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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miscellaneous:

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

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

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

My heart swells with pride and love.

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The Scene of the Crime: Wilkes Barre, PA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Church, founded 1855

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

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

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

All photos copyright TKA and The Tara Chronicles, 2018

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

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

Photos copyright TKA & The Tara Chronicles, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

***OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE WARNING***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Betcha didn’t know:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Where I’ve Been – April 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay. What else have we done?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*A forthcoming post about middle schoolers.

** A forthcoming post about April 21st.

Destination: Washington, DC

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Photo Copyright Taraka & The Tara Chronicles, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Details….

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

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

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

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

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

Think about that.

 

 

 

No April Fools

Today’s post is brought to you by this:

Oh my God, Trix! We were talking about what we eat for breakfast – my friends and I were talking about it – like what kind of cereal we like and Hope said she loves Fruity Pebbles and I love Trix which is really just the same thing except they’re little balls, you know? Oh, and mom – you might not get to sit with [a mom friend] on the field trip because you have to choose your bus ahead of time and she may not be on our bus. And we have to get tickets to Mary Poppins because Reena is in it and I really want to see my bestie and be there to support her. And guess who’s playing Mary Poppins?  I don’t remember what part Reena plays… I have to text her and ask. And you have to buy the tickets TONIGHT.

And this:

Opac tried to hug Veruca and she yelled at him to stoooooooop! She didn’t want a hug. His response? You weren’t held enough as a child.

Meanwhile, back in Spring Break land….

Todd got the flu. It was ugly. And then it morphed into pneumonia. After work I drove him to urgent care where they can do everything under one roof, which they did, and I’m happy (well, not happy happy) to report he tested positive for flu and pneumonia, and is currently recovering.

He announced in the car on the way there that he did NOT want to spend his entire night in urgent care, and I told him to shut the hell up that it wasn’t going to be that long and that it’s better than spending the entire next day traveling to three different locations to accomplish the same goal. And he knows I’m right, because he left there already feeling better because he was ranting about the family doctor all the way home and he’s now a fan of Patient First.

So this week is spring break at the college and he’s got pneumonia. Todd is so not the right person to get long-term illness. It’s one of the few differences between us: he is not a sitting-still person. He needs to be doing something. All the time. It’s been a week and two days, and he has watched every episode of every car show and American Pickers and Pawn Stars and Forged in Fire, and he’s pissed off.

I took him out Monday to buy a new kitchen faucet – we had a cheap one he’d installed before the renters had moved in and it corroded at the top so that when you turned it on it shot water straight out at your face. It was great. I kept forgetting and I’d turn it on and … you can picture this, right? I decided not to mention it to the kids, to see who got hit first. It turned out to be Opac, who hilariously exclaimed WTF?! It’s the little things, people.

One of my coworkers suggested putting a paper towel over the hole, since it will cling when it gets wet. Great idea! I really wanted to tape it up with duct tape. And I would have too, if I could’ve found it. And that’s another story in this great house of ours. The mystery of Where-Is-It applies to just about anything you might be looking for.

Usually it’s tools. But here’s the thing – if you know where it was used last, that’s where you will find it. Seems legit, right? Except that WE can never remember where we last used it. I am fruitlessly trying to apply that place for everything, everything in its place rule… but unfortunately it only works with those willing to play.

Anyway, Grumpy Gills got to spend the day out again on Tuesday thanks to another trip to the car dealership. My car – I swear is a lemon – there, I said it – is acting wonky again. Engine light came back on, on Sunday on my way to pick up the kids for Easter.

(Todd stayed home because, sick, and I took the kids for an early dinner at a Japanese hibachi steakhouse with my mom… because why not? V was in heaven and O decided to sleep in the car while we ate. Teenagers. I ate sushi again and I think I’m good for a few months.

I also remembered what I don’t like about hibachi places – feeling obligated to watch the show and then sit with mouths gaping like seals while the chef tries to land pieces of broccoli in your mouth. Three times. Because one sailed past my head, one hit me on the nose, and the other landed in my hair. There is absolutely nothing dignified about this.)

So anyway, the car. We sat in the waiting area while they ran diagnostics on it. The music was classic 80s rock and it was so loud I thought I was in a fraternity house. At 9 o-clock in the morning. The place was like an ant hill. People everywhere, hustling about. The waiting area sits back behind the showroom, so we have a full view of one gorgeous $72, 000 blue Cobra that was polished so bright I could see my reflection in it, and a fully-loaded F250 white king cab that Todd spent the better part of 78 minutes trying to sell me.

Given the state of the Edge, which is only a year old and has spent more time in a garage than my ‘77 Audi Fox in high school, Todd is becoming increasingly keen on trading it in. I love my car. I’d be happy to trade it in on an identical one. Todd was still pitching the merits of pickup trucks when I suggested that a) I’ve already driven two, b) I am too short to be driving something that big, and c) he can trade in the California GT if he really wants that truck. He smiled at me and then suddenly remembered that it’s been an hour and a half and no word on WTF is going on with the car, so got up and wandered back to service. I went to the coffee machine and loaded up on cup #3, which – if you know me – was not going to end well.

Nearly two hours later the Enterprise guy comes to deliver us to our loaner – a f*cking PICK UP TRUCK – because the dealer needed to keep our car. The entire ride home Todd is all, how great is this… this truck runs so smooth… and I’m all, I will fall out of this thing every time I drive it. But not really, because I know it’s short term and I can enjoy the adventure of driving a pickup again because I know it aint ever gonna be mine.

Other miscellaneous stuff:

One of our neighbors saw our exterior motion-sensored light going on and off like an SOS signal and was worried we were signaling for help, so she got another neighbor involved who called to check on us.

I returned to the chiropractor for the first time in 3 months. He’s feeling around my neck making “oh” sounds and I’m like, am I dying? You know it’s bad when the doctor is admitting it’s bad.

Buying tampons at 48. This is bullshit. Eight bucks for a box. Tampax PEARL. WTF does that even MEAN? Why can’t they just call them tampons and be done with it? Gotta make them sound all fancy and shit. Like, what difference does it make, really? I know this all sounds trivial, but it occurred to me when I emptied the last box that why the hell do I need to keep buying these?

I’m embracing the aging process, sort of, but some of the details are just BS.

 

 

Where I’ve Been – Early February Edition

Blogged while stuck at home with the HVAC guy. I could’ve been working today….

We had a weather event on Sunday that bled into Monday morning, and schools did not have a delay… but they should have. But we’ll get to that in a minute because THE EAGLES WON THE SUPERBOWL.

It was quite a show, er – game – there was suspense, drama, no penalties called on the Patriots (because they never do anything wrong), some funny commercials, and some halftime show that had all the feeling of sex leading up to an orgasm that is never achieved, BUT… there was Prince. And I so did not expect that tribute because I live in oblivion most of the time even though the game was in Minneapolis, and while I’d like to point out that my hormones have been very stable of late – I sat there on the couch with tears running down my face. Even after the third quarter started. It was pathetic. And I wasn’t even drunk.

My brother went into the city because he’s still young and stupid and 6 feet and smart enough to want to be in the center of it all as it’s going down. A couple of friends said they wished they were there, and I reminded them of Baltimore’s win a few years ago when Todd and I thought we’d “just drive into the city and join the celebration.” It felt like we were extras in Apocalypse Now. People were getting kicked by police horses and helicopters were circling overhead. Crossed that one off my bucket list.

The restaurant-staff Christmas party was brunch on Sunday. We did the Pollyanna thing – which Todd kept pronouncing “polly-ahna” and which I kept telling him was not correct. This year wasn’t as cut-throat as years past, though I still think it was unfair to steal the 16-year-old’s lava lamp and give him wax burners (not naming names). I had two mimosas on an empty stomach. That was fun. And then Andy – who was sitting next to me –dropped a name on me to watch my facial expression change (my mom’s idea). Mom, rapidly approaching her 70s, seems to think she can get away with naughty shit and blame it on her age. If I had a dime for every time she said, “well, I’m old now.”

So anyway. Back to Monday morning, when V and I waited at the bus stop for FIFTY MINUTES. Opac rode to school with a friend, so he got to school on time. The high school bus, which usually comes before the middle school bus, came 40 minutes late. At the 50 mark I called the middle school and inquired about the bus and was informed that yes – it just arrived. Arrived? I said. How is that possible when we’re STILL waiting for it?

Obviously some of the roads were icy and some buses had difficulty. All I wanted to know was WHO’s in charge of communicating that the school bus has cut out part of the route? I still don’t know the answer to that one, but it was suggested to me for future reference – when I called to ask them why Veruca was marked absent yesterday – that I can call the transportation office. Oh, and if V has a cell phone, she could call me from her bus stop if she’s ever waiting too long. Um, WHAT?

The days have been filled with frustration lately. Opac was frustrated because he couldn’t find his deodorant this morning, which should come as no surprise if you could see his room, and V was pissed off about I-don’t-know-what and was generally slamming stuff around. Probably because she “can’t find anything to wear,” and didn’t like my suggestion that perhaps “something to wear” was among the mountains of clothing strewn about her room.

Me, I’m still irritated that our insurance sent me a letter of denial for V’s test strips. I called, ready to rip someone a new asshole, and turns out all that was needed was a prior auth from our provider. (Beginning of the “new year” insurances do this – FYI, for the unbaptized.) But the icing on the cake: later, a second letter came that said, “I am pleased to inform you that I have approved your request… blah blah blah.” Well, thank you and Fuck You.

Last week I missed two funerals because V got The Sick and was home for 3 days. Not that I actually look forward to attending these things, but I really wanted to be there for the two families. One was sudden and unexpected – a bacterial infection that shut down her organs and 10 days later she passed. A potent reminder of the fragility of life, and the importance of valuing every minute and loving your VIPs.

One of my resolutions is coming along nicely this year: I recently finished reading my fourth book since New Year’s… The Glass Castle. Which was every bit as good as everyone said it was, even if I wanted to strangle the parents several times over. I was thinking that both kids should read it since neither of them have any appreciation for all that they have or the fact that they have food on the table that they sometimes dislike. Todd said* it wouldn’t have the impact on them that it had on me.

Opac slept over at a friend’s house Friday night and I was sick with the doom-and-gloom anxiety until well after I got home from work. This was the first time ever that he slept at a friend’s house. Can you believe that? And not because of me. Kids these days just don’t DO things the way we did. Nevertheless, I need to find a way to not envision the worst when it comes to my kids.

Miscellaneous revelations:

You can’t please everyone. Not everyone has the same taste in food, or appreciation for what is considered quality, or understands that healthcare facilities have rules and protocol.

Perianal strep. This is real. Never heard of it? Neither had I. And, NO – before you start thinking it, no one in my household has it. I don’t know how you get it either. Hypochondriacs better get googling.

If you park near the beach with a clear glass sunroof, you can hold French fries up to the glass and watch the seagulls lose their shit. And NO – we didn’t do this, before you animal rights people lose your shit.

Hit men don’t drive red corvettes. Obviously.

If I hold the hairdryer at just the right angle, I can look like Medusa.

*Todd says a lot of things. A friend replied to my comment [“that’s what Todd said”] by asking if that’s like saying “that’s what she said.” I like it. Maybe I’ll create a subseries called That’s What Todd Said.

2017 – The Year in Review

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April was by far the busiest and most eventful month of the year. I started working at CHOP, Veruca started her softball career, Opac had oral surgery, my maternal grandfather passed away, a week later my uncle unexpectedly followed, a high school friend lost his battle with cancer, and Todd and I attended the college’s posh annual gala.

Work

I got a new job, and Todd stepped into the Pathways Coordinator position, in addition to teaching and serving on multiple committees. I had a one-day orientation in Philadelphia spent a week training on the EPIC platform in early May, and learned my way around the city I’ve never loved. It’s been a great experience so far – I love the people I work with and the opportunity to be a part of this organization. I’ve given up my weekends at the restaurant, and I think they’re doing fine without me.

The Kids

Veruca quit cheer for good and took on softball. Her first season – her team won the division with an impressive, nearly undefeated record, and she has another trophy on her shelf. Girlfriend can knock a ball out of the park and it turns out she’s a great catcher.

Opac moved up to varsity football this year and spent most of the season pacing the sidelines, with only quick bursts of time on the field. I don’t know how but the team was the second worst team in the league and the head coach resigned. A new coach is coming in to kick some ass and we’re all excited to see what he’s going to do to turn this team upside down.

Furry Kids

Oliver and Sabra are healthy and happy. One is overweight, and one is underweight. Guess which is which?

Moses, my mom’s dog, has spent several days with us over the past year while mom was away on vacations and hospitalizations. He nominated me as interim mom, and I’ve never had a furbaby happier to see me come home from work than him. Makes me wonder what the other two are for.

We adopted a black kitten we named Shadow back in March, who cost me $1200 and 6 emotional hours at the emergency vet. After only 3 weeks with him, I got to be the one who had to decide to let him go. It was horrible and turned me off from ever wanting to adopt another pet.

Adventures and Travel

We attended two weddings, one in May and one in November. Both were wonderful events and we were so blessed to be a part of their special days. We also attended the Lymphoma and Leukemia Man & Woman of the Year gala in Baltimore, for which I rented my first Rent the Runway gown. A floor-length black and gold Marchesa Notte that made me feel like royalty, and I highly recommend RTR. It’s the perfect way to wear a gorgeous dress that costs more than your last paycheck; it’s affordable; and you’ll always have something different to wear. (You’re welcome, RTR, for the free publicity to my 3 followers.)

Todd and I went to San Francisco for a conference that was cut short thanks to the Nor’easter back home. It was a nice respite, even though I missed out on Alcatraz. We also returned to Ocean City, Maryland over the summer.

This year’s State Bowling Tournament was held locally, so we didn’t have any traveling to do.

Cars

We got 3 new vehicles this year and no, we’re still not rich. We replaced my out-of-warranty Explorer with a brand new Edge – if you don’t already know, we do so much driving to and from PA that a car with 4-wheel drive under warranty is an absolute necessity. Todd acquired a beater truck: a 1990 F-150 for less than the cost of my RTR gown. I’m not sure I’m allowed to officially mention car #3; so let’s just all agree to keep it on the down low and I’ll tell you the coveted 2017 GT California Special was acquired around the same time as the Edge for a deal that couldn’t be turned down.

The new Edge just might be a lemon – it spent 3 weeks on hiatus at the Ford dealership while I learned exactly why I don’t want an Expedition. Ever. And not just because V fell out of it. Twice.

Extended family news

Neph has been on the move and working a lot, but he calls his auntie occasionally, which I really appreciate. Nephtoo graduated high school and started college 3 hours away, and posts beautiful photos of the water there. I have yet to send a care package. I’m not a very good auntie.

Gloria, my illustrious maternal grandmother to whom I credit my tough-as-shit attitude, turned 92 and not only interrupted the pastor several times during my uncle’s memorial because “WHAT’s he saying?” and claimed not to remember his ex-wife,  is still kicking it like a rockstar. I delivered her a bottle of J&B for NYE, after she called my mom to cry about her forgetting to bring it to her. Almost as much fun as the Teddy Bear delivery of 2012.

Health

My mom had laparoscopic surgery over the summer that turned into major abdominal surgery, and we were both blessed to have a dear friend present during the procedure to hold my hand. Todd also had surgery later the same month, and was equally as hilarious coming out of anesthesia as my mother. They’re both lucky I am too thoughtful to consider video-recording.

I’m proud to report I passed my very first drug test and received my first flu shot. I also had two doses of tetanus (I’m still pissed about this), and received an MMR booster because my titer said I needed one.

I ordered Veruca a new pump through Animas – our pump provider – only to learn the day after it arrived that Animas was closing down operations. SO, we will be transitioning God-knows-when to a new pump from Medtronic (who partnered with Animas) – whenever Animas decides they’re done producing supplies too.

Opac had his wisdom teeth out and I got a root canal and crown.

I stopped drinking for just over 3 months and lost 11 pounds. I guess it’s a good thing when your friend tells you that “there’s less of you” when he sees you at the holiday party.

Celebrations

V had her first birthday party sleepover last spring and everybody seemed to have a great time. Well, except for the one girl who’s apparently allergic to cats.

Opac turned 17, exactly eight months after he obtained his learner’s permit. He still has a long way to go before he gets his license.

We ended our 2016 with parties for both Todd’s birthday and my father-in-law’s…one impromptu night at the restaurant Christmas Eve and a planned work night on New Year’s Eve.

I can’t wait to see what 2018 will bring.

4 Parties and a Hangover

 

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Our Griswold squirrel. Filling a large hole in our tree. And yes – there is an Octopus – because they’re buddies.                                                      Photo copyright TKA and the Tara Chronicles.

 

 

Party #1

Probably the biggest, most decadent party I attended. Always crowded, the room with the bar bursting at the seams, as we bump and squeeze ourselves through the throng of holiday well-wishers in fine dresses and Christmas sweaters. Hors d’oeuvres of tomato bisque and grilled cheese triangles, jumbo shrimp cocktail, sausages, lollypop lamb chops, stuffed sweet and hot peppers, deviled eggs, duck, stuffed mushrooms, fried green tomatoes, grilled scallops wrapped in bacon, oysters. Main buffet with brisket and short ribs and collard greens and Caesar salad and paella and roasted potatoes and chicken. A dessert and coffee station with crème brulee and other sorts of little cakes. Everyone ate and ate and ate.

The hosts moved effortlessly from room to room, chatting with everyone. Three magazine-worthy Christmas trees made the rooms festive. I shamelessly envied the beauty as I pictured my two trees at home, the one in the rec room still without ornaments. Christmas music danced above the noisy heads of chattering folks.

I stood in the kitchen looking out toward the front door as the evening drew later, noting our hostess smiling and laughing with guests who were leaving. Our smiling host stepped up beside her as she talked, tipsily throwing an arm over her shoulder. She never missed a beat as I saw her reach up to touch his hand – I thought, a silent moment of warmth between them. She continued talking, reaching up again to shove his hand off her shoulder in the most inconspicuous move possible. If the guests noticed it, their expressions never changed.

Party # 2

This was our first holiday gathering/unbirthday for Todd I wrote about here. Not much to add there, so we’ll just move on.

Party # 3

Work brunch whereby all Secret Santas revealed themselves. I carpooled with two of my coworkers, which made the ride less stressful and we had a lovely time. We were greeted with mimosas upon. The room in this historic building was chilly – duly noted for next year’s planned outfit.

And, speaking of outfits, I had washed and pressed a black sweater dress for the occasion and when I went to put it on discovered a small hole in the right sleeve that I swear was not there before it went into the machine. Todd was like, I can fix this. No big deal, right? Yeah, no big deal until I discovered hole #2 in the left sleeve while I was in the restroom hours later. Classy.

So, the food was great, my Secret Santa got me some gifts I truly love and have been using. The recipient of my gifts was, now that it’s been revealed, Veruca’s doctor. So – seeing how daunting and maybe not so daunting, all at the same time? I got her two wine glasses painted like snowmen and two beer glasses with Santa’s suit and belt painted on them. I loved them, and hope she did too.

The venue, as I said, was an old historic site… the entryway had gorgeous stone and wood floors and there was a “tree” in the foyer that was actually a dress form with a red taffeta sleeveless top on it and tree branches falling away from it like a long skirt with ribbon threaded through. It was amazing. Wish I’d gotten a picture.

Party #4

Aptly named, holiday gathering 2.0. My father-in-law’s birthday and so everyone who missed party #2 made it to this one. We settled on a brunch that was to start an hour after I got home from work last Saturday, but doesn’t everyone show up late anyway and so the actual start time was more like 3.

Scott brought Todd a bottle of Knob Creek Smoked Maple as a belated birthday gift. I think Todd had one dram of it and a few hours later Scott was seated at the dining room table, adjacent to our liquor cart, with my mother-in-law and aunt, my bestie and me. Scott drained that bottle faster than water leaving a bathtub. I watched him with interest, wondering at what point incoherency takes over, and to my astonishment he never seemed to lose it. In fact, no one did. This time.

Christmas Day

So I got drafted to work Christmas Eve at the restaurant, due to staff shortage (imagine that). Todd worked too, because the grill chef wasn’t coming either. We were so f***ing busy and I had to keep reminding myself it wasn’t New Years’ Eve, though every time I did I wanted to cry because I already knew I was coming back for that.

We had a large party seated in the largest dining room, the hosts longtime guests. It was lovely to see them again, as I’ve known them since my early twenties and I feel a sense of melancholy as the revelation of their ages washes over me. They are essentially part of our extended restaurant family. The hostess, petite and beautiful, hasn’t aged in these 25 years.  The host, always the wine connoisseur, insisted on Burgundies and French wines and I felt his frustration as he speaks so very softly now and is difficult to hear. All in all, it was a great night, nobody flipped out, no trays were dropped, only one person complained about the Christmas music, and we got to celebrate with friends too. B52, anyone?

Anyway. Todd and I spent a luxurious morning in bed opening presents before getting ready to pick up the kids and go to my mom’s for dinner. We arrived about 4, opened gifts, and then started dinner. Todd and I each had a glass of wine from the house pour. And apparently mom decided to bring over two bottles of wine for dinner, and the wine was flowing like water and I forgot my own advice about drinking water. Empty stomach.

We had an eclectic selection of food for dinner – steamed clams in a garlicky broth (my fave), grilled shrimp wrapped in bacon, filet, mashed potatoes, and Andy’s homemade ravioli with mom’s marinara sauce. Still no water. You know where this is going, right?

The three of us (okay, Toddit was just mom and me) finished off two bottles of red wine and I spent half the night crying like my grandmother does every time she sees us, because Opac asked me if he could go to the Eagles/Dallas game on New Years’ Eve with friends and he’s growing up and I’m conflicted because there are no adults going and I’m scared to death of losing my kid in some freak accident. And then I cried because V is looking beautiful and grown up and soon she’ll be seeking more freedom of her own and what is THAT going to look like from a T1D perspective? And I cried about other things I’ve now forgotten about, but it doesn’t matter. It’s hereditary and there’s not much I can do about it.

The drive home was reasonable until we got within 2 miles of the house, when I suddenly had an uncontrollable need for fresh air and so opened the window and allowed the arctic blast inside and everybody in the car yelled at me including Todd. Anyway, I had a nasty headache and queasy stomach most of the next day from the wine and NO WATER… that lasted all day.

So remember people – Tara drank too much wine. Tara didn’t drink any water. Tara was stupid. Don’t be like Tara.

 

 

 

Where I’ve Been – October/November Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other things:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More to come.

The Pump, a Tooth, and the Carpocolypse

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, back in the garage….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epilogue

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