Thursday, September 29, 2011

Over the river and through the woods - driving to the jungle school on Maui

I was looking at my blogroll the other day and it occurred to me that there was a common thread in all of the blogs I enjoy reading. They are personal, and they share photos. At least occasionally.

I really love seeing photos on people's blogs. I don't care about the photo quality, I just like to get a little peek at their life. Because I am nosy.

I rarely put photos on my blog these days. So today I set a new goal for myself: I am going to make a concerted effort to post more photos. These things always start out so well. I have the best of intentions, I get all pumped up about it and give you 110% right out of the gate, and then maybe post a couple of photos next week, and know.....I'll forget, or get lazy. God knows consistency isn't my strong suit, so enjoy it while you can, folks.

But today! Today I have got photos for you!

This morning, I documented the ride to school. Sort of. A few miles from our house I stopped to take the first photos, which were of a cow that we pass each morning.

she is totally not ready for her close-up

The cow was really annoyed that I got out of my car and came up to the fence. She refused to look at me. She was buried in a huge shrub of grass, steadily eating her way along the fenceline, and she had no time for my nonsense. I was yoohoo-ing and trying to get her to, I don't know, lift her head up or something.....and suddenly a truck full of guys drove by, leaned out the window and screamed "SAY CHEESE".

She looked up just long enough to snort derisively, but did not say "cheese".
Clearly, this cow was not interested in my photojournalism. So I got back in the car and kept on driving. The rest of the photos are taken from the road.
We have a 20 minute drive each morning, most of it along narrow winding country roads in Upcountry Maui. The last 10 minutes are along the North Shore, on the "road to Hana" which is the number one cause of carsickness in the USA. (I totally made that up. But bring a barf bag.)
 This is called a switchback. Also known as "that place I threw up out the window without stopping the car."
There are some really nice views on our drive - mountain on one side (mauka) and ocean on the other (makai).

And there are some farm stands - some are just simple wooden structures with buckets of freshly-picked fruits and an honor system cashbox:

And some are listed in guidebooks and serve smoothies, fresh fruit, coconut candy, and other goodies:

People have interesting ideas about decorating their fences.

All in all, it's a pretty cool drive, and we enjoy it. Many times, I will stop for fruit from one of the stands, or fresh eggs from one of the farms, and I have to remind myself to take my time and enjoy the fresh air and the ocean view in the distance. Even something as boring as the drive to school isn't so boring when you stop and look around - really look - and take the time to appreciate your surroundings.
If you are really lucky, tomorrow I might document the drive to the hospital - just in case you make that trip in the back of an ambulance and miss out.
Yesterday, the route to the hospital was explained to me thus: "You know when you get arrrested? Just take the same road the cops do when they are bringing you to the station." I don't know what route he was talking about, but apparently when speaking with me people just assume I have been arrested in the recent past (perhaps on a regular basis) and taken to central booking in a squad car.
I must be doing something right.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Clearly, my children need to broaden their horizons

We were driving through town when my son put both hands on the car window and pressed his nose to the glass.

"OH MY GOD MOM I CAN'T BELIEVE IT" He was shrieking like a toddler, which is absolutely not allowed when I am driving - even if you are a toddler. One does not shriek. One must never shriek. It is bad for Mommy's nerves, and leads to mid-afternoon cocktails (for medicinal purposes thankyouverymuch) which then leads to mommy taking a nap at 4pm, which means no dinner is prepared, which means chicken fingers and PBJ for dinner, which is no fun for ANYONE now, is it? So don't shriek. No shrieking.

To my credit, when he screamed like that I did not rear-end the car in front of me, or swerve off the road, or jam on my brakes to crane my neck around and try to figure out what the hell was so amazing it required a 100 decibel reaction from my 11 year old.

Instead, I kept both hands on the wheel (okay, I had one hand on the wheel and one hand tuning my phone to Pandora and one hand holding a cup of tea. Wait...... maybe I didn't have any hands on the wheel. Was I even driving? I can't be sure - the whole "not eating so my gallbladder doesn't explode" thing has left me a little groggy. AND YET I WAS IN COMPLETE CONTROL.) and I utilized my Standard Mom Response which I use for, well, for just about everything he gets really worked up about:
"Mm Hm?"

"Mom" he announced breathlessly, nose still pressed to the glass. "Things changed so much while we were gone this summer. I just can't believe how ADVANCED everything got."

"In what way, sweetheart?" I asked as I turned on my signal and carefully changed lanes with both hands on the wheel or no hands or maybe I was reading a magazine while Sam drove IT DOESN'T MATTER IT'S NOT IMPORTANT.

"That McDonalds over there? It has a DOUBLE DRIVE THRU. There are TWO LANES for ordering. AND NOW IT HAS A HEIGHT LIMIT."

And you thought Maui would be all grass huts and coconuts. Silly you. We are way ahead of the curve, as you can plainly see.

Friday, September 23, 2011

If I had known that was gonna happen, I wouldn't have gotten on the plane

Yesterday I flew to Oahu for tests.

On the plus side, my health insurance paid for the flight, and Target had some Missoni left.

On the minus side, the testing really sucked.

On the plus side, one of the radiology techs was a hot black guy - ex-military - who smiled as he was getting me out of the machine and said "I think I've seen you here before." which was a little twist on the "SO, you come here often?" line that I love so much.

(Will, you are my special favorite for making me smile during a difficult day.)

On the minus side, I have one of the "largest gallbladders I have ever seen - that thing is HUGE!" To which I say: Go big or go home, baby!

(Kelly you are also my special favorite - you put me at ease and answered all of my questions and explained what the test was showing - I appreciated not having the screen turned away from me and "You'll have to ask your doctor." as the response to all of my questions. She pointed the screen down to me where I was lying inside the machine, so I could watch the process. It was fascinating!)

On the plus side, they were able to run all the necessary tests at once.

On the minus side, one of those tests was the worst thing I have ever experienced.

Now, the tests didn't sound like any fun to begin with - lying flat on your back, motionless, for an hour and then a half hour. Stuck inside a machine. With an IV. But they waited until I was inside the machine to tell me that they were going to inject me with a medication that would "stimulate my gallbladder".

Translation: We are going to give you a big-assed gallbladder attack while you are stuck inside a machine flat on your back with no way to move or make yourself more comfortable.

It's a good thing I couldn't move, because if I had, the first thing I would have done would be to kick that nurse in the head (involuntarily, of course). That was horrible. Terrible. I was lying there minding my own business and suddenly it felt like I was punched directly in the stomach - from INSIDE MY STOMACH. Then I started gasping because I couldn't breath, and then I thought I was going to puke. And then I was afraid I was going to choke on my puke and die which is a very rock and roll way to go - as long as you aren't stuck inside a machine that is taking pictures of your gallbladder, in front of a hot black guy in a white lab coat who you happen to know owns a motorcycle and could make your junior high Top Gun fantasies come true. Not cool, man. Not cool at all.

On the plus side, we have a difinitive cause of my illness (the reason I've been sick since, oh....since July).

On the minus side, I think I have to have my gallbladder taken out.

On the plus side, I will be able to eat bacon again. And really, that is all I care about. That, and that I don't have cancer and my major organs aren't failing and I'm not gonna die. But you know, mostly the bacon eating thing.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Strippers are feminists. Beautiful, naked feminists.

Tonight I was asked why I like strippers so damn much.

An honest question deserves an honest answer. And honestly - I don't enjoy all strip clubs, and I don't think every stripper is great just because she is a stripper. I'm not a stripper groupie. I have standards, darn it. I've been in a lot of strip clubs, as an employee and as a patron - most of them are mediocre at best. And at worst, the dancers are middle-aged women flaunting stretch marks and a cesarean scar, with husbands sitting at the end of the bar so that you can't even be (justifiably) horrified without getting punched in the head. I can see how people who have never seen a really talented stripper might not understand the appeal - so you have to trust me on this:

When they are good, they are very very good. When they are bad they are pregnant. Or minors. Or both. I'M KIDDING. But truly - strippers who are not good at what they do are just depressing. You feel bad for them, and that will ruin anyone's good time. If there is no talent and no pride in their performance, there is no point in any of it.

You gotta be good to make it rain.

So what constitutes good?
First and most importantly, just like going to see any show - ENTERTAIN ME. Going to a great strip club is like going to a circus for grownups. Standing in front of me and bending over to show me your business end is not entertaining. I am not your gynecologist. And furthermore, I have my own, thank you very much. I can look at that any time I want. What I WANT is a show. If there is music, it better be good. If there is a table, you should be on it. If there is a pole, you best be climbing it up to the ceiling and then clamping it between your knees (kegals!) while you flip over and suspend yourself headfirst over the dance floor. I don't care if you're naked, and i don't care how big your tits are. It's all about the show. Personally, I like a bit of excitement, but more than that - I have a huge amount of respect for people who are good at what they do. A good stripper is more than just a good dancer who can take her underpants off without having to sit down. A good stripper is incredibly strong, and fun. She interacts with her audience - the consummate showgirl. It's a performance. If you find yourself sitting in front of a dancer who is bored or just not very creative, you have my permission to pick up your drink and find someone who knows what the hell they are doing, and is enjoying themselves while they are doing it.

Which leads me to my second point: I am selective. I do not like all strippers. I do not like all strip clubs. I had one of the creepiest experiences of my life in Los Angeles at what was supposed to be a "legendary" club. It wasn't legendary, it was nasty. And the girls looked unhealthy and miserable. But the worst part was - they weren't even dancing. They were crawling around on the dance floor, going from one person to another and it felt like they were begging. It was weird and sad and desperate and then one of them bent over and kissed my wife and I spent the rest of the night in the parking lot getting stoned with two guys from Indiana and trying to reassure her that a little Windex and a strong course of antibiotics would take care of whatever she had just been exposed to.

Which leads me to my third point. I keep my hands to myself, and I expect everyone else to do the same - unless you are Jenna in which case all bets are off because trust me when I tell you that you WANT that woman to wrap her ankles around your neck. But really, I am there for the show, and the show usually does not involve touching. So if you have hesitated to go in a strip club because you think you will have strippers climbing all over you I have to things to say: 1. Get over yourself. and 2. That's not usually part of the program. When I am in a strip club, I do not expect a full contact experience, and actually would prefer to just watch some acrobatics (naked or otherwise) and have a few drinks.

The bottom line? I have seen better, more entertaining performers in strip clubs than I have seen on Broadway. Stripping is a talent, and an art. And it deserves respect. Just because the people on stage take their clothes off does not make it an automatic win. Ask the cast of Equus. If the show sucks, it sucks, no matter how naked you get - so you have to put in effort, and practice practice practice. Especially practice taking off your pants in 8 inch stilettos without falling over. Because that shit is a lot harder than it looks.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Are You Glad You Chose Me? Talking about adoption.

"Are you glad you chose me?"

Did you hear that?
That little gasp of air? It was the sound of my heart. Breaking.

Lucy is six. She's in first grade. She knows that she is adopted - we have never hidden the fact. When she started asking questions, we answered them. At first, she was a little confused, and was somehow under the impression that we had gotten her at the mall. But we cleared that up, and we had - I thought - a solid story. The party line we were going to stick with. Everything she needed to know all rolled up into one simple sentence.

"Mommy's belly is broken, so another lady grew you for me - isn't that wonderful?"

Over-simplified? Sure. SHE'S A KID. My belly is broken. Another woman did grow her. And she is mine. Anyone who has ever met her will tell you - she is ALL mine. A clone if every there was one. Her teachers sit back and watch the results of nature v.s. nurture. Mannerisms, sass, enthusiasm, and a serious flare for the dramatic all point to me as her parent.

Case in point: Last week she climbed into bed with me at 7am and said "Mama, I just can't decide. Should I use an accent in the play today, or not. Because I *do* have an accent you know."

Oh honey, I'll just bet you do. You got those from ME.

However, last week Sam veered off the party line in response to some of Lucy's questions. Because let's be honest: the man seriously cannot handle the hot seat when it comes to our kids.

Now, to his credit, he was getting a bunch of ground-breaking questions last week. On Friday he admitted to Max that there was no Santa Claus. This was a significant departure from our standard response to the question "Is there really a Santa Claus?" Our agreed upon answer was supposed to be "Do you like what Santa Claus brings you? Then don't ruin a good thing by asking a bunch of questions. If there is no Santa, Santa can't bring presents. You dig?" But Sam was tired of the lies and half-truths. And frankly, he didn't want to buy the gift Max was going to ask Santa for this year. So he caved.

The next day, when Lucy started to ask some pointed questions about where - exactly - she came from, Sam was already worn down from the Santa Claus fiasco - he was basically a broken man by the time his sweet little pumpkin started digging around for her genealogy. He totally fell apart under pressure.

Under the pressure of a six year old asking a simple question.

He is not witness-stand material, and would never tolerate cross-examination, as evidenced by the following conversation:

"Daddy, where did you get me?"

"We got you at the hospital."

"Who gave me to you?"

"The nurse."

"But where did I come from?"

"Well, this nice lady grew you in her belly, but she couldn't take care of you so she asked us to be your parents and-"

"LUCY I NEED YOU IN HERE RIGHT NOW SO I CAN BRAID YOUR HAIR." I had to interrupt. Sorry, but I had to. I am not her mother because someone couldn't take care of her, or wasn't ready to be a parent right now. I am her mother because I am her MOTHER. But she is a smart cookie, and she was not so easily distracted. I really couldn't blame her when she tried to continue to the conversation in my room while I braided her hair.

"Mommy, are you glad you chose me?"

"I didn't choose you, sweetheart. No one chooses their children. Children are a gift. You are my daughter. Can you imagine it any other way?"

She was quiet for a minute. Then she broke into a gap-toothed grin. Because she also has my teeth. (Sorry about that, sweetheart.) "That would be ridiculous. OF COURSE you're my mama."

"Yup, I'm your mama and you're my girl. My amazing beautiful girl. And you are just like me in every way."

"Well......" she paused. I raised an eyebrow. "Well, mama, I am almost like you in every way."

"How are you not like me?"

"DUH. I don't have gray hair."

Such a smart ass. That's my girl.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Daffodil Campbell and the Bladder of Gaul

You googled, didn't you. Against your better judgement, you googled your symptoms. You googled the test the doctor ordered. You googled, and followed links, and googled the information you found there, and now you know for sure exactly what is wrong with you, what tests you still need, what diet you should be eating, and also that you might have cancer. Because no matter what you type in, cancer always comes up in the results.

I would hate to be a doctor in the age of google.

For the past 24 hours I have been doing my research. I had an endoscopy yesterday, which did not go as planned, and now I am flying to another island for more tests - which is unsettling to say the least. My trusty google research has left me with a notebook full of acronyms and names of expensive tests and numbers that indicate "safe" levels and a slew of saved weblinks. What I didn't find was a clear answer. I won't know until they operate and have some pathology. Some sort of proof. And that isn't until October. In the meantime, my stomach - according to the doctor's notes in my record - contains a significant amount of bile. My stomach is backed up. So I am full, but my body is hungry. I can't believe I have only lost 5 pounds so far. The elimination of bacon from my diet ALONE should have taken 10 pounds off my frame. I have had bloodtests, ultrasounds, cat scans and x-rays. All normal. No gallstones, either. All we have to go on is the results from the endoscopy. Bile. That's it. That's all I get.

While I wait for definitive answers from the tests and surgery I have in my future, I thought I would add my experience to the google results. I have a pretty good idea of what is going on in there intuitively - mostly because I can FEEL my gallbladder, which is a strange and creepy sensation that I am looking forward to eliminating ASAP. But I know my body, and years of illness have left me hyper-aware of how my body is functioning. If something is wrong, I'll know before the test will. I can feel scar tissue, and sense infection. I don't think anything is infected, though. My theory is that I have scar tissue and/or endometriosis wrapped around my digestive tract - and that my gallbladder may have adhesions on it that have caused it to twist and become attached to my colon or my stomach or some other part of my abdomen. All is not well. My gallbladder my not be processing anything at this point. I am backed up and miserable and whatever I eat is trapped in my stomach slowly breaking down and working it way out through the now-twisted pathways.

If you have endo, this may sound familiar. If you searched for endometriosis and gallbladder, I hope this post has found you.

I have had a lot of surgery - 13 is my best guess - and all were related to endometriosis. I've had 8 or 9 laparoscopies, 2 laparotomies, and a cesarean. I have had a hysterectomy (uterus and ovaries). I have had my bowel reconstructed because it was twisted and choked by scar tissue. I have had endo peeled off my diaphragm, and it has spread down into my left leg almost to the knee. And now, I fear, it has gotten to my gallbladder. My gastroenterologist ordered a HIDA scan which requires that I fly to another island.

Thank god that island has strippers.

My derby wife has kindly offered to take me to the strip club in my wheel chair after the procedure, and I think that will be something nice to look forward to. Don't you? I will be high on morphine and wearing a hospital johnny and stilettos - because I always wear stilettos. It won't be weird at all.

But first, let's talk about my gallbladder, and my colon, and my digestive system in general. I'm miserable, and I know that there are other women out there who are miserable, and I just want them to know they are not alone, and they are not crazy. I had heard tales of gallstones and kidney stones and the horrible pain and discomfort they cause. And I had sympathy, of course - I would nod my head sagely and make tsk-tsking noises, and bring over a covered dish and offer to watch the kids. But I had no idea that these people felt like they were going to die - for days. Weeks. This is torture.

Here's what it felt like when I started having gallbladder trouble:

First, I thought that I might be having a heart attack. I wasn't, of course. Turns out a gallbladder attack is just like those pesky panic attacks I have from time to time - they aren't signaling your imminent demise. Which is almost too bad, because after a few hours, you start to wish you would just die and get it over with.

It's that bad. It's a combination of drowning and choking and being crushed by a terrible weight.
I can't breathe. I can't think. I can barely swallow. There is this unbearable pressure verging on pain just under  my ribs on the right side. And in the middle of my back. Add a sharp twinge now and then, that leaves me breathless and doubled over. It's not a heart attack....maybe it's my appendix? Clearly, something is about to explode. It's just a matter of time.

You feel like a stuffed goose. All skinny throat and jam packed belly, full all the way up to your gullet, which is searing and straining. You are starving, and your stomach is growling and gurgling to tell you so. But you cannot imagine taking one more bite unless you burp, or fart, or take a shit - or all three.

All three would be amazing.

So you shift around and try to get comfortable. Try to find a way to sit, or lie down, or stand and lean in such a way that you no longer feel like you are going to just explode. You roll around. And you pace. And you burp. And you fart. And you sit on the toilet.


Sometimes, if you are really lucky, you puke. Because after all, that's what you feel like doing. You spend your time regretting every morsel of food, every sip of liquid that has passed through your lips. Ever. You swear you will never eat again, no solid foods, ever ever EVER again, if only your stomach would stop straining and aching and churning.

Oh, the churning. It's unholy. It's like the Exorcist, the pressure and pain beating it's way from the inside out. Your throat burns and your head pounds and your stomach aches.

And it never stops, until suddenly it does. Or at least, it lessens so that you can breath and consider eating something. And then you innocently have a pudding or a bit of bread and butter - and you are thrown headfirst through this wormhole, time traveling. And you find yourself sweaty and writhing in bed again.

I have found comfort with a hot tub, and I spend hours in a rocking chair. The rocking seems to ease the pressure a bit. Not much, but enough. Enough so that you can sip some tea. And you wait.

You wait for relief. You wait for an answer. You wait for some strippers. Strippers make everything better.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

All you really need

I went to Costco today, and I was minding my own damn business I SWEAR TO YOU I WAS and suddenly I heard some man say "You have got to try this." It wasn't an employee, it was just some dude in an aloha shirt with a shopping c art full of food in front of him. He was offering me a little plastic Dixie cup with a pink liquid in it. I said "No, thank you though." and eyed him suspiciously noting his height and general appearance because while I am sure no one is slipping roofies into Costco samples YOU JUST NEVER KNOW and I live my life the way the TSA intended - I do not leave my bags unattended, and I don't drink anything handed to me by a stranger unless it's in a sealed container. And even then....not so much.

But I had an hour to kill, and I wanted to know what was so delicious that it would cause people to flag down random strangers and encourage them to give it a try. I rounded the corner cautiously, because those double-wide Costco carriages can really cause some collateral damage if you hit someone or something.

When I looked up from my careful maneuvering, I found myself face to face with another guy. He was wearing a headset, standing on a platform, and BOY HOWDY was he happy to see me. "HI THERE!" he shouted. He didn't mean to shout, but he was speaking over a PA, so what would have been a normal tone of voice was amplified, plus he had a lot of fucking energy anyway. I started to back up, because people like that make me nervous, but I was trapped in Costco traffic.

"Do you like green drinks? I am going to make one right now - three ingredients, simple as can be. You are going to LOVE it!" he crowed.

Fat chance, dude. I love bacon and chocolate and tequila - not all in the same cup (I am not saying "Never" you understand, it just hasn't happened yet.) but I do not drink green drinks or kombucha, nor do I enjoy hemp milk or soy cheese. I eyed him suspiciously. He turned away and started throwing spinach in a blender. Then some grapes and a slice of pineapple. Three seconds later I had a drink in my hand that tasted like a green apple Jolly Rancher. I fucking *LOVE* green apple Jolly Ranchers. I grinned at him, drained the cup, and parked my carriage.

Sir, you have my attention.

"TORTILLA SOUP" he cried as he rinsed the blender and started throwing veggies in there. A tomato, a carrot, peppers, celery, onion, a cup of hot water and then he paused. "Chicken okay?" he asked me with a note of concern. I nodded silently, my mouth agape. He threw in a scoop of boullion, turned it on, let it run, dialed the speed down to low and added beans and carrots. Intrigued, I moved closer. People behind me were edging forward and I was sensing that there was going to be a little competition for the tortilla soup my boyfriend was whipping up for me. He threw some tortilla strips in there and handed me another Dixie cup.

I drained that one and then he got serious. "This one appliance will replace EIGHT APPLIANCES." he said somberly. "I have it in white and black."

I stared at the price tag, and felt sick. I stood there, while an older woman standing next to me told me all of the things she used hers for. That she had owned one for 20 years, that she used it to make baby food, that she had bought this extra part to make flour for bread, that you could make ice cream in it...... My eyes started to glaze over. I don't know if she was being paid to stand in the crowd pretending to be a shopper while encouraging people to buy the gold-standard of mixers, but she helped me load a Vitamix into my cart while she talked.

I brought it home, plugged it in, threw in some spinach and grapes and pineapple, and that is what we had for an after school snack. Max had seconds. Tonight we are making almond milk. Max wants to make butter. I can make butter in my blender, ya'll. I have never been so happy.

At this point, I feel confident saying that I have every kitchen appliance I need. Here's the key - I stopped buying crap, and invested in a few pieces that are multi-pupose and built to last. If I had carpet, I would still be pining away for a Dyson - but with hardwood and tile throughout, I can't justify it. Yet.

A brief list of things I have and love - they are all black or stainless, and having them all matchy-matchy makes my kitchen seem less cluttered (at least, that's what I keep telling myself):
The Kitchen Aid Mixer was my first major purchase. It comes with all sort of accessories - I have a juicer, a cheese grater, and a meat grinder.
The Griddler from Cuisinart
The Grind and Brew with thermal Carafe (also from Cuisinart)
Le Creuset dutch oven (a big one)
Rival slow cooker (also a big one)
1 cast iron skillet
This pan which we got from Macy's
And this set of pots and pans. disclaimer: I got *almost* the exact same set as this one on MEGA sale at Macy's for (I think) $39 or something ridiculous. Belgique Classique Tools of the Trade. They also sell add-on pots and pans, I have bought a few of those. They work on ALL cooktops and they are oven safe too!

note: I have a food processor - but the Vitamix guy insisted I wouldn't need it anymore.......we'll see about that, buddy. I also have an espresso machine, a two-slice toaster, and a waffle maker which are not necessary but well-loved. I don't have a toaster oven or a pizza stone or a bread maker - got rid of them years ago and I don't miss 'em.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Moonstruck, or cheese-addled? Hard to know.

late 13c., "affected with periodic insanity, dependent on the changes of the moon," from O.Fr. lunatique "insane," from L. lunaticus "moon-struck," from luna "moon" (see luna). Cf. O.E. monseoc "lunatic," lit. "moon-sick;" M.H.G. lune "humor, temper, mood, whim, fancy" (Ger.

EXPANDLaune), from L. luna. Cf. also N.T. Gk. seleniazomai "be epileptic," from selene "moon." The noun meaning "lunatic person" is first recorded late 14c. Lunatic fringe (1913) was apparently coined by U.S. politician Theodore Roosevelt. Lunatic soup (1933) was Australian slang for "alcoholic drink."

That full moon was crazy.


I have been out of sorts lately as it is, but the past few days it's dialed up to about a 12. I  have decided to blame it on the moon. I have absolutely no scientific or medical facts to back me up on this, but I feel sure that the moon is the cause.

I posted on facebook that everything this weekend seemed wrong, or off, or just not right somehow. As if events were ever-so-slightly out of control and awkward. Too loud, too fast, too close. Uncomfortable. At times, it felt like I was walking through a really unpleasant dream sequence where I was not only naked in the hallway at school, but also wearing a scarlet letter. On my ass. Because like I said, everything is just a little bit off this weekend. It might be my own damn fault - I was overtired, and then I ate some cheese.

It could have been the cheese. It could totally have been the cheese.

Or maybe it's my neighbors, who spend a lot of time making me feel really uncomfortable every damn time I leave my house. It's enough to make anyone think they are going crazy. ("Is it me? I don't think it's me - I'm pretty sure it's them. But maybe it's me. It might be me. Maybe.") Every time I walk outside in the evening, I feel like I am intruding on a private block party that I wasn't invited to. One that's happening on my front lawn. But like I said, maybe it's me. Maybe I should just set up a lawn chair, crack open a brewski, have a smoke, and let it all hang out. Maybe I don't feel right in my skin because I am so damn uptight.

Or, perhaps it could be that I am just feeling my age, and that the day to day struggles of life/bills/kids are starting to weigh on me in a different way. Much like my tits.

But maybe it's more than the banal, day to day problems of cheese and neighbors and finding the perfect bra. Maybe it has nothing at all to do with the moon.

It could also be the September 11th anniversary.

I didn't know anyone who perished that day. I, like the vast majority of Americans, watched the day unfold in front of the television, and I don't have much to say about it. What I did, what I didn't do, where I was. But it's hard to avoid - anyone who was alive and aware of the events transpiring on Sepember 11 2001 was affected. Watching it happen, live. Not knowing what was gong to happen next.

I rarely talk about that day. For starters, I refuse to refer to it as 9-11 anymore. Because it is not lost on me that all of the emergency responders on that day - the ones who were killed trying to save others - were there because they were answering cries for help that had been called in to 911. 911, what is your emergency. How do you even describe that sort of an emergency? What do you say? Who do you ask for help in that situation, when a plane has just come out of nowhere, dropped out of the clear blue sky, and flown into a building? And then another. And then several states away, another. And then in the middle of rolling farmland, another.I can only imagine how it must have felt for the operators, to be getting those calls, to hear the fear and panic. To know that people needed help, and at the same time been so helpless. So unable to respond. I was in Massachusetts, far from the horror that was unfolding in front of me on NBC, the insanity that sweet Matt Lauer was trying to explain that morning as he watched with me, both of us seeing it for the first time, at the same time, and*I* wanted to call 911. 911, what is your emergency. My emergency was that there was some crazy unimaginable shit going on, and someone needed to get a handle on it - pronto. To his credit, Matt Lauer did not stand up and scream "WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?" which is what I was screaming. There was nothing I could do. As I held my baby boy that day and watched the TV in shock and disbelief and absolute fear, and during all of the days to follow, I realized that in this world, there were many things I was not going to be able to protect my child from. I always wonder when I see 9-11 if the people who made those horrible plans thought of that when they were choosing the date. Did they realize the connection? I hate to give them that much credit. 

So maybe, I was just remembering that - maybe my body was having some sort of involuntary reaction, related to the photos and footage and news reports that swirled around the weekend, bringing back all of the memories, the loss of control, the not knowing and the what-ifs.

Or maybe it was just the moon, and I need to stop being so damn dramatic and count my blessings and say a prayer for all of the people who lost someone, or lost themselves.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Thirteen years later, we're RIGHT ON SCHEDULE. That is compatibility, right there.

This weekend Sam and I will celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary.

I know what you are thinking.

Yes, I was a child bride. A divorced, child bride.

Not what you were thinking? Maybe more along the lines of "I can't believe he has put up with her shit for 13 years?" Yeah, well......that too. I can't really believe it either. He is a saint, I think we can all agree. It is important to note that besides being a total pain in the ass like it's my job, I also completely adore him and spend a lot of time telling everyone how hot he is. So I do have my benefits.

And marriage in itself has it's benefits - legally, financially, and emotionally.
One of the things I like most about being married is that I have someone to help carry the load, so to speak. And by that I mean someone to kill the really gross bugs, pull the plug if I'm in a coma, take out the trash and pick up the dog poop.

That list is in no particular order.

One of the things I like most about my husband (and this is separate from our marriage. These are things that I would like about him even if he hadn't made an honest woman out of me) is his willingness to go along with whatever the hell dumbass ideas I come up with.

For instance, the man has had to renew his wedding vows twice already.
With ministers and everything.
And the second time we renewed our vows, I actually interrupted the ceremony for some clarification. I wasn't sure what the minister meant by "respect". Did he mean respect like "Woman, you best show me some RESPECT." Or did he mean respect like "Honey, I have so much respect for the fact that you are willing to pooper scoop."


This year, I'm not going to make him reaffirm his love and devotion and legal obligations, but I am making him host a party - which quite frankly is a better way to test his commitment to both our marriage and pooper scooping than a vow renewal would be.

Tonight is our semi-annual anniversary party. We used to hold them every year, but for our 10th anniversary I had surgery scheduled, and then the next year I was sick again, and then last year....really we were too busy celebrating the fact that I didn't need anti-nausea suppositories to plan a party. Long story short, we took a break - just from the parties you understand, not from our marriage. And this year? THIS year I delayed what is now referred to as "my autumnal convalesence" until October and we are back on track. Lucky thirteen, baby! And getting right back into the swing of things means having a huge screaming fight in the front yard with lots of swearing and hand gestures like we did last night.

What? That's not how YOU celebrate your love?

Listen. The last time we had an anniversary party, we were in the middle of a home remodel. A home remodel that involved plumbing. And toilets. And a lot of swearing. But we learned our lessons, which is how truly great marriages go the distance. We can look at what doesn't work, and fix it, and then move on. Unless it involves plumbing. We can't fix that. Which is why we have made the decision to not allow plumbing to come between us. We now hire professionals to handle the plumbing, while we just handle each other.
(ba DUM dum!)

This year the bathrooms all appear to be in good working order. (But just in case, pee before you come, okay? And in this land of sun and fun we never flush for number one!) So with major home repairs out of the way, this year was all about the yard. The yard is actually not too bad these days - and I figured that with a little effort  it would be great, and then we could have our friends over and everything would be just LOVELY. But the yard seemed a little plain. A little boring. It needed a little je ne sais quoi.

Which in English means water feature.

Which is how I ended up way out on the North Shore, driving down a road that had a sign that said "Water Lily Farm". I brought The Hawler, because she is my sidekick when it comes to driving down random country roads following signs and wandering onto private property without permission.

When we arrived at the farm, we walked through the gate and around back because we didn't really know what else to do.The property was quite extensive - several acres - and there were huge man-made ponds filled with water lilies. Hawler spotted someone and waved, and that person stood up and came over.

That person was tall, and very very handsome. And shirtless. He had no shirt.
And then he spoke, and he had an accent, and it was all just very, very lovely indeed. I don't know what his name is, I think I'll call him Fritz.

BUT THE WATERLILIES. We were there for a waterlily to add to a water feature that I was creating for an event I was having at my home that I share with my husband to commemorate the anniversary of the day I married him, my beloved, and OH MY GOD HE IS TAKING OFF HIS PANTS TO GET THE LILY OUT OF THE POND.

As if he had overheard the silent thoughts that were careening around my brain, the nice young man stopped and turned and said (in what is seriously the cutest accent ever) "I will go put on some board shorts, yes?"

YES?! No. No no no. Do not trouble yourself. No board shorts required. Please, don't change on our account.

But he went and changed, and then came back all....well, just all kinds of lovely. And we all walked together to the pond and we decided on a gorgeous waterlily and then he climbed right in that pond and fetched it for little ol' us, and carried it to my car and I handed him the cash - though I really wanted to stuff it right in his board shorts. We both thanked him rather profusely - we were very very grateful indeed.

And then we drove home, stuck the waterlily in a trashcan filled with water, and sort of forgot about it for a few weeks. Until last night. Which is where the screaming and hand gestures comes in. Don't worry, the party is going to be amazing. The water feature? Well.

The waterlily is now pretty much dead. (But the memories live on, Fritz.)

And the water feature is now a garbage can buried in my front yard with a dead water lily floating in it.

Happy Anniversary Sam. I really, really love you a lot and every single day I am grateful for you. You are hot and super sweet and incredibly funny and generous and you let me write about you, and us, and our family and you are a great husband and father and my best friend and incredibly compassionate and patient and loving. And the dog just took a dump by the gate. Could you take care of that? The guests are going to be here soon.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

When they say "You look just like you did in high school" it's not necessarily a compliment.

This summer, I reconnected with a lot of people I hadn't seen since high school. It was odd, and sort of awkward.
Like high school.

I went to a party one night. A friend's band was playing, I had known the host since he was in diapers but hadn't seen him in about 20 years - I felt a little weird showing up at his house and saying "Hey! Remember me? I am totally crashing your party! Where's the keg?" but of course I did it anyway. We're all adults now, this guy owns his own house, and I heard he had a really sweet wife. Great! Wonderful news!

I dressed for standing around in someone's backyard in the woods: Jeans, tank top, flannel shirt, sandals. Remarkably, it is the same outfit I wear to stand around at night on the beach, or to sit out on my deck, or to go to a friend's house for dinner. Old reliable. Comfortable, full coverage, casual. Tonight, I added copious amounts of bug spray. No one likes bug bites! Don't forget to spray between your toes!

I went to pick up a girlfriend en route. Jenn came down the stairs looking super cute in a blouse and a short denim skirt, and I immediately suspected that I was underdressed. "I need to change."

"No you look great. You look the same as you did in high school! I love it - do not change. It's perfect."
As we were walking to the car to pick up another girlfriend, Jenn casually mentioned that the girl we were picking up "always gets dressed up when we're going out. So, don't be surprised. She'll probably have heels on."

I looked down at my bare feet. My sandals were....somewhere? They were somewhere. Maybe the trunk. I didn't think I would actually need them tonight. "Heels? Jenn, I-"

"You look fine, don't worry about it!"

"I thought we were listening to a band in someone's backyard in the woods!"

"We are!"

"Then why in GOD'S NAME are people wearing skirts and heels?"

"Don't worry!"

Uhm......okay. I won't. Shit. Shit shit shit. I should have on something dressier.

I was silently freaking out. Obviously I was underdressed - but on the other hand, what the hell was one supposed to wear to someone's backyard to listen to a band made up of some buddies from high school?

We arrived at the party and I rounded the corner of the house into the backyard and discovered on first glance what one is supposed to wear, exactly, to a backyard party.

Tailored sundresses. Sweater sets. Cute Shoes.

I was wearing jeans with a few holes in them, and a flannel with a patch on the back.

Like an asshole.

And the wife I was meeting for the first time? I recognized her right away. We went to grade school together. She always looked beautiful and put together - even in 5th grade. She was the girl who carried a purse with mints and a comb and that was why her hair always looked nice and her breath was always fresh. She wore nice tailored clothes, and I wore.....baggy pants and a flannel. I was crashing the party of a girl I didn't know very well, but well enough to know I didn't belong there, dressed like an asshole. She was gracious, and lovely about the whole thing, and we both remarked at what a coincidence it was that she was the hostess, and that she was married to my old neighbor, and we very carefully did not discuss the fact that I was A. Not Invited and B. Not Dressed Appropriately. Because she is ALWAYS gracious and I am NEVER dressed appropriately.

So I went around to the driveway and had a smoke with her brother and a bunch of the husbands.
What the hell.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Calling his bluff, proving me wrong. Parenting is a battlefield.

On Thursday night, I would not have been surprised if a crowd had gathered on the corner in front of my house. Inside, it sounded like World War 3.

We were studying for Max's spelling test.

There were tears (his and mine) and shouting. This was day 4 of preparation, and the test was in the morning. Tonight was supposed to be the final review - catching all of the last minute stumbling blocks that were hampering his careful memorization of those 22 words. And yet, it didn't feel like a review at all. I would read a word and sometimes he would repeat it back to me in wonder - as though he had never heard the word before in his life. I was bewildered. He had been cruising through these words. The second night, he had been spelling them almost giddily, rejoicing at his newfound spelling skills. Skills that were now resembling "skillz".

So we took a few steps back and approached it from a different angle. We tried a few different things: Breaking down the words into syllables. Sounding it out. Tricks. Rote recitation. Copying the word down 3 times, spelling it aloud each time. And still, every word was coming out wrong - it was as though he had fallen down the rabbit hole of spelling words, and everything was the opposite of what it had been the day before.

Now I was reading the words out loud and spelling them for him to copy down spelled correctly, in a desperate attempt to somehow teach his hands how to form the words automatically. He was repeating the words back, our voices rising with each line, until we were spelling words at the top of our lungs, shouting at each other across the living room.

And this is exactly why we don't homeschool. By the end of the school year I would be in a fetal position on the floor clutching a flask and rocking back and forth, and he would be throwing dining room furniture through windows and setting the dictionary on fire.

It's crazy that we should find ourselves here, now. We had made a lot of headway with his spelling recently and I had been confident that the tools we had honed last year were going to work for us again. Spelling takes a lot of effort on his part. Max is not a natural speller. When he writes essays or poems, it is a struggle to read them.... almost impossible at times - even for Max - to figure out what the words are supposed to be, so badly are they misspelled. This is my Waterloo.

For me, the most challenging thing about being a parent has been learning to parent a child so unlike me in so many ways. And this homework thing - spelling in particular - has been a huge issue for me. This boy of mine thinks homework is "optional'. He does the bare minimum, if that. For the most part, he is completely capable of doing the work, he just prefers not to. The spelling, on the otherhand, is not laziness, I don't think. He just had no natural aptitude for it. It might always be hard for him, and I have finally accepted that. But it's not easy. I was raised by a newspaper editor father and proofreader mother. My father once corrected a handout on Veteran's Day at school with his ever-present red pen, and handed it back to the teacher as he left the classroom. Spelling just comes naturally to me. And teaching? Does not. So each night we have a careful understanding. He does his homework when I ask, to the best of his ability. I do not hover. I do not correct. I certainly do not give him the answers. But at this point, all of our carefully agreed upon guidelines were completely out the window.

Which is why when he spelled 'South Carolina' "Soth Carolinean" I said the first thing that popped into my head:

"Are you fucking kidding me right now?"

He was not kidding.

And then we got to 'Rhode Island'. I must stop and remind you that the child just spent almost 2 months in Rhode Island. I grew up in the area. My mother still lives there. And yet all of those months of seeing road signs (Not "rhode" signs), reading the address on the mail, saying the word over and over and over again when anyone asks where he was staying, or where he had been this summer, all of the lecturing about the silent letters in this tricky state.....he still spelled my home state Rode Iland.

The mind, it boggles.

By the end, it was a screenshot right out of a movie: the mother sitting on the couch, slumped over a sheaf of photocopies. Defeated. The son, sitting at the table under a single lightbulb, head in hands, his tears falling silently onto the composition book lying open in front of him.

Lucy, meanwhile, was in the TV room chattering away with Sam. They were reviewing her spelling words, and as silence fell over Max and I in the living room, and we sat there completely drained from our ordeal, she chirped along through each word without a moment of hesitation. At the end, she closed her folder with a sigh. "Daddy, I wish I had more homework."

Max looked up and caught my eye, questioning.

"No, she is NOT doing your homework for you."

He sighed, and looked back down at the soggy page, and went back to writing each word. Three times. "Max, you gotta learn these words. You don't know enough of these words to pass. You have *got* to learn these words."

He kept his head down, and kept writing. I was worried. He had been working so hard, and hadn't made any discernable progress. I was sure he was going to fail the test, and I knew it would break his heart.

The next day, he only got four words wrong. 4 out of 22. Thats 82%. And that is amazing.
The tables have turned, and I can freely admit that I stand corrected. Where the hell is my red pen.