Tuesday, June 30, 2015


On a Saturday morning when my mom and sister were in town, Mom was standing at the dining room table reading the newspaper and casually said, "A chipmunk just came in the house." Just as calm as she could be as if she was saying, "There's still some more coffee in the pot if you want another cup."


"I think it ran into the kitchen," Mom said as she perused the Macy's ad.

I looked at Ann.  "For reals," I said nodding in Mom's direction, suggesting that maybe now is the time we should look into that room at Shady Acres before she gets bad.  Ann shrugged.

"That can't be, Mom," I said.  "We've never had a chipmunk in the house."

"All I know," Mom said turning the page, "is that something with a little head and tail ran in here.  Do you think we can go up to Macy's later on?"

Why is she always so freaking calm?

It wasn't long before the cat parked himself in front of the stove with a twitching tail.  Mom was right. There was an intruder in the house.

I told The Big Daddy who matched my mom's calmness.  "Don't worry about it.  The cats will get him sooner or later."

"No.  No.  That's not going to work for me.  I can't have that thing in here.  You have to get it out.  Now."

Undeterred by a foreign terrorist on the homeland soil and a damsel in distress, he went outside to putter in his garden.

I stayed out of the kitchen for as long as I could, and wouldn't you know that as soon as I went in there Alvin poked his head out from under the dishwasher to give me a fright.

I called The Big Daddy back in for a kitchen conference.  "You have to do something before this thing gives me a heart attack!!  It needs to go."

"Oh c'mon, you know this thing is more scared of you."

"I highly doubt that," I said.

"Where's my pioneer woman?"

"Well, she's in Oklahoma," I said, "cooking and writing that blog that makes bank every month.  You're stuck with me and I don't want a chipmunk in the kitchen."

He and Mallory, who happened to be unafraid or very hungry, conferred on a plan, got the squirrel trap out of the garage, wrapped it in a towel and put some popcorn in the trap.

We waited.

There were a couple of things wrong with this plan.  Problem #1: The squirrel trap was too big and the chipmunk was too small to set it off so he just darted in and out snacking on some Smart Pop for lunch.  Problem #2: The hubs used a brand new bathroom towel.  "Really, Mark?  Two dozen crappy towels in this house and you have to use the one we've owned for a week?"

"You wanted a trapped chipmunk.  Am I right?"

"Righty roo bounty hunter."

We scattered for the day - my sister and her kids to the shopping district, Mark hunched over a computer and Mom and I to Macy's.  The chipmunk had free rein of the kitchen (my kitchen) and a darkened, comfy restaurant to enjoy his popcorn.

A few hours later we gathered together for dinner where I was forced to be in the kitchen.  I got my brave on and my stomping boots.  With that many people in there I was sure that Alvin would mind his own beeswax under the dishwasher and he did. We ate and left to watch a soccer match.

My sister and her carload were the first to arrive home that night and Wrigley (the Yorkie who's a terrified chicken on four legs) was hiding in his kennel.  He was sporting his usual resting face grimace that said "something's not right around here you guys."  Since he's worn that grimace from the day he came to this house last fall we don't pay much attention.  This time, though, his grimace and his eyes kept darting from my sister to the kitchen. Over and over.  He'd witnessed something - something disturbing and he needed Ann to know about it.

Exhausted from all the days activities and wildlife sightings, we all went to bed with my sister camping on the couch. When Mal came home she sat on the couch talking to Ann when the cat started going crazy. They jumped up on the coffee table and screamed for Mark.  "THE CHIPMUNK!!!  THE CAT HAS THE CHIPMUNK!!!!"

I poked my sleeping husband and yelled at him to get downstairs before there was blood and chipmunk parts everywhere. Turns out the cat had a june bug.  It also turns out that, like me, none of the other women in the family share Mom's state of calm.

Mom, Ann and her kids left early the next morning without a chipmunk sighting.  Apparently even rodents like to sleep in on the Sabbath.  I managed to stay out of the kitchen for a good part of the day (a most excellent weight loss strategy) until I couldn't go any longer without some food.  And what did I get for my absence?  I got a chipmunk that ran right in front of my feet.

No longer willing to wait for our two lazy cats to take care of business, I sent Mark to the hardware store for a chipmunk trap.  It wasn't long before we got our man.

"Take him across the street," I said to Mark, "and make him cross a lot of traffic to get back here."

"I'm not going to make the little fellow do that," Mark said cooching-cooing Alvin in his trap.  He released him into the backyard where the chipmunk fam quickly gathered to hear about the meal plan inside.

From the safety of his kennel, Wrigley observed every second of this transpire with his darting, watchful eyes. Still grimacing and shaking in his furry boots, it was as if he wanted to say, "You guys wouldn't believe the shit that goes down around here when you walk out the door."

Come to Papa

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


I was born in the heyday of the Barbie doll.  She was ten years old when I was twelve, and though she was far more mature looking than I was we did in fact grow up together.

She was so beautiful with her perfectly coifed hair, her fashionable outfits and her I-mean-business-but-I-don't-really-work-at-anything-but-me stilettos.  Who wouldn't love that kind of beauty?

Well, me, for one.  With my sensible Catholic school shoes to go with my itchy plaid uniform, gigantic white underpants, a generously freckled face and flat chest I had a hard time relating to Barbie. Even at that young age I knew when someone was out of my league and Barbie most certainly was.

Thankfully her best friend, Midge, came to the rescue a few years later.  Midge with her practical bob and freckles sprinkled across her nose was the answer for this average looking little girl.  I was crazy about Midge.  She dated Allan, not that frat boy, Ken, with his stupid sweater tied around his neck. What kind of guy did that?  We lived in Chicago.  Either you wore a sweater ten months of the year or you didn't.  But, Allan, in my dreamy dreams was going to college to get smarter and improve on his overall decency and devotion to Midge. Ken on the other hand was going to drink and hit on all the coeds even though everyone knew that he and Barbie were a "thing."

Midge was my girl.

A neighbor who was a seamstress started making doll clothes for Barbie and Midge and my mom was a frequent customer.  She'd put in an order and a week later Evelyn would call and tell her the tiny, perfectly sewn clothes were ready.  Mom would send my sister, Jean, and I over with some money wadded in our fists to pay her and add to our vinyl Barbie and Midge suitcases.  If Evelyn's husband was home he'd open the door and say "Come quick, Evelyn!!! It's the Sipanski sisters."  Seeing as how we were German and Irish I didn't understand why he always called us by a Polish name but he thought it was funny.

A few years ago when Mom was still in her old neighborhood we got to talking about Evelyn and Ed. "They're still in the same house," she said.  Evelyn had moved from Barbie clothes to quilts and had won some awards for her pieces.

"I'd love to see them," I said to my mom and so she called Evelyn to see if I could come over.  Later that day when I rang the bell Ed answered the door and said, "Evelyn!!!  You're not going to believe this.  We've got a Sipanski sister at the door.  Whatever you're selling we're not interested," he said and slammed the door in my face.  Seconds later he opened it laughing, grabbed me by the hand and said, "Get in here and tell me everything you've been doing the last forty years."

Last week I ran into a Midge doll at an estate sale and all those memories came flooding back.  At $65.00 she was more than I wanted to spend for a bit of nostalgia, but like Ed and Evelyn it was a sweet reconnection with a favorite old friend.

On that blistering hot day the humidity had made her hair too big, her bangs too short and a bit of bloating seemed to make getting the zipper up on her jeans impossible.

Midge was still my girl.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Weight of Friendship

For the last couple of months my little circle of friends has been swirling in turmoil.  One friend who had an ailing mother emailed me that things had gone suddenly bad for her and she was headed out of town to be by her Mom's side.  We texted back and forth many times a day and one afternoon on the way to the hospital she called me.  "I need to laugh," she said,"and you're the girl to do it."  We did laugh (over what I can't even remember) until she arrived at the hospital where things got real just by pulling into the parking lot.  A few days later her mother passed away.

Another friend is going through the same thing.  Her mom has bravely battled cancer for a very long time and her options have run out.  She is by her bedside now and shortly her mother will slip away as well.  We have been friends since grade school and I was the first one of our group to lose a parent. Lest you think that your presence won't matter at a well-attended funeral, I will say that seeing her and another friend that day had the most calming effect on me.  When I saw them after the funeral I asked both of them to come to the luncheon.  "No, that's okay.  It should just be your family," they said.  I insisted and am forever grateful that they were my normal on a day that was anything but.

A few weeks ago I got a text from a dear, longtime friend stating that her husband had cancer.  I read it three times in disbelief.  We texted back and forth until midnight.  The texts were fast and frequent after that while her husband had surgery and then began the slow process of recovery. When things had settled down at home I called her and we talked for two hours.  This week a new text.  She has cancer.  

Another friend lost her son suddenly two years ago and though her outward demeanor is cheerful and positive, I can see and feel her sorrow and there is no spackle for that kind of broken heart.

Every text, email or conversation takes me forever to form the words.  I type and delete over and over.  Will cheerfulness help or does that make me seem like an idiot that doesn't get it? Does the receiver look at their phone in disbelief like I have done or do the words offer comfort?

I never know if I'm doing it right.

But when I say that I am thinking of you I mean that when I am folding towels and making the bed I am thinking of you. When I stand in the produce section at the grocery store and have the hardest time deciding what kind of lettuce to buy it is because I am thinking of you.  At the stoplight, in line at the hardware store, and while making dinner I am thinking of you.  When I can't fall asleep at the end of a long day it is because I have signed up for the night shift to think about you.  When I go through a good portion of my day adrift, useless and unsettled it is because I am thinking of you.

I cannot stop thinking of you.

A reporter asked someone who lost several friends in the shooting in South Carolina how he was doing.  "I'm okay," he said.  "And then I have those moments......."  He started to cry.  The reporter said, "It's hard, isn't it?"

I watched it transpire on the nightly news thousands of miles away and cried too. Many times since then I have thought of him - this man whose name I will never know but whose broken heart was so raw and exposed and all too familiar.

Hard days indeed.

I get it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Turf Toe vs.The Boot

Many years ago I had to have out-patient surgery for an ovarian cyst.  If you've ever had one or know of someone who has, they will tell you that when one of those plants itself in your lady parts you are about to embark on one painful ride.

I was unaware I had a cyst until it was discovered during a routine yearly exam, and between that time, the testing and the appointment with the doctor to get it scheduled for removal, it burst (which is the painful part).  This is what the doctor told Mark when he finished the surgery and came out to talk to him. What was left was removed, the blood was cleaned out and I was sent home later that day to recuperate.

Recuperating wasn't so easy as we had three small kids and no family here to help out so Mark was called upon to do a lot.

We also had a dog who was a runner and had a habit of bolting out the front door if the kids didn't close it all the way when they were going to play down the street.  This usually resulted in both of us screaming at the dog, the kids, and the damn door that never closed all the way.

The day after my surgery Henry saw his opportunity for freedom and made a dash.  I screamed, "MAAAAAAARK!!!! THE DOG!!!  GET HIM!!!!"

Mark bolted out the door, flew over the hedge and missed the dog who took off running for the neighborhood kids who would chase him until they all ran out of steam.

Limping into the house Mark grimaced and said, "I almost had him but I smashed my toe on the ground and he got away."  He managed to make his way to the freezer for some ice and his job of nursing me came to a screeching halt. He had a big toe to nurse.

The next day he and his big toe went to work where one of his coworkers said, "You jammed it.  That happens all the time to professional athletes.  It's called turf toe.  Go see one of the docs and they'll yank on it and unjam it."

That night Mark came home and told me of his professional sports injury.  "Are you going to have somebody look at it?" I asked.  "Nah," he said.  "That sounds too painful.  It'll probably be fine soon."

A few days later my mom came to town.  I was on the mend and her and I went grocery shopping. Mark hobbled to the car to help bring the bags in and Mom said, "Oh for God's sake, you'd have thought he was the one that had surgery."  This was a true statement as the injury to his toe would take far longer to heal than surgically sucking a cyst out of me.

Four months later I had to have surgery again, this time more involved and with a longer recovery, and so I convened a meeting with the hubs to clearly communicate my raging, homicidal thoughts. "This is all about me this time. I don't care if you jam your toe or have a bone sticking out of your forehead. I get all of the sympathy because this time I'm getting stuff removed and stitches and I am not going to share that for some made-up sports injury."

"Okay," he said.  "But it's not made up.  Turf toe is very, very real.  I don't know if you remember me telling you that professional athletes get it and if you ever experienced it you would know how extremely painful it is."

And like my mom I said, "Oh for God's sake."

Two weeks ago when I broke my foot Mark had a bit of nostalgia sweep over him as we sat in the emergency room. "Any time you injure your foot it's painful, Kath.  Real painful.  Do you remember that time I got turf toe?  It's something professional athletes get."

"Isn't there some kind of statute of limitations for the retelling of a stupid toe injury?" I asked.

There is not.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Das Boot

Last week my mom and sister and her kids came to our little part of Oz for a short visit.  I was a busy beaver spiffing the joint up for their arrival.  While the inside was in pretty good shape, the screened-in porch was not.  Between the buckets of pollen that have fallen from above all spring followed by buckets of rain, everything out there was a green, grimy mess - which tends to happen when you insist that the inside should marry the outside.  I got my trusty Clorox spray and a rag and went to town.

For about five minutes.

As I stood on the threshold of the kitchen door wiping the ledge on the porch, I noticed something that needed to be put away STAT and headed that way.  Whatever THAT was I cannot remember, and in my hurry to get to it I might have considered looking where I was about to step.  I put my dainty, little left foot down and shoved my clodhopper right foot through the handle of a basket that was on the ground just to the right of me. 

I went flying.  Or staggering-half-barreling-epic falling to the ground.

In my tumble I smashed my foot on the concrete floor which ummmmm, hurt like a mother.  Then I felt like throwing up.

Mal heard the commotion and came out.  I was having trouble saying much of anything with the foot pain and overall barfiness but I did manage to ask her to get me an ice pack.  I hobbled to a chair and put my banged up foot up on another chair and let the ice do its thing for awhile.  When I got up I put my weight on it and was mildly successful.  I heeled it to the ibuprofen bottle.

Maggie and I had already made plans to go to Target and Homegoods which was essential to my goal of creating the perfect family entertaining ambiance.  I needed a battery operated pillar candle or everyone was going to be completely miserable during their visit.  I found my cushioniest flip flops, slipped in one fat foot and one normal sized foot and got in her car.  "Are you sure about this, Mom?  You're limping pretty bad."

No, I wasn't at all sure but I have always thought if you take your mind off your troubles you'll feel better which explained the immediate need to get to Target.

I gimped myself through both stores with no luck in finding the battery operated pillar candle in the cool color I envisioned and thought I so desperately needed.  I covered a lot of square footage with that bum foot and had nothing to show for it except some outdoor lights for the patio that I was smart enough to realize weren't going to get hung for awhile.  Or probably ever.

Mark came home and repeated what his daughter had already said, "You're limping pretty bad.  You did a number on that foot, honey."

By the next morning I was no longer limping pretty bad because I couldn't put any weight on it at all and so we went to the emergency room.  I was reminded that a real ER has nothing in common with what is depicted on t.v. or in movies. There is absolutely no urgency - even for the guy who was sweating and clutching his chest while his wife pleaded twice for someone to look at him immediately.  "I see you," the registration clerk said as if she was playing peek-a-boo with a toddler rather than a middle-aged guy with chest pains who already had a pacemaker.  "Give me just one more minute."

"That one behind the desk is a cog in the wheel," Mark said icily.  "You know what a cog does?  It f**** everything up."

I nodded and said, "If I'm like that call an ambulance even if I say not to.   I heard that you get seen faster if you come by ambulance."

"You'd bitch about the copay on an ambulance," Mark said back and he was right.  I'd be at the mercy of Cog Lady which sent a shudder down my spine.

Just then I was called back and hopped the length of a football field to get to the exam room.  "I should have gotten you a wheelchair," the nurse said sympathetically.  "Yes, that would have been helpful," I said as I did a last hop onto the bed.  The doctor had the good sense not to touch my foot and was pretty sure it was a bad sprain.  "Does it hurt to walk on it," he asked.  "Well," I said nodding to the nurse, "she about did me in."  They chuckled and offered me a Vicodin.  I declined.

We waited for the xray machine to show up.

"Mark, I can't do crutches," I whined in the meantime.  "Everyone who's ever had them says they suck.  If I can get by with Das Boot I'd be so happy."

We cracked up at my funny and his favorite movie about a German submarine that made me claustrophobic just watching it.  We watched the minutes tick by and twice somebody came in and said we could turn the t.v. on.  I couldn't figure out what sort of t.v. one watches in the ER and instead I listened in on what the staff was ordering for lunch.

Eventually I got my xray and it confirmed that I did break a bone.  I also hyper-extended my toes when I fell and had some messed up ligaments.  "We'll put you in a boot," the doctor said and I about jumped with joy on my one good foot.  A Vicodin was offered.  I declined.  Someone came in for a fitting.  "What do you bet this foam thing gets billed to the insurance company for $800.00," I joked to Mark.

But not really because it probably does.

When I stepped down I thought all my troubles would be over and my foot wouldn't hurt a bit but that was not the case.  Mark went and got the car and I started the long, slow, painful trek to the pickup area, grateful that I relented and took a prescription for Vicodin.

Since then I've had to baby it some but have managed within the last week to go to an outlet mall, vintage market, pizza place, Panera Bread, the grocery store, another trip to Target and a soccer game.

What a trooper!

Or what a gigantic idiot for not staying off of it so it can heal!!

I won't be able to tell until next week's orthopedist appointment and follow-up xray, but on the agenda for tomorrow is a job interview.

Das Boot will be coming along.  My footwear is losing its charm in this summer heat and like the movie is making me feel a wee bit claustrophobic.  In the end, though, it may be very useful after all.

It's hard to slam the door on a fat, overpriced padded shoe.

My what big handles you have.