My first book has been released!

My first book has been released!
Available on Amazon and Kindle

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Top of the Morning?

Let’s be honest, Ladies, no woman looks forward to her annual gynecological exam.  For men out there, you have no clue what we must endure.  The only remotely similar medical experience you undergo is the annual prostate exam.  And even this makes my big, macho husband tremble.  As he turns his back and hears the last snap of the doctor’s rubber glove secured in place, he turns his face over his left shoulder and threatens, “I better not feel your two hands on my shoulders anytime during this exam!”
Recently, I scheduled my first annual exam and PAP smear with a new gynecologist in Florida.  Since moving to paradise, I’ve become somewhat relaxed about schedules and have tried to avoid this important medical procedure.  At 53, this area of my expanding body more closely resembles a ghost town amusement park whose colorful flickering lights and joyful music has long gone silent.  Every once in a while, the caretaker may go for a solo ride on the roller coaster, but the screaming has been muted. In fact, the ups and downs are so much less thrilling that he might actually belch or nod- off in the middle of what was once a thriller.
Like all women, when the day for my gyno appointment arrived, I gave myself the “Let just get this crap over with” talk.  I paid great attention to the little details that a man would never even consider.  What shoes will keep my feet from perspiring so that they smell pretty mid day?  How does my French pedicure look on my big toe? If the doctor’s hand or arm should brush along my calf, with I feel smooth and silky?  What matching lacy panties and bra should I select in case the bitchy nurse should glance and judge them where they lay on the requisite patient chair? After a military quality inspection of the lower half of my body, I checked my face, added my rings and earrings and I was on my way.
Before being taken into the exam room, I was given the opportunity to meet with my new gynecologist in his well appointed office.  He was an upbeat, handsome man, with blue friendly eyes and neatly trimmed auburn hair and beard.  While he did ask me if I had any concerns, my too quick “no” response made the whole experience similar to speed dating.  No wine, no food, nothing before he popped up from his leather chair and said, “Off, we go, then.” Perhaps this was a one night stand.
I was trying to keep my feet and hands from sweating as I reclined on the vinyl exam table wearing a white, scratchy robe of the same quality as paper towels.  I followed the familiar instructions of the nurse who barked, “Everything off.  This drape on top with the opening to the front and this one covering your lower half.” So, there I was, as so many women have been before me, butt forward on the table, legs open, feet in stirrups, with only a thin paper drape covering what my grandmother told me I should never let a man touch.
The bubbly, doctor bounced into the room and his nurse immediately stepped to my left side.  He rubbed his hands together, to make them warmer, and said “Ok, let’s have a look.”  As he did, I focused numbly on the mysterious colorful mermaids that had been painted on the dropped ceiling panels.  I tightened every fiber of my body. Both of arms were extended to my sides and with defensive, white knuckles, my hands held metal grip bars on the side of the exam table. I heard the doctor sit on his short stool, and could hear the squeaky wheels as he rolled himself closer.  Gently, he lifted up the lightweight, white paper sheet.
 Instantly, he exclaimed, “Oh my God, who’s Irish?”
“What?” “Huh?”
Complete silence.
My mind processed rapid thoughts.  What the hell is he talking about?  Are parts of me a red head? Am I freckled?  Does anything, in that area, resemble a shamrock? Am I carrying a Leprechaun? Was this a rhetorical question?
Then, he freaking repeated the question again more emphatically, “Who’s Irish?”
Like a hundred year old turtle that has been flipped on its back and is struggling to get right, I floundered on the exam table and used my very few remaining “core” muscles (as my legs were still in stirrups) to lift my head and ask, “What do you mean?”
He said, “Your ring. Your ring.  I see you’re wearing a Claddah ring.”
He pointed to my right hand on the side of the exam table.
The three of us in the room laughed so hard that, at fifty –three (Ladies, back me up here) my instant prayer was that I didn’t pee my pants or lack thereof.
“I just bought my wife one,” the doc added.  
He had me at Erin go Bragh!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Mean Girl

Do you ever think back to a moment in your childhood to realize that you did something truly mean.  I hate to admit that every now and then, I participated in street urchin, gang mentality activities that hurt innocent victims. In my tiny NJ neighborhood, the people most targeted by our adolescent cruelty, were Annie and Tony—the owners of a candy store a few blocks from our house.                                         
Annie and Tony were Polish immigrants with thick, spitting accents who opened their eclectic store at daybreak and hustled until 9:00PM.  I never liked it when I was sent to the store for cold cuts or bread because nothing was organized and sinister cats tiptoed across the display counters throughout the day.  It was difficult to pick up a loaf of bread without the Wonder name appearing a bit furry from cat hair.
Annie and Tony, too, were unattractive because they seemed interchangeable. Maybe their bodies just looked the same because the two of them wore matching denim bib overalls daily.  They also had similar white hair that was tinged with yellow on the ends.  It didn’t glow like blonde hair, but looked dingy like white sweat socks that needed bleach.  It was dulled by the fact that to save on utilities costs or to keep the place cool, they rarely had lights on in the store.  From the outside, then, when they and the cats moved about on the inside, the big store windows turned them into ominous shadows working the meat slicer or pushing a straw broom.  This sent even more hair and dust into the air to settle on top of the Bit O’ Honey, Tootsie Rolls, or Sugar Daddy candy boxes.  Still, we went to Tony’s because no matter how poor we were, we always had enough to purchase three pretzel rods for two cents or a few long red licorice whips.  Looking back, I can’t believe that, after braiding these sweet, red strings or swinging them around to hit my brother, I still ate them.
Each day after school, three or four boys pulled open Tony’s store door, making the cow bells strapped on by a faded brown leather belt, startle the owners inside.  “Annie, do you want to suck my Sugar Daddy?” One pimple faced boy taunted.
Tony puffed up like a blow fish and put his fists in the air shouting, “What you strange boys want?  Git from my store!”  But the more he yelled, the more the boys laughed.  By the time Tony hurriedly cleared his products from a center portion of the counter on hinges, the boys grabbed a case of RC Cola, a bag of hot dog rolls, or any other item displayed near the front door.
One crisp fall night, I was sitting on our concrete stoop, when my brother and his two friends ran to the porch.  “Did you see that?” My brother Billy said, struggling to catch his breath.  “I nailed Tony in the head with a Ding Dong.”
The three boys chuckled.  My brother’s friend, Joey, reached inside his blue Yankee's wind breaker and said, “Yeah, well look what I took.”  His hand was filled with colorful jaw breakers, Sweet Tarts and other penny candies.  “Here, have some.” Joe turned to me.  “Why don’t you come with us next time?”  My heart leaped because Joe recently began kissing me every time I completed a pass when we played touch football.  I was steady quarterback and started throwing the best spirals in the seventh grade, even though I was a girl.
Just around 6:00 O’clock the next evening, the four of us headed to the store.  We all wore blue ski masks and our blue school windbreakers.  Our pockets were filled with eggs.  We used sewing needles to put holes in the top and the bottom of the eggs. Then we blew out the insides and filled them with Ajax and topped them with Scotch tape.  Joe went up to the store window first and whispered to Billy, “Annie is sitting in her chair at the counter.  I don’t see Tony.”  “Perfect,” my brother replied.  With that, Joe pulled open the glass door and the four of us pelted Annie with the eggs.  White and green speckled Ajax covered her shocked face and she started rubbing her eyes and screaming.  Just then, Tony came out of what seemed like a secret hallway swinging a baseball bat.
As he struggled to connect with one, another boy ran behind him and kicked him in his seat.  “Leave him alone!”  I screamed. “Stop it! Don’t hurt him!”  I didn’t realize, at first, that I was talking to the boys--not to Tony.  I ran home terrified.            
A few weeks later, I was forced to return to Tony’s candy store for my great grandmother's quarter pound of ham bologna.  I never knew if she wanted me to ask for ham or bologna. When I asked for clarification, she spewed curses at me in Polish and added, “Stupid girl, get ham bologna.”
When, I entered the scene of my previous crime, I guess Annie didn’t recognize me in my plaid Catholic school uniform. My blond hair was angelic compared to my navy ski mask. She stood from her badly scratched  maple rocking chair and said, “Come, here, Sweetheart, is this not beautiful?  Listen."   She pointed to her ear, then squinted, creating deep wrinkles on each side of her face. She lifted her head proudly and read slowly and clearly from her Readers Digest.  “Be careful of the words you say.  Keep them soft and sweet.  You’ll never know from day to day, which words you’ll have to eat.” 
She pushed a crumpled Kleenex across her shriveled face and asked, “What can I give you today?”
Nervously, I stuttered and said, “My great grandmother wants ham bologna, but I don’t even know what that is…”
Annie mistook my shame for innocence and said, “I take good care of you, honey.  Don’t worry.  Grandma be happy.  You are a good girl!”
It was on this day, in Tony's candy store, that it clicked for me that words have power.  As Annie handed me the small, brown, package of meat, I smiled and said, "Thank you, Annie. Have a good day."  In that moment, when our eyes met, I put my mean days behind me.