Scatter-Brained

I have so much to talk about! I can’t even decide what to say, or what to say first. I could write a zillion individual posts, in detail, but it’s too much. It’s why there’s not been one in a few days; because, I keep writing them, and they are too long and boring. So, here’s a paragraph on random things, not connected, that are all going on at once, right now!

Cats

 Soap + Box = Soap Box Alert

Soap + Box = Soap Box Alert

Mittens had to go back to her “owners,” who it turns out, live in our neighborhood. I was so devastated that I cried for a full day, not entirely because I missed her (I do, of course); but, because I feel like I failed her. Cat owners who insist on allowing their cats to roam, under the misguided idea that they are allowing them to follow their natural instincts, are doing them a disservice. A domesticated cat’s natural habitat is the domestic living space. They don’t deserve to follow their “instincts” to prey on diseased pigeons and rats, and to fall to predators like angry gardeners with antifreeze, cars, teenagers with pellet guns, or even “natural” predators like hawks or coyotes. Cats that live, exclusively, indoors live up to twice as long as cats who are allowed to roam, and they have fewer health problems, or injuries from predators or other cats. So, I cried for Mittens.

P.S. Mittens cried too. For days. Outside my kitchen window, begging to be let back in.

 My cats are happy indoors :) See. This is them greeting me when I came home from dropping Collin off at school.

My cats are happy indoors :) See. This is them greeting me when I came home from dropping Collin off at school.

Best Friend’s (Temporary) Return

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My return to myself has been, and will be, forever slow. I’ve learned that half of the reason that I don’t go forward, is that I’m afraid. I’m afraid of pain. I’m afraid that the next thing I do will be the thing that tears the plate from my skull, and ruins everything. I’m afraid that the next thing I try will be the thing that I can’t achieve, and it will be the thing that I learn is my limit. I’m afraid to push. I do it anyway. Slowly, steadily. Inch by inch. I am climbing my way back. And, sometimes that inch feels like it’s only a centimeter of progress because my body reminds me that even though I’m trying, I have to respect its new barriers.

Alas, I’ve had to wear my c-collar again, lately. There’s nothing more defeating to progress than Velcro-ing those straps. Nothing feels worse than the relief of that collar. I hate how much better it feels when it’s on. I hate that I need it. I hate that I want to wear it, right now. I know that I will be able to throw it back in the closet again….soon. Why? Because I didn’t need it randomly. I needed it because I strained my neck by working out a little too hard. I strained t by pushing. Pushing. Not being afraid. I strained it by becoming me again. God damn, I’m going to come back. 

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The Shoulder

I’ve mentioned on FB that I am having shoulder surgery. It’s tomorrow. Holy crap, right? Literally, I keep forgetting about it. That’s how, off-the-radar, surgery has become to me. I have had a shitty shoulder, for years. It’s not terrible. I could probably live with it forever, if I didn’t want to lift heavy weights again. I can’t even carry the backpack at Disneyland, or my purse on that shoulder, anymore, as it is now. So, I want to lift, and I want to do it with good form. I’m done being broken.

Turns out, I randomly picked some awesome doc at USC. He’s a sports med guy who has worked with some really awesome teams; and he is a shoulder specialist. He’s also Benjamin Button, or something because he looks 19, but has a resume that makes him sound like he’s 140. His resident, I shit you not, looks like a GQ model, and also 19. USC puts something in their water, I think. I’m excited to try their IV’s.The best part about this whole thing, is that Tricare, covers everything, except the sling. I have to go out tonight and buy a damn shoulder sling.

Tricare: Here’s $20K (or however much shoulder surgery costs) for the surgery but $19.99 for a sling is a bridge too far! The patient should pay for that!

Crop Tops Over 40

Bryon, bless his little heart, is not great at picking gifts for me, on his own. It’s not his fault, I buy so much shit, that by the time a gift-giving occasion comes up, I just point at whatever I’ve most recently bought, and say, “that can count as my birthday/anniversary/Mother’s Day present,” and it does. No shopping required. But, last year, for my birthday, Bryon tried to pick out a present for me. He started at my favorite store (Anthropologie), got my size right, got my general sense of style. He was on track. But, somehow, he missed. He bought me a…crop top. I was a bell-sleeved, loose-fitting, bohemian-looking crop top, with a lace up front. Don’t get me wrong, if I were twenty, and going to Coachella, maybe? It is “me,” but young “me,” maybe.

I didn’t have the heart to take it back. Plus, I didn’t hate it. So, it sat in my closet, unopened, until we started cleaning out the closets this weekend to get ready to move. Thus, the debate: can a woman, over 40, wear a crop top? I said, “if she wants to,” but I’m not going to, unless I’m at the beach. He said that I pulled it off. But, his opinion is not to be trusted, based on times his spontaneous compliments are uttered (when I’m brushing my teeth, for example). I am on the fence. Ignore the no makeup and horrid hair. It was a house-cleaning day; thus, you can excuse the pants pairing too. Not sure it “goes.” Hmmm.

 Hideous picture! Also, I'm really looking forward to getting out of this "master" bathroom. What a joke for a bathroom! I look like a gypsy.

Hideous picture! Also, I'm really looking forward to getting out of this "master" bathroom. What a joke for a bathroom! I look like a gypsy.

Moving Scatter

My brain is doing this right now: we don’t know where we are going to live and we are leaving in about a month; I forgot to take my Comic Con costumes to the dry cleaner; what about my plants when we move; I have to wash my curtains before we pack them; I’m a horrible person, but, I wish that damn hamster would die before we move; if the movers break my WW kiss statue, I’m going to lose my shit; I forgot to call USAA to up my jewelry rider; I have to go to the post office; should we fly to San Diego or LA when we come back in July?; I need a car wash; what if Collin can’t handle public school?; I hate June gloom in LA; why do the stupid movers have to be here on my birthday?; I’ve been eating so many pickles that when I work out, I smell like pickles; I can’t believe I have to wait another whole year for more Riverdale; why do all my FB ads target me for Dia & Co, when I’ve just busted my ass to give up soda and chips?;what if the movers break the glass in our antique furniture?; what if the movers tear our giant painting?; what about the dollhouse?; dry cleaning; alterations; whoops; I forgot to send my summer contract. Oh. And WHERE ARE WE GOING TO LIVE????

Anyone want to live in my brain right now?

This is why I can’t focus up and write anything decent or stay on topic. I am losing my mind, at the moment. And, tomorrow, I won’t be able to type very well. I will only have a left hand! Agh! And, I have a great idea for a painting. Maybe, I will learn to paint with my feet, or my mouth, and become a you-tube sensation. See where my mind is at right now! I need a drink, or something.

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Everyone knows how much of a bleeding heart I am when it comes to animals. To be honest, I’m a bleeding heart when it comes to anything, frankly. I cup most spiders in my hand, to release them outside. It still counts as kindness, even if you shriek in terror the whole way. And, lest you believe I prize the animal kingdom over mankind, I got quite irate today, over our current sense of nationalism and arbitrary borders, when discussing the nearly 1,500 children missing from ICE detention centers after family separations, based new immigration policy. When will we realize that humanity is equal across borders, despite nationalism?

Anyway, back to animals? Right?

There is an adorably sweet black and white cat that lives in our neighborhood. She tends to chill at the back side of our block, for the most part. Whenever we go for a walk, she spots me, a sucker, saunters over and follows me home, because she knows I will stop every two feet, when she mews for attention, and pet her for ten minutes.

Apparently, she marked my address in her little kitty brain, because about three weeks ago, she started showing up at my window, meowing for both food and attention. She sleeps on my soft patio chairs, waiting all day for me to visit her. Half the time, she doesn’t even want food, she just wants someone to come pet her. It’s the sweetest thing you can imagine, if you are a cat lover, like I am. Plus, because I am home alone all day, and I spend a large portion of my time carrying on intense conversations with my feline friends, I find it adorable to add another one to the mix, especially this rag-tag rapscallion who just wants to be loved.

 I'm sure you knew where this was going. Obviously, she came inside!

I'm sure you knew where this was going. Obviously, she came inside!

This means I’ve been begging Bryon to figure out a way to take her with us when we move. This is, of course, a totally unreasonable plan. His reasons are logical, and are, as follows:

  • She’s not ours, as indicated by the fact that she wears a collar (but no tags)
  • Homer will hate a new cat
  • She’s an outdoor cat and may not adapt to being indoors
  • We have two cats
  • Homer will hate a new cat
  • Moving a new cat, across the country, is insane
  • Homer will hate a new cat
  • What will Loki think of a new cat?
  • Homer will hate a new cat

So many variables!

Still, as you know, my husband is a wonderful man, and he tends to support me, no matter how crazy I am. Although, today he might have had a moment of weakness brought on by the tears I shed at lunch, when I asked him to consider just how much it breaks my heart to imagine her sitting out there, pining for us, after we left. The image of that lil’ girl, meowing into an empty house, made me sick to my stomach. I wasn’t doing a Little Match Girl routine, it actually does nauseate me. Bleeding heart here. Bleeding. Dripping.

So, we brought her in. So far, so good. She goes to the vet on Tuesday to get cleared. We’ve posted to the neighborhood to see if she actually does belong to anyone, but so far no one. Bryon says I have to leave the ad up all weekend. I think twenty minutes is sufficient. Marriages have differences of opinion.

 It's so hard to take pics of black cats! But, this is Mittens getting to know my gmail. Clearly, I have a problem with deleting unread messages.

It's so hard to take pics of black cats! But, this is Mittens getting to know my gmail. Clearly, I have a problem with deleting unread messages.

She’s been inside all day, and if someone claims her, I think I’ll be devastated. I’ll also be angry that they take such shit care of their cat. I mean, c’mon cat owner! Half of me didn’t want to post it the ad at all, because if she does belong to someone, they don’t deserve her. But Bryon says we cat be cat-nappers. Ugh, doing the “right” thing is the worst, sometimes! 

My theory, though, is that she did belong to someone long ago, but when they moved, they just opened the door and let her out. Nice military folks tend to do that, just abandon their pets. That’s how I got my first dog, who was the greatest dog I have ever known. Gotta love folks like that. Apparently, pets are disposable, like garbage, and immigrant children (according to the U.S. Government). 

Bryon has already started coming around on her though. I can tell because he wanted to name her. If anyone remembers the movie, Bolt, there was an abandoned black and white cat named, Mittens, that travelled cross-country, on a road-trip with Bolt. She’d been left by her family, to fend for herself, too. I think the name suits her. Plus, it gives her lower status than our Gods and legends: Homer and Loki. We can’t go letting her believe she’s higher up in the pecking order, right? Good name: Mittens.

For anyone keeping count, that’s three cats, now. Two of which Bryon vehemently objected to. Oh, and we’ll also be moving a hamster that has grossly outlived his lifespan yet refuses to die. He’s vibrantly healthy, despite my son’s consistent mistreatment and lack of attention to his pet, via “forgetting” to feed him for days on end, and “forgetting” to give him fresh water.

 Awwww........

Awwww........

How that hamster has survived boggles my mind. Nay, if that hamster is indicative of all hamsters, how hamsters have not taken over the world, as a source of constant awe to me. Again, this is coming from the most bleeding of animal-loving hearts, a person who though she wishes the hamster would go into the light, snuggles him, makes sure he gets attention (that the boy is negligent of giving), and ensures he does, indeed get fed.

 Homer has one rule: Rachel's lap, and anything lap-adjacent are his. There was a growling episode. Homer, clawless wonder that he is, won, and Mittens fled. Loki has been here over a year now, and Homer is only just NOW STARTING to tolerate lap sharing. Mittens, you have. a long road to hoe before you can sit near me if Homer is anywhere near.

Homer has one rule: Rachel's lap, and anything lap-adjacent are his. There was a growling episode. Homer, clawless wonder that he is, won, and Mittens fled. Loki has been here over a year now, and Homer is only just NOW STARTING to tolerate lap sharing. Mittens, you have. a long road to hoe before you can sit near me if Homer is anywhere near.

So, it looks (hopefully), like we are heading out into the great icky yonder (yes, VA is icky to this California girl) with three cats and a hamster. Wish us luck that we get to keep sweet little Mittens! And, wish us luck that another kitty doesn’t catch my eye before we leave. I have no self-control.

Another Ding for Patient Dignity

I learned a long time ago that it is difficult to hang onto your dignity when you spend a lot of time mingling with the medical world. They try to protect your sense of autonomous humanity by averting their gaze when you change into the “gown” (which on a small person like me, is more like a tarp). Or, they do you the service of asking you to leave your precious urine on the shelf in the bathroom, instead of carting it aimlessly around, until someone takes it from you.

If you’ve ever been to a medical establishment without the “shelf,” “door cubbie,” or even just the “leave it on the sink” situation, and you are asked to bring it back with you to your bed, nothing reminds you of your sense of “patient” instead of “person,” like a jar of your own waste sitting next to you for forty-five minutes while you wait for a tech to come collect it.

Dignity took a new hit yesterday, though; it was one, I’d not experienced or expected, thus far in my medical journey. As the gals in the audience can attest, you can’t walk by a nurse without her asking when your last menstrual period was. If you are having a procedure, of any kind, done, every person you come into contact with, will ask you. I’m not sure why the orderly re-stocking the linens needs to know, but I’m happy to provide the info when he asks, too.

Alas, my monthly frenemy visited just in time for my tilt table test, yesterday. Nothing screams fun like crippling abdominal cramps, blood clots, and being strapped to a table to be tilted back and forth to see how long it takes to pass out. Sign me up! Wait, UCLA Cardiology already did: 3pm in Santa Monica.

 Santa Monica is "close." But SM takes us about an hour to get to, with "good" traffic, and about 2-3 hours to get back from, at peak traffic time. Because of my appointment time, Collin got to miss half a day of school, otherwise we'd never make it back to pick him up when it was over. But, I never get over how much he loves monkey. I hope we get a little longer with this, even though he's growing up so fast right now.

Santa Monica is "close." But SM takes us about an hour to get to, with "good" traffic, and about 2-3 hours to get back from, at peak traffic time. Because of my appointment time, Collin got to miss half a day of school, otherwise we'd never make it back to pick him up when it was over. But, I never get over how much he loves monkey. I hope we get a little longer with this, even though he's growing up so fast right now.

I told the check-in nurse who demanded to know when my last menstrual period was. No big deal. I told the IV nurse when it was, no big deal. Of course, the check-in nurse couldn’t do my IV, because among my many health issues is that, inexplicably, despite having such fair, white skin that I am borderline clear, my veins are virtually invisible to the naked eye, and they are so tiny, that they generally have to resort to using the pediatric needles. I’ve blown so many veins it’s ridiculous. Generally, whenever I need an IV for something, I come home looking like a heroin addict who has finally gone clean: deeply bruised, everywhere. I’ve had nurses tell me that it’s lucky I chose not to become an IV drug user, otherwise I’d have to have used my neck veins, or the veins between my toes. Yes, that’s the reason I chose to avoid heroin. Exactly that. Lucky me.

Do you ever think of things like that…like if I decided to wake up tomorrow and start heroin, what does that entail? Where does one go? The heroin store? Not to belittle a serious issue, but that life is so far from my imagination, it is a mystery. I feel genuine empathy, sympathy, and heartbreak for those affected by drug abuse, I just have no idea how that begins, literally.

Back to the menstrual indignity. The procedural nurse was a handsome, buff, vaguely Asian man named Bradford. A pause here to discuss his name. Parents, if you can’t pick between two first names, don’t pick them both and force people to call your kid two names. Either chose Brad, or Ford, not Bradford. It’s weird. You wouldn’t name a kid Chrisnick, or Jasonkevin, so draw a line. Obviously, we accept Jim-Bob, and names of the like, but we know what we’re expecting from a person with a name like that; a name like Bradford confuses us.

Bradford was a quintessential Californian: super chill, conversational, and relaxed about everything. He asked me what I feel like when I pass out, because he wanted to compare it to his experience of passing out. He said, “because I get choked out.” The strange thing about this statement was that he just left that hanging there, with no explanation, and a long silence. Choked out? My stupid mind went right to S&M. It probably shouldn’t have. But, there you have it. Turns out, he’s really into jiu-jitsu, and that’s what he meant. I guess my, “I’m weirded out by what you just said” face forced his explanation.

Of course, my handsome Bradford needed to know about my last menstrual period, too. He had a nice discussion with me about how rough it must be to have to do this procedure with cramps. He was feeling it, with me. Cool dude…not cool enough to realize I was half serious about doping me up with pain meds though. Damn cramps.

Just before we got started, I realized I had to pee, a feeling which was only compounded by being forced to lay flat on my back. Whelp, that wasn’t going to work. So, I had to ask to use the bathroom. Alas, I’d left my purse with Bryon. Ladies, you know what’s in your purse when you are on your “last” menstrual period. And, you know what you need when you’ve been cramping for the past two hours, and you’re about to visit the restroom.

Bradford had to walk me to the waiting room, where I had to walk out, in my gown, with Bradford, to ask Bryon for the zippie pouch, in my purse, because I needed my feminine hygiene products. Yep, I had to tell Bradford that I needed my tampons, then I had to take my handsome jiu-jitsu nurse with me to retrieve them from my husband, while wearing a ties-in-the-back hospital gown. 

Dignity: Gone. At least for that day.

 Getting ready to take a shower today, I discovered that I did, indeed, miss removing one of the leads. Whoops. Always a souvenier.

Getting ready to take a shower today, I discovered that I did, indeed, miss removing one of the leads. Whoops. Always a souvenier.

Not to fear, I didn’t pass out on the table, so that’s good. But, the table also barely worked, so that’s not good. The test is likely invalid. And, because that equipment is so old, apparently, they rarely use it, and don’t have adequate changing facilities for when the test is done. Poor Bradford didn’t know what to do with me except turn the other way, while I changed.  All in all, it was quite the awkward day. Except for the tampon part, I felt worse for Bradford than for me.

I’ve long ago stopped caring about changing in front of doctors, nurses, or even random patients passing in the halls. It takes too much time for them to excuse themselves and come back. If you’ve got medical personnel in front of you, keep them there. Don’t let them go because you don’t want to take your top off. They’ve seen breasts. They’ve seen bras. Yours’s ain’t anything special. Be as discrete as possible, but don’t worry about it! You are just a patient, not a person, perhaps a menstruating one. Act like it.


In totally unrelated news, today we made a Target run.

 Get it: Target. Run.  Apparently, Bryon got a decent shot. But, in my shot, he'd seen pizza slippers, and I lost my moment. He's quick when ADHD strikes.

Get it: Target. Run.

Apparently, Bryon got a decent shot. But, in my shot, he'd seen pizza slippers, and I lost my moment. He's quick when ADHD strikes.

I was there ahead of Bryon and Collin because I met them there from a doctor’s appointment (is it clear yet what my life entails?). As I was waiting for them, in the dollar section, I looked up to see a massively tall man approaching from the main part of the store. He was at least two hundred feet back, and I estimate that he was 6’ 5” minimum.

Here are my first thoughts as I saw him: good for you for getting off the drugs; is this your first outing after detox, because you still look a little sweaty; where’s your sponsor; oh my god, you look terrifying as you get closer; why does every man in Pedro wear a white t-shirt with the sleeves ripped off; nice tattoos, though.

Then, the man, I shit you not, threw a rainbow-colored basketball from two-hundred feet away, INTO the dollar section. Apparently, his woman/life-mate/wife/whatever, had a cart that he was aiming at, and she was standing to my left. He did not have good aim. It came sailing about six inches from the right of my head, before hitting the racks.

“Whoops! Sorry!” he said after he strode to the ball’s location in about five more giant-sized steps, scooping up the ball in his massive hands. He didn’t put it in her cart though, he just shoved it into some random dollar rack. So, he grabbed a basketball from somewhere in the store, with the intention of throwing it at her. Whatta guy.

Um. Okay. Then, his person pointed out rainbow-colored football’s, suggesting them for “him,” to which ball-throwing-giant was repulsed. Apparently, this “him” who they would be buying such rainbow-colored playthings is not suited to footballs.

Man, I’m going to miss Pedro. 


p.s. It should be noted that I fell asleep while spell-checking this post. Yep. Zonked. Didn’t even realize it till the husband told me dinner was ready. We had vegan ramen. It was delicious. I was utterly shocked that I was sound asleep. What the fuck? Why do I keep falling asleep at random times? At least I was home!

Sleepy Rachel: Hypothroidism and Carpool

So, every time I sit down to write something, especially after a long break, my first thought is always that whatever topic I choose, is that it’s not interesting enough to share. I’ve decided that I’m just going to write from now on. That’s the whole point, right? To share what it’s like to be sick, to be well, to be healing, to be moving forward. I’m always all of these things. When I wait for something “worthy” to talk about, I forget that life is lived in the spaces in-between.

1

Among my many, many, many health issues, I’ve got hypothyroidism. If, when I was originally diagnosed with number 673 on my list of “issues.” BTW, pronounce that with a “sh” sound in the middle; so, say it “ishues,” because it’s weightier and more annoying. This is similar to hypothyroidism, which is mostly just annoying, and makes you weightier. See how I brought that around?

If I’d had better insurance when I was originally diagnosed, I’d have pushed for a more thorough blood workup and insisted on a bit more analysis, like figuring out if it’s Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism, which is likely, and if there are any other autoimmune disorders I should be looking for, like Sjogren’s Syndrome, which I have a lot of markers for, hangs out with hypothyroidism, and could explain the ridiculous number of UTIs I’ve had in the last few years, and the equal number of false alarms I’ve had. Ah, the joys of a bad bladder.

Alas, I had an HMO, not a PPO, and so I took my Synthroid prescription, or actually, my generic, like a good girl, and moved on with life. Once, I let it lapse, and figured, “meh, what’s this really doing for me?” Turns out, it was doing a lot. Within a few months of forgetting to renew my prescription, my hair was falling out in clumps, I could hardly stay awake for a full “Game of Thrones.” Wait, that wasn’t the Synthroid’s fault. “Game of Thrones” is super boring (I know that’s an unpopular opinion). Not the least severe symptom was that I was having an increasingly difficult time swallowing.

As I still had the HMO, of course I couldn’t just go to the endocrinologist; I had to go to my PCM first, to ask him pretty please if I could go to the man who knows about hormones. Thankfully, the PCM noticed the golf-ball-sized goiter hanging out of my neck. The odd thing is that I’d never noticed it. Even odder was that Bryon never noticed it. I guess when things like that grow slowly, you don’t notice them? Or, Bryon never looks at me.

He told me not to worry, that it is probably not cancer. Oh, okay! No big deal, after an ultrasound, and pissing my pants, it wasn’t. It was just the result of lapsing on my “Synthroid” (fake Synthroid). Lesson learned. So, I don’t lapse anymore. And, I get my blood drawn once a year.

2

Turns out, I think I need to get it drawn right now. Here’s why:

I have been falling asleep, a lot, in lots of not embarrassing places; but also, at carpool pick up. Not just once in a while, either. This isn’t early in the morning, or after a busy day, or a rough night. This is every day. At 3:45 in the afternoon, after lots of caffeine, because, yeah, I know it’s coming.

Today, I fell so hardcore asleep, in a matter of minutes, that I was full-on dreaming. Let me paint you a picture before I go on. I was wearing my painting clothes, as I’d planned to paint today. In other words, destroyed leggings, and my Alabama sweatshirt, both covered in old paint stains. Hair is better left undescribed, as it was uncombed, and in a wide, fabric and flowered headband. I looked like hobo-mom. At least I was wearing nice boots, which sitting in a car, are invisible. Last shower: best left unsaid.

In my defense, Bryon is both TDY, and locked down. I got the ring, no need to do a thing. In case you’ve not seen the new acquisition, I’ve clearly got no need to dress to impress, right? Kidding! I’ve got nice things, and I wear them. But, not to paint!

 In the most un-Bryon thing he's ever done, Bryon bought me a ring that I've been asking for, for longer than I can remember. It wasn't cheap, and I think he almost vomited, when they scanned his credit card. But, I have vowed never to ask for another thing...for months. But...so sparkly. So many diamonds. So pretty!

In the most un-Bryon thing he's ever done, Bryon bought me a ring that I've been asking for, for longer than I can remember. It wasn't cheap, and I think he almost vomited, when they scanned his credit card. But, I have vowed never to ask for another thing...for months. But...so sparkly. So many diamonds. So pretty!

Anyway, I heard a car door open, within my vicinity, and assumed it was my child, and my car. While I was sleeping, my mom-nag brain wasn’t turned all the way off, apparently; so, I rolled my window down, and began peppering my assumed-child with questions about whether he’d had a talk with his teacher about his missing assignments. (Side note: how does the queen of A+ assignments and never having missed a single one, raise a child whose folder explodes with missing work? How?! It’s maddening).

My eyes hadn’t woken up yet, however. So, when my assumed child kept asking “what?” I wasn’t thinking that I had the wrong kid. Nope. Instead, I was suspicious about why he was getting in the wrong door, and being frustrating about, assumedly on-purpose, misunderstanding my question, repeatedly, because I had to keep repeating it.

Finally, my eyes decided to cooperate, and open all the way, just in time to notice that I was quizzing one of my son’s friends, and his little brother, as they loaded into their mini-van with their mother. Rather than addressing, or acknowledge me, she spoke rapid

Oh God.

So, that happened.

The best part, I was still asleep enough that I just lolled my head to the other side like I was mid-meth overdose, and conked back out. Yep. Zonked.

So, rather than blame myself for a lack of self-control, I’m going to blame the hypothyroidism. Perhaps, I won’t get it checked. I’ll just keep going with this perfect excuse for slovenliness until the end of time.

3

In other news, I am super terrified. I have to have the scariest test of my life, tomorrow. They are strapping me to table, then flipping it up and down to see how long it takes for me to either barf or pass out, whichever happens first. It’s not a medical thing, just some guy in a garage, who says he’s going to give me $50.

Obviously, not. It’s at UCLA cardiology. Based on the fact that I have to steady myself, count to 20, and then wait for the black spots to dissipate, if I stand directly up from a lying down position; oh, and the doctor, upon taking my blood pressure from lying to standing, gripped my arm with the vice-grip of death, and then asked me to lie back down, I’m giving it about 90 seconds max. We’ll see. Any over under bets?

I’m not excited. Not one bit. It’s all to confirm a diagnosis they already know that I have, but it’s more a diagnosis of elimination, and thanks to medicine being an imperfect science, I have to be tortured, so that I can have a complete medical history for appropriate treatment. Hooray! It’s awesome to be a complex case.

Oh, and thanks to all this, I’ve had so much blood work taken in the past three months, I’ve discovered that I have early liver disease, which no one can figure out, despite tracing all my medications, my diet, and my history. I basically have the liver of a lifelong alcoholic, and I’ve only ever been buzzed maybe three times in my life. Apparently, I was to live to regret those glasses of champagne, and that half a Heineken. And, I also have massively high cholesterol. So, thanks genetics!

Come to think of it, genetics gave me hypothyroidism, too. Dammit. I can blame that for humiliating me in the car, today. Apparently, I should be glad that we are moving next month, and I don’t have to face any of those mommies any more. Phew.

International Women's Day: Mustache March

Bryon and I are usually simpatico on nearly everything – well, except when it comes to budgeting. For example, my neighbor, who is PCS’ing (for those non-military types, that means moving); came in today and asked me, “do you throw out your plungers when you move?” This seems like a ridiculous question, as most people move ten miles down the road; and therefore, throw their plungers in a baggie in the backseat of their Hyundai. But, us military types, we pack ‘em up, gross germies included, and unpack ‘em months later, when the crates arrive, and then plunk ‘em back down next to a new toilet, in a new state. Can you imagine how many germs have multiplied in that time, in those dark, dank, moist, hot moving crates?

Her argument was simple: the minor cost of replacing a plunger is worth the waste of throwing a way a perfectly good plunger every few years. Given thought, I realized that in the twelve years of marriage to my dear husband, I think we’ve celebrated all of those anniversaries with the same plunger. Not literally; I mean, we haven’t sat across a candle-lit table with one another and our plunger. However, we’ve never replaced a plunger.

That means that, yes, we move our plunger. Alas, we disagree, fundamentally on budgeting, and on how, and when to spend money. This is not news. I buy boots. I buy clothes. I buy home goods. I buy anything shiny that catches my eye. I’m like a crow, or a toddler. And damn it, if given the choice, I’d buy a new plunger every time we moved. Hell, I’d buy a new one every time we used it, if I could rationalize it to Bryon; or, if living with Bryon didn’t necessitate its constant use! I’d just never considered it as a life issue. From now on, I will.

Why the preamble? Because I’m not capable of talking without babbling. But also, because he’s a commander, now. This means that he has the responsibility to uphold all the tenants of leadership that the Air Force shovels so far down your throat that your feet turn AF blue. The jargon about mentorship, teamwork and service can’t just be jargon anymore, not to him. I’ve seen him, on weekends, creating Power Points about these very topics, the sorts of things that would’ve made Lieutenant-me, and Captain-him (who we were when we met), roll our collective eyes at commanders’ calls. Poor Bryon. He knows it’s Kool-Aid; but not only does he have to drink it, he’s got stained spoons from making and serving it. At least it’s tasty.

But, this whole leadership thing has led to the first major rift in our marriage: Mustache March.

If you are in the military, or a spouse, you know what I am talking about. It means the men, join together, and grow facial hair, like a bunch of idiots. Its origins are murky and the stuff of legend, like the chupucabra. Some will make vague references to it having to do with March Madness. Those with a misplaced sense of dignity will claim that it’s done to raise awareness for men’s’ health issues, such as the oft ignored, or easily missed, symptoms of prostate cancer. If you google it, apparently, Wikipedia claims it is pays homage to some renegade pilot who grew a mustache to flout facial hair regulations, by growing a handlebar mustache: Robin Olds.

In reality, Mustache March is an excuse to remind everyone, including a man’s caveman brain, that he has enough testosterone to grow facial hair. It’s also a chance to bond, in a chest pounding way, with your fellow cavemen, about who looks like the bigger asshole with said facial hair. Who was able to pull off the closest Selleck mustache? And, who looks like they grew the kind of mustache that makes him look like he has to stay 500 yards away from a school?

Har. Har. Isn’t this fun?

Wait. Remember those gals with the vaginas and breasts that can’t grow mustaches? You love those parts when you get to play with them, but you whine about them when we use them to point out how they interfere with your fun. Isn’t that a pain in the ass? It’s also easy to play the, “ugh, there’s always something to complain about,” card; or, the “why mess with tradition?” card. Well, perhaps it’s important to raise our voices when there’s something wrong, even if it makes you uncomfortable, and even if it means it challenges the way that something has always been done. Just because something is tradition, doesn’t make it right.

It’s so convenient to say that they claimed that they wanted the unit to participate in Mustache March this year, that it would be fun! That it would even be such a team bonding experience. Of course, they say that. Who wants to be the spoil-sport? But, here’s the problem with that: if the entire team can’t play, it’s not a team building event, is it? It’s like playing Marco Polo with a deaf guy. Plus, women in the military have been conditioned to play nice with the boys, not to rock the boat. We’ve been conditioned that we are supposed to like the boys’ games, and that we play too, or we won’t be allowed to play at all. It’s why we do things like laugh at the non-stop sexual innuendo jokes from pilots, pretending that they are not the humor of twelve-year-olds. We play so we can be allowed to be in the professional circle.

Sure, she may like seeing you guys looking like assholes with your ridiculously ugly mustaches; because face it, less than 1% of the population pulls one off successfully. However, it doesn’t bond you as a team. In fact, it’s directly exclusionary on premise alone. If the only way she’s included is to be amused from the outside, how is it inclusionary? Plus, even if the goal is lofty, men’s’ health awareness, where is the equivalent team-building event for women. Or, if it’s to pay homage to a rule against facial hair, it’s even more exclusionary. Unless we include particularly hairy women who wax, intentionally, of course; but, that’s another ball of wax.

Which brings us back to why my husband and I are at odds, this month. He’s doing Mustache March with his unit. It infuriates me. We’ve had conversations about Mustache March for years. Every year we’ve been in the Air Force, in fact. I saw it on active duty. I’ve seen it as a spouse. I have always said it’s ridiculous, exclusionary, and an example of trickle-down sexism that should be shunned from the top and made an example of as institutionalized sexism. He’s agreed. I’ve said that, if I were Chief of Staff of the Air Force, I’d ban it. It’s that important to me to make women feel included as part of the Air Force.

Now that he’s in a leadership position, he’s got a mustache, and he’s playing. I’m disappointed. He says the women wanted to play. I know he’s torn, because I know his principles, and his gut says that it’s wrong; but I know he wants to make his team happy. Or, he wants to do what he thinks makes his team happy. But, institutionalized sexism comes from the top down; without the Chief of Staff making the call, it’s incumbent on lower level leadership to do the right thing. Small changes make big changes.

In conversations, he admitted he didn’t even know what the history of Mustache March was. I knew more than he did. Ugh. Annoyed. Why is he doing this, again? Principles, man! Principles! Stand up. Even when it’s hard. I feel like what’s right is right, regardless of situation; but I’m a hard-ass loudmouth, who, thank god, got out of the military before it kicked me out for being insubordinate.

I told him that it was International Women’s Day, this week; and I asked him what he did to remind his unit, or to celebrate, with his ridiculous mustache that infuriates me every time I look at it. He said he didn’t do anything. So, I told him I still don’t like his mustache, and that I had the perfect way to celebrate. He said to post away.

I think that by the time this Mustache March is over with, he will be tired of hearing my lectures about how equality is not the same as fair, and that his position afforded him the ability to affect change, and he missed it. He will also get tired of wearing the Wonder Woman Band-Aids that I ordered for him to wear while at home. It’s not just that it’s ugly, it’s ugly on the inside. I can’t stand looking at the damn thing for the rest of the month. Thank goodness he’s TDY a lot this month…something I don’t generally say!

So, happy International Women’s Day.

IMG_2525.JPG

Owl Have Bird Watching For...Ever?

Okay, that was a terrible title. Cut me some slack. I couldn't think of anything!

Nearly every night, just as we are falling asleep….well, I’m falling asleep, Bryon has been asleep for hours; I know this, because I’ve been poking him while we watch T.V. and saying, “did you see that?” and invariably, he has not seen that…anyway, we hear an owl. This owl is decidedly not off in the distance, providing a sort of sound-machine soothing, off-to-dreamland, light whoo-whoo for us. He is WHOO-WHOOOING, as it sounds, directly outside our window.

As you may remember, we live at the apex of a crazy ocean current, which makes sounds whisk around like we are in a Kitchen Aid on bread-dough day. Still, it sound sounds like it’s, no kidding, coming from either our roof, or the tree, right outside our window, the tree the tree man said would fall on our house on day. In other words, it sounds, positively, like if were closer, the bird would be on our headboard, leaving pellets in such a vast supply, I could sell them to third grade science teachers to dissect. So, this conversation has, definitely happened, perhaps more than once:

R: Bryon! The owl!
B: Mmmmph.
R: (now with the poking) The owl! The owl! Do you hear it!?
B: (taking off his ear plugs and face mask, as if I’m loud!) Mmmph
R: The owl! Let’s go find it! He’s back!
B: No.
R: C’mon! It’ll be fun! I want to find him!
B: We’re not dressed.
R: So, what! I go outside in my PJ’s all the time! Besides, it’s night.
B: No. You’ll never find it.
R: Not with that attitude.
 Collin, farting around in Daddy's mask. He's a goofball!

Collin, farting around in Daddy's mask. He's a goofball!

Alas, we’ve never found the owl. Yet. Mostly, because I want us to find the owl. I’m very persuasive, so I think we will find the owl; or, at the very least, go a-lookin’. I’m very convinced that the owl lives in our tree, or in the eaves of our roof. The cats are obsessed with our bedroom window, and the top corner of our roof. Of course, it could be pigeons, the flying rats of the world, which I still adore watching.

Our pigeons make the weirdest sound I’ve ever heard. And, I learned they aren’t pigeons, exactly, anyway, when I rescued a baby one, and called the bird sanctuary to take it. They refused it, and said it was some fancy name that I forgot; but basically, it’s an invasive species. I could save it if I want; but, essentially, it’s their policy to let “nature take its course.” GAH! I was holding a baby tweeting bird!

She told me the protocol to save it myself though, and gave me very precise directions. It lived. Phew. Also, it smelled really, really bad. Like, it stunk up my bathroom so badly, that we couldn’t get the smell out for weeks, no matter what we did, even though it had only lived there two days. Powerful little guy!

I count that save as wiping my slate clean after saving the last baby bird I found, that my dog and cat ate, after either Bryon or I accidentally left the bathroom door open before we went to work. The carnage. I joke now, but I cried for days. I nursed that little hatchling from a featherless ball of ick to a full-grown bird that was just learning to fly. He’d be ready to release in a matter of days. I suppose that, at least, they got a good meal. A feather, in my stupid dog’s bed, was all that was left.

Anyway, maybe that’s why those “pigeons” make a weird sound…they aren’t pigeons at all! I wish I remember what they were. My mother-in-law, the first time she stayed here, woke up insanely early the first morning, looking for what was making that weird racket. I intercepted her, because I heard her wandering my home, looking a bit confused. She’d woken, “with the birds,” shall we say. I hope she wasn’t hoping to get a worm. Ba-dum-ch! I had to explain it’s the “pigeons,” and that they sound like that hear. They sound like a machine motor running and whirring. She thought we’d left something on and was trying to figure out what it was. Nope. Birds.

 

*

I can thank my dad for my love of birds. He didn’t tell me to love them. He didn’t specifically sit me down and talk to me about them. He just off-handedly would remark, “Oh there’s a chickadee,” or, “look closely, there’s a goldfinch in that bush!” When we went camping, he’d get very quiet and crouch down, and I knew we were about to see something special, and making me know that I should mimic him, and sure enough, he’d whisper, “there,” and spread some branch for me. I learned bird songs in this way, and in remarks that weren’t meant to teach, just conversation.

When my family and I are, say on the freeway to Ikea, and I point out the dozen or so hawks on phone poles, they are used to it. But, they have also grown used to me saying, “oh look a wren!” when we are sitting at a picnic table, or, “that’s not a crow, it’s a raven, look at its beak.” And, they are no longer surprised that I can point out all the song birds. At first, when I was first married, my husband used to say, “where does all this knowledge come from?” I’d say, honestly, “I don’t know? Doesn’t everyone just know this stuff?” I didn’t realize that every home didn’t have the Audubon field guide by the window with binoculars. Ours did, and does. For that, I can truly thank my father; because, I truly adore birds.

Still, they've not yet got to hear me say, "look, there's my owl."

Speaking of the idea that people didn’t realize that every family doesn’t do something; did everyone read about the poor soul who didn’t realize that every family does not, indeed have a communal poop knife hanging in the laundry room. Oh my god. The horror.

 

*

 

Back to my original reason for writing, I just got off the phone with my husband, who I spoke with nearly his entire drive from El Segundo, to pick up our son, in which I read him descriptions, and nesting habits of owls that live in Southern California. Folks, in traffic, this was about 45 min; spend a minute honoring the heroics of my husband. This is who I am, and who he is. He tolerates my weird obsession with birds, and he pretends he cares.

He insists that when we retire, we can go for hikes with binoculars and a bird journal, and that we can find a Burrowing Owl, because they are the cutest lil’ things I can imagine. Look, but don’t touch, Rachel!

 Thanks  Audubon Society.  Go to there. Give them money. They are good people.

Thanks Audubon Society. Go to there. Give them money. They are good people.

 

 And, hopefully, we’ll see a Great Grey Owl in Yosemite, before they all disappear, because I think if I put my eyes upon one, the secret of life will reveal itself to me, that’s how majestic and powerful they appear.

 Thanks again,  Audubon Society ! Go to there. Give them your first born child. They do good things!

Thanks again, Audubon Society! Go to there. Give them your first born child. They do good things!

 

I think I will settle, for now, for finding the owl outside our window. We have a little less than seven months left in California before (damn military orders, making me leave my state!) we can find that owl. Do you think we can find it, and I can get, at least a blurry night-time shot, in which you can make out nothing of substance, of my mysterious nighttime visitor? When I call him, or her, that, it sounds so swarthy.

P.S. I deeply hope it’s not a screeching owl. Apparently, they are so protective of their nesting area, they will attack humans. Terrifying. I don’t want to die of death-by-owl.

Speaking of intelligent birds. Did you know that crows can remember human faces? In scientific experiments involving cruelty to crows, such as stealing their eggs, the scientists who took the crows eggs, had to cover their faces on the way to their cars at night, with burlap sacks because the crows would form teams and attack those specific scientists. The scientists, prior to this experiment, did not know this about crows, and learned it, early on in the study. It was a major breakthrough in recognizing how intelligent they are. Seriously don’t get me started on birds…wait, I started it! Anyway, I don’t want to die by death-by-crow either!

*

Wait! Re-reading this post for typos (which I always miss anyways), I just realized something: first of all, I'm weird (which I don't particularly care about). But, now I'm officially super-weird; and I'm an old bird lady. SEND HELP!

My Bookman

I check out a lot of books. It shouldn't be a surprise that I would do something like that. I'm home a lot. I have a lot more "free" time than I used to. And, I like to read. I always have a book on me, and I read in every spare moment. Every year, my goal is 100 books. Last year, I got really close. I'm the kind of person you catch reading in line at a supermarket. But now, now I'm afraid to go the library.

 When I don't have something to read, say at a doctor's office, this is what happens. I deface their educational materials regarding the male prostate. But, look how happy this bladder looks in my urologist's office looks!! Personally, I think that they shouldn't leave the marker RIGHT THERE, if they don't want patients to draw on the bladder. Isn't the goal to have a happy bladder?

When I don't have something to read, say at a doctor's office, this is what happens. I deface their educational materials regarding the male prostate. But, look how happy this bladder looks in my urologist's office looks!! Personally, I think that they shouldn't leave the marker RIGHT THERE, if they don't want patients to draw on the bladder. Isn't the goal to have a happy bladder?

Actually, I’m afraid to go back to my library. It all started when we went to Michigan this past spring and I accidentally ruined a book with toilet water from the RV, forgot that I did that, and returned said ruined book, on time, to the book drop outside. I feel that, since I did, indeed ruin the book, it’s important to emphasize that I turned it in on time. It was dried out when I turned it in, just a little crinkly from the damp, but now dried, water.

 Bryon's reaction to my "happy bladder." You can't tell, but he's laughing on the inside.

Bryon's reaction to my "happy bladder." You can't tell, but he's laughing on the inside.

They tried to charge me for the book the next time I went to check out books, and I indignantly refused to pay for it, having forgotten my husband’s erratic driving style, as he thinks all roads are serpentine, and all stops require skid marks. They acquiesced because I’m a good library customer, with no fines, and regular check-outs, and why would I ruin a book? We came to an agreement and I paid half the fee.

Well, now I’ve lost a book.

It’s gone. Forever. Seriously. I’ve looked everywhere. The last place I remember seeing it was at a Rite Aid. I feigned trying to concentrate on reading it, as I waited for yet another antibiotic prescription, for yet another UTI, before I gave up, and started browsing through the selection of sundries near the pharmacy section. They sell baby clothes! At a Rite Aid! I was this close to buying my friend’s baby a onesie that said “Someone in Pedro Loves me” but I was afraid I’d have to stop at the pawn shop to also buy him a tiny matching gold chain.

I even looked there -- at the Rite Aid, not the pawn shop. It’s just, gone. Poof. It’s not even a good book. It’s just a mystery that I selected at random, which is how I pick all my mysteries, blindly grabbing by what color I feel like that day. It was a yellow one. I lost a yellow mystery. I feel terrible about it. I wish it were blue. Then I could feel blue, and it would be appropriate. Instead, I think it ran away, afraid of something. Get it? Yellow. Now, I have to be yellow about going to the library, instead of sad. Damn. It’s appropriate.

I waited until it was overdue, and I faced my yellow-bellied fear, and went to the library, to tell the librarian, who for some reason always knows who I am, that I lost the book. He’s always a little too nice to me, and he said that he’d renew it an extra time, to give me more time to look for it, and waive the overdue fees while he was at it. Ummm, okay. But, it took me six weeks to face you this time! “Just let me pay for the damn book,” I was secretly screaming in my head. But, he seemed so proud of being nice, that I couldn’t say it aloud, and I thanked him, instead.

Now, the stupid book is overdue again, and I have a pile of others to return. I’ve still not found the missing yellow book, of course. I have to go face the nice man and tell him that I have to pay for it. It’s karma for the book that I realized I had ruined, only after I got halfway home from the library, after refusing to pay for it. “Oh yeah,” I said to Bryon, “that was that one book I was reading in the bathroom of the RV. Whoops!” 

Somehow, the library always gets their money, I suppose. I guess the idea of letting people take anything they want, on the honor system, small late fees attached, isn’t such a poor business model after all.

This whole thing reminds me of the Seinfeld episode with the library cop, Bookman, though. So, I’ll pay for the stupid book, as I fear he’ll find me, regardless of where I’ll move. Even if he doesn’t, I’ll know I didn’t pay and the metaphorical Bookman will leave a yellow-book mark on my conscience. Stupid book.

I promise to pay for my book, Mr Bookman!

Willow Bean

Our local animal shelter is precariously placed between our nearest Target and the car wash. Because I like my car clean, and because there’s always a reason to go to Target, I have learned that I must take alternate routes to get to both places to avoid the shelter. If I don’t, we would end up with a menagerie. I’ve seen a chickens and goats there! I’ve told myself that I just want to go in and pet the cats and dogs, but I can’t keep that promise to myself.

This September, I randomly stopped in, on a day I’d lied to myself about petting cats. They had so many kittens that, frankly, I’m surprised I didn’t fill the whole car. Instead, I adopted Willow, a cat that they’d not bothered naming, and that the entire staff came out to thank me personally for taking. I’m pretty sure that it was his last day, and they were grateful someone saved him. Not only was his adoption fee free, when I tried to make a donation (which I always do when I adopt a “free” animal), I felt like they wanted to refuse it.

 At the right angle, he is pretty cute, isn't he? Even though he's ancient, he looks like a kitten because he's so itty bitty. Who'd know he's the equivalent of an 88-year old man? With this photo, I argue that many would have adopted him as well - so long as they couldn't smell him.

At the right angle, he is pretty cute, isn't he? Even though he's ancient, he looks like a kitten because he's so itty bitty. Who'd know he's the equivalent of an 88-year old man? With this photo, I argue that many would have adopted him as well - so long as they couldn't smell him.

He wasn’t in a cage; he was a free-roamer, with about fifteen other cats, who are considered social enough to be allowed to wander the cat room. Willow decided he was going home with me the minute I entered the cat room. He followed me from cage to cage, meowing until I picked him up, and then promptly fell asleep in my arms, purring. If I put him down, he cried at my ankles and started the whole process all over again.

 Good gawd he could be cute.

Good gawd he could be cute.

I’m certain he was trying to explain that despite his offensive odor, and hideous appearance, he would make a great friend, and to please take him home. He was far too thin, to the point that you couldn’t just feel his bones, you could feel every bone, and I’m pretty sure his organs. His long fur was matted and dirty. And, you could smell his cheesy, leaky ears from the parking lot.

 From the moment he came home, he only left my lap when either he, or I, had to use the bathroom, or he had to eat. I got used to the smell. I guess, at the shelter, he was trying to clue me in to his plan after all.

From the moment he came home, he only left my lap when either he, or I, had to use the bathroom, or he had to eat. I got used to the smell. I guess, at the shelter, he was trying to clue me in to his plan after all.

At least his presence in my personal bubble kept the lonely women away. Did you know that the cat room at your local shelter is a beacon for single women? I guess this should’ve been a no-brainer, but I didn’t realize just how common it is for women to just swing by and pet cats. Say, on the way home from the gym, on their lunch break, or just because they were sad. Very, very sad. I can’t criticize too much, because that’s exactly what I did that day; but there was a twinge of something “else” about everyone else there, especially since they all came and went without a cat, which made it weird.

Anyway, note to single men looking for a gal: cat room.

As we all know, there’s no such thing as a free cat (or dog!). Willow went to the vet, in his short time with us, more times than Homer has needed to go, in the past five years. He got extra food, special litter, and prescription medication that had to be applied daily. He was brushed, combed, and even got a special haircut. He was adored beyond measure.

By me.

 Hideous headache picture, but adorable scarf-cat picture. He really liked to be carried around and worn like this, for some reason. I've never seen such a thing! By the way, Chiari sure can make you ugly on pain days, can't it!? Look at that facial swelling! Yikes!

Hideous headache picture, but adorable scarf-cat picture. He really liked to be carried around and worn like this, for some reason. I've never seen such a thing! By the way, Chiari sure can make you ugly on pain days, can't it!? Look at that facial swelling! Yikes!

Only me.

The other cats were displeased with Willow’s alley cat ways, and his strange ability to convince them that they should be relegated to only the back bedrooms. They were as confused as the rest of us about his powers of persuasion, considering he was a Lilliputian. Collin was Collin about him, and found him less interesting than the Wii, but more interesting than the carpeting.

 Willow took a keen interest in Collin's new favorite food, Cambell's instant cup-o-soup. When we pointed out that they smell a lot like cat food, Collin wasn't amused.

Willow took a keen interest in Collin's new favorite food, Cambell's instant cup-o-soup. When we pointed out that they smell a lot like cat food, Collin wasn't amused.

 

Bryon, of course, was indifferent to the fact that another animal joined the menagerie, despite his protestations that we didn’t need another cat.

 Bryon was building Lego sets. Willow wanted to be a scarf. You'd think a cat wouldn't like to be held this way. You would be wrong.

Bryon was building Lego sets. Willow wanted to be a scarf. You'd think a cat wouldn't like to be held this way. You would be wrong.

Willow refused to give up on Bryon though. Like all adorable and pathetic creatures, he used this lack of power to weaken Bryon, who was eventually defenseless against fuzziness. Bryon grew to admit, at least, an affection for the little scamp, too.

 Willow was napping atop the couch while Bryon was working. In his snoring state, he literally fell off, and into this position, where he stayed, snuggled between the couch and Bryon's back, purring away, because he was next to a warm body. That cat was so weird.

Willow was napping atop the couch while Bryon was working. In his snoring state, he literally fell off, and into this position, where he stayed, snuggled between the couch and Bryon's back, purring away, because he was next to a warm body. That cat was so weird.

Like all animals, we are charmed by what they do that’s frustrating, as much as what they do that is adorable. Willow, perhaps because he weighed only what his fur and bones weighed, was always seeking warmth. He slept not on your lap, but on your face, or wrapped around your neck, like a scarf. He sought to sleep, at night, curled against your face, or curled under your chin, sucking up the warmth from your breath.

As adorable as that sounds, remember that smell I mentioned? Turns out that his ears were filled with benign, inoperable tumors. They stank, and continued to stink. They collected all manner of airborne bacteria. No matter how clean we kept them, and no matter how good we were with the medication, he was still stinky. Really, stinky.

 Willow and I "enjoying" a nap.

Willow and I "enjoying" a nap.

So, his refusal to be moved, his digging is claws into the pillow or into my hair was truly a lesson in love. He taught us, and especially me, that loving something challenging reaps rewards we aren’t expecting. Willow stank, and I held him close anyway. I knew he was old, and probably wouldn’t last long, and no matter how much I tried to keep myself from falling all the way in love with him, he wound his way deep into my heart, anyway.

 How I woke up most mornings when Willow lived with us.

How I woke up most mornings when Willow lived with us.

At every visit to the vet, we’d ask, “is he uncomfortable,” and “is he in pain.” And, every time, the vet would assure us that he wasn’t. I know what it’s like to be in so much pain that I’d wish for death. I know what it’s like to be sick. I watched that silly cat be old, but not sick. I watched him be close to the end and not particularly healthy, but not particularly unwell either. It was a strange little relationship we had.

 He looks pretty comfortable to me, frankly.

He looks pretty comfortable to me, frankly.

Within his short time with us, he had a few slips into illness that we thought were his end. We’d take him to the vet, and we braced for the worst. But, that silly cat would just have had a flare up of his ear infections, get some antibiotics and some fluids and come home a Skeletor version of a kitten. He was strong, and suddenly frisky. For Willow, that meant harassing the other cats, briefly. Homer and Loki always seemed especially displeased to see the cat carrier return from the vet, occupied.

 Poor kitty.

Poor kitty.

A few days after Christmas, Willow looked sick again. This time though, he didn’t look sick like he looked sick before. He was hiding under the Christmas tree; but, when he was coming out, his back end was dragging, or falling beneath him. He had a bad bowel movement, and dragged his back end through it, and then didn’t clean himself. The poor kitty needed a bath. If you’ve ever bathed a cat, you know they object; he didn’t. Nor did he object when I blow dried him to stop his little skeleton body from shivering. I held him for hours afterward, wrapped in a blanket, while he randomly quaked in what I can only assume was pain.

 Sick kitty after getting a bath and a blow dry.

Sick kitty after getting a bath and a blow dry.

I knew it was time, but instead of being braced, as I was all the other times he’d gotten sick, this time, when I called the vet, I held out hope. By the time we got to the vet the next day, he couldn’t stand when the vet unwrapped him from the blanket he was wrapped in. His back end was completely unstable. My heart broke.

Three months, and Smelly Cat broke my heart.

They let me hold him in his Wonder Woman blanket while they did it. He was so sick, with such dead weight, that his little body didn’t even get heavier when he went. I held him for a long time, and just kept petting him, crying. We all did. When we left, we made sure to put him in a nice position, curled in a nice, napping position, instead looking like a cat corpse. I asked Bryon if he thought the techs noticed things like that, and he assured me that they probably did. I was afraid that, because of how awful he looked, health-wise, they’d think he was unloved; I wanted them to know he was.

I can’t believe how much I miss that silly little cat. Even more, Bryon misses him too.

 Homer "tolerated" Willow, but they got along near the end, even being willing to snuggle together. Loki, on the other hand, refused to have any part of it.

Homer "tolerated" Willow, but they got along near the end, even being willing to snuggle together. Loki, on the other hand, refused to have any part of it.

Of course, Loki and Homer have had a freedom party. They have ganged up, since he’s been gone, and formed the BFF-Team. Formerly, they were the epitome of sibling rivalry. There’s been endless snuggling, and other such cat adorableness. Purring in abundance has made me feel guilty about how miserable they were with Willow’s existence. It’s weird to be sad for him to be gone, and happy that he’s gone, at the same time. Well, I’m at least happy for the other cats.

 The "usual" relationship between the three cats,  if  they managed to be in the same room.

The "usual" relationship between the three cats, if they managed to be in the same room.

I know this whole post makes me sound like a wacko cat lady; and frankly, that’s what I am. I’m not so sure that I care, really. A big part of my life, is spent at my house now that I’m home, so my animals are important to me. Taking care of an old sickly one, resonated with me for obvious reasons. I’m so grateful for having known him, and for being the one who got to be the strong one, instead of the weakly one, in our relationship. He taught me a lot about unconditional love, just by being his stinky, snuggly self. 

 Now, we have snuggles all over the place. Happy kitties. I swear that Loki is purring and happy. It's impossible to take a picture of a black cat. They always look shocked or angry.

Now, we have snuggles all over the place. Happy kitties. I swear that Loki is purring and happy. It's impossible to take a picture of a black cat. They always look shocked or angry.

Homer seems especially pleased. I can't seem to get that cat off my lap. Homer is my best friend, which may seem weird. But, he's been with me since 2003, and is just as old as Willow was. I worry every day about that boy, but I think he'll live forever, just because I can't make it without him.

 Seriously.

Seriously.

Lipo!

I know I said that I was probably going to keep quiet about what procedure I had done. But, it’s not in my nature to keep quiet about anything. And, it’s hypocritical to say that we shouldn’t have to feel shame about something like this, and then feel too embarrassed to tell anyone about it, right?

Don’t get me wrong, I feel embarrassed. I’m not embarrassed because I got it done. I’m not embarrassed that I’d wanted it longer than I can remember. I’m not embarrassed about any of that. I’m not embarrassed to tell that slice of the population that would say to my face, “more power to you,” and then behind my back, “I’d never do that,” to fuck off. I’m embarrassed that in 40 years, I couldn’t tell my own self-critical voice to quiet down enough not to need this.

Back to those naysayers, I say, “Let’s sit down and do an audit of your personal expenses, until I can find something that I find frivolous, that I’d never do.” I once knew a woman who spent thousands, and thousands of dollars on strollers. Strollers! I could’ve paid for what I had done twice over in what she, in my mind (at the time), “wasted” on a status symbol that can cart around kids just as well as a Graco. Vanity is vanity.

As per usual, I digress.

I had…liposuction.

You may be asking yourself, where a woman who weighs 115 lbs manages to find enough girth to lipo away. I’m not a big woman. I was even lucky enough to still have abs post-delivery of my son. Hold onto your tomatoes and other rotten fruit for a minute (no throwing), because, like every woman, I have flaws that become demons, that become obsessions that I’ve torn my hair out over, every time I look in the mirror. I truly envy the woman who can see her own flaws, and just let them go; or, who can, if not let them go, not fixate on them.

I have (had? Remains too soon to say) one spot that my surgeon called the “divot of doom” that plagued me so much, that in dark moments, I debated cutting myself so it would heal as an obvious scar, which I’d rather have had than that damn dimple! It was so deep that, I swear, a village of elves could live in there; I’m convinced that now that it’s gone, Keebler manufacturing will suffer because they’ll have to find a new headquarters for their tree.

 Can you believe that Ernie and the elves have been living in my right thigh, all this time? Perhaps that's why it was all dimply. All those cookies. It's not like I was eating them, they were just being pumped right INTO the source!

Can you believe that Ernie and the elves have been living in my right thigh, all this time? Perhaps that's why it was all dimply. All those cookies. It's not like I was eating them, they were just being pumped right INTO the source!

I eat right, I have exercised to the point of insanity, even (in my pre-surgery days) running into the triple digit miles a week. But, nothing ever touched that jiggly spot. At my thinnest, my thighs would shrink a minuscule amount, but nothing ever touched the fact that they were made of cheese. Nothing. Not any cream, not any special food, not any special detox, nothing. I’m convinced that I have ancestry that links me to the moon, as it’s made of cheese.

The whole movement of “love your curves,” skipped over me, and in fact, made me feel like society had subscribed to some sort of collective insanity. Couldn’t people see that my curves weren’t lovable? And, truly, it wasn’t so much that I hated the size of my legs; it was that I hated the cheese. And, if I’m deeply honest with myself, it was always only one leg that truly bothered me; but, since you can’t really lipo only one leg, unless you want to look like a freak, I had to do both.

Anyone who saw them claimed that they couldn’t see anything, that I was crazy. Of course, I was crazy! I was obsessed! Still, I couldn’t trust their opinions because they all valued my feelings too much (and they were afraid of me!). Damn them, and their concern for my heart!

Even Bryon, always said that he had no idea what I was talking about. Once, I got him to admit that he maybe could, maybe, barely, see something. Still, that was after torturing him to give me a straight answer. It was like one of those scenes from old spy movies where I shined a light over his face until he admitted it. Poor Bryon. It’s like the ultimate version of: “do I look fat in this?” He couldn’t win.

Of course, I realize that years of hyper-focusing on this problem had created a picture in my mind that was entirely inaccurate; but that didn’t stop me from believing my own delusions. The plastic surgeon even showed me my before pics, which are taken in terribly unflattering light (and paper underwear), and tried to show me how the problem is much larger in my mind, than it is in reality. I remained unconvinced.

Over the years, I’d stopped wearing shorts. I’d stopped wearing bathing suits. In general, I hated that bit of me so much that it certainly was interfering with my ability to be happy with myself. And that, my friends, is what plastic surgery is for. I’m not ashamed to admit it. Plastic surgery is, ultimately, for ourselves.

My wonderful doctor was especially good at explaining what could and what could not be accomplished by surgery, especially since I was so small to start with. At my age (or any age), it’s generally a risk that the skin won’t re-tighten over the part where fat is removed, leaving the skin more dimpled than before. Yikes! There is a post-operative procedure that can be performed, under local anesthesia, that can help with that, if that happens, so we’ll see. She wasn’t especially worried about it though, because I have good, tight skin. I got a nice pat on the back for taking such good care of it, especially for being so fair. I guess years of wearing pants instead of shorts pays off in the end; or, it pays off in this very specific situation.

And, did you know it can take months (!!!)  for everything to settle into its new position after the procedure. It may even take a full year. So, no matter how many times you peek at the results, especially in early days, it’ll look like crap. In fact, it’ll look worse than what you went in there with. This was something I am very glad she prepared me for, because holy crap does it look much, much, much worse.

The day of the operation was easy. It’s just like any other surgery, except because you are paying them, instead of insurance paying them, it’s a little more like a cross between a trip to the spa and the hospital. Your wish is their command, really. Everyone was super nice, and right there when you needed them. No buzzers for nurses, and no waiting for anything. It was lovely. I had a headache that day, from skipping meals and water, and I even got extra meds just to make me more comfortable. Who can beat that service?

I could’ve lived without the marker. The doctor came in and drew on my legs with marker. She drew large circles over my “worst” parts. It’s where she planned to do the most work, but it feels like you are being initiated into the world’s meanest sorority. My doctor, being the lovely person she is, made light jokes about how cruel this seems, and made it more comfortable; but, nothing changes the fact that you are standing there in a black paper string bikini, with another woman circling your shame. In case you missed that part buried in the previous sentence: BLACK PAPER STRING BIKINI. At least my doctor was wearing chunky UGG boots, and I could see her face-lift scar because her surgical cap pulled her hair away from her forehead. There's a barrier broken down there between women, in that environment.

The next morning, and still now, it’s far more painful than I expected. They kept saying that it would feel a little like I had a very hard work out. That’s, perhaps, an accurate description, if my workout was eighteen hours long; and then, to cool down, I stepped into the ring with the heavyweight champion of the world, but he was only allowed to hit beneath the waist. I make unusual noises, every time I stand up, and every time, I sit down (especially on the brutally hard surface of the toilet). To be honest, if I knew how painful it was going to be, I may have hesitated a bit more. Part of the selling point was that it wasn't going to hurt that bad. But, I may be a wuss. We're starting to think that nerve damage may have messed up my ability to process pain properly.

They give you pain meds, but it barely touches it. Mostly, to combat the pain, I just don’t move. I sit mostly still, and do my best impression of a root vegetable. I’m used to this from years of practice as a pain patient and a brain surgery survivor. My boys swirl around me and wait on me, hand and foot. Because it hurts to move, at all, they even get things for me that are only slightly out of reach. Bryon even installed a bell ringer on my phone, to call them when they are out of the room!

 Nurses. They actually do a relatively terrible job because they like to walk around on my legs and knead them repetitively before they get comfortable. My cries of pain do not deter them. Since Willow (the white cat) died, they have suddenly become best friends, and begun cuddling with me nonstop...together, which is weird, but good.

Nurses. They actually do a relatively terrible job because they like to walk around on my legs and knead them repetitively before they get comfortable. My cries of pain do not deter them. Since Willow (the white cat) died, they have suddenly become best friends, and begun cuddling with me nonstop...together, which is weird, but good.

Other than the pain, the worst part of this whole process is the compression garment. I have to wear it, 24-7 for the next six weeks. Imagine Spanx (that are ten times tighter) that go down to your knees, and up to your breasts, and attach over your shoulders with elastic overall straps. On the first day, my legs were so swollen, they looked like over-stuffed sausages spilling out of their casings, out the bottom of the damn things. They are crotch-less, so you don’t have to get out of them to use the bathroom, which is as lovely as it sounds. I call them my weird lederhosen. They do have a tiny bow in the center, so I can feel pretty, of course.

And yes, I already snapped the straps right into my boobs. I think Bryon is totally over the cost of this whole thing, because I made that grievous error in his presence, and in all the time I’ve known him, I’ve never seen him laugh so hard.

Please don’t get me wrong on the bizarre undergarment; the few times I took it off, it felt terrible. Because the procedure uses heat to melt the fat underneath, before it’s sucked out; and the healing process involves your anatomy shifting around until it re-settles, the garment basically holds it all in a comfortable (and correct) place. When you take it off, it feels like, every and anything beneath your skin, is moving around. This feeling is…well…unsettling. So, as uncomfortable as the garment is, it’s more comfortable with it on. And, because of the heat, the quality of the pain is two-fold: you get the pain from ramming the probe under your skin, and the quality of burning and aching. Plus, the incisions, no matter how small, don’t like to be left out of the action. They hurt too. And there are lots of them.

So, what did she do? She removed the dreaded saddle bag sides, and sucked out a fair bit from the inner thigh area. That area is still really swollen, so it remains to be seen how much. She re-arranged what was left, to de-dimple. She also moved around a bit on the back, but didn’t specifically suck anything out of the rear of my legs, or out of my behind. She flatly said that she has women coming in, asking specifically for an ass like mine, especially since it does a little pop, so to change it would be a crime. It’s always nice to be complimented by a plastic surgeon, right? She removed very little, overall. It isn’t like I lost ten pounds. It was more of a sculpting than anything else.

And now, we wait. We wait for the healing to finish, and to see if my skin needs to be pulled tighter over those pesky bands that create cellulite. We wait to see how it all settles. We wait to see the finished product. We wait to see if my body decides to start depositing fat elsewhere, now. We just wait. At the moment, the only waiting I actually care about is waiting not to scream every time I pee because the toilet seat is just so damn hard!

Even more than debating whether or not to tell what I had done, I debated sharing these photos. It’s not that it shows anything intimate; but, it’s intimate adjacent.

 PLUS, my legs look about ten thousand times worse than they've ever looked. They are swollen and bumpy, lumpy and gross. I'm sooooooo glad the doctor warned me a thousand times about it, otherwise I'd freak out. They are so swollen that they are like sausages bursting out of their little freaky lederhosen casings. In fact, even though she took fat OUT, I've gained over ten pounds of fluid!

PLUS, my legs look about ten thousand times worse than they've ever looked. They are swollen and bumpy, lumpy and gross. I'm sooooooo glad the doctor warned me a thousand times about it, otherwise I'd freak out. They are so swollen that they are like sausages bursting out of their little freaky lederhosen casings. In fact, even though she took fat OUT, I've gained over ten pounds of fluid!

I blacked out anything that a typical bathing suit wouldn’t show, but it’s still…well, you get the gist. I thought I’d show you what 48 hours post-lipo looks like. There are plenty more bruises where those came from, but I can’t show them without showing more. My entire pelvis, is bruised, and my entire rear is bruised, for example. And yes, it hurts as much as it looks like it does, maybe worse.

 These bruises are at five days, on the back of my legs only. So, they are looking "better." There are two incisions in this picture too. So, yeah, you might be able to see why going to the bathroom is my least favorite activity at the moment. I have showered, but you can see the marker still. I wasn't exactly up for scrubbing the area with much vigor! Still really, really swollen.

These bruises are at five days, on the back of my legs only. So, they are looking "better." There are two incisions in this picture too. So, yeah, you might be able to see why going to the bathroom is my least favorite activity at the moment. I have showered, but you can see the marker still. I wasn't exactly up for scrubbing the area with much vigor! Still really, really swollen.

Anyway, that's the big story. I have striven to be pretty honest here, and it felt crummy to not be honest about this. Roll your eyes at me if you will. But, that means I get to roll my eyes at something stupid you do. We've all got our "thing;" even if it's not a physical one. I feel better about mine now. Well...I will feel better about mine, when I can walk, move, and pee without crying.

I hope.

Voluntary Surgery: A New Frontier

I have been sitting on a fence lately. It’s a nice fence, because I’ve come to the realization that while it straps us to afford it, we have the luxury of being able afford my whining about sitting there, debating about telling the world about it. Cryptic, huh? I know.

It’s like getting on Facebook and asking everyone to keep me in their thoughts and prayers, but then never saying anything else about it. Or worse, it’s like following it up by saying something like, “if you know me, you know what this is about.” Super annoying. Mystery only begets insane theories involving you, the mailman, an incurable disease, perhaps a black-market organ donation scheme, a potentially lethal arrangement with a drug cartel; and obviously, a sex ring involving all your neighbors. 

Rest assured, none of the above are true about my fence-sitting decision to talk or tell. My thing is much more mundane.

I am getting plastic surgery.

Phew.

There it is.

In black and white.

For the world to see.

Oy.

It’s easy for people to say, in generalities, about the concept, that, if there’s something about oneself that they truly hate, and if they can afford it, that they should just go ahead and fix it. It’s also perfectly fine to say, that on concept, it’s not something you’d judge someone for. But, when you take the plunge and decide to do it for real, the concept of how truly vain it is, is no longer intellectual curiosity or conversation. It’s a reality, and you feel, instead of proud of taking care of something that has brought you misery your entire life, a great sense of shame. It’s a conundrum.

So, let’s talk about it a little. Mostly, let’s talk about the whole thing. It’s been an overwhelming process. It’s been more than I bargained for. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into!

 

How should I Look?

Firstly, what do I wear to my consultation(s)? How much effort do I put into my hair and makeup? It’s no secret that people who go into cosmetic surgery for vanity’s sake, not for, say, fixing cleft palates in third world countries, are likely interested in “look.” What if I show up in the “wrong” thing? Will they judge me? Ugh. It’s a lot of pressure! It’s like the first day at Mean Girls High, only I’m Josie Grossie. And, everyone knows you can’t mix universes. It’s like Wonder Woman showing up at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Wolverine would be like, “what’cha doin’ here girl?” And, WW would be all, “did you just call me ‘girl?” Then, she’d kick his adamandium ass.

 

What if They Think I Need More “Work?”

What if I show up and tell them that I hate my nose; and, they are like, “no kidding,” but secretly are assessing the rest of me, and wondering why I’m not also asking to get my eyes/boobs/ass/legs/and entire face done? They are the “experts,” after all. However, it’s no secret that they get hooked on their own supply.

For example, my doctor is awesome, but I had to stifle a gasp, and an urge to shout, “ACK! Monster!” when she walked in. She’s amazing, think, “doctor that hugs,” but she also looks like post-Friends Courtney Cox, only even more botched surgeries. She was…terrifying, when I first met her.

 Photo Credit: Radar Online  To be fair, I read somewhere that some friends basically sat her down and told her that she was starting to look a little...well, grotesque, and she stopped with all the fillers, and she's looking much better now. Phew for that.

Photo Credit: Radar Online

To be fair, I read somewhere that some friends basically sat her down and told her that she was starting to look a little...well, grotesque, and she stopped with all the fillers, and she's looking much better now. Phew for that.

One might wonder if you could trust a doctor who has such a clearly skewed version of beauty to handle your image. And one would be right. But, they all look like that! Trust me. You are stuck relying on testimonials, reviews, your gut, and how the surgeon made you feel when they explained things. No wonder so many people shy away, once they start the process.

The $$

Dude. This is not cheap. Like, at all. I went into my consultation, that I had to pay for, of course, with an astronomical number in mind, so I’d be prepared for that little room, they shuffle you off into, to talk numbers. In some ways, it’s like buying a car, what with that little room. It was twice the number I had in mind. TWICE! Of course, they do financing, but it feels weird to have committed to paying for my vanity for the next two years. A few hundred dollars a month to not hate myself when I look in the mirror.

I have the luxury of saying that I have been given a rough shake; so, maybe I “deserve” something special, and something that I really, really want. But, that excuse only holds water for so long, especially when it takes money away from my family. I’ve managed to rationalize purchasing myself several things that way, whenever I feel especially low after a bad pain flair. My Anthropolgie cart gets a workout, or I bargain shop for stuff, claiming I saved us money by buying things at rock bottom prices through eBay or resale shops. But, I’d save a lot more by not shopping at all!

Rachel: Bryon, I saved $200 on these boots!
Bryon: How much were they originally?
Rachel: That’s not important.
Bryon: Ummm.
Rachel: (in tiny voice): $600. BUT! These have NEVER been marked down! You don’t understand! How could I pass them up!? I’d have been insane!
Bryon: I understand perfectly.

And, he does, actually. I argue that I put up with his faults too. He never wipes the stove properly; and, he leaves the counter by the sink sopping wet when he does the dishes. Insufferable, if you ask me. Truly.

Is it worth it? I guess I’ll have to let you know.

Body Dysmorphia

I sneaked a peak at the doctor’s notes about me at my pre-op, and aside from the technical terms about my procedure, which are not flattering. Trust me, when your body part’s flaws are broken down into the most technical of terms, there’s nothing complimentary about any of it. Think about rhinoplasty, for example. If you are getting, say, a nose-job, “Excess cartilage: rhinoplasty” sounds grotesque; but, even in non-technical terms: “massive honker shave-down” is, still, less than flattering. “Shrink the Streisand,” maybe?

Then, I got to thinking a bit more, and it occurred to me that it is only (most) men that don’t have at least a smidge of body dysmorphia. Bryon can look in the mirror, and truly not see a thing that he hates about himself. He’s losing his hair, has gained weight since we’ve been married, and doesn’t own a single anti-aging facial product. In fact, he only puts body lotion, or any lotion, on when his skin is so cracked it’s about to bleed. He’s cool with whatever version of himself greets him in the mirror every day. He’s your standard American middle-aged, married male.

Can you imagine how lovely and carefree this existence would be? It would definitely be cheaper, I realize, as I very seriously priced La Mer today. 

Meanwhile, (almost all) women, if asked honestly, will tell you at least five things that they’d change about their appearance. And, if being brutally honest, they’d tell you how much time they’ve spent in the mirror examining which angles hide those imperfections, which Spanx work the best, which makeup tricks work the best; and maybe, imagining what lifts, tucks and snips would give them what nature didn’t.

There are the few men who hate themselves as much as we do, or at least hate parts of themselves. These men are the ones you see at the gym, who are miraculously hairless, and who gaze in the mirror in the weight area a little too long. These are the men who have as many “products,” as you do, and who understand your unwillingness to miss a workout, because they won’t miss one either. Bryon doesn’t understand this logic. He is always saying things like, “you are already thin, it’s okay not to run today.” Silly Bryon.

I digress. As always.

Also, can you tell I love Scrubs? And, I can come up with a scene or quote for basically any situation? I had a few perfect ones that I couldn't find a video or a Gif for; and believe me, I looked. Jordan, in my view, the best character on the show, tells Perry she's going to have her doc "fire up the fat vac," when she finds out she's going to be wearing a bikini;" and, she also thanks her doctor for "these," as she points to her breasts. She's fantastic. No shame in her game. Alas, no glory in finding those clips.

Anyhow! I noticed that one of my notes said: “borderline body dysmorphic female. Risks and benefits were clearly discussed w/PT.” At first, it caught me off guard, but then it occurred to me: yep. That’s about right.

I know we all look in the mirror and hate our nose, eyes, forehead, legs, butt, feet and fingernails. But, I truly HATE certain body parts. Like, I HATE with a passion that burns hotter than the sun. Tears have been shed, including tears in this doctor’s office, which is probably where she got that diagnostic note. I think I was a little overwhelmed with the potential of a magic wand solution, and the ability to finally let that hate out, to a doctor that has it.

Goals

Which brings me to what I hope to accomplish from this surgery. A good surgeon will caution you about what can and cannot be accomplished with plastic surgery. Apparently, the ones who promise that they can fix “anything,” are the bad ones. In my wildest fantasies about life, I can have skinny thighs, a better chin and nose, and bigger boobs, and I also have a massive house that looks at the ocean, we have horses, a carousel, some monkeys…wait, that’s Neverland Ranch. Scratch the last bit.

The idea of the goals of surgery are important, nonetheless. As I was so woefully lectured, I will never be a supermodel. In fact, those were the exact words my doctor said, except she added, “you’ll never be Cindy Crawford,” which I felt was a little bit of salt in the wound and perhaps unnecessary. I get that ship has sailed on my life, thanks. In no way, do I hope to attain beauty that rivals one of the most perfect genetic specimens in the world. Thanks.

So, what do I hope to accomplish. Apparently, I’m supposed to be aware of tempered expectations, before I go to my consultation, and definitely before I go under the knife, fat vac, heat laser, or whatever tool they choose to use on my secret procedure. Maybe, I’ll tell you what I am having done at a later date. Or, I will let you keep guessing. Every time you see me, you can assess me, and think, “finally, she got that chin taken care of,” then, “nope that hideous nose is a bit smaller,” or, “phew, she looks thinner!” You may never figure it out.

Could be a ton of Botox?

 

Could be the Fat Vac?

Suffice it to say, it’s very subtle, and it’s just for me. You’d think the subtlety and minuscule nature would affect the price, but it does not. Like, I feel like if I want only a millimeter shaved off my nose, or an ounce of fat removed, or something like that, the price should be commiserate with services rendered. This is not, however, how the pricing scale works.

 This was the FIRST picture in my entire photo stream, on my phone, that even resembled a full body shot. I present you a "before." If I just gave you a "face," you'd think, for sure, I was doing something face. If I gave you a pic of my ass, well...you get the picture.

This was the FIRST picture in my entire photo stream, on my phone, that even resembled a full body shot. I present you a "before." If I just gave you a "face," you'd think, for sure, I was doing something face. If I gave you a pic of my ass, well...you get the picture.

 

How do I Ask the Right Questions?

When you have brain surgery, the list of questions for your surgeon are automatic, mostly because you know that if they mess up, you’ll die, become paralyzed, or become a drooling buffoon. You can automatically come up with dozens, then dozens more that you should’ve asked on the way home. The only question you can think of, while you are in the plastic surgeon’s office, even if you write something down ahead of time, is “what are the risks of me looking like a freak?”

Obviously, my recovery, pain control, infection risks, and financing questions have been clearly explained. In fact, they were so informative, that I barely had room to come up with a reasonable question, to be honest. The only question I’d come up with, that I’d written down was about a money back guarantee, which felt stupid, and made me feel like a Wal-Mart shopper who’d won the lottery and wandered into Cartier for the first time, Nascar t-shirt and all, ready to make their first real purchase. Still, it felt like a reasonable question. You know, like what if it’s really, really messed up? Do they stand behind their work and fix it? They do.

Well, the bottom line is that in about two weeks, I’m going to be a true LA gal, because I’m having plastic surgery. It’s official, I’m a Californian. 

Also, I can't let this post go by without the mention that my precious baby child went with me to my pre-op appointment (not the initial appointment(s). But, he was bewildered at what "those" were. When I explained that they were breasts, he was sufficiently grossed out. He was even more grossed out when I told him he could touch them.

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His assessment is that the second breast from the top felt, "weird." The funny thing was that the office assistant, when she brought us to the "pay room," where the huge implants are stacked, said that kids LOVE touching and playing with those. Apparently, my son's curiosity is not alone.

Thanksgiving

I could wax poetic about how thankful I was this Thanksgiving for things like my health, and for the ability to enjoy my family. Or, I could tell you about the hilarity that ensued in preparing the meal. Of course, I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the entire process of preparing said meal, if I wasn’t exponentially healthier than I was last year. Last year, I was still so sick that, the following day, despite pretending I was totally cool with washing every dish, and with chatting and laughing, I had to sleep all day long. Literally. For two days. My poor recovering brain just couldn’t handle it.

Anyway, this year, I prepared two pies, two cheesecakes (more on that, shortly), Strop Koekjes, and the potatoes. I was a girl on fire – in my nether regions. I would’ve made the cranberries too; but, ironically, I had to stop, mid-prep, for a surprise trip to urgent care for yet another UTI. Cranberries clearly don’t prevent UTIs, folks.

As I believe I’ve mentioned, I have yet another mysterious chronic condition in which my tropical island (a girl I knew once called her vagina this, and I like it), has taken a liking to developing UTIs, basically all the time. No sooner do I wrap up the antibiotics for one, but another develops. I even got to enjoy a ninety-day course of antibiotics, but lo and behold, the minute I threw out the empty bottle, a fun new visitor bivouacked on my beach. My island likes visitors. It must be the tropical climate.

 Totally stolen image. But, have I ruined tropical vacations for you yet?

Totally stolen image. But, have I ruined tropical vacations for you yet?

Yes, I know how to wipe. Yes, I know how to wash. Yes, I know all the S-E-X rules. I follow them religiously. It’s like a decontamination shower every time I use the bathroom, or heaven forbid, any “foreign visitors” travel to my island. It’s gotten ridiculous. There’s surgical prep soap in my shower, for cripe’s sake!

 

The doctor is baffled. We’ve tried less washing. More washing. This antibiotic. That antibiotic. This test. That test. This uncomfortable procedure. That one. And everything in between. Did you know that my bladder itself can hold a massive amount of urine? It’s remarkable, actually. I found this out when they put electrodes in there and filled my bladder with saline and made me hold it as long as possible, before emptying it, in front of a nurse and a med tech, in a toilet chair. It was super fun. I recommend this procedure to anyone who has a free morning and no pride or sense of dignity.

So, that’s what interrupted my cranberry prep, and why I didn’t make them. Collin made them. Collin! My child. My itty-bitty, infant, made part of our Thanksgiving dinner, with a food processor. I am as shocked as anyone. I am shocked both because he is old enough to participate in this part of the ritual preparations of a traditional meal, and because he was willing to tear himself away from the Legend of Zelda long enough to press the pulse button on the Cuisinart. Not to fear, he’s apparently not old enough to wash the Cuisinart. He left that part to the real grown-ups.

 Yeah, it's a picture of a picture! But, I got a new laptop and it's not synced to the full photo album for some reason. I couldn't let this post go by without remembering how my infant tiny baby looks, in my mind, when he helps cook.

Yeah, it's a picture of a picture! But, I got a new laptop and it's not synced to the full photo album for some reason. I couldn't let this post go by without remembering how my infant tiny baby looks, in my mind, when he helps cook.

More hilarity ensued that night, when my hypochondriac, anxiety-prone son came out of his room to report that his stomach felt “weird.” I did what I like to call, “gently ignored him.” Because of his sensory issues, he has a difficult time determining what, in his body, is a big deal, versus what is nothing. And, because of his genuine anxiety, he gets nervous over the slightest issue. This means that he complains about everything.

We’ve started calling him Cameron. He doesn’t like it. Nor does he get it, since he’s never seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but it suits him.

 "I fell like complete shit, Ferris. I can't go anywhere."  Take out the "shit," and it's Collin. He says, "bleep" instead of swearing. I don't know whose child he fucking is, sometimes.

"I fell like complete shit, Ferris. I can't go anywhere."

Take out the "shit," and it's Collin. He says, "bleep" instead of swearing. I don't know whose child he fucking is, sometimes.

In other words, he’s always feeling “weird.”  He’s always showing me something that he thinks looks off, or complaining about something distressing. I’ve had him show me his chest rising and falling and ask me, “why does it look like that?” The response, “because you are breathing,” only causes more questions, such as, “but, if I do this, it does that. Why?” So, I’ve learned that the best approach is to assume he’s fine, and just hope for the best unless my mommy radar goes “ping.”

It didn’t; so, I told him if he felt sick, to go to the bathroom. Of course, he sat in front of the toilet for ten minutes, looking like a pitiful puppy that’s been locked in the laundry room after peeing on the rug. I patted his little head when I walked by to grab something out of the bedroom, but he still looked fine. After all, we’d heretofore (always impressive when you can use that word, right?) won the vomit lottery. My child may have autism, and he may have ADHD, and he may be endlessly frustrating and perfect, but he has only had the stomach flu ONE TIME!

Surely, you know where this is going.

He sleeps in a loft bed.

After ten minutes in the bathroom, he went back to bed.

To his loft bed.

He didn’t make it to the bathroom.

I’ve lived in fear of this day since we put that loft bed into his room.

But…

He had a bucket in his bed with him, just in case, because he’d had a cough all week. He’d been gagging, occasionally. That bucket should be bronzed as a lifesaver. The mayor should give it a commendation.

Spaghetti with red sauce and milk. Thank god for that bucket.

After the puke, he was fine. Totally fine. Like kids are. But, he was fine in a way that I cannot describe. He was fine like, “what did he eat?”

Oh my God, was it the milk? The milk that I just used in the cheesecake? See! Veganism is the best! At least I won’t vomit! But, the guests! Shit. Shit. Shit. I’m finally healthy and strong enough to be Suzy Homemaker and I am going to poison everyone. The fucking thing was perfect too! It didn’t even crack when it cooled.

I scrambled to the recycle bin to check the expiration date, which was the middle of December.  My not-so-helpful vomit-breath son could only say, “I guess that I think it tasted a little weird; but, that was only towards the end of dinner, after it sat out for a while.” I wanted to shake him; but, I thought would be a little heartless, after ignoring him. But still, it either tasted weird, or it didn’t. Gah!

Since I think milk tastes, and smells like Satan’s asshole, I’m no help in determining its freshness, especially from the dregs of an empty carton, pulled from the recycle bin. I’ve had a strong aversion to milk since I was a kid, even before being vegan. My mom used to try to trick me into drinking it, you know, because it’s good for you, by putting it in a covered cup, and mixing it with Vernor's. Blech! It’s one of the things she did that I think was from a good place, but it’s gross. Milk mixed with Ginger Ale? I could gag just thinking about it.

Anyway, do I have to make an entirely new cheesecake because of the vomiting? Why do children vomit at the worst times? Or, is there a good time for them to vomit?

The only way to know was to potentially poison my guests, or to make someone eat some before they did. Bryon took one for the team; but, I made another one, anyway, while he was on vomit watch. Since he figured he was in for a penny, in for a pound, he kept right on eating it, regularly, until “real” serve-up time. He didn’t barf, so we ended up with two black cherry, cookie crumb and fudge swirl cheesecakes.

I guess that’s not so bad of an outcome. The mystery of what made my child vomit may never be solved, but it wasn’t the cheesecake. I choose to blame an early visit from Krampus. He’d better shape up! Since he only vomited once, I chose not to believe that he was going to be passing the stomach flu to me, Bryon, our neighbors, their mother-in-law, two other children, and an infant.

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But, the best part of our Thanksgiving preparations was probably karma’s punishment (or warning, depending on how you want to see it) for Bryon, when he tried to prep the barbecue for smoking the turkeys. I flatly refuse to touch or have anything to do with meat, in our house, even on holidays. I won’t even touch the dishes. It makes my stomach turn. Because Bryon sees days like Thanksgiving as, essentially, a meat party, he’s happy to tolerate my idiosyncrasy in this matter.

However, when he went to prepare the barbecue, the universe of the animals had prepared a revolt for him, in the shape of a rat. We prepare so little meat in our house, especially on the barbecue, these days, that a rat had taken up residence in the base of the barbecue, and made a nice little nest in the smoker. Seeing this nest, I learned two things: a rat can make a nest out of just about anything (ash!?), and that they poop a lot, and don’t mind sleeping in it (ew).

He was quite displeased at being disrupted by Bryon opening the barbecue, and felt a little concerned at the thought of it being lit on fire. Mr. Rat scurried about, back and forth between the smoker and the barbecue, rushing around, trying to figure out a way to not be evicted, while Bryon tried to figure out a way to evict him, without lighting the barbecue, and cooking him out. It was quite a sight to see, and hear, as Mr. Rat scampered quite loudly. Plus, he had me, ever-so-gently (of course) insisting that Mr. Rat be gently coaxed from his home.

Poor Bryon has to put up with such a crazy lady for a wife. He asks for so little. Turkey on Thanksgiving! Is that too much to ask? He gets rat in the barbecue, and a wife who insists that the rat takes precedence over the dead meat. That man is a saint.

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I was concocting alternate turkey preparation plans, in my head, as I was not about to let him hurt the rat, despite it being disgusting, if it came to a showdown. And, Bryon was quite perplexed at how to remove a rat, and his nest, without harming him, and without infecting our guests with the hanta virus or the bubonic plague.

It turned out that banging on the barbecue for a while, and leaving the lid wide open for several hours encouraged Mr. Rat to relocate. He packed his little rat bags, and found a new residence pretty quickly. I’m hoping he moved to a new neighborhood entirely, and didn’t settle close-by. Bryon spent hours scrubbing the barbecue and disinfecting it, as to not kill anyone with plague.

The meal turned out quite lovely and we had a full turkey leftover. I told you that Bryon gets a little excited when we actually cook meat. No one vomited from cheesecake, or anything else. And, no one contracted the hanta virus, or the plague. There were no pestilence visitors. My antibiotic worked…so far. I was able to cook, and clean up. And, the next day, I was strong enough to help put up Christmas decorations all day, after a quick run, and some weight lifting.

Lots to be thankful for.

A Sh*tty Post

Confession: This story is almost a month old…it took me that long to get my shit together and finish this! Sorry!


But….

I’m ready to talk about something totally, absolutely, and ridiculously, humiliating. Are you ready?

No, really?

Are you ready?

Because, it’s about to get all kinds of gross, and personal, in here.

I know that I share here. It’s a nice outlet. My sister has called my “outlet” self-indulgent, which, at the time, I tried very hard to take as the insult it was intended to be. It was hard though, because it occurs to me that almost all communication, except for true listening is self-indulgent. We all want to be heard. So, we talk, write, shout, and send smoke signals.

I know that I’ve been silent for a while. I’ve been…processing…shall we say? I get to do that. I mean, I’m a little fucked up. In the past 36 months, I’ve had my head shaved twice, my skull cracked open, and titanium rammed mere fractions of a millimeter from my brain.

As a quick addendum to that titanium; I’ve recently learned that, at any given moment, my body may decide that the titanium plate and screws, are no longer welcome. It may begin rejecting them, by propelling out the screws at rocket-ship speeds.

Okay, they will propel at slow, glacial speeds. However, any speed at which a screw propels itself from my skull, and through my scalp, feels too fast. The first sign of this will be that I’ll feel the fucking screw…in…my…scalp! Well, I’ll feel it coming through my scalp, like a This Old House episode gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Just, imagine me, brushing my hair that I haven’t cut in two years, because it’s now my security blanket (we’ll get back to that, and why I look like a filthy bag lady – not Rapunzel) and, wham! Screw poking through my skin!

Now, imagine how often that I check my scalp for suspicious lumps. I’m like a pubescent boy who feigns concern for his girlfriend’s breast health. A number with exponents per times per week, I ask Bryon, “was this lump here before?” I ask him so often, in fact, that he always says, “yes,” without even checking. How dare he not take my irrational concern seriously?

Aside from the whole surgery and imminent screw loose (yeah, I get it) thing, I’ve also lost my family. Lost is a weird word choice. I shed them like an extreme form of molting, but the feeling of loss is still there. I can’t exactly eat my family, the way a lizard eats its skin when he’s done shedding and growing. That’d be gross. And, criminal. And, I don’t want to. I’m a vegan.

My therapist suggested that I consider myself adopted. Not to diminish the experience of true adoptees, of course. Still, lots of parents either give up, or are forced to give up their children because they are unable to either physically, or emotionally, provide for them. I’m not much different in that regard, except that I’m an adult. So, now I’m adrift in the world.

Parentless.

That’s a lot of shit to deal with in a relatively short amount of time.

I’ve gotten side-tracked.

For a long time.

Sorry!

I promised you a gross confession.

Physically, I’m doing the best I’ve been doing since I got sick. Brace yourselves: I’m running. No shit. I’m capable of running! R-U-N-N-I-N-G again! Not a lot. And, not fast. And, not every day. But, every step I take that is faster than a walk, is like the greatest step I’ve ever taken. It’s how I imagine it must’ve felt to walk on the moon.

 I'm not saying that I high-five my WW poster after treadmill runs, but I high-five my WW poster after treadmill runs.

I'm not saying that I high-five my WW poster after treadmill runs, but I high-five my WW poster after treadmill runs.

I’m on the least amount of drugs I’ve been on in at least three years. In fact, It’s the first time that I’ve not been on a daily opiate regiment. But, when it’s bad, it’s still really bad. I still have an opiate prescription for when I get a massive headache that can’t be controlled by other means, especially because my headaches, when I get them, last for days, because they can be caused by my wack-a-doodle intracranial pressure, and that pain can’t be controlled by a Tylenol.

But, there’s a not-so-well-kept secret about opiates: they back up your poop system. For most people, with normal colons, this is no big deal. When they are done taking them, they eat a couple of prunes, and they are good to go. This is also no big deal, because most people who take opiates don’t need to take them for very long, or very often.

I wish I had a regular colon. Sometimes, just seeing the Oxy bottle in the drawer is enough to block me up for a month. My colon has a mind of its own, and it is susceptible to the power of suggestion. I think it might be a bit of a hypochondriac, frankly. If it even hears of a negative condition, it catches it. Yeah, that’s right, my colon can hear. Can’t yours?

A Pepto commercial for traveler’s diarrhea comes on, and my colon becomes convinced that the mailbox equates to a trek through India, stopping to drink from a well that pulls ground water from a stagnant creek that the locals use to rise the diapers of children infected with cholera. Strangely, I can see hundreds of commercials of Jamie Lee Curtis and her lady-yogurt, and I never find myself being regular.

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This would be no big deal, except that I have (confession time) yet another rare and, this time, humiliating, medical condition: bile salt diarrhea. Bile salt diarrhea can be caused by a number of things, but it’s a relatively rare side effect of removing the gallbladder. Guess who has two thumbs and has had her gall bladder removed?

It’s hard to take a picture of yourself with two thumbs! Ha! This is from me grading the other day, anyway.

 My god, my thumb looks HUGE!

My god, my thumb looks HUGE!

 

One of the functions of the gallbladder is that it regulates how much bile the stomach uses, and then gets dumped into your intestines to continue digesting your food in the next stage of digestion. Without it, in some people, the stomach has no idea what to do when food hits it; so, it dumps bile straight into the intestines. Because the intestines are not equipped to digest huge amounts of bile, it rushes, straight through your intestines, along with the undigested food. The stomach has a difficult time turning off the bile dump, and you will continue to pass this bile, rapidly, until it turns off. Of course, you’ve smartly stopped eating by now, because you’re already in the bathroom. Plus, it’ll keep dumping bile through so long as you are eating, and your stomach is sending the signal that there is more food to digest.  

As this problem became more prominent, I sometimes ate, practically, on the toilet, as that’s how quickly my food passed. I never held anything in longer than 15-20 minutes. We are a family with no shame (okay—gross, sometimes); so, we would (and still do), occasionally, play the corn race. When we eat corn, we see who “sees” the corn again first. I always won. By days. Because I always saw it again within minutes, I continue to be the reigning corn race champ! Undefeated!

I have to take my victories where I can get them. I’m not exactly going to win any Olympic gold medals in my lifetime.

As you can imagine, this is a relatively difficult problem to diagnose. You go through the following stages:

Did I seriously not make it to the bathroom last night? That was totally embarrassing. Hope that doesn’t happen again.

  • OMG. Again?
  • Again?
  • Wait. This is ridiculous.
  • I’m too embarrassed to tell the doctor that I shit myself…regularly.
  • Okay, I should tell him, because I saw an entire undigested piece of pizza last night. Am I getting any food?
  • Hang on…if I’m shitting everything I eat, why are my thighs still so big?
  • Nah, I’ve got this under control! I can drive the kid to school, without a towel under me, so long as I don’t eat before noon, and not after 9 pm.
  • Wait…that’s not normal.
  • Okay, sucked it up, and the doctor said to add bulk fiber and take Immodium. He didn’t seem phased that I have to take 20 to make it stop. 20! Hmmm. Can you OD on Immodium? Stupid military medicine.
  • Whelp, it’s been six months, and now, I’m wearing Depends to a job interview. Is this a reasonable solution? What if I get the job? Is this the long-term plan? I can’t work two hours away, and wear Depends!
  • Do Depends show through these pants? The students will totally be able to tell.
  • I’m so fucking hungry. I can’t go on not eating through a full day of teaching and driving, just so I don’t have to wear Depends under my clothes!
  • Back to the doctor. Fucking military medicine.
  • Ugh. Gastroenterology. Of course, I have to do a lower GI thing with the poop scope.
  • Phew. This is fixed with a simple med. Why couldn’t this have been easier?

So, yeah. It’s easily controlled. One simple med, and I’ve never had another problem. It slows down the digestive process, and I’m totally fine. But, if I take the digestive slowing med, and I have a headache that week, where I have to take opiates, I’d never go to the bathroom again. I think my colon would rupture. I say that jokingly, but in reality, it’s a possibility. If I had to take opiates, for say, weeks on end, and I took my slowing med, I could actually die, eventually. I have to be super careful to monitor the ol’ pooper.

Stool softeners: not just for post partum mommies.

After a headache that requires opiates, it takes anywhere from a week, to a month (not even kidding) to go again, “naturally.” We call the ensuing gut swelling my poop babies. And, they hurt. I can’t bend, twist, or move, because they get pretty fucking big.

I’ve learned that the best thing to do is to get some control over it, pretty early, before I look three months pregnant with Collin’s poop baby sibling. Ex-Lax has become my friend. Barring that, Ducolax suppositories. Please pray for me, that it doesn’t come to the second solution very often. They suck. If you’ve ever needed one, you know why. Dear Hera, the fire.

But, Ex-Lax can take more than one dose, and it’s a delicate balance. A very delicate balance.

Take a dose. Wait twelve hours. Nothing.

Take another dose. Wait twelve hours. Still nothing. Ponder whether you want to live or die.

Take another dose. Wait twelve hours, and know you are moving towards the Ducolax in the morning. Also know that the third dose (or the previous two) can open the gates of hell at any moment, and if it does, it will be horrible because it took so long.

Wake up at two a.m. and hate your very existence.

This is what happened to me over the weekend.

From the hours of two a.m. until nine, I pooped. I pooped everything I’ve ever eaten, in my life. I pooped everything everyone has ever eaten in their entire lives. Only it wasn’t like this:

 

At least not at first. It’s like passing softballs through a straw, until you get to the end; when all of the sudden, it’s like Jeff Bridges on the toilet, and you wish you were dead. It’s difficult to determine which is worse: softballs or Jeff Bridges. Softballs come with cramps that and blood; Jeff Bridges comes with, well, Mississippi Mud.

Then, you fall asleep on the couch, cold and sweaty, and you can start all over with the digestive slowing meds. For the next week or so, you get to deal with blood and the dreaded “fissures.” Seriously, how much do you know about me, right now?

 

I switched my insurance to Tricare Standard, instead of Prime, which gave me a new primary care provider. She pointed out that my digestive slowing med came in a different format, which has changed my life once again, and made it even more effective, and made it work even better, if that was possible, so I’m gloriously happy. We’ll see what happens the next time I have to take an opiate.

 

But, I’ve got a system to manage my co-“conditions.” It may not always be a comfortable one, but it works. It may sometimes require Ex-Lax and me laying on the bathroom floor, and praying that if there’s a God, I can have a serious talk with him about why he made me out of spare parts. It also may make me eternally grateful for steroid cream – did I mention that crapping straight bile is equivalent to vomiting bile out of a hole it’s not designed for, so it causes surface burns to your skin? Yet another time I find myself eternally grateful for Big Pharma and western medicine.

 

So, there’s my gross confession story. As I was lying on the couch this weekend, cold and clammy, I thought to myself: someone would love to know about this glamorous part of being sick that has previously gone unreported. Am I right?  

 

This is Spinal...Damage?

Sometimes, I wish I weren’t right all the time. At least, I wish I weren’t right all the time about my own body. Wait, no; Judy Blume taught me to trust my own instincts about my (female) self. Yay periods! No, that’s still not right.

Okay, mostly I wish I weren’t right about predicting when something ridiculous is wrong with me, and I that I may need more surgery. Or, that I’m randomly about to become the weirdest case of “sick” or “falling apart” in the history of some doctor’s caseload.

When Collin was a baby, I had to have my tonsils out in an emergency surgery, for example, after having an abscess on them drained in the emergency room, because it had become so swollen it was compromising my airway. By the morning, it had re-filled with so much fluid, that I had to be wheeled back to surgery within an hour of my follow-up check because my entire airway was blocked. When it comes to finding ways to be messed up, I don’t screw around; I go hard.

Since I started this ever-so-epic journey of Chiari, another thing I was right about:

*Insert Digression*

Dear Doctor-First-Neurologist-Who-Told-Me-I-Was-Fine,

 I wasn’t.

Sincerely,

Patient Who Told You So

 *End Digression*

Anyway, since I got sick, even before I knew it, I have also been complaining about very specific neck pain. I can point at two spots, one worse than the other, right down to the centimeter, that bother me. And, as it turns out, I have been right all along about those things too.

This is how these complaints have traditionally been received….

“Rachel, Chiari comes with neck pain. It’ll feel better once you are decompressed,” say both surgeons for both of my surgeries.

Cue Rachel feeling trusting of her surgeons and fully believing that it’s true.

But my neck pain didn’t, and hasn’t, improved. And, post-operatively:

“Rachel, you’ve had Chiari surgery. Your neck muscles were opened like a curtain. Twice. You’ll have some post-operative pain for a while. Give it some time. Plus, your neck will always be a bit weak,” say both surgeons for both of my surgeries.

Cue Rachel feeling trusting of her surgeons, but at the one-year point of surgery #2, a little suspicious. Mostly because she can’t even wash her hair without crying.

So, I talked to my pain management doctor. He’s the very bestest doctor in the whole world, so I really trust him, and I know that he listens to me. Hell, even if he’s not, he’s the best faker in the world. He’s really good at making me feel like he’s listening. I imagine that in his outside life, he’s used up all his listening skills on his exhausting patients, like the ones I can hear through the walls while I wait, begging for Oxycodone because they have indescribable pain in a different spot than last time, and his wife wants to murder him because he can’t remember to bring home the damn bagels that she just called him about on the ride home.

Anyway, I’m not on any pain medication right now, so my pain is, not currently what you’d callmanaged.” It’s out there in the open, screaming to be heard. It’s basically having its own little pain pride parade every day. But, he’s still trying like hell to help. He’s concerned. I’m concerned. Bryon’s concerned. I think the mailman, who is forced to witness my walk of (non)-shame to the box in my pajamas every day, is also concerned.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect no pain for the rest of my life (not that I didn’t hope for that scenario – don’t all Chiari patients long to be a success story that does something amazing like running a marathon again, or being in a Wheaties commercial?); but, I did hope to be able to sit upright for larger portions of the day.

I explained for the billionth time, to him, the few spots on my neck that were agonizing, and stressed that I’ve said this at every appointment to every doctor. And, I told him that there are other things that are freaking me the fuck out, now too. My arms are going to sleep, sometimes for up to 18-24 hours at a time. I get dizzy when I look up, sometimes to the point of falling over. I can’t see if I look to the left or right too long. My legs are week, especially my left one. My left hip hurts so much sometimes that my Tiny Tim impression is far too true-to-life.

He’s known that my neck has hurt all along, and he’s done plenty to try to ameliorate it, from physical therapy, to suggesting a medical pain implant device, as a last resort. But he did a full exam and was pretty shocked at the extent of the new weakness. So, he sent me for a battery of tests and images that made me feel like someone was finally taking it a little more seriously than, “this comes with Chiari.”

The most “fun” test was the EMG, because everyone loves to be stabbed with tiny needles to see how their nerves are functioning. Spoiler alert: my nerves seem to be functioning okay. But, this is good news, because we were temporarily terrified of a potential MS diagnosis. Phew.

My surgeon likes to say:

“your spine looks great! I wish I had this spine!”

This assessment has perpetually annoyed the fuck out of me. No matter what specific question I had for him, his answer was always that my spine was great. Great. Fantastic. Great. No issues. Great.

Hmm…

That seems so weird for someone who has had neck issues since day one. It was, in fact, the first thing that sent me to the doctor, aside from the headache. My neck pain spread so far down my shoulder and neck that my whole arm became useless. I couldn’t lift my work bag. Thanks to fantastic military medicine, I was prescribed Motrin, and I was miraculously healed.

My surgeon is a fantastic surgeon, but he has a reputation for not really “cooking stats,” but for keeping his stats the way he wants them. This means that if you go see him for Problem A, he won’t “let” problem B pop up on your case, because he doesn’t want to mess up his high success rate on his surgical stats. So, no matter what you come up with on your imaging, he’ll tell you that you look great.

I’m a Chiari patient. He fixed my Chiari problem. I’m not a spinal patient. Not even if that Chiari caused the spinal damage (which it obviously did). Chiari fixed. Job done.

This can be a problem in sick-person world, because finding a spinal surgeon to take on someone else’s work is, well, challenging. Duh, they don’t want their hands dirty with someone else’s trash stats either! Meanwhile, patients suffer.

And, in case you hadn’t guessed, you don’t want the Jiffy Lube of spinal surgeons messing around in there, especially at the C-spine level. Your C-Spine is the level between your neck and shoulders. A tiny slip and you are paralyzed from there below, including breathing. Hooray! Jiffy Lube surgeon means the potential for diapers and a ventilator forever! At least I won’t be able to say my neck hurts, right? Not funny? No sad clown?

So, drumroll….

I get all of my imaging results back and what do you know? My C-Spine is rather fucked up. In fact, I’d like to take a moment to congratulate C3 and C4 right now for being the only two vertebrae, currently, holding down the fort. Great job, guys. A round of applause.

C-1, which is the vertebrae that my first surgeon shaved to make room for my brain, whelp, that one is deteriorating pretty badly. C5-7 are also degenerating, and the discs at most of these joints are bulging, especially badly at C7.

The insane part is that these are the exact spots that I point to, every time for the doctor. Every. Fucking. God. Damn. Time. And, I always say, “This spot is the worst,” at C1. Always. At C1, I always demonstrate how if I hold my head a little differently, I can relieve some of the pressure, but it doesn’t help for long. Hmmm, wonder why that is! Because that’s where my amazing (I’ve decided to compliment it from now on, in hopes that it will be nicer to me) brain used to be sitting!

Grrrrr.

Did you know, that Chiari is a progressive condition? That the longer your brain, which is fucking heavy, sits outside your skull, and rests on your SPINE, where it’s not supposed to sit, it does damage? It’s a damage domino. I was 37 when I was “fixed” the first time, which failed; 38 when I was fixed the second time. So, I was 38 when the weight of my brain finally got lifted off my spine. For 38 years the weight of my brain rested on my spine. No shit there’s a bunch of damage there.

So, what to do?

Well, that’s the million-dollar question. I have no idea. I’m scared right now. I have a bunch of information that I have no way to fully figure out, at the moment. I’m relatively certain my current surgeon will say what he always says, but who knows? With a report in hand that says my spine isn’t great, he may not be able to say that. Of course, doctors like him like to say things like, “this kind of thing is normal,” especially for women my age. Since this damage is progressive from reports before, I know it’s most certainly not normal, my man.

Um no.

Most women my age can function without a C-Collar. Just sayin’, doc. Not going to get away with that one. But, I don’t want to rush into spinal surgery, either. Fusion is the most common spinal surgery, but at the C-level it’s a big damn deal.

And, it’s relatively rare at C-1. There are significant risks of fusion at C-1, because C-1 holds your head ON your neck, and makes it turn. It means that there’s an almost guaranteed reduction in mobility and range of motion, usually up to, or at least, 50%. Hooray! Because of this, it’s usually only done when required; for example, when your neck is broken, or you are literally decapitated internally. It’s also done when, wait for it, your neck bone (yeah, like mine) deteriorates. Booyah!

Ding! Ding! Ding! What does she win!? The high probability that she’ll soon be filled with neck hardware, new scars, another shaved head, and the increased frequency of surprising her from both behind and all sides. 

There’s a pain implant device, but is that just a Band-Aid until my neck gets so bad that I can’t move at all? Then what? What if there’s nothing left to fuse at that point? Do I go back on pain meds and hope for the best? Oy!

Oh, and by the way, my hip hurt because I had broken it, and never realized it. Yeah. For real. I broke my damn hip! Who the hell does that! Apparently me.

Okay, I’m being dramatic.

But, it’s mostly true. Apparently, I broke a big ol’ chip of bone off my hip and there it is on the X-ray, having had its maiden voyage, and then rejoined its pals on the old SS. Hip Bone! I wonder where that chip was trying to get to?

Now, I don’t feel like such a damn baby for whining about it. The report says that I may have also a labral tear, but meh. I think the broken hip sounds more impressive. I think I’ll adopt a permanent limp from now on.

Bryon says he thinks I have osteoporosis because since he’s known me I’ve broken too many bones, and my spine is falling apart way too quickly for anyone’s taste. And, he’s all braggy about having never broken any bones. I think that instead of worrying about me having osteoporosis, he should worry about which of his bones I’m planning to break for making fun of my pitiful weakness. Except I’d probably break something trying to do that, so that’s a terrible idea! And who gets to almost forty without breaking a single bone? Didn’t he play as a child? Come on! I was a dork, and even I broke two bones as a kid! Lame ones, but still.

We have about a jillion doctors’ appointments coming up to talk over options and what to do in the next few weeks, and I’m hoping for more answers, but I know this process. It’ll leave us with more questions and more answers than before. I know we won’t know anything more. I know that it will be months before I know what’s happening. I have names and numbers of more surgeons for second and third opinions, if my surgeon decides to be a butthead; but they are all, of course, out of network. Ugh. But, it’s the beginning of the process.

So, away we go again! Wish us luck.

I leave you with the image of this insanity, if only because of how happy my boy and I look. Bryon noticed that every time he tickled Collin, I laughed too. Collin’s laugh always gets me. Every. Single. Time.

 

I may not be able to sit up for more than a few minutes at a time, or get dressed very often, or comb my hair, or put on my makeup, but I can let my boy lay next to me and listen to him laugh.

So, ignore the up-the-nose-shot, and how ugly I look, and enjoy mommy-son joy.

How to Be a Shit Mom: Lesson 1

I keep forgetting to post about this insanely embarrassing, and ridiculously hilarious episode that happened, well, several weeks ago now. I’m always good for a humiliating tidbit, right? I’ve been lax on the blog of late. I’ll try harder!

My son, as we all know, has autism. This means that he relates to the world in a way that is different than you or I might. Like any other kid, just when you think you have something figured out about him though, he goes and pulls something out of his sleeve and says, “Just kidding! You know nothing! NOTHING!”

Oh, and also, it feels like Collin likes to add, with an imagined evil cackle, "You fools!" just to make us feel even less like we are on top of the whole master-of-anything parenting game. Autism has a way of making you, as a parent, feel like not only are you behind the 8-ball, but that you have no idea where the 8-ball is, that maybe there is no 8-ball, that maybe your child is playing pool, and you are playing shuffle board, or perhaps they ate the pool balls.

For example, a traditional trait of autism is that they tend see the world a very rule-based way. Of course, this doesn’t mean all people with autism do this, just that many do. Collin is very typical in this way, as far as this trait.

He tends to establish, and follow, literally thousands of seemingly arbitrary rules, especially ones that he makes up himself. Once we can figure out what rules he’s established for a situation, we can usually help work with whatever is happening in his head. Often, a seemingly confusing refusal to cooperate may be tied to a rule that he's established in his head that we just haven't figured out, or that he hasn't been able to communicate to us.

We can also usually help control undesirable behaviors, like elopement (a fancy word for running away, that is associated with autism) with rules, which his little brain very much wants to follow. It’s a perk that the autism gods give us parents, in exchange for life-long “tantrums,” affectionately called “melt-downs.”

Anyway, Collin loves climbing. He always has. When we lived in Alabama when Bryon did SOS, and Collin was about 15 months old, he was like a Spider Monkey, climbing to the top of the big kid play structures. I stopped caring about the eye rolls from the helicopter moms who thought I should keep him on the ground, which was impossible anyway. The kid was made of suction cup feet and Velcro hands. I don’t think I could’ve knocked him down if I tried. It would’ve been like peeling a price tag off a vase without Goo Gone.

We have a tree in our backyard that is very, for lack of a better word, branchy. It’s especially climb-worthy because we have shitty lawn maintenance service here at Tierra Vista properties. Well, that's not super clear. TVC has a lawn maintenance contract with an outside provider, that takes approximately 2-3 days to mow a set of lawns that could be mowed in one day; but for tree services, they rely on their regular crew, or on additional contracts, which means you have to call management and make a request.

We’ve had half a dozen trees fall this year, in our neighborhood, due to disease, and the maintenance crew that I spoke to about it was very alarmed when they finally came to check out our trees (after six calls to the management to force an inspection). His cries of protest to the management about needing to cut trees before they fall went on deaf ears, because in the management’s opinion, the cost/benefit analysis was simple: it’s cheaper to clean up the mess in the event of a maybe-fall, than to pay for the definite mess of a no-fall. Hmmm….Logic?

I digress.

Back to the branchy tree.

 My branchy tree. The window it's up against is my bedroom window. I was clearly sound asleep! And, when I got outside, my son was ABOVE the roof! ABOVE the roof! I almost threw up when I saw him. He was in that bushy part at the top, nearly invisible.

My branchy tree. The window it's up against is my bedroom window. I was clearly sound asleep! And, when I got outside, my son was ABOVE the roof! ABOVE the roof! I almost threw up when I saw him. He was in that bushy part at the top, nearly invisible.

We have a very branchy tree, full of sucker growth. The maintenance manager recommended a serious trim, and said within several years, the tree would fall on the house, being pulled in too many directions. This is a super climb-worthy tree for a Spider Monkey. This means that we have had to establish some rules about how far a boy can climb, without supervision. Unfortunately, this is a vague thing to establish for a little boy, who despite a desire to follow rules, is also equally ruled by Mr. Hyde, who is encouraging him to just “do whatever he wants.” In this case, join Icarus near the sun. So, our rule: climb only to “here,” when we aren’t outside with you, was very easy to ignore, or in Collin’s words, “forget,” or "not understand," or "have a hard time seeing from the ground." 

I was asleep in the house because I’m a negligent mother and I don’t care about my child.

Wait, no. That’s not right.

I was asleep because I had a migraine and I wished for the sweet release of death that never comes with a migraine. I was dressed in footie pajamas, a robe, and two-day old, unwashed hair. I looked so, so pretty. Collin decided to go play in our backyard, and only our backyard, as when I’m not feeling well, he gets the tiny range of about ten feet from our house. Back to that “negligent parent” part, yes?

 I don't generally care too much about what people think of what I'm wearing. Wednesday is Wonder Woman Wednesday, for example; I wore this same outfit yesterday to a neurologist's appointment. But, pj's to have my kid rescued from a tree was a little bit pushing the envelope of good decorum.

I don't generally care too much about what people think of what I'm wearing. Wednesday is Wonder Woman Wednesday, for example; I wore this same outfit yesterday to a neurologist's appointment. But, pj's to have my kid rescued from a tree was a little bit pushing the envelope of good decorum.

He’d asked if he was allowed to climb the tree, which happens to be directly outside my bedroom window, where I was lying down. This seems like a no-brainer permission, right? I told him he could go play, but to, of course, remember the rules about height.

“Of course, Mommy.” Famous last words.

An indistinct amount of time later, I hear my neighbor knocking on my back door, saying that the police are here and that my son is stuck in a tree.

Like a kitten.

The police.

What. The. Fuck.

So, I scramble outside. In my pajamas. Normally, I don’t care about that so much. I've watered plants in my jammies, gotten the mail, read a book on my patio. Whatever. But this felt a little different. Right now, I’m scrambling outside in my pajamas to greet a policeman, who is rescuing my feral child, from a tree. I was, a bit, well, embarrassed. I felt like I should have complimented my ensemble with a Coors Light and maybe a Parliament.

 The very next day. Showered. Wet hair, but nonetheless, still clean and dressed. Just in case the cop who helped me sees this. See! I do get dressed....sometimes! I swear!

The very next day. Showered. Wet hair, but nonetheless, still clean and dressed. Just in case the cop who helped me sees this. See! I do get dressed....sometimes! I swear!

After some explanations to the police about why I was in pajamas, given with some nervous laughter, and, spoken over my child, who explained that he’d been yelling for me for “a while” (shut up, Collin! Seriously!), we determined that we needed a ladder to retrieve him. The policeman and I carried my ladder from the garage, rescued my child, and we sheepishly went into the house. The "rescue" part is anticlimactic. Sorry.

And that, my friends, is why Collin is not allowed to climb trees anymore.

New Rule.

So, that is how you embarrass yourself in front of your neighborhood, and how you teach your son not to reach too far beyond his station, all the same time.

The Box

Brace yourselves….a long post is coming. It’s been a while, so hang onto your hats! I’ll try to post again this week and clear out the cobwebs. Also, prepare for photos that have nothing to do with what I'm talking about. It was a road trip!

I have a box. Not, the dirty kind, get your mind out of the gutter. A box that I imagine is right beneath my lungs, because whenever it “opens,” I have a panic attack. See, I didn’t use to know that it was even there. But, it stores all the hurts of my bullshit past. Every bit of family nonsense is in that box.

 Collin in the first mile of our road trip. He's singing here: "going on a road trip! I love the RV! Laaa-laaaaaaaa Laaaaa-laaaaaa!" It wasn't annoying at all. I lie. It was annoying at mile 1.25.

Collin in the first mile of our road trip. He's singing here: "going on a road trip! I love the RV! Laaa-laaaaaaaa Laaaaa-laaaaaa!" It wasn't annoying at all. I lie. It was annoying at mile 1.25.

I managed to keep it pushed down and locked tight in my chest for decades. I never knew it was so carefully locked because every time it threatened to crack open a little, there was a distraction to help me push it closed. I know now that it’s why I have been so driven. Don’t think, go to school. Don’t think, get another career. Don’t think, get straight A’s. Study harder. Be better. Do more. Join the military. Move more. Do more.

 Collin spelunking. I love that word, don't you? It's such a fun word to say. I think it was the Fantastic Caverns roadside stop. He wanted to go to it because it was a ride-through one, and he was all excited. Doesn't he look it?

Collin spelunking. I love that word, don't you? It's such a fun word to say. I think it was the Fantastic Caverns roadside stop. He wanted to go to it because it was a ride-through one, and he was all excited. Doesn't he look it?

Now that I have no choice but to be still, to stop, to do less, the box is blown wide open. There’s more time to think. The box is basically a pile of splinters. I’m trying to build it again, and make it something I can open and close at will, and put the pain in, examine it when I want to, and categorize, sort and deal with on my own terms, but right now, it’s a pile of mess. It’s a disaster zone. It’s why I have to deal with things on my own terms, because my pain is mine, it’s not anyone else’s. And, it’s exploded out of me, like a land mine.

 Audience, you are special. I'm letting you see what no one should see of a woman at a certain age: a picture shot from beneath the neck. I'm showing you this because this is me, lying in the far back of the RV, trying to convince the cats that the world, isn't, indeed, ending. I tried telling them we were just driving, but they believed that houses shouldn't move, and that we were all going to die.

Audience, you are special. I'm letting you see what no one should see of a woman at a certain age: a picture shot from beneath the neck. I'm showing you this because this is me, lying in the far back of the RV, trying to convince the cats that the world, isn't, indeed, ending. I tried telling them we were just driving, but they believed that houses shouldn't move, and that we were all going to die.

I just got back from a trip to Michigan (I don't want to call it home anymore; there's nothing "home" about it), which was preceded by several weeks of crippling panic attacks and finally what I call “turtle-ing.” I retreated into myself and became a shell of the Rachel my family knows and loves. Bryon could barely recognize me, but I became dead inside and out, a hard shell version of me, protected from pain. I was so petrified that I was going to be ambushed, or that I’d see someone that I had on armor so thick, that even those that I love, and that love me back, couldn’t get to me, not even to comfort me.

 Loki tolerated his fear of death by hiding under blankets while the RV was in motion. This is me snuggling him in a blanket for a brief trip to the front seat. Tell me that's not adorable, and I'll show you a cold, black lump of coal where your heart should be. Also, my grandma's beads, which I have been wearing with everything, including PJs since she gave them to me. She wore them all the time. I put them on as a joke, and she said they look better on me, and gave them to me. I can't believe how much I love them. I think I love them more than any piece of jewelry I own. Literally. I'd save these beads before my wedding ring, in a fire. Maybe. Okay, it's a tie. Also, I have a lot of hair.

Loki tolerated his fear of death by hiding under blankets while the RV was in motion. This is me snuggling him in a blanket for a brief trip to the front seat. Tell me that's not adorable, and I'll show you a cold, black lump of coal where your heart should be. Also, my grandma's beads, which I have been wearing with everything, including PJs since she gave them to me. She wore them all the time. I put them on as a joke, and she said they look better on me, and gave them to me. I can't believe how much I love them. I think I love them more than any piece of jewelry I own. Literally. I'd save these beads before my wedding ring, in a fire. Maybe. Okay, it's a tie. Also, I have a lot of hair.

I wanted, no I needed, to see my Grandma. My grandmother is, outside of my family, the singularly most important human being on this planet, to me. We talk almost weekly. I send her flowers all the time, because I know how much she loves them, and how little she needs “things,” anymore. The only thing keeping me from visiting is my health, and fear of my family. Well, no more. I plan to visit at least once, or twice a year, now. She’s getting older, and I refuse not to be there to see her off, and to spend as much “time,” with her as possible. Fear of family be damned, and I’m getting stronger all the time.

 Grandma and I on pajama day, the only two of us who took the edict seriously. I wore those pajamas for the next four days straight in the car, including into two souvenir stops. Damn it, why change? Joe-Bob who works at the petrified rock side-of-the-road souvenir stop doesn't give a damn about my PJ pants, does he? I don't think so. Seriously, that's a lot of hair. And, I hate that sun spot.

Grandma and I on pajama day, the only two of us who took the edict seriously. I wore those pajamas for the next four days straight in the car, including into two souvenir stops. Damn it, why change? Joe-Bob who works at the petrified rock side-of-the-road souvenir stop doesn't give a damn about my PJ pants, does he? I don't think so. Seriously, that's a lot of hair. And, I hate that sun spot.

She was the one who told me, all the time, “write a short story about that,” and while everyone else thought it was a big joke, she meant it. She believed I was talented, and read everything I wrote. She told me that I was a talented artist. She told me that I was smart and beautiful. She told me that she loved me. She remembers every silly story about me, and every memory. She remembers every visit and every annoying thing I did, lest you think I’m on a pedestal to her. She once ran the vacuum, when I was three, just to drown out my incessant talking. She listened to me, bless her, sing, the entire “Phantom of the Opera” soundtrack, once. Dear Lord, that woman loves me. She taught me that I can make a mess, and let me cook in her kitchen. She taught me that I can come to her house and just be me, and be appreciated for it. Without time at her house, I wouldn’t have really thought that was possible. She was, and is, my hero. I love everything about her, and she’s the most wonderful woman I know. I adore her.

 More of me and Grandma. Doesn't she look beautiful? I think so. I love her new glasses. I always thought my Grandma was a beautiful woman, and she hasn't changed a bit. I hope I look a little like her, and age as beautifully as she has. 92 years young she is!

More of me and Grandma. Doesn't she look beautiful? I think so. I love her new glasses. I always thought my Grandma was a beautiful woman, and she hasn't changed a bit. I hope I look a little like her, and age as beautifully as she has. 92 years young she is!

I also needed to return to Michigan because my grandfather made me a dollhouse when I was five. He started the tradition when my cousin Erin was born, with an elaborate dollhouse that he built from scratch. He was very talented in woodworking. I discovered that, mine was built from a blueprint (I thought it was from a kit), which gave me great pleasure; because, grandma told me that he had such a great time building it. We went through all her albums looking for the photos she was sure existed of him preparing it, because he did, indeed, enjoy it so much. Alas, no photos. Oh well, found some other treasures in there!

 And, my BOY, my SON got to experience my grandma. Of course he's met her. She held him as an infant, and he played with her when he was about two, but now, now, he's MET her. I'm so grateful for that.

And, my BOY, my SON got to experience my grandma. Of course he's met her. She held him as an infant, and he played with her when he was about two, but now, now, he's MET her. I'm so grateful for that.

Anyway, I was in such a panic about that dollhouse. The box in my chest blew open about that dollhouse. I had it at my dad’s for years because it’s not something that is designed to survive military moves. It’s huge, and it’s fragile, and I didn’t want to watch it get destroyed. I figured that when we settled, I’d take it, permanently. But, things aren’t going well, and frankly, I pictured him giving it to his wife’s family and it getting covered in My Little Pony stickers or whatever other thing his “real” grandchildren play with. I just didn’t trust him to protect it anymore, not with the way he views me. I always wanted to restore it, and make it into the beautiful showpiece it deserves to be, but I couldn’t bear it, if it were destroyed like that. And, as our relationship is deteriorated beyond repair, I was afraid if I didn’t get it now, I never would.

 Ta-Da! It's not in too shabby of shape. Some shingles have broken off, and some random bits and bobs, but it's in decent shape. I was most concerned about the brass plaque and it's still there. It's engraved with a message from my grandpa. I'm so happy to have it, and I'm so excited to make it my own. Collin is excited to work on it with me. It will be a fun project for us, as a family. And, a way to honor my "grumpa."

Ta-Da! It's not in too shabby of shape. Some shingles have broken off, and some random bits and bobs, but it's in decent shape. I was most concerned about the brass plaque and it's still there. It's engraved with a message from my grandpa. I'm so happy to have it, and I'm so excited to make it my own. Collin is excited to work on it with me. It will be a fun project for us, as a family. And, a way to honor my "grumpa."

It took insisting that I’d contacted a lawyer about my property rights to even get him to respond to emails about arranging a contact point, or about dimensions, which was incredibly stressful. We thought that maybe we could arrange for a freight company to ship it home, and we could fly. Alas, no; crating and shipping a package of that size is well into the thousands of dollars. So, we rented an RV and made a good old fashioned road trip out of it, which was really fun, in the long run. And, my uncle, who I was very nervous about, because other family members told me stole items from me in the past and sold them was the contact point.

 Loki has also been enjoying the dollhouse, immensely. Collin has been playing with it relatively nonstop, every time he gets a moment. Apparently, we should've gotten him a dollhouse long ago! He loves all the miniature things, and can't get enough of it. Grandpa would've gotten such a kick out of my boy, I think. Also, isn't my living room rug amazing? It makes a statement. It says one of two things: cool rug, or what the fuck?

Loki has also been enjoying the dollhouse, immensely. Collin has been playing with it relatively nonstop, every time he gets a moment. Apparently, we should've gotten him a dollhouse long ago! He loves all the miniature things, and can't get enough of it. Grandpa would've gotten such a kick out of my boy, I think. Also, isn't my living room rug amazing? It makes a statement. It says one of two things: cool rug, or what the fuck?

I sincerely apologize for believing those horrible things about him, because I don’t think they are true, at least not anymore. And, I’m sorry for anyone I told them to. He was nothing but kind and respectful to me, and treated me like a human, and another human who, like me loves my grandma, and wants the best for her. By believing those rotten things about him, I was doing nothing better than what's been done to me over the years, and I am ashamed of it. I fully admit my error in judgement and simply say that I am sorry.

And, he took care of getting me my dollhouse, safely. I have other suspicions about what happened to that “missing,” crystal now, but it doesn’t matter, anyway. I treasure, greatly, everything my grandmother has ever given me, from a ratty old book, to a piece of crystal. Literally, every item she’s ever given to me, even a bookmark, is treasured. I even bought a pitcher at a Goodwill a few weeks ago, because it was identical to one she had in her purple kitchen, and it reminded me of her. She’s a very important person to me, so her treasures are my treasures, regardless of their “value.” As Grandma would say, "it's special," and it truly is.

 Another fabulous moment during the visit. It was so amazing to watch my grandma still be the same woman I remember her being, only with my son. She was interested in his toys, and was entertained by him, never bored or disinterested. At 9 pm, when we want to put old ladies tobed, she was willing to play a silly card game with us, learning new rules and laughing and joking with us. She's an amazing woman, and I love her so dearly.

Another fabulous moment during the visit. It was so amazing to watch my grandma still be the same woman I remember her being, only with my son. She was interested in his toys, and was entertained by him, never bored or disinterested. At 9 pm, when we want to put old ladies tobed, she was willing to play a silly card game with us, learning new rules and laughing and joking with us. She's an amazing woman, and I love her so dearly.

My grandma is such a special person that so many of her things are like that; people around her want all of her things for sentimental value because they remember seeing it in her house from when they were little, or had an attachment to it. I wanted this tray, for that reason. She remembered it when I described it, and sent it to me months and months ago. A completely value-less item that meant more to me than all the valuable items she's gleaned over the years. She used to serve me my lunches on it when I visited, and she'd put a little flower in a vase and bring me Vernors in a can, with a straw, which mademeo me feel like the queen of the universe. Now, Bryon brings me my food on this tray when I'm not feeling well, and I think it works better than pain meds!

 My tray! I love this darn thing so much. The recipes on here are hilarious though. It's like a mayonnaise salad with mayonnaise and mayonnaise with more mayonnaise and some mayonnaise. It's really gross.

My tray! I love this darn thing so much. The recipes on here are hilarious though. It's like a mayonnaise salad with mayonnaise and mayonnaise with more mayonnaise and some mayonnaise. It's really gross.

Anyway, until I got my dollhouse, I was a nervous wreck. A trip of this magnitude of planning, expense and stress, only to arrive without the dollhouse would’ve been devastating; plus, I wouldn’t have the dollhouse!

 Homer coping with the road trip. His version of coping with the road was to lay on every surface, meow several times, vomit copiously once a day, and then sleep it off.

Homer coping with the road trip. His version of coping with the road was to lay on every surface, meow several times, vomit copiously once a day, and then sleep it off.

Much of my family would like to believe that I’m the epicenter of everything wrong with everything; but, it’s also easy to imagine a different scenario. Such as, the truth. For example, my grandma asked, while we were chatting, about whatever happened to the nice boy I was married to, before Bryon. She said, “all I know is that you were so mean to such a nice boy.” I asked her to explain, and she said, “that’s all I was ever told.” Certainly, she could be confused, she is 92; but, I don’t think she is. First of all, she's still quite sharp; and secondly, it sounds like a typical explanation of what might be perceived of Rachel’s behavior, from the outside.

 Grand Canyon in the sunshine with an autistic boy who couldn't stand looking at it for more than a few minutes because there were too many people. Oh well. It's a nice hole in the ground and we had a long drive, so leaving quickly wasn't so bad anyway, right? But, we got to see lots of elk on our walk up there from our campsite, and we named the tiny purple flowers, "Rachel Flowers."

Grand Canyon in the sunshine with an autistic boy who couldn't stand looking at it for more than a few minutes because there were too many people. Oh well. It's a nice hole in the ground and we had a long drive, so leaving quickly wasn't so bad anyway, right? But, we got to see lots of elk on our walk up there from our campsite, and we named the tiny purple flowers, "Rachel Flowers."

However, taken in truth: I didn’t want to marry that “nice boy.” I cried for days before the wedding, to anyone that would listen. I begged for a way out. I wasn’t in love with him. I was encouraged by my parents to go through with it, anyway. I refused to get out of the car, at the Justice of the Peace, until my husband-to-be, practically dragged me out of the car, saying, “you’ll learn to love me.” And then, after six months of a hideous marriage, during which he hit me twice (yeah that), and he got fired from two jobs, I finally had enough, and I got the courage to throw him out. Since I was the one with the money, I bought him out, literally. He threw a fit about how we’d bought sofas and such, setting up a home, and he was entitled to half, despite the fact that I was the one with a job. So, I paid him for half of our stuff, and gave him half our savings account, rented him a U-haul for his stuff, paid for gas, food and hotels for his trip home, and then told him to cut up his copy of my credit card (because he couldn’t get one in his name). I feel that was fair, but I guess that’s mean? Maybe it was mean that he didn’t cut it up, but bought a one-year subscription to Match.com on it, and then cut it up? But, he was such a “nice boy.” Perhaps for someone else, but not for me.

 More of Loki coping with the drive. This is him in the back in a moment of peeping out of the nest he'd created for himself, at the back window to see if we were, in fact, dead yet. We had survived.

More of Loki coping with the drive. This is him in the back in a moment of peeping out of the nest he'd created for himself, at the back window to see if we were, in fact, dead yet. We had survived.

The bottom line is this: in a normal family, support for something like that is provided, right? Oh, Rachel, what happened? Are you okay? Do you want to talk about it? It must be hard to face a divorce so quickly after marriage? You did a brave thing. Are you okay on your own, so far from home? Do you need anything? Instead, the narrative is always the same: Rachel’s a royal bitch and a pain in the ass. It’s always been the same. Always. It’s always my fault. It’s easy to scapegoat me, rather than be on my side, or even talk to me about what actually happened, in any scenario. The funny thing about that one is that of five children, all of my grandma’s children are divorced. So, it isn’t like I did some bizarre thing. It’s not like I was the first weird-o. Who knows about that particular example? All I know is after that story, Bryon said, “I get why you are so fucked up.”

 Dirty hair, pajamas, a cracker in my lap and taffy in my mouth. A stunning example of road trip chic. Bryon says he took this photo because he was caught off guard at my radiant beauty, and he wasn't joking. I don't know what I did to deserve that man. Also, can you tell I like that headband? Jeesh, Rachel. Rotate your headbands once in a while!

Dirty hair, pajamas, a cracker in my lap and taffy in my mouth. A stunning example of road trip chic. Bryon says he took this photo because he was caught off guard at my radiant beauty, and he wasn't joking. I don't know what I did to deserve that man. Also, can you tell I like that headband? Jeesh, Rachel. Rotate your headbands once in a while!

And, when it comes to the actual family drama. No one wants to talk about the truth. It’s easier to huddle up and point at me. See, she’s at it again. Let’s pretend none of it’s true. Totally makes sense. Because you’ve created a known crazy person, it’s easy to pin it on her. I’d probably do it too. But, when you create a known crazy person, guess what else you do? You fuck her up. You make that box under her lungs. You make it so she can’t function as a normal adult. You make it so she asks her husband forty thousand times day: do you still love me? If she forgets to bring in the mail, she asks: are you mad at me? Will you leave me? You create a person who doesn’t believe she’s worthy of actual love. You taught her that it was her versus you and that she could never be on your team, because she was never, ever going to be good enough.

 At the painted desert/petrified forest national park. My family. My reason for living. My reason for getting up in the morning. My reason for finding a way to put that box back to together and making sense of it, organizing it, and not making a mess of what's inside and letting it destroy anyone else, including me. These people matter. I matter.

At the painted desert/petrified forest national park. My family. My reason for living. My reason for getting up in the morning. My reason for finding a way to put that box back to together and making sense of it, organizing it, and not making a mess of what's inside and letting it destroy anyone else, including me. These people matter. I matter.

But, deep down, I know that none of that matters. I have to put the box down, down, down, and close it. I have to enjoy the four days I spent with my grandmother, who was shocked and eternally grateful that we didn’t spend a second away from her. We didn’t go sight see and then visit for dinner, we spent all day with her, for four days. We watched movies, and chatted, looked through albums, and did chores for her. We talked to her friends and made her dinner. She was in heaven. And I was in heaven right along with her. Can you believe that I've never seen "Singing in the Rain?" She couldn't either, so we watched it immediately.

 My son and I on our last stop before heading home. He loved the petrified forest because he got to navigate. I loved it because I felt like my hat really "went" with my outfit. Bryon said he wasn't sure that my hat purchase was going to "go" with my clothes. I told him it would absolutely "go" with all of my clothes, that I practically dress like a weirdo. Then, the next day, I wore patched jeans, a blanket shall cowboy boots and my hat and he had to eat his words. The day after that, i wore a flowered dress, and my hat and if I'd have let him, he'd have had to eat the damn hat. I was destined for the hat and the hat was destined for me. I  am  the hat and the hat  is  me. We are one. Loco mamacita. But you have to admit, it  does  go, no?

My son and I on our last stop before heading home. He loved the petrified forest because he got to navigate. I loved it because I felt like my hat really "went" with my outfit. Bryon said he wasn't sure that my hat purchase was going to "go" with my clothes. I told him it would absolutely "go" with all of my clothes, that I practically dress like a weirdo. Then, the next day, I wore patched jeans, a blanket shall cowboy boots and my hat and he had to eat his words. The day after that, i wore a flowered dress, and my hat and if I'd have let him, he'd have had to eat the damn hat. I was destined for the hat and the hat was destined for me. I am the hat and the hat is me. We are one. Loco mamacita. But you have to admit, it does go, no?

She asked us to update her bulletin board, where she keeps photos of her family. As a matriarch of five children, she has more great grandchildren than she can keep track of, practically! So, we went through holiday cards and picture books until she could find the exact right photos for the board. She was so proud to see them all, when she was done. She loved it. She chose EVERY one, completely by herself. I liked watching her have that independence, but also being able to help her, by gathering all her things, and moving the board. She never could've done the task without someone to help her organize it. It'd have been too overwhelming. It reminded me of being a kid and doing projects with her. And, it was glorious seeing photos of people I haven't seen in years, and even of my sister and her beautiful family. I savored those pictures the most of all.

 Oh my god. Really. There's nothing cuter than this. No child on the planet can compete with mine in this category. Look at him.

Oh my god. Really. There's nothing cuter than this. No child on the planet can compete with mine in this category. Look at him.

But then, we got home, and we started unpacking what came with the dollhouse. There was a large plastic tub of miscellaneous things that got saved from my bedroom. My dad has just moved to a new house, so he’s obviously just packed his previous house, which means he knows exactly what was in every nook and cranny, and what he threw in that tub for me.

 One more of my Grandma and me. You'll notice I'm wearing a full-up winter coat. Like a California asshole, in Michigan, when it's 50-degrees. It was fucking cold to my California blood! Does my having wet-hair excuse me? I think it does.

One more of my Grandma and me. You'll notice I'm wearing a full-up winter coat. Like a California asshole, in Michigan, when it's 50-degrees. It was fucking cold to my California blood! Does my having wet-hair excuse me? I think it does.

He threw in every gift I ever gave him that was meaningful. He returned my first set of dog tags with my maiden name on them, which I gave him because I wanted him to proud that there was a Parke in the AF, his Parke. And, he returned my first AF name tag, also with my maiden name, and his AF parent pin, which we get to give them upon graduation from basic training. He also returned a model of the F-22 that I sent him the first Christmas I was away from home, which I sent because my squadron worked on the F-22. Essentially, he returned everything that said, “Daddy, please be proud of me.” He also returned a mug that I sent him after Collin was born, with a photo on it, of the three of us at my hospital bed, because he’d driven down to see us in the hospital.

 Whelp. That's that, I suppose. Except the day that I have a nice mug-smashing party for myself. Except Collin snatched up all the other stuff and said he wanted it because he's very proud of his mommy and wants to have everything associated with me so he can save it, and Daddy's stuff together to share with his kids one day. Sniff.  I'll never forget that the day Collin was born, he told me that he'd felt a special bond to Collin, one that he didn't feel to Sara's son. I thought it was a strange thing to say, and I never repeated it, except to Bryon, who also said it was odd, but clearly the bond was temporary, and he didn't mind losing a grandson too terribly. Or, he didn't mind not seeing him or talking to him all that often. He's got other grandchildren, and especially his wife's.  And, what a weird thing to say, by the way, to your kid. Talk about pitting one kid against the other. Even as adults. It made me feel weird. By then, Sara and I were already barely speaking, or not speaking. We were enemies since birth, of course; but as adults, we were trying. Subtle pokes and war-mongering is one thing, but yikes. I wasn't sure if he was trying to get me to name him Collin Walter, which there was definite pressure for, or if it was just a thing. But, it definitely was a weird "thing," that I knew was meant as a compliment, but made me feel crummy inside, like I took something I wasn't supposed to take, without even asking for it, from my sister. Oh well, not to fear, she got it back, not long after he was born.

Whelp. That's that, I suppose. Except the day that I have a nice mug-smashing party for myself. Except Collin snatched up all the other stuff and said he wanted it because he's very proud of his mommy and wants to have everything associated with me so he can save it, and Daddy's stuff together to share with his kids one day. Sniff.

I'll never forget that the day Collin was born, he told me that he'd felt a special bond to Collin, one that he didn't feel to Sara's son. I thought it was a strange thing to say, and I never repeated it, except to Bryon, who also said it was odd, but clearly the bond was temporary, and he didn't mind losing a grandson too terribly. Or, he didn't mind not seeing him or talking to him all that often. He's got other grandchildren, and especially his wife's.

And, what a weird thing to say, by the way, to your kid. Talk about pitting one kid against the other. Even as adults. It made me feel weird. By then, Sara and I were already barely speaking, or not speaking. We were enemies since birth, of course; but as adults, we were trying. Subtle pokes and war-mongering is one thing, but yikes. I wasn't sure if he was trying to get me to name him Collin Walter, which there was definite pressure for, or if it was just a thing. But, it definitely was a weird "thing," that I knew was meant as a compliment, but made me feel crummy inside, like I took something I wasn't supposed to take, without even asking for it, from my sister. Oh well, not to fear, she got it back, not long after he was born.

There’s really no way to take this package of mementos, other than, “I’m erasing you from my life.” My father is an arrogant man; being right, is always going to be the most important thing to him. He obviously values it more than he values me. He doesn’t want to understand any of this, from my side, or me at all, frankly; he wants to explain why I’m wrong. If we ever talked again, he’d tell me all the reasons I’m wrong. He’d tell me I hurt him and why I’m wrong for doing it. There’s nothing my son could say that I wouldn’t reach out and say, “help me understand.” And, as a mother to an autistic child who screams in my face, regularly, “I hate you,” I can promise that’s true. He breaks my heart regularly. Daily, in fact. So, the time he told me that he can only hope my son breaks my heart like this one day, no worries, it happens all the time. The difference is, I open my arms and beg him to explain, every single time. I never, for one moment, put my pride above his heart. If he's screaming that loud about something, he's in pain and needs to be heard. But, my dad is right. So, that’s all that matters.

 More road trip chic, but this is cool. Bryon stopped at Wal Marts along the way and bought me  every  new Wonder Woman Barbie, times TWO. Why? So, I could open one of each and play with them. Play! I've been carrying around the horse for days, like a little girl. I'm not kidding. I can't help it, the horse is so pretty! Collin and I have, legit, been playing Barbie and toy soldiers. It's been fun!

More road trip chic, but this is cool. Bryon stopped at Wal Marts along the way and bought me every new Wonder Woman Barbie, times TWO. Why? So, I could open one of each and play with them. Play! I've been carrying around the horse for days, like a little girl. I'm not kidding. I can't help it, the horse is so pretty! Collin and I have, legit, been playing Barbie and toy soldiers. It's been fun!

I’m sure he hurts. I’m sure he misses me. I’m sure that this causes him great pain. Just not enough pain to try to understand what is actually wrong. What the core of the problem is. The only thing I said, to set him off in the first place, was that he has acted differently, since he got re-married, that I miss the daddy I used to have, the one who was sweet and attentive. But, that got lost in his defensiveness and anger. Instead, now, too much is lost. It’s sad, but it’s broken. He intended me to see all those gifts and to hurt, to cry into my husband’s arms about practically being an orphan. He intended for me to be comforted by my child about how I’m not alone in this world. He intended to cause me pain. My own father caused me pain, on purpose. He hurt me, intentionally. Not only will he never protect me again, he will hurt me. I can never trust him again. Ever.

 More of my awesome people. The best part of Grandma, to me now, is that she loves me anyway, no matter what. When all of the shit hit the fan a while back, with my first family-related blog post, I called her right away. I told her what happened. I told her what I wrote. I told her everything. E-v-ery-thing. I cried. I was afraid she wouldn't love me anymore. My grandma. My world outside of my house. She said not to be silly, that I was her Rachel and she'd always love me, that I'm her granddaughter. Now, when it comes up, she says it's just a letter (she doesn't really understand "blog") and she understands why I had to write it for me, and it might not be what she would have done, but everyone is different and while it caused some pain, she still loves me. She says she doesn't want to read it, and she doesn't care. She just loves me. There's no way to explain how much a person like me needs a person like that.

More of my awesome people. The best part of Grandma, to me now, is that she loves me anyway, no matter what. When all of the shit hit the fan a while back, with my first family-related blog post, I called her right away. I told her what happened. I told her what I wrote. I told her everything. E-v-ery-thing. I cried. I was afraid she wouldn't love me anymore. My grandma. My world outside of my house. She said not to be silly, that I was her Rachel and she'd always love me, that I'm her granddaughter. Now, when it comes up, she says it's just a letter (she doesn't really understand "blog") and she understands why I had to write it for me, and it might not be what she would have done, but everyone is different and while it caused some pain, she still loves me. She says she doesn't want to read it, and she doesn't care. She just loves me. There's no way to explain how much a person like me needs a person like that.

As much as my sister, or my dad, or anyone else who thinks of me wants to, they cannot think of me as all bad. They have to remember that I feel pain. I feel the burden of loss. I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want what’s happened to me. I didn’t want to be abused by my mother, so viciously that I can’t stomach the sound of her voice. I didn’t want to be abused by my uncle, and then to be disbelieved about it. I don’t want to be misunderstood by my sister; I wish we were best friends. I long for the kind of relationship where we talk every day about our children, or about how our husbands do such dorky things. But we don’t have that. We can’t. I didn’t want to be misunderstood about my dad. I don’t want to feel hurt, just like anyone else. I feel pain like anyone else. Instead, they see a different me, a me I don’t understand or can’t picture.

 Can you tell we stopped for taffy? Honestly! Look at my mouth and the boy's mouth! It's goooooood!

Can you tell we stopped for taffy? Honestly! Look at my mouth and the boy's mouth! It's goooooood!

I’m a good person, just one that they don’t know. I volunteer. I give to my community. I literally walk out of my house with a promise in my heart of doing one good thing for a stranger, every day; if I can’t find something before I get home, I keep at it until I can. I buy strangers’ groceries. I hand out money to homeless people. I buy pots of plants and leave them on stoops of neighbors’ houses, I randomly drag neighbors’ garbage cans inside, or make sure kids’ bikes get brought up to the stoop so they don’t get stolen. This is the first time I’ve ever told anyone those things, because my goal is to never get credit, because otherwise it’s not doing good for them, it’s doing good for you; but, I’ve been doing it for years. I’m smart, funny and very silly. A few weeks ago, I wore my cat pajamas all day, and marched right into the library in them, tail, hood and all.

 This is from a few months ago (see, a different rug) but you get the gist. They are cute, right?

This is from a few months ago (see, a different rug) but you get the gist. They are cute, right?

I work tirelessly to help my son, sometimes spending up to six hours a day on the phone for him, demanding care and services. I’m a good mother, a good wife, and a good person. I’m very open to criticism, and I make a good, loyal friend when people are loyal to me. But, I refuse to tolerate nonsense from anyone, even if they are related to me. I am a genuinely kind person that many of you have failed to get to know.

 My husband, my love and my life. He promises he loves me, and I work on believing myself worth of that. I work on believing him and believing in me. This is the real, "nice boy," and I'm not mean to him :)

My husband, my love and my life. He promises he loves me, and I work on believing myself worth of that. I work on believing him and believing in me. This is the real, "nice boy," and I'm not mean to him :)

Bad Hair Day

Yesterday was a tough day for me. I cried about my hair. I didn’t have a bad hair day, or anything like that. I just re-discovered that I’m bald. And, it’s not even like I’m that bald anymore. I have about two inches of growth, which is just enough to get tangled up in a hair tie, and yank itself back out when you try to wrap it a second time. It’s a glorious length. I’m really excited for all these girls who are under-shaving right now for “volume,” to realize what a stupid mistake they’ve made, in a few months, when they try to re-grow it.

 Super cute pattern, which lots of these "looks" showcase, but ugh later. Granted, mine is a strip up the middle, and not a flat across, which is not as awesome.

Super cute pattern, which lots of these "looks" showcase, but ugh later. Granted, mine is a strip up the middle, and not a flat across, which is not as awesome.

 

Anyway, I’d put my hair in two braids, when I got out of the shower. This isn’t an unusual thing for me to do, but I guess I never looked at the back before. As I was putting my makeup on, getting ready to go pick up Collin, and then to a doctor’s appointment, I caught a glimpse of the back in the combination of mirrors that the wall mirror and medicine chests give me. It was then, that I realized what an atrocity the shaved portion regrowth looked like.

I spent the next fifteen minutes trying to finagle it with pretty pins, and with headbands. Then, I cried. No matter what I did, it looked terrible. I finally left it the way it was, but that was worse. It suddenly occurred to me that no matter what I did “in the front,” with my makeup, with my clothes, with my shoes, I had this disaster going on in the back that said, “Chiari,” or “brain surgery.”

It became this metaphor for my life: Chiari will always be chasing me. A headache ball is always waiting to drop. Chiari, and pain will always be in the wings, waiting to destroy whatever window dressing, whatever hopes I put on myself. It’ll always be behind me, chasing me. So, I cried some more.

Then, I stopped crying, finished my makeup, and got in the car. As I backed out of the garage, I looked in my rear view mirror and had to do a double-take, I was orange. Orange. That’s right. Orange. Not just a little orange either. I was gross. Apparently, the lighting in my bathroom, with the blown bulb encouraged me to go a little heavy-handed with the peach in my bronzer palette. But, thanks to my setting spray, I couldn’t wipe or blend any of it out. So, now I had bad hair, and I was orange. Talk about feeling self-conscious.

When I picked up Collin, thinking that maybe I was making too much out of it, I asked him:

Mommy: Do you think I look orange?
Collin: No, not really. But you look a little like Donald Trump.
Mommy: Thanks, I feel all better now.

So, I did the least I could do: I pulled my braids out, in the car, and smashed my hair around into knots and blushed profusely until my face was merely a red, splotchy mess. I looked especially pretty, if I do say so myself.

Collin and I had a great-ish afternoon, except his public meltdown at a store, in which he threatened to run out into traffic if I didn’t buy him something, anything, in a vintage store. He didn't run out into traffic, but he did run outside. This was after he ran through the place, touching everything he could, and demanding that I purchase everything there, including beaded purses and hats with veils. No, this isn’t bad parenting, this is a child with a one-track mind that cannot be stopped.

Then, the meltdown in the evening resulted in him dipping a glass in the toilet, and dumping it on me, repeatedly, and charging at me with a closed fist. I was really excited about that one, especially since it was after he tried to pull a towel out from underneath me (since, I had to dry the toilet-water floor), in hopes I’d fall. Not to worry, he'd forgiven me for the cause of the meltdown (me throwing away his special piece of soap), only moments later, when in his rage, he blew his nose too hard, and it caused a bloody nose, which led to a panic attack. He, literally, cannot stand the sight of a bloody nose, and goes into actual panic when it happens, so he needs his mommy to hold him. He'll punch me one second, but then crawl into my lap in terror the next. Nothing to see here folks, totally normal, right?

Oh, and it shouldn't take any kind of emotional toll on me, or on Bryon. We should be able to just flip right along with him. We should be able to continue to speak at whispers when he's screaming, which we do. We should never touch him when he's raging, which we don't, except to protect ourselves or him. We should never tell him that he's bad, just his actions. It's exhausting. And, when he destroys our house, our things, and hurts us, then needs us, we are supposed to hold him like he's still our precious, special baby, even though less than five minutes prior, he tried to punch us. The thing is, he is our baby; he can't help what's happening, but it's so hard, so very hard to remember that.

Overall, it was a pretty terrible day. I felt hideous and my son tried to assault me, yet again. Knock him into next week, right? That ought to teach him, I’m sure. Instead, we’re working again, and more, with some added doctors on amending his initial diagnosis. There’s a high probability that there are other mental health issues that are not being properly diagnosed or treated, and that we need to explore. We are working pretty hard to get him the therapies that he desperately needs.

So, today I’m recovering by doing nothing. I’ve earned it. I miss the dog and I miss the feeling of forgetting about my bald spot. I also miss not being orange. So, I’m enjoying a clean face and a non-baldy head.

We Bought Furniture from a Drug Addict...Maybe?

Daphne’s gone. For people who don’t know us well, I’ve been telling them that she died. I know that’s horrible, but it’s easier than explaining the whole thing and being afraid that they’ll think we just gave up on her, which is the furthest thing from the truth. And to us, it’s a little like she did; she’s gone. But, we did all the right things: trainers, lessons, treats, stress-control, all of it. Nothing mattered, this neighborhood was too stressful for her, and she needed better. So, she got it. When we really started listening, from a dog’s perspective, it dawned on us, just how freaking loud it is here.

I always complain about the noise around here; I even wear noise-buffering headphones around the house a lot; but for a dog, it must be a thousand times worse. Constantly barking dogs; kids nonstop; lawn maintenance, seemingly every day. Of course, I could just be an eighty-year old woman, the kind who shakes her cane at those damn kids on her lawn, trapped in a young (?) woman’s body; or, it could actually be a damn loud neighborhood, in general. I’m not saying it’s a New York city street, but a quiet, tree-lined village, it is not. We have kids out till well passed dark, on lots of nights, and there is always, always, always, at least one dog having a nervous breakdown about something, within earshot.

Plus, our housing management company is so fucking cheap that they refuse to have the trees examined, despite the fact that four, count them four goddamn trees have fallen down in the past six months, on my block, alone. Thankfully, none of them have fallen into a house, or onto a person, but they figure, it’s more expensive to examine and trim them all pre-accident, than to just trim them post-fall, as it happens. I got this piece of information from the arborist that I demanded come to my house, because we have a sick tree that would fall into our kitchen. Anyway, this means that the chipper is out, in all its loud glory, a lot.

 

The thing that’s making her being gone a lot easier, at least on Bryon, is that he got to see how gleefully happy she was when she got there. He said she ran to the new family, the minute she got out of the car. Then, she discovered that she was allowed to push the door open, to her own yard, on her own. So, she kept doing it. And, doing it. And doing it some more, just running in and out, in and out, in and out, like a proud toddler playing, “look what I can do!” So, she’s pretty excited. She gets her own yard, and the freedom to use it as she pleases, in a quiet neighborhood. Perfect for her. Sad for us.

When I’m sad, I like to play “buy this, it makes the ouchie go away.” You may remember this game from such experiences as flares and depression. It works, but only in the short term. Shh, don’t tell Rachel; she tends to end up with lots of good stuff this way. But, this time, I roped Bryon into my game. How, I managed that, is beyond me, but we made a lovely day of it, and I can’t believe how much fun we had together. I was a lovely day-date. By the end of the day, we were exhausted, but blissfully happy, giggling, laughing and having quite a nice time together. It’s lovely when hiding from total sadness can turn into a romantic and glorious time, isn’t it? We had so many smooches that Collin screeched “ewww! Stop!” and “his tongue touched your mouth!” at us before running away. Sorry dude.

See, I’ve always hated our laundry room. Like, hated with a capital “H.” So, I guess I’ve always “Hated” our laundry room. It’s humungous. It’s at least twice the size of our master bathroom because our house was designed by morons with no sense of personal space. Most wives like to brush their teeth while listening to their husbands pee, or worse. And, because it’s where Daphne’s cage and food bowls were kept, it was a disgusting utility space, with zero style, and just a room I’d prefer to keep the door closed on. Yes, I know it’s a utility room, a place you keep your mops, but I always felt it was more blah than it had to be. Since her cage is the size of our master bathroom though, there wasn’t much we could do about it; and, because she drools so profusely, and her bowls are so large, there was no point in trying anything else. She was, essentially the utility room.

Alas, once all that stuff was out of there, I broached my ideas with the husband and told him, that, when he was ready, what I’d hoped to do in there. Surprisingly, because I said, “Criagslist,” or “the used furniture store,” he was game to look right away. Hooray for cheapskate husbands, and for knowing how to manipulate them into your ideas. Kidding. Love you, honey! But really, I didn’t want to spend a lot either. It is, after all, the laundry room. So, I showed him “expensive” pieces on Wayfair, to give him the general idea of what I wanted to do, and then I was off on the Craigslist hunt.

My ideas were to cover the damn hot water heater and heater with a curtain (easy – but waiting for one from Overstock, now). I want to get a new area rug for the room (done – waiting for my deal of the day, again from Overstock – hooray for President’s Day sales!). I also wanted to take down all the pre-installed shelves in the unit on the wall, and put up a cabinet of some type, preferably one with glass doors, to put our paper products in: toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, you know, “supplies.” I wanted to make ‘em look fancy. I’m thinking of putting my tampons in there too, just to shake it up a bit. Feminine hygiene should make others as uncomfortable as it makes me, maybe. The cabinet was the Craigslist shopping. I’d hoped to spend no more than $150 (more on that in a minute). And, I wanted to get some kind of bins for the un-foldables, in order to hide them. Martha Stewart claims you can fold sheets. She lies. Even if you can, I don’t wanna. No more “hacks” about fitting them into the pillow case, or any of that bullshit. I want to hide them.

I found a cabinet on Craigslist for $60. It was cool, unique and different, and it’d fit if we removed only two of our shelves, leaving us two shelves for storage. Hmm, intriguing. Sounds perfect. So, we go to this woman’s house, and before we pull up, I say, “I have to pee, do you think she’ll let me use her bathroom?” Apparently not, as she’s putting the piece of furniture onto the porch, so we don’t come into the house. Guess we’re not welcome into their home, which was fine, because you could smell her house from the street. From the literal street, like when you opened the car door. How lovely to be her neighbors. 

Her boyfriend, brother, cousin, no clue; her man-person (?) was sweating profusely, despite the fact that it was not at all hot. An older woman was inside the door, which was obscured by a rusted metal ghetto-gate. But, the older woman was pretty keen on making the sale, despite the fact that it was obvious we were going to buy it; she kept making compliments about how wonderful the “piece” was. The poster was a very kind, but jittery woman, who was sort of hopping around the porch in a dance I like to call, “withdrawal.” Takes one to know one.

As soon as I handed her my sixty dollars, she handed it to another woman, who I shit you not, ran down the street with it, after a few whispered words. I’m pretty sure that I just bought either meth, crack or heroin. Not sure which, but I know I bought something unsavory. I’m also pretty sure that I bought the top of her grandma’s, or other family member’s hutch, because this was not a cabinet, but the top part of a larger piece of furniture. The poster told me, when I pointed it out, “yeah, I didn’t know furniture came that way until recently.” I felt like saying, “so how long have you been selling off your stuff, bit by bit? Can I buy your house?”

We had to put legs on it to make it work as a single piece of furniture; thankfully, my husband is so handy. It looks pretty good. It was also covered in spider eggs, and spiders, which had to be cleaned off before it could come inside. It’s also, literally, filled with air fresheners right now, as to wipe clean the smell of nicotine. My toilet paper will smell like apple cinnamon, but not regret.

It’s also got a lot of water damage to the back, so we’ll have to replace the back panels pretty soon. But, we’ve got plans for it.

 

And, one of the “fancy” pieces at the top is a little loose and needs some glue, but other than that, it’s not in terrible shape. It might need something to hold the glass in a little tighter. It’s probably something we’d not ever think of, except that we move all the time, and movers wreck stuff that’s not a million percent perfect. Actually, they wreck things that are a million percent perfect. Last time, they broke our headboard. Our mover, who said he’d been doing this for thirty years, said it’s the first time he’d ever seen a mover break a headboard. Glad to be a first. Some are the first on the moon. Some are us.

 

It’s exactly what I was looking for, frankly. I didn’t want a cabinet that looked like something everyone else can find at Target, or a more expensive version of what everyone else can find at Target. There’s enough furniture already out there, that’s decent enough, why buy something new? Buy something with some life left in it. And, you can’t beat the price of $60 worth of meth, right? About an hour after we picked it up, I got a follow-up text from Madame Meth, which said, “I hope you really enjoy the cabinet.” How sweet, right? She was so nice to follow up. She didn’t have to do that, and despite being kind of a trashy person, she’s not trash. Goes to show you that nice is everywhere.

 My sweet, exhausted by the time he did it, husband, even put contact paper around the recycle bin, to hide the filth inside it. Seriously, can I be any luckier with this one? The paper towels are because the paint on the legs is still a smidgen wet. We bought table/chair legs and put them on the cabinet. Quick, $3/leg thinking, right? Couple of new knobs too and we were set!

My sweet, exhausted by the time he did it, husband, even put contact paper around the recycle bin, to hide the filth inside it. Seriously, can I be any luckier with this one? The paper towels are because the paint on the legs is still a smidgen wet. We bought table/chair legs and put them on the cabinet. Quick, $3/leg thinking, right? Couple of new knobs too and we were set!

But, the bins on the top were expensive-ish. They were $30/each at Cost Plus. You’d think everything in there should be cheap. I don’t go in there much, so I don’t really know, but it’s all warehouse-y in there, and they have cost in the name. Leave it to me to grab the expsensive-ist thing in there. Maybe Cost Plus means that it’s cost-y, plus some more! I should’ve known! I used to browse through one, occasionally, when I was early to class, back in Virginia, and I loved touching everything, but I didn’t really look. There was a peacock painted end table at this one, this time. I wanted it. Bryon said no because it was something like $500. I agreed. But, I still wanted it, nonetheless. Cost Plus equals needlessly expensive, perhaps? I say this because I also found a hamper that I wanted, and it was $100. I can’t bring myself to spend that on a receptacle for filthy clothes, can you?

I’m not showing you the curtain’ed off water heater/heater area yet, because it’s got an icky curtain right now, but Bryon rigged some old curtain rods up there and it looks, meh, but livable, better than looking at a heater! I’m so excited about this new “room.” We had so much fun planning it all out. And, I’m always impressed by my husband’s innate engineering ability. Meanwhile, I just stand there and watch, waiting for the time that I can step in to do what I can do to help, which is wipe down the cabinet with wood oil. Yay! I helped! I wiped!

We had so much fun, in fact, that we didn’t notice someone, that I’m not going to name (Loki) sneak into the new room, as we were working, and pee on a throw rug. Damn cat. Angry peeing! Perhaps, his hatred of the dog was all an act, and he’s devastated at losing her from the family. Or, he is just pissed that I moved his favorite throw rug from the hallway to the laundry room, temporarily. He used to like hiding underneath the rug, so that unsuspecting hall-walkers would think it was just a small bump, and they’d trip on a moving target, nearly dying. I’m pretty sure Loki is a minion of Satan; because, alternatively, he’d hide and then jump out at unsuspecting hall-walkers, giving them a heart-attack.

Can you tell that this family watches a lot of Friends? Collin speaks almost exclusively in Friends quotes now. I fear I have damaged him, socially, for life. Oh well....

Good life advice from a awesome literary woman...not so awesomely translated to film. Good movie, but not greatly represented from the book. Read it. Trust me.

Either way, now I have to throw out the rug. Stupid cat.

Popping Pills

This is my pill case.

There are many like it, but this one is mine.

Just kidding. But really, this are the pills that I have to take, every day to survive. If I don’t take these pills, I will likely have a seizure, or feel very, very badly, and wish I were dead. As you can see, there are little boxes for morning, noon, evening, and bedtime. Phew, because I can’t remember if I took my pills, sometimes (all the time) from one part of the day, till the next. This helps take the question out of it. Or, you know, the death, from taking them two or three extra times.

Bryon fills it up for me, every Sunday night, so, he could kill me if he wanted to, because I don’t even remember what the full dosages are, anymore, for most of them. Well, that’s not true, I do, but I’d get confused trying to fill it up. It’s too much math for me these days! Once all those little doors are all opened up, I’d feel like a third string mathlete who got called to “the show” because everyone else’s pocket-protectors were destroyed in a freak calculator fire.

Anyway, I thought I’d take a minute to explain what it’s like to be on so many drugs, foreveh. All the pills in this case are non-narcotic, and are non-addictive. There is nothing in here that causes anything that, say, means I cannot drive, or am impaired in any way. But, it still means that I have to take a bunch of stuff. They all help, a lot, but they don’t make me better. I’m an open book about my condition, and what I use, and do, to treat it, so why not give you a glimpse into my meds, right?

Topamax

A controversial drug in the Chiari world. Lots of neurologists start headache patients with Topamax, or its newer patented drug, Trokendi, which is just an XR formulation. The generic is called Topiramate (or Topiramate XR, in the case of Trokendi). It’s an anti-seizure medication that has shown to be very effective at reducing migraines, as migraines originate, in many cases, in the same part of the brain, as seizure activity. Lots of people in the Chiari community think that it’s akin to poison because it has a lot of negative side effects, especially during the adjustment period, such as confusion and making your food taste bad. The confusion goes away, but making soda taste bad, not so much. I think we could all live with less soda though.

I know a woman who claims that she failed a fourth grade math test; drove her car off a bridge; and that her red blood cell count was so elevated, her doctor thought she might have cancer, but didn’t. Since a grown woman doesn’t have call to take a fourth grade math test, and (I think??) it’s a white blood cell count that indicates cause for alarm for cancer (which she didn’t have, anyway), and the bridge thing is the questionable icing on a cake made of lies, I feel like she might be exaggerating her response to the med, but who am I to say? Either way, lots of Chiari people call it Topashit, Dopashit, or Dopamax. Really, I just think it boils down to the fact that they don’t want to believe that any of their headaches could be related to anything else, and don’t want to trust a neurologist to treat them, if it’s not to refer them to a surgeon. Chiari patients are inherently mistrustful, and with good reason.

Regardless, I’ve taken Topamax, since I was a teenager, in varying amounts, from 50 mg a day, up to 800 mg a day (an insane amount, prescribed by a terrible doctor), I’m on 300 mg a day now, and that seems to be a good, stable amount. I have my liver and kidney levels checked regularly, and I’ve had no damage, which is another side effect (stones especially). I’ve not failed any math tests, driven off any bridges, or had any fake-cancer scares, yet. But, Collin’s in fourth grade now, so if I have to take one of his tests, I’ll let you know…but wait, he’s in fifth grade math. Shit, I won’t ever know!

Gabapentin (Neurotinin)

Gabapentin is for nerve damage. I didn’t realize how badly my scalp nerves were damaged, until I was prescribed Gabapentin. I just thought that it was normal to not be able to brush my hair anymore, or to feel like I was constantly being stung by thousands of invisible, tiny bees, at all times. That’s, apparently, not normal. Who knew? Gabapentin took several weeks to get used to as well, because it works on the brain, and it took several weeks to work up to an appropriate, stable dose, but I love it.

It makes you ungodly tired, at first. Like, I could barely move my face off of the pillow, for the first few weeks, but I’m perfectly normal now, and I don’t know how I survived without it. Most people claim that it makes you gain weight, usually around 30-60 lbs., but I’ve not had that issue at all. I’ve found that being able to move my head without my hair follicles sending stabbing icepick pain through the rest of my scalp makes it easier to exercise, not more difficult. I was hesitant when I read a lot of people claiming this wait gain, so I read through the literature, and saw that the weight gain incidence was something like 2 out of 336 patients (vs 0 given placebo). So, when I see dozens and dozens, no hundreds of people on groups, posting that they’ve gained 50 lbs., or more, thanks to Gabapentin I think there might be something else going on. All I know, is no more tinglies!

Cymbalta

Did you know that depression is pretty common in the chronically ill and those with severe, chronic pain? If you read this blog, I bet you did. I take Cymbalta for my ongoing depression. I tried several drugs before I got it right with Cymbalta. It’s made from fluffy kitties, clouds and unicorns. It’s amazing. It gives me the energy that I lack when I’m in a low, and it keeps me level when I don’t want to be. It doesn’t cure depression, but it makes it more bearable, and makes it easier to help me to help myself. But, it gives me dry mouth. Why do all anti-depressants give you dry mouth? Seriously? It’s the worst. And not just dry, but like you’ve been licking your living room rug all day, and then sucking on a back of pennies for refreshment.

I have zero shame for taking Cymbalta, and if anyone ever wants to talk to me about other drugs I’ve tried and why I didn’t like them, I am happy to discuss. I know someone who claimed to have had a stroke after one pill of Cymbalta. Thankfully, she survived; and, considering her harrowing battle to survive driving off a bridge, failing a fourth grade math test, and a blood test that was nothing, she’s lucky to be alive. In other words, I think she did not have a stroke. I’m pretty sure she’s just anti-all-meds, which is always abundantly clear, as she recommends wrapping your feet in hootchie-mama oil and breathing in the relaxing scent of hippie-sweat, available from your local oil dealer. Or her, of course.

Stool Softeners

Is there much more to say about stool softeners? I take opiates. Poop is hard when you take opiates. Stool softeners make poop softer. Must you know everything?

Synthroid

I have a hypoactive thyroid. So, I take 50 mcg of Synthroid a day. Once, when the prescription ran out, I was too lazy to get it refilled on time, so I thought to myself, “I wonder what would happen, if I just stopped taking it. It’s such a small pill, what can it really do?” Know what happens? You develop a giant goiter! That’s what! They thought I had thyroid cancer, which was a terrifying 36-hours. Thankfully, when I got back on my meds, it shrunk back down to normal, within a few weeks. So, note to others: don’t stop taking your thyroid meds. I only ever really called to refill it, not because of the goiter, which I barely noticed, but because my hair kept falling out in handfuls, and I was really, really tired. The doctor though, spotted the goiter from across the room. Apparently, my family and I are not that observant of large lumps on my neck.

Clonidine

Clonidine is, technically, a heart medication; but, it lowers your blood pressure quite nicely, and knocks you the fuck out. It’s a great drug for combatting withdrawal. You can take quite a bit of it, especially when you are in the throes of it. Since I have to do withdrawal, yet again (ugh, I know), it’s my ever-faithful friend. I take it at night, usually, to make it through the night, because it’s the longest time I go, usually, between doses of Oxy. Me and Clonidine are well acquainted. He lets me call him Clonnie. And he calls me, His Bitch.

Benadryl

I am allergic to everything. For real. I eat a cupcake from the bakery at Von’s and I’m fine. I eat two, and I get a rash. Enter: Benadryl. I get rashes from just about everything these days: candy, cookies, cake, essentially everything delicious. Aside from the allergies, Benadryl can be your best friend when you need extra sleep from withdrawal, and it helps with some of the symptoms, like the post-nasal drip, sneezing, and the red, watery, running eyes.

Drugs That Aren’t in the Daily Box

Oxy

Obviously. I can’t get rid of that damn med. It’s like a bad re-run, always on. But, it’s back in the rotation from the hideous, month-long headache from the rhizotomy. Back in the withdrawal saddle again. But, Dr. W, my pain management doctor, who rocks the house, has a new idea for me, that is super-scary, but sounds amazing too. He wants to do a spinal cord stimulator. More on that later, but eek!

Muscle Relaxers

I am down to taking these, mostly, just at night. I take Robaxin, which is pretty strong, but they work really well. They make you sleepy, sleepy, sleepy. I have a strong dose, obviously, so I’m always careful when I take them, such as not before driving, even though I’ve been on them forever, and could probably handle it. There’s no room for probably with safety, right!

Various Migraine Abortives

I have several Triptan medications, which are the go-to for migraines. I also keep Zofran at home, which is a prescription anti-nausea medication. I am lucky enough to have dissolvable tablets, that you don’t have to swallow with water, so you don’t barf them back up, during a migraine, or Chiari episode. I also have Firocet for pressure headaches. I also take Advil when it’s really, really bad, because the anti-inflammatory helps a lot, but it irritates my precious, and apparently, delicate tummy.

Being sick in a forever way, means you are tied to some forever meds. It’s not a glorious existence, and it means people are forever looking at your pill case like “I’d never do that,” or “I bet if you just rubbed some coconut oil on it, you’d feel better,” you know, because obviously, coconut oil cures and fixes everything. But, until you get really, really sick, you don’t know shit. All you know is that you don’t really know what you’d do. You don’t know what it feels like to live in fear of the headache that will, finally kill you, in a stroke or an aneurism. You don’t know what it means to just hope for maintenance, not better, worse, or death. You don’t know what it means to just want to survive, at status quo. You don’t know what it means to just want to survive, and hope, that one day, that means thrive.

So, for every one person who says, “I’d never…” there should be at least five more that say, “that’s amazing….” But, there aren’t. There should be, but there aren’t. I know this because I keep my pill case in the living room, because that’s where I spend the most time. I’d forget to take my mid-afternoon pills, if I left it in the bedroom. So, it stays in the living room, where I write, read, and draw, and where I watch TV at night, with my husband. It’s tucked away in a corner, where no one really sees it. But, if it’s time for a med, a guest might take note of it. I see the judgement in their eyes, and sense the “ugh” in their faces when they see how many pills I have to take, the “I’d never do that,” in their exchanged glances. You probably would, my friends, you probably would. Don’t think for a moment that each pill hasn’t taken a small piece of my soul, of my dignity, of hope, because it has. But, I have had to learn to reclaim it, and be proud of living through it, and surviving.

 

Daphne Sue, We Love You

I love my animals. I love all animals. Hell, if a tarantula needed rescuing, I’d be there with a screeching voice, a terrarium box, and a book called, Learning to Love Your Spider: Lessons in Accepting the Disgusting. But, loving animals means that sometimes you have to love them enough to do what’s right for them, even if it’s not right for you, a lesson that I’ve learned the hard way, in recent months.

 Daphne, basking in the joy that is a warm fireplace, in our house in Virginia. Unfortunately, she is outnumbered in her pleasure at that house. She's definitely the only one who preferred that house.

Daphne, basking in the joy that is a warm fireplace, in our house in Virginia. Unfortunately, she is outnumbered in her pleasure at that house. She's definitely the only one who preferred that house.

Everyone knows our family loves our dog. She was a replacement for Eddie, a dog that cannot, and could not, be matched, but she persisted in her efforts, and wormed her way into a place in our hearts, nonetheless. She’s, no doubt, doofus that has become, like all dogs do, a member of our family. She’s laid by my side when I’ve felt sick, annoyed the crap out of me, stolen whole sandwiches from the table, sniffed guests’ crotches, snuggled my boy when he cried, and let me stroke her velvety-soft ears for hours; in short, she’s a dog.

When we moved from Virginia, where we got her, to California, we noticed a subtle change in her, slow at first, but gradually getting worse and worse. Over the most recent 12-18 months, she’s become so miserable that it’s like watching a depressed version of Eeyore, who she’s always looked like anyway,

 Stolen...obviously. I can't draw that!

Stolen...obviously. I can't draw that!

 

combined with piglet, for anxiety.

 So cute...

So cute...

Yeah, yeah, this trivializes mental illness, per this article; but, it also makes definitions accessible to people who refuse to acknowledge that mental illness is a thing. It is. If you believe it isn’t, you’re ridiculous, and stupid. There’s no nice way to say that. In fact, over 95% of the world’s population is thought to suffer from some kind of mental health problem. 95 fucking percent. So, you don’t ever get to say that it’s not you. It is you. It’s everyone. Everyone. Being fucked up is normal. Which begs the question: isn’t it abnormal, then, to be “normal?” So, then why are we calling it a “problem?”

 A puppy that's probably bigger than your full-grown dog, "helping" me make the bed.

A puppy that's probably bigger than your full-grown dog, "helping" me make the bed.

Anyway, from the minute we got to our new house, she seemed unhappy here. We chalked it up to needing an adjustment period. She was miserable in our new yard, which sucks compared to the yard she had in Virginia, where she spent her mornings, even when it was sweltering, basking in the grass. Here, because we live on a corner lot, with a lot of foot-traffic, both pedestrian and dog, she can’t do that without scaring children with her beastly bark. Oh, and the time that she snapped her “unbreakable” lead in half, to tear across the street, knocking a small child to the ground to attack his fluff of fur that he was walking, that wasn’t great either. I think it was a dog, but it’s hard to say, it looked more like the end of a cotton swab that you clean your ears with.

We also have large front widows, side windows and slantways windows. Not really, but it sounds like we live in the Willy Wonka House when I say it that way. But, when you have windows on all sides of a corner house, it’s freak-out central for an anxious dog. She runs from window to window, alerting us of all things that might be a danger to us, including pine cones that blew across the yard, to every passing vehicle, to children walking to school. It’s all important information. And, she’s not barking in a “Look! Look!” bark; she’s barking in a, “OMG! We’re all going to die!” bark. It’s so sad to hear. She’s so scared.

 When we had to live in a hotel for ten days or so, when we first got here, she was pretty tolerant, but she certainly didn't like it. This was pretty much the size of our  whole  room. And yeah, that's a tv going in the background, with a tv in the foreground, too. I didn't like what my boys were watching, so I watched tv on the iPad, and used earbuds. Ah, technology, right?

When we had to live in a hotel for ten days or so, when we first got here, she was pretty tolerant, but she certainly didn't like it. This was pretty much the size of our whole room. And yeah, that's a tv going in the background, with a tv in the foreground, too. I didn't like what my boys were watching, so I watched tv on the iPad, and used earbuds. Ah, technology, right?

When we picked our corner house of death, at least according to Daphne, we didn’t realize we were dooming her to misery. She was so chill and calm in Virginia. She’d passed all her puppy classes, was well-trained, and I used to brag how she was so easy to handle on a leash that I could walk her just fine on my own. Now, her anxiety and dog aggression is so bad that she’s either miserably moping and sleeping all day, or alternatively, attacking not just small dogs, but all dogs that she sees. I can’t walk her alone anymore, because I cannot, absolutely cannot control her anymore. She’s dragged me to the ground, pulled me, caused rope burns on my hands from the leash being yanked through so quickly. It’s terrible for both of us, not to mention the children and dogs she’s gone after.

Last week was the final straw, really. She started our walk by putting her hackles up at children, jumping on their trampoline, in their yard. She walks with her hackles up, most of the time, when it’s just her and I, really. But, at children? It scares me. What if she starts going after kids who aren’t walking dogs? Moments later, she attacked a little girl and her Labrador. I couldn’t stop it. I tried all the tactics we’d been working on that we got from a trainer. None of them worked. They work when Bryon does them, but not when I do them. Considering that I’m the one who trained the dog in the first place, took her to her puppy classes, and did all the work, I don’t understand why this is, but go figure. Ungrateful little girl. Honestly. Kids, I tell you.

 Buddies, in the no-pack room, while the movers packed our house in Virginia, with the bed stripped down to nothing, freaking the hell out, but providing solace to one another.

Buddies, in the no-pack room, while the movers packed our house in Virginia, with the bed stripped down to nothing, freaking the hell out, but providing solace to one another.

I’m starting to get genuinely worried that she’s going to hurt a child, another dog, or something worse. I’m even starting to get worried that she’s going to hurt one of our animals, animals she’s formerly been fine with. The trainer we spoke with told me that because she hasn’t hurt anyone, especially another dog, that she’s not genuinely dog-aggressive. She explained that Daphne is capable of killing another animal in one bite, or one swipe of her paw, and that because she’s jumping on these dogs and isn’t biting down hard, or swiping in a way that kills them, she’s merely showing them that she’s making a first move, showing them that she’s the boss, essentially that she’s afraid. This is a good thing because it means she’s trainable, especially in a better environment.

Alas, the better environment. Bryon and I have been talking about giving her a better home, one where she isn’t so stressed, for a while; but, we’ve not been able to pull the trigger, because we love her. We’ve been dancing around the idea for months. And, it finally dawned on us, that the reason we can’t pull the trigger is because we are being selfish; we don’t want to lose her. We’re not talking about re-homing her because we can’t handle her, or because we don’t want her, or any of those terrible reasons that people re-home a dog. We’re talking about re-homing her because we want her to be happy. We are talking about re-homing her because we want her to have a better yard, a calmer environment, and all the things we can’t provide for her. And, we don’t want her to have to go through another move, which she didn’t handle well. We’re not thinking of us at all, we’re thinking of her. The only reason we haven’t helped her yet, is because we’re thinking of us. Listening to her grind her teeth all day, and often at night, is terrible. She’s so miserable. It’s time.

 Someone was chilly.

Someone was chilly.

So, we started looking. A rescue organization I talked to told me that how she looks indicates that she’s impeccably cared for and that she’d have a line out the door for her; she’d be adopted in less than a day. Her coat is shiny, she’s a good weight, she doesn’t have any grey in her muzzle for a dog her age, which means she’s fed and cared for well. But, Bryon knows someone who’s been wanting a Great Dane for years, so they are our first choice. They have a quiet home and someone who works from home. They‘ve got a fenced-in yard, and a quiet neighborhood. This is a perfect match for her, and they’d let us visit her. In fact, they encourage it. It's like an "open adoption!" Because we know them, we’d get to know her for the rest of her life, which is ideal for us. This decision is terrible, and we hate it, at least we can do it in a way that is less terrible, right?

 I love this face that she makes. If you stop petting her before she's done being petted, she bashes her head against your hand, and makes this pitiful face, with a look in her eyes that says, "please sir, can I have some more?" It's disarmingly charming.

I love this face that she makes. If you stop petting her before she's done being petted, she bashes her head against your hand, and makes this pitiful face, with a look in her eyes that says, "please sir, can I have some more?" It's disarmingly charming.

So, we had a meet and greet, yesterday with the prospective adoptees, and it went great. They love her. Next weekend, they are coming to pick her up and take her for a two-week trial run. If all goes well, they’ll likely adopt her. Daphne loved them too. She, obviously, has no idea what’s happening, but I already feel good about these people. She was so happy when they were here. She lit up. She’s so depressed during the day. She has, essentially, only ever bonded with Bryon, and no amount of attention that I give her, when we’re home alone, is enough for her, so she is like a sofa-cushion, when we’re alone. I’m lucky to get a half-hearted tail wag from her, from a thirty-minute scratching session, and a pound of sausage. But, the minute Bryon walks in the door, it’s like someone flips the “Daphne-On” switch, and she perks up. She was, fully, “Daphne-On” for these people. I’m really hoping that in the absence of Bryon, she can re-set and be happy.

And you know what? We have cared for her well. While they were here, we were explaining her health to them, and her care, her previous vet visits, her diet, and answering all of their questions, and it really dawned on me, she’s not been some neglected, uncared for animal, that we’re dumping off on someone else. She’s got a binder full of her vet records, her AKC paperwork, her insurance, a bucketful of toys and grooming tools, a list of procedures we’ve had done. She’s been loved and treated well. I was feeling so terrible about considering this, but while I was talking, it finally clicked: I’m a good dog owner. And a good dog owner does this for a dog that’s miserable.

 A pretty accurate depiction of her days: glaring out the window, pacing up and down the couch, whining and whimpering.

A pretty accurate depiction of her days: glaring out the window, pacing up and down the couch, whining and whimpering.

The misery of losing a pet, when they are still alive, is terrible. It’s not something I’d ever expected having to do. The tears I’ve shed for this are many and plenty. We love her. But, we love her enough to let her go. I know, already, I’ll be judged for this decision. I’ve already seen some judgment just from the few people we’ve told. But, it’s okay. Until you’ve watched something you love be miserable, and had to make the right choice, I won’t worry about what you think. I know many people who’ve given up an animal simply because they just didn’t want it, because they thought it was too hard to take care of, or they wanted a different one. I’ve known people who gave their dogs away because they got pregnant, or were just thinking of getting pregnant. We’re doing this for the opposite reasons; we’re doing it because we love her. We’re not providing a good enough home for her, and she deserves so much more. She’s a beautiful, wonderful dog, and she deserves a comfortable, quiet home, that we cannot provide.

At the very least, know this decision was not made in haste, and know it wasn't made by people who simply stopped loving their dog. Nor, was it made because we don't want her. It was made because we do love her, and we do want her. It sucks.