Saturday, July 08, 2006

I'm Moving

I'm Moving
Originally uploaded by Rosellen's Flickr.
Ok, call me a wimp, but I've succumbed to the charms of iWeb. If you're interested in staying with me, bookmark my

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Pursuit of Happiness

CBS Sunday Morning, one of my favorite TV shows, had the theme, “The Pursuit of Happiness,” yesterday. This, of course, was tied to tomorrow, the Fourth of July, and America’s founding credo, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

The program started out with a 78-year-old man who has worked more than 50 years as a garbage collector in New York City. Most of us would agree that being a garbage collector would be a difficult, undesirable job, but this man was happy. He said that he liked the exercise that he got, that anything smelly was smelly only briefly, and that he liked being around people. In all the years on the job, he hasn’t taken one sick day. And once a year, he takes his family on a cruise.

Dr. Ed Diener, a psychology professor who studies happiness at the University of Illinois, was interviewed later in the show. He’s trying to develop a scale that measures well-being (the academic word for happiness) and thinks that such a device could be used to evaluate general societal trends. Professor Diener supports the idea of having an ongoing poll of the US to determine well-being, a gauge that would no doubt be important for politicians to heed.

He also suggests that there are different categories of happiness, the here and now and long-term. For an example of short-term, here and now happiness, consider Johan, who now is 4 years old and loves to run barefoot in his back yard, climb under, around and over anything in his path. This is a happy boy.

Long term, as I now have 60+ days till retirement, I’m pondering how I’ll be able to find purposeful happiness in my life. I’m considering going to a Yoga class, being with my family much more than I’ve been able to since my children were very young, making Footsies, and perhaps doing some Hospice volunteer work. The possibilities abound.

What’s your idea of happiness?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Out of Crisis Comes Opportunity

As mentioned in my last post, we have a white picket fence around our front yard. It aged rapidly, despite attempts to keep it painted and repaired, so last year we invested in a rugged no-paint white plastic replacement fence. The purists in the crowd are probably groaning with the thoughts of fake wood, but I was fed up with continuing fence deterioration.

The replacement fence is working very well and will, for at least as long as we’re in this house, not need much maintenance. However, last summer our neighbors to the west, whose house is not much more than 15 feet from ours, decided to put up a plastic fence of their own. Unfortunately their idea of color selection is not even on the same color palette as ours; they chose a putty tan-gold-cum-baby-poop color that stinks, if a color can stink.

They also decided to install this lovely color in 6 foot high stockade type panels, which, of course does give them great privacy from our busy street and from us, their too close for comfort neighbors. When it was installed last summer, the fence encircled their back yard, leaving the areas between our front yards still bordered by our new white picket fence.

Old Fence
Originally uploaded by Rosellen's Flickr.

We assumed that that was all they were going to do with their fence projects, but early this spring, S, the adult male of the house, came out while I was digging and dropped a bomb.

“I have good news and I have bad news.”

I waited for the inevitable.

“The good news is that we got money back on our tax return. The bad news is that we’re going to put up the rest of the fence around our front yard.”

I’m never one quick to think on my feet. I have to ponder all of the options, think about them, and eventually come up with a reaction. My main reaction at that point was numbness. How in the world were we going to put up with our lovely fence backed by s….. colored fencing?

I told S that Dennis and I needed to talk about it and we’d get back to him about our reaction.

I have to tell you that Dennis, who is the colorist of the house, handled the next conversation with S masterfully. With furrowed brow he mused to the guy, “Well, I’m thinking that our white fence might not look all that great against a fence like yours. Maybe we could paint our side white?”

“Oh, I don’t know why not. That should work fine—and I’m sure it would be OK with C (woman of the house.)”

It didn’t take Dennis too long to figure out that, of course, plastic can't be painted—that’s why you get a plastic fence. It was a quick leap then to realizing that our beautiful one-year old white fence on the west side of our yard was going to have to be relocated and replaced by a white plastic 6 foot high stockade fence, not unlike our neighbors’, but certainly much kinder to the eye.

Several weeks ago the new fence was installed and I have to tell you that in the long-run, the whole crisis has turned into a blessing in disguise. First, I can go out in the front yard and dig and bend and do whatever undignified maneuver a plant calls me to perform without having to worry about how it looks to our neighbors. But best of all, the tall expanse of white fence is like a canvas, a backdrop to our plants; now we can see the hollyhocks, delphinium, lilies and nicotiana without having to pick them out from competing sights in our neighbors’ yard.

New Fence
Originally uploaded by Rosellen's Flickr.

Dennis and I have a bet going: I think that the neighbors won’t bother with putting up their ugly s… colored fence in front of ours; Dennis thinks they will. If I win, Dennis says he’ll go over and invite them to share in the cost of our newest fence. The man has guts.

3wk Zinnias
Originally uploaded by Rosellen's Flickr.

Zinnia Day

Zinnia Day
Originally uploaded by Rosellen's Flickr.

(Written on June 3, but only now posted due to my e-challenges.)

During my first Spring in this house, I paid a handyman to rip out all of the treacherous Barberry bushes that lined the front sidewalk and continued up the west border of the lawn. I also engaged Greenview, a local landscaping company, to design and put in plantings along the front foundation of the house. Now 14 years later, I still have remnants of four of the perennials/bushes that they installed.

Immediately after the Barberry bushes were hauled off, the handyman set about putting up a white picket fence encircling the front yard. I started digging up sod. My first project was behind the front border of the fence. Being the fierce gardener that I am, I double dug that bed and planted what was to become the yearly line of giant zinnias next to the fence.

Every Spring since, I’ve dug that bed, some years a little more thoroughly than others. I always dig in a little mushroom compost and shredded leaves and the soil seems to welcome the new seeds each year.

This year’s crop went in this morning, literally with the dawn’s early light. I’m including a picture of the bed as it looks now and the bed last year.

2002 Zinnias
Originally uploaded by Rosellen's Flickr.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Carrots, Eggs, and Coffee

I usually ignore the treacly, simplistic, and supposed inspirational messages that co-workers pass along to me. I’ve edited out some of the redundancies of the following and recommend that you glean what you can from it:

A young woman went to her mother complaining of her difficulties. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She boiled them and in twenty minutes turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

She asked her daughter to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to break an eggshell and see the hardboiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, "What does it mean?"

Her mother replied, “Each of these objects faced the same adversity, boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. But after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they changed the water.

“Which are you?" she asked her daughter. "When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?"

Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength? Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart? Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.

Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean? Do you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong and enough sorrow to make you human? The happiest people don't necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes their way.

My thanks to the anonymous person who created this.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

What a Woman

For those of us who occasionally have foot in mouth disease, check out the faux pas that a St. Louis DJ committed:
  • Uh-Oh

  • That Dr. Rice not only publicly forgives the man, but also draws a larger lesson from it, is nothing short of amazing grace.

    Saturday, March 25, 2006

    I Know You'll Listen To Me

    As my loyal readers know, I’ve been counting down the days until September 9, after which I’ll be able to sleep in most weekdays and get more regular exercise. Recent events have helped me realize that maybe I should look at my remaining time on the job from a different point of view.

    Several mornings ago I asked my first patient if she had any particular concerns. She said that she had a list of questions for me. Before proceeding with my own agenda, I asked her what the questions were. It turned out that she’s had a history of false positive test results for an STD and wanted to know if that could indicate some further problem.

    Once I understood the nature of her questions, I proceeded with my usual yearly questions and exam. I stepped out of the room while she was dressing and discussed my hunch with one of my other early-rising colleagues. She confirmed my thoughts and so I suggested to my patient that we do a screening test for auto-immune diseases such as Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

    As she was leaving, she said to me, “My mom has been after me to talk to my primary doctor about this, but I said to her, ‘I’m going to ask Rosellen; I know she’ll listen to me.’”

    I know you’ll listen to me. Several patients have said that when I've told them that they won’t see me for their annual exam next year. I’ve decided that instead of counting down the days, I’ll try to approach each new day at work as an opportunity to better understand how I can make a difference for each person on my schedule.

    Saturday, March 11, 2006

    It Was a Very Bad Surprise

    I like to think that I carry little pieces of other people’s perspectives around with me, that knowing someone and appreciating appealing pieces of their personalities is a gift that I can continue to cherish, even if they’re no longer in my life.

    When we lived in Detroit, in the late 60’s-early 70’s, I became great friends with Vicki G. We had lots in common: we lived in the same high-rise apartment on the edge of downtown and our husbands were young professionals, overworked, struggling to achieve, and away from their families many more hours than most men their ages. But most of all, Vicki and I had our darling children: her Davey was several months older than my daughter, A, so we would often babysit for each other, giving each of us time away from otherwise cooped-up lives.

    Vicki had a great sense of humor and liked to find special girley presents for A. Perhaps the best one was the pink plastic teething toy that Davey gave A. It was a giant engagement ring, replete with an encased liquid filled sparkley "diamond.” We’d put the 6-month-old infants down on their tummies to stare at each other and make great exertions to reach their shared assortment of toys; the engagement ring was one of their favorites.

    It was from Vicki that I picked up using the term, “trick” to describe new developmental milestones. For example, “Davey’s newest trick is turning over on his belly!” or “Guess what? A has a new trick: she grabbed the ring away from Davey for a change!”

    Since then, I’ve found that all new parents connect with that term and I often ask a woman at her 6-week-postpartum check what new tricks her baby is doing. Inevitably, she understands the shorthand and happily launches into great detail about the "clever” (another Vicki term) things that her baby does.

    But the Vicki-ism that applies to my life today is “It was a very bad surprise.” Vicki would use that whenever Davey or A hurt themselves. I continued to use it with both A and P and even use it with Johan now. (Although I’ve discovered that he doesn’t even want me to characterize his bad experience, as though he needs to own it all himself.)

    The very bad surprise in my world today is that our splendid University of Illinois Basketball Team lost to Michigan State last night at the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis. Dennis and I were there to witness the ignominy. If there were ever a perfect depiction of the expression, “Third time is a charm,” this was it, as the Illini defeated the Spartans twice in the last few months. Michigan State finally figured out a great defense that worked. Of course, it didn’t help the U of I’s cause that there were several crucial fumbles, miscues and general inattention to the game plan, as all of the above contributed to the unexpected loss.

    However, Tom Izzo is one of my favorite coaches and his team has had an unusually frustrating season, so this truly was a case of the best team winning.

    Dennis and I were fortunate enough to unload our remaining tournament tickets for $50 under face value and then had the delightful surprise that our hotel wouldn’t charge us a cancellation fee, so we came back home this morning. I’m getting ready to watch Michigan State take on Iowa in a little while, simultaneously doing loads of laundry, so it’s turned out to be a perfectly OK Saturday.

    Nevertheless, it was a very bad surprise.