Always Welcome in Any Gathering

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So the bowling fundraiser thing was last weekend and Todd went to represent the college, bringing along Jonathan (for fun), Eddie (who he bowls with regularly), and Bill (who he used to bowl with). There was an endless of buffet of food – ALL of it was fried food which, if you bowl regularly, you know you shouldn’t eat because all that salt makes your fingers swell. But I ate it, because – onion rings and mozzarella sticks and beer. Paid dearly for it later. It really sucks not being 22 anymore. Sometimes.

So we’re waiting to get started and Bill arrives. He and Todd have known each other for decades, used to bowl together. Bill is 85. He was thrilled to pieces to see me… exclaiming, “it’s the sausage lover,” and Jonathan looked at me and I looked at him like, what the fuck did he just say? I spent the rest of the afternoon wondering what the hell he meant by that. He said something later about my sausage dip (from a party a couple years back) and then changed the subject to my hot stepmom.

Bill is an interesting guy. He sat down with me between turns to chat about life, Todd, that party we had where he thought he was going to score a dinner date with my stepmom until she told him she was married, how my mom was doing, and “Uncle Harry.” He was pretty vocal about Todd’s health, yelling about him getting a colonoscopy because apparently that’s what we old folks do now – talk about health screenings and extreme invasions of personal space.

He told me to kick him in the arse about getting healthy – which, if you know Todd, is about as successful as bathing a cat. And then he went on about his days in the Navy and how he knew Harry Truman and called him Uncle Harry. I really wanted to hear more about this, but – the lanes were calling. Meanwhile, Jonathan texted me a meme of a man licking his bowling ball. I love him. He gets me.

There were raffle tickets for door prizes and by the end Jonathan had cleared off our table and threw the tickets away, not realizing they were still calling numbers. And he did it – he went over to the trash can and went digging for the tickets and I took a picture because some things just must be documented for my amusement.

Eddie, meanwhile, hung back like he always does, a quiet observer and serious bowler, every so often showing me memes on his phone. If he gets me, he never lets on. He tolerates my relentless innuendos with quiet bursts of laughter, so I never really know if he’s shocked or not but I refuse to give up. Which brings me to a story.

About a year ago, Todd and Eddie and Tish were laughing about Eddie’s stats: he kept rolling sixes and nines and so the three of them made some innuendos about it and they were all cracking up. Eddie walked up to where I was sitting and told me about it. I looked at him puzzled and innocently said, I don’t get it. He said, “sixes and nines, …..you know, SIXTY NINE.” I said, sixty-nine? okaaayyy… why is that funny? I don’t get it. He stared at me and emphasized sixty-nine again, and then again, and waited for me to get it. I just stared blankly back at him like I had no idea what he was talking about. He went back to the group and told Todd, “she doesn’t know what 69 means.” Todd said, “she does… she just doesn’t want to do it.” Tish nearly fell over and they all looked back at me and I just sat there grinning like the cat that got the canary. Eddie knew he’d been fooled. This is what I do for fun at bowling.

Meanwhile, I had the EMG which is relatively unchanged in 5 years… which is good although somewhat disappointing in that I have the numbness in my hands which is frustrating and uncomfortable but apparently not even in the “moderate” range where surgical release is an option.

Yesterday I had my second test round of nerve block injections, this time bilaterally. My doctor is this cool, self-described “crazy Japanese guy with a needle,” who plays Hawaiian music in the operative room and praised me for my sense of humor over this whole thing. But that was before he told me that if I smell bacon during the neurotomy next week, not to worry – that’s just my flesh burning. I can tell you today that “some” pain is gone but my back is hurting and right now I’m feeling a bit concerned. I felt great when I left the surgi-center, but hours later after icing periodically, my lower back was hurting like a bitch. I was hopeful that it was just temporary and that today I’d wake up differently, and I did, but now that I’m sitting in a chair my back pain is heating up again and my right leg is achy. I have a script for more Flector patches that most likely insurance does not cover and are ridonculously (borrowing a favorite expression from my friend Jason) expensive. Shouldn’t I NOT be feeling this?

Maybe I shouldn’t have been driving around for 3 hours last night? I don’t know. I finally got to pick up my car from the dealership. They’ve had it for 18 days. I don’t want to talk about all the problems it has had. It’s been ongoing for the two years we’ve had it, and I think it should’ve been replaced but here we are. Nevertheless, today we’re getting 3-5 inches of snow and other icy crap over the next several hours, and I thought it prudent to get it right away. Veruca rode along and we picked up sushi and Chinese food from my favorite place, which meant that it was a nearly 3 hour round-trip excursion. BUT – my car is home. I’m not driving a dad-car* anymore and I’m soooo happy! I beeped the horn when I pulled in the driveway.

We feasted on sesame chicken, moo shu vegetables, sweet and sour chicken, wonton soup, spicy tuna roll, Philadelphia roll, and shrimp tempura roll. This is the second time I’ve watched Opac – the finickiest of finicky eaters – gobble up sushi like candy. I know I’ve said it before… who IS this kid? Meanwhile, V – my adventurous foodie – only tasted the shrimp tempura roll. She doesn’t like sushi, really, though she does like my homemade veggie nori rolls (and so does O, for that matter). She shares my love of clams, but I do not share her love of mussels. Weird kids.

More updates tomorrow.

 

Miscellaneous:

The “dad-car” was a Ford Taurus, which I didn’t even know they made anymore. We were supposed to get a rental, and I texted Todd to get a Mustang. Instead, apparently beggars can’t be choosers or they just wanted to get the ornery customer with “the car that’s seen the inside of garage more times than all of our Fords combined” out of their service department as fast as possible, so we got the demo. It was a base model and spoiled me had to suffer without remote start, heated seats, and no Sirius XM for over two weeks. If you like big boat cars and FM radio with a smooth ride and room for 20 grandkids, this is right up your alley.

The only good part was I rediscovered regular radio, including some county station where I heard Blake Shelton’s Boys Round Here and, heaven help me, I rushed home to play it for my son, who loved it and has added it to his rotating playlist with Pickup Man and some other song about Honky Tonks.

I could tell Todd until I’m blue in the face about the healthy changes “we” need to make and, depending on his mood, the answer is either, yeah, I know or, but I don’t eat that bad. Case in point, Sunday morning I came out of the bedroom for coffee and found him elbow deep in the potato chip bag. He was just having one chip.

More advice from the pediatrics trenches: when you take your child to urgent care or the ER, they will always tell you to follow up with your pediatrician. This does NOT mean you have to have an appointment to follow up. However, DO call. The nurse can ask and answer questions and concerns and reassure you, and let you know when it might be necessary to return.

 

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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.)

 

 

 

Of Bullies

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Warning: Far-stretching, rambling rant ahead, and real life bullies exposed.

Veruca got a cell phone in 5th grade, in order to attend a birthday party. If it weren’t for diabetes, she still wouldn’t have one. It was an enormous leap of faith and I made sure she knew it. Two years later she still doesn’t use any social media apps and the only people she talks to, or texts, are family members. Mostly.

In September, there was a new girl. She latched onto V and called her her best friend, dominating her time at school, poking her to get her attention when she was talking to other friends during lunch, and the most concerning part – calling and texting her all day and night (once calling at 2 a.m.). She would text her and ask her why she wasn’t answering her, please call me back, can you call me, call me NOW, where are you? what are you doing?

At first, V was annoyed and would come to me and complain. We suggested she establish boundaries and tell her friend to stop calling/texting so much. The girl ignored her wishes. We told V to block her, but she was afraid to because then this girl would be “mad at” her.

When it got to the point where the girl texted her, “I guess I should just kill myself, then,” I called the assistant principal and let him know we had a problem. But mostly because no child should say that to another and have it go unreported. She may have been saying it for attention, but what if she wasn’t? Not on my watch.

The whole thing culminated in meetings with the guidance counselor, moving lockers (their lockers were right next to each other), seat changes in the classrooms they shared, and V completely cutting her off. And then this girl was telling people it was because of V that she “got beat” by her parents.

This girl later physically “handled” another girl, which didn’t last long because – as the victim told me herself – the next time she came around “I gave her a look and she walked away.” That look, let me tell you, even coming from a 4’10 little pistol, made me uncomfortable.

Worse stuff is circulating around middle schools everywhere, like social media posts with pictures of the victims, telling them they’re fat and should just “kill” themselves. This is happening right here in our school.

I was a victim of bullying in school, and I can’t begin to imagine how much worse it could’ve been were there cell phones and social media. Three girls in 7th grade – Laurie, Farrah, and Jean – decided one day that I was their mortal enemy, or at least a worthy butt of all their jokes. Laurie, the ringleader, would make fun of me in class, make fun of my small breasts (because really, WHO has small breasts when they’re 12?), and – on one occasion, one of them followed me down the hall poking me with a pin.

When I was in 9th grade, a 10th grade girl on my bus loudly announced me as Tarabitch every time I got on, and threw a sandwich at my head once. Lori, and her friend Julie, must’ve had a lot of fun at my expense. I had exactly zero interaction with either of them before this, and roughly zero after the fact. I never quite understood what I’d done to garner her attention.

Later on in 9th grade, on a class field trip, I was walking with a group of friends when I was confronted by a pair of twins – whom I had known and never had any trouble with before. Apparently I had offended one twin in some way (probably by just existing) and the other, loudmouthed twin Denise confronted me and warned me to “watch [my] step or [I] wouldn’t have a step to watch.” Kinda funny now, but really, WTF?

Hey – I survived. But today kids are mocking and bullying others on social media – posting pictures of them and calling them “fat,” and “ugly,” and “why don’t you just kill yourself?” (This was reported at my daughter’s school, but we know it happens everywhere.) Before the internet, social media, and cell phones, your bullying ended when you left the school. At least until the next day.

Well, here’s a question: Why in hell do these children have cell phones and social media access? These are 11/12 year olds doing this. If our children have unlimited and unsupervised access, then the problem lies with US.

Some of them have had cell phones since elementary school. WHY? What reason is justified in giving your 4th grader a cell phone?? Why aren’t parents monitoring how these phones are used?

Parents need to step up and take the responsibility back. The bullies are able to reach their victims in a wider spectrum because they have access to social media. The victims are being further victimized because they have access to social media. And before I’m misunderstood – I am in no way suggesting that the victims are in any way responsible – because, in truth, they don’t need to have social media to feel the burn. Because if everyone else in school can see what’s being posted about them, even if they can’t, they will surely hear about it.

Parents also need to take responsibility for their ROLE in bullying. Because you know what? Even grownups are guilty of this BS. Case in point: A night out with friends from high school revealed ill-feelings expressed toward them by other people – even NOW – 30 YEARS after we graduated high school. What the actual f*ck??!

Are we really so petty that we are still shunning people we disliked in high school? And, for the record the woman who experienced this was not a friend in high school but I came to know her in these later years and she is one of the kindest, most caring people I have ever met. I’m proud to know her today and call her a friend. I also realized, through our conversation that night, that those persons who still “dislike” her actually “unfriended” me, presumably because of my friendship with her?

I say again, WT actual F? 40+ years old and still acting like a juvenile? I guess this is a great illustration of how some folks have not matured, and why the bullying issue has to be addressed at the parents’ level, don’t you think?

Full disclosure: I wouldn’t talk to any of those aforementioned girls/women if my life depended on it. I’m not bitter. Forgiveness is not mine to withhold. But self-preservation IS. And I hold absolutely no ill-will when I say I’d be happy to tell them where to go, if we were ever face to face. They owe me an apology, which I’m sure I’ll never get. However, I sincerely hope that their children aren’t bullies, or worse – children who have been bullied.

Yet – where does bullying begin and end? How do we as parents address it? How do we as adults set the right examples for being good humans who accept all people?

 

What Happens At Our House… Ends Up On My Blog

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Copyright Taraka  & Tara Chronicles, 2018

When you put a group of boys in a room together…

It doesn’t matter how old they are.

 

We had a poker party last weekend. Technically, it was Todd’s poker party, but I’m the wife and therefore hostess and so it became our party that included food and pool and video games and other things.

I had to leave to pick up Veruca around 3:30, who had been at her dad’s, and it’s a stupid story that defies even my own logic and I don’t want to talk about what happened or why.

Of course I ran out of time to get ready and so when I got back I wasn’t dressed and my hair was a mess, and there were already 3 cars in my driveway. Todd and the three guys were sitting around my dining room table with no beverages and immersed in a discussion about immigration. I said a quick hi bye and ran off to my room to change.

I am very good at pulling off a quick change. Probably an old habit from my former life, where my needs were forced to find a way or forget it. But – we’re not going to talk about that either. Anyway, I was back in 15 minutes – a freaking miracle even by my own standards – and properly greeted the guys. Chris stroked my ego and told me I was getting younger. Jonathan didn’t mention this time that there was less of me than the last time, and I’m pretty sure it’s because he’d be lying.

Jason showed up shortly thereafter, and soon Todd was suggesting they grab some food and prepare for poker, as the others appeared to be running late. So here’s the scenario: The five of them circling the island and chattering about the college, because they all work there and share this knowledge of its inner workings not unlike brothers of some fraternity.

Todd was putting hot sauces on the table for the pulled pork. Jonathan – an innocent-looking man who is the instigator of mischievous shenanigans (recall the vibrator bribe of San Francisco) – throws down a fiver for the first one to do a shot of hot sauce. A SHOT OF HOT SAUCE.

THIS is what happens when grown men are left alone, people. I was invisible at this point. That is, until Todd picked up the glass and looked it over, and I jumped in to inform him I was not going to the ER tonight for anyone. Bunch of middle-aged men acting like frat boys.

So, they moved on to the buffet and the shot sat on the counter with the five dollar bill under it. I told them my brother would do it, because I know him and he’ll do anything for a challenge. This is the same child who spent summers by the pool naked until he legitimately hit puberty. Who can drink virtually anyone under the table and still maintain the appearance of sobriety. Who brought a $150 bottle of Don Julio 1942 to our summer party a few years back and handed out shots to our whole family.  The bottle was empty in twenty minutes. Not a Gemini, but he flies by the seat of his pants, like me. Except that I would never do a shot of hot sauce. Not for FIVE bucks. FIFTY, maybe.

A friend and daughter arrived shortly thereafter; B – nicknamed The Boss by Todd during softball season – was having a sleepover with V. (Incidentally, Todd has renamed Veruca “Havoc.”) So, we had Boss and Havoc playing Xbox with my brother and Opac, and later using the Oculus Rift in the guest room, squealing to a little game called Face Your Fears – which I refuse to do since I don’t need to be crawling with spiders or being chased by clowns. The rollercoaster one might be fun, or I thought so until both Todd and V said it made them want to hurl when it was over.

The poker game commenced, and Melissa and I picked at the 7-layer dip and veggies and deviled eggs and buffalo chicken dip upstairs for a while, sharing relationship horror stories because isn’t that what women do?

My brother, another bloodhound like Veruca, made his way upstairs to the food table and immediately noticed the shot glass with the 5 dollar bill under it. And like a true 20-something, knew exactly what was going on. He asked what was in the glass and –I told you so – he picked it up, threw it back, and pocketed the bill.

Chris#2 and Brenda arrived shortly after and so we all went down to the poker area together. I asked them if anyone said goodbye to them the last time we were here, because these were the folks I passed out on at our last soiree. Brenda laughed it off and I felt a bit better that Todd had walked them out.

Pool commenced with Melissa and I both proclaiming “it’s been a while,” and then neither of us played too badly except that Jamie – who doesn’t play poker but loves a good game of pool – was whispering under his breath and bugging his eyes the entire time like a coach biting his tongue.

I drank more Dogfish than I had planned, but had the good sense to filter it with water in between bottles so I remained buzzed, but lucid. Two more guests arrived, and I led them to the food and beverages, and Dan dropped his non-alcoholic beer where it exploded on the floor – just like at frat parties! – except we adults immediately cleaned it up. I suggested it was a sign that he was supposed to start with a nice scotch.

Back downstairs….Jamie jumped into the pool games and otherwise sat on the sidelines next to me, speaking in the low tones of a golf announcer, calling the play by play of the action on the table that had us all in stitches. Todd and Fred played a game I recorded nearly all of, with commentary from Jamie and myself about blue balls in pockets and scratching balls, and I thought we’d all pee ourselves over our cleverness and humor.

Brenda sat with us for a bit and shared relationship horror stories. What IS it about me? I have met more women in the last three years who have apparently seen a neon Open For Business sign on my forehead. I think I’ve chosen the wrong career path. And, before I sound snarky and insincere, I do often wish I had gone into social work and/or counseling. I might have done some good for others; I really do want to help.

Except for my one friend, whom I spoke to last night who would probably disagree since I had no new advice for her on her dilemma over her offspring. Raising kids is tough. Raising adult kids who appear lost is maddening. My conflict, too, is while I would suggest that tough love is the way to go, I am also a mother who loves her son beyond all reason and I know that I would feel exactly the same way that she does. I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite. She’s another of those whose ex sounds like a work of fiction – behavior so outrageous and narcissistic, he can’t be for real.

Oh wait —