One Week Update: August 9

I know that I’ve been MIA for a week or so. I have had a couple of migraines, which I still get, despite my surgeries. Migraines are separate from Chiari, despite the fact that I get both types of headache concurrently, often. In case anyone is curious, my migraines, as a separate disorder, have been pretty well controlled lately, by the following regiment:

 

Preventative:

  • Amivog (this is one of the newer, monthly injectable medications)

  • Topamax (300 mg - yes, this is a big dose - mine is broken up into am/pm doses)

  • Botox (every 3 months following the protocol, plus in my jaw)

 

Abortive:

  • Imitrex (100 mg dose)

  • Frovatriptan (not WITH the Imitrex, duh - to every pharmacist out there who tells me, and will tell me)

  • Fiorcet (not the one with Codeine)

  • Zofran, when needed

 

As for the Amivog, it comes in two doses, a small and large. My neurologist just switched me to the larger dose, because she wants me to ultimately taper down on the Topamax. If the Amivog is successful, it has fewer side effects, and she wants to rely more heavily on that as a preventative. However, Tricare is not as reliable at delivering that medication, so I have to consider that. For example, I wasn’t able to get it this month, because they randomly switched pharmacies from which they will allow us to get it, meaning when I went to pick it up at Walgreen’s, from which I should have had no co-pay, it was, suddenly, $585. Ummm…no.

As for the Topamax; it’s a drug that’s been on the market for years. They renewed their patent recently by making an XR version called Trokendi. Many people don’t react well to either one. It has a long adjustment period. I’ve been on it since I was in my 20’s, at varying doses, sometimes as high as 800 mg! I’m not saying that was a great doctor. I’ve tried to taper down, or off before, and it seems like anytime I get below the 300 mg threshold, all hell breaks loose. We shall see, if when the Amivog is in place, the same holds true.

Anyway, I’m always curious what other patients have in their toolbox. That’s not all my daily meds, of course, just those for migraine. I’m actually not on that many meds any more. I’ve gotten them pretty weened down, and I’m glad for that. If only I could take nothing. Ah what a dream!

 

One of my favorite images of me and Collin. He’s always comforted me when I have been sick in bed with headaches. Here he is, as a toddler, crawling into bed with me, being his goofy self. it’s such a “Collin” pic, for anyone who knows him. For those who don’t, it’s just a goofy kid, and an adorable shot. He’s always a comfort, and as he’s gotten older, a sweet, caring force. He’s always there when I need him.   Notice the red spot on my temple…I often get mild frostbite on my temples when i have a particularly bed headache, from direct contact with ice, for extended periods on end. It heals, but, I usually lose a few layers of skin first.

One of my favorite images of me and Collin. He’s always comforted me when I have been sick in bed with headaches. Here he is, as a toddler, crawling into bed with me, being his goofy self. it’s such a “Collin” pic, for anyone who knows him. For those who don’t, it’s just a goofy kid, and an adorable shot. He’s always a comfort, and as he’s gotten older, a sweet, caring force. He’s always there when I need him.

Notice the red spot on my temple…I often get mild frostbite on my temples when i have a particularly bed headache, from direct contact with ice, for extended periods on end. It heals, but, I usually lose a few layers of skin first.

So, I know I’ve been absentee, but I thought I’d throw a random update your way about what’s been happening around here, and get you up to speed on Rachel-ville, in no particular order:

 

Registration for Fall Classes


I had to register for the Fall Semester. I hate registering when you are at the bottom of the heap for students. It means you register last, as you watch classes fill up, until your appointed time. Thankfully, I got the classes I wanted. One of those classes is, wait for it, “Creative Writing: The Young Adult Novel.” I have no clue what I’m going to write about. But, not to fear, I dreamt that I had a great idea, last night. And, furthermore, I dreamt that great idea included a grizzly bear. Surely, I’ll be all set. As you can tell, I’m even nervous about this in my subconscious.

One Halloween, Collin went dressed as a monkey (note the banana sewn to his hand). Every house we went trick or treating to asked him to growl, because they thought he was a bear. It was super annoying. Plus, he had no idea what they were talking about. He had a fucking banana, and a long. monkey tail. Maybe my idea had something to do with this costume?

One Halloween, Collin went dressed as a monkey (note the banana sewn to his hand). Every house we went trick or treating to asked him to growl, because they thought he was a bear. It was super annoying. Plus, he had no idea what they were talking about. He had a fucking banana, and a long. monkey tail. Maybe my idea had something to do with this costume?

Speaking of Dreams

For the last three, count them, three, nights in a row, I have also had nightmares that were about my parents. Nothing says healthy and healed from childhood trauma more than your parents not only showing up in your nightmares, but causing you to wake up crying, right?

 

Manicures

I have started, in my 40s, these past few weeks, to get regular manicures. Before this, the only manicure I’d ever gotten, was for my wedding. I know, weird. I’m loving it! I had no idea how pretty my hands could look! Here’s my problems though: how do you talk to the women doing your nails? They are always talking to one another in what I think is Korean. I feel so awkward interrupting them, but I also feel awkward not talking to them. Well, I feel more awkward than usual. The girl I had last week didn’t do a great job. When I show up this week, if they put me with her, can I ask for a different girl, without seeming like a bitch? I’ve always gone by the adage that, in service industries, tip, and tip well; if I keep tipping well, will they like waiting on me, remember me, and do a good job for me?


Peri-menopause

Ugh, speaking of 40s. My periods have been acting wonky for a few months now. This month, it appears that it may not show up at all. NO, I’m NOT pregnant. For the past six weeks, sex has been the farthest thing from my mind, as my leg was so painful, I had considered amputating it. Plus, even if Bryon had caught me in an amorous moment, he’s had a vasectomy; and, he sent his little swimmers back for the six-week check afterward, all deadzo. Alas, I’m well over a week late. I’m perfectly okay sliding into that stage in life. I’ve been begging for a hysterectomy for years. I do not understand why insurance and doctors make this such a difficult procedure for women to get. I understand that it’s major surgery; but, the reasoning is always that, as women, we might change our minds regarding our fertility. Collin’s twelve; I’ve never doubted my decision for only one…in twelve years.

Hot flashes anyone? Just me? Okay.

Hot flashes anyone? Just me? Okay.

Kids…and Lice

Speaking of kids, they bring home lice. Collin was infested with lice by the time we figured out that’s what it was. I could see bugs crawling in and out of his hair, and I was picking them out, regularly, for days! Don’t judge my stupidity! I swear, I thought they were gnats. I kept looking at them, and thinking they had wings. I was sure they weren’t lice. I kept Googling what kind of bugs could infest your hair that weren’t lice. Try that search sometime. Know what the answer is? Lice. It was frustrating. Finally, we shaved his head to a buzz cut, because we were accusing him of just not washing well, and that’s why he kept getting these darn bugs. He ran his hand over his freshly cut head, and tons of bugs fell out. It was…gross. They were definitely lice. It was very obvious at that point what they looked like. That’s when the bells went off. For some reason, they looked different to me, at that point. Yes, I had it too. Yes, it was everywhere. Yes, I’m an idiot. No, I have no idea what I was thinking. I’d have sworn they had wings, staked my life on it. I believe the lice are all gone now. Thankfully, we have a very clean house, and it didn’t take much to disinfect it!

The worst part, to be honest, is that my hair is now past my belly button. Thanks to an irrational fear of cutting it. Getting that damn nit comb through that was a nightmare!

 

---But man-alive did it feel disgusting for a while there!

These are OUR personal lice. These came from Collin’s head and he took a pic while looking at them through his microscope. They are pretty gross little fellas, aren’t they?

These are OUR personal lice. These came from Collin’s head and he took a pic while looking at them through his microscope. They are pretty gross little fellas, aren’t they?

 

Kids…and Middle School

Is it any wonder that my little one was looking forward to riding Peter Pan’s Flight at Disneyland? This costume came with a little dagger (wait, no, it cost extra - but, we had it). The dagger made a little “shwing” noise. He carried it around, stuffed in his pants, for three years. He was obsessed with it!

Is it any wonder that my little one was looking forward to riding Peter Pan’s Flight at Disneyland? This costume came with a little dagger (wait, no, it cost extra - but, we had it). The dagger made a little “shwing” noise. He carried it around, stuffed in his pants, for three years. He was obsessed with it!

Collin promised me when he was very small, that he would stop growing once he was tall enough to ride the Peter Pan ride at Disneyland. He was quite sincere when he made the promise, as if he’d intended to keep it. That’s how little he was, young enough to believe his own words. I constantly remind him that he broke his promise about growing up. Now that he has clearly broken it, and he keeps getting older, and bigger, I sometimes wish he’d get on with the whole growing up bit, and reach 18, so he’d get through puberty already, because it’s making us crazy. Of course, I know that the days are long, but the years are short, and I’ll miss him when he’s out of here, making memories somewhere else, but someone, anyone, come tell me how to make my son care about schoolwork? His middle school orientation is next week. I can’t believe it. A few days ago, he was starting kindergarten, and now, he’s going to have a locker, be awkward, and go to dances. Time marches on.

i couldn’t resist this other pic of him at Disneyland from roughly the same age. Look at that little face. Pure joy. I miss those smiles that take up his whole face. Somewhere around 10, it’s like those smiles disappear and regular smiles come on, the ones that our normal faces have. I’m sure I’m as happy as can be in this picture, seeing glee on my son’s face, and i don’t look like him. I miss his full-smile face.

i couldn’t resist this other pic of him at Disneyland from roughly the same age. Look at that little face. Pure joy. I miss those smiles that take up his whole face. Somewhere around 10, it’s like those smiles disappear and regular smiles come on, the ones that our normal faces have. I’m sure I’m as happy as can be in this picture, seeing glee on my son’s face, and i don’t look like him. I miss his full-smile face.

Time Does March On

And on, and on, and on. I have physical therapy for my knee for another full YEAR. Can you imagine that. A year! Sure, they didn’t want to see me for over a week now, due to the whole crawling insects in my hair thing. They were even willing to waive the cancellation fees because they were the ones who were refusing to see me. I was willing to come in, but they didn’t want an infestation; something about all the pillows, sheets, towels and blankets they have there. I get it, I really do. But, I have a full year of sessions to make up for missing this last week. A few weeks ago, I had a session that made me cry, literal tears, all over the place. So, I’m not looking forward to my return, after such an absence. I’m sure it will suck, terribly. I have two therapists: one, whose personality I love, but who is cruel to my knee; one who’s gentle, but who has the personality of a wet blanket. It’s a great combination.

Time marches on, indeed…my baby 10 years ago. Can you tell that I’m feeling nostalgic this week, as my baby prepares to start middle school?

Time marches on, indeed…my baby 10 years ago. Can you tell that I’m feeling nostalgic this week, as my baby prepares to start middle school?

My Knee

Which leads me to an update on my knee. I can now bend it greater than 90-degrees. This is pretty good progress. I am “allowed” to go without my brace, but I “should” put it on if it feels “funny,” or “weak.” How’s that for vague?” I’m allowed to start walking for exercise, something I tried on our treadmill this morning, and I could only handle for about ten minutes before my knee said, “well, that’s enough of that, little missy!” My knee is still very delicate; I tried vacuuming the other day, and I had to sit, for three straight days afterward, doing nothing but icing it. Apparently, all the pivoting involved with vacuuming was something I was not prepared for. I’m going to see Billy Idol/Bryon Adams next week (I know, be jealous); the concert venue has about nineteen billion stairs, so I’m a little nervous how my knee (braced or not) is going to handle that little doozie! Plus, I mean, how does one not dance?

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I think that’s about all I can update you on…wait, except that I got an A as my final grade in my class. I am so proud of that! I was so nervous when I enrolled into this program. I didn’t trust my brain. What if it couldn’t handle thinking at that level again, or anymore. Academia is one thing. Harvard is quite another. I was terrified. I almost backed out. I’m so glad I stuck with the idea and proved to myself that my twice-operated brain could handle it. Sure, I have to proofread my stuff a lot more heavily, because I spell phonetically when I type, Sure, I have to take a lot more notes than I used to. I sometimes read a little more slowly. But damnit if I don’t love it as much as I used to. I’m reading academic articles again, for fun, academic texts, and more. I love school. I love learning, and I love what I’m doing. I feel alive again, and I’m so glad I took the risk.

P.S. Thanks for strolling down memory lane with me, enjoying all the pics of my boy when he was small and perfect. He’s still perfect now, he’s just not as squishy-cheeked and cherubic.

Gilroy

To understand why I feel touched by yesterday’s events at Gilroy, other than as a concerned and outraged citizen, as we all should, I have to take you back to a young, stars-in-their-eyes couple, before Collin, back when Bryon and I were dating.

 

Bryon and I had our first date right before I left Edwards, where we were stationed at together, to go home for Christmas for the first time, since I’d left home to join the Air Force. I had been excited about going home and seeing my family, as it’d been a tough first year away. I’d been through Officer’s Training School, the worlds’ weirdest first marriage (a story for another time), and adjusting to being both single, and far from home, for the first time. I’d still not come to terms with my abuse, and I was still a little tethered to my home, not really ready to be away, feeling like that was my safe spot. It wasn’t.

 

Anyway, Bryon and I went on our first date, which was sufficiently awkward and beautiful to know that it’s the date you tell your children about as this was how you knew your father was “the one.” He took me to Round Table Pizza, because that’s where his family always went for Christmas Eve, and since it was getting close to the Christmas Eve, he thought he’d share a bit of his traditional self with me. Awwww.

 

Then, because the date was going so well, he took me back to his apartment, which was right around the block.

 

Get your mind out of the gutter, people.

 

I got to experience the special smell that was Bryon’s single-man life. I only went back to that apartment ONE more time. That’s how special the smell was. He claims it was because of his neighbors. I am not so sure about that one. We can agree to disagree. I’ve smelled wafts of it in our shared lives together since, in days when he’s done too much yardwork; or when he doesn’t put enough foot powder in his shoes; or when he’s had too much to wine the day before, and we should put an out of order sign on the bathroom door. Men need women. That’s all I will say. Sure, there was a curry undertone, but the special smell that was unique to Bryon’s place. That’s all him.

 

Anyway, in those few treasured hours together, I saw (and broke) the balsa wood bridge he made for a science fair (he thought it could support my weight - It did not). He showed me the photo scrapbook (not album) he made of his eighth grade (I think??) trip to England with his mother. In other words, he put on all his best moves, and I was in it for the long haul.

 

What can I say, I’m easily caught by geeky guys with no moves?

 

By the time he walked me to my car, I was smitten. His rushed and nervous kiss over my car door was all I needed to fall in love with him. We spent the entire holiday break either on the phone (yes youngsters, us oldsters still talked on the phone), or texting. I’d been casually dating another man at the time, one who sent me poetic texts over break like, “Let the moon light your dreams tonight, and the stars be your guides.” I still think I went with the right choice though.

 

He agreed to pick me up at the airport, when I arrived back from Michigan. It was no easy feat, as I had a dog with me. A dog! Who picks up a girl from the airport, with a dog, a large dog at that, that he’s only had one date with? The man of your dreams, that’s who.

 

Still, while we were standing at the baggage carousel, waiting for both my bags, and the “large cargo” that was my dog, I was overcome by a smell. It wasn’t just a mild smell, it was a horrible, try to avoid it smell. It was the kind of smell that you think, “Is that me? God, I hope that isn’t me!” You move around, hoping it’s the person next to you, so you can get away from it. It’s not, so you move some more. It’s following you. You can’t get away from it.

 

A horrible thought occurred to me: what if it’s Bryon? What if this man of my dreams, that I’ve fallen head-over-heels for, is the source of this horrendous smell, a smell that is permeating the air of the whole baggage carousel area? Can I go on?

 

I gave him the benefit of the doubt and assumed someone with terrible, and I mean terrible B.O. must’ve wafted through before us, and left it behind. If anyone old enough has ever seen the episode of Seinfeld where the valet with bad B.O. ruins his car, you’ll know what I mean. However, when we got in his truck to drive home, I was distressed to find that the smell followed us.

 

It was him.

 

I had a terrible choice. Recognize that this man that I’d been dreaming of for the last ten days smelled like death today, and live with it; or, find a way out. I lived with it. For months, I decided it was just a one-off and until we got to know one another better, I didn’t mention it, until….

 

He had garlic fries at a game. And, I mean GARLIC fries.

 

It wasn’t the breath, which, don’t get me wrong, was reason enough to be an issue. It was what happened to garlic in his body. Garlic is fabulous, wonderful and amazing. In reasonable, even profound quantities, it is fine in almost everyone. It’s even fine in Bryon. But, when he goes overboard, he smells like rotting corpse. The smell leeches from his pores for days, and not just a little bit, as if a green could of death is following him with green skulls and cross-bones following him.

 

This leads me to Gilroy and the garlic festival.

 

Bryon is from Central California, and for a time, both of his parents lived in Northern California, so we’d pass Gilroy every time we went to visit them. The first time we passed Gilroy, we had a long, hilarious talk about going to Gilroy’s Garlic festival, and how we would have to ration his tasty treats, or I’d have to leave him there to sleep it off, alone.

 

It was a long drive from Edwards, and then, as we grew, got married, and had Collin, from Los Angeles, to Central/Northern California. So, Gilroy was always a conversation point along the way. We always talked about Gilroy’s garlic. We’d point it out to Collin. We’d laugh about Daddy’s smell. We’d always talk about timing a visit with the festival, but never managed it.

 

We never stopped in Gilroy, not even to pee. We never went to the festival, but the town and the festival were as much a part of our family trips as the trip itself, sort of like passing the giant windmill in Solvang (where we have been). I’m heartbroken that anyone would desecrate a day of family fun in a place like Gilroy.

 

That’s not to say I am not heartbroken when anyone desecrates anyplace with gun violence. I am done with gun violence in America. Done. There is no place for this any longer. Yesterday, a six-year-old boy went to a festival with his parents, probably with some pocket-money to buy a souvenir, probably excited to get a treat like popcorn; instead, he was killed.

 

This is not what we should be about when we talk about protecting our rights. A child’s right to safety, a family’s right to safety, should be important, too. And, don’t tell me open carry is the answer. Violence begets violence. It’s time for a real change.

 

I may be naïve, and certainly if I say no more guns, someone will fire back at me and say, “criminals will still have them, so I want mine.” Eh. It ends slowly. But, it ends. It has to end. This cannot go on. We are a world leader, but it’s sad to be the world leader in this. This is shameful and devastating.

Bidet to You, Too!

So, I wrote this whole post about how I’m almost done with my first course at Harvard, and I think I’m getting an A. I am so excited, proud and just so darn yay-ing over here, that the post was boring. I can hardly believe it’s me when I think about it too much. Bryon keeps telling me it’s obvious. I’m like, “umm, is it?”

 

Well, the post wasn’t boring to me. But, nonetheless. I’m sad for the class to be over, and a bit nervous for Fall semester because I’ll have two classes, and I don’t think I can take my first professor again. She conflicts with another class I have to take, of which there is only one offering. She is the most patient, energetic, kind and knowledgeable person I’ve met in a long time. I had hesitations going into this, and I’m glad I took the risk. The decision was made on a whim one day, but I’m so glad that I didn’t back out.

Not the greatest cat pic of the week, but I think it speaks to the gist of the week…Rachel’s school stuff spread all over the bed, while I work, Bear ignoring it and trying to get a treat, Homer watching in the background (judgmentally).

Not the greatest cat pic of the week, but I think it speaks to the gist of the week…Rachel’s school stuff spread all over the bed, while I work, Bear ignoring it and trying to get a treat, Homer watching in the background (judgmentally).

 

The only good thing about this semester ending, is that you get to be rid of that one student in every class that annoys you. The one who seems to have stumbled their way into the course, but isn’t sure how they got there. Somehow, they manage to continuously show up, driving everyone else crazy with questions totally out of left field, usually syllabus-related, in the middle of lectures. Because it’s an online course, I know I was particularly grateful that, by week four she’d figured out how to use the mute/unmute button when talk. It was a blessing to us all, because someone in her household was fond of using the blender, far more often than is normal for a three-hour period.

 

I’m sure she’s a lovely person in her everyday life. I’m just not sure I’ll miss her in this environment. It’s funny how different environments color your perception of people, isn’t it? Honestly, my favorite part about the online component of this class, is that this particular person has her camera set up in her dining room, and she has all her papers, and miscellaneous books (of which there aren’t any required for this course) organized in piles all over her dining room table, and chairs. So, every time someone talks, or the professor talks, she gets up (from her rocking chair!) walks over to the table, and digs through papers, finds something (I have no idea what!) and is satisfied. Hey, whatever works though, right? To be a fly in her mind, for just a few minutes would be ever-so-fascinating. Truthfully, to be a fly in anyone’s mind would be fascinating.

 

Or…scary. Flies are always getting smacked.

 

Look at me, I said I wasn’t going to keep writing about my class, and then I went and did it again for another full page. Jeesh, I must need to get some of it out! There. I did. When it’s all over with, I’ll give you all the full low-down, and my grade (hopefully, an A, fingers crossed).


See that above….that’s the back to business line!


What I thought about telling you about instead, today, was that we made a weird investment a few weeks ago.

 

Drumroll.

 

A bidet attachment! Bet you didn’t see that coming!  

 

I think it was the third or fourth day after my surgery, and I was whimpering and crying, in pure agony and exhaustion. Bryon didn’t know what to do. When I’m in pure pain, he’s probably at his most adorable, because he wants to help, so badly, but simply can’t. He looks like how I imagine Henny Penny must look, when the sky is falling. He gets a look in his eyes that just screams, “I’ll do ANYTHING! Just tell me!”

 

If that’s not love, I don’t know what is. I fall more in love with him every day, but on those days, it’s double so. He reminds me that he’s always going to be there when it’s tough; but not just there, there. His whole heart is breaking with mine. It’s truly something to have that in your corner, in a marriage.

 

So, as I’m whimpering in the bathroom, because it’s so hard to go to the bathroom with your foot up, and to wipe effectively; I know, it’s a lot to imagine, but bear with me; he says,

“I know I can’t take your pain, but what can I do. I’ll do anything.”

 

Swoon ladies, he’s mine.

 

I feel like this is getting a little too sappy with love-bug-bites about my husband. So, how about I tell you something less than charming about him to even it out? He has to sleep with a massive two-piece mouth-guard, specially fitted to his mouth from the doctor, to keep his jaw in-line to help keep him from snoring. Note that I said help, not keep him from snoring. He still snores. He also uses the snore strips, and lots of swift kicks in the shin from his wife. Either way, it’s not super sexy.

 

I said, “You know what I want? I want a bidet. It’s too hard to wipe right now and get everything.” Gross, I know. It’s not romantic, but when you have been together this long, and he’s sitting on the floor, holding my leg on his shoulder while I poop, the romance is that he’s holding my leg while I poop.

 

Oh! Didn’t I mention, because the stool kind of hurt my ankle, when he could, he’d rush into the bathroom, and hold my foot on his shoulder, regardless of what number I was doing. True love, folks. True love. Devotion, and true love. He’d sit there, even in the middle of the night, as he fell asleep against the wall, while I went to the bathroom, with my leg propped on his shoulder.

 

So, off he went to Home Depot to find a bidet attachment for our toilet. AND, a new toilet seat! When we moved into our house, our master bathroom (which is hideous!) had this weird toilet seat that was about 7/8 the size of the toilet, and slightly crooked. In my bathroom meltdown scene, I also asked for an appropriately-sized, non-crooked toilet seat.

I told you our bathroom was UGLY. This is the entire thing, too. A stall shower, with lemon-yellow tile. The best part is that someone actively chose this, RECENTLY! the tiles are in the basement. The man who owns this house is a single dude, who has no woman to stop him from making bad decisions, clearly. He didn’t replace things like the fixtures and the lighting, which I didn’t take photos of, but imagine 1965, and so old the aren’t even rated for ground fault. Oh, and the best part of the whole bathroom is that there was ONE towel hanger when we moved in. ONE. So, we had to hang a second one, right below it, so we could both have towels to shower with, hence the towel, hanging nearly to the floor, covering the toilet paper dispenser. I can’t reach the one that is above it, because it’s almost the height of the ceiling! This is the weirdest master bathroom that I’ve ever lived in, for sure!  P.S. I know that towel next to my husband’s sink looks dirty. It’s not. I swear. It’s stained. I used it to wipe of a charcoal mask…bad Rachel.  P.P.S. OH! I almost forgot, I am pretty sure the owner must be a smoker, but ONLY smoked in the bedroom, because no matter how many times we wash the walls, the bathroom walls “bleed.” it’s the only way I can describe it. An orange-ish, reddish dripping ick is always dripping down the walls. I’d say our house is haunted, but it’s only the bathroom, and it looks more like filth than anything else. It’s so gross. It seems like it’s something pulled from the paint, or under-layers of paint, when activated by steam, and it’s like old nicotine. It’s…just…gross. We’ve given up cleaning it up more than once a month or so, because it’s just impossible to keep up with!

I told you our bathroom was UGLY. This is the entire thing, too. A stall shower, with lemon-yellow tile. The best part is that someone actively chose this, RECENTLY! the tiles are in the basement. The man who owns this house is a single dude, who has no woman to stop him from making bad decisions, clearly. He didn’t replace things like the fixtures and the lighting, which I didn’t take photos of, but imagine 1965, and so old the aren’t even rated for ground fault. Oh, and the best part of the whole bathroom is that there was ONE towel hanger when we moved in. ONE. So, we had to hang a second one, right below it, so we could both have towels to shower with, hence the towel, hanging nearly to the floor, covering the toilet paper dispenser. I can’t reach the one that is above it, because it’s almost the height of the ceiling! This is the weirdest master bathroom that I’ve ever lived in, for sure!

P.S. I know that towel next to my husband’s sink looks dirty. It’s not. I swear. It’s stained. I used it to wipe of a charcoal mask…bad Rachel.

P.P.S. OH! I almost forgot, I am pretty sure the owner must be a smoker, but ONLY smoked in the bedroom, because no matter how many times we wash the walls, the bathroom walls “bleed.” it’s the only way I can describe it. An orange-ish, reddish dripping ick is always dripping down the walls. I’d say our house is haunted, but it’s only the bathroom, and it looks more like filth than anything else. It’s so gross. It seems like it’s something pulled from the paint, or under-layers of paint, when activated by steam, and it’s like old nicotine. It’s…just…gross. We’ve given up cleaning it up more than once a month or so, because it’s just impossible to keep up with!

 

Mr. Fix-It, fixed it. It has been more glorious than I can even imagine to sit on an appropriately-sized toilet seat. You sort of take those things for granted when they aren’t there!

 

But the bidet! I had read about these things, or seen them advertised, and thought that they seemed kind of neat, but not given them much thought until I was having trouble wiping. Yep, letting it all hang out, details-wise.

Nice and compact….hardly even notice it, and easy to reach, easy to use, and just plain awesome.

Nice and compact….hardly even notice it, and easy to reach, easy to use, and just plain awesome.

 

Oh, my Triscuits and Vegan Cheese! You’ve got to try this out!

I’m living in the south, once again - and once again, not by choice - thought I’d try out being colorful. Go get one. They are amazing! Ours pulls water right from the tank, so the water is cold, which let’s call “refreshing.” But, it has a few settings: some kind of misty shower setting and a more direct spray. You can also adjust the water pressure. Although, even at its fullest pressure, you aren’t going to be spitting it out of your mouth. Get it? It’s quite snazzy for something that went on in under an hour.

 

We learned pretty quickly that toilet paper isn’t enough to dry one’s tushie of the copious amounts of water that a bidet gets on your bootie. And, one of the great reasons to get one is to save a bit of toilet paper. I suggest investing in handful of towels that are expressly for bidet use. The fun part is choosing fun towel patterns that you know will be just for your butt. I found some really absorbent ones on Amazon that were inexpensive. And, they had pretty patterns, likely put on with super-toxic thread, or something terrible.  

The link for the product is here…they are awesome:  Poopie-Butt Towels

The link for the product is here…they are awesome: Poopie-Butt Towels

Since you’ll be drying, in theory, a clean behind, these should remain clean, and only have to be washed when you wash your towels, not creating a hindrance of laundry. It feels weird to share bidet towels, so Bryon and I each have our own. Collin’s on his own with his own bidet-less bathroom; but, since his bathroom looks like the Sunoco station when no one is on cleaning duty, I don’t feel one bit badly about that.

Towels on hooks for Bryon, Rachel and none for little Collin…oh well. if he’s dying to use it, he can. But, he never asks. The one time he did, we practically had to mop the bathroom afterward, as he sprayed the entire room. Not sure how little French kids get the hang of it. Didn’t Mark Twain say something about how bright the kids in France were, that even the little ones could speak French? Something like that is to be said about the bidet then too :)

Towels on hooks for Bryon, Rachel and none for little Collin…oh well. if he’s dying to use it, he can. But, he never asks. The one time he did, we practically had to mop the bathroom afterward, as he sprayed the entire room. Not sure how little French kids get the hang of it. Didn’t Mark Twain say something about how bright the kids in France were, that even the little ones could speak French? Something like that is to be said about the bidet then too :)

 

I’m not going to lie, we’ve each had an incident where we were sure we were all clean and shiny and when we went to pat dry…whoops! Needed to replace the towel. I’m nothing if not honest with you! And, we all know, especially my chronic pain warriors, that if we are on opiates for any length of time, that this thing is going to be a wondrously amazing gift! And…everybody poops! That’s why there are spare towels and detergent in this world. It all works out, “in the end.” Ba-dum-bum!

Because we rent, we obviously don’t put a lot of, or any, permanent, changes into a home, so we couldn’t do anything super spiffy. But, this works perfectly, and we get to take it with us when we leave! We take our shower heads with us too! Something about rentals screams shitty shower heads! Why? Why wouldn’t you put a decent shower head in a house? The kind that you can take down and do a decent spray and wash with? I will never understand this. The longer we are in, the more I look forward to our forever home…which I know is still many years out. Still, the list of things I imagine for it is expanding by the mile! Now, Bidet is added to that list..even if it’s tank attached.

Pain Management: Lifesavers

I kept falling asleep while I wrote this…and when I tried to proofread it, the same thing happened. So, oh well! It is what it is.

Remember how I mentioned pain management last time? How I said I’d had to call, almost immediately after surgery to say, “Yo, this medication isn’t cutting it, can I take more?” And then, I had to go see them, again, to say, basically the same thing?

Being bed-bound has its advantages. Look at my companion. Like the cats, he never leaves my side. He thinks that the headphones make him look like an official “gamer,” and he made me take his photo.

Being bed-bound has its advantages. Look at my companion. Like the cats, he never leaves my side. He thinks that the headphones make him look like an official “gamer,” and he made me take his photo.

 

Well, I had to call again. It still wasn’t strong enough. I was told to take a different combo of the same meds, at a different time. Because of the amount of meds this would require, I needed a refill almost immediately. I know, I know, it sounds like I might be a giant baby. Or, I am craving my Dilaudid and Oxy combo, and becoming some kind of fiend. Or, the most likely scenario, the whimpers and sobbing that came out of me, as the meds wore off, are indicative that the medication is both not strong enough, and not lasting long enough.

 

So, now I was on visit/call number FOUR, to pain management. This time, I was scheduled to see the actual doctor, not her PA. This was the big time. I was both afraid, and excited. I was afraid, because I knew I had to tell her that I’d been taking one extra pill per dosing period. I knew that was important for her to know, so she could dose me properly, when she adjusted meds; but, this was the first time I’d ever taken more medication than I was prescribed. To put that in perspective, I’ve been on opiates of some kind since 2014. In five years, I’d never taken a single extra pill. That’s how brutally painful this surgery has been. So, this scared me, because I was afraid she’d think I was taking them for the wrong reasons. In reality, if I didn’t take them, I was shaking in pain. I was excited too though, because I thought that she might be able to help me. There is nothing, nothing, nothing that will ever shake my optimism about seeing a doctor when I’m truly sick. I continue, perhaps blindly, to believe deeply in the curative power of the white coat, and the deep humanitarian desire to help others that they all share.

 

Doing homework, with my judgemental pal. He helps me do well, otherwise he has an opinion about it.

Doing homework, with my judgemental pal. He helps me do well, otherwise he has an opinion about it.

Sitting in the waiting room was brutal. I’d gotten close to my dose time while we were sitting there, so I was in agony. It isn’t that I couldn’t take my meds while I was at the doctor; they have water, and I packed my pills. It was that I couldn’t take them for another hour or so; I was only close to my dose time. Close means my meds had worn off, and I was suffering. The worst part was that we had sat there, patiently, for forty-five minutes past our appointment time, before we asked the front desk if something had gone wrong.

 

They, of course, said I was next, and I’d be called momentarily. You could see them scrambling behind that little window. Someone had clearly misplaced my chart. I’d never have been called, had Bryon not gone to the front desk and asked about me. They called me back, almost immediately…to what amounted to a spare stock room, not an exam room. Sure, I was next. It was absolutely planned this way. Except that the tech that called me back profusely apologized for misplacing my chart and causing the whole thing. I do love when people apologize for messing up when they are in a face-to-face customer service industry, it makes all of the difference in the world. I was immediately no longer frustrated.

Loki’s opinion of my homework is far less strict. He feels that as long as I do my best, he’s cool with it.

Loki’s opinion of my homework is far less strict. He feels that as long as I do my best, he’s cool with it.

 

Anyway, when the doctor came in, a doctor who I’ve never met, yet who is the doctor I’m billed under every time, this is how the beginning of our conversation went:

Now that Bryon has gone back to work. Collin is my day nurse. I usually don’t wake him up until the God forsaken hour of 10 am. But, even then, it’s too early for him, and he comes dragging into my bed for these precious snuggles. I had to break my leg for this, but it might have been worth it.

Now that Bryon has gone back to work. Collin is my day nurse. I usually don’t wake him up until the God forsaken hour of 10 am. But, even then, it’s too early for him, and he comes dragging into my bed for these precious snuggles. I had to break my leg for this, but it might have been worth it.

 

R: I don’t know you. (yep, this is how I greeted her). I mean--sorry. Probably should’ve said something else, it’s just that I have been seeing someone else. Maybe---

 

Dr: Probably Diana?

 

R: Yes! Diana!

 

Dr: Don’t worry. I oversee all my patients. I’ve read your chart from top to bottom and I just reviewed it now. I see your meds are fucked up for this. Tell me about your surgery. It looks like hell.

 

R: (Shocked pause….then told her about the surgery).

 

Mew is enjoying my convalescence as well. He spends a lot of his day hiding under the bed, so now that there is someone IN the bed that he hides under, he is quite pleased to have a visitor.

Mew is enjoying my convalescence as well. He spends a lot of his day hiding under the bed, so now that there is someone IN the bed that he hides under, he is quite pleased to have a visitor.

I thought I would never find a doctor I loved as much as Doctor W in California, but she’s quickly becoming a close second. She swore, so goddamn much, I was impressed. I’ve never seen a doctor behave like that. But, It wasn’t he swearing that I liked, it was the matter-of-fact way that she dealt with my situation.

 

More homework. This is my general plan-ish for my big paper. It took me days to come up with this plan/idea that looks like a mess. Going to start working on it this weekend and see if it falls flat.

More homework. This is my general plan-ish for my big paper. It took me days to come up with this plan/idea that looks like a mess. Going to start working on it this weekend and see if it falls flat.

When I told her that I was taking an extra pill at every dose, she wasn’t mad, she didn’t judge me; she said she was glad I told her because she needed that info for her math to figure out how to plan to dosing for what she wanted to prescribe next. She was pissed that her staff of PA’s didn’t think of putting me on a long-lasting opiate, instead of short-acting ones, that work, but have the nasty tendency to provide peaks and valleys of pain relief and absence of pain relief for patients in acute pain.

 

More joyous cats who are happy I’m in bed.

More joyous cats who are happy I’m in bed.

I told her that I’d specifically asked for an extended-release opiate when I came in, before my surgery, and we discussed the plan for pain relief. The doctor got angry when she heard that. A few “F-bombs” were dropped. I explained that, based on my brain surgeries, I knew that had been what worked the best for me, for serious surgeries; so, it was my best guess here.

 

Now, four weeks in, I was up to 80 mg of oxycodone, and 16 mg of Dilaudid a day. That is an insane amount of opiates. It was enough to be getting dangerous, especially when combined. The worst part was that I was still in pain, despite the massive amount of drugs I was taking. It seems impossible, but I was. I could kiss my doctor for telling me that it wasn’t, and that it was perfectly reasonable to be in this kind of pain with short acting meds, after this kind of operation.

 

She scribbled on a piece of paper for several minutes doing all kinds of complicated math. She mumbled half addition and multiplication problems randomly, drew arrows all over my intake page, crossed-out, and finally came up with an answer. She prescribed an extended-release opiate, in the 36 mg dose, which happens to be the largest it comes in (the pharmacy had to order it). I take it twice a day (every 12 hours). Additionally, she prescribed a short acting opiate for breakthrough pain that I’m allowed to take up to three times a day. Viola, a plan that should work.

A rare sight: all three cats in the bed, in close proximity to one another. Homer hates Mew, and Mew harasses Homer. It’s all very social dynamics of cats, in real time, developing. I’m always reprimanding them, and giving them serious lectures about how to treat our friends. They don’t listen.

A rare sight: all three cats in the bed, in close proximity to one another. Homer hates Mew, and Mew harasses Homer. It’s all very social dynamics of cats, in real time, developing. I’m always reprimanding them, and giving them serious lectures about how to treat our friends. They don’t listen.

 

She ended the appointment with this:

 

“You call here if there is a shitstorm, and we’ll fix it. This amount of pain is unacceptable. Un-accept-able. We’ll get through this. Together. I promise.”

 

There’s no way of explaining how awesome it is to feel like your doctor is totally on your team. I felt like I could pick up the phone, at any time, call, and say, “it still hurts, help,” and she’d drop everything to call in something new. I needed that feeling, right then, after struggling for so many weeks.

 

So far, for the last few days though, I think we may have found the right balance. The problem will be that getting off the extended release opiates is a different story than getting off short acting opiates. It is a whole different animal, and a pain in the ass. I’ve done it before, and I can do it again, but ugh. All I can say is that at least it’s not Fentanyl.

 

Alas, this is where we are at, at the moment. I’m finally on extended release opiates, and I just started PT, which is brutal. I cried yesterday, but she didn’t stop. I think she liked watching me writhe. I am still taking my Harvard class, and kicking ass in it. Yeah, that’s right, broken leg and all, I’m doing awesome. Nothing brings me more joy than school. I’m crazy, I think. I wish we had class every day. I can’t wait for next semester, when I have two classes. It will be a dream!

 

I am up to being encouraged to bear 25 lbs. on my broken leg, which doesn’t sound like much, but the goal is to be off the crutches in about a month. So, between the exercises that PT has me doing at home, the massages that they want me to do, and just regular aches and pains of healing, my leg is giving me a run for my money. Thank goodness for new pain meds, and a pain management doctor who cares about pending shit storms.

Break a Leg

The long-awaited date of the Fulkerson Osteotomy, with bonus cartilage transfer, finally arrived on Monday. To be honest, I wasn’t all that nervous (because I was an idiot). I’m a surgery pro, these days. Instead of being scared, I was dreading the pending little irritants that come with any medical procedure. For example, there is nothing worse than the wait between getting in the gown, and getting wheeled back to suck down the knock-out gas. This time, I was only a tiny bit joking when I told both the nurse and the anesthesiologist, that anytime they felt like knocking me out, I’d be fine with it. Or, it gets mildly annoying to repeat your name, date of birth and drug allergies to everyone who walks by; why the janitor needs to know that you are allergic to Cipro is baffling. I understand, of course, that it’s a safety issue ensuring that they are always talking to, and working with, the correct patient. It doesn’t make it less tedious when you are already stressed, and in your altogether, barely covered by a gown they’ve asked you to leave untied (why??).

First Day post op…before the bruises developed all the way. Under the steri-strips there are NO stitches. When I asked why, the nurse laughed and said that there are probably hundreds UNDER the incision and that people who have no stitches on top are the ones who have the no-shit surgeries. He said that, basically, on the knee, you should be grateful if you have stitches. Good to know.

First Day post op…before the bruises developed all the way. Under the steri-strips there are NO stitches. When I asked why, the nurse laughed and said that there are probably hundreds UNDER the incision and that people who have no stitches on top are the ones who have the no-shit surgeries. He said that, basically, on the knee, you should be grateful if you have stitches. Good to know.

 

It started at about noon, and I came around from anesthesia at around 5 pm. So, deduce from that, what you will, about how complex of a procedure it was, and how fucked up my knee was, and is. The surgeon did what surgeons always do, handed me some pictures that he took during the operation that make perfect sense to him, but look like scribbles done by a two-year-old with only two colors in in crayon box: red and flesh. “Ahh, yes,” you say when he points at things. “I see,” and “great!” you acknowledge, when he looks for reassurance and praise for how he rearranged the fleshy bits. From my special photos, I was supposed to glean, generally, that my knee was far more of a disaster than it was since the last time he was in there, and that he made it all better. Hopefully,

What bruising actually looks like..and that’s my fist next to my leg. I know it looks weird. The worst bruising is under my knee cap and on the back of my calf. But, it hurts too badly to turn my leg over and take a picture. I literally cannot turn my leg without crying. So, you just get to see these. This is on day four.

What bruising actually looks like..and that’s my fist next to my leg. I know it looks weird. The worst bruising is under my knee cap and on the back of my calf. But, it hurts too badly to turn my leg over and take a picture. I literally cannot turn my leg without crying. So, you just get to see these. This is on day four.

 

The general plan of a Fulkerson Osteotomy is terrible. The surgeon drills holes in your shin-bone, then “gently” cracks it, and uses the break to stretch the shin out a bit, leaving it easier to line you knee up with it later. In case that last part was unclear: HE BREAKS YOUR LEG. This is important because when it’s time to do the second bit, which is picking up your kneecap, which happens to be securely held in by muscles and ligaments that he has to get out of the way by slicing them, he’s got to have a nice secure place to line it up with. He drills a few holes in that broken leg, and then, puts in some surgical bolts, realigns the knee cap to allow it to track in the right place sews all the muscles and ligaments back where they go, and viola, new knee. Sort of.

 

My surgery was special, mostly because I’m special, of course. But, it was also special because I was lucky enough to have a few spare cells of cartilage left under my knee that weren’t too ravaged by arthritis. And, when I say, a few, I’m not exaggerating. I had such a small amount left, that when the surgeon went in to harvest them, that was literally all that was left. I had such a small amount of cartilage that my knee had been rubbing bone on bone so long that it had created a new shape on the underside of my kneecap, a giant pothole. It’s nice to have your body compared to a bumpy road.

 

Obviously, I have top-notch nursing care while in my convalescence. Mew is still in training, so he runs off to chase dust-bunnies, shadows and other random objects and invisible non-objects. But, when he’s in cuddle mode, he’s pretty purrr-fect. I couldn’t resist.

Obviously, I have top-notch nursing care while in my convalescence. Mew is still in training, so he runs off to chase dust-bunnies, shadows and other random objects and invisible non-objects. But, when he’s in cuddle mode, he’s pretty purrr-fect. I couldn’t resist.

Anyway, they used my tiny few cells to clone a whole new “sheet” of cartilage to slap under my knee cap while it was being shifted to its new spot. While my leg is wide open, ain’t no thing to flip my knee cap over like a bowl and glue (yes glue!) some new cartilage under there. It’s like an empty cup, fill ‘er up. This part of the surgery is immensely fascinating to the people in my corner of the medical community, apparently. For example, my primary care doctor is obsessed with the details of the cloning laboratory, which is in Boston. He wants to know everything about the lab, the process, and the transfer. And, my physical therapy office has therapists fighting over who gets to be my post-op provider because this is such interesting technology; they want to watch the recovery evolve real-world, instead of in theory.

 

“In theory,” was how I treated this whole thing since I started planning for it. I “imagined” the recovery. I was told that it would be at least about nine months before I’d be about to return to a modified “normal” activity level, and about a year before the cartilage fully adhered to my body. So, I’d still have to be exceedingly careful about how I used my knee for quite some time. Okay, got it. I knew that I’d be in a lot of pain, for quite a long time, as well. In the reading about prep, it’s recommended that if I had a job with NO physical requirements, I should plan to take a minimum of 12 weeks off. I should’ve seen that as a warning, but I didn’t.  Every doctor I saw, (the surgeon, primary care, pain management) all told me that there was no real way to describe the pain I was about to be in, that this was a major surgery, and that it’s exceedingly painful. Okay, got it. Filed away in the part of my brain labeled, “Rachel is an idiot who ignores important stuff.” To be honest, that file drawer is more of a room that that looks like a hoarder house.

 

Of course, surgery is painful. I even filed the “exceedingly painful” part away. It’s all relative, right? When they all told me that the pain and recovery was best described as “brutal” for the first two weeks, I didn’t so much ignore them as file it in my brain as a theoretical event. It’s like I thought it was a thing that happened, but not so much to me. What the fuck was I thinking?

 

We’re on day seven, and today, I only broke down in hysterical sobs for a total of about two hours. This is less than yesterday, and I’m counting that a victory. So far, today, I’ve only shaken, in uncontrolled pain for several hours, and they weren’t all consecutive. But, the biggest victory of all is that I got out of bed, all by myself, and returned to bed, all by myself. I went a distance of three feet, to get a sweatshirt. While the distance itself is not the victory, I lifted my leg both out of the bed, and back into the bed, without breaking into a cold sweat, and without breaking into tears.

 

As you can tell, being theoretically prepared probably didn’t leave me especially mentally ready for what was to come. Although, if I had known, I don’t know that I’d have liked to have lived with the fear of what was coming. This is, hands down, the most painful surgery that I’ve been through. I can safely say that because I was so doped up during brain surgery recovery, that I don’t remember a lot of it. Bryon assures me that I had bad moments then too, but watching me go through this, he’s pretty sure that, now, this is quickly overtaking a surgery in which a doctor sliced my neck muscles like a curtain, drilled a hole in my skull, and then shoved my brain around, squashing it back through the skull hole. Yep, this is more painful than a surgery that required my body to be bolted to a table.  

 

In the last seven days, my leg has been having a contest with itself. It’s trying to decide which hurts worse: the broken leg, or the knee cap that the doctor fucked around with, including the ligament and muscle movement. For several hours at a time, my shin will hurt as if I have the worst shin splints known to man, times a million. Then, suddenly, as if from nowhere, my knee will feel as if…actually, there truly are no words. The only way to describe the pain is to say that I wish I had no knee. I wish I had no leg at all, in fact. I’m sure that in a few weeks, or maybe months, I’ll take that sentiment back; but, there have been so many moments in the past seven days that I’ve genuinely felt that. I feel like I owe the amputee community an apology for wishing to be disabled (“especially” abled?? What’s the right way to say it) in that particular way.

 

The “best” part of this whole procedure is this torture device. I don’t know what it’s actually called. I’ve been coming up with medical-sounding names for it, and alternative casual names for it. I feel like we can be on first name basis, after all; I mean, it’s seen me cry. For example, I have called it things like, simply, “the device,” or “the knee re-inventor.” But, I use my best horror movie preview announcer voice. Or, I call it Helga, or some other brutal-sounding name to American ears, like Oleg. I think it was invented by a masochistic doctor, who, in his private time had a murder dungeon and went undetected as the nation’s most prolific serial killer.

This machine is super weird, large, and ridiculously loud. It’s not supposed to be loud, but I think it’s on its last legs. We’re already on our second machine. The first one broke on the first day, and the machine delivery dude had to bring us a “new” one. This one groans and creaks every time it raises and lowers. The black tubing is to the ice machine. The tubing is connected to the pad on my knee that is filled with ice water that continuously filters back and forth from the cooled machine on the floor. it works pretty well.

This machine is super weird, large, and ridiculously loud. It’s not supposed to be loud, but I think it’s on its last legs. We’re already on our second machine. The first one broke on the first day, and the machine delivery dude had to bring us a “new” one. This one groans and creaks every time it raises and lowers. The black tubing is to the ice machine. The tubing is connected to the pad on my knee that is filled with ice water that continuously filters back and forth from the cooled machine on the floor. it works pretty well.

 

This machine’s job is to keep my knee from developing too much scar tissue, too quickly. Additionally, it’s to help keep me from losing basic mobility, while in the first stage of the healing process. I have to strap my leg into the machine, set the angle, which for this week is a maximum of 30-degrees, and then let the machine raise and lower, ever so slowly, repeatedly. This sounds easy enough. However, I have to do it for a minimum of six hours a day, and considering it hurts my knee even to breathe, raising and lowering thirty degrees for six hours feels like a bridge too far most of the time.

 

Still, I’m not going through all this recovery pain for a knee that heals wrong; so, I suffer through it. I do what the doctor orders. I literally clench my teeth, and do it. I sweat in pain, shake, and whimper. I cry, sometimes scream, sometimes moan, and sometimes simply put my brain in a place no one, and nothing, can find me. It’s been an adventure in suffering that I have been unprepared for. Truly, with what I’ve already been through, I thought I’d be ready for this. I was wrong.

When I’m just chilling (which is always) between ice machine sessions and torture machine sessions, this is my standard look. I have a giant brace that weighs more than Collin when he was born. it’s very restrictive. It has dials on the side that adjust to how far my knee is “allowed” to bend. Right now, I’m not allowed to bend at all.

When I’m just chilling (which is always) between ice machine sessions and torture machine sessions, this is my standard look. I have a giant brace that weighs more than Collin when he was born. it’s very restrictive. It has dials on the side that adjust to how far my knee is “allowed” to bend. Right now, I’m not allowed to bend at all.

 

If all this isn’t enough, the humility that a surgery like this forces you into is pretty astounding. First of all, I farted at my first post-op appointment, so loudly, in front of the X-ray technician, that it echoed, and I had no choice but to own up to my flatulence, and apologize. Thanks to all the opiates, my stomach is a mess, and I have tons of gas. I was valiantly holding it in when the X-ray tech wanted an image of one leg over the other. I was laying on my side, squeezing that poor ball of gas in with the might of a thousand clenched butt cheeks. But, she grabbed one leg and twisted my hip to rotate the back leg over the front leg, basically wringing out all hope of my holding my fart in. I will, forever, call that position the fart-wringer.

More of my nursing care buddies. I love that they choose to lay in the smallest spot possible, just to lay near me. They keep getting pushed off my lap, because they can’t lay on my knee, but they want to be near. They are so sweet that I can’t stop giving them too many treats. I’m not sure which they love more, me or the treats; but, I don’t want to pull too much at that thread.

More of my nursing care buddies. I love that they choose to lay in the smallest spot possible, just to lay near me. They keep getting pushed off my lap, because they can’t lay on my knee, but they want to be near. They are so sweet that I can’t stop giving them too many treats. I’m not sure which they love more, me or the treats; but, I don’t want to pull too much at that thread.

 

The care your loved ones provide for you, especially personal care, is also humbling. I’m no stranger to this kind of care, of course, thanks to my history, but this time it has gotten even more personal, which I didn’t know was possible. Because I can’t bend my knee at all, Bryon has to hold my leg up in the bathroom. There’s no room for a stool. You know it’s love and commitment when your husband holds your leg up while you pee, and worse. Obviously, he’s got to wash me, feed me, and bring me everything I need. I cannot, and I mean cannot get up from the bed without assistance. I’m one-hundred percent reliant on him.

My favorite nurse, doing what he does best. I love this picture of him. His little leg hanging off the side of the bed is too precious. When he sleeps with his face down, we call him Garfield.

My favorite nurse, doing what he does best. I love this picture of him. His little leg hanging off the side of the bed is too precious. When he sleeps with his face down, we call him Garfield.

 

Wish me luck because today we are attempting my first post-op shower. Yep, seven days and I haven’t had a shower yet. I’m a little ripe. The pain has been so intense that the idea, while we’ve been throwing it around, has seemed like suggesting going out for a Forrest Gump-style run. Now, it’s gotten so long that we sort of have to do it, regardless of pain. I’m a little scared. Bryon is putting on his brave face, and I’m bracing myself.

Homer is a great care-giver, but he is old and ornery. If he doesn’t get control of the remote, he gets grumpy. He gets a little impatient when all I want to watch is reality television for 18 hours straight.

Homer is a great care-giver, but he is old and ornery. If he doesn’t get control of the remote, he gets grumpy. He gets a little impatient when all I want to watch is reality television for 18 hours straight.


 

I have learned a few things so far though:

 

  • Move your leg from the horizontal to the vertical position as slowly as possible. As the blood flows down, it is the most painful sensation you can imagine. Poor Bryon has claw marks on his shoulders and arms from my death grip, as I shrieked in agony, every time he helped me up to pee, until we figured out this little trick.


  • Use your good leg to support your bad leg, in bed. It doesn’t matter how many pillows you’ve got, or how you have them arranged, it’s not good enough. Use your foot, and nestle it against your bad leg until it’s just right. You’ll be able to fall asleep. You’ll wake up a tangled mess, but the rest is worth it.


  • Ice. Ice. Ice. Ice. Ice. Then, more ice. Ice. Ice. There can never be enough ice. Always ice. You will be given (actually, be forced to buy) an ice machine. Use it. Instead of putting ice and water in it, get those tiny water bottles and freeze them. Use those as “ice” in the machine. They stay colder longer, and they work better. But also pack on the traditional ice packs too. The ice machine pad isn’t big enough to cover your leg from the knee to the ankle. This surgery can cause bruising from the thigh to the tips of the toe for up to six months. Obviously, you need lots of ice packs.


  • Miralax, in a steady stream. Never stop mixing it with your drinks. Yes, I’ve “heard” the weird study about how Miralax is supposedly dangerous with kids; I’ve also got critical thinking skills, and can evaluate how to recognize a flawed and biased study. Use it at least once, maybe twice a day. If you have a serious surgery like this, you will be on serious opiates. You will never poop again if you don’t do something really proactive about it. It seems like a small issue, until it isn’t. Trust me.

Congrats McClain Men

So, while this was probably a pretty boring post, with not much to say, it all has to be said. I am madly in love with my family, of whom I am intensely proud.


This week has been busy. First of all, my son reminded me (and Bryon) that we are, indeed, getting older, by graduating from elementary school and “rising” to middle school. At least, that’s what they call it, these days. He’s now a “rising” seventh grader. My infant, tiny baby is now a middle schooler. I’m not sure when, and how that happened, but somehow my baby is now a pubescent mess most of the time. Sometimes, in fact a lot of the time, his sweet self still shines through. But, there’s a fair amount of the time that his hormonal self is on full display.

 

Nonetheless, he rose to seventh grade this week. We sat in a crowded gym, because there were something like a million sixth grade classes. They had to do two graduation ceremonies, divided by alphabet, because there were just so darn many sixth graders to rise. It was very well organized, and efficient. Forty-five minutes of very quick name-reading, organized clapping, and absolutely no hugging of your student and no contact. They were shuffled in and out without so much as a wave to their parents. The number of disappointed grandparents with bouquets and balloons that went undelivered was heartbreaking to see.

 

Best pic I could get of my boy graduating. That’s him in the yellow shirt!

Best pic I could get of my boy graduating. That’s him in the yellow shirt!

I do have to pause here to point out that, in Virginia, they give out an award that is vaguely labeled the D.A.R. Award for Good Citizenship. It seemed obvious to everyone there that it went to a girl, automatically. So, I was immediately interested in what the hell this award was. I had to google. Only in the south do we give out awards called Daughters of the American Revolution, apparently. The DAR is clearly an “inclusive” organization these days, but…hmmm….the past.

 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention just how proud I was of my little munchkin though. He’s had a rough year. The principal of his school made a point of mentioning how many students had been with his school since kindergarten, as if that was some kind of accomplishment, the sense of community at the school. I’m not sure how it’s an accomplishment to, what, not move? A bigger accomplishment, in my book, is a kid like Collin, who has been to more schools in his short lifetime, than most kids will ever go to. He started two new schools last year alone. And, he did it cool as a cucumber, and managed to transition just fine. That’s my amazing boy. Military kids are incredible. They have to adjust to new surroundings all the time, and they have to do it over and over again. They are a tough breed, and Collin is just as strong as the rest of them.  

 

Still, no matter how hard he struggled with adjustment this year, and with math, because he skipped a grade, he kept pushing and he persevered. He not only passed, he did well. He made friends, and he worked hard. He performed in the solo ensemble competition with his flute, and he did well during his private lessons, even though he complained about them copiously. He even got a medal at solo ensemble! And, he won the Presidential Award for Academic achievement based both on his grades, and his test scores this year. And, to top it all off, he won student of the month, the last week of school. Needless to say, I have been proud as punch of my baby these past few weeks. Well, I’ve been prouder than usual.  

 

If this isn’t all enough, Bryon graduated from the Eisenhower school this week. In fact, he graduated the day after Collin did. It’s been a busy week, I’m telling you. Lots of events this week. If it wasn’t an award ceremony, it was a graduation, for both of them. We’ve been running around a bit, this week! And, it’s all been worth it, to watch my boys be honored in the way they deserve.

 

Bryon is the humblest man I’ve ever met. He refuses to believe that he’ll be honored with any distinction, regardless of how hard he’s worked, or how obviously deserving he appears to be. Based on his grades in the program he was in, it was pretty clear he was going to be a distinguished graduate, an honor that goes to the top 10% of the class. He kept saying, “but I have an A-.”

 

Of course, he was honored as a distinguished graduate. Not only that, was named the distinguished graduate of the entire class. This means that he was named the top graduate of the entire class. That’s my husband, folks. The best. I already knew it, but now everyone acknowledged it…again. I say again, because he seems to get awards like this a lot.

 

Bryon’s graduation ceremony was nearly rained out, so he insisted that I stay home. It turned out to be just muggy and humid. It was held in a tent, where it was sweltering and miserable. I got to watch Bryon walk across the stage from the comfort of my couch, in my jammies, via a live webcast. It was lovely. I truly wanted to go, but when he came home drenched with sweat, I’m glad he insisted that I stay home. It sounded like a terribly uncomfortable experience, especially since the run time was well over two hours, in smaller-than-normal folding chairs and a tent that trapped the humidity.

 

Meanwhile, I’m doing nothing quite as impressive as my men, except waiting for my surgery on Monday, and running errands. To be honest, I feel pretty accomplished when I get through a whole week, getting dressed every day, running all my errands without help, and making all my appointments on my own. I know that sounds like nothing compared to my son and husband, but it’s a big deal to me these days. However, I did get myself all set up to start my Harvard class this week. I am all registered, and I got my book in the mail. I start on June 25th. So, I’m ready to both have my leg broken, and to have my academic ass kicked, both starting in the same week. That’s something, I guess. Right?

My boys playing a card game that my son made up. It’s a Star Wars card game that Collin invented and drew, himself.

My boys playing a card game that my son made up. It’s a Star Wars card game that Collin invented and drew, himself.

 

One Million Moms - and Television

I still spend a lot of time working out. Okay, when it’s a good week. Sometimes, I spent a lot of time on the couch. It’s definitely not like the “old days,” where I’d work out to the point of death, or stand toe-to-toe with the likes of Vin Diesel and stare him down for the Smith Machine, because he was taking too fucking long with his sets. But, I still work out, a lot. So, I like to have a variety of stuff to watch on the ol’ iPad machine. (Couch binging requires the same thing, by the way! Don’t judge)

 

This can pose a problem. When you have hours to kill, binging takes on an entirely new meaning. Sometimes a drama will do. Sometimes, a movie. Sometimes, you want a comedy. And, don’t get me started about how everything is shot in dark, moody lighting with dramas these days. You can’t fucking SEE anything, especially with an iPad. It’s so frustrating on treadmill. I’ve watched entire seasons of shows, not even sure who’s in them, because I watched it at the gym. Yes, I know that rant made me sound at least a million years old. But, would it kill a director to turn on light?!

 

Anyway, one of the main sources I use to select good, new shows for my “to watch” list, especially comedies, is One Million Moms (OMM).

 

Hear me out, because I realize how insane this sounds considering who I am: bleeding heart atheist liberal.

 

If you are unfamiliar with One Million Moms, they are famous for two things:

 

1.     Being famously incapable of counting to one million

2.     Being really good at getting offended about everything

 

So, it stands to reason that if they dislike something, calling it morally corrupt, or damaging to our children…..

 


 

…then, it might have a shot at being pretty funny. The other day, I found a comedy I’d have skipped over: Single Parents, for example. It’s your basic laugh-track, predictable comedy, but it’s got some good jokes; and it doesn’t require tons of concentration, which is perfect for the gym. I also have been enjoying A Million Little Things, but it’s a little heavy on the whole suicide angle, for someone with severe depression, sometimes. Plus, it’s not exactly always peppy gym material, so I take it in metered doses, despite how much OMM hates it because it has a gay pre-teen.

 

Other little-known fact about me: I skip most new shows because I can’t stand the heartbreak of one-season shows. Just as I get committed, and willing to settle in, they get cancelled. It’s devastating. There was a show, a few years ago, with Matthew Perry, where he was in some grief group, that I was just getting into, and BAM! Cancelled. Damn. I’m still not over it. He was making some real break-throughs. Emotional growth, quashed!

 

I like watching my shows over and over again. This is a trait that Bryon adores (we need a sarcasm font, and we need it now!). For example, he thinks it’s plumb adorable that I consider the characters of The Office my close personal friends…not the cast, the characters. I feel I’m not alone in this. Don’t others watch the same “comfort” shows, over and over (Friends; The Golden Girls; The Office; and new to the repertoire, Brooklyn 99 – welcome)?  

 

Anyway, One Million Moms didn’t like Single Parents, and asked Capital One to pull their commercials from the show because….wait for it…a parent hugged their child while cussing. This is early prime time, so I can’t imagine the cuss was that bad. In fact, I watched for it, and didn’t even notice it, so it must’ve been something as benign as “crap.” Well, fuck me. What a load of shit on a cracker.

 

They also strongly dislike American Housewife, a show I enjoy about 75% of the time, for gasp, the same reasons they have issue with it. I think there’s a line between being funny, and being a shitty mom. So. Much. Yelling. But I also get the idea that it’s my thing to not be into that joke because I’m not a fan of the yelling because of my personal hang-ups. Others may think it’s a hilarious take on the situation. That’s the beauty of art and entertainment. Don’t like it, don’t watch it.

 

I bought art for my home that I liked, not that someone else forced me to like, or that was censored. A-R-T. People don’t often think of sit-coms, or even the one-hour drama as art, but it is. Media is a representation of who we are as a people. It represents the very society in which we live, at a foundational core. Censorship of media is censorship at its very basic level. So, OMM, thanks for helping me ignore your attempt at creating your very own banned books list.

 

I refuse to subscribe to their page, for fear of what other pages I’ll be linked to, so I just hit them up once a month or so. I also read Faithwire, and several other crazy-pants right-wing sites like Breitbart. For good measure, I read Huffpo and Mother Jones with my NYT. Still, One Million Moms is the only place to get really good recommendations about what to watch that isn’t all, “watch this revival of Jesus Christ Superstar,” or “there’s a weird production of Waiting for Godot on PBS tonight!” I’ll take my anti-recommendations any day.

 

P.S. You should read what they think of some show called Lucifer. Their pearls and panties may never come unknotted.

Do You Like my Hat?

I went to see my grandmother for Thanksgiving, which means I went to the belly of the beast (Michigan), for a few days. Every time I swear I won’t go back, for any reason, I go back. As long as she’s alive, I can’t swear that place off, for good. So, I guess, I hope that’s forever, then. The trip was rife with panic attacks, passive-aggressive accusations, and my complete emotional shut-down, by the time we pulled out of the hotel we’d checked into.

Doesn’t she look pretty in her brightly colored dress? Her nursing home has a HUGE cage of birds back there. I could sit there all day and alternatively feel sad about them being in cages, and being enthralled at watching them. I’d go insane with the flip-flop of my mind.

Doesn’t she look pretty in her brightly colored dress? Her nursing home has a HUGE cage of birds back there. I could sit there all day and alternatively feel sad about them being in cages, and being enthralled at watching them. I’d go insane with the flip-flop of my mind.

 

On a great note, my husband, non-native that he is, thought we were staying in the adorable city of Nov-ee. Michiganders will be laughing, because Novi is pronounced just like it’s spelled, Nov-i. How cute is he?

 

It’s now Wednesday, almost a full week later, and I didn’t see, speak to, or otherwise communicate, directly, with anyone other than my grandmother; still, the whole idea of my family stressed me out so much, that I got dressed today, for the first time. Yep, that’s what that place does to me. I used to be ashamed at what a loop they threw me for, but it’s pretty common for survivors to be less stable, the further out they are from their childhood. And, it takes pretty intense therapy to get over it…which I’m in. Depression and trauma are no joke. And, one day, I hope to get past it to a degree that I don’t throw my whole life into chaos, just by being in the same state as the “family;” you know, those folks who are rolling their eyes right now, and treating me as a joke. Gosh, I can feel the love from here.   

 

By the way, since I brought up getting dressed, let’s talk hats. Hats always make me think of Go Dog, Go.

In case you don’t remember this Dr Seuss classic, this poor lady dog keeps asking this dog if he likes her hat, as she walks by with increasingly impressive head decor. He always says no…until one day…then, she gets invited to the dog party in the tree. Apparently, hats are the key to friendship.

In case you don’t remember this Dr Seuss classic, this poor lady dog keeps asking this dog if he likes her hat, as she walks by with increasingly impressive head decor. He always says no…until one day…then, she gets invited to the dog party in the tree. Apparently, hats are the key to friendship.

 

And, whenever I wear a hat, I harass my family by asking, “do you like my hat?”

 

I have the smallest “normal” adult head possible. I don’t have any medical condition for my small head, other than the dent in the back from my skull missing a large chunk (NBD, right?); but, I had a small head before that. I can even, comfortably, wear children’s baseball caps! So, wearing adult hats can be an issue. But, I like to go all out when I get dressed, even to run to the pharmacy. If not then, when? I only have two speeds for my clothes: sweats, or everything. So, I like a hat, now and then.

 

Still, I contend it takes a fair amount of confidence to not only put on the hat, but to wear it out of the house. I have a few that I wear, on occasion, with as much boldness as I can muster. No matter how good it looks, inside I’m screaming, “does this look okay?” Everyone trying to pull off a look is thinking the same thing. So, the next time you see someone wearing something bold, pay them a damn compliment, you animal.

 

Today was such a hat day. My destination? The Fairfax Clinic to pick up some prescriptions for my child. Fancy.

Not the greatest shot, but I’m not a big fan of taking twenty pics of yourself to get it right. This is what I look like, take it or leave it.

Not the greatest shot, but I’m not a big fan of taking twenty pics of yourself to get it right. This is what I look like, take it or leave it.

 

Then, it blew off in the parking lot, and my “cool” factor dipped by a factor of, at least, ten, as I had to chase it, in my high-heeled boots. It was so windy today! This one is adjustable inside, and it fits my head well. Still, I knew to keep my head down, towards the wind, the whole walk to the car. Apparently, the vacuum created by opening the car door, as I sat down, translated to: make Rachel look like an asshole.

 

Back to my original topic, I will say this: my family, that is to say my husband and son, were heroes. They navigated arrangements, so I’d have to communicate with no one. They saw I was spiraling anyway, and snuck out to buy me a present and a card (a very silly cat hat – another hat! --, with an attached scarf and paw mitten pockets – both very chic and very me), which was beyond touching. They gave me more hugs in 48 hours than any mother/wife has a right to. They rose above and beyond.

Look at that boy! Helping to show Grandma some pictures and laughing with her about how cute and funny they are. What a kiddo! So proud of him. Autism makes these kinds of interactions hard, and I was so impressed.

Look at that boy! Helping to show Grandma some pictures and laughing with her about how cute and funny they are. What a kiddo! So proud of him. Autism makes these kinds of interactions hard, and I was so impressed.

 

And, my 11-year-old child sat patiently in a nursing home, with nary a complaint for almost two days. He played a flute concert for my grandmother, chatted with her, and was all-together pleasant. My memories of nursing home visits as a kid are thinking that the elderly were trying to suck the youth right out of me, as they saw me traipsing down the hallways. Plus, they don’t care who you are there to see, you are everyone’s surrogate grandchild. As an adult, I am much more forgiving of the elderly; perhaps because I’m closer to becoming elderly.

 

Told you: two speeds, nicely dressed or pajamas. These are a cross between sweats and pajamas. I was just so tired! But, some of the people I love most in the world! Leaving one behind.

Told you: two speeds, nicely dressed or pajamas. These are a cross between sweats and pajamas. I was just so tired! But, some of the people I love most in the world! Leaving one behind.

Overall, I’m glad I went, but I’m not sure when I can muster a trip back. Hugging my grandmother enough times to try to save them up is wonderful, and gives me memories that are beyond special; and her words, just for me, warm my heart. I cannot replace those things; I shall treasure them always. I just wish I didn’t have to deal with all that pesky stuff that breaks my spirit and my heart, in order to do that other nice stuff. 

 

Mental Health

Let’s talk about something a little dark and frustrating, today; something that usually goes along with chronic illness, but is its own chronic thing too, not to be outdone: mental illness. Because, don’t get me wrong, you can be drug down, without accompanying physical pain, by mental illness alone. You can be knocked right the fuck down, right where you stand, and thrown to the carpet, never to get up again…well, at least for several days, weeks, or even months. Oh, and mental illness can be physically painful too. Exhaustion, aches, pains and the whole nine yards, of course.

 

When I’m depressed, I take my perch on the corner of the couch. I usually don’t move much, so I tend to get a lot of super cute pics of my cats…like this one.

When I’m depressed, I take my perch on the corner of the couch. I usually don’t move much, so I tend to get a lot of super cute pics of my cats…like this one.

I have a picture-perfect life. It’s the same thing we say to celebrities who claim mental illness, exhaustion, or other mental health issues. How can they feel bad, when they have it so good, right? That’s the point. It doesn’t matter how good you have it. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter what you have around you; it’s what’s going on inside you, that matters.

 

This is hard for me to confess, or talk about, and it’s hard for most people with mental health issues to talk about. But, it’s important for people to talk about! It’s time to be aware of these things, instead of pretending that it’s not a “thing,” or that I just get a little down sometimes. Yeah, I do; but it’s a lot more than that. Let’s get real with what it really is.

 

Here’s what I didn’t know: I’m sick in the head, too. I’ve been sick in the head for longer than I’ve been sick in the body. I thought that being sick in the head was a thing that I’d acquired from being sick in the body, that my swings into depression, and my anxiety, were caused by my failing body, and the frustrations that it brought me. Sure, those things help bring on a cloud of depression. Sometimes, the heavy weighted blanket that it throws onto my body make it impossible to get up off the couch, even when I have to pee so badly that it feels like I may die if I don’t move.

 

But, I’ve learned that I have had these issues all along. I’ve stifled every real emotion that I’ve ever had, except for anger. I’ve refused to feel hurt. I’ve refused to feel love. I’ve refused to feel anything. I got really good at keeping feelings locked away, and pretending they don’t exist. I’m a good robot. So now, I fall into fits of depression and anxiety, almost at random, rather than to deal with feelings. It’s unbearable. It’s deeply painful, and it’s frustrating for me. I can never predict these sojourns into darkness, and I feel like a terrible burden to those I love.

 

For those who’ve never experienced depression, for me it’s as if the world stops, but just for you. There’s literally no reason to do anything. Nothing makes you want to move from the spot you are in. It’s as if you are almost paralyzed by immobility. I could be dying of thirst, but not go to the kitchen to get a beverage. It feels as if I’ve atrophied all my useful muscles. It’s as if my mind works, but my body won’t do what it’s supposed to do, and I don’t care about that problem, not enough to solve it. Worse, I can look around and see things I would like to do, like dust, vacuum, or otherwise take on tasks, but can’t be bothered to do them. Thus, I begin to feel guilty for leaving them to others. The same is true for tasks I should do for myself, like getting dressed, exercising, or even brushing my hair. The guilt compounds the depression, which makes the whole situation worse, and the cycle compounds. It’s a terrible cyclical situation. It’s as if the Puritans are there with the stones, slowly crushing you to death, but you are doing it to yourself.

 

As if that’s not enough though, you throw anxiety into the mix, which jumps in at random times. For anxiety, you just feel like you are dying. Suddenly, there isn’t enough air in the room, then in the world, for you to breathe. Sometimes, I get dizzy first, or my legs start shaking uncontrollably, but that’s just “mild” anxiety. I don’t take medication for my anxiety because it doesn’t mix well with my pain medication. It can cause side effects like death, so it’s generally not considered a good idea. So, I get to suffer through anxiety attacks by just waiting for them to pass. I can try to talk myself through them by gently reminding myself that there is enough air, and I’m having an anxiety attack. This usually doesn’t help. A person having an anxiety attack knows they are having an anxiety attack, and intellectually knows there is enough air. It doesn’t help them feel like they are breathing it. Alas, I just have to wait until it’s over and I can breathe normally, again, leaving me exhausted and numb.

 

My last visit to the land of darkness has been the worst that I’ve ever experienced. I can always feel it coming on, and I do everything I can to keep it at bay. I try to bury myself in routine, exercise more, take on a project, pretend that I can’t hear the little voice in my head that says, “why bother, everything is useless.” Nothing helps.

 

This time, the darkness overtook me to the point that I imagined what it would be like to forget suffering through it any longer. I’ve always seen through to the other side. I’ve always kept my son in my sights, even when the voice in my head says, “you don’t matter to him, to anything, to anyone.” I’ve always said to myself that my loss would destroy him. This time, I was able to rationalize that I didn’t care because I’d be gone. It was a horrible time. The moment I realized that I’d put my son aside, I knew that I had to tell Bryon that this wasn’t just a typical dark patch.

 

Around the same time, I had a panic attack, in my bed, at random, in the middle of the night. I haven’t been able to sleep in my bed, since. I can barely go near my bed. I’ve been sleeping on the couch. That is mental illness. My husband, tucking me in at night, kissing my forehead, and asking me what he can do to help me feel comfortable, and helping me think of strategies to get me back to bed, is awareness that we don’t have to be in this alone.

 

Not a super flattering picture of me, but Bryon took it. He said he just missed the moment when all three cats were sleeping on me. Told you, I don’t move much when I am on my depression-spot!

Not a super flattering picture of me, but Bryon took it. He said he just missed the moment when all three cats were sleeping on me. Told you, I don’t move much when I am on my depression-spot!

But, more importantly, we need to be aware of just how hard it is to find appropriate help. Finding a new therapist out here has been an uphill battle. I’ve been white-knuckling my depression and anxiety since we got here, which was a terrible idea, obviously. So, I promised to find a new doctor, especially since this last bad patch has been so rough.

 

I had only one requirement: I wanted a woman. I had a preference for a close drive. Anyone with severe depression, which I’d recently sunken into, knows that sometimes, even brushing your teeth can seem like climbing Mt. Everest. Alas, I couldn’t picture getting myself motivated to make a 30-minute trek. Five minutes seemed more reasonable. But, I’d compromise if I had to.

 

Eight phone calls later, I’d realized that I’d have to make a concession to accept any doctor with a pulse. That’s right, there are NO female therapists within a 30-minute drive who were accepting new patients. None. Zero. How is that possible? Let alone therapists that take my insurance. With local hourly rates at up to $200, how are we still shouting at people to “get help,” when they feel helpless, or to “reach out?” Where? To who?

 

I’m lucky to have a support system at home to help feed me, and make sure I’m meeting basic life-sustaining needs when I’m in the throes of a rough patch. I’m also lucky to have someone to talk to about nonsense when I just feel like babbling. I’m lucky that when I confessed to feeling like I was afraid of myself, my support system held my hand and guided me over the hump. Even more, I’m lucky that, even without insurance support, we can shoulder the burden of the bill for mental health care. But, I’m frustrated at how difficult it is to find.  

 

Everyone, and I do mean everyone, has their demons. There’s a little crazy in all of us. All of us has a tale to tell, and a little weird to let out. We’re all messed up in our own way, and we all manage our weirdness. We all have coping techniques, and they all work for us; mine were working just great, until one day, they just didn’t, anymore. I was a driven, successful woman, with an education, career, spouse and a child. Then, I got sick. My life slowed down, and I lost control. Everything fell apart. Everything came unraveled and my marble sack spilled. I haven’t been able to put it all back together, ever since. It was always in there. I just need new coping strategies and some more therapy.

 

Don’t be ashamed to ask for help, or to confess your crazy. It’s always okay. Pulling yourself together, no matter how much, is a victory. Being aware of one another and being kind is how we heal wounds. Go out there, be aware, and be nice!

Oh…and PS: No matter how dark it gets, KEEP LOOKING FOR THE LIGHT AT THE OTHER SIDE! Don’t give up fighting!

We Rescued an Owl!

I’m not sure if you remember or not, but when we lived in California, we had a neighborhood owl. I was determined to find it before we moved out of our house. At night, it would hoot up a storm, and I would jab Bryon in the ribs and beg him to go outside and try to find it with me. He would invariably refuse, I would pout, and we wouldn’t go looking for the owl. Rarely does Bryon refuse me anything, but this was one of those times. I suppose getting out of bed to look for a nocturnal bird, notorious for blending into its surroundings, under the cover of night is a reasonable thing to refuse one’s spouse. Don’t tell him I agreed with him. Ever.

 

Still, that damn owl awakened in me a need to find, before I die, as many species of owl, in the wild, as humanly possible. I love birds. I love all birds. I love hearing them sing in the morning. I Iove watching them at the feeder. I even the stupid woodpecker pointlessly banging his little beak on our aluminum siding. I adore birds. I like when my family looks at me as if I’m a savant when I say things like, “Look! A cedar waxwing!” And, they reply, “Oh, you mean that bird?”

 

Yes, I have my Audubon guide, and my binoculars. I have birdfeeders, seed and suet. I have all those things that a friendly neighborhood, casual birdwatcher might have. But, that isn’t going to help me find, or see any owls. I don’t count seeing owls at zoos (gag), or in habitats. I want to naturally come across an owl. I realize how unlikely this is. Still, I want it to happen. I’ve told Bryon I want to plan random trips to far flung places where certain species live. He just says, “Yes, dear.” Such a good little soldier he is.

 

On Saturday, Collin comes tearing down the stairs yelling, “There’s an owl in the front yard! He’s just sitting in the grass!” Of course, I don’t believe him. Mostly because, why would there be an owl in the front yard? Kids are dumb, right? Plus, logic is on my side. It’s too late in the morning, and owls don’t sit in the grass.

Sure enough, an owl, sitting in the grass. Excuse the poor quality of photo. It was taken through the glass front door. I have an 11 year-old child who washes his hands like an 11 year-old child, and then touches everything, including the glass door.

Sure enough, an owl, sitting in the grass. Excuse the poor quality of photo. It was taken through the glass front door. I have an 11 year-old child who washes his hands like an 11 year-old child, and then touches everything, including the glass door.

 

But, sure enough, there was a barred owl, literally sitting on the grass, in the front yard. It was about ten a.m., so it was far too late in the morning for an owl to be sitting in the lawn, not in a tree, which was concerning behavior for an owl. After I took a few pictures through the front door, as not to scare him off, I approached my new best friend.

 

He didn’t move, or even attempt to move, so I knew something was wrong. I grabbed a towel from the basement, and he easily let me pick him up and move him to a nearby bush, where I thought he would appreciate the shelter, at the very least. It was raining a bit. He was very light, far lighter than I expected a bird of his size to be. He weighed less than the cats.

 

Me petting an owl, in pajamas and bed-head. Pretty, huh?

Me petting an owl, in pajamas and bed-head. Pretty, huh?

He was very easy to move and didn’t object at all. He seemed almost grateful to be moved. I’ve heard that wild animals, even dangerous animals, will recognize when humans are trying to help, and become docile for those moments. He even leaned his little head forward and let me touch his head for a few strokes. It was pretty precious. I didn’t press my luck, not because it seemed to bother him, but because he’s a wild animal, and it’s not my business to pet him.

 

So, now I’ve not only seen a barred owl outside, I’ve picked one up, moved it, and pet its head. What a day. Except, this little guy is definitely not doing so hot. I tell Bryon that we need to get him something to eat. I tell him we are going to have to go to the pet store and get some feeder mice, because he’s obviously not capable of hunting; but, as Bryon points out, he’s not capable of killing the mouse himself either, and no one in this house is going to kill a mouse. Alas, we have a problem. Cat food it is. Did you know that owls don’t like cat food? They don’t. At least this owl didn’t. Or, he wasn’t hungry. Who knows? We gave him a big ol’ plate of wet cat food and the owl turned up his little (actually pretty big) beak at it as if we offered him gruel.

 

But, I knew I had to call the department of fish and game, anyway. A sick or dying bird of prey in your yard is potentially sign of danger, as they are the top of the food chain for birds. They can signify larger problems. So, I made approximately forty thousand phone calls before being routed to the correct number, which turned out to be the police, who came almost immediately to pick up my new best friend. By the way, when the police come to your house, you know it’s the police. They don’t knock, they KNOCK.

 

The cops that came were awesome. They told us that our new friend was a hatchling this year, so just a baby. He wasn’t showing any signs of West Nile virus, but they’d test for that at the lab. However, he did show signs of having been hit by a car. He had a minor skull injury, and an injury to his chest. He looked like his injuries were all minor and that he could be patched up and re-released. His daughter worked at the vet’s office that took in the birds for rehabilitation and release.

 

What was really awesome was how cool the cop was with Collin. He encouraged Collin to take a pic with the owl and he explained all of the info about the bird to Collin directly. He showed him all of the parts of the bird, described all kinds of facts, and pointed out some really neat stuff about his talons, and eyes. It was really cool that he took the time out of his day to do that. It was really special to have that moment. Although, I was probably more interested in the owl that Collin was!

My son with an owl “on” his shoulder. Yep, that’s how long his hair is. Most of it is in a ponytail. Nope he won’t cut it. Don’t even ask. We’ve given up trying. Pretty cool looking owl though, right?

My son with an owl “on” his shoulder. Yep, that’s how long his hair is. Most of it is in a ponytail. Nope he won’t cut it. Don’t even ask. We’ve given up trying. Pretty cool looking owl though, right?

 

Considering my track record with “rescuing” birds, I think this might be our best bird rescue to date. I generally do okay with rescuing other animals, but I’ve had some disastrous bird rescues (RIP to my other bird friends). All I can say about the whole situation is barred owl is checked off my list, I had an awesome day, and that we rescued an owl. How do you beat that!?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Daphne The Great

4:30 a.m. (look, getting it right more often): Are you up? I’m up. Everybody say haaaay-ooo for withdrawal insomnia.

The things your mind comes up with when you are tired, right?

The cats are up. Mostly, because I’m up, and they do what I do. I’m sort of their ringleader. Okay, I lie. I’m their bitch; but, they follow me around a lot because I have the treats and the soft touch with the wet food.

We’re missing an animal here this early morning. So, I'm going to talk about my dog, for a rambling bit. M'kay?

She's glorious when she's basking, isn't she? She thinks she is, and she owns it. Work it, girl. Work it.

She's glorious when she's basking, isn't she? She thinks she is, and she owns it. Work it, girl. Work it.

She’s in the doggie hospital, and we don’t know when she’s coming home. We’re pretty worried about the stupid oaf. We love her. I mentioned before that she had been clamoring to go outside more and more often, and I feel so guilty about being annoyed with her about it now because she didn’t feel well. At least now we don't have to think about giving her up, not for one second. She's happy here, she just didn't feel well. In the back of my mind, I’d wondered if that was why she was doing it. But, it’d coincided with Bryon traveling more, and that’s something she does when he travels, so I chalked it up to that.

A pretty old picture from Virginia, but she certainly loves giving love, even if the receiver finds it a bit, well, too much. I love how tiny Collin's head is in her arms. She's so gentle. She knows exactly how much pressure to put on someone smaller than herself. You should see her "play," or rather, attempt to "play" with the kitten.

A pretty old picture from Virginia, but she certainly loves giving love, even if the receiver finds it a bit, well, too much. I love how tiny Collin's head is in her arms. She's so gentle. She knows exactly how much pressure to put on someone smaller than herself. You should see her "play," or rather, attempt to "play" with the kitten.

About a week ago, when she wasn’t just skipping meals when he was gone, but also when he was home, I started floating the idea that maybe we should take her to the vet. I got more insistent when she stopped sleeping in her bed, and when she had an accident in the house for the first time, ever in her life. Okay, she had another one when she was a puppy, but that one doesn’t count, and we’ve not spoken of the river of diarrhea (that’s the world’s hardest word to spell) since, as it was a family pact that night, never to speak of it again. The lake of shit, we called it.

Personal boundaries. Nope. Not for a Great Dane. P.S. Also, no sense of personal size. She's pretty sure she fits here. She doesn't.

Personal boundaries. Nope. Not for a Great Dane. P.S. Also, no sense of personal size. She's pretty sure she fits here. She doesn't.

Still, it seemed like, maybe it was a bunch of random, unrelated behaviors, not just one thing that screamed, “I’m a sick lil’ doggie!” And, otherwise she seemed okay. She slept on the couch. She wagged her tail. She got excited when we came home. She was so frustratingly normal in most regards, that it was hard to pull the trigger on the whole, “let’s take her in,” decision.

I know this video has NOTHING to do with what I'm talking about...but it's crazy cool. Collin had been messing with the phone, when it was new, and learned about the SloMo feature. Look how huge she looks! Well, that's how huge she is, but it looks cool.

Anyway, boy am I glad we took her in. The vet said, “this is one sick dog.” Why is it that no matter how you phrase that, it sounds like you are being sarcastic; using weird, but lame street lingo; or, trying to be covertly, and cheesily sexual about something else? One of her liver enzyme levels was so high that it couldn’t be accurately measured by his equipment. For real. Good God, Daphne. And, others were all in the ghastly range. In other words, she’s jaundiced. He’s got her on antibiotics; but, it’s anyone’s guess why and how this happened.

People often marvel at her size, and don't really get a good perspective at how big she is. This is from when we first moved into this house. This is Daphne next to the box for our flat screen television. She's as big as the T.V. So, yeah, she's not tiny. And, she's the runt of her litter, which made her the petite gal of her gang. She's 120 lbs, right now, which has her out-weighing me.

People often marvel at her size, and don't really get a good perspective at how big she is. This is from when we first moved into this house. This is Daphne next to the box for our flat screen television. She's as big as the T.V. So, yeah, she's not tiny. And, she's the runt of her litter, which made her the petite gal of her gang. She's 120 lbs, right now, which has her out-weighing me.

He said that it could be a slowly developing allergy to her insanely expensive, high-quality diet. Thanks for that, Daphne. It would be nice of you to develop an allergy to the food that we special-order for you, and have delivered to the house. No biggie, we’ll just start you on a prescription diet. I’m serious, of course. We would, but come on. Dog, stop it. Right now. She’s well trained. She might listen, even though I sound harsh right now. Right? Hope lies in strange places. This is the most likely culprit, but seems unusual, even to the vet.

Her best shots are pictures like these taking care of me. Her best skills are sleeping, napping, laying down and resting. So, when others are doing the same, she's ready to jump right on board and help out.

Her best shots are pictures like these taking care of me. Her best skills are sleeping, napping, laying down and resting. So, when others are doing the same, she's ready to jump right on board and help out.

Or, it could be a parasite, which she could’ve picked up at the emergency vet, or even their office, when she had her cyst removed in September; but that’s unlikely. Parasites come, usually, through fecal contact. Our vet is pretty sanitary, so she’d have had to have licked up something pretty icky, after something else pretty icky, that wasn’t cleaned up properly. Yummy, parasitic poop trail. Stranger things have happened. But, doctor’s offices are clean. However, animals poop everywhere, and you can’t catch everything.

One of my favorite shots of my babies, which I'm sure I've shared before. I'd been sick with a Chiari headache for over a week, missing my husband's promotion, and his party. My animals were snuggled with me, taking good care of me though. I don't know what I'd do without them.

One of my favorite shots of my babies, which I'm sure I've shared before. I'd been sick with a Chiari headache for over a week, missing my husband's promotion, and his party. My animals were snuggled with me, taking good care of me though. I don't know what I'd do without them.

And finally, it could be because her gallbladder isn’t working properly, causing the bile sludge to back up the whole system. If that’s the problem, we are in a hurry up scenario, especially with her, because her gallbladder would be pretty large, and if it bursts, she’ll die. He said that if her gallbladder walls are weak, and filled with sludge or stones, it could burst at any time, so we have to find out, and now. So, he is in contact with the traveling ultrasound vet, arranging to have her ultrasounded (Word believes that not to be a word, oh well) today, to see if it needs to be removed.

Thankfully, we also have Daphne's excellent skill set of protecting us from invisible intruders that only she can see. She warns us of these intruders by barking incessantly at them, and scaring them away. She's also very good at insisting on pristine spots on the couch, on which to take her 18-hour naps, pushing all of our pillows into piles, as shown. Weird and perfect dog that she is.

Thankfully, we also have Daphne's excellent skill set of protecting us from invisible intruders that only she can see. She warns us of these intruders by barking incessantly at them, and scaring them away. She's also very good at insisting on pristine spots on the couch, on which to take her 18-hour naps, pushing all of our pillows into piles, as shown. Weird and perfect dog that she is.

I have to pause here to reveal a secret about writing these things: I usually write for ten minutes, then screw around for 10-20 minutes, then write ten more. Or, some other “work/life” balance that sounds more important, like write, then meal-prep. Today, I’ve written ten minutes, then messed around for, like 45 minutes. I think, I don’t want to think about my dog being sick. Obviously. She went for a ride in the car with us, which she loves, because it’s endless possibilities for her, and then got left at the scary vet, when she feels terrible. I feel rotten.

Happy dog, on a happy car ride just for the heck of it, to pick up Collin from school. Yep, let her ride in the Audi. That big old beast fits just fine in the back seat, because she curls in a ball, and snuggles in.

Happy dog, on a happy car ride just for the heck of it, to pick up Collin from school. Yep, let her ride in the Audi. That big old beast fits just fine in the back seat, because she curls in a ball, and snuggles in.

I love animals. I try so hard to take good care of mine, to listen to the way they talk to me. I watch their body language, to make sure that I’m not bothering them, but doing things the way they want me to, when playing with, or petting them. I work hard to get them good food, toys and treats. I want their lives to be comfortable and happy, and I failed my girl here. Now, she’s sick, scared and alone. I just want her better, and home with us, so I can spend the rest of her life making up for it.

My current favorite picture of the other terror in the house, Loki. He was helping me read, not very effectively, I might add.

My current favorite picture of the other terror in the house, Loki. He was helping me read, not very effectively, I might add.

With a dog, I can flop all over her and spoil her with petting, love and attention, thankfully. Had this been Homer, the only way I could make it up to him would be to leave him alone, and let him retreat to the comfort of his study, away from all people. Dogs have a way of letting you love on them, the way you want to, tolerating all of your nonsense, and eating it up like melting ice cream. Cats, not so much. As a relatively cold, not all that affectionate, person myself, I think I relate more to the cats, but appreciate the need for a dog in the great balance of the universe, as I have been over-petting the cats, at this moment of dog-despair.

The whole animal clan, being animals. Animal life would be sad without any of them. Loki, you are ruining the shot with your ridiculous sleeping pose, by the way.

The whole animal clan, being animals. Animal life would be sad without any of them. Loki, you are ruining the shot with your ridiculous sleeping pose, by the way.

Okay...we were missing one animal from the cozy napping above; although Daphne understands that Frodo is a friend, not food, the cats, not so much. They will play with Frodo, if he's in his ball, which Frodo seems to delight in, fleeing and then charging them with impunity. But, outside of his ball, that's another story. Homer seems too old to bother caring, bot Loki has made it his life's mission to find, destroy and then eat that hamster.

Frodo says that the meta irony of making his stocking a rodent is a little strange, but he's down with it, so long as it gets him a present from Santa Paws, which it did.

Frodo says that the meta irony of making his stocking a rodent is a little strange, but he's down with it, so long as it gets him a present from Santa Paws, which it did.

I'm an Annoying Wife

These are the top three selfish things that I do that would render me annoying to any other human being, but that my family finds endearing. Well, I think they do. They tell me they love me, anyway.

I Shop When I’m Sick or Sad...And I Shop Poorly

I don’t just shop, I buy otherwise useless items. I have everything I could ever want or need.

I shit you not, this is HALF of my Frye boots and Frye shoe collection. HALF. Who needs this many boots? No one. Well, I do. If only because I'm obsessed. I stopped buying them several years ago because, well, obviously. I love, cherish, and wear them all. But, an example of why I need and want for nothing. Oh, and why my husband deserves a damn medal.

I shit you not, this is HALF of my Frye boots and Frye shoe collection. HALF. Who needs this many boots? No one. Well, I do. If only because I'm obsessed. I stopped buying them several years ago because, well, obviously. I love, cherish, and wear them all. But, an example of why I need and want for nothing. Oh, and why my husband deserves a damn medal.

In withdrawal, you feel like, well, shit. You spend a lot of time on the couch, or just lying on the floor, hoping the couch moves closer. I’ve been doing remarkably well, actually. I’ve been speeding through the process like an out of control semi, speeding down Mount Doom. But, when I feel poopy, clicking “check out now,” makes me feel better because a present is coming soon! And, when a box lands on the door, it’s like a surprise from me, to me! The trouble is, I buy ridiculous crap.

I don't spend much money these days. But, what I do buy is things like this. Taaa-daaa! Behold the idea I have birthed from my brain-hole.

I don't spend much money these days. But, what I do buy is things like this. Taaa-daaa! Behold the idea I have birthed from my brain-hole.

Case in point: exhibit A for "ridiculous crap." Still, we watched the training DVD yesterday, Bryon with a very skeptical face, and I think we can make it happen. I anticipate a very rough six to eight months on our babies. But, can you imagine if it works? No more litter! I will keep you posted on my insane purchase.

I Make Them Refill My Drink…All Day Long

I get dry mouth from not one, but two of my meds. I have cut my Coke consumption to one a day, both because, well, ew, and it tastes bad because of the dry mouth. The syrup accumulates in my dry mouth and sticks there like molasses. It’s actually quite disgusting. Tasty, right? Anyway, I’ve developed quite a taste for plain Le Croix, mixed with a splash of cranberry.

Why should this make my family hate me, you might ask? The reasons are two-fold. Firstly, I am drinking us out of house and home, going through a few cases of Le Croix a week. Since I started drinking Le Croix long before the hipsters started thinking it was the flavor du jour, I get to claim it as legitimately frustrating that the commissary runs out so often, sending us on a wild goose chase, all over town for it. I need my Le Croix. Other soda waters are good, but we’ve discovered they give me, shall we say, unpleasant side effects in the stinky gas arena. Additionally, I’ve become a pain in the ass, requesting refills all day long, like a spoiled princess. Okay, I only do this once a day or so; but still, it’s annoying. I’d be annoyed. I’m annoyed getting it myself so often, which is why I ask for the refill!

I Make Us Keep the House Cold…Really Cold

My meds, and especially withdrawal, make me hot. I don’t just mean warm, I mean hot. Hot. Hot. Hot. Alas, I torture my family with a household temperature that borders on torture. In the years that we’ve lived here, we’ve yet to turn on the heat. Only recently have we closed any windows. Our bedroom window is still wide open. Our house, at this very minute, sits at:

This doesn’t mean that I don’t bundle up to avoid the discomfort.  I’m certainly cold. Sometimes, I feel that it’s downright frigid, as it’s gotten a few degrees colder than 63. But, I refuse to change the conditions. I’ve sat in footie pajamas, two fleece robes, two blankets, an undershirt, gloves, a scarf, and a hat, and still refused to change the conditions. It’s easier to bundle up, than it is to cool down. It's a little awkward to sign for a package dressed like that though. Rather than provide an explanation to the clearly confused FedEx man, I just acted like it was totally normal. I figured it was the most disconcerting thing I could do for him, and thus the best story he could have for his friends.

Ahh, the coziness of being bundled up, reading a book. Or, am I "miming" reading a book? With white gloves, it's hard to be sure.

Ahh, the coziness of being bundled up, reading a book. Or, am I "miming" reading a book? With white gloves, it's hard to be sure.

For this, my family continues to tolerate me. They snuggle up next to me, and we watch a movie, or we play a game. My body seems to feel better, overall, when it’s cooler in the house, so they put on an extra sweater, and smile as mommy asks why it’s so hot in here. What they don't realize is that the colder it gets, the closer they have to snuggle to me. Bwhahaha! Lord help them when menopause hot flashes hit!

I love them to the ends of the earth, and I'm sure I provide them with something they find enjoyable too, because for all of my faults, they keep me around!

P.S. Isn't my kitten adorable?

I couldn't resist! Put 'em up!

I couldn't resist! Put 'em up!