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.

 

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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.

 

 

The Shadow

It has been 10 days since my last confession. A lot has happened in those 10 days.

But let’s back up for a minute. I very briefly hinted at a new addition to our family in a post about a month ago. It’s a bit of an involved story.

Veruca and I had seen a little black cat up for adoption at our local pet store. Its name was Raven. She was adorable. The information card on her cage explained that her one eye “gets goopy” sometimes, but it “doesn’t affect her health.” I wondered about it as we left the store and V was begging me to put in an application. I had reservations about it, especially about the eye. Long story short – eventually we did.

The day I picked her up, the staff there wasn’t expecting me. They had to call someone to verify, and then they rifled through a file for her paperwork. When I saw it I told them it wasn’t the right one, although it fit her description, because this paper was for a male cat. He IS a male, they said. I was sure he was a she, because everyone including the guy who handles the adoptions referred to her that way. A few minutes and a short physical examination later, we confirmed that he was, in fact, a he.

So he came home. The kids were ecstatic. Oliver, not so much. At barely seven pounds, he moved through the house like a ninja. One minute he was there, and the next – gone. So we named him Shadow. He was not fond of being held – like a toddler who has just learned to walk. Opac was the first to draw him in. He laid on the floor until Shadow came up to him and allowed himself to be loved on.

His eye would occasionally get “watery” and he’d blink a lot. The adoption guy told me that it was “congenital” and that as long as it didn’t become pus-y or mucus-y, that he was fine. I made an appointment with our vet to follow up after he seemed to develop something resembling a cold.

She put him on antibiotics for an upper respiratory infection, ointment for his eye for conjunctivitis, and drops for his ears because he had ear mites. And he was not a good patient. He defined fighting “tooth and nail.” We double-teamed him on the antibiotic – one of us wrapping him tightly in a towel and the other squirting the dropper down his throat, all in less than 20 seconds.

But Shadow kept getting worse. He breathed loudly, like he was congested, and he snored when he slept. He sounded terrible when he ate, like he couldn’t breathe through his nose. Worried, I called the vet. We took him the next day and she took a closer look. His blood studies from the first visit were normal. His x-ray showed clear lungs. She suspected a polyp in his nasal passage, but she was reluctant to let it go and sent us to the emergency hospital a half hour away.

Animal ERs are just as busy and the wait just as long as human ERs. Veruca and I arrived about 8 p.m. and we didn’t leave until 1 a.m. Shadow was examined and x-rayed in more detail under a sedative, and placed in an oxygen tank to allow him to breathe better. The vet on duty told me the estimated costs associated with removing the suspected polyp – around $2600 – and I damn near fainted. Money I don’t have and can’t afford. The alternative was euthanasia, and I started to cry. V didn’t know what that was and after I explained it to her, she started to cry. I opted, come hell or high water, I was not putting this cat down. I would find a way to pay for it. They started the procedure and she couldn’t find the “stem” of the polyp, she said, and he would need to have surgery the next day with an internist.

We requested to see him before we left. He was lying on his side in the oxygen cage, still sedated, his one little paw taped up with an IV attached, and a soft blanket over him. He looked every bit the baby who stole our hearts just weeks ago. I reached out and stroked his soft head and back, trying to hold back the tears that had already washed my mascara away hours before. V pet him too, and together we walked out to the car, feeling relieved that he’d be fixed in the morning and would be able to come home later. It was the last time we saw him.

 

 

Where I’ve Been – February/March 2017

I have a confession to make. I’ve been on the lam. Avoiding writing, reading, and general responsibility. Although the latter seems to catch up with me every time.

In the last two weeks or so, I’ve been to CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) four times, gave Todd a homemade Valentine’s gift, attended Baltimore County’s wrestling tournament (aka, “counties”), submitted 3 resumes, had one job interview, got an x-ray, took care of one sick child for 5 days, upgraded our cable service, got in a heated telephone discussion with the electric company, adopted a kitten, worked 2 very busy Saturday nights, and got my every-two-years eye exam. Oh – and I managed to kill another plant.

There. That’s it. If you’re pressed for time, you can stop reading now. If you want details that will deliver more than April the giraffe, read on.

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The Details.

#1. Veruca had her quarterly endo check-in, and all is well and her A1c is still 6.1, which – translated – means her average blood sugar is around 146. That was CHOP visit number one. Number three was a sick visit to primary care for a sore throat and 3 days of fever. Yes – she was my sick kid for 5 days, and home for every single one of them. No strep, however. She has made a full recovery.

#2. CHOP visits two and four have nothing to do with V, and are actually job-related, and that’s all I’m saying about that right now.

#3. You don’t really want to know about Todd’s homemade Valentine’s gift, do you? Details, stolen from Pinterest: take a glass jar with a lid and fill with little notes, three-different colors– which I made heart-shaped, because I was trying to be a little craftier than throwing scraps of paper in a jar and calling it romance. White for a song lyric, pink for a memory, and red for what-I-love-about-you. Original idea called for one for each day of the coming year – which – do the math – is THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY FIVE.  Since I was pressed for time and didn’t have six months to produce all these “things,” I stopped at 100. And, by some miracle, when I did the math for that – February 14th is exactly 100 days from our legal anniversary. What luck!

#4. Counties. Nephtoo was wrestling his final tournaments of his high school career. I was very proud to be there, in spite of a hot gymnasium filled wall to concrete wall with sweaty boys and their cheering families… for seven hours. Including one guy who briefly sat next to SIL, screaming his bloody head off at his son on the mat, waving his arms around and any one of us risking becoming collateral damage by sheer default of being too close. Meanwhile, Todd made friends with a dad from another school who never stopped talking for a minute, which was shocking that someone had literally shut down my ever-talkative husband.

#5. Side note: Neph was there too, against his better judgement because I’m convinced all of his symptoms screamed !!!FLU!!!. But he went to support his brother, which I thought was wonderful and sweet. By phone from across the gym, he told me he’d stay away, but I made him walk over anyway. He was supposed to visit us two days later, but obviously that didn’t happen.

#6. I got an x-ray of my left knee, where I have been experiencing recurring sharp pain when I run. I gave up road-running and took on the treadmill, and the pain disappeared. Until now. It’s been several weeks, and I’m feeling that sharp pain even when I’m walking on it though it’s not constant – more like chronic. If that makes any sense. The NP I saw said I have degenerative joint disease/mild arthritis in the left knee and said she’d call in a r/x for Celebrex. Well, guess what? That’s not good enough. I’m seeing our orthopedist.

#7. Biggest news – our new addition. Veruca and I have been going around and around this discussion about adopting a cat, and the final decision hinged on my readiness and a little negotiation with Todd that wasn’t meant to be taken seriously but here we are. We saw one for adoption at the pet store where we buy our dog food. Her name was Raven and she was solid black, with a small tuft of white on her chest. I finally put in an application and waited. The day to bring her home finally came 10 days ago. I went to pick her up and the ladies in the store weren’t expecting me (someone didn’t tell them I was coming) and so had to go looking through the file for her papers. They pulled out a sheet and , as I’m reading over it, I tell them this isn’t hers because this is for a male cat. A male cat that fit her description, but male all the same. They said she IS a male. I said, what? Now they’re confused, and so they pulled her out to check, and lo and ballsacks… it’s a boy! The card on the outside of her cage actually never did mention her gender, but I just assumed by the name that he was a she. Nevertheless, after a long period of laughter – from me, whereby the ladies were beginning to wonder if it was alright – HE came home with me.

More to come.