I Bought An Indoor Plant & Life Goes On

I did. I haven’t had a true indoor plant since I killed the last one in over 7 years. I say “true” because I do occasionally keep a basil plant inside, until summer, unless it dies before I can move it outside. I have one presently, and it’s still alive so – so far so good. I also currently have the rosemary plant that I brought in for the winter, but those things have to be supernatural because I had a rosemary plant years ago that I left outside all year long; it turned brown and dry – all the symptoms of a dead plant – and then bounced back like it had nine lives.

Anyway. It’s a palm. I saw it and thought – yes! We need plants in the house. I won’t say why we haven’t had them for so long, but it’s not just because I’m a serial plant killer. Veruca saw it and exclaimed, wow! Because it’s way bigger than it looked at the store. And then she said in all seriousness, don’t kill it, mom. And then she said she can’t wait until it drops coconuts. It’s not that kind of palm, but she wasn’t hearing it. Kind of like when she says she’s Chinese even though it’s plainly obvious she has not one percent of Asian in her.

I’m trying to find the emotional balance again. The grief hits me from time to time, when the thought drops like an empty bomb, clearing the hollow of my stomach and reminding me of his absence, and that it is permanent. The stages of grief always catch me by surprise, you know? Like they talk about the stages and it’s like yeah, yeah, that’s what they say. But it’s real. I found myself feeling something other than sadness when I saw others’ posts of their cats. WHY OLIVER?

Anyway, I am busying myself with completing the tasks of tidying, a la Marie Kondo. I have packed up 12 boxes of miscellania and 7 bags of clothing to be donated to Purple Heart. I organized the junk drawer, and the kitchen cabinets are shaping up slowly. No – I’m not following her program to a “t.” But I’m getting the job done and it’s bringing joy.  I folded my clothes Kondo-style and my drawers look like a work of art and I can’t stop opening and closing them. I did Todd’s too – would you believe he owns 78 t-shirts? SEVENTY EIGHT. I told him no one can use that many t-shirts. And this was after we purged some. And then went out shopping and doesn’t he buy 3 more? So that ups the count to 81. (And no – I did NOT buy him a t-shirt at Opac’s college a few weeks ago. Sue me.)

Anyway, emotional balance. I go to work and it’s pleasant and we laugh a lot (well, except for the absurd. More on that later).  At home, this perimenopause business makes me edgy and impatient. It’s probably partly because we have a canine houseguest, and he’s big and hairy and licks his paws. A few people know this makes me absolutely nuts. There’s hair everywhere, something I am not fond of and one reason why poodles are perfect. It’s no secret I have a threshold for tolerance when it comes to changes in the household dynamic.

Other things that make me stabby: slow internet connection, parents who think the student drop-off rules don’t apply to them, really – anyone who thinks the rules don’t apply to them, someone throwing a cigarette out their car window at the grocery store, and everyone who continually undermines my Kondo house. On a larger scale, the horrific lack of justice in the world and the fact that it’s not illegal for evil people to reproduce.

So I’m focusing on my own habits and making healthy changes. I’m back on the self-imposed wagon again, and truth be told: your body will tell you what you need and what you don’t, IF you pay attention. I have a story about that too, for another day.

I have breakfast quinoa simmering on the stove this morning. I made $80 hummus yesterday. It’s $80 because we had to buy a food processor on Sunday (old one crapped out months ago). I started a new 21-day exercise program because I am almost-50-going-on-25 in my head and my body is all like, hey, feel this.  I took a bikini pic yesterday and recorded my weight and intentions in my journal. It’s only 3 weeks. I can do this.

V is running a 5k in a few weeks, and I was aiming to run it with her. Or, rather, at the same time – since she doesn’t think we can keep the same pace. And she’s right. At this point I am not ruling it out, but I’m also not very optimistic about my knees holding up.

In spite of all the dumbfuckery of the present day, Todd and I have confirmed plans for New York and Phantom of the Opera, another trip to Erie for the State Bowling Tournament, and Vegas over the summer, coinciding with the National Bowling Tournament – because, apparently, very little happens without bowling balls. And, to that end, let me say now that also apparently – in case you didn’t know – all balls are not created equal. This was born of a conversation with Todd about how many balls he needs for the tournament, and the answer is four. He needs four balls. Seriously. Because all balls are not created equal. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

The Absurd (as promised)

*These can also be classified under the “what not to do” tab.

People going through divorce are not normal. (I can say this because I was once one of them and fully understand the crazy.) Sometimes mothers call up tearfully sharing their shitstorm. Others, like the one a couple of weeks ago, forget their manners when they come into the office and turn on us – like, “why don’t you use your knowledge and figure it out?” while attempting to get her child an appointment for “she-doesn’t’-know-what.” (Oh yes, she did.) *For the record, she later called and apologized.

There are also – and this is a fun one – a handful of acrimonious parents who spend their time transferring their kids to other practices, while the other parent is trying to keep them in our office.

What not to do: do not involve us in your custody disputes. Unless there are court documents on file, there is nothing we can do.

Patients in the 16-17 range who arrive for appointments alone. FYI: children under 18 need a parent with them, or at the very least, parental consent to be there alone, and not all offices will even allow that. This situation requires us to call parent and get a verbal, taking up valuable time for other things and not to mention the amount of time said patient is with the provider.                                                                                                           

What not to do: Do not send your minor child to the doctor’s office alone.   I’m all for leading them down the path of adult responsibility, but at least accompany them for it.

And now, my personal favorite:

Parent who calls our office for an appointment Today. Today translates as a “sick” appointment. Child has not been seen in our office. I ask if we have records (this is a requirement to schedule any kind of appointment, as well as what insurance they have and whether or not they have to choose a PCP, which is a whole other story for another time), which is when I find out that child is a patient of another office in our network. I mention this to the parent, as well as the fact that I can see he is scheduled for a well appointment there in less than two weeks (which is going to matter A LOT as the conversation continues).

It is the parent’s responsibility to call the other office and cancel that appointment and inform them they’d like to transfer to our office.* The other office doesn’t “give good service.” I say I’m sorry that he had this experience, but reiterated what I said above. He was surprisingly NOT HAPPY with my response. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t go to any location in the network whenever he wanted; I explained that while we are all connected, we operate as separate offices. That’s when he said this was “like a scene from a socialist movie,” and I have a limited knowledge of political ideologies but I think he might have gotten this one wrong?

*Turns out he wanted a Well appointment not a sick appointment. Currently, well appointments are out at least 3 months, which is why it makes more sense for him to keep the one he already has. It also turns out that the other office doesn’t give good service because he wanted one sooner than that two-week one he already had.

What not to do: Oh my, where to start? Expecting the rules to be changed for you? (see my earlier stabby-trigger) Being rude? 

 

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.

 

 

 

As Life Goes On Around Me

As I continue to heal and not complain about it – (I joked with Todd over the weekend that he should be glad I’m not Opac, who would complain about every ache and pain like he was dying and then announce that his funeral was imminent) – life goes on around me.

Not quite two weeks post-op. I’m still doing the same mundane things and suffering a suffocating boredom. My mom was here last week to help, mostly just running Opac to workouts, caretaking my plants, making food, and entertaining Veruca for the 24 hours she came home to be with me. V chose not to stay the extra day until her dad came to pick O up. I’ve reached the pinnacle of boring for her.

My neck is still hurting, and fatigue creeps in like a fog drifting in off the bay, particularly when I’ve done too much – which, if you can believe it, might be unloading the dishwasher or ironing more than 3 shirts. Sunday I was looking forward to going up the street to celebrate my neighbor’s 70th birthday – we drove literally three houses down because a) the last time I walked that far I regretted it and b) it was 97 degrees.

The surprise party was a huge success. Jackie is literally the neighborhood welcome wagon. She is one of the kindest, funniest, craziest neighbors you could ever hope for. The first time we met she hugged me and told me how happy she was that I was there. She goes out of her way for us all, and she deserved nothing less than the celebration we gave her. She also shares my love of chickens and her BFF, who is also a neighbor and friend, bought her a six-foot metal chicken that I am insanely envious of. He’s beautiful. And I joked with her that now she has the biggest cock in the whole neighborhood.

I made Cuban sandwiches and coleslaw (with Todd’s help) and I thought I took it easy, sat most of the time, drank lots of water, and actually ate more in one sitting than I have in nearly two weeks. We were there just over three hours and my neck was killing me. I guess this means I overdid it a little?

It’s weird and disappointing, that I want to do stuff and then the energy gets sucked out of me like air in a deflating balloon. My neck still hurts and my throat is still tight. I wonder, casually and half-seriously, if I’ll ever feel normal again. Which is, of course, a bit melodramatic.

And, speaking of melodramatic, the kids came home yesterday morning by way of their dad, which we had previously discussed. That is, until Sunday afternoon when Veruca called to tell me Nannie was bringing them home. This was after Todd told me my mom couldn’t come down because she had too much to do. OKAY.

Opac literally called me while I was saying goodbye to V, wanting the 411 on next weekend because he was trying to make plans with “someone.” He didn’t mention anything about Nannie or the next day, and I didn’t ask. Two hours later he called me AT THE PARTY all pissed off because the plan as he knew it had changed and V was “running the show.” I said to him – I don’t even know why – I’m sorry you’re upset but I Can’t Talk About This Right Now. He continued to rant about how he needed to get home and something-something about dad and lack of communication, blah blah blah… and I cut him off mid-sentence and told him I’M AT THE PARTY and I cannot have this conversation right now.

Apparently V and mom were taking Mom-mom to the doctor and then out to lunch which, by the way, left O waiting at mom’s house because he didn’t want to go with them, which he called me about later because he didn’t want to sit in Nannie’s house for hours and just wanted her to come back to his dad’s house to pick him up.

So he’s very unhappy with the plan because he just wants to get home and dad can bring them home but won’t just bring ONE of them home and not the other. And O can’t wait until late afternoon to get home with Nannie because he has to “prepare” for workouts at 5:30. So, he wants it his way and Veruca screwed everything up. And I’m wondering how I fell into the middle of this since I’m the one recovering from surgery and there’s now a clusterfuck of convoluted misinformation and I’m failing to see what ANY of this has to do with me.

FOUR phone calls. Mom called to explain the plan. Followed by Opac calling to bitch about the plan and tell me that dad can bring them home since he has an appointment nearby – which makes perfect sense to me and why drag my mother into it? Then he called back to tell me dad WAS bringing them home in the a.m. and that he tried to call Nannie but she’s not answering, and I suggested that probably it’s because it’s NINE-THIRTY AT NIGHT. And then fifteen minutes later mom called me (after she spoke to V) about the change in plans and said she felt guilty about letting V down. Jesus H. Christ.

At 8:41 a.m. I got this text from Opac: V’s in a bad mood so beware.

Yay. Can’t wait. How much of this is she blaming on you? (Asking for a friend.)

I braced myself for tropical storm Veruca, but she came in smiling and huggy and chatty. And O was of course his chatty happy self (read: got what he wanted). So, reentry was peaceful and without incident. No need to reach for the pill bottle.

Speaking of pills, Hell Week for dogs has returned. It started Saturday night. Sabra jumped over the ottoman and me, clawing my leg and stunning me awake, to run over the cat to the opposite end of the couch – WHICH she could have easily gotten to from the other side. She stood there panting and trembling, and ignored my command to lie down. She walked back over to me and the cat, who casually got up and sauntered into the kitchen like he’d just remembered something he had to do, and stood over me offering her best impression of an earthquake. I’m not sure whether it was the seismic motion on the couch or her hot breath on me that made me more nauseous.

Todd started a new job yesterday as a college dean that we are both thrilled about. It’s a big career step but he’s SO the man for the job. My little brother, always MIA, is in Michigan at some big music thing and not answering my texts again. My dad is home again but I can’t text him because he dropped his phone in the pool and it’s fried. I’ve had flowers and well wishes from work and others to brighten the days.

What will today bring? Surely another round of neighborhood fireworks, three more shirts ironed, Veruca’s eighteenth plea to go swimming next door, a new book started? More loosening of the Steri-strips?

 

 

Inclement Weather, 49 hours later

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Blogged while eating Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup ice cream.

Orange Polo Shirt was located less than 10 minutes after I published that last post. I found it buried under a pile of clothing on top of the suitcase he’d taken to Nashville. Okay, I lifted exactly 4 articles of clothing – most likely the clothes he last wore – and there. it. was. I took a picture to send to him, asking if I got a reward. My reward is spending the rest of my life with him, which is a dream come true, even if I will be slowly losing my mind.

This is technically inbound day four for me, as V has been sick since Sunday and was home from school before this weather system clobbered us. I have to admit I love this weather – when everyone can be home and we don’t need to go to work. At least until last night when the brain weasels wanted me to think about what I would do if we had a real medical emergency. A small wave of anxiety washed over me, before I shut it down. It’s kind of like that same anxiety I feel in certain Italian-American chain restaurants – yes, we have – where they walk you back and back and back through this labyrinth of rooms until you feel like you’ve entered some alternate universe, Mediterranean garden-cave and there are no visible exits other than the front door –which, by the way, is so far away you’d never make it out – what if there’s a fire?

Anyway, we’ve kept busy watching Netflix, playing Fortnight (the new video game crack for teenaged boys), shopping Marketplace, and spending absolutely no time on the treadmill. Yesterday I made breakfast quinoa, bacon, and chocolate chip pancakes. I made homemade cole slaw. For dinner I made this delicious Orzo with Parmesan and Basil to go with broiled New York Strip steaks (grill was not only half-buried in snow, but out of propane).

During dinner, somehow the conversation turned dark. It all started when Todd said he smelled poop. This has been an ongoing theme in our house, between the cat and his infraction in the hall bathroom and the continuously clogged toilet. I suggested that the dog farted. There was a brief moment where we considered that she had a wayward piece of shit stuck to her ass. That’s when Opac said he doesn’t think he could ever have a dog, because he can’t stand the smell of poop and could never clean it up. Todd countered that no one likes the smell of poop; that’s why when something bad happens, we say, “shit!”

Segue into V informing O that she would take care of wiping my butt when I’m old, and he’d take care of wiping dad’s butt. Aint happening, he said. He might’ve used other words. She added dad’s wife to O’s list. No, he said. And, without missing a beat, looked squarely across the table at Todd and said, And I know what you’re thinking and you can forget it.

Anyway, the mystery of Oliver’s accident in the bathroom was solved when I went downstairs to start a load of laundry and found that somebody had closed the door to the bathroom where his box is. But nobody knows who. This is what I mean by slowly dissolving into madness. I’m headed there.

And then of course Oliver decided to add insult to injury and returned to the scene of the crime yesterday to urinate on the remaining rug. I don’t know WTF is wrong with him. He’s on a one-way highway to extinction, if he keeps this up.

And, because I love this kind of shit, you’re going to love what I got to do today. First off, V and I ventured out to run overdue errands and pick up some groceries – including toilet paper because we were down to our last two rolls in the house. Seriously people, forget milk and bread – in a real snowstorm, there is nothing, nothing, more important than TP. Being down to your last garbage bag has nothing on being down to your last roll of toilet paper in a family of four. Well, except maybe wine.

Anyhoo, we get back. We have lunch. We watch sheets of snow fall off the solar panels in front of the house. V goes to the bathroom. Twenty minutes later she comes out and tells me the toilet is clogged. No kidding, I said, what a surprise. What she said next requires a full shot of tequila to recover from. She said, what happened to all the toilet paper under my sink? I said, it’s gone, that’s why we bought more. She said, oh. Well, I thought we were out of it, so I used paper towels. PAPER TOWELS.

After I pointed to the package she was with me when I purchased not more than two hours ago, I spent the next 15 minutes fishing out seven paper towels with the toilet brush, and trying not to get any of the water on the newly washed floor (recall the urine rug of yesterday). She “didn’t know” you can’t flush anything but toilet paper in a septic system.

I won’t be redundant and mention the dog’s infractions, but I will say that we are now taking her outside from the rec room downstairs. Tuesday night I called her to follow me, and she went as far as the top step and turned and ran back to the living room where Todd was. I walked back and said firmly, Sabra, come. She moved closer to Todd. Frustrated, I walked into the living room, where Todd was sitting on the couch with one leg up on the ottoman and the other on the floor beside it. The closer I came to her, the closer she got to him, until she couldn’t get any closer. And then all of sudden she literally dove, head first, between the ottoman and the couch. It was by far the funniest thing she’s done yet.

Tomorrow life returns to normal, or as normal as it can be with us. But Spring is coming, and with it new adventures.

While You Were Away

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Dear Mom:

It may not be as exciting as shaking scorpions out of your suitcase, or having howler monkeys next to your patio, or being laid over for 12 hours in a biker bar, but you missed some good times back here in the Northeast.

I know the news about threats of school violence worried you. The child who was making the threats on social media was a middle-school-aged girl who doesn’t even attend our schools. Nevertheless, there were many students who didn’t go to school the next day. I don’t know what happened with the 8th grader in V’s school who made threats, other than that the authorities were brought in and it was handled. Everything is pretty much back to normal. Still – it worries me that our children have to worry about this stuff. And that we, the parents, have to worry about this stuff.

We had some weather. We had some crazy winds. 60 mph wind gusts on Friday that brought an early dismissal, out of fear of fallen trees and power outages. At lunchtime I texted Todd to suggest he stay home. The three main arteries going south were all closed, thanks to the high winds on bridges and two overturned tractor trailers on Tydings bridge on 95. Thankfully, he stayed home and skyped his meeting.

BUT, he still thought he was going bowling an hour away. I texted him back that I wasn’t going. My nerves can’t take it. After that nailbiting hour and a half ride home in dense fog last month, I promised myself never again. He was climbing the walls by the time I got home from work, as you might expect, and he was insisting that the roads were clear and he would be fine. I told him he was nuts. He reluctantly agreed to stay home.

The power went out in my building 5 minutes before we closed, for about 10 seconds. I looked over at Kathleen sitting next to me, and I couldn’t see her. There was this audible sigh throughout the office that felt like the building breathing. I was in the middle of a triage call, and our entire system – with phones – went down. Thankfully the generator kicked on and lights started popping back on.

I remote-started my car before I left my building… the workers in the lobby all said good night and told me to be careful. I took a deep breath just inside the glass doors and braced myself for winds I haven’t experienced since I lived in New York. I kept my head down and walked quickly to the car, put my hand on the handle and … nothing. It didn’t unlock, and then I noticed that it wasn’t running. I cursed it, and then realized It Wasn’t My Car. My car was 3 spaces away, engine running. Fiddlesticks!

Back at home…  the animals. With Moses’ arrival comes Oliver’s seclusion; however, this time Mo took to our bedroom at night and so Oliver couldn’t even sleep there. Mo likes to move around a lot. He slept in the hall, in the living room, on our floor, and one night in Veruca’s room. He also, as you know, has a particular penchant for the top of the stairs – which has got to piss Oliver off.

After a few days of this nonsense Oliver must’ve decided, fuck it, and often wandered into the main living areas with enough distance between them to allow for escape. It takes exactly 3.4 seconds for Oliver to bolt from any room, and exactly a minute and a half for Moses to get into a standing position. I’d say the odds are stacked in Oliver’s favor.

Sabra returned to her buffoonery, skittering through open doorways like some invisible force slapped her backside, and refusing to go outside with Moses. I took to letting them out separately, for the sheer purpose of saving my sanity, and still she would go out the door and turn immediately back and stare through the glass waiting to come back in.

One time she actually went out and stood just around the corner where I couldn’t see her – well, all but her tail wagging – and waited a minute or two before running back to the door and wanting to come back in. And THEN she stood staring at me waiting for her cookie. She really thinks I’m stupid.

She has turned me into a criminal investigator – between checking her paws to see if they’re wet (which they would be if she’d left the deck) and trying to catch her pooping on the deck around the corner where no one can see her. There are currently 4 piles of petrified poop on that corner of the deck, and I know it’s all hers.

One night, though, she went out alone and came back all wound up like a rabid squirrel, bouncing around the living room and pushing at Mo to get up. She wanted him to go out there with her, and it’s dark and all I can think is – oh God, please don’t let them come back smelling like skunk. This is a legitimate worry, mom.

The animals are all crazy. Mo knows the cookie drill – so as soon as he comes in, he’s ready. Except that Sabra goes out next… and, depending on whether she actually leaves the deck, then she gets her cookie. Mo seems to think it’s handout time again, and so he comes over and expects another cookie. And then Oliver comes and stands by the cabinet waiting for his kitty treats.

I’m sorry that I had to close the door to all pets after a couple of nights listening to Moses licking his paws for the better part of two hours. You know how much I love that sound. He does it during the day, too, just a few feet away from where I’m sitting, you know, so I can enjoy it too. Have you noticed that yelling stop it! doesn’t really work with him?

For what it’s worth, however, he is by far the happiest animal in the house to see me when I get home. Even if I’ve only gone as far as the bus stop to drop the kids. That’s refreshing. We just have to do something about his body slamming “hugs” and leg-bruising head butts.

You may notice that I brushed him a little. I used the furminator that you included in his overnight bag, and let me tell you I think a vacuum cleaner would be far more effective. I brushed one side of him while he was lying down, and could’ve knitted a rug with the excess that the brush couldn’t contain. Obviously I thought better of completing this endeavor indoors, but the winds were still high and so outside wasn’t an option.

The kids are well. Opac is complaining about needing the driver’s ed class so he can get his license, but when I offer to let him drive home from workouts he says it’s leg day and his legs really hurt. I don’t know how he’s going to get his hours in, if there’s always a reason not to practice, but hey – I’m in no hurry.

V is already planning her birthday party, and asking when and where we’re going to the beach this summer. I told her to talk to you.

Hope your trip home is less eventful than the one out. You’ll be pleased to know that Mother Nature has conjured a winter event to commemorate your return from the tropics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Delicate Balance

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I never think about how the dynamic of our household is laid out. How it affects the alkalinity and salinity and compatibility of all its elements like a saltwater fish tank.

The kids come and go from their dad’s house, which changes the dynamic, but it’s not unmanageable for me. At least not anymore. It is more so for Todd, who experiences his home in bursts of alternating quiet and chaos. I think I’d have a better appreciation of this sort of whiplash if he’d pick the kids up one Sunday and I waited in silence at home.

Houseguests change the dynamic, yet it’s temporary and joyful and also joyful when they leave. Don’t get me wrong, I – we – enjoy having people over. It’s one of the reasons we have an established guest bedroom.

Overnight guests don’t upset this balance. Weekend guests don’t really upset this balance. Permanent houseguests? Well, now there’s a whole blogpost.

I’ve recognized and shamelessly admit that I enjoy – no, I REQUIRE – the dynamic of our house just the way it is. I don’t do well with change as it is, and when it occurs in my house in the form of another human living here indefinitely, it’s a recipe for a volcanic disturbance.

We had a friend in need who stayed with us for a few months. It wasn’t terrible, but at some point I started trembling at the very thought that there was no end in sight. I don’t recall how it ended, exactly, or how my tremors evolved. And I’m okay with forgetting.

And then couple of years ago we had Neph. Neph moved in and we welcomed him, because he’s family and not a friend and he was young and we had rules and he was going to follow them and it would be wonderful to have another “kid” in my house. And I do love him, truly, but he has a tendency – like all males his age – to Neanderthal his way through life, refrigerators, and bathrooms. He also has his own habits that had to fit into our dynamic. However, his habits occasionally bulldozed over ours (mine) and I learned valuable lessons about speaking up without bitching, reminding without snarling, and buying food in bulk.

Furbaby houseguests can also ramp things up a bit. When my mom goes away, she leaves her beloved furbaby – which is at this very moment funny to me because he’s no baby – he’s 140 pounds of white fluff – with us. Moses is sweet and wonderful, well-behaved and easygoing. Well, except for that one time he went after Oliver in an unprecedented move that both startled and impressed me.

He and Sabra used to be boyfriend and girlfriend, when our dogs were living with my mom and her dogs. They adored each other, followed each other around, and – early one morning on the deck outside – decided it would be fun to have sex and freak my mother out. (This was followed by a few days’ speculation about whether it was true that Moses was truly neutered, and whether Sabra was knocked up.)

Nowadays, like an old married couple, they greet each other with a sniff and a tail wag and then go lie down in their respective places. So, anyway, Moses came to stay with us a couple of weeks ago, and this time my mom brought his bed so he’d feel more at home and, hopefully, not sleep on my couch.

Sabra commandeered his bed the minute he arrived, and I spent an entire week chasing her off of it. She’d lay her 38-pound body down in this giant fluffy bed, leaving her half-the-size bed for Mo, who – do the math – is 100 pounds bigger than her. So, then of course, Mo would jump up on the couch, because – comfort – and I’d walk in and holler at both of them. Rules, people!

I thought I was bad at adapting to changes in the “force,” but Sabra becomes a spoiled brat who thinks her shit doesn’t stink. Literally. It’s really quite impressive, how far she’s come from Pi’s shadow and the follower mentality.

Moses is a good boy always eager to go outside. Sabra refuses to go outside with him. He’ll run out the door and she will circle just inside it, and then run back to her bed. And then I’ll make her go out because why should I monitor the dogs and the door twice? But you know what she does? She stands by the door and looks in. And then has the audacity to come back in with Moses and expect a cookie.

So the only way she’ll go out and do her business – is when Moses is not with her. Weird. But now, Moses took to urinating on our deck within view of the sliders, and then Sabra started doing it too. Meanwhile, I’m losing hair on the top of my head.

And Moses has long been home again, and she’s still doing it. I heard Todd scolding her yesterday morning and he was pissed. She did it again this morning, and when I scolded her she looked away, feigning shame, because if she really was sorry she wouldn’t be standing there staring at me after the fact like, well? where’s my cookie?

Meanwhile, Oliver lives life on the edge when Mo is here – which I feel terribly badly about, but I do accommodate him more then and so I’d say he wins in the end anyway. He gets more treats, more love, more attention, even more than normal. What could be better? He would tell you that better would be, how about that fucking white beast go home? Except he probably doesn’t use the f-bomb because he’s so angelic. But I can see it in his eyes when he looks at me. We share silent conversations, he and I, with our eyes.

He stares into my eyes for long moments, like he is telepathically telling me the secrets of the universe and eternity and I have no idea – and then after a moment he’ll break the connection and run over and rub up against me and act like a cat again.

Maybe that’s why he loves Todd so much. Equally frustrated with me for being so unaware. He lies next to us on the couch, and I can tell he loves Todd more in those moments, as if he’s like – it’s you and me, dad. This chick doesn’t know jack about existentialism.

But that’s also part of the delicate balance.

The First Days of 2018

As another year turns the corner, I cleanse my inbox of useless emails and spam, browse the pages of social media for inspiration. I get emails from a website that offers design inspiration for your home and garden and life. One included a reminder about, and how and where, to start decluttering your space.

Purging is one of my favorite things to do. So Tuesday, after everyone left the house and me in it all alone…. I did what any jacked-up-on-coffee housewife would do. I started cleaning out the kitchen drawers, cabinets, the kitchen antique cabinet I use for cookbooks, office and diabetes supplies, and the china cabinet in the dining room. I threw stuff away. I started filling a box to be donated next week to the Purple Heart.

Extra, unused glassware packed up for the bar we haven’t built yet. Old coffee mugs going to Todd’s office. Several hundred corks I’m deciding what to craft with. Trivets for everyone! Or maybe a bustier? Just kidding. I’m not that energetic.

The Christmas tree is still up, though yesterday morning I started pulling ornaments off with the branches attached. This was not intentional, by the way. In this case, the tree completely died before we took it down. And when I say completely, I mean the only stage left from here is petrification.

Todd’s brilliant idea was to get the garden loppers and cut off the branches and carry them out separately. That was supposed to be my job yesterday. Then he would carry out the trunk. I thought I’d get creative and make it look like the Charlie Brown tree. However, I have a very bad elbow and the loppers weren’t working very well and I decided I wasn’t doing it. V picked them up and went all Edward Scissorhands on that tree, making an impressive transformation, and I only stopped her long enough to remind her not to cut off her own fingers or the curtains on the windows.

Together we cleaned up that entire space and I carried what was left of the tree out the sliders and dropped it off the end of the deck. It’s Todd’s problem now. And when he got home he expressed surprise that I’d done it, and I made sure to point out how difficult it was to lop off the branches with my bad elbow, you know… and he picked up the loppers on the counter and said, “you used these?” Because, apparently, those are bush loppers, not branch cutters like the ones in the garage and really – how was I supposed to know the difference, I screamed. But I only screamed in my head, because he’d only just gotten home and I didn’t want him to feel unwelcome.

En medias res, I am still cleaning up the aftermath of the holidays and at least one kid who doesn’t know how to put. shit. away. AND, doing eight loads of laundry, including Todd’s which I swear we just did three days ago but he insists was over a week ago. With the way things are going for the two of us, in another 10 years they’ll be putting us in a home because one of us left the stove on.

And that’s only if we survive ourselves until then, since Todd damn near aspirated a Jolly Rancher last night and I was afraid I was going to have to Google the Heimlich maneuver while he turned blue. Thankfully that didn’t happen. Meanwhile, my body parts just keep turning on me in ways that are not funny and I wonder sometimes if the only way left is down.

Anyway, I have books to read and books to give away, drawers and more drawers in the bedroom to empty and sort, and that walk-in closet with the fallen rod that is overflowing with ironing and other stuff that the cat has assumed is his new bedroom. I have renovations I am capable of doing that are awaiting another day and another pot of crack coffee.

It’s day 3 and I have already finished 6 loads of wash, ran the treadmill, and set up the Roomba – which, by the way, was hilarious. The cat left his coveted spot under the tree to check out this thing running through the dining room and seemed nonplussed by it until it doubled back on him while he was eating from his bowl. Sabra of course jumped out of her bed when it neared the living room and took off for parts unknown, until the kids came home and the thing had recharged itself to vacuum my bedroom.

Veruca came running to tell me it had sucked up the strings of my jacket. The chaos that ensued was nothing short of a circus. Todd called just as I was running to rescue my jacket and, as I stooped over to retrieve it, Sabra body-slammed me from behind and I almost face-planted onto the Roomba. Both kids were hysterical but I was NOT. Todd asked if he could call me back. Because he can’t handle a conversation that includes two hysterical kids and a hyper dog and a screaming wife.

The current temperature is 22 degrees and snowing and 50 mph wind gusts, up from 4 on Monday, and the kids have a snow day. The half-assed lights on the bushes out front are still up, and so are our Christmas pumpkins. We have Christmas pumpkins ya’ll, because we are on the cutting edge of new holiday trends. I was going to put lights on them, but… remember – half-assed. Anyway, it’s too cold to take any of that away.

The only thing I accomplished outside in the 14 degrees on Tuesday was going out back on the deck to toss the cranberries I’d used for decorating into the old horse field for the birds, and getting gas in the rented Expedition, because My Car Is Coming Home – which turned out to be a great big LIE and we still don’t have the car back because some asshole put the whatever-was-being-replaced in backwards and it was screwing up the timing and it took another whole day to figure this out. These are the people who are supposed to know how to fix my car the right way.

Anyway, I was going to put away the holiday wreath made with Christmas balls that I repaired before party 2.0, but since Todd took it out with his backpack as he was entering the house I no longer have to. He was so sweet to collect all the balls that had scattered like a broken string of pearls.

There are more goals for this week and the coming one… but… I’ll save that for another post. Todd will be home soon and I need to look like I’ve been busy all day.

The Weekend, Food, and the Apocalypse

The 4th of July weekend, they call it, even though the 4th doesn’t actually fall on a weekend this year, but is in fact on Tuesday. But the fireworks and explosives junkies don’t let a little detail like that derail their plans to blow shit up and generally disturb whole neighborhoods and animals alike. FIVE days of fireworks in my neighborhood.

I am fairly certain the new residents of the only house that was still for sale were responsible for the majority of them, which doesn’t bode well for our community or their reputation. The former residents’ three boys earned a reputation for illegal and occasionally dangerous shenanigans. When they finally moved away, even the trees breathed a sigh of relief.

Anyway. I picked the kids up Monday morning with plans to go to my dad’s for the day. It wasn’t even 9 a.m. yet, so I went to my mom’s to pick up Todd’s table saw – that he’d left in her driveway on Friday. Just drove away and forgot it. We hung out with mom for a bit and the neighbor’s little Shih Tzu came over – the cutest little thing ever who might be cuter if she actually gave a shit about anything but treats. Veruca gave her a piece of Pupperoni and a whole one to Moses, my mom’s Great Pyrenees, which he held in his mouth like a cigarette and little Tessie hopped over to him and brazenly bit the end off of it.

We left mom’s and picked up hoagies at Wawa for later, and then went to McDonald’s for breakfast. Opac and I were hungry; Veruca had had breakfast before I picked her up but she was suddenly hungry again and stepped up to order her food: hot cakes and hash browns with a Mocha Frappaccino. It would seem that Todd’s luck with food places of any kind is wearing off on V – they made her the wrong drink but caught it before handing it over, and then she found a hair in her hot cakes which I’m fairly sure belonged to Tessie the Shih Tzu.

I watched the employee who made the first coffee drink lose her shit behind the counter and throw her cap down on top of the bagging station, which – I don’t know – seems like some sort of health code violation, all because the other woman told her the drink was wrong. She stalked around the counter and later out by the drink station, still hatless, bitching to some guy standing with her about I-don’t-know-and-don’t-want-to-know-what. She was angry. And big. And made eye contact with me in the midst of her rant, which somehow made me feel more uncomfortable than I like to be, that early in the morning.

Meanwhile, back at the pool, the three of us swam for an hour or so, played “colors” and some saturated Nerf football. We took a break for lunch, where V discovered that the hoagie she ordered had lettuce and onions on it and OH MY GOD they ruined it and now she can’t eat it. Really, though – HOW does one screw up an order when one is reading the order from a screen???

My wayward brother returned around that time and gladly took the poisoned hoagie. I unclogged the downstairs toilet because apparently kids can clog toilets anywhere. Dad came outside and we chatted for almost an hour, which was wonderful since with his work and so much traveling we haven’t seen each other in months, except for Father’s Day. He and stepmom just returned from Cabo. We compared our experiences since I was there long before there were luxury hotels and condos, possibly even predating the drug cartels.

Yesterday, on the actual 4th, Todd and I took my mom and the kids to the place on the water we’d gone to two days earlier. It was crowded but we got a table on the deck under cover, and enjoyed steamed clams, shrimp, crabcakes, double cheeseburgers and chicken fingers and fries. Opac ordered crabby fries too – French fries smothered in crab dip and melted cheese – which Todd was keen to try until it was delivered to the table with chopped tomatoes on top. (Reminder: he’s allergic. Reminder: shit like this happens every time he goes out.) We got a replacement because WHO puts chopped tomatoes on cheese fries, and our server was awesome and brought us one right away.

It was breezy and warm there by the water, until the sky opened up and folks were scattering to get under cover and away from the sides where the rain drizzled down over tables. We were fortunate to be seated in the middle. Still had a view, but it was very dry. Well, dry but for the sweating margaritas and a frozen one that took a nosedive onto my feet under the table.

No 4th of July is complete without a round of Clue (it was Peacock in the bedroom with a dagger, by the way) and comforting the two dogs during the apocalypse of fireworks coming from every direction. I’m telling you seriously, not one creature, great or small was spared. Even the frogs were hollering.

 

 

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.

 

 

Life After Midnight

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Home from work at 1:36 a.m. and enjoying a little leftover Ferrari-Carano Siena Red, which is delicious by the way, while the kitty snores behind me and everyone else sleeps. It sucks working Saturday nights, if only because I come home and Todd is sound asleep at 1 a.m. because he rises so early.

Veruca is with her dad this weekend, as she is most weekends, since we changed our custody agreement. Meanwhile, Opac chooses whether he stays home on “my weekends” or goes to his dad’s. This weekend he’s home. Because he has a football day planned with his pack tomorrow.

Anyway, I checked in on him when I got home, and woke him up by accident. Oh well. Todd barely moved when I entered our bedroom, so I figured I’d sit out in my space and have some wine and write nonsense. We’re having breakfast with mom-and-dad-Todd, at what amounts to the crack of dawn after a work night for me but not for the rest of the world, tomorrow morning.

The pets are SO excited when I get home from work, they follow me into the darkened bedroom where Todd slumbers and where I try to peacefully unzip my boots, and I wonder if anyone remembered to feed them tonight while I was gone. Which is anybody’s guess, since Todd is really good about that and yet the pets will lend me the impression that Oh My God no one has fed us since you left 16 hours ago! And then of course I have to hand out the treats and fill up their bowls and they gratefully accept it all like they have been waiting forever.

The remnants of tonight’s dinner appear to be a crockpot full of vegetarian chili (Todd’s), and two cold slices of pepperoni pizza. By the way, cold pepperoni pizza goes well with the aforementioned wine.

I’m not tired yet. I should be, but I’m not tired. It’s customary to have A drink after work – years ago we’d all sit around the bar after closing and drink together. Those days are long past. I can’t drink because I have an hour’s drive home. I fixed the last-girl-standing a martini, and Stevie B got a Long Island Iced Tea that was too wicked even for him. I might’ve been offended, but I accidentally poured tequila in my friend’s martini (she wanted vodka) and so… I thought, hey! Let’s make Stevie B a LIIT. Still, it had just enough too much tequila to burn the hair off his chest, if he had any. Not that I’d know if he has hair on his chest, just sayin’.

Anyway, I drove myself home in the Mustang – which is always a joy late at night because it’s stick and there’s no one on the highway that late so I can really fly – and it helps keep me awake. I look forward to having a drink when I get home, which would be a lot more fun if someone else was awake with me (well, except for Opac, which would be completely inappropriate). And before someone says it’s bad to drink alone, I say it’s actually better, since no one is there to tell you you’ve had enough, or witness the tomfoolery that follows half a bottle of wine… except two cats and a dog you’re talking to. Which, technically, means I’m not drinking alone. Or alone drinking. And they listen really well, always agree with me, and never argue about politics. Best drinking companions, ever.