Things That Matter and Other Things

Today is Todd’s 51st birthday. I thought about writing a long post honoring him, but I think after the previous posts (see under “Love” tab above) it would be overkill and these days I’m feeling more private about “us,” which I’m sure makes everyone happier since people do get sick of hearing sappy and gushy love stories from middle-aged folks I think. So, let’s just say a BIG HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the love of my life and move on, shall we?

Thanksgiving came and went more smoothly than a Hallmark movie. Well, except that I almost burned down the house before we even finished cooking the second turkey  when one of the towels on the counter caught fire – but then it wouldn’t be a holiday without a little drama. The housecleaning was done the weekend before and I prepped all the food the day before with an actual list of what needed to be done when. This goes way beyond my usual capabilities, since I prefer a more by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach followed by a meltdown of hot stressy mess. I was inspired by a friend who takes organization to a diabolical level – which, for the record, I am in awe of – and now I’m feeling competitive over completing home projects, which is a good thing since we’ll actually be getting stuff done and even though she has no idea, it’s all thanks to HER.

Opac is finishing up his final days of his first semester – which definitely wins the prize for fuckery of the most epic kind. I took a photo of him and his roommate on move-in day and sent it to my mom with the caption, “taking bets on how long it’ll be before he’s smoking pot” (if you saw the roommate you’d fully understand). Little did I know.

When he returned to school from fall break, he ended up getting really sick. All upper-respiratory – really bad, persistent cough, headaches, and fever – the latter was what prompted him to call me and ask what he should do because his fever was 103. No mom 98 minutes away from her child wants to get this call. After I asked how he knew his temperature (there’s these strips they put on their tongue – he got one from a friend – and I’ve never even heard of this) I ordered him to get to an urgent care. Now.

Long story short, his friends took him – one of whom called me and told me they were in the car and on their way (my heart). I sat on the couch and waited. An hour or so later O called me and told me that he was given medication and was staying out of class the next day to rest.

A couple of weeks later… he called to tell me he was “not living in [his] dorm right now.” WHAT do you MEAN, you’re not living in your dorm right now?

Roommate has a big problem, apparently, with alcohol, marijuana, and keeping his hands off of my son’s throat. He has a knife collection he calls “tools” and plenty of vehicles by which to deliver marijuana to his internal organs. Opac asked him repeatedly not to smoke in the room.

Okay so now at this point I’m wondering how this kid was smoking in a freshman dorm and – let’s face it – that particular habit has a VERY distinct odor – how, just HOW has he not been caught? And then the flood of other concerns… like my son smelling like that, he could end up guilty by association or worse… and then all of that was shut down by “let me go there and put my hands on him” because that meme You hurt my son and I’ll make your death look like an accident suddenly felt like my theme song.

But. My son went to his RA and Resident Life and told them everything, including that the physical assault was a repeat offense (yeah, like WTF – he never told any of us) and he was moved to an “emergency room” in another hall, there was an investigation where of course they found nothing in a subsequent room search, and in the end O was moved to a new dorm with a new roommate. And all of this transpired with absolutely NO intervention by myself, Todd, or the ex. My kid HANDLED it. And I couldn’t be more proud.

And now for an illogical segue to The Black Handbag.

Back in Vegas, I saw a handbag in Michael Kors that I WANTED. At the time, my adoring and most wonderful husband told me to just buy it. But I’m practical, not to mention broke, so there is no justification for a $350 handbag unless it cleans the house, cooks dinner, and spontaneously refills itself with hundred dollar bills.

Anyway. Michael Kors + holiday season = 70% off sale (my favorite kind of math!) I told Todd. He again said, just buy it. (But also noted how fortunate I didn’t buy it in Vegas at full retail.) I waited several days, and then finally just did it. Meanwhile, V was texting me pictures (from her dad’s house) of Michael Kors boots and an MK backpack she wanted.

You know, when I was her age, I wanted clothes from The LIMITED and a Swatch watch…. none of which cost a car payment under the bridge of my parents’ incomes. What the hell with all these topline designers for teenagers?

I pointed out that she already has a Michael Kors backpack (from her dad – I’m not that crazy). Yes, but this one is black, she said. And then, you have more than one handbag (a remark aimed at my newest purchase, scheduled for delivery the next day). Deep breath. I am an adult and have a job. I don’t need to justify my purchases with anyone. Which, though it hardly matters anymore, was a regular expectation in my previous life.

She turned the conversation to the topic of another thing she wanted for Christmas – a mini-fridge. Not just any mini-fridge. This one is for makeup. What makeup needs to be stored in a mini-fridge? I asked. Different things, like skincare products and stuff, she said. Since when does this stuff need a refrigerator? It’s small. It sits on my dresser, she said, and it’s only $30. That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. And she got mad and said, fine! I’ll buy it myself.

The next day, when Todd picked her up from practice – and I have absolutely no idea how this conversation got started because I was at work minding my own business – she brought up the handbag I was getting and he gave her a mild-mannered talking to about the merits of being a grown-ass woman with a job and her own money to do with as she sees fit. Essentially I’m her mother and I do a lot for her and O, and I made sacrifices and I’ve worked hard and don’t I deserve to have nice things?

I don’t know all the details, but I do know that they drove along in silence until he pulled into the driveway and my delivery was on the front porch… and Little Miss Attitude with the unfortunate and entirely genetic defect of snarky spillage of the mouth noted…

and there’s the purse mom doesn’t need.

Poor Veruca. Now she made Todd mad. She spent the rest of the night in her room in self-imposed exile, wasn’t hungry, and didn’t want to talk.

The next morning she came into the kitchen and chipperly asked me if I was “so excited” about my new purse, with genuine interest and nary a twitch of sarcasm.

But she’s still not getting a duplicate MK bag.

Bad Mom

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Halloween night. Veruca didn’t want to go out, so she stayed home with me to hand out candy. And then she just watched from the window.

V warned me that her friends that live across the way had joked about ringing the door and dashing (these are the same 3 boys that raided my basket and replaced it with things they didn’t want a few years back) and she told me to NOT answer the door.

Now – let’s just take a minute to point out the obvious. If they dash, they don’t get candy. How dumb is that?

Anyway, I had the exterior camera (on my phone) with the intercom on when they showed up. For fun. They did not dash. They were polite and friendly. There were four of them, and only one lives here. I know him. I also know one of the other boys who used to be V’s crush.

So she’s hiding in hallway around the corner from the door, AS IF they don’t know this is her house. I asked them how they liked high school so far (they said it’s good) and told them to stay out of trouble tonight (with a smile). I closed the door behind me and they were halfway down the driveway when I said – out loud – ooh, Ava’s old crush was here! And no sooner had the words left my mouth that I realized I still had the phone in my hand and the intercom ON.

The aftermath wasn’t as violent as expected. She was instantly mortified, and ran over to the Mac on the kitchen counter and pulled up the Ring history. And saw the whole footage and my big mouth on the intercom. BUT. Those boys were halfway gone and talking to each other and not one of them turned around.

Still. She was furious. I know they didn’t hear me, but she was having none of my adult wisdom. She didn’t speak to me the rest of the night, the morning after in the car at the bus stop, or all weekend at her dad’s. (For the record, I did say goodnight to her and apologized for what happened.) Four days later, on the way home from her dad’s she said she knew I didn’t do it on purpose and she knew they didn’t hear me.

Midweek she mentioned that she wanted to make her dad an apple pie for his birthday and could I help her? Those of you who have been on the ride with me since 2011 might know what I wanted to say but didn’t actually say. Nevertheless, we didn’t really have time to go to the store and the next day I worked a 12-hour shift.

And then, around the 8th hour of my 12-hour shift, she called and asked me if I could pick up poster board (so she could make him something) and apples ON MY WAY HOME. I told her to ask Todd if he had posters – he’s an artist for God’s sake and has supplies for just about anything. And I also told her I’m not stopping after a 12-hour workday, at 8:30 or 9:00 at night. Not to mention that she wanted me to help her with the pie at that hour, too. A great big, Hell No.

Well, she didn’t ask Todd. And then Friday morning she asked me if he had any. Nevertheless, she came home from school and made that pie with the apples we already had. With the recipe I gave her. And, after a minor glitch with the crust process, it turned out fucking beautiful.

Now it’s Friday night, and I’m driving her and the pie to her dad’s house. She referenced a You Tube video she’d shown me and mentioned how she sent it to Opac. And then she said, I miss [him]. I knew she did, but hearing her say it really impacted me. I sometimes forget that she must miss his presence in the house, felt more acutely at home than at her dad’s (as he often didn’t go with her).

And I don’t know how this segued into the next slapdown but she started talking about him drinking and how she doesn’t like it and he shouldn’t be doing it and blah blah blah… and then she asked me if I would let him have alcohol at home if he asked for it. And I’m an idiot for even engaging in the conversation at all. I told her how I’d grown up – how at family holiday gatherings I was allowed to have wine with everyone else and it was no big deal. Controversial or not – I believe that it kept me from going apeshit over alcohol when I encountered it as a young adult. It was, to me, no big deal. (Never mind college – that’s a whole other conversation.)

Well, that’s illegal, she said. He’s not 21, she said. You shouldn’t be letting him have alcohol, she said. Would you let me have alcohol?

To be the devil’s advocate, I engaged. I never said I would pour him a glass of wine, but I said if he wanted one it would be no big deal. It would be because he was home, and staying home, and none of his friends were there. I said there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of wine. Well that’s wrong and you shouldn’t be letting him do that, she said. You could get arrested, she said.

At this point I was wondering where all this fuckery was coming from at the end of a very long week. She, like someone else in her family who shall remain nameless, is relentless in cross examination and accusations. I maintained a calm that did not reflect the fluctuation in blood pressure I was experiencing and played along (which, obviously, was the wrong thing to do) and then I was accused of being “like Nannie.” Being too much like my mother has never bothered me before, but now I have to wonder. What has she done that I don’t know about? Now I have questions.

And the whole conversation ended abruptly in her dad’s driveway and she announced that maybe she just wouldn’t come back home for Thanksgiving. Well, okay then. More wine for us!

 

 

*Disclaimer: I am in NO WAY advocating for or sponsoring underage drinking.

*Disclaimer: I am a lot like my mother. Except for those things she did that I don’t know about. I am not like that.

College Boy, High School Girl

It’s been 35 days, or 5 weeks. It already seems like forever. He checks in regularly – at least insofar as I hear from him every few days but not in a predictable way.

He has an on-campus job in, of all things, GROUNDS KEEPING. This is the same kid who mowed the lawn here no more than, twice.  He’s never weed-wacked anything. He doesn’t weed. And, he will be the one getting up at the ass-crack of dawn to clear snow from the sidewalks while everyone else is still sleeping. (To his credit, he has done this at home, though not before noon.)

He’s being courted by a fraternity and asked my thoughts on it. This has actually been an ongoing conversation. Todd, never “that” type of guy, didn’t even consider joining one. The “Dad,” who never even went to college, thinks it’s stupid. And then there’s me.

I do belong to a national sorority. It was a no-brainer for me, at a small college where I started – where nearly everyone went Greek. I explained to him my reservations about him pledging from a mother’s perspective, given all the media attention to bad behavior and some recent deaths in fraternities attributed to hazing. I explained that while you’re pledging, they essentially “own” your time – if a brother calls you up and says get over here and clean my toilet, you damn well better get over there. Make sure these are good guys. Make sure they share the same values. (Turns out he already learned all this on his own by asking them questions.)

They like him and really want him to join. Of COURSE they do. I reminded him about how intoxicating it is to be pursued by someone. He reminds them of an alum, he said, and told me he was blown away when he saw a picture.*

I mentioned more practical considerations, like financial and time commitment. And then I launched into all the good things. The camaraderie, support, having purpose through philanthropy, and of course the fun. How these men will be his brothers for life. Thirty years later, and I would trust my sisters with my life. No reservations. But I made sure to emphasize that it’s not the only choice, and it’s certainly not for everyone. (See? The Gemini speaks.)

He’s tasted alcohol. He’s been babysitter to his puking roommate, in a bathroom for two hours, the details such as vomit everywhere and calling for backup he left out but shared with his dad. This is the same kid who bolted out of the room like his ass was on fire when his sister went all exorcist at the other end of the couch. He doesn’t have the “stomach” for it, all the more notable since he never left his roommate’s side.

And, he is his mother’s son. Vodka straight is not what I’d recommend, and yet that is how he prefers it. Jeezus lord – I told him to mix it with something and make sure he’s guzzling plenty of water too. He said he does drink a lot of water. He’s had Jack Daniels. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Although he says beer still tastes like piss, which is par for the college course.

He’s trying to ignore hometown drama. Some of his friends here have accused him of being “too good” since he’s in college now, and it pisses him off. He acknowledged that they miss him and might be feeling abandoned because he’s not coming home on weekends, but they’re being ignorant about it. He consistently amazes me with his ability to see things and yet remain steadfast to his goals.

Academically, he’s doing fine. Learning how to manage his time, after saving all his homework and then spending ten hours on a Sunday. He called me on Monday to bitch about Spanish, how it’s total bullshit and I don’t want to take [expletive] classes that have nothing to do with my major. Haven’t we all felt that way? But in life, my love, there are things you’re going to have to do to achieve your goals. And sometimes in a JOB, you’re going to have to do things you really don’t want to do.

I saw him three weeks ago, because he needed his SS card to start his job and I had it. I realize that it was too soon, but it was necessary and I brought him some other things he’d forgotten. Plus, because he’s my baby boy, I brought him chicken from Royal Farms (he can’t get it there) and some Otterbein’s cookies.

What a thrill to sit across a table from him and see him. He had so much to share and he will never know how good it felt to be with him, even for an hour. It took all of my self-restraint not to reach out and grab him. I said, let me just look at you for a minute, before he got out of the car. He said, Mom, I’m fine. I think he thought I was going to cry. I totally wasn’t. I was fine. And I was ready for me to leave too.

~~~~~

High school is underway and in full force at day 24 … she’s got upperclassmen friends and plans for Homecoming. She got off the bus one day, talking-shouting at me about what kind of dress she needs for Homecoming and how she wants to get her hair done. The dress is already purchased and is hanging in the closet, picture day is tomorrow, and the yearbook email has arrived with the “lowest price ever” of $60. Which, seriously, IS the lowest I’ve seen in 5 years. O’s was $90. Good God, this girl is going to cost me a fortune.

She’s compared the Homecoming dress to the Prom dress and how they are NOT the same, and all I’m thinking is I sincerely hope no one asks her to the prom this year. She’s hoping someone will ask her to homecoming but that’s unlikely since she shot the poor kid down last year and I can’t even believe I’m talking about this because she’s only 14 and why do we have to live in drama all the time?

She’s got to be the most opinionated teenage girl ever. She knows Everything. Including stuff she doesn’t know but insists she does anyway. It’s maddening. Where did she learn to be so judge-y?? Oh wait – that apple didn’t fall far from the tree either. Not THIS tree, THAT tree. This one’s shorts are too short, that one is rude, [pick any random person] is wrong-wrong-wrong, O shouldn’t be drinking, his roommate is a bad influence, so-and-so doesn’t manage her diabetes very well, why are you having wine again?

Academics – in the midst of all the teenage noise – are going well for her so far. She continued Chinese studies for the first week – whined about how hard it was this year and how terrible the teacher was, and marched her tiny ass down to the guidance counselor and requested and was transferred to Spanish 1. At least she channels some of her moxie for useful things.

I am impressed and proud of how she has transitioned to young adulthood in the last several weeks. She manages her homework without being monitored, she gets herself up in the morning and is ready to go, and – the biggest one of all – she is managing her diabetes all by herself. She is changing her pump sets out By Herself. Completely. I am  mostly a spectator, and a constant nag to fill in her logbook (a work in progress).

How am I doing? These have been dreaded milestones for years – but I am feeling stable and not emotional about it. I’m not feeling the sadness in missing O. Probably because I’m constantly distracted by V’s whiplash brand of in-your-face moods, judgements, and admonitions.

Someone send me a forbidden cocktail.

 

*Being a bit nosy myself, I googled the fraternity and his college and found a pic of a group of guys and – as I looked closely – there he was. The alum who resembles O, and goddamn it IS uncanny.

 

 

18 and Life

I did a thing. I packed my 18-year-old up – the sum of his most important belongings stacked in the back of Todd’s Explorer – and together with my husband and daughter drove him to college. It’s been a long road to get here, a road I have long known was coming … some day. The impact of it first hit me over a year ago as I watched him during Senior picture day, and I sat in the high school auditorium surrounded by other students and parents fighting back tears and impending hysteria. The months to follow, he was driving independently and going places with friends and that, I think, allowed me to slowly let go.

I proudly made it through his graduation with only a few tears to dab away from the corners. I watched his friends (the closest of them graduated the previous year) rush the field and pick him up and tackle him, and it made my heart sing. The rest of the summer he spent on the go, with friends and occasional weekends with his dad.  And then the days sped up and the time became shorter.

One night several weeks ago he woke me around 1 a.m. with a hand on my arm, and I followed him out to the darkened living room. I won’t betray his trust by discussing details, but let’s just say he was holding a lot of anxiety and trepidation – as we all did in the days before we left home – and we had a long heartfelt talk. It meant the world to me that he came to me with this, proving that time changes little between a mother and son.

Those first moments I had alone with him, after everyone had gone home, were the moments that would bind us to each other for a lifetime.  The moments every mother never forgets – the first time you really see each other, where you stare into those tiny eyes studying the face he will never forget.  Where you hold him close to you and feel his tiny breath on your face and you whisper all the love and hope and longing you have for him.

It was only the two of us for four-and-a-half years; we joined the Mom’s Club together, and through him I met so many wonderful moms who remain my friends today. His arms and heart were always open – he reached for strangers to hold him and eagerly played with anyone who wanted to. He adored my brother, his uncle only 9 years older than he is, from the first day. He sat down and shared his dump truck with my grandfather, a man he’d only just met, and made my Old Paw’s year. One Christmas he climbed up on a recliner with my bemused uncle Barry and proceeded to remove his socks, handing them to him one at a time, so he could clean the lint out from between his little toes (a two-year-old’s favorite pastime).

His sweetness extended to friendships everywhere he went. I worried over him going to preschool, but he walked in the door and never looked back. He welcomed the new kid in kindergarten by showing him around the classroom. Years later, he did the same for a new girl their Junior year, because he didn’t want her to feel alone. His friends today count on him to be there, and often come to him for advice. He is passionate about justice, what is right, and treating people well.

We moved to Maryland in his 7th grade year, and he was apprehensive and more than a little scared. The day we enrolled him, I sat across the table from him and those same brown eyes that stared at me hours after he was born met mine with tears in them and it felt like I was punched. But it didn’t take very long for him to announce how happy he was to have moved here, and it reinforced what I already knew. He is resilient. He is strong. He is my son.

Two days before move-in day, I broke down and cried. Todd and Veruca weren’t shocked. I half-expected Todd to pull a tough love on me and tell me I can do this. But he didn’t. Instead, he took the day off to come with us, to support me and Opac. He even packed two boxes of tissues.

Move-in day is a well-oiled machine. There were two lanes of cars next to the dorm, where upperclassman volunteers descended on them, emptied the contents, and delivered them to his door. We found our way to the room and I started making up his bed. I needed to DO something to keep myself from jumping out of my skin. We met the roommate and his dad and sister, and at some point the two young men decided to head over to the student center and that was it. We walked around campus so Todd could see it. We passed O and his roommate, now with a young lady in tow, a handful of times. O gave us a jerk of his head in acknowledgement.

We sat in a group – Todd, V, her dad, and the roommate’s family – on the lawn of the quad and ate a picnic lunch prepared for the students and family. I watched O from afar – seated in a circle with new friends eating lunch – and skulked around trying to snap pics unnoticed. After, he walked over to us and we chatted up a bit before a flash mob of First Year Mentors (aka upperclass orientation leaders) broke into the Git Up dance and I watched his eyes light up. His eyes met mine and I knew it was time.

We walked him back to his dorm room and hung out a bit in the cool air conditioning. I don’t remember what we talked about. V sat on his bed next to him and I snapped a few photos of them. She looked so much older suddenly. She’d been mistaken for a freshman earlier in the day, and now I could fully see it. We didn’t stay for the Opening Convocation. I knew it was time.

We made the move to leave, and I walked up to him and hugged him, and he lifted me off my feet – something he likes to do every now and then to remind me he can pick me up now. My heart overflowed. He hugged V and for the first time in forever she didn’t pull away. I met those eyes one more time and smiled my most deceitful, nonchalant, and bravest smile, walked out the door, and that was it.

The tears pushed through as I felt my composure slipping away. I hurried down the stairs with my sunglasses on before we even reached the outside. I gripped Todd’s hand until we were well past campus, on our way back to the farthest parking lot, where we said goodbye to V and her dad. I was fine. I was fine until we got about 20 minutes into the drive and then all bets were off. You know how hard it is to hold in a really ugly cry?

I volleyed between tears and nausea the rest of the day. I had no appetite. The physical feelings that accompanied this are familiar. It feels like a breakup. My heart feels so heavy and my stomach is in knots. Where you know you are grieving and that there is only ONE thing that is going to make the pain stop. But you aren’t going to get it.

I have to walk through. It is the mantra I use for all things difficult and painful and challenging – that one cannot run away from it, one must Walk Through. It is how we become stronger and capable and successful. What I told O that night in the living room.

Veruca, for her part, is acting all, whatever, about this. She quietly accompanied us and didn’t complain about anything. I was too focused on staying calm to notice at the time. But she has to be feeling something. This brother of hers has loved her from the day she was born, although the love looks a bit different nowadays with the capriciousness of teenaged emotions. Still, when V called me at work yesterday morning crying about her laundry, I knew it wasn’t really dirty clothes she was upset about.

Mom called me Thursday afternoon, knowing from my silence that it was comfort I most needed. And then she hit a curb because she was driving and cut a corner too tight in her new car, and exclaimed “shit!” and there was my comic relief. Sometimes success is finding laughter through the tears. I spent the rest of that day on the couch. I fell asleep early. Mom texted me around 10 saying, and I quote, “& DO NOT go into his room & smell his sheets you!!” And I had to laugh out loud, because it was too late.

So today is day 3. Todd and I had a cookout to go to last night after work – former colleagues of his from the old college that I had never met and I dreaded it. I was still feeling raw and just wanting to Velcro myself to his side. I wasn’t sure I was up for being my social self. But I did it.

~~Walk Through~~

I had a glass of wine and got to talking to some people and Todd was somewhere else and I was completely comfortable in my skin again. I sat outside in the beautiful night air that has turned pleasantly cool after a wicked thunderstorm the previous night and listened to these folks banter with one another and found myself laughing like an old friend. Damn Todd for knowing what’s good for me sometimes. And then the totally unexpected happened.

My butt started vibrating. My cell phone was in my back pocket. And ya’ll know who it was.

My baby. Calling me from a lull in the evening to say hi and tell me how great things are going. How he picked up his books and he was featured on an Instagram post from his department. And there it is – the heart swelling with pride, healing, growing, and knowing what I’ve always known. He’s going to be fine. And so am I.

 

I’m So Chill

Trigger Warning: Parenting a teenage girl. **Do not read if you are considering having a teenage girl.

Veruca reached a milestone this year. She was promoted from middle school last night, and in a few short months will be a high school freshman. I’ve been more or less indifferent to this particular passage, being otherwise distracted by Opac’s High School Graduation, which commandeered a herculean effort to maintain emotional composure. (More on that in another post.)

Veruca has finally mastered the magnet-to-drama test. Obviously this isn’t exactly a newsflash, if you’ve read any of my previous posts from the last 8 years. But the 8th Grade Social took us to a new level of drama and now I know why my mom always laughed at me and it wasn’t just because she was probably high.

Mom and I took V on her annual birthday shopping trip a few weeks ago, to King of Prussia. I grew up shopping there – the Plaza and the Court – which have evolved into an impressive and massive complex of stores. We spent SIX HOURS shopping. The stamina gene for this has clearly skipped a generation, because the two of them wore me out. Like, panting outside of stores, worn out. Like, I need a wheelchair, worn out. I was posting to Facebook pleading for reinforcements. All I had was iced tea, because I still had to drive home – as it turned out – in rush hour.

V likes clothes, shoes, accessories, Bath & Body Works, and makeup. We were also on the hunt for a dress for this Social/Dance, which I suggested we start with but no one listened to me. Side note: the principal send an email blast a while back advising parents that there was no need to go out and buy a fancy dress. Well, let me tell you, there’s a new generation of kids growing up who are rapidly devaluing the long-traditional rites of passage like “prom” and “graduation.” Freakin middle school girls are wearing PROM GOWNS to a social in the cafeteria. Uh, and then there’s the 8th grade Promotion dress. (For perspective, O wore shorts and a t-shirt to his 8th grade Promotion.)

Anyway. SIX HOURS of shopping in I-lost-count stores and NO DRESS. She spent hours online looking at dresses. I ended up ordering her a RTR* dress, which she said to order and then when it arrived she didn’t really like it and apparently Faith, one of her many middle school fashion consultants, told her it looked like an old lady dress. The next two days were filled with drama over this dress and with 24 hours to go I said, I really don’t care if you wear it or not. I don’t care.

The day of the dance she was STILL not ready after two and a half hours. She was still fussing over her hair. She was still bitching about the dress. But after I VERY nonchalantly told her, fine don’t wear the dress, and did NOT react to her drama, she ended up wearing the dress. I buttoned her up. She disappeared into her room and a few minutes later came out and asked me to button it again.

What did you do that I have to button this again? Nevermind.

Then her shoes were already hurting her feet and did I have some flats she could borrow? I don’t own dressy flats. She went into my closet with me and pulled out a pair of jeweled BCBG sandals I’d gifted myself on my birthday the year of the divorce. I told her they don’t match her dress, and she’s NOT wearing them. (She’s clutzy sometimes and I pictured these shoes coming back to me, straps broken.)

Fine, I’ll just have to wear my shoes and my feet will just have to hurt all night. Yep. (At this point she commented that obviously I don’t care that her feet will hurt.)

Then she complained about her pump*, so I told her to put the clip on it and clip it to the back of her dress. We did that, and I noticed one of the buttons I literally just buttoned was missing. Okay so now maybe I’m not quite so calm anymore. I went into her room, carpeted with every piece of clothing she owns, and started picking them up one-by-one looking for this tiny, fabric button and cursing under my breath.

Meanwhile, it dawned on me that it likely popped off when she bent to buckle her shoes – where did you put on your shoes? I don’t know. What do you mean “you don’t know?” Big dramatic sigh. In the kitchen. And lo and behold, there it was, under the chair. And THEN I had to sew the button back on while she’s in the dress and I prayed like hell I wouldn’t stab her with the needle. I was SO pissed off at her and all the bullshit I actually told her I didn’t care if she even went to this dance.

And THEN… it’s too late now to get to Reena’s for pictures and OMG she told Mel that we’d give her a ride to the dance (news to me)… and I told her to call and find out. It wasn’t too late. I was glad because I wanted to get pictures, which is when she flipped out and told me I wasn’t getting out of the car. Bwahahaha! Like HELL I’m waiting in the car. None of the other parents will either, but she doesn’t believe me until we get there and by the time we get to Reena’s back yard she is all angelic smiles and sweetness and I have whiplash.

The next morning we get up early to drive to her dad’s house and she wakes up nastier than a rattlesnake. As she storms out the door, Todd asks if she’s getting her period. Okay so – before ya’ll get your panties twisted – my husband is NOT a chauvinistic pig and it was a joke meant for me only, as we often share wildly inappropriate jokes between us and ya’ll can’t deny you’ve done it too. Nevertheless, he walked me out to the car where she was already sulking in the passenger seat, wished me a fun ride, and I fake-wailed as he hugged me goodbye.

I get into the car and, I heard what he said and IT’S NOT FUNNY, she hissed at me. It was a joke, V, and I’m sorry if it upset you. Well, IT DID. Three beats of silence… and you better not tell him when I get my period because it’s none of his business. Pulling away from the house: I would never do that and besides, He Doesn’t Care. Yes you would – I know how you are. You’re right – I’m gonna put up a big sign in the front yard so all the neighbors know.

That apparently wasn’t funny either and she went ballistic. As IF. I’m finding that my new milestone is a sense of humor over teenage drama – which is probably just a combination of don’t GAF and pure survival.

The conversation turned to college – how she wants to go to Columbia and she guesses she won’t be able to go there because it’s too expensive, and I mentioned scholarships. You probably think I’m too dumb to go there. And I’m too dumb to get scholarships. Smelling a trap – I tell her that that’s just silly, and that I believe in her. It didn’t work. She’ll just have to go to a State school and apparently I think O is smarter than her (because he’s going to a private college) and I’m going to make her go to community college. (This is a very sensitive statement that has taken an ugly turn and I refuse to engage.)

She was clearly in a very dark mood and she was unable to gauge the reach of her daggers at this point. I will not post what she said. But take note: I did not engage. I just answered her with a level of calm reserved for stoners and that’s when she said it.

What’s WRONG with you?

What’s wrong with ME? (incredulous expression)

Yeah. You’re so…CHILL.

I say nothing, because – I’m so wrong.

And I. Don’t. Like. It.

I’m Chill, and it’s wrong.

Mom – 1

Veruca – 0

 

 

*RTR = Rent the Runway. Used for most of my events where I need a dress. Highly recommend. Designer gowns those of us could never afford to buy, that will make you feel fabulous for a night and guaranteed to bring loads of compliments from complete strangers.  (I’m not being paid for this endorsement, but would gladly accept a free rental from them.)

*Pump = Insulin pump.

 

 

 

 

I Bought An Indoor Plant & Life Goes On

I did. I haven’t had a true indoor plant since I killed the last one in over 7 years. I say “true” because I do occasionally keep a basil plant inside, until summer, unless it dies before I can move it outside. I have one presently, and it’s still alive so – so far so good. I also currently have the rosemary plant that I brought in for the winter, but those things have to be supernatural because I had a rosemary plant years ago that I left outside all year long; it turned brown and dry – all the symptoms of a dead plant – and then bounced back like it had nine lives.

Anyway. It’s a palm. I saw it and thought – yes! We need plants in the house. I won’t say why we haven’t had them for so long, but it’s not just because I’m a serial plant killer. Veruca saw it and exclaimed, wow! Because it’s way bigger than it looked at the store. And then she said in all seriousness, don’t kill it, mom. And then she said she can’t wait until it drops coconuts. It’s not that kind of palm, but she wasn’t hearing it. Kind of like when she says she’s Chinese even though it’s plainly obvious she has not one percent of Asian in her.

I’m trying to find the emotional balance again. The grief hits me from time to time, when the thought drops like an empty bomb, clearing the hollow of my stomach and reminding me of his absence, and that it is permanent. The stages of grief always catch me by surprise, you know? Like they talk about the stages and it’s like yeah, yeah, that’s what they say. But it’s real. I found myself feeling something other than sadness when I saw others’ posts of their cats. WHY OLIVER?

Anyway, I am busying myself with completing the tasks of tidying, a la Marie Kondo. I have packed up 12 boxes of miscellania and 7 bags of clothing to be donated to Purple Heart. I organized the junk drawer, and the kitchen cabinets are shaping up slowly. No – I’m not following her program to a “t.” But I’m getting the job done and it’s bringing joy.  I folded my clothes Kondo-style and my drawers look like a work of art and I can’t stop opening and closing them. I did Todd’s too – would you believe he owns 78 t-shirts? SEVENTY EIGHT. I told him no one can use that many t-shirts. And this was after we purged some. And then went out shopping and doesn’t he buy 3 more? So that ups the count to 81. (And no – I did NOT buy him a t-shirt at Opac’s college a few weeks ago. Sue me.)

Anyway, emotional balance. I go to work and it’s pleasant and we laugh a lot (well, except for the absurd. More on that later).  At home, this perimenopause business makes me edgy and impatient. It’s probably partly because we have a canine houseguest, and he’s big and hairy and licks his paws. A few people know this makes me absolutely nuts. There’s hair everywhere, something I am not fond of and one reason why poodles are perfect. It’s no secret I have a threshold for tolerance when it comes to changes in the household dynamic.

Other things that make me stabby: slow internet connection, parents who think the student drop-off rules don’t apply to them, really – anyone who thinks the rules don’t apply to them, someone throwing a cigarette out their car window at the grocery store, and everyone who continually undermines my Kondo house. On a larger scale, the horrific lack of justice in the world and the fact that it’s not illegal for evil people to reproduce.

So I’m focusing on my own habits and making healthy changes. I’m back on the self-imposed wagon again, and truth be told: your body will tell you what you need and what you don’t, IF you pay attention. I have a story about that too, for another day.

I have breakfast quinoa simmering on the stove this morning. I made $80 hummus yesterday. It’s $80 because we had to buy a food processor on Sunday (old one crapped out months ago). I started a new 21-day exercise program because I am almost-50-going-on-25 in my head and my body is all like, hey, feel this.  I took a bikini pic yesterday and recorded my weight and intentions in my journal. It’s only 3 weeks. I can do this.

V is running a 5k in a few weeks, and I was aiming to run it with her. Or, rather, at the same time – since she doesn’t think we can keep the same pace. And she’s right. At this point I am not ruling it out, but I’m also not very optimistic about my knees holding up.

In spite of all the dumbfuckery of the present day, Todd and I have confirmed plans for New York and Phantom of the Opera, another trip to Erie for the State Bowling Tournament, and Vegas over the summer, coinciding with the National Bowling Tournament – because, apparently, very little happens without bowling balls. And, to that end, let me say now that also apparently – in case you didn’t know – all balls are not created equal. This was born of a conversation with Todd about how many balls he needs for the tournament, and the answer is four. He needs four balls. Seriously. Because all balls are not created equal. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

The Absurd (as promised)

*These can also be classified under the “what not to do” tab.

People going through divorce are not normal. (I can say this because I was once one of them and fully understand the crazy.) Sometimes mothers call up tearfully sharing their shitstorm. Others, like the one a couple of weeks ago, forget their manners when they come into the office and turn on us – like, “why don’t you use your knowledge and figure it out?” while attempting to get her child an appointment for “she-doesn’t’-know-what.” (Oh yes, she did.) *For the record, she later called and apologized.

There are also – and this is a fun one – a handful of acrimonious parents who spend their time transferring their kids to other practices, while the other parent is trying to keep them in our office.

What not to do: do not involve us in your custody disputes. Unless there are court documents on file, there is nothing we can do.

Patients in the 16-17 range who arrive for appointments alone. FYI: children under 18 need a parent with them, or at the very least, parental consent to be there alone, and not all offices will even allow that. This situation requires us to call parent and get a verbal, taking up valuable time for other things and not to mention the amount of time said patient is with the provider.                                                                                                           

What not to do: Do not send your minor child to the doctor’s office alone.   I’m all for leading them down the path of adult responsibility, but at least accompany them for it.

And now, my personal favorite:

Parent who calls our office for an appointment Today. Today translates as a “sick” appointment. Child has not been seen in our office. I ask if we have records (this is a requirement to schedule any kind of appointment, as well as what insurance they have and whether or not they have to choose a PCP, which is a whole other story for another time), which is when I find out that child is a patient of another office in our network. I mention this to the parent, as well as the fact that I can see he is scheduled for a well appointment there in less than two weeks (which is going to matter A LOT as the conversation continues).

It is the parent’s responsibility to call the other office and cancel that appointment and inform them they’d like to transfer to our office.* The other office doesn’t “give good service.” I say I’m sorry that he had this experience, but reiterated what I said above. He was surprisingly NOT HAPPY with my response. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t go to any location in the network whenever he wanted; I explained that while we are all connected, we operate as separate offices. That’s when he said this was “like a scene from a socialist movie,” and I have a limited knowledge of political ideologies but I think he might have gotten this one wrong?

*Turns out he wanted a Well appointment not a sick appointment. Currently, well appointments are out at least 3 months, which is why it makes more sense for him to keep the one he already has. It also turns out that the other office doesn’t give good service because he wanted one sooner than that two-week one he already had.

What not to do: Oh my, where to start? Expecting the rules to be changed for you? (see my earlier stabby-trigger) Being rude? 

 

Valentine’s Day and 100 Days to Go

giphy

I read an article about all the things you should and shouldn’t do when you’re over 40. Exercise every day, but not too much. Don’t eat the junk food that sustained you in your 20s. Your body doesn’t like it. Don’t drink too much. Apparently your body doesn’t like that either. Make sure you get enough rest, but not too much. Don’t stare at your cell phone before bed… it affects melatonin. Sex is important. Spend time with your friends. But not while having sex. Well, unless that’s how you roll, but that’s none of my business.

Let’s see how we’re doing so far in 2019: Um, 1) not so good 2) reasonable food choices 3) failed 4) mostly 5) failed 6) none of your business and 7) yes. I can’t speak for Todd.

The T ~n~ T house hosted two parties the last weekend in January. The first was Opac’s… a crowd of about 17 downstairs playing pool, poker, and darts, and standing around the firepit outside. I stayed upstairs in the living room, stone cold sober, and watching The Real Housewives of New Jersey because I’m a classy bitch. Todd left the house for his usual bowling night. I finally broke out the wine around 11:30 as most of them were dispersing.

The following night was our quarterly poker party that in its infancy began as a group of about 6 guys, with beer and brats, pulled pork, and buffalo chicken dip. It has grown to a mixed crowd of about 22 including spouses and children, only a handful in the poker game and the rest playing pool and darts. Because I grew up “in the business,” I put out a spread I slaved and worried over all day and felt was adequate, and then was surprised that anyone was impressed.

Side note: Cards Against Humanity – Funniest. Game. Ever. Make sure you are properly sauced and have emptied your bladder. This is not for the faint of heart and definitely NOT for children. Shout out to Jonathan for knowing exactly how to entertain me.

Got my first round of injections in my L4-5 and L5-S1 which, I later learned, was a “test run.” WTF?? I woke up 5 days after with pain topping a seven, and Todd said, oh yeah, it’s been five days, right? That’s good – that means it worked. And I said, what do you MEAN, “it worked?” I repeat, W.T.F.

I’m going back next week to repeat it bilaterally, and then the week after to burn the nerves. Injections in the spine must be horrible, you say? Not so much. No one is more surprised than I am, that I have willingly submitted myself for injections ANYWHERE. No one likes needles, but when I was young I took it to a new level.

I’ve stopped wearing heeled shoes/boots. I’ve been wearing flat shoes or sneakers in an effort to curb some of the more intense pain. This new development for me is temporary, I assure you. My love affair with a chunky heel will not be curbed by back pain, numb toes, or my husband’s height.

Social life continues. Todd overbooked us last weekend and I spent the better part of Friday at work trying not to resent him focus on the lack of rest I was staring down over the next two days.

Friday night is always bowling night. It depends on my work schedule and my level of fatigue, whether I go with him. Last week I did. Friday morning he had “reminded” me of the tournament Saturday night that he’d never told me about. Saturday afternoon was a long-planned meetup with friends in Federal Hill to watch the Bayern soccer game. Which was great. We ate Schnitzel fingers and drank Stiegl Grapefruit Radler (light, refreshing, 2% alcohol).

We came home and rested a whole twenty minutes before we had to leave to meet friends for dinner an hour and a half away, before the tournament. Which, by the way, is roughly an hour and 45 minutes from home. The tournament is held in a firehouse bowling alley that has to be the only place north of Alabama that still allows smoking in the bar. But the drinks are cheap and the bartenders friendly. I was everybody’s drink bitch, since I was only spectating. We got home sometime around 12:30 a.m.

Sunday was a Dean-and-Mrs day; the college had an afternoon of music and fine arts presented by the faculty in Todd’s division. The music was great, but I was thoroughly distracted by the musicians’ shoes. Have you ever looked at musicians’ shoes? This led me down the rabbit hole of my thoughts until I was snapped out of my reverie by a lingering, and particularly foul, fart. What is WRONG with people?

Another weekend is approaching and there is a fundraiser that involves bowling and so here we go again. Somehow bowling has become my life and I don’t even bowl. Years ago I tried to make it fun, hanging out with the other bowlers and drinking, and cheering when they’d strike, which apparently is not something you do so I’ve learned to curb my enthusiasm and just stick to drinking.

****

Meanwhile, today – 100 days before my 50th birthday – is Valentine’s Day. Veruca was buzzing last night with the glow only a 13-year-old can have… hoping her crush would finally ask her out today. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I’d bet my life he isn’t going to be thinking, it’s Valentine’s Day, I think I finally have the balls to ask her out.

Back in school I remember Valentine’s Day carnations… white, pink, or red… available to buy and send to whoever you wanted… and the hoping against hope that you’d get one. And I’m not talking about Todd. Valentine’s 1986 – I filled his VW bug with balloons that blew all over the school parking lot when he opened the door. I gave him cards. He gave me cards, a heart-shaped box of chocolates, a tiny bottle of his cologne, and a pink gold heart necklace. I tried to give him something else but – relax Dad – he didn’t take it.

I’m refocusing my energies on goals in the coming year. Not the least of which is writing that damn novel. There – I said it. Accountability is a thing, right?

 

Miscellaneous:

There is no vaccine for the stomach virus. (Oh yes, they did.)

If you’ve ever wondered if your hippie parents still smoke grass, the answer is yes. Also, if you walk into their house at the right moment, expect to be accosted with pleas to “just smell” this peanut butter cracker.

Leopards don’t change their spots. Shame on you for believing those days might finally be over. (Those unfamiliar: I’ll elaborate in another post, once I recover from the whiplash.)

 

 

 

Middle Age Shenanigans

A couple of weeks ago Todd told me we were invited to a party by one of his former colleagues. He told me it was the coming Saturday. That I heard clearly. Short notice – no big deal. My visceral reaction was more akin to, ah man, do we HAVE to? Contrary to popular opinion, I tend sometimes to lean closer to introvert. But he said something about it being a taco party and so I thought, I’m in!

[We interrupt this blog post with an over-the-shoulder conversation with him about what he should do with himself today, but he’s talking slowly because he just took an HCTZ pill – which is new – and he’s slurring his words just a little and giggling like a chimpanzee.]

So the day before this supposed event I asked him what time we’re supposed to be at this Taco Party, and he said it’s not a taco party, it’s an 80s party. Turns out, when he first mentioned the party, I heard taco instead of Paco – the hostess’s husband’s NAME.

So much for my claim that I do listen to him. Clearly evidence that he was right – that I don’t. But for what it’s worth, I’m easily squirrel! distracted.

However, HE had the date wrong. Because with my question he decided to open the invitation and it turns out it’s a few weeks out. So, plenty of time to plan an outfit for a decade I’d sooner forget the looks of. Millennials!

I have 126 days until I kiss my fourth decade goodbye. 126 days until I’m officially a half-century old – older than what I thought was old when I was 10. 126 days away from invitations from the AARP and the colonoscopy clinic. Good times ahead!

[Singing, All we are saying, give peace a chance… cough, cough, hack. Maybe he’ll fall asleep for an hour so I can finish this post.]

Todd has already crossed the bridge overlooking the Golden years. And with that, last week at the grocery store a revelation that what’s great about being over 50 is that you no longer give a shit what people think of you. Because he decided to return the shopping cart to the inside of the store once we unloaded, and he as he did… he let go the cart with a gentle push, raised his arms slightly and said, “currrrrrrling….” (Lady behind him sniggled to herself as she passed.)

Middle Age definitely has its merits. We have many adventures to look forward to and more than a few necessary medical screenings to run from, or face with the tenacity of a honey badger, or a sense of humor and a pen to write it all into a future blog post.

Todd has this penchant for turning everything I say into a song. I just announced that it’s 1:00 already.

[It’s one o’clock on a Saturday…and Tara is writing her blog…] a la Piano Man

HCTZ, by the way, has quite a few unpleasant side effects, twenty of which are related to sexual function. (Okay maybe not twenty.) I don’t remember if impaired judgement is one of them, but he’s over there looking at cars for sale again and decided aloud that

[She’s writing about me and I think it is fine, as she gets everything off of her mind…]

he doesn’t want another Explorer, because this car here is a great deal for the price. A Ferrari. I told him that’s perfect. It will go well with the loss of erection and sexual function from the medication he took today.

I’m thinking it’s going to be a long weekend.

 

 

Just Another Thursday Morning

Opac and Veruca were getting ready for school this morning and Todd was cooking bacon and sausage for a breakfast meeting. I’m still trying to ward off the alien invader who made my lip swell up. V has a presentation in Chinese today, so she wanted to practice with us. It sounded great to me – even though I don’t understand a word of it – and I’m still marveling at how well she’s doing with it, since Chinese can be difficult to learn.

Opac stepped up and said it was his turn, said “ni hao” and followed up with “Shanghai, Hong Kong, egg foo young…” at which point I started cracking up…”fortune cookie always wrong!”

He was bumbling his way around the house this morning, first kicking the step stool and startling me. He said, that’s what happens when a steel-toed boot hits a metal stool. Because today he’s wearing shit-kickers. A few minutes later I heard the toilet lid crash down, and from down the hall I heard, “I’m good!” Apparently he caught his boot on the lid, and I just don’t even want to know how that happened. For a brief moment I had a flashback to Neph who, you may recall, I once said Neanderthal’s his way through life.

While I’m marveling at how my daughter is speaking Chinese, I’m beginning to marvel at who-T-F this boy is living in my house. He’s evolving again, from video-gaming, rap-music-loving sport dude to this man wearing cowboy boots or shit-kickers, jeans and flannels, and now listening to ….. country music. It’s all good, just never saw the country music thing coming. Although, to say he doesn’t have an appreciation for all kinds of music would be disingenuous. He likes rock, metal, and reggae too.

He’s a young adult now. His newfound freedom of driving has boosted his confidence to get out and do stuff. He called me at work the other day to tell me, breathlessly, that he drove himself to get a haircut – which in itself must have felt very liberating but was ruined by some “hick” who appeared out of nowhere on his bumper and [likely scared the bejesus out him] pissed him off. I’m thinking, given his penchant for flannel and boots and while driving a 1990 Ford pickup, that he should limit his use of the word, “hick.”

He played me a song called Pickup Man and now I can’t get it out of my head. Not that, or the sound of him singing, you can set my truck on fire and roll it down a hill… and I still wouldn’t trade it for a Coup de Ville… and now I hate my life. Okay, not really. I think it’s hilarious, especially when he told me that Mason got him into country music and when he asked him to send his MP3 list, Mason sent each song separately. Can’t help but wonder how this trend will evolve next year when he’s at college with a whole new set of friends he hasn’t met yet.

I never liked the music my parents listened to, growing up. My mom and stepdad made me and a cousin see Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers at the Valley Forge Music Fair when I was in high school. I hated the idea from the get-go. The worst part – the seats were split up so Jimmy and I sat in one section, and Mom and George sat in another section. But guess what? Though I wasn’t about to tell them, it was a fantastic concert. First, Ziggy sounded like the ghost of his father, and Rita was just breathtaking. Second, it was constructed as a theater-in-the-round with a revolving stage so that there were no bad seats. It was hard NOT to be engaged in the show.

In high school I listened mostly to pop music, except when I was riding in Todd’s car with Dokken and Bon Jovi just beginning to effect what is now hearing loss. So there you have it Todd – you can’t get mad at me for not hearing you, because it’s all your fault I can’t hear!

In college, my first roommate turned me on to INXS and REM, and at my then-boyfriend’s frat house I picked up rock and metal music. One of my sorority sisters played Meatloaf at a dorm party once and now I never turn the dial when Meatloaf comes on. Friends at another fraternity used to play Werewolves of London, and it had other connotations I’d rather not disclose but I still can’t hear that song without thinking of them.

When I moved to New York, my new roommate turned me on to alternative music – New Order, Depeche Mode, the Cure – and one of my suite-mates interned at Elektra and so I came by quite a few cassette tapes of these and other, what SiriusXM now calls, First Wave artists. Conversely, I turned my roommate on to club music.

I used to listen to the country station driving to and from the kids’ preschool – and  a number of favorites are still on the playlist today. I listen to Eminem, mostly but not only, because of Opac. I appreciate the beat of some rap tunes, but not all. Classical music was never my thing at all. I tried to, I really did, thinking it would make me more cultured. But instead it either put me to sleep or made me laugh at someone who did (true story).

Todd’s music tastes – as evidenced by his playlist – run the gamut. This would have surprised me 30 years ago, just like imagining him as a college professor. He’s still HIM, but he’s evolved a lot since those motorhead metal days.

Especially after what he did at the grocery store last week.

Where I’ve Been: December, By the Weeks

Week 1

The second week of Secret Santa, and my person is someone with whom I work closely. So I had a small poinsettia for her. It’s kinda hard to hide a plant. So I arrived purposely early, parked the car, and saw her pulling in. Shiiiittt!!! I jumped out of my car and made a run for the door, hoping she didn’t see me. A half hour later she said to me, why were you running across the parking lot? I simply said, I had to pee. End of story.

Saw a urologist for what appears to be an ongoing issue with no obvious etiology. I gave up some bodily fluids at the appointment and he ordered a CT urogram. Two days later I went for an MRI and x-rays of my lower spine for the ongoing back and SI joint pain.

Veruca’s Christmas concert. A dreaded event held in the gym/auditorium where the air is stagnant and we’re all squashed in there like sardines. At least this time the only male leg touching mine belonged to my husband. This poor kid got the solo – Elvis’ Blue Christmas – complete with leather jacket and hair slicked back, and heaven help me I tried like hell to suppress my laughter, which is no easy task. It was awful, and I felt sorry for him to be singled out that way at this age.

Todd’s 50th birthday party. I did this thing, and ran like a maniac picking up food/supplies and texting guests and it was a huge success even though I bagged one of the main courses 15 minutes after the first guests arrived because I’d run out of time. Roughly 40 people came to celebrate Todd’s half-century and no one missed the chicken dish.

Week 2

Work Christmas party/brunch. Same location and the food was fabulous. This is Southern Chester County, Pennsylvania, known for its mushrooms, and the mushroom soup was velvety smooth with bits of mushrooms and killer. We started the Secret Santa reveal and the person I was sure had me didn’t. And then my second guess was wrong too. Eventually we got down to the last two, and the last two standing were ME and MY person. We had a great laugh over that.

Back to the neurosurgeon’s office to review the MRI. Mild degenerative changes with stenosis at L4-5; no nerve root impingement. Minimal disc bulge at L3-4. I don’t know what any of this means other than that it’s likely to get worse, if it’s anything like what happened in my neck. I also found out I have levoscoliosis from the x-ray. Sounds awful, but I don’t believe this is a new condition, just one that was never diagnosed.

Saturday morning I went for the CT urogram which was no big deal until the needle wasn’t placed well and slipped when I raised my arms over my head, and then my arm started filling with contrast. The technician checked it out, asked if I was okay, and then went to get the radiologist to check it. In the two minutes it took for him to come in, I had a lump the size of a tangerine in my right arm and excruciating pain. As in, I don’t want to breath, painful. Wouldn’t expect that to be painful but, damn.

Week 3

Uneventful, except for Opac finally taking and passing his driver’s test. He’s now a licensed driver and I’m officially in need of more anxiety meds. He took the truck out to literally drive up the street to his friend’s (who’s home from boot camp), but he was excited and anxious and it was cute.

Week 4

Sunday we celebrated my father-in-law’s birthday – just the kids and us, Neph, and Nephtoo. Brunch at their house and we picked up a cake at Costco on the way, and Todd bought me the Snoopy book. Sqweee!!

Worked a half-day Christmas Eve, and it wasn’t terrible. I went to the grocery store which was a Really. Bad. Idea. I was so overwhelmed by the zoo in there I bought everything BUT what I’d originally gone in for.

Christmas dinner with mom at her house. Stuffed pork chops and steamed veg and a wedge salad. My mom can cook, yo. We prepared in the restaurant kitchen. I made the wedge salad. It looked so bad I’d have been fired the first night. But it tasted great, and that’s all that matters.

Went to see Jason Momoa – er, I mean, Aquaman. I liked it. All you 80s kids – Dolph Lundgren is in it too, though I didn’t know it until the credits rolled. Amber Heard played the love interest… who I’d never heard of before she was embroiled in that ugly divorce with Johnny Depp. She’s very pretty, of course. I’ve decided I want to color my hair that orange.

District Court. Finally the Mustang killer had her day in court, gambling on getting off because most likely the cop who gave her the citation wouldn’t show up, which he didn’t. But I DID. When the judge asked her what happened, she said, “I didn’t see them.” THEM. I’m a them, ya’ll. She pleaded guilty, and I walked out of there with tears in my eyes. And then Todd took me out for sushi and Pad Thai and all was well with the world again.

Friday night I had the house to myself, so I watched The Book Club and Ellen’s stand-up on Netflix, and cracked open a bottle of wine. Oliver kept refilling my glass and so I say it’s his fault I finished the bottle.

The rest of the weekend was a rollercoaster of high and low… dinner out with friends, and the next morning I was on my way to PA to say goodbye to my grandmother. Not the best way to go out, but she lived to 93 and has wanted to die for the last 10 years. She passed a few hours after we left.

New Year’s Eve. Worked a full day where I became convinced “they” were trying to kill me. There’s no way to count the number of calls I answered, but I can tell you by the end of the day the cartilage in my ears was sore from my headset (WHICH I only put on to answer calls, mind you). There’s a lot of sick kids out there, ya’ll. This week’s special: bad cough, ear aches, and vomiting.

NYE dinner at home with Todd and a bottle of Wente Cabernet, asleep FIFTEEN minutes to midnight.

Miscellaneous:

Jason Momoa was Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones. Like so many others, it was a short-lived role but one that left an indelible mark on many women. He’s married to Lisa Bonet (of Cosby Show fame); he once told his mother while watching her on TV as a child, “I’m going to marry her.” He’s 39, just 9 years older than his stepdaughter, Zoe Kravitz. Dolph Lundgren is 61.

For what you might consider obvious reasons, Veruca and I were discussing cremation today. I was telling her I don’t know that I’d really want anyone’s ashes. I mean really, WHY? I don’t associate the ashes with the person I knew. Same goes for pets. When we discussed where we’d have our ashes spread, I thought of blue ocean and warm air and sunshine. Somewhere in the Caribbean! I said it’d be cool if she could spread my ashes in Disney – one of my favorite places – but she’d probably get arrested. Although… I’d blend right in at the Haunted Mansion.

And, to that end, I already knew that cast members spread fake dust regularly inside the mansion. What I didn’t know was that several times a year people have been caught for trying to spread loved ones’ ashes inside the mansion. Of course! Who wouldn’t try? I find this hilariously funny.

And speaking of Disney, our own Mickey is either dead or moved on. Oliver has stopped sleeping in front of the stove, so I’m guessing that’s a good sign.