Where I’ve Been: Recovery & Coffee-Mate-Gate

First, a technical update: Six weeks post-op two-level cervical arthroplasty. The post-op x-ray shows a textbook-perfect cervical spine with two shiny new titanium discs “well-placed.” The pain is mostly gone, except when I wake up in the morning or I do too much (still). I can’t remember the last time I felt pain radiating down my arm, or the last time I took a muscle relaxer (well, except – last night). The incision is healing, but still looks like I got caught in a street fight. I am cleared to live my life.

I went back to work. I so needed to get back to a purpose that didn’t require hours of “healing” rest and endless, useless doses of Tylenol. First day back I was feeling the pain by mid-afternoon, but Todd and I still wanted to go out to dinner. One – because it was the plan we’d made, and two – it would be the last night for two weeks that we’d be able to dine outside.

ICYMI: The east coast was pummeled by rain and thunderstorms for two solid weeks, widespread and flash-flooding. Hershey Park and Knoebels were under water. The restaurant Todd and I went to that night is in a small, old waterfront town that was later under voluntary evacuation.

So we went to dinner. They don’t take reservations so we had a 40 minute wait. Todd had a beer and I had a club soda, while we stood on the deck overlooking this band of middle-aged white men playing top-40s who had the audacity to play Let’s Go Crazy and everybody who knows me knows this is NOT something I want to hear. But – I listened because I couldn’t escape it and noted that the guitar skills weren’t half bad. Still – please don’t.

After dinner we walked back up the hill to the car and my legs wouldn’t move. I was literally breathless and taking two steps at a time and stopping. The only other time I ever had that happen was when I arrived at the hospital in labor with V and I got halfway across the parking lot and couldn’t move. Kind of scary.

Anyway. Weeks 4 & 5: I worked a full-time schedule. It was a BEAR. One was an 11-hour day that I came home from and hugged V and just started to cry. That is what happens to me under extreme exhaustion and [unnecessary] emotional stress I put on myself.

Opac had senior pictures taken. It was in the high school auditorium, and I sat there all tense trying to hold back tears. Am I handling my son’s rapidly-approaching adulthood well? Ask me again in 3 months, when he turns 18. Or at his graduation – I’ll be the red-faced, swollen one clutching a handful of wet tissues and blind with tears. I’d…. say…. No. I cried at his preschool graduation. He was five.

I worked my last Saturday morning for a while (new schedule means I don’t work weekends anymore, except for one in rotation). Todd and I went to an antique store in Havre de Grace. It was crammed with so much vintage stuff, I was just turning around and around trying to take it all in. Todd lasted about 20 minutes and went outside to break the itching from the dust.

We drove to Concord Point Lighthouse and walked the decks lining the Chesapeake hand-in-hand like tourists. I don’t think of Havre de Grace as a touristy place, but Todd schooled me: Historically, it was considered for the state capitol, but lost to Annapolis. We took pictures and saw residents walking their dogs, an old woman in a wheelchair under the shade of a tree overlooking the Bay, and a 50-something couple blasting music from an iPhone, dancing like they were all alone at a  Dead concert.

The next day: Costco on an empty stomach and I scored one chicken and cheese ravioli in pesto sauce, a small cup of diced pickled beets, and one piece of a Snack Factory Pretzel. It was not a terribly stressful shopping trip, all things considered. (The man who blocked the entire display of blueberries, inspecting every package for Just the Right One.) Sometimes the state of humanity can be summed up in one trip to Costco and, in worse cases, at Walmart. For all that Walmart is and isn’t, I’ve never found anyone there to be nasty. Inconsiderate and oblivious – yes – but not nasty. Meanwhile, more people at Costco are giving the stink eye on the day God rested than anywhere I’ve been recently.

V was in Avalon with her dad last week, and Mom came to visit for a long weekend here. We took her to the Chesapeake Inn for an early dinner – another marvelous restaurant on the Bay with valet parking, live music, and great food. Had two Pain in de Asses, or maybe three? Mom took it upon herself to order us another round while I was in the bathroom.

Opac went out Saturday with friends for a Gym Class reunion. This class was a close-knit group of guys whose teacher baptized them the Mountain Dewds and had t-shirts made up for them. So they went out to dinner and then hung out at one’s house – O spent the night and needed a ride home the next morning. I picked him up around 7:45 – he said he hadn’t slept – and I took a detour to the store for more Coffee-Mate (which we were out of). I was wearing pajamas and he was fully clothed, so I did what any mother would do. I asked him to go in for me.

He is about as cooperative as a tree. First he refused to go in. I pointed out my attire and the fact that I came and picked his ass up. I only needed ONE THING. He didn’t know what he was looking for. I GOOGLED a pic of Coffee-Mate and showed it to him. This! He said, but we’re not at Target (the source of the pic). I told him where to look for it. In the coffee aisle, on the left side, past the cans of coffee, top shelf.

Ten minutes later… he comes out empty handed, looking royally aggravated. That was nothing compared to the storm waiting for him inside the car. He insisted they didn’t have what I wanted, there were all these weird flavors like hazelnut and “some blueberry flavored shit,” I  looked, and you shouldn’t drink coffee anyway, no wonder your teeth are yellow (oh YES he did) and… I’m not going back in there. He hadn’t showered, was covered in pet hair, hadn’t slept, and needed to shave. I told him very matter-of-factly that there was absolutely NO ONE in that store he knew at this hour of the morning on a Sunday, and I KNOW they have Coffee-Mate in there.

He was not going back in there. Well, I told him, I’m not leaving this parking lot without it. The stand-off continued, until my phone rang and it was Todd. I figured he was wondering where we were, since I was gone so long. I explained to him pleasantly that we’ve stopped at the store for Coffee-Mate. Oh, that’s great, he said. I have a favor to ask you.

Now at this point you should assume that my nerves are bristling over the stand-off with Opac, but I’m not letting on with Todd because Opac is still in the car. But I already know that my case is going to go volcanic if I have to ask O to pick up One. More. Thing. But Todd only wants me to stop at the mailbox on the way back, and I sighed heavily which he read only as she doesn’t want to be bothered, and said, you know, nevermind, forget it. I’ll just walk up myself. He had no idea what was going on in that car, at that moment. The twig was just about snapped. We hung up and I tore into Opac.

!!!I’m still recovering from major surgery, I’m in pain, I can’t take meds when I have to drive and I picked you up this morning early because you wanted to come home, my boobs are popping out of my pajama top, and ALL I NEED IS ONE CONTAINER OF COFFEEMATE. He took a loud deep breath and stepped out of the car, pausing to dramatically rest his forehead against the open door to “get some air.” And then he walked back in.

A few minutes later he sent me a pic of the Coffee-Mate refrigerator case – which, by the way – is at the OPENING of the aisle, ON THE RIGHT SIDE. If you’ve remembered the directions I gave him, this is all kinds of wrong. And I know exactly what display he’s looking at, and it’s not the powdered Coffee-Mate I want. I called him. He didn’t answer, little turd. So I start frantically stabbing letters into a text, reiterating the original directions, cause if he comes out again with nothing I will have no choice but to pummel him in the parking lot.

Eventually he comes out, WITH the Coffee-Mate, and all is right with the world again. Don’t mess with momma’s coffee. My mom laughed that I pulled the surgery card, and I told her I also pulled the Nannie-needs-Coffee-mate-for-her-coffee-too card.

There’s more. But my ex just called to ask if he could stop by to drop off some paperwork in an hour, and I need a shower.

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After

Today is day 9. There’s a boa constrictor wrapped around my neck, and the muscles are tight around my cervical spine. Do I feel better than last Saturday? I’m going to say yes. Todd said I’d forget the pain at some point, and I do think he’s right. Last Saturday I was 24 hours into recovery and I remember thinking I f**king hate this. Never again.

I went in for surgery on Friday the 22nd at 6:30 a.m. I was back in pre-op in no time and my nurse, Stephanie, was kind and patient and introduced me to Buffy, the venipuncture slayer. Seriously, Buffy made me nervous at first, the way she kept slapping at the veins on my wrist while Stephanie collected the exact same data I’d given three different people by phone in the last seven days. This was probably a lame attempt to distract me from Buffy’s overtures, but Buffy’s tapping and slapping left me feeling quite unconfident in her abilities.

I have big veins. I mean big, juicy veins that aren’t difficult to tap. Was she blind? Unsure? A trainee? OMG. Anyway, she popped that IV in like a mosquito and Stephanie turned around and said, wow, you didn’t even flinch. And Let Me Tell You. A week later and you still can’t see where that IV was. Buffy IS the Boss.

A minute later this man who appeared to be in his late 50s popped into my room and said, “boo!” And of course, I’m like, WTF? Who is this dude? He warmly introduced himself as my anesthesiologist, and assured me he’s done so many of these, for 500- er- he’s even put dinosaurs to sleep. He also remarked that I looked like a deer in the headlights. My neuroses clearly is not easy to conceal. Buffy started cleansing my neck until it turned beet red and apparently a reaction ensued, so the two of them decided I’d had enough. He told me he could give me something to relax me, but only after I’d spoken with the PA or the surgeon or both.

Documents to sign, giving them permission to cut me open, put me to sleep, do whatever they do to save your life, etc. And then Todd was brought back, who is always full of funny anecdotes that AREN’T funny when your nerves are as bad as mine.

I laid in the bed with a pillow behind my head for support, because the position itself was painful as always. I was ready a full hour before my surgery was scheduled and trying not to flip out. I remembered this pain I was feeling, and considered that it would be gone when I woke up again. Todd snapped a photo of me in the bed for my mom, so I gave my best bitch face that I knew would get a giggle from her (she knows me well). I’m so NOT a good patient. I’m better than I used to be, but some things go like teaching an old dog new tricks.

The neuro-technologist (because I don’t remember her exact title) came in to discuss the surgery with me, starting with the standard questions. I told her my name, and the surgery I’m having – breast implants. She stopped reading my chart and stared at me momentarily, and then back to the chart. I gave it a beat or two more and said, I’m just kidding. I’m having two discs replaced in my cervical spine. I needed the break more than she did obviously, but she took it in stride and said that’s never happened before, laughed a little while I clarified the REAL surgery and then I secretly prayed she wouldn’t hurt me while I was knocked out. Her job is to test my nerve conduction during the surgery to make sure all is well. And I have the bruises on both arms and one shoulder to show for it. But they don’t hurt.

The PA came in and explained the surgery, went over recovery procedures and medications, etc. and then Dr. Dinosaur returned with his vial of nirvana and that hit me so fast I said, whooooaaaa. And then it was time to go.

Second time for me in an OR, and it’s always surreal. Lots of movement and faceless people, and then there’s the mask over your face and then suddenly I’m coughing like a drowning victim. I’m assuming that was the moment I was extubated. Dr. Dinosaur placed a hand on my shoulder and told me to relax.

Todd said the surgery lasted 2 and a half hours, during which he got a very important call I will share in a later post. I started the waking process in the PACU, where my right arm felt like Grendel was pulling it out of its socket and my legs felt like they were disconnecting from my body. My new nurse, Sharon, asked me my pain level. NINE. Dilaudid to the rescue. I have no idea of time passing, but I felt more lucid by the time we hit a five. She refused to give me more because she thought I stopped breathing several times (an alarm would sound), until I assured her I am NOT sleeping and that it’s my MO to hold my breath when pain is really intense. So, we spent the next several hours with her reminding me to breathe through it or else. (No more pain meds.)

I can’t say enough about my experience at this hospital*. Everyone was very caring, gentle, and they didn’t push me out like we had experienced with Todd’s surgery last summer at an affiliated hospital. They did encourage me to move to a “chair” and out of the bed, where I turned white and felt a violent wave of nausea that turned out to be gas. I guess burping is a side effect of anesthesia? Sharon mentioned I hadn’t been to the bathroom since awakening, and I told her that I’ve actually had to go since I woke up, but was afraid to ask. (Bad patients don’t like bed pans.) So Tara assisted me to the bathroom – I chose to walk – and informed me she had to come in with me. I didn’t give a rat’s ass who was in there with me.

Funny how life and maturity changes you, and your views on modesty. I was ready to go afterward, and the two nurses helped me dress (but kept Todd outside the curtain AS IF he’d never seen his wife naked before) and I was soon being wheeled to the curb by a nice man who said he was getting over pneumonia, which seemed wrong on some level but I was in no position to argue with anyone.

The ride home was uneventful and not painful. And the rest of Friday was lost to fits of sleep and well wishes, one son who announced that I looked like shit, and a phone call from Veruca who had been terribly worried. I took one Oxycontin that night, and continued to feel awful until the next morning, when I threw up. I DO NOT do narcotics. So, my recovery this week has been punctuated by frequent walks around the house, belching, muscle relaxers, a steroid for alleviating swallowing issues, and extra strength Tylenol.

I’ve been out twice – once with mom driving me to the pharmacy and grocery store in my collar of shame that scared small children; and yesterday to the bank where one of the tellers exclaimed, “holy shit!” which made my day and I burst out laughing.

It’s day 9. I’m still waking in some significant neck pain, but the pain my upper back and shoulders and right arm is all but gone. I understand that some pain will linger as the nerves reassert themselves under these new conditions. I had this pain in my right elbow (painful even to the touch) that was terrible for months that I was treating as tennis elbow, though nothing helped. I woke up last Friday and it WAS GONE.

I still feel like someone has their hands wrapped around my throat. I try to be patient, but it’s annoying and uncomfortable, and causes me nausea. I can’t bend over, as it puts pressure against my throat. I can’t look directly down. I’m still getting tired easily.

But, I did it. This is the After. And every day the After is getting better. I can swim after my 6-week post-op, when summer will be more than half over, but I’m doing it. And I made Todd measure me, because the neurosurgeon said the discs he implanted are going to stretch my neck a bit, which is causing the muscles around it to stretch and strain. I gained an INCH. I am an INCH taller than I was last Friday. How about that?

 

*University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center

**I cannot take full credit for the breast implant joke. Todd made a remark while we were waiting in pre-op that “at least you’re not getting breast implants.” Which I still don’t know why he thought was funny, but when the neuro person came in, the procedure just flew out of my mouth. And Todd looked at me appalled, that I’d stolen his joke that not 10 minutes before I refused to laugh at.

 

Destination Syracuse : Bowling, Irish Cannonballs, and Flying Monkeys

Presently in surgery. Please enjoy this ramshackle post in my absence.

Another road trip. Another bowling tournament. We stayed at the Genesee Grand Hotel. It was lovely: a beautiful lobby, Koi pond, and revolving doors, which I always use whenever they present themselves.  Except when I tried to drag my suitcase in with me. That made things a little tight, if not awkward, but thankfully no one was looking. Except Todd, who is well used to my shenanigans.

Our room was small but comfortable, and the bathroom was beautifully tiled in sparkling marble. We dropped our bags and changed clothes, and headed over to the convention center (where the National Bowling Tournament was) to check in. Apparently there was an issue about Todd – either whose membership number was in question and/or he wasn’t on the team roster. This looked to me like another one of those clusterfuck-type situations, and so I looked at my loving husband and asked him why he failed to mention this snafu to me.

(I was only mildly pissed that we might have yet another problem with something, because it’s always something, and I was still seething over the fact that he had no idea what times he was bowling until I asked him to find out. And it turned out that the expected usual 8 a.m. bowling times were instead 11 a.m. Tuesday and 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, putting us on the road quite well after dinner that night.)

We got it all straightened out, but not before the team captain came to rectify the situation and then Kathy wiped out on the escalator as we were leaving and thank God there were two men behind her to help her back up and she didn’t die. Seriously scared the bejesus out of me.

Todd and I ended up at The Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub for a late snack and beer. It’s the quintessential Irish Pub, all wood bar and carved back bar – the whole thing square-shaped with ample seating but two walls come into the center, lending it a very intimate arrangement. There is seating in the back of the restaurant, and a banquette with little cocktail tables and little stools for seating. Todd ordered a pint of Smithwick and I had Threes Brewing Logical Conclusion, which was a divinely citrusy IPA without the bitter back end. Ordered the Irish Charcuterie and Reuben Fritters (aka Irish Cannonballs); both were delicious and just the right amount of food for a late night bite.

Like any trip where we rush out the door, we forgot deodorant, my Tylenol Extra Strength tablets that are worth shit anyway, a jacket/hoodie/anything long-sleeved for the meat locker at the tournament and, most importantly, my meds. And this was so not the time to be without them for THREE days. I planned to be alcohol-free, but this horrific oversight was going to have to be remedied the only other way I know how. But – ya’ll’d be proud of me. I drank modestly, only at dinner, and only with food.

Day 2

The tournament. Teams. After a half hour or so of coffee in the cozy lobby, we get to the tournament and meet the crew. Everybody has to have their balls weighed. (Bowling balls, you fools.) Todd bought me a bright pink hoodie, and it was soon time to go find a seat in the stands and he went back to the waiting area. The oiling machines are like giant Roombas, except that instead of picking up dirt they oil the lanes. And then… the music started.

Imagine Dragons, Whatever It Takes… and the bowling teams start strutting out onto the floor in front of the lanes in a single file, and it was like we were at the fucking World Cup and these athletes were rock stars. Some of them were mouthing the words of the song, some were wearing sunglasses, some were waving their fist, … one guy was waving his bowling ball (in the sack) over his head, which seemed a little dangerous to me. Man down! Before the tournament would even start.

After the tournament everybody decided they wanted to go to Dinosaur BBQ, though all I really wanted was a salad. There were 9 of us and parking was a bear. We sat at three separate tables and, it turned out, one check.  The waitress sat my glass down on the table with her fingers inside it. When we ordered, I suggested Betty go first, and the waitress told me to go first. Mildly shocked at the Rude.

We all parted ways afterward, heading back to our hotels for a nap. I put on my collar of shame (as instructed to relieve pain I’m currently having) and left it on to enter the hotel and noticed how quickly the bellman jumped to open the door for me. Which made me feel alternately guilty and ridiculous.

Todd and I decided to go to the Yellow Brick Road Casino, in a little town called Chittenango where – it so happens – the author of the Wizard of Oz was born. It was small but whimsically fun… the Flying Monkey Bar had flying monkeys dangling from the ceiling. And the slots were paying out for Todd. I was being obstinently patient while he moved from one machine to another, until I hit a wall after 10 with no food in my stomach and barely a sip of water all day.

We returned to Kitty Hoynes but were late to dinner – so that there was a limited bar menu and even more limited IPA selection. They were sold out of Logical Conclusion (so upset!) and then two more I ordered they were also out of. Asked the bartender, so what DO you have? And he disappeared to attend to other guests while I perused the draft menu, and … didn’t come back for a good 20 minutes. If not for the late hour, we very nearly walked out. Eventually we got him to warm up and he was ever so friendly and somewhat more attentive… which, by the way, is NOT the way it’s supposed to work with bartenders.

Day 3

In retrospect, I’m beginning to wonder if the New York attitude creeps this far north of the city. It was bizarre, how standoffish the service was, everywhere we went. Except for Mom’s Diner, where we went for breakfast Wednesday morning. A small little spot on the corner of a well-worn street, where you order at the counter and they bring your food to the table when it’s ready. The four folks there were warm and friendly and the food was great.

We killed time at Destiny USA – which does not sound like a monstrous shopping mall with 3 floors of shopping, dining, and play. With the trend of malls going down over time, this one seems to be holding its own.

Back to the convention center for singles and doubles. Another freezing cold event and this time I carried my blanket in with me. And I wasn’t the only one. We were scheduled to start at 2:30 but by 2:35 there were still bowlers from the morning roster still finishing up. Our group didn’t start until after 3, and all I could think of was how late we were going to get home.

This day’s fight song was The Champion by Carrie Underwood ft. Ludacris. It’s funny how they all walk in like these great badasses of bowling. I watched a little, got up a few times to stretch (the pain is intense at times and the only relief is movement), dove into my journal and wrote 5 pages, and then cracked open my newest book.*

We were finally on the road by 7. I was beyond stressed and fighting back a complete mental breakdown from lack of meds and off-the-charts anxiety that kept me awake every night, and pain that returned with a vengeance just in time for the five-hour ride home. But we did it. We made it home in FOUR hours and for the first time in my life I was never happier to see our old hometown’s name on a highway sign, even though it meant we were still an hour from home.

*My latest book: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry.  National Bestseller. Although I’m only 65 pages in, highly recommend.

Before

T-minus 18 hours and 55 minutes, as of this writing. I’ve had multiple phone calls from the hospital to update my information, my medications, my instructions, my expectations…. All of which are designed to help everyone else do their job while my anxiety tops charts unseen since the summer of ’13.

ICYMI: I’m having artificial cervical disc replacement of C5/6 and 6/7 tomorrow morning. I have inconsolable (I like this analogy) pain in my neck, shoulders, upper back, wrapping around my rotator cuffs, and radiating down both arms and hands from time to time. It has been previously thought I had carpal tunnel syndrome. I would like to suggest at this time that this is perhaps NOT the case at all. I am currently feeling a radiating ache down my right leg that affects the back of my knee and the entire calf muscle. Pain right now: Five. Anxiety: Seven.

But enough about that! Surgery is tomorrow, where they cut a one-to-two inch incision in the front of my neck and remove the damaged discs and pop in two new ones. Easy-peasy, right? I’d like to think so, but my anxiety is a demon sitting on my shoulder whispering all the thoughts I should not think. It didn’t help that the PA played me an animated video of the surgery while we waited for the surgeon, so that is an image that I go to bed with every night. It’s affecting my sleep. I think they should ask the patient if they want to see it, rather than just assume we do. Some of us don’t want to know. Just fix it.

In calmer moments, I remember the signs I’ve received that are meant to comfort me. I believe in a God who knows I have so much more to do and two children and a husband (who we all know is very independent but I know he can’t or won’t do it without me) who need me to be here. I have the most wonderful angels I know will be there to comfort and watch over me. Yeah, I’m not a little spiritual and maybe a bit nuts. But ya’ll love me that way, or you wouldn’t still be reading.

My aunt is, at this very moment, in her own surgery, on her back. She was not doing well yesterday, and mom suggested I call her and I said, what the hell do you think I’M going to be able to say to her? But call her I did, and she and I commiserated about our shared anxieties and physiological problems with pain meds stronger than ibuprofen, and realized we both had the same plan for the-day-before of ironing clothes that are piling up.

So, per my previous post:

We had last days of school. The Last Day was optional/an excused absence for those who didn’t go. Opac stayed home and slept until sometime after 12:30. Veruca went to school to see her bestie and they walked to McDonald’s after to have lunch together. This was huge, as she fully expected me to say no as I have in the past. It was even huge-r that her bestie was allowed to go. She is Mexican, and culturally speaking, her parents are very protective of her. She hasn’t been to our house in the 5 years that our girls have been best friends, and isn’t allowed to birthday parties. One of my coworkers, who is also Mexican, has told me of similar experiences with her mom and her personal freedom.

V missed her endo appointment thanks to traffic on a major route that left us sitting still for almost 20 minutes. Had to reschedule and went shopping instead (it was right there). I have to say that I enjoy a good trip to TJMaxx, but this day was absolutely the worst selection I have seen in years. The clothes looked like a bad cross-dresser’s delight, or maybe a Good Will store in Florida.

We went to Ulta and spent way too much on makeup for her, but I’m not sorry. She has vitiligo on her face, and we were shopping for a quality product that offered good blending coverage without an all-over foundation.

Pre-op appointment was uneventful. I’m assuming my CBC is good and I’m not pregnant since the surgery is proceeding as planned. I picked up my collar of shame on Monday morning before our road trip because they wanted me to have it before surgery. This is NOT the soft collar I thought I’d be wearing. It looks more like an instrument of torture, and it is not flattering to my face. My face looks like one of those bloated fish you see hanging from the ceiling of seafood restaurants. Can’t wait to selfie that look tomorrow.

Bestie and I went on a girls’ day out adventure with plenty of laughs and some shopping. We made verbal non-disclosure agreements, so I cannot say anything more than … we had so much fun. Sorry. What happens in Spencer’s, stays in Spencer’s.

Todd and I had a quiet 6-year anniversary. We bought the edging stones I wanted for our front gardens, almost all of which he placed for me and it looks great. I weeded a bit. We went out for a quick dinner at the local Mexican restaurant and sat outside on the deck in the beautiful weather with a margarita. Saw our lovely neighbors at the next table, because we’re a small town and everybody goes there. Came home and sat outside, burning citronella, had one more margarita, and decided to relieve my pain in the hot tub.

Todd and I went to Syracuse, New York for the National Bowling Tournament Monday and returned last night around 11 p.m. Working on a post for that – which I’ll schedule for release tomorrow.

See ya’ll After. Peace out.

 

 

 

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.

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.