Where I’ve Been – October/November Edition

Today is a quiet Sunday. I’m alone in the house. The kids are away and Todd went off early to finish a deck, because working 60 hours a week teaching and serving on several committees isn’t enough to keep him busy. I woke at 6:40 this morning, because that’s what it means to be OLD. I know this because my 91-year-old grandmother goes to bed around 6 every night and wakes up at like 4 a.m.

Now my soul is leaping out of bed like a deer, dragging my body out like an F250 dragging roadkill behind it. I can’t stay awake at night anymore, and I’d like to say that it’s okay but recent sarcastic comments from my husband are spoiling my delusions.

Anyway. I got up at 6:40 this morning because my bladder. Another happy development to the process of aging gracefully. But as I am forever the optimist and always counting my blessings, I won’t complain since it could be worse – like the inability to control the timing of the large intestine, which I vigorously pray isn’t hereditary.

So I woke up early on the ONLY day I actually get to sleep in with the worst kind of headache – the kind that hurts far worse when lying down. A half-pot of coffee, two loads of laundry, and another useless attempt to remove adhesive from my kitchen floor later, and I’m trying to convince myself that it’s Sunday and I can skip the housework and treadmill and go back to sleep. It’s hard to maintain the underachiever of the household title. I don’t know why my motivation to get stuff done is higher on weekends, but this is bullshit.

Underachieving aside, since my last Where I’ve Been post Opac’s football season came to an end with a breathtaking 1-9 record. I ran Veruca to softball practice two nights a week and attended all but two games. I have no idea what their record was. V is a born athlete and improved her game and gained unexpected status as a great catcher. She takes the game seriously, got frustrated with the girls who didn’t, and now wants to do travel team next Spring. On that note, her Little League team won the first place title last Spring and she now has a plaque in her name.

Todd and I attended the 16th birthday party of our neighbor’s son – a motorhead of sorts who also loves Mustangs as much as we do. He has a “car show” with a plethora of old cars including his own vintage Mustang and Todd and I drove our collection up there for the occasion. And then there was The Cruise. Everyone jumped in a car and we cruised around our area, ending at an ice cream shop before returning to the party. Three of the girls jumped in the convertible with me and the girl riding shotgun tuned the radio to all sorts of 80s (!!!) music and the three of them were loudly singing along. Fully enjoyed my middle-aged self, even if it was somewhat tempered by my anxiety over the alarming level of the gas tank.

I had multiple fun trips to the dentist last month, which I mentioned before. I had my mammogram, which was also fun because how many body parts can you actually watch flatten down to an inch without passing out?

I’ve been happily working extra days and realized how much I want to not be home on weekdays anymore. A year ago it was a daunting thought – how to go back to work full-time and manage our lives. I’m so glad I got the opportunity to get the part-time job and then put in so many extra days. We made it work. And I’m ready for more.

In true V fashion, Veruca decided she wanted to go to her bff’s neighborhood on Halloween night. Another big Letting Go moment for me. So I dropped her off with her meter and a handful of hard candies, although who was I kidding? I knew she’d be snacking from her newly acquired loot. Her cell phone was fully dead, so she had no phone with which to reach me or I her – another moment of OMG-I’m-going-to-hurt-you. But – I let her go anyway and entrusted her to the higher power.

Meanwhile, back at home, I turned on the porch light and waited. And forgot Sabra, who barked like a ferocious beast safely from two rooms away when the first doorbell rang. I handed out candy to the little girls who were intuitively not afraid of my doggie, and then parked Sabra’s pansy-ass in the bedroom with the door closed. Waiting for trick-or-treaters in my neighborhood is like waiting for water to boil, so I decided after the 3 masked boys (who were no strangers, btw) left that I would just leave the basket on the porch and go sit on the couch. Soon after I heard a ruckus and they were back and, as I watched from the window, rummaged through the candy and took more – but left behind candy from other houses. I had to laugh. At least they left something behind. And admitted to it, on the bus the next morning, to V because they’re all friends.

Opac turned 17 at the end of October. He and I planned to go to New York for the day, but the weather wasn’t very accommodating so we bagged it and went to Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Since football season ended he’s been eager to get behind the wheel, he says because he wants senior option next year but I think it also has to do with someone something else.

So Wednesday I sat in the passenger seat while he drove us into town. It was okay. I was okay. Until he approached the left turn back into our development at the breakneck speed of 35 without braking. Apparently Todd heard about it, because I was instructed not to grab onto the door handle “like that” “when your son is driving” because I’ll make him nervous. Fine. Next time I’ll just freak out after he mows down the neighbor’s tree.

Happily, Neph made an appearance on the Sunday after O’s birthday, to bring presents in a bag that he’d accidentally spilled Chinese food in (only Neph, I swear), and then overtook the kitchen like the good old days, fixing himself a pannini from the leftover cold cuts and lox. Got leftovers? Have Neph.

Other things:

Painted the guest room and subsequently developed a sore arm, and soon noticed a large swelling on my elbow. Had an x-ray and guess what? Nothings’ wrong – just minor osteoarthritis. Fuck middle age.

I went back to the chiropractor for an adjustment, thinking my neck is feeling great but something is causing these daily headaches, and now he’s focused on relieving the pain in my elbow.

We had a our annual JDRF fundraiser at the restaurant and I gave my one annual public speech, which this year (I think) went far better than last year’s alcohol-laced debacle, which I thoroughly owned and apologized for this year.

Todd, who loves me more than I sometimes deserve, went over to the place to check out the giant metal chicken I was so excited about, ‘cause he fully intended to bring that bitch home and surprise me when I got home from work. $225. Guess what? She’s not living here.

We had a long overdue date night at Iron Hill Brewery, which was lovely and was also my first drink in nearly 3 months. I was serious about giving up drinking, and I seriously lost 11 pounds to date. Yesterday morning I was down 13 pounds, but that could be blamed on the previous day’s unintentional diet of only fruits and vegetables, which I’m sure was subsequently undone last night at my cousin’s wedding where I decided one glass of the house wine (which turned into more – the tally still under dispute with Todd) wouldn’t hurt, and no doubt caused the monster headache this morning.

But who doesn’t love a wedding? I had a great time. I used Rent the Runway again, another Marchesa Notte, which was lovely but difficult to dance in during “Shout!” The sleeves don’t allow much give in the upward direction so now I have the cocktail dress equivalent of rug burn on my shoulders. I danced the night away with family and friends, including one new friend who proclaimed himself the choreographer of our little circle and soon we were leading the congo line and generally making a fantastic spectacle of ourselves while the millennials sat at their tables looking on like spectators at the zoo. Though I only expected to dance the slow dances with Todd, we had a fantastic time dancing to other songs like a pair of handicapped ballroom dancers.

Thanksgiving is a mere four days away and I forgot to get the turkey out of the freezer until this morning. If you’ve ever bought a frozen turkey, you know that thing is still gonna be frozen on Thursday morning if it hasn’t been in the fridge for at least a week. If there was ever a power outage in July, we could keep the insulin cold for two weeks in a cooler with one frozen turkey.

More to come.

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Type 1: Know the Signs!!

It’s National Diabetes Awareness Month…

The Tara Chronicles

Lately it seems Type 1 diabetes has been in the news, the worst kind of news:  the reports are of new cases only diagnosed after a child has died.  It seems implausible to me that this could happen, and I really don’t like to focus on the negative of anything, but the fact is… it has happened.  How could it get that far?  And more frightening of all… how could a physician, any physician, miss the signs?  Or, at the very least, consider all of the possibilities?  That just one finger stick and a tiny spot of blood could rule out this chronic and debilitating disease?

And this is why we “D-parents,” as we often call ourselves, are so eager to educate and get the word out.  We don’t want to hear any more tragic stories of diagnoses that, had they come soon enough, would not have ended this way. …

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10 Years of Diabetes

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V’s 10-year Lilly Medal

Ten years ago, on June 17th, I went to sleep on my last night of uninterrupted sleep. Ever. Ten years ago my 2-year-old daughter woke up lethargic and drowsy. Ten years ago I drove her to the pediatrician, who took one look at her finger stick and sent us straight to the ER.

Over the last ten years…

My 2 year old was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis). While “only” 416, her blood glucose was four times the normal level. She spent 8 hours in the ER, receiving her first dose of insulin and getting stabilized, before CHOP’s transport team picked her up. She spent a total of five days (two in PICU, and 3 in endocrine) in the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

She started with multiple-dose injections of fast-acting (Novolog or Humalog) and long-acting (basal – known by Lantus or Levemir) insulins for the first year. It’s not easy to give injections to a two-year-old.

At age 3, she got her first insulin pump from Animas. At the time we lived in PA, and our primary insurance paid only $1,000 of the nearly $6,000 pump. Medicaid paid for the rest. It’s not easy to insert infusion sets into a three-year-old.

She has endured over 50,000 finger sticks, roughly 2,190 insulin shots, approximately 1,700 site changes for her pump, and 10 complete metabolic panels. It’s not easy to get a small child to do all of these things.

We’ve been told a cure is only “five years away.” Several times.

We’ve walked in JDRF walks, attended one gala. My mom, her restaurant and her wonderfully generous guests have raised over $10,000 for the JDRF in the last 3 years.

I’ve “met” dozens of fellow moms and dads and other Type 1s. Whether face-to-face, a phone call, or just a click away – they are ALL valuable to me. I can’t imagine not having this support.

She was diagnosed with  hypothyroidism – diabetics are more prone to additional endocrine disorders – three years ago, and has added another medication to her arsenal. There are more blood tests to monitor this.

We moved out of state and into a new school system – nervewracking in itself but magnified by a child with a life-threatening disease who requires extreme vigilance away from home.

I wake two-three times a night to check her blood sugars, to make sure they don’t go too high or too low. Well, except for the nights she spends with her dad… though I still wake up spontaneously around 3 a.m.

I participated in the development of my state’s newest Guidelines for Diabetes Management in Schools, which was recently released. This was huge. I’m grateful for the opportunity to contribute to something so important.

I have fought countless battles with her over shots, pump set changes, and food.

I’ve let her go. This is the biggest development in our ten years on this unthinkable journey. I’ve let her go to do things and go places where I’m not constantly “helicoptering” and trusted that she’ll do okay on her own. This is a process that will probably never end. The worry will never go away.

Ten years later…

Children and adults continue to be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes with no definitive answer as to why. Several children have died due to undiagnosed diabetes, mistaken for the flu or other illness, and discovered in DKA (extremely high, life-threatening blood sugars) and too late. Also, people with diagnosed diabetes can and have died from both extremely high and extremely low blood sugars.

We in the diabetes community continue to struggle with the stigmas and misconceptions surrounding the disease, which is often confused with Type 2 diabetes and the subject of many a misplaced joke.

CGMs are widely used today, which allow a virtual window into the minute-by-minute changes in blood sugars. And – they can be connected through the cloud to parents’ cell phones, so those numbers can be seen in real time whether they are away from you or just down the hall. V refuses to use this because it requires another “site” for a needle.

The Artificial Pancreas and Bionic Pancreas are systems under development and currently being tested that will ultimately manage blood glucose levels without constant intervention and monitoring by the patient.

At least two organizations are working on cell-pouch technology which would introduce a semi-permeable “pouch” containing insulin-producing cells (beta cells) which would  effectively respond to the individual’s blood glucose levels, and ultimately eliminate the need for insulin. This, too, is in clinical trials.

Veruca, at age 12, has no memory of life before diabetes. But 10 years later, she “hates diabetes.” She just wishes she was “normal.” “Why doesn’t O have diabetes?”

Ten years later, she counts carbs and boluses for them. She knows how to change her sites, even though she still prefers I do them. She is more independent than ever with handling her diabetes, and giving me some confidence that she’s “got this.” At least right now.

She still sneaks food or eats without bolusing (giving herself insulin to cover it). This will be an ongoing battle with her. She is easily annoyed with my constant nagging about testing and bolusing, and eating things without doing those things first. This will be an ongoing battle for us.

Ten years later…

We’re still waiting for The Cure.

**For more information, the Diabetes tab above contains previous posts and background.

 

 

The Pump, a Tooth, and the Carpocolypse

The tale of an endless string of bullshit that might not only seem implausible, but has all the potential motivation for getting rat-arsed and banged up on sauce.

It all started with Veruca’s insulin pump, which was no longer under warranty. I called Animas, the company who produces her pump, to get a head start on acquiring a new one and … just how much of this $6,000 device was coming out of our pockets?

The sales guy asked if anything was wrong with the current pump (no warranty notwithstanding) – because insurance companies typically don’t want to fix what aint broke. Turns out I didn’t have to dig deep. While I was on the phone with him, I asked V if I could see her pump. She hands it to me and there’s a nasty crack around the cartridge compartment – a potentially dangerous situation and don’t use this pump because it’s dangerous. This isn’t our first rodeo. Somebody has a habit of over-tightening the cap on the compartment and this has happened before. Oh, and for the record, it isn’t ME.

So we start the process. Our insurance company covered the full cost. Woohoo! I was so happy. Until five days later when Animas announced they were going out of business and all pump holders would be transitioning to another pump company. I was so angry. And stressed. There was more drama over it, but I’m over it. For now.

Meanwhile, back in the garage….

The 2012 Mustang. One Friday evening, Todd went to start it and … nothing. Dead battery. Pressed for time, he took my car. A few days later, my 7-month-new car decided to take a seizure on my way to work. Todd took it to the dealership in town, who essentially accused him of not maintaining the car, told him there was only a quart of oil left in it and contained metal shavings, and the engine was blowing smoke.

They’d need to tear down the engine to determine the cause, and until they tore the engine down they couldn’t determine whether it would be covered under warranty or not. Todd called bullshit and told them he was taking the car home. The receipt stated that customer failed to produce receipts (of maintenance) and was “taking vehicle with known internal engine issue.” Way to piss off my husband, guys. (He rarely calls me at work, but this day he called me on a rant that literally had all my anxiety nodes tingling with electricity.)

He called the original dealership that sold us the car to arrange for a tow. Ford will tow your vehicle to their dealership at no cost. Or, at least at no cost up to 35 miles. We live exactly 38 miles from the dealer who sold us the car. So it was going to cost I-don’t-know-how-much to tow it the extra 3 miles, and so THEN he called AAA who would tow it but wouldn’t tow it until the dealership opened because someone has to “receive it.”  (This is a new one. And even the dealership was perplexed.)

The happy ending to this story: the dealer found no metal shavings, and – shockingly – no smoke blowing from the engine. Turned out a cylinder-6 spark plug needed to be replaced – a known problem among this particular model. And, OMG, they didn’t have to tear down the engine. Oh yeah – and it didn’t cost a thing.

Meanwhile, back in the driveway, the Ford Fiesta, which was residing with another family member for the past 3 years, came back to us. The timing was good, since I needed to switch cars that fateful morning. But this car is like a petulant child you have to coax into doing shit. You have to turn the key in the ignition just so far, and hold your foot on the brake for 30 seconds. Then, after those 30 seconds, turn the key all the way and it will start. Yeah, that’s right. Ridiculous. This is so not a good feature for someone with anxiety who is also perpetually late. Or if you’re being chased by zombies.

During all this drama, the 2012 got a new battery. Then I decided to take the 2001 convertible out last Saturday afternoon and, since I was running late, I tried starting it and IT wouldn’t start. Todd was in the garage with me and said, wait a minute! I can fix this. He jumped the car, and told me it’ll be fine now, it too has a brand new battery. Um, … okay…… BUT, there was no gas in it. SO – he dumped a gallon and half into the tank while I’m sitting in the car. Because motorheads always have gas and tools. Enough to get me to Veruca’s softball game.

It was a beautiful day, a beautiful ride. When the game was over, I went to turn the key in the ignition and …. Nothing. Son of a bitch. I flagged down my ex, his wife, and my kid as they were leaving, while I called Todd who insisted that it must be a loose connection, because it’s a brand new battery, after all. So, the ex got to be the hero and held the connector to the battery and the engine started right up. It was just cracked and needed to be replaced. But still – I still needed gas and I sure as hell wasn’t stopping because I’d need to shut off the car again. Ugh. I hate cars sometimes.

And here’s why. I inherited a 1977 Audi Fox when I turned 16. Nice car right? Wrong. It was all kinds of wrong. My best friend dubbed it the boogeymobile, after the shade of green it was. It was a standard transmission, and I was driving it long before I was truly skilled in the fine [smooth] art of stick shift. And then it started breaking down – at intersections, back in the days before cell phones when you had to rely on the kindness of strangers and the nearest pay phone. This car is the reason I have anxiety every time I drive an “older” car.

So all the car situations got all straightened out. (Except for our Fiesta’s special needs.) Todd replaced the thingy that connects the battery to the whatever-that-starts-the-car. And then my front tooth cracked off. (Not at the exact same moment.)

Well, it’s not exactly my tooth. So, my secret is out. I’ve had composite on the top 6 front teeth since I was 14. I’m of the generation when fluoride stained adult teeth with white spots. My previous dentist repaired this front tooth about 2 years ago and he literally drilled off a huge part of my natural tooth, which not only makes me furious, but he did a shitty-ass job and there continued to be a thin line on the surface that he couldn’t seem to smooth over.

So last week the composite just cracked off, coincidentally right where that thin line was, revealing the ugly truth I’ve been worried about since he did that. I’ve since changed dentists, who fixed it temporarily so I could be seen in public – which lasted a whole hour and I had to go back the next morning for the real fix.

Epilogue

The ’01 and the ’12 are running beautifully. My car is running like a new car again. The Fiesta still needs 30 seconds to get pumped for trip to the supermarket. Veruca has a brand new Animas insulin pump with a warranty which will protect her until Metronic replaces it free of charge during the transition in the next two years. I have a beautiful front tooth again but know that forty years from now I’ll be sitting in a nursing home with a half a tooth. Maybe that’s what they mean about being good to your kids now… so they’ll pay for your teeth later?

 

 

Four Years in Maryland

It’s officially four years since I reluctantly excitedly nervously optimistically went kicking and screaming moved to Maryland. Four years!

Opac is now a high school Junior, and learning to drive. Veruca is in her second year of middle school. Todd has gotten a promotion and is simultaneously launching another business. I got a new job. We lost Pi, and we loved – and lost – our adopted kitten, Shadow, in one short month. The ex got remarried. I like her more than I like him. Is that wrong? We’re all getting along. We got a new car. Or two. And the coveted beater truck for all that hauling Todd plans to do. (He chastised me for calling this “nice truck” a beater, but I call it like I see it.)

Four years later… home renovations continue. We gutted the apartment and a friend subsequently moved in and broke the smoking ban. We painted. We repainted. We bought new rugs which the dog has managed to shit on already. We renovated the rec room, got a pool table. Still need to build a bar. We got the fireplace working. We acquired a hot tub friends were giving away.

We built a home gym, acquired a used treadmill – because Facebook marketplace rocks – for $75. We cleaned up our stationary bike, which spent several winters outside while we were away living in PA. We added a weight bench for Opac last Christmas.

We had parties and poker nights. We took short trips to several places I’d never been. We finally took a real vacation together. We both gained weight. We tuned up our bikes and started riding. We’re both losing weight.

We attended some galas and felt rich for a night. We attended a couple of weddings and embraced the love we felt. We attended more than a handful of funerals and remembered how fleeting life can be, and how blessed we are.

We celebrated 50 years of enduring love with my in-laws’ anniversary party in our backyard with seventy guests.

We made new friends, and watched others fade away.

We continue to slowly claw our way back from a mountain of debt that has plagued us since the beginning. All that money I sent my lawyer every month is still a mystery to me. I’d like to know where it came from and where it’s going now.

Six years ago, Todd wanted us to move here. Six years ago, I told him there was no fucking way. Well, I said it nicer than that, and left out the f-word. Six years ago I spent many overnights in this house, escaping – but not really – the debilitating pain of divorce and child custody, rediscovering faith, myself, and the supernatural power of first love. There is some existential healing power in this house I cannot explain, but everyone who needs it, feels it when they enter.

Four years ago I felt like a stranger in a strange land, and desperately wanted to not regret coming here. But my children made friends quickly, and Opac’s declaration that this place was so much better than where he’d come from made it all worth it. I didn’t see the limbo they lived in, in our former place, until we moved here and everything clicked together like the missing pieces of a puzzle.

I trusted Todd that this was going to be good, because I couldn’t trust myself. Today, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. This is home. More home than anywhere I’ve ever wanted to be.

 

 

Skipping Out, While Silverfox Takes Chicago

I took my medication on an empty stomach earlier this week and slept for two hours. Some days it’s a gamble, between high anxiety and being comatose. Really, all I probably need to do is stop drinking coffee. The gamble for the rest of the week was to skip the pills and challenge anxiety to make a comeback. Definitely the better option, for productivity.

The best time to be out in public? First thing in the morning. This is not typically my MO, since I usually spend half a day on the internet before finally getting motivated to jump on the treadmill, do laundry, make the bed, take a shower, do anything. And by then it’s damn near witching hour, when V’s bus is coming and suddenly I realize I’ve done nothing all day. Cue frantic clean up and an ornery mood, because my peace is about to be broken by all the drama of the middle school female species.

I refuse to make excuses now because I actually have a job when I’m not at home. V forgot her gym sneakers the other day and I had to take a shower and get dressed earlier than I’d planned, just to walk into the front office, because I haven’t yet fully embraced the culture of pajamas and slippers. Which, for what’s it’s worth, is so NOT going to happen if it aint happened yet.

The ladies in the front office know me on sight, which I wondered aloud whether that was a good thing or a bad thing. At least I’m never there to bail her out of the slammer.

I utilized this premature entry into the outside world to drop off dry cleaning and pick up milk and detergent at the store. The grocery store is sublime at 8 a.m. No crowds, easy parking. Oh – and fresh donuts. However, the fucking post office doesn’t open until 9 and I got there at 8:45 and had to stand in the vestibule clutching two huge bags for 18 minutes, making small talk with two other women who also didn’t know it wasn’t open yet. Sublime only goes as far as enough coffee and small talk isn’t in my repertoire before 9 on my day off. And then the postal guy didn’t unlock the door until 9:03. Bastard. He knew we were out there and, giddy with power, took his time getting to the door.

This morning, I dropped the dog off at the groomer and stopped at Walmart. While Walmart and sublime do not belong in the same sentence together, I must admit it was quite pleasant. There was no cart rage, and holy shit! No lines. I found 3 of the four items I went in for, but not before I’d sauntered casually through the store like I was on the beach at sunrise.

It’s the end of September and the weather has rivaled that of August, and frankly – this is bullshit. Warm is nice; oppressive with a nuclear mosquito population is a new form of hell. Myself being mosquito bait, the only picnic is the one featuring me as the main course. WTF is up with this venom? I’m still scratching the bites I got over a week ago.

Seriously, the plants don’t even know what to do. Some are still green, and some have just given up. I think the trees have finally just unanimously said fuck it, because they’re dropping leaves like rain today. And – just in case the advent of Fall is ever a question – the stink bugs have suddenly made a very Hitchcockian appearance around the windows and doors of the house.

I hear the weather is cooling down in Chicago, which bodes well for us, I think. Although the weather this morning was cool, breezy, and pleasant. I informed Todd last night that I’m working on indoor projects until conditions improve outside – as if he even cares what I do and don’t do around the house when he’s away. As long as he has clean underwear and gas in the car, he’s a happy boy.

Speaking of Chicago, my dad is there on business and I have barely heard from him, yet he sends pictures that call into question what he’s really doing. He sent me a pic of himself on some stage seated between the Blues Brothers, captioned, “just auditioned.” The next day he sent me a pic of the Iron Throne in an AT&T store on the Magnificent Mile. He took a wrong turn one afternoon and ended up in a LGBTQ neighborhood where he was propositioned twice (hey – they don’t call him Silverfox for nothing). Two days later he’s got a Cubs World Championship ring on the tip of his finger – apparently he met some woman who works for the organization. She was probably trying to pick up Silverfox, but sorry folks – he’s a happily married – and straight – man.

Then, he was tailgating on the lake on Tuesday. If I was a millionaire, I’d fly out there and hang with him for a few days. Then my next blog post I’d call, The Silverfox Chronicles, and people would eat that shit up. Because my dad is funny.

Today is Nephtoo’s birthday and I still haven’t completed his first care package. I’m going with themed packages, and pissed myself off this morning when I realized I should have sent one already, themed, the birthday box. I’ve been doing pretty well at avoiding any Mom-fails, so I guess I was ripe for an Aunt-fail. (I so can hear SOL chastising me at this very moment.) (SOL=Sister Out Law.) (And, if you have to ask, you’re obviously not in the inner circle –which I realize sounds contradictory given the “out law” reference, but shut up already – and therefore are on a need-to-know basis.)

Anyhoo, if I say any more about the care package, it’s likely to ruin the surprise since he occasionally reads this garbage. So with that – I will close with this, from my latest Netflix discovery:

Their devotion showed me there were no versions of love, there was only… Love. That it had no equal and that it was worth searching for, even if that search took a lifetime. ~ Call the Midwife

**Disclaimer: SOL is not an outlaw. She is a law-abiding citizen with terrific offspring and killer bathroom design skills.

Random Thoughts For September

We went shopping at Lowe’s last weekend which was shocking because it was Todd’s idea. Todd had boycotted the store after a debacle there about a year ago. However, Lowe-gate couldn’t hold a candle to an entirely different debacle involving kitchen rugs from Big Lots. Todd’s busy brain took a short detour to kitchen rug replacement on a beautiful Sunday afternoon when we could otherwise have been frolicking in the sunflower fields, but…there we were.

All the Halloween inflatables are set up, so I entertained myself by walking through an inflatable house a few times while Todd looked at snowblowers. There were a couple of little kids looking at me, which made me giggle, and I briefly considered calling boooooo from inside, which took me back to that time at Crystal Cave when my then-stepmom went inside this giant teepee with me and made the Indian war cry before stepping back outside, where she totally deadpan-told these wide-eyed kids that there were real Indians inside.

I have to admit, I’d never considered putting inflatables in my front yard, but the inflatable giant ghost is kinda cool. That is, until I saw the dragon. Dragons are all the rage now, ya’ll. Big Lots had a dragon skeleton that had to be nearly life-sized but was still in the box for $139. If I’d have had the money to blow…. Instead, I’ve got the skeleton cat for $22 on my wish list. I’m hoping it will scare away the stray cats who keep shitting in my gardens.

At least they’re not shitting on my front steps like they did to my neighbor across the street. Although Todd told me that one of them shit on the front tire inside the well on the pickup truck. On the wheel well? How does that happen? That’s gotta require some skill.

Our neighbor hates these strays with a passion normally reserved for ex-wives, and has set up traps around the yards including ours to catch and, he insists, relocate them. He’s gotten so sophisticated he has cameras connected to them that send to his cell so he’ll know instantly what he’s got (in case it’s a family of raccoons – which does happen round here more than you think). It’s been a month and he hasn’t caught one damn cat. I told him they’re smarter than he is which, thankfully, he laughed off, since he is a cop and could potentially arrest me for disrespecting an officer.

Needless to say we didn’t find any rugs, but did find new curtains for the sliders. And I wandered off toward something shiny in the lighting department and suddenly we were buying new lamps for the living room. And then a really happy guy in an electric wheelchair stopped next to us to remind Todd what a beautiful wife he had while I blushed eight shades of red as he sat smiling at us both. Later, I admired the mums outside and some other fall planters. I may go back and buy them but, like anything green that requires water for survival, their fate in my hands is pretty much already predetermined.

OMG, I found a giant metal chicken! I nearly ran off the road looking at it to be sure I wasn’t hallucinating, but it was real and I need this chicken. The Bloggess acquired one several years ago, which was the subject of one of the most hilarious posts I’ve ever read, and I never thought I’d ever want one until I saw it in person. Now I’m on a mission to get it, but I’m making Todd go with me because it’s really big and I might not be able to get it into my car by myself. He said I could buy it. You are all my witnesses. Though he wants to know how much it’s going to cost. Silly man. What could be better than pulling into your driveway and being greeted by this source of enormous joy – the inspiration for knock knock, motherfucker?

I’m addicted to Amazon and Zullily. I think Amazon requires no explanation. Zullily is a dangerous website that sends you daily deals by email, and I’ve already acquired a pair of shoes, a bikini top, and some flip flops. Don’t tell Todd. He already knows about ThredUp and StitchFix.

V asks me every other day to order take-out. I have no idea where she got the impression that this was a thing, but I’m charged with reminding that it aint happening. If it’s not pizza, it’s McDonald’s, or it’s Chinese food – which, by the way, isn’t close. We can order seven – count them, seven – different pizzas just in our own small town, but can’t get a decent piece of sushi without driving a half hour. Sigh. Life in the country.

“We love to eat,” one of the first things I heard on my shadowing day six months ago, and my coworkers have not disappointed. One of them regularly brings in boxes of Tastykakes, someone else deposited exquisite M&M’s ice cream cookie treats in the freezer, and there’s always someone’s birthday to celebrate with loads of potluck items for the pickin. We have parents drop off treats too – like a box of Starbucks coffee and pumpkin cream cheese coffee cakes, and a dad dropped off a giant bag of hot pretzels when he picked up a prescription. The struggle between will power and total abandon is real.

A high school friend posted a link to a 5k happening in less than a month not far from me, and I have seriously considered training for it, just in case my knee holds out. I still have time to register. Like I said, my brain says yes yes, but my knee says, no no!

Meanwhile, back in the hot tub, where we work tediously to perfect the chemicals of a chlorine-free system. Well guess what? Tara wants chlorine. Tara needs chlorine. Certain things in life just require chlorine. I do not want to go about smelling like a musty cellar, and there’s something about this system that’s leaving that impression all over me. I want to smell like chlorine. Trust me, I’ll sleep better at night.

And while we’re on the subject of hot tubbing… don’t ever, EVER try to reenact Sylvester’s Looney Toons’ geyser ride. You’ve been warned, people.

Todd had the audacity to ask me why there was a towel in the spider sanctuary. The spider sanctuary is actually our oversized bathtub in the master bath, which rarely gets used and I guess he was hinting that it’s a bit dusty/cobwebby in there.

I haven’t mentioned to him recently the plague of Lifesavers wrappers I keep finding – in the car, in the driveway, on the floor, on the bedside table, on the bathroom counter… shall I go on? This, while he tells me how dirty my car is, AS IF I have no idea how dirty it is. Really.

To use a recently overheard weirdest expression ever uddered, some days I feel angrier than a mad cow on a bad Monday. That might be an Amish expression, I’m not sure. But, I’ve left Facebook again for self-preservation. It’s faster, and less time consuming, to just remove myself, rather than “hide” every person (on both sides of the political divide, FYI) whose posts are currently bothering me. Recent revelations have taken me to a place inside that is wholly better for me and everyone around me. Let’s hope it lasts.

Miscellaneous tidbits:

There are 206 bones in the adult human body. Opac will say he has 207, because of a broken collar bone, though I believe this to be inaccurate as the break has fused back together.

To stop bleeding on the lip from a razor cut: besides applying pressure, apply ice to constrict blood vessels and slow bleeding. Also, apply chapstick or vaseline. Other pieces of advice include mouthwash (which has gotta burn like hell), or applying deodorant, in which the aluminum chloride can also constrict blood vessels. Add eye drops to that list of blood vessel contricting agents.

The Holiday Living 10.5 ft x 6.6 ft haunted house is $250. Conversely, the 9ft x 11ft dragon is $179. No word yet on the price of the giant metal chicken. I’ll get back to you. The price of my joy = priceless.

The aforementioned Looney Toons episode can be seen here : Sylvester, Tweety and the Geyser.

Current book I’m reading – is still Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins. I took a break from it to read 10 Days in a Madhouse by Nelly Bly, a fast and fascinating read (though surprisingly a lot less thrilling than Asylum) about the real conditions of institutions in the early 20th century, brought to life by the journalist who posed as a patient to get the real skinny on the inside. It was considered a game-changer for mental institutions, yet we all know that the horrors continued for decades and across the country.

Personal Space

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Two posts ago I mentioned that minor thing called Personal Space. We all need it. We are occasionally violated. We sometimes never get it. Sometimes we get too much.

In college this weird thing happened where people started hugging each other. Not that we didn’t do that before, but it seemed like a matter of greeting that became habit. I surmised in a writing assignment once that we, as a collective whole, needed that platonic expression of inclusion and even love because we were missing it from home.

A memory sticks out for me, of sitting on the bleachers at a football game surrounded by friends, leaning back into a guy friend seated behind me. It was easy and comfortable, and secure. I felt that sense of affection for him and his for me, though it would never blossom beyond friendship. Whether his intention was different from mine we’ll never know, but I valued his friendship more than the desire to have a boyfriend.

I think we all know the prevalence of the hookup and plenty of other shenanigans. I shied away from those situations because I always preferred a real relationship. I think I gave off the vibe too, because it was a rare occasion when a guy would cross the boundaries of my personal space without invitation.

Friendships are different. I was always open to hugs and today now more than ever, everybody hugs. It’s a standard that appears to be here to stay, so ya’ll best get on board. Unless you’re not a hugger, which is perfectly fine. I have a few friends who aren’t, and I get the need for boundaries. Intuition is also a powerful tool – if one pays attention to others’ cues. I don’t like hugs, or – we hardly know each other, or – my head only reaches your belly button and that’s just plain awkward.

In relationships, as I mentioned – too much affection was the kiss of death. Even my ex, who wrapped his arms around me at a bar the first time we went out – which, by the way, should have been a great big red flag – I felt like he was claiming me and it pissed me off.

What is between Todd and me is a perfect balance of love and affection, personal space, and PDA. We still hold hands in public, walking into the store or out to a restaurant. While our lives seem to have become busier and we have less down time together, perhaps there is a greater need right now to close the gap between us. Personal space is so abundant now as to require a little more violation. And no, I’m not talking about sex, you dirty-minded little trolls.

Meanwhile, Veruca is a master of violation. She has always been the child who couldn’t get enough of me, and at this age I find myself tensing up the more she invades my space. She will hug and squeeze me – I swear, bruising my face – she talks to me like I’m her child. I’ve been told this is a form of possession, or manipulation, or both. So, we continue to work on the boundaries, even as she is maturing and beginning to pull away.

And then her very own personal lesson came along this year. A new girl – we’ll call her Missy – latched on to her on the first day, called V her BFF, and won’t leave her alone. She is in every. Single. One. Of her classes. AND lunch. V has only gym class with her bestie since 3rd grade, so lunch is the prime time to catch up. Unfortunately, Missy is dominating V’s time and conversation and she is pissed. Missy also has this other endearing habit of poking V.

My solicited advice was to establish physical boundaries first. Tell Missy not to poke you. Tell her she’s welcome to sit with you and Bestie at lunch, but explain that this is also important time that you both look forward to catching up. V tells me that even Bestie is annoyed, which is kinda funny because I can’t picture sweet little demure Bestie getting pissed off. What little I know…

For what it’s worth, I think it’s gotten a bit better. I did try to encourage V to see behind Missy’s motivations – that she’s the new girl and needed to feel like she belonged, and that she saw V as a kind face. That perhaps V’s job was to help her get acclimated and meet other friends to smother hang out with too. It’s a testament to V’s [public] character that a stranger saw her as an ally.

All in all, karma for V became a teaching moment for me. And the revelation that perhaps the apple doesn’t fall that far from the tree.

Where I’ve Been – September Half-point Edition

In keeping with the life-in-the-fast-lane theme mentioned in my last post, I’m now going to regale you with tales of a week in the life.

The next day was Opac’s second game – away again – and, while the teams were more evenly matched than the previous week’s and we got on the board, we lost. It didn’t help that the refs weren’t calling all the fouls and gave away a touchdown. Opac is on the kickoff team and has less playing time this year, so he spends most of the two+ hours in a maddening pace up and down the field. I’m conflicted between wanting to see him get out there and being grateful he’s not up against linemen who outweigh him by 70 pounds.

Saturday after work Todd and I attended the memorial service of a friend and colleague who lost her battle with cancer, in a packed auditorium at the college. There has been an awful lot of cancer in the community, including Todd’s boss who has been battling for several years. His condition at the service bothered me more than Laura’s passing. He was terribly weak. And, when he moved toward me to say goodbye, he fell at my feet. It was terrible and left me shell-shocked. He and Laura are people I’ve known – they both attended our wedding.

After, Todd and I went to an art show in the city. The venue, Y Art, is a beautifully minimalist white space with warm lighting care of the sculptured lighting of Donna Reinsel, who shared the exhibition with Todd’s colleague Robert Creamer. Bob’s work is breathtaking. The l-shaped space has a long gallery hall with a bar at the end, opening up into a larger rectangular gallery. It quickly got crowded. It’s unusual for me but I found myself suddenly overstimulated, so I stepped outside alone into the warm late-afternoon breeze. Usually I enjoy social conversation, but not on this day.

We had chosen a restaurant in Canton for dinner and we arrived to a festival in the park and hundreds of people, so we opted out and headed out of the city for a more quiet dinner with the in-laws. Got home with every intention of going straight to bed but was met with a massive pile of dog poo. Because a busy week isn’t a busy week without shit or a hacked up hairball.

Mom’s dog was staying with us and gets nervous sometimes apparently. Earlier in the week there was a horrifying mess of diarrhea on our bedroom carpet that I was so sure was Sabra because she was avoiding me like the plague, but it was Mo who had shit stuck to his white ass so who knows??

Sunday morning Todd left for my dad’s to help him with car repairs and to bring home a hot tub – yes, a hot tub – that friends were more than happy to give away. Lucky us!! I had to pick my mom up at the airport. We all got back at the same time, mom headed home, and I took on vacuuming up Mo fur with a vengeance while the men moved the monster into its new resting spot.

Monday I filled in at work and Tuesday I went for a looong overdue skin check. I was worried about a red spot on my nose that turned out to be a broken blood vessel, so it’s great to be old. One personal care appointment down without incident. And then….because they can’t all be problem free…Wednesday morning I woke up at 4:30 with substantial pain in my mouth so I called the dentist, and several hours later found myself drooling, in the middle of a root canal.

I was lucky to have it done the same day, since Thursday was a 12-hour shift and Friday was my usual 9 hour day. He put so much Novocain in my mouth that the pain was gloriously and instantaneously gone after the first shot, and for several hours after I was numb from my right eye all the way down to my chin. It’s an interesting sensation to feel your nose running and yet not be able to feel your nose.

Friday night lights again – this time at home –against a championship team who gave us our annual ass-whoopin. But we did score two touchdowns, so our boys are at least getting on the board. Opac spent most of the time pacing the field again until he was called in to play lineman a few times. It drives me mad, because it’s hard to locate him since he’s always on the move and I don’t want to miss him when he’s on the field. He doesn’t seem to understand that it’s hard to follow a number in a sea of orange jerseys.

Saturday was another busy day at work – between all the beginning of the school year illnesses and flu shots. I rushed home and off to V’s softball game, in what had to be the hottest day for a game this year. Several girls from the team never showed up and didn’t call, including our best pitchers, and so our girls were fighting hard for what ended up a loss. Likely sixth graders who were coming off of their North Bay trip and figured they didn’t have to be there since they’d missed practice all week.

But V did us proud – acting as catcher and then scored the first run of the game. She is definitely a born athlete. If she keeps at it, she’s going to be one formidable player.

Things are slowing down for a bit, thankfully, just so I can get some projects done around the house and get back on the treadmill and back to riding again. After hitting a wall a month ago, I quit drinking and changed my diet and I’ve lost 10 pounds. And I feel great. Running is still out, though, thanks to my knee and not my brain – which sees the upcoming 5ks and wants to get back in it.

 

It Starts Again

After a long summer that didn’t feel like it went all that fast, we’re back to real-life rush hour. The first day of summer always feels like I want to slit my wrists when Veruca is demanding an activity schedule worthy of an organized, intinerized trip. Yeah, I totally just made that word up.

The kids had their vacation with their dad and Todd and I had ours. We spent time together, we spent time apart. Summer slogged along. Then football started the second week of August, and suddenly time jumped on the A train and took off like a bullet.

This is the first year I wasn’t counting the days until the first day of school. Instead, I’ve been checking the tears at every door we pass through. Seriously, two weeks ago I totally used my burning eyes from a long day staring at insurance verifications to cover the tears that kept welling up as I watched Opac begin his 3rd year in football.

To say I’ve been emotional lately would be an understatement. I sat there in the bleachers, watching him across the field, and acutely felt the loss of the little child I held in my arms with his head snuggled into my shoulder.

He’s a Junior this year. He has two years of high school left, before he leaves the nest to go be a college kid and create his own life. Two Years. Two years is a blink in the world of parenting. And I’m not ready. I’m not ready to let him go. Of course, he still doesn’t have his driver’s license, so I suppose he can’t go too far. Yet.

I have several friends who drove their firstborns to college this year and that, itself, has nailed home the reality. Nephtoo began college this year. Which reminds me, he still hasn’t sent me his address so I can send him stuff. And why? Because he’s off living his own life and adulting, and has temporarily forgotten his family.

I hear dumb music and I start to cry. I think about his soft baby hair and his little hand resting on my chest, and the long lashes that curled over his big brown eyes – because I would sit on the couch and hold him while he slept. He never learned to sleep in a crib.

Every moment he walked out my door, he took a part of my heart with him. Every moment I think about the inevitable bearing down on us, my heart feels like it’s being squeezed in a vice. I know it’s hard to believe, but I’m terribly emotional about him.

This is the first year I’ve felt the weight of the second child growing up. V started 7th grade this year. I remember my middle school years, probably better than I should. I don’t remember clinging to my mom quite like she does, or smothering her with my love and attention. My mom keeps reminding me that V loves me so much, and that I should enjoy it. I’m not good at being smothered though, which is where I struggle with her. Smothering me was the kiss of death for many a boy, once upon a time.

This year, however, while I’ve been working on setting those personal space boundaries with her – which, ironically, is a topic that figures into my next post – I’ve also begun to embrace the moments she’s close to me that way because it’s inevitable that she may change her M.O. as she enters the teen years. And if my teen years with my mom are any predictor of the future, or at the very least Karma – it’s gonna get ugly.

In any case, I’m experiencing some occasional sadness. It’s not every minute, or every day, but it comes with the suddenness of a drive-by shooting. I’m feeling sadness over my kids growing up, over growing older, watching my parents age and what that means, what life will look like in 20 years.

And these are the times I’m most vulnerable, and then the door to the attic of my soul cracks open and I start to feel everything. Including the things I’ve tried to heal, and locked away. I think of the child I lost, and it opens a Pandora’s box of whys and why nots. And suddenly I’m feeling that loss again, not nearly as acutely as that day, but a dull ache in the pit of my stomach. And I have my reasons for that too, but there are some things I prefer to keep to myself, even as I choke on them.

So it starts again. School is three days underway and we’re back to a bumpy groove, as O has practice daily after school and games every Friday, and V has softball practice at night and games every Saturday. Even Todd has the schedule from hell this week. The four of us have not had dinner together in almost 2 weeks. I’m behind on personal appointments, and I’m picking up extra hours at work. All of those things on my summer to-do list have now been transferred to my Fall to-do list.

I had big plans for the first week of school, but like all plans, even the best laid plans don’t always get laid.