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!"


"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."

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Fat, dachshunds, dental care, crying in public, and why I shouldn't be allowed to leave my house.

I made a very kind vet tech cry today. It was an event 11 years in the making.

Let me explain.

Li'l Frankfurter has a long history of being too thin. When I first met him eight years ago, he was thin-ish but fine. Then, six months in? He had emergency surgery to remove carpet backing from his intestines. I don't have any carpet in my house (see also: dogs). He'd had the carpet backing in his system for months, if not years. It messed his gut up.

We had great success working with a holistic vet and Li'l Frank gained weight. And then those tricks stopped working and the vet moved out of the country and well, he just got thin. Too thin.
It hurts to look at this photo. I'm not gonna lie.

In August, we started seeing a new holistic vet. My baby boy has gained and gained and gained and is now a new dog. When you weigh five pounds and gain another four? It's a game-changer.

Now, he looks like a dachshund! Behold, the thick layer of neck fat! My Guy refers to it as Frank's "neck cankle." And our friends now refer to our once-sickly doxie as "beefcake."
So phat. And demanding!
It's such a blessing. And you know what blessings mean: dental hygiene!

I have been unsuccessful in my attempts to teach Li'l Frank how to floss. However, he now weighs enough to withstand a dental cleaning with the new vet.

Now, in the past, I have been a little chippy, if you will, about the veterinary! professional! dental! cleaning! But Frank's mouth was a stinky mess. It was time.

Today was the day. The kid had three little teeth pulled and came through like a champion.

When I picked him up, the vet provided a report card, complete with Li'l Frank's photo. Except they gave me two report cards - one with a photo from September, and one with a photo from today.

I know. I know!

And that "before" photo was after he'd gained a pound because we forgot to take his photo when we first started seeing the new vet. My poor boy. But look at him now - so furry! So robust!

So, I was already a touch delicate. I had been worried that the anesthesia would be troublesome, or that the kid would need to have all his teeth removed. But we were looking at the best possible outcome. And I was reminded of just how far my little boy had come.

The vet tech shared my relief and went on and on about how well Frank did and what a good boy he was. She also mentioned that before they put him under, he dropped a giant deuce in the middle of the table, because that's just the kind of guy he is. We laughed.

Then, she showed me before and after photos of his teeth. She pointed out his top, front teeth.

"These teeth are really worn down," she said. "Does he chew or ... is he in a kennel a lot?"

"Well, my best guess is that he was a puppy mill dog, so ..."

She was visibly relieved. "Oh, that makes perfect sense! We see this a lot in puppy mill dogs. They get so agitated that they chew the bars of the cage. And see this curve on the back of his canines? A lot of the time, they'll hook their canine teeth around a bar and just work it, trying desperately to get out."

Now, I will admit that I want to kill this dog at least once a day. But he is a trusting, kind, loving spirit. And the idea of him being treated so horribly, of being so desperate to get out of a cage that he wore down his front teeth and wore grooves into his canines? Well ... I started to cry in the middle of the vet waiting room.

"Oh, honey, I didn't mean to make you upset!" the vet tech said. Then she teared up. "The good news is that nobody here cries alone. I can't help it."

"Oh, no, I'm sorry! It's OK - he's so spoiled now. I just ..." I didn't have the words. So I asked about some post-op instructions even though I already knew the answer.

I got Li'l Frank home and he is appropriately loopy. Right now, he's curled up in a blanket on my lap and making sounds like a pigeon. And I kind of can't stop crying.

I know I am doing right by this dog. But sometimes I'm amazed by how much the world hurts. It's like the bitter cold air right now - it hurts to coexist with it. My heart seems to grow more and more tender and I just can't even stand the thought of some things. It's like the world is one giant ASPCA ad.

So, I'm going to dote on this big little dog who sounds like he is leaking air. I'll focus on that and hope my face stops leaking fluids.

Monday, December 4, 2017

When your show and tell is a human.

My husband loves to play disc golf. So, when we travel, we often find local disc golf stores. They're usually strip-mall affairs peopled by the disc golf world's version of stoner surfer dudes. But the folks are always nice and quick with a referral to a good local course. We support a local business. Everybody wins.

Our most recent local disc golf shop was something else. It was inside an office building and was a disc golf shop-slash-insurance billing office. But the owner? Well, he was a gem.

As My Guy looked at the assortment of discs, the shop owner told us about two local courses that would be a good fit. And, well, they were both named after guys who had been instrumental in bringing the sport to town. They were his high school history teacher and that teacher's best friend.

And then? Then, this gentleman whipped out his high school yearbook. It easily fell open to a page that had obviously been accessed often and displayed a quarter-page photo of a guy who looked like Jim Henson.

"See, in 1979, 1980, you were supposed to respect and fear your teachers," he said. "But Jim wasn't that kind of guy. He made you feel important. He'd be walking down the hall with other teachers, and he'd leave them to come talk to you. He'd give you a hug and ask about you and make you feel like a person.

"Well, he started the first disc golf tournament in town, and got me and my buddies into the sport." He pulled a disc off the wall. "This was the disc from that tourney. I felt pretty special having this disc that my teacher gave me. Talk about feeling like a big man the next Monday at school!"

Somewhere in this dialogue, I went from being charmed to being completely torn apart and oozing with love for this man and his history teacher.

Cancer got the teacher in the 90s. But he made such a big impact that my new friend keeps his 40-year-old yearbook at the ready, poised to talk about the man who had such a big impact on his life.

Life goals: be so kind that someone keeps your yearbook at the ready.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Priorities and grace.

I voted on Tuesday. You know, like a decent human.

As I was driving up to my polling place, I saw a woman striding with purpose down the sidewalk. And I thought, "That woman is gonna go git it done at the polls!" I was delighted when I saw her walk up to the church basement where the voting magic was taking place. Up close, she was kind of scary. She moved fast and she was not messing around - she was there to get her democracy on. I liked her.

At 2 in the afternoon, there was a tiny bit of a wait - I had to stand in line behind one person. But it gave me time to appreciate the red, white, and blue apparel donned by the volunteers. Plus? People were voting, even though we didn't have anything sexy on the ballot. Revolution starts at home, so I researched those water board candidates and was going to make my voice heard, dammit.

I voted. And as I was finishing up, an older gentleman came in. The volunteers took his ID and asked him to verify his address. And this lovely man said, "I have dementia, so this is hard for me. But I think it's ..." And then he rattled off an address.

I left. Well, I left the building but sat in my car and cried.

Last year, after voting? I also sat in my car and cried. I cried because I didn't have words to express how I felt about voting for a woman for president. I was proud and excited. And I tried to explain to my husband that this vote was for every boy who told me I was "just a girl," for all those times I was told to shut up or was talked over, for all of it. But I didn't have the words.

This year, I cried because the last year has been exhausting and scary and sad. But mostly I cried for the sweet man in the khaki jacket, who shared that reciting his address was a challenge. I admire his honesty and his bravery. And I'm so thankful that he saw voting as a priority. He didn't stay home, even if he didn't have the words. He went out and did the work to be done.