Cabo San Lucas – Chapter 1

January 11, 1991

It’s not quite 8 a.m. yet. I’ve been up since five. I’m on the plane to Pittsburgh, ready for takeoff. I’m not quite as nervous as I thought I would be, although this is only the beginning of a long trip which won’t end until twelve hours from now. We’re expecting 3-6 inches of snow here in Philly, though looking out my window now I don’t see any flakes. The sky is gray and white.

*****

In the Pittsburgh airport now, waiting to board my next plane. Interesting group of people on this plane. This is flight 9 to Phoenix. Arizona. I’ve never been anywhere near Arizona.

I love the feeling of the plane when it takes off – racing down the runway, thrusting your body against the seat. The chair absorbs you, cradles you. The flight attendant is handing out blankets. Blankets. I’m sweating. It’s raining lightly here in Pittsburgh, with a little slush on the runway. My hands are trembling from that coffee I had back in Philly.

Hello Pilot! He’s talking to us now, in that slow droning voice that sounds like he’s been smoking weed in the lounge. They have television monitors for instructions – too funny! I’ve never seen anything like this. Some people are cracking up.

*****

Later…

The pilot just informed us we are directly over Kansas. You should see the ground below. It’s amazing – looks like a giant marble floor. Or a marble chess board. Sam would like that. He’s asked me a dozen times already if I play chess, and my answer never changes. He wanted me to go skiing over break. Does he even remember that I don’t ski?

This past week I was sick, and only got sicker, which prompted me to go to the doctor. Who looked in my ears, nose, and throat, and told me I had a minor sinus infection. The inside of my nose is “pretty irritated,” he said, LIKE I didn’t know that already. It’s fuckin raw is what it is! I had a nosebleed in New York, which I forgot about but then why the hell would I want to remember that?

I had lunch with E yesterday at Ridgley’s. Everybody turned and stared when we walked in. I guess they’ve never seen a motorcycle jacket before. I had forgotten my tissues before leaving the house, so I had to carry my roll of toilet paper in from my car. The waitress looks at it and then asks me did I carry that in with me? It’s a goddamned roll of toilet paper, freaking Scott tissue which is what – 25 cents a roll? I thought E was going to wet herself.

*****

I’m sitting now in the Phoenix airport, and I just figured out why my hand is shaking. My bag is so heavy that it’s hurting my hand, which is all red and swollen. My arm is killing me. I don’t really feel like exploring right now. The headset from the in-flight movie gave me a headache, that I know isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s about 1:30 and I have six more hours on this God-forsaken trip before I actually get where the hell I’m going. At least three more, before I can board my last plane.

Arizona looks beautiful – when we began our descent, the view was just exquisite. Rolling mountains and valleys. Really incredible shades of color – soft browns turning darker, little green peaks, I even spotted a snow-capped mountain in the distance.

I’m sitting near an escalator and two workmen just walked by. The one says to the other, “see this? You’re gonna like this. Sal just oiled that thing up.” A lot of men around here remind me of Jose. Which is funny. Just wait til I get to Mexico.

I was sweating like a whore in church, so I ran to the bathroom and changed my shirt. Wild fuckin bathrooms – the toilets flush themselves. It’s bizarre. I just stood up and was looking for a way to flush the toilet and all of a sudden it’s like the psycho thing read my mind. Scared the shit out of me. And get this, the faucets are all automatic too. Welcome to the future.

*****

Soldiers! Everywhere. I walked down this corridor to my gate and passed dozens of them, likely being deployed to Saudi Arabia. Young too – at least, they looked younger than me. A certain sadness fell over me, as I considered where they were going and the fact that some may not return. Uncomfortable and feeling helpless, I averted my eyes from most of them. I heard something about sending more troops. Christ. Are there any left? I think they started calling in the Reserves now. Saddam Hussein’s deadline is January 15.

I have no idea what time it is, only that it has to be somewhere near four. My gate has just been changed to B7, two gates away, so I had to pick up this incredible load and move. Up until now there were only two old couples waiting with me. Now there’s many more people. They’re all showing up now, and the board still says “Omaha,” so they’re all wondering if it’s the right gate.

 

Red Cups and BK and Bud Lite, Oh My! — A Cycling Tour Through Rural America

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Todd and I have taken up riding again, in a last ditch effort to get fit and lose weight before we just give up and lie on the couch drinking beer and watching Family Feud. So far we’ve had two rides – the first was a 13.6-mile cycle around our town, and the second almost 9-mile was a grueling hilly ride.

Twice my chain came off because it’s my bike and I shifted down too far. The next thing I know I’m spinning my wheels in place like a stationary bike, except this bike isn’t made for that and I was on a hill going nowhere and about to fall over.

Todd performed the first fix. He rides in front of me because apparently I’m too slow for him so the second time he was already at the top of the hill and I whispered fuck! before I decided to fix it myself. Check another item off the bucket list I haven’t made yet.

After spending so many years running and then struggling to run with injuries, cycling is a welcome change. Same satisfaction, less stress on the joints. Plus you can get places. We live in the country so there’s no shortage of beautiful scenery – green acres and rolling landscapes, farms and old houses, new houses and historic places.

A country ride is full of fresh air and the wind rushing past your ears, the call of birds, buzzing insects, the smell of cut grass, the occasional monstrous new home rising starkly against the back drop of quaint ranchers and old farmhouses, and… dogs. The roads are just wide enough for two cars and there’s always some asshole in a monster truck whipping by, close enough to feel the heat of the exhaust.

There’s no shortage of Bud Lite bottles. I could count a case from my house out and back. Empty BK and McDonald’s containers, which makes absolutely no sense to me since there are no stores around these roads.  One can only assume these were thrown out the window on the way home. Really? Can’t wait to get home and put it in the garbage can? At least I find a trash can for the contraband, losing the evidence before I get home so no one knows. (For the record, dumping the bags before I get home never works anyway. Veruca has the nose of a bloodhound and Todd insists the odor lives in the car’s interior fibers.)

An entire newspaper was spread over the front border of someone’s lawn. I saw a pair of work gloves (several yards from each other), a shoe (why is there always just one shoe?), a shirt (don’t even want to know), car parts (in rural America, this is par for the course).

Timing of the ride is everything, depending on which way the wind is blowing, the smell of manure or some other fertilizer slaps you in the face – the assault on the senses most unwelcome. No matter growing up in the country, and living around farms for the last several years – I’ve never, ever gotten used to the smell.

Otherwise, there are hundreds of photo-worthy sites… old schoolhouses and dilapidated old buildings, rusty old farming equipment, crumbling stone walls, even the dozens of foreclosures seen around the area – and yes, sadly, there are many – lend their own interest in the overgrown green around them, the dusty and darkened windows, the mystery of who lived there and what happened to them.

The rural bike ride is both athletic and leisurely – the burn in your legs as you push up the steepest hill, the thrill of a brakeless run down the opposite side. It is peaceful and introspective, even as you share it with someone. The lingering danger of riding on any roadway where strangers must be trusted to pay attention and not to be texting, or worse – intoxicated – is ever present, as well as the dogs defending life and property. It is triumphant – as you coast into your driveway knowing that you set out to accomplish a goal and you did it. Even better when you can do it with your better half – strengthening the bond and connection with shared experiences.

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Stone stairs to nowhere

Photo copyright TKA and The Tara Chronicles, 2017

 

The Weekend, Food, and the Apocalypse

The 4th of July weekend, they call it, even though the 4th doesn’t actually fall on a weekend this year, but is in fact on Tuesday. But the fireworks and explosives junkies don’t let a little detail like that derail their plans to blow shit up and generally disturb whole neighborhoods and animals alike. FIVE days of fireworks in my neighborhood.

I am fairly certain the new residents of the only house that was still for sale were responsible for the majority of them, which doesn’t bode well for our community or their reputation. The former residents’ three boys earned a reputation for illegal and occasionally dangerous shenanigans. When they finally moved away, even the trees breathed a sigh of relief.

Anyway. I picked the kids up Monday morning with plans to go to my dad’s for the day. It wasn’t even 9 a.m. yet, so I went to my mom’s to pick up Todd’s table saw – that he’d left in her driveway on Friday. Just drove away and forgot it. We hung out with mom for a bit and the neighbor’s little Shih Tzu came over – the cutest little thing ever who might be cuter if she actually gave a shit about anything but treats. Veruca gave her a piece of Pupperoni and a whole one to Moses, my mom’s Great Pyrenees, which he held in his mouth like a cigarette and little Tessie hopped over to him and brazenly bit the end off of it.

We left mom’s and picked up hoagies at Wawa for later, and then went to McDonald’s for breakfast. Opac and I were hungry; Veruca had had breakfast before I picked her up but she was suddenly hungry again and stepped up to order her food: hot cakes and hash browns with a Mocha Frappaccino. It would seem that Todd’s luck with food places of any kind is wearing off on V – they made her the wrong drink but caught it before handing it over, and then she found a hair in her hot cakes which I’m fairly sure belonged to Tessie the Shih Tzu.

I watched the employee who made the first coffee drink lose her shit behind the counter and throw her cap down on top of the bagging station, which – I don’t know – seems like some sort of health code violation, all because the other woman told her the drink was wrong. She stalked around the counter and later out by the drink station, still hatless, bitching to some guy standing with her about I-don’t-know-and-don’t-want-to-know-what. She was angry. And big. And made eye contact with me in the midst of her rant, which somehow made me feel more uncomfortable than I like to be, that early in the morning.

Meanwhile, back at the pool, the three of us swam for an hour or so, played “colors” and some saturated Nerf football. We took a break for lunch, where V discovered that the hoagie she ordered had lettuce and onions on it and OH MY GOD they ruined it and now she can’t eat it. Really, though – HOW does one screw up an order when one is reading the order from a screen???

My wayward brother returned around that time and gladly took the poisoned hoagie. I unclogged the downstairs toilet because apparently kids can clog toilets anywhere. Dad came outside and we chatted for almost an hour, which was wonderful since with his work and so much traveling we haven’t seen each other in months, except for Father’s Day. He and stepmom just returned from Cabo. We compared our experiences since I was there long before there were luxury hotels and condos, possibly even predating the drug cartels.

Yesterday, on the actual 4th, Todd and I took my mom and the kids to the place on the water we’d gone to two days earlier. It was crowded but we got a table on the deck under cover, and enjoyed steamed clams, shrimp, crabcakes, double cheeseburgers and chicken fingers and fries. Opac ordered crabby fries too – French fries smothered in crab dip and melted cheese – which Todd was keen to try until it was delivered to the table with chopped tomatoes on top. (Reminder: he’s allergic. Reminder: shit like this happens every time he goes out.) We got a replacement because WHO puts chopped tomatoes on cheese fries, and our server was awesome and brought us one right away.

It was breezy and warm there by the water, until the sky opened up and folks were scattering to get under cover and away from the sides where the rain drizzled down over tables. We were fortunate to be seated in the middle. Still had a view, but it was very dry. Well, dry but for the sweating margaritas and a frozen one that took a nosedive onto my feet under the table.

No 4th of July is complete without a round of Clue (it was Peacock in the bedroom with a dagger, by the way) and comforting the two dogs during the apocalypse of fireworks coming from every direction. I’m telling you seriously, not one creature, great or small was spared. Even the frogs were hollering.

 

 

The Weekend, Dreams, and Butthurt

I woke this morning from a terrible dream that involved the kids and my ex and Todd was in there somewhere too but incongruously juxtaposed with the ex, and there was this weird camp/event/gathering with strangers (who were friends in the dream but who I’ve never seen before in my life). We were having dinner at the friends’ apartment and there was this keg of red champagne that exploded like dynamite and somehow I was to blame because I’d partially opened it by mistake and then everyone there was angry with me. I tried to wipe everything down and suddenly was fighting with my ex, or maybe it was Todd, and crying about the fact that I was trying my best to clean up the blood-like spatter of this red champagne that made the house look like a crime scene. And then I left there for some marketplace filled with outdoor shops and flea markets,  there was a flood and I was floating along the rapids with my shopping cart, worried about losing the ibuprofen I’d just purchased for Opac.

I know what you’re thinking. I don’t do drugs.

Why me? Why do I have to have these fucked up catastrophic dreams where I’m either crying or running away from a serial killer? Too much binge-watching of Murdock Mysteries??

Why can’t I have dreams about swashbuckling pirates like my friend – who, incidentally, is a very physical dreamer and has frightened more people awake with her very loud vocals and thrashing about? It seems infinitely more fun than being chased by a whackjob who wants to kill me.

Sleep is overrated, apparently. The dog decided that she absolutely could not wait until morning to go out on the last night I could actually sleep through the night before V came home, and woke me up at 1:40 a.m. When I actually want to sleep – I can’t. Otherwise, I’m falling asleep on the couch at 8:30-9:00 every night because my eyes just can’t take it anymore. Poor Todd. I wasn’t much fun on Saturday night.

And speaking of sleep, the cat continues to sleep on the dining room table such that I’ve taken the tablecloth off, leaving the ugly vinyl padding exposed and I don’t give a shit. I’m so over de-fuzzing the tablecloth every night so we can eat dinner there. He knows he’s not supposed to be there, and how do I know this? Because he knows the sound of me picking up the water gun, and also because the minute he hears me down the hall he’s jumping off. I guess he thinks he’s fooled me, but it hasn’t occurred to him that I can hear the sound of elephant paws hitting the floor.

I noticed that he no longer sleeps with us when the kids are away, and he no longer sleeps with V either. I thought maybe something was amiss, especially since he doesn’t jump up on the couch next to me much lately either. But this morning it occurred to me that it’s too hot, and then it occurred to me that he only sleeps with us when it’s cold and NOT because he loves any of us, so in reality he is selfish and only out for himself. Which is why he doesn’t give a f@#% about the rules. YET, I continue to love him.

But not as much as I love Todd and IPA, which is why I woke up Sunday morning prepared for butthurt and to make it up to him for falling asleep so early the night before. We got up and cycled a 13.6-mile circle around our town which was exhilarating and satisfying and only momentarily embarrassing when our two lumps on bicycles were passed by a cycling club of about 8 sleekly-clad riders who knew the proper alerts to give me as they approached from behind. At least they were kind and asked, how are you this morning, though it should’ve been painfully obvious.

We got home and Todd took to mowing the lawn, and then I took over the push mower for the first time ever which I know must come as shock. I’ve never mowed a lawn in my life. I once rode a tractor in my old life, but only for about 2 minutes because I panicked when I let go the brake and the damn thing took off like a train. (Well, not really, but it was really scary when I forgot how to make it stop.) So, I can now check off another item from my bucket list. Not that it was on there. I find that it’s easier to add things to the bucket list after I’ve done them.

We ended up checking out a local place on the water we hadn’t been to yet, which turned out to be the very same vacant, for-sale property we’d checked out four years ago and talked to my mom about opening a restaurant in. Obviously that never happened, and – excuse my French – this place is now a fucking gold mine. And loud. But we enjoyed sitting outside on the covered deck, enjoying IPA and Crabby Mac n Cheese and loaded nachos, all of which I think were well-earned after the morning we had.

Lessons learned – don’t ever hesitate on a reasonably good idea. Although, I wouldn’t want the headache of a place like that, between the hell of staffing and security, not to mention the liability associated with its proximity to the water. I’m so over the restaurant business anyway, even as Todd keeps returning with these fantasies of owning a very lucrative, if not seasonal, one. Personally, I love the idea of a Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 situation, where somebody else is the boss and I only have to show up and do my job right. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with lower expectations. Well, except when you just want to sit down without pain.

Less Than 24 Hours

 

How long does it take for life to return to normal? Less than 24 hours.

I met the ex at our usual spot to pick up the kids, and no sooner did I close the car door than they were at it. Opac was teasing Veruca about something, and she was loudly and adamantly telling him to SHUT UP. She’s a little ball of frenetic pissed-offedry, and my empathic nature just absorbs all that shit and suddenly my heart is pounding with an on-the-ledge nervous energy. And she was also riding shotgun, the physical proximity of which always seems to enhance the urge to scream.

I warned O to shut it down and unsuccessfully attempted to make them both feel guilty that I haven’t seen them in 10 days and this is all they have for me. V continued looking sullen in the front seat for a few more minutes while O regaled me with humorous vacation tales. When the lull hit, she picked up the mic and started yammering on about the trip and asking me about when we’re going to do this? when are we going to do that? What are we doing tonight? What’s for dinner? Can we go there? Can we go here? What are we doing this week? Can we do this? can we do that?

I noticed that she returned with a new habit of shouting as she talks, something we have been coaching O to tone down for years. When I was in middle school, there was a kid who talked so loud all the time we referred to him as the loudspeaker, and now I think karma has come to get me. She’s been practically glued to my side for the last 2 days, so that in a single quarter-turn I’m practically stepping on her, and now she’s talking so loudly I’ve literally had to tell her not to shout at me because I’m standing right next to her.

Seriously, she’s ready for stage acting. We stopped at the grocery store for some incidentals and she’s shouting at me in the checkout line. If you can believe this, I was embarrassed. I know where she got it from too, but I’m not saying. Otherwise, I’d be having her ears checked.

So I worked the next day and they were home with Todd, who had to leave about an hour before I left work. Opac had a friend over who was asked to go home since no friends are allowed over when adults aren’t home. Todd called to update me on the kids, informing me about the friend and about Veruca’s blood sugars.

It was a busy day at work, as Mondays usually are, and the phones were ringing all day and patients coming and going. And soon after Todd left for work, V called my cell. I saw it ringing while I was on the phone. I was still on the same call when she called through a second time. And then a third. I could feel the tension rising, but it didn’t hit the wall until Opac called. By this time my call was over and I grabbed my cell and stepped away from my desk. What’s wrong? Because something HAS to be wrong if she keeps calling and then suddenly HE calls. Nothing, he says. He just wanted to know if it was okay for Kyle to come over if they stayed outside playing basketball.

Deep breath. Yes, it’s fine. Is V okay? Of course she’s fine. Our busybody needed to know what I was doing and it didn’t end there. She started texting me.

Mom did you know that Mason was supposed to leave and he didn’t. They are playing basketball. I just called you so call me or the house phone

15 minutes go by. I’m at work trying to wrap up my computer and people keep walking in and we’re suddenly busier than shit. Two of the other girls are on the phones and the third is running an errand. I couldn’t just get up and leave them.

Now someone else is here. One of his friends. Don’t know who it is

[Happy face emoticon]

Are you done work

??????????

??????????

??????????

Update it is Kyle

At this point she calls again, and my blood is boiling. I answer the call, and she’s surprised that I haven’t left yet! I calmly inform her, since my coworkers can potentially hear me and haven’t seen that other side of me, that it’s been very busy and I’ve been trying to close out my work station for the last half hour and her constant calls aren’t making that happen any quicker. Of course, I began our conversation by asking her if she was low or if there were any diabetes-related emergencies that prompted her call. I don’t need to tell you the answer to that.

She curtly replied and reminded me of the nature of her texts and aren’t I going to do something about it? I told her I’ve already discussed it with Opac and the details are noneya.

I got halfway home in the car when she called again, to report that Opac called her an “effing” something-or-other, which was after she stole the basketball they were using and took it inside the house. UGH!! And I was driving toward this circus.

I am seriously trying to get fit and healthy again, but this is driving me to break my vow to quit drinking.

Yesterday was mostly innocuous. Well, except for a glitch in my happy meter brought on by the car dealership. Neveryoumind that. Otherwise, Todd, V and I hopped into the beater truck and went to Home Depot for materials and paint for V’s bedroom.

Details to follow. Maybe.

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When the Kids Are Away

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V and O are off enjoying the sunny shores of the Outer Banks this week and, while I will admit to feeling somewhat melancholy at their initial departure, I also knew it would be a week of much needed quiet and an opportunity to get shit done. Or, more accurately, time to up my Happy Dance and stop adulting for 8 days. The only one who didn’t get the memo was the cat.

Things I thought I might want to get done:

Finish the laundry room and move the litterbox, paint the guest bedroom and the workout room, refurbish some old dining room chairs, patch a hole and paint the kitchen wall, clean the cobwebby corners of the cathedral ceilings, repaint the foyer/vestibule, make a headboard for our bed, finish my walk-in closet, change the paint in the kids’ bathroom, call a pool company for an estimate on a pool, …

What I “might” actually have done –

Played pool,

Lost several hours on the computer doing I-don’t-even-remember-anymore,

[Still learning to] play a song on the keyboard,

Mopped up a pile of cat vomit strategically deposited at the bottom of the stairs,

Drank several bottles of Dogfish 60-Minute,

Did the absolute minimum to clean the house,

Brushed up on my Spanish for about 30 minutes (which really means, re-learning it),

Binge-watched the new season of Orange is the New Black,

Drank wine,

Cleaned out the fridge and prepped some food for easy grab-snacks,

Gave myself a pedicure,

Slept through every night since Friday (well, except for my body’s programmed 3 a.m. wakeup),

Put a filet on the grill and forgot about it. For an hour.

Drank more wine,

Stayed in bed an extra hour this morning to show Oliver who’s boss because he woke me up out of a sound sleep by standing on my arm. All 17 pounds of him. Because, hungry.

Boring?

I’m not sorry.

There’s a lot more trouble to be had, but I’m currently an hour into a bottle of Domaine Bellevue Touraine Rose and patching a hole in the kitchen wall is probably NOT a good idea. Sabra is watching me closely to see if I will follow through on my threat of giving her a bath, but alas – she is off the hook until the kids come back.

Todd made me help wash the car this morning and I pulled an Opac and swiped at it with a sponge a few times and then complained about the pain in my arm and suddenly remembered a phone call I had to make.

Reality returns shortly and so does the whining. I’ve got less than 3 days to squeeze in some more slackin and I’m going all out. I refuse to be a productive adult, at least outside of my job, until Sunday.

Pass me that bottle of wine.

Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough

People have asked me why I’m not writing much… this is [one reason] why. Life is busier than I expected it would be these last three months. And now that school has let out – and Veruca’s softball season has ended – summer workouts for football have begun.

The title of this post is kinda random, since I was listening to the radio when I picked Opac up from summer workouts and this was on. I love this song, I love to belt it out and had it turned up until he got into the car. I watched him walking out from the building, looking like somebody had dragged him across the field on his head. He got into the car and reached over to turn down the volume saying “I gotta turn this shit down, it’s not my victory song” as he did so.

And so it goes. The kids are full of it these days – wit and wisdom. Two days ago he went to practice early so he could watch and “help” with the freshmen workouts, because “freshman make a lot of mistakes (they can’t help it).”

Meanwhile back in Veruca-land, where the world has to be just so or hellfire will burn your house down, a conversation about Opac being a junior now and my melancholy at this revelation that he’ll be graduating in two years prompted V to comfort me with a whispered, “don’t worry, he’s not going to be able to support himself, so he’ll come back home.” Who ARE these children??

Unfortunately, the frequency with which they make me laugh since school let out 36 hours ago is not surpassing the frequency with which the urge to kill is rising. V is testing every limit I have established for my nerves and sanity. She’s pissed that she can’t leave for vacation with her dad until Friday; she’s pissed that Opac is threatening not to go on said vacation; she’s pissed that I won’t buy tater tots; she’s pissed I won’t get her another manicure before her vacation; she’s pissed that Opac won’t play Call of Duty with her; she’s pissed that she can’t go to work with me. Seriously.

Today was the first day of summer vacation. I took V for a repeat blood test she needed (and, for the first time ever, she went back without me), picked up my new glasses again (long story, that one), spent $17 on lunch at Wawa, and then drove O to Dick’s Sporting Goods for some crazy-ass device you wear on your face to basically add more stress to your heart and lungs so you can build endurance. I talked him out of it, by the way. Seriously.

And then we stopped at Macy’s because I still have credit and a small shred of dignity and thought I’d see if there were any decent swimsuits to be had. As usual, I was wrong. The selection was abysmal, because hello! June. And everything this year has this new trend called “cutouts,” which are not really for real women but for meth addicts and size 0 bulimic models. We literally circled the store and the department in less than 10 minutes and were back in the car.

Wait. Back up. Opac was in the car, with V screaming at him that he promised she would get the front seat and she’s freaking out because “my stuff” is in the front seat. And guess what – he threw her “stuff” over his shoulder into the backseat, which only incensed her more. He threw her stuff! Good lord, what is the world coming to?

This, on the first day of summer vacation.

And of course the pets are following suit. Sabra has finally been spayed, and she’s doing great, except for the running and jumping she’s not supposed to be doing. She’s managed to slip under the fence into the neighbor’s yard, and yesterday she chased the  squirrel who buried his nuts in my potted plants last fall, from one tree to another.

Oliver has been more vocal than ever, running into the kitchen during my 3 a.m. blood sugar checks for Veruca, meowing at me like he hasn’t eaten in 39 days. This morning, at least, he waited until I woke up for the day… I sat up and saw he had stuffed his Biggie Smalls body into an empty Eminem shoebox I’d left near the foot of the bed. I need a picture of this.

So meanwhile, we’re all on pins and needles while Opac decides whether he’s going on vaca with his dad. I feel compelled to protect his feelings and his privacy, so I can’t explain his reasoning behind it all. But I am surprisingly surprised that some things (or people) just never change. Seriously.

 

Where I’ve Been – May 2017 Edition

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Once we cremated everybody and celebrated their individual lives, we returned to ours. Which is not to say that ours was anything close to normal. It was easily the busiest month I have known in a loooong time.

Four straight days of training in Philly, leaving the house at 7 to arrive by 9 at the Wanamaker Building and not departing before 4:30. I was a nervous wreck in the days and hours leading up to that first day. I’m not that familiar with Philly and was worried getting there and parking.

I found myself wondering how and when I – the girl who left rural PA to attend NYU and once drove to Annapolis in a torrential downpour in the early 90s with nothing but scribbled directions on a piece of paper – became such a slave to anxiety. My GPS got me to Market Street remarkably unscathed, though completely frazzled. I was fortunate to find parking directly across the street and I was early.

Having spent the previous weeks at my office, I felt confident when I sat down in this windowless, arctic computer room with five other women. When we broke for lunch, everyone scattered except for “Jane” and me – so we decided to lunch together downstairs in the café.

She lamented to me about this crash course we were taking, how confusing it was, and how her first and only day in the office was so busy she could only sit back and watch, befuddled. She was worried about passing the final assessment, and how anyone who failed had to repeat it until they did. We discussed other things, like our kids and where we came from.

In the days that followed I became comfortable with the commute. I was invigorated by the city, at once knowing where I was and how to get there, the city sounds calling me back to an earlier time in my life. I found a parking garage around the corner when the lot closed across the street, and managed not to get lost finding my way back to my building. I lunched with Jane again and also with “Tracy,” the three of us easy friends by virtue of age I suppose. We walked to the Reading Terminal Market, which was crowded at lunchtime but I loved the bustle and stimulation. It was easy for me to slip back into my urban state of mind, and I loved it.

The last day was spent on “quick” morning review that dragged on for three hours, and when the trainer asked if we were ready for the assessment all I could think was, but it’s 12:30 and we haven’t had lunch! I took the assessment with a burning knot forming in my neck and shoulder, and no food in my stomach. I finished sometime after 4. Seven hours without a break, or food. I was stressed. I was sure I’d made a catastrophic error twice, but somehow managed to save my ass and pull it off anyway. I still can’t tell you how or what I did.

Jane finished before me. It didn’t go well. Before the trainer was finished grading her, she stood up and announced that she did her best under the impossible circumstances of a “crash course,” that we all needed more time to learn this stuff, and she’s “done”.

Me? I passed the assessment. With a 100%. I don’t know how Tracy did. I left for home before she was finished.

Meanwhile, back in Maryland, life carried on without me. The house grew dirtier and dishes piled in the sink, laundry overflowed, meals were made on the fly as we raced off to Veruca’s softball games, we were constantly in need of groceries, and the animals moped around the house looking downtrodden. I was getting home close to seven every night, exhausted and literally wilting into the couch by the day’s end. The weeks that followed Philly saw me at the office four days a week, now doing practical training with real people in real time, and answering phones which scared me only just a little.

There were doctor’s appointments and vet appointments to get to, Todd’s art show opened on a Friday night and the next day I worked until noon and raced home to prepare for Veruca’s birthday sleepover party. The restaurant continues to be short-staffed and so I chased all those little girls out on Sunday morning so I could work Mother’s Day too. And then we had a much-anticipated wedding the following weekend where I danced the night away with Todd and our friends, and I didn’t pass out on the drive home as he’d snidely predicted. (To be fair, I almost always do.)

Last week was my final “training” week. It took me forever to adjust to working four days a week and managing our lives like normal people who have jobs do, and now I’m down to two days a week which is what I was hired for. This week has been anticlimactic, at best.

At least there’s more time for writing.

Sometimes Life is A Country Song

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My life doesn’t always read like a country song, but when it does…

***If you’re pressed for time, I’ve made it easy for you – just read the bolded phrases.

That snow storm that cut my San Francisco trip short was heavy and became solid ice hours afterward. Several days later as the sun melted it off the roof of the house – a sheet of it fell on, and caved in, the hood of my new car.

The new kitten we adopted turned out to have a polyp on his larynx – a catastrophic mass which would involve resectioning his digestive and respiratory tracts and likely a tracheotomy for a while – and I was forced to make the worst decision a person can ever make, while he was in the OR. I scream-cried for an hour after the surgeon and I ended our call. The bill – all totaled – $1800.

I started a new job – the highlight of my Spring – a part-time position with the world-renowned Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. It’s going to be 2 days a week, but I have been training 3 days a week in the office, and I have to spend a week in Philadelphia in Epic training. That’s Epic training, not training that is epic.

My anxiety has topped the charts over working all these extra hours in the midst of all this other personal stuff, having to cover Veruca’s schedule with school and softball when I can’t readily be there, and now having to drive to Philly every morning at the break of dawn and not getting home until 7. I don’t do Philly. Send me to New York any day. Although technically my “home” city (my parents took me there A LOT, growing up), I get lost in Philly with its labyrinth of streets named after trees that confuses me.

My 92-year-old grandfather passed away a couple of weeks ago. Todd and I drove up last weekend for the memorial service, but had to cut our time short due to another commitment in Baltimore in the evening (see below).

Opac had oral surgery and won the award for Worst Patient Ever. I took him to a longtime client of ours, because I trusted him absolutely with my precious offspring. Opac presented himself to this like a tough footballer with a bring-it-on attitude, that is, until about an hour into our ride home when the pain kicked in and he was hollering and swearing and crying. I had to stop for the Percocet and prayed they’d hurry up on it, while Opac sat in the car with his stupid fucking ice pack that isn’t helping at all texting me in a panic because I hadn’t come out after 5 minutes. No one likes to see their kid in pain and be helpless to fix it, and he brought me to tears.

The Percocet took an eternity to kick in – I swear to God I am not exaggerating – well over an hour before O stopped moaning. And believe me, he’s loud. The level of stress ranks right up there next to the 5 days I spent at CHOP when Veruca was diagnosed with diabetes. He wanted to die, FML, wanted to hang himself, and at one point told me I’d see him at his funeral in two days. (This news, while disturbingly and inappropriately funny, did not go over well given the current state of family affairs.) I literally dove into a bottle of wine the minute Todd walked in the door after work.

Roughly ten days after granddad passed, my uncle passed suddenly and unexpectedly. It was a shock to everyone, and my cousins have been struggling with the news and planning a service. There’s more related drama, but out of respect for them I will not mention it. Meanwhile, my grandmother had to be told and, as expected, it was not for the faint-hearted. We were seriously concerned there would be a third funeral.

After grandad’s memorial, Todd and I raced home for a wardrobe change and then we were off to his college’s annual Gala – first time for me. It was a great time! I met some new people, caught up with others. We bid on some auction items and won a piece of artwork now hanging in our living room and, though I really wanted the Michael Kors bag, I bowed out of the bidding war for that once it topped $200. The bad part of the evening was that I was drinking vodka+cranberry’s, against my better judgement after I realized it was Absolut they were pouring, and I got very drunk and very sick afterward. I’m fairly certain it was a reaction to all the stress I’ve been under, because I’ve had more to drink than this before and didn’t come close to feeling this way.

I spent the entire next day on the couch feeling like I wanted to die. The kids came home later that night from their dad’s. Opac hit a wall the day before with his pain level and there was no more Percocet, and my ex had to call the doctor – who explained to him that he was not getting more Percocet and he needed to take an OTC cocktail of ibuprofen and Tylenol that would help, along with some other topical instructions. Ex texted me his disappointment (read= doctor was so rude and cold, what a d***) and at this point I was now wondering how much damage control I was going to have to do at the followup appointment. Meanwhile, Opac called me in the middle of the College President’s speech at the gala to complain about his pain and not knowing what to do. Really, I tried to be compassionate but for the love of God – could I not have ONE night without stress and worry?

And so it goes. The hangover I had morphed into some sort of viral thing and my gut was in knots for days, and I’m still not feeling totally normal.

Meanwhile, my uncle’s wife developed an aortic rupture and we were told she had a 20% chance of survival. So she is currently in hospital under heavy sedation, and missed her husband’s funeral.

That is all.

 

 

The Shadow

It has been 10 days since my last confession. A lot has happened in those 10 days.

But let’s back up for a minute. I very briefly hinted at a new addition to our family in a post about a month ago. It’s a bit of an involved story.

Veruca and I had seen a little black cat up for adoption at our local pet store. Its name was Raven. She was adorable. The information card on her cage explained that her one eye “gets goopy” sometimes, but it “doesn’t affect her health.” I wondered about it as we left the store and V was begging me to put in an application. I had reservations about it, especially about the eye. Long story short – eventually we did.

The day I picked her up, the staff there wasn’t expecting me. They had to call someone to verify, and then they rifled through a file for her paperwork. When I saw it I told them it wasn’t the right one, although it fit her description, because this paper was for a male cat. He IS a male, they said. I was sure he was a she, because everyone including the guy who handles the adoptions referred to her that way. A few minutes and a short physical examination later, we confirmed that he was, in fact, a he.

So he came home. The kids were ecstatic. Oliver, not so much. At barely seven pounds, he moved through the house like a ninja. One minute he was there, and the next – gone. So we named him Shadow. He was not fond of being held – like a toddler who has just learned to walk. Opac was the first to draw him in. He laid on the floor until Shadow came up to him and allowed himself to be loved on.

His eye would occasionally get “watery” and he’d blink a lot. The adoption guy told me that it was “congenital” and that as long as it didn’t become pus-y or mucus-y, that he was fine. I made an appointment with our vet to follow up after he seemed to develop something resembling a cold.

She put him on antibiotics for an upper respiratory infection, ointment for his eye for conjunctivitis, and drops for his ears because he had ear mites. And he was not a good patient. He defined fighting “tooth and nail.” We double-teamed him on the antibiotic – one of us wrapping him tightly in a towel and the other squirting the dropper down his throat, all in less than 20 seconds.

But Shadow kept getting worse. He breathed loudly, like he was congested, and he snored when he slept. He sounded terrible when he ate, like he couldn’t breathe through his nose. Worried, I called the vet. We took him the next day and she took a closer look. His blood studies from the first visit were normal. His x-ray showed clear lungs. She suspected a polyp in his nasal passage, but she was reluctant to let it go and sent us to the emergency hospital a half hour away.

Animal ERs are just as busy and the wait just as long as human ERs. Veruca and I arrived about 8 p.m. and we didn’t leave until 1 a.m. Shadow was examined and x-rayed in more detail under a sedative, and placed in an oxygen tank to allow him to breathe better. The vet on duty told me the estimated costs associated with removing the suspected polyp – around $2600 – and I damn near fainted. Money I don’t have and can’t afford. The alternative was euthanasia, and I started to cry. V didn’t know what that was and after I explained it to her, she started to cry. I opted, come hell or high water, I was not putting this cat down. I would find a way to pay for it. They started the procedure and she couldn’t find the “stem” of the polyp, she said, and he would need to have surgery the next day with an internist.

We requested to see him before we left. He was lying on his side in the oxygen cage, still sedated, his one little paw taped up with an IV attached, and a soft blanket over him. He looked every bit the baby who stole our hearts just weeks ago. I reached out and stroked his soft head and back, trying to hold back the tears that had already washed my mascara away hours before. V pet him too, and together we walked out to the car, feeling relieved that he’d be fixed in the morning and would be able to come home later. It was the last time we saw him.