Get your hand basket out

friends-tv-showWow, I don’t know about you, but it really seems like that old saw “the world is going to hell in a hand basket” is really happening. Maybe not for me (I’m knocking on the proverbial wood right now) and hopefully not for you — but lately I’ve been inundated with super sad news about my friends — and their friends or family members.

I find some of the sad news on Facebook. In my newsfeed, where I like to dilly-dally and scroll through funny videos of cats terrorizing dogs, or babies and puppies sleeping together, I’ve been stabbed in the gut with updates that are definitely not warm and fuzzy. And again, I don’t know about you, but every time it happens — and like I said, it just seems like it’s happening more and more — a small part of me that I am definitely not proud of, makes my finger waver over the thumbs-up “like” button. Sometimes that small, almost tiny part of me (thank God it’s nearly infinitesimal) rolls on by to the next, hopefully, much more upbeat update. Maybe another funny cat video.

But I really do like my friends — even all of my Facebook friends, some with whom I am really not that well acquainted.

And I do really want to help if I can — with a kind word, a sympathetic sentence or two. It’s a kind of a new way to reach out, and I’m not sure we are all yet comfortable about it. God knows, we have a hard enough time reaching out in person. I think it’s harder yet to do so with the buffer of a computer screen or phone scroll. Nobody knows you’re really there, right?

But like I said, I do, I want to help — and, when I can muster it up, sometimes a “comment” is all I’m good for. And many times, so many times, I wish I was better at saying something special or meaningful or coming up with some magic words that will ease my friend’s pain or suffering. Or maybe help her find a smile. maybe make him laugh.

Because, me too, I hate cancer, house fires, car, motorcycle and bicycle accidents. I despise crippling diseases, autism and Alzheimer’s. If I was a billionaire, I would give all my money to all my friends, hoping that in some way, I could buy them what they need or at least make it so their pain might be lessened with 500 pounds of ice cream, or their burden eased by an exclusive, intimate Louis C.K. in-home concert.

But all I got is words. And here they are. Today, although I am heartsick about one of my friend’s sister’s recent cancer diagnosis, and another of my friends whose husband was in a tragic motorcycle accident, and another one who is dealing with the mind-numbing trauma of visiting her mother who doesn’t remember her name or her face — I am going to single out two of my friends who are dealing with hardship. I am going to tell you about them, I’m going to tell you their stories, and maybe you will tell your friends about them and maybe they will tell their friends — and maybe we can just all pitch in to make a difference.

And if we can do that, we can be as good as billionaires toting suitcases of cash. We could bring as much joy as ice cream and maybe even bring as much happiness as a night with Louis C.K.

My friend Christine: Christine (who many call Queen or Queen of the Universe) lost her home and all her worldly possessions — yes, even her iphone — in a fire just before Christmas. She ran out of the blazing inferno with only the clothes on her back — and those were hacked off in the emergency room. Oh yeah, and she miraculously came through this ordeal relatively unscathed, except for eyebrows, eyelashes, singed hair — and a really nasty third-degree burn on the back of her leg. She just completed her third skin graft at the burn center in Salt Lake City.  There is a fund set up for her that you can donate to:

https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/ffIA7?psid=a3a73a8e07ca45edb9d03d5fca5d3380&fb_ref=share__c2h9p3

And my friend Will is putting together an event fundraiser that will be held at the Visual Arts Collective Feb. 21. Music, art, silent auction and more with all proceeds after bar tab going to Christine.

Here’s my second friend’s plight and plea: Meet Alex’s sister, Monica

When my brother Dan passed away a few years ago, one family who came to his memorial was not one familiar to me — but one with whom Dan had become close to. They worked at Dan’s favorite restaurant, Baja Fresh. He went there at least a couple of times every week and they knew to start his order — he always ordered the same thing — when he pulled into his parking space.

Alex — her name is actually Alexandra — had dropped out of high school and Dan constantly chided her about it, telling her to get her G.E.D. — “I’ll pay for it,” he would say. Alex did get her G.E.D. just a month ago. And, sort of filling in for her Dad and his promise, Dan’s daughter Dana stepped in and paid for it. I was the lucky person who got to deliver the check: 1619589_10202452354262866_1224159130_n

Well, while I was there, Alex told me about Monica, her 25-year-old sister. Monica has kidney failure and needs a kidney transplant, and hey, she also just had a stroke and found out she has a bad heart. Her mother, who, yes, is still working at Baja Fresh on Broadway in Boise, is frantically trying to figure out ways to make money to help her daughter. They need to raise $5,000 for the surgery and so far are up to a little more than $1,500. You can donate here:

http://www.gofundme.com/63j8dk

This is the only way I can think of to help my friends. (Not a billionaire, remember?) And I vow to help as many as I can. I vow not to skip over their Facebook posts for funny cat videos — I will still watch the cat videos of course, but only after I say a few heartfelt words to my friends.

I turn now to the Beatles :

Please let me know if you have friends who need a little help from their friends.

Peace and love

A Seasonal Survivor

people-at-post-officeI’m a survivor. Not only do I feel like one, Linda, the U.S. Postal worker at the window where I eventually landed, corroborated it. “Congratulations – you survived.”

Today I went and did one of the least intelligent things one can do. I went to the Post Office. On the busiest day of the year.

In my defense, I was sure Wednesday was the busiest day. And, that I had beaten that marker by two whole days. I even sort of patted myself on the back, all kind of gloating about it. After all, I’d wrapped presents all day Saturday and Sunday, all 31 of them. Fourteen each for my two sets of in-laws – we do “the seven days of Christmas” (don’t ask) – and three more for my mom-in-law and sis-in-law who each have a January birthday. More gloating because: why, I was so clever to get the birthday gifts in the flat rate boxes.

My smugness was short lived.

I arrived at the U.S. Post Office a little before 9 a.m., bag of wrapped gifts, separated into two piles. A line of bedraggled and confused looking people snaked to the outer door. A postal worker sang out: “Number 104!” I pressed the button and got my number: 122. Oh boy.

Well, I thought, I will just mosey over to the flat rate box self-packaging area and get started – I’ll be totally done by the time my number is called. That was my first misstep. Because there are a number of self-service packaging areas, and I didn’t see one labeled “flat rate.” A fellow DIY-er had to show me where to go. So I sat down my Santa Claus bag and got started.presents

Misstep No. 2: The presents wouldn’t fit into the “medium” sized box. After I had splayed them out across the counter and folded the cardboard edges, it was clear they weren’t going to fit. OK, I’ll get the large box. But the large didn’t have self-stick strips on it like the medium one. I looked around for some tape – not really frantic or anything (yet). No tape in sight.

I stuffed the gifts back into the bag and walked into the main room to find tape. “Tape? Do you see any tape?”

There was only “priority” tape and I was planning on sending my flat rate boxes as inexpensively as possible – that’s why they call them “flat rate,” right? So, no thanks for the priority, which, I assumed, would cost more.

“If you don’t have any tape, there’s some on the wall. Labels, too,” called out a postal worker who must have noticed my where’s-the-tape glazed over eyes. OK, now we’re getting somewhere. I grabbed my packaging implements and started for the worktable out in the hall.

“You can’t go out there with the tape and labels – you’ll have to do all that in here.”

OK.

“Number 112!”

I started to sweat. I was wearing my winter coat and faux fur hat and I was going about 100 miles an hour trying to jam the presents into the boxes – and get them taped up and labeled – before my number was called.

Then, another postal worker pointed out that I did not need the tape and labels I had grabbed from the rack – yes, my boxes were flat rate, but, they also were “priority” mail. Huh? So, that meant I could use the priority tape and priority labels, free of charge.

Alrighty then.

“Number 114!

I began assembling box No. 1. The priority tape was really, really sticky and kind of hard to maneuver. Plus, I found out – but not soon enough – that it was not in the kind of dispenser that cuts the tape for you. The dispenser had a pair of scissors chained to it for that purpose. Huh. Awkward.

“Number 118!”

Beads of sweat popped out on my brow. The line of people waiting was growing. I couldn’t get the tape to stop snarling. I was still on the first box.

“Number 120!”

Now there were about four of us using the same tape dispenser with the ball-and-chain scissors. We all were trying to hurry and at least once I worried that I had maybe snipped more than the end of the tape as a flurry of clumsy hands kept grabbing at it because we all wanted to hurry, hurry, hurry to get it done before our numbers were up.

I started on the second box.

“122!”

Oh no!

“Hey,” I called out to the people in line, “that’s my number, but I’m not ready, does someone want to switch numbers with me?”

“No number switching!” A really cross looking postal worker gave me the stink eye. “If your number is called, go ahead and finish and just approach the counter and wait. We will get you after the next person in line.”

I finished taping both boxes, filled out my labels and was just about ready to move to my place at the side of the line. I looked at my labels. I looked at my boxes. Both boxes were the same size. In the frenzy of the tape and the cardboard folding and the numbers being called out and the line getting longer and the Soup Nazi Post Office rules – I totally forgot which was which. I thought I knew, but what if I was wrong?

I couldn’t handle the idea of that, so I did what I imagine a good third of the DIY Christmas packagers do – I opened one of the boxes to peek inside. Just to make sure. After carefully setting the proper labels on the correct boxes, I moved to my designated slot. Finally. I stood there bedraggled and confused like everyone else looked, and marveled at the fact that I was a professional business person, got a real paycheck and everything, but here, perspiring and laden with lumpy boxes wrapped with gnarled taped, in the bowels of the U.S. Post Office, a week or so before Christmas, I felt anything but bright.

“Next!”

Nearly two hours after I had arrived, Linda began processing my boxes and ringing me up. “It’s pretty busy today, huh?” I was attempting small talk. “But this isn’t the busiest day, that’s Wednesday, right?”

“Nope. Today is the busiest for shipping. Tomorrow is the busiest for mail processing, and Wednesday is the busiest for delivering.”

“You mean, I came to the Post Office on the busiest day of the year?”

“Yep,” she smiled. “Congratulations. You survived.”

The U.S. Postal Service expects to deliver 420 million packages this year for Christmas – a 12 percent increase over 2012. If you haven’t gotten your packages in the mail, I suggest you hurry on down to your local U.S. Post Office, take a number and give yourself an hour or two. Oh, and, you might want to box up your presents before you get there.

My take on it

filmz.ruWARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!

Kill Your Darlings is a well-acted, semi-interesting, peek-a-boo-style look into the early machinations, mischief and misdeeds of the literary Beat Poet geniuses Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac.

I say “semi-interesting” because some of the more graphic stuff I really could have done without – especially with my poor, sweet, innocent mom-in-law along for the ride. Little did she know – or I’m sure ever would have imagined in her wildest imaginings – that my little “writer’s group assignment” outing to the movies would be something she would “try to pretend” she never saw. I know she wanted to wash out her eyeballs.

After we dropped my friend off and we were alone in the car post movie, I tried to break the ice with “Well, that was … interesting.” Her response, an outburst: “Another one of my icons bit the dust – first Hannah Montana with all her twerking – and now Harry Potter!”

I tried, in vain, to point out that he (Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg) really did a pretty good job of acting – “he didn’t have a trace of a British accent,” I said. The look I got in response could have gotten its own Academy Award nomination. I would say this about it: she looked daggers at me.

The fact is, the storyline is not merely about the early creative spurt that ignited the Beat movement – although, to be sure, there are frenzied scenes of drug-fueled, manic typewriting, book pillaging and cut-ups-slashing fireworks and library hijinks aplenty. But the real story here is a love triangle gone bad. Way, way bad. And, since the love triangle involves three males, and since the three males were attracted (one obsessively so) to one another during another time when such things were mostly considered to be taboo, and, since the whole thing explodes on the screen – in many more ways than I was comfortable with, especially taking into consideration my movie buddy – in the heady, jazz infused and debauched sleazy New York City/Manhattan confines, and since it ends with a murky death for one and messy denouements for the rest – well, that made the way, way bad worse. Story-wise, I mean.

In the end, I was struck with a sort of curiosity about the “honor” killing defense bandied about in the film – was that really real? Did that really happen? My, how things have changed — and what does that say about the tentative realities we believe in today — here today, possibly gone tomorrow?

I wondered if the drugs and sex stuff was amped up (haha – one of the drugs they took was Benzedrine, they put ampules of it in their coffee – good morning!). I wondered how they all not only remained friends, but, according to the prolific publishing that history shows came later as they birthed the Beat Poet movement, but also fueled one another’s success, as if egging each, one after the other, to climb higher and higher.

And, I came away feeling dazed and yes, a little heartbroken.

Harry, we hardly knew ya. Another one bites the dust.

Tangling with Mother Nature

Photo on 2013-09-23 at 15.16This blog may be of interest only to “women of a certain age.” I am not sure why, how or when that came to be a part of our lexicon, and I for sure am not happy with it, but I have to admit I fit the criteria.

Most of the time, I don’t think about it. My health is pretty good, although I’ve had a bit of a tussle with my lower back off and on. And when I sprained my ankle during the summer by sort of falling off of my really adorable wedge sandal while walking to a lunch meeting, it did cross my mind that I probably should have taken more heed to the calcium-is-your-friend advice. But overall, except for about 20 pounds that crept up and have taken happy residence on my thighs, bum and tum, I’m pretty healthy.

It’s true, my hair has changed into a color I like to call silver, but I only recently discovered it when I decided to “go natural” and find out what was really sprouting out of my head. Ever since I spotted my first grays, probably in my early 30s, I have been close friends with Lady Clairol and her cohorts. And, oh, what fun we’ve had together, mixing and blending colors like chestnut, auburn, fire-engine red, brunette, auburn, mahogany, blonde. But yes, silver is my newest shade.

The thing is, I may be of a certain age, but the age I operate from is of a much younger age. I just don’t feel of a certain age. And I sort of resent it when it confronts me. Like yesterday.

It was at my annual — that’s what we women call our yearly appointment with our lady doctor. One of the things I wanted to talk to her about was the whole hormone thing. I was of the notion that not taking medication must be better than taking it. She said I was wrong.

She then told me, this woman of a certain age, in no uncertain terms, that after women go through menopause, their bodies, well, begin to die. “Our purpose, according to Mother Nature, is to make babies,” she said. “When we run out of eggs…” She clearly must have seen the rictus of horror on my face. But she bravely went on: “You see, we fool Mother Nature with hormones. Otherwise, our bodies just go into decline, they’re not useful any more.” She said women of a certain age who do not embark on hormone therapy statistically develop brittle bones, arthrosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), heart disease, they lose their hair, get wrinkled and shriveled up, sex becomes really painful if not nonexistent (sorry, but like she said, everything becomes a dried-out husk) — and the list goes on and on.

So, yeah, this woman of a certain age left my doctor’s office with a hormone prescription (low-dose, bio-identical cream). See, I don’t mind my new silver fox ‘do, I can camouflage a few pounds with smart-looking empire-waisted jackets and dresses.

But hey, not that excited about shriveling up and having a heart attack. I’ve got things to do, people, and I want to be around to dance with my grandchildren and maybe even my great-grandchildren.

And I don’t care if it’s not nice — I’m gonna keep fooling Mother Nature, at least for a bit longer.

Bobbleheads: They’re ba-ack!

You may still be able to get one of these.

You may still be able to get one of these.

Last year, when I stopped to get a Kellen Moore Bobblehead at Jacksons I was denied! I couldn’t believe it – by 8:30 a.m. I was two hours too late.

I wasn’t about to miss out this time. They released the Jamar Taylor bobbleheads for sale at 6 o’clock this morning.  I was there one minute later.

At first, I was worried I still didn’t make it in time. After all, anticipating last year’s bobblehead frenzy, Jacksons had issued a press release stating they would begin passing out numbers for queuing up in line at 2 a.m. When I pulled up at the Fairview Jacksons – purportedly its most heavily trafficked store – there were quite a few empty parking spaces. Inside, the line was average – I was the fourth one back.

Had the rabid bobbleheaders already come and gone?

As I stepped up to the counter, I caught a glimpse of telltale bobble boxes stuffed into my fellow shopper’s bag across the aisle. The woman at the counter told me the limit was two per person.

“I thought there would be a line,” I said.

She rolled her eyes. “I thought so, too. I got here at 2,” she said. She added two others got their line numbers right after she did. Then a couple more stopped in to wait until the magic hour. But all in all, it was not the mad rush of yore. The store had received 76 bobbleheads, and there were still about 70 to go.

When I called the store at 8:36 a.m. and asked if they still had bobbleheads, someone named Bobby said, “We sure do.”

“How many?”

Pause.

“A lot.”

I pressed Bobby as to why the run on bobbleheads was so different from a year ago – did he think it could be because the Broncos had hit a bit of a slump?

He didn’t skip a beat. “Oh, yeah.”

Now, even if that’s not true — although I did hear ticket prices have recently been lowered  — the thought that Boise Bronco fans could possibly be so fickle really bothers me.

I like to think of my hometown fans as a better lot than that. Bronco Nation should keep the Bronco Mania steady as she goes, right? After all, it’s much, much bigger than the expanded Bronco Stadium with the attached Steuckle Sky Center and the 34,000 blue-and-orange-clad attendees. Our Boise State Broncos have generated impressive team revenue, ramped up Boise State enrollment, and many say they’ve boosted our local economy big time. In fact, Jana Jones, director of economic development services at Boise Valley Economic Partnership, said being a Broncos name dropper opens economic development possibilities for Boise nationwide.

They may not be winning every game, but they haven’t lost their cachet, she said. Just say the word and conversation blooms. People start talking about their own Fiesta Bowl experiences — “I was up until the morning watching it,” said one East Coaster. “I couldn’t go to sleep until it was over.” Or they just want to know about that blue football field.  “For us, it’s still one of the things that opens doors for consultants and business owners across the country – especially on the East Coast. There are so many fans there who live and breathe college football.”

In an article this summer on Forbes.com on the economics of football, the Broncos were singled out for the impressive revenue the program generated in the 2011-2012 season — $15+ million.  Reporter Alicia Jessop said Boise State generated a higher net income than schools including Texas Christian, Northwestern and Louisville.

Tell you what: I hope all of the Jamar Taylor bobbleheads are sold today. If you hurry, you might just snag one. And I’ve get my iPhone calendar set to alert me at 5 a.m. on the rest of this year’s bobblehead release dates – Oct. 11 (Shea McClellin), Oct. 25 (DJ Harper) and Nov. 8 (Buster Bronco). I’m going to get them all (fingers crossed).

But if you missed getting a bobblehead and really, really, really want one – like I wanted the Kellen Moore boblehead last year – (read about the surprise ending here)– send me an email. IBR reader Beth Hagen of Kuna came to my rescue last year and offered me one of her Kellen Moores, inspired by the Starbucks customer who had anonymously bought everyone behind him a coffee that morning.

I’m ready to take her lead and pay it forward.

A judgement call

Republished with permission from the Idaho Business Review

at work 1I was asked to be a judge in the 2013 Miss Idaho competition. Flattered? Of course. But I am not unfamiliar with such requests and, in fact, over the years, because of what I do for a living, I have been asked to judge various competitions, from barbecue to Christmas tree decorations. And as one of the co-founders of the Boise poetry slam competitions, I know a little about how hard it can be to get someone to do the judging – we had to coerce five people from “off the street” to be judges every month.

So, right away, after I was asked to judge for Miss Idaho, I was sympathetic. Plus, I knew a little about the scholarships the organization provides for young women. According to the website: “The Miss America Program and its 1,500 local and state pageants comprise the largest single source of scholarship funds available to young women in the world. Annually, an estimated $40 million is offered to more than 30,000 young women who participate in the Miss America programs.”

Another plus.

To top it off, all contestants are required to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Over the past five years, the Miss America Program has raised about $75 million.

Ding, ding, ding – ladies and gentlemen, I think we have a winner. How could I turn this down?

I decided to toss my hat into the judging ring – or at least to hear more about what my role as a judge would be. I met with Tim Wold, whose day job is operations manager for the Owyhee District for Intermountain Gas. He’s been helping coordinate the state contest for years. He extolled the organization’s virtues, waxed poetic about how, in addition to the scholarships and charitable work, young women learn so much from the experience – communication skills, self-confidence, public speaking, stage presence, to think and speak eloquently under pressure.

The competition is judged in the areas of interview, talent and physical fitness. In the initial email sent by Wold, he asked me “to offer your expertise and service and join the 2013 panel as the interview specialty judge of the Miss Idaho Scholarship Program.” During our face-to-face meeting, we also discussed the time commitment. It is a three-day stint – July 11, 12, 13 – including orientation, daytime interviews and two evening pageants. Before he left my office, he dropped off the forms so I could take a look at how the young women were to be judged.

As I fanned through the papers, I noted that there were forms for all categories, including “on-stage evening wear, talent competition and lifestyle and fitness in swimsuit competition.” I stopped Wold, said I had gotten all the forms by mistake. He said, no mistake – even though I was purportedly representing the interview portion, which, as a professional journalist I felt qualified to do and was comfortable with – I also would be judging in all other areas.

Gulp.

Now, I was a little uncomfortable.

Because “physical fitness” in this instance could be more aptly called “walking across the stage in high heels while wearing a swimsuit.”

Wold left me with my “packet,” and my soul searching began. It was a squirmy affair.

And just when I had talked myself into swallowing the bad – judging a young woman on her physical appearance (attractiveness and presence are criteria on the judge’s form as well as physical fitness, walk, posture, carriage and grace) with the good (scholarships, charitable work and communication skills), I had a conversation with a colleague that made me look a little deeper.

I thought back to how vehemently I had opposed the idea of judging any person based on their appearance all my life. One of my father’s favorite sayings: “Beauty is as beauty does.” I denounced beauty pageants and all the fashion magazines and models that told us: beauty is all-important, the thinner the better. I proudly considered myself a feminist – still do. My heroes: Gloria Steinem. Betty Friedan. I once burned a bra. When my children were growing up, I did not allow pageant watching. I wanted my children to grow up recognizing that women and men could be anyone, go anywhere, do anything.

Finally, I had this thought: I could never. Ever. Post about being a Miss Idaho judge on Facebook. Just thinking about all of my friends, my family, my college roommate, my mom and grammy friends – just the thought of them reading that I was judging a contest that required young, intelligent, future business professionals, teachers, doctors, lawyers, scientists, presidents, that judged them on the act of walking across a stage in high heels – it made my cheeks burn. The shame.

I am not going to be a Miss Idaho judge this year. I sent my resignation letter explaining my departure to Mr. Wold. I said: “I cannot in good conscience judge, or justify, the swimsuit category. It goes against my personal principles.” I ended with a plea to put the kibosh on judging by appearance and asked that he send my “whys and wherefores” up the chain of command.

Miss Idaho Executive Director Tami Urquhart and Field Director Karen Carpenter responded. Carpenter defended the swimsuit competition, saying that being able to be comfortable in this category demonstrates confidence and charisma. “With so many young girls looking to celebrity role models for what physical beauty should be, I would much rather my daughter or granddaughter look up to these young women as role models,” Carpenter wrote.

Urquhart wanted me to understand how valuable the scholarships provided by the Miss America organization are to young women in Idaho. She wrote: “As I am sure you know Idaho is one of the lowest ranked in students who ‘go on’ to higher education, unfortunately economics is one of the number one reasons why our youth are not achieving their scholastic goals.” She also wanted me to know about the contestants’ charitable work. “At a national level the Miss America contestants volunteer more than 150,000 hours of community service to over 12,000 different projects. These young ladies are making a difference in today’s society, they are not ‘exploited’ by our program but empowered by the opportunities this organization provides to them.”

I commend the good work and the scholarships. And, who knows? If the organization could just look around and do a little revamping – how about instead of “evening wear,” women dressed in their career choice clothes: power suits, scrubs, astronaut gear? And instead of swimsuits and high heels, have a true physical fitness competition, with an obstacle course and fitness challenges?

Just a few tweaks here and there to bring the thing into the 21st century, that’s all I’m saying. Keep the good works, chuck the beauty pageant part and I’m all in.

Judge in 2014? I’ll be waiting for my letter.

Mammograms and ashes

mammogram-clip-art_595I walked 14 blocks to get my mammogram today, which is, by the way, February 13, the day before Valentines Day and Ash Wednesday.

Nothing happened at the clinic that was out of the ordinary, except Keli, my boob-smashing technician, did seem overly worried about my discomfort. “Is this more difficult for you than usual?” “Is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable?” “Are you going to be OK?” I sort of laughed, at least, I felt like I sort of laughed, but, you know, when you are leaned over just a little at the waist, with your chin up, looking over your shoulder, right breast pulled up, spread out, then pancaked between two plates that get screwed down tighter… tighter… and just a little bit tighter — well, I imagine my hahaha sounded more like: AH!AH!AH!

I did try to reassure Keli, I told her, nothing more painful than usual, but you, know, not something I look forward to. But seriously, she acted like I was acting like a big baby, that all the other women who come in and get their boobs smashed take it like they’re having a picnic in the park. Or maybe they really do laugh, and tell jokes, and gossip about the Grammys.

It is always a traumatic experience for me. The feeling-me-up part. The boob smashing part. Even the sitting around with other patients in the in-between area, we all have lost our business suit jackets and we’re sitting around in these blousey, pastel, one-snap, open-in-the-front tops, boobs flapping in the wind, so to speak. I always try to make small talk but it usually doesn’t go over very well. It’s humbling, even to the point of being humiliating, I think. Fondling our “love pillows” and putting them through the wringer. Literally. (I always wonder what men would think if they had to have it done to their penises.)

And it always comes up with either the groper or the smasher, that I had a biopsy a few years back and still have a metal flag implanted in the questionable area. “You know, they could feel that last year when they did your exam,” groper lady said. “It’s in your chart.” So, yeah, the thought of it being something more than an uncomfortable 30 minutes, that always dances on to center stage at some point. This year, the woman who did the exam, gave me her all-clear — “well, at least I didn’t feel anything abnormal” — and then pointed out the age/breast cancer chart. At my age, it’s one in 50. At the age of 80, it’s like one in five. I nervously joked that if I make it to 80, I probably won’t have breasts. She laughed and said, “That’s right.”

On the walk back to work, I thought about the act that had just been perpetrated on my breasts. Wondered how that could be OK for them, to be twisted, stretched, lifted, pulled, pressed with a pressurized vise.

Poor things.

Then I saw something I could hardly believe. There on the corner of 8th and Bannock in downtown Boise was a sign: ASHES TO GO. An Episcopal minister — a woman — was there at the ready with a bowl of ashes. I walked up to her, took my sunglasses off, closed my eyes. She crossed my forehead and said: “From ashes you came, to ashes you will return.”

Somehow, that made everything OK.

Can’t wait for Valentines Day.