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.

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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?

 

 

Four Years in Maryland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We made new friends, and watched others fade away.

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

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

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

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

 

 

Where I’ve Been – September Half-point Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

When the Kids Are Away

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

Things I thought I might want to get done:

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

What I “might” actually have done –

Played pool,

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

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

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

Drank several bottles of Dogfish 60-Minute,

Did the absolute minimum to clean the house,

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

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

Drank wine,

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

Gave myself a pedicure,

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

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

Drank more wine,

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

Boring?

I’m not sorry.

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

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

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

Pass me that bottle of wine.

Where I’ve Been – May 2017 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least there’s more time for writing.

Sometimes Life is A Country Song

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is all.