Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My Google Search History Makes Me Look Like a Nutcase

Yesterday, my left ring finger felt funky. Like, my-finger-is-so-numb-that-it-feels-like-someone-stitched-a-cadaver-finger-onto-my-hand funky. I attributed the numbness to the nasal-passage-freezing cold snap that is currently punching the East Coast. Why? Because, like a dummy, I went gloveless yesterday. Cold begets numbness, yes?  But then I went inside, warmed up, and was perfectly toasty.  But the ring finger, she stayed numb. Also? In the bright light of my kitchen, I could see that she was yellowish, like my baby boys when they were fresh out of the womb. (Sidenote:  mixed blood types = jaundice and a five-day sentence on the bilirubin blanket).

Though I'm no medical expert, I'm well aware that you don't get jaundice in just one finger.  So then I started freaking out that maybe I was having a heart attack.  But, that's a shooting pain/numbness in your whole arm, not just your ring finger. Usually. "Oh God," I thought, "what if a heart attack can kind of creep up on you sometimes? What if, in fact, I am a victim of a very slow, progressive heart attack preceded by a very slow pain/numbness?"

I may also have thought: "Well, if it's not a heart attack and the flesh is necrotic, I'm pretty sure that I could live without my left ring finger. I'd have to re-learn how to type, though."*

Well, once you're wondering if you're having a heart attack or contemplating surgical removal of a digit, there's only one solution. No, not the E.R., Silly Reader. Google! Within about a minute I found out that this numbness thing is commonly caused by a nerve that has been pinched like an adorable three-year-old's cheeks.  An ulnar nerve, which, courtesy of my seventh grade biology class, I know is in my forearm.

Herm. A pinched nerve? Whatever could've caused a pinched... Oh. Wait.

The day before, I exercised a bit more vigorously on the elliptical than normal. And, I tend to clutch the elliptical's handles like gravity doesn't exist and I will be thrown off the planet if I don't hold on for dear life.  As it happens, this can cause your fingertips to go numb.

So, yeah.  The next time I pounce on the elliptical, I won't hold the handles at all because I am a FREE SPIRIT!  But, mostly, I don't want my finger to go all yellow and numb again.

Hooray for aging!

*This and my crazy Tetris-skillz are full-on proof that I am clearheaded in stressful situations.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Any Animal Totem Experts Out There?

As I wrapped a scarf around my daughter, I glimpsed through the window panes next to our front door.  A fellow bus stop kid, aged ten, was very nearly executing a perfect downward-facing dog toward our front lawn.This is not a typical, so I figured she was inspecting something awesome like our neighbor's big black Labrador marked his (our) territory AGAIN.

Anyway, the Girl and I stumbled blearily into the gray morning mist to await the bus. The Boy was annoyed with me because I insisted that he wear more than one sweatshirt in the forty-degree air, so he hung back on the porch. I figured I'd give the grass a once over to see what caught neighbor-girl's attention.

I didn't have to do that.  Before my boot even hit the step down to the walkway, the neighbor-girl cried, "Miss Mary! There's fur all over your lawn!"

I scrunched up my nose.  Fur?  I trod closer... Ick. Yes. Fur. Tufts of it smeared all over our lawn, like someone had gutted a comforter. Thankfully, no blood. Or arcane dark magic symbols.

"Looks like you're right, " I answered.  I mean, what's appropriate here? I didn't want to scream, "Ew, gross!" in front of a bunch of under-10 kids. So, I turned away from the kids and pulled a face.

One of my fellow bus stop mothers said, "It was probably a fox that got a squirrel."

"Well, that's awesome," I answered.  Surprisingly, my daughter had little interest in the fur tumbleweeds. I would have predicted that she would try and collect the fur and look for bones.  At the very least, I thought she would have insisted upon a gory blow-by-blow of the squirrel's demise. Instead, she wandered over to another little girl and they demonstrated their twirling abilities to each other, their puffy coats ballooning ever-so-slightly.

"Oh, Mommy," said the inquisitive neighbor-girl (who clearly has a very acute sense of hearing and a fairly strong stomach), "it probably WAS a fox.  Remember Mrs. [name redacted] said that she saw a fox?"

"Yes," she answered. "Now, go to wait for the bus."

My fellow bus-stop mothers and I share the same tolerance level for energetic chit-chat that revolves around the slaughter of rodents in the wild.  And by 'wild,' I mean a barely-manicured patchy lawn.


The bus rumbled down our street, collected the kids, and rumbled back up again. We mothers said our goodbyes to each other, and off we went to our homes and jobs.  I took a minute to call my husband to let him know he had some crime scene clean-up duties that night. I know, I know, I AM EVERY WOMAN and all that jazz. But, I've recently become very comfortable with the idea that while I CAN do everything, it is not REQUIRED that I do everything.  Besides, he and I have an agreement that outside chores default to him, and inside chores default to me. On the surface, it seems like I get stuck with more work.  But I don't think that I will be called upon to rake up animal carcass. Well, not unless my children turn on each other.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I Used a Trader Joe's Shopping Bag as a Purse Today

I just thought you all should know that.

Wait, you want to know why I ventured out in upper-middle-class hobo drag?  'Cause I needed to tote my wallet, phone, iPad (don't judge) with me on an errand.  These things live in my laptop bag during the work week.  But, I didn't want to drag my laptop bag around with me, so I went with grocery chic.

Why was I so unprepared?  Because today was an awesome example of Way Planning Ahead Me vs. Last-Minute Me.  I scheduled my annual dentist appointment a year ago.  I didn't jot this down anywhere.  If I did, it was written on something ephemeral, like condensation on the inside of my car.  So, minus ten points for me.

They called yesterday to confirm. But, I left my cell on silent and didn't get the message 'til this morning, when it was too late to cancel. It's like that recurring nightmare when I haven't gone to a class all semester, and am too late to withdraw.  I HAVE TO TAKE THE EXAM AND I WILL PROBABLY FAIL.

In this case, though, I just haven't been flossing as much as I should.  And I had coffee breath.

Sorry, Dr. H!

I have this weird thing about dental and eye exams.  I know that they are not graded, nor are they pass/fail.  But I still want to pass, and pass with FLYING COLORS.  I want an A, a check plus, a sticker on my forehead.  I want my doctors to be shocked and awed by how well I perform on these exams. Is it any wonder I was the valedictorian of my high school? (Which only matters to me, I'm sure.  Well, me and the salutatorian.  Hi Julie!)

Because of my accursed gene pool, though, 'passing' an eye exam means that I correctly identified the giant 'E' at the top of the eye chart and did not mistake it for a picture of a bunny.  Passing the dental exam means that my teeth didn't crumble like blue cheese when my dentist pokes them with the poky thing.

Today's results?  I have a full-term cavity in one of my upper molars (12-D, to be exact), and a gestating cavity on the other side. Cavities are nothing new to me. If you are a devoted reader of this blog (and who isn't, am I right?), then you know that my teeth are essentially made of shale.  I currently have two crowns, and a giant gap where an implant is supposed to go.  The implant will  happen someday.  That day will likely be two days after my daughter notices the gap and makes fun of me for it.

After the dentist appointment, I took a little drive.  My dentist is in the neighborhood I grew up in.  'Grew up in' is perhaps ambitious.  I lived there 'til I was eleven.  Was I grown up at eleven?  Bookish, but not grown up.  I cruised past the old homestead, via the path I used to walk daily to and from my local Catholic school.  I do this pretty much every time I go to the dentist, and I'm always amazed by how crowded the neighborhood feels.  The houses seemed gigantic and rambling when I was a kid.  And now, it's just a house.

But damn if I don't want to snatch that gorgeous turn-of-the-century stained glass every time I pass by. And stuff it into my giant Trader Joes' bag.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Bleeding Purple

I've been perusing my blog archives like the good narcissist that I am, and I realize that there is just so much of my life that I leave out of these pages. I think it's because I don't want to offend people, or tip my hand too far forward and reveal more about my friends and family than they might like.

Seriously, though, it looks like all I do is hang out with my kids, go to church, and go to work.  And, while all of that is true, there is a healthy social life that I've got going as well. Ish. Ish only because I've got a three-year-old, a six-year-old, and an eight-year-old. there is only so much grown-up* interaction you get when you are shepherding three little ones through life.

But I do get out. And do stuff.  Stuff that *might* even be interesting to others.

Last night I went to bingo.  Okay, fine, you might not think that this is a weak argument for 'doing interesting stuff.' So, there I am, bingo marker in hand, a speck of black flotsam in a sea of purple. Why all the purple?  Because, my friends, the Ravens vs. Broncos game just so happened to have fallen on the same night.  Oops.  The school/church fundraiser folks respected local loyalties, though, and projected  the game on a screen in the corner.

Throughout the night, there were be small gasps and cheers, and it was tough to discern whether it was a big moment in football, or if someone cried, "Bingo!" Or, in Baltimore-ease, "Bing-geaux!"

There was no mistaking what went down in the last minute of the fourth quarter, though.  Did you see that game? DID YOU SEE THAT GAME? Now, I am admittedly slightly better than a fair weather fan. Normally, the game would just be on in the background while I was doing something productive, like dusting.  Watching it with a group of people to whom each catch, each turnover, each touchdown really meant something...

It was totally fun. It was communal. Everybody wanted the same thing, hoped for the same thing. It is so very rare that in today's society we are able to indulge in that unity, that sameness. I savored it. No one in that bingo hall wanted another perspective, or cared about the Broncos' hurt feelings. Nope. We were cheering the team from Baltimore, and that's all that mattered.

I was glad to be in that hall, with those two hundred people, wearing all of that purple. Even if I didn't win any of the twenty games of bingo, and was shushed by a lady with painted-on eyebrows.

Also? I had a lovely time catching up with one of my sisters-in-law, with whom I have not spent a great deal of one-on-one time of late.  She is my guru when it comes to raising an, ahem, 'spirited' girl-child, and I gleaned some much needed perspective of some of the Girl's modus operandi.

Oop. Tangent.  For another day, my friends!

*I use 'grown-up' instead of 'adult' because 'adult' seems to have such porny connotations these days.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Helluva Way to Start the Week

I went to a funeral mass this morning.  It's a perfectly gothic day here in Baltimore: gray, laced with a chill.  There should be a chill in the air, considering it's January. In fact, it should be more than chilly. It should be downright bitter.

Sidenote: what's up climate change? You're going to force me into the no-you-cannot-wear-shorts-to-school argument with my 8-year-old son in January? I don't normally engage in that battle until March.  Jerk. (Climate change is the jerk. Not my son. He's lovely.)

Anyway, the service was for my cousin's wife's mother.  I didn't know her very well; I'd only met her about a dozen times in my life. I know, I know. You're wondering why I would go to a funeral for someone I didn't know very well.  

It's down to this:  I always go to the funeral*.  If I skip a celebration like a graduation or a wedding, it's okay, because it's a safe bet that it won't be the last celebration in that person's life.  There'll be baby showers, birthdays, First Communions, retirements, etc., down the road.

But a funeral? That's it. Done. Terminus.It's where I disembark from my normal day-to-day to show I care, that the dearly departed -- and those she left behind -- matter. And even though I didn't know her very well, I am very friendly with my cousins.  I used to babysit their kids. My son interviewed them for a school project. We belong to the same church, and see each other pretty frequently.

So, I went to the funeral.

It was lovely, as those things go. And extremely well-attended. Before I could even get into the chapel, people started squeezing out of the side doors. I thought it was a Play-Doh Fun Factory situation. I was kind of right: the church staff made the decision to move the mass to the main church because we all simply wouldn't fit in the chapel.

My funeral policy is not the only reason I went, though.

Cancer came for this much-loved mother, just as came for mine. The whole morning was very dredgy, emotionally speaking. I saw my cousin's wife, sitting up at the front, in her black dress. In her, I saw myself.  Little wonder I identify with her.  Not only did our mothers pass in the same way, but around the same time of year. My mother was interred two years and ten days ago.

And so, another person has been inducted into this awful sorority. I went to support my cousin's wife. I wanted to convey that this isn't fair, that her mother deserved more time, and that's all there is to it. 

Some honesty: I hate the silver linings, the platitudes, the "help" that people try to give those who have just suffered a loss. She's in a better place... She's not suffering... Yes. Of course.  It is absolutely better that she is not in pain, that she is no longer enduring a long and winding loss of dignity and self.  I'm begging the world at large, though: can't we all just acknowledge that IT SUCKS when your mother dies, and leave it at that?

Here's what was true for me, and I think may be true for others:  the only hope to offer someone who has lost a loved one to an eviscerating illness is that the worst is over. People think that the death is the worst. Emphatically, no. Death is hard, I'll give you that. I miss my mother all the time. I'm still building my new normal, my new vision of what the future will be. It's tough.  

But, I maintain that the time just before the dying is the worst.  The constant anxiety about... Everything.  Medication. White  blood cells. Did the chemo work? Is her breathing too fast? Am I sick? Are my kids sick? I hope I don't get her sick. Is she wobbly? I need to help her take a bath.  She's going back to the ER because she needs a transfusion. Is today the day? Are we okay? Have I left anything unsaid?

Once the waiting is over, you can figure out what your next move is instead of waiting for it to unfold all over you.

*The only funeral I've ever missed was the memorial service for my husband's grandparents, and I still wish I could have gone. It didn't work out, though.  We had two small kids at the time, and our choices were to take them with us and have them (likely) disrupt the service, or have me stay home with them so that my husband could spend time bonding with family and remember his grandparents without distraction.  I chose the latter.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Some Days I Feel Like a Marine

Which, come to think of it, is probably insulting to Marines.  Sorry Marines!  Me and my squishy middle-class life...

Anyway, there are some days when I am wildly productive before 9:00 a.m. (Yes, I KNOW the Marines say they get more done before 6:00 a.m. than most people do all day.  I'm SQUISHY, remember?)

My almost-three-year-old woke up at 4:00 a.m., so I handled his bidness (wet diaper), and climbed back into bed 'til 6:45 a.m. Then, I:

  • dressed myself in not-yoga-pants, 
  • flat-ironed my hair, 
  • made breakfast for the six and eight-year-old,
  • made breakfast for myself (and ate it while standing),
  • fixed a Nintendo 3DS that was acting up,
  • mixed up some turkey meatballs and popped them in the crock pot (I get bonus points for remembering to turn it on),
  • shoved the kids' lunches and water bottles into their backpacks;
  • brushed their hair (more bonus points: no one cried during this process);
  • found an alternative scarf for my daughter since she appears to worn her normal one while rolling around on a dead rodent;
  • inflated a Cleveland Browns' football for my son to take to school for recess;
  • talked education with one of my neighbors while we waited for the bus to pick up our kids;
  • and, investigated the sound of running water coming from the main pipe, which resulted in me messing around with the float in the basement bathroom.
Then, it was off to work, swiping off some lipstick, and sitting down at my desk by nine. Most of my day was spent in non-consecutive meetings. Always a joy!

Suddenly, my current exhaustion makes more sense.  I am hoping not to repeat most of these shenanigans tomorrow.  I mean, who in their right mind is hustling to blow up a football?  Don't they have those at school already? 

I'm such a sucker for those kids. Herm. I may have to re-think this whole marine analogy...

Wednesday, January 02, 2013


Would you look at that year?  Just look at it.  That's such a science fiction year.

Side note...

My Dad was born during the golden age of sci-fi.  He was eight -- EIGHT -- when Action Comics #1 was published.  So, it's little wonder that he's such a nerd for aliens, superpowers, space travel, and the like. My husband, who has no such excuse for his deep and abiding love of all things sci-fi, is actually kind of jealous that my father witnessed the genesis of this slice of pop culture.

One day, he asked, "Is there anything that hasn't happened that you thought would've happened by now?"

My father thought about it for a full minute, and replied, "Well, I really thought we'd have flying cars by now."

Resuming post...

Anyway, this is the time of year when people examine their lives and use the clean slate of the new year to start fresh. If the New Year's Eve busy-ness of my local Y was any indication, some folks got a jump on their exercise resolution.

Me? I've eschewed resolutions for the past couple of years. You can't nag anyone -- even yourself -- into change. The desire to be different strikes, and you succumb to it. You want to change, and you do. That's the magic formula. And by 'magic,' I mean, 'incredibly mundane.'

When I alter my way of being/doing/thinking, it's always a watershed moment. I mean, I may have been building up to it over time. But then I think, "Yeah, I'm going to be this way now." And I am. Cold turkey.  It even has a very specific feel to it, like some one spun the wheel on an airlock in my brain. Once the lock has thunked into place, the deal is done.

These decisions aren't tethered to January 1.  Why limit yourself like that? That said, I do have something I'd like to do with my 2013: I want to re-commit to writing. I still futz with it (obviously). But I'm angling for an actual publication credit this year. Not something I produced myself. I mean, I like being a Jill-of-all-trades, but a girl wants some outside validation once in awhile.

I'll add more things to my list of goals for this year (How sexy am I?  I HAVE A GOAL LIST!). For right now, though, I'm sticking to this one.