Monday, January 11, 2010

Pey Travels the Globe

Well, howdy, everyone! I am here to plug my young friend Peyton's blog. She was nominated by People to People to be a student ambassador for their Tale of Two Cities program this summer.

It is a huge honor and an amazing opportunity for a twelve year old girl to not only travel abroad and visit various places in England and in France, but to be able to bring just the kind of impression of a young American that we want the world to see. She's not just a good kid and one of my oldest friend's daughters; she's a great student, she volunteers with her church group and has a wicked sense of humor. I'm really proud of her and want to see her dreams come true.

She's been working her little tuchas off with fundraising projects, hustling around her neighborhood trying to earn money doing odd jobs and is applying for a scholarship to help offset the costs. Like any parents who want their kids to participate in such an amazing opportunity, her mom and dads have been doing everything they can to save up. But as we all know, times are tough.

Go on and visit her blog, A Tale of Two Cities and if you can afford to donate a few bucks to the ever-so-convenient PayPal donation link on the sidebar, every little bit will help. It's not going to be cheap, but I really believe that if you can spare even the equivalent of a tasty sammich or a frosty brew, she might be able to partake in this priceless opportunity.

Oh, and the blog is monetized with ads, so click like crazy on every link you see. It costs us nothing and earns the blog money for their troubles. Win win!

Let's help Peyton become a student ambassador, everyone. I have "great expectations" that our girl will be a student ambassador for the Tale of Two Cities program!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Siwash the Duck

Today is Veterans' Day. Today we remember and express gratitude to the brave men and women who serve and who have served our country, who protect our freedom and fight for the freedoms of others.

But let us not forget the brave waterfowl who also fought courageously, side-by-side with our soldiers.

Siwash the Duck should have, would have, could have been dinner had my grandfather, Francis "Bap" Fagan not won her at a church in New Zealand as a Marine preparing to fight in the Pacific.

What was a Southside Irish Chicago athlete, more famous for his skill on the diamond or in the ring than for his warlike inclinations, to do with a stupid, skinny duck that would probably taste as good as the sole of his boots?

Why, teach that duck to drink beer, fight Japanese roosters and boost the morale on the homefront and abroad, of course.

Unlike his granddaughter, Bap was not the kind of guy who liked to draw attention to himself. But Siwash, that batallion's mascot and Bap's faithful friend, drew the attention of the press. Siwash became a celebrity and my grandfather humbly let that duck, reputed by my mother, Jude, to be meaner than a junkyard dog, take the spotlight.

That's right. Jude met Siwash. That means that Siwash not only survived the raffle which was meant to signal her debut on a platter, but also survived bloody battles on Tarawa, Saipan and Tinian, the treacherous trip home to Chicago and all of the paparazzi attention she garnered along the way.

See the handsome soldier featured standing in the shot? Yup. That's my grandpa, known to my cousins and me as Big Papa. And those are his beautiful sisters, Eileen and Patsy, and his mother, my namesake, the amazing Nora Fagan.

Never was there a less bellicose man. And yet he faced down dangers we can't imagine to protect his children, their children and millions of people he'd never meet. He fought to protect us ... and that silly duck. If that doesn't demonstrate a soft heart and an iron will, I don't know what does.

Thank you, Veterans. Thank you, Big Papa. I love you, miss you, I'm proud to be your granddaughter, and I will forever be your "hainchel." May you rest in peace. And may Siwash, the brave and lucky duck, also rest in peace, stuffed as she is in the Marine Corps Museum.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Time for Change

Hello. Hello? Is anyone there? I guess that's what happens when you treat your blog like a spider plant. If you stick it in the corner, don't water it and neglect to breathe dragon breath on it while talking to it in funny voices, it kind of withers up and dies on you. At least, that's been my experience with spider plants.


Sorry, SWC.

I think it's time for a career change. When we started this blog, I was starving for a writing outlet. I had some fiction projects that I kept close to the vest, worked on a friend's online journal, submitted a few pieces of fiction to various journals, some of which were accepted and most of which were rejected. That left me with plenty of time and energy to spout off here on the blog. I waxed poetic about food porn, other people's jobs and just about any kind of nonsense that struck me as amusing or infuriating at the time.

Then Slippy came calling with her siren song of copy writing and magazine work. It was splendid! It was marvelous. I got paid to write and all my dreams were coming true. I learned so much about so many things, and had so much fun. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. That includes freelance writer/editor budgets at small private schools in economic crisis. When there are salaried staff members who are supposed to be able to do what I was doing, paying me doesn't seem to make a great deal of sense economically. I'm still dabbling at Slippy U, but when there's just not a lot of work, what's a girl to do?

I'm still slaving away with the nuns. The novelty has worn off, but dammit if I don't have a wellspring of affection for those gym teachers for Jesus. So, out of a sense of obligation, affection and "what the hell else do I have going on," I'm still working with them.

The library thing, you ask. Heh. Well, that. Have you ever told someone to "Take this job and shove it--I ain't working here no more?" Let me just tell you that although it may reveal a real asshole side to you, it feels great. In fact, I would have struck that off my "Things To Do Before I Die" list if I hadn't pretended to blow my nose and wipe my ass with a paycheck once. That was actually way cooler, especially considering I was a temp and it took them five whole business days to fire me. I am sure there isn't a HR department in the world that wouldn't say, "Send that little bitch packing pronto." I imagine miming using your paycheck as a personal paper product precludes an employment violation lawsuit.

Anyway, it seems my freelance writing career has gone by way of my teaching career (never really started that one in an official capacity), my bartending career (didn't feel like doing that one pregnant) and my internet start-up career (quit it as soon as I had enough saved up to backpack for six months). That is to say, a long-term career path and I seem to get along as well as a chauvinist and a feminist.

That is to say, not well at all.

So, now that I haven't been doing much writing-for-hire, I've regenerated some of my creative yen to blather on about whatever crosses my mind. This whole experience has made me realize something, though: I never wanted to be a chef or a hooker, because I knew that as soon as I started to get paid for doing something I love, I would start to hate it.

Not so with writing.

I haven't stopped hoping that I can get paid to write, and now that I don't have obligations, I can work on some of my own projects that sat fallow while I was workin' it. I'm just sort of hibernating now. So come, join me in my cave. You bring whatever you've foraged and I'll tell some nice stories ...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Inside the World of Library Science and Cultivating A New Passion

Well, I have just been achieving landmark personal growth. My writing career is REALLY taking off. I get to write a newsletter for a suburban library. Look out, Pulitzer Prize--I'm closing in on you! After writing glowing prose about the library renovation project and the exciting new landscape designs, I am now settling in to write a hard-hitting interview with the director of the library. I think I might have to ask her the classic Baba Wawa question:

If you were a tree ... which tree would you be?

If she laughs, she wins. If she ignores it, she loses. If she answers it with no humor, she breaks even.

In other news, I have recently decided I must golf. And golfing I am. I'm actually pretty good. I've only been out four times, but I am totally hooked. My mom gave me her old clubs, a glove and shoes, I picked up a used driver and I even went out today on my own. It's a lot of fun and I think it's something I'll stick with forever and ever. My parents are both coaching me, although they don't want me to "pick up bad habits" from them. I'm reluctant to point out that I already drink, smoke and swear, so what's wrong with a few technical idiosyncrasies on the links?

Slippy goes back to work Monday. Yay, Slippy! Hopefully she can put me to work, too, but who knows what kinds of crazy changes are going on at the University? Maybe they'll have work for me, maybe they won't. I figure if they don't, it just leaves me with more time to work on my short game.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

More Medical Misadventures and Technologically Capable Gypsies

Slippy and I cruised back to Loyola for more medical misadventures yesterday. After lunching at Windy City Subs and sitting in gridlock traffic for a while, we still had plenty of time to kill before her appointment. As we drove north on Harlem, we pondered what we could do to waste a little time. We soon found our answer ...


How ever could we deny ourselves the pleasure of having someone with cosmic and technological knowledge give us insights into our lives and futures? We couldn't. Despite the fact that the sign said "By Appointment Only!" we decided to take our chances with a walk in. I rapped on the paint-peeled grayish white door of the two-story house and we were invited in by ... well, a gypsy.

Anna looked to be about our age. Her living room was modest, yet nicely furnished. She asked us to wait for a moment, and I checked out her business license framed on the wall. She's licensed as an astrological bookseller. I wondered, was she bonded, too?

Anna returned with a pencil and a pad of paper and began to describe her services. The $10 special includes a handwriting analysis. Great. My chicken scratch was sure to reveal me clearly to this mystic. I analyzed my own handwriting once in a book. It said I was a psychopath.

"I want the $10 special; two of them, please."

Of course, she tried to upsell us immediately, hoping we would let her fleece us for $30 each for the great honor of having her do our astrological charts (which I have done myself for free, thanks to the fucking LIBRARY and the INTERNET!).

"I want the $10 special; two of them, please."

"Okay, but just so you know, the handwriting analysis really only gives you a character outline," she warned. "I can't really answer questions about your future."

It's a good thing Slippy and I are completely unaware of ourselves and our own characters. Upon walking up to the house, we both agreed that we were about to get ripped off, but we didn't care. We had time to kill, and as everyone knows, time is money. So, my twisted logic led us to believe that killing time = killing money. Besides, does entertainment usually come this cheap? Mais non, mes amis!

"Who wants to go first?" Anna asked.

"I do! I do!" I bounced in my seat. I couldn't wait to get to know myself better.

"Write your first name, your birthday and the first thing you think of," she instructed.

"Nora, May 4. My aura is pink and yellow."

She stared at the yellow slip of paper. "Ok, what does this say?" She pointed at my name. This wasn't going well already.


"Ah, I see. Ok..." She launched into her spiel. "You're going to have a long life, good health."

I began to believe in her powers ... I waited for more wisdom and insight into my life.

"I see ... three children around you. Twins. Do twins run in your family?"

That bitch. My hand itched; I wanted to slap her. "No. Not really," I answered.

She went on and on, using the typical mystical sounding bullshit that is based on her observations of my very transparent and obvious personality traits, but general enough that it can apply to almost anyone.

Then it was Slippy's turn.

She commented on her tendencies toward privacy and reservation; she did touch upon some interesting things with her that I thought were accurate, but again, probably based more on her observations than anything. She promised true love and two kids, which, let's face it: telling a woman with no wedding ring that true love and kids is in her future is probably Fortune Telling 101. If she had said, "I get the feeling you enjoy the stress-free nature of the single life and you'd prefer to be around the children of your friends and relatives, so you could leave after a nice visit, while maintaining a relaxing lifestyle of your choosing," I would have been way more impressed with her insight.

The point is, though, is that we wanted entertainment, and that's what we got. We killed about fifteen, twenty minutes and told Anna we'd TOTALLY come back for our chart readings. She gave us fliers that detailed her services, and we chuckled again at the "computer repairs" amongst all the mystical mumbo jumbo. Ah, contemporary gypsies are diversifying!

We didn't manage to kill as much time as we'd hoped, though, so I took Slippy on a search for Dairy Queen. I wanted a Heath Bar Blizzard, and nothing else would do. We passed no less than ten Baskin Robbins, but I was having none of that. Finally, after touring the western suburbs for a good hour with no luck, we were ready to head back for her appointment.

Hopefully, we are coming to the end of medical misadventures. The doctor said she's looking good, stabbed her with a swab filled with silver nitrate and told her to make an appointment for two weeks later. If it looks all healed up, he said she could just blow it off. Fingers crossed, everybody! This has been a shitty summer for our Slippy, indeed. Fortunately, she has me to drag her into time- and money-wasting misadventures to entertain her until she's all healed up and ready to get back to work.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

She's Alive!

They say no news is good news. That's why I haven't updated on Slippy's Medical Misadventures. She came through the surgery like a champ, no cancer, and all but one ornery ovary intact. It is cause for celebration. I'm super proud of her for being so strong during a terrifying time. We couldn't have asked for a better turnout.

The mass of goo that was determined to ruin her fun was a pesky 10 x 6 x 4 inches and weighed in at almost six pounds. Sometimes, apparently, especially if the ovary becomes cystic, a Fallopian tube decides to twist. When that happens, it can collect blood, tissue and fluids, which is what happened to Slippy.

"It's like I had a small personal pizza in me," she said.

Her surgery was quick, and as soon as she asked for her mom, dad and "sister Nora," we ran in to see her. Of course, that's when a month and a half worth of crying commenced. As soon as I knew she was fine, I fell apart. But only momentarily. Soon she was installed in a room with a nifty morphine drip, cable TV and a stack of magazines bigger than my ass. Between visitors and sweet hospital-grade dope, she was on her way to recovery. In fact, she recovered so quickly from the anesthesia and was moving around so well that the hospital was willing to discharge her the next day. She wisely decided to let the hospital hold on to her for another night, but regretted that when the power went out and her room became a steam bath. But that was only a temporary hitch.

The next day, she said goodbye to Loyola and said hello to a journey of terror at the hands of her dad, Wrangler. Apparently, he managed to hit every pot hole in the long way home. Not fun. But she survived that,too. Yesterday, two days short of her two week anniversary, we got into the Bronculance and went back so she could get the staples out. As Dr. P casually snipped them out, he commented on how one patient requested to keep the staples. Everyone say it with me: Why!? I can understand wanting to see whatever they pull from your body (I was hoping to see the goo, but was sadly denied), but keep the staples? I don't get it. Talk about compulsive scrap booking...

She's still sore, but she got the go ahead to drive, swim and take regular baths. She also has clearance to stay home from work for another month. Sweet! So, it all worked out. Slippy ain't making a comeback; she's been here for years.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Medical Misadventures

It's been almost a month. I am, hands down, the shittiest blogger in the blogosphere, but I can live with that. Let me break down the last few months for you and then get into the meaning behind the title.

First of all: the magazine is done. I can't say I'm totally thrilled with my work, but I hear that's a common problem with writers. And dude, mediocre actors often say they can't stand to see their own movies, so I guess I kind of know what they're going through now. Here's a link if you'd like to see it. Juderonomy, I have a hard copy for you. It makes for awesome bathroom reading.

So, with all the stress of the magazine out of the way, I was able to fully enjoy a week of shameless, pasty Midwestern boozing on the beach with my Grecian homegirls in Puerto Rico for Nobility's bachelorette party. I may or may not be posting pictures, we shall see. But I will say that we averaged two hours of sleep a night, still got some color, despite the fact that it was PR's rainy season and had the best time EVER. Oh, and I gave up my seat on my flight home and earned myself a sweet free round trip voucher anywhere in the continental US. Where to go, where to go? So exciting.

All that is just lovely. But do you know what sucks? My bestie, my boss, my heterosexual life partner, Slippy, has recently received some disturbing news. She has a watermelon sized ovarian mass that must be removed. She has given me permission to chronicle her experiences and I have appointed myself her chauffeur, secretary and clown. I am one Burberry knicker/vest set and umbrella away from calling myself Farnsworth Bentley.

Since everyone knows going to the doctor is boring at best and nerve-wracking at worst, I have insisted on accompanying her to her every appointment, and she, in her infinite wisdom, decided not to fight me on it.

Of course, the one appointment I did not drive her to, the one appointment where she sat alone, is the one where her doctor referred her to an oncologist. I still want to kick my own ass for not being there with her and have vowed to never let her go to another appointment alone. Ever. So, she had to face the scariest POSSIBLE news alone (cancer has NEVER been confirmed, just treated as a possibility that must be taken seriously), but we learned our lesson from that. I'm her self-appointed sidekick. Why does the fearless and independent Slippy need someone to accompany her to even the most routine visits?

It's no fun to drive through flooded parking lots unless your driver says, "Wow, sure did rain a lot," and then blasts through a small lake with her window open, soaking said driver thoroughly. It's no fun sitting in waiting rooms without someone to gripe, "I've already SEEN this episode of Ellen!"

It's no fun to go to pre-admission appointments without someone who looks and smells like she may have escaped from in-patient rehab and tells the doctors and nurses she's your attorney. It's especially no fun to drive to appointments by yourself when your intrepid "legal counsel" can take you there in the '96 Bronco, AKA, the Bronculance.

We have toured medical facilities from Kankakee to Joliet to Maywood. We have enjoyed food porn after receiving good news and bad. We have witnessed dogs shitting, interns stuttering and twenty-foot injuns wearing spectacles.

My sweet and brave Slippy.

All jokes aside, Slippy has been such a trouper. From the first ultrasound, when she realized that this wasn't just some silly little fibroid, to the most recent pre-admission appointments for her surgery at Loyola, which is to be performed by the the best surgeon the hospital has to offer, she's been responsible about informing herself, getting the best care possible, strategically planning her time off from work and keeping her sense of humor.

It is scary. There is no way around that. But I sat with her when she met with her doctors, who happens to be the director of female reproductive oncology. He's such a bad ass that she's been asked: How did you get HIM? His attitude toward the results of her enormous battery of tests and scans was positive. He has no reason to believe that the mass is malignant, sees no sign of spread if it is, and has every reason to believe that she's going to come out of her surgery better than ever.

Which is, of course, exactly what is going to happen.

In the meantime, Slippy still has to hold her boss' hand while he acts like a babyhead, wrangle her wayward staff and devise a plan for her recovery that will allow her some rest and relaxation rather than more hand-holding and staff-wrangling. Me? I'm just looking for opportunities to help her out, make her laugh and do whatever I can to make a stressful and scary time as easy for her as possible.

So, basically, blogging takes a major league backseat, kids. I'm sure you understand. But stay tuned for more Medical Misadventures. Slippy and I know how to take a bullshit deal and turn it into a journey of discovery and comedy. We hope you will join us.

I love you, Slippy!