Friday, May 17, 2013
Before my husband, the alien, and I travel, we briefly study the language of the country we’ll visit. By briefly, I mean we take the 16 lesson Pimsleur course. I prefer Pimsleur because it is geared to tourist needs. Directions. Culture. Money. Time.
In Greece, for example, we learned how to ask “where is the toilet?” and we were told that in the country people might not know what we mean, so we should ask for “the place.” Since we were driving ourselves around, we NEEDED to know this.
We’ve studied quite a few languages with the Pimsleur system. Turkish was the first set of CDs that I thought had useless information. For example, when it taught how to ask for coffee or Ayran (a yogurt drink) at a restaurant, it explained that we would get one of two answers. Coffee exists, or Coffee does not exist. Why would a restaurant be out of coffee? But frequently when my husband asked for coffee, he received Coffee yok (does not exist.) And my requests for Ayran also met with Ayran yok.
If the lessons had only included “Where is the toilet,” I’d have been totally pleased with them. We also bought “Teach Yourself Turkish” which had the toilet question and phrases that came in handy like “Shame on you” which we used when people butt in line in front of us.
The phrase in the Pimsleur lessons that I thought was the most useless was “I am a Turk.” I could not imagine any situation when I would want to say that. We took a few days off from our tour group to explore on our own. Aggressive salespeople approach tourists to offer directions and then try to steer them into their shops en route.
Our tour guide told us never to follow anyone into a building. One of our group members told us he had no idea how he suddenly found himself on the 4th floor of a shop trying on a leather motorcycle jacket. Since he didn’t own a motorbike, he wasn’t tempted.
When we were walking towards the underground cistern in Istanbul, salesperson came up to us and said, “You look like tourists.” I started laughing, but my husband remembered the lesson. He answered, “Turkum.” (I am a Turk.) The man left us alone.
Next time I start to think a phrase in a lesson will be unnecessary, I’ll be open to the possibilities.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
This is a guest blog by Jean Lorrah
We love our pets, so we give them our hearts. And then they break those hearts by growing old and dying far too soon.
Over the years I have learned to adopt a young dog when my current dog shows signs of age. There are two benefits from this practice: the old dog seems to perk up from the presence of a young companion, and later, when the old dog inevitably crosses the rainbow bridge, the young dog is already part of the family and a comfort to me and the other pets.
My old dog, Kadi, is only 14, but the Humane Society helped me rescue her from an abusive situation when she was about a year old. I'm used to my dogs living to 16 or more, as I have been fortunate not to have one with health problems before. So I didn't think about adopting a younger dog until I suddenly realized that the poor girl is failing. Her reactions when I first got her showed that she had been hit on the head, and within a year or two she started having seizures. My vet put her on Phenobarbitol, and once we got the dosage right it has kept her seizure free ever since.
I will never know if Kadi's neurological problems would have occurred anyway, or if they came from abuse, but she has had a good life in spite of them. Now, though, she is growing weak, and I have come to the realization that I am going to lose her sooner than I expected. Therefore about a month ago I decided I needed to start looking for a young dog.
I'm not a breeder, nor do I plan to enter my animals in dog shows. Therefore all my pets are rescues. It's good to know I'm saving lives, and these animals, whether they are purebreds or mixed breeds, make wonderful pets. I urge anyone simply looking for a family pet to start at their local Humane Society rather than at a breeder's kennel. If you are looking for a specific type of dog, even the most surprising and exotic breeds often turn up there--as I was recently reminded to my delight.
I am a volunteer for the Humane Society, doing pet therapy with my cats, Dudley and Splotch, so I asked the director to start looking for a small dog for me. I have reached the age myself now at which I can no longer handle a large dog, not just for training (I've always been successful at teaching my pets good manners, but they don't generally come that way), but for manhandling an unconscious or seizing pet into the car for an emergency trip to the vet. So I asked her to be on the lookout for a small dog that wouldn't be more than 15 pounds as an adult.
I was amazed to be offered the little white dog you see at the top of the page: a purebred Maltese! Incredibly, someone abandoned her in an area of town where many small dogs are found abandoned. Where they are coming from is a mystery the Humane Society has not yet been able to solve. Still, they treated this little girl as lost, advertised her, but no one claimed her, so she went into the adoption pool just when I started looking for a new companion.
I didn't know much about the breed except that they are reputed to be very loyal and easy to train, but require a tremendous amount of grooming. So before meeting the dog I did some homework on Google, and found that they are also a very healthy breed, and that Maltese not used as show dogs (or kept by movie stars) are kept in what is called a "puppy cut" their whole lives.
The Maltese, it turns out, is one of the oldest breeds, and can be traced back 2800 years. The "little white dogs of Malta" were great favorites of the Greeks and especially the Romans, who called them "comfort dogs." Surprisingly, the breed survived the fall of the Roman Empire and the Dark Ages because they were traded all around the Mediterranean as currency!
So I just had to meet this little girl, and of course she immediately stole my heart. They were calling her Marnie, but I have renamed her Bianca because she is white, her heritage is Roman, and she is a little urchin who needs to be reminded that she is supposed to be an elegant lady!
This is how the poor little thing looked when she was found running free and trying to survive. The groomer was able to salvage some of the hair on her head, but her body hair was so badly matted that they had to shave it. That's why at the moment her head looks too big for her body--when her hair grows out to about an inch long all over she should look in proportion, and that's how I plan to keep her. If I have her professionally groomed every couple of months, she should stay cute as the proverbial button.
Bianca has already cheered Kadi up, reawakening her love of taking walks. She's good for me, too, because she needs a long walk every day in addition to the short one we take with Kadi. Dudley, my Zen cat, has already made friends, and Bianca is slowly working her wiles on Splotch, who at first resented her, and slapped her every time she came near him. Splotch is twice Bianca's size, but he can't make her back off. He has made Dobermans back off.
Bianca is a fiesty little thing--probably the reason she survived in the wild with the handicaps of her size (seven pounds) and that long coat. She is an accomplished thief, probably another survival trait, and has already claimed all the cats' toys as her own.
Bianca is also an escape artist. Because of her penchant for chewing up virtually anything (including one of the cat beds), I am crate training her to keep her safe and out of mischief when I'm out of the house. The third day I had her, I came home from errands to have her meet me at the door! When I put her back in her crate, she immediately demonstrated how she had figured out how to push the double latches up, and then shake the door till it opened for her! I now use the clip of her leash to hold the door shut. Bianca hasn't figured out how to open that yet.
As I write this, Bianca is snuggled up next to me, sound asleep, a little white cherub. But I know that as soon as I move she will be up and bouncing again, looking for new mischief. Therefore I plan to enroll her in the Humane Society Obedience Class in June, with an eye toward making her another therapy pet. I'm quite sure she will make a wonderful "comfort dog."
Thursday, May 2, 2013
This is a guest blog by Jean Lorrah
In the town where I live, Relay for Life is tomorrow night at the stadium of the local university.
Relay for Life is a nationwide fundraising effort for the American Cancer Society. Businesses, clubs, organizations--all put together relay teams who raise money for cancer research, and then once a year (usually in May or June) meet to honor local survivors and remember those who have lost the fight with cancer. Survivors are given medals, and then they make the first lap around the track. On the second lap their caregivers join them, and after that the track is left to the relay teams. Every team keeps someone on the track throughout the night, while there is music, food, games, and celebration of life all around the stadium.
In the luminaria ceremony, people dedicate luminaria to friends and family who have either survived or succumbed to cancer, and each name is read out while the luminaria are the only lights available. When the ceremony opens, some of those lights are arranged to spell out HOPE, but by the time it is over they have been rearranged to spell out CURE. It is a lovely, moving ceremony, for practically everyone there will have dedicated luminaria to friends and relatives who have been through cancer. Relay is a celebration of life--don't go expecting something sad. Rather, it is uplifting and filled with hope.
If you've never been to a Relay for Life, watch for one in or near your town--they are just starting now. Ours is one of the first, because we rely on students from the university to make up many of the teams. They will soon go home for the summer.
My team, though, is unique in our relay: we are the 8th Wonders, every one of us a breast cancer survivor. Our name comes from the fact that one out of every eight women will have breast cancer in her lifetime. I myself have had two different kinds of cancer--breast and endometrial--and survived both. My survival, and that of all cancer survivors, is due to medical science.
The American Cancer Society is 100 years old this year. During that century, cancer survival has gone from one in three to two in three--pretty good, but we want to make it three in three! If you would like to contribute to the research leading to that goal, you can attend a Relay for Life--perhaps even join a relay team. But if that's not possible for you, you can donate online.
If you would like to support me and my team of survivors, go here:
Thank you for reading this. If you have not yet been touched by cancer, you will be. Someone among your friends and family will have it. There's even a good chance you will have it. Then you will be grateful for the treatments we now have that save most cancer patients to live long, healthy lives. The research that brought about those treatments came from donations, many of them through Relay for Life.
Friday, April 26, 2013
At the one-year point, my collar bone was declared healed. My hip replacement is an experimental model so I have to go back every year for 7 years. It is healed. They’re just concerned about possible problems.
When my mastectomy reached the one-year point, I expected to be set free. But NO! The surgeon wanted me to come in every 6 months for the next 5 years. Why? I asked. He told me that GPs and Gyns don’t do good breast exams. So, I asked, What can you do that I don’t do? I found the lump.
He was in a hurry. I’d already waited an hour to see him and he had a waiting room full. Finally, he said, I won’t be insulted if you don’t come back. I have plenty of patients. Then he offered to be my second opinion if I find something I want checked by professional hands. Hurray!
Just to prove he is a standard doctor (after making this non-standard offer) he bugged me again about getting reconstruction. I find the idea of more surgery repulsive and the prospect of a bag of salt water under my chest muscles is disgusting. And he tried to push tamoxifen or aromitase inhibitors. I reminded him that there is no longevity advantage and they only reduce my chance of getting cancer again in the other breast by 1.5%. He tried saying these drugs are recommended and well-tolerated. I told him I don’t think very many women would take them if they knew how tiny the benefit is and how horrible the common side-effects are. He gave up. Hurray again!
I think there is something wrong with our medical system if doctors are pushing drugs without giving out the information I found on the web. It is up to each person to decide which drugs s/he wants to take. I think doctors should give out the information that I found on the web – not just recommend a drug because it is “recommended.”
Friday, April 19, 2013
Last night, I attended a meeting of the Human Relations Council of Philadelphia.
The meeting was held in my neighborhood in response to an article about my neighborhood in Philadelphia Magazine called, “Being White in Philly.” http://www.phillymag.com/articles/white-philly/2/
The point of view of the article is in general that being white can be a disadvantage.
I agree with that in many ways.
I’m an eco-freak, but I’ve had 3 trash cans stolen, so I now use garbage bags. Yes, I get the ones made of recycled plastic, but still, they are an eco crime.
There are places where I’m not welcome because of the color of my skin. When I went to juvenile court to prosecute one of my muggers who had been caught by the police, I was the only white person in the room. I had arrived early and was sitting in a chair. Two African American women, one sitting on my left, the other standing on my right, started having a conversation across me. I asked if the standing woman would like my chair. She replied, “I want you out of my face.” It was obvious that I was there as a victim, not a family member of an accused.
When I attended this meeting, the vast majority in attendance were African- American.
I signed up to speak. I listened to African-Americans tell sad stories about Philadelphia that had not been in the magazine. Since 1970, the prison population in Philadelphia has increased by 800%. The average African-American wage in Philadelphia is $26,000. The average white wage is $42,000. Poverty is not because people don’t work. It’s because they aren’t paid enough.
African-Americans also said there weren’t good ways to meet their white neighbors. Even block parties seem to be segregated.
One white man said when he moved to Philadelphia 45 years ago, the city owned houses in many neighborhoods and purposely rented them to low-income folks of different races from the surrounding homes, in order to let people meet folks of other races. That program has ended. Now, the city builds low-income housing and creates segregated neighborhoods.
When I got up to speak, I began with my experience at jury duty. I had to fill out a form that asked if I or a member of my family had been a victim of a violent crime. I have been mugged at gunpoint, shoved to the sidewalk and handled roughly while my assailants searched my body for stealable stuff. I’d call that violent, so I marked yes. I asked one of the courtroom staffers if this disqualified me. She said, “No. Every family in Philadelphia has somebody who has been mugged.” We have a problem here.
When I went to court for the trial of my adult muggers (I must look tough if it takes 3 young men with 2 guns to mug me) I saw that most of the crime and most of the victims of crime in Philadelphia are African-American. And I heard that most of the crime is drug-related.
Note: this wasn’t just one day – possibly a fluke. I had to go to court 14 times to get my muggers tried because of assorted errors.
So, my suggestion to make Philadelphia a more pleasant place for everybody to live: Legalize drugs. If people who use drugs could get that at a drug store, for the price of a pack of cigarettes, they wouldn’t be out mugging little old ladies for pocket change.
Our courtrooms and jails would not be bursting with convicted drug users and dealers. We could even collect taxes on the sales of drugs. This is a win-win solution. We’d save the costs of trials and jails. We’d save folks from being mugged. We’d save our youth from becoming convicted criminals who then have trouble finding jobs.
I’ll say it again: Legalize Drugs!
Friday, April 12, 2013
Doodling fascinates me. I’ve invested in a set of colored markers. Free plug: Staples has a pack of 24 Sharpies for $10.
I’m amazed that the simple act of committing myself to doodling for 10 or 15 minutes is relaxing, much like meditation. And when I’m done, I have something to show for it. Something I like looking at.
I’ve been playing around with Zentangle techniques. http://www.youtube.com/user/Zentangle
In short, the steps are:
Draw a box in which you want to doodle.
Make a squiggle or two inside that box, which divides the box into areas.
Decide what you’d like to draw in each area.
The Zentangle folks have over 100 fill patterns. Plus most cultures have fill patterns that aren’t copyrighted. Or create an original design.
Then when you’re done doodling, you can color it in, or shade it with a soft pencil. I even learned a color combining trick that works with colored markers. You need a piece of flat plastic, like a pin box. Color an area about an inch square on the flat plastic with a dark marker, say red. Then take a light marker, such as yellow, and wipe it across the dark patch on the plastic. When you start to color with the marker, it starts out red, goes through shades of orange and ends up yellow.
Bottom line: I enjoy it.
Friday, April 5, 2013
I am an eco-freak. I bring my own bags to the grocery. I bring my own boxes to restaurants in case I have left-overs. And I wore my own blouse to the mammogram shop.
I have to wash what I wear at the end of the day anyway. So, on days when I have to expose my breast (used to be breasts), I wear a front-closing blouse.
The mammogram shop was running late. I had to wait 90 minutes before they called me back to the changing room. I told the woman who escorted me that I would not be changing. I’d remove my bra and put my own blouse back on. She showed me the silly costumes on the shelf, as if seeing the patterns on them would change my mind. When I refused a 2nd time, she let me use a changing room to remove my bra and prosthetic.
When I came out, she showed me how to use the lockers so I could lock up my bra, and bike helmet and bide saddle bag, and jacket. She seemed to want to check on me that I really had removed my bra and didn’t have it anywhere near, where I could sneak it back on again.
Then she showed me to a 2nd waiting room. I told her I had an appointment with a doctor one floor up 5 minutes ago. She agreed to call him and ask if I should come right up or reschedule. The doctor wanted the mammogram results, so I sat there.
While I sat, 3 staff-women asked me, “Don’t you want to change?” I assured each of them that my bra was off, my blouse opens down the front, just like the costumes and NO, I do NOT want to wear a costume and create more laundry. I will wash my own blouse when I do my laundry. I will wear my own blouse for the rest of the day. I am an eco-freak.
When I was finally called for the mammogram, I didn’t give the technician a chance to ask about my blouse. I told her I’m an eco-freak, and I’m wearing my own blouse. She didn’t blink. She just asked me to remove my blouse. I presume she had the other women remove their costumes. She smashed me in the machine, and led me to yet another waiting room, where they would come get me if I needed more x-rays or a sonogram, or to let me know everything was okay.
At about the 2 hour point, they gave the All Clear and let me go up stairs to my doctor’s appointment where I had to wait another 90 minutes. And again explain why I wasn't going to wear their costume.