Saturday, September 29, 2012

Uptown Downton

It's not often a television program instills a sense of wanting to be a better person. Different, yes. But better? Isn't that kind of boring?

The very nature of shows are to show us what it might be like to live a life far away from our own. From the stage to the screen, a show captures the imagination. Want to be a flower peddler? "My Fair Lady" is a show about what might happen. What if you had a ridiculous number of siblings? "The Brady Bunch" could tell you a thing or two about that. Want to get away with murder? Tune into "C.S.I.", or "Criminal Minds", or "Law and Order: SVU"...

I'm really not trying to make a statement about the quality of today's entertainment options. On the contrary, television today is more savy than it has ever been, demanding a sense of realism and authenticity that would've been unheard of even 15 years ago. Granted, there is something to be said about what realism we choose to vicariously experience each night. Actor Mandy Patinkin recently told TV Guide Magazine that his abrupt departure from "Criminal Minds" was not a firing but rather a realisation that he didn't approve of what he was putting out into the world. He no longer wanted to be a part of a program that thrived on showing the worst humanity has to offer. Many in Hollywood probably scoffed at that - why would you leave an extremely high-rated program based on principle?

A friend recently loaned me the first season of Downton Abbey, the critically acclaimed mini-series that airs on PBS. I had it in my possession for several weeks, waiting for a time when I was bored enough to find entertainment in a sweeping costume drama. Totally not my scene.

Boredom hit about two weeks ago, and I put in the first disc. I feel like my life will never be the same....

The set pieces and wardrobe is exquisite, no doubt. What really makes Downton enthralling is the stories it tells and the way they're told. It takes everything you think you know about human nature and turns it on its head. Where you might reflexively assume the worst about Mr Bates for leaving Lord Grantham's employment on such short notice, it is in fact because Mr Bates is trying to spare Lord Grantham from mortal embarrassment regarding his daughter, Mary. Mr Bates never demands his name be cleared. He just thinks about what is best for others and then does it.

So simple. How did the concept become so foreign?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Watch where you're tossing that thing!

I was making myself a pizza for lunch this afternoon.

I wasn't really into it. Halfheartedly I pulled an onion from the fridge, an open pack of canadian bacon, jar of pasta sauce, some cheese...

I sprayed the pan and put the frozen gluten-free crust on top. I slopped a spoonful of sauce on, only to realize I had the pizza crust side up. Too late now.

Sighing, I chopped two slices of the bacon into wedges. I ate one piece and tossed another over my shoulder to my antsy dog.

After arranging the bacon just so on the upside-down pizza, I started in on the onion.

As I went to put the slices on the pizza, I noticed my dog dancing around kind of strangely.

The canadian bacon had landed with a slap! right in the middle of his very long dog back.

He danced to the left, then to the right, trying desperately to reach the slice of heaven sitting mere centimeters from his nose.

I did what any good mom would do - I grabbed my camera and started shooting video.

"Aww, come here boy," I implored. "Let Momma help..."

He saw my outstretched hand as an invader trying to snatch his coveted prize. His nails skittered across the floor as he took off, out of reach.

After three minutes of video, I went back to finishing my pizza and left the dog to his own devices. A few moments later, he scampered into the kitchen looking for another piece of canadian bacon.

"What'd you do with the one on your back?" I asked him.

He didn't answer, instead begging for another piece, undaunted by his recent ordeal.

"Here you go," I said, bending down to hand him the last piece.

His tiny jaws opened wide and transformed into the maw of an angry alligator.

Next time, I think I'll go back to the slice-n-toss.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

God is in Australia.

Awesome news! I got a job!!! I will be telecommuting, which was the purpose of retraining to do transcription. I got hired at a company in Australia. How awesome, mate! Fair warning: I am going to do my best to use British spelling in my everyday life in order to make it second nature. So any "recognise," "colour," "paediatrics" does not mean I've lost my spelling capabilities. I'm so excited!

I was unemployed for 4 weeks, and I felt like I was going to die. Each day I felt myself grow heavier and heavier (no, not from stress eating). When I called my aunt to tell her the news, she said, "Wow. That's amazing."

"Why's that amazing?" I said, ready to be offended.

"Because just last night I prayed for you. I hope that was okay? I said, 'Okay, God, enough is enough. This girl is doing all she can. Cut her a break.' And this morning you got a job offer."

I was momentarily stunned into silence. I don't usually believe in prayer. I had never felt its power in my life. I honestly, to the core of my being, believe I survived my bone marrow transplant not because of prayer but because the medicine worked. Sure I've prayed for stuff that I didn't get, further solidifying my skepticism. I can't argue witg this one, though. I think there might have been a higher power working in my life this time. I feel like I'm back on my own, back to working as hard as I can to make my world and the world around me better. This is how it should be - a hand when you need it, distance when you don't.

Each week I spend 2 hours in the special education classroom at the local high school working 1-on-1 with different students. Even though this means getf bed at 6:45, I do it with a smile on my face.

"This sounds crazy," I told my mom, "but it's kind of like church for me. Once a week, a small amount of time, and I leave feeling full of energy, optimism, hope, all this stuff."

"That's not crazy at all," she said. I think she really meant it, but she wouldn't tell me I was crazy even if I had announced I was going to get married to duck-billed platypus. She'd ask if the dresses would be blue.

I feel so blessed right now. Boy, were the parents ever right when we were young: You appreciate most the stuff for which you work hardest.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Life Lesson #857: Never leave the house without a bra on.

RV season is upon us.
Scratch that.
RV season is upon my parents.
This means I will be resident mail-getter and responsible for turning lights off in the morning, changing the blinds around to try to fool any wily burglers that might be surveilling their house, and then reverse the process at night.

I'm not an early riser, so on the last morning of their trip, when they were due to be home around noon, I needed to hurry out of bed at 9 to get the paper and turn off the lights, etc.

Not one to ruin a good sleep, I stumbled out of bed, grabbed my car keys, and drove the half-block to their house.

I pulled into their driveway and pushed the garage door opener.


I pushed it again.

Still nothing.

Well, huh. I sat back in the driver's seat, stumped.

Sitting back offered me a new vantage point. I looked up and realized their house had changed colors overnight.

Horrified, I backed out of the driveway and tried to get away before the actual resident of that house saw me in my car, trying to open their garage door.

One street later, I turned into the refuge of my parent's house. I checked to be sure it was still the same color. Oddly enough, the garage door opener had worked from a street away.

Since it was already half open, I darted out of my car and ducked under it before anyone else could see me.

Serves me right for leaving the house less than fully dressed.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Remarkably mediocre.

So, despite what should have taken me 4 months to complete, over a year later I have finally completed my online medical transcription training.


I took the final test, a 48-hour affair which actually required about 8 full hours of work time. For a week, I bit my fingernails to the quick while I waited for my scores.


I laughed out loud. To get the distinction of having graduated with "high honors," one must get a 95.

Oh well. Cest la vie, right? Plus, I figured my masters would help the other 1 point fly by, unnoticed by potential employers.


15 applications later, I am still unemployed. My parents and I had a "Come to Jesus" discussion last night, wherein reality came home between my ears that perhaps the masters is actually working against me. In this economy, one must take whatever employment they can get, right? Potential employers probably take one look at my resume and say, "Right. She's going to jet the second things turn around."

So, then what? Tell them the truth? That my health sucks and I have no intention of leaving the transcription industry (once I can even get into it...)? Great. Then they see, "She will call in sick every other day."

Leave the masters off the resume? But I worked really hard for it. It shows tenacity. And bravery. The willingness to take on such student debt in the face of unassured career fulfillment takes a certain kind of gumption, right?

I'm retaking my final now. It's open in a different browser window. I'm remarkably unmotivated to do it. I've folded laundry. Paid bills. Walked them to the mailbox, even though it's pouring out and my dog was pissed at having to go with me, even though I put his raincoat on. He stood in the middle of the street and refused to budge. I waved at a neighbor driving by. They ignored me. Work hard, and things turn out okay.



Friday, March 30, 2012


I was eating a pizza in the bathtub this evening and flipping through the pages of my TIME magazine. I finished the last piece and swished my fingers in the water to clean them off.

Leaning back against my waterproof bathtub pillow, I saw something out of the corner of my eye: A suspicious-looking spot on my right shoulder.

Oh, come ON. My risk of secondary cancer is 75% due to my bone marrow transplant. Melanoma now, huh?

I craned my neck to peer closer at it. The border was well-defined, which was good, but the color was definitely off.

Ever so carefully, I reached over and touched it.

The mole came off on my fingertip.

What the...?

It was a fleck of basil.

As if that wasn't embarrassing enough, I remembered that this wasn't the first time a speck of herb was stuck to my body via bathtub water and subsequently mistaken for terminal illness.

Note to self: Next time, make a sandwich instead.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sick, sick, sick.

I'm a hot mess. I can hardly keep anything down. I've been in bed almost 2 days now, stomach in crazy pain. Right at the start of my 2-week vacation, too. I just finished my final for school, and now I have to wait 2 weeks for my test score to see if I passed and can go get a job and be gainfully employed.

Epiphany. I bet I'm such a nervous wreck about passing the final that I'm making myself sick. Dammit! And you can't just tell yourself, "Eh, let it go" or "Frankie Say Relax!" Take my mom for instance. If she's upset about something, tell her to "calm down" and the world would have a new nuclear threat to worry about.

My biggest fear is that I don't pass the test.

"So," Mom says. "You take it again. You get 3 tries at it."

You have 48 hours to complete the test. I ended up needing a good 7 or 8 hours of solid work time to do it. I looked up every single multiple-choice answer. I double-checked the spelling on the name of every medical equipment transcribed. I obsessed over comma versus semicolon versus period and what the dictator really intended by their speech pattern.

Yeah, I can take it again if I failed it.

But I don't think I could do a better job. I really don't.

And that's what it's all about - a job. Getting one. Feeling that ever-elusive feeling of self-reliance. I don't get to feel that all that often.

Aw, hell. I guess it's like I always told my grandmother before she died:

It beats the alternative.