Words of Wisdom This Holiday Season

When your phone rings at 8 a.m. on Christmas Eve, don’t answer it.

When your cell phone rings 10 minutes later and you can see it’s your mom calling from her restaurant, answer it anyway, because you can run but you can’t hide.

Some dogs don’t like jingle bell elf slippers. (Seriously, as of this writing, she’s still hiding in her bed.)

Jingle bell elf slippers, all four pairs going at once, recreate the magic of Santa’s sleigh landing on your lawn. Okay, not really, but it does wonders for tinnitus.

When your cell phone service pisses you off for the last time, switch providers and get new phones for everyone! Still wish I had video footage of Veruca’s face when she opened up that iPhone 8. First hug she gave Todd in 5 years.

Best way to keep the cat off the dining room table? Put up a Christmas tree.

Make sure there’s a tree skirt for him to lie on under the twinkling lights, you know, because that’s the real reason it’s there. And for the love of St. Nicholas, don’t you dare put presents over the cat’s new sleeping quarters.

If you buy a cut tree the weekend after Thanksgiving, fully expect all the branches to be petrified by Christmas day. Ornaments found on the floor at this point are no one’s fault but your own.

When returning to alcohol to celebrate the season, do remember to drink lots of water and pace yourself.

Beware of bourbon-loving party guests who bring gifts of bourbon. One full bottle of Knob Creek kicked in less than 4 hours. (FYI: Knob Creek Smoked Maple smells like French toast. Too sweet for me.)

There’s no such thing as too much food at your holiday gathering. And, adding lasagna to the brunch buffet will ensure you’ll have sustenance later to offset the alcohol.

Be grateful for free rental cars, even if they resemble an army tank. There’s nothing more reassuring to drive in foul weather, even if your feet don’t touch the floor.

When your prescription glasses disappear for three hours at the restaurant while you’re working, don’t send everyone else into panic mode. Remember the St. Anthony’s prayer. Even when you can’t.

The most important thing to have ready at a holiday gathering when time is short: clean toilets and some hors d’oeuvres. Nobody will notice anything else.

Also, turn the light and fan on in your kids’ filthy bathroom and shut the door, to scare off potential users from entering. (P.S. this only works when guests are sober.) Caution tape works well too.

While we’re on the subject, teach your 12-year-old how to use a plunger properly, so that she doesn’t turn her toilet into a mountain of soiled toilet paper.

Don’t try to drag a 70lb box of punching bag from your front steps to the garage by yourself. Remember last year’s weight-bench-in-four-parts debacle.

Set up auto-pay on bills, at least for the duration of the holiday season.

Movie-goers? Buy your tickets ahead of time for the epic movie release of the season. Even if you’re attending the 9 a.m. showing on a church day.

Gifts do not have to be wrapped until Christmas Eve. Unless of course, you don’t enjoy stress and nosy children.

If you suspect your child is getting sick, don’t wait until Saturday before Christmas, thirty minutes before closing, to call your pediatrician. Also, if you are told by the triage nurse to go to urgent care the night before and you choose not to, do not be upset when there are no appointments left on Saturday morning.

When your kid’s sleepover gets cancelled through no fault of her own, take advantage of mother-daughter time by slathering on charcoal face masks and sending selfies to grandma.

Xanax works wonders on nervous energy and anxiety, I’ve heard.

Repeat after me: I WILL NOT get it all done before Christmas, and no animals will be harmed and no one will die because of it.

 

 

 

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Conversations With Todd

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I got home from work Saturday a little after 12:30, after being up since 5:50 a.m., found Todd seated on the couch with the cat on the ottoman at his feet and the dog sleeping nearby. We shared hellos and some basic updates before I launched into a continuation of what he described as a soap opera earlier that morning. There’s this foster mom who recently took on two more children – siblings – and the county gave her very little information about them including, but not limited to, conflicting names and no medical histories. I was the lucky recipient of her first phone call to get them seen in our practice, one of the longest and more frustrating of patient calls I’ve had so far. The background noise on her end sounded like a daycare and made it very difficult to understand, and then I think she stepped outside to hear me better and the sound quality escalated to something resembling an airport landing strip.

So anyway. She had an appointment on Friday afternoon, the day of the blizzard, and she called to cancel it and reschedule for Saturday morning. You could say I’ve learned a thing or two about scheduling and I’m getting more savvy with it. I offered her an appointment immediately following another already scheduled. Some of our physicians don’t like Saturday mornings being stretched into eternity and I knew that. She asked for something later, because she was worried about road conditions in the morning. I didn’t want to say it, but I said the latest I have is 11. She took it. And I knew I was going hear about it the next morning.

I called it. Our doctor, who I predicted wouldn’t be happy about this 11:00 appointment if we didn’t get any more sick calls (we did…phew!), did ask me what happened when it was rescheduled for that morning. It was awesome. She discreetly told me she has a problem with some people making later appointments and then being late for those. Which I completely understand. Word to the wise: if you are consistently late and inconsiderate to your healthcare providers, don’t think for a moment they won’t remember you. Fastest lesson I learned this year: don’t be late for appointments.

So I’m telling Todd all about the roads, about the entitled white-haired lady in the Mercedes who wasn’t content to be behind me at 75 mph, about seeing someone from V’s school and the conversation we had, and about how pleasant everyone was coming in this morning. We conversed about this and that, sharing opinions and then I went on to share more thoughts about that and this… and I watched him from across the room… his expression silently shifting as I spoke.

So I said very matter-of-factly, they don’t have any decaf in the office. And Todd burst out laughing at me. What? At least I went with a light roast. It could’ve been worse, I told him. That was only four hours’ worth. Imagine what 8 would be like.

Meanwhile, today is house-cleaning gift-wrapping finish-decorating baking laundry put-shit-away day… and we’re expecting a very important delivery that I was worried about missing, because I know there are criminals out there following UPS and FedEx trucks waiting for them to drop packages on empty doorsteps and I will not be a victim.

And Todd and I have been texting back and forth all day because he’s taking my car to the dealership tomorrow and I told him he must take the rental car they’re offering because SNOW, Todd. And I also wanted to know if he had an ETA on that delivery so I could actually leave the damn house for some necessary items at the grocery store without missing the truck, and he of course called me because he’s driving from campus to campus today for meetings and other things that make his life busier than mine… and he wonders aloud if mercury is still in retrograde and I’m like HELLO! of course it is – why do you think the engine light is back on in my car??? Which it actually isn’t – because it went off again all by itself, which is NOT reassuring by the way and I’m not buying it.

So, I looked up mercury in retrograde and it appears that it is and it’s in the “intensified” stage – and I don’t really know what that means in the universe but it’s bad enough in the regular stage so… this really doesn’t bode well for the rest of the mechanical shit in our lives so maybe we’d best just stay home and drink for the next 5 days until it passes.

Meanwhile Todd is expressing frustration over work-related bullshit and I used my best Todd-impression to tell him that he can’t fix it and why would he want to and just go to work and enjoy it without the responsibility of leadership and he actually agreed with me. And I said to him, patient, you are not. Which of course reminded him of Yoda, and then the rest of our conversation was dominated by Tara’s side being answered by Yoda. He does a mean Yoda impression, which is adorable except when you’re trying to have a serious conversation about delivery trucks and Christmas gifts not yet purchased.

When I was looking for Yoda gifs, I also saw this one. Does anyone else feel slightly uncomfortable watching this?

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Where I Drive In Snow

December 13. It was my mom’s birthday and Todd thought it would be nice to surprise her Wednesday, because he thinks of others and is thoughtful like that. So around 6 we all pile into my car, which has decided to be festive too and light up the engine light on the dash. It’s doing that wobbly thing again in idle mode that reminds me of a standard transmission about to conk out. (This fun feature was fixed at the dealership, you may recall, but now it’s back and they want to do a more thorough investigation tomorrow.)

Me being the worrywart I am (which, you may also recall, is the result of BDCPTSD, broken-down-car post-traumatic stress disorder, which is REAL, ya’ll), I said – we better take another car. We took the Mustang. The kids, who have absolutely no appreciation for a muscle car, complained about the lack of comfort in the backseat and I channeled my inner Jewish mother and reminded them that it was Nannie’s birthday and this is for her.

If you reside in the mid-Atlantic, then you already know what happened on Wednesday. The forecast said snow – AFTER MIDNIGHT. Well, they lied. We enjoyed a lovely dinner and I offered to drive home. The flurries started about 10 minutes into the ride. No worries, said Todd, it’s not laying.

Twenty minutes later it’s not only laying, it’s building a fortress. And I’m driving a Mustang. I took my time, but when I went under an overpass the backend fishtailed and Todd said, oh my God, pull over. I momentarily recalled that advice he gave me about riding with Opac and not grabbing onto the door handle, but decided this wasn’t the time to point out hypocrisy.

So we switched seats and he put the car in gear, and somehow was able to get a car that should never be fully stopped in a snowstorm moving forward again. By this time my nerves were wrapped around my chest, and I was gripping the sides of my seat and breathing shallowly. Todd reassured me that he had everything under control, which is really like telling a feral cat that you’re not going to hurt it.

It took us two-and-a-half hours to get home. Nearly twice the time under normal conditions. But we made it, because Todd learned to drive in the snow and he’s really good at it. And when we pulled in the driveway I finally let go of the seat and all the air in my lungs, excavated the sleeping kids from the backseat, and went inside to pour myself a pint of bourbon.

Fast forward: Friday. Todd drove my car down to the dealership first thing in the morning, Opac was home sick with fever, headache, and a sore throat, Veruca went off to school as usual, and I decided to drive the Mustang to work. I had a choice of three vehicles – the special-needs Fiesta, the beater truck, or the V6 Mustang. What would you choose?

Apparently, for those who actually pay attention to the weather, they might have chosen differently. I got to work and one of my coworkers said something about snow and I said, whaaaaaat? Oh yes, snow this afternoon. And then, within the hour, a message from the school announcing early dismissal at noon. Fuck! Fuck fuck fuck fuck!

I texted Todd and said something like, oh my God it’s starting to snow and I drove the fucking Mustang today and I’m gonna die on the way home and I don’t know what to do.

It’s okay, he said. I’ll drive up and switch cars with you and take the Mustang home.

He showed up at my office about 3 I think, dropped off the keys and told me to drive safe. My coworkers all thought he was so sweet to do this for me and, without an ounce of Humble, I said he’s the best. And he is. I joked that he was really just protecting the car from me, but truly, he can’t live without me, so. But here’s the problem – I’m not exactly always the best.

An hour later: I love you and I don’t want to sound like I’m scolding, but please don’t ever leave the car with less than 15 miles to get anywhere (smiley emoji).

I forgot to tell him. I forgot all about it. I knew I needed gas when I left in the morning, but I figured I’d get it on the way home so I wouldn’t be late to work. Having no idea, mind you, that we were even getting snow.

People coming into our office were talking about the snow. They’re saying we could have a white Christmas. First time in years… yes, snow all weekend. Which is all lovely and romantic and all, WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE TO DRIVE ANYWHERE. But I do, and I know we will just because I don’t want to.

I left work early, and got home about 45 minutes later. It wasn’t terrible, at least until I had a horrific thought and suddenly my chest tightened and I couldn’t breathe. This must be what a panic attack feels like. I opened the car window and gasped for air. Stop this, stop stop stop. It’s not real. I changed the radio station and Def Leppard soothed me back to reality. Because metal is good for anxiety, right?

My car goes in for eval tomorrow, and Todd told me they were going to give us a loaner – an Expedition – and he’s thinking it’s not necessary and I’m all like, have you lost your mind? They’re paying for it and IT’S GOING TO SNOW.

Just An Echo

The pronouncement was made and there was much anger and yelling and screaming, but strangely, no tears. There were no tears. Seldom were there any tears. The dish rack in the kitchen was wiped from the counter, shattering to the floor. Always, something had to be broken.

Hearts were pounding, all of them. One for loss, one for freedom. Two more for the uncomfortable familiarity.

It was not much different than any of the other times. She managed the distance between them, not fearful, but vigilant. This time there would be no backing down. This time, when the words came out, she would not take them back.

If he lunged at her, if he closed the space between them, spitting familiar words in her face, she would not back away. She would not look away. She would meet his eyes.

No more. No more name calling. No more criticisms. No more destroying personal property, space, private journals. No more threats. No more physical threats. No more empty apologies. No more gaslighting. No more.

***

In a tumultuous life and the changes it brought, accusations flew. False accusations. A pot, calling the kettle black. Misdeeds and affairs of the past denied, but known. Promises to change, promises to commit to things promised long before and long ignored. Threats to destroy. Demands to end friendships.

Soon after, she refocused her efforts on the time ahead. What must be done. How to accomplish it.

Interference from an outside, and separately invested source, compelled her to withdraw from much needed support. And what followed next – a song. A song, shared on Facebook, meant to express disappointment, sorrow, frustration – cut her to the core. Fade to Black.

An inconceivable ache in the soul, opened an old wound long ago healed. The tears flowed freely. Another kind of loss flooded back to her, one healed but never forgotten. A loss not wanting to be felt again.

So much to be done. No easy way out, but a way out – the only way now.

Where I Wake Up Next to Another Man

Probably not the best followup to my last post but, as they say, what happens tonight goes on Facebook tomorrow.

We planned a small gathering of friends and our parents, and Mother Nature planned a winter wonderland to otherwise shut down what would have been a house-quaking party. Okay, not really a house-quaking. But nearly everyone north of the Mason-Dixon bagged out due to the icy road conditions and the danger of driving home later.

On the menu: lasagna with hot Italian sausage, white vegetarian lasagna, pulled pork, Cuban sandwiches, white bean and spinach soup, mixed greens salad, buffalo chicken dip, chips and salsa, and the standard crudité. The in-laws, who were bringing the cheesecake, opted out of the drive too – so Todd pulled a homemade apple pie out of the freezer, and thank God someone brought brownies and a wicked cheeseball that would put any fancy wedge of cheese to shame.

For such a small crowd, we ATE. Even the crudité, which is always at a party and really – who wants to eat raw vegetables at a party? Would you like some chocolate cake layered with chocolate mousse? Oh no thank you, I’ll just chew on this chunk of raw cauliflower.

And, like anything we do in this house which ends up with all the appearance of half-assed – even spending all of Friday night prepping food and 4 hours Saturday prepping the house – the guest room was still unmade and the vacuum lying on the floor next the bed, which to you sounds like no big deal but the room was doubling as a play area for the Oculus.* The artificial tree we put up in the rec room was assembled by Opac and my brother in the final hour, with only lights and no ornaments. (There are still no ornaments on it.)

One of my Christmas boxes with decorations in and on top of it, remained in the living room next to the couch the entire evening. In fact, it’s still there. The wreath I made last year with Christmas balls was lying on an accent chair behind the couch, apparently awaiting hell to freeze over until I could repair it and hang it on the front door.

We have four bathrooms in this house: the master bath, the hall bathroom (aka the kids’ bathroom), the powder room off the living room, and the bathroom downstairs in the rec room. The latter is desperately in need of a massive renovation. As for the hall bathroom, anyone with kids they don’t share a bathroom with can attest to the horrors within the confines of this room. It wouldn’t be a normal day if that toilet was working, and this evening was no different. Thankfully, no one attempted it. Well, except for V who will continue to use a clogged toilet until it rivals the look and feel of a port-a-potty.

Todd found some time to throw some lights on the two trees against the house, which at the time I thought was great until the next day when I saw that a tree and a half were lit. I said, Todd – what happened to the lights? He said he ran out of lights and forgot to look for another strand. And guess what? There’s still a tree and half a tree with lights on them.

I’d work on that today, but it’s freakin’ 19 degrees outside and I just spent 10 minutes righting the recycling can in gale force winds, collecting all the cans and cardboard that blew into my neighbor’s yard. And, if she’s reading this – Kay, I’m very sorry if I missed anything and also I apologize for any strange noises you may have heard in the backyard on Saturday night.

And, while we’re on the subject – I put the brakes on two drunks and one twelve-year-old with a recorder who wanted to go caroling, so neighbors – you’re welcome.

Anyway, the guests. We had a low turnout which was actually nice because of who showed up. The staggering of the arrivals made for pleasant and equal conversation. We got some chat time with one of the couples from our San Francisco trip, and later with a couple Todd used to bowl with whom we shared our Pittsburgh experience, and the last couple were new to me so I had some time to chat with them towards the end before Todd sat down next to me and I promptly passed out fell asleep.

Yes, I had wine. I had wine, because hello! It’s a party. I wasn’t drunk, not even once, but I was definitely pacing myself through food and wine and water until sleep overtook me in the presence of two people I’d only just met. I’m so good with first impressions.

And the next thing I know – I woke up at 3 a.m. on the sectional by the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree and the hearth, the lamp next to the couch still lit and the television still on at a volume reserved for rowdy football games… and the room empty but for Robbie, who was asleep completely upright, snoring like a bear at the other end of the couch.

 

There Was This Boy

So there was this boy, I saw him walk by me once and he took my breath away. I couldn’t avoid his eyes or the chemistry between us. He asked me out once and I said yes, and we went out again, and again, until he owned me. I never knew love like that, and it was precious and intense, and I never forgot it or how it made me feel. Life took us away from each other, but the years went by and I never forgot December 11. Never. My soul remembered the sound of his voice, and the smell of his skin. I thought about him, wondering where he was, what he was doing, and got lost in fantasies about reuniting with him. And then just seven short years ago, I found the answers to the unending questions I had, and the true meaning of “soul mate.”

There was this boy – he imprinted on me, so that I would never forget him. So that I would spend years blindly reaching for that bond with others. I never forgot December 11. That was the day God gave him to the world, to not only one day love me, but to do great things and to selflessly give of himself to others.

There was this boy – now a man – who never forgot me. I am so blessed to know and be loved by him again – in this, our second chance to get it right. There was this boy – who completes me in a way I could only have dreamed. He’s not perfect, but he is perfect for me… and he is mine.

There was this boy- who stole my 15-year-old heart, and reclaimed it more than 25 years later. He took my breath away. I never forgot his eyes, the sound of his voice, or the smell of his skin. He never knew that I thought of him every December 11. When he took my hand in his again – it was like coming home.

There was this boy – I loved him then, and I love him more than ever today.

Happy Birthday to my first, my last, my one true love!! I love you!!

AND, in case you missed it… there was this Birthday Poem from a few years back.

 

 

How Did You Know?…. As Asked By V

Riding in the car with kids always produces some interesting conversations. This wasn’t one I was expecting, though V is full of questions about everything these days. I also didn’t expect the raw emotions to bleed through me as I remembered it like it was yesterday.

How did you know when I got diabetes?

Well, for about a week you were drinking a lot, and soaking through your diapers – which isn’t really normal for babies to do. They’d get so wet that they leaked in the bed and I had to change the sheets. You couldn’t get enough to drink. You’d fall asleep with your sippy cup in your hand at night. And I wondered, “what causes thirst like this? Something causes this. What is it?” (Lots of guilt here, I left unsaid. Including the retrospect that I’d also noticed she looked thin in the bathtub one night, and wondered if she always looked that thin? Was it just my imagination? Again, lots of guilt here.)

And then we went to a birthday party O was invited to, and you wouldn’t eat anything there. You were always a clinger, but I thought you’d at least have cake. Nope. Wouldn’t eat. Just drank from your cup.

The next day was Father’s Day and we went out for ice cream. You didn’t finish yours. You didn’t want it.

The next morning, a Monday, you were very, very sleepy and wouldn’t eat and slept on my lap all morning, almost until 11. And then when you woke up, you were breathing fast and shallow like, [I demonstrated this to her]. That part was scary. I called the doctor, and they asked me to bring you in right away.

So the doctor told you I had diabetes?

The nurse tested your blood sugar, and Dr. Watson came back in and told me you had diabetes, and that you had to go to the hospital right away. They were going to send us to Hershey, but first we had to go to the local ER. I told Dr. Watson I wanted you to go to CHOP. You had to go to the ER first because your blood sugar was so high and you were dehydrated and in DKA, and CHOP’s team wanted you to be stable before they could pick you up.

Were you scared?

I hesitated a moment, collecting my thoughts, feeling almost ancient tears welling up behind my eyes.

Yes. We drove over to the ER and they were waiting for you. They tried placing you in a bed, but you were hysterical and reaching out for me to hold you. But you were also dehydrated and exhausted, so you didn’t fight too much. They started IVs in both your arms, so that you could have fluids to help you feel better; they attached little sensors to your chest and body to monitor your heart rate. I sat on the bed with you and touched you. I kept my hand on you. You’d fade into sleep, which was a relief at the time.

Was dad scared?

Yes, he was.

He thought I was going to die. Did you think I was going to die?

No, I never thought that for a second. I knew when CHOP’s team came to pick you up that they were going to make you better. I had no idea how, but I knew they would.

But dad said he thought I might.

Well, he may have heard some things the doctors were concerned about, that I didn’t hear. I was in shock – I don’t think I heard much of anything. All I thought about was you and holding you and how we were going to get through this.

The concern was the DKA. You know that’s very serious, and can cause coma or even death. The nurses came in every hour and checked your pupils in your eyes to be sure you were okay, and you were.

Did they do lots of tests on me?

I think so. You had IVs in both your arms and both your legs, and they did come in periodically to check on things and run tests. I don’t know what they were for anymore. You were getting insulin in one of the IV’s, so I know they were checking your blood sugars to see if they were coming down. The heart rate monitor was still attached to you, which is normal, and they checked your blood pressure too. (I didn’t mention the mind-numbing screaming she did for hours, the next day, when her fatigue began to wear off and the insulin was making her better.)

Was O there?

He was with us in the ER until Nannie took him home. She brought him down to CHOP the next day to see us. (I know she can hear my voice, somewhat weakened by the memories. I didn’t tell her that her then 6-year-old brother asked me if she was going to die.)

And dad took him home?

Yes, dad took him home and took care of him while you and I stayed in the hospital. I know that was really hard for him, that he couldn’t stay with you. It was very hard for me, to be separated from O for 5 days. I worried about him too, because he was so small and he didn’t understand what was happening.

So then I got a pump?

No, not then. We had to start with shots, which you hated. It was really hard, V. You  were so little and you hated it all, and there’s really no reasoning with a 2-year-old. When I’d prepare the shot you’d run away from us. You’d refuse to eat, and spend half of mealtimes crawling around on the floor under the table. I’d follow you with the spoon too, begging you to eat. (She doesn’t remember any of this.)

You finally got your pump a year later. That was hard too – a new change to get used to. But it was the best thing, because we had so much more freedom and you didn’t have to eat on a schedule as much and your numbers were so much better controlled.

(I didn’t tell her that I hated how she would be tethered to a machine for her insulin. There would always be a site, and tubing hanging off of her, attached to a small box she’d wear in a pouch around her waist. How I hated that I couldn’t hold my baby girl without that “thing” being there, between us.)

Why do I have to have diabetes? Why doesn’t O have it?

I don’t know. There are many theories on why more and more kids are being diagnosed, but none are absolute. Many believe our environment is a huge contributor to this, and I think they’re right. But it’s also about some people having some sort of predisposition toward developing it. Some people have it, and some don’t. And I don’t even think the “experts” can explain that one. I wish I knew. I’m glad O doesn’t have it. But I also wish like crazy that you didn’t.

You would take it from me and have it yourself.

In a heartbeat.

There’s never going to be a cure.

I believe there will be. You know all those things they’re working on to make life better for type ones? There are also a lot of researchers working hard on that cure too. I believe we’ll get there. After all, someone discovered insulin, right? That means someone will find the cure, too. No matter how long it takes.