Remembering Hil

Oh, where to start… perhaps with the basics..

Hilary Ross was my Great Aunt — my Mom’s father’s sister.. She died on December 13, 2012… she was 90.  She was an Episcopal Nun and when her convent dissolved she went to grad school for English.  She later became an English professor at Madison Area Technical College.  By the time I knew her well, she was retired and living with her feline companions in Madison.  She had an amazing group of local friends who found her company delightful and thought-provoking.. and she’ll be missed by all of us, whether or not we share DNA..

The basics just don’t do her justice.  Hil was, to the end, thoughtful, witty, strong-willed, and sarcastic.  She was interested in the world around her, read the New York Times daily and nothing important got past her.

I’m not sure where to begin telling my favorite Hil story — and I’m guessing that I’ll post more than one as time goes along.  Maybe I’ll start with a week that Pam and I spent with her in Madison one summer…

We were pretty young, maybe 10 and 13, or even younger.  Hil was energetic and unlike any adults we knew — On that trip she taught us how to play Gin Rummy at her curvy 1960s kitchen table — and she didn’t pull any punches because she was playing with kids… so, being shrewd, she usually won.

Maybe the most memorable bit about that trip was the ear-piercing.  We’d asked our mom if we could get our ears pierced.  Mom — being sensible — said no.  Then, one magic day, Hil asked us what we wanted to do and (I’m guessing) Pam mentioned getting our ears pierced.  Hil thought it was a grand idea and we were off to the mall…

A couple of hours later we had gold studs in our ears and thought we were pretty special… then, and only then, did Hil realize that mom may not be too thrilled with the status of our ears… Hil hadn’t thought to call mom to ask if it was ok… we just did it.  That may have been my first experience with the “it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission” school of thought..



What we say about ourselves….

blog beautiful old


A friend on facebook posted a link to an article about fashion models and their working conditions… and it got me thinking.. about what we say about ourselves.

I’ve recently heard a beautiful friend of mine complaining that she has wrinkles etc.. she’s quite attractive, but she’s also over 40 and has some lines on her face.  She’s kind, funny, and sometimes a little absent minded — and she’s a wonderful person who makes an honest effort every day to make the world a better place.  In short, she’s a beautiful human being inside and out — She’d never criticize anybody else the way she criticizes herself.

That’s what really made me think about womens’ expectations.  She communicates her internalized ideals of beauty every time she criticizes herself for not meeting them.  The thing is, those ideals are simply not realistic.  When we age, things sag — I’ll be 44 next weekend, I know a bit about sagging.

If we, as women, are serious about changing society’s expectations that we all be walking clothes racks with perfect faces, 160 IQs, a challenging job that is also rewarding and well paid, and the perfect set of kids and a devoted spouse, we need to start with ourselves.  We need to stop criticizing how we look, we need to stop talking down how our lives are going and we need to start appreciating who and where we are in our lives.

Nobody has enough money, nobody is the “perfect” body shape, nobody has “perfect” kids and a “perfect” spouse — why do we expect that we need those things to be satisfied with who we are?

What we say about ourselves matters, to the people who love us, to the daughters who learn from us and to ourselves because it reinforces the negative things we think…

I’ve been thinking about this since my “Of Scars” photo shoot..

of scars, me..


That’s me… the Of Scars folks don’t use photoshop to “fix” our images… that’s how I looked that day — without a shirt on.  It’s me, all of mea and I’m beautiful…. or, at least not ugly — and I know I’m smart and brave.  I know I’m a loyal person who tries hard to do the right thing and to be a good person.



That’s my mom… If, in 26 years, I can be as wonderful as she is… I’ll be blessed.

Try, just for today — to avoid saying negative things about yourself.

Why eat more soy??


Andy and I have been eating more soy and other healthy things… it’s been a week and, so far, so good..

We decided we needed to be more healthy — and, that we didn’t need to contribute any more to the environmental problems caused by commercial production of meat.. so, we’re mostly off it..

Andy has been a pretty healthy eater for a while now — he hardly eats anything sweet, although he does cook with plenty of fat and salt.. because, it makes stuff taste good..

A while back we reduced our carbs — no carb wraps instead of bread, for the most part, whole wheat products etc.. I mostly stopped drinking soda at home.. I’ll still drink it on occasion, but I’ve cut it down significantly.

Last week we went grocery shopping as an adventure — and bought organic tofu, silk, the least chemical-filled veggie burgers and other yummy stuff..

We discovered that our meals were just as satisfying and generally quite tasty — I won’t claim that our plan has been perfect — we’ve had a frozen pizza and some microwave popcorn for late night snacks — but, generally we’ve been eating healthy.  We agreed that it was kind of silly to expect a veggie burger to taste exactly like beef — rather, if it gives us the same general satisfaction without the negatives attached to red meat — and, it’s been working.

A few things we’ve learned so far — firm tofu needs to have the liquid squeezed out of it, then it can be marinated and stored for quick food.. I’ve known for a while that I like hardboiled eggs as a snack.. but, I’ve figured out that I like either tuna salad or egg salad with some lettuce on a low-carb wrap as a dinner.. it’s yummy.  We also bought the stuff for Mulligatawny Soup — and miso soup — which has worked well for a quick meal.

And — it’s worked, so far.. I’ve been feeling good — and lost another 3 pounds this week.

This week I bought more tofu, silk, greek yoghurt and a variety of fresh stuff… I’m also making iced tea to drink when coffee isn’t so tempting and ice water is too boring… I bought some black beans so we (Andy..) can try to make black bean burgers.

This week is also Thanksgiving, and I plan to eat a moderate amount of all the yummy stuff Andy’s family will have on the table.. because, this isn’t an absolute thing — instead, I think of it as soy is the default protein.. which works for me.

The Jungle song… by Andy…

Jungle Song

Andy sent this to me a couple of summers ago —

Last post about Madison…

I was on my way home from the UW pharmacy (it seems folks don’t get sick or need stuff on the weekend in Madison, at least according to Hil’s home health folks… hmmm) — Andy knew I was a bit stressy…. so, I get the following in a text:

A: “I think the mail carrier is having an affair with one of the girls across the street”

Me:  “Lol… I hope so..”

It wasn’t until we were on the way home that I found out that Andy didn’t know that Rochelle IS the mail carrier…

He knew that Lindsey and Rochelle live across the street, but he hadn’t met them yet.  He saw Rochelle deliver Hil’s mail and saw the mail truck parked across the street for a couple of hours… He put the two together and figured there was hanky-panky going on — when there was really domestic tranquility…

Oh, the excitement…

Things are calm and good for the moment… especially since Andy is here.. he really is (to quote Oliver, who always gets it right) the stable goat to my Seabiscuit.

This morning Hil told me she had chills — not something you want to hear from a 90 year old in poor health… She also had some blood in her catheter bag, and the combination was concerning.  After a phone discussion with the official Ross nurse (i.e. Mom), I called Hil’s home healthcare folks.. wanting to avoid a trip to the doctor’s office..

The home health nurse came over about noon, flushed the catheter, took her vitals — everything was about normal.  The nurse said that it was quite possible that a blood clot in the catheter could cause her to feel a chill — but, there were no other indications of an infection, so it wasn’t quite time to panic.  After discussing it with her clinic, Hil’s nurse came back to draw blood..

Pro-tip.. there is a white board on Hil’s refrigerator with the numbers for the home health folks.. they work weekends, will come out and do the first line of checking, blood draws, urine samples and the like.. they’ll take them to the clinic and get results back for you — and, generally, the doctors at the clinic can be persuaded to provide simple prescriptions over the phone..

While I’m on the subject of prescriptions – Medicine Shoppe will deliver and the one on Monona has Hil’s card on file.. If you call them, give them her Dean Rx number, she might have coverage… hmm..

The home health folks just called, and we need to keep an eye on her catheter bag, getting worse by tomorrow evening would be reason to go to the ER.. which, of course, we don’t want to do..

So, keep your fingers crossed, Hil wants rare roast beef for dinner tomorrow night… I’m hoping it won’t be from the hospital food service… sigh.

My last solo day in Madison…

… started early — like, 4 am early  — Hil needed a trip to the bathroom… after that excitement, I went back to sleep for a while, only to have a dream that we (Mom, myself, Emily and Shirley) were caring for my Grandpa Charlie and had somehow disconnected his catheter bag… and were fighting about it — the four of us never fight… I’m thinking  it may be time for me to go home… I’m glad mom will be here later…  I’m a philosopher, not a nurse…

Pro-tip of the day… prune juice, don’t forget it… because Hil won’t ask for it.. On a related note… the walker doesn’t fit into Hil’s bathroom — but, she can make it by using the sink and the washer/dryer… we figured out that it’s easier to get her pj pants up if she faces the dryer and you work from the side.. trust me on this one…

I’ve taken to hanging out in the living room when Hil says she wants to nap — the neighbors are kind of interesting — don’t be surprised to see Rochelle deliver the mail :)…

Also, Hil’s wifi has a secret password that isn’t on the document on her laptop — or, any variations of her name, or anything else… I don’t know  how to fix it.  Her ipad and computer work fine, but unless you get Lindsey to help you sort it out, your new computer can’t access her network… Brian and Linda’s works in the den… ask them for the password.