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.

 

 

 

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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.

I’m Okay, But I’m Not

At 12 weeks post-op, I was back to normal. I was feeling great.

There’s been a lot going on in our lives lately. A lot. I’m now officially working more hours and I’m grateful. Work is where I can be normal, and not think about my personal life. I’m making more money and I’m grateful for that too. The kids are busy and back in school. Opac is a senior now, and has this thing called senior option where he goes in late some days and leaves early on others. He still doesn’t have his license, but we’re one behind-the-wheel lesson away from being allowed to take the driver’s exam.

I’ve been working on letting him go in the ways a normal parent would. Like going with friends to places and trying really hard not to worry about him until he walks back in the front door. He’s good – he texts me regularly to let me know what’s going on. I’m grateful for that. I know that will one day have its end too.

On workdays, I count on him to see Veruca home safely from the bus. In the first few weeks, it caused me significant anxiety. They both text me when they’re home so I can stop worrying. Surprisingly, I am not worrying about my type 1 daughter being home without me. But then when I think about it, I have anxiety about whether I should be worried.

I’ve been letting Veruca go too – with friends after school, walking to nearby food and coffee joints so she can hang out for an hour like a teenager. I worry a bit, but I’ve exhausted the lectures about sticking together, not walking alone, and never, ever approaching a stranger in a car who might beckon. She’s crystal clear on this. Maybe a little too much.

In case you missed the clues, I have anxiety. I can conjure up just about anything to fray my nerves and raise my blood pressure. I’ve forgotten how to pray and leave it all to God. And THIS causes me anxiety too. I take medication for anxiety. I know that anxiety is chemical and biological and that it is also genetic, so I come by it honestly and [abnormally proudly] from a beloved relative who is no longer with me.

Nevertheless, I was feeling good. The lingering post-surgical stuff was gone and I was returning to life feeling confident that surgery can be a good thing, and that I’m ready to start running again.

Until September 19th.

It was a beautiful day after 40 days and 40 nights of rain in most of our region. The sun was bright and the air was warm. You should take the convertible out, he said. The 2001 Mustang GT convertible hadn’t been out on the road for a while and I was weary of driving to my mom’s an hour away and back. Instead, I took the 2012 Mustang (nicknamed the V6), so I could do a little stick-driving on the beautiful back roads in my hometown area. I learned to drive stick at 16, and there is nothing more satisfying than shifting gears and letting go that clutch and letting the car do what it was made to do.

It was a great ride, but my spidey senses were tingling all the way – people were driving recklessly all around me. It made me hyper-alert and I took my time on the ride. I got back to our area shortly after 1 and drove directly to the high school to pick up Opac.

I’d just turned onto the main roadway a half-mile from the school. The speed limit is 50, there were a lot of cars traveling in both directions. I saw this car begin to make a left turn right in front of me – I mean, RIGHT in front of me, and there was no time for me to do anything other than brake as hard as I could. I was trying to avoid hitting her and realized she was following through on her turn anyway. I veered right, sort of into the road she was heading into, in an effort to avoid her hitting me.

She kept going and slammed into my driver’s side door, hard, spinning me around until my rear bumper on the passenger side hit the guard rail, effectively stopping the car. My driver’s side airbag deployed. I don’t remember turning the car off and removing the key from the ignition. I sat there stunned a moment, and looked through my window at her in her car and she was looking back at me – and I was trembling and raging inside. Did you know that when airbags deploy the ignitor emits a smoky smell? Neither did I. I panicked, tried to open my door, and then moved the seat back enough to climb out and over the gear shift and opened the passenger door.

At this point I had no idea how old this girl was, or the condition of the driver’s side of my car. First instinct was to flip out on her for causing this accident, but by the time I’d actually gotten myself out of the car, I’d lost the desire. Todd would’ve been so proud.

I looked directly at this 17-year-old child who accused me of speeding, and bit my tongue for all the things I wanted to say – because I’m 49 and I know waaaay better, and also that less is more. Hysterical, screaming people are generally viewed as just that. So I said to her, you need to step away from me right now. I repeated myself twice.

The state trooper arrived. The ambulance arrived. One of the drivers insisted I sit down. Apparently people in accidents act normal all the time and then boom, they go down? I called Todd, who said, you ARE going to the hospital, right? I honestly thought the car was just going to get towed to our auto-body shop and I was just going to go home. But the EMTs said, you’re going. And the trooper said my car was most likely totaled.

Todd: Well, at least you had the dash cam. Which made me want to cry, but I guess some people in shock don’t cry – because …. I’m not driving the Edge.

Oh, he said. Which car were you driving? But he didn’t care which car it was.

I’ve since seen the neurosurgeon, had a repeat MRI and x-rays (hardware is still well-positioned and I have no acute changes to my spinal cord or surrounding discs). The pain in my neck has returned, depending on my activity and/or work, and it travels down my right arm and encircles my shoulder, just like before my surgery. It’s uncomfortable and I’m upset about it. All providers are in agreement that my pain is muscular, and the efforts now are pain relief and return to normal function without this pain. I’m in PT three days a week now. I’ve had two rounds of trigger point injections at neuro and considering going back again.

I’m sad and angry some days. I’m sad that I can never drive that car again. I’m sad that it all changed in an instant, and I’m angry that it could’ve ended so differently. Todd told me the reason he bought that car is for this very reason, that it’s solid and designed to protect you. And protect me, she did. No part of the other car touched me, and no part of my door touched me. It was intact on the inside, and the only thing different in an otherwise pristine cockpit was the telltale airbag.

I’m an emotional person. I feel things. I think sometimes it’s over the top and that most normal people don’t react to things like I do. I want my car back. When we went to the lot to clean it out, I couldn’t sit in it. Todd went with me and I ran my hands over the hood and felt its warmth and the smoothness of the metal, and stood there thanking her for what she did for me that day with tears in my eyes. It’s been a month. I won’t get in Todd’s other Mustang, or drive it.

It’s been a month. The girl has a new car already. This makes me so angry. Did she learn anything? I want justice in some way that I cannot articulate. Maybe I just want her to tell me she’s sorry, and mean it. But, Todd told me to let it go. I can only live My life, and keep moving forward. But I don’t want to let go of it yet. In a 10-second decision, she destroyed a 2012 Ford Mustang, somebody’s beloved car that cannot be easily replaced, and she’s already driving around in a new car.

Meanwhile, I’m alternately angry and sad. I have moments behind the wheel where I panic, especially when there are other cars around. I’ve seen my counselor. We’re working through this. And then last week a minor infraction by the truck in front of me…I was nowhere near having an accident, but the thoughts racing through my head brought spots before my eyes and I pulled over until the lightheadedness passed.

We’ve begun the college touring with Opac, which also makes me emotional. He’s already been accepted at his first choice, which is thrilling but we need to see that financial package soon. He turns 18 tomorrow, and I’m feeling the acuteness of that milestone.

There’s more. But I think this is enough for now.

Todd and Me in OCMD

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Copyright Taraka & Tara Chronicles 2018

 

Labor Day weekend went too fast and the kids went back to school on Tuesday. I feel like we’ve just boarded Roaring Rapids, without all the water because of course I have plants on the deck that are in various stages of dead. Not to discount all the rain my friends north have been dealing with and all the flooding that shut down amusement parks across the state of Pennsylvania.

It’s been a heavy rain season this summer, though unfortunately even that couldn’t save my plants. I really think only divine intervention can spare my plants from myself. Case in point: beautiful basil plant given by my mother. Weeks later: leaves are turning yellow and falling off. I have watered it regularly, but maybe it’s disheartened by the condition of the others around it?

Meanwhile, against my best judgement, Todd is hosting his faculty at our home next week and I’m about three home projects from a complete breakdown. I don’t know why I care, but I do – about the need for fresh paint, the black cobwebs in the cathedral ceilings that cannot be reached without a 20-foot ladder, the basement bathroom that needs a complete reno, not to mention the green algae on the deck that desperately needs to be power washed. I’ve spent the bulk of my summer unable to attend to this stuff, thanks to previously mentioned surgery.

Anyway, I’ll save that drama for another post. Todd and I took off for Ocean City, Maryland for the weekend – the only real vacation we got together this year due to his new job. We stayed at the lovely Dunes Manor Hotel – a Victorian-style hotel that’s been there since 1987. It’s always been my favorite but Todd hadn’t stayed there before. We only had two days – so we spent it relaxing outside, walking the boardwalk, eating at some of our favorite haunts, and drinking frozen cocktails.

We walked 8 miles on Saturday. By the time we got halfway back on the boardwalk, I could barely walk. And I was wearing flip flops – so I had a blister on my right foot, and both legs were an aching mess of jelly. I am so out of shape. Yeah – cleared, my ass. Return to normal activities slowly, they said. Listen to your body, they said. Well, my body was saying, kill me now, and my brain was saying, alcohol aint gonna save us.

Sunday we walked another seven miles – some of which was back from breakfast at Dumser’s, roughly 90 blocks away. We didn’t walk the whole way, but far enough to color my neck and chest a lovely shade of red and I got a blister on my other foot (different sandals). We took the bus the rest of the way back and rested a bit in the room. I was just about to get in the shower when the fire alarm went off – and the entire hotel was evacuated. We stayed on the seventh floor, so the walk down probably added another quarter mile. We no sooner got to the parking lot and they were letting us back in… and it was tea time! Bonus.

Todd and I grabbed some tea and scones and sat down by the grand piano, where a guest had sat down and was playing some beautiful music that made me feel suddenly like we were on the Titanic. But in a good way. His wife called him a dork and told him she was going back to the room and we all laughed.

A few minutes later he was upstaged by a teenage boy who was there to perform during tea time – playing the most beautiful renditions of Ed Sheeran’s music and onto some classic Disney tunes. I sat there thinking about time, the inevitable changes that lie ahead, and some recent news we’re still processing, and my eyes welled up.

We went to one of our favorites, Bull on the Beach at 94th street, where we bypassed the line like celebrities and headed straight to the bar and luckily found the last two empty seats. Some hot wings, a pit beef sandwich, onion rings, and two beers later and we found ourselves chatting with a couple that bought us a round when they sat down next to us. They were a bit older than us, but retired, and living in Florida. They own a house in Ocean City they rent out and come up to stay occasionally.

They were a lovely couple, and he was making friendly jokes that bordered on a little too friendly and, given the proximity to which we were sitting next to each other, my paranoid little mind began to wonder if we’d just been targeted by a pair of swingers and then I couldn’t unthink it. And Todd, clearly oblivious to the inner workings of my mind, kept up the conversation like any normal person would. And then – just as suddenly as they arrived – they finished up their food and cocktails and bid us goodnight and wished us well and… they left. And I realized how lovely they truly were – and how I need to stop thinking dirty little things about people’s intentions. (If I said this has happened to me in the past – would that exonerate me?)

We never went in the ocean. Not only did it not interest us, but there was some terrible article circulating about sea lice and the rashes it caused dozens of people. In most cases minor, but one guy had to go to hospital. They’re calling the condition Sea Bather’s Eruption but I don’t care what it is – if they’re saying that little crab larvae are just floating along with the waves and can end up INSIDE your swimsuit, well… NO THANK YOU. I made it this far in life without crabs, and I’m not about to change that…. I don’t care what kind of crabs they are.

All in all, it was a short but sweet weekend trip that we needed together. It’s all we got this summer, thanks to circumstances that were both out of our control and choices we made. I missed seeing my long-time bestie, and we didn’t take our bikes this year. There will be other weekends, other trips. Instead, we left the SUV at home and drove the “baby” GT, and hit the road like rock stars.

 

Sunrise on our last day.

Live life like you’re dying. You never know what tomorrow will bring. Every day is a gift. Copyright Taraka & Tara Chronicles 2018

Exit Zero: Last Days in Cape May

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Copyright Taraka & Tara Chronicles 2018

Tuesday Morning. Veruca picked Uncle Bill’s Pancake House for breakfast and then she was pissed when she realized we were walking there because it’s so far. We were seated immediately at a booth by the window facing the street and beach.

V had the waffle and woofed that thing down before I’d eaten half of my Denver omelet. By the way, did ya’ll know that a Denver omelet is just a Western omelet with cheese? How I lived this long and had never even heard of a Denver omelet was quite a revelation at 9:00 in the morning. And, also noteworthy, is the fact that a Western omelet in Cape May does not have tomatoes. (At the Dough Roller in OCMD they do contain tomatoes and you can’t order it without.*)

We landed the same spots by the pool as yesterday, and it wasn’t long before my bad influence of a mom was offering up cocktails before noon. Since I am my mother’s daughter, I ordered a piña colada. V had a virgin colada. Mom went with the Bloody Mary.

I spent more time on my current read – The Woman in Cabin 10 – a great fast read, by the way. More kids in the Jacuzzi and one boy climbed out the pool crying because “she pushed me in!” And I was reminded that no matter how sad I may become about my kids being teenagers, at least I can lie by the pool without dealing with this shit anymore.

At one point V hands me her colada so she can apply more sunscreen, and it slips through my fingers just as I was placing it on the table next to me. It crashes down, knocking my piña colada down too, piña coladas flying everywhere, spilling onto the ground under the table, all over mom’s necklace on the table, and into her bag… it was a piña colada explosion, and not in a good way. So mom sits up and helps with the cleanup effort, which quickly becomes another emergency after she accidentally bumps her own cocktail over and now there are THREE spilled cocktails by the pool and we’re laughing like seagulls and I swear we’re not drunk.

Anyway, the afternoon ended with lunch at the Barefoot Bar, part of the hotel and overlooking the pool. V had – surprise! – chicken fingers and fries, I had a Caesar salad, and mom had fried calamari….which she thought we’d eat too and I don’t know who she thought “we” were but I don’t eat fried rubber. I have my limits. V took her cue from me because I’m an excellent example (see Piña Colada) and wouldn’t even try it.

Tuesday evening we had decided we’d go see a movie – in a nearby town called Rio Grande, which sounds really glamorous but I didn’t see anything more glamorous than a Wawa and a couple of Wendy’s buildings impersonating sushi joints. We left two hours before the movie time to buy tickets in this ramshackle looking movie theatre in an old shopping center that looked scheduled for demolition – mom came out in shock that 3 tickets were $18.

We literally drove through the first traffic light and happened upon Rio Station – which appeared to be a locals place. It felt like a Mexican restaurant but was definitely a seafood joint with other offerings. Veruca left her go-bag* in the car, so I had to go out and get it. While I was walking back inside, my senses were accosted by the LOUDEST Latino music EVER… one, because you couldn’t tell which direction it was coming from and two, as the car got closer and closer, the decibels made your eyes water. The food was quite good. Mom shared a filet with V, and I had crab cakes over a bed of mesculin tossed in a lemon vinaigrette – which was delicious.

After, mom suggested we “drive around” a bit before the movie; I ignored her and drove straight to the movie because it was 15 minutes to show time. There was a line about 20 people long just to enter the movie we were seeing, Crazy Rich Asians. And it turned out to be “Tightwad Tuesday,” which explains the cheap tickets but 3 boxes of candy and ONE water still cost me $28. The movie was great! And contrary to outward appearances, the theatre had modern reclining seats. But I sat next to some woman who not only threw her handbag into the seat next to me like she was slam-dunking a basketball, but laughed loudly at every single thing that was funny and I remembered why I hate going to the movies.

We drove all the way back to the hotel and parked the car a block away (because there’s limited parking) and realized that V left her go-bag in the movie theatre twenty minutes away. I read her the riot act in the parking lot, and drove all the way back, in the rain, to retrieve it.

The only good thing to come out of it was that when we got back, there was an open parking spot right in front of the hotel. Which a seagull decided to shit on, on the day we left. And before you tell me it could’ve been worse, like mom did, I direct you to last summer’s air strike in OCMD. You’re not helping.

*******

Last day… Wednesday. Breakfast at the hotel again. Different cook – decided to gamble on the omelet and it was cooked to perfection. We revisited the pool, had more piña coladas that did not spill this time, ate leftovers for lunch, and went back to the room for a nap. V slept briefly; mom was out cold about an hour in; I was wide awake. I don’t DO naps. I started Kitchen Confidential by the late Anthony Bourdain and sat out on the balcony (my favorite thing), listening to the ac unit kick on and off and the dog two floors below us that barked at every dog that walked by.

V and I took a walk on the beach around 5:30, listened to the sounds of the Beach Bumz’ free concert drifting over the breeze and crashing waves, and I snapped some gorgeous photos of her in that beautiful late afternoon light. I started this tradition with her a few years back of taking that walk at sunrise, but this year we both agreed we didn’t “need” to see the sun rise.

We collected some shells and talked about stuff that’s really important when you’re 13, and I counted every minute as a blessing. To say that I am acutely aware of the preciousness of time with my kids right now, is an understatement. At some point, as we stood by the water looking back at the hotel, I saw mom on the balcony so we waved our arms like we were at a Jimmy Buffett concert and she waved back.

The three of us decided to walk to the end of Beach Avenue* for the sunset, which was (insert Veruca) a really long walk. The two of them stopped in the restroom along the way, while I sat on the bench and sent Todd a selfie. A minute later mom popped her head out the door and waved a black handbag at me she said someone had left in there. What should she do?

This is MY MOM asking ME what she should do with a found handbag. I don’t know! Leave it there – the person may retrace her steps to find it again. Like, how are you asking me this? You’re my mom. Moms are supposed to already know the answer.

So we began walking again and she told me it was filled with tampons, and all I could think of was that someone must be having a really bad day about now, until it dawned on me that she’d looked inside and why did she do that? Looking for ID, natch.

And then we finally get to the end of the street where people are already gathered to watch the sunset when a strange man approached V and me…and when I turned toward him I must’ve looked like I was going to kill him because he put his hands up sheepishly and then I felt like a real asshole when he told me he was from Cape May’s Kiwanis Club and wanted to know if V wanted to participate in lowering and folding the flag at sunset.

These are the moments when you know you’ve raised your kids right. If I had asked her to do this, she’d have hissed at me and given me the Italian look of death. But she smiled angelically at this man and said, sure! I won’t bore you with the details, only to mention that she was one of four chosen – the others were a sweet girl with Down’s who knew this routine better than the Kiwanis guys, and 6-year-old twin boys who were clearly in over their head (and so was the man who picked them).

This whole thing delayed dinner by an hour and a half, but V got a certificate and a flag pin and I texted my dad to share the event (he used to be in Kiwanis). He was proud to know kids are still learning about the value of our flag, and then sent me a video/sound clip of the smoky herb-y drum circle he was hearing from his hotel room somewhere in upstate New York. Sometimes he has all the fun.

V chose the restaurant – YB – a very small, darkened but chic little restaurant on Beach Avenue between Perry and Jackson Streets. She saw the Mac & Cheese Poppers and was sold. And, I will say, they were the best I’ve ever had, hands down. Made fresh with jalapeños, fried and then baked with stewed tomatoes. I had a chicken dish that was delicious, though it was so dark in there it was hard to know exactly what I was eating (though at 9:00 it hardly mattered). Mom had a stuffed pepper (also delicious) and the Greek salad – a real Greek salad, not some American knock-off with lettuce.**

*******

*The famous Dough Roller in Ocean City, Maryland serves western omelets with tomatoes. You cannot order the western omelet without tomatoes, because it’s premixed. Therefore, you must order each of the ingredients of said omelet a la carte, which costs more than the western omelet (with one less ingredient).

*The Go-Bag is a must for Type 1s to carry: inside you will find a glucose meter, extra test strips, glucose tabs, pump supplies and extra batteries for pump and meter, glucagon, and snacks/candy.

*The best known destination for sunsets in Cape May is Sunset Beach, and the view is every bit spectacular. However, you have to drive there, and try to park, and every other time I’ve gone it felt like a race against time.

** Y.B. – short for Younger Brother – is helmed by the younger brother of John, who owns George’s Place up the street. However, despite the subordinate implication, Pete has had quite a decorated career for a “young” chef:  he worked at Buddakan, Le Bec Fin, and Prive, and was executive chef of Brasserie Perrier. He’s also appeared on the Food Network’s Chopped and Diners Drive-Ins and Dives. (We knew none of this when we dined there.)

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The missing Do Not Disturb sign?   Copyright Taraka & Tara Chronicles 2018

 

 

 

The Way to Cape May

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Copyright Taraka & The Tara Chronicles 2018

Last week was the annual “Nannie trip” to the beach that, now that Opac has apparently aged out of vacations with granny, has become the annual Girls’ Beach Trip. Sunday afternoon my mom, Veruca, and I set sail for Cape May by way of everyone’s favorite highway – I95. Mom likes to use Siri and her iPhone for directions while I am using my car’s GPS – and then we argue about which one is correct. This usually ends with Siri informing me to “watch your language.”

On a completely not unrelated side note, Siri follows me on Twitter. Well, not Siri, but Susan Bennett aka Siriously Susan. I was siriously excited about this. I mentioned it to mom and she said Siri isn’t a real person, and I’m all like – YES SHE IS. This trend of disagreeing with each other isn’t new, but has definitely picked up in my middle age. Which takes me back to a discrepancy between Siri and my GPS, where my GPS told me to stay in the right lanes, and Siri said stay left. There was a small commotion in the passenger seat, and then suddenly my GPS told me to get off at the next exit, which turned out to be a turnaround-and-back-on the same highway. Mom was only a little bit triumphant.

Anyway, as I’m already 200 words in and haven’t even gotten to our destination yet, let’s jump ahead. We arrived in Cape May shortly after 5 p.m. This year we stayed at the Marquis de Lafayette, “America’s oldest seaside resort…. Since 1885.” The World Famous Congress Hall was built in 1816, and its website calls it “America’s oldest/first seaside resort.” I’m not very good at math, and I don’t want to sound judgy, but somebody is clearly wrong here.

So our room. Outside hallway. Seaside, white wicker décor, soft gray walls, white bedspreads, balcony facing the beach. And then there’s the bathroom. Small pedestal sink with a white framed mirror above, both are Alice-in-Wonderland askew – the sink is tilted downward on the left, the mirror tilted right – and for me, a self-inflicted perfectionist who couldn’t NOT see that every time I sat on the toilet, it made me nuts.

Somewhat less worrisome but not without its own concerns, was the double bed I shared with V – which was lopsided. I had this recurrent fear of V rolling off in the middle of the night. This didn’t happen. However, she is clearly accustomed to sleeping in much roomier conditions (translation: alone), and so there was a lot of bed hogging and one really scary arm fling that narrowly missed my face. I didn’t sleep well. Aside from the usual blood sugar checks during the night, there were the ongoing issues of cramped quarters and the snaggletooth snorer.

First night tradition is dinner at Godmother’s, a lovely little Italian restaurant. It’s BYOB so we picked up a bottle of wine beforehand. This year’s selection: Fleur de Mer Côtes du Provence Rosé. I think I picked this up on our last trip two years ago… it’s excellent. Veruca chose linguini with white clam sauce, mom had the red version, and I went with a seafood risotto with scallops, all-lump crab, Applewood smoked bacon, fresh corn, and heirloom red and yellow tomatoes. KILL-ER. Even V loved it (she’s not a fan of crab).

We stopped by the front desk back at the hotel for a Do Not Disturb sign, which was missing from our room. We promptly hung it on the door. The next morning it was gone.

We ate breakfast at the hotel… a buffet and made-to-order omelets and waffles. I had a spinach and feta omelet that was a bit runny, but I tipped the cook anyway. V had pancakes and an enormous plate of bacon because – all you can eat. I have always imagined that bittersweet moment when one realizes their parents are aging and on this morning I witnessed my mother, in that true senior rite of passage, pocketing creamers like a boss. (Okay so she was really taking them back to the room for our Keurig coffee.)

We spent the rest of the morning/early afternoon by the pool, near the Jacuzzi which, it turned out, was a mecca for the under-10 set, and the water is suspiciously green. No parents, just the children, and three days later I was convinced they just drop the kids in the Jacuzzi and forget about them for a while. But I had to watch these little devils jumping off the side wall into the pool below with little regard for their lives or those below. Okay, I didn’t have to watch, but my peripheral vision is still pretty sharp. One boy, about 4, announced LOUDLY to his sibling – “the bubbles make your wiener feel weird.” Highlight of my day.

The Marquis is quite literally a block away from the Washington Street Mall – a quaint outdoor shopping and dining area in the heart of Victorian Cape May, paved with brick and studded with trees. We shopped here after lunch at the Rusty Nail next the Beach Shack – steamers in a white wine and garlic broth (my favorite thing!), crab cake sandwich-no-bun, and a grilled chicken quesadilla the size of New Jersey. We had ice cream at Kohr Bros later and then none of us was hungry for dinner.

I bought V a cute romper that was actually a large (I have no idea why), and some jewelry for me. I’m on the hunt to replace a thumb ring I lost at the bowling alley on The Last Night of the season (really). Never found one, but I did buy two pairs of earrings and a bracelet. I never do stuff like this for myself. It’s fairly liberating. If you haven’t, try it.

So we went back to the room and decided to settle in for the night. We covered a lot of ground on the first day, literally, and – after only 4 hours of sleep – I was drifting slowly toward the wall. I sat out on the balcony – which turned out to be a very noisy place – to call Todd and catch up.

A few minutes go by, and V came out with a magazine held like a tray, with Ritz crackers topped with slices of cheese. Another minute later, mom came out with a glass of wine. Todd and I kept talking. V came back with a cup of microwave popcorn. Then mom appeared with the bottle of wine to top me off. It was just like being rich. Well, if that’s what rich people do.

Kind of an anticlimactic end to the day, but it was much needed downtime before we took on the next two days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two Steps Forward, Two Steps Back

So, in case you missed it, I’m still in recovery. Todd says, YOU’VE HAD MAJOR SURGERY, at least once a day. He’s living life dangerously.

Last week we had the septic system pumped out. I got up that morning and suddenly remembered the 3-foot-tall mint patch surrounding the cover, and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that NO ONE else in the house remembered this. I texted Todd and inquired before I actually went out to look. You know what he said? No worries, they’ll crush it when they come in to pump.

REEEALLY? That’s assuming they can even FIND the cover. Which I told him. And you know what he said next? He said, you can go out and cut some of it down. Yes, that’s right. Mr. you’ve-had-major-surgery just told me I could go outside in 97 degrees at 7 a.m. and CUT DOWN the mint around the septic cover. This requires me to bend over, reach out, and use my arms. I don’t know how “they” define straining, but this seems to me to be maybe a little bit of straining.

But I did it. But I only cut halfway around the lid and left the cuttings lying on the ground nearby in a neat pile, you know, so it was obvious that I did it.

On a side note, if you want to grow mint, plant it somewhere that won’t encroach on anything else (like NOWHERE). My mom gave me a small bunch from her garden about three years ago. It was one.little.plant. It was cute, like crocuses. NOW it spans the length of a commercial airline strip and is about as wide as the tailgate of our pickup truck. And you know what else? You can’t give that shit away. Apparently none of my neighbors drink mojitos either.

Anyway. I’m still trying to get stuff done around the house, and have managed to firmly delegate to the prince and princess of the house a handful of chores I need done to not become a screaming lunatic maintain my sanity. Opac’s room does not presently fall into this category, but today I changed my mind when I passed his closed door in the hallway. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

He is in driving school (mandatory in the state of Maryland) again this week, with two days left to go (in the classroom) before he does the behind-the-wheel portion. They “highly recommend” the driving coach ride along for the first session. Well, that aint gonna happen. I’m still restricted from “long car rides,” thank GOD. Sessions are two hours long. TWO HOURS.

So far, the longest I’ve ridden with him was a little over an hour – to meet his dad to drop off/pick up Veruca, because I’m not supposed to drive that far yet, let alone ride. My muscles were screaming so loud I had a headache and when we got home I crashed on that worn spot on the couch.

And while we’re on the subject of long car rides I’m not supposed to take, my mother – who expressed concern over an upcoming 12-hour shift I’m covering at work – asked me to come up to the restaurant (an hour and 20-minute ride, minimum) AFTER I worked my first day back, three weeks post-op from [insert Todd: MAJOR SURGERY] to “oversee” things at the restaurant. This is confusing at best.

So I returned to work last Saturday. And trust me, you have never seen anyone so happy to go to work. Like, ever. We were only open 8 to 12, so it was a short and very quiet morning. But I remembered how to do my job! Great boost for the morale!

And then Todd left to go grill at the restaurant (she needed help) and Opac left for a party and I was home alone for 8 hours! I don’t know whether that’s good or bad, but I spent most of it in that place reading, watching Netflix, eating ice cream, and not sleeping. At least until Opac got home, and then I was out cold until I heard Todd’s keys on the kitchen counter.

I don’t know what I did on Sunday. I have no memory of Sunday. All the days are melting together like a popsicle in the sun.

We had the family over Sunday a couple of weeks ago, because I haven’t seen Dad in months. He travels a lot for work, sometimes for weeks at a time, and I still had his Father’s Day gift. He acted all, oh-I-didn’t-need-a-gift, until he opened it and saw the Trump coffee mug: Nobody is better at Fatherhood than you. All the other dads are a total disaster. Everyone agrees, believe me. I don’t think he found it as hilarious as my brother and I did, but as long as it made me happy – that’s all that matters, right?

It was a nice day, albeit exhausting for me. I didn’t do that much, but it was enough that I needed to lie down for a while.

Surgery changed me in ways I am still discovering. I’m normally all in for socializing and I love going out and being with people. Not now. Peopling is hard right now, and I don’t want to. I’ve always been upbeat and positive and, like the title of my former blog, Finding Joy. My last good joke was when I told the person in the hospital that I was having breast implants. Nothing seems funny right now.

It’s like I’ve been Ignoring Joy, which could be the title of another blog post but I’m done with serious bitching and being negative. Todd has hinted a handful of times that he just wants to enjoy life and be happy, which is a like an elbow to the ribs and a great big, hint hint. He’s not used to this side of me. Even back when he carried me through the darkest days, he still got the good parts of me that were still flickering like the last bit of wick fighting not to burn out. He knows who’s inside of me, and he hasn’t seen her in over a month.

He also understands the struggle, because he’s been there. When I have a particularly bad day, he reminds me – you’ve just had major surgery. It’s only been 3 weeks. And then he follows with, it’s going to take a couple of months. Which is where his rallying speech becomes a warning, really, when you think about it – for himself.

But, as I return to my old work schedule tomorrow, I am feeling eager and grateful. It’s the gateway back to “normal.” I get to see my coworkers and smile again, because work has always been – for me – that place where you leave your troubles outside and forget them until the work is done. You can be anyone you want to be while you’re working. And when you leave, you can pick that shit up and take it home with you, if you want. It’s all a choice. For me, it used to be about survival. But now, it’s the way I choose to live.

And, for the record, I am finding joy again, slowly, even as my body will remind me it’s time to rest. Pull just one more weed? Nope, I’m tired. I need to lie down. Mop that kitchen floor that hasn’t seen water in 4 weeks? Maybe today. Either way, it will all be here tomorrow, as it always is – but my children are growing up too fast and my husband is so busy with his new responsibilities and the time we get alone together when we’re both awake is short for now.

 

Before

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

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

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

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

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

So, per my previous post:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See ya’ll After. Peace out.