The Wagon and The Rope

Last night I was flipping channels between football and everything else. I came upon an Oprah show where she was speaking with Steve Harvey about life. Steve Harvey told a little story about life and how it is like pulling a wagon up a hill with a rope. You are the only one on the rope. It is heavy and lays across your bare back. As you go along you end up having people in your wagon. As you go along, the people in your wagon help you clear the rocks from the road and push along….

Inevitably, you will end up with someone in your wagon who thinks it is okay to put up their feet and just ride along. It makes your burden heavy and the road very long. When this occurs (and it will) you need to throw the baggage from your wagon. (Amen!)

I got to thinking about my wagon as well as the wagons I have been in. So far, it has been an interesting ride. In my twenties I was in some wagons that I had no business being in! No wonder my Mom was nervous. But, I got lucky and if it was a little wild it was also fun and at the end of the day a great start to my collection of riders.

I was a college/optometry student for 8 years. I was broke and not always 100% sure where I was going. Luckily for me, I was in some wagons going in the same direction and I just rode along. Sometimes the occupants of my wagon knew where I was going and were pushing so hard that the wagon got ahead of the rope and basically dragged me along despite my intentions. I was a hopeless romantic and probably would have chucked the whole thing except my occupants drove me past the point of no return and kissed me goodbye and jumped overboard. Thanks, I think.

In my thirties the wagon got a little heavy. Looking back, I think this was a good thing because if you never feel the weight of a heavy wagon you cannot appreciate it later when the load is lighter. Mistakes were made. My biggest mistake was forsaking my own wagon to pull another. I put all of my eggs in one basket and the basket wasn’t even mine. So, there was a point where I had no eggs and no basket. Time to get my own wagon! It took a bit, but I got it.

My wagon is like the old Jeep Wagoneer. It takes a while to get going fast but there is plenty of room for everyone and when you go over hills really fast you get a stomach flip. Too bad they don’t make those anymore…they should bring them back.

I have a few occupants that are special. I have two octogenarians… I highly recommend getting a couple. One is my Mom who is sharp as a tack and can back up a truck and is not afraid of critters. She grew up in a large farm family and can remember WWII and other times of trouble. She doesn’t give up easily and can be relied upon to crack the whip or put the brakes on accordingly. My neighbor Jerry is in his 80’s and we grow stuff, share desserts and make sure we are both still alive. Sometimes I get home from work late at night and he will flash a flashlight from his living room that I can see from my carport. Kind of like Morse-code except I don’t know Morse code. I flash my carport lights on and off like a maniac in return. Kindred spirits.

After I saw the show I called one of my friends and told her the story about the wagon and told her she is in my wagon. We laughed and said we were stuck with each other. Her husband is in my wagon too and deserves a medal of honor. When we were students we used to practice procedures on him all of the time. Some of them were kind of unpleasant, involving a suction-cup type lens with goo running down your face…. He let us practice on him and quizzed us and really he probably could have passed the tests himself. It is good to have someone who will let you practice on them in your wagon.

As the years have rolled past I have lost and found and lost again the same riders over and over. I was confused at first and wondered if this was a good thing. The terrain is bumpy and not everyone goes the same speed. But sometimes paths cross and we can ride together again. One thing I know for sure, I have faith that if there is ever a time where I lose my grip and end up with a run-a-way wagon I have some occupants past and present who will throw up a road block.

The road of life is a long one if we are lucky and makes for a hell of a tale. Sleep well tonight friends, for tomorrow we are going to start to pull again….You can count on me, I am all in.


Reality Bites…Tastes Like Chicken

Yesterday was a day that started out all about me, me, me and ended up with me feeling a whole lot different at the end of the day.

Here is what happened.

GGJ was feeling grumpy. I admit it. My deck is in full flower bloom and the weather is finally hot and…. I am working. A lot. I am reading a new Daniel Silva book and haven’t had a chance to finish it. That alone is enough to put the grump on.

I was already worried about a friend. One of my dearest friends on the planet woke up a few days ago with double vision. As an adult, there are no good reasons for this. There are however a bunch of really bad ones.  So, it’s time for testing and waiting and more testing and waiting.

I had a full book of patients. About half-way through the day I met a lovely man in his late 60’s. Picture a tan golfer type guy. The first thing he said to me was, “I am having a few memory problems.”

I said, “That is okay. I went to the grocery store the other day for one ingredient that I needed to make a special recipe of cookies. Guess what I did?” He said, “Buy everything except that one ingredient?” I said, “Yep, no sour cream. There are no cookies in my house.” And we both laughed.

We were able to do the exam.  The brain is a weird thing. Apparently it has no problem remembering letters… F..Z..B..D..E.

But, it has problems remembering recent events like the British Open or messes up your ability to say what you are thinking. We were talking about stuff and all of a sudden he just couldn’t finish his sentence. I could see in his eyes that he knew what he was trying to say but just couldn’t say it. I told him it was all okay, that we were doing fine. And we were. We got the exam finished and he asked me to write a little note to his wife about the results and if he needed new glasses. I did.

As he was leaving we were talking about traveling and eating- two of my favorite things. He was telling me about loving white peaches from California. I said, “Ooh, you can use white peaches to make a Bellini- white peaches simple syrup and champagne.” He said, “Jill, I have been sober for 30 years.” I made a screeching of the tires sound and said, “Scratch that last part, okay?”  We both laughed again. We shook hands and went our separate ways.

Towards the end of the day my office manager came into my office and asked me if I could squeeze in another appointment for a patient who needed to get in TODAY. I looked at my schedule (it was full) and said, “Pick out a spot. Tell them they might have to wait a bit.”

So I busted my hump and gave it my all. The work-in patient had to wait for 15 minutes. As he entered my office I could tell by his demeanor that he was miffed. The first thing he said to me was, “How much is this going to cost me?” I told him. (Now, I was feeling miffed.)

We conducted the exam. It went fine. After our exam was finished he joined his wife in the waiting area. Ah-ha! Now I get it (and the office manager confirmed it.)

The wife was the one who called and made the appointment. She was the one who said he had to get in TODAY. To her, it was an immediate need. She probably did not tell him we were working him in. To him, we were 15 minutes late and he was spending his money. Neither one of which was on his list to do that day.

Perception. It is all about perception.

Years ago, I was at a health fair. I was selling a nutritional supplement and had high hopes. I was expecting a large turn-out. My booth was next to a therapist who does biofeedback.  She was an interesting and insightful person. She could tell I was disappointed by the lack of attendance. She said, “You are disappointed because reality isn’t meeting your expectation.”

Boy howdy, she nailed it.

Think about it. Most of the times when I get bent out of joint it is because reality isn’t meeting my expectation. What is that old saying/movie/soundtrack? Reality bites??

At the end of the day I finally caught up. Another doctor I work with came into my office and said, “You sure looked busy today.” This is a nice way of saying it looked like I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I told her about my day. We had a nice talk. She also has had a few reality checks lately. She has a friend who is going through a breast cancer scare and other friends who are going through some tough times. We decided in the grand scheme of things we are doing fine, just fine.

Here is the deal.

I was physically, mentally and emotionally able to work my butt off. I did not like it, but I was able to do it. That is a great thing.

My body and mind are intact. That is not something to take for granted. It can be worse. A lot worse.

I made it home last night and went to bed early. I woke up today refreshed and ready to write a little story and head back to work.

I don’t know what will happen today. That is ok. I can handle it.

Fake Air, Tight Butts & The Power of Love

GGJ and Cousin Vodka
GGJ and Cousin Vodka

I just returned from my latest adventure.

I went to Las Vegas to help a gorgeous young lady turn 21. Yep, 21 in Las Vegas. We were a motley crew. Two sweet young things (SYT 1 and SYT 2), The Mommas, GGJ, and an Aunt and an Uncle hereby known as Cousin Vodka and Cousin Whiskey.

It was a loose arrangement and for a group that large amazingly flexible. Fun was had by all. Along the way a bunch of stuff happened. We arrived at different times and by various routes. It was like we were planning a caper and had to make sure our true identities could not be traced.

We stayed at the The Flamingo which is a great central location and the price is right if you are planning on spending your money on gambling and drinking and shows. No time for relaxation babies, this was a whirlwind. We upgraded to a Go-Go Room and it was worth it.

Immediately upon arrival we played some slots. I became very fond of a ‘Spartacus’ machine and we spent a lot of time together. Picture a heavily muscled man wearing armor carrying a shield (WE ARE SPARTANS!) whirling around on your screen… Nice!

Over the next 2.5 days I was in a bunch of casinos. Some nicer than others. What was very striking was the difference in air. As in, fake air. I would love to get a behind the scenes tour (hint, hint Vegas people) of how they go about blending and concocting the fake air. Cousin Vodka was with me most of the time and we both liked the air at the Palazzo the best. It reminded us both of a Mediterranean breeze. Very calming and relaxing.

Surprisingly, the air at the Quad was very good as well. Surprising because it is not as upscale as the Palazzo. The Quad air smells like a very clean attractive man. We really liked it.

We spent quite a bit of time at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville Casino and bar… of course that air is fantastic! Hints of coconut, salt….why sure, I’d love a Margarita! Why not?

The air at the Bellagio is really good too. We took big hits of air….inhale, exhale… the air smells….expensive… la-di-da. Enjoy it while you can.

The last night we were there we went to see The Thunder from Down Under at the Excalibur. My sister wanted to see the show years ago and I said no, which was a huge mistake. I already told her that on our next trip to Vegas we will go and it will be my treat. It is a super fun show and it should not be missed if you are with a bunch of girls and want to have fun. (Cousin Whiskey didn’t care and did a little gaming while we were at the show.)

The show itself is fun. There is a little something for everyone and it was interesting that we all liked different men the best. Loved the fire man! Ooh-la-la.

At the end of the show you can go up for a picture with the guys. Cousin Vodka and I were at the end of the line and the fire man was giving the instructions of how the picture thing works… we were listening to that Australian accent and gazing at his beautiful body… then we were onstage waiting for our picture to be taken. Cousin Vodka said, “I missed about half of what he said because I was mesmerized by his accent.” Then she poked the ring leader in one of his pectoral muscles with her long pink fingernail and said, “Dang, you sure were a surprise!” For the first time all night, he was speechless. We then climbed upon some super-hot Thunder man laps and had our photo taken. At the end another Thunder guy takes the time to give you some hugs and skin on skin time as you exit the stage. Brilliant! Simply brilliant… everyone feels loved and cared for…plus you get a real photo as well as an emailed photo.

Memories….light the corner of my mind…misty water colored memories. (Cue the music.)

Cousin Vodka had some words of wisdom for the SYT’s. After the show SYT 1 told Cousin Vodka that the long haired hot Thunder man told her he liked how her dress looked on her. Cousin Vodka said, “Did you tell him it would look better on his bedroom floor?” Zinger. Bow-chic-a-bow-bow.

This trip restored my faith in humanity. What????? In Vegas????

GGJ, are you still totally wasted?

Here’s the deal. You would think that it was a recipe for disaster. I kept waiting for the SYT’s to ditch us and go get shit faced and/or need money. It didn’t happen. (Actually, maybe it did happen but I wouldn’t know because I skipped dinner one night and had Corona Lights instead and I was the one that had to go home early.)

The Mommas were super cool too. I saw with my own eyes one of the mommas supply a 100$ bill for two lemon drop shots for the SYT’s and she didn’t even flinch (too much.) They let the little birdies fly. They must have done a good job of parenting because they are fine, just fine.

Cousin Whiskey was instrumental in teaching the SYT’s the ways of the blackjack table and 3 am breakfasts. I hadn’t played for a long time and made some mistakes on the blackjack table. Thanks, Cousin Whiskey for helping me figure it out and sorry we lost …it was fun anyway and those 200$ worth of “free” drinks were tasty. Also, he was good at getting us in cabs and from point A to point B and is a very good tipper. Yay. Love, love, love Cousin Whiskey.

Last but not least I must give some proper love to the head momma (HCH = head cat herder) for organizing the trip. It’s not easy to bring together a bunch of unusual suspects and have it seem like an effortless, spontaneous event. I know that was not the case and she pulled it off. Masterful in every way.

There was a lot of activity, and it was ok to either participate or not. There was no pressure. It was ok to say yes, and it was ok to say no. It was a beautiful thing.

What makes it all work?

The power of love is what makes it work.

Make new friends, but keep the old…. One is Silver and the other Gold.

We were Gold all the way!

Since I got back last night, it would seem like there is some trouble in the world. I think for the right price I could get the motley crew together for a “brain trust” and we could straighten things out. Just let me know.


Baste, Stir, Taste…Repeat

I drive 45 minutes each way to get my dry cleaning done.

I know, it seems nuts right? But here is the deal, I wear a white lab coat at work almost every day. (It is either wear the lab coat or dress up. Let me tell you a good lab coat can hide a multitude of sins.) I like them to be super starchy, almost to the point that they can stand up on their own.

Not all laundries can make that happen.  Stannard Laundry in Oshkosh, WI can make it happen.

I met one of the owners at a 4th of July BBQ a few years ago.  (If you are reading my blog, it is the same party that was mentioned in Nothing, Absolutely Nothing but a different year.) I was introduced to him as his most loyal customer at which point I explained my commute to his business in search of the world’s greatest starched white lab coat.

After a few minutes of general chit-chat and assuring him I wasn’t a total nut, we ended up having a nice talk. It turns out there is a secret…they use real starch. They also have great service, quick turn around and I have become friends with the staff.  As an aside, the owner is also an Ironman.  (I like this as it would seem that to be an Ironman a person must be dedicated, persistent, as well as physically and mentally strong.)

This has me thinking about Loyalty. What makes someone loyal? Is it the test of time? Consistency? Quality?

For years and years I went to the same dentist…Dr. Vu.  Then I moved and it became more difficult to see him.  I would still go but my visits became less frequent. Finally, he told me I should just bite the bullet and get a dentist in the town where I live.  I thought about it and did.  I have been seeing ‘the new guy’ now for a few years.  He is an Ironman too. Weird, huh?

Friendship is a weird loyalty thing too.  I have friends from childhood, school, working at the Harbor Bar, hair salon, golf…

I don’t really know some of these people very well anymore. They could be terrible people. As in serial killers.  All I know is that we have a blast whenever we get together. Some of them I see only once a year or once every two years.

When we get together it is like zero time has passed and we tell each other everything (even deep dark secrets) and have complete trust in each other.  It is an amazing thing.

Family is interesting. Of course like every family, we have our moments…some good, some bad.

Here is the golden rule:

Only I can speak ill of my family. If anybody else does, then be prepared to die a slow and painful death. That my friends, is Loyalty.

It would seem that there is a recipe for Loyalty.

  1. Start with quality ingredients.
  2. Let it age 20-30 years. Baste with cold beer. Stir vigorously once or twice a year. (My batch prefers background music of live classic rock tunes.)  *(The volume may decrease over time, but the final product will be full of flavor.)
  3. New ingredients may be added as desired.
  4. Don’t be surprised if other people don’t like/understand the final product.
  5. This last item is the most important.  Sometimes it tastes better than others. Forgive it. Keep basting, keep stirring. Taste again later. Sometimes taste buds get out of whack. Sometimes the product is missing an ingredient. Don’t give up on it.
  6. Repeat step 1 and so on.

I am looking forward to testing my recipe on Loyalty very soon. I will keep you posted of any new developments. I hope the recipe works for you too. Enjoy.