A stupid update and stupid Ebola

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I realized that I haven’t been posting lately and although I’m sure no one has noticed, I have, and that right there goes against the whole point of this blog experiment. This is not to say that I haven’t tried. I went and started about half a dozen of these but then got too overwhelmed or tired to complete them. So here I am with a brief synopsis on my junk, which I may or may not go into further detail on at a later date.

When last I posted it was shortly after my cousin’s memorial service. It’s been really hard, and affecting me in strange little everyday ways – but also in big ways. Like how I celebrate Christmas sort of ways. This year has been upsetting and disruptive to my routine, traditions and things that make someone like me – someone with major anxiety and depressive issues – on edge.

My great aunt, who is really my grandmother (she was there for me like a grandmother when her sister, my actual grandmother, wouldn’t be), suffered a series of strokes that have left her barely able to think, see, hear or speak. The matriarch of my family, as well as the single wisest person I know, has now lost everything, is in a senior living facility, and her life is being dictated by this monster of a cousin-in-law whose motives in the whole situation are dubious at best. I feel so entirely helpless in this that I don’t know what to do. TheRapist has tried to help me with it, but she doesn’t understand our relationship. She doesn’t get how for the majority of my life I felt that only one person in my entire family understood me, and I’m losing her: systematically, and in most despicable ways.

A terrible run in with the cousin-in-law has also started a strange thing in my family. People by and large are on my side because this woman is particularly offensive. However, it’s making things hard in other ways.

My house is entering its fourth year of renovation. Meaning that my entire house is in disarray, half of it has little to no electricity and no lighting, many of our belongings are in storage (including stored in my studio – thereby preventing my being able to use it) and it’s just not a big enough house for this much disruption. The main reason this is happening is because my father insists on doing these renovations by himself, but he doesn’t want to do it. He’d rather play with his boat or his band. So a project that could be finished in a weekend or two has taken nearly four years. Any interference from my mother or me is met with hostility and accusations. It’s created an environment of stress and resentment that is just too much right now.

Especially considering that my mother has atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure. We finally got the heart failure into remission when she just made all of her stress worse and now it’s acute again. Awesome. Add to that my father quitting his fucked up (once epically awesome job) for a new one, and having to wait for the new health insurance to kick, it’s been a ball over here.

And it’s not just my mom who is sick. Our ancient greyhound is not doing too well either; and we don’t expect to spend another Christmas with him.

Personally I’ve not been in a good place. I may have to have a surgery next year that I’m not really on board with but am afraid I am without choice. My anxiety is at epic levels (obviously), I’m unemployed and unemployable. I am now, for the first time in years, officially broke. I don’t know what to do anymore.

Everything has been coming at me from all angles (even more things, things that I don’t want to even mention, lest I well up or throw up), and just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, my grandmother called crying yesterday. My grandfather isn’t well, and instead of going to the doctor or the hospital, he’s refused medical treatment and aid. He won’t let us move him or let the ambulance take him. He’s announced that he wants to die and won’t get out of bed and eat.

So right now there’s this epic vigil going on at my grandparents’ house. We’re all just waiting for him to knock it off or die. And seeing as he is a stubborn old fool, and he isn’t well to begin with, he’s going to slowly die in his bed, breaking the hearts of his four children, nine grandchildren and two great grandchildren. And there is nothing we can do about it.

For the first time I really don’t think that I can handle this. It’s literally too much for me.

So there’s that. My completely bullshit life, and the reason I’m not really up for much socializing or generalizing or blogging.

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Before I go, I do have something I’d like to say about this Ebola outbreak. There’s been a lot of panic, a lot of bullshit reporting, and apparently even some ignorant and ridiculous conspiracy theories. But what it comes down to is this:

The reason why Ebola is spreading through Africa uncontrollably right now is because of poor sanitary conditions. The poor sanitary conditions are a direct result of having no access to clean water. This is a larger, much more terrible, much more difficult, underlying problem that needs to be addressed and no longer ignored.

Having no clean water is a major and horrific reality that you almost never hear about, and that most people in the western world don’t give a shit about. But the fact is, around a billion people worldwide have no access to clean water. An estimated 345 million of those people are in Africa alone. So now these diseases that are rare, that are containable – hell, some that should have been obliterated ages ago – are free to go unchecked because there is just no way to maintain sanitation when there is no sanitation to begin with.

What is happening with the Ebola outbreak in Africa is only an issue with us in the Western world because it’s starting to affect us directly. And like most things that happen around the world, they get ignored until they affect us directly. It’s sad.

Coming up with new treatments that only first-worlders can afford, or doing special new screenings at airports is ignoring the real issue and placating the few. It is the equivalent of walking into the most used room of your home, seeing a steaming pile of shit in the middle of the floor, covering it with a facial tissue and then walking away.

Without fixing the whole problem, the core problem, the ACTUAL problem, things are going to get worse and worse. For all of us.

Everything that happens everywhere in the world, everywhere on this Earth affects us directly. There is no us and them. There is only us. This is our problem and it is spreading. It won’t be long before it’s a rampant issue in the US. And note how I said ‘rampant’ – because it already is becoming an issue here.

So I just wanted to point that out. I also want to point out that these massive problems aren’t impossible. There are solutions. Everyone and anyone can help. You can raise awareness. You can demand it become a central political issue. Go to water.org to get further educated and see what else you can do to help bring clean water to these areas.

That’s it for now. Later.

Philectomies and Hazardous Waste

Yesterday morning I had my surgery. A Philectomy.  It was… an experience.

The surgery itself went really well.  It took less time than they thought it would. Phil was surprised so he didn’t resist much when it was time for him to be escorted off the premises. I was home a few hours later.

But.

A few things went down that I was not so happy with.

It seems that everywhere I go these days I get paired with the new guy, or the intern, or the trainee. This day I got new surgical nurse Jarod, who was all right I suppose. It’s just, you don’t want the guy who supposedly knows what he’s doing also to be the guy you saw the automated security system reject over and over again until someone inside came out to bail him while you were waiting for someone to call you to your (possible) doom. You don’t want the guy who is taking your vitals and entering your information into the computer not knowing how, or not knowing where the equipment is or how any of it works.

Then there is the waiting and the awesome, esteem-building johnny they make you wear. And it’s freezing.

When the anesthesia team comes in, I was not really in the mood for anything else to go wrong. I should mention that at this point I hadn’t slept at all the night before, I hadn’t been permitted to eat or drink anything after midnight, and so I was completely off my game with exhaustion. I was so thirsty my lips were cracked and bleeding. The anesthesiologists’ assistant came in, and she was nice, told me what she was going to be doing: setting-up IV’s and then monitoring me while I was out, and later helping me wake up. Then the anesthesiologist blasts in, introduces himself, and then leaves. He appears frazzled in a demented mad-scientist sort of way. He has little circular band-aids all over his face where he apparently had shaving difficulties. As you can imagine my confidence was positively BOOMING right about then.

Up until this point I wasn’t so much nervous as tired. I just wanted to get on with it. But then the anesthesiologist’s assistant starts trying to start an I.V. She ruins the only good vein I have left, because she tried to use a too-large needle on my very dehydrated veins. I was so dehydrated that it took at least fifteen minutes for her to start the I.V. in a terribly painful spot on my wrist.

While all of this is going down, the co-surgeon comes by with the surgical nurse for the meet and greet. This is in the midst of the a.a. shredding all the veins in my arms. I was trying to be cool about it, but it was painful and I have had an irrational fear of I.V.’s since I was a child (and apparently that shit does not go away, even after years of blood infusions and transfusions, and hospital stays for Crohn’s problems and dehydration). So I’m trying to talk but am having difficulty making eye contact.

Then the crazed anesthesiologist bursts back into the crowd of now seven people surrounding my bed, just as his assistant gets the I.V. going and injects the first sedative, to tell me – and surgeon No.2 – that he just talked to my doctor and they’ve decided that instead of putting me under they are going to give me a local, a nerve block and put me in ‘twilight sleep’. Then he turns to me and says “all right?” No. Not alright. I try to ask if this means what I think it means – that I will basically be awake while they cut open my foot and separate egg-shaped Phil from the nerves (and vessels) that control movement and feeling in my toes. But now I can’t talk and faces are getting hard to differentiate, and they are doing something to my hair, and the walls start melting and people continue talking to me all at once as they pull the bed away.

And it’s even colder and they shift me onto the surgical table and put a screen across my chest so I can’t see the gore, all the while assuring me that I’ll be asleep and won’t really need it. And then it begins.

The nerve block is basically like an epidural but for my leg, not my spine. They give me more drugs that make me feel like I’m underwater; like the air pressure was just raised from fifteen cubic lbs to one hundred. They start prepping my foot and I can still feel EVERYTHING. The yellow gunk they pour over my foot, the taping, everything. My pulse must have jumped because the a.a. starts rubbing my head and telling me everything is okay. Then I guess they wait for the stuff to really kick in on the leg-numbing front, then begin.

So I am not sure what they thought was supposed to happen or why this would be a better idea than knocking me out. Maybe my insurance changed its’ mind about how it wanted this to go down, whatever. All I know is, I fucking felt everything. It didn’t hurt, but I can feel moving, tugging and cold. I was aware. I heard the surgeons saying “Damn” and muttering to each other. People kept telling me to close my eyes and asking each other why I was still awake. They kept adjusting the medication which just made the drowning feeling worse and made everyone’s words melt together.

What is it with sedatives making reality melt? Or better yet, why is reality so meltable?

At one point something went awesomely wrong with the nerve block and I felt EVERYTHING. And I gasped but it came out garbled and mangled. My blood pressure went crazy and made it all the harder to breathe. There was all this rushing around and this unbelievably awful sound in my ears, and then it was over. It probably lasted a minute or two but for me it was forever.

When it was over they wrapped me up and started bringing me down from all the druggins. The a.a. kept stroking my head and whispering that it would be okay and that I wouldn’t remember any of this later. Yep.

In post op they put me in an empty ward alone with a nurse. I was across from the room where they have refrigerators full of juice and stuff for the patients and staff. So I got to watch interns sneaking beverages which was pretty funny. I was seriously cold and couldn’t get warm. And it turned out not to be in my head, either – they were having trouble bringing my body temperature and pulse rate up. I don’t know what my temperature was, but my pulse monitor would go up to 53 and then drift back down to 39 and all the alarms would sound. That’s why they kept me separated with my own nurse.

Finally they let my family in and then the surgeon came in all happy and self-congratulatory. I still couldn’t properly talk or I’d have strung together more expletives than he’s probably ever heard. I’d say Belg*um so many times I’d be imprisoned for verbal assault. He declares that he’s changed his mind about the crutches, since I’m supposed to be off my feet for three weeks at least anyway. He gave me a big boot to walk in instead and reminded me to always keep it elevated.

They asked me if I was ready to go and I said yes. They asked me if I’d like to pee first and I said yes. They asked me if I’d like a wheel chair and I said not to go pee and they said fine. Then they left me in front of the bathroom and I was on my own. As in, they didn’t come back. I had to walk back to the car without crutches or assistance, drugged, with a numbed, recently dissected leg.

Assholes.

Then, for the piece-de-resistance: when we got home my pharmacy called to inform me that my health insurance rejected my prescribed pain killer and substituted something significantly less effective instead. So right now I am on waaay more than the prescribed dose of something which is having no effect on the pain in my foot (or my head at that matter), but is making it rather hard to read or watch television.  This is bad as I have to read two Melvilles by tomorrow night for one class, and Frankenstein by Tuesday for another. (I would have started the Shelley earlier, but I didn’t think it would be a good idea to read it before having surgery.)

I have good reason to believe the insurance company was also responsible for the sudden change in anesthesia and the lack of crutches. I’ll find out more and deal with that later.

I’ve been typing this thing for over three hours, mostly with my eyes closed, so I hope you can follow it.
I hate being on drugs. When it’s too much and I can’t function outside of my head it’s upsetting. When it’s too much and my head is fuzzy and/or my thought are garbled I panic. Right now I’m in the upsetting category. I can’t express myself properly verbally, but if I take my time I can type. It makes me frustrated and I sound like I am snapping at people when I’m not. It also makes it easy for people to misinterpret me, ignore me or do things I can’t stop. So my mind churns on, getting into a nice lather and I start thinking things I can’t properly express. It’s hazardous, and a waste of my energy, time and fabulous grey matter.

Right now am seething because as soon as we came home, my parents, happy with the surgeon’s post-surgical spiel set me up in bed and then jumped on the telephone. They called all the people they had already told, but called a bunch more who weren’t informed. And it was both of them on two phones. I couldn’t stop them. All I had asked was that they not tell anyone they didn’t have to until after the biopsy results. That’s it.
Calling people with ‘good news’ is too early: while I don’t think it’s at all cancerous, we don’t know for sure. I don’t think anyone should have to worry while they wait either. That’s why I’ve only told the people who NEEDED to know, who were close to me and would you know, catch on to the fact that I had been crippled for a month.  So now my grandparents know and they are pissed at me that we didn’t inform them. They have SO much bad shit going on over there right now, and if there was an Olympic prize for worrying, my grandmother would be the all time gold medal champion. They’d have to come up with a platinum medal to adequately give her her props. Worrying about my biopsy results is the LAST THING she needs.

Now am angry with my folks for doing this. It’s not just that it’s pre-emptive, and it’s not just that it’s gossipy. It’s because they never listen to me, and they always tell my business, especially my secrets. It’s disrespectful and hurtful, and when I point that out they disagree and continue to do so.
So it’s understandable that I don’t like to tell them anything. Especially since, as giant overgrown children, if you tell either of them that you are upset with them, or that they are doing something to upset you, they immediately become defensive and get angry at you. It’s ridiculous and nothing gets sorted and everyone walks away mad.

Such a healthy environment, don’t you think?

The hospital just called and told me to take all of this other stuff with the prescription painkillers, and now I am SLEEPY.

I’ll leave you this picture of my new guitar. For no reason.

Wilson in all her glory.

Wilson in all her glory.

My Brain Revolts and Phil Gets Evicted

Lately I’ve been extraordinarily busy. Things have gotten complicated, and stressful.

(But really, what’s new?)

This past spring, on top of my Stanford physics classes, I took some free classes from UPenn. Then I signed up for three classes over the summer – lit classes from Brown, and one from the University of London via Coursera called “The Camera Never Lies”.  I thought that was a reasonable amount of learnin’ to aspire to, until the fateful moment when everything started overlapping – at one point I had one physics class (which was delayed at start so it was late wrapping up), a Greek mythology course, two Brown lit courses and a design class all at once. Each lit class requires me to read a book a week, write a paper and possibly take an exam, the myth class had similar reading requirements plus exams and the occasional paper, the design course had prototypes that needed blueprinting and building (and documenting on the interwebs IE: building a website), and the physics class had, well, physics: math, math, math, exams, problem sets, and of course, math.  Plus hours of lectures and notes for each class.

As you can imagine, it was around this time that my brain tried to escape. It made a valiant effort, but I managed to get it to behave – mostly by promising that it was going to get better. And it was going to get better, and I knew from the get-go that overlapping may happen in some circumstances and would happen in others, so it wasn’t too much of a shock. It just was a bit more than I was expecting. (‘Twas better-in-theory I suppose.)

I took my brain to see the Star Trek movie (because Cumber—-ch was in it, and fukkin Sylar so it was inevitable), after which it agreed to stay in my head and not fracture into different people. Again.

The Phil Face gets you into the Nightosphere.

The Phil Face gets you into the Nightosphere.

While all of this was going on, something strange had been developing. Completely unbeknownst to me, and without any sort of permission or anything, a mystery mass began squatting in my foot. This is the random medical issue I mentioned here.  I have so much weird health bullshiz that I pretty much didn’t think anything of it. I just named it Phil and drew the Phil Face on it. But it started getting uncomfortable and so I had it expertly appraised.

Turns out Phil is a vascular mass, and he is painful because he is growing up through a junction of nerves and important vessels in my foot. Everyone who has looked at it – from my GP to my dermatologist – has said the same thing: that it’s in a really bad spot. You’d think a mass growing in the bottom of a foot would be worse, but nope, I found worse and it’s right… thar <points to Phil>.

Phil

They’re not sure what Phil is exactly, and he is going to be removed and then biopsied at 7:30 tomorrow morning in one of the top hospitals in the world. How that happened, I dunno, but it did. So in the middle of my school mayhem, all of this craziness is going down, tests and scans, trips into Boston. I went from waiting to ‘see what Phil would do’, to minor medical procedures, to okay we are going to remove it right… NOW. In a week I had a surgical appointment, a miracle GP approval appointment, phone interviews, pre-op interviews, and all my ducks in a row…

I haven’t really been nervous about this new development or anything. I think I’ve been awfully good about a lot of things that happen to me, and that are happening to me. But two incidents have made me anxious. The first was an unrelated dermatological appointment, in which my doctor – curious about Phil – checked him out. He went a tad grim and wrote a note to my podiatrist requesting biopsy results. The second thing that got me nervous was the pre-op appointment with said podiatrist. We talked about the pathology, and how important it was. He basically told me that it could go either way, and we have to be really careful because of my family history. This made me nervous because my family history is this:

In the mid 2000’s my cousin had a mass removed from his leg. They thought it was a cyst but found that it was melanoma. He beat it, or so they thought, for on his five year checkup they found it had returned, and spread to his bones. They spent the next year and a half trying everything they could but it was of no use and he died in 2011.

So right now, I have a mass in my foot that my doctors thought was a cyst. But it’s not. I’m going to have it removed and it may or may not be cancerous. If it is, I am not afraid so much of the cancer.( I think cancer should be more afraid of me.) However, there are factors in my life that are very unreliable, and I am finding myself aware of how alone I will be in this. That is not to say that I don’t have friends and family who will help me. It has to do with the family I live with and how they will deal with this sort of thing, should it come up. I feel as though in a lot of ways they won’t be reliable, and I don’t know if I can be sick and take care of them the way I do now. It’s complicated, and I don’t really want to get into it that much, but that is where I’m at in my head.

Also. Despite my request that this is kept under wraps until we know what is going on, my mother went and told some people anyway (one of her awesome little quirks). One of those people is my aunt, my cousin’s mother. So you can imagine how upset she is over this, and how upset I am that she had to find out like this. I don’t need her going through this again, you know? She shouldn’t have to worry. I don’t want people freaking out, and I don’t want people reacting until we know there is something to react to. Things tend to get blown way out of proportion in my family, and I just need all my ducks in a row before I have to deal with everybody else.

Surgery is tomorrow – or rather – Phil get’s officially evicted tomorrow. Bastard squatting was bad enough, but stealing utilities? Naw, bitch gotta go.

In lieu of flowers, send LPs and ukuleles. Ocarinas are also acceptable.

And on that note, I’m off.

Oh and by the way, after I wrote that last post I finished Theogony and aced an exam on it. Consider that bitch smote.

Thanksgiving Clusterf*ck and The Asian Club Goes to Japan (Where There Is No Math. Allegedly.)

This is an angry retelling of my bullsh*z Thanksgiving bonanza. However, it gets fairly amusing near the end. So bear with me. I promise I’ll try to make it light. Try.

Scenic Drive From My Brothers Apartment

Scenic Drive From My Brothers Apartment

Thanksgiving is a holiday I can do without. As a mere yout’, the holiday was celebrated at our home, my mother losing her mind and obsessing over the most mundane things while food went uncooked.  It was also the only holiday my maternal grandparents would spend with us, suffering through a visit long enough to eat dinner before running off to my aunts’ house down the road, their favorite child with whom they spent all other holidays. And weekends. And annual tickets to “A Christmas Carol”. (I’m not bitter, I swear. I’m just accurate.)

Anyway, since we’ve all supposedly grown up (and frankly I can contest that on all points), my brother moved out and ‘married’, and my grandparents have passed away, my parents decided to start a new tradition: Disaster Thanksgiving, or the less PC, NSFW version that I prefer: Thanksgiving Clusterf*ck.
They’ve decided that instead of going to my paternal grandparents dinner (in which more food is served than could possibly be eaten by the entire city of Boston, all with a side of love), or going to our extended family’s giant dinner (where we would all be guaranteed a good time), we would instead make the dinner ourselves and then drive it twenty five miles into the city to eat at my brother’s apartment (where no fun is ever had. EVER).

The only back story that you need to know here is that my brother and I don’t get along. We’ve never got along. We’re completely opposite in nature. I’m a giver, he’s a taker. He’s also the favorite. C’est la vie. He married a girl with a handicap that makes them unable to travel to our parent’s house. Which is fine. I had no problem with his wife until their wedding last year, when I basically made them a wedding from scratch and she became a psychotic Bridezilla (a word I typically find offensive, but is the only thing that aptly describes what went down last November).  After many months of death threats and defaming me via social media, one could see why I’m none too pleased with either of them, and why spending time with them is not my idea of fun.

But we’re a family dammit. So even though I wanted nothing to do with it, I am told that I either show up or never show up to anything again (which is kind of a stupid thing to say when you’re original point is that we’re a family and we need to stick together). I figured, fine, I’ll cooperate. But the second things start to go downhill I’m flipping the table and screaming “PROSTITOOTION WHOORE!!!!” at the top of my lungs.

It’s a week before Thanksgiving and my family still hasn’t shopped. My mother has already gone into lunatic shutdown mode, so I plan to make all the food so she doesn’t ruin the day with a breakdown or just panic to a point where she spends the day in hospital (RE: Christmas three years ago) or tries to otherwise sabotage it (RE: Last years Drunken Christmas).  I don’t mind cooking, it’s just I’m a lactose intolerant vegetarian. You can only imagine how well that goes over with you know, typical Americans on Thanksgiving. So BB agreed to do the meaty bits and I do everything else. That meant cooking eight dishes for dinner as well as blondies, brownies and three pies. Don’t ask.

I make it happen like a freakin turkey day miracle, and we get my wound-up-to-all-hell Mum and all of the grub in the car, and I loop ‘Funky Fanfare’ by Keith Mansfield on my headphones and take off for the inner city. When we get to his place my brother meets us, helps us into his apartment, and acts like he’s really grateful but yet put out by our being there. As if the holiday he begged for us to bring to him was really putting him out, when all he had to do was clean up a little, clear off the table and turn the oven to 350 before we showed up. He didn’t even have to provide silverware. When we open the door the first thing that hit you was the stink. Then the absolute filth, as if no one had cleaned anything in that apartment since they moved in two years ago. The ground was sticky, there was cat hair and food and feces EVERYWHERE. The very small kitchenette counters were covered with filth and used dishes – as of course was the sink. And the pièce de résistance to the scene – there wasn’t a table anymore. There was no where to eat this magnificent dinner that I slaved over for two days. Plus my table flipping Plan B is now right out.

My parents don’t say anything. They put the bags down by the garbage – the only clean spot in the room – and start cleaning. My brother walks around, not acknowledging the filth at all – or the cleaning – and instead starts complaining when he finds that we have forgotten the butter. I mean, we’re only providing the food, plates, cups, silverware, trash bags, napkins, beverages and toilet paper (an addition I made to much derision from BB, only to find that no, not only had he not cleaned the bathroom, he had no toilet paper at all). How could we not think to remember the butter? So while they spend an hour cleaning the kitchenette so we can use it (and subsequently have to reheat all of the now cold food) he goes to the bodega next door for butter and coffee. (Not toilet paper).

When it came time to eat I wasn’t sure what to do. I was too busy being silently bullshit and staring at my stolen elliptical machine that he uncovered from under a pile of trash and dirty laundry to use as a coat rack when we first came in. Apparently we were supposed to eat standing around his sick wife’s bed. Seriously. Frankly, I couldn’t really eat anything, I was disgusted. I stood with a plate by the gigantic television and spent most of that time chasing the cat who “doesn’t go on the counters” off the counters and away from the food. BB ate with the wife in the bedroom, but my Mum, I have say, ate with me. The second we were done we packed up to leave; we couldn’t get out of there fast enough. But my brother couldn’t be bothered to help clean up or put anything away. So, again, it was up to us. I didn’t care. At this point I was just trying to get the hell out of there, while my mother was obsessing over her soiled Pyrex. (“Dammit Ma, we can wash them at home!”)

When I left I took the toilet paper.

Finally we were off to the ancestral home to have dessert with my grandparents. I love my grandparents, but in recent years going to their house is painful. My aunt and her kids live on the first floor of their house. But recently, my cousin, angry that my grandparents and her parents refused to let her and her boyfriend move into the third floor bedrooms and build them an apartment up there, got pregnant. On purpose. So now she and her boyfriend and her baby live on the third floor – formerly my grandparents’ bedroom. There is talk of making it a separate apartment. Fancy that.

My cousin, as you can see, is a monster. She has been her whole life. This comes of never ever being told ‘no’. When she was a child I refused to babysit her again after I told her she couldn’t do something and she had an unbelievable tantrum. Neighbors called. Glass was smashed. I think it was the first time anyone had ever failed to give her or let her do what she wanted.

Her baby just turned one and is becoming just like her – which is what happens when you have your 90+ year old grandparents raise your baby because, even though you have no job and don’t go to school or leave the house, you can’t be bothered. It’s like a cycle of monsters. My grandparents are just the most wonderful people, and it sickens me to see my cousins take advantage of them like that. They don’t care if their actions hurt people, or that they are killing my grandparents. And I mean, they are literally killing them. Adult Protective Services are threatening to take my grandfather away. It’s that bad.

So while dessert should have been fun and homey, it was awkward and uncomfortable: The baby having tantrums every five seconds when she was told she couldn’t smash the stereo, knock over hot coffee or hit my grandmother; my cousin just sitting there, screwing around on her new iPhone. It’s so hard going there now. That place used to be a respite from home, a comforting place. Now whenever I’m there my stomach hurts and later I have weird dreams. It’s messed up.

When I got home I was so glad it was over. Mum was tired but pleased, acting like it was some great success. I told her we were never doing that again. If she expected me to come to Thanksgiving again, let alone make the dinner, she had better come up with an alternate plan. If she couldn’t she could forget about Christmas, too. I also told her that I wanted my exercise machine back, and would break into his apartment with some thugs to get it. (Yes, I have thug access. Fear me).  She got silent and angry, but whatever. She knows it was a disaster, and she knows she can’t handle the holidays without me.

So I hope you read this story and realized that, no matter how stupid your holiday may have been, at least it wasn’t nearly as shetty as mine. And frankly, I was holding back, as I didn’t mention the fact that we shopped last minute (thanks to Mum’s neuroses), the snake, how lost I feel in my old neighborhoods, the sinking house or any of the other crap. I didn’t want any of you to kill yourselves.

Thanksgiving doesn’t just have to be bad, though. I can often look at it as the start of the ‘holiday season’ which can often be a good thing. For me this means parties and visiting friends and family whom I love but only really get to see this time of year. (It also means the Cookiepocalypse, which will get its own magical post, and is guaranteed to blow your minds). The first party of the season, I’m glad to say, went down the Sunday after Thanksgiving and has restored my faith in humanity. It was thrown by my extended family, you know, the ‘guaranteed fun’ people. It was a milestone birthday for a cousin who turned 50. He has eight brothers and sisters – all but one in attendance – with their kids and a few of us cousins and aunts for garnish. The house was completely decked out in balloons, streamers and bad over-the-hill jokes, full of food and laughter.

While for most people these cousins would be too far removed in relation to know or at least to know very well, I was raised to see them like aunts and uncles. I baby sat or was actually nanny to many of their kids and grandkids, and I often feel more comfortable with them then I do with my own immediate family. So when I got there I was instantly pounced upon by three of them:  sisters, 14 and 9, who I was nanny for in college (I probably spent more time at their house than my own in those days), and their 12 year old cousin, who I babysat. They jumped all over me (as per usual) and we talked and laughed and had a blast.

The sisters were talking about how their dad only gets ‘three days a year’. “Three days for what?” I asked, to which the 9 year old – looking at me as if I were an idiot – responded “To shine.” I thought that was sad, that he only gets three out of 365. So I made an agreement with their mom, promising that if I ever played a lottery and subsequently won, I would pay her many millions in order to procure him a fourth day. To shine.

Conversation came around to the topic of school and the 14 year old complained about how her school’s Asian Club won’t leave her alone. They are so annoyingly persistent that she refuses to join. Instead she joined the Jewish Club. “But you’re not Jewish.” “Yeah, but they have better candy.”

Then the 12 year old says that we should form our own family Asian Club, as we practically are one anyway (the 9 year old was adopted from China, her sister and cousin are both from Korea). So it is agreed. We would be the LAC. It is also agreed that Thunderball is a member too, even though she wasn’t there. I tried to point out that neither Thunderball nor myself were Asian, nor did we share their last name (the L), but they pointed out that it didn’t matter. “You’re practically Asian.” (Apparently it’s an awesomeness that can rub off.)

So we began our club plans, which were basically a discussion about candy which turned into a discussion on what kind of candy which somehow turned into them agreeing that Thunderball and I will make the candy, and they will help. Which I took to meaning that one of them will lose an eye, as I stressed to them how very similar to napalm melted sugar was. That just garnered responses of “what’s napalm?”

At that point the 9 year old was lying across me with an arm over her head but in my face. I asked if the LAC will come with me when I run away to Japan, to which she flew up (further into my face) shouting “I’ll go to Japan!”

“You want to go to Japan?”
“Yes, because they don’t have math in Japan!”
“What? Yes they do –”
“Even if they do have math it’s in a different language and I won’t be able to understand it so I will never have to do math if I’m in Japan!”
“Math is sort of universal. They do have the western version of math in Japan.”
“I love Japan because there’s no math! I HATE MATH!”

So now I’m deaf in one ear, and apparently going to Japan, as it is completely devoid of math. This, I suppose is as good a reason as any to go to Japan. Plus, it’s just a hop skip over to Korea, and that’s something. Hopefully we’ll all survive Candy Armageddon in tact enough to make such plans. I’ll keep you informed.

Messages to the Troops and Squash Genius

20lbs of Premium locally grown pepo. Fear them.

Yesterday I went to a Lion’s Club out in the country to make Christmas cards for deployed soldiers. The frustrating, just glue-stick-it-together, popped-out-of-a-scrapbooking-machine cards I assembled and signed were on par with what I expected from the awkward scrappin’ moms crowd who were hosting the event. I myself am more the hands on uber-nutbar creative type who mixes her own inks, prints with a letterpress machine and makes her own paper, so you can imagine there was much cringing as I applied the foam Christmas icons to the card fronts, but it was for an excellent cause so I didn’t complain. I spent a good amount of time unnerving the ladies with my asymmetry and ‘misuse’ of frames, but whatever. They’ll live (or they unstuck them and redid mine after I left).

My issue with the day really wasn’t the lack of creativity in the cards so much as the lack of creativity in the messages people were putting into those cards. What most people don’t know is that there are more people over there fighting in Afghanistan who have no one to come home to than who do, so even a single Christmas card can make the biggest difference to someone. Therefore the message inside the card should really mean something, not just be something generic and trite.

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be some weird Veterans Day rant or whatever. I don’t go for the flag waving chauvinism others do, and it’s cool if you do. It’s just not my scene. I support our troops, worry about their rights and safety,  and really want to see them come home. Like now. Yesterday even. (I’m a physicist, I’m working on it).  But I am also not going to write a scary, generic thank you for protecting our freedom message in there.  It just seems so impersonal as to become disrespectful. I mean, imagine that the only thing you get for the holidays is this card, and it’s just some run of the mill “Thanks for your service.” Besides, the card kits come with an insert explaining to the recipient where the cards come from and thanking them profusely for defending our freedom.

I also didn’t want to get weird and write something too personal. So while I was contemplating what exactly to write, I perused some of the messages some of my scrappin’ compatriots imparted.

Sigh.

Okay so they weren’t all bad. My favorites were the ones little kids signed, their names in big crinkly letters or no letters at all. In the end most of what the ladies did was just rewrite the insert onto the blank bit of the card verbatim. So it says the same thing twice in the same card. (What else to expect from card-kit aficionados?)  Nice. There were a lot of random removed thank-yous. I think the winner of all of them had to be the one someone signed ‘Fondly’. Seriously. Just ‘Fondly’. No message, no name. Fondly. How much more dispassionate can you get? Or maybe passionate – for all I know this lady has a certain kink for mystery men or soldiers and she was really saying ‘fondle-y’. You can imagine it bothered me enough that I couldn’t stop overthinking it which led to a rant about letter writing and salutations and got me on this whole thing about people formally signing letters with ‘Sincerely’ as though to prove that they aren’t lying. Everything in the body of this letter is truth. Sincerely.

Now all the scrappin’ ladies think I’m nuts – but funny – and offer me hot cocoa as a ‘relaxer’.
They didn’t seem to catch my point about what we put into the body of the card matters. (And more specifically that what they put in their cards was what I was contesting).

In the end I wrote little messages about how I hope that the card and the season finds the recipient well, that they are staying safe, and that I hope they come home soon. (Written a lot more eloquently than that I assure you.)  I also mentioned that I would be thinking about whoever got my card, and all of our soldiers on Christmas. You know, that someone cares that they’re out there. And I mean it. I think it’s all too easy to forget what’s going on in the world. We are a culture of out of sight out of mind.

Everyone should get in on this card making gig. It can really make a difference in someone’s life.  You can find resources online like www.operationchristmascard.org  where you can get more information.

This is what comes of Mum trying to break out of her comfort zone and go somewhere she’s never been before and doing stuff she’s not into: Getting ‘lost’ within walking distance of the venue; seriously annoying unsupervised children; dangerously unsupervised children; glue sticks; scrappin’; hot beverages and a density of cookies that could probably irreversibly damage the space time continuum. (It might even give the universe diabeetus in that one spot. I should check the math.) I even spent some time hearing of the exploits of two women who are competitively breeding. No shet.

Later we would go back to the farm stand we were ‘lost’ at and spend $7 on a 20lb grab bag of squash, the purchasing of which involved highly detailed descriptions of the different varieties and flavors of each to other nervous patrons. (Why these people were nervous of squash is beyond me. Vegetable revolution perhaps? Fear of fiber?) This came at both the amusement of the farm staff and as a surprise to myself – as I had no idea that I even knew that much about that many pepo. Go me, squash genius.

My FUBAR Life and Brief Spider Updates

Lately I have been looking at my life from the perspective of how broken things are. I don’t recommend it as eventually you notice that everything is broken. It gets overwhelming fast, and you find yourself with really stupid options for remedy. You can take the chaos theory approach to things and just say that it’s the universe’s tendency to return to its natural state of disarray. You can take the optimists approach and say if it can be broken it can be fixed. Or you can declare it irreversibly fubar and either hide in a hole or bail.

I took this in September while going in for labs.

Sufficed to say all my trying to fix what I can fix has led to more things going to shit, which just further supports chaos theory, and pushes me toward fubar every time.

Case in point. The more I try to fix my health the more backward I seem to go. Despite my efforts to try to make my blood situation manageable, the more I get screwed up.

I got a letter in the mail sometime last week. I say sometime because someone else got to the mail first and not only did not deliver my letters to me, but sort of hid them from me. That aside, I find this letter addressed to me from the oncology clinic that serves as my blood dealer. It is a form letter notifying me that it no longer exists, but not to worry – my oncologist or haematologist will contact me with further instructions on what to do and where to go now. With the exception of this one oncologist who also no longer exists. Of course, that one oncologist happens to be MY doctor and I happen to have labs due for him and an appointment at his now nonexistent office in a week.

What? I just looked at the paper and then reread it several times. Who notifies a patient that their oncology clinic has closed and they’ve got to find a new oncologist that way? Who just dumps their practice and makes for the hills like that?

I seriously hope that they did not send that letter to all the patients who use that clinic’s services. I mean really. Imagine getting that letter when you’re in the middle of cancer treatments? I’d be terrified if my oncologist just bailed. My needs at that clinic are nowhere near as severe as they could be, but what would have happened had I not received that letter? Would they have just let me show up to my upcoming appointment and find out that way? It is exceedingly inhumane to have your health – which in the case of oncological patients is your life – treated with the coldness of a form letter. And people have the audacity to argue that there is nothing wrong with our health care system.

Right now I’m sort of having a rough time of it, and I suspect I will need to be fused to the juice again soon: I’m cold, exhausted, my hair is coming out in clumps again, and I’m passing out. What if I can’t wait months to find a new clinic and new doctor? What the hell is wrong with people?

It turns out that my clinic and its parent hospital were absorbed by a larger area hospital. I knew that was happening (via local media) but had been under the impression that the two hospitals would function the same way, with departments and emergency services remaining at both just under one name. This made sense as they both shared the same lab departments, many of the same staff, and the larger hospital has more services, better facilities; the smaller hospital would often refer a patient to the larger for those services. I had no idea that they were planning to consolidate oncology services. At my last treatment no one said a word and they made the appointments so they knew I was expecting to come back. I am now concerned that the rug may have been pulled out from under them as well, and am more than a little worried for many of the staff. No one needs to lose their jobs in this economy.

The letter provided several (seemingly random) telephone numbers for me to try to figure out what I’m supposed to do next. I felt terrible for the various receptionists and nurses I talked to on the phone who must be running ragged trying to figure out what to do with all of these lost people calling them up all day. It took several days to work it out, but I have found a new oncologist and we have an appointment to meet next week. This is good but it means starting from scratch with someone new in a new place that I don’t know with people I don’t know. Sorry, but I like to get to know a person before I puke in front of them (because Real Women Puke in Barrels) or exchange bodily fluids.

I have yet to hear from the oncologist who ditched his practice and r-u-n-n-o-f-t back to Boston. I am now oh-so confident in his diagnosis and prescribed treatments.

So fubar is my blood. Next I have to fix my home. My hair (I really don’t want to go bald). My employment situation. My book. My life.

In other news the spider did not in fact steal my mother’s purse. But there’s the possibility of a missing twenty so this was suggested:

Note: Everything is improved with cleansing fire.

No Good Purse – Thievin’ Spiders

Me: Well, hello.

Mum (From next room): Is it a spider?

Me (Looking at very large spider): It would appear so.
How did you know it was a spider?

Mum: Move my purse off the counter!

Me:  How did you know it was a spider?

Mum: There was one on the back of the chair and I shooed it away. It’s probably the same one.
Did you move my purse?

Me (Eyelevel with spider, peering intently): No.

Mum: Where’s the spider?

Me (Still peering): Next to your purse.

Mum: Move my purse!!!

Me: Why?

Mum: I don’t want it to steal anything!

This is my life.

I kept staring at the spider, and eventually I reached out a finger nail and tapped its leg. Then it tapped me back, in an investigatory sort of way. Then we sort of shook hands. I smiled, and went in for another shake, when it went in for the kill, pouncing quite forcefully at my fingernail. I was expecting it though, so I pulled away before it could make any contact, if it had any mandibles at all.

My house is sort of overrun with spiders (although not in any way that one would notice). As I am a fan I’m not too horrified. They kind of stick to themselves and eat the random things that get in and make life difficult. In my room there are at least three species that I’ve noticed.  We all have this understanding, a roommate’s agreement if you will. It simply states: “You can live in my room all you want, but my bed is off limits. Sorry.”

Most likely this is not the same spider that I shook hands with tonight, but it’s of the same variety. This one was sitting on my keyboard last week and was quite horrified when I started to use it.