Monday, January 20, 2014

Velma and Aunt Dixie

Got my hair cut today. This is a pretty exciting event for me, because I tend to put it off so long that by the time I go it’s dull and lifeless, and I look like someone who forgot to perform basic upkeep. I am someone who forgets that, but I do shower regularly, so I’m not altogether awful yet.

I don’t do appointments well. There are so many things I need to schedule and make time for and keep in an appropriate time slot that when it comes to my hair, it’ll get there when I get there, and that’ll be when I feel like it. So I walk in to my normal place and get in that afternoon.

After I was done, Mr. C decided to get his hair cut as well. This was probably because I looked so good, and because he’d put off his routine maintenance as well. This works well for him because his hair is all curls, so as it grows it just gets curlier, and at night while he sleeps I can play with the ringlets. But today he decided to get his cut too, so while I waited I sat in the mall and waited.

When I went back he wasn’t done yet, so I sat in the waiting area, where I could see him and we could talk about his hair, which was turning out way shorter than I had planned.

In another chair across the aisle (on a chair means one is sitting on it, in a chair means one is having their hair attended to) was an older woman, 70’s, probably, though I’m not good with age guessing. Her hair was untouched, as yet, and her stylist was the guy who cut mine last time I was in, a young guy with huge hoops in his gauged ears. He did a great job with my hair last time.

He was gesturing above Velma’s head with some enthusiasm. I’m pretty sure her name was not Velma, but I have to call her something other than the older lady. Velma’s hair was a short blond fluff, not colored but not colorless, not grey, and she wanted it colored. Jack, or whatever he was calling himself, was explaining about older hair, and color, and how it didn’t take quite the same way as hair that’s younger and still in possession of its natural hair color. Velma seemed peeved, then understanding, and Jack kept talking. I’m not sure what color she was hoping for, maybe a fire engine red, or a deep chestnut, or maybe just more blond. Blondes have more fun, right?

My stepgrandmother (which is an awkward phrasing) had a sister, our Aunt Dixie, with red hair, the sort of bright red hair not seen in nature, and even as an older woman she wore it that way, with bright red lipstick to match. My stepgrandma had lavender hair, something her grandchildren all found quite amusing. Once, when I was 12 or so, I was visiting Grandma, and she and Aunt Dixie and I went out for Chinese food. I choked on something or other, something which I’m still quite good at, and the two of them pounded it out of me.

Velma reminded me of Aunt Dixie, except Aunt Dixie would have never allowed her hair to fade to that barely blonde shade. But she wanted what she wanted, like Aunt Dixie, who would never back down in a fight. I wouldn’t want to tell Velma she couldn’t have what she wanted. Every so often she would grimace, as if Jack weren’t living up to his end of the bargain, or as if she couldn’t believe the gall of this young punk.

Or maybe he was her grandson. I don’t know.

Mr. C was finally done, and I had to deal with the shock that his hair no longer had curls. They were all gone, and his hair now needs to grow out a bit. I was so shocked that I didn’t have a chance to find out what Velma was going to have done to her hair, and now I’ll never know.

The last time I saw Aunt Dixie she was living alone a couple of hours north of where I was living, and I’d driven up to see her. She had a fusty mobile home, her lifetime fitted into the nooks and crannies. She insisted on making me a dry bologna sandwich, though I said I was fine and in no need of sustenance, especially since the previous visit when she’d forced one on me. Aunt Dixie was not taking no for an answer.

Though her hair was no longer red, but pure white, she was still the same Aunt Dixie. She showed me some of her artifacts, one of which was a nude pencil drawing of her a boyfriend had made when she was much younger. She had, she told me, lots of admirers then, and lots of boyfriends. “I was really something then,” she said. I laughed with her and ate the dry bologna sandwich and warm glass of water, remembering that Aunt Dixie was young once, her whole life ahead of her, the world a giant box of surprises to be pulled out, one after the other, until the surprises are gone.

If we’re lucky, there’s always just one more surprise left though, just one more glittering package of wonder to open, before we’re done.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Totally Minor

So minor I feel like a dolt for even mentioning it, but this is what I do: I mention things. Whether said things make me look bad or make me look good, I mention them. I like to think they mostly make me look bad, or at least self-centered, because that seems only right – I have my awesome moments, but it’s not cool to talk about them.

Someone once told me it was totally uncool to say I was smart, because that was supposed to be for other people to say. That’s a nice theory, but sometimes one can wait days or years before that happens, especially if one isn’t that smart to begin with.

But I digress.

When I saw the surgeon, it was in a sterile environment, with tongue depressors and cotton balls and a handy exam table. He saw me also, it wasn’t a one-way sort of thing, but though I attempt to make the conversation about more than just me (“So, how are you today?” I’ll ask, and they respond, but don’t give me a lot of information to continue the conversation in that direction), it’s all about me. This makes me uncomfortable.

Dr. Surgeon (which is not his real name, but I forget what it is) said, “This may not work.”

“I know.”

“Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.”

“I know.”

“I just want to make sure you know that it’s not guaranteed.”

“What is?”

That’s a rhetorical question, obviously. There are never guarantees, even when there are guarantees. Life is what it is, no guarantees, no promises.

Once Dr. Surgeon was assured that I had no grand illusions he was all on board.

But I’ll tell you this: I expect this surgery to solve my immediate problem so I can move on to the next problem. I expect it to work.

Millions of people have this every day. It’s nothing, it’s a gallbladder, it’s an unnecessary piece of me that I suspect of being the culprit of this daily pain that starts in right underneath my ribcage and extends outward.

And damn right I expect the removal of it to work.

Because I can’t dance anymore, not since it started with a severe pain two months ago, a pain that I’d had before but that had gone away after a short time. This time the pain subsided into an ache, and then spread to my entire right side, and that’s where it’s been, pretty much, for two months now.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “I didn’t know you could dance!”

Well, I can’t. I’m a child of the 70’s, so mostly what I do is flail, but I do it with great energy and happiness. There’s nothing graceful or artistic about it.

It could be, as the surgeon was quick to notice, just my fibromyalgia, or it could be nothing at all.

Nothing at all. Isn’t that like saying I’m a hypochondriac? Whatever.

This is going to work, because I’m missing out on some really great stuff and I can’t keep missing stuff. Life’s too short, there’s too much to do, and being as there are no guarantees and no promises, I have things to attend to.

Sometimes I want answers and guarantees and solutions, and sometimes there aren’t any. It’s the uncertainty that’s hard to deal with, the idea that anything can happen at any time. But that’s how it works, and that’s why it’s fun, because otherwise, without surprises and the unexpected, it’s dull. I have to constantly remind myself that sometimes the unexpected can be the best things.

Or the worst.

Whatever. In two weeks I’ll be recovering from my very minor surgery and taking full advantage of the situation to read whatever I want and figuring out plot devices for stories I’m working on. Then I will be returned to my grand good health and will return to dancing whenever I want. Before then, I need to get all my work caught up, so it’s fortunate my work is not dependent on my ability to zip around or up and down.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Counting My Blessings

I don’t sleep well when I’ve had two pain pills, and last night after a long day I had two pain pills. I don’t notice much about how they make me feel, but the pain eventually drifts off, and my body starts to feel like mine again, and not some sort of alien body I’m trapped in. With two pain pills instead of one I also tend to babble, amusing my husband and myself. And then when I go to bed I don’t sleep, or I do sleep but then wake up, and I’m restless, so I play with my phone, my Kindle, my iPad. But my eyes don’t want to stay open, even though I can’t sleep, so I fall asleep with my electronic device on my face, and then I wake up minutes later and it’s still there, and so is Ash, snoring above my head.

I try not to do this with the iPad because it’s heavier and I don’t want my face smashed when I fall asleep.

Last night I downloaded an audible book onto my phone, thinking that then I could close my eyes. However, a soothing voice talking while I’m in bed puts me to sleep, no matter how good the story, and besides, I’ve had pain pills, so hearing the book isn’t really an option. I’ve listened to some really good books in my sleep, and I’m sorry I’ve missed them, but I still have them, so I can retry until I get it right.

The book was good, I’m sure, but I don’t remember any of it. This is quite normal when I’ve taken pain pills. When I woke up this morning I had two sets of earbuds in bed with me, and I have no explanation for why I would have two sets, because I only have the two ears.

My bedside is an electrical paradise. Cords for my phone and my Kindle and my iPad, because they like to charge overnight, multiple ear buds, and a non-working night light I’ve kept there because it’s a large red globe.

I’m very frightened of going to bed without something to entertain me should I wake up with nothing to do. Then I’d be forced to stare at the ceiling and count my blessings.

Not that this is a bad thing – I have so many. I’m surrounded by them as I sleep, or as I lay awake thinking about sleeping, and when I wake up, and I go about my day. Blessings are everywhere, as if I’ve accumulated all the blessings and kept them all for myself. This is silly though – there’s enough for everyone, I’m not really hoarding them.

Some days, if I’m really careful, I can get away with no pain pills. Usually one pain pill is enough, and when it’s just one or none, I sleep well, unless I wake up in the middle of the night in pain.

I even sleep well despite having a dog who seems to think going outside in the middle of the night is a good thing to do. I don’t mind – he’s a good dog. We go downstairs, he goes outside, I have an Oreo or a sugar-free chocolate mousse, he comes back in, begs for a Milkbone, I say no, and we go back to bed. He’s back asleep within minutes, and me shortly thereafter.

One night I was far too tired, and I asked Andrew to get up with him, and so he did. Usually asking him to do it is far more trouble than it’s worth, because he’ll say, “Sure,” and then turn over and go right back to sleep, as if saying he did it is the same as doing it. I have to be desperately worn out to ask him to do it.

Nights I can’t sleep I’m still blessed, because I have the means to make the pain better. There is not one thing about my life that I would change, other than the deep-seated self-loathing that I’ve mostly relegated to a dark dusty past, but even that just makes me try harder. I don’t know where it comes from, and it doesn’t really matter. The only thing that matters about it is that I know it’s unnecessary, and probably stupid. Certainly uncalled for.

Sometimes I might wonder why I’m so blessed, but that’s not for me to answer. It’s certainly not worthiness, nor earning it. It just is.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Holiday Entertaining Tips for the Socially Ineffective

If you’re throwing a holiday soiree, and you know you want to, even if it’s just you and your dog, there are several things you’ll want to ensure you’ve considered to make it the best soiree you’ve ever had, especially if you haven’t had any.

1. Only invite people you like. If these same people are also the ones most likely to show up with gifts for you, even better.

2. Only invite people who like you. People who don’t like you are may just decline, which will cause you to feel bad, or they may attend, and spend the entire time insulting you. This is fun for neither you nor your other guests.

3. Consider the dietary habits of your guests. If they only eat organic free range cookies baked that day, do not offer them a plastic tray of grocery store cookies.

4. Provide a variety of liquid refreshments, including wine, all colors, several different hand crafted beers, juice, water, both plain and fizzy, sodas, both regular and diet and zero, and hot chocolate, and mulled cider. And mulled wine. Mulled anything.

5. Make sure you have plenty of peppermint schnapps on hand for the hot chocolate.

6. Post a sign on your front door that states unacceptable behaviors. Example: fighting, politics, religion, school districts, slurping, double dipping, teasing the dog, and spending inordinate amounts of time in the bathroom.

7. Offer to hang up your guests’ coats when they come in, unless you’ve chosen to keep the temperature chilly.

8. Provide entertainment. You with a lampshade on your head does not count.

9. Introduce your guests to each other. This is especially important if you’ve invited people you don’t know, which goes against tips 1 and 2, but it happens.

10. Ensure you have a safe place to hang out in case fighting breaks out. This could be your any room that has a lock on it.

By following these simple tips, you can have a stress free fabulous soiree, one that your guests will remember fondly and that you will be happy to have in the past.

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Friday Story

I love Fridays. I’m not sure why, since I often end them by saying to self, “Self, you didn’t get enough done, and now you’re going to have to work tomorrow!”

I don’t always work tomorrow when I say I will, but I’ve had some health issues that have been annoying me and I use them as an excuse. I’m all about using excuses to get out of work.

I’m also all about calling myself lazy when I’m not, but that goes back to some of the early lies, the ones where I was told I was lazy and sneaky and a bitch. Those lies lodged in my brain in a back corner where it’s really dusty and the inventory has never been inventoried, so not only is there no telling what all is back there, it’s also hard to get what is in there out again.

For my accounting friends, it’s all LIFO in there. Last in, first out, as opposed to first in, first out. There’s so much last in to get out first that I never get back to the first in, so it molders back there, huge steaming piles of shit that aren’t reflective of who I am.

Does anyone else have this problem? Does anyone else keep the remnants of the early lies lodged in their brain?

This hasn’t been a story yet.

Once, when I was young and believed what people said to me and my father and stepmother were still getting accustomed to having all their children living together, my stepmother started yelling at me for being sneaky and lying and a bitch. I was, what 11? 12? One of those ages where one can be really sneaky and evil. I hadn’t meant to be sneaky, or lying, or anything else. I was just trying to survive day-to-day, but I wasn’t the most intuitive kid, and I didn’t know that stepmom and dad weren’t talking . . . to each other. Oh, they were talking, but not to each other, and that little detail went right over my head.

So when I told my dad when my grandparents were coming to pick me up, I thought I was telling both of them, as if he would let her know.

A day or so later stepmom asked if there had been any changes in the plans, and I, being the oblivious one, said no.

Except she didn’t know about the original plans.

I may have this whole story wrong. It’s hard to tell after a few years.

But stepmom lost it, and because I was such a sneaky lying bitch, my dad was blamed for having brought me up to be such a heathen. As if he could help my secretive bitchy psyche! There was screaming and yelling and general mayhem. There may have been furniture flying, I don’t know.

Here’s the awesome part of the story: my older half-sister and my older step-sister, who was halfway between my half-sister and me in age, decided this wasn’t working for us, and the two of them took me away from the madhouse for the day. My oldest sister could drive, being a grown up and all, and so we left the parents to their madness. I wasn’t used to being taken with them – they were older and cool, and I was the youngest girl (but not the youngest child – there were boys of varying ages around, but they had their own private hangout back behind the garage), and I had been a disappointment to my stepsister when she found out I was 4 years younger and boring. But they looked after me.

What I should remember from that time is that my sisters cared enough about me to take me out of there, and that at a particularly low point they were looking after me. I shouldn’t even remember being called a sneaky lying bitch because that wasn’t the important part, was it? That was the part that should have faded away as soon as stepmom said it, but it wasn’t the first time, nor the last, so the repetition of it made it stick. That’s how I learned accounting – repetition.

I chip away at it. Sometimes I get back in there where it’s all dusty and it makes me sneeze, and I pull at a piece of nonsense, like the piece that says I’m stupid, and I tug at it, and sometimes I fall on my ass trying to get it out of there. Afterwards, as I stumble back toward the light, I may feel lighter, if I got any of it out, or I don’t, because the piece was tougher than I was, and I may wonder why bother? Why not just let those pieces stay there? Maybe they’re a permanent part of me because maybe they’re true.

But I go back in anyway. I’m just as stubborn as I am bitchy, and I don’t want those pieces to be part of me, as charming as living the past sounds. It’s just not for me.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sleeping With The Dog

When I woke up this morning, far too early as usual, there was a handsome man on one side of me and a furry dog on the other side. It’s like waking up in heaven, except for the excess hair. I’m not sure heaven is as furry as my life with a dog.

When I fell asleep last night Ash was on my pillow, making those cute sleeping dog sounds that only a dog can make. Sometime during the night he left my pillow, probably sleeping at the foot of the bed, or on the floor. At 4 am he woke me by standing next to the bed and giving me the stare. He never says anything, he doesn’t have to.

No one ever hears him except me, and that’s because he doesn’t have to say anything.

We got up, went downstairs, and I let him outside. He did his dog thing out there, and came right back. It was a lovely early morning, though as far as I could tell it was still the middle of the night. But the air is fall air, and even in the dark I can tell the color of the air has changed now that it’s fall.

When he came back in we went back upstairs, because I was half asleep still and intended to become fully asleep again. I went right back to sleep, not knowing what Ash was doing. He doesn’t get into any trouble, not like when he was little.

The reason he sleeps on my pillow is because when he first came to live with us he could fit in one of my hands, just a tiny little guy with black soft fur. He was disarmingly cute and harmless, and by disarmingly, I mean, he could destroy pretty much anything, and did. He could not be left unsupervised. This was when a crate would come in handy, and he did have one, and we used it, but at night I’d let him curl up next to me, and he’d sleep that way all night. It kept him out of trouble, and if he left the bed I’d wake up and capture him before having to replace anything of significant value.

In theory.

Eventually he grew out of the phase where he eats everything in sight (including more than one pair of glasses, a wall, and kitchen cabinets), but he never grew out of the phase where he falls asleep close to us, even though he’s now 68 pounds of dog.

Anytime I need to lay down during the day, which is often because sometimes I’m in pain, and sometimes I’m tired, he jumps up next to me, and if he thinks I’m not paying attention he’ll snuggle up against my side, or he’ll put his head on the pillow next to me, the pillow the handsome husband usually uses, but only at night, and he’ll look at me with those eyes that are sometimes brown, sometimes as black as his coat, and he’ll fall asleep. He’ll sleep with me as long as I want him to, as long as it takes, or until he needs to go outside, whichever comes first.

And at night he falls asleep above my head, and sometimes, when I’m lying in bed reading before sleep, his head, which is really really hard, will come crashing against mine and his head will come to rest next to mine, so he can feel me next to him while he sleeps. When he’s awake he may put his head on top of mine, an advantageous perch to see what’s going on, and he rests it there as if he’s a part of me.

This morning when I woke up and found him next to me, stretched out, his head on my pillow, he was sound asleep, as was the other occupant of the bed. They’re both sound sleepers, so this happens frequently. I tried to reach down to pull up the other blanket, but I couldn’t move. And so I said to Ash, “Move, will ya?” But he just kept sleeping, and so I pushed him just a bit, and I grabbed the blanket, and he just kept sleeping.

I read while they slept, comfortable and warm with my guys, the only sound their barely discernible breathing.

Sometimes I shake one of them just to make sure they’re still breathing, but usually I just let them sleep.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Stepfather's Death

Recently I attended a funeral for a lovely man who married my mother years ago. Then they buried him next to my mother.

We didn’t get along well for many years – by the time I met him I was already married, and living overseas, so it’s not as if knew him as a stepfather. When I had first called my mother and told her I was getting married (at the altogether unreasonable age of 19 to a man I barely knew), my mother, who was in a relationship with the man she would later marry (we can call him Jerry, because that was his name), said, “I don’t want to get married again. I’m happy with things the way they are.”

“Fabulous!” I said, or I didn’t, but I was a traditionalist, partly from having seen both of my parents do the multiple marriage thing. Several years after I married, far from family and with just two drunk witnesses, my mother announced that she and Jerry were indeed getting married.

I find this often happens after I get married. Suddenly people who were happy with the status quo just minutes ago decide to change it. Probably because I make such a fantastic looking bride.

They had the church wedding of Mom’s dreams, and I was there, running around like a crazy person, organizing and putting people in their proper places, because no one else was stepping up to do it. That’s me – show me something that’s not being handled, and I start handling it.

That was my Mom’s fourth marriage, and last. It’s nice when they find someone and settle down, isn’t it?

When they retired they moved to Montana and began an idyllic life amongst nature. Since they were from LA, this was a major change, but they loved it.

I’ve always been the difficult child. Obstreperous, imperious, demanding, wanting people to like me while simultaneously shoving them away because I knew they’d let me down in the end. So my family relationships were usually difficult – I know my Mom tried to like me, and I’m sure Jerry did too, for her sake, but I didn’t make things any easier. My siblings were better received, and that irritated me, which made it worse.

But it all works out in the end, doesn’t it? When my mother got cancer (or came down with cancer, or contracted cancer) I started making trips to visit, driving from here to there in a day, unless I blew a tire (once), or ran into a deer (once), and then I would stay overnight in Spokane or wherever the poor deer had died, and finish the trip the next day. I’d stay and help out as I could, which mostly consisted of visiting with Mom, because there wasn’t anything to do. Jerry had become Husband Of The Year in one fell swoop. He waited on her hand and foot, made sure she had whatever she needed and wanted, and treated her with the most tender loving care.

This made me most happy.

When Mom died I was there, and my sister was there. I called to her from Mom’s bedside, and she came in, and then we got Jerry from upstairs, where my sister had insisted he go to get some rest.

I’d like to not ever see that kind of grief on someone’s face again.

Jerry has four kids of his own, so between them he had 7. I made a few trips to Montana after Mom’s death, by myself, to help him to deal with Mom’s things. I spent days in her office – she kept everything she’d ever received. On another trip we dealt with her clothes, and with other artifacts. Once my husband and I visited as part of a vacation, just to spend some time with him.

For one visit on my own I had taken the train – my husband was worried about ability to have incidents on the way. But somehow I injured my knee, and after only a few hours of work in Mom’s office, I couldn’t stand on it, nor could I move it. We took me to a doctor, who confirmed it was my patella – I’m not put together particularly well, and often things don’t work as they should.

Jerry wanted to take care of me after that. He wanted to feed me (which he’d been doing anyway), and he wanted me to rest, and he would take care of everything else. This was the side of him that I’d seen when my Mom was sick. I almost considered hanging out with him for a few days just so my every need could be met while he doted over me.

When Jerry died I wasn’t there. His children were with him, at least some of them, but the last time I talked to him he was happy. He had gone to Oklahoma, where his son lived, to get treatment for the cancer that had returned, but he came down with pneumonia, and his cancer had spread. He went into assisted living from the hospital. I’d call and talk with him, and while at first he talked of going back to Montana, he soon realized that wouldn’t happen. One of the last times I talked to him he was happy, said he was playing bingo, which he’d never played before, and he had a lift to his voice.

Maybe he was happy he’d be with the love of his life again.

It was a really beautiful day for a funeral. I miss him, but I know he’s no longer missing my Mom, so that comforts me.