not today, Satan

This morning when I logged on to WordPress to catch up on reading some blogs, I noticed something odd. The display name next to my avatar was no longer showing as “Rhubarb Swank”, but rather “sexy.jvhrt.ru”.

Cue mild panic.

Not that I have years of irreplaceable material here, and not that the whole thing probably doesn’t deserve to be put to rest in a giant dumpster fire, of course…but I do pay for this domain, so my credit card info is squirreled away in the depths of my account somewhere. I don’t need some hacker slurping that up and selling it on, thank you very much!

After a few minutes of clicking around I managed to restore my display name, update my password and tweak a few other settings that will hopefully keep things more secure going forward.

Hopefully no one is gleefully dildo shopping with my credit card. Actually, scratch that. If they DID end up stealing it, I hope they DO use it for dildo shopping. Just so long as the bank doesn’t make me pay for it.

Anyway, that’s what I get for using crap-ass passwords and not updating them regularly.

LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES. Unless you like buying other people dildos. In which case, you’re probably doing the world a service, really.

Now please enjoy this picture of our new dog Keppo:

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He’s the one with the whiskers. Apparently I had remembered to shave mine that day.

He came home with us from the shelter almost two weeks ago and we are, frankly, fucking exhausted. We were 8 years younger the last time we had a puppy and I think we both forgot just how much work it is. Worth it, certainly…but holy hell.

a month and a day

It’s been a month and a day since we lost Junior.

This morning on the way out the door to head to work, I almost turned to Mark and asked him to check if Junie’s water dish was full. The dish hasn’t been in its spot for a month and a day.

I don’t hear him anymore, at least. For the first few days, I’d swear I could hear him snuffling in the living room or at the foot of the bed at night. I think my brain just automatically knew what sounds he’d be making when, and was filling them in of its own accord. My brain only wants to be helpful with remembering things when it comes to me being haunted, I guess. Go figure.

We still have all of his stuff. His bowls got washed and tucked away in the cupboard almost as soon as we got home. His harness and leash are still on the back seat of the car, which seems perfectly fitting as going for rides was just about his favorite activity. Most of his toys are still piled up in the same place we always returned them to on the rare occasion we bothered to tidy them. A few of his special toys got put aside in other places – his little stuffed bantha sits atop the carved wooden box his ashes are in on the table-cum-altar in the living room. LeRoy, the wee squeaky giraffe whose squeaker gave out but who Junie still often picked up and tried to make squeak, now resides on the bookshelf with some other mementos. L’Alligator the stuffed alligator whose head I once had to surgically reattach due to Junie’s frequent, enthusiastic attentions, sits on the desk upstairs in our bedroom. He’s a far quieter night sentry than Junior ever was, but we do feel like he’s getting the job done OK so far.

His beds are still there, all four of them (one for each bedroom and two in the living room), though Mark moved the one from the foot of our bed into the spare bedroom, and I tucked the favorite living room bed under the other, deeply hated living room bed (he took after me and had a complicated relationship with beds), so that we wouldn’t have to see them empty. We really should get rid of at least two of the beds. One belonged to our old dog Buttons and predated Junior by several years. The faux sheepskin atop the other one bears the scars of much scuffing, as Maltese tend to like to scratch up their bedding into a suitable nest before settling down to nap. We should go through the dozens of toys and donate some of them to the local shelter as well…but we’re not there yet.

It’s only been a month and a day, after all.

 

 

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L’Alligator and Junior

catching my breath

August was a rough one, friends.

Yes, I realize that it’s already almost mid-September and I’m just getting round to telling you about August. That should be a pretty good clue as to how my August went.

My mom had a stroke at the tail end of July. We were very lucky as it could have been far worse, but it still left her with no use of her left hand, heavily slurred speech and trouble swallowing due to weakness along the left side of her mouth and throat. We were also very lucky that it happened one evening while she and my dad were sitting up visiting with my aunt and uncle. Had it happened while my mom was home alone, or even worse, driving…yeah. It’s not fodder for pleasant contemplation.

Anyway – there was a lot of driving back and forth between home and hospital, then home and rehab facility, for about a week and a half. I was also trying to keep an eye on my dad, as he has a habit of running himself pretty ragged when my mom is unwell (which we know from experience the last few years with her being in and out of hospital so much). It was busy, full of stress and worry, and just all around not a great time.

And then things really took a nose dive into the deep end of the shit whirlpool.

Our beloved Maltese, Junior, had been having some problems keeping his balance for a couple weeks prior to all this. It started out as just a little bit of wavering when he’d cock his leg to pee, and the occasional stumble while going up the stairs. When it got so that he was almost tipping over when he squatted to poop, was losing his back legs out from under him while just walking across the floor, and when he stopped even trying to go up the stairs at all, I knew something was wrong.

Two days after my mom’s stroke, I took Junie to the vet to be checked out. The vet hemmed and hawed and decided it was probably arthritis in his trick knee. She sent us home with a bag of joint supplement chews and orders to not jump up on stuff or tear around crazily for a while. We dutifully administered the chews and kept things to a dull roar for a week but things kept getting worse. Junie would get up on the couch next to me and basically not move for hours, which was very unlike him. I kept trying to convince myself that it would just take some time for the joint supplements to kick in and then he’s start feeling better, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more going on.

Instinct finally won and I made him another vet appointment. We saw a different doctor than our normal vet that day. He had me put Junior down on the floor so he could observe Junior walking around…or skittering and face-planting, as it turned out. He watched him quietly for a couple minutes, then shook his head and told me that he was pretty sure it wasn’t his legs but rather his spine that was causing the problem. Tight-lipped, the vet referred us to a doggie neurologist and told us to get there as soon as possible.

The next day, the neurologist looked him all over, did some x-rays, and determined that it was either granulomatous meningoencephalitis (GME for short), or lymphoma. The treatment would be the same either way: steroids and chemo. In order to confirm it was one of these things and not a brain tumor, Junior needed an MRI. In order to have the MRI, he needed to be put under anesthesia. In order to have the anesthesia, he needed to have an ultrasound to make sure it was safe, because he has a congenital heart defect that has been getting progressively worse. Junior just turned eight at the end of August, by the way. He’s not an old dog by any means.

We brought him back to the specialist the next day for the ultrasound. They cleared him for the MRI, with the caveat that we sign a waiver saying we understood that there was up to a 20% chance that the anesthesia may kill him. We signed the waiver and sent him off with the doctors to be prepped for the MRI. Mark and I then proceeded to spend the rest of the day floating in our own private banks of fog. We went to get food, we went for a scenic drive, we went to see Wonder Woman…all so that we could try and distract ourselves from the very real chance that we might get a call saying our dog had died. Not our most enjoyable day ever.

We were at McDonalds forcing ourselves to eat when Mark’s phone finally rang. He stood up and walked away from the table to answer it, and I had to sit on my hands to keep them from shaking while I strained to hear any words at all from the other end of the call. I distinctly remember thinking, “well he hasn’t burst into tears yet, so hopefully things aren’t TOO bad”.

And they weren’t, at least not entirely. Junior had survived the MRI and there was no brain tumor, but there was a lesion or tumor on his spinal cord. Now he needed a spinal tap to try and determine whether it was GME or lymphoma we were dealing with. The spinal tap ended up being inconclusive, but the doctor was leaning toward lymphoma over GME. We got sent home with a whole bunch of meds and a boatload of anxiety.

The problem, you see, is that it doesn’t actually matter if it’s GME or lymphoma, because neither one is curable. If it was lymphoma in some of his actual lymph nodes, it may have been possible to do an operation to remove them or radiation to shrink them. But the lymphoma is in / on his spinal cord…it’s called CNS (central nervous system) lymphoma. We can’t even do a biopsy of the lesion because it would probably kill him or paralyze him. Also, while the steroids have helped him to be able to walk again, they’re very hard on his already faulty heart. And the chemo that we have to give him every 3 weeks to try and shrink the lesion? Very hard on the heart. As if this all wasn’t enough, we also found out from some tests last week that it’s very possible Junior also has a liver shunt. Quick physiology lesson: your liver cleans your blood, and metabolizes many of the medications you may take. A liver shunt is where some or all of the arteries that are supposed to feed your blood into your liver for cleaning aren’t actually in the right place and are instead diverting some or all of your blood around your liver rather than through it. When stuff doesn’t get cleaned out of your blood by your liver, it just keeps recirculating through your body and eventually build up to toxic levels. So it’s possible (and currently looking probable) that all the heavy duty steroids and chemo Junior has been getting are building up in his system rather than getting cleaned out of his blood. This even further limits our treatment options. Best case scenario, the remission we hope for is being measured in weeks at this point, not months or years.

Rather than dwell on feeling sad and angry and guilty and who knows what else, I’m trying like hell to find ways to learn from this experience. I’m getting a crash course in sitting with my own discomfort, for one. My M.O. is to fix things but there is no fix to this thing, and that makes me very uncomfortable. I don’t know how to accept helplessness as a valid state of being. I’m also getting a refresher on the fundamental impermanence of life. Just because you’re not old and frail doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed a lot more time. To paraphrase Xzibit: yo dawg, I heard you like feeling helpless so I put some more helpless in your pile of helplessness. And lastly, I’m finding a whole new motivation for trying to be more present, for acknowledging and appreciating what each moment holds, rather than dwelling on the inevitable.

My mom’s doing well now, by the way. She’s got quite a lot of use of her hand back, her speech is much better and she’s having a much easier time swallowing. She still has a lot of serious health issues but if I let myself start to worry about those on top of everything else going on, I’m pretty much guaranteed to go the way of Artax and get sucked down into the Swamp of Sorrows…and that doesn’t do me or anyone I love a bit of good.

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“I got 99 problems and you not rubbing my belly is relatively high on the list.”

a little TOO quiet

My desk at work is an L shape, except the corner of the L is chopped off. The only reason I can think of for the builder to have chopped off the corner of the L is that it would have partially blocked the window behind it, but the whole far leg of the L blocks the next window in exactly the same manner, so why the fuck would it even MATTER, you know?

This isn’t even relevant to what I wanted to talk about, by the way. It’s just something I was thinking about when I took the picture I’m going to show you shortly, and also I didn’t sleep well last night so filtering my thoughts is right out the (partially blocked) window at this point. Har har har.

ANYWAY.

This is my workspace:

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None of that cutlery is currently clean. Don’t judge me. Also, I have no idea how my mouse pad got turned upside down. Weird.

Off to the extreme left of the picture, obscured by glare because I’m not a professional photographer and I was stealthily taking this picture while my boss was in the bathroom so I didn’t have time to re-position for 14 different shots, is a long, thin grey box called a network switch:

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It looks like it’s written on the window in blood. Mwa-hahaha. Ew.

The switch has been sitting there shunting electrons hither and thither around the office for at least the five years that I’ve been sitting at this desk. Probably longer. It’s always a fucking production when the IT guy comes in to replace or fix things, so I’m pretty sure the advent of the switch being changed out would have stuck in my mind.

Which brings me back around to my actual story.

The switch in the picture is a new one because the old one started to sound like a helicopter touching down. The degradation wasn’t a sudden thing by any means. The switch had been exhibiting a normal-ish electronic hum for many months…years, even. It would ramp up to more of a refrigerator-like hum when the weather got very warm, but it wasn’t really distracting. And that’s saying something, considering I am the QUEEN of getting distracted by noises. I can’t NOT hear every noise going on around me, especially at work…but the hum of the switch even on its loudest days was just kind of a wall of white noise off to my left and it didn’t bother me.

Fast forward to last week. We had a couple of warm days in a row, and on the third morning we came in to find that the hum of the switch had escalated to near air-conditioner levels. This thing is like four feet from me when I’m sitting at my desk and I started to get a little bit worried about it exploding or something. I don’t think they actually DO that, but still. Never hurts to fret, right? My boss walked in later that morning and asked where the noise was coming from. We pointed at the switch. He said he’d ask IT to change it out. We muttered about not holding our breaths and got back to work.

A week later, the IT guy showed up at my desk with a new switch and commenced with his usual over-dramatic explanation of what needed to be done, how much work it would be for him, how long we’d all be offline, and the general piss-poor state of all the electronics in the building (side-note: why do IT guys do this? It’s effectively saying ‘I’m shit at my job’). I nodded and smiled, then fucked off downstairs to get a cup of coffee, leaving him to unplug cables from one box and plug them all into another.

Ten minutes later, I returned to my desk…and to a gaping maw of silence. The new switch made no sound at all. Not even the barest hum! It was CREEPY. I commented to my office-mate that the silence was making me feel off-balance, like something that I’d been leaning against on the left was now gone. He looked at me like I had two heads (which is his usual response when I open my mouth).

“Do you want me to turn my music up louder to compensate?” he asked.

“NO NO, that’s ok, I’ll get used to it”, I said, trying my best not to look panicked at the idea of having to hear any more of his music than strictly necessary.

And, to be fair, I WILL get used to it…but in the meantime, it’s totally weirding me out. I didn’t realize just how much I relied on that background noise until it was gone. Even when I’ve got my headphones in, I SWEAR can notice the lack of white noise off to the left. And on a day like today, when office-mate and his terrible music aren’t around, the quiet is like a black hole threatening to suck me in, break me down to atoms of the elements that make up my body, and spit me out the other side into an alternate universe where the Big Bang hasn’t happened yet and I might end up being part of a rock in several billion years. Or something.

Also, not having the white noise means I can now hear every fart, groan and trickle from the adjacent bathroom.

Nobody wins when you can hear the boss’s Metformin poops, trust me.

I miss Adderall, and other things I want you to know

Did you like how I posted a week ago and didn’t mention anything about where I’d been for like the six or seven or whatever number of previous weeks? I thought that was pretty well done, myself. That’s some advanced-level avoidance strategy shit right there. Learn from the master, friends. I’ll have you perfecting your own existential crises in no time!

ANYWAY.

Time has passed. Shit has gone down.

My mom got sick with some heart problems back at the beginning of March and spent basically the whole month in the hospital. You ever notice how time just kind of…falls apart when you’re staying in / visiting a hospital? Airports have the same effect, I’ve found. But at least with airports, you’re usually going to get somewhere eventually. Hospitals are like limbo. You step into this weird in-between world where you can’t do anything except wait for someone to come along and tell you what the next thing you’re waiting for is. Anyway, my mom got to come home for a while and was doing relatively well, but that all kind of went to shit this past weekend, so back to hospital limbo she went. We’ve been orbiting the cardiac care unit so much the last eight weeks that many of the nurses now recognize us and greet us with familiarity. On the one hand I’m grateful that such caring people work there, but on the other hand…well. There are far more preferable places to be recognized and greeted as a regular.  The words “surgery” and “bypass” were finally eased into conversation yesterday, as the minimally-invasive things they’ve been trying just aren’t consistently helping. So…that’s a thing that’s apparently going to happen, though we don’t know when yet. It’s not a situation where she needs the surgery very immediately, and I’m extraordinarily grateful for that (as is she, I’m sure). The flip-side is that the longer she puts it off, the harder it’s going to be on her physically…and it’s already going to be a hell of a slog as it is. I tend to take the view that it’s better to rip the proverbial band-aid off all in one go than to slowly pick and peel at it, prolonging the pain and amplifying the mental stress…but this isn’t my band-aid to rip.

Which, I suppose, is as good a segue as any into the fact that I, TOO, had an episode of atrial fibrillation, right around the same time my mom went into the hospital for it. In fact, I was woken at 6am on a Tuesday by a text about my mom being taken to the ER, when I had just spent the previous evening in the ER myself. My atrial fibrillation was paroxysmal – a freak thing, basically. Except, it turns out that it maybe wasn’t so freakish after all, as we’ve learned through this process with my mom that there’s actually a pretty strong family history of a-fib and that there may well be a genetic component at play. Anyway – I self-regulated out of my episode (and there’s a joke about that being the only time I’ve ever successfully self-regulated anything, surely)., and was sent home with advice to stop taking Adderall to treat my ADD, at least until after I met with cardiology. ‘Sure, no problem’, I thought, ‘it’s not like it helps me all that much anyway”. A battery of tests with cardiology determined that I wasn’t having regular bouts of a-fib and didn’t really need any special treatment for it (YAY!), but then there was the bad news: my cardiologist thought it would be best if I stayed off stimulant meds from now on. Adderall, as you likely know, is a stimulant, as is basically every other effective ADD med.

I had been off meds for about six weeks at that point and had been really struggling with…everything, basically. My particular flavor of ADD involves some classic focus problems, but it also comes with a big ol’ steaming pile of anxiety as well. If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you know that it’s often irrational, and always very difficult to shut off once you get into that mode. It starts out as this little dinky toy train chugging along a track, spewing out thoughts like ‘hmm, what was that weird pain I just had’, and ‘Boss just closed the office door, he must be talking about me’. Eventually it grows into this gigantic roaring high-speed passenger train full of brain weasels, hurtling toward me with gems like ‘I can’t seem to accomplish even the most simple tasks without screwing up 14 times and clearly everyone thinks I’m a loser and they only hang around with me because they feel sorry for me and once I lose my job due to being a fuck-up I’ll be homeless and I won’t be able to take care of my dog and I’ll have to give him up and my husband will leave me because he’s only hanging around for the dog anyway and it’s not even going to matter because that weird twinge in my leg is clearly a blood clot that’s going to travel to my brain and I just wish it would happen already and get it over with so I can finally get some fucking rest oh my god normal people don’t think shit like that what the fuck is my problem maybe I need to be committed’… you get the picture. Adderall certainly didn’t CURE me of that constant barrage of mental fuckery, but it usually turned the volume down on it. It allowed me to more easily get shit done, which in turn made me feel like less of a failure in general and kept the doom-train at a reasonable size. But I can’t have Adderall anymore. So you see the problem there.

My doctors are great and they’re definitely trying to help. I started a new, non-stimulant med (Intuniv – apparently it’s not used much for ADD in adults, more-so in children) on Friday and it will take a few weeks to titrate up to a therapeutic dose of that. It’s already helping a little bit in that it makes me sleepy (I take it at night) and it seems to be making me actually sleep THROUGH the night, which I haven’t done on a regular basis like, ever. And I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, before we had smartphones and tablets and all this other shit, so when I wasn’t sleeping through the night at 12 years old, it wasn’t like anyone could blame Faceblotch or Snapcrack or whatever devil music whippersnappers are into these days. *shakes cane thoroughly*

Anyway – the point of word-barfing all this at you was just mostly to make myself feel a little better, I guess. Having focus problems makes me kind of a quitter (I even said it at the very beginning), or even worse, it makes me someone who just lets things peter out because I’ve lost interest / hit a road block / feel like I’m not good enough at it…and I fucking hate that. Every time I catch myself being like ‘meh, maybe I’ll just abandon the blog’, I get pissed off at myself and vow to MAKE myself post. Except, then I sometimes see a butterfly or some shiny tinfoil or a donut and get distracted, but I do get back here eventually…

…if only to make myself feel like less of a big quitting quitter McQuitface with Quits Disease and a massive deficiency of Vitamin Do The Thing.

Did I mention I miss Adderall? That’s where this whole thing was meant to be going.

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Also, we took a trip to Wales at the beginning of April. One of the fun things about Wales is that all the signs are bilingual. The word for ‘moron’ in Welsh is ‘carrots’!                                                I am easily amused.

 

the new neighbors

We live in what I think of as the rural equivalent of an apartment complex. Instead of one big building with lots of units stacked on top of each other, there are several smaller buildings with two units each, plus one single unit in a stand-alone house with a garage (which, those people are clearly just showing off). The way our building is set up, there’s an apartment in each end and a maybe ten foot wide covered entryway in between that we share.

Over the two years we’ve been here, we’ve seen a few neighbors come and go in the unit we share the entryway with. There was the suspected tweaker, there was my boss from my high school job at the local general store (that was…awkward. Especially during his poker nights when a giant cloud of weed smoke would come rolling out his front door every time it was opened. Not that I have the slightest problem with people smoking weed…it just seems odd when it’s someone who was an authority figure in your young adult life, you know? It’s kind of like if you happened upon your high school principle or soccer coach packing a fat bowl. Part of your brain is like ‘coooool’ while the other part is like ‘wait, WHAT?’), and there was the last guy who just moved out at the end of February. We’ll call him D.

D was basically the perfect neighbor (at least, for us): he was a trucker so he was often gone for a week or more at a time. He was also quite hard of hearing, so even when he WAS home, he wasn’t bothered by our yappy dog, my husband’s propensity to sing along to music while he walks said yappy dog, or my propensity to talk to the neighborhood wildlife. He happened to also be a very nice guy, what little we knew of him, so we were sad to see him go.

The new neighbors moved in last weekend. Aside from a mysterious pile of cat vomit that materialized next to our welcome mat (which I strategically ignored until it disappeared about 24 hours later.WIN!) the day they moved in, and the fact that the female inhabitant smokes in our shared entryway, they’ve given me nothing to complain about.

Except…and I know how batshit crazy this is going to sound, but that’s never stopped me before…

…they leave their outside light on. Like, ALL the time. 24 hours a day.

I didn’t think much of it at first because they were in the process of moving and that’s stressful, you know? Half your shit is at one place, half is somewhere else, everything’s in boxes and all you want is to cook a grilled cheese but you have no cheese and you can’t find the right pan and the cat hates the new apartment so he’s spite-vomiting in inopportune places. I totally get it.

After three days, though…it seems like you should have probably bought some cheese. You should have probably put the pans away and found a place for all your shoes and gotten the cable hooked up and hung the curtains. You should probably be better acquainted with the location of light switches. You can probably remember to shut the outside light off, if not when you go to bed at night, then certainly when you get up in the morning and the sun is shining.

And yes, I know, I’m an asshole because I’m not considering that maybe one of them works odd hours or maybe they came from a place where shit would get stolen or vandalized if people thought you weren’t home or any number of other reasons why they might choose to leave the light on. Also, yes, it’s their electric bill not mine, so what the hell should I care whether they leave the light on or not.

You’re not wrong. Just for the record. I’m not saying you are.

But it still fucking bothers me. It makes my god damned teeth itch.

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Exhibit A, taken in broad daylight. Why wouldn’t you shut it off? JUST SHUT IT OFF. OMG, my teeth. I can’t even.

how to life

Jill is 37 years old. She’s married, has two children, and works full time. She has hobbies. She likes to socialize with her friends, and she makes sure to get an hour of exercise three times a week. She feeds herself responsibly and stays informed on current affairs. And she handles all of this while still managing to get a solid eight hours of sleep a night.

How does she do all this and still stay sane?

Fucked if I know.

For me, there aren’t actually enough hours in the day to live that life. I’m lucky if I can maintain any three of the items listed above for any given period of time. I can work, have hobbies, and feed myself. Or, I can exercise, have a social life, and sleep. If my hobbies were exercising and staying informed on current affairs, then I could probably also work and feed myself.  If socializing entailed doing hobbies with people, and my hobbies were working and feeding myself, then I could have hobbies, work, feed myself, AND socialize…?

This makes life feel like algebra to me. You know how in algebra class the teacher would solve a problem on the board step by step and it made perfect sense, but then when you went to do the homework, you’d be staring at the problems like they were some alien language and you didn’t have the first clue how to even start solving them? No, just me? Well I failed algebra twice, and now you know why. ANYWAY, my point is, lately it feels like I’m watching other adults live their lives and thinking “see? It’s not so hard. It makes sense! Just follow the steps”, but when I go to apply the steps to my own life, they’re suddenly written in alien and Mrs. Smith is writing a big red F on the report card that is my life.

Part of the problem, I know, is the mindset that life is somehow pass / fail. It’s not like if you fail at life, you have to go through a summer-school version of life…and there’s no honor roll for passing life. My particular brain chemistry and upbringing have combined to make me tend toward seeing things in very binary, black and white, either-or ways. You either pass or you fail. You’re either happy or you’re depressed. You either like lima beans or you’re sane. You get the picture. It’s something that I wrestle with regularly. When I find myself having those black-and-white thought patterns, I have to remind myself that very few things are actually that simple, that we all exist in various spectra and on various planes.

Society is also partially to blame. Society has taught a few generations of us that there are certain boxes you must check off to be considered successful in life: get married, have kids, own a home, get promoted at work, be healthy, be an engaged citizen. This road-map is so deeply ingrained in many of us that we never even stop to consider that NOT following it could actually be a viable option. It’s certainly better now than it was 50 years ago, but still. If you pay attention, you begin to notice all the subtle ways that we as a society have found to reinforce the idea of this road-map, and the ways we’ve come up with to punish those who don’t conform (either by choice or by circumstance).

All of this is to say, I’ve been down on myself about some of the ways I’ve been “failing at life” lately, but I need to remember that feeling like a failure is not requisite. Life is not black and white. I am not required to have a social life or to exercise if I don’t think I can handle that today. Not wanting children doesn’t make me a bad person, nor does eating take-out for dinner. Shutting off social media and not listening to the news for a few days will not result in my being punished. Letting one hobby languish while I pursue another one isn’t going to get me a big red F on the report card of life.

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“What? I wasn’t listening. Turns out I AM just a pretty face, Mahm. And I’m totally OK with that. Now give me a cookie.”

 

my garland is fucked

A couple years ago, before we moved into the place we live now, I had this garland I used as part of my extremely low-impact holiday decorating scheme (the entirety of the scheme is: decorate a tree, hang up any cards we get in the mail, hang the garland. That’s it. It can all be cleaned up and put away in less than an hour. Life is short and I don’t want to waste any more of it cleaning than I have to). The garland was kind of fake-pine looking and it was pre-lit with a string of twinkle lights. It looked nice draped (artfully, I liked to tell myself) across the tops of our bookcases, or hung up swag-like between some little hooks on the wall. Every year when I was done with it, I’d stuff it all back into the box it came in and chuck it in the hall closet. No muss, no fuss.

Until the mice got into it.

Our old apartment was a frigging mouse superhighway, and the hall closet was their on/off ramp. Over the course of the several years we lived there, I tried everything from snap-traps, to those sonic deterrent things, to attempting to train the dog to catch them (no dice. He made it clear very early on that Maltese are not a working breed. Unless you count barking at everything that moves as work. He’s got that shit on lock), to stuffing any holes I could find with steel wool (surprisingly effective, but only if you can locate every single hole ever. Otherwise those sneaky little fuckers will always find another way in). The only thing I didn’t try was poison, because while I apparently don’t have a problem with a spring-loaded metal bar snapping a mouse’s neck once they’ve been lured in by the smell of a delicious snack, I can’t stand the thought of them eating poison and then getting a bit of a poorly tum before dying.

Whatever. I contain multitudes.

ANYWAY.

So those little bastard mice got into my garland box, chewed all the wires, built a nest, and had a shit-and-piss-athon the likes of which I have never seen before (and hope to never see again). Needless to say, that garland ended up in the dumpster when we packed up to move to our current, blessedly mouse-free abode. Last year I meant to buy a replacement garland but I got distracted with…who fucking knows, probably BREATHING, knowing me…and never got around to it.

This year when I pulled out the holiday decorations I remembered the garland again, and I wrote it down on a LIST. If something makes it onto a list, I have about a 40% higher chance of actually remembering it. That still only bumps the total chance up to about 47%, but still. So it was on the list and when we went to Walmart on Monday night (which is another story in and of itself, oh my fucking word), we found a replacement garland. Happy happy, joy joy! I set it off to the side in the living room when we got home, intending to hang it up the next day. Which didn’t happen of course, because “hang up garland” wasn’t written on a list anywhere and I fucking forgot. WELCOME TO MY WORLD.

Wednesday afternoon I finally remembered I had bought the garland and decided to hang it up. The plan was to string it around the opening between our living room and kitchen. I call it an opening rather than a doorway because a) there are no doors and b) if there WERE doors, it would take like 3 doors to fill the opening. Tangent: is there an actual word for that? When there’s a hole in the wall that is clearly a transition from one room to the next but isn’t a doorway? It’s not a hallway or a passage because it’s not, like, its own space…it’s just a much-wider-than-a-door-shaped hole in the wall. Jesus, I’m making it sound like it has sheetrock and wires hanging out of it and shit, which it totally doesn’t. It’s finished and painted and whatever.

Sorry, back to the story.

So, Wednesday afternoon I went to hang up the garland. Now, before I go on, I want you to look very closely at this picture and come up with a good solid  mental picture of what you would expect to come out of this box:

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Spoiler: this box is full of lies.

You would expect an 18 foot length of fake pine garland with a string of  clear twinkle lights incorporated into it, just like the picture shows, would you not? Granted, the picture only shows a couple feet of garland, but you would expect there to be roughly 18 continuous feet of fake greenery with lights in / on it. And probably a cord hanging off one or even both ends. That would be a completely reasonable expectation for this product.

Unfortunately, it would also be completely wrong.

The garland definitely did have lights incorporated. I’ll give it that. And it WAS green. And the lights WERE clear. But, as I unwound the garland from the cardboard it came wrapped around, something was amiss. Instead of 18 continuous feet of garland, what I ended up with was about three feet of cord with a plug at the end (reasonable), maaaaybe six feet of lighted garland, four more feet of bare green cord with a plug and socket (like the normal two-sided kind that comes on twinkle lights) in the middle, then another maaaaybe six feet of lighted garland, and three more feet of cord with another plug (which is the only other reasonable part of the whole bloody thing).

So I thought I was buying an 18 foot garland but REALLY what I got was two six foot garlands strung together with a GIANT FRIGGING BLANK SPOT IN THE MIDDLE. If the blank spot had been at either end, I could have just ucked the extra bare cord in behind something and been ok with it…but in the MIDDLE? Come the fuck on. I ended up kind of half-assed doubling the garland over on itself so that it would stretch across the top of the opening (seriously, tell me if there’s a real word for that, it’s really bothering me) and hang down a little on each side while disguising the NEAR ENTIRE THIRD of it that’s just bare green cord.

It looks exactly as weird as you’re imagining. Possibly worse. It was embarrassing enough that I didn’t take a picture of it, so that should tell you something.

The morale of this story, I think we can all agree, is to not buy garland at Walmart.

Or, if you’re going to buy garland at Walmart, open the box and check that it is what it says it is.

Or, just eschew garland of any kind.

And don’t let stupid incontinent mice get into your stuff because they’ll ruin everything. EVERYTHING.

AND…there should be a word for a doorway that contains no doors. The doorway, I mean. Not the word. The word can have door in it, but I don’t really see how that could work unless it was like…non-doorway…and that’s really not any better of a word for what I’m trying to explain.

Ok, I gave myself a headache. I gotta go.

impotent rage…and holiday cards!

On Mondays we still have some of the after-glow of the weekend to get us through. Wednesday are the mid-point in the work week and we’re starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. Thursdays often involve starting to plan for the impending weekend. Fridays practically ARE the weekend – any time after noon on Friday is pretty much gravy.

But Tuesdays…Tuesdays are for impotent rage, I’m convinced of it.

On Tuesdays you can’t just throw your hands up and blame shit on still being hung over from the weekend, and you have way too many days left in the week to just bury your head in the sand and hope it all goes away. If Monday is a dumpster fire, Tuesday is the fully involved three-alarm structure fire that the flash-over from the dumpster has caused. It’s not just a little smoke and the lingering smell of burnt hair…it’s your propane tank blowing up in an eye-searing blaze while you stand at the end of the driveway clutching your shivering dog and wondering what the fuck went wrong.

I don’t like Tuesdays, in case that wasn’t clear. And this particular Tuesday has been especially rife with fuckery of highly non-amusing sorts (although my propane tank didn’t actually blow up or anything, thankfully). It’s mostly work stuff so I can’t really get into it, but just trust me when I tell you that if I could procure a boat right now, I’d name it the S.S. Fuck Right Off, pack it with as many boxes of Pop Tarts and bottles of Rex Goliath merlot as I could afford, and shove off from the nearest dock to start my career as a small-time pirate queen. Imagine an obese female version of Jack Sparrow. That would be me. I’ve already got the eyeliner and the struggling to remember words down pat.

ANYWAY.

I need to do something to counteract the angry. Sending people mail makes me happy, so tonight I’m going to go home and address a bunch of holiday cards.

If you’d like a holiday card from me, you can add your mailing address to my address book here and I’ll happily send you one.

Although, caveat: if you’re international, the card may not get there by Christmas because I’m very bad at judging how long international mail takes to get from point A to point B and also sometimes I have every intention of getting my ass to the post office but then get distracted and end up carrying a bunch of cards around in my bag for an extra week. Just so we’re all on the same page.

Also, you have my solemn oath that I will not sell your address or use it for any other purposes, nefarious or otherwise.

And if you don’t want to give me your address, that’s totally cool. I still love you, and I’ll just beam you holiday cheer with my mind instead.

I should probably pick a specific day and time to do it though, otherwise you’ll spend the next few weeks wondering if every random warm tingle and whiff of gingerbread you notice is me beaming you that cheer I promised you.

Or you might maybe start to worry that you’re having a seizure or a stroke, and I don’t want to do that to you, because after all, I might be a small-time pirate queen, but I’m not a dick.

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Mmm, cheer.

I don’t want to talk about it…

…you know, that thing that blew up in everyone’s faces just about a week ago?  So, I’m not going to.

Instead, let me tell you about this terrible cloud of stench that’s following me around today! Don’t worry, it’s not a fart story (yet. I’m pretty good at devolving any story into a fart story if given enough time, so I make no promises about where this will end up).

I’m very sensitive to smells. Side note: my husband might argue that if I was truly sensitive to smells, I’d make more of an effort to clean out whatever is currently making our fridge stink like a kimchi experiment gone wrong, but that’s a smell I can get away from simply by shutting the refrigerator door and thus I’m not particularly motivated to fix the situation. Don’t like the smell? Just shut the door! I’m a problem solver. 

Anyway.

Smells that I can’t get away from are an issue for me. Strong smells will often give me a headache, bring on the asthmatic Throat Tickle Of Doom, and wreck whatever small semblance of concentration I may have tenuously pieced together. As such, I don’t wear perfume or heavily scented personal hygiene products, I buy either unscented or only very lightly scented laundry soap, I tend to clean with white vinegar because it’s way less smelly (to me, anyway) than chemical cleaners, I’m anti car-air-freshener…you get the picture.

When I suddenly can’t find my preferred brand of a normally scent-containing thing and am forced to buy something different on the fly, a whole ridiculous process ensues. I’ll spend at least ten minutes sniff-checking every scent variety of the thing I need.  I’ll talk to myself in the middle of the store aisle, muttering about how Option A smells like mothballs and cat pee but Option B smells like vanilla extract and death. I’ll make up my mind, then see another interesting option, sniff THAT, and end up changing my mind 17 times. All this while having random coughing fits because of the aforementioned asthmatic Throat Tickle Of Doom. I usually end up getting so pissed off about the whole thing that I end up just chucking SOMETHING in my cart in the interest of not having to live out the rest of my days twitching and coughing in the health and beauty aisle.

Which is exactly what happened when I was grocery shopping on Saturday and, to my horror, couldn’t find my preferred brand of deodorant. Ten minutes into my Sniff All The Things routine I was finally so fed up with my inability to JUST FUCKING PICK ONE AND MOVE ON that I ended up tossing the one I currently had in my hand into the cart and stomping off.

Without sniff-testing it.

I didn’t shower on Sunday, so the horror of what I had done didn’t become clear until this morning when I was getting ready for work. I popped the cap off the new stuff, turned the dial to raise the product, and got my first whiff of it. It was a fairly inoffensive fruity smell – I think it was trying to be pomegranate or something? I don’t know. I was running late as usual so I just rubbed it on my pits and then went to get dressed. As I was getting dressed I got another good whiff of it and thought to myself, “ugh, that’s kind of strong”, but short of getting undressed and scrubbing my armpits, there really wasn’t anything I could do about it at that point.

On the way to work I was trapped in the car with the smell and had plenty of time to think about the mistake I had made. What initially seemed like an inoffensive fruity smell is now akin to Hawaiian Punch with undertones of mothballs and formaldehyde. It smells like the “family heirloom” afghan your great aunt Edna had in storage for 20 years and then freshened up with a dousing of her favorite Febreeze formulation, Tropic Nightmare, before gifting it to you. It’s like someone steeped pine cones and cedar shavings in one of those buckets of “just add booze” strawberry margarita mix that contains no ACTUAL fruit, only a slurry of high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, preservatives, red dye #4 and “strawberry flavor”, then boiled it down to crystalline form and SET IT ON FIRE.

Every time I lift up my arms the smell assaults me. The good news is, I work at a desk and I type 90% of the day, so I’m not lifting my arms up that much, right? Right!

Except that this afternoon is yoga class. Not only will my arms be up a good 60% of the time I’m in class, but I’ll also be hot and sweaty which will, I presume, make the scent even stronger.

This is how I die, people: shakily trying to hold Warrior II pose while my super helpful yoga teacher keeps reminding me to breathe and my oxygen supply slowly gets cut off from the stench of my own deodorant.

It was nice knowing you all.

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Look at Mr. Clean. His eyes say, “if this is what Hawaii really smells like, I’ll just stay in Cleveland.”