Stuff I Could Do Without: June 2012 edition

It has been a long time since I compiled a pet-peeve list, but I’d like to purge my aggravations and start July off with a clean slate. I promise to keep it to June 2012 incidents:

1. Last week I metaphorically gave Fate and superstition the finger and boldly pointed out to John that our washer and dryer are approaching 14 years old and we have never had one single, solitary issue with either one of them. Then my dryer abruptly stopped working. The repair was about $120, and the repairman told us that further repairs would be necessary soon. S’yeeeah… I guess we’re in the market for a new dryer. I just hope that Fate doesn’t double-down and decide to mess with our washer too.

2. I feel like a jerk for writing this because at this moment they are cuddled up sweetly together, but the girls’ bickering back and forth–GAH! They did so well together while we were in Florida, so I guess I shouldn’t complain. They argue about all the stupid crap sisters usually argue about, but the way they argue has this tween-age girl drama in which everything is Such A Big Deal, and they have both been So Wronged, and How Dare She Do That To Me. Considering Little Miss G is nine, and Super L is only six years old, I know that this is Just The Beginning. I’ve been telling John for years that when Super L is 12 and Little Miss G is  15, we are soooo incredibly In For It. I think he sees that now.

3. Summer has come blasting in like some kind of demon-possessed wench with a vengeance. We are on the third consecutive day of temps over 100, with a forecast of at least three more. It’s currently 9 p.m. and 91 face-melting degrees. On Tuesday a cool front is supposed to come through and it will only reach 95. Oh yipee.

Last and definitely not least….

4. I have poison ivy. Badly. I’ve been trying not to complain about it because I got it doing a good deed for somebody I love, and I don’t want to taint something that I feel good about with negativity. In fact, I kind of scoffed earlier this week about the poison ivy and the dryer breaking because both those incidents happened, coincidentally, as I was doing something for someone else. I made the remark that if the devil was trying to deter me from staying the course, it wasn’t going to work and that I actually found it funny. Well, I’m staying the course — I’m still trying to put love into action,  but I’m not laughing any more. Every morning I wake up to find a new section of my arms, legs or torso infiltrated by whelps and rash. This is even with a six-day course of prednisone.  I told John that I’d be curious to know what my blood pressure is right now, because I am sure it’s elevated. I can feel the stress in my sometimes trembling hands, low-grade headache, shallow breathing and slightly tight feeling in my chest. All from higher blood pressure induced by the constant resistance to scratch.

5. [Related to 4]. All the conflicting advice on how to treat poison ivy. Calomine lotion or not? Hydrocortizone cream or not? Aveeno bath or not? Oral steroids or not? I’ve tried it all. Some relieve the itch, but clearly nothing has stopped the spreading. The internet, as usual, is full of home remedies. The most infuriating to me are those nitwits who post answers like “Don’t scratch it!” Really? As if that needed to be made loud and clear. I have succeeded about 98% of the time this past week to not scratch, and when I do relent, I keep it light and local (so as not to aggravate the itchy patch more or spread the rash to unaffected areas). Despite my self control, this rash has spread from exactly 3 tell-tale, small marks on Monday to full-on rashy ickiness covering about half of the area all of my extremeties.

So what about you? Is there anything you’d like to do away with before July arrives? Feel free to vent those frustrations here. It’s a safe place.

 

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It’s hard to not worry when they keep telling you not to worry.

Since summer break began, I have already had two “firsts.” Last weekend was the first time I ever participated in a Komen Race for the Cure. And, coincidentally enough, a few days before that I  had my first-ever mammogram! Whee!

I’ll spare you the up-close and uncomfortable details of the mammogram, because let me tell you, they are up-close and uncomfortable. But, since I’m not 25 anymore–or even 30 anymore–my doctor said it was time to get a “baseline” done so that when I hit 40 (the age at which boobies begin to change faster), they have a younger picture to compare it to and identify any potential areas of concern. No problem. Especially since the imaging center was efficient, courteous, and running on schedule. The technician told me I would receive a letter in about a week with my test results. She said about 50 percent of the time patients are asked to come back for a follow-up test because the doctors want to take a closer look, and it is really nothing to worry about if that happens to me because of that 50 percent who have to come back, like, over 90 percent are given a clean bill of health. Okay, duly noted. I am not a worrier-over-nothing by nature, so I was cool.

So off I skipped away from that appointment noting how funny it was–these coincidences. Six weeks ago when my mom asked me if I wanted to walk in the Komen Race for the Cure with her this year, I had no idea that my doctor was going to recommend a mammogram. Funny how these two firsts would happen within 72 hours of each other.

The Race was, to put it simply, amazing. I live near a major metropolitan area, and this city’s annual Komen Race is one of the largest in the country–as in over 64,000 participants, over 4,900 survivors, and millions of dollars raised for breast cancer research. I was walking that day with my mom, a few of her good friends, my uncle Eric, and my uncle’s wife, Brenda, who is a two-year breast cancer survivor. The significance of this event was not lost on me. First, just the sheer size and energy of the crowd is enough to make an impression. Then I began looking at all the t-shirts. There were teams with t-shirts bearing the images of women, young and old, some with children on their laps, with the words, “In loving memory of…” These women were beautiful, vibrant, even joyful in their pictures. Some people wore the names of individual women and men on tags pinned to their shirt. No pictures but names…. “my beautiful mama Joyce,” “my auntie Suzanne.” One woman had five names listed on her tag. Five. All in all, it was a joyful atmosphere, but one could sense an underlying solemnity in some of the groups and teams that gathered. I saw some teams shedding tears together. Some teams were jubilant. Babies, survivors in their pink-shirts, men, women, young and old, all colors, all ethnicities. Mom and I were impressed by how many how many young men were walking in groups together. You know, guys who were old enough that their moms could make them be there, yet they were not walking with girlfriends, moms, aunts, whoever. Maybe they were there because their employers sponsored a team. Who cares? The point is they got their butts out of bed at a crazy early hour on a Saturday to get downtown to walk with 64,000 other people the the heat. They were there.

Once the walking part of the race got underway, because you know 64,000 people aren’t all going to run, just the movement of the group and jockeying to stay with your team becomes the focus, but everybody was very sweet. Once the crowd found its pace, and spread out into comfortable groups, it was possible to separate the walkers from the bystanders, and the bystanders cheered for everyone as if we were actually running. Everyone had pink in their clothing, but all-pink shirts are reserved for breast cancer survivors, and when a survivor walked by, the bystanders really cheered like crazy. It was wonderful to see my Aunt Brenda get that kind of support and affirmation from complete strangers.

At a certain point in the route, there is a slight hill, and I could finally see what was ahead of me.

This is what I saw behind me.

All those tiny, white dots? That river of white up ahead and behind? Those are all people. And that wasn’t even everybody. At that point in the race route, some people were already past the finish line. This was the point where the goosebumps and the tears came for me. It was amazing to see so many people from all walks of life, young and old, every color, every ethnicity, some walking because their employer sponsored a team, some walking because their families and friends have been stricken with this disease. In the end, it doesn’t matter why a person was there. Everyone was united for a common cause for a few hours that morning. That felt so very good to my heart and spirit.

Four days after the Race, I got my letter from the imaging center. My mammogram showed an area of concern. I wasn’t worried, like they said, no need to at this stage. I was more bummed that I would have to make two more phone calls and schedule another appointment. My first call was to be to my regular doctor. Her nurse talked me through the whole need for the follow up. There is an area on the left side that is of some concern. It is probably just thickening tissue which happens as we get older. The radiologist just wants a clearer look at the area. She assured me that there was no need to worry. “I understand,” I told her. “The technician who did my first test told me this happens quite a bit with baseline tests, so I wasn’t too surprised about the letter.” “Oh, good,” the nurse replied. “Okay, well if you have any follow up questions, just call us. Go ahead and schedule the appointment for whenever it’s convenient for you. This is not an emergency, so don’t worry.”

Dude.

Didn’t I just say I wasn’t? I know they probably have to give this same news to a lot of women who jump to scary conclusions, so they’re just being professional and doing their job and being reassuring, I get that. In fact, they probably say it out of habit, really. This is what I told myself as I hung up with the nurse and dialed the number for the imaging center to schedule my appointment. The scheduler is an old acquaintance way back from my softball years and is very nice. We set the date for the follow up, and she told me that the radiologist would read my tests that day and I would leave that appointment with my results. She too assured me not to worry.

Okay, maybe I’m a little bit of an emotional rebel, but the more I’m told not to feel a certain way, the more I’m going to wonder if I should be feeling that way. Again, I know that these women are being kind, and I take their kindness as such. I’m not criticizing them at all. I’m merely pointing out that telling someone not to worry often has the opposite effect of what is intended. But even still, I wasn’t too worried. All these assurances of don’t worry made me curious how other women took this news, and if that was why the assurances were offered so quickly and readily at every point along the way.

Thanks to the freedom of not working in the summer and a dad who is retired and can watch the kids anytime, I was able to get my follow up mammogram scheduled for the very next day. Again, my experience at the imaging center was smooth, efficient, professional. The technician was very sweet as she hurt me and made my body into shapes that I never thought possible all in the name of good health care. At least her hands were warm. As promised I got my results back in a matter of minutes.

The “girl” looks okay right now, but they want me to come back in six months just to make sure nothing is changing. And this time, there was no don’t worry assurance.

Huh. Which, okay, this is good news. Clearly, if they were still concerned about what they saw, they would have given me an MRI that day (they told me so). And I don’t want to make a mountain out of a molehill, because as I learned at the Komen Race, hundreds of women receive a much more serious and heartbreaking diagnosis every single day. Still, what should have been a baseline test for five years in the future is now a baseline for six months from now. I’m not worried, but I would have preferred the result that goes, “see you when you’re 40.” Ya know?

Wha-huh?

So, how does a delinquent blogger make up for six weeks of silence? Mostly nothing much has happened, but a few big things have happened… so how about a pictoral retrospective of the past six weeks with a promise to fill in the gaps eventually?

We celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary.

Which made us feel pretty much like this.

Scoff if you wish, but I totally saw zombies hitching a ride on a trailer on the way home from work one Friday afternoon. Behold, zombie legs:

Despite the fact that it rained a lot, the sun and clouds played quite nicely together for a few days.

We had a nice, low-key Easter Sunday.

We found a new home for Tula. Long story. Details later.

Which brings us up to Mother’s Day. Grandma Wanda is the coolest. Don’t let her age fool you one bit.

I’ll try not to be gone so long this time.

What was that I said about “unpleasant and unforseen circumstances”?

Yowser. Not 48 hours after I hit the publish button on that last post, wherein I mentioned things looking slightly up financially, my dog went and ate something inedible. One surgery and $3,000 later I am trying to remind myself that God knew about this and the money will be there. I’m grateful that this particular animal hospital will let people pay off their bill, interest free, as long as it is paid off within 12 months. We certainly had other plans for that three grand that we don’t actually have right now. And this is exactly the kind of “unpleasant and unforseen circumstances” I was hoping to avoid. But the upside? Now I know how much I really, really love her. She’s going to be just fine…. Dumb dog.

Eight things that used to drive mom crazy that I didn’t understand then, but I do now:

1. clean clothes on the floor

2. clean clothes, still folded, in the dirty clothes pile

3. trash on the kitchen counter — the trash can is right there!

4. leftover food or dirty dishes in the bedroom.

5. not being able to walk across the bedroom floor

6. eyerolling — I still do this all the time, but it drives me nuts when other people do it to me.

7. whining about the fact that there is nothing to wear — All your clothes are on the floor!

8. finding out at 8:25 P.M. that something is neeeeeded for school the next morning

Sorry for all those times, Mom. I get it now. I really really do.

December Views-Day 4: Christmas S.O.S.

Reminders of longer and warmer days can still be found in our front yard. In fact, garden hoses, jack ‘o lanterns, pumpkins, long-since-dead potted summer plants, a retired barbecue grill, an emptied sandbox, withered mums and a Christmas sign are all on display at our house. We are the only family on the street with kids and both parents working out of the home, and boy, does it ever show.

Teaching, grading papers, planning lessons, two kids, a dog, family commitments, homework and maintaining some semblance of a functioning household keeps us busy enough. Add to that that water came flooding into our basement during the rainstorms just before Thanksgiving, and just a few days before that the dog chewed a part off of our brand, spanking new central air unit. Both of these mishaps have required John to have to undertake extraordinary home care measures. The flooded basement necessitated that he rip up the remainder of the carpet in my office, which required moving ALL the office furniture. Having my office up-ended makes my head explode. He also had to RE-clean gutters in the cold, poor guy. The chewed central-air unit… yeah. That’s a BIG problem. Fortunately for Tula, the damage she wreaked only cost $100 to fix. But the cost of preventing that from happening again will cost twice as much. People, you have no idea how tenaciously and single-mindedly she has destroyed Every Good Thing in our backyard. And she’s not even out there all day. John’s only solution is to build a fence around the unit, a project he has started but hasn’t been able to finish because there is only about 40 minutes of daylight and a LOT of kid and dog chaos when we get home from work. Plus it has been really, stinking cold.

Can you see why raking leaves, and putting away Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations, and winterizing the yard, and decking the halls with boughs of holly just isn’t anywhere near the top of our priority list?  The tree is up and decorated, but there are still boxes of Christmas decorations to be put out. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t had any inclination to do it yet. I have not committed myself to the spirit of the Season this year–AT ALL, and I feel really, really guilty about that. My kids are at the prime age for the Christmas spirit and the magic and joy of it all. In fact, this very well might be the last year that Little Miss G believes in Santa, and so, yes, I want that Hallmark commercial, jingle bells, warm and fuzzy feeling this year… but I can’t seem to generate it within myself to share with them.

It doesn’t help that I’ve had a depressing (and that is no exaggeration) amount of work since the beginning of November, and our school’s Christmas break doesn’t begin until Dec. 23 this year. In the past few years, we’ve had a good six to seven days off before Christmas that allowed me to decompress and really enjoy the preparations and reflect on the meaning of the Season and share it with the girls.

I know this sounds very BAH-HUM-BUG… But actually, it’s just the opposite. I want to get into the Christmas spirit, but I feel like everything is in disarray and out of joint and horribly late and all kinds of undone. Christmas is slip-sliding away from me this year. I need to pull my act together. Anybody got a magic wand, or fairy dust, or the secret to cloning myself? No?? Well, the heck with you people then!

JUST KIDDING!!!!

I think I’m going to have to choose the bare essentials of celebrating Christmas this year and just focus on doing them well. How about some suggestions on which bare essentials I can focus upon to make this season Merry and Bright for my family? You may not have any magic wands, but I KNOW some of you have some great ideas. I’m thinking I can handle three small projects/events. This is my Christmas S.O.S. I’m open to suggestions, so let’s here ’em.

Short notes.

Every few months, the girls’ bickering, tattling, and fighting get to such a point that I feel it would be totally and completely reasonable to trade them for a half a dozen new puppies. Unpotty-trained. And shedding. It’s that bad. They haven’t been able to get out and run around for a few days because of the weather, and I’m sure that is a large contributing factor. But I have come to the conclusion that every parent needs a soundproof room.

One good thing about this rainy weather is that it gives me a good excuse not to wash my car.

Another is that my newly-planted petunias and vinca are doing great.

Last month I took my camera out to shoot some flowers, and I did something weird with the settings and now my pics don’t quite look the same. Not bad, just not the same. This makes me unreasonably nervous, which is ridiculous, because this is how I’ll learn what my camera (and I) can really do, right? But all those buttons, and settings, and numbers that I don’t understand… GAH!

A few weeks ago John decided that he is going to lose weight… and he does. He dropped about 13 lbs, just like that.  For me to lose that kind of weight, I had to follow a pretty strict (for me)  portion-control diet, give up ice cream (a huge sacrifice), and run (not walk) 4-5 times a week. And it took me 2 months. He watches what he eats through the week and eats whatever he wants on the weekend and it appears to be melting off of him. I am jeluuuus. And happy for him. He has more to go, but he looks goooood.

Today is make-it-or-break-it day for the last two weeks of school. If I can get everything done on my to-do list today, I think these last two weeks will be fairly enjoyable. If I don’t, it’s going to be a rough ten days.

We’re planning a short trip to Chicago this summer. So far we have a Cubs-Cards game and a trip to Shedd’s Aquarium on the agenda. John and I love this city, but we have never been up there with kids, so if anyone has recommendations for fun things to do with them up there, I’d be glad to hear them.

I guess it’s time to tackle that to-do list… Happy Sunday, everybody!

Facebook and iPhone may be the death of this blog.

Just kidding. This blog is not dying. But they certainly do distract me from this space. The phone because I can get a quick “fix” of surfing or blog reading from my compact, handy-dandy phone almost instantaneously rather than sit down with my big ‘ol laptop, wait for it to boot up, and fuss with the mouse pad or (heaven forbid, gasp) the mouse itself. Remember how I felt so free when I went wireless? (Thanks again, Geek Squad!) Now my poor laptop and I casually glance at each other from across the room. Yeah, we used to be close. It’s different now… We haven’t broken up, per se. It’s just that I have different needs. Different desires. Wow. This paragraph just took a really creepy turn, didn’t it?

As for my writing outlet, Facebook accommodates the random so very easily… and that is pretty much what my life has been. For example, while driving home from work this week in approximately 284 mph cross-winds, I had to explain to Super L, in much (elaborated and improvised) detail why boa constrictors cannot and would not squeeze mosquitoes. The old folks like to say that this is the wonder of a child’s imagination. That certainly is a positive spin on it. But I submit that this is a challenge–a gauntlet–of mental dexterity because kids know, you see, that they are better at mental gymnastics than their parents. Kids know that they cannot disobey,  disrespect, or defy their parents. But they can probe and question and prod, all in the good name of curiosity and imagination, without much consequence and enjoy watching their parents try to keep up. And if your kids are anything like mine, there is a price to pay if unsatisfactory (or untrue) answers are offered. Then it becomes a thing that can go on for days, or even weeks.

This is what has been going on with Super L on the subject of snakes, ladybugs and fire ants for 45 minutes daily while driving home from a full-day of work. It almost has me wishing we could talk about where babies come from or the difference between boys and girls.

Okay, maybe not. But you get what I mean.

In other news:

My mom had her thyroid removed and is recovering nicely.

One month left before school is out, and my American Lit classes are in transition from taking the ACT/PSAE test. I have until 8 a.m. tomorrow to finalize my plans for the rest of the year. None of the possibilities are 100% satisfactory.

Prom is this Saturday, and since I am a junior class sponsor, I’ll be decorating and chaperoning. And I want to say, for the record, that prom is a heck of a lot more fun when all you had to do is show up looking pretty.

Don’t tell my kids, but we’re taking the girls to Disney World in summer of 2011. I know that talking about it this early is kind of pointless, but for the people who took two years to decide upon curtains for their house… to even say that we’re gonna do it is something worth getting excited about.

Oh, and I saw Jake Gyllenhall in real life, with my own two eyes.

And now you see why I haven’t been blogging much. This is about the most coherent writing I’ve had to offer in a month. I’m sorry.

or

You’re welcome?