Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Just me, ranting...

Last week I went in for my annual eye exam. I’ve been going to the same place to have my eyes examined for the past 15 years, so I’m not exactly a new patient or an unknown entity. I’m healthy, and although like many people my age, I’m far sighted and need contacts to read or see anything up close, my eyes are healthy too, so I've continued to schedule this routine exam, mostly to see if my prescription has changed, with an optometrist (not an M.D.) rather than an opthalmologist (an M.D.), thinking it should be no big deal...

However, when I went in for my appointment last week, Dr. P, the optometrist who usually sees me, was on vacation. Dr. P has a solo practice, so in her absence, her patients were being seen by Dr. V, a locum tenens doc. Locum tenens is a Latin term; it means "holding the place". A doc doing locum tenens is working temporarily in an assigned practice, or, put another way, it’s the medical equivalent of a substitute teacher.

I like Dr. P, but I also liked the locum tenens doc, Dr. V. She was young and apparently new to her profession, but she was very thorough, and asked all the appropriate questions during the course of the eye exam, including whether, as a contact lens wearer, I ever have problems with dry eyes. I said that during allergy season that is sometimes a problem. "What do you do for it?" she asked. I told her that I occasionally use over-the-counter eye drops. Like every optometrist and ophthalmologist I’ve ever known, she disapproved of OTC eye drops, and offered to write me a script for eye drops to be used, as needed, for seasonal allergies. I said that would be great, and thanked her, and didn’t think any more about it until I got home and realized I hadn’t received the script. I immediately called the office and asked the receptionist if she could simply call the script into my pharmacy. She said that Dr. V had left for the day, and that she couldn’t do it herself. She suggested that if I didn’t need the script immediately (and I didn’t) that I could simply pick it up in a few days, when I brought my son Chris in for his eye exam.

I said that would be fine, and today, when I took Chris in for his exam, I asked for the script. You’d have thought I was asking for a prescription for heroin, or some other drug with a street value...looks were exchanged, after which not one but two staff members took my file and went off, down a hallway and into a room, to talk with Dr. P, in barely audible hushed voices, about my request. Eventually, they reappeared, and one of them sniffed "Dr. P is not in the habit of casually writing prescriptions, so she’ll need to call Dr. V and talk with her about this to see whether she agrees that it's appropriate to write a script for you."

Uh-huh. Sure. Whatever. Sheesh! This is a script for frigging EYE DROPS! I don’t think there’s any sort of street value to this item, but what do I know? I could be wrong. I refrained from asking if this means they think I’ve made a mistake, getting my annual mammogram from that guy who does them cheaply on an old Xerox machine in the back of his converted van, parked in the Albertson’s parking lot...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Taxman

Let me tell you how it will be,
There’s one for you, nineteen for me,
‘Cause I’m the Taxman
Yeah....I’m the Taxman
Should five per cent appear too small
Be thankful I don’t take it all
‘Cause I’m the Taxman
Yeah...I’m the Taxman
Don’t ask me what I want it for
If you don’t want to pay some more
‘Cause I’m the Taxman
Yeah... I’m the Taxman...
(lyrics by The Beatles)

News item: Dick Cheney and his wife declared they made almost $9 million dollars last year and overpaid their taxes by so much that they will be receiving a refund of almost $2 million dollars (read about it here).

Aaaaaaaarrrggghhh. Taxes. This year, for a variety of reasons (none of them having to do with making money) I had to itemize. Itemize. I hate that word. It’s one of those words, if you say it aloud, over and over, it just becomes a sound, with no meaning. But I digress.

I did my taxes online, as usual, and, as required, submitted my return to the IRS to be accepted for filing so that I could actually file electronically. Also as required, I included my e-mail address, so that I could be formally notified when the IRS had accepted my return, yada yada yada, after which I could actually file it. I did all that on Friday.

On Monday morning I checked my e-mail, only to see that there was still no response from the IRS.

Because my COBRA health insurance is about to expire, I spent the next several hours on the web, reading scintillating information about the health insurance coverage that is available to those individuals in Texas who can answer "No" to these two questions that I’m quoting, verbatim, from something innocuously called a Health Questionnaire:

1) Do you or any person named on this application plan on participating in motor vehicle, boat or snowmobile racing; mountain climbing; bungee jumping, hang gliding or sky diving during this coverage?

I thought about this for a while. I don’t think that I’m planning on doing any of those things, the past few years, these are some of the things that I have done:

  • gone white water rafting for a week in Idaho (and I prow rode some of those rapids!);
  • gone on a couple of cattle drives;
  • gone on a camel trek;
  • gone hiking in Big Bend (several times);
  • taken a Desert Survival Skills course in Big Bend, that involved roughing it in the desert (lots of rattlers, among other things) for a few days...

You get the I sort of hate to limit my options...

But then I realized...lucky me! I'm a spontaneous woman, and if I decide to engage in any of those verboten activities, for sure it’ll be a spur-of-the-moment thing, not I can honestly answer "No" to that question!

Btw, I can’t help but notice, they didn’t ask about Canopy Tours...I think that may be a sign that I should sign up for a Canopy Tour...hmmmmm...

OK, question No. 2: In the past 5 years, have you or any family member to be covered ever received any medical or surgical consultation, advice or treatment, including medication, for any of the following: heart or circulatory system disorder including heart attack or stroke; diabetes; cancer or tumors; disorder of the blood; mental or nervous conditions or disorders; alcoholism or alcohol abuse; drug abuse, addiction, or dependency?

How many people can honestly answer "No" to that question, for not only themselves, but their family members, I wonder? I can’t.

But for those who can...then, for a monthly premium equal to a sum that would feed approximately 68 small children in a third world country for a month (I actually did the math, based on stats at the Feed the Children website), you can be covered by health insurance, after which, should you ever have the misfortune to get ill and the cohungas to actually submit a claim, you will be subjected to what a friend of mine calls The Three D’s of the Insurance Industry: Deny, Delay, and Don’t Pay.

Just when I was getting depressed about all this, I realized I still hadn’t received an e-mail from the IRS, so I went onto the Turbotax website and clicked "Check the status of my return".

Mississippi one, Mississippi two...OK, a window appeared, but then, to my horror, I read: "The IRS has REJECTED your return...blah blah blah..."

It was not a good moment, and it was compounded by the fact that at first, I was unable to read the reason for the rejection. That part wasn’t visible on the screen, and for some reason there was no bar enabling me to scroll down to read it. I got around that by printing it out. I breathed a big sigh of relief when I realized it appears to be because Mike (who did his taxes weeks ago) had apparently claimed himself as a dependent when in fact he is still legally my dependent. I need to be able to claim him on my return, so I submitted a request for an extension, and with a little bit of luck, I’ll get this straightened out sometime this week,’s gotten me to thinking about money, and more specifically, about making money.

I’m no genius, but I’m a bright woman, I know that. And yet, I have no talent for making money. What’s more, all of my friends are bright people, and yet most of them have no talent for making money, either. Part of it, I think (maybe a big part), is that none of us really cares about making money. Oh, we’d all like to have it, but not to the extent that it apparently requires to really make a ton of it. There’s a tv ad where this little kid, maybe 8 years old, is asked by his buddies if he’d like to come along with them to get a slurpee. "No", he says, "I’m saving for my retirement fund."

It’s a funny ad, unless you know someone like that. Of the people I know who’ve made a lot of money (not many, I admit), most have some variation of that view of the world. They’re aware of money in a way that I’ll probably never be, and maybe don’t want to be, because it seems to me that too often, they know the price of everything and the value of nothing...

And yet...I know this is an area in which I have much to learn. Maybe I need to start reading those Suze Ormond books that have been sitting on one of my bookshelves for a couple of years...

But first, I wanna do the Canopy Tour...

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Gentlemen, start your engines...

I went to the races this weekend, specifically, the Busch and NASCAR races at the Texas Motor Speedway. I know nothing about automobile races, in fact, I know so little about them that I don’t know whether I should use an article when referring to them (as in, "the" Busch and "the" NASCAR races), or whether they’re just called Busch and NASCAR (like the British say they’re "going to hospital" vs. we Americans, who say we’re going to "the" hospital, as if there were just one. But I digress.

Late last week, I got a call from my ex inviting me to join him and some friends who were driving up from Houston for the races, and who generously provided the (much sought after and absurdly pricey) tickets for all of us. NASCAR fans are serious fans. In addition to the stadium seating, Dallas provides over 5,000 camping spaces at the Texas Motor Speedway for fans who travel here to see the race. According to the Texas Motor Speedway website: "The Speedway offers five distinct camping areas suited to a wide variety of needs and requirements".

The 5 areas are Infield camping, VIP camping, Reserved campgrounds, Tent City, and Unreserved. Camping, too, can be very pricey. Tent City and Unreserved may be affordable, but infield camping ranges from $700 (yep, 3 digits...and that’s for interior infield) to $2000 (paddock, row 1). Judging by the expensive and elaborate rigs that inhabited most of the infield, this is not exactly a hardship for most of those camping there. Also, all infield camping requires that each person have an Infield Pass ($65), which can be purchased at the gate.

I’ve been up for some new experience, and to that end, I’ve been considering the Cypress Valley Canopy Tours...the Busch/NASCAR races were quicker, didn’t require the emotional psyching that I’m going to have to do to myself to do the canopy tour, and were (for me) a freebie, so I immediately said yes.

From the moment we arrived, early Saturday morning, luck was with me. For starters, we had tickets to one of the Luxury Suites...meaning, instead of sitting in the stands, in the bright Texas sun, on hard benches without backs, where the noise from the cars is so deafeningly loud that earplugs are essential, we got to watch the races from the comfort of cushy seats, in an air conditioned, quiet suite complete with a full buffet and private restrooms and an incredible view of the entire track.

As if that weren’t enough, there were drawings for prizes, and luck being with me, very shortly after arriving on Saturday morning I won two things: a collapsible cooler on wheels (handy, should I decide that I want to bring 4 six-packs of beer to any event I plan to attend in the future), and something really amazing: a place as a driver in the Driver Intro Parade. In plain English, I won a place driving a brand new Chevy Silverado truck on a single lap around the track of the Texas Motor Speedway, with a race car driver standing behind me, in the bed the truck I was driving, waving to the roaring crowd. Of over 200,000 people attending the races as spectators, just 43 of us got to actually drive around the track on Saturday morning. For someone who didn’t even learn to drive until I was 30, and who has never, ever, driven any sort of truck, it was a very cool experience, if I do say so myself. Trust me, I called friends on my cell phone to tell them exactly where I was, as I sat in the truck at the edge of the track, waiting to pick up the racer assigned to me.

Kyle Busch was the racer assigned to ride with me. A rising star, Mr. Busch is a gracious and impressive young man who began racing at age 13. He graduated from high school a year early to further his racing career, only to be prohibited from competing in any of NASCAR's series after the sanctioning body decided that drivers had to be 18 or older. The mother in me doesn’t think that’s a bad idea, as the average speed on Sunday was 137 mph. Just 20 years old (the same age as my sons!) he's twice been named Rookie of the Year. Mr. Busch came in 4th on Saturday, and 15th in the NASCAR on Sunday. In terms of points, at the end of race on Sunday, he was 7th overall.

When we got to our trucks on Saturday, there was a sort of one-way walkie talkie radio for each of us, from which we received instructions as to what to do. Amid much static, this is what I heard (yep, I’m such a nerd, I took notes):

"Fire ‘em up!"
"Headlights ‘n hazards on!"
"Thumbs up, outside yer windows, if y’all can hear me on yer radios!"
"Ladies ‘n gen’lmen, we’re fixin’ to roll in 5 minutes!"
"Wait for the truck to yer right to roll out, then snug behind ‘em!"
"Awright, let’s rock! Go ahead ‘n block it off, we’re gonna start comin’ out!"
"Awright, ladies and gen’lmen, we’re gonna start rollin’...nice an’ tight to the person in front a you...nice an’ tight...we got 43 of ‘em we gotta snug ‘em on in here..."

And then, one by one, we pulled out onto the track, where the trucks looked rather beautiful: red, black, red, the end of the line.

A few observations. The Texas Motor Speedway is an oval, 1.5 miles around. Racers drove 200 laps on Saturday, and 334 laps on Sunday. The track is much steeper than it appears from a distance, with 24-degree banks. Up close, these appear to be almost vertical, so I stayed on the flats (as we were, in fact, sternly admonished to do) in my single lap. When I got home, I looked up track banking statistics on the web: at Indianapolis, the banks are 12 degrees; at Nashville, 14; at Daytona, 31. In the Driver Intro Parade, in spite of the fact that my ex calls me "leadfoot", I drove s l o w l y ...after all, I had a racer standing in the back of the truck.

I have to admit, I had a great time, but I also have to say, that although I attended NASCAR this weekend, I have no intention of "gettin’ ink done".

Thursday, April 06, 2006


I’ve had reason to go to DFW airport a number of times in the past few weeks. It is not one of the world’s great airports, and it’s not my favorite place to go, and if you’ve been there, you’ll understand why. Usually, whether you’re picking someone up or dropping them off, you’re restricted to an area near the luggage carrousels, with a few places to sit but nothing to see and nothing to do, and not even a vending machine in sight. However, the last time I was there, picking up A from his most recent trip to Chicago, I was able to wait in an area that was a people watcher’s dream, because one side of the waiting area was a wall of glass. On the far side of the glass, I was able to observe passengers disembarking from their flights, while on the near side, where I was standing, I was able to observe the people waiting to meet them.

In a period of a little over 30 minutes, three reunions were memorable. First, I saw a father in his late thirties or early forties walking rapidly toward the spot where I was standing, which gave a good view of both gates. He was accompanied by his three lively children: two little girls, perhaps 5 and 9 years of age, both wearing hot pink t-shirts, blue jeans, and cowboy boots, and a rather large boy of 11 or 12, wearing rumpled sweats. Their father was tall, well over 6 feet. He had broad shoulders, but was beginning to put on weight. He had a full, dark beard, and hair pulled into a ponytail that fell to the middle of his back. He wore black, horn-rimmed glasses, circa 1960, a plaid shirt that looked as though it were an old friend, blue jeans, and boots. He was not an unattractive man, but he looked as if he worked with computers. "Watch that gate: Mommy’s going to come through that gate," he said, pointing to one of the two gates from which passengers could exit. "When is she going to be here? I don’t see her!" the older of the two girls said. "Her plane is in; she’ll be here any minute. I want you to watch to see who sees her first!" he said.

All 3 kids pressed up against the window, eagerly watching the gate. Eventually, a crush of passengers began to crowd through the gate. "Where’s Mommy?" the older girl asked anxiously. "She’ll be here, keep watching!" the dad said, not unkindly. Eventually, a rather large, dark haired woman in black pants and a hot pink sweatshirt that matched the shirts the two little girls were wearing emerged from the crowd. Her face lit up when she saw her family. Pulling her carry-on bag behind her, she hurried toward the window.

The kids began to jump up and down. "I saw her first!" "No, I did!" "Did not!" "Dad! I saw her first, didn’t I?" Their father was wonderfully calm. "I saw her first," he said firmly, settling the matter for once and for all, and the kids seemed quite happy with his pronouncement.

The woman came right up to the glass, smiling. She mouthed to her husband, "I have to pee!", and she gestured toward the restrooms on her side of the glass. He nodded, and said, sotto voce to the kids, "OK, Mommy’ll be here in a minute, but first she has to pee."

"What?!?! Why does she have to pay? What does she have to pay for?" the boy asked loudly, sounding exasperated.

"PEE, PEE! Mommy has to go to the bathroom!" I heard the dad whisper rather ferociously to his son. Then he said something that surprised me. "Go look for Mommy’s suitcase!" he commanded.

"Which one is hers?" all 3 kids asked simultaneously.

"Well," he said, "She took the purple one out there, but the airlines lost it, and so she had to buy a new one. I noticed that the carry-on bag that she has is green, so I’d guess the suitcase will match it. So go look for a green suitcase, see who can spot it first."

The kids obediently lined up at the luggage carrousel. While they were watching for the luggage to come out, I saw their mother emerge from the women’s restroom and head toward the revolving door, through which all passengers must exit from those gates. Her husband waited quietly on the other side. When she emerged, it was into his open arms, for a long, full kiss and quiet embrace, just the two of them, for a good 30 seconds before they walked, hand in hand, toward their children, who’d spotted her and begun to squeal and shout, as if she were a rock star, (which in fact, a good mom sort of is, to her kids) "There she is!" "Mom, over here!" "Mom! We MISSED you!".

Shortly after the young family departed, I saw a young woman who appeared to be in her early 30's. She was perhaps 5'6" tall, with pale skin and lank dark brown, shoulder length hair, with bangs cut straight above her eyebrows. She was slightly overweight. She wore a white blouse and black pants, and plain black shoes. There was nothing particularly noticeable about her, except that in her right hand, she carried a large bouquet of fresh flowers. There was nothing remarkable about the bouquet; it was one of those assortments that you pick up at the last minute at the grocery store for about $10.00: a couple of irises, some white and yellow daisies, some purple statice and baby’s breath, but she held it carefully and looked through the glass window with anticipation in her eyes.

I glanced over at her from time to time, trying to guess whom she was going to meet. Her mother or a favorite aunt, coming for a brief visit, was my guess. Eventually, another crush of passengers began to emerge from the gate. I saw a number of older women whom I thought were likely candidates hurrying toward the exit, but none of them glanced toward the glass to see who was on the other side, and the young woman didn’t appear to be waiting for any of them. After almost all of the passengers had disembarked, a rumpled, heavy-set young man walked slowly through the gate. He looked weary, and he didn’t look up to see who might be waiting for him until he was almost in the revolving door. Then his eyes lit on the young woman, and he smiled. When he came out of the revolving door, she was there, standing on her tiptoes to kiss him hello. After they kissed, he stood back and looked at her, and saw the flowers for the first time. "Are these for me?" I heard him say. "Yes!" she said, smiling, and she held them out to him. He took the flowers, and he looked at them, carefully, admiring them. "Wow, thank you, these are great," he said. Then he slipped his arm around her waist, and they walked away slowly, together.

I’d been waiting almost half an hour, and A’s flight was supposedly in. As I waited for him to emerge from the gate, an Indian woman passed in front of me, on the other side of the glass, as she made her way toward the exit. She was perhaps in her late 40's or early 50's. She was dressed in a very plain, dark sari, and wore glasses, and her thick, black hair was pulled back neatly in a luxurious long braid that fell to the small of her back. She walked rapidly, pulling her carry-on bag, and looked neither to the right nor the left, but simply studied the ground at her feet as she walked along toward the exit.

Just as she approached the glass wall, though, she glanced up and suddenly her face was transformed by a huge smile, and she looked almost incandescent with happiness. I glanced around, and saw an Indian man of comparable age standing close to the glass. He was in front of me, so I couldn’t see his face, but clearly she was looking at him. A long absence, I thought, and she’s happy to be home.

There was still no sign of A, so I watched the revolving door, anxious to experience, vicariously, the reunion I was sure I was about to see. An Indian boy of about 12 burst through the door, and the Indian man rushed up to the boy, put his arms around him, and held him...held him...held him...and was holding him still when the woman walked through the door, and up to him. He ignored her completely, continuing to just hold the boy, his arms around him, completely covering the boy’s head with his embrace and swaying slightly, as one does sometimes when embracing a much loved child.

She stood watching the two of them for a moment before she stepped back slightly, and suddenly busied herself, for a long time, with the carry-on bag at her feet.

Monday, April 03, 2006

...and now for something completely different...

OK, maybe I'm depraved because I'm deprived, or maybe I'd like this even if I weren't depraved/deprived, but...I love Christopher Walken (he has wonderful, crazy eyes), and I saw this video at Ms. Lori's site (One Whipped Mother - check her out)...the video is...yummy...well, for us women anyway (and probably for some guys as well, but if you're a guy who finds Christopher Walken yummy, just don't give me details...)

OK, if the video doesn't load for you, here's the link: Christopher Walken J'Taime Video
WARNING: It's very sexy, watch at your own, uh, peril (and Ms. Lori, I confess I've watched it multiple times too, and I think the idea of asking your significant other to slick back his hair is INSPIRED! ;p (and I admit I'm thinking of guys I know who could/would slick their hair back for me as I type...)