Thursday, October 20, 2016

What's your breaking point?

I found mine.

We are in the midst of a kitchen remodel, so our house is filled with dust and the basement is now our primary living area. I work from home, so I basically never leave our basement. If you need me, you can find me underground, attempting to work and simultaneously comfort our sweet geriatric Big Doodle, who is very unsettled by all the traffic and noise in our house. Lil' Frankfurter isn't as emotionally invested, but barks about every two minutes, just to cover his bases.

There's a lot of panting.

But one of the calming activities for our pack is our daily walk. Combine that with our usual afternoon session of TENNIS BALL MADNESS in the backyard, and you have a couple of pooches who just might be too tired to freak out at full-force. Or at least that's the idea.

It's autumn. The days are lovely. Walks are pleasant. Except ... my fair city is in the midst of an oak mite infestation of epic proportions. These microscopic bugs drop from oaks and bite whatever they land on. You can't see them, and they are immune to bug spray.

Every street in my neighborhood is lined with trees. Oak trees. Big, huge oak trees.

You can see where this is going.

I have oak mite bites all over my neck and décolletage. I know they are oak mite bites because my book club got real personal the other night and we all compared bites. Everyone has them, so I'm not a total leper.

However, as we have seen this summer, I tend to have crazy reactions to bug bites. Or, as my brother so aptly put it, "Ugh, you have a weird relationship with insects. Weird and potentially fraught with inflammation."

Needless to say, my neck and lady décolletage aren't just covered with oak mite bites, but with giant, welty bites that hurt. I must say that I'm pretty proud of how I fashioned what appears to be a scarf ...
... but is actually a dishtowel wrapped around an ice pack. Because a) I was able to find a clean dishtowel amongst the kitchen remodel madness; and b) I finally bought a real ice pack for $2.69 instead of just using a bag of frozen peas. I have passed some sort of adulting milestone. Also? The ice pack can also be microwaved and become a heat pack. I had no idea such a thing existed! This technology is amazing!

So, I've been trying to keep it together, me and my neurotic dogs and painful oak mite bites and fashionable neck accessories and dust-filled house with no kitchen. I was pretty successful.

Then, my husband called me. He has to travel for business in about a week and wanted to know if I'd like to tag along. This was sweet of him, and is a perk of working from home. But leaving in the midst of a remodel and abandoning our neurotic dogs who can't be boarded didn't seem like a smart move. I pointed this out.

My darling husband considered for a moment and then said, "Oh. I forgot about the kitchen."

I clutched my ice pack and surveyed my basement lair. He forgot. He forgot because he gets to leave every day. He forgot.

I got gracious because when there's a homicide, they always investigate the spouse and I'm a bad liar. We both agreed it wasn't a good time for both of us to be gone. Fine. We moved on and I only held the tiniest of grudges.

Later that night, I realized that at some point, some worker had removed the light fixture from the ceiling of our kitchen. The fixture that we were still going to use in the kitchen. It was nowhere to be found.

I had a bad feeling. I emailed the contractor, whom I like very much. His response was basically, "Hmm. Well, if you don't see it laying around, it probably got thrown out. Were you going to use it somewhere?"

Yes. We were going to use it RIGHT WHERE IT WAS.

You wanna know what my breaking point is? My breaking point is when people remove my light fixture from the ceiling of my house and then throw it away. That is my breaking point.

And to add insult to injury? If you weren't sure, you could have asked me. Because I never leave the house. Because I'm in the basement with a freaking-out dog and a freakin' ice pack. Man up, look past the welts, and ASK. Ask before you remove pieces of my house and throw them away.

Words were said.

Thank God My Guy and I take turns freaking out, because he was calm and nonplussed. "I'm sure it was an honest mistake. We can get another fixture," he soothed. Eventually, I believed him. But not before gaining some valuable self-awareness.

This. This is my breaking point. Good to know.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Why I live in the basement.

When My Guy and I bought our house, we took one look at the kitchen and promptly announced that we couldn't possssssibly live with it.

That was five and a half years ago. We've totally been living with it.

We weren't being pretty, pretty princesses - someone had taken a hammer to the countertops. They were cracked and big chunks were missing. The cabinets had once been nice but had been beaten up. And the entire space was dark and tiny and not maximized.

So, the kitchen we couldn't possibly live with? We've been living with.

Until we were just done living with it and dug all the loose change out of the sofa cushions and started a remodel.

Now, God love our contractor. He lives in our neighborhood and is familiar with these old houses. And the subs are clearly artisans and doing stuff right.


It's been 10 days. The house is filled with dust. Big Doodle is losing his mind and chewing himself some new hotspots as stress relief. I'm starting to feel like a troll who never leaves the basement. Because the basement is the least dusty area of the house, and I work from home.

Sounds swell, right? Join me on a photographic journey of remodeling a kitchen ...

The before. Yeah, those aren't bad looking cabinets at first glance. They will be great repurposed in the laundry room. And yes, that's as bright as the room ever got. I took this photo when the afternoon sun was at its brightest. No small-print cookbooks in use here!
This is the entire kitchen. Envision two adults attempting to cook together while an 80-pound labradoodle does his best throw rug impersonation. Good times!

This extreme close-up shows the worst of the broken countertop. Why yes, yes that is a jagged faux-granite top. Why yes, yes I have sliced my hand open on it more times than I can count. Hurray!
So, My Guy and I emptied all the cabinets, which was something because I had crammed stuff in every possible space. And then we moved the fridge in preparation for demo. Of course, the best place to put the fridge just happened to be right next to the front door.
I thought this was mega-tacky until I realized that it means I can offer my guests a cold beverage the very second they arrive. You know, with all the entertaining that one does during a major remodel.

So, demo day came. And at the end, the kitchen looked like this.
My mom said it's the minimalist look and is totally in. That kind of squelched my panic. Kind of.

So, now the different dudes are doing their different flavors of magic. The plumbers have been here, and the electricians were here for two and a half days (!Viva la old house wiring!). Everything is dusty. I'm still in the basement.

I was astounded and a little bit jealous that the electricians can just write their to-do list on the wall in Sharpie. Wouldn't that be pretty fun?
I decided a little vandalism was OK. After all, it's my house.
It's my house ... and have I mentioned the dust? We've mopped like three times, which is kind of like slamming your head against the wall for no good reason. So, that's a bummer. But Big Doodle is really enjoying the paper that's down to protect the floors.
Yeah, that's totally our dishwasher. Out in the open. It's the latest style.

Big Doodle is also enjoying lounging in our makeshift kitchen area in the basement.
It's not a bad set up, really. I was really proud of myself for using the little shelf thing as a mini pantry. It's about the same amount of food storage that we had in our old kitchen, actually. But you might notice that something is missing.

Our sink is in the unfinished part of the basement. And yes, I have logged approximately 43,729 steps between the card-table kitchen and the sink just in the last three days.
I'm thankful we have a sink in our basement. It was my birthday gift a few years ago because I am a wild and crazy birthday girl. The challenge now is that the back wall of the kitchen is open directly above the sink. (See also: unfinished area of basement.) So, every time the worker dudes drill or pull out more plaster, crap comes raining down into the basement, to the sink area.

Yes, we're using a lot of paper plates. I figured Mother Nature would understand. Uh ... I'm conserving water by not washing plastic dishes every time somebody uses a drill. You're welcome!

So, all this to say ... don't remodel your kitchen. Or, if you do? Go on vacation while it's happening. Or, just make sure you have a super luxurious basement because you will be living there. Like a hermit. A hermit who has to wear a bra alllllll the time because people are constantly in and out of the house. Clearly, no one has ever faced such a terrible hardship.

If you wanted to share stories of remodeling triumph, that would be cool. Right now, there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Two things that changed my life.

1. I got a massage.

This is my one great splurge - I get a rubdown every four weeks. After years of searching, I have finally found My Life Partner Massage Therapist. Or massage technician. Or stress engineer. At any rate, My Life Partner Massage Therapist The Divine Ms. M. is just a joy. She has such a positive energy and caring nature that I want to get a massage every day and be her BFF.

I saw her in the grocery once and it was all I could do not to fling myself atop the citrus fruits and demand that she massage me right then and there. Because I have a great deal of self-restraint, I refrained from bruising all the fruit and instead enjoyed hearing about how she was going to make spring rolls.

So, I got a massage the other day. And it was glorious as usual. It is truly the best I ever feel. But this was a little different. My Life Partner Massage Therapist The Divine Ms. M. was working on my neck, her intuitive thumbs kneading muscles that felt ... well, normal. And she kept working, and zeroing in ... on two tiny knots I didn't even know where there. But she knew.

Tears filled my eyes. Not because I was in pain, but because I was known.

It occurred to me that being known is the kindest gift we can give each other. I see you. I acknowledge you. Obviously, this is a theme lately. But it takes on a special poignancy when you're head-down in a face cradle and trying to not cry and snot all over but you know that if you did, it would be just fine.

2. I made up a story about a fellow gym-goer.

So, there's this guy at the gym. He rides the recumbent bike mega-slow while holding his iPad up to his face. He's a hipster, probably in his early 30s, and he slow-rolls that damned bike. I burn more calories attempting to braid my hair than he does riding the bike for an hour.

I should also mention that all I do at the gym is walk on the treadmill. I'm still nursing my old-lady foot, so I don't run, and I don't walk all that fast. I walk. But I walk enough to get sweaty. Or maybe it's all the judgment that makes me sweaty. Because I judge, and I judge hard.

Recumbent Bike Guy wears Crocs.

Crocs. To the gym. To slow-roll a recumbent bike.
Do these look like gym shoes?
I'm judging you! I'm judging you and your clear plastic glasses and ironic t-shirt and pansy-ass "workout" and inappropriate footwear!


I had an epiphany. I don't know this guy at all. And as someone who wants to get a shirt that says, "Don't judge me, fellow gym-goer! I have a foot injury!" I should probably not, you know, judge someone else. Something about do unto others?

So, I decided that there's a reason why Recumbent Bike Guy does what he does in his unconventional footwear. I just up and decided that he donated a kidney to his mom and the recovery has made him unable to do any kind of workout but the recumbent bike for lo these three years I've seen him on said bike. And the crocs are related to some sort of lymphedema, surely. All this he went through for his mom, a lovely woman who works with sick kids and spends her free time teaching ESL.

Maybe if you don't know someone, making up a sympathetic backstory is the next best thing. It helped me look at him with kinder eyes, and isn't that the important thing?

What's changed your life lately?

Friday, October 7, 2016

The seven stages of a husband sharing a cold with his wife.

As told from the not-at-all biased perspective of the poor, put-upon-yet-saintly wife.

Stage 1: Oh, look, a mancold.
I admit it. I had pretty much zero sympathy when My Guy said he felt crummy. I am a warrior queen and never get sick. And he's refused to see an allergist for the allergies that have made him miserable for years, so, uh, whatever.

Stage 2: Hmm. He's actually pretty sick.
There was no denying. He was miserable. This wasn't allergies. This was a big, bad cold. So big and bad that I got up in the middle of the night to move to the guest room because the mucusy snoring was ... uh, intense. I felt guilty for my previous indifference and plied My Guy with meat-based meals created with my loving, vegetarian hands.

Stage 3: Oh, no he did not.
I felt rage. White, hot rage. Because I determined that my darling husband had used my pillow. The pillow that I sleep on. The pillow where I rest my face. He had defiled my sacred space by breathing and coughing and gooing on my pillow ... and then not telling me. And letting me use said pillow. I moved into the guest room permanently.

Stage 4: Everything hurts and I'm dying.
It came like a wave one bright Thursday morning. One moment I was working at my desk like a normal, productive member of society. The next, I had aches running throughout my arms and legs and I was sneezing my head off.

Stage 5: Don't look at me.
I retreated from the world and my marriage. I gathered my off-brand Robitussin (conveniently named TUSSIN!), my Kleenex, my menthol cough drops, and my dogs in the guest room. My Guy would come visit and lay down next to me. He apologized. I told him to stay away from my pillow. He retreated.

Stage 6: Why am I still actively dying?
My Guy got The Sickening worse than I did, but mine seemed to hold on longer. It required Canada Dry Ginger Ale and Lay's Barbecue Potato Chips. It would accept no substitutes. My Guy and I were both still exhausted all the time.
We felt like this. But way less adorable. And with more mucus.
Stage 7: Perhaps, one day, we will be together.
After what could have been four days or seven years because my feverish mind just can't tell, I moved back into the bedroom I share with my husband. We eyed each other wearily but were thankful for the return to normalcy. We hugged apprehensively but, like nervous 14-year-olds at a junior high dance, we were too nervous to kiss. Getting up the nerve for actual lip-to-lip contact could take years.

Friday, September 23, 2016

How YOU doin'?

My Guy and I have noticed an alarming trend as of late. And that trend is the dearth of people who genuinely inquire about our wellbeing.

It sounds pretty "Woe is me!" But hear me out.

It turns out I married an introvert-who-pretends-to-be an-extrovert. Like me. And upon comparing notes, we've both admitted similar experiences. In gatherings and conversations with friends and family, we both ask questions. We listen actively. We work to make the other person feel important and loved.

And ... we don't get a whole lot of that back.

I thought it was just me. But My Guy admitted it happens to him all the time, too. So, I've been paying closer attention.

In a recent three-hour convo, we were asked about our dogs. And our house. And that's it. This, from close relatives.

It's kind of a bummer. But it's become a self-fulfilling prophecy of keeping shit close to the vest, because now when people to ask how we are? We are so shocked by the inquiry and, dare I say, leery of the intent, that we respond with a nicety instead of a more in-depth, accurate response.

I guess if you talk about yourself for two hours and then ask in passing how I'm doing, I don't feel compelled to bare my soul to you.

Is this the introvert's lot in life? Are my husband and I just horrible people? Or is it now such a luxury to be listened to that it makes people high and incapable of functioning? And by "functioning," I mean "holding up their side of a two-sided conversation?"

Part of it might be that our peer group is knee-deep in KIDS! and so talks about KIDS! quite a bit. Obviously, we don't have a horse in that race, so there's no "And how are your young'uns?" in response to our query. But by the same token, I'm super glad your kid is taking swimming lessons and therefore won't drown. However, I didn't actually want to talk about it for 20 minutes. When I was practicing active listening and nodded my approval at learning how not to die around large bodies of water? I was just being nice. I wasn't asking for more detail. I already know how to swim.

But I've seen it with other groups, too. With people who are supposed to love us who actually just ... want stuff? They want time. They want attention. And these are people we love, and we're happy to oblige ... to a point. But after hours of talking about you, well, aren't you tired? Because we are. And we love you. But even we are sick of talking about you.

I'm not saying we're saints of conversation, or even terribly nice people. I'm saying that upon discussing this recently, I asked My Guy, "How did we get here?" And he responded with, "Well, it certainly wasn't by having people genuinely ask how we're doing."

And then I laughed and laughed. Because at least we're in this terribly lonely place together. But seriously. What happened to basic human interaction?

And yes, if you were to ask? I'm OK but I've been sad for a few weeks. And now My Guy has given me a horrible cold and I want to be gracious about it because it wasn't on purpose but I also want to kick him in the skull. Thanks for asking.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Zombie-ing for beginners.

It's been a summer of varmints and bugs and gross stuff. First, the ever-popular mice. Then, I got stung by a wasp. And there was some eye rabies in there, too. Good thing I've already locked in My Guy because if it weren't for that whole legally binding marriage thing? He would be outta here.

I figured The Rule of Three applied, so I was done. Mice, eye rabies, wasp. I was free! Except I was mistaken.

The wasp sting didn't heal. And then I got what are called "satellites" - basically, a rash away from the original sting. Grooooooss. And one of the satellites was huuuuuuuge. I broke down and went to the allergist.

Now, the allergist was all prepared to do venom testing and find out if I'm cray-cray allergic to wasps and need to walk around with a $750 epi-pen hanging around my neck at all times. Except she took one look at my giant satellite and was visibly disappointed.

"Oh, that's not a satellite. That's a spider bite."

She deflated just a touch. I recoiled. A WHAT?

So, basically, I got bit by a spider in the middle of the night. And now the bite is all inflamed and angry and itchy and gross looking and clearly no one has ever suffered as I am currently suffering. But instead of providing me with a careful treatment plan, the allergist told me two things.

Take some Zyrtec. And watch for necrotizing tissue.

You know. Tissue with necrosis. Tissue that is dying and rotting on my person.


So, My Guy and I have become mildly obsessed with the spider bite. I was all pouty and sad, so we went out for tacos last night. We had to wait 20 minutes for a server, and my sweet husband chalked it up to no one wanting to be around my possibly rotting shoulder. Later, as I responded to a work email, he kept helpfully suggesting, "Don't mention the shoulder! Avoid all shoulder talk! You can't let them know!"

At least now I have an easy way to taunt him. "Don't make me rub my shoulder on you."

It's all fun and games until someone's body starts to rot. Is this what it's like being a zombie? You get bit by a zombie and you feel a little weird, but you aren't sure if you really got bit, so you just watch to see if your body starts rotting? Do potential zombies meditate and use essential oils in hopes of staving off the zombieness? Would an ice pack on the zombie bite help?

I'm not sure how any of this is supposed to work. So, I'm taking Zyrtec and icing my shoulder and watching for giant chunks of my body to fall off. Oh, also? I'm burning down my house because SPIDERS? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
Artist's depiction of this blog after my entire body rots and falls off in chunks, which my dogs will obviously try to eat because everything in my house is gross. See also: spiders.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Stings suck, or why I will no longer be bullied by the wasp lobby.

I've been spending a lot of time outside. Not because I like outside, but because my dachshund cannot be left unattended.

He loves tomatoes.

And now that my tomato plants are finally bearing fruit, he views my tiny garden plot as his personal salad bar. I say, "Frank! Get outta the tomatoes!" approximately 437 times a day.
So, I was standing next to the tomatoes, keeping watch while Lil' Frankfurter pretended to be looking for a place to potty. I was just standing there, you know? So, I decided to pull a weed.

Note to self: Pulling weeds is for suckers. Because I evidently interrupted a wasp. And to show his displeasure, that wasp stung my arm. Twice.

I like to think that I didn't start screaming "FUCK!" repeatedly until I was actually inside my house. For any neighbors who might report that that was not the case? I apologize.

But there I was, screaming "FUCK" in my kitchen, holding an icepack to my tricep while trying to open a Benadryl one-handed. I had forgotten how much wasp stings hurt. And how stupid individually wrapped medications are.

Then I took the Benadryl and forgot everything. My arm kind of hurt, but I was floating along. Nothing could faze me. Lil' Frank wanted to eat some tomatoes? Fiiiiiine.

But the next day? The next day, my arm featured a bright red welt about the size of a Little Debbie Oatmeal Crème Pie. It was hot. It hurt. It itched. And, according to the interwebs, it was "a large localized reaction."

Woe, woe is me! I kvetched about my sad, sad plight to pretty much anyone within earshot or within sight of the welt I'd covered with a paste made of baking soda. I'm turning into my grandma, but with way more whining.

One of my pals asked, "What do wasps do, anyway?"

It was a valid question. If I got in the way of a wasp who was researching leukemia or working on a road crew, that was one thing. But a wasp who was just chillin' in my yard, where he does not pay rent? That seems like something else entirely.

So, I did some research. The interwebs informed me that wasps are super-important. They do basically the same work as bees, except they aren't as beloved. And, if wasps go away? ARMAGEDDON. Mass environmental destruction. Fire raining from the sky! Dogs and cats living together!

I think we can all agree that this is propaganda from the wasp lobby. Big Wasp is behind all of these lies. Here's the truth:

Wasps are the payday loan sharks of the insect world.

Sure, some of them are bookies or own vaping emporiums. But for the most part? These greasy, too-much-cologne-wearing, pinky-ring-having slimeballs do nothing but rip off hardworking folks like you and me.

That wasp robbed me of an entire workday as I mellowed in a Benadryl stupor. And now I will never be a tricep model, as the welt is still evident. That's not even getting into the emotional scars.

So, friends, I beg of you: Do not get your information from Big Wasp. Do your own research. The next time a Facebook friend posts a pro-wasp link, don't just mindlessly click "Like." Seek out independent sources that aren't part of the pro-wasp media or under the wing of the wasp lobby. We have to think for ourselves.

Years ago, Mom, Poochie, and I stood at the sliding glass door, cheering as Dad sprayed Raid into one end of our metal jungle gym and then ran like hell as a swarm of wasps flew out the other end.

This "Leave It To Beaver"-like tableau is on my mind and close to my heart, especially in light of recent events. Dad? Thank you for teaching me what is right.