Thursday, December 26, 2013

By the End of the Day

Last week I had my cursory check in with my surgeon where she not only told me to join weight watchers, but to do so by the end of the day. Man, that is harsh. I shared that I'm not a real group person, not a joiner, but she was having none of it, so I nodded compliantly knowing that while I know I need to loose weight, I am not joining weight watchers, let alone by the end of the day. My surgeon is a petite and formidable woman, she tells me that I should be worried about heart disease and strokes, as they are the number one killers of women. I straight out told her, "no, sorry, I won't do it, I worry about cancer and that's all I'm willing to have on my worry plate." Heart disease and strokes are just going to have to take a back seat in my worry van. She doesn't like this, so we've had to agree to disagree.

I wouldn't say I'm a hypochondriac, as if I were, I would have gone to the doctor as soon as I felt the planetoid sized lump in my breast instead of ambling in two months later and I would have been insistent that yes, there was something awry and puleeze send me to a specialist instead of telling me it is nothing and not to worry about it. I chose the not-worry-about-it option, as it was so appealing, even though deep down, inside, well, not even all that deep, I knew, I guess I just wasn't quite ready yet, having just begun divorce mediation, I didn't feel ready for that too, but eventually, I realized, I had no choice.

I think what I am, what I've become, is a cancercondriac. No matter what my symptoms, I don't worry about heart disease and stroke or MS, or diabetes, or even being struck by lightening or eaten by sharks, in fact, I dare you shark, I just dare you... I worry about cancer, every day... every minute of every day. Not in a debilitating way, but in a real way, that sometimes induces panic and often not, but is a revolving fear, on a loop de loop. Everyone I know has been sick this season. Lingering viruses and flu's, my little dude missed a week of school and is still coughing, my studio-mate laid low for weeks. I haven't had more than a sniffle and I think that has to do with being allergic to my xmas tree, but I take it as a sign that I don't have metastatic cancer. I've decided that as my immune system seems to be functioning well, it must also be keeping me cancer free. It's maddening not to know what's going on inside my body. I am consumed with aches and pains and there's no way to know if it's age, effects of chemo and radiation, lack of exercise or imminent death inducing metastatic cancer.

The flip side of that is I feel like crap. I've been gaining weight, my LiveStrong days at the gym seem a distant memory, not a few months ago, and I'm developing syndrome after syndrome which is wearing me down. I've become my own worst enemy. I've been diagnosed with lymphedema in my right arm, my dominant arm and hand are now 3cm larger than my left and my handy-dandy lymphedema therapist wants to wrap my entire arm up to the fingertips in bandages for 6-8 weeks and I just can't do it, I refuse. I've been compliant for two years, I've done everything each and every cog in the medical wheel has asked, but this I just can't do. Next best thing she says is to wear a compression sleeve and glove 12 hours a day. Glove? no way, so we settled on gauntlet which is like a glove that has the fingers free. I have one of these get ups already that I've worn on airplanes to avoid getting lymphedema and they are murky beige, depressingly geriatric looking and very uncomfortable, and so I've been in denial. I even had to explain that I was in denial to my sweet specialist and she said she just had to mark my chart, that I knew I was in danger of a permanent and worsening condition by ignoring it and I said "yes, yes I understand, I just can't deal with it, I've reached my limit." I don't usually do denial, but I guess we all make exceptions.

I promised I would deal with it after the holidays and I just paid out of pocket for a fuschia sleeve which is more bearable than beige, I picked it up at the medical supply place today. My insurance would have paid for the beige one, but it's just too depressing so I paid extra for color. The cost of color. My fuscia is more pepto bismol than cheery purple/pink, but it will have to do. Thus far, I can't even bring myself to open the box.

I tried to carve a ham on xmas eve and neither hand could grip the utensils well enough to do it. It was surprising and dispiriting, what an odd thing to have to ask for help with. The neuropathy and the lymphedema are a bad combination. My hands cramp up and are stiff and weak, writing with a pen is increasingly difficult. So it's time to cut the crap, I suppose and return to being a good patient and get myself in that horrible garment. Boo, hiss, whine, complain. Tomorrow will be my last day of cookies {I really need the tall one to come home and eat them all which he will do quite efficiently, and any minute now} and I'm going back to the gym. In fact I'm putting my whole life secondary to getting in shape, O.K., kids still first, but work is going behind health on the list. Being a clever girl, I've decided the best exercise is the funnest exercise and that is in scuba-town, so I'm planning a trip for the end of February. I have between now and then to get scuba ready. Those wetsuits are tight and the tanks heavy and I couldn't possibly manage it right now, so I have slightly less than two months to get in shape. Between now and then it's gym, gym, gym, yoga, wearing the sleeve, and eating healthy.

My boys should be home any minute and we will commence our yearly holiday Lord of The Rings marathon. We have the extended version DVDs, so I am not exaggerating when I say marathon. The geeky darling has challenged me to a game of Doctor Who Yahtzee which is what Santa brought me this year and tomorrow we'll all go see the Hobbit. It's so rare that the three of us are on the same page at the same time, but indeed, this is the movie for us all. Popcorn for all!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Return of the Blog

And on Christmas day, my blogging hiatus ends as I am sitting in front of a fire, in a quiet house, with a newly purchased, long overdue, refurbished MacBook on my lap. I can now return to the soothing tippity-tap, tippity-tap, as opposed to the vertical fingered bang, bang, banging required of my old companion. I can now type "9"s and "M"s with reckless abandon without cutting and pasting them from other documents. There is, of course, a "9" in my zip code, so it's been annoying enough over the past many months to just put the device down and walk away. This toy is quiet, no grinding sound, recently accompanied by an unsettling tick, tick, tick of an ersatz bomb waiting to go off, documents up in flames, or at least melted from the heat, increasing in fortitude from the bottom of the machine. No more children yelling "mom, get a new computer, it's time, just admit it." As one application after another stopped working, I have finally admitted it.

Now the dreadful task of updating costly software, inputing all my addresses, one by one, as the old address book was corrupted and can neither save or export. Figuring out if my older backup system will work and the laborious process of moving over documents and music and pictures and whatever else. Getting a new computer is not fun. Sure, it's shiny and pretty, but it's deceiving, there is so many nerve wracking tasks involved, I dread it, so I put it off as long as possible. My old faithful served me for seven years, it was my first laptop an some change I don't like one bit. I miss the way the old keyboard felt, I miss the way the outdated desktop worked, but sometimes you don't have a choice. New computer, divorce, cancer, sometimes you just don't have a choice.

I've had a lovely holiday season. I always forget I work in retail and so am always surprised by how busy and frazzled I get, but the fact that we've all finally admitted Santa is a fable, some of the pressure is off and it's more fun making up who the gifts are from. Little boy got gifts from The Great God of Good Socks, Gandalf, The Doctor and yes, some from his mom. The tall one got lots of very warm clothing to take with him to college in Maine next year. This time next year, he will be home visiting for the holidays, wow. Our Colby College dream has come to fruition with an early decision acceptance, but our expectation of a "need blind" experience, where the financial need of all those accepted is fulfilled by this prestigious, well-endowed school, turns out to really mean, they are blind to our need. While I am doing my best to negotiate some more funds, the dream is now going to include massive quantities of loans and debt. This is very disappointing. I still, however, fully believe that this is the right college for my boy and will offer him a life-changing experience and opportunity for positive personal growth and building of character. How do you walk away from that? He remains, smitten and in love and wanting to play college football and baseball while getting a world-class education, how does he walk away from that? I don't think we can, I think we will need to find a way for it to happen.

It's been a while, I've had some issues, I'm spending a lot of time in rehab, of the physical therapy variety, not drug and alcohol. But that's for another day, because I love the holidays and it's been a holly jolly month. I threw myself on the mercy of a friend with a truck who carted me home a frozen sold tree which thawed nicely and looks festive as can be. I learned that next time I plant a frozen tree, indoors, in a stand, I should not fill stand to the top with water because frozen, implies moisture, and all that water is going to soon start dripping downwards and there is a lot of it and if your stand is already full, well, you get the picture. We had our yearly festive xmas eve gathering last night, with the old friends who over they years have become family and some new ones for good measure. It is such a beautiful and powerful thing to see kids grow from babies to the precipice of launching. Stressful, fragmented evenings filled with diaper changes and temper tantrums are now relaxing and mellow with everyone doing their own thing, the generations and age groups interweaving naturally, sans anyones interference or orchestration.

This was the first christmas morning the boys father chose not to come over which surprisingly freaked  both boys out but we wound up having a perfect festive morning. We were all glad Aunt Ivy slept over as she always does. We're a small group, but it was perfect. It was also the first year I wasn't invited to the in-laws, or ex in-laws, which freaked me out. It's an odd thing how you can know people for 25 years and then just be exiled, but I guess it's time for new traditions and it turns out I'm perfectly happy home alone today and fine with the boys having a holiday tradition without me. They'll be back tomorrow an our annual Lord of the Rings marathon will begin and well go see the Hobbit to top it off. I've gotten a lot of cleaning up done, I'm doing a laundry marathon, it's warm and cozy, I'm eating leftovers, way too many cookies, and using my new computer. It's just gotten dark and I'll flip around and find a movie and I'm at peace with the universe. I have local friends in on who I could drop, but I'm feeling no need, I'm quite content and hope you are too.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Gotham City

Last night I walked past the little {not so little anymore} guy's room and he peeped "mim" which is what he does when he wants me, but knows he's supposed to be staying put, the day officially over. So he peeps "mim" instead of outright calling "mom", and he does it extra cute, so that somehow, it doesn't count and well, he's got my number, I can resist, especially when he gently patted a spot on the bed and said "have a seat, let's have a little chat". He was lamenting that he was having trouble sleeping lately, waking in the middle of the night and knowing he should stay in his room, but winding up in mine. He wanted to stay in his room and didn't know why he couldn't manage to, he was frustrated. After telling him not to worry about it and all that, I shared that I felt all confuddled too, I don't usually share my worries but I'm starting to because I don't want them to be blindsided. Confuddled is one of our words, a hybrid of confused and befuddled, every family should have their own words, I believe. This I believe. I told him I just didn't know how to do all the things in a day that I was supposed to do and I felt badly that every afternoon I was falling asleep on the couch when he came home and then making dinner late and everyone being hungry and gabbity gab, and he said "you're like a rubix cube, but one of the colors is on the wrong side." I agreed, but said it wasn't just one square, the whole thing was jumbled up. And then I stroked his forehead and his hair while he closed his eyes. Whenever I stopped for a second, thinking I was going to leave, he made a frowny face, so I kept going. I was plotting how to escape and then I wondered why would I want to? I'm sitting here in the dark, looking at this angel face, feeling his warm, soft skin and making him feel loved and safe, why would I want to do anything else, and what could possibly be more important.

I went to the lymphedema clinic today at the hospital because of my swollen hand and arm. I thought the goddess Jessica would do her usual massage thing, loosening up my lymph nodes, moving them around, and give me a pep talk about not needing to worry about it. Instead she was kind of alarmed. She measured all up and down both arms and compared them to six months ago and my right arm is 3 cm larger. She wants to wrap my whole arm and hand in tight bandages for 6 to 8 weeks. Say what? 6-8 weeks? And have me come in 3 times a weeks, aghhhh. I asked if I could just wear the compression sleeve like on the plane, but she says that only prevents lymphodema, doesn't help improve it. Not happy, not happy at all, I'll admit to squelching the tears in my eyes, because I don't want to get sucked back into the system, and I'm already freaking out about how to earn money and I'm already without my feet, without my hands, the paradox deepens. I told her I just couldn't leave wrapped up, I had to finish some projects this week and I'd go buy a compression glove tomorrow which I guess, with the sleeve is better than nothing and I'd come back next week. Just, ugh! Jessica told me to not go home and start googling lymphedema, I laughed, and said "I'm going home to google it right now." Jessica doesn't know me very well. I didn't go home, I went into work for a bit, then I picked up J at his dad's because he needed to print something here and now I'm writing this, but at some point... I'll definitely be googling.

In between now and then, I ran into someone I hardly know, but who, well, due to logistics, I run into a lot and who always wants to talk about her close relative with stage IV cancer. Today she shared that the chemo was no longer working and there was nothing else they could do and I told her I was really, really sorry about this, and I was also sorry that I just wasn't the one she could talk with about it, because, I'm just not.

It's unusual for me to speak up like that, and normally I'd have felt terrible, just terrible, filled with guilt for letting someone down, but today I just felt like, you know... I have limits too and I am full up right now. I just don't want to hear about anyone else dying of cancer, just don't. I want a Make a Wish Foundation for adults and I want to go to the Galapagos Islands and see lots of critters. On Nov. 15, San Francisco is going to become Gotham City for a 5-year-old with cancer who wants to be Batman. It's going to be huge, flash mobs, the Police Captain, faux bad guys to capture, City Hall ceremony with a key to the city. Amazing.

This country spends 707 billion dollars per year on defense, $51 billion on weapons alone. $51 billion spent on ways to kill people and only $4.9 billion on curing cancer. We spend 10 times more of our tax dollars on ways to kill people over ways to save their lives. If I were talking about the whole military budget it would be well over 100 times more. We spend less per year now on cancer research than we did a few years ago. We spend $47 billion a  year on homeland security and a hell of a lot more people have died of cancer than by terrorists. And I won't even start on how little we actually spend on the food stamps everyone keeps bitching about, but it's not much, barely a needle in the haystack. You know, those food stamps I'm gonna wind up on despite having supported someone on their road to affluence for decades, thinking it was our road. Heck of a thing to realize that it was never your road at all, you weren't even on the map.

I'm turning my own stomach with all this whining. Today started off really well, brand new day, I chatted with familiar high school students at the café across from their school because I was dropping off son and there was parking so I went in for tea. Shortly after, I stood in a parking lot with my face in the sun, soaking up some vitamin D, having a moment, but then I got off track again. Two lousy days in a row, I resent that universe, I do.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Scruffy the Cat

Someone I didn't know all that well, but whose music I loved... someone I hadn't seen in thirty years but can still see vividly in my mind, someone who was my age and had much to live for and many who loved him, died today of cancer.

The person that broke the news, has had cancer, the person through whom I knew the songwriter and musician, has had cancer. What the fuck is with all this cancer? We're not in our 70s and 80s, we're in our 40s and 50s, is this normal? Was it always this way, or is this a glimpse of the future where some are living longer, but so many of us aren't.

This hasn't been a good week for me and cancer. I'm trying desperately to get back to work, my savings are dwindled, I don't want to uproot my family, I can't even imagine the process of that, so I need more income and I need to stay put but stinky cancer after-effects keep getting in the way. My tumor, and hence lymph node dissection and radiation were on my right side and I'm right handed. I made a display two weeks ago and drilled about 70 holes into wood and then screwed in cup hooks with my thumb and first two fingers, it hurt, I got a blister, that's fine, but two weeks later my fingers are still numb. My hand is swollen and my arm just feels kinda dead. I work with my hands... this is a problem. That shoulder hurts, I bet you didn't realize that you pull your dominant arm backwards to put on a coat. I didn't realize it until it hurt like hell to do it, and now I'm trying to learn how to put on a coat like a lefty, which is harder than it sounds.

I missed a Friday Night game on a beautiful night last week because I'd hit the wall of exhaustion and my neuropathy feet were screaming and my hand was throbbing. Missing things I want to do makes me mad. Before I got sick, I was pondering the paradox I find myself in. I'm supposed to be self supporting or working towards being self supporting while also being a full time, single parent with miniscule assistance from other parent. It was untenable then and now it's even less tenable and I'm just not sure how I'm supposed to be solving this conundrum. What is the secret code that deposits more hours and energy into every day and makes my hand work, my body work, and keeps me healthy instead of burnt out and eating badly because it's quick and easy? I don't like not being able to figure something out no matter how long I obsess over it, I don't like defeat, but I just can't figure out this equation, it does not compute.

I'm complaining, what a waste, someone died today, it wasn't me, someone faced what I'm scared to face cause they had no damned choice, and maybe someday I'll have no choice, so I hate wasting time, but I just can not seem to figure out how to make my circumstances fit into a box that works.

Someone died today. Hearts are broken today. And it's just another day like any other, people die every day, and they're gonna keep doing it. Every day.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


I don't know what I will do next fall without my weekend football games which I've grown to love, irrationally. I used to sit quietly, tentatively, worried about injury and not thoroughly knowing the game. Fast forward four years and I spend the game jumping and clapping and screaming at the top of my lungs, I look forward to them and I don't look at my watch hoping they'll be over soon. I'm just fine never going to another baseball game, or basketball game, but I'm really gonna miss football, yet still have no regrets not allowing the tall one to play until High School.

It's an incredible thing to think back to that tiny boy who dreamed of teams and uniforms from the time he could walk. When he started soccer at four, he yelped all day about how this was going to be the best day of his life, and then spent the whole practice curled in my lap sobbing. He wanted so badly to go out there and play, but just couldn't do it, for whatever reason, for so many reasons. We went week after week, and occasionally, he'd go on the field for a minute or two, but then was back in the lap. What a difference a year makes, and he hit his stride in t-ball a year later, but took it so much more seriously than the other kids that if he didn't get a good hit, he'd pitch a fit behind the pine trees. Working on the sportsmanship, everyone has an achilles heel has been the project of our lives.

So that so many years later, to see this confident young man, strut onto the field wearing that uniform, the shoulder pads and cleats, the helmet, his little boy dream come to fruition and lead his team effortlessly, in complete control, entirely in the moment and in possession of himself, is an astounding thing to watch. He's got the moves, damn, that boy's got the moves and how many of us get to participate in our fantasies in the flesh, even if only for four high school years. He doesn't just play, he's the star and he pulls it off, time after time. In real life, he walks with the slouch of someone who got tall too quickly and has the inherent awkwardness that comes with self-consciousness and and slightly pidgeoned toes, but when he's on that field, or any other, he stands tall, he's graceful, he's just gorgeous to watch, gorgeous. He walks up and down the sidelines, whispering in ears, patting helmet heads, he's the conductor and there's nowhere else he'd rather be and I think of that little, little boy who dreamt of this moment night after night, in one fantasy after another and how many dreams come true? Throw on the image of him completing pass after pass to his childhood friend, a boy I adore and who knew football could make a mama cry. Who knew football, horrible, violent football, the antithesis of all my values could be so beautiful. I'm so nostalgic about this senior year, the end of so many things, the end of an era, but so proud, so damned proud and enjoying it so much, because this ending will merge with a grand new beginning. Turn the page and everyone starts a new chapter.

The little one is really enjoying the theater class I forced him into and he's becoming a performance art piece in progress. He likes to employ a russian accent and spout non-sequiturs when other kids talk to him at school, "sandvitch, sandvitch." What a crack-up, he cares not a whit if people think he's from mars, in fact, he takes it as a fine achievement and compliment. Beautiful. He's on a lego stop-motion movie making binge and I love when I can see his little wheels spinning as he runs upstairs to film and downstairs to edit. He just turned down an ice cream, because when he's on a tear, he's consumed. It's a beautiful thing to be consumed by a project. He's so much happier when he's a mission and it's been a while.

I completely forgot to share my recent experience with jellyfish. I've always been scared of them, didn't know that they don't all sting, but really just thought they were gross. When I went diving off of Jamestown the water was full of them, some as small as a nickel and some considerably larger. I had gloves on and my teacher told me they didn't sting, so I started scooping them up and I thought they'd be like goo dripping off of my hand, but not at all. They look all flimsy and shapeless in the water, but when you pick them up, they make a perfectly round disc in your hand and are rather solid. A hand-sized one is like a tennis ball you've flattened down to about 1/2" thick. Clear and with pink strands in the middle. It feels exactly like a sac of silicone, a silicone breast implant, I kid you not. It's a whole ocean full of silicone implants!

And now it's October, breast-cancer awareness month, the commercial scam of the century. My son's watching his beloved Green Bay Packers on T.V. and the players are all decked out in pink. Pink socks, towels, wristbands, accessories, the goal posts are wrapped in pink, but does any of that translate into money for research? For a cure? I would suggest that women are more aware of breast cancer than of heart disease and heart disease is more likely to kill them. This obsession with breast and breast health is so disturbing and I find it very anti-woman, as in whole woman. As in, no our breasts are not that much more important than the rest of our body parts. No one cares about our colon's because no one is enjoying our colons. I get it, breasts are lovely, I miss mine immensely, but this pink nonesense is out of control and so contrived, so meaningless, shouldn't we want a cure for all cancer? Breast cancer doesn't suck anymore than any other kind of cancer, it all sucks. This pink thing is commercial and it's making money for most everyone other than people dying of disease, which is not one singular disease at all, but comes in many flavors. Everyone gets to feel good except the people who actually have the disease, and certainly any less "popular" cancer. Pink might make survivors feel good, but I'm more concerned with the women who are not going to survive because so much money raised for the "cure" goes to parties and feel-good celebrations. KFC and any other processed food packaged in pink isn't any healthier than when it's not, and these products are a big part of the problem, so as Breast Cancer Action says, "think before you pink". And if you must, go fondle a jellyfish : }

The pink makes me uncomfortable, it encourages people to identify with their cancer. I don't want to be "a breast cancer survivor" decked out in pink ribbons, I just want to be alive. I want to celebrate being alive with everyone else who's had a close encounter with anything. I don't like this hierarchy of cancers, of diseases, and I don't even like breast cancer being viewed as a singular disease, it's too simplistic. As I've learned, breast cancer is quite complex, there are many different kinds of it, some are lethal, some are not, some need a lot of treatment, some not so much, some have more in common with other cancers than with other breast cancers. Let's just fight cancer. Let's stop having parties and glorifying it and making it pretty and fun, let's fund a cure. And let's stop making those struggling with other types of cancer or diseases feel like second class citizens.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

How do you spell sofa?

I had an appointment with an ophthalmologist today, chemo can cause trouble with your eyes, and while there is no history of cancer in my family, there is history of certain eyeball conditions. I have undergone countless medical procedures, and am very good at remaining calm and detached, but eyeballs and the examination thereof, give me the deluxe hee-bee-gee-bees {x10}. I can't watch anyone put in contact lenses, my eyes water if someone else has red eyes and the doctor's plastic eyeball model made me queasy. But nothing was scarier than the waiting room before my appointment.

The waiting room was crowded with a disproportionate number of morbidly obese, I don't mean overweight, I mean seriously, obese, very unhealthy individuals. After watching Michelle Bachman on the news ranting about Obamacare killing innocent babies and their little old nana's, I've become so disgusted with the state of things that I really can't stand it. I'm trying to be the apathetic individual that is at the root of so many problems, but sometimes, it's a matter of self-preservation, It's too insane, too depressing, I can't believe how low our national discourse has gone, and I thought I could dwell in my little blue state bubble for a bit. A woman across the room asked loudly "how do you spell sofa?", she repeated it a few times and her friend looked at her quizzically. I thought maybe she was doing a crossword puzzle and an answer was "sofa",admittedly, pretty shocked she needed help spelling it. Then she said to her friend "you know, sofa, the stuff they put in antibiotics, I'm allergic to," her friend replied "oh suffa, that's S U F A." Oh sulphur, you crazy chemical you, which I've learned since, has two acceptable spellings, Sulphur and Sulfur, both of which alas, have an "r" at the end. If you don't want to say the R, that's fine by me, but you just can't deny it's existence.

Right then, the ever-present wall mounted t.v. cut to news, of course of the government shutdown. The woman next to me hollered to the whole room, our small, intimate waiting room, that if we had to have Obamacare, the Congress should have to have it too. Maybe I should have kept quiet, but I aired on the side of polite political discourse, national conversation, and I explained, after someone else agreed with her, that the Affordable Care Act wasn't something you had to have, it was something that would be there for those who chose to utilize it. Congresspeople have employer arranged health insurance, so they don't need the assistance of the ACA, but that many people don't have employer coverage. I mentioned the self-employed, people who work for small businesses, people who work part-time, that the ACA allowed them access to an array of different plans, subsidized according to income, from which they could not be excluded for preexisting conditions, women would be charged the same as men, folks couldn't be dropped if they got sick, all good things that are not available to millions of people currently. And yes, people would be required to purchase at least minimal coverage, just as the government makes us buy auto insurance in case we damage someone's car or hurt someone, minimal coverage would mean that the rates of the paying, wouldn't skyrocket to pay for the care of the uninsured.

The woman insisted to me that despite having had cancer and diabetes and myriad other health issues she'd never been denied insurance, never, ever, and her rates were what she considered affordable and that Obamacare had already ruined her insurance. She was now being denied a lifesaving medication she needs every day because of Obamacare. I mentioned that the law only went into effect yesterday and didn't affect anyones current coverage, but that didn't convince her. Her insurance was great and she didn't need the government interfering with, you know it, you know it's coming, her Medicare.

And it went downhill from there. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Phew, I'm certified. Certifiably certified scuba diver and I get an official card in the mail and everything, so that if I'm hit by a car and someone goes through my wallet at the hospital, they can be duly impressed. Warmest day in weeks, I've been watching the weather forecast go up 1º per day for the last week, the gods were on my side, but Poseidon was a smidge testy.

Slightly rough day today, beginner scuba divers are not exactly graceful, not nearly at all. Today, we climbed down a rocky slope wearing our 6,052 lbs. of gear to get to the water, and if that wasn't harrowing enough, you have to walk into the water on wet, slippery rocks. My relief at getting to the water alive evaporated instantly as my foot touched the first slippery stone and it got pretty ugly from there, although, no doubt had there been a hidden camera, I'd be providing hilarity to someone right now. I got in up to about my knees and lost my balance and was tilting back and forth on a tightrope trying not to land in the net, I thought I had it, I had it... I never really had it and wound up on my back in shallow water on top of my tank. A turtle stuck on it's back fruitlessly waving it's stubby little arms and legs back and forth. Had I been alone, I would have been like that for the rest of my considerably shorter life, but my teacher, in considerably better shape than I, with much effort, helped me up onto me knees and for that moment, I really wasn't sure if I'd be able to get to my feet. Damn, this is exercise and I really need to get back to the Y.

When we finally got to deeper water, he swam down to plant our diver's flag and I laid on my back, warm sun on my face, catching my breath, calming down and it was a few minutes of bliss, pure perfect heaven. We had a great dive, staying down for about 35 minutes, but then we had to come up and do some test skills. I did everything fine, but I was kind of a mess. My mask was loose the first dive, so I broke the first rule and took it off to tighten it. I overt-tightened it and couldn't get it loosened up without help and diver girls want to be independent. Taking it off, caused it to fog up the rest of the time, so I descended either too fast or too slow because I couldn't see a thing, and we're talking pretty low visibility to begin with. I did far too much thrashing about, exhausting myself and swallowing mouthfuls of skanky salt water.

Exhausted after all that struggling in the water I was a little scared for the first time about not getting back to shore and well, I didn't really want to embarrass myself further. I knew I was in really safe hands, but I really, really didn't want to need more help. I already can't get my tank and vest on by myself, I hated needing help with something as dumb as my mask. The currents get stronger as the day goes on, so swimming back is definitely harder than swimming out and the same rocks are involved both ways. We saw a big flounder. next time I pretend to be camouflaged, I'm going to be a flounder.

My instructor is a peach. He's a really good teacher and has made me feel so comfortable. Usually the classes are twice a week for four weeks, but with my parenting responsibilities, there's no way I could get out two nights a week once or twice, let alone four times, so this guy, C.P, has enabled me to do something that has become so important to me on so many levels that I can't quantify my gratitude. He has two kids, High School Senior and one in college and he talks about his wife with the most natural and lovely sense of commitment and partnership, respect and affection. I can't think of anything better in the world than to feel that way about someone, or to have someone not only feel that way about me, but to be able to express it with ease to a near stranger. Of course with my constant issue with sharing too much and chattering too much, I guess if I spend a whole car ride with someone, they're unlikely to remain a stranger. I've always noticed people talking about their partners this way, and was simultaneously aware of the lack of it in my relationship. It was an intangible longing at first, just another deficit that made me sad, but I identified it some years ago and so always notice when people talk of their loved ones with such genuine affection and bonds either with or without them present, it's powerful either way. I know the people doing it take it for granted, but those of us who are never spoken of that way, notice it and personally, I always find it very moving.

Anyway, I really like this guy, and duh, not that way {get out of the gutter}, just did the wife thing... just a great guy and a great teacher and I hope we'll get to dive together again, which really, I'm sure we will. His current class is gonna do their open water dives at the end of the month and I'm going to tag along for one of the days. Now that I'm done with all the testing, I can just dive, none of this up and down, up and down nonsense, the pressure's off {o.k., I never felt any pressure} but the getting from point A to point B issue remains -- it's nice to just fall out of a boat like in Mexico. Grateful for this man's patience and knowledge and cheerleading. We met an older man in the parking lot who'd just emerged from the water and his wife was waiting there with her cup of coffee, they were adorable! She offered us food and it turns out that her husband is a post-cancer scuba diver. He was given two years to live and here he is 15 years later and living the life. I'm going to live the life.

I want my own wetsuit, I want my own wetsuit bad, my only impediment to living the life is I'm broker than I've ever been in my life. I want a black wetsuit with pink accessories. Pink weight belt, already have the pink flippers, and I'm getting a dive knife someday. They strap around your lower leg. I'll never use it, I'm scared of knives and for good reason, I know damned well I'd cut my own leg open with it, but I want a dive knife so I can feel like a bad ass scuba diver. You know, bond girl fantasy, and I'm at that stage in life where my fantasy life is pretty important. I have a great jellyfish story, but I'm too tired and I'm going to have to wrench myself out of this porch chair on this beautiful, gorgeous, fabulous day and go take a shower, cause not only am I exhausted, I stink.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


I wish I could remember all the blog posts I've written in my head the past few weeks, so I could write them down. This does, however, indicate a good thing, which is that I don't have the urgency to write which means I'm more in the moment, more content.

When I returned from Mexico to my beloved boys who seemed to miss me a lot, I found myself smack dab in the middle of back-to-school prep, and then little dude got sick and missed the second week of school and now, finally things are settling down into a routine. What didn't wane, or settle down after my trip was my newfound obsession with scuba diving. I was going to let it go, like I'm used to letting things go. I don't have time, I can't afford it, I should be working, cleaning, running in circles, like I do, but instead, I signed up for diving lessons. I'm obsessed with getting certified, I want a certificate god damn it, I need a goal, I deserve a goal and scuba diving counts as exercise, scuba diving counts as rehab and all those endorphins most definitely must prevent cancer.

However, in reality, I am time constrained, so I found a teacher, in between classes who agreed, since I'd already done two dives in Mexico {and of course, I told him I'm a natural} to do a private, expedited course on my schedule which means all day on two Wednesdays and for a shockingly reasonable fee since it includes gear rental. He dropped off the book for me to read and we got together at a dive shop last wednesday. I flew through the first four paper tests, got everything right, he explained a bunch of stuff and we headed for Jamestown. It was a crystal clear, beautiful warm day and we suited up and stomped off into a cove. Just the beautiful day was almost spectacular enough, I don't get out enough.

The first thing I learned is that putting on a full wetsuit is one of the most difficult and wretched tasks imaginable. I realized, or confirmed for myself that the neuropathy is not just in my feet, but that my hands are weak. They're not painful like my feet, but in the studio and in my kitchen I'm a series of drop, spill, drop, drop, drop. Wetsuits are thick and tight, and I just couldn't grasp it firmly enough to pull up, it was embarrassing and consequently I went in with a baggy crotch. Girl don't like baggy crotch. Oh well.

The water was so different than Mexico which is like crystal. Here it's dark and murky with only 6'-8' visibility and not much too see which I discovered, matters not to me. The part I remember the most, the part stamped on my brain is when, having really figured out this buoyancy thing, I settled flat with limbs outstretched on the sandy ocean floor and just stayed there, unmoving. I pretended that I was one of the camouflaging species and that I was invisible and there was something just thrilling and peaceful and transcendental about that moment. It was probably shorter than I remember, but I was one with the sand and it was grande. I know what being a big lump of sand feels like.

After our first dive, I was so exhausted I wasn't sure I could do another. The equipment is really heavy and walking from point A at the car, to point B, the water was agonizing, I was truly afraid I'd fall down under the weight and my air tank would explode. My teacher asked if I was up for another dive, he's aware of my history and hence, I think understands and respects my quest, and while every muscle was yelling "nooooooo", I answered, "yep, let's do it". Once I was in the water I was fine. It's a sublime moment when you feel like you're about to be crushed and then you walk into the water and the weight you're carrying slowly disintegrates and yeah, I guess I'm inadvertently referring to all matter of intangible weight as well.

Ha, this teacher says I'm a natural too. I don't care if they're flattering or patronizing me, I'm a fucking natural! I accomplished all the underwater tasks I needed to, some rather clumsily, and this week I have much reading and test taking to do and then we're back in the water on Wednesday, when I expect it will be much chillier.

I wish I could have taken the regular class, done the four pool dives because they look like fun and I could have met other novice divers, but two nights a week for four weeks just isn't gonna happen for me, so I'm really grateful to have found this really excellent teacher willing to be flexible. Each time I've gone in the water I've been blissed down there and afterwards, the next day, it feels like a dream and I'm not sure it happened.

I must keep my momentum going, must. My new dream is to get a DEM license next spring and dive for lobsters, how awesome would that be? I'm going to be a pink and black, neoprene clad, scuba diving, hunting and gathering, food foraging goddess. And it counts as exercise!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Stephanie is the lovely English gal with the Aussie accent who taught me to dive. She was feisty and sweet as can be, and called everyone “darling” in her darling accent. She said she spoke that way from watching so many Australian soap operas growing up and wound up in Mexico quite unexpectedly. Her parents went on a trip there and spontaneously put a down payment on a house in Cancun and then moved there. Her father is a jolly, adventurous fellow and she only reluctantly came to visit, and well, that was the end of that. Fast forward seven years, 3,000 dives, and the overweight, pale english girl is now a fit, ebullient, dancing on the deck, scuba instructor, newly married to a Mexican musician. I imagine her diving all day and then relaxing in a cozy cantina sipping cocktails while her love serenades her while seemingly singing to the whole crowd. I asked if when she was young, when she was 18 or 20 she had any clue she’d live an adventure life, and she said “nooooooooooo”. She said she was looking forward to raising a family there, thought it would be the perfect place.

I watched a video in the dive shop, but my expert diver companion had already verbally walked me through the basics, so the information wasn’t overwhelming and then Stephanie took me under the dock while they guys loaded the boat, to practice four basic skills and then off we went. The first thing she asked was if I wanted to scuba dive and she was relieved by my jumping up and down, enthusiastic response because she said that often, when it’s the female part of a couple where the man already dives, they’re very often pressured into it, scared out of their wits and the day is a disaster. I am happy to say that I experienced not one moment of panic, fear or anxiety even when I suddenly ceased being able to breathe on my first dive and had to go up. The air in the tank is really dry and I didn’t know that you have to focus on making saliva and swallowing it, and since I’d not done that, all of a sudden my throat just closed up and I couldn’t swallow or breathe, so I went up, no big deal. Second dive was no problem and I stayed down for 50 minutes which honestly felt like 20.

When you're diving you use hand signals, and if someone signals you, you're supposed to respond. The  O.K. hand gesture is for, everything's o.k., which seems simple, but we're all so used to doing a thumbs up for that. Thumbs up means, "oh no, somethings wrong, I have to go up". Stephanie OK'd be throughout and I OK'd back and near the end she did it and I made the heart shape with my hands and she threw her hands up into the air and did the underwater equivalent of jumping for joy. I heart scuba diving, I heart sea turtles and I heart Stephanie.

I’m hoping to do the classroom and pool certification here and then go back to Mujeres and do my four requisite dives with Stephanie, that would be perfect! She’ll probably have an intrepid little baby in a wetsuit in tow. Sadly, I have no desire to plunge into the freezing Northeast water.

Along with my souvenirs, I brought back another unique chapter in my puking diary. I’ve never been seasick and neither had my friend who has dived and snorkeled around the world for decades. The 45 minute ride out to the whale sharks was really fast and choppy, but if you sat on the seat sideways it was like riding a horse, I loved it. I didn’t notice the choppy water when snorkeling, it was too exciting, but when I got back on the boat the queasies crept up on me. One woman, who seemed a bit worse for wear before she even got on the boat had already puked over the side, so that kind of planted the seed. I got through it though and went for another swim, we rotated, only going in the water in pairs, and swam really hard to keep up with some sharks and as I swam back to the boat, zowie, I started puking all over myself with no warning, vertically, while treading water. Blech, vomit and salt water {insert shudder here}, at least it’s easy to rinse off and I felt better immediately. Except that one of our boatmates was a know-it-all prick who could not stop pointing out what had just happened “ha ha ha, you sure fed the fish" {repeat ad nauseum, shameless pun intended}. I felt like such a wimp until we heard my seasoned travelling companion, still in the water doing the exact same thing! The third swim was the best, the whale sharks had slowed down and I was able to swim for a bit directly over one that was about a foot under me, with very little effort. I’m sure the puke diary will continue, but this was certainly my most worthy chapter.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The heck with dolphins

I could float in the warm, blue sea forever. Carefree. Weightless. No aches, no pains, just warmth and peace. There was so much salt in the water, the temperature of a warm bath, you couldn’t help but float, I tried diving in shallow water for some shells and couldn’t do it, kept popping back up. The currents were strong, so I could snorkel without even moving, the current carrying me along. Swimming against it is nearly impossible, it’s swimming in place and exhausting. Soft soothing sand on my feet, laying unter a thatched umbrella, someday, I hope, I will stop humming the theme to Gilligan’s Island.

I had many cocktails on the beach and thought I could suddenly hold my liquor until we realized they pretty much just waved the tequila bottle over the drinks or as R said, maybe had a spritzer bottle. Apparently you need to order a “double with a floater” which means, obviously a double shot and one poured on top. I was pretty happy though, with my frosty, fruity drinks and probably better off without any floaters. And if you’ve read David Sedaris... you don’t want any “floaters” in your drinks.

We snorkeled with whale sharks, inches from them, almost tangled up in them. Slow moving, peaceful, gentle giant creatures. swimming near the surface. Incredible to swim along with a fish, four, five, six times my length. Swimming right above them, whale shark, me and it’s gang of Remoras, living symbiotically. Each shark with it’s own groupies, it’s own enterouge.

We saw a giant sea turtle come up on the beach at midnight to dig a hole, lay her eggs and then stumble back into the black sea. We had a full moon, otherwise we’d not have seen a thing. I fell down on the jagged rocks trying to get a better look and as my leg lit up stinging I thought, that was soooooo worth it.

I scuba dived for the first time. It’s been a lifelong dream and a few years ago I thought about the fact that I’d never done it, never done so many things, bogged down in my life of minutia, of surviving each day, one by one. I thought, well, that window has closed, I don’t even know if I want to do it anymore, I’m so much more fear-based, claustrophobic. But I did it, was bouncing with excitement as we left for the boat, no fear, no anxiety. It was thrilling. Thrilling. And I was a rock star for a beginner. I loved it down there, no panic, just breathe in, breathe out. I was so disappointed when it was time to come up. I’m still intoxicated from it. My goal for this year is to learn spanish and get certified so I can do it again {and again}.

I’ve transferred my dolphin obsession to sea turtles. We saw a beauty while diving, and went to a hatchery the next day. You’re not supposed to touch them, but one of the turtles kept coming over to me in the open tank, so when no one was looking I put my hand in and touched his back and his flipper which he held out for me, seemingly intentionally. He looked at me as I stroked his head and now I have magic sea turtle healing power, I’m sure of it.

R had an underwater camera, so I have discs of pictures and videos to look at and show my boys who will hopefully be glad to see me when they get home tonight and also be impressed. Certainly, they should be impressed with the giant black sombrero adorned all in silver that just fit into my suitcase and awaits the next dress up day or halloween trek or movie set.

I’d like to say I’m happy to be home, but I’m not. There are dishes and laundry and dust bunnies and clutter. Bills to pay and an upcoming six weeks of dental appointments in preparation for losing my dental insurance. And regret, pointless regret that it took me this long to realize such a simple dream, that I’ve squandered so much time being bogged down. I am dreaming of the deep blue sea and my carefree floating self, my sore feet being massaged by the sand, and I am dreaming of sea turtles.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Oxford Comma

Summer seems to be winding down, only two and a half weeks until school starts which is unfathomable. I feel like I never got into the rhythm of summer. There were fits and starts but it never felt fluid. It seemed to always be too rainy or too hot, otherwise I can’t quite figure out why all those summer BBQs and get together’s never happened. Why the projects never got done. Where the warm summer nights roaming around the city went.

Nine months after treatment ended and I’m at loose ends, I’ve not settled into a new normal. I’m still fighting against a tide that is slowly pulling me in, to someplace that looks like, I know not, and it’s a little scary. A good portion of my income came from selling my work at shows and events. At the time I got sick, I was wanting to do this less, in favor of building up my wholesale business, I was sick of schlepping stuff around, but we do what we have to do. While friends kept my seasonal shop open, providing income while I was sick, my wholesale and consignment accounts dried up, my website became more and more out of date and overwhelming to deal with.

This summer I did what has always been my best show, figuring I could get through it to provide some desperate summer income. Turns out I made about a quarter of what I usually make there and got so over-exhausted I couldn’t lift my tent into my car for the first time ever. E-Z up tents really aren’t very heavy and this thing I’ve lugged around for years with ease was suddenly cemented to the pavement. I was so overheated, I threw up when I got home and could barely function for days. I shared a tent at a different show with a friend, to avoid the tent lugging but again, didn’t make much at all, not worth the work and exhaustion. Then they started an “artists pavilion” at WaterFire, our famous downtown event that draws tens of thousands. They were offering spots with tents, weights and lights already set up, so I figured that was perfect, I could manage that, and it’s a five minute drive from home.

I worked that last night, from 4p.m. to midnight, sales were just o.k. despite the throngs of people and packed tent from start to finish, I know some folks did fabulously, so I can’t blame the event at all, it just seems to be me. I feel like the Elves when they’re leaving Middle Earth, their time there is over, it just is. My time doing this is over, for so many, many reasons, and mostly because it just is like it or not. It's really not a decision any more, it just is.

After the event, I was rush, rush, rushing to pack up because the staff was hurrying to break down tents, and I didn’t want to hold them up or be in the way. I got my car loaded up, checked and double checked that everything was in safely, slammed the door and promptly, and quite efficiently took out my back window with a piece of metal gridwall that was sticking out an inch too far.

The creepy part is that I checked that it was in. Did my eyes trick me in the dark? Or did my eyes send the wrong information to my brain? I didn’t forget to check, I checked and still got it wrong. The sound of that tinted glass shattering was like the King of Gondor saying, and don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

My building has taken away a third of the space I use for Craftopia, and is charging me near the same rental fee, refusing to budge an inch, so there goes that income stream. The winter farmer’s market traffic that I depend on for my store’s foot traffic is losing the same space, so they’ll now be split into another part of the building which will dilute the foot traffic I get, also not good, not good at all. Each and every income stream I’ve spent years building is dwindling and I don’t know what my other options are.

I tried to apply for disability, but while from my whole working life I have a nice heap of social security credits, I don’t have enough credits in the past ten years because of being a stay-at-home mom, and then biz on the side thing. I love how politicians pay lip service to “being a mom is the most important job you can do”, but you're fucked if anything goes wrong, you are no more than the sum of your credits.

The whole social security system is rigged {like so many other things} against anyone that stays home with their kids for a good chunk of time. One’s social security payments will be based on a consecutive 35 year block of work. If you’ve been a stay-at-home, then likely, your work history is an income/no income sandwich with the zeros in the middle, therefore cutting into your 35 year block either way you slice it. Divorced former stay-at-home mom, and you are seriously on your own.

The tall one came home from camp yesterday, finally, I was so excited to see him, but I was working the event. He called and told me that a bunch of the counselors were hanging out at one of their houses in Cranston {a nearby suburb}, and could he go and sleep over. I was sad I wouldn’t see him yet, but I’m not gonna inflict that on the kid, so sure, of course he can go to Cranston as long as he gets a ride home. After unloading my glass filled car which entailed stomping back and forth through the perpetual puddle that is my sidewalk due to summer-long water main work, I sat down, now in the wee hours of the morning to confirm that my teenager was indeed where he was supposed to be. I recently put a geo locator on both the kids phones, both for safety and for truth checking and oddly, his phone was turned off which is very unusual and raised my suspicions. After a sleepless night of excruciating leg and foot cramps I checked this morning and lo and behold, Mr. when-have-I-ever-given-you-a-reason-not-to-trust-me is two and a half hours away in Connecticut.

Let the senior year games begin. While I’m disappointed in him, I’m mostly disappointed that I don’t get my perfect moment of seeing him, seeing him in my state of I-really-miss-you, with accompanying full and happy heart. I have a very pissed off heart right now.

Pissed off, demoralized, generally befuddled, and scraped up by little pieces of window glass.

However, on the topic of the Oxford comma, I use them. I didn’t used to, I rejected them entirely and didn’t even know they were legal. But when I discovered them, I started to use them more and more and now I absolutely, positively always use them. I like them a lot.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

English Breakfast

Oh joy, I’ve woken up to a living room chock full of camp counselors, from all over the globe no less. Full living rooms make me happy and mine has felt especially empty lately. Tall one has been camp counseloring for six weeks with one more to go and I’ve been missing him. Little dude isn’t one to have friends over and I’ve been spending my time sans kids home alone, not knowing what to do with myself and with tired body and fuzzy brain.

So while they’ll be out of here shortly and I’m keeping a respectful distance in the kitchen, I was able to provide some Providence Made {IRIE} English Breakfast tea to some charming brits who were craving a cup and I’m happy for the noise and that my son is well ensconsed with a lovely pack and I might even get my lawn mowed out of the deal. As there are about ten of them, they could do it relay style, each do a power lap and poof, it'll be done without anyone breaking a sweat.

Despite being in the hands of a good lawyer, I have still found it very stressful since being served with divorce papers. Papers that offer zero alimony and list my car and my business under his assets -- "value to be determined". There’s something very jarring about that when you’re in my precarious position. How on earth does this work? I bought that car well after we were separated. Are his new wardrobe and apartment full of furniture my assets? What about whatever gifts and meals he’s shared with his girlfriend? And what is my business other than me? Value to be determined, I feel violated. I suppose me and a bunch of scratched up ikea tables, cut-rate grid wall and found furniture, oh yeah, and rent, studio rent that is more and more difficult to pay.

I didn’t in my wildest dreams, or worst nightmares think we’d ever be reduced to this, never. But I underestimated a lot of things, sometimes being gullible can be funny, an endearing quality, sometimes not.

I’m trying to manage the stress with behavioral modification techniques, controlling what I allow myself to think about, clipping the mental loops of doom, I’m quite poor at this, especially, terribly bad. It will be what it will be despite my worry and panic. Stress is canciferous and so now, not only do I simply not enjoy it, it scares me, I fear it killing me by urging my RNA to replicate poorly.

I believe I have a rock solid case, I believe I’ll be fine once my supporting affidavits start pouring in, once they’ve been seen by a judge, but it’s going to be a long, painful slog and an ever worsening stomach ache.

I think it is cruel and unusual for anyone to inflict this on me now, at this particular juncture. I’ve had enough for a good long while and I want to focus on my rehab and learning how to walk without falling down, finding my bearings and it seems like there’s only one person in the whole wide world who doesn’t understand that cancer isn’t like getting the flu. You’re not just done, you’re never just done and you’re not who you are physically or mentally when you’re “all better”. Some people get all better, and I'm thrilled for them, although I'm sure they'll always worry. There are all different kinds and degrees of cancer, I had bad cancer with bad treatment options. There is no all better for me, there’s only making the very most of the rest of my life whatever it turns out to be and adjusting to a new normal where my body and my brain don’t look or work like they used to.

Even writing this makes my stomach churn, is this what it will be like for the next year? Never once during my diagnosis or illness did I ask “why me” or ponder the unfairness of it. Fair isn’t part of the deal, some people get sick, some don’t, we don’t know what causes cancer or M.S., or Lupus or an endless slew of other less than pleasant maladies or who will get them and why, but that’s just the way it goes, I drew the short straw, so be it, I hope I accepted the situation with grace. But this isn't fate, this is someone to whom I gave half of my life and to whom I was kind and supportive and who tortured me with apathy and disregard for decades, choosing to put me in the meat grinder and I can’t help but ask why me? why now? when do I get a break? I’m so tired, so weary, putting every ounce of energy into being the best parent I can be, and to stay afloat financially and yes, to experience a moment of joy every day because that's the whole point isn't it? O.K., focus on Mexico, focus on my amazing, beautiful friends, and my spectacular children. Focus on the present, the day to day, sticking with rehab at the Y, Mexico, Mexico, M E X I C O, and breathe, breathe, keep breathing.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Small Problems

Global warming is a hoax and we’re dwelling in post-racial America. Not. I’d still be wondering what happened to spring, why my kid was wearing long sleeves until the last week of school, but my swiss cheese brain has melted into a tiny puddle of goo.

I can’t fathom how a man who chooses to carry a gun, chooses to whirl himself into that adrenaline feuled state, who stalks another person, causing them fear and terror, causing them to be in an adrenaline feuled state isn’t culpable for what results. It kills me to hear the Zimmerman’s saying that the tall, skinny teenager with a pocket full of skittles was also armed, he used the pavement as a deadly weapon. Well, seems to me that the pavement was quite innocuous until Mr. Zimmerman turned it into a weapon by stalking a stranger and scaring them into protecting themselves with whatever means necessary. And that assumes that the boy did smash the man’s head into the pavement, I don’t know, I wasn’t there, but I do know who left their home armed with a gun and looking for trouble, and who went out to get a snack. Was the young man a perfect model of youth? Don't know, don't care. That night he causing trouble for anyone, just strolling along with a snack in his pocket and a girl on the phone, minding his own business before getting scared shitless and then getting dead.

Where was the suggestion that “excuse me sir, are you lost?” might have clued Mr. Z into what this young man was “up to”. A simple act of civility or minding his own damned business because someone isn’t suspicious until they’re jimmying open a door or climbing through a window and even that, very often has a logical explanation. Lost keys perhaps? You know when you intervene Mr. Citizen? When someone's getting attacked, when there's already violence going on, you intervene or you call for help.

Mr. Zimmerman is an adult. Adults should know not to stalk other people, especially if they’re afraid of them. They call the police, they keep watch from a safe distance or they go home. We are not a well-ordered militia.

I also don’t understand why prosecutors allow themselves to be outflanked, was going to say, outgunned, but that’s too awful a pun. There must have been many willing, able, civil rights attorneys willing to consult pro-bono, how is it that the prosecution in these big cases are the only ones who don’t read the news, they might have gotten a clue, that in fact, there was a smattering of racial profiling going on. Why do they allow themselves to get clobbered this way? Did they want to loose? I’m not one for conspiracy theories and I really don’t care if there was a second shooter, I just know JFK is dead, but what gives with this ineptitude?

My heart hurts for every ethnic parent of a son, who has to have the uncomfortable conversation with their boys that I’ll never have to have with mine. How to behave when the police pull them over for being black, probably over and over, how to handle strangers fearing them with no cause, how to handle the fear and stupidity and recklessness of lesser people, small-minded, yet arrogant people.

I’d go on and on, but I have an overheated, grumpy little person downstairs stomping around to get my attention. My problems are small.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Tax Time

I’m sitting in my accountants office waiting to do my taxes, but he’s been on a conference call for the last 50 minutes with a client and their estate planning attorney, I've been listening so long, I've figured out who the players are. He's a good guy and since he’s patient with my disorganization over the years, I can put up with his. I feel funny sitting here listening to this maddening conversation with a big, old, red-eyed dog sleeping on my feet. I know way too much about how much Elsie and the kids are inheriting. I think it's a sheep dog, he is big.

I was in whole foods the other night picking up something for dinner at the prepared food bar. I was getting hot food and the round cardboard containers I prefer weren’t present in the medium size. The large size seemed wastefully large and the fold up cardboard containers always leak. So I grabbed a medium sized plastic container and while filling it up I noticed a large man hovering. I thought he wanted to go next, but not so lucky. As soon as I snapped on the lid he loudly accosted me with “so you must really like having petroleum products mixed in with your food”. I was in my grocery store haze, end of day, very hungry daze and it took a minute to register, so I stammered, “oh, plastic container, hot food, I know I’m not supposed to do this, but they were out of the containers I usually use.” You should have used the large one, he told me, but apparently you enjoy leeching petroleum into what you eat, would you pour crude oil on your food, because you're doing the same thing. Then he went into how much I must love big oil and how I shouldn’t even shop there if I’m going to just put my organic food into plastic and mix it with petroleum, I’m wasting my money. I gotta say, I was just shell shocked and when he launched into the evils of the plastic water bottles which I wasn't even buying, I started walking away, faster, and he followed me, towered over me, but then I ran into someone I know and just turned my back and started talking, babbling really, because I was kind of shaken up, the whole encounter was so surreal, and so hostile. It’s awful when someone pops out of thin air just to tell you how stupid you are.

Oh my god, it’s been over an hour now and the estate planner's voice is really irritating. This appointment was supposed to be a joyous occasion where I cap off my week of productivity. I’ve retained my lady lawyer, my refinance is in the approval pipeline, my taxes are soon, so soon to be done. They’re confusing the shit out of this poor multi-million dollar business owner, lawyers, ugh. He seems like a really nice man, the lawyer is a pitbull and she’s on his side. I already know there are five kids, not sure if any are shared or they both came into the marriage with kids, I'm pretty sure it's a second marriage for at least one of them. He's a farmer, he's a nice man and direct. When he tries to be funny with the lawyer, it's like he's speaking a different language to her, I know that feeling. Oh snap, he just said, really calmly, "I am really confused, I really don't know what the hell you're talking about." Me neither, I can't follow her at all, she's making things wildly confusing. Yep, make a problem for someone and then charge them to fix it. My accountant, I don't even know where he is, he keep leaving, I think he's pretty bored too.

The length of this appointment is going to cut into my gym time and defeat my goal of getting there 3x this week. Fair market value, insurance policies, who’s taking over the business, what if this one dies before that one, yikes!

70 minutes, I’m getting impatient. I’m not even sure why my accountant is on this call, he’s spoken up once.

Luckily Elsie has gotten an inheritance, so she’s all set either way.

Oh, at last my taxes are done, phew, but I’m too late for the gym, I’ll try again next week.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Upside, Downside

90° heat is not a good time to misplace the cat brush. There are tufts of fur flying around the room seeking places to affix themselves, like my sweaty self, blech. The air conditioned bedroom in which I’m sequestered, organizing my getting-later-by-the-day tax documents is too hot for clothes even with the window unit. The missing boobies really do have an upside. I can sit here shirtless very comfortably, no girls jiggling around, getting in the way, no sweat underneath, no stuffing my sweaty parts into a bra and definitely no nip-slips although I worry about scar slips, it seems to me no one's supposed to see that, but maybe I'm wrong, I'm constantly hiking up my shirts, so it's not showing. Not an optimal situation, but there really are quite a few benefits, I can sleep comfortably on my stomach, I can trampoline without self-consciousness, all sorts of things. I am, however annoyed that every tankini top has built-in bras, underwire bras or dominant pleats. Anything called a mastectomy top has built in foam falsies with a corresponding high neck, hideous, yuck... that is just silly and uncomfortable.

I had the best of intentions the other night. As large one is counseloring away at camp and little dude is at his dad’s, I decided to take a break and go to the gym, I checked on-line and it said that they were open until 9p.m. on Saturday. I headed over at about 6 and lo and behold they were closed, I guess some people have better things to do on a Saturday night. I was so proud of myself for making myself go and they thwarted me. I stopped at the grocery store on the way home and bought lasagne and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, talk about good intentions gone awry. I settled into the couch to watch t.v., with my pint of ice cream which I didn’t even bother to put in a bowl... I knew I was gonna eat the whole thing and I realized I’m a cliché. Lonely, middle aged woman eating pints of ice cream and then being horrified that clothes don’t fit. Not good, not good at all!

My goal for this week is to get to the gym three times, I want to get into a Monday, Wednesday, Friday routine which would be great, I’d feel great, my heart would be happy and healthy and I’d be lowering my chances of a recurrence, but it’s so damned time consuming. My workout takes about 1.25 to 1.5 hours, add in commute of 40 minutes round trip and that’s a good chunk of the child-free part of the day and pretty much everything else takes me longer than it used to.

The heat is aggravating my neuropathy and while I don’t notice it in my hands as much as my feet, I do notice how much slower I am at work, that I’m constantly dropping things  and fumbling... I’ve become a fumbler and a wobbler, and as for the feet, they’re not happy. My big toenails were a little too long and I stubbed my toe, which you do a lot when you can only partially feel your feet and my toenail bent back and snapped right off, impairing my pedicure situation. It seems a little too short to paint which is important because the trip has been booked! Yes indeedy, I am going to Mexico {Isle Mujeres} in a mere five weeks, I am so excited, I could cry, o.k., I did cry. I haven’t been this excited since I don’t know when. Downside, you stub your toes a lot, upside, it doesn’t hurt, cause the reason you’re stubbing your toe is because you can’t feel it.

My dear, dear, wonderful friend and gay husband, because he accidentally booked us the honeymoon package is treating me to this most amazing trip. He’s in the middle of a breakup which is really sad to me, but does have the upside of me getting him all to myself for a week {and it’s all about the upsides, right?} and he pointed out that if he were going with X, he’d have to spend 3x as much money just on himself, because X likes the luxe life. I’ve never quite experienced the luxe life, but damn, am I game. I’m grandpa in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang -- it’s the posh life for me. The place we’re going is gorgeous and cheap cause it’s August and I guess people don’t want to be in Mexico in August and the deals are amazing. I figure it will be hot everywhere and I’d rather be hot somewhere with ocean outside my door, crystal white sand and a jacuzzi on my balcony. And half-gay married for a week to boot what could be better?  In the time it took us to commit, the Regular room turned into a Deluxe room and then a Deluxe Suite for less and less money, I guess you have to hit that sweet spot of waiting until almost the last minute, but not the very last minute where you won't get a flight. I’ve known R since I was 18 and he was 20. We went to the same high school but didn’t know each other -- big school, different grades. My last summer at home my friend was dating his friend and so we were always at the same place at the same time and we became friends instantly, like seriously, motherfucking friends for life, instantly. I didn’t know he was gay at the time, always wondered why he wouldn't flirt with me, pompous little brat that I was, although really didn’t care, I was in it for the friend thing, we’re so much alike, it’d be like dating myself and that could be ugly. He was living in disguise as a dull as daisies, not meant to be, heterosexual, and pretty damned tortured at that, despite knowing his whole life he was gay, living an inauthentic life because he just plain didn’t want to be gay. He’d heard and seen what people say about gay people and there are so, so many things to be afraid of, and back then, no one was saying “it gets better.” This makes me angry, because when my friend finally came out of the closet and embraced his true self you could nearly see the burden lifted, he is such a happier person and he’s someone who deserves to be happy, I can’t think of a finer human being albeit, sorry for him, equally neurotic as I. I love this man more than I can say. We’ve never lived in the same city, but we have always kept in touch and visited although not as often as we could or should.

I’m beside myself with excitement. I’ve got my passport which I take out of the dresser drawer and caress regularly and have already had my first travel anxiety dream, but we’ll leave that for Dr. Freud... you know, missed the flight even though I was at the gate, they insisted I wasn’t, I guess I’d turned invisible, forgot to pack a suitcase and had to rush home, went to the wrong airport, and the airport was also a furniture store, go figure.

Here’s the best part though... it’s Whale Shark season down there... they swim in large pods close to the surface and are slow moving, so if we are lucky we will see them and swim with them because they’re gentle giants. I’ll get my chance to swim with the magical healing dolphins and there’s a turtle sanctuary and I’d suppose a margarita or two.

Yay for gay marriage!

Jonah is being a good sport, he asked a few times, “um, why are you going on vacation and I’m not?” and I just straight up told him “because you won’t swim and hate the beach and I need to spend a week swimming with the fishies, my soul needs it and you'd be bored silly.” “o.k.” he says, he gets it.

Don’t bother reading this if you don’t know the tune or love grandpa, it just isn’t worth it:
This is livin', this is style, this is elegance by the mile
Oh the posh posh traveling life, the traveling life for me
First cabin and captain's table regal company
Whenever I'm bored I travel abroad but ever so properly
Port out, starboard home, posh with a capital P-O-S-H, posh
The hands that hold the scepters, every head that holds a crown
They'll always give their all for me they'll never let me down
I'm on my way to far away tah tah and toodle-oo
And fare thee well, and Bon Voyage arrivederci too
O the posh posh traveling life, the traveling life for me
First cabin and captain's table regal company
Pardon the dust of the upper crust--fetch us a cup of tea
Port out, starboard home, posh with a capital P-O-S-H, posh

Friday, July 5, 2013


I can be chatty as the next gal, sometimes I chat with folks while waiting in line and sometimes I don’t, and I hope I always pick up on non-verbal cues as to whether someone wants to chat back.

Today, I was in line at the post office, undeserved care package in hand, because PayPal decided Wakefield, RI wasn’t a real place and wouldn’t print a shipping label for me. A woman followed me in, yapping all the way. She had to leave the beach early today because her M.S. was acting up, “I’m sorry to hear that”. M.S. is the silent disease she informed me, “yes, there are many of those.” Her dude wanted to stay, what the hell? is he trying to prove he can be darker than she is? you know people go to the beach because they want to be black, and of course black people want to be white and people get their hair permed so it’s curly and people with curly hair get it straightened. And yes, we were on line with a bunch of black people and I’m really hoping they didn’t hear that last comment. All the while she’s talking to me, clearly one snap crackle away from a full box, or maybe not, she is not slyly, but aggressively, changing places with me, so we’re starting this dance of supremecy, but pretty quickly I decided it would be best to just let her cut in front of me, because I’d had enough of looking at her leopard print bra and excessive cleavage busting out of her ugly, way too short dress. I might be obsessed with boobies, but these girls were not attractive. Cut she did, just glided on past without a care, well, except for the heat and the M.S., and how early the post office’s close out in the sticks where she's from, livin’ out there, “no thanks!” I planted my feet firmly on the floor as the line moved forward to put a larger and larger gap between us, but she just began twisting around to yell commentary back at me, even when it was her turn at the counter where she was surprisingly rude to the clerk. BFF’s. I lingered, I did not want to run into that chick in the parking lot. I blame PayPal for this.

Just like last year, every day when I pick Jonah up at camp there are folks parked in the two handicapped spots sans permits. Even more maddening is that there is a space between the two, filled with painted diagonal lines to indicate “no parking, this is not a space” because parking in it renders both handicapped spaces too narrow to utilize. Every damned day if miraculously there’s a free handicapped space, one of a medly of giant SUVs is obtrusively parked in the middle space.

The other day, a woman was putting her small child in the car, while parked in one of the aforementioned spaces and I very politely, in a steady monotoned voice used for such occassions, said, “excuse me, maam, are you aware that you’re parked in a handicapped space?” Yes she was, but she was only going to be there a few minutes. “I’m sorry, but that’s not o.k., you are still illegally parked in a handicapped space.” “I told you I was rushing, I’m going as fast as I can.” I replied, still nauseatingly politely that that just didn’t matter, she was parked in a handicapped space thus preventing someone who legitimately needs it from parking there. And then she let loose and started yelling. She knew all about handicapped spaces, her brother had a brain injury and he eventually died from it, and she has a lot of things going on in her life right now, she was going through a lot, and I had no idea what she was going through and blah, blah, blah. “I’m very sorry for your troubles, but you know, we all have them and they don’t suspend the rules of the road and it's still not o.k. to park in a handicapped space with out a permit.” I really am an obnoxious dog with a bone with this, but it's become my cause, my pet peeve x10. I don’t think she was agreeing with me, as she slammed her car door and almost ran me over, not BFF’s. I should have told her that M.S. is the silent disease. Which actually it is, M.S. sucks, I just don’t want to hear about it from very tan strangers with skanky bra’s invading my personal space. I wonder if post office lady thought I had a perm. I kind of look like I have a perm, a perm gone bad, turned to a life of crime. In a few weeks I’ll legitimately look like Medusa with a head full of adolescent snakes that could jump out and bite you any time. No worries though, I’m teaching them good manners, especially when it comes to parking ettiquette.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Little dude has dragged himself across the finish line of sixth grade, barely. From the last day of school on Friday, and the first day of camp on yesterday, a whole new person has been born, J is a boy of extremes. We’ve gone from misery, to unadulterated joy, silliness, happiness and plain old one with the world in a matter of hours. The wattage in his eyes is turned up a notch and it’s all good in Jonah’s world, and that means all is right in mine. Additionally, it’s been five days since I’ve heard from the sockless wonder or the camp nurse, so things must be going well there as well.

I have been trapped in a vortex of paper work, and paper work is my nemesis. I can never keep pages and information straight and I always find even the most direct questions ambiguous when they’re written down, expecting a concrete answer sans windy explanation is near impossible for me. I have papers to fill out for the divorce attorney, the bank refinance folks and the tax man which are all somewhat dependent upon each other, it’s a game of which came first, the chicken or the egg. I just don’t know what I spend each month on “toiletries and cosmetics”, “hair care”, or “entertainment and recreation”. Hell, I don’t even know what I spend on gas each month, let alone clothes... for me and then the kids, haven’t a clue. I pretty much had a rough estimate for groceries, but then I got to “toiletries and cosmetics” and realized I’d have to separate out toilet paper, Q-tips and shampoo. Are paper towels groceries or toiletries? What about the one time recent expenditure on clippers so I can save money by buzzing Griffin’s hair, which I’ve only done once, by the way, and it was really fun! Two months ago, my cosmetics expenditure would have been $0 but now I’ve got this nail polish thing. So you figure one bottle at $8 lasts two months, so that’s $4 a month on cosmetics. But what if I want a vast color selection? Is that a reasonable expenditure, or do I list just one sad utilitarian bottle? Oh shoot, I forgot about a top coat, need a bottle of that. Actually, I bought three bottles of the same color and I was at a party last week and someone saw my toes and said “bikini so teeny?” YES! Hot damn, I met someone with an obsession for the same color, small damned world! Seriously, that happened, it was a moment. There’s a section for pet care, so I deducted $10 per month for cat food, I’ve stopped taking the twins to the vet because they don’t go outside and I see no signs of pre-existing rabies. There’s a section for tobacco and alcohol and mine’s a six-pack every 4 months or so, so maybe I’ll leave that out and add on some more nail polish. “Entertainment and Recreation?” I mean how about if they look at the income and then just tell each of us how much we should be spending on tobacco, alcohol, entertainment, recreation and toiletries. And then, of course, there's all the spray paint I bought last week, what category does that go in?

I saw my oncologist today, for my 3 1/2 month visit. As if the insurance companies deem 3 months to often and 4 months too infrequent, I am told to go every 3 1/2 months. I am really quite thrilled to say that this was the first appointment where nothing new cropped up, nothing, gorgeous, beautiful nothing. Yes, my liver function tests are still to high, but they’re no higher than they were and I still have too much iron in my bloodstream, but no more than before and my cancer markers are steady, so I’m considering this a very successful visit. My oncologist confirmed to me that my current plan is a good one and trust me, he’s not a touchy, feely guy. My job right now is to raise my children and take care of my health. That taking the time to make green smoothies and go to the gym is far more important than anything else. And unfortunately, my feet aren’t going to get any better and my job is to learn to live with this disability and not pretend I can do more than I can. As in, no, I’m not getting a job stocking shelves at stop and shop or as infamous opposing attorney #1 suggested, getting a job at McDonald’s. I plan on getting my paperwork done. Word to the wise, let sleeping dogs lie, now that I’ve been kicked a few times, I’m seeing things a bit more clearly and am feeling much more motivated to advocate for myself. But as I am quite incompetent at that, being the most gullable pushover ever, who caves in before even being asked for something, and because my brain is also still in recovery, I am filling out my forms and simply handing them off to an attorney instructing her to be human, but to do the very best for me she can and I want no part of any negotiating. Hell, I have to pay her the same amount whether I’m a part of the negotiations or not, why be a part of that yuckiness? If we wind up in court, I’ll show up then and answer anything I’m asked. And then, so long secondary insurance... and vision and dental too.

I’ve realized that the mythology of my marriage was that I was in control... I was in control of nothing... I wasn’t the one getting my way, because my way would have been to have been in a lively, loving, mutual relationship that was growing, changing, deepening, evolving. My way would have been to have a life moving forward, not the static and then regressing mess I wound up with. Sure I had a role to play, but no, I wasn't in control, that was a deception. No, that was an urban legend, I wasn’t getting my way, and I didn’t get my way in several important areas of our pre-canciferous agreement, but I think I’d like to start... getting my way that is.

I’m stepping off the gerbil wheel. Deep breathe in, deep breathe out. I have a hot date tonight with a fez-wearing sweetie pie, for chinese food and Doctor Who {Tom Baker era} where of course, we gasp and laugh at the same split second, guaranteed. Life is good, even with stacks of partially filled out forms and co-pay bills everywhere I look.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Critter Meets Dope, Socks Pay The Price

I almost deleted the last piece, thought maybe it was a citable case of TMI, but then I had the hugest realization and so I can’t stop now, gotta finish what I started.

I realized the link. That due to the reactions of others, the rules, and my own insecurity, feelings of guilt and being told from such an early age that I “imagined” things {no I didn’t, people were doing things they shouldn’t have been doing and it took me years to realize I’d imagined nothing, in fact I’d downplayed and still do, but I am trained to question reality}... Claudia has been just another deep, dark, secret, something so important, and something that is so much a part of who I am, but something I always regret talking about, because I wind up feeling somehow diminished, or ashamed or that I’ve done something inappropriate, or that I imagined the whole thing... I’ve gotten the message that there are some things we’re not supposed to talk about. Maybe I feel weak for my inability to let it go. It was a long time, many years before I realized that it would never go away, but would only recede to the point of being manageable, and it is, but it is the reason I have been so open and upfront and in your face about having cancer, which I hadn't realized. I think I was simply unwilling to have another dirty, little, secret and a lot of people treat cancer that way. We want cancer to be pretty pink ribbons and delude ourselves there’s a cure for every one and every thing, so we can feel safe and comfortable. Enough is enough I suppose, and we all reach our limit of going along quietly, so I wasn’t going to be embarrassed or ashamed about having cancer, so I didn’t wear a wig, I didn’t get reconstruction, I didn’t feel sorry for myself, and sorry, but I did'nt worry about the discomfort of others {too much anyway}. This is the first time I’ve realized there’s a link between the two experiences and how I’ve dealt with them other than being prepared for a cancer diagnosis because I’m used to bad things happening.

Anyway, enough of that, back to important things like raccoons eating my son’s socks. Except here’s something else, that I can’t help but ponder. I’m not joking when I talk about my eldest boy being the luckiest person I’ve ever met and anyone who has intersected with him, knows I’m not exaggerating, it’s simply a natural phenomena. And while I don’t believe in god or fairies directing the show, there is definitely some linkage between my bad luck and his good... it’s the universal strand that runs through us all, the equalizer, it’s the powers that be, whatever the heck they may be, balancing the pendulum... we cancel each other out, we are, ying and yang. I have had some serious bad luck and what I’ve written about is really the tip of the iceberg, it’s almost comical when I go through it in my mind, it’s a black comedy, but yeah, I guess that’s why I’m relentless because all I’ve ever wanted is to be happy, to have a simple happy life and one time after another, since I was a little kid, pianos keep landing on my head... in a really disproportionate way, my goals are small and simple, but crazy things are always bonking me upside the head {and heart}. Which brings me back to Griffin, and when it’s your own kid being charmed, it really is a beautiful thing to behold, so I guess that’s my karmic payback although like everything else, it has it’s good and bad sides, because it can’t last forever and he’s totally unprepared for any kind of failure or turning of tides. I just need it to last through the college application process, because this has turned into my quest too, I guess it always was, and is for us all. I need to see him wind up in the right place and with a great, big, giant, obscene financial aid package, and I’m greedy in my desires and I’m convinced it’s gonna happen, so yes, I need the luck to hold in that regard even though at times, I’ve started to root against him, which will bring us back to the raccoons, I swear. But yeah, beyond all else, I've got to get my kid the best possible position on the starting line of life, that's my job, and to me, the starting line is the first day of college, the best possible college for him, that will do the most for him. Help him become the best, most amazing person he can be, help him figure out how the world works {cause I haven't got a clue}, and he's got some serious potential for a really beautiful life. Once I get him to the gate, it's out of my hands, I'm not a helicopter parent, I'll be there for him, of course, as long as I can, but things change, there's a seismic shift when he gets to the starting line.

Griffin is gorgeous, charming {when not at home}, popular, effortlessly smart, confident as all get out, comfortable in his own skin, good at every single thing he’s ever had interest in trying. He has been obsessed with balls {puleeze, keep your mind out of the gutter} since he was born and is above averagely good at every sport he’s tried and despite having no height on either side of his family he has busted all bell curves and grown to near 6'4" to further his football throwing prospects and abilities {and dazzle the girls and look good in a suit}. Each spring the school baseball and tennis teams fight over him, baseball always wins, but he’s quite a good lefty pitcher and loves being part of a team. He goes to prom with the prom queen, he’s dating the senior valedictorian, his teachers love him, he’s confident, he can carry a freaking tune. If he buys a raffle ticket he wins and the only thing I’ve ever won is a baseball bat, so who really won there? He gets his first pick of teachers, of teams, he wins and wins and wins and he does so pretty darned effortlessly.

The result of this besides utterances of “you know... life is good when you’re me” is a lack of empathy for those for which things don’t come so easily, a bit of cockiness, which coaches apparently love, and will probably take him far in life, even if it's maddening from my perspective, and well, sheer laziness. And, um, he’s got a mom that’s soft and gullible and has spoiled him, but without, he will not watch game of thrones, because he is loyal too.

I truly enjoy this kid's company, I love him to death, I will eternally miss having him around when he goes next year, but that doesn't mean he doesn't drive me up the wall and back down again and we always start spatting at the end of the school year because I feel like he’s not studying for finals, which he’s not, but then he gets A’s and he gets the last laugh, and because he’s spending too much time staring zombie-like at screens {always his achilles heel along with a bit of bad sportsmanship}, when he should be packing for camp, or mowing the lawn, or so many other things. Same as always this year and I get the usual “I know what I’m doing” and then he leaves for camp and the S.O.S. calls, and texts begin. This year he is a counselor, yay, they pay him instead of I pay them. Naturally, he wants to be assigned to Senior Hill where the oldest campers, 14/15-year-olds dwell, and is also the best real estate in the place, a clearing right on the lake, divine, the girls get stuck in the woods with all the bugs. I want him assigned to the younger-the-better kids because I want him to learn some responsibility, I want him to work, I want him to realize that his younger brother is really, really not a bratty pest. I’m feeling pretty good about getting what I want here “you’re a first year counselor, you're only 17, get real, they’re not giving you senior hill.” “So and so really likes me, I’m getting senior hill,” “we’ll see.” And I am soooooo rooting against my own son. Yeah, you can see the punchline coming a mile away, he’s on senior hill.

The first day he texts and asks me to send a flashlight and some washcloths. Two days later he calls and wants a padded cover or some such thing for his thin bunk mattress, they’ve been fine all these years, but now it’s too uncomfortable and then he texts and asks me to send socks. “Socks? are you kidding me? you didn’t even remember to pack socks? see, I kept telling you, less facebook, more focusing on the task at hand, and you’d have what you need and I wouldn’t have to spend my week running around doing errands for you.” “It’s not what you think, it’s not my fault, raccoons ate my socks.” “Yeah, right!” “Really, it wasn’t my fault, my trunk was open {not I left my trunk open}, there were cheetos in there and the raccoons got in and went crazy and the camp had to set a lot of raccoon traps, it’s not my fault.” “dude... open trunk + open cheetos = what the heck did you think was gonna happen?” And what is he doing with cheetos? and he’s a counselor and omg please don’t let anyone drown on his watch.

Senior hill, puleeze, he’s going to have those poor 15-year-olds waiting on him hand and foot. Yep, that is one lucky kid!

But he’s my lucky knucklehead, so ha-ha, I swear on my life, he’s going to Colby College with a gigantic financial aid package! And, I have a great new rule for when he comes home, inspired by the fact that I’m still cleaning out the toxic, wheezing, drowning, tornado victim that is his room -- he can only borrow my car if I can see his floor {oh baby!}, and that includes under the bed and closet too. I can’t wait! Last year while he was gone, I took his xbox and hid it for 6-months, that’s how mad I got at him and now that he has it back, he hardly ever plays, it’s beautiful, but facebook, that damned temptress facebook. I'm a pushover, but by the end of the school year, he's pushed me to my limit with his bottomless pit of need and refusal to help in ways that he should be helping. He can only charm me so far and for so long and believe me... it goes pretty darned far.

I’ve also decided that while he’s gone, I want to play lots and lots of ping pong. I need a ping pong master to guide me because once, just once, I want to beat that kid at ping pong. This is the guy who can roll two Yahtzees in a row, and can catch a ball from behind and with his eyes closed and can do freaking calculus. I’m pinning my unlikely hopes on ping pong, so if you want to practice with me, let me know. Honestly, all I want for my impending 50th birthday is to beat my son at ping pong, demand that he be a good sport and then gloat for the rest of my life... once, just once, that's all I want.