Monday, October 31, 2011

What's in my Bag?

Roo over at Nice Girl Notes is having a "link up" party. We all have to show what is in our handbags and whoever has the best stuff gets a really cool designer handbag. So, I am revealing all in my "tell-all handbag photos." I swear, you can't make this shit up.

Completely Recycled Materials by

Coupons to Old Navy, TGIFridays, Petco, CVS Pharmacy, and old receipts. Also, wallet (overstuffed), cell phone, three different lip glosses/lipsticks (I don't wear any), hand sanitizer, hand lotion. pen, car keys with Bloggess Beyonce key chain, hair clips, hairbrush, card to local substance abuse treatment program (my therapist had an office there - it has nothing to do with the pill bottle!), very old medication (I think benadryl and azo, but I couldn't tell for sure so I threw it out. Also, meds for the day and yes, wait for it, a bottle of Percocet. (I think that should win me the bag right there!)

First pass of overstuffed wallet:  Discount cards to various local stores, library card, Red Cross blood onor card, expired discount cards for urinary incontinence medication, Blockbuster card (which went out of business when?), Ford keyless entry code (for the car my son now drives, which I gave him), roadside assistance card (which expired at least five years ago), insurance cards (I have two; I think I need double the health insurance), disabled parking permit card (permit now expired), and driver's license.

Cards to get us into the local museums with one punch left, social security card, card with emergency contact information from 2009, two voter registration cards (doesn't everyone need two?), safe child identification cards for my younger two children, pictures of me, hubby, three sons, and our friends' beautiful daughter who passed away from leukemia last year. Also, two cards for the Metro in Washington, DC with money left on them. Because we go to DC all the time - like twice in the last six and a half years.

Delving deeper into my wallet, $5 in cash, receipts from our trip to Gettysburg in August, magnet from the animal hospital that fixed the puppy about a year ago, cards for the eye doctor, primary care doctor, and therapist, coupons for the local soft pretzel place, and another Old Navy coupon.

Check it out, people. That sucker expired last March!

Credit cards, debit card, and a gift card to the local mall with no money on it that I received when I had my hysterectomy in April 2010. From that awful office that fired me. Do I win for sheer number of credit cards?

Okay, Roo, I'm expecting that handbag to be delivered Fed Ex! Just let me know when I win.

Woof - YELP

Every morning Justin walks Joey to the bus stop with Jack on his leash and then takes the dog for a walk. This is a dog that we (mostly Justin, but some me) have trained to sit, lay down, shake, stop jumping our guests, get out of the laundry room, pretty much all on our own. But the one thing we have not been able to train him to do is to not bark. I've never figured out how to make a dog not do something. If we address the behavior, we are rewarding it. If we ignore the behavior, we are bothering our neighbors.

So, when we discovered Jack was a barker, we took our vet's advice and got a bark collar. For our sanity. And our neighbors' sanity. Because I've had neighbors who let their dogs out and then paid absolutely no attention to the fact that the dog was barking non-stop for nine hours and driving me crazy. These are the neighbors I want to high five. In the face. With a chair.

And I take it personally when that happens, even if I don't even know the people and they don't even know I exist.

The bark collar acts more as a reminder to Jack now than a deterrent. He knows if he has the collar on, he is not supposed to bark. And usually the battery is dead anyway, so it's rare that he gets a shock. Between the amount of fur on his neck and my unwillingness to tighten the thing down to where it would actually work because it always feels like I am squeezing his neck, there's usually no actual contact between the little doohickies that would give him a mild shock when he barks and the skin on his neck.

So, this morning at 8:45, I was quite surprised to be awakened to:

Woof. YELP!!!!

Woof. YELP!!!!

Woof. YELP!!!!!!!

Woof. YELP!!!!!!!!

Knowing that Justin had let him out for his morning sunning on the deck with the collar on and that Justin was working in his office on the main level of the floor, I didn't move out of the bed to investigate. If I had been even slightly more conscious, it would have occurred to me that there was more than one "Woof. YELP!!!" and come running, but in the fugue state I was in, my mind had a passing thought that all was not right in Jack's world.

After answering two phone calls in the next fifteen minutes and finally getting myself awake out of pure annoyance, I came downstairs and inquired as to what had happened with our "buppy" (big puppy). Justin said he heard the first "Woof. YELP!!!" and was getting up and heading towards the door to let him in, but Jack apparently was overtaken with the urge to bark so much that he just couldn't stop himself before Justin got there and got the bark collar off. The dumb dog had seen something so freaking interesting (i.e. a leaf falling, a person walking by, a car...) that he just couldn't help himself. His instinct to bark overcame the knowledge that the collar was going to make him pay for it.

This is not a dumb dog. He knows how to look pathetic enough while we are preparing human food to make us give him some. He learned how to give me his paw after one reward. He tries to figure out which trick I want when I have a treat for him and will go through the entire repetoire trying to figure out which one I want him to do. And he knows we do not like it when he barks.

But sometimes he just can't help himself. Thus the bark collar.

Pavlov would be so proud.

If I could just teach him how not to trip me when I get up to go to the kitchen (maybe he's worried about my increasing weight) and how to stop scratching at the door to be let in the second after I sit down and how not to fart when he "sits," I would win the golden retriever trainer's award for the year.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Stream of Consciousness Sunday: Tropical Island Getaway


Okay, so I got this idea from my friend Teri and thought it sounded like fun. Except the more I think about just writing about whatever is in my head for five minutes, well, it kind of scares me. Because sometimes, you know, the things in my head are a little scary.

And shouldn't you have an idea for what you're going to write about? Nope - apparently it's meant to be a brain dump with no editing. I'm thinking it might be a good idea to get the kids back upstairs and the hubby out to the store before I give this a shot! So, I'll be back in oh, say, a half hour?

Okay, so here goes. It's 10:09 - somebody stop me at 10:14 (and yes, that math was hard!)

So Justin's getting a really late start on the shopping this morning because work called him at 7:15 this morning. I do not understand how they can lay off all of those people and then expect him to go back to this on call crap, but I guess they totally can. So now it's after 10:00 and that means the stores will be crowded. I wish he would let me do the shopping, but I tend to spend the national debt every time I go to the store, so I can kind of see his point.

Besides, if I stay here instead of doing the shopping, I can go shop around Etsy for stuff for the really cool Jenny Lawson style dollhouse I want to build. I'm not sure I even can build a dollhouse, but if I can make these cross stitch things, surely I can make a dollhouse? It's just glue and nails - little tiny nails - and a little tiny hammer. And siding and shingles and stuff. And the first thing I'm putting in there is that cool miniature Ouija board I found on Etsy. Who knew they actually made haunted miniatures? Someone found a niche. I hate them. If I could find a niche, I could make some actual money (instead of the money I'm always spending in my head) and then Justin could quit working and being so stressed all the time.

Yeah, yeah, we could go live on a tropical island, send the kids off to boarding school, and get groceries delivered by plane. That's it. Seriously. It's like the island on Jane Ann's computer screen when I go in every week. I *heart* that island with a passion. It's totally my happy place. Not that I would wear a bathing suit or anything. Of course, if I had my own island, I could maybe start walking on the beach. And if I was walking on the beach (because in this fantasy, not only am I on an island, then I'm also pain and drug free!), I would definitely lose weight, so all of the clothes I ordered to wear on the island would be a smaller size and actually fit. *Squeee!!!!* I love the idea of having my own island. And if that damned dog scratches at the door to be let in and then runs away one more time, I am getting into my car and driving to the nearest airport to pull a Tom Hanks/Castaway type of deal.

Okay, that's five minutes in my head. Only slightly censored - I think I did pretty well in the "I'm not going to hold back on this (much) department.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pajama Jeans: A Review

So, here they are, folks.

"Hallelujah. The fucking pajama jeans are here!"

Justin's exact words; pardon his French.

On September 3rd, I ordered a pair of these from the pajama jean people. The cost for these "jeans" was $39.95. The shipping and handling was $7.95. I spent $47.90 for one pair of pants, which I do not consider to be a small amount of money. I'm sure Justin doesn't either. I figured $7.95 for the standard shipping would have them to me within about 7-10 days. Guess again. Here are my ratings on various aspects of this shopping "experience:"

Shipping: Grade F

The original pair of pants was ordered on the internet on September 3rd. I received them approximately four weeks later. They were shipped by a company by the name of "Streamlite." (Have you ever heard of them? I haven't. I think it was a euphemism for the Pony Express, although that might be an insult to horses everywhere.) The second pair (the first pair was a size too big) was promised to be "shipped out right away" around October 3rd. I received them on October 27th. I don't know of any company I have ever ordered anything from online that takes this long to ship the original order and then do an exchange that takes two months. For $7.95. (In the meantime, I ordered a pair of yes, I'll admit it, maternity pants from the Gap last week. They were here in 5 days with free shipping. If you want to order some good quality jeans for free shipping and have them arrive before you are in old lady pants, I say go with the Gap.)

Customer Service: Grade C-

After placing my order on September 3rd, I finally emailed the company on September 21st to see where the hell my pajama jeans were. I got an email back with the tracking information. They shipped on the 18th and were "enroute to destination processing center." Because they were shipped by Streamlite, but I was under the impression from the confirmation that they were shipped through the postal service, I sent another email asking how I could track my package. After an increasingly terse email exchange, in which I threatened to contact my credit card company and deny payment if I didn't receive them by September 30th, I got this in response:

It was not shipped out by USPS as the tracking information states it was shipped out by Streamlite.

No apology for the fact that I had paid almost $8 for shipping and it was almost three weeks later and still no package. Oh, yeah, they charged my credit card on September 3rd though. Of course they did. I didn't choose the "express shipping" method because I didn't think it would take approximately the same amount of time to get my package here as it did for the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria took to get to America.

I would be giving the company an F for customer service, except that when the first pair came and was too big, I called the customer service number and asked them if they could tell me how much the original package weighed so I could print out postage to return them. The guy on the other end apologized profusely for the mix up (my fault, not his) and told me to just put "return to sender" on the package and stick it back in the mail box. He said, "I will have another pair in the right size shipped out to you right away." This was on or about October 3rd or so. (I really should have noted the date on this.)

Oh, by the way? I ordered a pair of blue pajama jeans. The first pair was blue. I also got a "free" t-shirt with my order, which was too small. I asked him to please go up a size on the t-shirt and he seemed happy to comply.

Approximately four weeks later, on October 27th, I received the second order. At that point, I just wanted to see how long it would take, although Justin was pressing me to cancel it. I said no way, this is total blog material.

The pants are black. I have a golden retriever.

The "free" shirt? A size smaller.

The only thing these people had going for them at this point was the niceness of the guy on the phone and the fact that the pants are the right size this time. I'm not bothering to return the "free" shirt, as I figure it would just cost postage and I would never get the right size. Or I might get it by my birthday. Next summer.

Quality of the Official Pajama Jeans: Grade B+

I would be giving these unbelievably comfortable pants an A, except that like with every other pair of pants that I have tried to wear in the last year and a half, by the end of the day, they were just slightly too tight around my waist. Only slightly though, which is a step above all the other pants I currently own. But it really isn't their fault that my abdomen swells. And I'm not sure it's that the pants are too tight. It's more of a sensitivity to having anything touch my abdomen by the end of the day. The area directly below my belly button feels like if I stuck a pin in it, it would pop like a balloon. (Is this a recommended medical procedure? I'm willing to give it a try at this point.) After talking to my doctor and Justin, I blame lack of activity, slowed metabolism from the hysterectomy, and the Lyrica for the fibromyalgia. Big time bummer combination.

Also, they have a pretty strong odor of black dye which may or may not come out. I plan on washing them a lot to see if I can get rid of that. I can keep you posted.

I wore my pajama jeans out yesterday when I went to see my therapist (for post-traumatic stress disorder relating to having to wait almost two months for my pajama jeans). She couldn't tell they weren't actual black jeans until I had her feel the inside down by the ankle. The material on the inside is so super soft that I think I actually could sleep in these if the waist didn't start to shrink by bedtime. They even fit a little bit better than my sweat pants from last year, which have repeatedly shrunk in the wash over the last year. I think it's a problem with my washer. Or my dryer. Or the chocolate chip cookies and tortilla chips.

The material is so soft and flexible that you can move and sit cross-legged (if you are able to do that in the first place) or sit on your foot or any of the things you would do in sweats or yoga pants that you can never do in jeans. They are cute, fashionable, and comfortable. I think for anyone else, the waistline wouldn't be a problem. But, that's my issue.

Advertising: Grade C

By the way, did you know that you can buy the "as seen on tv" pajama jeans at Sears? Well, now you know. I did not know until someone on my Facebook page told me. Are they making a profit off of the shipping and handling? Are they charging more if you go to their website? I've got to give them an A for getting me to the site and being intrigued enough to order a pair, but an F for not letting me know a 10 minute run over to Sears would have netted me the same pants. Possibly in the right color. And the t-shirt would have been the right size.

I can honestly say that I would not order another pair of these pants from the website. Between the long wait when I was desperate for a pair of pants that wouldn't leave me in tears of pain within a few hours and the nasty, terse, unapologetic emails, and the wrong color, and the t-shirt in the wrong size, I can't see the point of spending $47.90 on a pair of pants. And I suspect that I can get another pair for half the price over at Sears. I plan on looking into that.

What I would love more than anything is to find a pair of pants that are in that stonewashed, faded blue they used to make, are comfortable in the waist, hit me at the right place at my ankle so they don't look like mom jeans, and that would be my go to pants every day. The Gap pants are probably just slightly small, but I see huge potential if they come out with more colors. I don't know why I put up such a fight against ordering maternity pants, since that's exactly what my middle section looks like. I keep waiting for the inevitable "when are you due?" questions, although the gray hair and wrinkles might be telling people that I am just getting that middle aged spread.

Next stop: The Gap in a size up from what I ordered the last time to give my abdomen a little more room (I can wear the other ones, but I think one size up would be a bit more comfortable). And I may swing by Sears to see if they have the pajama pants in a less expensive display. Maybe I can exchange my t-shirt there and avoid the four week wait. I swear it takes longer to get pajama jeans than it does to buy a handgun. At least in Virginia. And we have a waiting period.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Linking Madness

Today I am taking a short cut and linking you over to The Mrs., one of my co-writers at Motherhood Uncovered. She has a great list of Facebook no-nos that I highly recommend become the standard social media rules.

I would add to her list:

Inspirational "wall photos" that have been cropping up constantly in my feed. Please don't do this every time you post. Sometimes they're cute, but could you put in a status update about yourself every once in awhile? I'd like to know how you are doing.

Ditto on links to songs. If you only post song links, you are probably going to eventually be hidden on my wall. Again, a little goes a long way. I don't need to know what you're listening to every three minutes when the next song comes up on your iPod. The occasional great song is cool and a youtube link once in awhile is also cool, but not every. single. post.

Ditto on links, links, links. I know, I know. You got here from a link to my blog. But I appreciate "real" status updates; not just links to political or religious articles. If I want to read about politics or religion, I will click on my own choice of news outlets.

Remember, you have no idea who might be reading and anything you put on the internet is fair game to anyone (thank you, Facebook non-privacy settings). Never post anything you wouldn't want a prospective employer/spouse/your mother to read.

On another note:

I have been working hard the last two days to update my informational stuff here on the site. Check out my new "pages" above if you want to know more about fibromyalgia, bipolar disorder, or see what kind of dreck I read. I am also planning on adding a craft page and maybe a "recipes I didn't ruin" page (which, I grant you, would probably not be very long").

And on another note:

Pajama jeans finally arrived yesterday, after being ordered on September 3rd. Even taking into account I had to exchange the first pair for a smaller (really?) size, almost two months really isn't good customer policy. Review to come and I'm sure they won't want to compensate me on the grade I give their shipping policy.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Pee Goes IN the Toilet!

People who know me know that there are a lot of things I don’t do.

I don’t cook. I tried to cook when we got married 23 years ago and the things that were coming out of the kitchen were not even remotely edible. I can remember one dish (not what it was exactly) that I wouldn’t (couldn’t) even taste, it smelled so bad. I think we got pizza that night. Luckily, we discovered that Justin is very good at cooking and now I am more of a clean up the kitchen after dinner kind of gal. And I'm great at takeout - as long as Justin phones it in.

But…cleaning the kitchen is about as far as I go when it comes to cleaning. I do. not. like. to. clean. And cleaning really aggravates my fibromyalgia, which gives me a really good excuse reason not to clean my house myself. I convinced Justin that the best thing to do was to hire someone to come in every other week and do the “heavy cleaning,” meaning dusting, vacuuming, cleaning the bathrooms, and mopping the lower level of the house. This arrangement has worked out well. I have fewer fibro flares and the house gets cleaned a lot more regularly than it would be if I was in charge of it. I can put off cleaning a bathroom longer than Jamie can put off a geography project.

I confess to being a lousy cook and housekeeper. Yes, I am a stay at home mom and I am very involved in making sure my kids get to all medical, orthodontic, and dental appointments. I attend their parent-teacher meetings. I am in charge of the special education meetings and documents for Joey. I help with homework, I encourage children who are falling behind or not doing their work, I dole out punishment. I even do secretarial duty for Justin by making his appointments for him, balancing the checkbook, paying the bills, and running interference with telemarketers and Jehovah’s Witnesses. But I do not clean.

So every other Thursday, the woman we hired comes and does the work that I no longer want to can do. She dusts, vacuums, scrubs bathrooms, and mops floors. The house stays clean and smells good for about 12 hours, until the dog again starts shedding puppies all over the floor and the kids have hit the bathroom one time.

We have four bathrooms in our home. This was actually a consideration for me when we bought the house, because I did not want to clean four bathrooms. When I saw the size of the master bath with its soaking tub and separate shower stall, I believe I emitted a groan. Most people would be thrilled to have so many bathrooms. With three boys and a husband, four bathrooms should be a good thing, right?

And we have this wonderful person coming every other week who scrubs those bathrooms. So, what’s the problem?

When you walk up my stairs, the younger boys’ bathroom is at the top of them. And The Smell hits you about halfway up the stairs. There’s no mistaking it. It’s urine. I wonder how a 13 year old and a 15 year old can constantly miss the very large target of the inside of the toilet bowl. You hardly even have to aim, right? But apparently, at least one of these kids is missing the bowl. Is it really that hard to put the pee inside the toilet???? And…it’s not just pee. It’s also poop! (I'm really sorry for the visual; you can imagine how I felt.) How do you get poop on the outside of the toilet bowl and on the woodwork around the door? Do you put your contacts in before or after you use the toilet? This brings up all kinds of issues I don’t even want to think about.

Yesterday, I got sick of The Smell, thinking anyone who came into my house would think either (a) I am not changing the cat litter or (b) we allow our dog to pee indiscriminately around the house. Since neither of my cats is marking its territory and I know the dog would rather die than pee in the house, it has to be my kids. Especially since The Smell hits me going up the stairs. The dog is not allowed upstairs.

Where have I gone wrong? Apparently my potty training skills missed the mark. Literally.

I steeled myself with a bucket of warm water mixed with Oxy-Clean and a wire scrub brush, went into the bathroom, and turned on the lights. Are they serious???? I am embarrassed to have the cleaning lady come and see what is on that toilet. And she comes to clean! She doesn't bring a bio-hazard suit.

I set to work first wiping up as much of the mess as I could with some Lysol disposable cleaning cloths. Just ewwwww.

I then took the wire brush and scrubbed as hard as I could around the corners and the inside of the seat, wiped pee off the floor, and tried not to look at the dirty, urine (and…) stained water flowing from the brush into the bowl.

The more I scrubbed, the less white the seat got. But at least it appeared to be approaching clean. And then I realized that I had scrubbed the paint right off the seat. I couldn’t quite bring myself to give a toilet seat CPR, so we are probably going to be going to Lowe’s for a replacement shiny new seat that they will ruin within the first week of it being attached to the porcelain underneath.

I don’t ask much from my kids in the way of chores. They do their homework (occasionally), have weekly trash duty, help with cutting the grass (on occasion), shovel snow if forced, take the dog for walks, unload the dishwasher if they happen to be unlucky enough to open it right after it’s been run, and they are responsible for keeping their rooms neat. Every other week. Other than that, they play video games and raid our pantry and our wallets. Their lives are pretty sweet. The younger ones even get an allowance for these few chores. We are free rent, food, and an ATM all rolled into one.

Let’s face it. As a parent, I pretty much suck.

Every other Tuesday, I warn the entire family that the cleaning lady is coming on Thursday and they need to straighten their rooms. I remind them again on Wednesday. By Wednesday night, I am yelling. Last time, I peeked into Ben's room and saw something like this:


Okay, it wasn't quite this bad. But it's what I thought I was seeing.

I know college kids are messy. But, this college kid lives at home and is supposed to be putting his clean laundry in the dresser and picking up his books. He's 20 years old, for God's sake! At what point do I get to stop being the maid?

Two weeks ago, after a request that he straighten up his room so the cleaning lady could clean it (I don't pay her to pick up after you!) and having a result similar to what you see above, I went into Ben’s closet and cleaned out the lower portion just to spite him. (Because doing that for him clearly will make him understand why he should be picking up after himself). I came up with four pairs of shoes he’d outgrown (with shoe boxes), two quilts, a duffle bag I’ve been looking for for months, his high school diploma, an honor roll certificate (bent in half), a memoir he wrote for twelfth grade English class that I had never seen before, three pairs of never worn jeans, and a pair of work pants. And that was just on the floor of the closet. (There was more, but I wasn't taking inventory out of shock.)

On Thursday, when our wonderful cleaning lady rings the doorbell, Ben will pile everything that is on the floor onto his unmade bed so that she can dust and vacuum. He will leave all of his crap out on the counter in his bathroom for her to clean around and his wet towels on the floor for me to grab before she gets here.

I think I will “clean” out his desk next.


(This post was written for the now defunct Motherhood Uncovered site. Due to the incredibly sharp pain I am currently having in my side (which I am sure means I need an ambulance and heavy doses of morphine), I am posting it at the risk of pissing off my better half. But he's such a good sport, I figure he will know that I am totally joking. Except about my being a major spender, because that's no joking matter. I hate it when he's right.)

Justin and I have completely different ideas when it comes to how to spend (or not spend) money. And it drives me absolutely crazy.

Justin is a saver. He will go for years in between underwear purchases and then has to be talked into them over a period of several weeks, while his old ones are cobbled together by two threads and an elastic band.

I, on the other hand, am a spender. I never got into the habit of saving. In fact, money almost literally burns a hole in my pocket. You can imagine how overwhelmed with joy I was when I discovered I could get credit cards. It was the equivalent of getting a box of Godiva chocolates during a bad PMS week. It was a free pass to adulthood and the mall. I mean the mall I used to go to before you could order everything you ever wanted online. A whole new world opened up the day the internet opened up shop and gave me the option of entering my credit card number.

The problem is that we are living at two extremes. Because of my spending, Justin feels like he simply can't spend money. Ever. It's in no way fair. And sometimes I wonder if I could stop hemorrhaging money from both ends of my wallet for any period of time whether he would be more amenable to spending when there is something big I want (like a new washing machine - yeah, right; appliances are so much fun). Or, alternatively, on some new underwear for him. But we will probably never know, because I am simply not a saver and I never will be. And "one click" does not go well with my impulsive fingers.

Our two extremes clash horribly at this time of year. Not only do we have Christmas coming; we also have all three kids' birthdays between the end of October and the end of the year. And in my own defense, much of the shopping I do the rest of the year is for the kids. I take care of all clothing needs and back to school shopping. I buy the occasional video game, milkshake, tank of gas, or all of the above. I pay the doctors, the dentists, the orthodontist. I buy the cell phones and the iTunes. I make sure moms' birthdays get remembered with flower deliveries. This year, for my parents' anniversary, my brother was supposed to pay for a portion of the Edible Arrangement I got my parents, except I haven't seen a check yet. I'm sure he forgot. Mostly because I decided not to remind him.

So, not every time I whip out the charge card is for my own benefit. Not even most of the time. But I do admit to way more than my share of Kindle downloads and "taking clothing on trips around the country," as Justin refers to my ordering and returning of clothing. I have refined the clothing trips so that I do not ever pay shipping charges (being a preferred customer of my favorite store with my very own store credit card) and a lot of the time, what I order gets returned because it doesn't fit. But it seems like the money comes in through my husband and go out directly through me. The harder he works, the harder I spend. I swear it's not intentional.

We have two major purchases we are currently contemplating - a new computer for me and a new car, also for me. And we are about to embark on the dance we do that leaves me beating my head against the wall, saying, "Why did I get married again? Why did I get married again?" I start fantasizing about how easy it would be if I made the money and I decided when I was going to make a purchase for me without having to get the agreement of my "better" half.

For the sake of brevity, let's just do the new car dance. It goes something like this:

Me: I think we should start the process of shopping for a new car. Ben's car is turning itself off at lights and that scares me. We talked about giving him the Explorer and buying me a new car and I think the time has come. We can use his Jeep as a trade in.

Justin: You're probably right. We'll take the Explorer in to get all of the fluids changed tomorrow.

Me: Wait. What?

Justin: Did you call the mechanic yet?

What this really means is that he is processing the fact that we should begin to think about maybe, possibly, looking into purchasing a new car sometime in the not too distant future. What I am thinking is that we should take advantage of the fact that it is the last day of the month and the dealerships are going to be desperate to move some vehicles. You see the problem?

We've talked at length about what kind of car I want for a couple of years now, since I haven't been able to choose my own car since before the second kid was born and I want something that I want this time. I don't want a "family" car or a minivan or an "SUV" that seats five, uncomfortably. I want a small, four door sedan that I can easily maneuver and don't have to worry about taking the passenger side mirror off when I am backing out of the garage at five miles per hour. True story. I've replaced that mirror three times - twice was going into or coming out of the garage because I have this problem with figuring out where I am in space (or in this case, the vehicle). The sense is called proprioception (a really fancy term for the fact that I can't figure out that I am about to knock over whatever is within ten feet of me) and I have absolutely none of it. So I want a small car. I want a dark blue car. I want an automatic. I want rear object detection and an iPod connection. And I want it now because we need to get rid of the Jeep that stalls at red lights, endangering my son's life.

I made the mistake of making a comment last night that Hyundai's donations to childhood cancer end at the end of September and the response was, "We are not buying a car tomorrow!" Okay, so I didn't really think we would go buy a car tomorrow. It was just a thought.

The way buying a car usually works for us (because I cannot stand the all day affair of going to the dealership and pretending like they are actually going to work with us on giving us a price we can afford while they hold our trade hostage so we can't leave) is that Justin will go and get a car that we think we might like and bring it home for me to test drive. If I like it, he will go back to the dealership and negotiate the deal so I don't get irritated and ask him for money for the candy machine every five minutes while we wait. Which means that if I want to get on with the process of buying a new car before the end of the year, I must first convince him to go over to the various dealerships and bring home one of each of the different makes we are considering for me to check out and then decide which one I want and then send him back for an all day Saturday negotiation ending in five years of car payments and expensive insurance. Oh and property taxes.

Needless to say, this is not something he enjoys. Nor is it something we do often. We used to do it often - as in every three years - but then we wised up to how much cheaper it is to keep a car for a few years after it was paid off, so it's been two years since we negotiated a car deal and that was all Justin and Ben for the Jeep that became Ben's 18th birthday present. The one we need to now trade in. My Explorer is 9 1/2 years old, but because I am afraid to go anywhere, it only has 73,000 miles on it, so it will continue the circle of life by being passed on to the oldest child. Since his "new/used" Jeep is biting the dust.

Justin does not like spending an entire day off dealing with car salesmen in shiny suits who are trying to reach their quotas and managers who are trying to squeeze as much profit out of us as possible by wearing him down. By leaving him sitting there while the salesman runs back and forth pretending like he doesn't know what the price actually is. Who could really blame him? And he won't give when he knows what the trade in is worth and what the new car is worth, so the process takes, like, three weeks, a hostage negotiator (for the trade), and a SWAT team with pizza delivery.

But we've made the decision. I don't want to look at a million different cars online and consider each of them extensively. Justin's way of getting to a large purchase is to check out every different possible purchase online (showing me each one as if it was one he is actually seriously considering). Then, once I am worn down finally to thinking we will never, ever start actually looking at real vehicles, we will begin round 2, which consists of going around to dealerships when they are closed (so as not to be bothered by the salesmen) and see which cars I actually like when I see them for real. After several weeks/months of this, he will finally be at the point where he might agree to go over to the dealership that sells the type of car I like to bring one home for me to test drive. If I can get him to this point, I know I've got a new car in the next couple of days (or after three weeks and my filing a missing persons report). But getting to that point is absolutely agonizing for me. For him, it's a carefully considered decision with lots of thought put into it. For me, it's something I just want to get done already. Banging My. Head. Against. The. Wall.

Scene change...

I stopped by Best Buy with Jamie last week to check out the iPad I have been dreaming about since whenever it first came out. Justin has been trying to convince me that what I really want is an Apple MacBook Air. And wouldn't you know it? After looking at the iPad and then looking at the Air (for about five minutes), I decided that Justin is right. I actually want the Air. I trust his judgment, but I also hate it when he's right, especially when I've been so convinced for so long that I want an iPad. So it grated me something fierce to come home and tell him that indeed, I think the Air is a better idea.

I know he was planning on getting me the iPad for Christmas. But the Air is about $400 what I'm wondering is whether or not this is not just another car deal, with months of comparison shopping and more bruises to my forehead. I guess we'll know on Christmas morning. I am greatly anticipating the new Stephen King novel...which is probably what will be under the tree.

Update: I have taken the Jeep and Ben is using the Explorer. The Jeep is no longer turning itself off now that it is getting the high octane gasoline and it just passed inspection. And I really kind of like it, so we're keeping it for awhile. And bonus for Justin: the new Kindle Fire arrived in stores yesterday and THAT'S what I really want. So I told him to hold off on the computer and just get me a Kindle Fire. Saving him about $1,000 (for the moment). Maybe there is hope for me yet. Except I pre-ordered Stephen King's new book for the kindle. That damned one touch.


A Medical Thing

NOT my real doctor

Conversation with my doctor today:

Doctor: Oh dear. I see you have a huge list for me today.

Me: Yeah, but most of it is things I want you to test me for.

Doctor: Like what:

Me: Well, for starters, how about doing an ANA test? I mean, I don't think it's lupus, but it couldn't hurt.

Doctor: ANA is not always positive in lupus and you don't have lupus symptoms.

Me: Well, what about lyme disease?

Doctor: That's useful. We can test for that.

Me: And thyroid? I think I was supposed to have my thyroid rechecked.

Doctor: Yes, you had it checked in January 2010. We should check it again.

Me: And I think I'm due for liver enzymes.

Doctor: Yep. Is there anything useful I can do today?

Me: Well, I was wondering. Can this be chronic fatigue syndrome in addition to fibromyalgia, 'cause I'm having a hard time holding my head up.

Doctor: Definitely. The two often go together. I tend to think they are variations of the same disease.

Me: Well, what about this post-viral syndrome theory I've been hearing?

Doctor: The studies aren't supporting it.

Me: *dramatic sigh* Fine. I need you to look at these things in my mouth and this thing on my leg.

Doctor: me your mouth.

Me: Pulling down my lower lip...see all of these things????

Doctor: Oh, those are mucous seals.

Me: I have baby seals in my mouth? Wonderful.

Doctor: No. They're basically blocked saliva glands. (I think that's what he said. I was too busy worrying about my facebook status update. Nobody likes it when you hurt baby seals.)

Me: Okay, I can pull my pants down, right? I mean, you're my doctor and all...


Me: See, I have this thing on my leg...

Doctor: That's a dermofibroma. Nothing to worry about. (I'm so googling that one.)

Me: Thank God. Now, can you tell me why my abdomen is swollen, I've gained 20 pounds even though I'm eating healthier, and I can't wear pants?

Doctor: I think it's probably the Lyrica. I had another guy with the same problem and testicular swelling.

Me: Well, thank God I don't have that problem.

Doctor: Right. We're balancing side effects with benefits of the medication. So what alternative medicine have you tried again? Did you try acupuncture?

Me: Yes. It didn't go well. Massage is good but too expensive. And I was afraid the chiropractor was going to break something. My bones were cracking and she was hurting me.

Doctor: Well, that's about all I can suggest.

Me: You know, living this way sucks. I spend most of my time in the recliner. And I can't exercise without feeling like 30 buffalo mowed me down.

Doctor: I only recommend graded exercise for your illness and none if it makes you feel worse. And yes, living this way sucks. You're complicated. Get the blood test, fill your prescriptions, and I wish there was more I could do for you.

Me: You know, my therapist thinks I should be on supplements.

Doctor: Well, I don't like to knock anything that doesn't hurt and might help, but I tend to think supplements are just a way for big companies to make money.

Me: When do you want me to come in and complain again.

Doctor: Three months.

Me: Thanks for the mammogram order.

At least he listens to all of my weird theories. That's what makes a good doctor. Also, he tells me these strange things aren't anything to worry about. I love that in a medical dude.

Cancer: How Do I Hate You? Let Me Count the Ways

I woke up this morning with the entire right side of my head stopped up like someone had poured cement into my sinus cavity. I flipped uselessly to my other side, like you do when you're trying to clear the side of your head that feels like it is filled with lead, but no luck. So I got up to come down and make Joey's sandwich for his lunch and get his breakfast and then propped myself up on the couch so that my head was above shoulder level.

I don't feel sick yet. I have that heightened awareness sense you get the day before you know you have a cold and the fact that Justin has bronchitis and a sinus infection to lead me to believe a cold is coming. And the timing really, really sucks.

Today is my 3 month appointment with my primary care physician and it's a huge deal. I followed my doctor from Winchester when he moved all the way up to Maryland to open his own practice because I thought he really was worth the drive. If you have a chronic illness that is kind of unpredictable, you will know how difficult it is to make appointments nearby. Appointments an hour away sometimes require herculean efforts and weeks of planning to get yourself there. And you also know how difficult it is to find a decent doctor who will treat you, well, at all. Chronic pain patients hang onto good doctors like a good marriage - with everything they have.

But that's not exactly the problem. I am up and I will drag myself to the shower later to get ready, so I am already ahead of the game. Usually I would have to drag myself out of bed to drag myself to the shower.

Here's the problem.

My mother's house is directly on the way to and from my doctor, so every time I schedule an appointment, I try to arrange it for a time when my mom and dad will be home so I can visit. I don't get to see enough of my parents as it is and now, with my mom's cancer treatment, I am trying to make sure I see as much of her as possible. The problem is that she is undergoing chemotherapy, which makes her immune system not able to fight back against silly things like colds, so if I even think I might be getting sick, I don't want to take a chance that she might catch it.

The last time I went with a sore throat, I wore a mask and felt kind of silly, but happy that she didn't think I was too great a risk. I had a sore throat, which turned out to be allergies, but I was happy to take the mask to see my mom. This time, we know how sick Justin is right now, and I'm not sure any of us think it is worth the risk. Which means I will be driving that hour and ten minute trip both ways without a stop on the way. Unless I stop and drop the stuff that I have been slowly collecting for her over the last week or so. A book, a couple of People magazines, some homemade applesauce. I think she's going to be getting a special delivery later today. I won't be getting lunch at Mom's house.

So now I must drag my tired butt up to the shower and force myself to face this crappy task without the benefit of a visit with my parents and that just sucks. There are many ways that I hate cancer, but this might be one of the biggest. Because I am sick so much, it makes it hard to know when I am sick with something that is contagious and when I am just "normal" (for me) sick and it is putting a serious damper on my ability to see my mom at a time when I want to be spending more time with her; not less.

The good news is that her lung scan last month showed the chemo seems to be working, so I totally believe that once she gets through the six rounds of pouring poison into her body, that will be the end of it. It's hard to stay positive when you see someone you love suffering so much. The really crappy thing about cancer is that you don't even know you're sick until they diagnose it. With my mom, nothing hurts until she goes in and has the stupid chemo and then she gets sick for two weeks. And the hardest part of chemo is knowing that you don't just have to make yourself sick voluntarily once. You have to go back over and over and do it again to kill this unwelcome foreign invader that has been hanging out in your body without your even knowing it.

With all of this "cancer awareness" stuff and the number of walks, fundraisers, events, etc., I am just pissed that there aren't better and easier treatments that will eradicate this disease. I don't understand what the hold up is. I don't mean to bash the researchers, because I know what they are up against, but cure it already, wouldn't you? And in a way that won't almost kill the patient in the process.

We need a cancer vaccine. I am not exactly pro-vaccine, but this is one I would insist upon if it was available. For everybody in my family. Because nobody should have to go through what my mother is going through. Or my best friend. Or our friends' daughter.

There is a lot of breast cancer awareness going around this month. But I kind of feel like why not make it cancer awareness month? There are so many kinds of cancer and only one month that seems to be devoted to one type of the disease. I am not knocking breast cancer awareness, but where is the awareness of rare sarcoma or childhood leukemia or pancreatic cancer or skin cancer or any of the other kinds of cancer that are out to kill you? Where is the funding to find a cure? Why is it so hard, in this day and age of medical advancement, of GPS and tablet computers, does it take a celebrity like Steve Jobs dying to draw attention to the most deadly form of cancer - pancreatic - which kills 80% of people within a year of diagnosis?

But back to today. I am watching my sinuses like a hawk and thinking I'm going to beg a mask and use lots of anti-bacterial liquid and see if I can't have at least a short visit with my mom. I will stay across the room instead of hugging her and I will continue to hate this insipid, nasty illness that is keeping me from getting with ten feet of her.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

You Want HOW MUCH for Peanut Butter????

Justin and I are having a bit of a disagreement about the grocery shopping. I am trying to take it off his hands and he is resisting because he's better at it.

Justin is a coupon and sales shopper. He's one of those people who can save amazing dollars at the register between our bonus card and the coupons he gets from the Sunday paper. Every week for the past few years, he has sat down with the scissors and the sale ads and clipped coupons and made his list. And every Sunday morning, he goes out first thing to avoid the crowds and does the shopping. If you've been reading my blog, you also know that he does a lot of the cooking, which works out well when you are doing the shopping. Menu planning - it's a good thing.

For a couple of weeks (or longer), I have been trying to take over this task for him. He's busy at work - way too busy - and I feel like maybe this is one thing he shouldn't have to worry about. For the record, I am also trying to work on my cooking (we'll see how that goes). Because he does a much better job at keeping our money in our bank account every week and stocking up on things when they are on sale, he is, for good reason, resisting giving up this task. I am a notoriously bad shopper.

I buy things on impulse.

I buy things that aren't on sale that I realize we need when I see them.

I buy produce - way more than we can possibly eat.

I buy junk food. Okay, he buys junk food too, but he plans it around the sales. We can have the same list and come back with totally different food and he will have spent maybe 2/3 of my final grocery bill.

I know that it's hard for someone with a Type A personality to hand over the reins of anything. When they know that they can do it better (and cheaper), it's really hard to let it go. But I say how am I ever going to learn this skill if I don't practice it?

This morning, I insisted on going to Food Lion to get the majority of the groceries. He made me a list and I promised I wouldn't buy milk there because he really doesn't like the taste of their milk. I can't tell a difference, but he drinks more of it than I do, so I give on this issue. I followed his list to the letter and should have ended up with an additional $5 off the total grocery order because I followed the list. The deal was that if you bought 10 items of a certain brand of food, you would get the $5 off. Somehow, I didn't get the right combination and missed the boat on the coupon when I got to checkout.

Also, his list said Jif Creamy Peanut Butter (2), so I bought the size we usually buy. Since there was no coupon and I didn't see it on sale, I figured he wanted me to get what we usually buy. Turns out, it's $6 more for the double pack at Food Lion than it is at Martin's and there was supposed to be a smaller size on sale, 2 for $7.

So yeah. I spent a lot more than he would have on the groceries and there was still some stuff we don't have. (Not a lot, but some.) And I took the peanut butter back when I found out I had paid way more than I should have. And I told them that they were overpriced and what their competition was charging. I don't think they really cared, but I told them anyway.

Grocery shopping of any kind exhausts me. I can't stand the larger stores because they are overly bright, overly crowded, and the sensory assault just kills me. I come out hyperventilating and in the midst of a panic attack every time I go to the larger store. But the smaller store, where I am more comfortable and don't need anti-anxiety drugs, is overpriced.

I think tomorrow morning, when he doesn't have to go through the horrendous motions of shopping for food for five people who all want different dinners every night, he is going to appreciate the over-priced shopping I did today. I know that this is something I need to get better at, because obviously it's important not to overspend. But there has to be a compromise in there somewhere.

After I returned the peanut butter, I went over to the pet store because we needed both cat and dog food. I had a coupon for a free bag (that's free, people) of cat food that was worth $22 because I had bought the last 10 bags at the same store and I had a $4 off coupon for the dog food. The bill would have been $88, but it was $57.

I think I made up at the pet store what I overspent at the grocery store. But if we had gotten the better prices at both stores, clearly that would be better. I will learn Justin's shopping method and try to make peace with the fact that sometimes I will have to go to the larger, more anxiety provoking grocery store. And I will make mistakes. And sometimes I will buy ice cream bars. Because they are there.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Full of Hot Air

Every so often, this hot air balloon drifts by the back of our house. We will be hanging out, eating dinner, and suddenly this burst of color will go sailing by. It's always kind of eye candy against the backdrop of leaves. I find myself wondering if it is made by just sewing different colors of nylon fabric together. How do they make hot air balloons? I should really google it.

It's funny how sometimes life drops a big bit of color into our view when we aren't expecting it. Although the balloon has become old news for the kids, I still get my breath taken away a little bit every time I see it.

I don't think they intend for it to float our way. It always seems to land in the field next to us, which isn't exactly the best place to land. I find myself wondering if whoever was in the balloon has to package it up and carry it back to wherever it came from. In my mind I can hear, "Where's the freaking car?" and "I'm tired. Can't you carry this for awhile?"

But the beauty of the balloon, just for a few minutes, makes me forget the rottenness of life over the last twelve months or so. It's a spot of color in a dingy, colorless existence of unexpected loss and horrific illness.

It's kind of like that explosion of stars on a clear night when I'm in the hot tub. Joey and I will go out while it is still getting dark and the stars will kind of wink on one by one until there is an entire galaxy above us. We are lucky enough to live far enough away from "the city" that we can see millions of stars in our own backyard.

It's a matter of whether we choose to see the moment of bright color or the explosion of stars for that moment that they are offered or whether we are so focused on all of the bad stuff that is happening that we miss a moment of peace. Sometimes it is a relief to just take a breath and concentrate on something beautiful, just to remember there is beauty in the world.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I Think We Should Replace...Well...Everything

Sometimes it feels like your life is starting to fall apart. Things you own get older and aren't built as well as they used to be, so they all start breaking and needing to be replaced, usually at the same time. You get older, which means that everyone around you also is getting older, which inevitably means sickness and loss.

What I don't understand is why it seems that everything falls apart at the same time.

As far as things go, we try to get as much out of the objects we purchase as we possibly can. But it has become apparent to me that manufacturers are making their products less sturdy so that when something breaks, the cost of fixing it suddenly doesn't seem to make as much sense as the cost to replace it and have the newest and latest.

The shelf life of a major appliance these days appears to be about six to seven years. We have already replaced the dishwasher in our six and a half year old house. The refrigerator's ice maker has broken on numerous occasions and clearly is going to have to be replaced at some point, when Justin finally gets completely fed up with fixing it. Or something else on the refrigerator breaks. If two parts go, that will probably spell "garage soda cooler" for that particular piece of equipment.

My washing machine is making a horribly obnoxious squeaking noise as the agitator spins. I do a lot of laundry, so this is one particular machine that I don't think we could live without. I don't even think we have a laundromat here in town. The dryer has been putting rust streaks on our whites for a couple of years now. We think it's because of a metal plate in the back wall of the dryer that Justin can't get to and that cannot be replaced. I see two more appliances on their way to wherever it is they go. But not yet.

We have three cars that are completely paid for. Justin owns a 2005 sports car with fewer than 55,000 miles on it because he works from home and it is garage kept. He does a lot of the maintenance on the car himself and plans to put the vehicle in his will. The kids will have to fight for it. My car (or what was my car) is a 2002 Ford with about 73,000 miles on it. Also because I don't go anywhere (agoraphobia - it's great for mileage). It has also been garage kept and we are the original owners. It's in pretty good shape, but a belt is going here, brakes are going there. Every year, there are two or three repair bills on it. It's much cheaper than a new car, but still aggravating when we aren't expecting a car repair bill.

When Ben turned 18, we bought him a 2000 Jeep. He loves that Jeep. But it is 11 years old and has almost 150,000 miles on it. It started doing this thing where the engine will turn off when you are sitting at a stop light. You can turn it right back on again, but it started to scare me that he was driving this car all the way down to school and over to work. The thing was being driven 6 days a week and obviously, that means more mileage and, inevitably, more repair bills. I decided the thing to do was to give him my Ford (with half the mileage) and I would drive the Jeep, since it's rare that I go very far. Or out. (I next plan to leave this recliner tomorrow for a doctor's appointment at 2:00. Unless Justin pries me out of it to help with dinner. Or maybe when I go to bed tonight.)

And then there's my computer. It's six years old and works fine most of the time. But it's technologically behind the times. Justin has rebuilt it at least once for me, but the programs (Microsoft) require so much memory that there isn't enough memory left for important things. Like anti-viral programs. And so we are purchasing more memory to make sure that the computer is protected, but once you start to become outdated in your technology and things start to go wrong, it's almost cheaper to buy new, just like everything else.

I started writing this with a point and it wasn't that we need all new stuff (seriously). My point is that just like our things, our bodies are getting older and wearing out. All of a sudden, we are starting to see people even younger than us die for various reasons related to just being alive. It's frightening to not be young and invincible anymore. (Not that we ever were really invincible, but you really do have a better chance of not getting horrifically sick or dying as a teenager.)

The other thing we are trying to figure out how to cope with is that our grandparents' generation is, for the most part, gone, and our parents' generation is getting older. I think we are a part of what they call the "sandwich" generation. We are not only raising our kids; we (in general) are having to care more and more for our parents as they age. With the economy going to total crap and social security being a total joke as far as being enough to live on, I imagine that a lot of people who thought they were going to be independent right on into their 80's or 90's are finding themselves turning to family not only because they need help physically. I'd bet there are a lot of families who are living together out of financial necessity.

But that's off topic.

2011 has been an awful year for our family. Bad things have happened that are beyond our comprehension. And continue to happen. It's like a rock that started at the top of a hill and just keeps picking up speed and other rocks.

When we bought this house in 2005, we figured that we were going to be able to live in it maybe indefinitely. At least until the kids were out of high school, another 7 or 8 years away. (Please don't ask me to do the math right this minute.) We would see the trees we planted as saplings become large, established trees. We would paint and decorate and live in this house until we were ready to talk about retirement and were downsized to needing a smaller nest. Now, our plans may need to change.

It occurred to me last night that when my parents move to South Carolina next year, we will no longer have any real ties to this small town we have been calling home. We moved here to get away from the noise, the congestion, the traffic of the place we had been living for 13 years and we indeed accomplished that. But there are a lot of small towns in other places that would allow us to be closer to the people who matter. And I think that right now, Justin's family could use a little shoring up.

Maybe it's time to think about picking up stakes and looking for that farmhouse I've been kind of thinking about a little further south of here. Not right away. But once Ben gets himself transferred to the school he wants to go to, it might be time to think about heading out of northwestern Virginia.

I always wanted to raise my kids in one place because we moved around so much when I was growing up. But the other thing I've always wanted for my kids is for them to be close to their relatives and that is something I never seem to be quite able to accomplish. No matter how much I wanted to have the grandparents right down the street, it just never worked out that way. Maybe there's something we can do to remedy that. I know there's no way to be close to both families, but it sure would be nice to be close to at least one of them.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fall in Virginia

Ah, Virginia in October. I think it's the reason we have that "Virginia is for Lovers" slogan going around. You just can't beat it. I took this photo from the top of the platform we climbed to look out over the three acres of corn maze at the Mackintosh Fruit Farm on Saturday.

My camera doesn't do that sky justice and I think my camera is about the best camera in existence.


This pumpkin really looked black to me, but Justin swore it was green. Whatever, it was a totally cool pumpkin. There were millions of them that hadn't been "picked" still left in the field. (Orange, not green or black)

We found Yellow Dog from the movie Funny Farm. So this is how a dog is supposed to act, instead of the quivering mass of shedding puppy fur we have here at our house. Jack spent the entire weekend either in his crate or trying to herd the little ones when I wasn't watching. Every time I tried to walk him back to his crate, he splayed out all four feet and sank to the floor, knowing I wouldn't drag his 85 pound butt by the collar. That's what he thought, until yesterday when I did because I was so sick of him collapsing every time he saw me. He thought the little ones were new puppies. Or something.

Baby Diesel was the only one game enough to put his face in the farmer cutout. I think Joey would have done it, but he was already too busy trying to figure out which way to go in the maze to get to the next piece of the puzzle.

Flags, just in case we got lost in there. Which would have worked great, except that no one was working the maze on Saturday. Good thing Joey and Justin could find their way out of downtown DC in the middle of the night. Me, not so much. I would have been the one calling 911 on my cell phone at dusk because I couldn't find my way out. (When Justin told me he had read about someone doing that, I could totally relate.)

I think Joey was the more eager of the two. He seemed to think there was going to be a grade at the end. If there had been, he would have been an A+. After all, he led the way and we ended up at the exit.

He wasn't the only one who wanted to sit down at this point. Justin's pedometer informed us that we had walked about two miles. I still can't bear weight on my feet and it's Monday. Of course, that could be because we walked the vastness of our local Target yesterday (I know! I went out, right? Suck it, agoraphobia)

Yesterday, I learned how to make applesauce to go with our turkey sloppy joes. (I think Justin's palpitations have stopped now.) I must really like our friends because I let them cook broccoli twice in my kitchen without even grimacing. For some reason, they all love vegetables. My kids can't even say "vegetables." I swear, Mom, I didn't even gag once. Maybe I'm outgrowing it?

Seriously, though. It was the best weekend. Even with the men going to the Redskins game yesterday for the whole day, leaving us way too many ankle biters between the dog and the kids. It's such a treat for me to spend time with another woman. And little people. I forget how fun they are when they're not wearing you out. I had babyproofed pretty well, but it's been a long time and we didn't really expect to have to drug the dog as much as we did. Thank God I had saved Joey's Thomas the Tank engine trains with extensive tracks and Jamie's legos. And I'm afraid Joey recruited a new member to the video game addict club, for which I am intensely sorry.

I swear, I never meant to damage their children emotionally. Hopefully they survived the weekend without a their kids developing a fear of dogs and annoying repeated requests for a Wii.

Otherwise, they might not want to come back.

Isn't that the cutest face you've ever seen?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

While I Wasn't Here....

Today, I am proudly writing over here: Motherhood Uncovered

(Please ignore the following. I had hit "edit html" and lost all my choices. Justin figured it out in 10 seconds. I'm a technical moron and really, technology totally hates me.)

I'm so sorry you are going to have to copy and paste, because Blogger still hates me and now won't put my links into text. It also won't allow me to change the orientation of the text. I've completely lost all ability to control my blog which makes me a teeny bit pissy.

I will be taking a few days off (The New Yorkers are coming! The New Yorkers are coming!), so you will have a few days to properly miss me. I will be back on Monday, assuming I don't come up with something inane to say this afternoon about cleaning windows or trying to figure out what a ripe avocado looks like so that everything will be perfect for our guests.

Also, my computer is having a major freakout and I'm afraid it may be down for the count until Justin can buy it more memory and install an anti-virus thingy on it, so if you don't hear from me, please know I haven't forgotten you. I'm just having technical problems. (It's slower than trying to get my middle child to study for a Spanish test today!)

Please go check out Motherhood Uncovered. There are lots of other great writers over there (not that I'm great; you know what I'm saying!), so it's worth a few minutes of your time.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I Have TOTALLY Misrepresented Myself!

Yesterday afternoon, I got carded when I bought this:

You know that picture of myself over there to the right, the one of me looking totally glamorous, no glasses, lots of pretty makeup, you know - the one of me in blue? Well, um, it's kind of old. Like really old. Okay, so I'm going to admit it. That picture was taken when I was 27 years old. It's the best picture I have of myself, so you can kind of see my dilemma, right? Would you rather look at the 27 year old me or the 47 year old me? If you want to see the real me, just go down to the bottom right hand side of the page and look at the "about me" section. There I am, all 47 years of me, hugging my big, stupid dog.

Yesterday, I had stopped by the local pharmacy to pick up some prescriptions (the dog's Prozac among them) and it's right next door to the ABC store. For those of you not from Virginia, an ABC store is where they keep the booze.

I remembered that morning I had taken an empty bottle of whatever that stuff is in the picture out to the recycle, so I texted Justin real quick with, "Do you need more booze?" To which he replied, "yes," and then we spent about fifteen minutes on the phone while he tried to talk me through the liquor store to find his poison of choice. There were lots of, "I'm right by the Bacardis" and "You mean my other left?" and "What exactly is this stuff I'm buying?" before I finally happened upon the right bottle. I don't think it's that Justin's particularly particular about what he drinks; it's just that he really likes this brand of whatever. (If anyone at Seagram's would like to pay me for the free advertisement, I'm totally cool with that. My email's right there above the "real" me on the side.)

Anyway, so I take this bottle of Seagrams stuff up to the counter, where two guys who looked to be around 40 or maybe a little older were standing around. Clearly, they had been back in the back, sampling their own stock, because the guy behind the cash register said, "May I see your ID?"

After I stopped laughing, I told him "Sure! And thank you!" There then entailed a fairly lively discussion between me and the two guys that went something like this:

Me: I can't believe you carded me. You just made my whole week.

Cash Register Guy: You don't look that old.

Guy Hanging Out by Cash Register: Well, we have to card anyone under 30.

Me: I haven't been under 30 in a long time. (Wiping tears because I'm laughing so hard)

Guy Hanging Out: You don't look like you're over 30.

Me: (Unable to keep a thought in my head) I'm actually 47!

Cash Register Guy: I know, right? I'm a year older and I still get carded.

Me: You don't look like you're 48. (He really didn't, but I would have so not carded him if the situation was reversed.)

So, I don't know if Cash Register Guy was a little slow on the uptake or in training or what, because he had to have Guy Hanging Out go back and get the stock number off the shelf for him because he couldn't seem to get my booze rung up. Maybe they'd had a little too much Seagrams out back before I got there. Maybe they had a blender in the store room and were mixing up margeritas. (If so, I got there too late.) Maybe they were flirting, but I had a hard time buying that one, no matter how much I wanted to delude myself. After all, I was recovering from a fairly severe disagreement with some eye makeup and not only was I not wearing any, my eyes were still swollen and it looked like I'd gone a couple of rounds with Frieda Foreman. And I lost.

I would say that getting carded was definitely the highlight of my day yesterday. Maybe of my entire week, since I am sitting here at 10 am in my pajamas, with eyes that are still itchy and a throat raw from an intense goldenrod allergy, watching the dog lying in the drizzling rain and trying to figure out why he doesn't seem to understand that periodically, water falls from the sky. He still looks surprised when the drops hit his nose and he's 16 months old. (Aren't retrievers supposed to be smart? Okay, in some ways, he's brilliant, but in other ways, he's dumb as a bag of rocks.)

I think I am probably going to have to go back to the liquor store tomorrow, because we have guests coming (see Monday's post about over-cleaning) on Friday and I know Justin likes to share the warmth. In fact, he turned all of our friends in New York on to this stuff the first time we went up there and it's now the drink of choice when they want to get hammered. Or just watch some football.

Anyway...I have a feeling I'm going to back over at that store and now I know where they keep the Seagrams 7 Dark Honey, um, whisky? Bourbon? Can you tell I'm not a drinker? Seriously, when I drink, I usually end up sleeping on the bathroom floor with my head in the toilet, too sick to care about what kind of germs you get when you have to plant both hands on the outside of the bowl while you heave up your insides all night. It happened a couple of times until I made the connection. You'd really think I'm a blonde, as hard as it is for me to put these things together. Aren't those what they call "blonde moments?" And yes, I'm allowed to make blonde jokes because when my mom has hair, it's blonde, and she makes those jokes a lot.

If I go back and they card me again, I'm going to know they're flirting. I'll just sign with my left hand so that the wedding rings are clear.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Things NOT to Say to a Person with Chronic Illness

I found the following list on I LOVE this because it's so true!

Things NOT to say to someone with a debilitating chronic illness:

-  but you don't look sick
-  everybody gets tired
-  you're just having a bad day
-  it must be nice not having to go to work
-  I wish I had time to take a nap
-  if you'd get out more
-  you're just getting older
-  if you'd get more exercise
-  it can't be that bad
-  it's all in your head
-  you're just depressed
-  there are people worse off than you
-  you'll just have to tough it out
-  you just need a more positive attitude
-  this too shall pass

I would add two of my own - pull yourself up by your bootstraps and quit feeling sorry for yourself.

I have fibromyalgia. I am not lazy. I do not need to get out more, to exercise, a more positive attitude, or a nap, and it is not nice to not have to go to work. I would love to get out more, to exercise, to be more positive, to be less depressed, to need less rest. I already know there are people who are worse off than me and that I'm getting older. This may or may not pass, depending on whether they find a cure.

I am a spoonie. If you haven't heard of the spoon theory of chronic illness, it goes something like this. Every morning, you are given a certain number of spoons which represent the amount of energy you will have that day. Every thing that you decide to do costs a certain number of spoons and when you have given away all of your spoons, you have to stop. Some days, you get more spoons than others.

I have noticed recently that I get exhausted after doing just one or two (or just a few) things around the house. Justin thinks it's because I've been inactive for so long and I am sure there is some truth to that. But this exhaustion goes beyond just feeling tired because I've overdone it. This feels like the worst flu you ever had and started to recover from - except you never got better. It's that bone deep feeling of being unable to move. And this is getting worse with time, for whatever reason.

I am not a pessimist. I am a realist who has been sick for over 25 years.

I have a great doctor who understands my symptoms and takes care of me. I trust his advice. This is a chronic, debilitating, exhausting, depressing illness that has no cure. My doctor is an expert. If you haven't been to medical school, you are not and your advice is probably only going to make me feel guilty.

I have not given up. I am still getting out of bed every day. I am still thinking I might be able to do something with my writing. I still have a sense of humor and laugh at silly things my friends post on Facebook or say in their blogs. I still save my spoons to do the things I want to do and push myself harder than my body says I should. It's hard to listen to your body when it is making you feel like the laziest person on the planet.

I have fibromyalgia, but it does not have me. It cannot take my spirit or my heart. And it cannot take my hope that they will find a cure in my lifetime. Nothing would make me happier. I do not want to be like this. This is how I have adjusted to be able to live my life.

This list can apply to any other chronic, debilitating illness that anyone is dealing with. Sometimes I think it would be better to have a visible illness, rather than an invisible illness because when people can see your disability, they are less likely to say any of the things on that list. You'd never tell a person with an illness you can see that they are depressed or that they need to get out more. But because I look "fine," it seems to be an invitation for any or all of the above statements. And those statements make me feel worse than I feel already.

I'd like to come up with a list of things that it's okay to say. But I'm not exactly sure what that list would include. Has anyone ever said anything to you that was actually helpful?

Gentle hugs to my chronically ill friends,


Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Guest Are Coming! The Guests Are Coming!

Courtesy Google Images

When people come to my house, which is rare, I am hyper-aware of every single mote of dust and drift of dog hair. It's so funny, because although I've had lots of people comment on how clean my house is, all I see is the dirty windows, the dust on the ceiling fans, and the blinds that I haven't cleaned, since, well, their installation. I worry that people will actually go into my drawers and cabinets and realize that my cleanliness is nothing more than outright fraud. I have no idea why I am afraid of this.

This weekend, I have been pushing myself to my absolute physical limit cleaning out cupboards, pitching stuff we don't need, putting stuff away where it belongs, and moving the pots and pans to another cabinet so we can get them out without dropping something on our feet and cursing. Why? I have no idea, other than I am a freaking perfectionist.

No matter how much I accomplish, I see that there is so much more to do. And really, if someone wants a glass out of the cupboard by the sink next weekend, they are going to see some serious dust. My next task - take everything out of the dishes cupboards and wipe down the shelves. Maybe tomorrow.

Here are some shots of what I did get accomplished yesterday. Sorry I forgot to do the before pictures, but trust me when I tell you this is a lot better than it was.

Obviously, this last one needs a little work, still. but trust me. That is amazingly better than it was before I started. The things we save just kills me. I found all of my paystubs clipped together from the job I lost a year ago. Why would I still need these? Or two magnets for the kennel we sometimes use to board the dog.

This morning, I discovered that you can actually clean out a refrigerator. Did anyone else know about this? Why didn't anyone tell me?

I got into Justin's office and dusted, swept, and mopped the hardwood floor. Between cleaning out the refrigerator and cleaning Justin's office, I am totally wiped. I'm too tired to even get pictures of the office or the refrigerator. But imagine something that was really disgusting and dirty (the fridge) now being fairly shiny and clean.

I only did the refrigerator half. I think the freezer is in pretty good shape, as long as I get to the drawer at the bottom and clean out underneath it.

Why do I do this to myself whenever we have guests? Well, like I said, it's unusual that we have guests. We don't get a lot of visitors. We don't have a guest room, which is kind of sucky, so people can't stay here and the ones that visit the most, my parents, are dealing with other issues right now and don't really have time to visit. Since my only usual visitors (my mom who has pretty high standards of clean and is probably allergic to my dog) are not showing up regularly, the incentive to clean the things that the cleaning woman doesn't has kind of been lost in the shuffle. And frankly, every time I do one task, I realize that there are a dozen more that need to be done, so it's pretty discouraging. I'm trying not to over do it, but I also know that the guests will be here Friday morning and I want my house to be clean.

I kind of feel like I've been run over by a truck at the moment. It's an exhaustion that goes beyond words and isn't helped by sleep. I see my primary care doctor on the 25th and my plan is to ask him to run some tests (like RA, ANA, lyme disease, and anything else I can think of) to see if there might be something going on besides the fibromyalgia. I've always had the "fatigue," but this is a whole new level of I can't move.

At least I still have the ability to type, although the ability to think straight is kind of escaping me right now, so I am hopeful this will make sense.

I hope you had a more peaceful and relaxing weekend than I did. My week is not packed full of things to do because I know I will want to clean those other hidden places and I only have so many spoons per day. Once I run out of spoons, that's pretty much all she wrote.