Friday, July 20, 2018

Marsha, Marsha, Marsha. Or, how many moms you got?

"Life gives you lots of mothers."

It's true. I'm blessed with an amazing "real" mom. But I've been guided and comforted by many other moms, too.

There was Debby, the woman I worked with in college, who drove me home - completely out of her way - when it was really cold. And Mylene, the coworker at my first job in a big city, who took me under her wing - and then freakin' helped me move out of a very bad situation. And Lynn, who took one look at me and knew I could use a funny and kind friend. All such important mothers.

Growing up, I had Marsha. She was BFF's mom, and her house was always open. She and her husband were the kind of folks who never carpeted their family room, so the kids could hang out there and not have any worries.

Marsha had a huge laugh and was always going off on an adventure. She biked across Iowa and then around the Netherlands three times. She broke her wrist learning how to rollerblade when she was … a lot older than I am now.

Marsha passed away a few weeks ago.

It wasn't unexpected, and it was in many ways a relief. Alzheimer's is the worst, worst, worst.

I was so focused on being present and strong for BFF. We cleaned out her mom's room at the care center. We joked about all the casseroles and all the folks stopping by the house. We rolled at the cousin whose post-death visit was punctuated by her detailed description of her husband's huge, weeping melanoma. Well, it got all over the bedsheets every night, and she finally made him go to the doctor and you know, they scheduled surgery right the next day!

Weeping melanoma.

Our posse did shots in the bathroom of the funeral home.

We climbed to the top of the rocket slide in the city park late at night, still dressed up from the visitation.

We looked like adults even if we were scared kids.

It was OK.

And then the morning of the funeral, as a dear friend and I were walking towards the church? I saw the hearse. And I turned away and said, "Hold on - I need to stand here and lose my shit."

They were going to take Marsha away. I'd seen her. I knew she was gone. But a hearse? A hearse made it real. So I stood on a sidewalk and made guttural noises into a dainty handkerchief.

We all need a mom, and I have been fortunate to have many good ones.

At the funeral luncheon in the church basement, I sat with BFF's brother. We hadn't seen each other in at least 15 years. He said he was surprised to learn I didn't have kids.

"Well, things didn't turn out the way I planned," I said. And then some spirit took over my body and I continued, "But this way I get to focus on being the best aunt. And we all have many mothers, and I get to be a surrogate mom to the people around me. Like your mom was for me."

Yes. Just like that.

I promise to pay it forward, Marsha. Thank you.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Anti-depressants and Indian food.

Listen. If that title isn't an SEO gold mine, I don't know what is.

Today was my follow-up med check with my doctor. You know, the appointment in which you have to be somewhat crazy ("Please refill my prescription.") but not too crazy ("Like, I don't need to be committed or anything."). It's a fine line. It stressed me out.

My doc is so, so nice. We talked about how I'm feeling (Better but anxious like worrying is my J-O-B.). We talked about adding another med (In theory, I'm against any med that makes you need another med, but at this point? I DO NOT FUCKING CARE.). And then she gently said, "You know, some people just need to be on these medications. Their brains don't produce these substances and there's no stigma to being on medication long-term."

And then I cried just enough to get red-faced and blotchy.

And then it was OK. Except I was all blotchy and had that "Oh, she just cried" look. And we get health care through my husband's work, so the clinic is in his actual office building. And I was meeting him for lunch, in the cafeteria, amongst hundreds of his peers.

Sigh. I just decided it was fine. My handbag arsenal consisted only of lipstick, and adding more pink to the situation wasn't going to help.

I met My Guy and he showed me around the café ... which is redonkulous. He works for a tech company and the cafeteria is a lot like Google, except you still have to pay for your food. But it's basically the fanciest food court you can imagine with all sorts of options.

I'm a vegetarian, so finding non-lettuce food can be a challenge. But the Indian station had several veggie options. We ordered at the fancy kiosk. And then I waited for my food at the Indian station. It's all very high-tech - they have a video board and you can watch your name move up as they fill orders.

I waited, the only white person. And let's be honest: that is just fine, because white people need to have that experience. But also? Indian food is amazing! White people need to get with the program!

So I waited, and the guy behind the counter was yelling at people and quickly filling orders. Finally, it was my turn.

I stood at the counter. And the fast-moving yelling guy just stopped and looked at me.

He looked at the food. And he looked at the little white lady in front of him. And then he said, "This is hot."

I just looked at him. Because duh.

He tried again. "This is SPICY."

I waited a beat. "Yeah?"

Finally, he was sort of like, "Your funeral, lady" and threw some food in a container and threw it at me.

I got racially profiled at lunch!

For the record, the food was spicy but it wasn't SPICY. It was "I drank a bunch of water" spicy, not "Give me all the dairy products to put in my mouth forever" spicy. It was delicious and I ate all of it.

The lunch date with My Guy softened my heart about, you know, being on 17 antidepressants until the end of time. (OK, two. Two antidepressants.) Because he is cute and funny and was impressed that his little white lady wife ate all the spicy Indian food after the trauma of being racially profiled.

I mentioned this story to my friend who is Fake Asian. She grew up in Iowa but is Korean but ... SHE GREW UP IN IOWA. She reported that when she's out with white friends, she can order Thai food that's a seven on the one to 10 spicy scale and the waitstaff doesn't blink. But if a white friend orders a seven, the waiter is invariably all, "Oh, are you sure? That's super, super hot."

Are people with less pigment genetically incapable of eating spicy food? Did I miss something?

To be fair, I was blotchy at lunch. Maybe the fast-moving yelling guy thought I'd already ingested something too spicy. You know, something like Sprite.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Depression, my DVR, RuPaul, and learning to be real.

I went off my antidepressants last year. I just kind of wanted to see what would happen. And it was … fine. It just felt like there were more peaks and valleys.

Well, and as an unmedicated empath, it felt like I was walking around naked. And people would shave my skin off with a cheese slicer, shove their problems into my body, and then try to sort of slap my skin back over it in an “Ehh, good enough” half-assed gesture. But it was fine.

I wrote this big long blog about antidepressants and my experience going off of them and how powerwashing my MIL’s house was the key to getting over the withdrawal zaps and I how needed to be bold and talk about it and things were OK and blah blah blah. Except I never published that blog.

Probably because subconsciously, I knew that things weren’t OK. Shit was building up.

I’m just going to be straight with you. After about seven months, I started crying a lot. And being a royal witch to my husband. And feeling super put out anytime anyone asked me for anything – including paying clients.

And then? Then, our DVR betrayed me.

Our DVR is 97 years old because neither of us can stand the thought of calling DirectTV and haggling to get new equipment or dumping them entirely, only to sign up again next week  so we could get new equipment. DirectTV? Your customer service model leaves a lot to be desired.

So, we have this DVR that’s made out of an old gramophone and some piano wire and probably real cocaine, since it used to be in everything.

And our coked-up, elderly DVR did not record the finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season Three.

My Guy immediately started looking for online alternatives – the Comedy Central app, streaming, all of it. He kept a watchful eye on me, his indignant life partner. I turned away from him. And then I buried my face in the sofa cushions and completely lost my shit.

And that? That was the moment that I knew I needed to go back on an antidepressant.

It’s been a rough few weeks. Once you hit rock bottom, then you have to sit there in the rocky bottomness while a) you procure meds; b) the meds start to kick in; and c) the meds build up enough to have a consistent effect.

I’ve been crying a lot. I’ve had pretty much zero concentration. I feel like I need to apologize to the world for my broken brain and inability to just get over it already.

But, you know, here I am. Still here. Like a motherfucking warrior. So, there’s that.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Infertility is like a gopher.

I've got a real problem with necks.

A dear friend recently asked me out of the blue, in public, "I noticed you have all those bumps on your face and neck. What are they? Are they going to go away?"

It was like a maggot-filled squirrel carcass had been dropped in my lap. What? I was shocked and didn't have time for the gracious response. Instead, my mouth opened and I said, "Yeah. That's from when I was trying to get pregnant. I didn't get a baby but I did get a horrible facial deformity. It's permanent. Not that I'm bitter."

I sounded like a hateful old hag.

For those playing along at home, I'm referring to the bumps along my jawline that are basically uterine fibroids on my face. Since they're on my jawline and mercifully not painful, I kind of forget about them. But they're obviously ... obvious.

I've been ruminating on why this exchange bothered me. Is it because we like to believe people see our fantasy selves instead of the uterine-fibroids-and-all truth? When I had a black eye, I was amazed by how many people didn't notice it or pretended not to. Are we just used to people not seeing us? Or do we depend on the dream that our faults aren't discernible to the naked eye?

In the midst of my navel gazing, I went to the grocery store. Under even the best of circumstances, this trip makes me moderately homicidal. This day was no exception.

There was a couple bickering over what type of bread to purchase. They had an infant in their cart and were sporting sweatpants that suggested sleep and laundry were not happening on the regular. They weren't adorable new parents - they were haggard and haggling and not being their Oprah best selves.

The guy also had a series of huge neck tattoos that had clearly not been considered all together. They had been plotted individually, and he'd hoped they'd make a pleasing whole.

They did not.

The tattoo closest to my critical harpy eye was some sort of green monster. It was not a known character. Maybe it was his own art. Maybe it didn't turn out the way it was supposed to. Or maybe it's exactly what he hoped for and a representation of how all his dreams were coming true. But I looked at that tattoo with disdain and thought, "Oh, fer Christ's sake. You clearly make horrible life decisions and yet even you are entrusted with a baby. Fuuuuuck riiiiight offfffff."

It was not one of my kindest, most loving moments.

I am a selfish, horrible person, which is not a surprise. But I was surprised by my vitriol towards this man. The thing about infertility is that after a while, it's fine. Fine-ish. Fine-adjacent, anyway. And then it pops up like the gopher in "Caddyshack," all "Hey! Remember me!" And you're all, "Sonofa bee sting! What the hell?"
I hope I didn't give neck tattoo guy obvious stink-eye. If I did, it wasn't about him - it was about me, which I guess is a good lesson. I'm trying to find a larger, feel-good life lesson for all of this. So far, what' I've got is "Don't look at people's necks."

I don't think that offers a lot of value. Like, it's not going to get me on Oprah's "Super Soul Sunday," unless it's a very special episode wherein everyone wears turtlenecks.

Or maybe it would be an episode that's all, "I have a black, black heart, but I'm trying. What about you?"

Monday, February 26, 2018

Stalking is fun!

Remember that time I stalked my grocery bagger?

Oh, wait! That's ALL THE TIME FOREVER.

Let's face it: I love this young man. If you must know why, I am happy to recap:
I know. I know!

Y'all, I am going to tell you want happened last time I was at the HyVee.

The woman with the fabulous earrings was checking out my gajillion groceries. And she made a little joke to my bagger boyfriend, and he laughed and joked back. And then? Then, he started singing along to the Shania Twain song on the Muzak. He knew all the words.

Now, I would like some sort of award or at least a participant's ribbon for keeping my shit together. I acted so cool, like it was no big deal that my bagger boyfriend was comfortable in his own skin, like I hadn't been witness to a slo-mo miracle over the last four years.

I channeled my inner 14-year-old and acted like nothing impressed me. I didn't even get excited when my bagger boyfriend asked if I needed help out to my car. I answered "no" because let's be honest - the temptation to kidnap him would be too great.

I channeled my inner Fonzie and was so cool, but then I smiled all the way out to my car, and the whole time I was loading the car, and basically the whole ride home.

Going to the grocery can make me moderately homicidal. The lack of cart etiquette alone is ... challenging. I'm worried that all my wrath means I miss out on all the good stuff around me. So, I focus on my bagger and try to go from there.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

I would make a terrible action star.

I have a black eye. Courtesy of Walter the Wonderdoodle.

He's a baby. And he weighs 60 pounds. And he isn't quite sure what to do with his body. And he is only moderately well-behaved, for which I take at least partial responsibility.

But I was trying to be a good mom. Really, I was. He'd been cooped up in the house all day, so I got some tennis balls out. Of course, all of our dog toys are stored in the refrigerator. It's the one place where Walter and Li'l Frank are all, "Oh, so, shit just got real. That's really put away."

So, I got two tennis balls out so that the kids could run off a little energy before going to bed. And since it was late and I've all but given up on keeping our wood floors nice, we played ball in the house. As you do.

I grabbed at Walter and caught him ... but he didn't stop. He kept running, bringing me along with him. What stopped my forward trajectory was an upholstered dining room chair.

You know what part of an upholstered dining room chair isn't exactly upholstered? The top corner. Yep. That part of the chair may look upholstered, but it is pointy and hard. I hit it with my eye socket.

Now, I love me some Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. He is funny and self-deprecating and his Instagram feed is kind and inspiring.

But within about 10 seconds of ramming my tender eye area into a chair, I thought, "The Rock is a lying liar!"

In his movies, if he gets partially blown up or breaks his entire body, he's still all, "We've got to save the kids" or whatever. And he keeps moving. And he always has some sort of cut that really needs stitches but he keeps going and you think, "Oh, it's not that bad."

But within 10 seconds of my Major Facial Injury? I was crying like a baby into my icepack and asking my husband to take the dog outside and beat him. (My Guy demurred because he's not a monster.)

Y'all? My face hurt so badly. And if you saw me, you'd be all, "Yeah, you've got an inch-long bruise on your face. So ... what else is new?" And then I'd be all, "YOU MUST RESPECT MY DEBILITATING WOUND!"

It's a few days later and I'm still amazed by how tender my delicate ladyeyeball area is. And although the black eye is fading into yellow and green, I still feel like I was somehow treated wrongly. The bruise should have been bigger, darker, or perhaps accompanied by flashing neon lights so that people would understand the depths of my suffering.

I would make a horrible action star. I am the anti-Dwayne. Instead of running off to save the kids from the earthquake or whatever, I'd be all, "Uhhh. You guys? This really hurts. Can someone tend to me? What? The dinosaurs have hijacked the Pentagon? But I'm actively bruising ..."

I guess we all have our special gifts.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Detergent, defeat ... and redemption.

I have the cleanest spare tire in all the land!

That is the only silver lining I could find, and I'm going to stick with it.

I bought a bottle of laundry detergent at Target. And then, like a fool, I put it in the trunk of my car. When I went to unload my bounty of cleaning supplies, paper towels, and trail mix, I found that the detergent and fallen on its side ... and the cap hadn't been secure. The trunk of my car was soggy with Seventh Generation Free & Clear.

Now, I got a new car a few months ago. I traded in my grey '03 Honda Accord for ... a grey '17 Honda Accord. I keep my stuff nice, so that '03 was in great shape. But finally having a new car has put me on high alert. No, I will not be parking by that hoopty that screams, "Free door dings." And I won't be hauling mulch in this car anytime soon.

But failed to see the danger of detergent. Oh, the detergent.

It got on everything. I will spare you the details, but here are the low points:
  • The detergent soaked the carpet in the trunk and dripped down into the compartment with the spare.
  • Liquid detergent is sticky and hard to clean. If you Google it, the results are basically, "Dude, you are fucked."
  • I ended up with my ice scraper, all my reusable shopping bags, and my ancient-yet-beloved suede messenger bag drying in my bathtub. It took forever to rinse them off.
  • I sopped the detergent out of the carpet using two rolls of paper towels. It was not the most ecologically friendly option, but I was desperate and mired in defeat.
All told, that's three hours of my life I'll never get back. At the end of it, I found myself, wine in totally dry and chapped hand, watching "RuPaul's Drag Race."

My Guy suggested we go out to eat. He is smart like that and also probably feared my wrath.

At the Mexican restaurant, I decided to continue my run of imbibing moderately priced white wine. Yes, I know Mexican restaurants aren't known for their stellar wine selections. I didn't care. I ordered a class of pinot grigio. The waitress clearly was not prepared for such a non-tequila-based request, but she scribbled something on her notepad. Then, she asked to see ID.

It was my turn to be totally unprepared. I dug my wallet out of the very bottom of my purse, figuring she'd been instructed to card all the people all the time. She apologized as I handed her my ID. And then she started laughing.

"Oh my god! Oh my god!" she said. "I don't believe it! You're older than my mom!"

Whut?

"Your skin - how do you get it to look like that?"

And then? Then I rose above my station in life. No longer was I the shrew who'd been hunched over the trunk of her car for hours, bemoaning the roving packs of young ruffians who were obviously loosening the lids on bottles of detergent merely for sport. No. I morphed into a gracious, gorgeous woman, ready to lead youth onto the righteous path of proper skincare.

My Guy jumped in first. "She moisturizes like 17 times a day."

I eyed him, them turned to the waitress. "You are so kind. All it is is sunscreen. Use sunscreen every day."

She looked at My Guy. "And moisturize? I should get some moisturizer?"

She was all of 20 years old, if that. "A moisturizer that has a sunscreen in it will treat you right," I said in my effervescent, naturally gorgeous way. I did not mention my recent realization that my skin looks good because I have a fat face.

The waitress put her hand to the soft spot between her chin and her check. "I'm already noticing changes and I don't like any of it!"

Now, here, admittedly, I got a little "Oh, honey, get used to it." But she thanked me for the advice and went off to get our drinks. I tried to convince My Guy that we should adopt her.

Later, she approached the table apologetically, with urging from another waiter. "Umm, I'm sorry, but we don't have pinot grigio. But we do have chardonnay ... or merlot." She pronounced the latter as it really should be pronounced: mer-LOT.

I smiled and said the chardonnay would be fine.

After she left, My Guy and I smiled at each other. "I love her," I said.

He shook his head. "We can't take her home. But we're going to have to tip her sooooooo much."