Orchids and Aesop

Just ShreveSteven is a fountain of material.  One of the most fertile topics is that he goes on kicks.  He finds something that grabs his attention and then, in typical driver style, he throws himself into it, full force.  We’ve been through the classical music, the all-Jimmy Buffett-all-the-time phase and now it’s everything Country.  I either like it or have learned to like it all, so no complaints from me.  There have been clothing phases.  When I first met him he was all about the unique and expensive silk ties and perfectly fitted suits which lead to the Tommy Bahama style that he still rocks when we go out.  Somewhere down that road he took the fork that lead him to “Old Guys Rule” or LIVESTRONG tee shirts and baseball caps.  Whatever…it all eventually ends up in the laundry basket, so it’s all the same to me!

The hobby kick is the one that gets expensive.  The thing is, when he picks a new one, he gets really good at it, so it’s worth the investment.  Obviously, the photography hobby now borders on professional.  He loves it and it is a great outlet for him, so I’m thrilled that he’s put the money and effort in there.  The orchids…now that was almost as expensive as anything made by Nikon.  That kick started soon after we were married, Orchids15 years ago.  It was pre-cancer, pre-house and pre-”buy them at Home Depot for $12.99”.  Typically, Steven is on to something WAY before it becomes popular.  The good thing is that it’s way more fun to trend set, the bad thing is that it’s WAY more expensive.

PergolaSteven built me a little pergola off the back porch of our town house.  It was a decking floor with lattice top that he bougainvillea-ed up to form a rooftop of blossoms.  In the shade of our private Garden of Eden, he started the orchid collection.  He read, he googled, he sleuthed.  He learned about each of the different varieties as they became part of our collection.  And then he watered, misted and babied the beauties, so there were always several blooming at once.  It was breathtaking.

When we bought the house, one of the important features was the large back porch.  It is a Southern exposure, but with a Grizoffi Orchidcovered roof.  We thought there would be enough shade and brightness for the orchids.  So as we were moving, each trip carried an orchid, grabbed at the last second and held carefully by whichever passenger had an empty lap.  And eventually I settled in with Steven, Alexis, Missy (the alpha cocker spaniel), Lester and Judy (Steven’s cockatiels of 10 years) and dozens of orchids that were known by their Latin names.

The new porch was great for our lives, the dogs (we got Zack after we moved in) and the birds, but not so much for the orchids.  Too hot, too cold, to dry, too windy.  They did okay, but they took so much time that this “hobby” was cutting into work, play and life.  But Steven is not a quitter, so he just did what had to be done which meant more research, more paraphernalia and more money!  Finally he started to build an orchid house, but it didn’t get finished because then there was the cancer.  Always cropping up into one of my little tales.  I hate it when that happens!  And yet, even after it brings a flowery story (pun intended) to a screeching halt, just like Aesop, there is always a moral to the tale, so keep reading.

I’ve already admitted that couldn’t keep up with everything and had to let a few things go.  I opted for me and the lawn, but I couldn’t totally give up on the orchids.  So Steven and I decided that we would leave them both to God.  The lawn turned brown because I didn’t have the time, energy to inclination to deal with the sprinkler system.  So that was a no-brainer to turn over to the heavens.  You water, Big Guy.  I’ve got my hands full.  Steven and I made the joint decision that the orchids were going to have to have the same fate.    Of course he was heavily drugged and barely breathing when we made that decision, so I can’t really say that he had an equal vote.  But, I want to think that I didn’t just throw his babies under a bus without his consideration.  After all, they came from nature, so that’s where they should return.  So the orchids went out into the wild, randomly hung in the trees and shrubs in the yard.  Partially shaded and protected, lit by the sun and watered by the clouds.  The end.  No, not the end.  Happily, just like Steven and the lawn, they’re still here.

Here comes the big moral to the tale.  Steven babied the orchids at first just like I babied him when he was sick.  And then, the time came when all were left to just ‘be’.  It’s hard to let anything just ‘be’.  Especially something you really love.  You want to hover and check and feed and mist. (The “mist” one is for the orchids, not Steven)  But you can’t really do that without:

  1. Becoming a GIANT pain in the ass
  2. Suffocating that which you love
  3. Driving yourself crazy
  4. Over watering or medicating (the “medicating” is for Steven, not the orchids)

Orchid-May30Here’s the moral of the story…ta da! Lesson learned – you have to trust that you’ve done your best, made the right decisions and then in the words of the Beatles – “Let It Be”.  Steven “be” great.  So be the orchids!

So, I saw a pop of color under the tree the other day.  It was one of the rogue orchids blooming, all by itself, with no coaxing from us.  I moved it to the porch so we can enjoy the beauty.  And when the bloom is done, it will go back to it’s little cove in the tree to rest up until next time.  It will bloom again…just like Steven keeps doing.

Sad Sack

While this blog is still in it’s youth, I realize that now is the best time for me to come clean with any admissions.  Why now?  So I can share with you during this “dating” period. Soon, this post will be buried in the annals of blogdom, only remembered by you, my new friends.  When subscriber numbers pick up, it will only be the detectives who will uncover our little secrets.  This is honesty…with a built in escape hatch…which is, I imagine, a lot like internet dating!

So here it goes. I GET DEPRESSED.  There it is.  Out there for the world to see.  I only mention it because I think it’s important to know that stuff bothers me.  I think about it, mull it over, put a funny spin on it and then hock it into a blog post.  But, just like the rest of humanity, I get bummed out, pissed off, caught up, and bent out of shape about many things. And until I’m ready to tie it up into an amusing little blurb and kvetch it out my keyboard, I’m kind of a sad sack!  I hope that this little snippet makes one kindred spirit happy today.  I don’t know who you are, but I imagine you’re feeling like I’ve been feeling lately.  Down in the dumps and worrying about chest pains…which cause more worry…which cause more chest pains!  I feel for you my friend!

Zoey's head on my ShoulderThe only reason I mention this is that people seem to have this image of me as being happy-go-lucky, positive and upbeat all the time.  Obviously, those people have never seen me sitting on the sofa with a melting container of Ben & Jerry’s, wearing my Santa jammies and crying over an episode of So You Think You Can Dance!  (I was rooting for Kirstie!)  I’m sharing this because I think it’s important to remember that no matter how wonderful someone’s life seems to be, from the outside looking in, everyone has their problems.  Raise your hand if you used to think Maria Shriver and the Govenator were the million dollar match, living in the lap of luxury with tons of money, lavish houses, happy kids, Hollywood parties and Martha’s Vineyard picnics!  This week, I’m thinking my life is happier with the melted Chunky Monkey on my Santa jammies.

I worry about the world.  People sure are screwing it up, aren’t they?  It’s gotten to the point that there are SO many people that need the crap slapped out of them, that we can’t do it.  I think we have reached a pinnacle, where there are more crappers than slappers.  Then there’s the money thing.  Who ever thought that the longer you worked, the less money you made.  That was only supposed to happen to hookers who got ugly!  When did all the rules get thrown out?  I’m first in line when it comes to breaking rules, but if you don’t have any to break, where does that leave me?  These, my friends, are some of the reasons I get depressed.

So here is what I do know.  I can fake cheery.  For years, no matter what was going on in my real life, I could leave it at the comic’s table in the back of the club, and by the time I walked up the aisle and stepped on stage, I was all “Hi, Howya doin’?  Glad to be here”.  Once you master that ability, you never forget it.  I can choose when I pull it out of my little bag of tricks, but I absolutely know when I’m doing it.  I’m sure that’s why people think I’m a barrel of laughs.  Unfortunately, you can only wear that mask for a portion of each day.  If you don’t take the mask off, your face breaks out like teenage acne on prom night, making both your skin and your brain look like a pizza with mushrooms!

I hate to take my mask off at home, and have poor Steven get stuck with the Alas, Alack, Alexandra, a sad sack of sorrowful slop.  I wish I could dump that slop at work instead of on him because he doesn’t need the extra load and work is where the slop is usually generated!  But, it all goes back to the world and the rules and the whole circular screwed up mess!  So I keep it inside, hence the chest pains.

Recently a client complained, indicating that I’d been unpleasant, unprofessional, unacceptable and any other “un” word that would look bad in an e-mail.  I absolutely know it’s untrue.  When I’m being “un”something, I’m doing it on purpose and doing it in a big way.  Since it was recent, I know I put my happy-freakin’-happy attitude on as soon as I saw the frowny face walking toward me.  I’ve been around the block enough times to know that when someone’s been sucking a lemon, you have to add a little sugar right from the jump.  So, when I go out of my way to put on that comedy club, happy-go-lucky, let’s have fun and make the best of it attitude, and I get dissed, what’s up (or “un”) with that?

Today, I decided it was one of those bad things gone good.  Like the cancer that makes you appreciate life.  Like leaving a job that opens a new career.  Like getting out of a marriage that gets you in touch with your soul mate.  Like being a sad sack for long enough to realize that nothing is really wrong.

From experience, I learned that when someone was hostile in a comedy club, it usually wasn’t me.  That the chick in the front row didn’t dislike me.  She didn’t like the guy she was with and didn’t want to be there.  She was mad, and didn’t want to admit why, so, go ahead, blame it on me.  I would bet that right now Maria Shriver wants to blame the housekeeper, the Republicans or the press for her mess, but it’s Arnie’s little Terminator and the Twins that’s the real problem.  (FYI – Film buffs- I’m not talking about his movies)

I’ve been a sad sack for about a week, but I’m ending that tonight.  I decided that I’m going to take my long weekend and have fun, relax, laugh a lot and remember all the good things that I do have.  I’m lucky to be me and to have my sense of humor.  I’m lucky to have Steven who has always kept his rocket in his pocket. I’m lucky because even if income is down, it’s not because I’m ugly.  (Hooker call-back…thank you, here all week – Try the veal!) And most of all I’m lucky that I know why I feel bad, and I know I can stop.

As my last thought for today, May 26, 2011 – I’m thankful to be living in this great country, where men and women have fought to keep us safe and ensure our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  And if that sounds corny to you, move to another blog.  Part of my Memorial Day weekend is being thankful that I have this place to be free with my speech!

I’m spending my weekend in The World According to Alexanda! So, “Hi!  Howya doin’?  Glad to be here”!


Dr. Zack and Nurse Missy

Baby Maritza

Baby Maritza

I’ve written posts and posted pictures of our Whippet babies, Maritza and Zoey.  They have been living with us for about a year and a half.  We adopted Maritza from a breeder in Tampa when she was 2 months old.  She was born in Columbia- South America NOT South Carolina and we got her before she was totally fluent in Human.  I wanted to be able to teach her English before Spanish became her language of obedience.  But then, Steven spoiled her in the car on the ride home, and within 2 hours she became the new princess in his realm.  Obedience never really became a necessity to him!  Several weeks later, I saw Zoey on a website.



She was 2-ish in years and in a rescue situation.  She’s from somewhere in Tennessee, and came to us a little nervous and hesitant.  Within weeks she was mellow, loving and glad to be here.  She got along with Maritza from the moment she arrived and her patience with the little latin fireball is still amazing. She looks like a supermodel with her striking white coat and sweet beautiful face.  She’s the good dog, so I usually call her MY dog.

But they are Steven’s dogs because they help keep him alive.  He needs them way more than I need clean floors, access to my half of the bed or a poop-free backyard.  Of this I am sure, as will you be when I address those 2 dog-less months between Missy and Zack and the Whippet babies.  But that dog-free time is not the subject today.  Today is a tribute to the original cancer-care dogs.



Somehow, dogs know.  I don’t know how they know.  They seemed more pissed than concerned during those first 2 weeks of doggie inconvenience when Steven was in the hospital getting the diagnosis which lead to his first chemo treatment.  Once he got home, they were on guard.  Missy would lay in the bed with her head on Steven and Zack would lay on the floor next to him like two little Cocker Doctors, monitoring his every breath.  In those first 2 months home, because of the biopsy surgery, he needed a hospital bed.  At 6’6”, he kept that bed cranked up as high it would go, and I could not figure out how Missy could get up there with him.  She was 8 at the time, and not really that interested in the high jump.  But I caught her one day after a quick sprint out the dog door to her expansive grass ladies’ room.  She came in, efficiently hopped on to the sofa, stepped up on to the end table, walked like a ballerina en pointe past the lamp, water pitcher and medications-never disturbing a thing, and then hopped with a gentle landing right into the space next to Steven’s neck.  Then she slithered down to her little resting place near his knee, put her head on this leg and went right back to guard duty…with her eyes closed.  Not exactly like the military does it, but impressive nonetheless!



It was truly amazing because Missy was a bitch.  And not in the girl dog way.  She was a spoiled little brat dog that Steven ruined just like he’s doing with Maritza.  I loved her like crazy but I was always on to her.  She knew it, too.  When she was a teething puppy, she used to bring me her bone to hold while she gnawed on it.  When she was done, her last bite would always be my hand.  I knew she was doing it on purpose…I could see it in her eyes. Steven was sure his little baby could not be that calculating.  Seriously?  This dog



would give you the “cold hind quarter” when she was pissed.  It’s like the cold shoulder, but much more deliberate.  She’d make sure she had your attention, walk away, drop it like it was hot, turn and look over her shoulder to make sure you were still watching, and then give you the ‘stink eye’ and look away in disgust.  It was akin to “giving you the paw” which is the dog version of flipping you off.  That is absolutely calculating.  I gotta give her credit though!

Zack was our boy dog.  We got Zack in the hope that Missy would be less spoiled if she had someone of her own species to play with.  But when we brought him home we all got “the paw”…squared.  She wanted to be an only dog and even though they eventually bonded and even though she was 15 pounds lighter (I called her the runt of the little, she thought of herself as petite) she was the Alpha dog…and don’t you forget it!



Zack was so handsome he could have been a show dog.  He was big and strong and dumb as a brick. He was my loving oaf-y boy.  A bull in a china shop.  When he was about 3 he suffered a head injury chasing a squirrel in the back yard.  The squirrel ran up the tree, Zack ran into the tree.  The tree, by the way, was in the yard years before Zack was even born.  Apparently, he never noticed it.  Although after he got better he found a new place to pee, so he had that going for him!

These were Steven’s caregivers through chemo.  I was too.  But all I did was take him to the doctors, take him to chemo and take him for tests.  I laid out his meds, called him to remind him to take them and made sure there were plenty of liquids around his bed that he could reach when he couldn’t get up.  But I had to go to work…or as I like to think of it, the insurance factory.  Missy and Zack were in charge while I was gone.  Sometimes they were all in the bed, in the same positions I left them in the morning.  Sometimes there were little signs of movement by the pack throughout the house.  But always, they were on guard until I came home.



The little bitch and the big dummy were the most amazing caregivers I could have asked for.Once I got home they acted like dogs, demanding cookies at cookie-time and expecting petting at petting time.  But, while I was gone I have to assume they did some major doctoring, because we all made it through the worst year of our lives.  So take this for what it’s worth, which is from the trenches of experience: Hospitals are supposed to be sanitary, but there are more infections transmitted there than you can imagine.  Dogs lick their butts, yet they can be the best nursing staff around.  Let them be care givers.  No insurance needed.  The co-pay is a Milk Bone.  And the love is endless!





Design Center Emergency

DC-Zodiaq kitchenI have a real job. By that I mean working during the day, usually 8 hours…in a row, show up to the same place every day.  A job.  It’s a cool job, as far as real jobs go, because that’s how I roll.  No fun?  Not for me!  So, I am the Queen of a design center that is decked out like Barbie’s dream house.  I help people select all their interiors for their new homes-cabinets, tile, carpet, countertops, light fixtures…all the stuff that’s ‘connected’ to the house.  When the right people are here, I get to joke around and have my fun and still have a “real” job.  I make it work for me as well as for them.

DC-Flooring RoomIt can be a very intense process and I meet all kinds of people in all kinds of situations.  I understand that this is a really big deal to most of them, and I appreciate being a part of their experience.  I really do.  I also understand that because I do this every day, I’m like the doctor performing open heart surgery.  For the doc, it’s a day at the office.  For the patient, it’s life or death.  I get that.  So it is with great consideration that I declare that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A DESIGN CENTER EMERGENCY!

I do admit that my perspective is definitely skewed after the years of minor and major emergencies that crop up during cancer treatment.  I like to joke about the nights when I held a mirror under Steven’s nose to make sure he was still breathing. That is a joke!  I didn’t really do that!  I did hold my hand on his chest to make sure I could feel him breathing, but hat doesn’t sound as funny…because it wasn’t.  However, I think it does give me a very different perspective (and a free pass on being judgmental) on what exactly constitutes an ‘emergency.’

Years ago, when I was trying to adapt from the comedy club lifestyle to 9-5 job, I worked as a receptionist for a top notch dentist.  (If you need a great dentist in Brevard County, FL – let me know!)  He did, and still does, beautiful cosmetic work.  However, he was a doctor first, and artist second.  That’s where I learned what a real emergency is.  Well, from the dentist and receptionist school…can you believe there’s such thing as a receptionist school?  Seriously they teach you to say “Hello, this is the dentist.”   Whatever… the dentist paid for receptionist school and I also got a free lunch, so I went!

Here’s the thing I learned: when someone calls, in so much pain that you can hear it in his voice, that’s an emergency.  When someone stops in with parts of their smile in the palm of their hand and then dumps it on your desk, drool and all, that’s an emergency.  When someone drags a kid in because her face is swollen like either Chip or Dale or the Goodyear blimp, THAT is an emergency.  Design Center emergency…not so much.

So, with the cancer thing as firsthand knowledge and the dental thing as firsthand training, I submit the following for your consideration:

Humans, as an entire race, should get a little more conservative about playing the “emergency” card.  It’s like crying “WOLF.”  Eventually the Calvary will stop coming to the rescue. Let’s keep the emergency status where it should be.

  1. If there is blood or any other bodily fluid erupting like a volcano from any body part, that’s an emergency.
  2. If there are uncontrollable flames engulfing your body or your hair, your silicon implants, or your Pepsi commercial set, that’s an emergency.
  3. If rushing water is higher than you are tall, and you feel the tide coming into any orifice, especially your mouth, that’s an emergency.
  4. If a pack of wild animals are looking at you like you are a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and there is no to-go box in sight, that’s an emergency.
  5. If there is a baby’s head or any other body part is popping out of your hoo-haa, that’s an emergency.   The list could go on, but I think you get the idea.

DC-Cardell samplesThat being said, you can imagine how my panties crept into wad when I found myself giving up a few hours of each day off during my long-awaited extended weekend, for a design center emergency.  I was fired up and Steven kept trying to put a positive spin on it.  I hate that.  I’m the one who’s supposed to put a happy face on his funk!  He’s supposed to let me fume!  Where is his copy of the marriage manual?  I’m sure it’s in there somewhere.  Quit trying to cheer me up!  These people are boobs for disturbing my weekend.

What boobs?  The customers, for being big bossy babies, the sales staff for being wimpy door mats, the phone company for putting the call through and for hosing us on iPhone service (*when you’re getting mad, it’s good to add in extra stupid stuff for additional fuel), Steven for trying to cheer me up and our neighbor whose cigar smoke drifts onto our porch (see extra fuel*).  I was on a tear.

But, it was too exhausting to keep up.  There was no adrenaline rush to carry the rage…because there is no such thing as a design center emergency.  That’s when I remembered that this stupid emergency is isn’t threatening anyone’s life.  No one is going to lose his hair, puke out her guts or start walking towards the light during nap time.  This is a faux-emergency, just like the faux emergencies we all have.  (I call it faux because I’m a big-shot designer.  Steven refers to his as “the screw aisle in Lowe’s” marking a meltdown he had over nothing.)  You can call yours whatever you like, as long as you remember that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A ___________EMERGENCY.  Instead, take a breath and loosen the panty wad, because as Craig Morgan says, “This ain’t nothin’!”

Cancel the Vacation to Pakistan!

I just told Steven that if he was planning a surprise vacation for us to Pakistan, I’m not going.  Now chances are, that would never happen, but I’m not taking any chances.  I’ve been watching the news and all I can come up with is WTF???  And yes, I know those are VERY inappropriate initials for a very inappropriate phrase.  But sometimes, it just fits.

So, I’ve seen million dollar mansions from inside and out.  And I saw bin Laden’s million dollar mansion.  WTF?  Really? Cracks in the exterior walls?  Is there no Plaster of Paris in Pakistan?  Obviously, no cleaning ladies.  WTF?  You have 37 wives and no one cleans up?  No wonder people don’t mind living in caves.  What difference does it make if the vermin running across the floor live there or are just visiting?  

You live right outside of a military training base and NO ONE knows you’re there?  WTF?  I’m never eating hummus again.  Who knows what’s in that?  Seriously, any country that can miss the #1 terrorist in the world is not going to be real choosy about hockers in the hummus!

By the way, I just heard someone on Fox news say voters interested in family values don’t like the “F” word.  WTF?  Without the “F” word, there would be no families.