Monday, July 27, 2009

Meet the Mertzes

Ethel & Fred - she was cute and plump while he was anything but. He was rather cranky looking - apoplectic comes to mind. AND - he was cancerous.

I'm not talking about the Riccardos' landlords here. I'm referring to the polyps that took up residence in my colon. They're gone now - the gastroenterologist gave them the old heave-ho. But the uncertainty lingers.

Am I lucky? In the sense that I caught this in time, yes I am. I had symptoms and I decided to take them seriously because when you've had cancer once before, you'd be an idiot to ignore the possibility that it could come back in another form.

That said, alot of times there are no signs. No bleeding. No discomfort. And people go on their merry way. But if you are 50 or even a few years younger, then do yourself and the people who love you a big favor. Drink the nasty tasting stuff, crap your brains out and then let a doctor stick a camera up your blow hole so he/she can see what, if anything, is going on. Every time I think of what could have happened had I not gone for this screening, my heart tightens up in my chest.

I beat the odds ten years ago because I went to my doctor on a regular basis and my ovarian cancer was caught at Stage 1A. No chemo. No radiation. Just follow-up for the next several years. Women who have had ovarian cancer are at a greater risk for colon cancer because there are alot of genetic similarities between the two. That makes sense. It doesn't make me feel any better, but I can at least appreciate the logic of the matter.

I lucked out again this time and I hope that's the end of it. Only time will tell. Follow-up is in 3 months for another round of Movi-prep, bathroom marathons and picture taking. But in the meantime, take this seriously: colonoscopies save lives. If you haven't had one yet, it really is not a big deal and the inconvenience of the prep beats the possible alternative. If you haven't had one in a few years, please make an appointment and then make sure you keep it. The people who love you are depending on you!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Pink was his color.

Jakie looked good in pink, I don't care what anybody says.

When I first brought him here from Middle Village, I knew I had to get him a collar & tag because he was going to be an outdoor cat.  Not that I wanted him to be.  But that's who he was.  Keep him indoors too long and he would leave you gifts that you really didn't want.  Not because he was a fresh cat, but because he enjoyed the outdoor life &  if he couldn't poop wherever he wanted to in the great outdoors, well, he'd poop wherever he wanted to indoors.

So off I went to Petco.  I found a lovely pink collar, with a pink harness and leash to match.  Now you may wonder, why would you buy pink items for a tubby, male cat?  Well, for the same reason fair skinned, blond haired men wear pink:  it suits them.

Pink looked good on Jake.  It complemented the colors of his fur: the misty grey of soft fog, and the white of those fluffy clouds you see on a bright summer's day.  We went with other colors over the years like royal blue to give him that princely look, or black when he went through his Goth phase.  Of course whenever the Christmas season came around so did the requisite red collar.  But pink was really where he was at.

Pink reflected his gentle nature.  Don't get me wrong, he could be a total grumpus when he wanted to be and he was a real ball-buster with the other full-time house kitties.  He used to terrorize my beautiful, lady-like Kelly and my poor neurotic Tommy.  Yet he was very respectful of my mom's elderly kitty Peppers, even though he was three times her size and 10 times her weight.  When Peppers died, Jake moped around the house for a week.  He didn't want to go out.  He just laid around.

Jake is gone now too, along with Kelly and Peppers.  He left us in the early morning hours of June 10th after suffering for the past few weeks from ascites - a buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity.  I was going to bring him in for an echocardiogram on Wednesday morning to ascertain if it was cardiac-related, but that became a non-issue.  The necropsy revealed that he did indeed have an enlarged heart and metastasized tumors in his liver and spleen.  So even if his heart was good, we would have lost him in a few months to cancer.

No matter how you work it out, Jake went too soon.  He was only about 12 and he should have had several more years with us, so it pretty much sucks in every way it possibly can.

That said, I am thankful I was with him when he made his crossing, as I was with Daisy, Peppers and Kelly.  I'm glad Mom and I were able to share one last evening in the garden with Jake while he sat on my lap.

Our family was so lucky to be blessed with his intelligent, affectionate personality.  He was very effective at communicating with his eyes, and even more talented when it came to jingling the bell on his collar.  He'd rattle it in the morning so someone would get up to let him out or to feed him.  He'd rattle it when he was outside to let us know he wanted to come in.  And he was just as adept at moving without the bell jingling at all when he wanted to employ the element of surprise.  No doubt about it:  our Jakie was one smart cat.

Jake liked to sit on the arm of the loveseat and when I was sitting there with him he would reach out his paw with his claws out just slightly, and pull my arm over to him and keep his paw rested there.  And if I moved my arm for whatever reason, he would pull it right back to him.
He couldn't get comfortable on mom's lap but he went he wanted to spend time close to her he would lay on her foot while she watched TV.  And he knew just what drawer she kept the catnip in.  When he was in the mood for some SMACK, he would follow her into her bedroom where she kept his stash hidden, sit down in front of her chest of drawers and stare up at it.  Then she'd give him his hit and he would curl up in his cat bed and drift off into his catnip induced dream world.

A few years back I picked up a little charm for Jake's collar.  It was a pink enamelled bow with the word Cupcake embossed on it.  That had been Jake's name for a while when he lived with someone else. However, her son convinced her that Cupcake was not macho enough so she changed it to Jake.  I always thought Cupcake was a perfect description of him so when I saw that pink charm I just knew it belonged on his pink collar.  The charm is still there, but now his collar is with me.  I hope some day I'll hear that jingle again when he comes to visit.  I hope I'll hear it often.

Rest now Dinky-Doo. We'll see you in Heaven.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Score 1 For The Little People

Damn I'm good!

Some years ago I took out a credit card with AmEx - their BLUE from American Express. The deal was great in that I had nearly a year at 0% interest on a balance transfer, then the fee went up to 7.9% fixed. Good for the time. Plus I got points.

So off I went, paying down the original debt and then charging and paying, charging and paying, blah blah blah. Then in December they sent around a notice telling everybody the rate was going up to 10.9% as of January 1. They pulled the same double whammy all the other banks pulled on all of us. And of course they give you the choice: accept the new rate or don't, but if you don't your card will be cancelled and you will lose all the points you've been gathering the way squirrels gather nuts. So I dealt with it. Didn't have much choice. UNTIL . . .

Chase offered me a balance transfer deal I couldn't refuse: the typical 3% transfer fee and then 1.9% for something close to 8 months. B'uh-bye Amex Blue! I transferred the full amount and figured that was the end of it.

Well of course it wasn't. I got a bill today from Amex for $27.94 in finance charges. Now technically, they had every right to assess me since I did accumulate interest from the prior payment in April until Chase made the transfer. But I saw red and decided to give them a call and lay somebody out. So I called and politely (yes I can manage politeness at times) but VERY firmly told Jackie I was cheesed beyond anything she could imagine and that Amex owed it to me, based on my outstanding credit rating and the fact that I always paid my bills on time, to "86" the finance charges and if she couldn't do it, then I wanted to speak to a supervisor. I told her that had Amex not pulled the bone-headed move of putting the screw to responsible, reliable cardholders like me, that I would have gone on my merry way paying 7.9% interest. But they decided to do me dirty and they lost a shit-load of interest funds as a result. (No, I didn't use the term shit-load to Jackie. My mom would be mortified if I did!)

Poor woman! She put me on hold for a supervisor then came back to the phone less than a minute later to tell me the finance charge was dropped. Guess her supervisor forget to wear his/her asbestos shorts today and didn't feel like getting an ass-frying from me.

My late friend Minny Rose used to say "Nothing beats a trial like a failure" and I've used that little pearl of wisdom to motivate me many times over the years. Props Minny!

I've said it before and I'll say it again: DON'T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN!!!!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Raising a Ruckus Again

Well, the mayor and the board of the Incorporated Village of Mineola have yet to put the public meetings back on the air but thankfully, we still have printed media. At the April 8th budget meeting they voted 4 - 1 to give themselves a 61% pay hike so they can participate in the pension system. I have less of a problem with that than with the way the mayor went all medieval on the one board member who demurred. So I decided to get a little medieval myself:

Must admit - when I saw it in print, I scared myself with how cold I can be. B-R-R-R-R-R !!!!

Don't mess with the Zohan!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Timing is Everything - Part One

It's always been one of my goals in life to see the famous cherry trees along Washington DC's Tidal Basin when they were in full bloom. The times I've been down there over the years were either too early, too late, too rainy, blah blah. Well since my agency hasn't had any work for me recently, I took advantage of the down time to crash at my cousin's swinging bachelorette pad in Alexandria. I kept checking the website for the blossoms and determined that March 30th would be a good day to drive down since the buds were already at Stage Four.

All the weather "talking heads" were predicting that Tuesday was going to be the only nice day of the week and they turned out to be right for a change. I took the metro to the Smithsonian station and walked down to the Tidal Basin and it was a sight to behold! From a distance it truly looked like puffy pink clouds had settled over the water. I revelled in the beauty of the scenery, the warmth of the sun, the good will of the other gawkers who had come from all over the world, and the self-satisfaction of FINALLY GETTING IT RIGHT! Woo-Hoo! (

Apart from that, I got to visit with my Aunt Jane, my cousins on the Italian side of the family Barbara and Bill Crennan (ok so she's Italian/Polish and he's Irish but who wants to know?) and I got to jaw with my charming hostess, my cousin Patricia (the swinging bachelorette).

It was a relaxing time of sacking out on the sofa in front of the flat screen TV, imbibing a variety of hot teas (you name it - she's got it in her house) and snacking on yummy raisin-filled bran muffins. (Seriously - very tasty!) Oh! And I've developed an appreciation for Frosted Mini-Wheats! (Did I mention that I recently turned 50? Bran and hot clear liquids are increasingly appealling.) It was a soul-renewing, bowel-cleansing sojourn in the South and I hated to come home. Not because "home" is horrible, or there isn't a bran flake to be found, but because I have always enjoyed my times in Virginia. It's such a different vibe down there - even as developed as the northern part of the state has become over the past 20 years. So if I ever get my ass cracking and pass my boards and get my license, I hope to move down there some day and make it my home. Me and my Frosted Mini-Wheats!

Monday, March 23, 2009


Well, I've finally hit that mid-century milestone! I didn't get dragged kicking and screaming - quite the contrary. Were the economy more cooperative I'd have thrown myself an ass-kicking shindig but between my own extended unemployment and loans up the wazoo, it wasn't going to happen. However, it was an enjoyable weekend with a surprise gathering of former work friends in Astoria. My friend Kathy Kandis invited me out to dinner for the occasion and then surprised me by inviting our friends Sandy and Phil DeCarlo - all of us survivors of The Bank of New York. Kathy is still fighting the good fight there. We all of us, with her mom Barbara, had dinner in a Greek restaurant where I came thisclose to trying some octopus. When it came down to the nitty gritty however, I caved. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. And not for nothin' but of all the things on my "Bucket List" eating scungilli is way, WAY down at the bottom ~ right above kissing a waterbug!

Anyway, it was so nice of her to put this together and we all had a lovely time. The best part for me, was sitting around the table back at the house, jawing over coffee and cake with my friends. I remember my college room-mate, Mary Kane, who used to say when we were all sitting around the table in our college apartment after dinner, "I wonder what the poor people are doing tonight?" Well, I wasn't rich then, and I'm sure as hell no richer now, but I feel rich. Sitting around with people you care about, in a cozy atmosphere is a rich feeling indeed. Props to Kathy and her mom Barbara for opening their home to us all!

Next day was the actual Natal Anniversary. My mom made my favorite cake - a yellow butter recipe with real chocolate buttercream icing. Tim surprised me with a choice of three trips which we'll take in the fall - either Niagara Falls, New Orleans, or a cruise to Nova Scotia. I'm leaning towards Niagara cause it's been years since I've been there and he never has - despite his many trips to Buffalo in his youth. I do believe the highlight of the day ~ apart from the cake and the gifts was the WAY oversized musical Hallmark card he gave me that plays the Chicken Dance! And if I ever figure out a way to load the music up onto one of these blogs, you are all in for a treat! Happy Birthday To Me!