Valentine’s Day and 100 Days to Go

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Miscellaneous:

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

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

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

 

 

 

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Middle Age Shenanigans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Just Another Thursday Morning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Is Why I Drink

Yesterday was Monday and I got up for work. I put together food for Todd to take to work to get him started on a healthy diet and weight loss. It wasn’t a stressful morning. I even made him breakfast. We had a snow event Saturday and Sunday so we stayed in all weekend and cooked stuff and V’s dad brought her home for school yesterday so I wouldn’t have to drive in bad road conditions the night before.

Time to leave for work – completely flat tire on the rear left. Thank God Todd was still home so he fixed it and I was only 10 minutes late to work.

I was on phones yesterday in the morning. It’s January. EVERYBODY and their child has something. This week’s special: vomiting, diarrhea, and ear aches. I’m not mentioning the lingering cough we’ve all been reading about because, let’s face it, it’s now part of the regular menu.

Here follows an excerpt of my morning calls, or, what you shouldn’t do when calling your pediatrician’s office.

First difficult call of the day: I had to conference in a translator so I could register a new patient in Spanish. Patient is in his teens. We still accept new patients up to age 16, but Spock would say it’s illogical to go to the trouble of transferring in for only two years.

She wanted to schedule a well visit for him. Now. We need to have records in our office before we can schedule any appointments. I explained this, as well as the fact that we are scheduling well into March, April, and May. What? Oh no! He needs it NOW. She went on and on in Spanish for several minutes, because she was told by our office in November that she would have to call back in January. Ahem. NO ONE could possibly have told her that, because – need records first, then can schedule. Someone clearly misunderstood. She wasn’t backing down. Several more minutes of Spanish where I was able to pick out a handful of words which I shouldn’t have done because it made my head pound. Finally, I gave up engaging in this back and forth, since it wasn’t going to change anything. She still has to bring records in, she still has to change us to his PCP on her insurance, and we still DON’T HAVE ANY APPOINTMENTS BEFORE MARCH. Longest phone call ever, and it was still barely 10 a.m.

Next up: mom calling for a referral. That was the easy part. Then, both her kids needed well child visits; they’re due in February, and… SEE ABOVE. And – she wanted them both seen at the same visit. Easily spent 20 minutes on the phone with her trying to find a time for both children to be seen, NOT with their usual provider because that just ain’t gonna happen if she wants them together. Said she’d take any provider, but not the nurse practitioner (who has appointment availability sooner) because one child has “issues.” Found her an appointment in April with someone, and she happily took it. It just took forever to end this call.

Finally – and believe me there are several more I’ve blocked out – a dad called and wanted his son seen TODAY. By this time, we were completely booked and so I offered to have a nurse call and advise/direct him, or he could go to urgent care. This was before lunch.

Should I take him to the ER instead? That would be your decision… I’m not clinical so I’m unable make recommendations on that.

Well, can you schedule him an appointment for tomorrow?

I’m sorry, I cannot pre-book sick appointments for the next day. I can have one of our nurses call you and advise you and/or we recommend going to urgent care. Or, you can call back tomorrow morning and be scheduled then.

Well, who does the scheduling? I do, and nurses will schedule sick patients who need to be seen.

So why can’t YOU just schedule him for tomorrow?

I am not able to pre-book sick appointments for the next day. But again, I can have a nurse call you and advise you.

Where is urgent care? Will they take my insurance?

There is ******* in ******* or the CHOP urgent care location opens at 4 p.m. YOU will have to check with your insurance about coverage.

Well, can I speak to a nurse?

Absolutely. I will have her call you. What are your son’s symptoms?

He’s been vomiting and has diarrhea.

For the record, I always end my calls with a big smile, hoping against hope that it is felt through the air waves that I am very pleasant and not the least bit annoyed with difficult people.

Also for the record, we DO NOT see patients who have vomiting and diarrhea. And, in case you don’t already know, this is a VIRUS. It has to run its course and there’s absolutely nothing a doctor can do for you. Unless you are dehydrated and unable to keep even water down. THEN, go to the emergency room. Common sense, folks!

I’m just glad I wasn’t on phones after lunch, having to tell everyone who called that we have no more appointments left today. Sounds awful, right? But, this is the way it is in the winter. Everyone is getting sick and there are only so many appointments available in a day. That we were booked by 10:30 a.m. should tell you how many sick kids are out there. Which is why sick calls are triaged… so the nurses can determine who needs to be seen or who just needs home care.

And then today I woke up with headache and GI stuff and an enormous sore on my lip, something I’ve never had like this, ever. It started yesterday at work, and slowly grew but not terrible. This morning, it only added to the issues I woke with – and it is HUGE and ugly. And, it looks like there’s another one brewing on the other side.

The kids were fighting over the washing machine last night – imagine! So these are the arguments I’m diffusing nowadays. Now they’re both doing their own wash and I’m still reeling from the shock of having more time on my hands. Even Opac has taken on the challenge of unclogging a toilet – thus, I haven’t had to do this in a while either. Who ARE these kids living in my house? Still, no one is cleaning the bathroom.

I went to the store on Saturday, which we’ve already determined is to be avoided at all costs. But, necessity boiled over. I turned up an aisle of the parking lot and sat still in my car while three different people, WHO WERE WALKING TOWARD MY CAR, took up the entire aisle. Not one of them thought to move out of my way. Todd said, I’d have blown my horn. And I said, that’s precisely why I left you at home. People inside the store are no better. The rules of the road should apply to shopping cart etiquette but clearly most of these folks missed the memo.

The animals remain constant, though. Sabra is still freaked out by gunshots (we live in redneck land where no celebration is complete without gunfire). She’s shaggy and stinky again and needs the groomer. She runs from me when I pull out the brush. She acts uncomfortable on the couch when we’re home, but I KNOW she’s up there when we’re not because I see paw imprints.

Oliver lies on the couch every day, usually right after I’ve cleaned all of his fur from it. He continues his morning whine for canned goodness, and afterward waits on the kitchen stool for one of us to turn on his video game. For reals. There’s an animated mouse video on YouTube we put on for him, and he stands on the counter and bats at these mice like Rocky Balboa. Hey – it’s exercise. At least until he tires himself out and lies down on the counter and just watches them go by.

 

Miscellaneous:

Other things to keep in mind when going to your pediatrician:

We don’t prescribe birth control pills.

Pink eye = extremely contagious. You will not be seen for that. Prescriptions are called in.

You cannot be “billed” for your copay. (Well, it does happen, but generally speaking, NO.)

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT “walk in” to the office without an appointment. And, to that end, if your child fell through a plate glass door and is bleeding in multiple places, DO NOT go to the pediatrician’s office. You need to go to the ER.

Fevers that come and go with ibuprofen – will come and go with ibuprofen. In other words, fever returns when the medication wears off? Of course it does. And there’s never a dumb question or first time parent who doesn’t worry about what seems like the smallest things. Don’t be afraid to call for the nurse. Just don’t holler at the front desk person who has parameters to follow for scheduling sick appointments.

Likewise, please don’t holler at the scheduler who can’t pull well visits out of their ass for you. First come, first serve is a real thing ya’ll.

Don’t get mad at the front desk when your ex-wife told you the appointment time was a half-hour earlier than it actually is. Also, by the same token, do not involve us in your domestic disputes. There is nothing we can do about it, unless there are court documents.

When your child turns 18, they are a legal adult. They should be transitioning to an adult provider, but until they do, please know that without your new adult’s consent, we are unable to discuss his/her healthcare with you. It’s the LAW.

Finally, realize that your child is one of hundreds of patients in a practice. We care about all of them, but there are only so many doctors and nurses, and we can’t always perform miracles. Use patience and kindness when asking for what you want, and that kindness and patience will be returned.

 

 

 

Where I’ve Been: December, By the Weeks

Week 1

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

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

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

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

Week 2

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

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

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

Week 3

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

Week 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miscellaneous:

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

New Year’s Eve, Then and Now

1985                         

16 and 17, respectively. Most likely our first official date.

Lying on the floor in my attic bedroom, listening to Prince on my stereo rack in the glass case… Purple Rain, Controversy, For You… talking about whatever teenagers talk about when they’re falling in love and getting to know more about each other.

His brown hair was soft and long, mine was long and curly. Two pairs of brown eyes meeting shyly and intensely across the space between us on the floor.

My parents were downstairs watching TV. I guess they weren’t worried about the daughter two floors up alone with a boy in her bedroom. They didn’t have to be.

We may have had snacks and sodas, I don’t remember.

We may have also cuddled close on that floor, kissing and feeling all the butterflies and fireworks, and falling irrevocably in love.

We may have also had the TV on, watching but not watching Dick Clark and the ball eventually drop, signaling the time for him to go home, because he couldn’t stay.

I went to bed, aching for him in that way that teens in love do, and couldn’t fall sleep.

 

2018

49 and 50, respectively. Our 9th New Year’s Eve together.

We sat at the table with grilled filet and baked potatoes, drinking a bottle of Wente Cab by candlelight, in an otherwise empty house.

He put on one of our MP3 lists, with Scandalous Prince. We talked about our families, those still with us and those who are not. We talked about all the dogs that came before Pi and Sabra, and how neither of us wants to love and lose another pet.

We talked about our plans for the future, airfare, and practical stuff like house renovations, and the next poker party.

His brown hair is short today. So is mine. Maybe his a bit thinner than it was in 1985, and shades of gray peeking through. My hair is a reflection of my original color; otherwise it would be heavily gray.

We sat on the couch and snuggled close and took selfies. I joked we should lie on the floor and make out; he said great idea, until we have to get up off the floor.

We watched Dark Matter on Netflix. The cousins in Oregon called and we had a lovely, long conversation.

We climbed into bed sometime near 11:30, and I fell asleep just 15 minutes before the ball dropped.

 

Collide

2011. I often heard this song on my early morning runs through the streets of my old town. In 2010 I first discovered my love for running, when life was often out of control and stress was high and I needed an outlet. I wasn’t “allowed,” really, to go anywhere without the kids in tow in those days. I was the 24/7 nurse to my type 1 daughter. I was up 3, 4, sometimes 5 times a night checking her blood sugars at the boss’s command.

Running became my way to escape, if only for the time it took to run 3 miles out and back. It was exhilarating, it was liberating, it was mine. I ran through all sorts of music. I ran through Linkin Park – the angry, screaming lyrics driving me forward with all the power in my legs, my anthem to myself to reclaim the life I deserved. Life was complicated then. It was stressful. And there was Todd, in the middle of it, my anchor in the storm my ex had promised to deliver so many times during our marriage. His way, I suppose, of intimidating me to never leave.

2018. I was driving back to the bowling alley after dropping Veruca off at her dad’s. Collide had begun to play on the radio, and it took me back to those early days of fear and anxiety and the only certainty I had was that I was going to be free.

I reflected on how much has changed. How we didn’t see all that lay ahead, all the changes, both good and bad, all the illnesses, the losses.

Over seven years ago, I was running down the alley behind Main Street and Collide began to play on my iPod. I felt a relief and a profound love wash over me and I smiled out loud. I had found Todd again and he had found me, and the butterflies in my stomach ached to get to that place of peace. We weren’t able to see each other every day.

The divorce was [mostly] peaceful. It was the custody that turned ugly. I fled the house with the kids, at the urging of several friends and family who said it was safer to get out.

Over the last seven years, I lived with my dad and stepmom, I worked at the restaurant on weekends to earn money, I stopped eating and was down to an astounding 113 pounds. I hocked a pile of gold jewelry for the $1000 I needed for a deposit on a house in the kids’ school district, in order to maintain temporary custody. Every text and email exchange with ex was nasty and accusatory and threatening. I got an upper respiratory infection that lasted weeks. I started back on anti-anxiety meds. Todd proposed to me.

We married in a civil ceremony in the district courthouse yards away from the home that once felt like a prison. And, after thousands of dollars, I won custody of the children and five days later Todd and I threw a real wedding with our loved ones.

We moved to Maryland into Todd’s home and established new roots and friends. We have wonderful neighbors who are also cherished friends. We’ve been through a handful of emergency room visits, several family members in hospital, my mom’s first major surgery, my first major surgery, four new cars, my first auto accident.

My once 8-year-old and 13-year-old are now halfway through their last years of middle and high school respectively. Opac finally has his driver’s license, and is looking forward to high school graduation and college next fall.

We attended a couple of galas where I could wear a fabulous dress and pretend to be rich for an evening, and two weddings watching long-time couples tie the knot and their happily ever after.

Todd left the college where he spent 18 years, to start a new journey where he can do things and leave a lasting legacy as a dean. Seven years ago, we certainly didn’t see that coming. I finally extricated myself from restauranting, and landed a job at CHOP – somewhere I’ve wanted to work since we moved down here. I am earning more money and I have my weekends free to spend with my husband and friends and family. I love the people I work with.

We’ve made many new friends and strengthened the ones we had. We are building on those friendships because they are valuable to us, even though we all have limited time and occasional scheduling conflicts. Two of my closest girlfriends, who know who they are, I have been talking about planning a girls weekend in the near future.

In these last seven years, I’ve lost an uncle and my maternal grandfather, and both of my stepmother’s parents. We lost someone to a horrific suicide. We’ve lost two friends/family to cancer, and another four to pancreatic cancer. One is still holding on after battling brain cancer, though he will never be the same. A family member was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer disease, and so we begin to cope with this journey. We have family members who choose to be estranged, through no cause of ours.

As Green Day’s song goes, seven years have gone so fast. It sounds like a whole lot of loss and sadness, and for what it’s worth, this post was actually inspired by my mind’s ramblings after hearing Collide two weeks ago. Collide always made me smile, and it still does, and I know I’m being redundant by saying it made me think about all that has transpired since that morning in the alley.

I have a much better life today. I am happy. I am complete. Todd feels the same way, I think. He would say so, and I know him, so I am free to speak for him. The unfortunate things that come to pass are a part of living, as life goes on whether we like it or not, with whom we share it with or not. But SO MUCH has changed.

It gives me pause, to think back on everything and thank God I got here with few scars, a pile of meds to keep me calm, and lessons that caused me to grow. I have Todd and he has me, for as long as God has planned, and I thank Him every day for this blessing.

 

Even the best fall down sometimes

Even the wrong words seem to rhyme

Out of the doubt that fills my mind

I somehow find you and I collide.

30 Years, Thanksgiving, and the Mouse

The restaurant celebrated 30 years last week. Thirty years of food, drink, and scores of employees both memorable and forgettable. A friend came up with the idea to throw a surprise reunion for mom with employees past and present. I was supposed to be there, but ongoing illness and unpreventable circumstances kept me away, so I missed my mom’s nasty spill outside and bleeding leg, and my favorite “aunt” who worked many of the early and some of the most memorable years.

The official 30th anniversary was the following night. Since I’m not drinking, Todd enjoyed wine and I enjoyed good conversation with an old, dear friend. We laughed about the “old days” when he sat at my bar and we bitched about everything and everyone. We remembered Richard and his laughter. I showed off my new boots and he’s lost a bit of his game I think because he tagged them Kenneth Cole when they were actually Steve Madden. But he remembers my tastes I guess – so I’ll give him a pass.

I mostly kept to myself, and I’m hoping it wasn’t too obvious. I’m not feeling myself so much these days. I just want to fade into the atmosphere. It’s not you, it’s me.

Anyway, the parking lot was full and so I parked behind the kitchen. If this was Disney, that parking area would be designated the “raccoon” section. (Next to the dumpster, for those unfamiliar.) It’s a steep and ominous climb up the staircase to the deck outside the kitchen, which is dimly lit, and I worried briefly about the walk down later in my high-heeled boots and Todd’s insobriety. Since no one in the kitchen expects the back door to swing open in the middle of business and people to walk in, we managed to startle at least one person.

We had some food and celebratory cake and I danced with Jeffrey – who never misses an opportunity to dance – which was perfect because he’s so good, and twirling around like that, even if I was as awkward as a horse in heels, made my heart light and I found myself laughing. Todd and I don’t dance enough. We probably shouldn’t anyway, lest we hurt ourselves or possibly innocent bystanders. Maybe we’ll work on that, yes?

Thanksgiving day we hosted a total of 15, with two turkeys and all the usual accompaniments. Aunt M’s dog Snoopy, whose real name is Hershey but I keep calling him Snoopy, joined us on his first outing away from home which was a huge success. Moses, all 140 lbs of him, followed Hershey around sniffing his ass and generally making him uncomfortable, which I can fully understand because I wouldn’t like that either.

Neph also joined us, after multiple phone calls about directions and issues with his new car – which, I reminded him, IS under warranty and therefore he should be calling the dealer about it – and I think he’s been living alone too long and returned to caveman, since he brought Tupperware containers and asked if it was okay to go through the line and pack up to-go food before everyone else went through the line.

Nephtoo also joined us, and brought a friend who wanted to experience a real American Thanksgiving with, I quote, “real American drama.” What a truly tantalizing request… but, alas, it was a relatively peaceful gathering this year. Nephtoo regaled Grandma with tales of hard work and studies and three jobs and no time for anything else, to which I cried “bullshit!” from across the table and TinVeet erupted in a burst of laughter.

In all, it was lovely. The food turned out great, everyone was happy, and especially me – since I had (almost) all “my kids” under the same roof for a couple of hours. I had a little bit of wine which did not affect me adversely. My friend helped with cleanup even though I didn’t ask, and I finished the rest after dinner with the help of modern appliances. And THEN took Veruca shopping.

Oh yes I did. I promised her Black Friday shopping and so we got started around 9:30 that night. Neph went along. I thought that was great, since he’d offer some degree of protection, but I became more and more worried that he’d piss somebody off as he walked around the store with one earbud in, one dangling, talking like he’d just dropped from the ghetto. Now, Neph is whiter than mayonnaise, and personally – I could be wrong – I don’t care if all your best friends are black – Ebonics just doesn’t look good on a white boy. It’s embarrassing. Nevertheless, I kept my mouth shut and kept shopping.

In summary, I spent $275 on a shitload of stuff including a new wallet for Neph, who told me it (and a few other things) be a good Hannakuh gift, ya know, if I be thinkin of som’in to get him. A JEWISH WHITE boy speaking Ebonics in a multi-racial Thanksgiving night shopping crowd. Time to check out.

And speaking of checking out, it’s been eight days and counting since a mouse checked into hotel Todd and Tara. Little fucker has been scratching behind the wall in the kitchen all day and night, and Thanksgiving day I frantically emptied the closest cabinet to see if it had chewed its way in. Todd determined it was traveling along the electrical line, which is also NOT comforting. Mom suggested if it was that loud it has to be a rat and a big one, and I told her she wasn’t helping.

If you’ve never had a mouse in your house, let me tell you – it’s maddening. Kind of like the Telltale Heart. You hear it, you know it’s real, and you can’t do anything to make it stop. I can totally see going completely mad and taking a hammer to the wall, because I personally pounded on the wall about eight times which made him stop long enough to see what was going on and then he’d start up again. OMG!

He has finally moved to the space under the stove, as evidenced by Oliver’s sentinel post for the better of the last two days, and I’ve considered removing the drawer under the oven and just let Oliver have at it. And, at this point, I would like to publically apologize for calling my cat fat and lazy last week for lying on his back in the sunshine while the mouse chewed its way through the wall. He was just biding his time, and now the time is imminent.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Miscellaneous:

1. Ebonics: “Yo G, you frontin me?” 
English: “Excuse me, my peer, are you attempting to influence me to engage in a         violent action?

(Honestly, I think the English statement is far more likely to get you jumped.)

2. Few things are worse than a fart trapped in a stairwell.

3. Not only does the dog think she gets treats every time she goes outside, but apparently she thinks she gets treats every time I do.

 

The New Adventures of Dean and Mrs

Early in the semester we were invited to a private viewing of a documentary produced and directed by one of Todd’s faculty members about pirate radio in Britain in the 1960s. Briefly, these were unlicensed radio “stations” broadcasting from ships anchored in international waters; however “legal” the broadcast from outside the territorial limits, it was considered illegal to listen to these “unauthorized” broadcasts. There is so much more to the history that I won’t go into, mostly because I have a terrible memory and don’t want to do Wayne a disservice for his beautifully done documentary.

The event was hosted by a couple well known to the college at The Vineyard in Havre de Grace, a lovely little two-room wine bar with a delightful array of tapas, flatbreads, and charcuterie. Todd and I were among a group of maybe 15, including the president and vice president of the college and a handful of other (I perceived) important people.

We met our hosts outside as we arrived; she is a French ex-pat who had just received her US citizenship mere days before and he a retired man of politics who in casual conversation shared a memory of his time in Reagan’s White House. My jaw almost dropped before I remembered to pretend I met people like this all the time. She was a beautiful, petite woman with an open face and a smile that lit up a room, and we discovered we had the restaurant blood in common as she used to own a restaurant in France for about ten years. It was a bit more difficult to find things in common with a man who served in Reagan’s White House, but I was enthralled by his stories. He was unpretentious and kind.

Next up: Todd decided he wanted to have a “casual” faculty meeting. At our home. I repeat, AT. OUR. HOME. I tried to talk him out of it. I tried to encourage him to have it in a neutral location. I suggested it was “too soon” to have his faculty to his home, as many of them were still getting to know him. What better reason to do it then? was his response.

My subtle suggestions went over his head. He will himself admit to being oblivious and I – the wife – can attest to that on a much more intimate level. But we’re not talking about that right now. In any case, one day I noticed that he had posted the date and time on our refrigerator, and it was clearly a done deal. He wanted me to take off from work that day. I took a half day and spent the two days before cleaning the house like Cinderella before the ball, scrutinizing every corner of the house.

It’s funny, the things you’re willing to overlook in your daily life when no one is coming over. And then a party is planned and suddenly the gray cobwebs in the cathedral ceiling that have been here since we moved in are looming large, and you see every chip in the paint, ruminate over the downstairs bathroom that has needed a renovation since time began, and rethink every décor decision you’ve ever made. I was stressed.

BUT. They came, they introduced themselves (I’d only met Wayne and an English professor I’d introduced myself to at Wayne’s event), brought wine, and graciously thanked me for opening up MY “beautiful” home to them. It wasn’t a particularly large turnout, but the folks that came were quite comfortable sitting around my kitchen island and outside on the deck, which was swarming with honey bees like we’ve never seen before. For the first time in a long time I fell back into my old shy habits, standing back and taking in their conversations from an outsider view. I was in my own home so I wasn’t uncomfortable, but I just found myself slipping into caterer mode, watching and working silently around them.

Todd’s assistant introduced herself and I said, “I’m so sorry,” and she laughed out loud, asking me if I wanted to kill him for having this event here and I laughed with her. She brought me a bottle of rose, since Todd had told her I’d become recently very fond of them. I sat outside with the group batting away bees, listening to them and realizing with surprise that some of them didn’t even know if the others had children. All told, Todd’s intent was a success.

About a week after my accident, we were invited to the President’s Circle Dinner at a nearby county club. This dinner was for all the donors to the college, and Todd was invited to be one of the speakers – presumably because he is the inaugural dean of a newly re-formed division and, as I teased him, I think the president wanted to show him off.

We arrived in a downpour and were greeted at the entry with name tags to put on and advised that seating was open. Translation: sit anywhere you want. Former shy girl doesn’t do well with this arrangement, and I was eager to find a table before everyone else sat down. We met a lovely couple at the table we chose, had lively conversation, and exchanged business cards by dinner’s end.

This was, believe it or not, the first time I’ve seen Todd speak to a large crowd. At the risk of sounding all gushy, he amazes me. He’s so good at public speaking. I was so proud, and he was not just a little bit humble when he returned to the table and asked me if it sounded okay. This is the same boy I fell in love with – the one with the earring and the leather motorcycle jacket – the quiet artist with the simmering temper, the longhaired motorhead who fixed his own cars and drove fast, and loved me intensely. And that night he stood before a crowd of 100 donors in his suit and tie and spoke like a college dean. I’m sure no one in high school would have ever predicted this outcome.

As for me, these new experiences bring my life to light, as the people we meet on these occasions are politely interested in what I do. I’ve spent more than half my life in the restaurant business desperately trying to escape. I tell them I grew up in the business and, while I don’t tell them I know I’m good at it, I say I don’t want to do it anymore. It’s time-consuming and steals precious time away from loved ones.

I’ve recognized and without shame can say that I don’t have any aspirations of some grand career – I never have, really – and it took me until the last year or so to acknowledge it without feeling like it’s wrong. I was a stay-at-home mom for a very long time. I enjoyed that. I wouldn’t have changed it for anything, and the restaurant gave me the freedom to continue that after the divorce. But today I work a day job, which I love. I get to interact with people, love the people I work with, and leave the job where it belongs – in the office.

I also tell them I’m practicing a bit of old-fashioned wifery – I am here to support my husband’s new direction and look forward to the down time we get to spend together. I even have the fancy apron.

Joy Among the Chaos

I remember sitting in Chemistry class, at my desk by the windows overlooking the courtyard, and I could see the reflection of the trees on the surface of my ring. And then a squirrel would catch my attention, and Mr. Garman would snap me out of my reverie to ask me what was so fascinating outside. He then regaled the class with his squirrel pot pie recipe.

This is how my mind works most days. I start with one idea and something (squirrel!) distracts me. I’m so busy right now that it’s difficult to imagine how I sleep at night when there are still too many tabs open in the brain. I worry about the things I’ve forgotten.

Busy weekend last weekend that included a funeral an hour away at a Baptist church where I burst into tears at the sight of the open casket, and the family entered the sanctuary wailing. The music was uplifting, but the preacher screamed at us through a microphone that left my ears ringing, sermonizing the path to heaven and leaving out any prayers for the deceased. I am certain he saw me wincing at him every time he looked my way. But really. I’m hard of hearing folks, and MY ears were bleeding.

So on the ride home I posted a quote: that we should love the people that God gave us, because one day He will want them back. I got an IM from a friend who wanted to know if I posted it “because of Pittsburgh,” and my reply was like, What? And that’s how we heard that news. And then five minutes after we got home, Todd got a text that a former colleague had passed from his battle with cancer.

I snapped into auto-pilot at that point, and the next 36 hours were filled with company and celebrating Opac’s birthday, several trips to the grocery store, some tomfoolery, and more stress.

This past week was filled with work, a typical Monday from hell, trying not to drown in the pool of work that has to get done between 68 phone calls and an endless stream of patients and parents who need school letters and eleventh-hour PIAA forms (state sports forms), kids who have to have their driver’s permit form signed today, small children running circles on top of the waiting room chairs, referral requests missing diagnosis and procedure codes, people trying to get sick appointments today who aren’t our patients, and one IRATE dad who wanted to know who does the research on these HPV vaccines that we’re pushing and did I know how dangerous this vaccine is??? Some days it really is a blessing to NOT be clinical. Sorry, I can have a nurse call you.

After work, home to make dinner and then go to PT, which I really don’t want to do because it’s painful and I just really don’t want to. Home by 8. Fall asleep on the couch before 10. Up again the next morning, off to work the long day. Home by 6:30. Try to make the kids eat something, but they mostly handled it themselves before I got home.

Wednesday. Halloween. Annual doctor’s appointment and mammogram, an hour and half away, because I happen to love my doctor and as long as there are no health issues I’ll keep going. It was also Senior Skip Day, so Opac took advantage and jumped at the chance to be my chauffeur. I wore my Star Trek blue doctor’s dress. He drove like a boss on three major highways of my youth; struggled a bit on a very short merge on one of them that’s also under construction, and some asshole in a big white Audi behind us laid on his horn for a full minute. Wish I had a sign with me that I could hold up for times like these.

We drove through the King of Prussia mall complex which has evolved into an unrecognizable mass of multi-level garages. I was all – wow – and, wow – and O was like, Mom! Help me get the hell out of here. Because he swears like his momma and he was so not impressed.

Anyway, the appointment went quick and, as he was armed with a brand new Five Guys gift card from my mom for his birthday, I suggested we go to another mall a little closer to home where I KNOW where the Five Guys is and I can also get a salad. We popped into the Spirit Halloween store there for a last minute mask – surprise, he likes Deadpool. But not before Don-ning a rubber Trump mask (see what I did there?) just so I could say, Hell. No.

It was a great day that was totally unexpected. He drove a total of 3-1/2 hours round trip, and after we got home I went to PT. I finished my DIY floating Harry Potter candles because I love to put extra pressure on myself, and Veruca hung them on the tree out front. We lit up the firepit in the front yard and my neighbor came down to hang with us and hand out candy. This year was unseasonably warm and probably has nothing to do with the fact that we had less than 10 kids come. Last year there were at least two dozen kids at my door. It was nonstop, which is why I thought a firepit would be better than opening and closing my front door seventeen hundred times.

Thursday morning I took V for her blood tests at the hospital where they are repaving the lot and so we had to walk across the sticky freshly laid side and it was just generally a clusterfuck because everyone else coming and going had no idea where to go either. I dropped her at school and had two conversations there before excusing myself to go to the bank. Then went to the EZ Pass administration because my transmitter wasn’t working. By this time I was like, hell no, I am NOT going to one.more.place. today. So I called in sick to PT and I’d like to say I’m sorry but I’m not. I needed to go home and rest. Because O’s last drive time was that evening at 5:30. I was already toast.

So today I woke up with a nasty sinus headache and decided to skip the college tour. A) because I know he’s not going to go there, B) because he’s not going to go there.

Todd and I went shopping for clothes where there was a ridiculous sale going on and people everywhere. He found some sweaters and more dress shirts and insisted he needed ties to match the one shirt, and I insisted that I could find him a tie to match it in his closet right now. This went on for a bit before I decided I needed a bathroom break, so I boarded the escalator to the second floor. I wandered around looking for it, noting the candy counter and all the displays of holiday gift crap (because Halloween is over and Christmas shopping has commenced), and the lone salesman in the furniture department standing sentinel at the convergence of three aisles.

I came out of the restroom and squirrel! A display of serving pieces and Christmas decorations and ornaments and I got lost looking at everything before remembering I had a husband downstairs. I walked down the down-escalator which wasn’t moving. Found Todd and told him I needed to get that other hateful job known as bra shopping done, and he disappeared into the shoe department where the sale was buy one pair, get second pair for $1.99. What in the actual f—? The place looked like a going out of business sale.

By the time I was done he’d gone upstairs on the elevator, because you can’t take carts on the escalator, DUH. He was busy shopping in tabletop and I found him next to a display of ceramic owl canisters, and so we now have an owl canister and four owl mugs. And I got my Lennox ornaments too, but not before backing directly into a display in the middle of the aisle and all I could think of was thank God I didn’t back into it full force, or I’d have toppled a thousand dollars’ worth of Yankee candles.

Todd wisely took over the cart and I warned him to stay away from the furniture department because – I shit you not – the same guy was still in the exact same spot, and nobody was buying furniture when they could get crocs for $1.99. By now the down escalator was completely blocked off while one man worked to repair it, and all I could think was, Why NOW? It’s 12:30 on a Saturday afternoon and there are 300 people in this store and some of them are trying to get downstairs and there’s ONE ELEVATOR. And a line twelve people long. Not very good planning folks.

I will take my leave here – with me coming home to find my dog’s ass covered in shit and guess who got to wash it off? Because there will never be enough shit.