Sunday, July 02, 2006

Writers, Anomalies, Relatives, and Fun

Before I get into my personal stuff, I have literary news to share. Three of my writing colleagues/friends have recently published. Sarah Gardner published a chapbook of poems titled “How to Study Birds” which I just received from the publisher ( Winston Derden has a short story coming out in an anthology of stories titled “Able To …” about “ordinary people … extraordinary abilities” ( And Francesco Levato has just published a book of poetry titled “Marginal States” which you can find out more about at Francesco writes poetry that engages social issues. He also is co-editor, with his wife and fellow poet Lauren Matthews, of the literary magazine ink and ashes ( So check out all these excellent writers and BUY THEIR BOOKS. (One must buy the books or the authors go hungry!!)

Book Aside: I am reading like a demon in order to get ten books finished by the end of July. I have been keeping a book journal since July 1986. If I can read another ten books in the next four weeks - which I can, of course – I will have read and recorded my reviews of 400 books over the last twenty years. Twenty books a year for twenty years. That is not bad for someone who doesn’t read for a living. My reading is very eclectic, from the sublime to the mundane with pulp fiction and sci-fi thrown in for good measure, but I love books and haven’t felt the least bit put upon doing it! Maybe once I hit the 400 book/twenty year mark, I’ll review all my reviews and blog the best of the books I’ve read since 1986. Anyone interested?

Since June 9, Alix has been a huge worry for me. She collapsed at work and got a ride to the hospital in an ambulance. (Actually, it was her second time – and I’ve never even had ONE ride in an ambulance!!) The ER doctors did two CT scans and said that she had a colloid cyst or brain bleed and they kept her in the hospital. Then they did an MRI and said it wasn’t really there. Four days later, a neurologist said that she had experienced a seizure (without convulsions) due to a new medication she had started taking in May. They released her with instructions not to drive for several months (due to the danger of another seizure) and we thought everything would get back to normal shortly.

Next event, Alix saw a neurologist through her private doctor. This one ordered more tests – a contrast CT scan where they inject iodine into your veins so they can see the “anomaly” better. The new neurologist showed Alix and me the CT scan and pronounced that she had a 7.2 mm colloid cyst. Next step? See a neurosurgeon.

Thursday I took her to the neurosurgeon, who looked at the CT scan and said, “I don’t know if that’s a colloid cyst. You need more tests.” So now, Alix is waiting for a contrast MRI to be scheduled. This is very aggravating. She feels terrible – has an awful headache that has persisted for weeks – and she’s scared. Plus, she can’t work because of the headache. I wish that we could get an answer and move forward with treatment.

My own experience as the target of medicos makes me highly skeptical of this process. I have had two different doctors give me opposite opinions on the very same day about the same problem. I have bounced around the medical center like a rubber ball, frustrated and ill, getting no relief. I worry so much about that happening to Alix. Well, I can only offer my support and advice based on experience and hope it helps her work through this process.

Alix’s illness has taken a lot of my energy, but there is more going on in my life.

My Cousin Michael’s son, David, is in Houston for the summer training for a Teach for America assignment in Hawaii. We picked David up at the University of Houston on Saturday and gave him a strange tour of Houston, which included a junk shop in Montrose – specializing in used cowboy boots – and the Menil Collection museum.

Menil Aside: I just love the Magritte’s in their collection. It is such a pleasure to see so many of his paintings in one place. Magritte is a favorite of mine because of his visual humor and quirkiness.

After our drive around the area, we went home and had a scrumptious dinner. I made my delish crunchy potato salad (sans eggs, Michael hates hard-boiled eggs) and a colorful fresh fruit salad with watermelon, cantaloupe, Bing cherries, strawberries, and blueberries. Michael grilled pork ribs slathered in KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce (which he swears by). And I steamed some ears of sweet, sweet corn on the cob. Oh, did we eat well. And topped it off with snickerdoodle cookies. Yum, yum, yum. Good food, good company.

David is in his early twenties and hails from Winslow, Arizona. I haven’t seen him for several years and only rarely saw him before that. He turned out to be a fine young man, one whose company for an afternoon is a pleasure. Next weekend, we are taking him to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston to see the Quilts of Gees Bend exhibit.

Quilting Aside: David’s grandmother Donna, my mother’s late sister, was an extraordinary quilter and his aunts (my cousins) quilt, too. As does my mother. Quilting is in our blood, I suppose, so going to an art exhibit about quilts is not that weird!

Today, our son Nick spent several hours with us on his way from New Orleans to Austin. We had a good time, with lots of laughing. Michael prepared a lovely brunch – scrambled eggs with green and red peppers, smoked ham, onions, and shredded cheese – plus hash browns. I contributed toast and fruit salad from last night. Alix joined us. It seemed like old times, the five of us sitting around the table eating a meal together. We had a fun, relaxing time. Not to diminish Alix and Nick’s loved ones at all, the dynamic is just different when we expand beyond our original family constellation. I enjoyed having my children all to myself for a few hours.

Friday night Michael, Tori, and I attended our friend Patti’s 50th birthday party. Happy birthday, Patti!! We had a great time. Patti put out a delicious spread of food, the band – Bil Cusak’s band – played some mean music (although too loud!!), and I got to talk to lots of my friends. A nice party. It reminded me of my own 50th birthday party – now 6 years ago – which I themed “It’s Good to be Queen” (with tanks to Mary Engelbreit). I have been thinking about throwing a party this summer. Not for my birthday, but just because it’s has been six years since I threw a big party and people have been asking … Plus, we had so many nice updates to the house lately, especially the pergola. We’ll see. If I do have a party, it will be in August.

Speaking of parties, I am having a small coffee party in a week for a friend visiting from out of town. Just a few people who have also been friends of my friend. I invited eight people and only four of them have RSVP’d. What is one supposed to do about that? Don I plan for the ones who said they were coming and hope the others don’t show up now? Do I plan for everyone I invited and risk having gobs of food left over? It is a frustrating situation to be in and one I encountered at the time of Alix’s wedding. I guess our society is really losing the niceties of good manners. Perhaps in the next few days, I will get some more phone calls.

Other than Alix’s brain anomaly (she calls it Larry), it has been a lovely weekend with a terrific party Friday, entertaining a charming guest Saturday, and enjoying the company of all my children together on Sunday. And we haven’t even gotten to the holiday yet! I hope the pleasantries continue unabated.


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