Category Archives: USA

Vigilance, My Constant Companion

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Vigilance, My Constant Companion

Well hello blog friends. I’ve been pretty quiet since I got back from the hospital 12 days ago. Don’t let that fool you, my thoughts have taken on a squirrelish  pattern, darting between cars on a 6 lane highway during rush hour.

Hard to know how successful the surgery was at this point. The surgeon proclaimed it “perfect” so I’m counting on that to be accurate. My zombie arm has improved greatly – now I’m afraid of accidentally undoing all the good the surgery did. Plus I have weird sensations in other areas. Hoping it’s just my nerves coming down from some fairly traumatic events.

Recovery from surgery is a strange place to be in mentally. I expected the physical pitfalls – pain, medication issues, potential blood clots, physical restrictions, general discomfort and overall ickiness. I was not fully prepared for the anxiety, mood swings and FFS tears (who am I).

Before I give you a glimpse into my particular rabbit hole of recovery I need to first state the obvious…I’m very fortunate. I am relatively young and healthy. My recovery is projected to be months and isn’t terminal. The surgery I had was to correct a problem and prevent further damage. It was to relieve the chronic, relatively short term pain (months, not years) I experienced and hopefully prevent further damage.

This isn’t terminal cancer or some chronic debilitating disease that I have to manage for however much time I have left on this planet. I am mindful of this and deeply grateful. I also recognize that the fickle finger of fate has the option to change her mind at any point, even the best strategic plans and intentions can implode at any moment. I’m aware of the transient nature of life and my blessings are abundant.

Some things I have observed about myself…

I’m pretty much a rule player. Sure I may wax poetic about what a rebel I am but when the rubber meets the road, I’m a by the book gal. I want to follow discharge directions to the letter, sadly the letter is fuzzy.

Having more questions and curiosity than the discharge papers accounted for, I took to Google to quench my thirst for knowledge. Probably not ideal. There is a wide range of opposing opinions by medical professionals in regard to Anterior Cervical Discectomy & Fusion.

To brace or not to brace? Collar or no collar? Movement or none? When can I drive? When can I safely load the bottom rack of the dishwasher or put a fitted sheet on the bed? I feel safe pouring dry kibble into the dog food bowl but filling the water bowl seems like risky business. These are the activities that stump me daily.

I’ve already contacted the surgeon’s office about a potential blood clot and difficulty swallowing (which to be fair, are valid concerns and warranted calls) I draw the line when asking about specific mundane household chores. I see the surgeon next week for my first follow up visit since my surgery, I’m making a list.

I’m afraid of breaking myself. My biggest hurdle right now is the mental bandwidth I’ve handed over to fear of botching this surgery. Some is valid, some is unlikely. I find myself in a place of fear more often than I anticipated. It takes months, perhaps up to a year for bones to fuse. During this time of healing I will need to be mindful of what I do and do not do physically. Which activities are considered high risk and should be avoided? Vigilance will be my constant companion for the foreseeable future.

Some people don’t appreciate gruesome neck scars. I was able to drive yesterday for the first time since the surgery. My first errands out included dropping the kids off at school and getting some thank you gifts for my friends. My scar is supposed to air out so I didn’t cover it. There was a definite look of disgust on one clerks face when I came back into the store to borrow a pen. Her exact words were – “Take this pen, we have 100 of them. Now get out.”

Do you have a surgical recovery story? Any pro tips? Feel free to comment with your words of wisdom.

 

 

Pain in the Neck…

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Pain in the Neck…

What’s new my friends, lots happening here. I’ll give it to you in bite size pieces, it’s a lot to chew on.

Rob & Laura Update

My nonagenarian friends are still on this side of the dirt which is a good thing. Dear Rob has had two TIAs (min-strokes) in the past 7 weeks and he is starting to slip cognitively. Laura lost her hearing aid which caused her great frustration until she finally relented and posted bail to get a new one (just under a thousand dollars and that was with the discount, YIKES). There was a lot of shoulder shrugging, exasperated sighs and general annoyance until that got resolved.

Rob’s family is originally from Virginia, last week he told me that when his grandfather was about 8 years old his family had a special guest over for tea, Robert E Lee (yes that one). Then we had an interesting discussion about the confederate flag, Civil War statues and reparations. Oddly enough that afternoon he got a call from a member of his Quaker Community that was eager to change the name of one of their member organizations currently known as the “Overseers”. Rob was hesitant to change the name and he referred to himself as a curmudgeon which is not how I see him at all. He was brought up in a different era, in a geographic area which has a complicated history. A lot of things have changed in his 95 years on the planet and it is refreshing to see someone remain adaptable this late in life.

Caring for them when I’m in physical pain myself is getting exhausting. I know that if I saw one of them about to fall, I would hurl my body in their direction to mitigate the damage likely to my own demise. It would be a visceral reaction and I doubt I could control it. So I have to find them some additional help while I recover, it’s hard to find another me.

Medical Update

I saw a surgeon this past Monday to review my MRI and discuss the options. My options are do nothing and put myself at risk of falling off a metaphorical cliff at some point…potentially losing balance and control of (coughs) bowels and micturition (new Scrabble word). My issue is progressive and will not improve with physical therapy, vitamins, a Chiropractor, voodoo, acupuncture, lavender oil, your cousin Stephanie’s smoothie blend or CBD oil. So surgery it is folks, Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion in case you’re bored and want to Google that mess.  I “get her done” in early November.

I texted my twin brother to discuss it –

Me: Guess who has two thumbs and a new neck in her future – THIS gal.

Him: New neck???

Him: Get a giraffe one and freak people out

And this is one of a thousand reasons that I adore my brother. Then he immediately offered to drive twelve hours and care for me post op. Heart of gold that one.

Marital Bliss

The other night my husband hydroplaned on the way home from Newark, New Jersey Airport. He called me from a sketchy neighborhood to report the news. Bear in mind his car is a Tesla Model S with a Pennsylvania plate, he did not blend in. I told him I would get him so he could take all of his personal effects out of the car and wait to get it towed. It was an hour and a half for me to get there in windy conditions which caused me to have a death grip on the steering wheel for about 3 hours in the middle of the night.

Physically my husband was fine and I am incredibly grateful for that. That said, I’m going to blame his brazen stupidity on the way home on the the two 360’s he did on Route 78 which landed him facing the wrong way on a typically busy highway. He bitched about my driving on the way home at least three times. I was so pissed and in so much physical pain at the time all I could do was grunt, like a bull. Yes, I was in the left lane traveling at a safe speed. It was 1am with little traffic and a wind ban on the turnpike at the time.

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The next day I bitched to my brother about the situation, via text.

Me: Something off about fetching your man from a sketch neighborhood in the middle of the night because he had a car accident AND then listening to him bitch about your driving all the way home while you are in INTENSE pain.

Him: Yikes. How many cars has he messed up and how many have you?

Me: 3 him, me 0

Him: That’s a pretty solid data set to support your argument.

Did I mention that I adore my brother?

 

Kids

Told the kids about my surgery and downplayed it as to not panic them. One kid asks how I am the other takes a different approach…

Kid 2: UGH, my foot fell asleep! (hobbles into kitchen)

Me: Bummer, that’s how my arm feels all the time now.

Kid 2: We get it mom, your arm hurts.

Me: Went to bed so I wouldn’t do anything rash it was 8pm.

For some reason that little exchange reminded me of Erma Bombeck’s tombstone which has “I Told You I Was Sick” on it.

 

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Not sure whose tombstone this is but you get the point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fingers Crossed…

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Fingers Crossed…

Muthafuckah. Got some not great news today…for my regulars you may recall a post from last week when I waxed poetic about my crappy health insurance. I begged my doctor’s office for a script for an MRI but they declined because my insurance (sucks) needed me to go through more hoops first because they’re assholes.

I figured an x-ray would be useless because the pain I have seems nerve related. Pins and needles, like when your foot falls asleep. The foot thing usually passes after a few minutes, the situation I’m dealing with is 24/7.  The pain ranges from a 3 to an 8, it’s never gone completely. I’ve had about six weeks of this now and I’m starting to get cranky. However, the insurance company needs a checklist ticked off before it will pay for an MRI so basically we ALL work for the insurance company now – the doctors, medical billers, patients, hospitals, labs – they own us.

Anyway the planets aligned and I got the referrals, made the appointment, and saw the doctor. The appointment was with a non-surgical Orthopedic at the Rothman Institute. The office ran like a well-oiled machine. They even took an x-ray of my neck for $20. which is the best deal I’ve gotten since well, ever. My PCP wouldn’t send me for an X-Ray because she’s scared of my insurance.

The x-ray didn’t show much (shocking) so I got my script for the MRI. The RI office staff managed to get an authorization code from my cheap ass (yet freakishly expensive) insurance company so I got my MRI a few days ago. This morning I got a call around 9:15am from an unknown number so I let it go to voicemail. It was the Orthopedic doctor. Well, that was unexpected. I called the office told them I would be available after 12:30. I got another call from the doctor at 12:32, this is highly unusual. Doctors calling as soon as they get the results to discuss it with you…

Doc: Hello, I wanted to let you know I got the MRI and it isn’t terrible.

Me: (nervous laughter) Great, not terrible is good, maybe.

Doc: We compared this MRI to the one you had in 2010 and the same area is involved (cervical).

Me: I’m glad you were able to hunt that down.

Doc: I’m recommending that you see a surgeon.

Me: Oh.

Doc: There’s some compression around the spine and some fluid. (barely audible) Myelomalacia

Me: Mya-what?

Doc: Myelomalacia, don’t Google it.

Me: Of course I’m going to Google it, you just told me not to.

He then proceeded to name some doctors that are spinal surgeons. I got off the phone and promptly cried for 45 seconds. Then I started Googling, then I took a walk because I can’t do anything else. He told me to hold off on physical therapy until I see the surgeon. Oddly enough I had a physical therapy consult scheduled for this afternoon.

I talked to my husband, I talked to a friend, I talked to God and my dog. I made the appointment for Monday which is a miracle in itself. Hopefully, I’ll have more information and the start of a game plan this time next week.

I put my gym membership on hold. That was when it hit me, shit got real. Exercise has been a physical and mental release for me for 30 years. Now I have restricted exercise (walking) and constant pain, it’s not an ideal combination. I’m trying to not think about it too much until my next appointment, easier said than done. Fingers crossed…

 

It’s All About the Money Honey

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It’s All About the Money Honey

This week has been a painful reminder of how incredibly messed up healthcare is in America. I’ve had an annoying issue that’s been shadowing me for about a month – near constant tingling/numbness in my right arm. I waited a couple of weeks to see a doctor because I thought it might resolve on it’s own, it hasn’t. So I made an appointment and saw my doc – she put me on steroids to see if inflammation was the cause.

I was a little freaked out to take the steroids because I’ve heard some rough stuff but it was a low dose for six days so I tried it. Nothing miraculous happened, the pain and numbness were dulled a bit but not gone. A day after my last dose I had extreme pain so I called the doctors office asking for next steps. No one called me back. I called the next day and got Honied and Sweetied by the nurse.

Nurse: Hold on hon, let me check….(hears keyboard clicking…)

Me: The pain is fairly significant and it’s constant, can we possibly streamline this process?

Nurse: Well Sweetie your doctor is giving you a referral to the Rothman Institute.

Me: OK, will I have a diagnostic test done before then to pin point the problem?

Nurse: No Honey. Go to the Orthopedic doctor first.

So I call the Orthopedic doctor. I’m fortunate they have a cancellation so I don’t have to wait a month or more to get in. The intake person tells me I will see a non-surgical doctor and asks me if I have had any x-rays or an MRI. I call back my doctor’s office…

Me: Can I get an MRI or some other diagnostic testing prior to the Orthopedic appointment so it is a more productive appointment?

Nurse: Pffffft. I doubt it.

Me: Can you ask?

Nurse: (Clearly annoyed) This is what your doctor has suggested.

Me: Yes, I understand that. I’m just in a lot of discomfort and I want to streamline the process if at all possible.

Nurse: (sighs loudly) I’ll put a note in for the doctor.

Next day…nurse calls we play phone tag 4 times before we connect then the call gets disconnected….

Nurse: Doctor says your other option is 4 to 8 weeks of physical therapy, then reconsider MRI, otherwise, insurance likely won’t cover.

Me: So physical therapy for a problem that hasn’t been properly diagnosed yet because an accurate diagnostic test hasn’t been done because the insurance won’t pay….I’ll stick with the Orthopedic referral, thanks.

Once again the death of common sense has been verified. I am nothing but a walking widget to these people…another name in the computer that stumbled off the factory floor and had the nerve to ask relevant questions. I’m sure this nurse started her career with the sincere desire to help people, now she is relegated to towing the corporate line for a variety of insurance companies. The doctor may sign her paychecks but they all work for the insurers now and it’s been that way a long time. This is the insurance we pay $20K in premiums for each year because my husband and I are both self-employed.

In other news, I went for a consultation for a cosmetic procedure today – blepharoplasty (under eye bags). Met with the doctor, scheduled the procedure and poof have an appointment for early November. Easy Peasy!

What’s the difference here folks, cash. The almighty dollar y’all so if you are willing to pay cash you can get your tummy tucked, boobs/eyes/ass lifted, nipped, tucked and fat sucked with barely any questions asked.  GAWD forbid you have a real problem then you will jump through hoops of fire to get the coverage you actually paid for, healthcare in America, it’s just swell.

 

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Actual photo of me trying to get the healthcare coverage I already bought. (Pssst, not really I got the image form Pinterest)

 

 

Bananas

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Bananas

Sweet Geezus the bananas are out of control…AGAIN. Those pesky peels are showing up everywhere. Real damage is being done, people are dying slipping on those damn peels. Even the schools are not safe. Teachers who went into their chosen field to educate and enrich the lives of their students have to carve out time to teach students what to do in the event of a banana peel emergency. And an emergency is bound to happen, they always do. We’ve already had a handful of banana peel incidents this year and it’s only February.

Great minds have been debating this banana peel issue for decades and still no solution for the problem. Some people say that all bananas should be removed from circulation. Others argue for more restrictive banana rights. Others say “hey leave my bananas alone, our founding fathers fought so I could have a right to my bananas.” Maybe some people can’t handle the power of the banana, maybe not everyone needs one. Perhaps there should be a consistent test to determine if someone is within the right frame of mind to carry a banana?

We could make public places safer to avoid unwanted banana entry. Schools should probably be built more like prisons to keep the bad bananas out. That makes sense right? Really high fences – 20 feet high with barbed wire, a few guards at the entrance a banana pat down on the way in, maybe a retinal scan, we have the technology. Sure schools are going bankrupt paying for pension funds and a push to redistribute property taxes. Put all that aside for a moment…I’m sure Congress will loosen up the purse strings so we can keep our bananas AND make schools safer. We do after all value the safety and well being of our children as well as a free and accessible public school system.

There is a lot of speculation as to why the banana problem exists: poor family values, antidepressants, a lack of love & God, mental illness, video games, the pro-banana board which spends gobs of money keeping bananas accessible. At one point Australia had a banana problem and they just said “turn in your f*cking bananas.” Apparently that’s working for them. That couldn’t possibly work here. The UK, Japan and Germany also have a low tolerance for bananas. Shocking as that is, those countries have fewer banana fatalities than we experience in the USA. What could it be? We need our bananas we aren’t like those other countries.

I don’t know what the answer is…I mean I guess you just have to say a prayer and hope your kids don’t slip on any peels when you send them to school. That seems to be working out just swell…as long as it isn’t your kid slipping on the peel.

 

This was originally posted on a sister site in February of 2018 after the Parkland mass shooting. It’s September now, that time of year when parents wonder if the bullet resistant backpacks will hold up, teachers try to anticipate which kids will have panic attacks during the “active shooter drills” (the new fire drill except this “fire” mimics when a maniac comes into your kid’s school with an assault rifle) and teachers mentally calculate how many more months they have to deal with this insanity before they can retire.

Sadly, the post is still relevant. Thank you teachers everywhere for still showing up under these obscene conditions. Kids I don’t know what to tell you, I’m so sorry we haven’t collectively done better. You deserve a safe place to learn, all of you.

Fellow Americans do you remember when drunk driving was a HUGE issue in this country? In the 80’s grass roots organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) got fed up and pressured the government to do something…the legal drinking age was changed to 21 across the nation. Drunk driving laws were tightened and strictly enforced and the public’s behavior changed. People still have a cocktail with dinner, they just plan for the drive home with more caution now.

Why can’t we use a similar common sense approach to guns? Thorough, consistent background checks, close the purchasing loopholes, be a little more selective about who can purchase a weapon. I have to show ID to purchase allergy medicine can’t we have at least that much scrutiny for a military grade weapon? Or shall we just continue to traumatize the generation we’re supposed to protect? Is that better because that sounds bananas to me.

Cruisin’ Like Cattle

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Cruisin’ Like Cattle

Hello friends seems like ages since we’ve chatted. The blame is solidly on me I just got back from a cruise. My teen daughter and I went on an 11-day Baltic Sea cruise (insert gasps, I know it was amazing) to see incredible ports. The real thing that appealed to me about the trip was seeing my niece and her boyfriend (the one I hope she marries) perform on the ship. My niece is a vocalist and her BF is a dancer…so yes, they are in their twenties traveling the world on a luxury ship, no rent, fed well and getting paid. I won’t get into the dicier bits like the sadistic entertainer that terrorized the other cast members the first three months, the six figure student debt or the fact that they will be homeless when they disembark (move in with me kids).

There are two types of people that cruise, the cruise addicts and the rest of us. I’m not sure how the cruise addicts afford their habit. I met one gentleman who had been on a cruise for over 100 days this year. He was in the front row of every performance so we talked a bit. His brother joined him on this cruise and they were theater enthusiasts. During Born to Dance, he applauded loudly and shouted WOW! after each number.

Most of the cruise addicts (CA) are brand loyal. That makes sense you get perks for being a repeat customer. We were on a Princess cruise and there are different levels of loyalty programs. You get cabin upgrades, better dinning and laundry services as you make your way up the ranks. I don’t anticipate ever falling into this category of cruiser because my husband isn’t onboard (ba dum tss) with the idea. We prefer a more in-depth local experience when traveling.

It was one of those mega ships, with passengers and crew, it has the capacity for 4,906 souls. Yup, that’s a lot of people waiting for bacon at the breakfast buffet. Surprisingly enough it didn’t seem that crowded most days. It wasn’t warm enough for the pool for a  majority of the trip so there were no lounge hogs. Disembarking was the clearest indicator of how many people were there and that was handled efficiently….it all went off the rails at the airport.

My group, Green 7, as we were affectionately known boarded the bus without incident, like cattle unknowingly headed to slaughter. I did notice one woman, known as Texas, act a bit aggressive in the bus line, I tried to ignore her. When the bus arrived at the airport we had to fetch our luggage from a tent and walk across the street to the terminal (note to self, take a taxi next time and avoid this ridiculousness). There were hundreds of us going through this same process. Still organized chaos at this point.

When we got in to the terminal I did the kiosk check in, that was fine. Then I went to find out where to drop off our luggage and things took a turn. After checking the board and asking two different airport reps, I was told a luggage lane wouldn’t be open until 3 hours before the flight. We got there 3 1/2 hours prior to flight so I needed to keep checking the board. Once that opened everyone made a mad dash to the luggage counter and suddenly the bacon line was a distant fond memory.

I think 90% of the people were from the cruise ship. Some were still wearing their cruise medallions on a lanyard or carrying bags with the Princess logo. I recognized purple shirt (she talked about jewelry and $80 lipstick the entire bus ride), Texas was there and a large group of people from San Diego and Hawaii. The flight was to JFK in New York and it was a mixed bag of final destination and connecting flights.

One very aggressive group was from NYC when I told one lady from that group that I was from Jersey she gave a nod like she knew I could drive crazy and get loud. They totally took advantage of the mild mannered large group from the west. At one point two lines merged into the one entrance and people had to take turns. Texas had a few words with me as we approached the entrance from different directions. She acted like we were at a deli counter and her number was ahead of mine, bisch please. She was twenty years older than me so I let her go.  I kept reminding myself that I didn’t know which one of these assholes I would get seated next to on the plane so that kept me in check.

Finally we ditch the luggage and then it’s off to security. At this point we’ve been at the airport for two hours and it’s hot as hell. Copenhagen isn’t real keen on air conditioning. We get to security and my bag gets pulled for my daughter’s aerosol deodorant. After that we start looking for a book at the airport shops. She found out that she needs to read two books before school starts on September 3. We were hoping to find, The Book Thief, at the airport and no we don’t Kindle. Sadly they sell about a dozen books in English and that wasn’t one. Next stop, bad Denmark version of an airport hot dog, then, passport control.

I finally had a chance to use a restroom so one more stop. Things were fine until this –

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I can tell you this much, the toilet paper does NOT dispense from the bottom. That part is locked tighter than Fort Knox. I broke two nails and invented three new curse words trying to pry the bottom open. Nay, nay my friends the paper is supposed to poke out of the center except it didn’t. 

We finally get to our gate and who do I see – Texas, purple shirt, NYC gang and the nice group from the west. My goal was to be the very last person to board, I scoffed at the line and played online Solitaire from a distance. I was very fortunate and got seated next to a sweet couple from Hawaii. We were previously in the luggage line together and we remained civilized despite the chaos around us.

When we got to JFK we realized that the travel nightmare wasn’t quite over…it took 90 minutes to clear Customs. These lines resembled something you would see at an amusement park, turn left, then right and repeat that pattern 78 times. Instead of a fun roller coaster at the end, you get a kiosk which requires your passport and takes the world’s worst photo after 15 travel hours (4 of those hours spent in lines).

I’ll write about the fun stuff in future posts, stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

The Customer Service Merry Go Round

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The Customer Service Merry Go Round

If you were a teen or young adult in North America in the 80s or 90s you may remember a clothing store called Merry Go Round. We used to call it the touchy-feely store because the staff would literally paw at you when you crossed the threshold. Kind of like the scene from Pretty Woman when the Mary’s fall over themselves to dress Julia Robert’s character.

Shopping Scene

To be clear, Merry Go Round wasn’t high end, it was middle of the road filled with trendy clothes. You didn’t go there to get a classic pencil skirt or linen anything, you went for Cavaricci style pants, polka dot dresses, acid washed anything and the occasional shiny strapless dress in electric blue. Once I got drafted by a fellow shopper to try on stuff that he wanted to buy for his girlfriend. You only say yes to that BS when you’re young. For twenty minutes I tried on clothes and sauntered out into the store for a personal fashion show. The sales staff should have split their commission with me that day.

Anyway, I had an experience today that reminded me of the touchy-feely store. I got my oil changed at one of those quick oil change places. I’d mention the name but then the Russian bots might figure out my real identity and I can’t have that.I’ll actually be in Russia this time next week (oops I may have said too much).

Anyhow, you pull into the bay and stay in your car as the service is performed. They were kind of slow so before I could blink I had three dudes surrounding my car. I might have been flattered with all of the attention if they weren’t pulling out filters from every crevice of the car, suggesting I replace a $4. part with their $46. identical part. At one point a guy was removing the glove box to check the cabin filter, it felt weird. I just wanted that 15 minutes to read a book. Um, thanks fellas, that’s a hard pass. Here’s my $25. coupon, skip the extras and let’s move along.

I did have a customer service experience that went better than expected. This morning I got an email from Hollister requesting feedback on an order that hasn’t arrived yet. This was particularly annoying because I just got notice that delivery will be delayed and the clothes won’t get here in time for our trip. I replied explaining my frustration, fulling expecting that email to die a lonely death in cyberspace. Much to my surprise, Tara from Customer Service offered to next day ship the order and said she would waive return shipping costs for the delinquent order. I passed though her willingness to assist shifted my experience from negative to positive. Amazing how simple it can be to make that switch.

 

I Do!

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I Do!

Today is a big day, it’s a family wedding on the hubs side. For those not in the know, my husband is first generation Italian-American born and raised in Brooklyn. Now download every stereotype of New York Italians into your brain and imagine those people at a fancy wedding venue, that’s what I have going on tonight.

The hubs and I are at the stage in life where the wedding invitations have slowed down. If we get invited to a friend’s wedding, it isn’t their first. Most nuptials we attend now are for the grown children of friends. Every time we attend one of these events I am filled with gratitude that we eloped. We plan to offer our kids bonus gifts if they elope instead of having a big wedding.

I like a party, it’s just so much pressure and expense. Tonight’s event is black tie optional and it starts at 7pm, that means formal attire. For this minimalist makeup, tousled hair, sports bra wearing woman, formal takes effort. Significant effort. It’s also expensive as hell just to be a guest.

About 6 weeks ago I went dress shopping with a friend who is kind but doesn’t mince words. That’s who you want with you when you attempt to dress yourself for a special occasion. We started out at Nordstrom Rack. I tried on about 37 outfits, most were dresses in various lengths with a few jumpsuits thrown in for giggles. It was painful.

There were a few outfits I simply could not figure out how to get on. That’s an immediate pass, the idea of getting stuck in one of those makes me shudder. The last time I went shopping alone I had to will myself to become disjointed to escape the dress I apparently had no business trying on. If I have to summon my inner Houdini it’s simply not worth the effort. I have a real fear of having to claw my way out some overpriced frock which I’m forced to purchase because I went all Hulk-woman on it. No thanks.

You don’t have a complete understanding of how much you detest your body until you’ve seen it encased in something that mere moments ago brought you hope and a twinge of excitement. Exuberance gets replaced with disappointment, self-loathing and a general sense of WTF. An hour or so into the expedition I still needed a dress so we drove to the mall. The mall is my least-happy-place.

The stores and the dresses all started to look the same. I was sticking with black because I like my clothes to match my soul. OK it’s slimming I’m not the anti-christ FFS. On the 56th attempt my friend and I agreed on the dress I would get. Sweet relief, that task was done. Never mind that I had to order up a size from my usual which put me into the size which I swore I would never wear…sigh. Basically, I hated myself the least in this particular dress so I bought it.

The next day I started to question my choice. Self doubt crept in and tapped me on the shoulder. For those that aren’t familiar, I have named my self doubt Ethel. I envision Ethel as Grandmotherly looking prairie dog, she wears a knitted sweater vest and she has bifocals. She also swears a lot, has a tattoo and chain smokes Marlboro Reds. Ethel is a straight up bitch, she has too many opinions and she is persistent AF.

Anyhoo, Ethel convinces me that the dress is all wrong. In fact, she tells me it’s hideous and that I look like a bloated Morticia (Addams Family) in that lacy ace bandage. I panic and begin to look online for something else. After several hours, I purchase a gown that may or may not work. That dress arrived a few days later and Ethel told me that it was even more ridiculous than the first, so I punched her in the face and decided to embrace my inner Morticia.

Next on the agenda was shoes. Gawd I hate heels. I love the way they look…walking in them however, is a fine art that I have not mastered. A couple of years ago we went to a wedding in Malibu, California and my feet still ache when I think of the shoes I wore. Once again I am torn between wanting something that looks good and what I can actually pull off with minimal scarring (emotional or physical). As mentioned before, this wedding is NY Italian, anything under 4 inch heels will be laughed at. The 81 year old grandmother will be wearing stilettos and I’m not even kidding.

My primping is minimal but the basics need to be covered. This week I got a mani/pedi and freshened my hair color. I actually got my hair done yesterday and I have done very little since then because I don’t want to lose the blow out. Seriously I have limited my time outside (current temp is surface-of-the-sun hot) and I skipped the gym to avoid needing to wash my hair. These are sacrifices one most make.

For some this may seem like a lot…to you I say Ha! I guarantee you some guests have had surgical procedures to prepare for this wedding and yes I am serious. The results of cool-sculpting, breast augmentation, Botox, chemical peels, tanning salons and varicose vein correction will all be on parade this evening, I have no doubt. Don’t even get me started on the teeth whitening, I may be blinded by 9pm. I’ve got nothing against those procedures I’m just too chicken to try them out (oh and I’m cheap).

Stayed tuned for the details of how it went…

Oh Fiddle!

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Oh Fiddle!

It’s been a while since I posted about Rob & Laura, they’re doing fine. They’ve had lots of visits with their children. One daughter asked me to check on a cut that Rob mysteriously acquired last week. She really wants Rob to put a bandage on it. When I mentioned this to Rob he informed me that it had a bandage on it already, it’s called a scab. Alright then.

Last week Laura was a bit miffed about the laundromat. She muttered about getting there late and how bad it is if you don’t get there early. I took the bait and showed up 20 minutes earlier today to see if that would alleviate the problem. She was pleased that I was early then in her exuberance she forgot to bring the laundry detergent. That set us back a bit and I got concerned when I heard her say “oh fiddle” from the back seat. “Oh fiddle” is the 92 year old version of Code Red, I acted with extreme caution. If I heard “Fudge!” I would have considered turning around and calling it a day.

While Laura was doing laundry, Rob and I went to the grocery store. We only needed two things and I asked Rob if he wanted to use a cart or his cane, he went with the cane. As we were crossing the parking lot I stated “And they’re off!” in my most announcer like voice. Rob didn’t miss a beat and added “Like a herd of turtles!”

Upon entering the store we heard, “cleanup in produce”. We both chuckled at that because it happens 100% of the time and we go twice a week. Then we looked for Marty, the useless grocery store robot. As we were making our way toward the check out, Marty approached, it got a little weird. At one point Marty got stuck between an older man in a wheel chair and me. George was on my right, Marty on my left and the wheelchair guy was left of Marty.

I could tell Marty was confused as he went back and forth in incremental choppy movements because he didn’t have a clear path out. I was hoping the circumstances would cause Marty extreme frustration resulting in fried wires, a mechanical meltdown of some sort.  For a moment I imagined the encounter would render him incapable of fulfilling his duties (which seem to be limited to aggravating customers with a precision focus on geriatric clients), no such luck.

On the way out Rob commented that the cart with four wheels was easier to navigate than his cane. I remarked that he has a walker which also has 4 wheels and that got me some side eye. I replied with “oh fiddle”.

Because I Can

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Because I Can

I am quietly sitting in the main level bedroom of a nicely appointed house that dates back to the 1890’s. It’s insulated well enough that air conditioning isn’t required despite the high summer temperatures outside. The windows are open and I can hear the chatter of cows from the farm that borders the back yard. I can hear those same cows from my own home which is within walking distance. Here though, I get to eavesdrop on the more nuanced conversations, beyond the distressed mooing that occasionally travels to my patio. The cows are conversing in more hushed tones.

Each room in this house has been lovingly filled with precious items.  Long ago gifts, remembrances and highly sought after antique flea market finds that probably took months, perhaps years, to procure. The individual pieces are meaningful, eclectic and likely filled with sentimental value. A lot of love went into decorating this home and perhaps a twinge of obsession, the result is a timeless casual elegance.

The items themselves are a bit worn around the edges. Faded like the lingering scent of fabulous meal after the dinner dishes have been cleared. It seems more poignant with some of the newness ebbed away by time, longevity has it’s own allure which, something shiny and new can’t quite grasp.

After several minutes Thelma, jumps down from the bed and visits me at my corner chair. A petite orange tabby, she sniffs my feet for a few minutes. I attempt to pet her which yields a do not touch look so I stop myself and decide to ignore her. After a few minutes she bites my knee because that’s what cats do. My involuntary jolt sent her scampering away for the remainder of my visit. Her sister, Louise, is out in the yard somewhere planning her next kill or rolling in the grass, sunny side up. I won’t hear from her unless she wants to come in which, she will announce by jumping 4 feet up, onto the screened porch door. Thelma & Louise keep things interesting around here.

During the olfactory interrogation, I can hear the Serena Williams match on the TV in the kitchen. A man’s voice is giving an unofficial commentary of the match…”Oh no, Geezus!” and “Come on Serena!” are on a repetitive loop. I’m happy that he has a distraction even if the end result isn’t what he wanted. He is passionate about something separate from the care-giving which likely consumes him. In this small way he is reclaiming something important for himself and I wish more caregivers would do that.

Before he leaves for the gym he stops by the bedroom. He tells me that they just got back from vacationing at the beach where they got married decades ago. I wonder if his wife has any recollection of that now as she lay snoring, midday, in the bed they still share. He gives her a long, gentle, emotional hug as he prepares to leave and I try to become invisible in that moment.

I see the hospital bed close by and I wonder which one of the two beds she will pass in. Probably the hospital bed, it will likely happen before the unofficial end of summer. I push against the inclination to imagine a similar scenario in my own life as I silently ask God for another 20 (pretty please make that 30) years of health and happiness with my husband. I am momentarily engulfed in the absolute knowledge that this is all temporary. I’ve seen this situation play out about 100 different ways in the ten plus years that I have been a hospice volunteer. It’s usually some diabolical form of cancer with the wife caring for the husband or the daughter caring for a parent. It always leaves a print of sadness on my soul which gets absorbed and gently tucked away.

When I prepare to leave, I notice the fireplace in the bedroom has writing on the header. “Fairy Tales Really Do Come True…” is painted in pretty cursive. A swirl of emotions courses through me. I don’t believe in fairy tales, I had to rescue myself and yet, my life is blessed beyond anything I could have imagined as a child. For the thousandth time I question why I do this…why do I place myself in the center of someone else’s heartbreak. The answer is always the same, because I can and those that can, should.