Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I Only Have Isotopes For You,
Or How to Lower Your Self Esteem In One Afternoon

I had one of those nuclear isotope stress tests recently. The test that employs a trained professional with a disturbing glint in his eye, who shoots you full of plutonium or FlufferNutter, I'm not sure which, but the result is that now the blood pumping through your heart is visible from outer space.

You are then denied your clothing from the waist up and plastered with electrodes arranged upon your chest in the traditional 'Cross Your Heart Hope To Die Stick A Needle In Your Eye' design.

At this point, I sense my Generation X nurse suppressing a laugh as she connects wires to the electrodes and catches sight of my mid-life figure now on display like so much mackerel at the fish market. But I could have imagined it.

Now that I'm wired, I can have the one-size-fits-an-Olson-twin-gown, the faded blue one with that weird little pattern on it that you can never quite identify. Are these stars? Paisleys? A fleur-de-lis pattern? Or merely something to make you crazy and feel worse than you already do?

Upsy-daisy, onto the treadmill, which another perky nurse sets on high speed and at a nice little incline (think Everest). "We want to get your heart rate up to 143," she chirps, "for five minutes--the target for someone your age." (Yes, someone my age who gets up before noon, believes exercise is more than swiveling her chair around to change the CD in the stereo behind her, and doesn’t determine her diet by whether the snack bag makes crinkly sounds or not.)

Huzzah! I make my five minutes. Time for another injection of FlufferNutter or is it that liquid that collects at the bottom of the refrigerator that no one wants to clean.

And off we go to the heart photographer. I’m asked to balance on a narrow reclining chair, still in my charming fleur-de-lis gown, my arms above my head in what I hope is not an alluring manner. A camera contraption rotates above my chest for the next twenty minutes taking pictures of the radioactive blood swooshing around in my heart. I am told I must not move during this time. All the while Jimmy Buffett music is wafting into the room through speakers in the ceiling. The photographer wears a Hawaiian shirt. I find this oddly comforting and yet, a trifle unsettling.

So, I balance and Dr. Parrothead hums along to Margaritaville, adjusts dials and records data about my dubious heart. Around the time my arms lose all feeling, a bell dings, signifying either I am free to recompose myself and learn to drive with my feet, or perhaps the doctor’s burritos are ready.Apparently, I'm finished. I'm told I can get dressed and as a parting gift I may pay the receptionist a tidy sum on my way out.

And just think, Thursday, I get to have a colonoscopy.

©g.Slater 2006

Monday, June 12, 2006

Where's Aristotle When I Need Him?

There was no test for it back when I was born. Had there been, the doctors would have informed my parents that their little bundle in the pink blankie was lacking a crucial piece of female DNA. That’s right, I was born without the scrapbooking gene.

You may be saying to yourself, I didn’t know there was a scrapbooking gene, Gloria. Oh my, yes, any doctor worth his Salk (sorry, couldn’t resist) will tell you it’s right there in the mix, as surely as the “let’s stop and ask for directions” gene or the “irresistible urge to spit on your thumb and rub schmutz off strangers’ faces” gene.

As a rule, most women afflicted with SDS (Scrapbooking Deficiency Syndrome) are unaware of their impairment until it’s too late. Though I should have suspected something in grade school when I used my sticky bottle of brown mucilage for repairing a hole in my bicycle tire instead of gluing construction paper leaves onto construction paper trees.

Note to parents: It’s difficult to display a patched tire on a refrigerator door, but not impossible.

And it never occurred to me as a teenager I might be headed for creative heartbreak. Each year I started yet another five-year diary (a perennial Christmas gift from my well-meaning but forgetful grandmother) with this entry on New Year’s Day:

Dear Diary,
Not much going on here. 
Will write more tomorrow.
Your pal, 

And that was pretty much it until next year, the heady excitement of journaling snuffed out again in one day.

There was, however, no doubting my sad condition the day I showed up at my first scrapping party equipped with the pair of blunt-end scissors my children had used twenty years ago in kindergarten, a container of Elmer’s with a permanently plugged tip, notebook paper with the tattered bits still attached from the spiral binding, a ball point pen I acquired from Motel 6 on my last vacation, and a collection of cardboard toilet paper tubes, a handy item for any craft project, or so I thought.

When I saw the array of gadgetry the other women had brought--the punches, the die cutters, the colorful stickers and journaling pens, not to mention the archival paper guaranteed to outlive cockroaches--suddenly, I knew. I didn’t have it. I mean I literally didn’t have it. The gene...or the supplies.

I made it through the evening (after hiding my pitiful supplies in a potted plant) by feigning dizziness from the acid-free adhesive fumes and hanging out in the kitchen next to the chips and dip.

But on the way home, too much guacamole gurgling in my gut, I vowed to compensate for my deficiency by doing some research. If I couldn’t be a “natural” scrapbooker, then by golly, I’d fake it. I might not be able to walk the walk, but surely, I could learn to talk the talk.

With the aid of the Internet, I brushed up on the lingo. I learned that “lightfast” is not something I hope my charcoal will do when cooking out, but rather, refers to anything capable of retaining its color, even when subjected to an atomic blast. I found that “die-cut” was not something a hair stylist could do for you, but instead was a quick and easy way to put a hole in your finger in the shape of a shamrock. Or that “out-gassing” (not kidding) was not the result of feeding burritos to the dog.

Now, I felt confident to tackle the subject of scrapbooking history. Did you know that it was actually men, Aristotle and his peers, that were the first to keep notebooks? There’s no archeological evidence of puffy stickers or scalloped edges, but clearly, modern day journaling has its roots in their writings, as evidenced by this entry from Aristotle himself.

Dear Diary,
You should have seen the nerdy toga Plato had on in study hall today! 
Will write more tomorrow. 
Your pal, 

But most importantly, thanks to cable networks like Home and Garden, Discovery and DIY, I learned how to make our family photos (the ones where we resemble the Griswolds at Wally World) look like an outing at the park with the Cleavers. And with nothing more than a bit of ribbon and a pneumatic drill.

In spite of my newfound knowledge, I discovered I couldn’t deny my genes, or the lack thereof. I showed up at the next scrapping party with the proper scissors, the correct glue...and an empty Styrofoam egg carton, a handy item for any craft project, or so I thought.

The evening wasn’t a complete loss, though, despite the egg carton faux pas. I explained how I had stopped for directions on my way to the party. And for good measure, I rubbed a bit of shmutz off my hostess’ face.