Failing Up

February 19, 2014

IF
I am going to embrace failure at two very important things: losing weight and being patient with my grandmother. I addressed both failures yesterday with a very large, very tequila-y margarita, and it really helped me put things in perspective, even if it caused me to fail even more spectacularly at the weight thing. On the grandmother front, however, I became instantly successful. It’s as true now as it ever was: Margaritas heal.

But let’s talk about failure and why it’s important. Lots of people give up on stuff because they discover that they can’t do it, or that they can only achieve sporadic success. Basically, the shame of failures both big and small stops them from trying again, because it’s just too humiliating to have to face your total inadequacy.

WRONG.

I mean, yes, you may feel that way, but basically your feeling is wrong. It’s NOT too humiliating to face your inadequacy, because your inadequacy is part of who you are. YES IT IS. And this is true of the most successful person just as it is true of the least. No one is 100% adequate, 100% of the time.

Like my old Bible teacher used to say (yes, I had a Bible teacher at my goofy private religious high school, and yes, I still remember stuff he said. But I don’t still wear plaid skirts and crested blazers, except for Simon on occasion, but we won’t talk about that because that’s just kinky): If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.

Is getting rid of my giant ass, squishy middle, and wobbly thighs important? SHIT YES! Then it’s worth doing it badly.

Is keeping a relationship with my crotchety, Alzheimery grandmother important? FLUCKING YES! Then it’s worth doing badly.

What I’m saying is, I’m committed to failing — but not just to failing: to failing and then TRYING AGAIN. I will be ashamed of myself, but I will not let shame stop me. (And talk to some of my college friends. I am really, really, really good at putting shame aside. Very awfully terribly good. Extremely, radically skilled at shamelessness. Yup.) Not letting shame stop you is one of the most liberating feelings you can have. It’s so freeing! You can be free to fail at ANYTHING that you deem worth the effort!

So here’s the deal: My goal is to lose 30 pounds by Dec. 31, 2014. That’s 10 pounds every four months, which gives me until the end of April to lose my first 10 pounds. Guess how much I’ve lost? None. I did drop two pounds, but I gained them back. I FAILED. Guess what? I don’t give a crap. I’m still committed. I still have good days, and I’m overall making better choices and exercising more. I may fail a lot and have a cupcake for breakfast like I did yesterday, or a margarita for lunch, but if I fall off my fat horse, I’m hauling myself back on board and spurring that old nag forward. Because even if I don’t reach my goal, by refusing to let failure stop me, I will at least lose SOMETHING. And something is better than nothing.

As far as my grandmother goes, even if I have a bad interaction with her, I’m not going to let that stop me from going back again the next day and being just as cheerful as I can. I may lose my cheerfulness about two and a half minutes into the interaction, but by golly, that’s how I’m going to start out. And here’s the thing: sometimes the cheerfulness wins out. Sometimes I have a GREAT time with my grandmother — like yesterday, when we went out for Mexican food, and giggled away over our rice and beans like two high school girls. (Um, YES Grandma had a margarita. Doctor said the occasional drink is good! And let me tell you, there’s no open bar over at assisted living!)

Essentially, I’m going to fail, but I’m going to fail up. I’m going to fail towards my goal. I’m going to do it very, very badly, but I am, by the power vested in me by no one except myself, going to DO IT.*

*Plaid skirt and crested blazer not required.

Cupid’s Ass

February 14, 2014

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So today, as you know, is Valentine’s Day. Simon and I have celebrated it every year that we’ve been together, which makes this our 20th Valentine’s Day. Holy crap, that’s a long time! I still remember our first Valentine’s Day as a couple: we’d been dating seriously for about a month. Simon showed up at my apartment (or technically, half a garage) with eight million mylar balloons and a heart-shaped box of chocolates. He’s nothing if not a traditionalist.

I don’t actually remember what else happened on our first Valentine’s Day. I assume we went out to dinner, although I have no idea where. I also have a vague memory of sitting in his car on a dark side-street in Pasadena, where we lived at the time. There was some kissing, blah blah blah, and then I gave him an Annie Lennox CD. (Was it Diva? I can’t recall.) He said, very earnestly, “Thanks ever so much!” and it absolutely turned my heart to Jell-O because it was so cute and English-y.

I don’t know — I could be confusing the car and the kissing and the Annie Lennox CD with another time. But what does it matter? It’s a sweet memory. We still have the CD, and we still listen to it.

Anyhow, since we had such tremendous success with our first Valentine’s Day, and since we’re both so happy to have found our One True Love, we always celebrate this day — usually in a modest style, in keeping with our teeny-tiny bank account. This year, we decided to go out for drinks — because flowers and chocolate are all right, but nothing really says “I love you!” like a mouthful of booze. At about midday (possibly the least romantic time of day, but with free babysitting provided by the fact that Annika’s in school) we went to a swanky local bar. For many days, I had been imagining something cold and bracingly vodka-ish served in a frosty martini glass with some manner of frou-frou garnish. I had been imagining THIS:

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So what I ordered was a “Cupid’s Mule,” made with vodka, lime, and raspberry ginger beer (whatever the heck that is). That sounds pink and Valentiny, right? Wrong! What I got was a lovely-tasting drink with a lime garnish, served in a what appeared to be a pewter baby mug. It was like this (only maybe without the ducky):

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I know it was meant to be all “Oooh, this is so cool! I get my drink in a the Special Silver Mug!” but in reality it just MESSED WITH THE PICTURE IN MY MIND OF MY SOPHISTICATED SELF SIPPING FROM A MARTINI GLASS.

The worst part is, it was NINE FREAKING DOLLARS.

THAT WE DON’T ACTUALLY HAVE.

…because several of Simon’s clients STILL haven’t paid us, and although I’ve started work at my Dream Job (!!!!!!!!!!) I still have not gotten my first paycheck.

The prudent thing to do, of course, would be to NOT GO TO A BAR AND NOT ORDER A DRINK IN THE FIRST PLACE.

But you can’t be prudent ALL the time. We wanted to celebrate — we wanted to drink to each other, to our love, to our recent good luck, to what seems to be a more hopeful future. We HAVE the money. We just don’t have it YET. So we decided to float ourselves a little loan.

So it made me REALLY GRUMPY to pay $9 that I didn’t technically have to slurp vodka out of a baby mug, which I could have done at home for free. Simon later said that he could see my face fall when the drink was set on the table in front of me, and he knew exactly what the problem was, and he should have stopped the waitress and commanded her to take the drink back and put it in a martini glass, for Christ’s sake, because this was going to RUIN THE REST OF OUR LIVES.

As for me, I felt too silly to send the delicious drink back because the glass was all wrong. And I really, really, wanted to order a second drink in order to erase the horrible, scarring memory of the baby mug. I desperately wanted to try the Blueberry Truffle (cinnamon-and-blueberry-infused vodka with Kahlua and Bailey’s Irish Cream). Surely THAT would arrive in a martini glass? But there was no way we could afford another $9. And that fact — the fact of the drink that I COULD have had, but didn’t — was sheer torture.

Meanwhile, Simon was groaning with pleasure over his beautiful Mochatini (vodka, Kahlua, Godiva chocolate liqueur, and a chilled shot of Stumptown espresso, shaken and served with a dollop of fresh whipped cream in a martini glass big enough to drown a cat).

I don’t know what to tell you except that the rest of my afternoon has been TERRIBLE.

Ugh. I need a drink.

Houston, We Have Toilet Paper

February 10, 2014

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We had the MOST marvelous surprise on Saturday morning, the second day of our long snowbound weekend: my friend Brianna used her four-wheel drive to bring us twelve rolls of cushy, double-ply toilet paper. (It may even be triple-ply. Hard to say. But it’s DEFINITELY quilted by fairies.) She also brought ridiculously soft and delicious cream-cheese-frosted cinnamon rolls AND chocolate chip cream-cheese muffins AND bagels AND cream cheese. The lesson here is: you can never have too much cream cheese.

Seriously. I love that stuff.

And I’m pretty sure I’ll remember those cinnamon rolls FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. Oh, the softness of the dough! the sweetness of the icing! Like eating a cinnamon-dusted baby’s bottom!

NOT a good moment for my new commitment to healthy eating.

But never mind: I made up for it by hiking up the highest hill in our neighborhood — twice! — with our orange toboggan. (The same toboggan, incidentally, that I used when I was Annika’s age. Ah, they don’t make plastic toboggans like they used to!) I was extremely sweaty when I got home, so I think I earned that baby’s bottom.

On Sunday, thanks to freezing rain, we had about a half-inch of ice on top of powdery snow, with slush underneath. We went for a walk at midday, while the sun made a brief appearance, and were greeted by the sound of icicles drip-drip-dripping and the whshhhhhhhhh of water running down the street and the whoomph-tinkle of ice-laden branches dropping their loads onto the icy snow below. It was positively magical. The slush soon soaked through our boots, but that didn’t stop us from joyfully shaking the ice off everything we could find: trees, shrubs, fences. We found frozen leaf shapes, ice-enclosed grass blades, and birch trunks encased in ice so that when you broke off chunks of ice, they came away with a perfect imprint of birch bark. Everywhere we looked we saw new wonders and frozen delights. After the silence of the snow, everything now seemed to be alive with sound and dancing with icy refractions of crystalline light. It was like being transported to an alternate dimension: similar to Earth, but full of strange life forms.

By Sunday evening, we were able to back the car out of the driveway without too much slippage. We drove to the store and bought staples like bread and milk and oh, all right, chocolate. (The chocolate is for Simon. Really.) Everything went fine until we tried to get back into our driveway, which — because our house is on a hill — is constructed at a maddening 25-degree slant. It’s not much, but with a layer of icy slush, it means a fair amount of sideways drift accompanied by a fiercely revving engine and uselessly spinning tires. Our neighbor had to come out and push the car onto our driveway.

We haven’t gone anywhere today. And school was cancelled again. Annika spent a lot of time in front of the TV because, frankly, making snowmen is fun but it’s way harder to make a slushman.

Right now a not-freezing rain is falling steadily and our winter wonderland is being washed down the storm drains.

I’m not sad, though. I just feel so grateful: for wonderful friends who bring toilet paper and treats, for my amazing new job — I’m going to get PAID! To WRITE THINGS! In my JAMMIES! Which is pretty much what I do for free — and for my husband and daughter, whose company I so enjoy that I’m happy to be stuck with them for 96 consecutive hours.

I also feel…weird. I’ve felt so sad for so long that I almost don’t know how to be happy again.

It’s very much like switching from single-ply to double-ply (triple-ply?) toilet paper: it feels marvelous, but vexingly unfamiliar. Because the double-ply is so much thicker, you only need a little to do the job. But because you’re accustomed to single-ply lengths, you constantly overestimate how much you’ll need and end up shoving extra toilet paper back onto the roll (uh, unused toilet paper, of course). You think: “How do people LIVE like this?”

Easy!

They get used to it.

More Napkins, Please

February 7, 2014

champagne_snow

I am drinking champagne.

Do you know why?

It’s yummy and bubbly and pink, but not too sweet, and did I mention yummy? And alcoholic. And celebratory. And alcoholic. And what might I be celebrating so alcoholically?

First of all, my mammogram results are in. The ol’ girls are in top form, and will continue to wobble around in the forefront for quite a while yet.

Second of all, I warmed up to Smelly Basement Job. I don’t want to give the impression that I LIKED it. But the people were really nice and the basement was at least warmer than the downstairs of my house (long story involving a malfunctioning fireplace and obscenely high heating bills). And there was always fresh coffee and real cream. And all I had to do was sit there and look at pages and pages of Tagalog and Spanish and Vietnamese and pick out errors, which was challenging enough to keep my attention for four hours a day. Let’s just say I’m good with tedious stuff.

Third, we’ve gotten completely ploughed under by a lovely February blizzard. (I’m calling it a blizzard, although my Alaskan and East Coast readers may guffaw politely into their shirtsleeves.) It’s super-windy and we’ve gotten FOUR WHOLE INCHES OF SNOW. Work and school are cancelled for today. I’m looking out my upstairs window at white rooftops and the heartwarming sight of neighborhood children laughing and sledding down our street, clad in mittens and pom-pom-topped hats. It’s a stay-in-your-fuzzy-pajamas-till-noon, then go-for-a-romantic-walk-and-throw-snowballs-at-your-husband, then read-and-drink-hot-cocoa sort of day. It’s a buttery popcorn sort of day, a blogging sort of day, a who-the-hell-cares-about-makeup-and-bras sort of day. It’s BEAUTIFUL.

I just wish we had toilet paper. Every rose has its thorn, I suppose.

At any rate, healthy boobies, warmish basements, and snow days AREN’T why I’m drinking champagne. And I’m certainly not celebrating the fact that I have to wipe my pee-drips with table napkins. I’m drinking to the knowledge that, come Monday, I will be the NEW EDITOR of NorthBankNow, a soon-to-be-launched website featuring short articles about fun stuff to do in Vancouver (a medium-sized city on the north bank of the Columbia River, directly across from Portland and often considered Portland’s socially awkward sister).

Yes! It’s happening! And it’s happening FAST. I’ve been talking about this for ages and ages and ages. I’d kind of given up hope. I first met with the publisher about the possibility of this job A YEAR AND A HALF AGO. We’ve had meeting after meeting after meeting, talking about content and design and timelines, and basically pushing the launch date far into the future. That’s why I took Smelly Basement Job–I thought, “Even if this does happen, it’s not going to happen until 2050, so I’d better get cracking on my retirement fund.”

Au contraire! The publisher bumped into Simon at a networking event on Wednesday and mentioned that the website was nearly ready, and could we have a meeting on Thursday? On Thursday (yesterday) the snow started falling and I left Smelly Basement Job and almost went straight home because Annika was off school early, but Simon picked her up and drove to meet me. I arrived at the publisher’s office and the door was locked and it was COLD and I almost went home but then someone answered the door and said the publisher was on his way and the meeting was ON. The publisher arrived and showed us the site and I figured maybe I’d start this spring, but he was like, we want to go live March 1. Can you do it? And I was like HELLZ YEAH. And he was like HERE’S YOUR PASSWORD. START POSTING.

Simon wanted to go to Starbucks to celebrate, but I was like HELLZ NO I WANT CHAMPAGNE. So here I am sitting at my desk and looking out at the snow and typing merrily away and enjoying the wondrous fizz of HOPE! After so much despair, it’s marvelously bracing to think that the future might be more than shit in a bucket. I feel positively HUMAN again! My glass of champagne is drained and I’m ready for another. (Don’t worry, I’m going slow–I actually had the first half of the bottle yesterday. Moderation, folks. MODERATION.)

Now Simon just needs a kick-ass job.

And we need to hope that we don’t run out of napkins.

Girls! Girls! Girls!

February 3, 2014
Mammogram

All the breast to you and yours.

Girls!*

*or women, ladies, gals, broads, misses, mesdames, sistahs–whatever you prefer to be called.

Get a mammogram!

Seriously. It ain’t no big thang. What are all you wussies complaining about?

I had my first mammogram this morning, and it was NO. BIG. DEAL.

Everyone I talked to about mammograms was like: “Oh my GAWD! It’s so awful! They mush your boobs and it’s cold and it’s so terrible and humiliating! I hate them! Wah, wah, WAH!”

Uh, maybe you were confusing a mammogram with something that’s ACTUALLY painful, like a hangnail?

And this is from women who opted for natural childbirth.

OK, I’ll give you this: I’m lucky enough to start needing mammograms during a time when substantial improvements have been made over the initial apparatusses (what is plural, here? Apparati?) that were used back when mammograms were young. But gone is the cold metal, replaced by a layer of squishy pink foam and room-temperature, medical-grade plastic.

There aren’t even any paper-towel gowns involved (at least not where I got my mammogram). It was more like going to a spa: everything is quiet and softly lit, you take your clothes off in a dressing room, and you get to wear a creamy cotton waffle-weave robe. The attendant (mammologist? booberator? mashinist?) speaks softly and kindly, and I promise her hands will be warm when they tenderly remove each glowing breast from your robe and arrange them ever-so-gently on the pink foam platform.

So, yes, that’s uncomfortable, if you don’t like complete strangers touching your breasts. If you DO like that, then you are in for a treat!

Badda-boom, badda-bing–a little breast wrangling, about 20 seconds of pressure, and Bob’s your uncle. I was almost sad when it was over, because it went so quickly. My appointment was at 11 a.m., and I was pulling back into my driveway at 11:23. The only possible thing that could have made it better is appetizers and cocktails.

I bring up this inexplicable reluctance to get mammograms because my step-mom, who is in her 70s (she won’t divulge exactly WHERE in her 70s, but let’s say early) told me last night that she refuses to have a mammogram. REFUSES. WTF? She’d rather die of breast cancer than have a few seconds of [nearly pleasurable] breast-mashing? The next time I see her, I am going to give her what for. I’ll be danged if my dad will lose another woman he loves to the ravages of cancer.

And that’s exactly what’s at stake. Early detection is the best—the only—way to avoid (and I’m not going to pull any punches, here) being eaten alive from the inside out by cells that won’t stop metastasizing. And as someone who’s watched that happen to a woman I love—and never mind that it was ovarian cancer that ultimately killed her, and not the breast cancer she was originally diagnosed with, because once cancer cells start metastasizing, it doesn’t matter where they originated; the end result is still total devastation of your entire body—I say: get over your discomfort, which contemporary medical engineering is doing everything it can to alleviate. Do what needs to be done. Have a margarita beforehand or after or both or even during, but just do it. Save your boobies. Save your life.

Excellent.

Did someone mention margaritas?

Lord of the Onion Rings

January 31, 2014

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I KNOW, RIGHT? I have been blogging A LOT (two words, people! TWO. FREAKING. WORDS.) lately. I think it is mostly to avoid exercising. And just now, to avoid blogging, I have been over at The Oatmeal, reading about an undead parrot. The Oatmeal is good and funny and there’s lots of profanity, which only makes it funnier, at least for me, because I grew up in a [mainly] profanity-free household, so reading or thinking or OMG SAYING curse words makes me feel incorrigibly naughty. And incorrigibly naughty is FUNNY. For a certain kind of person. And that person is me.

So I’m about to go in for my four-hour training session at my new Smelly Basement Job. But first—in the paraphrased words of Kim Stafford, son of celebrated Oregon poet William Stafford—I need to make peace with myself by writing. (Oregon Public Broadcasting’s interview with Kim Stafford is most excellent, by the way—lots of absolute gems about the process and practice of writing.) And today I’m going to NOT avoid talking about what’s at the center of my onion, so to speak. That is, if I am an onion, with layers and layers of experience and feeling, the center of my onion would be: fat.

I do talk about this topic occasionally on Mother Road, but mostly it’s just snarky comments about my ass or my back fat, and it’s also to qualify these descriptions of my body by pointing out that I am merely overweight and not morbidly obese, lest when you imagine me typing away at the computer you see a mammoth, hunched-over woman with her butt-cheeks squooshing over the side of her chair. That is not me. I am merely 33 pounds overweight. But at a petite five foot, two inches, it is enough to fundamentally alter my opinion of myself, how I see myself in the world, and how I relate to everyone around me, most especially Simon and Annika.

To sum up (and this will not be news to any woman with a body, and therefore body issues): I’m ashamed at my inability to lose weight. I don’t say that I can’t, or that I can’t help it, or that it’s not my fault or my responsibility. I 100% understand that what I weigh is my responsibility, and everything that passes my lips is up to me. Do I also have fat DNA and a super-slow, 42-year-old metabolism? Yup. Too bad, so sad. Do I generally eat a healthy, organic-when-I-can-afford-it, whole-grains-and-lots-of-vegetables, mostly-dairyless-and-meatless diet? Yup. Do I vigorously eschew soda, fast food, chips, processed food, and snack food in little packages in favor of fresh, raw food? Yup. BUT GUESS WHAT? DOESN’T MATTER. Whatever I eat, I’m still responsible for being overweight. I eat too much and I don’t exercise enough. The end.

Hence, the crushing shame. My basic feeling about myself is that I am fat because I am weak—even if that weakness manifests itself in three unnecessary bowls of organic granola rather than a box of Twinkies—and I am ashamed more of my weakness that I am of my fatness. It’s as though my failure at a basic womanly task—being beautiful—is advertised for everyone to see and judge. And I feel so, so, so, so judged. Not by Simon (he is the least critical human being I know, and I make up for it in our marriage by being the most critical human being I know), although it would be nice for Simon if I had a smaller—well, everything. I want to be arm candy! But I am not arm candy. I am more like arm pot pie.

Does shame make me sad? Yes. But the unfortunate thing about me is that sadness doesn’t mean I mope around and cry and stuff. Sadness for me manifests itself more like this: Godzilla-like destructive rage. I want to tear things up. I want to set things on fire and then run into the fire and dance around screaming. I want to throw things and crush them and hurt cute and helpless things. Well, not ACTUAL cute and helpless things. But, like, I would tear up a picture of a kitten and stomp on it. And then burn it. And then stomp on the ashes.

I have actually been angry for years. Maybe—I don’t know—all my life. Because I’ve never NOT been pudgy, with the exception of a couple years in high school when I confined myself to a strange diet of granola, cheese, carrots, apples, and tortillas. And in my late 20s I went to Weight Watchers and lost 40 pounds. The same week I reached my goal weight, I got pregnant. (I’m pretty sure the getting-pregnant part was sort of a happy by-product of being slender. Or at least slenderish.) My only consolation right now is that I’m still a few pounds shy of what I weighed the day I first stepped on the Weight Watchers scale.

But what it all comes down to is “Lord of the Rings.” Simon and I watch the trilogy every year, and this year the films just WHAM! got me in the gut (so to speak). While watching Frodo struggle across the wasted landscape of Mordor, I realized: the most fundamental change I can make is to lose weight, because my weight is at the center of so much pain and it’s pretty much the source of nearly everything negative in my life. And the fat-sad-angry situation makes the other negative things (poorishness and grief, for example) so much harder to handle. Most devastatingly, it will eventually reduce the most precious relationships in my life to a pile of rubble. In short, I MUST THROW THIS FAT INTO THE FIERY MAW OF MT. DOOM. I’m not just saving the Shire; I’m saving all of Middle Earth. I’m not just saving me—my health and well-being—I’m saving everything that matters to me in this temporal realm.

So my goal for this year is: 30 pounds lighter by January 1, 2015. That’s 10 pounds to lose every three months. So far I’ve lost…well, shit: Nothing. I mean, I’ve lost a couple pounds, but gained it back. But I haven’t gained anything more than what I weighed on January 1. And I am definitely eating less and exercising, so eventually it’s got to start working, right? What I’m saying is, I’m not giving up, and I’m not backing down. AND WHEN I GET SAD, I WILL STOP BEING SAD AND BE AWESOME INSTEAD.*

True story.

* Thank you, Barney Stinson. Even though I don’t watch “How I Met Your Mother,” I am totally up on my memes.

Thing One and Thing Two

January 29, 2014

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There are two things on my mind today. Actually, there are three things, but I bet you’re sick to bloody death of hearing about our stupid money situation, so I’m going to shut up about it already, even though inside my head it’s all I think about every single second of every single day.

Thing One: Disease and Death

I spend a lot of time thinking about my grandmother, Alzheimer’s disease, and the long road of caregiving ahead of me, followed by a particularly protracted and awful death as she loses the ability to reason, speak, walk, recognize me or care for herself in any way. But as my doctor pointed out today, she was 84 when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, so it’s more than likely that she’ll die from something else first. You might think this is insensitivity on my doctor’s part; on the contrary, it was the most comforting thing I could be told at this juncture. And my doctor is indeed sympathetic—her own grandmother died of Alzheimer’s, and so she knows first-hand how devastating the disease can be.

The big thing I am realizing is that caregiving is not a sprint; it is a marathon. I am in this for the long haul. The end of this journey is many years and many emotional miles away. I have to pace myself. I have to conserve my energy. This is not the time for no-holds-barred—this is the time for making sure that I can go the distance. This is the time to make sure that I have comfy shoes and that my running shorts fit and that I have water in my bottle. (I’m using a running metaphor, here, but I’m totally winging it. I have no idea what you need to have in order to go running. I’m much better at staying still.)

In practical terms: If I need help, there’s no shame in making sure I ask for it and get it. I have been doing all my grandmother’s laundry and managing all her medications so that we wouldn’t have to pay for the assisted living facility to do those things for her. I thought I could handle it, but Nanny can’t remember to take her pills every day and I was always anxious about it. Every time I’d visit her I’d check her pill box and see that she’d missed a dose or taken two days’ worth of pills at once. Twice I found pills stashed away in her silverware drawer. Then Nanny would become distressed by the evidence that she had missed her pills or taken them incorrectly—it was just another reminder for her that she’s no longer able to complete basic daily tasks, and she’d get defensive and then she’d get sad and/or cry. I’d dread going to see her for this reason, and Nanny would dread seeing me, because we’d always have The Pill Discussion. But now I don’t worry–the nursing staff dispenses her medication at mealtimes, and they even take care of filling her prescriptions. I feel like a massive load has been taken off my shoulders.

The other thing that I felt I ought to be doing for my grandmother is her laundry. She’d have to pay for laundry services otherwise—so why WOULDN’T a dutiful, loving granddaughter want to step in and help her with this? It’s no big deal—very time I visit her, I pick up her dirty clothes, take them home, and dump them in with our own laundry. I do a load every day, so a few extra pants and shirts and pairs of pajamas aren’t going to make a big difference. EXCEPT for The X Factor: the random items that Nanny leaves in her pockets. I KNOW, I KNOW I should check her pockets before putting them in the washing machine, but I’m always in a hurry so I always forget. Mostly this results in a snowy white flurry of tiny, balled-up tissue bits exploding out of the drier when I open the door. (Nanny is obsessed with tissues. She stuffs her pockets with them, and I find piles and piles of them around her apartment. She’s always afraid she’s going to run out and not have anything to blow her nose with. She also has a disgusting, disgusting habit of clearing her throat of phlegm in the loudest, hackingest, globbiest, and vilest way, and then shlorping it all into a tissue and shoving it into her pocket to use during the next Horking Session. BLEH.)

But once she left a tube of lipstick in her pocket, and we ended up with pink (or, more specifically, “Lilac Frost”) goo all over our clothes. Just so you know, you can get lipstick out with dishwashing liquid. A LOT of dishwasing liquid.

Worst of all, she left a Tootsie Roll in her pocket—there’s an old gentlemen who hands them out to the ladies in assisted living; it’s as good a pick-up line as any, I suppose: “Hey, Toots, wanna Tootsie?”—and I laundered said roll with my lovely new fuzzy red jammies, a Christmas present from Simon. I was awoken late one night by a distinct chocolately smell. I felt around until I extracted a sticky glob of something from my armpit. I threw it on the floor and went back to sleep. In the morning I saw that the sleeve of my pajamas was matted with chocolate goo, and there was a big blob of chocolate next to the bed with white tissue bits fused into it. I somehow hadn’t noticed the chocolate stuck in my armpit when I’d put on the pajamas. Anyhow, it took weeks to find a goo-removal solution; in the end, I borrowed some Goo-Gone from my friend Shandy. The stuff worked like a charm, but now my fuzzy red jammies smell like chemical solvent. That’s when I decided I didn’t want to do Nanny’s laundry any more.

Now I’m Nanny-pill-and-laundry free, and I’m not constantly exasperated with her. It means I’m a lot happier when I visit her, and I can focus more on the stuff that matters, like making sure she doesn’t mistake her shoe polish for eyebrow darkener.

Thing Two: Why the Fluck Did God Give Me Fat DNA? Could He Not Have Given Me a Propensity Toward Thinness Instead of an Ass So Big That It Begins at My Ankles and Ends at My Neck? Seriously, Would It Have Killed Him to Cut Me This ONE SMALL FREAKING BREAK? 

Self-explanatory.

At Least Chuck Norris Can Still Apply His Own Lipstick

January 28, 2014

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1. My armpits are super sweaty. Because that is what happens when I wear my warmest, fuzziest pajamas and log onto Pinterest and go to the “funny stuff” pages: laughing and sweating. (I didn’t used to sweat when I laughed. But all of that changed somewhere around age 41.)

2. I passed the aptitude test for Smelly Basement Job, and have been invited back for four-hour training. I’m IN! Maybe. I mean, it seems like it. Otherwise why would they want to train me, right? (Just for the sheer fun of torturing me.)

3. Simon did not get the sexy, awesome, ridiculously well-compensated job he recently interviewed for. It’s fine though because it was too far away and they are all asshats. ASSES WITH HATS, I TELL YOU.

4. Sometimes our cats get food up their noses and it dries up there and looks like a black booger.

5. My grandmother is definitely in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

6. Update on my mother: still 100% dead.

7. Sometimes stuff will happen and I think “I need to call Mom and tell her that!” but I can’t because of No. 6.

8. I want ice cream for dinner. And also after dinner. And as an appetizer.

9. I am beginning to feel that bad luck is clinging to us like a dingleberry on a cat’s butt.

10. I have my annual Girly Bits Exam tomorrow, and am almost excited. I haven’t had one of these in about five years, but in January we got our new healthcare plan and now I can actually get some of the basic, preventive care stuff done, whereas with our old healthplan, preventive care was either too expensive or too difficult for mere mortals to obtain. (Notice I said I’m ALMOST excited about Girly Bits Exam. The excitement is somewhat dimmed by the reality of having a near-complete stranger poke cold metal sticks into my Sweet Petunia. This necessary indignity will be followed, next week, by my first-ever Squish My Boobs in a Vice and Take a Picture appointment.)

11. (WARNING: THIS CONTENT FOR GEEKS ONLY) Simon and I have been catching up on Dr. Who, and we’re now on the Fourth Season of New Who. LOVE David Tennant (who can also be appreciated as Bartie Crouch’s son in the Harry Potter movies.) Catherine Tate is a refreshingly brisk antidote to Dr. Who’s former companions, cloying dewy-eyed sylphs who can’t get over their WhoCrushes.

12. As soon as we can afford it, I am TOTALLY getting new underwear. My Stretched-out Colorless Loinwraps aren’t really cutting it any more.

13. Is there REALLY any difference between me and someone who makes $100,000 a year? Or would a rich person perhaps not use the phrase “Stretched-out Colorless Loinwraps” in a blog post? My real question is—and I think there’s something to this—after being poor-ish for so long, does one’s income level become genetically ingrained so that all possibility of upward mobility is negated? Can other people somehow sense the desperation, like a pit bull smells fear? Are we doomed by our own needs? And finally, if you throw rice at a wedding, does it really make birds explode?

14. My grandmother has lost the ability to apply lipstick; that is, she can no longer tell where her lips end and the rest of her face begins. I look at her and think, “This is also in my future.”

15. My husband is the finest, best, handsomest, funniest, bravest person I know. I just want to kick the Universe in the ‘nads right now because the Universe is not cutting him any breaks, and it makes me want to wreak Chuck Norris-levels of vengeance on whatever entity is making him suffer right now. Universe, be warned: I am coming for you.

16. Alcohol is the new alcohol.

Found In Translation

January 24, 2014

Translation1

So yesterday morning I went on a job interview. Yay! (…or maybe Yay? I’m not sure.)

It was sort of a group-interview thingy. A collective aptitude test, if you will. The position is quality control/proofreading for a company that offers interpretation and translation for any medium (print, online, video) in any language you can ask for. In this particular instance, 40 temp workers are being hired to produce voter information material for Los Angeles County in about 3,000,000 different languages. OK, I’m exaggerating: 2,000,999 languages. Fine and dandy! It’s pretty close to being my ideal job: located in downtown Vancouver, I can set (within reason) my own hours, and I get to sit quietly at a folding table with several other people and stare at fine print for hours on end with a cup of coffee in one hand and a red pen in the other. (Seriously—this sounds like a good time to me. It’s so geeky it’s one step short of Dungeons and Dragons. But not quite that far. I don’t want to pretend I’m a warrior princess while I proofread. Although people who use “alot” instead of the correct “a lot” should be slain without mercy.)

And this is where my inner Meanie McMeanerson comes out. There’s a particularly snarky voice in my head that really gets going in situations where I feel that the balance of power is not tipped in my direction. It’s probably a relatively healthy form of dissociation, of mentally distancing myself from circumstances or—let’s be honest—people I find distasteful. Or maybe it’s one step short of schizophrenia. Hard to say.

The interview/test took place at the company headquarters, which is located in the smelly basement of a very old building downtown. The first floor is occupied by a bank, and has floor-to-ceiling windows and a posh lobby with squishy rugs on marble floors. This area of the building is rather pleasant, even if it has an Old Building That Has Not Been Redecorated Enough Times in the Last 100 Years sort of smell to it. But the pleasant area is not where my company is located. No. You have to walk all the way THROUGH the pleasant lobby into a less pleasant hallway, and then follow the Very Old Building smell around through progressively darker and smellier passages to an oddly grand, wide stairway into the basement. The wall is painted with a striking scene: a vividly azure sea and golden hills dotted with dome-roofed, bone-white Middle-Eastern-looking houses. Did there used to be a Greek restaurant here? Is it still here now? Because otherwise, why does it smell like souvlaki and feta? Or is that just the olfactory residue of the thousands of sweaty feet that have trudged down these stairs during the building’s long history?

Still puzzling over this question, I descend into the depths and wander about until I find an employee. I explain that I’m here for an aptitude test, and he shows me into a stuffy conference room with about 15 other people. Woops! I thought I was taking this test by myself, but apparently this is a herd activity. Makes sense for the company to test lots of people at once. OK. Anyhow, I’m the last one to arrive, even though I’m five minutes early (RECORD-BREAKING earliness for me!). I shed my faux-fur-lined coat, dump my purse and lunchbag and other assorted papers, and settle in for the duration.

The other candidates are looking at the test-giver, who is spending an hour explaining basic proofreading marks (if you didn’t already know that stuff, WHY’NTHEHECK DID YOU APPLY FOR A PROOFREADING JOB?). Eventually, I get tired of looking attentively at her, and dare to let my eyes wander to the faces around the table. All except for two are women. Some are young. Most are as old or older than I am. I am the only woman wearing makeup and a skirt, and FO SHIZZLE the only one with pearls. Even the test administrator looks rashy and frazzled. (Dear God, I hope she doesn’t find and read this blog. The risks I take in order to entertain you people!)

I think: These people are all desperate.

And I am, too.

After I finish the test—and after I spend a humiliating ten minutes chasing after the test administrator while she fields phone calls and dashes down the hallway to the copier, enumerating my many relevant MAD SKILLZ such as the voiceover work I’ve done, text layout and book design, and the 20 years I spent in Los Angeles, thus familiarizing me with the places and names in the voter information packets—I walk up the street to visit my friend Shandy, who also works downtown. I burst in, demand hand sanitizer, and shakily eat a cookie while whinging about the dank, windowless basement and migraine-inducing flourescent lights and minimum wage, and [I imagine] she’s all like WTF? You just spent the last two blog entries complaining about not having enough money, AND NOW HERE’S SOME MONEY, DOODYHEAD. (In reality, she was incredibly kind and sympathetic, and even shared her lovely vanilla-scented hand sanitizer with me.)

Later than evening, I’m sitting on the couch with Simon, droopily recounting every detail of my morning.

“I’m so sorry,” I say. “I have no right to feel like this job is beneath me. We really, really need the money.” I expect him to give me a solid tongue-lashing, to have the same reaction that I imagined Shandy having.

Simon paused, and then he said, “No, you’re absolutely correct. You ARE too good for that job. You ARE better than smelly basements and minimum wage. You’re smart and funny and competent and you deserve an awesome job, a job that you feel excited about, and you’ll get there.”

And that was the PERFECT thing to say.

OF COURSE I’ll take the proofreading job, assuming it’s even offered to me. And I am NOT going to be Meanie McMeanerson to one single person at that company, unless they take away my coffee, because we’re ALL better than smelly basements and minimum wage. But we do what we have to do to keep going. And fortunately Simon just signed a big fat client so it’s looking like we’re going to have rent, and now we have money in the bank for groceries. But the most precious thing of all is that I have a husband who believes in me, even after having seen the worst in me these past several years.

Now. Who’s up for gyros?

Tubes and Tentacles

January 20, 2014
Now we know what to do in case we're trapped in an Irish pub and this happens.

Now we know what to do in case we’re trapped in an Irish pub and this happens.

Yesterday was the worst day of our marriage.

“Do we have to quantify it?” said Simon, as we were snuggled on the couch, somewhat reconciled but exhausted and scratchy-eyed and dehydrated from crying. We were about to watch Grabbers, an Irish comedy-horror flick about the residents of a seaside town who have to stay very drunk in order to avoid getting eaten by multi-tentacled, blood-sucking aliens. Comedy-horror was pretty much suiting our mood.

“Yes,” I said. “I need to know if it’s the worst so that I can say that we survived it.”

“Well, maybe,” he said, “but I still don’t want to call it the worst.”

We didn’t say anything, but we were both thinking of the time that we went to a U2 concert in Los Angeles at a venue that had no parking. Traffic was gridlocked beyond belief, cars jammed bumper to bumper radiating out into the valley. We inched forward on the freeway as the sun settled beyond the horizon. After a solid darkness had fallen, we exited on what we hoped was a reasonably close side-street. To me—semi-citified but not really an urban girl at heart—it seemed like the worst, most dangerous and threatening pocket of criminal activity in a notoriously violent city. Hooded figures lurked on street corners. There were broken-down cars everywhere, empty lots surrounded by chainlink fencing, and rough-sided adobe apartments with big chunks of plaster missing. Simon cruised along looking for a parking spot while I grew increasingly panicked. Every time he told me to calm down it made me more afraid. We eventually found a spot in what I felt was a semi-safe place at a tremendous distance from the concert venue, but only after much, much, much, much hysterical screaming (me) and yelling (Simon). We did not enjoy the concert. Well, maybe Simon did. It was pretty good. I just remember a giant lemon dropping onto the stage—it was the ’98 PopMart concert—and I thought, “Maybe that’s our relationship.”

That was 15 years ago.

Our relationship is not a lemon, and we still love U2, although we’ve never been to another concert.

But yesterday wasn’t about—or rather, wasn’t completely about—something external. It was about us, and how we’ve been relating to each other for the past couple (several? many?) years. The trigger was a leak in our kitchen spray hose nozzly thingy. Unfortunately, the spray nozzle tube is connected directly to the faucet, so that when you turn on the faucet, water travels down the faucet and into the spray nozzle tube thingy at the same time. That means that even if the spray nozzle isn’t in use, there’s still water in the tube, and so every time you turn on the faucet there’s water spraying out of the tube underneath the sink and getting everything sopping wet.

Even though we’ve both kept amazingly calm about our dwindling resources—down to $28 at the moment, and we’re out of milk and have no fruit and an apple seems like the most amazing thing in the world right now—and even though we’ve been disappointed by Simon’s clients who’ve canceled or backed out of projects over the last week, leaving us without anything coming in—we’ve somehow managed to keep it together. We’ve been bowed down, but not quite broken. At the breaking point, but not completely cracked.

Until the leak. It started out much like the U2 concert: me panicking, Simon telling me to calm down, upsetting me even further. Then, when he understood that WE CAN’T USE OUR KITCHEN SINK AT ALL, thereby severely hobbling all cooking and washing-up activities in our house, we disagreed over how to address the repair. It is a small, small thing, but even a small thing—say, a bamboo sliver under your fingernail—can drive you mad.

In short order, we were both releasing all the frustration, helplessness, anger, sorrow, despair, hopelessness, resentment, disappointment, desperation, fear, and bitterness that we’ve been feeling. If you must know, I am HIGHLY SKILLED at releasing frustration, helplessness, anger, sorrow, hopelessness, resentment, disappointment, desperation, fear, and bitterness. In fact, I do it all the time. Simon, on the other hand, is equally highly skilled at burying it. But Simon does have a breaking point—a point at which he’s so full of despair, it spills over. Perhaps I’ve seen glimpses of it a couple times before, but yesterday was like a chasm had opened and he fell down it and I couldn’t get him back. And I fully comprehended that it was me, me, me who had pushed him over.

In that moment, nothing made sense. Upside down was downside up, inside out was outside in. I felt a powerful urge to simply detach emotionally, or pass out. I wanted to save myself from overwhelming grief at the realization that I’d done irreparable damage to the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen or felt or known. Me. Not somebody or something else. Not money troubles or a leaky sink or clients who cancel, but ME. It didn’t matter what my reasons were. Nothing mattered except Simon. Nothing mattered except love.

Fortunately, love is very stretchy.

And sticky.

You might even say it has tentacles.

So Simon went into the chasm, and then I followed him there, but we stayed stuck to each other and then, struggling for each foothold, we climbed back up to the top, or nearly so. At least to a place where we could see light again. I sort of don’t know if we’ll ever get out of the chasm. I can’t see that far ahead. But while we’re down here, we’ve got each other. We’re holding on. And we’re holding on to Annika. We’ve got a tiny, tiny light in a dark place. But maybe that’s all we need.

And now we know: if we’re invaded by giant extraterrestrial vampire octopuses, all we need to do is get very, very drunk.


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