Wednesday, March 16, 2016

I'm Moving

Yes, it’s true. I am moving. I have an insatiable thirst for new experiences and I like changing things up.

So this time, instead of rearranging the furniture or changing my hair color, I’m changing my blog. It’s time. New name, new place.

I’d love for you to come with me. You can do it here.

Friday, March 11, 2016

New York, Early Spring 1991

Another generally irritating day, where I had a list of things to do and only accomplished half of them. I’m carrying this annoying bag filled with the work of the day, and it’s so heavy that when it swings it nearly knocks me over. I had to stop at the store to pick up a few things, so now I’ve got another bag. It’s pouring down rain out, and the wind is threatening to invert my umbrella. So there I am, struggling with these three things and dropping my mail on the wet floor at the guard’s station as I struggle to locate my ID and at the same time keep the soaked umbrella away from my pants.

I stumble into my apartment, violently thrust forward by the weight of my bag as it slips off my shoulder. I sigh heavily with an air of annoyance, and I feel the tears burning behind my eyes. All I want to do is sit in my bed in the dark, with the covers pulled up to my chin, clutching my lifelong friend Teddy. And cry. What an incredibly frustrating day! Nothing went right.

Instead I find my roommate stretched out on her bed with the blinds up, listening to music. She’s doing absolutely nothing. Most of the time she does nothing. She’s been sleeping all day. I am instantly pissed to find her there, invading my right to privacy again.

“Hi!” she sings cheerily. She’s only a sophomore, and already she has her life planned out as far as graduation from Harvard Law. She’ll probably do it. The only thing she seems to worry about is not getting into Harvard because she only has a 3.7 GPA. It really irritates me to hear her complain about this.

Last semester I was contemplating law school – I even have a dusty white box in the back of my closet with about twenty bulletins. Criminal justice is fascinating, and I’ve always been interested in helping people (and the money doesn’t look too bad either). But then I changed my mind because I knew I wasn’t ready to handle the workload, and I sure don’t have a 3.7.

It really bothers me that she worries over such a tiny little thing, when she already has planned out everything else. This summer she’s studying in Korea. Next year she wants to do the Washington semester.  She’s already got an internship for next fall. I don’t even have that – I haven’t even begun the search for one. That’s just another thing on my long list of “Things to Do.” It bothers me that she already knows what she wants to do after only two years in college and I’m still playing the guessing game after four. I want to know too! When I talk about the uncertainty of my future and worry about graduation and finding a job, she looks at me blankly like I’m a lunatic.

So I stumble into my room. I can’t even look at her. If I open my mouth I’ll say things I’ll regret.  I want her to get out. I swear she hasn’t left that spot since she crawled into it last night. I toss my bag on the floor, rip off my jacket, kick off my shoes, and fall into bed.  I pull the covers up over my head, and lie still. I wait. The tears are stinging my eyes. I slip one hand out from under the covers, groping for Teddy’s leg somewhere behind my head.

She either gets the hint or is getting hungry. She turns off the radio, closes the blinds, and leaves me in the empty darkness of our room. I close my eyes and try to envision something peaceful – a warm, sandy beach, blue ocean, me, and nothing but the sound of seagulls soaring overhead. But, as usual, it doesn’t work. Something is gnawing at the pit of my stomach, and I just want to cry and cry.

I want someone to come along, take my hand, and show me the way. I’m on some rollercoaster ride to nowhere and I just want to get off. I wish the end of this road wasn’t so dark and scary. I wish I had some answers.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

What's New Under the Sun

As my youngest rapidly approaches the end of her elementary career, I am reminded of not only how young she is, but also how fast she’s growing up. And I’m not ready.

Several nights ago, Veruca got her first phone call from a boy. She was all cool and simultaneously silly – and he’s “just a friend” and he bet her $5 that if he called her, her mom would answer the phone. If that isn’t the biggest crock of bull to get a girl’s phone number… and she fell for it, hook, line and sinker. Whatever the exchange was, they kept getting cut off (you know, cell phone service being what it is) and he kept calling back, and eventually she turned her phone off so he couldn’t call again. Ha!

Last night at dinner she told us that he didn’t give her the five bucks he bet her, and she was pissed. Okay – not really. More like, not fair - that’s not how the game works. Todd told her to ask him for it – you know, a bet’s a bet and she won fair and square. She said, can you tell him? We joked about him calling on her behalf as her “attorney.” We had a good laugh before I looked at her and said, seriously – he likes you – why do you think he asked for your number? Which apparently hadn’t been considered.

There’s an awful lot of liking being circulated through the fifth grade. This one likes that one, that one wants to date this one… wait, date? Who dates in fifth grade?!

Annnndd… apparently the principal knows the answer. Yesterday Veruca told me Mrs. Fitz came to the classroom to talk about some big problems they’re having in school. In Veruca’s words, some kids are “having sex in school.” Cue screeching brakes. (We were in the car.) I said WHAT?! Just how is that even possible? I don’t know, she said, probably in the bathroom. This was her guess – and by now I’m wondering just exactly what Mrs. Fitz said. Did she actually use the word “sex”? She did. Still – I found myself thinking out loud… just how is that even possible? You know – mechanics, people! Meanwhile, in her usual way of ignoring and talking over me, Veruca speculated it could’ve been anyone from kindergarten through fifth grade, though probably 3rd or 4th or 5th graders. Huh.

Coincidentally, there was an incident about 10 days ago where Veruca heard a boy in art class tell her friend to “suck my ---k” and she was upset about it. She said she told the teacher and she did nothing. This is where it pays to be a sleuth – because you absolutely cannot take anything a 10-year-old says at face value without some digging. (She only told the teacher that he said a bad word.) Needless to say, I told her that he cannot talk that way to a girl – or anyone. It’s wrong and in some parts of the grown up world it’s considered sexual harassment – which is a crime. So, the next day she took it to the assistant principal, who thanked her for coming forward.

So another big issue in school is profanity. Well, now there’s a surprise. Veruca tells me that the back of the bus is Grand Central for misdemeanors of the elementary kind. Meanwhile, back in school… Hunter dropped the f-bomb in the adjacent classroom and everybody’s talking about it.

My son, whom I will now refer to as Opac (OH-pock), is learning how to fine tune his communication skills not only by texting me when he wants to stay after weight-training to play a little b-ball with his friends, but also by not spontaneously exclaiming the f-bomb at his sister. It’s a work in progress. The dollar in a jar isn’t working with him, primarily because he has no money. Next offense will result in grounding. And it won’t be pretty.

Veruca couldn’t wait to tell him what her principal said. She said, guess what my principal said to our class today? And then she looked at me and said, you tell him. Like it’s my story to tell. Opac shared that all kinds of stuff like that was happening in middle school last year, which really did nothing to ease my discomfort about the whole matter. Who remembers this stuff??

When I was in elementary school there was liking going on, though in nearly all circumstances it was one-sided, and mostly boys on the receiving end. I remember liking a boy in first grade who lived in my apartment complex. I wrote him love letters which he received and graciously tore up. Next boy was in third grade and surely unrequited, though I never told him.

Middle school was quite different. I found myself both the target and the huntress, but my first grade lesson had taught me to be more cool.  As in, act completely indifferent to anyone who shows interest. I was “going with” a boy in 6th grade for no other reason than that he asked me, and we never even held hands, let alone saw each other outside of school. There was that girl who was luxuriating in the rather obvious signs of puberty that made her an unfortunate and unintended reputation. I flew obliviously under the radar with my underdeveloped body. My first somewhat real date came years later, in 10th grade, again with a boy I had barely noticed until he’d asked. I was 15. Fifteen! My son is fifteen. He’s shown no signs of interest in anything not tied to a football. And for that – I am grateful.

Veruca, on the other hand, is acutely aware of the boys. A rumor circulated back to her that Steven likes her, and she was on a search and destroy mission to find out who started it. I suggested that she focus on her studies, and less on someone she’s not interested in. Probably fell on deaf ears, like almost everything else I tell her. And last night before she went to bed, she told me that cell-phone-boy is her boyfriend. Since when? I suppose it doesn’t matter, at least until he walks over from his development and knocks on the door.

I’ll let Opac answer it.

Keeping watch on the neighborhood.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Momma Forgot There'd Be Days Like These

Because you think you’re having a bad day…

I had a meeting today at one of the college campuses where Todd works. Well, technically he doesn’t work at this campus. I’m doing some grant work and had a meeting about some Veteran Services initiatives that they’re working on. The meeting was at 12:30. Seeing as our accountant is in the Baltimore area as well, I decided to drop off the tax stuff to him before the meeting. We live about 50 minutes north of Baltimore. On a good day. So I left at 10:30, figuring two hours was more than enough time.  Plus, I have GPS. What could go wrong? I also had to stop at this restaurant in White Marsh where we’d had dinner with my in-laws last week, and where Veruca left her prized mint green Justice handbag hanging on her chair.

I had no trouble getting to the accountant. I’ve been there before, his office is literally around the corner from my in-laws, and, like I said – GPS. In and out. Back in the car with 45 minutes until my meeting. I contemplated stopping at the restaurant first, and decided I’d best focus on the meeting.

Well. Missed the proper exit for the direction I needed to go (an exit I take every. Single. Time. I leave my in-laws) and ended up going the wrong direction. Six miles later I was able to turn around, and now I’m going the right way. Meanwhile, the manager from the restaurant calls me about the purse, and apologizes for no one calling me back last week, and tells me to please be sure to ask for James when I come in. Gotta go, James, I’m driving on the beltway and I’m lost again. Seriously.

The fudrucking beltway is a great big circle. Didya know that?  THAT’s why it’s called the BELT-WAY. So, not knowing this, ya know, because I’m not freaking FROM Baltimore, I panicked when I saw signs for a “tunnel.” And now I’m all like – shit! I don’t want to go through the tunnel! How the hell did I get HERE?! Because – and I swear I’m not stupid – I didn’t know there’s more than ONE tunnel in Baltimore. And this tunnel I desperately was trying to avoid was actually going to take me to the town I needed to get to. So, I changed direction and ended back on I-95 going north (at least I know my way this way) and ended up at another tunnel! However, this is the tunnel I’m familiar with and I’m now not only supremely confused, I’m swearing a string of colorful words because I’m now late for this meeting, which is so not a good first impression for the director of Veteran Services.

Long story short, I made it okay. Only 5 minutes late. I apologized profusely and sat down after introductions were made, my face hot and pink from the f@#$-I’m-late jog from my car. Trying to breathe normally, I pull out my glasses and a pen. I click the top of the pen and it springs back – the top flying over my head. I’m momentarily mortified and holding my maniacal laughter in by a thread until the director tells me the same thing happened to her a few minutes ago.

An hour and half later, the meeting’s over. Back in the car and feeling okay now. This is the easy part. The restaurant is around the corner from Todd’s campus. I go in and ask for James and here is a classic example of how you can be so wrong when you picture someone based on their voice. The 7-foot middle-aged giant who greeted me looked nothing like a 30-something preppy guy in khaki pants. He looked more like an off-duty cop. Or a bouncer at a strip club. Not that I know what a bouncer looks like at a strip club. I’m just saying that’s what I imagine one would look like. And after the day I’d had at this point, I seriously had to internally kick myself to keep from sniggling. He handed me some coupons for free stuff, ya know – the standard comp crap they give you when you complain to corporate (not so long story).

I’ve had worse days. I’m just hoping I don’t repeat this on Thursday when I have to find Johns Hopkins.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Overheard in a Fitting Room

A 10-year-old walks into a space-challenged fitting room after trying on a dress, and wedges herself into the corner seat. The click of hangers and whoosh of fabrics … a few seconds of trivial conversation turns to this.

Dad really loves Stephanie.

I hope so. I’m glad.

You want him to be happy.

Yes, I do.

Why did you and dad get divorced?

We didn’t get along. We fought a lot.

But you don’t fight anymore.

That’s because we’re not married anymore.

What did you fight about?

Everything. We didn’t see eye-to-eye on very much. But I’m not sorry we got married – because I have you, and your brother.

You’d still have us, even if you married Todd instead.

Well, I’d still have kids, they just wouldn’t have been you and –

Yeah, cause then we’d look like Todd. Eww!


Well, his face is skinny...

What are you saying?

No – I mean, he’s alright but –

Well, I like him.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Lost and Found

Found 3 things recently that were lost. 

  1. A rather brand new cell phone. 
  2. A green “bowl.” 
  3. The cat.

This was all very exciting, though for different reasons. Todd came in from the car one day and showed me this brand new cell phone he found under the passenger seat. He asked who was in the car recently that may have lost it? I’d never seen it before. After a moment or two of reckoning, he remembered how eight months ago Neph had lost a cell phone – which he never found. Neph, like any person of his generation, is quite adept at losing shit. Like his driver’s permit – which, apparently, one needs if one wishes to take the driver’s test. This was quite funny at the time, since he had to get a new one, and later found the original permit at a friend’s house after he got his license.


After the four-foot wall of snow melted from along the fence line, I noticed something green in the corner of the fence from my perch on the deck. It was a large, plastic green bowl and after a momentary lapse – I recognized it as the base to the Christmas tree stand, missing since last year, and not one person in the house knew where it was. Todd said, “probably somewhere in the garage.” If you’ve seen our garage… I wasn’t going in there looking for the veritable pin in a haystack. O blamed Neph – because, well, see above. But all I could say to that was – what would HE want with a Christmas tree stand? So, I went out and found a plastic bin that could hold water and the legs of the tree stand without tipping over.

Why was this bowl in the corner of the fence, upside down? Veruca used it some time ago to climb over the fence – you know – because why use the gate? When I asked her about it last weekend, she said… are you ready for this? Oh. This same child went with me to shop for its replacement. Heard me 
exclaiming aloud about it. Oh.

Meanwhile, back in the yard…


Todd decided it was time to refill our propane tank and so went outside to unhook it and load it into the truck – because we like to live life dangerously. What I didn’t know at the time was that he’d left the sliding door open downstairs, which I learned upon our return home from having this tank filled. Immediately I worried that Oliver had discovered this lapse, and briefly considered that Todd had done it intentionally. I searched the whole house, every nook and cranny. No cat. I called him and called him. I decided to vacuum the entire house – because if there’s one thing that will flush him out – it’s the vacuum. After 38 minutes of ear-deafening noise, no sign of whisker or tail. Now I was really worried.

I went outside, searching the backyard – which is quite large – and, having also noted that the gate too had been left open, searched the front yard and adjacent properties. I took a can of cat food with me and a fork, and tapped the can and called to him. I wandered into our old horse pasture, all the way to the back where it borders the woods. Two stray cats sitting atop a huge tree stump looked at me with a mixture of curiosity and anxiety. I figured their presence was a pretty good sign that Oliver hadn’t gotten that far. I slipped through the fence and into the woods, winding my way into my backyard. Todd was standing on the deck looking somewhat guiltily at me, and said he still thought Oliver was hiding in the house. He went out to the front yard to look and I went inside the house feeling downtrodden, absentmindedly tapping the can with the fork. When I turned the corner of the kitchen island, an hour and a half after the search began, There. He. Was. The little shit was sitting expectantly by his food bowl, looking gorgeous, well-rested, and completely apathetic about the crisis. I burst into tears. He meowed at me until I opened the can. Dispassionate little jerk.

Monday, February 22, 2016

What is 'Merica?

I referenced ‘Merica in a Facebook comment last weekend, and was accused of using it in a derogatory way. Okay – I did sorta kinda use it in a derogatory way – I referenced stupid lower-middle class ‘Merica as being responsible for the rise of a certain Presidential candidate. That’s kind of a rude and unfair generalization. What I really should have said is that people aren’t making educated decisions about the implications and consequences of electing this individual. Full disclosure: my actual comment: The stupid dumbass Americans from lower middle class 'Merica. The ones who follow the crowd and don't really "think." It's scaring the hell out of me.

It might not have been my finest comment. Needless to say, a “friend” reposted my comment on her wall in a very unflattering post, which was followed by a shockingly more vile comment from her husband which I won’t dare repeat. To be fair, she never mentioned me. But clearly it was meant for me. And then she unfriended me. In a couple of PMs, I reached out to apologize for anything I said that offended her, that I believed she took it out of context, and told her I just wished she’d told me directly that my comment upset her. I was sincere. Her response? 'Merica is used alot by Veterans (close friends of ours) and I don't stand for it to be thrown in their faces and calling them or anyone else that used it low-middle class. I'm tired of people in this country disrespecting vets, stepping on the flag, etc. just because it's their "right" to do so and calling it liberalism. It's just better at this point for me to unfriend those that are making statements like this, I don't want to see it.

I was so confused by this that I shared it with Todd, to be sure I understood what it meant. Was I being accused of calling veterans low-middle class? Was I disrespecting veterans by using the term ‘Merica? I never mentioned veterans in my offensive comment, but is that implied if I’m using it? How did veterans become a part of this conversation anyway? Do I symbolically step on the flag by saying ‘Merica? Am I a liberal if I use the term, or am I a Republican? I’m still confused.

Since I’m so obviously ignorant, I googled ‘Merica this morning. According to Urban Dictionary:

The top definition – America. It’s considered a slang term for The United States of America. There are also other ways of spelling it – such as ‘Murica, ‘Murika, and Amurica.

#2 – “A whole new way of saying America. …Merica is the whole experience of America summed up in a stereotypical way. Eating anything deep-fried, shooting shotguns….. People often say it when they see Americans doing things only Americans can do, such as: trimming a hedge with a chainsaw…. and driving tractors in the middle of a freeway. It is often expressed in a proud and commonly exaggerated manor.” Another definition calls it the redneck/hicks version of America. (Urban Dictionary misspelled "manner" by the way. Which really annoys me.)

It also hails from George W.’s “country” accent (their words, not mine. I’d have chosen Texan, myself. Unless Texan is somehow not PC and then I guess I should've just said, Texas accent), wherein the A comes across as silent and thus we hear only, merica. Which – by the way – I found very endearing about him.

Finally, still another definition is “a term used by the ignorant masses who have no self-respect, or respect for our founding fathers.” This definition is kind of confusing too, in the context of my comment and the subsequent backlash. Does this mean I’m “the ignorant masses” for using the term? Or was this definition incorrectly written and they meant to say, “used for the ignorant masses”? By either definition, it’s kind of insulting. In the context of my friend’s statement, would that then mean that veterans are the ignorant masses? Because that’s just all kinds of wrong.

I’m still confused. Doesn’t everyone use chainsaws to cut their hedges? I thought they did that in Disney. Are Disney landscapers rednecks? And what’s wrong with riding a tractor on the highway? That would be pretty badass, not to mention fun, pissing off all the speeders. And I love deep fried food. Does that make me a redneck? I better Google Jeff Foxworthy and brush up on my definitions.

I am genuinely sorry for making an ignorant statement. I’m like that meme that says I don’t think about what I’m going to say because I like to be just as surprised as everyone else. Except that I’m not shameless. It’s no excuse, but I often blurt out stupid and/or inappropriate things and then mutter to myself – kind of like when Baby told Johnny she carried the watermelon.

Still – for the public record – I don’t think lower-middle class people are stupid. There are plenty of stupid people out there representing all classes. I do not dislike rednecks, nor was I implying that rednecks are stupid. Again, see above. I would never use “liberalism” as my excuse to say or do something inherently wrong. My often foolish ineptitude and undisciplined tongue are to blame. I have never, or would ever, stomp on the American flag. There’s a little 3 x5 flag on a broken wooden stick in my drawer because I just can’t throw it in the trash can. I don’t know what to do with it, but I just can’t throw it away – kind of like your kid’s dried up umbilical cord.

I did not – nor would I ever – say anything derogatory about veterans. I have friends and beloved family who are or were veterans. I bow down to them for doing something I’d never have the courage to do. I also don’t feel the need to defend myself at length about this. However, if you knew that I’m immersed in grant work right now and the group I’m currently working for – you’d know just how ridiculous this whole conversation is.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

An Open Letter to My Friends

I have many friends who all come from many parts of my life: childhood friends, school friends, friends whose friendship I hadn’t earned in high school but whom I learned to cherish in recent years, friends from my first college and my “sisters,” friends from my second college, friends from my life after college, friends from my “mommy” life, friends from my after-first-marriage life, friends through diabetes, friends who come from Todd, friends I’ve made since I’ve remarried, restaurant friends, and friends who are family (hopefully I haven’t left anyone out).

I cherish the many friendships I have found and kept. What is wonderful about all of my friends is the diversity I have among them… white, black, biracial, gay, lesbian, Asian, Indian, interracial couples, unconventional relationships, liberals, conservatives, Catholics, Christians, Jews, psychics, big families, small families, obnoxious loudmouths, quiet lurkers ….. these I cherish because through our differences we learn so much from each other. I value all of your opinions, and … being the Gemini I am… I see two sides to every coin (usually more – which sounds a bit mentally unstable, but you get the point).

I accept that we all have our own views of the world, our own views of what’s right – and what’s wrong. I accept that our opinions may differ. I see your public statements that affirm where you stand on moral and political issues. I accept them. I may not agree with them, but I accept that those are your opinions and you are entitled to them. 

I have always believed that I was entitled to my own – and that I could voice them as I chose to and you, my friends, would either accept them or you wouldn’t. Some of you have challenged me. And that’s okay too. I’ve posted things and then saw that “so-and-so” commented and I thought, oh God, here we go. But I know it’s a fair exchange of conversation, and in the end we’ll still be friends. Because our differing opinions may divide us, but they will not conquer.

One of my very best friends, whom I would walk across fire for – she’s on the opposite end of the political fence… and guess what? She’s still one of my most cherished friends. Another friend has been married for nearly 20 years to a man who belongs to the <<gasp>> other party. My in-laws didn’t vote for my candidate last time. So WHAT?

I have seen posts that offend me. I have seen posts I don’t agree with. But – I have never once called anyone out on them.  (There's this new thing - it's called scrolling.) I never once considered “unfriending” anyone – based on a post or the simple fact that I disagreed with a position. I never invited people to unfriend me if they had a different opinion. That’s kinda harsh, in my humble opinion.

This is what makes friendships RICH. And GREAT.  How boring our lives would be if we were all the same. Something along the way made us friends. And something as stupid as an opinion, even – and I’m going out on a fragile limb here – something as silly as politics – shouldn’t change our friendship. The banter that arises from it – the lessons – are supposed to teach us tolerance and understanding and with an open mind we might just see things differently than we expected. This is what I teach my children. Tolerance.

I don’t expect us all to agree. I don’t want us all to agree. But – for the love of shit – can’t we all just agree to disagree? Without insulting one another?

I’m really disappointed today. I was in a position of being attacked and morally dissected by a complete stranger a few months ago, and it put me in a guarded place. I have had friend requests from people I didn’t know and had to really think about before allowing into even my online life. I spent part of a morning deleting new friends in the diabetes community in a move of self-preservation. Over the past week, I’ve had a series of bad news. I thought about logging out of Facebook, to avoid any more blows, because emotionally I’m spent. But – like an addict - I can’t turn it off. But it is getting ever so easy to consider, given the present temperature of politics.

Dear friends, I am friends with you because of who you are – not because of who you vote for. I don’t care if you vote for Donald, or Ted, Hillary, or Bernie, or fucking Mickey Mouse. And guess what? Before I start singing happy campfire songs – I don’t care if you voted for Obama or not – it doesn’t matter if I did or not – I still think it’s pretty shitty to call our sitting president an asshole. And even shittier to call a friend as much for making a casual statement you disagree with. It makes me question how much you value me.

Friday, February 19, 2016

On the Island of F*d Up Dreams

Another night of interrupted sleep, and the dreams take me to places familiar and strange. Last night I made Coq au Vin for dinner, and it turned out so good that apparently my inflamed mind decided it was ripe for a dreamland dinner party. Only it didn’t start out as a dinner party.

I cooked up this dish and placed all four pieces of chicken on a single dinner plate with barely a cup of white rice – for Veruca, O, Todd, and me. And my brother. But then my mom was there. And then two more friends were suddenly there and I was like, I didn’t know you were staying for dinner. No matter, surely we can divide that plate up amongst us. In the kitchen, the table was set for a dozen people and I turned around and there they were. And I’m like, MOM – you could have told me you invited more people. There’s not enough food.

I started prepping to make more Coq au Vin, thinking I’d just begin serving the older gentleman – who was a peculiar (and rather quiet) combination of Bernie Sanders and my lawyer – with what was already made. I turned back to the counter and found two more friends eating directly from this small plate of chicken and rice, and now there’s none left! And I was furious. 

I stormed off to the basement to gather more food from the backup refrigerator and got lost in this dank forest of dusty old things… until Todd came looking for me. I crawled out from behind a pile of stuff with dirty, torn Christmas stockings on my hands and started ranting at him about all the people who have come to dinner and nothing’s prepared. I was saved by the alarm for a 2 a.m. blood sugar check, and thankfully didn’t have to make Coq au Vin for what became more like 30 people.

Back to bed and back to school. I have these recurring dreams about being back at NYU, where I don’t ever go to classes and suddenly realize halfway through the semester that I’m going to fail out if I don’t start going. But this is compounded by the revelation that I don’t even know WHAT classes I’m registered for, let alone WHERE they are.

Thankfully, I didn’t have this dream last night. Instead, I was in O’s high school – there to pick him up but apparently he’d gotten on the bus to go home. I walked out of the building and saw my neighbor, who apparently is now the principal and head of the zoology department, and handed him a foil-wrapped package of leftover meat (from a different dinner, I suppose) to feed the lion. He reminds me that he cannot accept food from outside the school, for liability reasons. I toss the package in the trash can and I cross the street with Veruca to enter the “mall.”

I tell her we must hurry in order to beat O home, but first I consider stopping in this shop to buy him a shirt. We hurry past the store and into a department store, where the aisles are crowded with people, and I’m just trying to get to the door. Once outside, I bend over to tie my shoe laces and somebody kicks me hard in the calf. We don’t get the chance to see who did it, and the pain in my leg slows us down. We never find the car… because I wake up again.

I told Todd I think it’s my medication that weaves these Alice-in-Wonderland-like dreams, and while it helps anxiety during waking hours – it’s allowing it to run wild in my sleep. He suggested that this is a problem.

*There is no political endorsement between the lines.*

Sunday, February 14, 2016

It's Valentine's Day - Time to Shave and Cut Those Toenails

Valentine’s Day! The most anticipated celebration of love for those with high expectations and the most dreaded holiday for those whose expectations fell into a loveless abyss decades ago. For those anticipating – stay tuned. For those dreading, in the words of Jeff Probst – Go back to camp, I’ve got nothin’ for ya.

Whether you’ve been married for 100 years, or just started dating, Valentine’s Day is a day to acknowledge your love for all its worth – by spending half a week’s pay in a fancy, expensive restaurant, buying sappy cards and edible underwear, teddy bears, heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, lingerie, and priceless jewelry she’ll be afraid to wear out of the house.

Or maybe you prefer a low-key home-cooked meal, a beer, and a movie on the couch. Nevertheless, there are a few key things that are very important on this – the most important romantic holiday of the year.

Brush your teeth. This may seem like a no-brainer, but there is nothing worse than tongue wrestling with someone whose teeth feel like fuzzy little socks, or whose breath smells like your 10th grade history teacher’s noxious combination of coffee and hoagie.

Wear something nice. Nothing says I love you more than fresh, clean underwear. If you don’t own a single pair without holes or skid marks, there’s still time to get yourself to Walmart! Romance may be asleep, but it’s not dead!

Cut Your Toenails. Really – we all know the pedicure falls into that it’s-winter-who-gives-a-shit file – but Valentine’s Day should be Opening Day. Unless you’re a Hobbit, no one wants feet that look like they’ve been traversing mountains and brimstone, or gardening with 10 little garden hoes. Cut those nails! Sofa hockey is not meant to draw blood, people!

Shave. This goes for both men and women. Guys – if you have any hopes of making out with your lady, shave that 5 o’clock shadow of microdermabrasion. Nobody wants a date to end with raw skin. Or, maybe they do – but for the sake of time, let’s just say they don’t. And ladies – if you’ve taken the winter off, today is the day you start shaving again. It can be very confusing otherwise to a man who thinks he’s dining out with his beautiful girl, only to find Sasquatch in the bedroom.

And speaking of Sasquatch, there’s this alarming new trend in grooming down there. Ladies, there’s nothing wrong with a bikini wax or some minor, shall we say – trimming. Bald? Too each her own. However – do not, DO NOT try bald for the first time on Valentine’s Day. Just trust us on this.

Men – we appreciate manscaping. It’s a labor of love and we know it. Just take care with the scissors! You definitely DO NOT want to have to forfeit the nookie because of one small slip of the hand. There’s only so much creativity one can come up with.

Remember – somebody loves you and, while they may overlook those personal flaws most every day, a little effort goes a loooooong way to igniting the spark that brought you together. Long Live Romance!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


I recently visited Mom mom in “the home,” and we got to compare some notes on aging. Gloria is 90 years old and, holding steadfast to her earlier vanity, she’s the only one in her retirement building with brown hair. She is fit as a fiddle, all things considered. She stands tall and regal as a queen, and she is royally hard of hearing.

I arrived at her apartment door and knocked. LOUD. No answer. I stood in the vestibule she shares with another resident, staring at the giant stuffed teddy bear resting by the window, and contemplated pounding on the door and how that might be received by her neighbor (assuming she can hear). The door was locked. I called my mom and asked her to please call her mother and tell her to open the door. A second later the phone rang, I heard Mom mom exclaim “Oh my God!” and moments later the door opened.

Mom mom is an amazing specimen for her age. She will be 91 in May, and while she walks much slower these days and with a “cart” (a fancy walker with a cup holder and pockets for stuff – like cigarettes) in case she loses her balance, she is – contrary to anything she might tell you – healthy as a horse. She’s had a heart attack, cervical cancer, she loves her beer, she’s smoked all her life, and she now takes insulin injections for her Type 2 diabetes. She doesn’t check her blood sugars, and when I chastised her she scoffed at me. And – as I said – she can’t hear a damn thing and I have to shout at her, which makes me really self-conscious in public but I guess I can’t really stand out too much in a retirement home where 85% of the community is nearly deaf anyway.

She told me my cousin bought her a hearing aid, which I already knew, and said it doesn’t work as she picked it up off the coffee table to show me.  I shouted at her that it might work better if she put it in her ear. She laughed at me.

She is blunt as all get-out…one of the things I love most about her. She gossips to me about the residents… this one is nice but not “all-there,” that one’s a “dumb shit,” this one is “just a smoking buddy” and they’re “just friends.”  She doesn’t hold back when she’s got something to say. She tells me how much she loves her former son-in-law and what a good man he is, and how my mom should’ve stayed married to him. Yep – my dad is that special – over forty years later. She tells me what a “looker” my husband is. She has a way of gushing that makes a grown man blush with embarrassment.

She got out of jury duty by telling them – in so many words – that she’s racist (which, of course, she’s not). I told her she could’ve just told them she had bladder control issues and couldn’t be sitting for long periods of time. She just clicked her tongue and dismissed that with a wave of her hand. I guess vanity won out again.

She once lifted a hanging plant from the front of the grocery store and carried it right to her car and she told me about it! I suggested that I would refuse to visit her in jail, and she said they wouldn’t arrest an old lady – they’d just think she was senile and didn’t know what she was doing. YET, she got into a CAR and drove away.

She embarrassed me when I was about 11, while we were out for dinner with the entire family. I was sitting at the bar between her and my mom sipping on my Shirley Temple and during a lull in their conversation Mom mom looked down at me and exclaimed, “Tara! You have breasts!” But embarrassment doesn’t end like that with Gloria… she copped a feel to confirm her proclamation. Unfortunately, death doesn’t come easily to the mortified 11-year-old.

I’ve forgiven her. No matter what MY mom says, she knows not what she does. I could tell her anything. Always. She may tell everyone else, but she’s not easily shocked. She has given up on the usual conventions of civility for the most part – a product of her age and just not giving a shit – something I find alternately admirable and hilariously funny. She does care about her appearance. She was dressed like she was going out when I got there. She wears nice clothes and puts on a bit of makeup, and makes sure her “hair look nice” (because hair in her world is plural).

We compared aches and pains and she dismissed mine. We compared beauty products and I told her that the smell of hand cream always reminds me of her. She has always used Jergens, and I know that smell as well as I remember the smell of Play-Doh. She gushed over my skin that looks like “porcelain,” and I reminded her I’m wearing makeup designed to do that. She said I got good genes, and I agreed. She doesn’t look like she’s 90.

The beauty of my relationship with her is that it’s separate from those with her children. It was not a Norman Rockwell childhood, for them or for her. I know who she was, but I also know who she is today. She doesn’t lay guilt on me, because I won’t feel it the same way. And she’s really good at it. She cries as easily as she laughs, and every goodbye is always accompanied by tears. I get it. She doesn’t see everyone as much anymore, but of course – she also never wants to go anywhere either. And that’s her prerogative.

My mom surprised her with a 90th birthday party last year – with a huge cake for all the residents and live music. Gloria sat in her chair and received her subjects like a queen bee. She’d never had a birthday party. Ever. Everyone wished her well and here’s to next year! To which she muttered under her breath, but loud enough for me to hear, oh God – I hope not! She wished not to have one more year in "this place." But I’m glad He’s not ready for Gloria yet. I’m still learning from her.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

How Squirrels Kept Me Awake Last Night

I was up this morning between 4 and 5 checking Veruca’s blood sugar and, after a 403, decided a set change was imperative. Then – back to bed where I laid WIDE AWAKE – thinking about safe diabetes management in schools and what I could do about this nationally – and about legislation that needs to happen over big pharma control over prescription drugs and the ridiculous rising costs of life-saving medications. And then I thought maybe I should just get up and go write about all this until I get sleepy again.

But my eyes were tired and they wanted to be closed. Unfortunately, my brain and body didn’t get the memo. Then I remembered The Bloggess and her method of writing notes in her phone in the middle of the night when she can’t sleep, which led to me wondering how I could do that with the bright light in my tired eyes, and then thinking I could use voice-to-text but then I’d wake Todd up – who actually was up anyway because when I left to check Veruca I only snoozed the alarm and obviously I was gone longer than 5 minutes – but anyway I didn’t want to further compromise his sleep by entertaining my brain. He’s usually indulgent with me, but man has his limits.

So, thinking about The Bloggess got me thinking about the weird stuff she thinks of in the middle of her nights, and then I remembered how she thought there were squirrels in her closet and I wasn’t sure she wasn’t just joking about hallucinating that there were squirrels in her closet… and then I thought, that’s just not very funny. I mean, it IS funny, in a way… but not funny to anyone who’s actually had squirrels inside their house. Squirrels that were not invited.

Years ago I lived in this two-floor apartment in an old historic house in my town. The owner of the building was a dentist whose office was on the first floor. Essentially the building was divided in half – my apartment on the second and third floors, and our friends had the two-story apartment on the other side. I once heard a lot of scratching noises coming from the cubbies on the third floor, and decided it best never to open them. My friends told me there were squirrels nesting in them.

I happen to adore squirrels. They’re adorable. They have these cute little faces and they sit up on their hind legs and nibble on acorns clutched in their cute little hands…. What’s not to love? I didn’t really care that they were in the cubbies, so long as they didn’t claw their way inside the apartment. I bet you know where this is going.

One afternoon I was walking down the long hall from the bathroom to the living room, and I heard a disturbing noise overhead. The hallway had a drop ceiling, with a couple of light panels. I looked up and saw little squirrel feet in the light panel. I about shit my pants.  I’ve seen The Breakfast Club, and we all know how those panels can drop. The squirrel was running up and down the hallway on top of the dropped ceiling and now all I could think of was Clark Griswald … and what I’d do if this thing ended up inside my apartment.

Anyway, long story short, I ran downstairs and into the dentist’s office and very calmly informed the receptionist that I had a small problem upstairs that required immediate attention. He came up shortly, with a broom. What is it with people wielding brooms at unwelcome critters? My first year at NYU, we had a mouse in our dorm room kitchen and we called maintenance and the guy came up with a broom and a bucket. And proceeded to locate said mouse and literally beat it to death. That was a traumatic experience that led me to forever espouse humane methods of delivering mice from homes. That and that time I found a mouse stuck to that sticky pad exterminators use, and the poor thing was frantically trying to chew its own foot off to get away. That made me cry. I made my friend get rid of it and I told the landlord that was the most inhumane way to “get rid of” mice.

So after reminiscing the good old days of squirrels in my apartment, I moved onto memories of the squirrels eating all the seed from the birdfeeder my ex hung on one of those iron plant hangers by the fish pond, so we could watch the birds feed from our kitchen window. But the squirrels were very adept at climbing this iron pole, and refilling this feeder every day was a hilarious constant frustration for him. I came up with a solution.

I decided to coat the pole with Vaseline. Then I stood by the window, and waited. I didn’t have to wait long as one squirrel sprinted from the oak tree on the side of our house and took a long, flying leap at the pole. His front paws made contact first, followed by his back legs and a second later… he slid all the way down the pole in slow motion. He made a soft landing and shook himself off incredulously, looked up at the feeder in confusion, and made to reach for the slippery pole again. It was one of the most hilarious things I’ve never videoed.

Meanwhile, back in my wired brain… thoughts shifted back to more pressing present items, like looking into a tent rental for the anniversary party, getting the save-the-date cards sent out, and how to plan out a fun surprise for a friend who could really use the “uplift.” And what to bring to tomorrow’s sports banquet, and what I have to do to gather our tax stuff together, and I have a week to finish reviewing the draft of the diabetes guidelines, and OMG! – Veruca needs her blood tests done, and I have to renew those prescriptions, and ….

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Stakeholders Meeting - Management of Diabetes in Schools

I was invited, as a parent of a T1 child in Maryland public schools, to attend a Stakeholder’s meeting to discuss school management of diabetes. I was really excited to go, anxious to hear what issues they were tackling, and eager to share my thoughts and concerns as I had heard them through the DOC (Diabetes Online Community). The meeting was jointly convened by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), and the Children’s National Health System.

 **Let me clarify that I do not represent these organizations, I am not speaking on their behalf, and I did obtain permission to write this post from the officials spearheading this initiative. I am simply a T1 parent volunteer with a stake in the goals set forth by the meeting, and my goal in sharing this is to reach parents in other states who are struggling with diabetes management in school. As I mentioned in a previous post, there is a breathtaking gap in Type 1 management in schools across the US. The information contained here I hope will serve as inspiration for parents in asking their own schools and states to step up to provide the best possible care and safety for Type 1 students – parents can and should demand legislation and more state involvement where it is lacking. **

The agenda was comprised of perspectives from the diabetes care provider, the State Board of Nursing, School Health Services, and the Parent/Family, to include management challenges, needs, and opportunities in the school setting. After introductions, we broke out into workgroups made up of members from the various stakeholder groups represented that day, each to discuss a different focus area. Obviously I don’t need to tell you that there were a number of Very Important People in attendance that day.

The topics on task for the day included communications between Providers, Schools, and Parents regarding medication orders, the School Health Services Form for Diabetes Management, the implementation of 504 plans and IHPs, issues related to the training of school nurses and other staff, the training and oversight of unlicensed persons, challenges regarding care on field trips and other school-sponsored activities, promotion and support for self-management and essentially what that looks like at each school level. Each workgroup was given a specific focus area to discuss, with very focus-specific questions. The workgroups – again, each comprised of diabetes care providers, school nurses, representatives from the State Board of Nursing, Parents/Caregivers, and government representatives – were tasked to come up with recommendations for these issues.
These focus areas can serve as a foundation for parents nationwide to open dialogue if and where it is needed:
The School Health Services Form for Diabetes Management – how orders are written and transmitted, whether it is standard or individualized, best ways to transmit orders, whether a new order is necessary for every change in insulin dose, and ways to improve the form.
Communications between providers and schools – including provider accessibility to schools, the parents’ role regarding medication orders, and strategies to improve communication between all parties.
Training of school nurses and other school staff – including unlicensed persons who may be needed to fulfill diabetes needs of students (carb counting, calculating boluses, managing care on field trips, and strengthening policies for self-management), with recommendations on how state and local programs can enhance this training to unlicensed persons. Here too, the focus is on the child’s safety in the school setting, and what happens when a school nurse is unavailable.
Communication with and oversight of unlicensed persons providing diabetes care, strategies to address barriers for how and what school nurses delegate, and how communication is achieved when nurses aren’t on location. In addition, how schools promote self-care at the age-appropriate level, what care and management looks like in elementary, middle, and high school settings, how this determines the location of diabetic supplies, and effective collaboration with parents and providers on these issues.
Educational supports regarding 504 plans, Individualized Health Plans (IHP), how much and what type of information is needed on those forms, accommodations regarding standardized tests, challenges with regard to implementation that students and parents encounter, how these challenges were addressed, and what communication regarding education supports has been effective between the school nurse and other personnel.
Diabetes Management Challenges as relates to diabetes care on field trips and school-sponsored activities, what parents’ concerns are regarding safety in the school setting, how these concerns were addressed, what expectations parents have of school personnel, as well as what additional training/education might be needed to support students and parents.
The end result of this Stakeholder’s Meeting, as well as ongoing committee meetings (on which I continue to participate) is to have a new and updated Management of Students with Diabetes Mellitus in Schools, a Maryland State School Health Services Guideline to be completed and in effect for the 2016-2017 school year. I am not at liberty to discuss the specific outcomes and recommendations stemming from these meetings at this time, though I hope to share the final product once it is officially implemented.  But I have learned so much.
Being the “parent” often means feeling like we’re being judged on everything from helicoptering to being the demanding or hysterical parent to being judged on our child’s management. That’s not to say that schools make us feel that way, though I’ve heard many a parent tell some tales that would curl your hair… I have been gloriously blessed with a fantastic school nurse who needs absolutely no supervision from me. Type 1 parents don’t sleep very much. We are frustrated and angered by the blurred distinction between Type 1 and Type 2, the lack of understanding from our friends and even from family of how scary this disease is, and how it is life-threatening on a daily basis. That may sound overdramatic, but the fact is, and remains, that our children are alive only through our tireless diligence and a drug that can also kill them. It’s no small wonder that any of us can function while our children are away from our care.
That being said, I have also now heard perspectives from schools and providers. I met people that genuinely care about the safety, well-being, and education of students with diabetes. Someone said she had actively pursued a pharmaceutical company to market a half-dose of glucagon for children under 6 years of age to make it easier for licensed personnel to administer the correct dose if necessary. Someone commented that in an emergency situation where glucagon is warranted, there is no such thing as overdosing. I’m not the only parent who would agree that it’s not worth arguing details when it comes to glucagon, because not giving it is not an option. I have heard that some parents haven’t even provided glucagon to the school, and the reason is affordability – because some insurance companies are not covering it. The cost of glucagon out of pocket is over $100 per kit, and I know we have at least 4 – one at school, one in my purse, and at least one each at my house and her dad’s.
There was mention of having education and training for all school personnel with regard to glucagon – that in many schools they are already trained in the use of EpiPens, so why not glucagon as well? Shouldn’t everyone know how and when to use it, just like the EpiPen? Should schools require it, or request volunteers to learn how to administer it? When we were still in Pennsylvania, our school nurse had a fit over anyone but her using the glucagon kit. Her concern was liability, and she may have been right, but it was always my feeling that I don’t give a rat’s ass WHO gives my kid glucagon, so long as somebody DOES. I would never sue somebody for attempting to save my child’s life. Alas, there probably is someone who would and therein lies the problem the “officials” face.
Also among the conversations I heard was of one kid whose parents didn’t want to manage his diabetes at all, and his A1c was 17. Imagine that the person who knew this information had to decide what to do with it. It’s certainly a different perspective, something I urge all parents to consider when they’re feeling sensitive about how they’re treated by school personnel. Unfortunately there are children out there with diabetes who do not get proper care, either due to lack of parent education about Type 1 diabetes or accessibility to health care, or both. Consider how school nurses and other personnel who DO understand diabetes handle situations like these. What is their responsibility to this?
What’s really exciting and coinciding with the Stakeholder’s initiative is Maryland Senator Ronald Young’s Senate Bill 71, Public and Nonpublic Schools - Student Diabetes Management Program, which will require “the State Department of Education and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, in consultation with certain other organizations” to provide for all of the aforementioned focus areas (I’m really overgeneralizing here). Senator Young is very passionate about diabetes management and safety in schools. He expressed his concerns over the gaps in diabetes care in some counties (sidebar: Maryland public schools are organized by county, ie: Cecil County Public Schools, Baltimore County Public Schools, etc.) with regard to safety both in the school setting and on school buses, as well as field trips, after-school care such as extracurricular activities, and the absence of diabetes care providers in some schools.
There are far too many points to mention for the purpose of this post; however, it will provide for training guidelines for staff and employee volunteers to become trained diabetes care providers, although not to be “construed as… practical nursing or registered nursing” (the liability side of training diabetes care providers). The bill will provide for a Diabetes Medical Management Plan (DMMP) meeting for the student and all individuals charged with care.  It will establish, among other points, where and how the student will manage diabetes tasks, as well as allowing the student to carry supplies and “possess a cellular phone to ask for assistance when necessary.”
While my workgroup focused on policy related to unlicensed personnel providing diabetes care to students, one nurse asked me my feelings on my child’s safety on field trips, either in a self-care situation or with an unlicensed person managing her diabetes. I expressed serious reservations about someone making decisions about her care without communication with me, and especially because in some locations cell phone service is compromised. Senator Young was in my workgroup, so he heard my concerns. Still, his efforts with the above bill have merit in the general sense, where some parents have few options due to work constraints.
There is so much more and in the interest of time and space, I will wrap this up. I don’t pretend to know what kinds of legislation have been enacted in any other states, but I strongly urge you to have a look at this bill. Senator Young expects to have it enacted by July 1, 2016, and I hope by that date to have more to share.