Category: straight outta memoir

Best Actress

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Marijuana. Mary Jane. Reefer. No matter what you choose to call it, I have never been able to smoke pot. What for some people seems to be a relaxed good time has always been for me a paranoid journey to the center of my mind, where I sit shivering in a cerebral corner, wondering if I’ll ever be able to think normally again.

In college, I reluctantly got stoned with the happy party people around me. Most of these attempts ended with me feeling lost, floating in the universe, indefinitely wondering whether or not I had to pee. Time crawled by thick as resin as I tried to decide if I looked as crazy on the outside as I felt on the inside. If I was lucky, I found a bed to pass out in, mercifully ending my hyper-analytical mental anguish.

It seems like a wonderful ride for most, so for years I tried to stay on the bucking bronco of marijuana before permanently passing the reins to the other space cowboys. Abstaining from pot, combined with my love of exercising and rising early, eventually conspired to make me the least rock and roll chick to ever play guitar in a band. I am decidedly not cool; I’ve made my peace with this fact.

Throughout high school, however, I was still trying to smoke the stuff. My older sister and I would sometimes hide behind one of the many outbuildings on our farm to do it. We’d sit in the grass, leaning against the hay barn; two teenage girls smiling into the summery blue Missouri sky, giggling about nothing and everything. When my parents took the family to Disneyland, she and I got stoned in the It’s a Small World ride. It was there I learned that hundreds of creepy animatronic children singing a repetitive song about the world closing in on me do nothing to ease my pot smoking paranoia. Noted.

On family vacation in Las Vegas that summer, my sister and I quickly tired of the little kid games inside of Circus Circus where we were staying. There were only so many stuffed animals a teenager wanted to win. Bored and seeking fresh entertainment, we left the pink ponies and casino to walk the streets of Sin City. Ducking into an alley, we decided to make our stroll more interesting by smoking a joint she had brought along. Standing next to a ten-foot-high concrete block fence for privacy, by the dirt road that ran between buildings on either side of us, we proceeded to smoke marijuana.

We’d taken a few tokes and I was just starting to feel blurry when a car turned quickly into the alley, about fifty feet away. I brought the joint down from my mouth and held it at my side. I was hoping that the person turning into the alley would think I was only smoking a cigarette, stupidly forgetting that as a non-smoker I looked awkward smoking anything I tried. As the dark blue car drove by and I clumsily passed the joint, we realized in our dulled awareness that it was an unmarked police vehicle. So of course we did the worst thing possible. We panicked.

“That was a cop!” she squeaked as he drove past.

Get rid of it. Get rid of it. Get rid of it,” I whisper-screamed at her.

She frantically tried to toss the joint over the wall next to us. It backed up to a neighborhood, so there was no convenient way around to retrieve the contraband. If we could just get it over the wall, it would be out of sight and virtually unreachable.

My sister has always been petite, and she was unable to throw it over the high fence. The joint bounced off of the wall, rolling futilely back toward us on the dusty ground. We jumped away in fear, as if it was a spider. I grabbed it out of the sand where it sat mocking me like a turd in a litter box and tried to clear the concrete wall again. I’m taller at 5’9″ with greater reach, and it went over this time.

This all happened in the span of a few seconds, so before we could feel relief to have ditched the incriminating evidence, we saw brake lights. No doubt tipped off by our frantic chicken-like scrabbling and obviously guilty behavior, the officer turned around and drove back in our direction while we watched in mute terror. There was nowhere to run, as we were trapped in an alley and didn’t know the area. We both turned our nothing-to-see-here knobs up to eleven, and then he was getting out of the car. Meanwhile, the pot we’d smoked was the kind that creeps up on you, and I was feeling exponentially freaked out by the second. I quickly realized an intimidating police officer was even more paranoia-inducing than soulless puppet children singing at me en masse. My world of hope was quickly becoming a world of fear.

“Did I just see you two girls smoking a joint?” the officer demanded.

It was do or die time. Time to sell it like I’d never sold it before. If we got busted by this cop for pot, there would be no end to the trouble we’d get in. We’d be grounded until I started college for this one, and rightly so. We’d fucked up, big time. I summoned every bit of acting ability I had in my dumb fifteen-year-old body, and tried to push the part of me growing fuzzy from the drugs to the back, working hard for a moment of ass-saving clarity. I put on my best shocked and appalled face at the mention of pot, because pot was awful, and oh my gosh, how could anyone think I’d been smoking pot?

“No officer! I would never smoke pot. But I was trying to smoke a cigarette,” I replied, shame dripping from my voice, eyes cast downward in good girl humiliation. “It was the first time I’ve ever tried it and I didn’t even like it. It was so gross!”

“It looked like a joint to me, whatever you threw over that wall, young lady. If I drive both of you around to the other side, are we gonna find marijuana? Do you think your parents are gonna enjoy having to come pick you up from jail today?”

Shit. If I didn’t pull this off, we were going to end up in a cell, the weak teenage bitches of hardened Las Vegas prostitutes. I silently hoped my prison mistress would at least have a heart of gold. In full self-preservation mode, I quickly realized that my best psychological tactic would be to act so distraught about being caught smoking a cigarette that the pot thing would be downplayed. If I seemed truly disgusted about the cigarette, he might believe me innocent of the worse crime.

“Oh no, please, don’t tell my parents I was smoking a cigarette! They’ll be so mad at me because they hate smoking! This was the first time I’ve ever tried it and I thought it was so nasty. I’m never gonna smoke a cigarette again, I swear it,” I pleaded.

He asked again that if he went to the dreaded other side of the wall, would there be marijuana waiting? I repeated the Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Tried a Cigarette monologue, as if he hadn’t mentioned pot at all. I was working it. Totally owning it. I had the big, tear-filled eyes and the quivering lip; I epitomized the scared young girl gone astray. I was a living, breathing After School Special, begging for a second chance. Before I knew it, even I believed my lies. I was the innocent babe trying those yucky gosh darned cigarettes for the first time. And please don’t tell my parents I was smoking a cigarette, yes cigarette, can I say cigarette one more time? Because it was a cigarette and totally not marijuana, you know. Cough-cigarette-cough.

It finally worked. I couldn’t believe it, but it worked. The officer admonished us one last time with some sort of you kids stay out of trouble speech, got in his car, and drove away. Chastened and shaking like rabbits unexpectedly released from a snare trap, we headed back to the hotel, officially ending our stint as teenage streetwalkers. We walked dazed and confused into the pink nightmare of Circus Circus. Sad clowns and desperate elderly gamblers were definitely preferable to horrified flop sweat and handcuffs.

I never really gave myself much credit for my actions that day, always assuming the cop took pity on me, or had bigger fish to fry. But recently my mom mentioned to me that my sister had told her about the incident. I’m old enough now that my mom has heard most of my naughty stories, and I can only be grounded by myself, so this didn’t bother me. What shocked me was that my sister said my performance for the officer was amazing. She was blown away by my acting ability, and gave me full props for getting us out of what might have been the only arrest of our lives.

She also told my mother, “After I saw Tawni lie so convincingly that day, I knew I could never trust her again!”

Oops.

 

 

Shingle Bells

(Writing from December 30, 2010.)

Christmas is over. I find myself very relieved this year, rather than feeling the disappointment of childhood days. This is because it’s the first year in many that nobody in my immediate family of husband, boy child and self was sick. It’s a damned Christmas miracle.

My son was ill two weeks ago, and I was pessimistically certain that Santa would be gifting the same illness to my husband or me this year, but so far, so good.

Last year, in December, I developed shingles on the left side of my face and head. These disgusting lesions and goose egg-sized bumps on my scalp were possibly from the stress of college finals week, but most likely from the unbearable lightness of being me. I’m a pretty neurotic lass. And becoming a mother has only cranked that particular knob to eleven.

Shingles are caused by the chickenpox virus. If you’ve ever had chickenpox, you also have the potential to develop shingles. What happens is that during times of severe stress or immune system suppression (such as chemotherapy, or being over 65), the virus that has been waiting in your nerve endings since your childhood chickenpox acquisition decides to flare up, causing unbelievably painful, itchy sores throughout the affected nerve group. Because what does a really stressed out person need more than painful, itchy sores, right? Thanks, body.

My dermatologist made the catch. I thought I was breaking out, because they were in the early stage, but she took one look at them and told me I had shingles. It was the placement of the lesions that convinced her. She explained to me that there is a branch of nerves that runs from the scalp down on each side of the face, across the forehead, and wraps around the upper side of the head. This entire bundle of nerves was flared up on my left side. You could draw a line down the middle of my forehead, and the sores were all to the left, like the branch of nerves.

This is how they looked at first. Like a rash or something.

She also explained to me that shingles on the head and face are extremely, exquisitely painful, and prescribed a gigantic bottle of hydrocodone. I remember thinking that was an odd word to use for pain. Exquisitely painful. We usually use the word exquisite to describe beautiful things, so the word nerd in me found her choice interesting. And scary. What the fuck does that mean anyhow? I’ve experienced childbirth, after all, and there was nothing exquisite about it. Nothing at all.

(Side rant: Friends who say things to me like “remember that pain makes you feel alive” when I’m in pain make me want to hurt them. And after I’ve hurt them, I would yell, “Hey, isn’t this great? Do you feel alive now, too? Invigorating, isn’t it?!” Because you know what, you carpe diem-spewing, wannabe hardcore dumb-asses? Pain sucks. Period. And when I hurt, I don’t want to seize the day, I want to go back to bed and try to be unconscious for as much of it as possible.)

The reason shingles hurt so much is because it is your nerves – those little reasons we all feel physical pain – that are inflamed. The nerves themselves are what are being affected, so you’re absolutely fucked pain-wise. (Yes, “absolutely fucked” is a technical term. Exquisitely absolutely fucked, even.)

After my shingles fully developed a few days later, I couldn’t even touch my head. To do so sent hundreds of flaming knives up into my brain.

To make it even worse, the sores start to itch like chickenpox after a few days too, causing you to scratch your head in your sleep, only to be awakened by the searing pain. I wore calamine lotion over the entire left side of my face, which helped with the itching, and entertained my husband by giving him ample opportunity to make Phantom of the Opera jokes at my expense. So you know. Win-win.

The Phantom of the Opera thinks you’re hilarious. No, really.

The shingles were on my eyelid, so I was sent immediately to an eye doctor for the first eye exam of my 20/10 hawk vision-having life, to make sure I didn’t have shingles in my left eye, because that could cause blindness. It was there that I experienced one of the few uplifting moments of my shingles experience, when the incredibly hot doctor read the age on my chart and exclaimed, “Wow! You do not look your age! You don’t have any wrinkles at all!” YES.

They apparently do Botox injections at this eye office, because there were ads in the waiting room about them, so maybe that was what made him study my face for wrinkles? I don’t know or care, really. At my age, when an attractive guy says I look young, it makes me really happy. Even if I am all gross and shingle-y and wearing no make-up because I thought I was only going to the dermatologist for a weird break out. Yes, even then. I’m not made of stone, people.

It got worse very quickly. I was soon having post C-section flashbacks as I constantly watched the clock for the four-hour mark to take my next hydrocodone pain pill:

This is my official “Fuck My Life” face. In case you were wondering.

I didn’t get pictures, but this was right before my left eyelid swelled halfway shut. I looked so hideous.

As my family doctor later explained it to me, there are different levels of shingles on the spectrum. For some people, it only involves the skin. But at the other end, some people get what feels like the adult chickenpox virus, so of course that’s the version I got. I was nauseated, weak, and felt like I had the flu for a few weeks.

Every day, I sat on the couch with a puke bucket between my legs, letting my toddler watch too much television, praying my husband would get home from work as soon as possible. It was a month before I felt human again.

They were finally starting to stop itching so much and heal when I took this picture. My head and face hurt to the touch for weeks after the sores went away. So weird.

My son also got H1N1 for Christmas that year. Joy to the world, the flu has come.

The Christmas before last, I had pneumonia for two months, and in the middle of the x-rays of my lungs for that, they discovered that my lungs are covered in calcifications from previous untreated pneumonias (I haven’t had health insurance for much of my adult/broke musician life). I had to get an MRI to determine whether or not the calcifications were lung cancer. So that was marvelous. Not stressful at all.

Are you starting to understand why I fear December every year?

So while I am nervous about tempting the Fates, or being smited by a god with a dark sense of humor, I have to very quietly say that it is really nice to see Christmas come and go without a major illness. (I will be barfing in a few hours because I dared to type that, I’m pretty sure of it.)

Wow. I was going to write about Christmas, and instead I channeled my grandmother who guilt trips me by nagging, “You never call! You never write!” every time I see her, without realizing that I never call or write because she guilt trips me, and then lists her health ailments for hours every time we communicate.

Sorry. You don’t have to call or write. I won’t guilt trip you.

I thought the shingles were really fascinating, though. What a weird thing to happen. It seemed so alien and trippy that something could live inside my body from childhood, biding its time, waiting for my lowered defenses to strike. And it was creepy how wounds formed all over my face and head, like some sort of pimpled teenager-emulating stigmata, coming from the inside out.

Kids nowadays receive a chickenpox vaccine, so they never have to experience it. I recently read some studies stating that if you receive the chickenpox vaccine as a kid, and never have full-fledged chickenpox, you aren’t susceptible to shingles as an adult. I was relieved to learn my son won’t have to worry about shingles. It makes me want to beg my anti-vaccine mommy friends to please, at least get your kids the chickenpox vaccine, because if they can avoid shingles later in life, trust me; they will want to go ahead and do that.

We had a mellow Christmas this year. I got a leopard skin laptop bag and a matching laptop skin to make my new laptop all leopard-spotted and awesome. I have an animal print fetish. I have since high school. It was cute and funky when I was young and playing in bands, but now it’s just kind of weird and sad. I tell myself it’s sexy in a Mrs. Robinson sort of way, but I’m not fooling anyone. I know I just look like a poorly aging rocker chick, but whatever. The heart wants what it wants, and mine wants leopard, zebra, and giraffe prints.

Tawni’s Happy Fun Time Couch Spot:

My ridiculous: let me show it to you.

I got a laptop table and a thumb drive that will store everything I can ever possibly write. And Dexter: The Fourth Season. And the warmest, most awesome-est gloves without fingers, so I can type and be warm all at the same time.

So as you’ve probably surmised, yes, I recently got a laptop. I feel ridiculously lucky and blessed. I have wanted a laptop for years, and finally got one for my birthday (around Halloween). I am sitting in bed writing this on it, actually. I love it. I’ve been on my own since I was just barely 17, and pretty poor my whole life, so I haven’t been the girl with a lot of technological toys. I still can’t believe it’s mine.

I only got my first personal computer in 2004. My husband forced me to get my first cell phone in 2006. I hate talking on the phone. I am afraid of it, even. (When acquaintances want to talk to me on the phone, I get weird. It stirs up a big, steaming batch of social ineptitude and shy for me.) He often has to nag me to keep the ringer on. I like to be out of touch. There is a lot of peace to be found in out of touch. Not a lot of not-annoyed-spouse, though, it turns out.

We always had really relaxed Christmas eve and Christmas day celebrations in my family. I was born in Phoenix, where we lived until I was seven, when my mom remarried, and we moved to Lawrence, Kansas with my new stepdad. We were completely isolated from my mom’s large Arizona family, so we had our own holidays. No getting in the car and driving from relative to relative’s house. It was awesome.

As we got older, we would all spend Christmas eve and day at my parents’ house, which was eventually in Holden, Missouri, and then Blue Springs, Missouri. Once we were old enough to drink, Kahlua went into coffee, and mimosas happened with the fruity crepes my mom makes on Christmas morning. She had a deli tray with cheese, meat and little rolls for sandwiches. She also kept a fondue pot full of melted chocolate for us to dip the chunks of angel food cake, banana slices, and strawberries into. There was always a port wine cheese ball with crackers. I still feel nostalgic when I look at one of those swirly red and orange, almond-coated little guys. So appropriate that a cheese ball would make me wistful. (I’m such a cheese ball.)

Now my parents have retired to Phoenix, and I ended up in Oklahoma after getting knocked up by an Okie boy in Los Angeles, so I have had to keep these little foodie traditions alive by myself. (Especially the Christmas morning mimosas.) I had the cheese ball, fondue, and little sandwiches this year, but I didn’t make the crepes. I don’t think I could ever make those as well as my mom.

I baked my usual pumpkin pies, and got wacky with my banana bread this year, making banana bread muffins with chocolate chips instead. I even made pecan pies this year for the first time ever. I decided that it is ridiculous that I’ve never made a pecan pie. It’s a classic holiday dessert.

They came out fine, but inadvertently put me off pecan pie for the rest of my life. I used to really like it, but now that I know it is a big pile of corn syrup, eggs and sugar, I’m totally grossed out. Seriously. Hot, baked corn syrup and eggs. Eeeew. How did I not know that?

But despite the pecan pie repulsion, I had the first pleasant holiday season I’ve had in years. No illness. No oozing flesh wounds. No flu-ridden baby. No lung cancer scare. So big props to tha universe for that. One love. Word to your mother. Peace out.

Hope your holidays were awesome, pals.

 

 

 

Miles and me, Christmas 2010.

My Bloody Valentine

(Writing from February 15, 2011.)

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. Also known as Monday, if you were me.

I’ve never liked the holiday. I am extremely, stubbornly, almost comically averse to all forms of manipulation, which made me a willful, hellish nightmare of a child for my poor mother. So the idea of a holiday that forces people to show their emotions to each other really gives me a case of the ass. I don’t even like greeting cards.

I also don’t like the idea of “being romantic.” It sounds smarmy and false, like saying “making love” instead of “having sex” or “fucking.” It gives me the willies when women talk about wanting their guy to bemore romantic. It’s like saying you want him to not be a guy anymore or something. Which is fine. But, like, you chose him, so it’s kind of unfair to change your mind this late in the game.

I know I should probably be a smart girl and use any excuse possible to receive chocolate and flowers, but I’ve never felt it. I also dislike red roses and diamonds because they are as unoriginal as it gets, so maybe that has something to do with it; I just really don’t like unoriginal displays of affection. I have no idea.

I am aware that by being too outspoken with my Valentine’s Day disdain, I am being a downer, and ironically enough, not terribly original, so I usually just keep my mouth shut and ignore it until it goes away. Kind of how I deal with it when someone is trying to talk about their version of religion with me.

My husband has been forbidden to partake in VD, and obliged me once again yesterday, bless his patient soul. I am oblivious to the date nowadays, and if it weren’t for Facebook, I wouldn’t have even realized it was a holiday.

***

I have wanted to write lately, and have been itching inside to write, but I have been unable to write for two reasons:

1. We were snowed in where I live, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for two weeks. I’m kind of done whining about it because honestly, after two weeks trapped in a house with me, I’m sick of listening to myself. So let me just say that it snowed a lot, the kiddo was out of school for two weeks straight, and we couldn’t drive anywhere. This meant I was trapped in a small house with my husband and son, and that meant I really didn’t get a chance to write. Or to be alone for two seconds. Or to not feel trapped in that chewing-off-your-own-leg sort of way.

2. One of the things stressing me out lately, that I really want to talk about here, is too gross for sensitive ears.

I’m having girl troubles. Trouble with the plumbing. Female issues. Pick your polite-company euphemism and run with it. (I’ll just sit here with the heating pad clutched against my abdomen and watch you run, thanks.)

But it’s making me mad that I’m afraid to write openly about what’s happening to me in my own piddly little blog that maybe ten of my friends read.

It’s making me mad because it’s stupid that we act like a part of the body that 50% of the population possesses is too disgusting for discussion, despite the fact that the male equivalent is talked about all of the time. We can talk about penises, dick size extension, erections, pills for erections, with no trouble at all, but you mention your period, and half of the room groans. Never mind that every one of us is brought into the world by a uterus.

That’s right, my squeamish little chickens. A uterus grew you. Eeeeeew. You’ve touched an icky uterus. But seriously. Show some fucking respect. Your mom gave up ten months of drinking alcohol and her cute figure to bring your punk ass into the world, and all you can do is act like a little pussy over some menstrual blood? You should be raising a toast to your mother’s blessed vagina every time you drink a beer, and pouring out a little on the ground in honor of the dead pre-pregnancy wardrobe she’ll never fit into again.

So as you’ve probably noticed, I’m done with the whole not-talking-about-it thing.

Because maybe if people were allowed to comfortably talk about things like this, I wouldn’t be desperately searching the internet, trying to figure out what the fuck is wrong with my body. Nobody talks about this shit, and it makes me angry.

About six months ago, I was at my yearly gynecological “well woman” exam, and I mentioned some odd things my body was doing for which I thought perimenopausal hormones might be responsible, like sweating, mood swings, and sleep disturbances.

My doctor scoffed at me, telling me I was too young to be starting perimenopause, despite the fact that all of the women in my family finish menopause earlier than average. (We all get our periods at 11, so it kind of makes sense.)

He even invalidated my concerns by joking to me, “Well, you’re too young for that, but you can blame your mood swings on that if it makes you feel better.”

Hardy fucking har.

When I told my mom what he’d said, she was indignant.

“Did you tell him that your mother was completely finished with menopause by 43?”

“Yes, Mom. I told him.”

“Did you tell him that all of your aunts did the same thing?”

“Yep. He just made a lame PMS joke about my symptoms.”

“Jerk.”

So of course, a few months later, my periods just stopped. Nothing for two months.

Five pregnancy tests later, I realized that ha ha ha, the universe ishilarious, and there would be no second child that I’ve always wanted magically growing in my womb, somehow defying the odds of my husband’s vasectomy a few years ago. (He quickly realized we couldn’t afford another child and got it done as soon as possible. He has more sense than me.) (I just want to buy tiny leopard skin coats and My Little Ponies for a baby girl. Is that so wrong?)

Nope. Not pregnant, just old. Oh, so very old.

After two months of nothing, my period started again on January 3rd, and hasn’t stopped since. I’ve been heavily bleeding for 45 days straight and counting.

I have always had really mild, regular, four day periods. I sometimes would feel crummy and crampy on the first day, but otherwise no big deal. But whatever is happening to my body right now is worse than any period I’ve ever had, and it’s been happening for 45 days in a row. It’s wearing me out. I spend days in bed when my kid is at school because I’m always exhausted.

If I sound dramatic, imagine yourself leaving a toilet bowl full of blood every single time you go pee, and you’ll understand why I’m so tired. It’s unnerving and scary, and every time I go to the bathroom, I have a minor freak out. I’m starting to wonder why I’m still alive, because the life is quite literally draining out of me. I’m relieved that my husband is the same blood type as me, because I think I’m going to need to borrow a pint soon.

I was supposed to have a sonogram/ultrasound two weeks ago, but then the snowstorms hit our city and shut everything down, so my appointment got canceled and moved. Now it’s coming up this Thursday, and I am relieved that we will hopefully figure out what’s causing this, but scared of the possibilities. It could be just hormones causing the bleeding, but it could also be cysts or fibroids.

If it is just hormones, then I qualify for a procedure called Novasure, in which the doctor will insert a rod in through my cervix out of which opens a mesh device that conforms to the shape of the uterus. Radio wave technology is then used to cauterize the walls to prevent them from rebuilding, hopefully ending my periods forever.

If I have fibroids or cysts, or if the Novasure procedure doesn’t work, I will have to get a hysterectomy.

I really don’t want a hysterectomy.

So that’s what’s happening in my life, and why I’ve been lame about writing lately. Snow and blood. Lots and lots of snow and blood.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Ovary and Out

(Writing from February 19, 2011.)

 

I’ve been up since 3 a.m. Yesterday it was 4 a.m. My brain has been extra thinky since I got the news at my doctor’s appointment on Thursday.

I have been having some yucky symptoms for over two years, and have been getting what I call the Little Lady Treatment about them from assorted doctors. As in, “Don’t worry, Little Lady, it’s all in your head.” Condescending tone. Pat pat, there there, you’re just a tired neurotic new mother. Try to get more sleep and stop worrying.

(Both genders do this, but it is more often the men in my experience. Yet I was surprised to be told I was “just tired” by a female doctor I tried, before I switched to my male doctor, who is the best listener I’ve ever encountered in the medical field. He’s run blood work on me multiple times, however, and we can’t find anything wrong. Not only have my blood numbers been within the acceptable ranges, they’ve been excellent. I should be feeling great.)

But despite my proclivity for rising too early, like today, I do get plenty of sleep. If I get up ridiculously early, my husband almost always gets me a nap in the afternoon, or I go to bed at 8 p.m. like your grandma, no big deal. My son is five now, and except for the rare nightmare or bed pissing, he sleeps through the night. I am not well-rested, but I get enough sleep. And still, I always feel weak and tired.

I have not felt like myself for the last two years, and nobody has believed me. I’m sure they encounter hypochondriac and drama queen patients aplenty, but I have been without health insurance most of my life, and before my pregnancy, could count the number of times I’d seen a doctor in my adult life on less than two hands. I try to take good care of myself, have been blessed to not have major health issues in my life, and do not like to go to the doctor. So believe me, I don’t go unless something is truly wrong. But these people don’t know me, and I’d look like a freak if I recited the above paragraph of my history to them.

The first weird symptom has been excessive sweating. Throughout my life, I’ve had dry skin. Lotion was my friend. I would sweat during exercise, and that’s about it. I could usually not bathe for a few days, and could hang a shirt back in my closet at the end of a day without worry. Now, I sweat through three T-shirts a day. It’s freaky, and pretty gross. In the last few years, I’ve gone from never stinking, to smelling like an end-of-the-day construction worker by noon. I’ve been telling myself that pregnancy changes our body chemistry, so I just have to get used to it. But this is so anomalous for me that I’ve had a hard time believing it.

The second symptom is constant constipation. I am a vegetable loving chick who eats a leafy green salad every single day. I exercise 45 minutes, 4-5 days a week. I take Metamucil. I drink twelve glasses of water a day. I eat Activia with fiber, even though I hate yogurt. Sometimes I even mix it with high fiber cereal. I eat a handful of prunes a day. I avoid cheese, bread, dairy (except for the nasty probiotic yogurt) and meat. I do everything I’ve ever heard will help keep a person regular, and I am still constipated. The doctor told me it’s irritable bowel syndrome and caused by stress. Which is not out of the realm of possibility. But still. Not normal for me.

The next major symptom is nausea, especially in the morning. It usually wanes by midday. But every morning, I struggle to eat something for my blood sugar, so I’m not shaky and light-headed, but I don’t want to eat at all. Eating when you are nauseated is, like, the worst thing ever. Often, I break saltines into four pieces and eat them slowly, one little piece at a time. I also nibble crystallized pieces of ginger my mom sends me from Trader Joe’s. Even though I try to avoid HFCS and have never been a soda pop drinker, I keep Coca-Cola around for desperate mornings, because when it’s really bad and I can’t handle crackers, little sips of flat, room-temperature cola are the only thing that helps. It is exactly like the first three months of pregnancy were for me. Except I’m not pregnant.

The weirdest thing about the nausea is that I have always had an iron stomach. I’m not a puker, and rarely throw up, even when I want to because I know it would make me feel better. I have always been able to eat anything: spicy food, alcohol, coffee; all of the things that people with tricky stomachs can’t handle. So once again, like the sweating, this is so not me.

I’ve also had the first migraines of my life, complete with scintillating scotomas, which is the name for the flashing lights that serve as a precursor to the thunderclap headache that follows.

But lately, I’ve had weird, somewhat sharp pains on my left side, pains that wake me out of deep sleep. And a seemingly never-ending heavy period that has been happening for 50 days at this writing. So my gynecologist ordered an ultrasound for last Thursday.

And… bingo! The ultrasound technician found a really big cyst on my left ovary, where I’ve been hurting. I mentioned all of the above symptoms to her, the nausea, sweating, constipation, lower back pain, migraines, mood swings, crazy-long periods, sporadic bleeding, and the constant exhaustion, despite what should be plenty of sleep, and she said that it could all be explained by this cyst. “As it presses on the ovary, it can cause it to release excessive levels of different hormones,” she said.

It was a huge light bulb moment for me. “It’s not in your head,” she actually said to me without any prompting. Despite the lousy news, part of me wanted to cry in relief. I’m not crazy! I’m not imagining this stuff! Hormones are chaos-making and powerful, and a part of me that controls them has been shooting out randomly high levels, possibly causing all of this weird crap I’ve been dealing with for the last two years.

Oh, shit. This means surgery, immediately popped into my head too, but at least I might have an answer. And a solution. Oh, please, let this be a solution. I am so tired of feeling awful. I want my life back. I don’t even ask that I feel great again, I just want to feel not bad all of the time. It’s breaking my spirit. I have a beautiful life view, and am usually just pretty happy to be here; I can easily Pollyanna my way back into optimism. But damn, it’s hard to cheer yourself up all of the time when you feel like ass. All these health issues have been a slow, drawn-out chipping away at the sunny side of my soul.

So I went from there to the waiting room, then back into the rabbit warren of offices to talk to my doctor, where I was informed that I would be having a biopsy procedure to take a chunk of the uterine lining to check for cancer, because my excessive bleeding could also be caused by this. Surprise!

Relieved that I’d groomed and shaved the appropriate parts in case of an impromptu pelvic exam, I tried not to look at the wicked and extremely long uterus grabbing tool the nurse had left for the doctor after informing me of the biopsy. Deep breaths, deep breaths, out through the nose, you can handle it, you have tattoos after all, right? Come on, girl. Get it together.

When the doctor came in, we discussed my options. I could have the Novasure procedure to stop the excessive bleeding, which is basically the cauterization of the uterine lining, plus minor surgery to remove the left ovary. Two week recovery. Or, we could just take out the uterus and ovary in one fell swoop, with a six to eight week recovery, just like my C-section.

My doctor mentioned that my uterus is enlarged (which prompted my husband later to make me giggle when he described me as “well-hung”). He said that this would make the Novasure procedure less likely to work, diminishing my chances of having lighter periods afterward.

I groaned, because I know how much a C-section sucks firsthand. A C-section is major abdominal surgery. I had no idea how debilitating they were until I had one when my nine pound, five ounce, twenty-three inch long son wouldn’t fit through my hips. So the idea of going through that again, without the awesome reward of a healthy baby at the end of it all just really super sucks.

But what is the point of going through the stress of having my uterus burned out (Will I smell it roasting? I grotesquely wondered to myself) and then being put to sleep in the hospital for the lesser surgery, when my enlarged uterus might make it so that the Novasure procedure doesn’t even work? Then I have a two week recovery from the ovary removal, a Novasure procedure with recovery, and then the six to eight week post-hysterectomy recovery anyhow. I have a five year old who needs his mom. I can’t draw this ordeal out over the next six months.

So with all of that in mind, after discussions with my husband, my mom, and internet pals who’ve gone through similar surgeries, I have decided to get the uterus and left ovary removed in one surgery. This is pending the results of the uterine lining biopsy and blood test they are also running to check for cancer markers. If cancer is detected, I will be sent to an oncologist who specializes in gynecological matters, and we’ll go from there. Big sigh. If you’re reading this, please send me some good thoughts, prayers, positive vibes, anti-cancer mojo, or whatever you’ve got to spare, because I really don’t want to go from there.

My mom offered to fly out to Oklahoma from Phoenix to help out with my five-year-old and post-surgery recovery, which is so awesome. I am so grateful and happy to have such a wonderful momma. My husband’s family is also amazing, and will help keep my son busy and distracted while I am in the hospital.

I’m trying to be brave, even though I know I’m in for a world of pain. It was a year after my C-section before I could do my entire ab workout DVD again. But I know I can get back there again. I did it before, after all. And the doctor said my C-section scar looks great, so he won’t have to make a seven inch incision like they had to to get my son out, just a five inch one. I’ll also be heading into the surgery with a normal amount of sleep under my belt, instead of exhausted from thirty-six hours of labor, which is very good. And I get to be unconscious this time, instead of awake and horrifically aware that on the other side of the sheet of paper, I’m being cut open.

I’m trying not to think about the petty stuff, like my poor twice-scarred stomach, and how bad I’m going to look in a bathing suit next summer after not being able to work out for months again. Vanity is boring and pointless, and in the end, it doesn’t mean a damned thing. Being alive for my son is all that ultimately matters to me. I’ve gone to the Dark Place a few times, and begged the universe, Buddha, God, Baby Jesus, the aliens, the Fates, Ghost Elvis, my guardian angels, and anyone else I can think of who might be out there listening, to please let me survive this and be strong and healthy again for my kid. He needs a mommy like me to look out for him in this world. In the meantime, the shower makes a really private place for a good ugly cry.

I’m also trying to remember that there is always something worse. Perspective, perspective, perspective. I’m still alive and this is treatable, so I have options. I have health insurance, a wonderful, supportive husband and family, and I can do this. I will get through this, and I will come out on the other side of post-surgical recovery, hopefully feeling better than I have for the last two years.

Other positives: If there is no cancer right now, then after this surgery, I will have 50% less of a chance for ovarian cancer, and a 100% less chance for uterine cancer. And no more periods ever again. Bright side, right?

This morning, the sound of a loud voice in my head was what woke me up. I don’t know if it was my subconscious comforting me, or a sign, but I’m going to look at it as a good thing either way. It said, calmly and confidently, Everything is going to be okay.

I’m going to trust that voice. It is going to be okay.

It is.

Competitive Convalescing

 

(Writing from March 24, 2011.)

I woke to the sound of a soothing female voice saying, “Hi Tawni! You’re awake and in post-surgical recovery, and you’re doing great.”

I couldn’t open my eyes. The lights were unbearably bright. I knew it wasn’t heaven, because it was so ridiculously loud. The sounds of machines beeping, conversations in the room around me, and the clanking and shuffling of surgical necessities assaulted my eardrums. Through my squinting, I could make out the form of a petite, softly rounded woman standing in front of the surface of the sun.

“I can’t keep my eyes open. It’s too bright,” I told her. She assured me this was normal.

I started shaking uncontrollably. I wasn’t afraid, so it felt like the involuntary shivering of the very cold.

“I’m going to give you some Demerol now that should make the shivering stop.” It worked immediately. “We’re going to move you to your own room now,” she said.

A large, friendly man introduced himself, and I tried to look at him. It was getting easier to see, and as we smiled at each other my eyes cracked halfway open.

He wheeled me down the halls to my room while I giggled. I was warned that I might come out of anesthesia feeling disoriented and confused, that I might even cry, but all I felt was relief. I had survived the surgery! I had woken up after anesthesia, and the surgery I’d dreaded for the last two weeks (since we scheduled it) was finally over. Hallelujah!

For me, the anticipation of pain is always worse than the actual pain itself, be it emotional, dental, or medical. One of the ways I mentally comfort myself in the middle of the nasty parts has always been to imagine life fast-forwarded to the point of after. Just think how good you will feel when this is all over, I will tell myself, This pain is only temporary. It always helps.

The nice fellow wheeling me to my room seemed surprised by my cheerful mood, and acted a bit uncomfortable with my odd behavior. I’ve always been a lightweight about drugs, and morphine was no exception. I was ready to party. He pushed my hospital bed down the length of the hallway on the women’s floor, past the window of new babies I would never take home, and stopped outside room 240.

“I still need to mop the floor!” barked a woman wheeling a bright yellow bucket of water, “It’s not ready yet!”

“That’s okay. We can wait,” I told her, laughing, while my escort gave me a weird look. A nurse came quickly walking down the hall from the central work station, where computer monitors and medical professionals huddled near coffee and bagels.

The approaching nurse said to the orderly, “Room 204 is clean; you can put her there,” and down the hall we moved, past the glass and the babies, to the opposite side of the building. I exclaimed, “Weeeeeeee!” as we rolled, garnering two strange looks from my cruise directors.

Deposited in room 204, I waited for my husband to arrive as a nurse hooked up my morphine drip to a little hand-held button I could push as often as I needed. It was like I was on Jeopardy! and the answer was “What is IV relief from pain that makes you feel like you’re floating?” Good stuff.

My husband and his parents, who had waited with him during my surgery, came into my room. Apparently it took a long time to rouse me from anesthesia post-surgery, because they mentioned they had been waiting a long time. The surgery was at 8:30 am, the doctor told them I did great around 9:30 am, and it was now 12:30 pm.

They reported that once inside me, the doctor discovered that my uterus was not only twice the normal size, it had adhered to my abdominal wall, probably after my C-section 5 years ago. Normally, when this happens, the adhesion is one quarter of an inch thick, but mine had thickened to over an inch. It involved abdominal nerves and pulled the intestine out of place, causing my nausea, stomach pain, and constipation to worsen as it progressed.

Before the surgery, I could no longer eat, and had been reduced to nibbling fruit and not much else every day. I’d lost 12 pounds in the last few weeks. Immediately after surgery, even though anesthesia is known for making people feel nauseated, I already felt amazing relief. It was the first time in forever I’d not felt like I might throw up. I was elated, and continue to be every day.

With the end of my debilitating nausea behind me for perspective, it’s going to be a very long time before I’m in a bad mood again. All problems seem so petty when you don’t have your health. When you’ve been in pain and puke purgatory for more than a year, and people complain about little things like rain, you really want to tell them to stop it. Let’s just say that I’m a bit more particular and stingy with my sympathetic comments on Facebook now. If you or your family member is sick, you have my heartfelt condolences. But if you’re whining about traffic, shut up and remember that you’re lucky to be healthy enough to drive, you whiner.

I am so grateful to be feeling better. I’m probably going to be obnoxiously Pollyanna about it for a while, but I don’t care. I went into surgery knowing I was lucky to be able to have surgery and options for better health, health care, a supportive husband, and family to help me. There are so many people dealing with natural disasters like earthquakes who would love to be merely having surgery right now. I am blessed to be alive, and I know it.

The doctor had to cut my uterus off the abdominal wall, making my surgery more serious than a typical abdominal hysterectomy. My left ovary was multi-cystic, with a ping pong ball-sized cyst, so he removed that, plus the left fallopian tube was covered with small cysts, and he took that too. He also removed my cervix, which had small cysts. On the bright side, this all means I have no chance for cervical or uterine cancer, and only half the chance of ovarian. And my labs all came back clean for cancer as well. My cysts were full of liquid, not cancer. Yay!

I can also eat again! Food sounds good again! I can’t believe it! I can’t even remember the last time I could eat anything before 1 pm every day, and now I can eat breakfast like a normal person again. I am still in the amazed phase of disbelief. Because I felt like I had a stomach flu that never went away, I had stopped being able to drink coffee, and I can have a cup again in the mornings. And I have been eating healthy oatmeal and yogurt and fruit for breakfast, all unthinkable before the surgery. It feels like a miracle. It is a miracle. I’m so happy.

After my husband’s parents left for the afternoon to take care of our son, a nurse wheeled a baby into my room. “I brought you your baby!” she chirped happily. We told her already had our baby at home, and that I had only given birth to a uterus, and she got confused. I told her they’d wanted to put me in room 240, but had moved me last minute to room 204 because it was clean, and she figured it out. It looked like a very cute baby, but no thanks. I’ve already done the “trying to breastfeed an infant every hour with a 7 inch incision on my abdomen” thing once in this lifetime.
I was determined to get up out of bed and start peeing on my own again and walking as soon as possible. I wanted to get home to my son so his life could be closer to normal. We are closely bonded, and I knew that his momma being gone at the hospital was probably rocking his little world in a bad way.

The day after surgery, the nurse took out my catheter and took me off the morphine drip. She had to leave the IV of Doom in the middle of my arm because it took two people and two painful botched attempts to place the IV in both of my hands before they finally got one into my arm. I have tiny, stupid veins. I think wanting to get the IV of Doom out of my arm really motivated me to work towards an early hospital release.

I was up and walking, peeing on my own, and passing gas (anesthesia shuts down your gastrointestinal system… they won’t let you leave until you fart) like a champ by that afternoon. My doctor came to see me and said, “Wow. You look better than any of the patients I’ve visited today, and you had the worst surgery!” The freakishly competitive part of me basked in his praise like an eager puppy. I was going to be the best at recovering from surgery! I was going to WIN. Haha.

Thursday was the day after my surgery. I asked if I could go home by Friday, and he said, “Well, normally I’d keep you until Saturday after your type of surgery, but we’ll see. You’re looking much better than I expected.”

I was released early Friday morning. Ever watched the show Friends? You know Monica, the character with the obsessive-compulsive cleaning streak and brutal competitiveness? That’s me. The stubborn, iron will that makes me annoying to live with makes me very determined in positive ways, too.

My husband took great care of me over the weekend, and I got my staples removed by a nurse on Monday. Then my dear, sweet momma flew in from Arizona to take care of me for a week so my husband could get back to work. She was so amazingly helpful, and because I was feeling so much better than any of us expected, we were able to have a really nice visit.

She made me too much delicious food, as is her way, and I think I probably gained back 5 pounds in a week. I don’t care. It was so nice to see my momma, and I got spoiled. The day she left, I stood in the kitchen and whined to my husband, “I already miss my mom!” She helped so much by allowing me to really rest for a week, as she cooked food for everyone, and played with my 5-year-old son. She also drove him to and from school, which was wonderful.

When my mom took me to my first doctor check up since the hospital, it was less than 2 weeks after my surgery. He told me that most people come in for a check up at this point wearing a nightgown and slippers, still hurting and feeling awful. I was dressed, wearing make-up, and walking normally. He couldn’t believe it.

Normally, he doesn’t give his patients permission to drive until 6 weeks post-surgery, but when I explained to him that I have been taking only 1 Percoset every 6 hours, instead of the 2 every 4-6 hours allowed, and rotating them with Motrin, he gave me permission to drive my son to and from school, as long as I’m on only Motrin and not Percoset when I drive. This permission eliminates the only problem the surgery created for my family, as my husband can’t miss any more work to drive our son twice a day.

He told me that my healthy diet and the fact that I was in such good shape going into surgery is probably why I’m recovering so much faster than most of his patients. That is always nice to hear from your doctor, isn’t it?

So life is already going back to normal, and my recovery from surgery is progressing beautifully thus far. I am so thankful for all of the prayers and positive thoughts from friends and family, and hope this update finds you all doing well and feeling great. I’m going to post some pictures from my adventures in surgery below, including a picture of Dr. Lisa Masterson from the television show The Doctors, who is the one who performed my C-section 5 years ago that healed so poorly. As I sat in my hospital bed watching her, I thought it was pretty funny. Life is so strange sometimes. 🙂

xoxo.


















The Dominant Vagina

(Writing from April 8, 2011.)

 

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I watched a show the other night on TLC (The Little Channel) that has haunted me ever since. It was called Strange Sex.

I’ve watched the show before. I try to catch it when I can. Normal, average sex is pretty fascinating to me already, so I am all aboard the strange sex train.

Wait. That didn’t come out right.

And that’s what he said.

Anyhow.

The show that I watched as I drifted off into a Percoset-laced slumber featured a woman with two vaginas. She has two vaginas and two uteri. She got pregnant twice in one of the vaginas, and has two healthy kids. And two healthy vaginas. This blew my mind.

I am presently recovering from the removal of my measly one uterus, so the idea of having two of these uterus jerks to torment a woman filled me with sympathy for her. I wondered if she has to deal with two periods every month. I wondered if she could get pregnant in both vaginas at the same time, or with the children of different men. I wondered about the porn movie making possibilities available to a woman with an extra opening to offer. She could probably make a fortune.

Apparently she has a dominant vagina that she uses for sex, and a smaller vagina that is the width of a pencil. (http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/woman-two-vaginas-strange-sex-174009) I discussed the show, and the dominant vagina versus the lesser vagina with my husband a few minutes ago, where he sat watching golf as I typed this. I theorized that it would be very convenient to have a tiny vagina that you could use after making the discovery that your date had a very small penis. You could choose the appropriate vagina based on the size of the penis. Or you could save it up as a special treat for your well-endowed significant other, like, “Guess what, birthday boy? You get the teeny vagina tonight!”

From the depths of this odd conversation, my husband pulled out the name of his next album. It will be called Choosing the Appropriate Vagina Based on the Size of the Penis. It will be a concept album, and when you play it at the same time as the movie The Wizard of Oz, it will sync up in ways that mystify and amaze you. Brace yourself.

***

I heard a Styx song today that somehow filled me with nostalgia and rage at the same time. It was on the radio in my car after I dropped my son off at school this morning. My iPod ran out of batteries, and when I turned on the radio, the song was just beginning. It was that “Babe” song by Styx. Babe, I’m leaving… came pouring out of my car’s speakers, drowning me in sickeningly syrupy vocals and inane, insipid lyrics. Oh my god. It was so bad that I actually got angry listening to it. I had to turn it off. What a ridiculous piece of horse crap. I remember listening to it as a kid. “Mr. Roboto” is a travesty as well. Are you kidding me with these songs, Styx? What’s the deal with airplane food and Styx?

***

I used my laptop to take today’s Self Portrait of the Day. I will probably do this a lot. It’s so much easier than using a camera, and then having load the pictures onto a computer. I can’t believe how easy my laptop makes everything. I already sound so lame and ancient, telling my son tales of how I never had computers or the internet as a child. He just looks at me like I’m boring him when I say such things. That might have something to do with the fact that he’s five, but you know. Whatever. I destroyed my body to bring you into the world; you will act like I’m fascinating, damn it.

I put on lipstick for today’s picture because I never wear make-up anymore, and lipstick is pretty intense. Lotta bang for your twenty seconds spent primping. I usually only take photos of myself when I’m made up to go out somewhere, and these unplanned shots are making me painfully aware of my pasty, washed-out redhead complexion and invisible blonde eyelashes. I’m like an auburn ghost. So yay, lipstick. Today I have lips. No promises for tomorrow.

Also: I’m wearing a convalescence nightgown in today’s picture. I have a healing five-inch-long (I measured it because I’m weird) incision on my lower abdomen right now, so I have to wear nightgowns or dresses; only clothes that don’t rub on the wound.

I took the photo at the top of this blog first. My son came into the office to see what I was doing, and a mother/son photo shoot ensued. I will leave you with some of our goofy shenanigans, wacky hijinks, and madcap tomfoolery below.

Happy Friday, pals. Make it count. I don’t really know what I mean by that, but make it count anyway. You can do it. I believe in you.






Tornado Pizza Party

(Writing from April 14, 2011.)

***
I just started reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I never saw the movie because I like to read the book before I see the movie version of a story. And also, I have a child. The last movie I saw in the theater was True Grit (awesome), and only because one of my husband’s buddies from when we used to live in Los Angeles was in it. Before that, I think it was that Vince Vaughn/Jennifer Aniston vehicle, The Break Up.

So far, I’m jealous of the mystery gift of “rare flowers, pressed, mounted on watercolour paper in a simple frame” the guy receives every year. I want rare flowers, pressed, mounted on watercolour paper in simple frames. I would dedicate a wall in my house to that pretty shit. If somebody wants to start sending me those every year, you have my permission.

As I type this, I’m watching tornado warnings popping up on my television screen. It’s in a nearby city, heading our way. They’re telling people to get into hallways and closets and stay there for at least thirty minutes. It usually hits us right around our son’s bedtime. It’s one of those Murphy’s Law sorts of things. We end up sitting crammed together in our tiny hallway closet, sweating and bored, when he’s supposed to be in bed.

The last time it happened, the poor kid sat in there so long he was actually asking me if he could please go to bed now. My husband is in the backyard, making sure things are tucked against the house and in places where they hopefully won’t blow away.

My husband just popped his head in the back door to let me know that he’s putting our lawn furniture in the garage, so don’t freak out when I hear it open. This one looks like it’s gonna be a doozy. Doozie? Doozy. Is that even a word?

Anyhow.

God, I hate tornado season in Oklahoma.

It’s almost here. The back door is flapping, the lights are flickering. The wind is blowing really hard and even though it should still be sunny, it’s dark and greenish outside. The clouds look deadly.

My husband suggested that we all hang out in the master bathroom. There is an outside wall, but three of the walls are inside-facing. We’d be a little more comfortable in the bathtub. Hopefully it will be as safe as the dinky hall closet.

They don’t do basements here. Isn’t that weird? It’s a soil thing. It doesn’t work here. So we live in effing tornado alley and we don’t have basements. Stupid Oklahoma. I always had a basement when I lived in Kansas. I miss having a basement.

They’re saying we’re going to have two inch hail, 60 MPH winds and probably a tornado warning in Tulsa county in thirty minutes. Darn. Those tornado sirens creep me out. And I need to go make dinner, so this will have to conclude today’s blog.

My husband just turned on the oven. We decided to have a pizza party in the master bathtub to make it more fun and less scary for our son. Because you know what they always say: When life gives you tornadoes, make pizza.

He just walked in the room and ominously announced, “Here it comes!” It made me want to smack him a little. It’s just the raw terror talking. I don’t really want to hit him. Very much.

I hope you’re having a more peaceful day than we’re about to experience, friends.

Let Them Eat Cake

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Smiling, I watched as two kids around the age of seven happily grabbed pieces of the chocolate cake we were trying to unload. I worked in the free sample corner of a California grocery store. Usually my job involved cooking food for this purpose, but whenever we over-ordered a product, it conveniently became that day’s sample. The customers got to try something new and we got rid of our excess goods. Win-win.

The children had run away down an aisle toward the back of the store, presumably in the direction of their legal guardian. I was not yet a mother at the time, but the way people let their little ones run wild in public had always perplexed me. Weren’t they worried about the safety of their offspring? Weren’t they worried about the annoyance of others? Now that I’m a mother, I still don’t understand this lackadaisical approach to childcare, but if you disagree with me we can discuss…wait, what’s that? Oh, sorry. I can’t hear you over the chop-chop-chop of my helicopter parenting. Forgive me.

A woman walked up to my counter with an unpleasant sneer on her face. “What about the kids?” she barked at me. “That was chocolate cake! What about the kids?”

She was obviously angry that I’d given the children sugary food without asking their parents. She was not angry about the fact that the kids were completely without supervision–she was angry at me, the girl who was not allowed to deny anyone a sample, as per the boss’s orders.

If someone stood at the counter eating all of my samples, despite the fact that I got in trouble for an empty tray, I wasn’t allowed to say a thing. When the homeless lady came in daily to eat everything at once (and chug the entire carton of milk supposed to be used as coffee creamer), I had to watch in silence. What this abrasive, snarling soldier in the fight against sugar didn’t realize was that I was not allowed to join her military. I was sugar Switzerland.

But did I say any of this to her? No. Why not? Well, first of all, I needed the job. Arguing with a customer certainly wouldn’t garner me a raise come employee evaluation time.

Secondly, I am non-confrontational to a flaw. I don’t like it. It makes my stomach hurt.

And last of all, and most importantly, she was being rude. I didn’t deserve to be snapped at because somebody didn’t care enough to make sure their kids weren’t taking candy from strangers.

So what did I do? How did I handle the situation? I’m a bit embarrassed to say because it wasn’t very mature of me. In my defense, I had fifteen years of working customer service jobs with the public under my tired belt, and honestly, my patience with mean people was running on empty. I could still fake sincerity with the best of them, but my years of hoping that people are mostly good at heart were long behind me. My jaded inner Pollyanna was sitting firmly on the steps of her imaginary trailer, chain smoking and hollering ignorant invectives at the neighbors.

My temper in absentia, I did the first passive-aggressive thing that popped into my head. I pretended I didn’t understand her. She had a thick Spanish accent, and the way she was saying “the kids” made it sound like “da keys.” So I went with it.

“The keys? Have you lost your keys? The customer service desk is right over there. If someone has turned in your keys, that’s where they’ll be,” I told her kindly, with a beatific smile plastered pleasantly upon my lying jerk face.

“No! The kids! What about the kids?!” she yelled.

I continued to radiate sweetness and innocence, coupled with a not un-dog-like head turn to let her know that I was confused, yet patiently trying to understand her dilemma. I was here to help.

“Oh no. So…your keys? Did you lose your keys? Well, if you go to the customer service center they can help you find your keys, ma’am.” Still smiling. Apologetic nose crinkle. Blank eyes.

She turned beet red. I could practically see the cartoon steam coming from her ears. “No! The KIDS! The KIDS! The KIDS!” she spluttered at me in fury. Except that because of her accent it came out as: “Da KEYS! Da KEYS! Da KEYS!”

So I continued to psychologically poke the crazed woman by acting like I thought she’d lost her keys. Nobody does passive-aggressive like a person working retail. Nobody.

She stormed over to the customer service desk I’d pointed out to her and grabbed a manager. It was Jamie, one of the cooler ones, thank goodness. Her anger really helped my cause, as by the time she dragged him over to my counter she looked completely insane. Meanwhile, I thought about unicorns, emanated rainbows, and adjusted my halo.

“She is so STUPID! She is an IDIOT!” she pointed at me accusingly as I widened my eyes in feigned surprise. I held my hands out at the manager and said, “I’m sorry, Jamie. I thought she lost her keys, but I guess I’m not really understanding what she wants. I was just trying to help.”

“That’s okay. How can I help you, ma’am?” he inquired, turning to her politely.

Behind my manager’s back, I gave her a very different smile from the friendly “eediot” smile I’d been giving as I pretended to not understand for what she was berating me.

This smile knew she’d been saying “kids” and not “keys” all along.

This smile was shotgun-married to the hardened gleam in my eyes, and knew the score.

This smile whispered “Fuck you” as it passed you in a crowd, and kept walking.

It was at that moment she knew I’d been messing with her the whole time, and when she realized she wasn’t going to get me in trouble, she became even more enraged.

Without attempting to further thwart my agenda for the corruption of angelic children via evil chocolate cake, she immediately demanded that he refund her money and take back the bag of groceries she’d purchased.

Because yes, like some sort of sugar police officer noticing a violation while off-duty, she had been walking out of the store when the kids took my samples, and walked back in to yell at me. Now she stormed over to a register with Jamie for the refund, and then flounced out of the building, loudly announcing that she’d never shop in our store again.

(It never fails to amaze me when irate customers say this, as if the employees will take it as an insult. What we’d really like is a promise. Maybe even a legally binding document stating that you will never, ever come back. Please. Do it for the kids.)

The Chocolate Cake Incident happened in Los Angeles, the land of the body-conscious and health-minded. A few years later, I met the man who would become my husband, and we had a baby. To give our child a backyard in which to play, we moved to Oklahoma, the home of the not-so-body-conscious and not-so-health-minded. Sugar flows freely here. Gravy abounds.

In Oklahoma, nobody screams at me for feeding children chocolate cake. In Oklahoma, I am treated like a hippie freak for enjoying vegetables, and not really liking processed foods. I am sometimes appalled on play dates with other kids when their mothers hand them unnatural junk foods like dyed chemicals disguised as yogurt squeezed from plastic tubes, or as I recently witnessed, pull out a bag of marshmallows for them to eat with their Capri Sun high-fructose corn syrup waters.

Because it seems to be everywhere, we try to keep the sugar to a dull roar at home without being weird about it. We figure that if we don’t give our son too much daily sugar, it will be a nice treat when he receives it at school or from his grandparents. I recognize that it is my job as his parent to teach him to eat well so that he won’t become an adult with obesity and poor diet-related health issues. But I’d like to do this without making him feel so deprived he winds up overcompensating for all the desserts he missed once he’s grown up.

You know. Moderation.

My husband took our son with him to run an errand at the DMV this weekend. As they waited in line, a kind stranger bought our boy a gumball from a nearby machine. My husband was perturbed by the presumption that it was okay to give someone’s child sugar without asking. When he told me about it, I was bothered more that they gave an unknown child gum, as it was only months ago we could finally start trusting him to not swallow it.

As we discussed this, it occurred to me that we had become the sugar police. We were now the concerned adults whining about giving too much sugar to children. I immediately remembered the time I was on the non-parent side in Los Angeles, and tried to put myself into the shoes of the woman who’d chewed me out for giving chocolate to children six years ago.

Was she right? Should I have risked losing my job to take the cake away from the unsupervised kids? Had I unknowingly set the obesity and diabetes wheels in motion for them? Should I have explained that my job required me to give samples away to everyone? Had I been too cruel as I pretended I didn’t understand what she was saying to me?

Nah. That lady was a bitch.

 

 

Nature Seen

I love old houses. Give me a delicate Victorian, a simple farm house, or a classic Bungalow any day. Old houses have a charm and history that is so rarely found in new construction.

I grew up in two different houses built in the 1800s: an old school house that still had the bell tower on top and antique books and desks in the attic, outside of Lawrence, Kansas, and an old farm house outside of Holden, Missouri.

The one and only time I’ve seen a ghost in my life was inside the Missouri farm house. For reals.

We had a huge barn, and many other outbuildings to explore on our land. I very much wish I could give my son the wonderful experience of having nature to explore, and if I had extra money lying around, the first thing I would do would be to buy some land.

I drive by a few acres with a For Sale sign attached that I wistfully stare at every day. I wish I could buy the land and preserve the trees I know will be quickly cut down when construction begins on the inevitable ugly apartment complex or strip mall that will probably be erected there.

Despite my love of charming old houses, my husband and I knew that with character comes wear, tear, and repairs. We knew we were not going to have the budget to continually fix up a crumbling older home, so we had our house built new for us.

With this also came the option of having an open floor plan which very rarely comes with older homes, and for that I am grateful. My husband is also a tall 6’5″ man who simply wasn’t made to live in low-ceiling-ed older homes. My living room ceiling is 20 feet high, and the living room connects to the kitchen, which works great for a mother who needs to watch her young son.

I love the big windows and the natural light in my home. We save electricity because we don’t need to turn lights on during the day, we just open the blinds and curtains to let the light shine in.

But I still love classic older houses.

Recently, my husband, son and I attended “Rooster Days” in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. This is a little festival/fair sort of deal that I have been trying to drag my husband to since we’ve lived in Oklahoma. This year, I finally got him to acquiesce, so we caught the parade and took our son to ride some of the child-friendly attractions.

On the way back to the car, a hike of a mile or two, we passed some of the older houses in the neighborhood that I love. One is a huge Victorian that I later learned is a popular place to rent out for weddings. Which doesn’t excite me: I’m not a weddings girl. But the house looks beautiful from the outside. It is called the Stinchcomb Mansion, and here are a few shots I snapped as I walked by:

This is another house we walked past that I liked. Cool old farm house:

I didn’t frame the close-up very well, but you get the gist.

Aren’t they pretty?

Nature Seen

(Writing from June 2, 2011.)

Recently, during the week of tornadoes that would culminate in the heartbreaking destruction of Joplin, Missouri (and many other cities), we spent an evening listening to meteorologists on the television while waiting for the tornado watch to turn into a warning.

We (by “we,” I mean my very strong husband) had moved all of the outdoor furniture into the garage. We’d also taken down the two hummingbird feeders we have hanging outside the living room windows that allow us to watch a variety of tiny cute little winged friends drink every day.

While we waited for the impending doom the news people where certain was headed our way, we watched as the hummingbirds continued to fly up to the windows seeking nectar.

Before the sirens went off and we headed for the hall closet, I was trying to take a picture of the dark sky behind my house. In the middle of my camera phone shot, a hummingbird flew in front of the window to stare at me accusingly, as if to say, “Hey? What did you guys do with all the the food?”

The result is a somewhat ghostly, hovering little hummingbird blur in the lower left corner of the shot. I’ve pointed him out in pink text for you, because I’m silly.

Look:

The tornadic cloud hook took a last minute right turn and missed us, hitting Haskell, Oklahoma instead, which is about 27 miles away. I was obviously relieved, but sad that they got hit.

Tornado season can be scary. I regret our move from Los Angeles to Oklahoma every spring. And then I remember that we’d be probably living in a small, craptastic apartment in Burbank if we had stayed there, and I stop regretting it, but still. Tornadoes suck.