaced. (Better Boo than her, I suppose.) And she wanted a kitten, something small enough not to be intimidating. I was sold.

We told Andrew that he didn’t have to decide until he met the kitten. We knew she would close the deal, and indeed she did. So here she is, the newest member of our family, Harper.

harper at 3mnth

And it was a happy Thanksgiving for Nadine, too. She’s now in her forever home where I’m sure she’s making her new family very happy, just like Harper.