Silverfox Takes Lexington

**Disclaimer: This is NOT a political post.

Dad was in Lexington on business last week and sent me pics of the Red Hen, which – ICYMI – was the site of a huge political controversy recently and has shut down indefinitely.* Visitors were placing flowers on the front step like a memorial.

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Dad: Protestors tonite.

It’s getting ugly here…Trumpsters everywhere

Me: Be careful.

D: U know me, I’m lookin for a fight {toothy smile emoji}

M: Don’t. You can’t reason with them.

D: I’m just finishing dinner and will walk over to stir things up

M: Dad, I’m recovering from surgery. I’m not feeling well. Don’t make me come down there.  But, at least get some footage.

D: Everyone is gone.

D: Not to worry…tomorrow is another day.

 

The next day around 6:30 p.m. he sends me a video I can’t open.

M: Idk what that was

D: Party time

D: I recorded that country band while I was eating my bah b que

 

Twenty-four hours later he sends me another video with the caption, “How’s this for a view while drinking a craft brew?” The video was 23 seconds of his knee and a topsy-turvy view of a stone wall, and I was about to question his sobriety when he followed up with another video and “sent the wrong video before” {grinning emoji}. This one was a panoramic of his view from the patio he was drinking his craft brew on, of road, parking lot, mountains, and sky. Ending with the topsy-turvy upside-down view of his hairy leg.

M: Yeah, I guess when you’re drunk…

M: Nice hairy knee

D: Hah

D: I just sat down

M: What is the view? A parking lot?

D: This is the Shenandoah Valley… beautiful

 

Several hours later…

D: I’m at the restaurant now and the conversation is so slanted towards the extreme right.

M: Oh lord. Try to stay out of it.

D: You know I can’t

M: You have to. There’s no one to bail you out.

D: Haha

M: Find another restaurant

Now to say my dad does not have strong political opinions presently, would be a gross falsehood, but he also wouldn’t get himself into a heated discussion with strangers. But – beer muscles are a thing. I just don’t believe my dad has any. Until –

D: Are you sayin you wouldn’t drive here to bail out your wife’s father?

M: My wife’s father? Dad, how much have you had?

D: Oops! My bad

D: I was talking to you and Todd at the same time

 

The next morning I received another video – this one was a nighttime video of flashing red lights and firetrucks, captioned: “You can always count on Dominoes to arrive on time.” And sure enough, if you look closely, you can see a car with a Dominoes sign on the roof passing between the firetrucks.

 

D: Fire alarm evacuated hotel around midnight

M: OMG. You really should be blogging. Your life is way more interesting than mine.

M: It’s 8:57 and the highlight of my day so far is that I finally went to the bathroom.

D: Just got the details during my coffee run…someone in the hotel tried to smoke in their shower (there are no exhaust fans in this old hotel)

 At this point I plead an empty case for him to guest write a post. If he had been blogging over the last 10 years or so, he’d have thousands of followers and he wouldn’t have to work. Truth is by far, waaaay better than fiction.

 

Miscellaneous tidbits:

*One news outlet stated The Red Hen was expected to stay closed until July 5th.

There are other “Red Hen” restaurants that have been confused with The Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia. Restaurants around the world bearing any part of the name Red Hen have been targeted by haters – including The Little Red Hen, a restaurant located IN THE PHILLIPINES, where someone trashed them for refusing “to serve one of the finest woman in the country. You should be ashamed of yourself!” (Grammar geeks – I spelled the quote exactly as it was written.)

It has even gone as far as people contacting the Health Department that serves Lexington, KENTUCKY – imploring them to “shut the [expletive] down.”

There’s actually a Red Hen in D.C. that received so many threats they had to post a police officer outside, and was egged late at night.

A man whose restaurant by the same name in Georgia closed nearly 10 years ago, received a 700-word post on his not-updated-page-since-2010 from a “ ‘tourist to Lexington,’ who swears to never eat there again.” His friends have since made comical reviews about his restaurant being a “Communist front” and that “its food tasted several years old.”

Meanwhile, a man was arrested for throwing chicken poop at #TheRealRedHen.

Moral of the story tibits: There’s a lesson to be learned from all this, and it’s not political.

***Sources: http://www.theverge.com and The Washington Post.

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As Life Goes On Around Me

As I continue to heal and not complain about it – (I joked with Todd over the weekend that he should be glad I’m not Opac, who would complain about every ache and pain like he was dying and then announce that his funeral was imminent) – life goes on around me.

Not quite two weeks post-op. I’m still doing the same mundane things and suffering a suffocating boredom. My mom was here last week to help, mostly just running Opac to workouts, caretaking my plants, making food, and entertaining Veruca for the 24 hours she came home to be with me. V chose not to stay the extra day until her dad came to pick O up. I’ve reached the pinnacle of boring for her.

My neck is still hurting, and fatigue creeps in like a fog drifting in off the bay, particularly when I’ve done too much – which, if you can believe it, might be unloading the dishwasher or ironing more than 3 shirts. Sunday I was looking forward to going up the street to celebrate my neighbor’s 70th birthday – we drove literally three houses down because a) the last time I walked that far I regretted it and b) it was 97 degrees.

The surprise party was a huge success. Jackie is literally the neighborhood welcome wagon. She is one of the kindest, funniest, craziest neighbors you could ever hope for. The first time we met she hugged me and told me how happy she was that I was there. She goes out of her way for us all, and she deserved nothing less than the celebration we gave her. She also shares my love of chickens and her BFF, who is also a neighbor and friend, bought her a six-foot metal chicken that I am insanely envious of. He’s beautiful. And I joked with her that now she has the biggest cock in the whole neighborhood.

I made Cuban sandwiches and coleslaw (with Todd’s help) and I thought I took it easy, sat most of the time, drank lots of water, and actually ate more in one sitting than I have in nearly two weeks. We were there just over three hours and my neck was killing me. I guess this means I overdid it a little?

It’s weird and disappointing, that I want to do stuff and then the energy gets sucked out of me like air in a deflating balloon. My neck still hurts and my throat is still tight. I wonder, casually and half-seriously, if I’ll ever feel normal again. Which is, of course, a bit melodramatic.

And, speaking of melodramatic, the kids came home yesterday morning by way of their dad, which we had previously discussed. That is, until Sunday afternoon when Veruca called to tell me Nannie was bringing them home. This was after Todd told me my mom couldn’t come down because she had too much to do. OKAY.

Opac literally called me while I was saying goodbye to V, wanting the 411 on next weekend because he was trying to make plans with “someone.” He didn’t mention anything about Nannie or the next day, and I didn’t ask. Two hours later he called me AT THE PARTY all pissed off because the plan as he knew it had changed and V was “running the show.” I said to him – I don’t even know why – I’m sorry you’re upset but I Can’t Talk About This Right Now. He continued to rant about how he needed to get home and something-something about dad and lack of communication, blah blah blah… and I cut him off mid-sentence and told him I’M AT THE PARTY and I cannot have this conversation right now.

Apparently V and mom were taking Mom-mom to the doctor and then out to lunch which, by the way, left O waiting at mom’s house because he didn’t want to go with them, which he called me about later because he didn’t want to sit in Nannie’s house for hours and just wanted her to come back to his dad’s house to pick him up.

So he’s very unhappy with the plan because he just wants to get home and dad can bring them home but won’t just bring ONE of them home and not the other. And O can’t wait until late afternoon to get home with Nannie because he has to “prepare” for workouts at 5:30. So, he wants it his way and Veruca screwed everything up. And I’m wondering how I fell into the middle of this since I’m the one recovering from surgery and there’s now a clusterfuck of convoluted misinformation and I’m failing to see what ANY of this has to do with me.

FOUR phone calls. Mom called to explain the plan. Followed by Opac calling to bitch about the plan and tell me that dad can bring them home since he has an appointment nearby – which makes perfect sense to me and why drag my mother into it? Then he called back to tell me dad WAS bringing them home in the a.m. and that he tried to call Nannie but she’s not answering, and I suggested that probably it’s because it’s NINE-THIRTY AT NIGHT. And then fifteen minutes later mom called me (after she spoke to V) about the change in plans and said she felt guilty about letting V down. Jesus H. Christ.

At 8:41 a.m. I got this text from Opac: V’s in a bad mood so beware.

Yay. Can’t wait. How much of this is she blaming on you? (Asking for a friend.)

I braced myself for tropical storm Veruca, but she came in smiling and huggy and chatty. And O was of course his chatty happy self (read: got what he wanted). So, reentry was peaceful and without incident. No need to reach for the pill bottle.

Speaking of pills, Hell Week for dogs has returned. It started Saturday night. Sabra jumped over the ottoman and me, clawing my leg and stunning me awake, to run over the cat to the opposite end of the couch – WHICH she could have easily gotten to from the other side. She stood there panting and trembling, and ignored my command to lie down. She walked back over to me and the cat, who casually got up and sauntered into the kitchen like he’d just remembered something he had to do, and stood over me offering her best impression of an earthquake. I’m not sure whether it was the seismic motion on the couch or her hot breath on me that made me more nauseous.

Todd started a new job yesterday as a college dean that we are both thrilled about. It’s a big career step but he’s SO the man for the job. My little brother, always MIA, is in Michigan at some big music thing and not answering my texts again. My dad is home again but I can’t text him because he dropped his phone in the pool and it’s fried. I’ve had flowers and well wishes from work and others to brighten the days.

What will today bring? Surely another round of neighborhood fireworks, three more shirts ironed, Veruca’s eighteenth plea to go swimming next door, a new book started? More loosening of the Steri-strips?

 

 

After

Today is day 9. There’s a boa constrictor wrapped around my neck, and the muscles are tight around my cervical spine. Do I feel better than last Saturday? I’m going to say yes. Todd said I’d forget the pain at some point, and I do think he’s right. Last Saturday I was 24 hours into recovery and I remember thinking I f**king hate this. Never again.

I went in for surgery on Friday the 22nd at 6:30 a.m. I was back in pre-op in no time and my nurse, Stephanie, was kind and patient and introduced me to Buffy, the venipuncture slayer. Seriously, Buffy made me nervous at first, the way she kept slapping at the veins on my wrist while Stephanie collected the exact same data I’d given three different people by phone in the last seven days. This was probably a lame attempt to distract me from Buffy’s overtures, but Buffy’s tapping and slapping left me feeling quite unconfident in her abilities.

I have big veins. I mean big, juicy veins that aren’t difficult to tap. Was she blind? Unsure? A trainee? OMG. Anyway, she popped that IV in like a mosquito and Stephanie turned around and said, wow, you didn’t even flinch. And Let Me Tell You. A week later and you still can’t see where that IV was. Buffy IS the Boss.

A minute later this man who appeared to be in his late 50s popped into my room and said, “boo!” And of course, I’m like, WTF? Who is this dude? He warmly introduced himself as my anesthesiologist, and assured me he’s done so many of these, for 500- er- he’s even put dinosaurs to sleep. He also remarked that I looked like a deer in the headlights. My neuroses clearly is not easy to conceal. Buffy started cleansing my neck until it turned beet red and apparently a reaction ensued, so the two of them decided I’d had enough. He told me he could give me something to relax me, but only after I’d spoken with the PA or the surgeon or both.

Documents to sign, giving them permission to cut me open, put me to sleep, do whatever they do to save your life, etc. And then Todd was brought back, who is always full of funny anecdotes that AREN’T funny when your nerves are as bad as mine.

I laid in the bed with a pillow behind my head for support, because the position itself was painful as always. I was ready a full hour before my surgery was scheduled and trying not to flip out. I remembered this pain I was feeling, and considered that it would be gone when I woke up again. Todd snapped a photo of me in the bed for my mom, so I gave my best bitch face that I knew would get a giggle from her (she knows me well). I’m so NOT a good patient. I’m better than I used to be, but some things go like teaching an old dog new tricks.

The neuro-technologist (because I don’t remember her exact title) came in to discuss the surgery with me, starting with the standard questions. I told her my name, and the surgery I’m having – breast implants. She stopped reading my chart and stared at me momentarily, and then back to the chart. I gave it a beat or two more and said, I’m just kidding. I’m having two discs replaced in my cervical spine. I needed the break more than she did obviously, but she took it in stride and said that’s never happened before, laughed a little while I clarified the REAL surgery and then I secretly prayed she wouldn’t hurt me while I was knocked out. Her job is to test my nerve conduction during the surgery to make sure all is well. And I have the bruises on both arms and one shoulder to show for it. But they don’t hurt.

The PA came in and explained the surgery, went over recovery procedures and medications, etc. and then Dr. Dinosaur returned with his vial of nirvana and that hit me so fast I said, whooooaaaa. And then it was time to go.

Second time for me in an OR, and it’s always surreal. Lots of movement and faceless people, and then there’s the mask over your face and then suddenly I’m coughing like a drowning victim. I’m assuming that was the moment I was extubated. Dr. Dinosaur placed a hand on my shoulder and told me to relax.

Todd said the surgery lasted 2 and a half hours, during which he got a very important call I will share in a later post. I started the waking process in the PACU, where my right arm felt like Grendel was pulling it out of its socket and my legs felt like they were disconnecting from my body. My new nurse, Sharon, asked me my pain level. NINE. Dilaudid to the rescue. I have no idea of time passing, but I felt more lucid by the time we hit a five. She refused to give me more because she thought I stopped breathing several times (an alarm would sound), until I assured her I am NOT sleeping and that it’s my MO to hold my breath when pain is really intense. So, we spent the next several hours with her reminding me to breathe through it or else. (No more pain meds.)

I can’t say enough about my experience at this hospital*. Everyone was very caring, gentle, and they didn’t push me out like we had experienced with Todd’s surgery last summer at an affiliated hospital. They did encourage me to move to a “chair” and out of the bed, where I turned white and felt a violent wave of nausea that turned out to be gas. I guess burping is a side effect of anesthesia? Sharon mentioned I hadn’t been to the bathroom since awakening, and I told her that I’ve actually had to go since I woke up, but was afraid to ask. (Bad patients don’t like bed pans.) So Tara assisted me to the bathroom – I chose to walk – and informed me she had to come in with me. I didn’t give a rat’s ass who was in there with me.

Funny how life and maturity changes you, and your views on modesty. I was ready to go afterward, and the two nurses helped me dress (but kept Todd outside the curtain AS IF he’d never seen his wife naked before) and I was soon being wheeled to the curb by a nice man who said he was getting over pneumonia, which seemed wrong on some level but I was in no position to argue with anyone.

The ride home was uneventful and not painful. And the rest of Friday was lost to fits of sleep and well wishes, one son who announced that I looked like shit, and a phone call from Veruca who had been terribly worried. I took one Oxycontin that night, and continued to feel awful until the next morning, when I threw up. I DO NOT do narcotics. So, my recovery this week has been punctuated by frequent walks around the house, belching, muscle relaxers, a steroid for alleviating swallowing issues, and extra strength Tylenol.

I’ve been out twice – once with mom driving me to the pharmacy and grocery store in my collar of shame that scared small children; and yesterday to the bank where one of the tellers exclaimed, “holy shit!” which made my day and I burst out laughing.

It’s day 9. I’m still waking in some significant neck pain, but the pain my upper back and shoulders and right arm is all but gone. I understand that some pain will linger as the nerves reassert themselves under these new conditions. I had this pain in my right elbow (painful even to the touch) that was terrible for months that I was treating as tennis elbow, though nothing helped. I woke up last Friday and it WAS GONE.

I still feel like someone has their hands wrapped around my throat. I try to be patient, but it’s annoying and uncomfortable, and causes me nausea. I can’t bend over, as it puts pressure against my throat. I can’t look directly down. I’m still getting tired easily.

But, I did it. This is the After. And every day the After is getting better. I can swim after my 6-week post-op, when summer will be more than half over, but I’m doing it. And I made Todd measure me, because the neurosurgeon said the discs he implanted are going to stretch my neck a bit, which is causing the muscles around it to stretch and strain. I gained an INCH. I am an INCH taller than I was last Friday. How about that?

 

*University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center

**I cannot take full credit for the breast implant joke. Todd made a remark while we were waiting in pre-op that “at least you’re not getting breast implants.” Which I still don’t know why he thought was funny, but when the neuro person came in, the procedure just flew out of my mouth. And Todd looked at me appalled, that I’d stolen his joke that not 10 minutes before I refused to laugh at.

 

Destination Syracuse : Bowling, Irish Cannonballs, and Flying Monkeys

Presently in surgery. Please enjoy this ramshackle post in my absence.

Another road trip. Another bowling tournament. We stayed at the Genesee Grand Hotel. It was lovely: a beautiful lobby, Koi pond, and revolving doors, which I always use whenever they present themselves.  Except when I tried to drag my suitcase in with me. That made things a little tight, if not awkward, but thankfully no one was looking. Except Todd, who is well used to my shenanigans.

Our room was small but comfortable, and the bathroom was beautifully tiled in sparkling marble. We dropped our bags and changed clothes, and headed over to the convention center (where the National Bowling Tournament was) to check in. Apparently there was an issue about Todd – either whose membership number was in question and/or he wasn’t on the team roster. This looked to me like another one of those clusterfuck-type situations, and so I looked at my loving husband and asked him why he failed to mention this snafu to me.

(I was only mildly pissed that we might have yet another problem with something, because it’s always something, and I was still seething over the fact that he had no idea what times he was bowling until I asked him to find out. And it turned out that the expected usual 8 a.m. bowling times were instead 11 a.m. Tuesday and 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, putting us on the road quite well after dinner that night.)

We got it all straightened out, but not before the team captain came to rectify the situation and then Kathy wiped out on the escalator as we were leaving and thank God there were two men behind her to help her back up and she didn’t die. Seriously scared the bejesus out of me.

Todd and I ended up at The Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub for a late snack and beer. It’s the quintessential Irish Pub, all wood bar and carved back bar – the whole thing square-shaped with ample seating but two walls come into the center, lending it a very intimate arrangement. There is seating in the back of the restaurant, and a banquette with little cocktail tables and little stools for seating. Todd ordered a pint of Smithwick and I had Threes Brewing Logical Conclusion, which was a divinely citrusy IPA without the bitter back end. Ordered the Irish Charcuterie and Reuben Fritters (aka Irish Cannonballs); both were delicious and just the right amount of food for a late night bite.

Like any trip where we rush out the door, we forgot deodorant, my Tylenol Extra Strength tablets that are worth shit anyway, a jacket/hoodie/anything long-sleeved for the meat locker at the tournament and, most importantly, my meds. And this was so not the time to be without them for THREE days. I planned to be alcohol-free, but this horrific oversight was going to have to be remedied the only other way I know how. But – ya’ll’d be proud of me. I drank modestly, only at dinner, and only with food.

Day 2

The tournament. Teams. After a half hour or so of coffee in the cozy lobby, we get to the tournament and meet the crew. Everybody has to have their balls weighed. (Bowling balls, you fools.) Todd bought me a bright pink hoodie, and it was soon time to go find a seat in the stands and he went back to the waiting area. The oiling machines are like giant Roombas, except that instead of picking up dirt they oil the lanes. And then… the music started.

Imagine Dragons, Whatever It Takes… and the bowling teams start strutting out onto the floor in front of the lanes in a single file, and it was like we were at the fucking World Cup and these athletes were rock stars. Some of them were mouthing the words of the song, some were wearing sunglasses, some were waving their fist, … one guy was waving his bowling ball (in the sack) over his head, which seemed a little dangerous to me. Man down! Before the tournament would even start.

After the tournament everybody decided they wanted to go to Dinosaur BBQ, though all I really wanted was a salad. There were 9 of us and parking was a bear. We sat at three separate tables and, it turned out, one check.  The waitress sat my glass down on the table with her fingers inside it. When we ordered, I suggested Betty go first, and the waitress told me to go first. Mildly shocked at the Rude.

We all parted ways afterward, heading back to our hotels for a nap. I put on my collar of shame (as instructed to relieve pain I’m currently having) and left it on to enter the hotel and noticed how quickly the bellman jumped to open the door for me. Which made me feel alternately guilty and ridiculous.

Todd and I decided to go to the Yellow Brick Road Casino, in a little town called Chittenango where – it so happens – the author of the Wizard of Oz was born. It was small but whimsically fun… the Flying Monkey Bar had flying monkeys dangling from the ceiling. And the slots were paying out for Todd. I was being obstinently patient while he moved from one machine to another, until I hit a wall after 10 with no food in my stomach and barely a sip of water all day.

We returned to Kitty Hoynes but were late to dinner – so that there was a limited bar menu and even more limited IPA selection. They were sold out of Logical Conclusion (so upset!) and then two more I ordered they were also out of. Asked the bartender, so what DO you have? And he disappeared to attend to other guests while I perused the draft menu, and … didn’t come back for a good 20 minutes. If not for the late hour, we very nearly walked out. Eventually we got him to warm up and he was ever so friendly and somewhat more attentive… which, by the way, is NOT the way it’s supposed to work with bartenders.

Day 3

In retrospect, I’m beginning to wonder if the New York attitude creeps this far north of the city. It was bizarre, how standoffish the service was, everywhere we went. Except for Mom’s Diner, where we went for breakfast Wednesday morning. A small little spot on the corner of a well-worn street, where you order at the counter and they bring your food to the table when it’s ready. The four folks there were warm and friendly and the food was great.

We killed time at Destiny USA – which does not sound like a monstrous shopping mall with 3 floors of shopping, dining, and play. With the trend of malls going down over time, this one seems to be holding its own.

Back to the convention center for singles and doubles. Another freezing cold event and this time I carried my blanket in with me. And I wasn’t the only one. We were scheduled to start at 2:30 but by 2:35 there were still bowlers from the morning roster still finishing up. Our group didn’t start until after 3, and all I could think of was how late we were going to get home.

This day’s fight song was The Champion by Carrie Underwood ft. Ludacris. It’s funny how they all walk in like these great badasses of bowling. I watched a little, got up a few times to stretch (the pain is intense at times and the only relief is movement), dove into my journal and wrote 5 pages, and then cracked open my newest book.*

We were finally on the road by 7. I was beyond stressed and fighting back a complete mental breakdown from lack of meds and off-the-charts anxiety that kept me awake every night, and pain that returned with a vengeance just in time for the five-hour ride home. But we did it. We made it home in FOUR hours and for the first time in my life I was never happier to see our old hometown’s name on a highway sign, even though it meant we were still an hour from home.

*My latest book: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry.  National Bestseller. Although I’m only 65 pages in, highly recommend.

Before

T-minus 18 hours and 55 minutes, as of this writing. I’ve had multiple phone calls from the hospital to update my information, my medications, my instructions, my expectations…. All of which are designed to help everyone else do their job while my anxiety tops charts unseen since the summer of ’13.

ICYMI: I’m having artificial cervical disc replacement of C5/6 and 6/7 tomorrow morning. I have inconsolable (I like this analogy) pain in my neck, shoulders, upper back, wrapping around my rotator cuffs, and radiating down both arms and hands from time to time. It has been previously thought I had carpal tunnel syndrome. I would like to suggest at this time that this is perhaps NOT the case at all. I am currently feeling a radiating ache down my right leg that affects the back of my knee and the entire calf muscle. Pain right now: Five. Anxiety: Seven.

But enough about that! Surgery is tomorrow, where they cut a one-to-two inch incision in the front of my neck and remove the damaged discs and pop in two new ones. Easy-peasy, right? I’d like to think so, but my anxiety is a demon sitting on my shoulder whispering all the thoughts I should not think. It didn’t help that the PA played me an animated video of the surgery while we waited for the surgeon, so that is an image that I go to bed with every night. It’s affecting my sleep. I think they should ask the patient if they want to see it, rather than just assume we do. Some of us don’t want to know. Just fix it.

In calmer moments, I remember the signs I’ve received that are meant to comfort me. I believe in a God who knows I have so much more to do and two children and a husband (who we all know is very independent but I know he can’t or won’t do it without me) who need me to be here. I have the most wonderful angels I know will be there to comfort and watch over me. Yeah, I’m not a little spiritual and maybe a bit nuts. But ya’ll love me that way, or you wouldn’t still be reading.

My aunt is, at this very moment, in her own surgery, on her back. She was not doing well yesterday, and mom suggested I call her and I said, what the hell do you think I’M going to be able to say to her? But call her I did, and she and I commiserated about our shared anxieties and physiological problems with pain meds stronger than ibuprofen, and realized we both had the same plan for the-day-before of ironing clothes that are piling up.

So, per my previous post:

We had last days of school. The Last Day was optional/an excused absence for those who didn’t go. Opac stayed home and slept until sometime after 12:30. Veruca went to school to see her bestie and they walked to McDonald’s after to have lunch together. This was huge, as she fully expected me to say no as I have in the past. It was even huge-r that her bestie was allowed to go. She is Mexican, and culturally speaking, her parents are very protective of her. She hasn’t been to our house in the 5 years that our girls have been best friends, and isn’t allowed to birthday parties. One of my coworkers, who is also Mexican, has told me of similar experiences with her mom and her personal freedom.

V missed her endo appointment thanks to traffic on a major route that left us sitting still for almost 20 minutes. Had to reschedule and went shopping instead (it was right there). I have to say that I enjoy a good trip to TJMaxx, but this day was absolutely the worst selection I have seen in years. The clothes looked like a bad cross-dresser’s delight, or maybe a Good Will store in Florida.

We went to Ulta and spent way too much on makeup for her, but I’m not sorry. She has vitiligo on her face, and we were shopping for a quality product that offered good blending coverage without an all-over foundation.

Pre-op appointment was uneventful. I’m assuming my CBC is good and I’m not pregnant since the surgery is proceeding as planned. I picked up my collar of shame on Monday morning before our road trip because they wanted me to have it before surgery. This is NOT the soft collar I thought I’d be wearing. It looks more like an instrument of torture, and it is not flattering to my face. My face looks like one of those bloated fish you see hanging from the ceiling of seafood restaurants. Can’t wait to selfie that look tomorrow.

Bestie and I went on a girls’ day out adventure with plenty of laughs and some shopping. We made verbal non-disclosure agreements, so I cannot say anything more than … we had so much fun. Sorry. What happens in Spencer’s, stays in Spencer’s.

Todd and I had a quiet 6-year anniversary. We bought the edging stones I wanted for our front gardens, almost all of which he placed for me and it looks great. I weeded a bit. We went out for a quick dinner at the local Mexican restaurant and sat outside on the deck in the beautiful weather with a margarita. Saw our lovely neighbors at the next table, because we’re a small town and everybody goes there. Came home and sat outside, burning citronella, had one more margarita, and decided to relieve my pain in the hot tub.

Todd and I went to Syracuse, New York for the National Bowling Tournament Monday and returned last night around 11 p.m. Working on a post for that – which I’ll schedule for release tomorrow.

See ya’ll After. Peace out.

 

 

 

What’s Happening Now

Sitting down at my laptop after a rather uneventful weekend. I removed someone’s used dental flosser from my keyboard (I know – WTF???) and cracked open a rather innocuous Corona.

Today’s pain scale: a definite 4. For now. And that’s what the beer is for. Pain meds don’t help, and nobody is prescribing anything stronger than Tylenol Extra Strength from here on out as we are now t-minus 2 weeks to open neck surgery. After I shared a pic of my MRI, one friend said something like, “wow. No wonder you drink.” And my first thought was, WTF? Really? Do I really sound like I drink a lot? Cause I really don’t drink as much as ya’ll think. I don’t have the stamina for all that alcohol anymore, which should have become quite clear after last summer’s soiree with the Amish Outlaws and Todd and my much younger, two-wooden-legs brother.

Anyway. I haven’t been drinking much. I decided to lay off the alcohol after the definitive, diagnostic pictures of my cervical spine, and focus on just healthy eating and 30 minutes a day on the treadmill. However, the Neph laundry debacle on Veruca’s birthday led my mom to mixing Metropolitans for the two of us and my martini glass was never empty for the better part of three hours. At that point I think the pain was either gone, or completely intoxicated itself.

So, surgery. Got all the informational papers yesterday. Pre-op PE and bloodwork. MRSA swab. I have to shower with this special soap the day and night before, and then again in the morning BEFORE DAWN since I have to be at the hospital at 6:30 a.m. This whole thing is creating intense anxiety. The pain I’m having is reason enough to go through with it, but it’s also giving me other worries I won’t verbalize with anyone.

Todd and I had dinner plans with friends last weekend and chatted the whole way there … we both have a lot of potential changes ahead of us… until we dove into surgery conversation and he expressed the anxiety it causes him. And I’m in tears, because I’m remembering my last trip to the hospital and I’m afraid this experience is going to rip that wound wide open. And I couldn’t articulate that in our conversation with less than 30 minutes before our arrival at our friends’ house. And this is the first time in nearly 5 years that I’m feeling any emotion at all about that.

So anyway. The next week and a half are filled with the last days of school, summer workouts, an endocrinologist appointment, haircuts, a pre-op appointment, an out of town trip, my last two work days, and one raucous girls’ day out with my bestie. These are the days BEFORE.

We are now here. The Before Surgery. A long list of stuff I have to get done Before. Before my neck is cut open, Before I am knocked out for 2 or 3 hours, Before I go through the recovery. I want to clean the house. I want clean floors, clean pets, clean bathrooms, clean clothes, and a clean bed. I want to edge and weed my gardens, maybe plant some new things, mulch. I want to paint the shutters on the house. I want to clean out drawers and closets. It’s like nesting, only I come home with new discs instead of a new baby.

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Meanwhile, everything and anything has decided that Mercury is in retrograde – or, for all you not-into-astrology folks – the period of time every so often when shit either breaks or stops working. LIKE my car.

You know the one – that was brand new a year ago. That has already had – count them – FOUR vacations at the dealership in 12 months. This time, while we were safely inside our friends’ house having a lovely dinner during the rain showers, the car decided it wanted its windows down. We come outside and there’s the windows. Down. And the inside of the doors saturated. And the driver’s seat.

The next day the touch screen was completely black. No GPS, no Sync, nothing. This happened twice before, but it magically fixed itself before we were able to take it in.

On Thursday the toilet in the staff bathroom was bubbling and stopped flushing. And then the other two bathrooms had the same thing happen, and THEN someone from one of the offices downstairs said there was water coming through the ceiling, through the light panels. And apparently a bucket or two wasn’t going to do the job.

That was almost as exciting as the day the fire alarm went off at the other office I work in occasionally, which turned out to be a false alarm. Regardless, it was an entirely new experience for me.

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Work is going well. Some days are stressful. Those are the busy days where it’s suddenly 6 o’clock and you have no idea what happened to the last 5 hours. Some days are quiet enough until just after 5. Same thing happens on Fridays about an hour before we close. It’s like people panic when the night/weekend comes. Which is crazy to me, because there’s always somewhere you can take your sick child on any day of the week at any time. When my 17-year-old was a baby, we had two choices… call the doctor, or go to the ER. Urgent care wasn’t an option then.

In one week, I got hollered at by some woman who insisted she’d been on hold for 45 minutes with the nurses’ line; hollered at by a mother whose 4-week-old had a stuffy nose who wouldn’t accept any answer without the word “appointment” in it; and screamed at by another mom who needed physicals for her 3 kids in less than a month so they wouldn’t miss out on playing sports. Word to the wise: You can’t get a well visit in under 3 months in MOST practices. The latter two graced the start of two different days.

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Out of recent experiences, I have these words of wisdom: DO NOT, under any circumstances, blame the scheduler for lack of immediate appointments. Your 10-minute tirade is not going to change the reality that There Are No Appointments.

Do NOT under any circumstances, ream out the person on the other end of the phone. We are here to help, we’re not here to say no, but we also can’t break standard protocol.

The first appointments to go are always the ones after 3:30 p.m.  If that’s what you want, you have to schedule at least 3 months in advance.

Again, please do not holler at the scheduler that you cannot take off work and/or will not pull your child out of school “just” for a well visit. You are not the first parent to ever have to work it out, and you won’t be the last. As for the 10-minute tirade, see above.

Above all, remember that we are here to do a job and to help. We aren’t here to make your life more difficult. But you have to do your part too.

The End

 

Where I’ve Been: The Good, the Bad, The Ugly

I’ve been in a terrible way for several weeks. I think my tolerance meter is broken. This is a very strange condition – I have two discs pressing against my spinal cord – it’s not a condition with the same symptoms every day, or pain in the same places every day. Some days I feel almost normal, for a little while, and then I take a long-enough ride in the car and suddenly I want to rip all four of my limbs off. Some days pain level is a 2, and then others we toy around with a 5 and then there’s the really fun 8.

So I’m pretty good about managing this at work. I had a day last week where the pain was really minimal. Then Friday was a bear. I’d like to think no one knew. Well, except for one of my coworkers who asked me twice how I was. So maybe not so convincing??

I’d say, outside of work my tolerance for people is at an all-time low. I went to the grocery store on Memorial Day, and YES I know that’s a bad idea under any circumstances, but someone had to go and Todd took the drive to pick up Veruca for me. I was so stabby by the time I left, it’s a miracle no one got hurt.

I’ve done a “cleanse” on Facebook – eliminating those I either don’t really know, have never met in person, have zero exchanges with, or whose point of view is raising my blood pressure. I gave it a modicum of thought. I eliminated about 25 people.

The nail in the coffin: one of them posting the Obama making out with another man meme. And this is not because I love Obama. It’s because there is absolutely no place for photoshopped BS like this anywhere, of anyone. What purpose does it serve? And especially coming from someone who regularly expresses Christian values on FB, someone who is my elder, who I’ve always had respect for. I was so very, VERY disappointed.

I’m feeling oversensitive too. Two different people made comments that sounded like flat out Judgements, and it pissed me off. They’re still friends, because I can’t overlook the fact that it might be me being silly.

Meanwhile, tolerance meter broke I think sometime after Neph returned a couple of weekends in a row. He does his laundry here. Except that he “forgets” to use “quick wash” and does his laundry on the longest setting he can find – the timer on the washer was an hour and 38 minutes. FOR ONE LOAD. He was here all day while my mom and I took V shopping on her birthday and when we got home nearly 7 hours later he had only started one load. Like a true mother, I looked at him and said, what the HELL have you been doing here all day??

Seriously, in two days he managed to drop the jug of iced tea on the counter where it exploded everywhere, stepped on a Tide Pod that fell out of his hoodie onto the kitchen floor (the floor was then slick with soapy film), clogged the downstairs toilet, and left his dirty laundry scattered from white trash bags next to his car in the driveway on the side facing the street.

Anyway, V turned 13 and promptly launched into a hormonal torrent that felt like a drive-by shooting. One, because she was literally loving on me one minute and snapping at me the next, and as you can see from above… I’m already hanging by a thread. Although I keep having flashbacks to my own teen years when my mom would just laugh at me… and wondering if that was the coping method she chose or if she was just high. Either way, I’m kind of keeping my distance when that look enters her eyes.

So mom and I took her birthday shopping, which was great fun and even I got some new stuff and we had lunch in the food court so that all three of us could have different things. We stopped at Wegmans for the cakes. (Yes, cakeS. Because one isn’t enough for the big 13.)

Oliver got his teeth cleaned and the vet kept him overnight. I was worried sick over him the entire time. He had one extraction and was on those liquid antibiotics that smell like lighter fluid and taste even worse (though I really have no idea what lighter fluid tastes like but one can only guess from the smell) and it was ugly every time I had to give it to him. There’d be this great dramatic gagging performance afterward.

So I turned 49. Todd and I went out to dinner to a lovely place on the water, where the food was good but the patio was infested with tiny spiders that were shooting webs from umbrella to umbrella and generally freaking all the ladies out. The music flowing from the bar was nice and I had two glasses of Evolution, an Oregon white blend that was lovely (highly recommended). We stopped at the casino for an hour or so and I lost 20 bucks. I’m not meant to gamble, so instead I went to the bar for a beer or two and sent a girlfriend a pic of one of my bad decisions.

Let’s see… what else? Both V and I had our annual routine blood work done, I scheduled my surgery for later this month, and turned down a full time job offer. Unfortunately for me, the job thing was an emotionally driven decision with some notes of practicality thrown in. It was, and continues to be thanks to the folks who want me there, a difficult thing to say no to.

My mom, God love her, asked me twice about getting a second opinion on my C5/6 and C6/7 discs impinging on my spinal cord and I curtly told her this last time that my condition has one of three options and offered to show her my MRI pics and that any other professional who sees them is not going to offer some other miracle because THERE ISN’T ONE. 1) Leave it alone and watch it progress until I’ve lost complete feeling in my arms and hands (and legs), translation: permanent nerve damage 2) anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) or 3) artificial disc replacement. I don’t post on Facebook about it because I don’t need any more well-meaning input. I’m already having borderline anxiety about surgery and everybody’s concern is NOT helping.

Todd has finished the semester and sweat his balls off at the college graduation, sending me selfies with sweat drops doodled on his face. We had a lovely dinner with friends last night where we were in the minority on politics but it was still a lively discussion and the food was delicious. Until I got a scallop lodged between my two back teeth (where I’m due to have a crown) and I’m sitting there at the table trying to discreetly pick it out until I finally gave up and asked the host if he had a toothpick. I disappeared into the bathroom and tried not to panic thinking what if it’s still stuck there tomorrow morning at the dentist and my mouth smells like low tide? Thankfully the toothpick did the job and I won’t have to be forever remembered for scallop mouth at the dentist. No one ever want to be “that” patient.

Miscellaneous:

I did write a post about April 21st, but I’m not happy with it so I will summarize by saying that April 21st is my mother-in-law’s birthday. She shares the day with Queen Elizabeth II, Tony Danza, Iggy Pop, and Robert Smith. It’s also the day Prince died, and – thanks to Facebook memories to remind me – the day Todd and I “became friends” on Facebook.

The other post I aspired to write was to be entitled Middle Schoolers Are Assholes, brought to you in part by conversations with Veruca. Because I do remember middle school, and the stupid crap we did and said, and we were no better than the kids she describes today that piss her off. Oy, she is her mother’s daughter, as you will now see:

She made me a birthday card with the most heartfelt words … Happy Birthday Mom. I love you very much even if I can be a bitch sometimes. You are 49 which is not old. I hope you have a great day. With so much love, V.

My heart swells with pride and love.

The Scene of the Crime: Wilkes Barre, PA

This year’s PA State Bowling Tournament was held in another sparkling Pennsylvania metropolis: Wilkes Barre.

Wilkes Barre is in the coal mining region of PA, and part of the fourth largest statistical metropolitan area: Scranton-Wilkes Barre-Hazelton. It’s out there in that area that used to give me intense, unexplained anxiety when driving near or through it… most likely because of its far-away-from-everything, not close enough to the city for me, feeling. (City girl, reporting for duty.)

I would like to point out at this time that I have seen more of Pennsylvania in the four years I’ve lived in Maryland than I did when I lived there. I’ve seen Scranton once for a tournament, and once was enough. I’ve been to Erie, where sightseeing was washed out by rain all weekend. I’ve been to Pittsburgh, which I wrote a post about, and where the only Falling Water we saw was the rain both days.

Anyway, I’m in charge of hotels so I booked us at the Holiday Inn Express again (The Pittsburgh one was very nice). We had a nice room at the end of the hall. Room appointments were modern and clean; the toilet paper roll was mounted under the sink such that you couldn’t see it, and I decided not to tell Todd where it was and wait to see if he’d figure it out.

We didn’t arrive until after 11 p.m. Todd googled places to eat and chose Bar Louie – Google Maps took us to a rundown-looking warehouse that was dark and clearly NOT a bar. We ended up going to the Mohegan Sun Casino around the corner: a really nice, albeit smoky, casino with a number of eating establishments inside. We each got a slice of pizza – which was really really good.

As I feared, Todd wanted to check out the casino. He only wanted to check it out. And that’s when we found Bar Louie – which is located inside the casino.

Saturday morning 6:30 a.m. came too early, but the bed was remarkably comfortable and I noted that my neck and back didn’t hurt when I woke up. We grabbed the complimentary breakfast downstairs with our bowling friends, and were soon off to the tournament. It was a gorgeous day on Saturday, and I had googled Wilkes Barre earlier in the week for “things to do in” and “places to eat.”

So. After the tournament we drove around a bit and discovered a Catholic church which seems to have risen out of the ashes of a working class neighborhood and closed down factories. Took some photos. The front doors were open and service was going, but I was too timid to walk up the steps. In Catholic churches I’m always afraid I’ll be discovered as a runaway Catholic.

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St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Church, founded 1855

We did some shopping afterward… someone in a Facebook group had posted a pic of a metal chicken she found in Ross, so I was on a mission. Didn’t find one, but I did buy a galvanized tub and a smaller galvanized utensils holder that I plan to use for an herb garden on my deck.

After a quick lunch, we drove to Seven Tubs Recreational Park (my #1 Google find). Our bowling mates opted out so it was serendipitously ours alone. Well, ours … with about two dozen other people with way more appropriate footwear for the occasion. But I didn’t care. It was beautiful. Wheelbarrow Run is a stream that runs down through the landscape, having cut its way through bedrock and creating several potholes or “tubs” through which the water cascades down like a waterfall.

We took a ton of pictures, walked the trails a while, found some troll doors, and I collected miniature pine cones the size of a dime. We clocked close to 12,000 steps on our fitness trackers.

All photos copyright TKA and The Tara Chronicles, 2018

We returned to the hotel to clean up and made plans to go to a bar/restaurant on my list with our group. I had three in mind, but the winner (and truly was the winner) was Elmer Sudds… a small, corner neighborhood bar with a few tables along the wall and an L-shaped bar with plenty of seating for our crowd. The bartender, Dave, gave us a warm, enthusiastic welcome as we warned him there were going to be more than just the four of us who had just arrived.

The walls were lined with tap handles; however, what was on tap was limited to a handful, which was fine for us. The hot wings were killer. Todd and I bought t-shirts (Elmer Sudds – The Thirst Awakens) and finagled an Elmer Sudds pint glass for our collection for $15. It was worth it. We played darts, which I haven’t done in over 30 years and actually hit a bullseye which didn’t count because that’s not what I was supposed to do. I don’t understand scoring at all.

Photos copyright TKA & The Tara Chronicles, 2018

Our group split in two and the Holiday Inn crew went to the casino. I sat down next to Todd with the five dollar bill I’d found in my pocket, dropped it in the machine and two minutes later I had $11. I kissed my gambler and told him I was taking my winnings to the Bar Louie, which at this point was bursting at the seams.

Found two empty seats at the bar next to the service station and ordered a beer. I posted in our group text that “Tara is at Bar Louie” and my exact location. Stan was the only one who answered, saying that he “saw her on her way in” and that he would head over in a bit. I told him it was me, and that sometimes I refer to myself in the 3rd person, you know, just to keep things interesting.

I watched the 5 bartenders struggling to keep up with about 40 people around the bar, which seemed ridiculous to me, and flagged one for the guy behind me who couldn’t get anyone’s attention because I’m nice like that. There’s only so much drinking one can watch and so much trying-not-to-judge-service one who has grown up in the business (yet continues to avoid being a part of) can witness…. so I posted something on Facebook about being a middle-aged woman in a bar full of millennials. I was thisclose to starting up a conversation with the guy next to me when Todd suddenly, happily appeared. We left shortly after.

Sunday morning. Woke again with no pain initially, but feeling the effects of what was my last night of drinking for a long while. Chris was texting Todd about when we were coming down to breakfast and I was feeling like I was the holdup when we finally got there, and he had the audacity to tease me about it and then a half hour later WE were waiting for HIM so we could leave for the bowling alley.

The pain I’m currently in thanks to two levels of cervical discs pressing on my spinal cord started to kick in and I sat in the bowling alley by myself waiting for Brenda and Chris to show up and tried to ignore it.

Then Todd asked me if I could get him a cup of ice water. Simple enough request – he always gets a large cup of ice water at the bowling alleys. And here follows my meltdown over a cup of water at 9 a.m. on church day.

***OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE WARNING***

I walked up to the counter and asked for it, and was told that they can’t give me ice water. And I’m like, you’re kidding, right? And then this other woman walks up and says that “that’s why we have water fountains” and offers me a DIXIE CUP that my husband can fill up himself. Oh. My. GOD. He was SO not going to be happy about this, and I was SO not feeling up to Bullshit at 9 a.m. with radiating cervical spine pain and a wee bit of a hangover.

I told her this won’t work and I asked if there were water bottles/vending machines, but she didn’t bother to tell me where but I found them on my own, put my last two dollars in the machine and…. the fucking bottle got stuck in the machine. And now I’m literally swearing at myself in front of the vending machine and afraid to walk away from it and have someone else score my bottle, not to mention what I might say if I had to go back to that counter. Eventually it came out and I stalked back to Todd in a selfish tantrum and handed him the bottle, and told him it was the best he was going to get.

His raised eyebrow opened the door and … apparently they don’t give out fucking water here but it’s okay to sell people SODA in those fucking cups. WTF? They can’t give me fucking ice water! But – oh! There’s a fucking water fountain where you can get water if you want it. IN a DIXIE CUP!

At this point I looked around me and noticed three older ladies sitting right there staring at me, and suddenly I felt like a complete asshole. So I said, I’m so sorry for the language. I’m so sorry.

And Todd snapped back that he’s trying to concentrate on his game and this isn’t helping. I said, you’re right, and took my tantrum outside and sat in the car in a self-imposed timeout for over an hour. Texted my bestie about it and commiserated about women who piss us off, until I realized I had to pee something fierce. And then her telling me to damn, just go back in there, and me being obstinate about it.

Long story short, I went back in. I peed. Todd was tentatively happy to see me, in an are-you-safe-to-talk-to sort of way and then he told me how the cup of water story ended after I left. He went to the manager, who turned out to be the bitch who told me to use a water fountain, and told her this wasn’t leagues – this is a STATE TOURNAMENT – and they don’t have time to walk away to use a water fountain. She relented and there it was – that lovely large white Styrofoam cup filled with ice water and the blood of a tired wife who doesn’t need any early morning bullshit in a loud bowling alley – sitting on the table next to Todd.

Our original five decided to grab lunch before the drive home, and this time I had no suggestions and so we went with the others’ suggestion of Longhorn Steakhouse because they all wanted steak. NOT my first choice, but, I’d already bitched enough for the day and it was only 1:00 so I decided to just go with it. Todd and I ordered some apps and made do, but the food wasn’t going down right for me and the pain I was in amped up to a 7 or 8. We were soon homeward bound, a difficult ride, but we made it.

 

Betcha didn’t know:

There is an ongoing debate on the pronunciation of Wilkes Barre. Born and raised in PA, and having attending college for two years in central PA, we always referred to it as Wilkes “berry,” or “barry.” Others call it Wilkes “bar,” or Wilkes “bear.” I asked a local, who assured me they’re all acceptable.

A number of “famous” people hail from Wilkes Barre: Several NFL players … and most notably Michael Schoeffling, the actor who played Jake Ryan in Sixteen Candles, and David Evans, the Hollywood director known for The Sandlot.

It is said that Babe Ruth hit the longest home run in history at Artillery Park in Wilkes Barre – at an estimated 650 feet – on October 12, 1926.

Planters Peanut Company was founded here in 1906 by Italian immigrants Amedeo Obici and Mario Peruzzi, where it maintained headquarters until 1961.

In 1972, 365 subscribers of the Service Electric Cable company were the first to receive HBO, making Wilkes Barre the birthplace of modern cable.

Hurricane Agnes, which pummeled eastern PA in 1972, caused the mighty Susquehanna river to rise to over 41 feet, flooding downtown Wilkes Barre with 9 feet of water. Nearly 400, 000 homes and structures were destroyed.

*source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilkes-Barre,_Pennsylvania

 

 

Where I’ve Been – April 2018

I haven’t written anything in while. No shortage of inspiration, but definitely a shortage of time and motivation.

I have been having terrible neck pain and, it having been three months since my last visit to the chiropractor, I returned two days a week and was set to begin PT again. The neck pain is NOT better. It’s getting worse and it’s radiating. I went back to the neurosurgeon after four years, and am going for an MRI this week. This is not good news, but it’s also not bad news.

Meanwhile, Veruca is knee-deep in sports again, in what could easily be the coldest April in history. Opening Day was 39 degrees and windy, walking the parade route to the fields and then standing out there listening to the yada yada about who worked hard at this and who worked hard at that and thank you very much and opening invocation and the first pitch. Blah. Blah. Blah. I froze my ass off. I took the day off from work for that. And V didn’t even have a game that day.

Her first game was three days later, and it was snowing. Flakes were landing on the blanket I had over my legs and melting on contact.

While we’re talking about V, I have to also mention how in awe I am of her. She joined a running club after school and ran [an estimated] 9.28 mile – faster than my PR at my most fit (117lbs and running three-four days a week) where I medaled in my second 5k. She is a great athlete. And she’s smart. She made honor roll again this 3rd quarter. And she’s beautiful. All I do lately is stare at her and admire her beauty, and her porcelain skin. She’s perfect. And she asks me if I think she’ll ever have a boyfriend. I tell her to enjoy her life and those things will come later. *

I already wrote about part of our Washington trip. After visiting the Holocaust museum, we went to the Museum of Natural History. We were going to grab lunch and there were some options outside, but we ended up going inside. I warned Ashley that you have to sell a kidney to eat in the “cafés,” and the cafeteria – which is the affordable option – was closed for renovation.

So I got a hoagie, a PB&J, and one water, for …. TWENTY EIGHT DOLLARS. Ashley spent $39. I had to spot Maddie two dollars so she could buy a sandwich for $11. Somewhere inside the museum, I lost V’s medical bag with $600 worth of insulin in it.

Back at work, we had our annual mock code, which was both exciting and an anxiety-ridden learning moment. And, every year something real happens in the office within a week of this drill – and this year was no exception. No worries – everyone is fine.

While we’re on the subject of work, I picked up extra days at another location. It’s a longer drive to work, but to familiar territory, and it’s been fun meeting another whole staff of folks. It’s also lovely to go in and already know how to do the job, even if they do some things differently.

And, speaking of doing things differently, Neph returned to the homestead two weekends in a row. He bought a new car the first weekend, with Uncle Todd’s guidance, that was not a pickup truck and not without drama because that’s just how we roll. At this point Todd will insist that is not how HE rolls…but I can tell you that it follows us anyway no matter how hard we try to run from it.

The following weekend he returned for a package he had delivered here, did some laundry, and managed to empty my fridge and left an unmentionable surprise in the bathroom downstairs. I’m currently in the refusal-to-fix-it stage, which is akin to denial, but we all know this is just a pipe dream and I will have to face the truth sooner or later. And I’ve been really good – I haven’t even bitched to Todd about it. Yet.

Okay. What else have we done?

Todd and I attended a gallery exhibit of work by his former boss, a brain cancer survivor who is mindblowingly talented with a camera. We have earmarked two pieces for our personal collection after the exhibit ends.

I cleaned up and planted new flowers in the gardens out front, and it actually looks really nice. And I’m not done yet. Veruca got me a hydrangea for Easter that I have yet to plant, and had the audacity to tell me not to kill it. She’s even watered it a few times, “so it wouldn’t die.” AS IF. I did point out that my current basil plant is still going strong.

And speaking of plants, last week was Administrative professionals day and there were lots of presents for me when I came in Friday (!!!) … including a succulent (aren’t they hard to kill?) and a pack of dianthus plants.

Last weekend we celebrated my mother-in-law’s birthday, which I will always remember because it’s also the same day that Prince died. I also learned some other interesting coincidences about that particular day. **

I cleaned up the deck Saturday, finished one planter, and put out the new cushions and umbrella. And then Todd brought all the cushions inside when the rain moved in.

And then another bowling tournament an hour and a half away in PA. What should have been an easy ride and a nice dinner beforehand with friends turned in a roadway clusterfuck as we encountered three – THREE – emergency situations that made me wonder if the universe just wanted us to stay home. One head-on collision, one industrial fire, and another car wreck… all with detours and dinner plans turned into a quick in-and-out and boxes to go.

I guess everyone bowled well. I don’t bowl. I drink. Well, I was on the wagon in April, until Saturday night. So I had a great time getting lit for $20 at the firehouse that was hosting. Smoky as hell in there, which today makes me always want to hold my breath – knowing the dangers of secondhand smoke – though as a child whose grandparents smoked, I learned to love the smell.

*A forthcoming post about middle schoolers.

** A forthcoming post about April 21st.

Destination: Washington, DC

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Photo Copyright Taraka & The Tara Chronicles, 2018

Yesterday was the long-awaited seventh grade field trip to Washington, DC, to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Veruca was very excited, at least insofar as one can be excited to spend a day away from the classroom and visit a different city. I would be lying if I said I was looking forward to this trip. And not just because of the solemn nature of the lesson.

We had to arrive at school at 6:30 a.m., and would not be returning for… twelve hours. I was a chaperone and so again responsible for other children not my own. That alone induces anxiety, though I have to admit it’s far better with 12- and 13-year-olds than it is with 8-year-olds. We were going to Washington, DC, a place my apocalyptic mind is certain is North Korea’s prime target. (Nevermind that if this were to truly happen, we don’t live far enough away from DC to survive anyway.)

So we arrive at 6:35 and board one of four buses. I get the last adult seat next to a very nice, but large, man. We introduce ourselves. And then he buckles up his seatbelt (they have these on tour buses!) while remarking he doesn’t want “another Tracy Morgan situation.” Great. What the hell do you say to that?

I texted my mom friend, Ashley, who was on another bus. Our bus didn’t have enough seats, as it soon turned out when three more people tried to board, and one of the two teachers riding with us was outside on the sidewalk losing her shit. And I can hear the bus driver saying all the buses have 58 seats, they’ve always had 58 seats, blah blah blah. All this, before 7 o’clock in the morning. I sipped my coffee and watched them through the window with fascination.

Disaster was eventually diverted when some seats were discovered on the other buses and we were soon on our way. Spazzy loaded the Night at the Museum movie and, later, the second one. After the longest bus ride ever, we finally pulled up next to the United States Memorial Holocaust Museum.

Our ticket time was 11:30 and we had an hour and a half to kill. Ashley announced that she needed Starbucks NOW and so she plugged it into her GPS and we were off. The six of us loaded up on beverages (my girls went with “The Pink Drink” – seriously) and I went with a White Chocolate Mocha Tall. I was so proud of myself for not screwing up how to order at Starbucks.

There are A LOT of black SUVs with tinted windows in DC. It’s creepy, the way they’re parked, engines running, along the streets. Something about them gave me anxiety. Or, maybe it was the caffeine. Either way, I was grateful to get away from them.

It’s a very serious matter, entering museums today – like going through airport security – bags are put through x-ray machines and we walk through metal detectors. V cannot go through – because her insulin pump cannot go through x-ray machines – so at every entrance we have to announce this and she goes around the machine and is personally inspected. Oh, did she love that.

After, we’re handed “Identification Cards” we aren’t supposed to open until sometime later (though no one ever tells us when and we end up cheating, I suppose, because we look). Each card holds the name and photograph of a real person who lived during the Holocaust.

Our group was lined up on a staircase, four across on each step – or, were supposed to be – but it’s kind of hard to squish that many people together especially when many are full-sized adults. One of the chaperones or teachers (not sure who she was) ordered my three girls and me to step down, because every step had to have 4 people on it. I said, there’s no room to step down. (There was a dad directly in front of me who was easily 6 feet tall, twice my size and clearly need TWO steps – picture this scenario). She said, you have to… every step has to be filled. I’m not pressing my body against a stranger, I snapped. (Yeah, I know. Not good form in front of the kids.) For the record, I’m usually very agreeable. I don’t know what got into me.

And before you think I’m a total asshole, I GET IT. I know there was a point to that exercise as we waited for our whole group to get through security. The mom on the opposite end of that step in front of me sniggled. The dad behind me, equally as large, announced a few minutes into our wait that, I hope I don’t get lightheaded and fall down like that last time. And I burst out laughing. I told him at least he’d have a soft landing.

We were soon led to a more open area and three elevators designed to look like something industrial and that’s all I’m going to say about that because I was having the most uneasy feelings here and I couldn’t shake it. (Yeah, yeah, I GET IT.)

The guide asked our group some questions, including – How many people did Hitler kill?                  Do YOU know?

Anyway, the museum was very crowded. But quiet. People spoke in whispers. There was at least one other school there and we spent so much time reading the exhibits that I looked around at one point and didn’t recognize anyone. To say that there wasn’t enough time to spend here is the understatement of the year.

We were never taught much about the Holocaust in school. I didn’t read anything related to it until I was in college. I didn’t know who Elie Wiesel was until my Junior year. I don’t think I knew that some 25,000 books that were decidedly “un-German” were burned on this very day in 1933. I didn’t know that books were published and taught to German schoolchildren, intended to indoctrinate them to Nazism and prejudice against Jews. I don’t think I knew that the Nazis also exterminated people who were “incurably ill.” Veruca said, I would’ve been killed.

We left the museum roughly 2 hours later. We were all hungry and also wanted to visit another museum while there was still time. At least one of us wanted to shop.

 

Details….

Raizel Kisielnicki was a 44-year-old mother of three who lived near Warsaw. She and her husband owned a grocery, gas station, and restaurant. On September 25, 1942 she and more than 3000 other Jews in their town of Kaluszyn were deported to an extermination camp, where she died.

Attack on Intellectual Freedom. The 1933 Book Burnings were carried out by German students from universities around Germany. “Any book which acts subversively on our future or strikes at the root of German thought, the German home, and the driving forces of our people” and/or written by authors considered enemies of National Socialism. These included Einstein, Mann, Freud, Kafka, Marx, H.G. Wells, Upton Sinclair, Helen Keller, and Margaret Sanger.

Indoctrination of schoolchildren. The Nazi regime removed Jewish teachers and others who were considered “politically unreliable.” Hitler’s portrait hung in every classroom. New textbooks that taught obedience to state authority, racism, militarism, and antisemitism, and love for Hitler were utilized in classrooms. Der Giftpilz (The Poisonous Mushroom) was an anti-Semitic children’s picture book metaphorically explaining how to recognize a Jew, in the form of “good” mushrooms vs. “bad” mushrooms.

Who. Hitler only singled out Jews, who he saw as an inferior race, for complete annihilation. Germans were among the first to be persecuted for their political activities, for being mentally or physically handicapped, or homosexuals, criminals, or nonconformists. Hundreds of thousands of Roma and Sinti (“Gypsies”) were also killed. The people of Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia were also considered inferior races.

How many? The question was, how many did Hitler kill? The answer is ONE. HE killed one person. Himself. Yet he was able to commandeer an army of Nazis to exterminate an estimated SIX MILLION Jews, and others…And an entire population of people was complicit in these killings.

Think about that.