The Good News is I’m Not Dead

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I have to say that considering I treat my body and my health like some might treat a rental car, I am fairly lucky that my body hasn’t failed me sooner. I might have broken down in the lanes of life occassionally and from time to time my transmission might get stuck in second gear, but hell, I’m still giving it a go.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t care about living a full healthy long life. I think it’s more tantamount to living a bolder, edgier, devil-may-care life. Enjoy the moment, even if that moment might consist of copious quantities of alcohol, cigarettes, and deliciously bad food. I don’t keep my eye on the end goal, because I am too wrapped up in the party occurring right this moment.

So it wasn’t a huge shock when I finally ended up with high blood pressure a few years back. It wasn’t sudden. My doctor had been monitoring it for years and it kept creeping up, more and more, until VOILA – we couldn’t ignore the numbers anymore. I’ve taken some measures – mostly diet related to get it where it needs to be. It was hard. Mama loved her salty foods. But today? I’ve trained myself pretty well, and in doing so, I can instantly taste something too salty, which is why I don’t eat out as much, and why fast food is a rarity.

Running parallel to this were my blood sugar numbers. I haven’t ever really had a huge sweet tooth, and people hear blood sugars and sometimes think it has to do with that. Refined sugar. I knew that wasn’t the only thing that was sugary though. Being a diet expert, I understand how white carbs basically disintegrate into the most deadly of sugars themselves. But I still sort of pooh-pooh’ed it because most people I know who end up with diabetes love themselves cake and pie.

After a number of dental surgeries this past year, and limited soft food choices my diet felt like it consisted of  The 3 P’s; pasta, pudding and potatoes. I’d heal, another surgery would come, and there we would go back on it again. I joked with my dentist how when this was all over, I was going to end up a diabetic.

Oh the foresight jokes can have.

So fast forward, I get the diagnosis last week (see Pour Some Sugar On Me) and voila here we are. Old habits are very hard to break, but just as I broke that all-loving salt habit, I can break this all-loving carb habit – but in the meantime, I’d love some fucking help from the health community.

I get that I can’t run around trashing my body, and then whine that everyone in the world hasn’t stopped to make sure I know how to apply the band-aide. BUT – when I’m getting auto-calls from my insurance company advising me that my referrals have been approved and I don’t know what I’m getting approved for, there is a problem.

Friday I get the above mentioned call from my insurance company. I’m pretty lucky that my company affords me good insurance, and that they work so quickly. I call the company that they advise and immediately am connected to a call center in the Philippines. They cannot tell me what the referral is for, because they haven’t received the request from my provider. So now I have to call my provider and leave them a message to please provide a referral for something to this company. They promptly call me back the following day and advise they will send the referral over, but don’t initially tell me what it is for. I have to ask, and she tells me it’s the strips. I explain, being brand new to this wonderfully shared disease, I have no idea what to do with the strips, because I have had no experience with this, and don’t the strips need a meter?. She realizes I need an approval for a glucometer and lancets too – aaaaand, the thigh bone’s connected to the — knee bone, and the knee bone’s  connected to the — shin bone.

My point is everything here is connected to me having the knowledge of what I need. But how do I know what I need without the education? I’m really trying to hold it together, both in anger and tears while I’m on the phone, because really this gal is very sweet, and my living life on the edge and now reaping the rewards, is not her fault. I am shakily trying to explain this to her and how I haven’t met up with an educator, and how everything I am learning is off the internet and do you know how contradictory the information on the internet can be….?

She finally ends with the promise of the referral going through immediately, and how I should have everything by Friday. In the meantime she gives me the name of the diabetic educator who I immediately call and leave a message for. (Still waiting to hear back from them)

In the meantime, life goes on. Little by little I am getting used to things, like coming home and making myself a sensible dinner. I hate cooking for one. HATE IT. But I’m learning. I had a very small amount of brown rice, with sautéed shrimp and spinach last night. My appetite is smaller, so the meals tend to last me a couple of nights. I read up on some of the natural sugar items I could have, and along with apples (which I love), banana’s and pears are good too. I’m learning terms like Glycemic Index. My grocery shopping bill is through the roof right now, but hell I recall that from my diet days. It’s so much cheaper to eat like crap, which is why I believe, we have such an obesity problem with lower income families.

This lack of education also means every day is like waking up living in a video game. What new surprise awaits me today? Is it a bop on the noggin, enough to knock me out? Is it a box filled with new super-powers? Today is a noggin bop day.

I don’t have the greatest eyesight. Yes, I know I am literally the whole package. “Scoop me up now boys, before appendages start to drop off!“. Anyway, along with bad eyesight, I do this thing with my eyes, that my youngest daughter dubbed “Dead Eye” a long time ago. I don’t know if it’s anything to do with blood sugars but when I am tired, my eyes are almost lulled into an open-eyed coma. They do this — well lack of focus is the best way to describe it. It’s like they take a break. I never knew anyone could tell when I was doing it, but damn if  she didn’t have an eagle eye for it, and would immediately call me out, forcing me to snap back into it, and re-focus. Most of the time I am able to snap myself out, but sometimes it’s really difficult. Like proverbially shaking a rag doll.

When this happens, my focus is blurred on anything near me. Late last week I noticed sometimes my vision had that same blur. I assumed I was inadvertently not focusing. Doing Dead Eye and not being able to snap out of it. But it was frustrating. This morning when it happened, I did everything I could to shake the Dead Eye syndrome off, until I realized it was not that. I simply cannot see anything two feet in front of me with or without my glasses on, unless I tilt my head back and use the bifocal portion of my glasses.

I was dumbfounded. I am literally blind, either way with my six-fucking-month-old new prescription. With my $700 (including my sunglasses here too) non-breakable, non-glare, transitional, magical unicorn fucking new lenses.

This would explain the neck issue, and my constant need to clean my glasses the past four days.

!!WHAT THE FUCK!!, I internally screamed. I immediately went to my doctor, Dr. Google that is, and looked up Metformin and blurred vision, and there it is, page after page, forum after forum, talking about how common the vision changes are after starting diabetes meds. Blood sugar negatively affects your vision as well as your nerves, and your internal organs. Of course it does. It affects everything! – anyway it’s quite common with blood sugar lowering medications to have your vision change as your blood sugars drop.

The good news is my BS is probably lowering significantly with the new diet and meds and the changes are immediately evident. The bad news is this effect on my vision could last for months.

The other good news is my eyesight could actually improve. The other bad news is, who cares, you’ll need your prescription corrected. See above for $700 lost dollars.

The last good news is at least I’m not dead.

That’s what I tell myself when I want to cry and throw a temper tantrum. At least I’m not dead. And I’m down four pounds. Not dead, not entirely blind, and down four pounds.

Yeah, life could be worse.

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#MeToo

 

Let’s get serious here for a moment.

It’s a very strange concept to believe that people have been raised in a “rape culture”. I think the more appropriate terms is that acceptance of rape – that harsh ugly word, is now being peeled like an onion and that little by little women are waking up from this low-level sleep, opening their eyes to the fact that accepted (not to be confused with acceptable) sexual harassment, assault and forced sex is simply not going to fly anymore.

We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!

I don’t believe that my generation was necessarily raped more than any other, but I do believe more men got away with it. Frankly speaking the thin grey lines of sexual assault were simply silenced; it was more victim focused than where it should have been.

On the perpetrator.

I think the term Sexual Assault is becoming a more understood and wide spread word being used in conjunction with all sex crimes. While assault of a lower level than penetrable rape is understandably less devastating, it’s still traumatizing. It still leaves a victim filled with fear, shame, guilt and the wonder of what could the victim have done differently.

I don’t believe with any other crime that comes to mind, does one have to prove the crime was committed before it is believed. Rape does. When someone is robbed, we don’t immediately question the validity of their claims. We don’t wonder if that masked man is being unjustly framed.

It’s wrong to have to say “Well back in my day….” when discussing something so grim, but back in my day these things really were silently accepted by most. Women were supposed to “know better”, which included not being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Not wearing the clothing that elicited these responses from men. And God forbid you have too much to drink. These were all viable reasons to not believe a woman.

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It was as if, men were these stupid animals who had absolutely no control of their basic sexual instincts, and we had to know better than to set off their hormonal or sexual urges. Don’t set a fire in front of a Rhino. Don’t bleed near a shark. Don’t run from a bear. Don’t entice a man with just being you.

On top of that rape, or assault as a form of power-play and not sex were words we knew, but victim blame was just so much easier. Men raped to fuck, and women who didn’t want that to happen should have followed the above mentioned rules. Or share in the blame. Men blamed. Women did it. Fathers did it. Mothers did it.

With time, common sense, whatever thankful thing that happened, spurred things on and we re-learned that a victim is not responsible for her attackers actions. But somewhere along the line, we didn’t teach the victim that the silence, and the shame need not be hers. We didn’t teach them not to fear they wouldn’t be believed. We didn’t teach them that there had to be a viable, proven pattern before they could say anything. So women remained tight lipped, and the rapes, the assaults continued.

I’ve joked about seeing more dick as a small child than some grown women do. The thing is I joke about a lot of pain. I don’t like to make others uncomfortable with my darker realities, so most of the time I paint my stories with bold colors of what might make you laugh.

The reality is, these parts of my life shouldn’t have been treated as a joke, either then or now. While I hate when people jump on the victim bandwagon just to be part of a growing trend, the fact is the growing #metoo campaign, relates to almost every adult woman I know. Almost ALL of us have at least one of those situations where we were groped, assaulted, harassed, or raped. A friends daughter questioned the point of the campaign. She said it wasn’t like we were actually doing anything about it. But for me, and I suspect a lot of others, there is this growing sense of strength that we are not alone. That strength? It might empower a woman to come forward today and report her rapist. Or help her sleep a little more, knowing that millions of other women have suffered in some form of this abuse. If you don’t believe me, go through your active female friends list on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and see how many are posting the hashtag.

As a child, I don’t know if this dick issue was due to  my shy nature, or maybe my inherit belief that bigger people, aka adults were always right because of their size and age. If an adult asked you to come to their car, you might know that a different adult aka parent, said “Don’t Talk to Strangers.” But that same adult might have also said, “Respect your elders”, so which trumped which? I was too well behaved not to follow the rules, so I went with the latter. The first time that was. After that men who liked small children to see their erect or flaccid penises had to work harder to get my attention. Like standing in front of windows, sitting in discreet areas of a park, or pulling up near a crosswalk and honking their horn.

I was nearly immune to constant flagging me down by the waggle of a male appendage by the time I was teenager, and my attitude must have shown it. I had read that confident women were rarely targets, so I learned to walk with my head held high, even if it was dark or late at night. Regardless of that stance, direct assaults happened on two occasions, and thankfully neither was a fully penetrable rape. When I wasn’t being assaulted, on different occasions I was nearly (sort of?, half-way?) molested when I was sleeping, and with all my bravado today of what I would tell someone to do — at the time I was too terrified, too ashamed to lash out. There was no screaming of “Get your fucking hands off of me!”. There was no swift kick to the balls, or an elbow to the nose. Instead there was shock of what I did to spur this on, followed with silent praying that it would stop. Which on both occasions it fortunately did.

Wait. See, right there? I downplay it. I tell myself I wasn’t “raped” and therefore my assault was less than. Honestly for decades I didn’t even really count most of the above mentioned encounters as any type of sexual assault. Real sexual assault is rape. It’s not exposure. It’s not an unwelcome masturbating session in front of me. It’s not a copped feel. Even a terrifying hostile one.

To make matters worse, my mother suffered very much from the “blame the victim” mentality. I’ve wondered why at times. I’m such a roaring mother lion of a parent, I can’t fathom anything less than ripping someone’s balls off that did this to either of my girls. Maybe it was generational. Maybe it was anger at me for what she felt was me placing myself in bad situation. I think this just drove in the thought that had I behaved, had I not talked to a stranger, been home on time, fallen asleep, these sorts of things would never have happened to me. Since it was my fault, then it really didn’t count as a crime.

That first man who exposed himself to me at nine? I remember the conversation, the color of his car, the sunglasses he wore, the license plate, with clarity even today. I remember he wasn’t a creepy old man. I recall him calling me over to his rolled down passenger window, leaning over and asking me for directions to a street that was very close. After I gave him the directions, he steered the conversation towards my interest in boys, and I politely answered his questions, growing a little bit uncomfortable, but not wanting to be rude. Not wanting to be disrespectful. Until VOILA! – he unwrapped the present in his lap that he had been so discreetly hiding, and asked me if I had ever seen a grown man naked. I stammered and ran away, but of course, making certain I crossed at the crosswalk, even if it was a longer way home. He drove a red Pinto, and wore red, white and blue trimmed aviator glasses, and had a vanity license plate.

When I told my mother, as I mentioned, she was angered that I talked to a stranger. I get that. But also be angry at the grown man who showed his penis to your child.

Weeks later when I was out in front of my apartment building, I saw his car parked TWO BUILDINGS DOWN from me. I ran home in absolute fear and told my mother, who promptly did nothing but tell me to stay away from the car and not to play out front.

Neither time did she call the police. Sometimes I wonder if we were on the lam for some crime long before committed, because what other fucking excuse does one make for not getting law enforcement involved with a man who lives or frequents your area, while exposing himself to children?

No joke. Yes, I’m pretty sure she loved me, she just hated dramatics, and apparently a stranger pulling on his wiener in front of a nine-year old girl must have fallen into that category. To be honest, I don’t know why she reacted (or didn’t) the way she did.

The point was again, it sent home the first message, that if I behaved things like this wouldn’t happen. After that I didn’t tell her of penis sightings anymore. They were, apparently just part of life.

See, that’s where I learned silence. I learned if you were even believed, just be quiet about it. Maybe it was her shame at not protecting me, but we never ever talked about any of these things again.

When I was assaulted at a bus stop in the beautiful little beach town I lived in, I was coming home late. I had been karmic-ly smacked with the heavy Book of Life for breaking the rules, and I was again taught, had I followed said rules, things like this wouldn’t occur.

Fortunately my younger brother witnessed my near hysteria and on his shoulders he carried my fear, promising to protect me to the best of his ability. Sort of ironic that the male was the hero in that story wasn’t it?

Which brings me to the point at hand, the #MeToo campaign. Whether we are talking Cosby, Weinstein, or even the brushed under the carpet gossip (?) of the Affleck brothers (yes Casey, I’m looking at you. You too, Ben.) there are always going to be people who will co-sign, who will accept the behavior of these men, because come on, those women, exaggerated, lied, or asked for it. And now when we realize they didn’t? We create campaigns.

On the latter, did you know designer Donna Karan in defending Weinstein actually suggested that some women may be “asking for it” based on the way they dress? A Woman, co-signed a man who looked like a chewed up piece of bubblegum with hair (thank you SNL for that, because it fit perfectly and I laughed my ass off) with a reputation that crossed continents. Made me sick.

I have two daughters and while they think (especially my younger one) that I smother them with my overly cautious nature, I think part of it is based on being exposed (literally and figuratively) to the vile side of society. I never ever want either of them to have that moment of fear when a strange man comes up behind you and bear wraps his arms around you, grabbing at you. When your mind doesn’t know if this is the 1-in-3 chance of being raped, or if it’s someone who hasn’t gotten that far along in his crimes to go that far. Who thus far is capable of getting his kicks at gropes.

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In closing, I have to say it’s taken me decades to recognize all of this. It’s taken me voices of others who’ve experienced same, similar and worse experiences to recognize my part in this. That never, ever is a child even one ounce responsible for the illegal, immoral sexual actions of an adult. Not even a teenage child. And never should a woman be made uncomfortable because her boss, or a co-worker, or a mechanic, or ANYONE else, cannot make eye contact because they are leering at her breasts.

 

 

Sadly, we have a long way to go before the reality of assault is understood and completely unaccepted. Sadly, we have still place men in positions of power that can make statements so stifling, so terrifying and yet still so accepted as locker room talk by a nation.

“When you’re a star, they let you do it,” he said. “You can do anything. Grab ’em by the p—y.”

Hopefully someday this will change. Until then, #metoo.

 

Pour Some Sugar on Me

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You know usually I like to start these blogs out with some pithy, semi-witty paragraph that hopefully ties things together. Last night when I was running things through my head on this subject I had that opening. Today, — not so much. I don’t know if it’s the dawns early light, just sucking the brain cells out of me, or – and I suspect this is it — I am a little more freaked out about this subject than I was twelve hours ago.

Months ago I started to notice little changes in my body chemistry. For instance, my thirst levels seemed to increase. I take a HBP med that is also a water pill, and I assumed it had something to do with that. Being on this med, also means I have to really watch my salt intake too. I am usually pretty good about that, but once in a blue moon I’ll order my favorite pepperoni and black olive pizza and I’ll be up and down for all hours of the night, feeling as though there is literally not enough water on the planet to satiate me. To be honest, I really sort of patted myself on the back for increasing my water intake, because we all know we should drink lot and lots of this clear gold.

So with all this water intake, it only makes sense that I have to pee a lot. A LOT. I mean, honestly I’ve always peed a lot anyway. But lately, it’s been a LOT. Like waking up twice in the middle of the night to pee. And of course, to drink more water. Again, assumed this was part of age. Old people are known to be over-pee’ers. Aren’t they?

While we are on the topic of aging (something I seem just the very slightest bit obsessed with), I had noticed how dry my skin was lately. A comedian did a bit on this years ago; talked about if an alien landed and studied women, he would notice how they had this need as they aged, to dip themselves in vats of fatty slippery substance on a daily basis. They simply could not get enough moisture. That’s never really been an issue for me, until lately. I’m noticing not dry flaky, just – well like someone had sucked the liquids out of me, which makes so little sense, when one figures the tons of water I pump into myself on a daily basis. (See above)

Still no alarm really. Aging sucks and I can’t go to the doctor because of all of this. Suck it up Buttercup. Which I did — until late July when I noticed that I was having some issues with my feet. Now earlier I had been having sciatic nerve issues with my thighs and lower back. I just sort of get this numbing sensation. It’s been an issue since a fall I took with my last pregnancy, which was 25 years ago. Sort of rare, and because I really didn’t feel like I had done anything to trigger it, I figured my beloved mattress could be partially to blame. Most of the time when I had this, were the morning hours. So when I started to wake to tingly and numbing feet, I assumed it had something to do with it.

Now some might think, “Damn this girl lives in a lot of denial!”, and some of you would be right. But this girl is also just a smidge of a hypochondriac. – Wait, wrong word – I’m, … what is the word when you’re a germ-a-phobe? I’m more that. I don’t think I’m always sick (just dying), but I have gotten to the point where I freak the phuck out if I am around anyone who sneezes or states, “I think I am coming down/getting over ….”. I don’t know why it has gotten so bad as the years have gone on, but I have thoroughly insulted co-workers, friends, and even close family members by treating them as members of a plague-infested community when I know they have an ounce of illness left in them.

My point is, I don’t think I need to go to the doctor for every obvious symptom, even if it is spelling out D-I-A-B-E-T-E-S.

But I did this time. The feet thing. I went and told him (my doctor who I’ve been seeing for close to twenty years) that I really suspected it was my mattress, and back related, but thought I should get it checked out. So he scribbled some notes, sort of did a “there, there” pat on my back, handed me a sheet to take to the lab, and called it a day. I inquired about his lab, but since he moved offices, it no longer existed. I’d have to use outside sources.

That was going to be a problem, because a). I forget to get routine medical things done. I think it’s subconscious, and if it’s not just there and easy, I don’t want to bother. Hey, I just thought, they should have a lab that comes to YOU – great idea, and if any of you steal it, I’m coming for you. And b). — I forgot what b was. But there was a second thing. Welcome to my mind.

So I did forget. Or rather, I remembered after I had eaten, or in the afternoon, or at any time other than when I needed to recall. It’s like I always remember to email my Aunt when I’m anywhere but near my computer. My intentions were good. Give me credit for that. I immediately called for an appointment and got some voice system that told me to go online to make an appointment. Now appointments I am good at remembering. It’s a commitment, and I do commitments well. This was ideal. Only problem was the only time I could get a morning appointment was something like six weeks out, and we know that I needed these results sooner than that. It had to be morning because I had to fast. So I sat on it, promising myself I would just do a walk-in as soon as I found the time.

And eight weeks later I found the time.

See the irony on that? If I had made the appointment, I would have been in, in six weeks. Left to my own devices, two months go by before I get in.

That was last week. By now, that tingly feeling in my feet – well it was coming and going But it was coming a lot more. And it was now making falling asleep an issue. And it was scaring me, because this was no mattress issue. I didn’t even try and pretend otherwise.

Last night I came home to a letter from my doctor. Well it was dictation of my lab results, and it started off pretty decent. Liver functions normal. Kidney functions normal. LDL a bit high. Triglycerides very high, and oh and by the way you have diabetes. No fucking joke that it came across that way. Like two paragraphs down, and I don’t paraphrase when I say his sentence said “She has diabetes. – Blah blah, medical jargon, blah”

Of course part of me, the part that likes to be right, was all “I KNEW IT! I FUCKING KNEW IT!, and another part of me was quietly absorbing this in a very calm way. I messaged a friend, and her response was okay, but she didn’t get me enough to really understand how to react, plus she wasn’t feeling the greatest herself and it just wasn’t what I needed. I turned to my kidlet and my brother. My brother is pre-diabetic and honestly could live off of meat alone and be happy, so he controls his, via diet. My youngest, my dear sweet youngest immediately gave me support and compassion and sent me low-cal recipe Pintrest boards.

I realized I didn’t really want to talk to anyone about it. I was angry. Just a little. I was dumbfounded. Just a little. I looked up the med he wants to put me on. I looked up Type 2 Diabetes. I read the letter, over and over again. I looked in the kitchen for something to eat and saw a frozen pizza. Something I rarely eat because of the sodium. Something I wouldn’t be buying for myself in the future, and I decided if I hadn’t read the letter I wouldn’t know about this, and I would be able to eat it. So I would eat it now, and start clean tomorrow.

And this folks, is exactly how I end up with things like High Blood Pressure and Diabetes.

I wolfed that fucker down, not even enjoying it. It was angry eating. It was fuck you eating. It was sad, pathetic eating. It really wasn’t good. I burned my chin on the thin layer of the hot stuff they passed off for cheese, and I wondered, at what point did I buy this, I don’t even really like frozen pizza!

I found it ironic, that my mother, the Anti-Sugar Queen, (before the rest of the world knew how bad the sweet stuff was for us) – hadn’t been able to foresee this. I grew up on puffed rice and shredded wheat, where the rest of the world had Lucky Charms. Candy was permitted three times a year; Halloween, Christmas and Easter, and even then the leftovers would disappear in a week. Few cookies, or sweet treats, and never gum, soda or sugary drinks. I never had the pallet for Kool Aid, having not been brought up on it.

You can pour all the sugar in the world out, but keep feeding those kids pasta, and white bread, and the Devil simply gets you from the back-door instead of the front.

I read some more. Interesting facts. Like did you know close to 30 million American’s have Type 2 Diabetes? And 90% of them do not even know they have it? I read up on the symptoms and I clearly had many of the early warning symptoms.

  • Urinate a lot, often at night (check)
  • Are very thirsty (check)
  • Lose weight without trying (yes but no?)
  • Have numb or tingly hands or feet (check)
  • Feel very tired (check)
  • Have very dry skin (check)
  • Have sores that heal slowly (nope)
  • Have more infections than usual (nope)

Well fortunately my germ-a-phobia kept that last one away, and I haven’t been hurt enough to know if my sores are healing slowly. The losing weight without trying? Well I could only wish.  The others were spot on. But amazingly I haven’t put on the weight I should have the past year. My weight has shifted but the numbers are still the same. So maybe.

By the time I headed to bed, I felt strangely optimistic. Like a monkey had been lifted off my back. A very heavy monkey, that I was pretending not to notice. But I knew that monkey was there, and I was pretty certain why it was there. Now, I just didn’t have to pretend. The monkey had a name, Type 2 Diabetes.

I played with the cat and used my phone as classroom on the foods that would be my new diet. It didn’t feel as scary. The obvious; sugar and white carbs. I felt relief to know that some of my favorite fruits (apples and blueberries) are listed on the top ten foods that are good for diabetes. As were my two favorite veggies, asparagus and broccoli.

I recalled that the letter stated to get me to talk with their Diabetic Nutritionist and I made a mental note to do so. I looked up the effects of the drug I had to pick up at the pharmacy the next day and saw one of the side effects was “May cause weight loss” and silently woo-hoo’d the universe.

I almost felt like this was a blessing disguised as a curse. I could finally get back in shape. I “aha’d!” the friend who laughed at how many workout clothes I had, and how pristine they were. She asked if I would realistically ever use them. I envisioned me as Rocky (in those cute workout outfits, natch), climbing those steps, chomping on a stalk of broccoli  – and WAIT — that’ll never be me. So I re-envisioned myself walking the treadmill, and enjoying salad a bit more. I even saw myself overcoming this, until I read, you can get it pretty much under control, but once it’s there, you don’t really shake it. I can even drink in moderation, which isn’t that big of a deal as of late anyway, but I wanted to make certain it wouldn’t kill me.

Bastid disease!

This morning? To be honest, slightly different. Sadness. Some self-pity co-mingled with defeat. Yet another fucking ailment from me living my life with no caution to the future. Another pill to add to my growing daily intake. A little bit pissed that I was raised by a generation who preferred the convenience of boxed, frozen, and canned foods, that warped my pallet into preferring crap food over the good stuff. Definitely defensive over anyone who wanted to school me. So I’ve purposely stayed quiet minus this.

The biggest is probably Fear. The fear that this isn’t my doctor suggesting that I exercise more. This is now life or death. Life or limb as amputations are a possibility. On that subject, when I was 19 and had no medical insurance, I was bitten by a nasty spider. The venom from the bite quickly traversed up my arm in a bright red angry streak. I finally figured I better go have this checked out, and went to the only place I knew would take me without insurance, County Hospital. I waited 8-10 hours to be seen by someone, and when I finally did, the doctors surprised me by how very alarmed they were. The streak had reached about 2-3 inches below my arm pit. They said another day or two and it probably would reach my heart and then BAM – dead. Dramatic I figured. I assumed they would give me an antibiotic and send me home, but instead they insisted I get admitted so that I could be on a 24 hour antibiotic. I found that ridiculous (as well as unaffordable) and asked for my options. They explained the above mentioned poison to the heart, or the other, which was a gangrenous infection that would require full amputation of my arm. I was sold and stayed.

They placed me in a shared room with three other women; one, probably my age or thereabouts had been shot in the back in a drive-by shooting and had shrapnel everywhere, including her lungs. One was there for a kidney or liver transplant, I forget which. And one was old black woman who had just had her leg amputated from diabetic conditions. I recalled her the most, because she would wake up screaming in the middle of the night, feeling the leg and the pain, while a nurse would scurry in and comfort her and explain those were phantom pains and remind her that her leg was gone. I even recall it was her left leg. It freaked me the hell out.

Of course they all wanted to know what I was there for. The only signal I had an ailment was the IV attached to me wherever I went (I could get out of bed and walk around, unlike the three of them). I had to meekly state I was there for a spider bite. They all looked at me like, “White Girl, are you for real?” as they turned their heads in disgust. (For the record, yes I was the only white girl in there too.)

But if you pull destiny into things, maybe I was there because one day I would diabetic, and maybe I wouldn’t take the whole amputation thing seriously, and I needed that horrible memory to spur me on. Maybe I wasn’t there to feed into a complete arachnophobia that enveloped me over the years.  Nasty damn spiders.

In closing, last night as chomped down on that horrible pizza, as a way to flip off the universe, I kept hearing my mom’s voice when she said she was always surprised the fortitude and will power I had when I really wanted something. I can do this. I CAN DO THIS. It’s not going to always be easy, and I have some major learning to do. I need to educate myself on more than just diet for weight loss. I need to educate myself on diet for life.

Oh and for the record, that frozen pizza? I felt that sucker on my feet tingly until I finally fell asleep. Definitely not worth the proverbial price.

Sometimes You Just Have to Get Hit in the Head With a Stick

My wee’est of ones has been having a really hard time in her new(ish) job. Understandably, a lot of people have rough starts with new jobs, but this wasn’t one of those learning curve issues. This is truly one of those Mean Girl jobs, where the upper girls wring the life juices out of the newer crew, simply because they can. It’s especially taxing on mine, because she really tries to be accommodating and works her ass off in the meantime.

Ultimately she has her breaking point and I know she just needs to find it.  And as much as I hate it, I have to take a back seat and just let it happen.

Eventually the docile side is replaced by the girl who is nobodies doormat and she tells them, sometimes through angry tears, sometimes through calm, that this isn’t happening anymore.

I try and be her sounding board, as well as a shoulder to cry on when really all I want to do is march down there and as my mother would put it, “Shake them until their teeth rattle” for messing with my baby. I always know when she is in situations like this that her intelligence and perseverance will see her through.

And it did. In the form of a new job. She had an interview earlier this morning, and she aced it so well, that they called her back within two hours and made her an offer. I was pretty certain she was going to get this, and while the professional in me knows better than to encourage bad practices, I really wanted her to head back to her current office and tell Biffy,  Buffy and Pammy to stick this job up their asses. But she knows actions like this will come back to haunt her, and she also has a soft spot for the owner of the company.

Hence all the good energy in the air today. A cloud, a weight, a monkey – whatever euphemism you have, it’s  been lifted from her back, and in that vacant hole that once held frustrating anger, it’s now held with that gulping relief of cool air that ultimately swims in silliness.

When she is happy, so am I. When she is silly, so am I.

I texted her to see how she was doing later in the day. Asked her once again if she had quit yet. I’m living off the energy of her getting to tell them she is leaving. She told me that in fact, she couldn’t find anyone to quit to. That no one was left in the office, but her the interns she works with.

In this case, I jokingly reminded her of the story of how sometimes people hide from bad news. Like when I hid from a boy who wanted to break-up with me. Maybe her boss just didn’t want the bad news and was in a corner somewhere, waiting.

In the 7th grade I had this super sweet, super cute, and super SHY boyfriend. I don’t even think we talked much with one another, but nevertheless he asked if I wanted to be his girlfriend, and I said yes, so we were going around. Which is what we called it in the late 1970’s in my burg.

Upon arriving at school one day, probably two weeks into our relationship, a friend came and told me he was looking for me. When middle school friends pass that information on it’s never good news. It’s like when the wife says, “We need to talk.” Never good. It could only mean that he wanted to break-up with me, and I questioned that. Was our mere two week love story not going to last a lifetime? While I recall being really flattered that this guy liked me, I don’t recall ever being puppy love crazy about him. I had those crushes, and this simply wasn’t one of them. I think my ego simply wasn’t equipped with being broken up with that day.

In squeezing my mind for memories, I think he had decided he actually liked my best friend, which is pretty shitty in one way, and pretty awesome in the fact that as kids you can just do that, and it’s no big deal. You don’t get ostracized from your school or family, or anything. Man, kids have it made. Can you imagine going home to your husband or wife and saying, “You know, I think I kinda want to give it a go with your friend over there…”. If you can imagine that, then my deepest apologies for what a shitty spouse you once had. Or hey, possibly a really open-marriage. Who am I to judge? 😉

Anyway – upon hearing this news, my philosophy was, if he couldn’t find me, he couldn’t break-up with me. (Which in thinking about it, I don’t think that followed middle school rules. I think there was a by-law that said you could be broken up with by a messenger. In other words someone found you, passed on the message, “So-in-so is breaking up with you.” and POOF it was done. Divorce courts should be that easy. )

That simple.

So I stayed out of sight, avoided the areas I figured he would be in, including the locker bays – for the entire school day. By the next day I was steeled for it and let myself be found. He laid the bad news on me and I took it pretty well. I think I knew I was kind of a shitty girlfriend, and that the break-up was well deserved. I just wanted to play it out to my terms a bit.

Which is ironically the story of my life. Not hiding from break-ups. Playing things out to my terms and owning up to my side of things. That 7th grade love-affair wasn’t meant to be, and I knew it from day one.

My wee one and I laughed over the situation – both with her boss, and with my old 7th grade boyfriend. I pondered if I could have hidden a lifetime from him, and she said he would have been waiting by the Pearly Gates “Heeeey welcome to Heaven. We gotta talk …..”

That got us going into the game, “Remember this Story” where we prodded one another for details on stories we’ve told a dozen times.

“Who was my 4th grade nemesis?” “Who was my kindergarten nemesis?” “What slur did I get called in 3rd grade that made me cry?” (the answer to that one by the way was “fag”  and she really did come home crying, not even understanding the term, but knowing it was bad. Her understanding mother? I consoled, but I also laughed my ass off. Not at the word, but at her reaction. I wasn’t always up to Mother-of-the-Year)

I’m not certain how both of us, fairly shy, very well-behaved little girls in totally different generations both ended up with grade school nemesis’s, but we did. The interesting part is that none of these nemesis’s even knew they were held so high in our memory banks to claim such an adversarial title.

My kindergarten nemesis, also happened to be my neighbor. Linda Cole. I don’t think I could name another single child in my Kindergarten class, but I can recall Linda Cole. I think Linda was my first frenemy. I remember playing with her, but I also remember not liking her. Ever. Thin lipped, blonde haired, beady eyed. This was before the days of play dates, so it wasn’t a forced situation between parents. No, this was the opposite; When your parents would send you outside to play and hadn’t a clue on where you were. Obviously being so young, neither of us had far to go to play, and I suspect that we were all we had, so like it or not we played together.

Rumors had spread about Linda’s parents. Her mother specifically. How the fuck, a five year old hears, recalls and later repeats gossip is beyond me, but I was a fast learner. I don’t recall how the situation arose. Was I being a mean girl? Was I taunted into being mean back?  I only recall that I blurted out  “Your mother is a drug addict.” Or maybe it was her “Your mother is a drug addict!!!!!!!!” Either way, exclamations or not, my nemesis Linda wasn’t having any of that disparaging talk about her mother, and she promptly picked up a stick, about the size of a really large pencil and chucked it at me.

Perfect aim for the daughter of a freaking drug addled mother. (see this attitude? — it is why I get hit in the face with things) Hit me right between the eyes, only a little higher; on the forehead. I probably cried and ran home (next door). I didn’t go upstairs and tell on her, because – like the situation with the 7th grade boyfriend, I knew ultimately I was being a shitty friend and deserved it.

I killed some time at the mailboxes, maybe waiting until my tears dried —  until a drop of blood went “PLINK” on my hand. When blood appears to a kid, shit gets real. I think I was confused on where it came from, so in rubbing my forehead looking for the area, I found it weirdly wet and by now dribbling down my nose. At that point I FREAKED, ran upstairs, and well – I don’t know what I told my mother. I was quite adept at lying, and possibly told her something else. She didn’t do what I would have done, which was march over and find out why someone had thrown an object at my kid only a couple of inches from hitting her eye, so I suspect she either a). saw right through my lie, or b). I told her the truth.

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I’d bet the farm it was A.

Regardless of A or B, I was left with a lifetime scar about an inch long, ala Harry Potter on my forehead. With age it fades more and more, and unfortunately it’s not in a cool lightning bolt shape. When I was younger I used to get asked about it a lot, but not much anymore.

I deserved to get broken up by Phil, and I deserved to get hit in the head by Linda. I own that. And these stories and memories that we can laugh about on days where the energy is high with nervousness and good vibes, I own that too.

Right now I just want to know what she is telling her boss, who came back to the office while I was writing this.

Pins and needles I tell ya.

The God of Bedroom Furniture

I was nine-years old when I first got a bedroom to myself. We were moving from our small 2-bed/1-bath Hollywood apartment where I shared a room with my younger brother, to what seemed like a palatial 3-bed/2-bath apartment in Redondo Beach. I felt like a Princess.

New furniture was soon ordered – it was as if Oprah had traveled back in time and landed in our new home; “New bedroom furniture for YOU!!” as she pointed to my mother, “and for YOU!!” as she pointed to my brother. When she got to me, my face would be smiling up at her, waiting for the ..and YOU, but her finger just sort of faltered and went down to her side as she just shrugged and *zooiipppp* immediately traveled back into the future that she lived in.

Waah-waah-waaaaaaah goes the trombone, as the camera pans in on the lone hot tear dribbling down my cheek.

My mother had a thick rich oak bedroom set when we lived in Hollywood; double sized bed with high headboard and glorious thick footboard, a highboy dresser that I almost couldn’t reach the top of. Matching nightstand and the piece de resistance; a beautiful 7-drawer vanity with a huge oval mirror perched on top. While the furniture was definitely feminine with the vanity and all, the sheer weight and size of it almost made it feel masculine. One could almost expect it to be named something like Silvanus, God of Wood. Overall spectacular heavy furniture for an adult, but a little too heavy for a nine-year old.

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Regardless of whether it should be a child’s or not, it was decided it made no sense to buy that third set when we had a perfectly usable one here.

I was told to pick the color I wanted to have my room and my mother would take care of the rest of it.

“Red!” I said triumphantly. I was destined to be a woman of boldness, even at the age of nine.

“Try again”, my mother responded dryly.  My dreams of a dashing red bedroom immediately disintegrated, and all I could think was “Why ask what I want if you’re just going to say no?”

“Blue!?” I said with a tad less enthusiasm and more of a question. I really wanted a red bedroom.+

“Nooooo…”, she responded, and I soon figured this clearly was not me getting what I wanted, but instead more of a game of figuring out the color my mother already had in mind.

I finally scored on the third try when I said, “Yellow.”, but with a lot less enthusiasm. I just wanted to get the answer right.

So yellow it was. Sort of.

Now my mother was an artist and while eclectic, I always thought a pretty good judge on interior design. Our homes were always a little weird, but weird-good, not weird-weird. We definitely never had the a-typical oil painting of the woods hanging over our couch. She liked unique artists and posters. She had a great eye for placing artwork, and furniture in the right place. Looking back, I’m certain that her choice was very of the moment, but in retrospect all I can think of is how that beautiful, never-did-anyone wrong, raw thick beautiful oak furniture that-should-have-been-named-Silvanus was completely decimated and embarrassed just to create a child’s room.

She painted it vivid bold orange, very in tune with the avocado green shag carpeting running through the house. It was accented with a yellow gingham bedspread, coordinating sheets and matching white lamp with a gingham lamp shade. She spent days, painstakingly getting it just right, and like a cherry on the top finished it off with four perfect little felt applique flower stickers on the footboard.

This was a 70’s dream of a little girl’s bedroom. She definitely loved me.

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This isn’t the bedroom furniture, but the palette is just about the same. 

It wasn’t brand new, but it was brand new to me. And it was made especially for me. It took two days for the paint to completely dry. When it was all said and done I was thrilled. My first night in my crisp yellow checkered sheets wrapped up in my new golden gingham bedspread were bliss. I loved this new furniture and promised to take perfect care of it.

I’ll say this much, it really did feel like a huge bed, and all of the furniture felt very grown-up. Maybe too grown up when I weeks later discovered, a book left behind in the nightstand*. It was a small paperback dedicated to the art of giving the perfect blow-job. Yup. It might have even been titled “The Perfect Blow-Job” or something very similar. You’d think this kind of material would have been shocking, but we were a family of true reader’s, which always means bathroom reading material, so I had been reading Erica Jong’s “The Fear of Flying” while sitting on the toilet for a few months now. At nine no less. I knew this new book was something I should tell my mother she left behind, but not before I read it.

I knew waaaay too much about the technicalities of sex, at waaaay too early of an age. To be honest I don’t think I really got much understanding out of it. I knew the words and I understood the details of the actions, but I didn’t really get the mechanics. The only thing I remembered about the book was something called the Butterfly Flick and in another chapter the suggestion of whipped cream. I loved whipped cream. How could they dirty it like this? As well, I can’t tell you any longer what the Butterfly flick actually was, but I definitely recall the terminology. Jesus, in thinking about it, I really hope it’s not like a butterfly kiss, because that is just wrong.

Moving on …

Of course that burly, thick, once-proud, now embarrassingly orange painted furniture was put to the test of a growing child, pre-teen, and teenager who at this point didn’t appreciate it one ounce. The first foray was probably within the first year of owning it when I accidentally spilt rubbing alcohol on the vanity which immediately cracked and peeled the orange paint. I tried to hide it from my mom, but using her super mom powers, she quickly found out and was furious. It was like she had willed me a beautiful car and I had taken it out and smashed the front end into a tree. There was no fixing it, so I figuratively drove the once beautiful beast around, crushed in for the remainder of its life. To make matters worse, years later I made the same spill on another area of the vanity. I think she was over me keeping it nice looking by then.

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Why not give me this car, and then blindfold me and ask me to drive it? Same results as the furniture.

I’m a slow learner, only accented by being a complete klutz.

I’ve always had a penchant for redesigning and redecorating, even as a kid. Makes me feel like I am in a new surrounding, so I would push and pull this heavy furniture around, putting pressure on the wrong areas, until I finally broke the inside on one of the side rails of the bed, and had to prop up the mattress with a couple of suitcases I found in my closet. Next came the leg of the heavy dresser, which snapped off when the pressure of my light frame put all of my strength into pushing it into a new position. Add to that, those painstakingly applied footboard applique flowers were too tempting not to peel off on boring Saturday mornings. Only half remnants of them remained as a reminder of what had been.

When we moved seven years later, the only thing that made the cut was the headboard which was nothing more than a prop, and the cracked and peeling vanity. Poor Silvanus. He had been dressed up and made to play tea party, and was now nothing more than a 16 year old’s embarrassment. I was too old for orange, but too lazy and inexperienced for stripping and sanding furniture. Finally we just threw the headboard away and placed the bed on the floor. The yellow gingham was gone, and replaced with a dark purple satin comforter that screamed I’m-so-fucking-cool. The 70’s were gone, long live the 80’s.

Of course I couldn’t have possibly known back then that that furniture would be the last “new” and matching set of bedroom furniture I would have in 40+ years. Pretty much the only new stuff that came through the doors when I was an adult with the exception of some ugly financed oak trimmed couch and matching love seat in the mid 80’s, were for the babies that grew to be children. Cribs, beds, dressers. As the years went by, furnishing living rooms, kids rooms and dining rooms always took precedence for this single mom, but most of it was hand-me-down. Nice hand-me-downs, but hand-me-downs nevertheless.  For a short time I worked for an furniture import company and I got a couple of new pieces. A dresser each for Sam and I, along with a dining room hutch. I treasured those for years.

At one point I did score a beautiful comfortable couch and overstuffed chair from my best friend who got married and wanted newer furniture, very soon after purchasing this set. Their marriage didn’t last, but that couch set did. Up until our new dog decided it was a perfect chew and rip toy.

Kids and pets, man. They don’t appreciate a damned thing. I realized how hard (and honestly ungrateful for any luxury) kids were on stuff, and I guess I sort of got why my mom only invested in one set of new bedroom furniture. My brother’s bedroom never got a make-over either, and by high school he still had the same Jack-N-Jill type bedding, with old Hot Wheels stickers partially peeled off his once new, but totally veneered dresser. (The wood snob in me curled my lip at the word veneer)

Fast forward, and with the purchase of the new house and the destruction of the favorite couch, I finally invested in some BRAND NEW furniture. Bar height dining set that could seat up to six. Wrap around couch (that is really too big for my small place, but what the heck) with chaise. Rugs, tables, artwork. I did the whole shebang really. And each night I would leave the beautifully furnished living areas and go into my completely mis-matched bedroom, still not fully unpacked years later, with dust piling up in areas of stuff I really didn’t want to begin with.

I told myself year after year that with this tax return, or this raise, or this bonus. this anything — I would finally invest in new bedroom furniture. I did have a new mattress. Well once it was new. An old boyfriend got it for me for Christmas many many moons ago, and like receiving a vacuum, you might not initially jump up and down with the same enthusiasm of a diamond, I eventually came to appreciate it much more than any rock you could offer me.

But I didn’t invest. I found vacations that needed cash, or fixing this or replacing that.

Last month I started to notice my shoulder was aching when I woke. The new mattress, was really closer to something like 15 years old, and while it appeared in fine shape, my body was telling me otherwise. I started to look around, and with the help of some wonderful people I was just about to lay some dough out, when my poor old dresser made a wheezing sound. I had been jam packing items in this little pine beauty for more than twenty years. Her joints were coming loose, and every once in a while she would exclaim “No more! Not one more sock or t-shirt!” and I’d think Well one more sock can’t hurt… Until one more sock did, and I realized I could take her apart and fix those loose joints, but the moment I put this much into her, I’d be in the same position. Some might ask, “Wouldn’t it have been cheaper to pare back on the number of clothes you had?”. I have no room in my life for those people, because they clearly do not know or understand me.

I thought on it and realized I could tough it out on the bed for maybe another year, but having a place to put my clothes was non-negotiable.  I went furniture shopping days later. Researched like crazy. Told myself just a dresser. And nightstand, because let’s be honest; this mismatch of items was crazy. Pine dresser, with mahogany bookshelf, and a dark walnut stained lingerie drawer doubling as a cramped nightstand was getting old.

Grow up! Stop living like a professional in the front half of the house and a beatnik in the back!

I went into the first store, armed with knowledge and prices and options. And there she stood. Bathed under the glow of warm lights. Maybe it was the heat blinding me, but it was love. I brushed it off, because I wasn’t looking for a bed. I took my sheet of researched pictures and stats and went searching for the dresser and nightstand, I needed. I’m not here for a bed. I firmly told myself. The items I had picked online were absolute crap. The drawer pulls felt like plastic. I started to notice a huge difference in the quality between the cheap stuff and the nicer stuff.

All the arguments went through my head, pros vs cons.  I was really torn on this. A nice dresser was about 2 ½ to 4 times more than what the cheaper stuff was. I paced back and forth wondering if I should mix this cheap with that pricey item. I finally made all my compromises and placed a tentative order. Because as I told the salesman, I had no intention of just walking in and buying something without thinking it out.

Famous final ironic thought.

And then I readied myself to walk out the store, but not before passing that damn gorgeous bed I saw when I first walked in. Intentionally.

I walked right up to her, and thought, “I freaking want this.

She spoke to me. A bed has never spoke to me. She coyly flirted and winked and offered me a seat. I noticed how well she seemed to be made. I noticed how the nail accents on the sides of her footboard and headboard sort of twinkled. I also noticed her price and she waited for me to wince. I didn’t. A fine piece of furniture is worth a heftier price I reminded her. Her nails shimmered more. Take me home, she whispered. We’ll see, I said with a wink.

We both knew.

The sales associate came my way, and made notice of my making notice. He asked if I was interested. I hemmed. I hawed. I mentioned how I didn’t think the dresser and nightstand I had on the tentative order would really go with her. He agreed. I think he would have agreed had I said that furniture needs to be nailed to the ceiling, at this point. He knew I was smitten and trying to hide it.

Then I looked one display over and saw this rough rustic wood. Kind of masculine. Almost the opposite of her very feminine build. The lighting was deceiving I noted, but did that rough furniture also have some undertones of grey? (The bed is a deep dark tufted gray) He took the display lamp off of the nightstand and picked it up, and set it next to her. I noticed the smell of all wood, no veneer, waft thru my nostrils. The grey tones I thought I saw came thru. This was solid furniture. Probably the last bit of furniture I would ever need to purchase I mused. I realized that honestly, not even taking price into consideration, this was the set I would want if it were free, or ten times the listed price.

I was sold.

It didn’t feel like that rushed impulse buy, even though technically it kinda was. It felt more like this was the reason I waited as long as I did. Zero interest they said. I’ll take it, I said. As my groaning credit card was swiped, I thought back to all of the new bedroom furniture I had over the years and realized with the exception of the groaning dresser, I’ve never owned new bedroom furniture. I deserved this.

Delivery was set for the following week (I needed time to get things ready). With the help of a friend, we moved things, and threw things out, and wheezed our way through five years of dust balls and cobwebs. My lack of pride on using this room for anything more than a place to sleep was sorely evident. As time approached closer to delivery my excitement was huge. In fact I hadn’t been this excited since I was nine years old, and the unveiling of the painted Silvanus was completed.

When the delivery men got there, I stayed out of their way, until finally one came out and pointed two fingers at his eyeballs, and then the same two at my new room. I felt like an expectant father in 1960, getting ready to go and see his newly born babe. I walked in and my breath was taken. It still needed some personalization, but it was gorgeous. The deliverymen left and I was all smiles. I laid on the unmade bed, and inhaled that deep aroma of wood furniture and started making it mine. When it was all said and done, I actually hugged that big beast of a high boy dresser.

The bed is dark rich grey, and the furniture is deep mix of blackened rough wood with hints of greys and browns.

Plus have I mentioned? The bed matches my cat perfectly. I mean like it was built for her. We both seem to love the bedroom now. It could be that I am in there, so she is, but yesterday and this morning I found her playing at the foot of the bed.

I like that both sets of bedroom furniture were and are solid wood. I like that this new set is sort of a masculine earthy set, just like Silvanus, the God of 1970’s Wood. In fact this set, with its number of pieces is sort of homage to the old. I promise I won’t paint it any color, regardless of the trend, or big eyed child that comes my way.

It’s sort of funny that what I set out to buy, a new mattress – was shelved. It’s okay. The old was a double pillow top and they dont make those anymore. With a flip and a twist, I have what sort of feels like a newer mattress. Maybe one not so old? And heck there are always tax returns, bonuses, and found money that can be used on a new mattress, down the road. 😉

+ I sort of got the red bedroom all those years later, in the form of bedding, and accouterments. Guess what? Red is totally overrated.

*I’ve always questioned how she could have painted the drawer front that the book was placed in and not heard, seen, or felt the movement of a small paperback book. She HAD to open the drawer, even a bit, to keep the drawer from being painted shut. One of those little life mysteries.

The Bad Tickle

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This morning someone on FB posted how frustrated they were with their own stress monkeys that keep the wheels spinning; suggested and implied scenarios that feed into thoughts that keep you awake full of angsty stress. I could relate, although most of the time I can keep these trained monkeys at bay.

Other times though, it’s as though they sense a weakness, a small hairline fracture of the psyche and they furtively dig away until there is a large enough crack to allow the thoughts to free flow.

Like right now, my mind is twitching and to manifest it physically, my eye joins in perfect rhythm.

I know why – it’s because I fed into it this morning. Between a combination of bad/weird dreams – old relationships that haunted me in my sleep, and a text that I woke to, it was just enough momentum set the wheels in motion.

I have to admit that sometimes it feels good to just drown in the moment. Fighting off stress, and emotional demons is flipping exhausting. So I let it go. Let it stir up all sorts of feelings of sorrow and what-ifs and why-nots peppered with illogical resentments. It’s good to have the chest go tight and the eyes burn holding back a small trickle of salty tears, that make absolutely no fucking sense. That’s the masochistic monkey in me. I can snap out of it, and smile when complimented, but I chose to let the monkey steer the ship.

So much of it is wrapped up in my past, and I know – I KNOW, how important it is to let that go, but it seems impossible at times. I go back and forth between understanding the paths my life took, versus the paths of everyone else and most days, nearly all of them I love who I am, and how I got there.

But some days not so much. Some days are dark and I hate those sliding doors of different and missed opportunities. I hate not having a cache of matching memories with most of my peers. I hate not being that one who fits into every mold of stereotypical society. Of always being a little different.

I treat my head the same way a therapist would. I ask the questions I know therapy would invoke and poke and prod until I can sort of pin it down, whether it was a time period or a shift in things that might have gone differently. I use the word differently instead of “better” as a reminder that we all have our own paths, some are just different than others.

How Professional Therapist of me, eh?

The great thing is I have gotten pretty good at asking the right questions and getting to the root of the problem. The bad thing is, once I have that monkey of a problem pinned down, once I know with almost total certainty that THIS is the issue — I don’t know what to do with it. I have the proverbial bad guy pinned down, but now what? If I get up to get help, I risk the problem overpowering me, or getting away, only to come back and do this to me another day.

This is where my lack of shining colors on being a therapist comes into play.

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I read things like “Step out of the past”, “Let the past go” and some of the time I am rah-rah-rah about this statement. Totally onboard!  “Yeah, that’s what I need to do!”, I tell myself!  Other times I think those slogans were written by people who don’t have any clue of what it’s like to have the monsters of their past knocking on the back door, asking to come in and share some tea and crumpets.

For those people, walking away from your non-existent demons of the past are easier said than done. But then again maybe it looks easy to me, because some people have the right tools. Maybe I am trying to spoon milk with a fork and can’t figure out why everyone else’s ladle is working so well.

My closest and oldest friend and I share some of these same issues. We are the ones who can get together and laugh and poke fun about how in some aspects our childhoods were so absolutely fucked up. Like, can you believe our mothers did X, Y or Z? I think we tend to laugh about hers a little more than mine, because mine seem to have a darker hue about them that sort of quietly menaces that we better not poke too hard.

Tickle Me Elmo

I was visiting her earlier in the year and we had been drinking and were listening to music. The more we drank, the more nostalgic the music became. Maybe it was Walter Egan’s “Magnet & Steel” or Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” – they both invoke about the same feeling in me, and I love both songs – anyway, a song came on, and I mentioned how I couldn’t place my finger on it, but those particular songs had a way of making me almost physically remember things. Kinda good, kinda not so good. She agreed and said it was like a bad tickle. You liked it, but then again you didn’t. I’d never had the description of an emotion hit so on target for me. That’s exactly what it was. A Bad Tickle. This weird feeling in your stomach that goes between laughter and tears.

As I drove into the office this morning, all wrapped up in my temporary pity and sorrow, the freeway electrical sign was lit up with a notice. Most of the time these signs remind you to use your seat belt, or tell you not to drink and drive. Maybe give you the time frame til you reach the next interchange. But they also convey important messages too, and this morning it was an Amber Alert. The irony of my life, my childhood demons as I so dramatically call them wasn’t lost on me on that moment. I’m not suggesting for a moment that this child was snatched up as some sort of dramatic way to show me my life really wasn’t that bad overall, (I mean, c’mon I’m not that narcissistic) but sometimes we need to take someone else’s life positions and use it as a brick upside our own head. All of us, ALL of us, can be trumped on how screwed up things were, or are. Maybe you were neglected, but he was abused. Maybe he was abused, but they were … see the game can continue until it gets very, very dark. I can sit and do the woe is me, but ultimately there is some situation out there that makes my woe look like a birthday party.

Of course as if to really hammer things home, sadly today we were issued not one but TWO Amber Alerts. I get it, I get it. Things really could have been worse. I hope both of those children are found safe and unharmed. Really and truly.

The truth is, I probably — wait, not probably – I DO need to get back into therapy if I can’t figure out a way to deal with my own overblown issues. Maybe it’s temporary menopausal craziness. That’s what I wish for. After all, I can say I have a handle on them for about 90% of the time. Truly. Probably even more than 90% of the time.  I know how to spin the muck into gold, and better yet, I know it’s gold. I am not just trying to convince myself of that fact. I see how wonderful and lucky I have been, and how hard I’ve worked to get where I am at today. 90% of the time I think I am fucking fabulous to have gotten where I am despite those wretched monkey demons. I usually pat myself on the back for making the odd choices that I have, because I can say with certainty what a long strange trip it’s been. (Thank you Jerry for summing it up)

But sometimes? Yeah I think sometimes I need to let those sad monkeys out. Let them feel in charge for 30 minutes. Let them whine and woe about how things might have been. Put on some old school rock or pop and just sort of melt into the what-could-have-been’s and let the bad tickle happen. Maybe a professional would tell me letting them out isn’t a good idea. Well, professionals have flip-flopped on the healthiness of eating eggs, and letting your children sleep with you for Christ’s sake, so maybe I have something here. Maybe sometimes we need to let the crazy out. Let it blink blindly in the sunshine and stretch it’s legs. Maybe we just need to tickle it, til it sorta gets that bad feeling amidst the laughter and then bring it back inside.

I’ve finally edited this by mid-afternoon and the remnants of earlier feelings have diminished greatly. I straightened out the text situation from earlier and the dream is all but forgotten and the tickle? It’s pretty much gone. It’s moments like these that I think “Don’t publish such rubbish”, but honestly I probably need to.

I need to show the good, the bad, the indifferent, the ugly and the crazy.

Opal’s Old Friend

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It seems like when I am both bored, and I have a little time on my hands I stumble across information that is a combination of freeing and sometime saddening all at the same time. I am the proverbial Pandora who will open that box, knowing the likelihood of it unveiling painful truths outweighs any possible good.

It’s how I found out my stepfather had died, alone in a nursing home. The upside is through his death I forgave him the not-so-minor infractions I had cast upon him and carried around with me like a brick for years. I’ve located a mugshot of an ex that I can’t scrub from my mind. The list could go on for the people I’ve located and at times I like to think I am my own kind of special Sam Spade, but the truth is patience, and Google can locate almost anything, or anyone. Facebook helps too.

There is an exception for my master techniques;  three people who have seemingly slipped through the cracks. Two are from my childhood, and finding them was never as great of importance as it was great curiosity. But one — one was a friendship that slipped through my fingers about 16 or 17 years ago, in a haphazard, “Oh I’ll pick that up in a moment” kind of fashion.

That last one I located today. Sort of. I’ve located the information to confirm she died at the very least a few years back.

I suspect if my amateur detective skills could have held out a little longer, or she could have held out a little longer for those thin gossamer web strings to finally envelope her we might have reconnected. But those are the pipe dreams of someone who wasn’t ready to say goodbye forever like.

I write about her without saying her name, because I feel like the glass will break and the finality will be dirt and stones, if I say out loud that “She has died”. Plus even in death I really strive for not calling people out specifically both past, or present.  This way, I can emotionally still be looking for her, like I have all these years. That’s me, denial in its truest fashion, weaving fairytales to keep the boogeymen at bay.

2015-01-23-NOTOXICITY-thumbI have written a ton on the No Toxicity rule in my life, and the magnet I am for whacked out people who flock to it. I rarely write about those who have rescued me, knowingly, or otherwise from these situations. I’ve had three deep toxic relationships, all with other women, and all in platonic ways. This isn’t the story of one of the three, Opal we will call her, but of the un-seeming hero who unknowingly rescued me afterwards.

See sometimes good things come from bad times, everything happens for a reason.

There are those rare individuals who for reasons none of us will ever know are professional Shit-Stirrers. Toxic Narcissists.  People who create chaos just for the hell of it. Bored housewives (in my cases), emotionally unstable, drama seeking sycophants.

The details on Opals actions are irrelevant. Suffice to say she mind-fucked me for reasons as I’ve listed above I just don’t understand. Some of it was very weird small stuff, and some of it was pretty big. Regardless, I was deeply entrenched in Opal’s life, as she was in mine. Our families were deeply connected. All sorts of stuff. Plus I was in a pretty vulnerable position, emotionally, physically and financially.

When it all came to light, and for some odd reason when this stuff  really does comes to light, you simply cannot un-see it. You can’t brush it under the rug and pretend the psycho sitting next to you is someone normal, unless you yourself are a bit twisted too. No, generally speaking you have to make large sweeping arcing motions to remove them completely from your life. Grab it by the root and tug the hell out of it until you’ve banished it from your world.

So despite how this was going to affect me including cutting me off from most everything I had grown comfortable with, everything I had learned to depend on – I made the healthy decision to grab this root and burn it.

It wasn’t easy.

When the dust settled from this chaos and I looked around my life, things had definitely changed. Most of it would be 100% for the better, but at that moment I wasn’t aware. I only knew that for the first time in a very long time, I felt very small and very alone. But in the dramatic fashion that this tale is spinning, there stood this figure in the distance. A figurative bloodied and battle-worn casualty in her own right, having fought the same dramatic war, with the same drama prone Opal, just on a different battlefield.

I had known her for years, as she was Opal’s other best friend. When my youngest was born, they both came to visit me, bringing sweet gifts. There were a couple of social situations that we hung out together in, but we were just a tad wary of one another. Frankly she intimidated the fuck out of me. Aggressive, blunt speaking, and self-confident. (Which by no coincidence I have been called as well) My daughter who knew her as a wee babe described her as a thin version of Roseanne. It sort of hits it on the head with that one.

How does that saying go; Any enemy of my enemy is a friend? I can’t recall the exact circumstances of our first solo meeting, but neither of us were aware initially that Opal was out of the other’s life, so we treated each other in that same superficially friendly manner. I had no reason to begrudge her, but neither did I trust her. The feeling was mutual.

Of course the story would go nowhere if we didn’t quickly figure out that things had disintegrated for both of us with the same person. We quickly compared notes, war stories, the whole lot. I laugh to think what a big deal it was back then. One would have thought us high schoolers for all the drama, not the 30-something women we were. But I think in retrospect it was highly important for us to have each other.

There is a saying that people come into your life for a reason, and in consideration I think we came into one another’s lives for a very important reasons. Opal had been her best and almost only close friend for decades. Opal had been in my life for about half that time, but I relied heavily on her as a friend, a confidante – she was practically family for both of us. The betrayal, and hurt we were both going thru – it was crucial that we had an ally that understood. Not a husband, or an outside friend who could comfort us, but someone who would let us tear the proverbial carcass of this unhealthy relationship to shreds, sit there licking our lips, and our wounds – until we were bloated and exhausted.

And that’s exactly what we did for each other. In ripping thru the being of who Opal was, it helped us heal.

We also found that one reason we weren’t closer over the years is that Opal had whispered secrets, and untruths into our ears about one another. Once the indignation of “She said WHAT?” wore off, we actually had fun comparing all the things we had been told. Of course like the emotional school aged children we acted like, we relished in the thought of what our new found friendship must be doing to the psyche of the banished Opal. Maturity wasn’t our strong suit when we were in pain.

Fortunately the friendship that was founded in this pain, wasn’t completely built on it. We found once the character ripping of our common enemy had ceased, that we had this true common core of a friendship. The things that intimidated me about her, I soon found out frightened her about me. No surprise there. I mean not now. We spent so many hours in her kitchen talking and laughing. Her laugh was infectious. Her whole body shook and she would throw her head back.

Damn I had to stop there for a moment as I remembered her. Sitting in her kitchen/dining room, her smoking her thin dark More cigarettes, while we drank gallons of coffee with the swamp cooler blowing frigid air on us. Comparing stories, pain, happiness, life lessons.

She was a few years older than me – less than ten but close to it, and I soaked up what I could from her. She had a stunningly happy marriage with a very handsome man who equally adored her. She was the first woman who taught and lived by the rules that your husband came first. Before kids, before friends. Through this, their marriage was probably one of the strongest I’ve ever seen. I don’t think to this day, I’ve ever seen a woman who was seriously so happy to see her husband when he got home at the end of the day. He felt the same about her. They lived a comfortable life, enough for her to afford not to work, which was a good thing because she was terminally ill.

Yeah I purposely didn’t lead off with that.

She had a rare autoimmune disorder that her doctors and a few lawyers had agreed she most likely contracted in the 80’s when more than one set of silicone implants broke inside of her. A slow leak of poison absorbed into her bloodstream not once, but twice and left her with a nearly unpronounceable disease and a mastectomy scars that a woman her age should never have. Surprisingly enough her original implants weren’t a vanity set. She had suffered breast cancer at a rare and very young age that had led to a complete full mastectomy. When it was all said and done, after two botched implant surgeries, she was still left with those mastectomy scars. Horribly ironic isn’t it?

So because of this disease which primarily affected her muscular system, she didn’t have to work. Now me, I was working and driving to hell and back with whatever small piece of crap car I could afford back then trying desperately to make ends meet, and not always having a successful time at it. I decided at one point that I would start my own housekeeping business as a second job to supplement my income.

Looking back on that, it might not have been where I should have leaned. I wasn’t the best at this new venture. I mean sure, I knew how to clean MY house, but as any housekeeper can tell you, it’s really about those spaces that we forget about. I wasn’t good about cleaning those.

I had three new clients right off the bat. My brother was managing a small apartment complex and hired me to clean the old units that were recently vacated. I don’t think he appreciated the work I did, which was the first indication that my business idea might not have been the best one. The second was a friend who had more time and money then she knew what to do with, and found the oddest jobs for me to do like cleaning the crystals on her chandelier.

The third was this friend. She lived in a pretty decent sized home. Not palatial, but large. She immediately fired her current housekeeper and hired me on, which definitely led to the pressure of getting the job done correctly.

I had decided at the beginning of this sojourn my best bet would be to charge by the hour unless it was a straight job like the ones my brother was offering me. A house her size with the items she wanted should have taken me about 3-4 hours to get done. Except that every 30 minutes or so she’d declare I needed a break, and so more coffee was drank and more cigarettes were smoked and the swamp cooler took care of my now sweaty brow. About six hours would pass, with at least 2 ½ of those break times and finally the house would be done in time for her husband to get home. She’d always have him pay me for the full six hours, and then throw another ten or twenty on top for a tip.

To be honest, I am betting that her old housekeeper did a much better job than I did.

After about six months, finances started to get better and I was able to hang up the shingle to the housekeeping business. Thankfully because despite my efforts with flyers, business never really did pick up further than those three clients. But you know? Her help – her generosity, put groceries in the house for me and my kids more than once. I kept my dignity without taking a handout, and she dealt with a relatively clean home with top-notch chit-chat for six months.

After the housekeeping gig ended we still remained tight. She was more than just generous with her money, but with her time. When life and work started to pick up for me, she stepped in and took care of my youngest on those odd days where day care wouldn’t work out. In fact her mother became a pseudo grandmother for my wee one. Eventually, as it happens at times, life started to get in the way. Her health would take small dives and she wouldn’t be up for company. No sooner would she get better, then life on my end wouldn’t afford me the time for her.

We slipped up and lost complete contact when I made a move in the mid 90’s, Weirdly I don’t recall how now, but somehow we located one another. We made plans to get together and I was so excited to see her. She had new boobs, saline this time, she told me. She bought those along with her new house when she won the lawsuit no one expected her to live long enough to see, for those botched silicone jobbers. Unfortunately at this time, I suspected pretty hard that her health was declining.

Yeah, that terminal illness that had given her five years to live? She had surprised everyone by living double that, and they expected more with new advances. But the toll from the medications she had taken, and the disease in  general had placed its mark on her. But – the boobs did look fantastic. 😉

That instant connection we had all those years back – it faltered this time. It didn’t feel forced, but we didn’t slide right back into things like old times. I think that is normal in some friendships. We got together a couple of times more, and then things got quiet as they were prone to do. A year or so later, I made another move, and didn’t tell people. Not on purpose, just life. A year or so later, I sent out Christmas cards, only hers came back with that yellow sticker that say “Occupant has moved”  and a new address was listed. The holidays were past, so I just tore the sticker with the address off and placed it in my phone book, figuring I would reach out the following year.

I think I stopped sending Christmas Cards out that year.

Some might wonder why, knowing she had fragile health issues, why I didn’t stay in better contact. I don’t really have an answer for that. Some denial. Some forgetfulness.

Enough years passed by that by the time I wanted to reach out to her I was hesitant. You’d think that a person who has dealt with her share of death would understand that it’s okay to say the words out loud,  but I was terrified of bringing those words back into her husband’s home. Like her husband wouldn’t have recalled this on a daily basis forever. I simply didn’t want to remind him. So I hemmed and hawed over writing a letter, finding different excuses.

Outside of the address I had on that paper – I wasn’t certain it was even current anymore. Years passed, technology improved, so I started by looking them all up on the magical internet. I couldn’t locate him. Or her daughters. Not a sign on Facebook. LinkedIn. None of the social sites had a whisper of them, at least not to my prying eyes..

But every few years I’d still try. Type in her name. By now I added the word Obit to her name. It was a relief to never get a match, and I shakily pictured her holding on, showing those doctors that 5 years could turn into 20.

And then today I found one of them. Surprisingly through Opal who I stumbled upon. Finding one easily led to a door that found another and another door leading to another, until the entire family was there. Monumental moments in pictures that would have required her presence – she just wasn’t there. The husband who adored her so much, now has his arm draped around another woman. A much less attractive woman in my eyes, but who am I to judge?
It didn’t hit me as a shock. More of like a sad eye-opening realization. The wondering off and on through the years was quietly closed with a soft click. I thought of this rough, harder than nails woman who scared everyone, when in reality had the softest emotional side to her. Who  was such this little dynamo of a friend who made me laugh and laugh; who unknowingly took such care of me emotionally when I needed it, not to mention financially, when I probably needed it the most, and the tears were there. It’s a stale sadness if there is such a thing. Something I think I’ve known for years but couldn’t express because I wasn’t certain. It was my lunch hour, so the tears could slip without being seen or heard. At one point I titled my head back, an old trick I learned when I was about ten that doesn’t really work, as eyeballs don’t reabsorb tears.

It’s weird in closing because I can’t say “Oh I’ll miss you …” because it’s been so long. I guess I feel this lump in my throat for who and what she was to me at one point in my life. I slipped a tear or two more when I saw her youngest is married with a child. That would have made her very happy.

I was happy my daughter recalled her, even in that Roseanne Barr kind of way. Children’s perceptions can so often be sharper than our own. I guess in ending this, I need to remind myself to be that friend to someone, even if it’s for a short time period.

You never know the last mark you’ll make.

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