Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Negatron

Not me.
I’m no Pollyanna.

Which is why I think that if I hear the words “Bucket List” one more time in casual conversation, read it online, or find it referenced in any context whatsoever, I think the part of my brain which houses tolerance may spark and fizzle out quietly yet furiously, like a blown fuse or when you use an old hair dryer in a super-steamy bathroom.  Trust me.  It sparks and fizzles and dies, and gives you a little jolt of electricity just to be mean.

I won’t hurl things, or punch anyone, or try to launch myself off a bridge, but these words are so overused (and are a little morbid, I mean, doesn’t this term indicate the stuff you want to do before you die?) that each time I hear them, I wilt a little bit.  I don’t care what you want to do before you die.  You know what I want to do before I die?  I want to LIVE. 

Also, the word “absolutely.”  How many conversations have I had where someone uses the word “absolutely” as a response to anything?  “The weather is so nice today.”  “Absolutely.”  “I have to go home and clean my house.” “Absolutely, me too.”  “Last night I forgot to lift the toilet seat when I peed and it got all over the floor.”  “Absolutely.  What a mess.”  Why are you agreeing with me completely, in every context?   Are you a stalker?  You don’t know me.  It’s maddening.

“That’s good stuff” makes me cry a little inside.  Unless you’re talking about a great bottle of wine, or a revolutionary glue that adheres anything together FOREVER, or if you do so many drugs that you notice the difference between good ones and bad ones, “that’s good stuff” is such a general description that you might as well not say anything at all.  “My kid took his first steps today.  That’s good stuff.”  Well, I guess so.  Pass me the salt for the bland conversation you’re serving.  Your kid’s walking.  Shouldn’t you be documenting this moment in a scrapbook or getting today’s date tattooed somewhere?

“Text me.”  You're making things way too hard.  Howzabout I TELL YOU?  We’re standing right here.  Are you saying that whatever I have to say is meaningless unless you’re looking at it on your phone?  Which, by the way, isn’t going to give you the meaning of life, so stop staring at it, because I’m starting to get a little worried about what you’re putting your faith in.

“Git ‘er done.”  No.  What does that even mean?  It’s almost encouraging, but it isn’t.

“I’m gonna get my drink on.”  Last time I got my drink on, my dry cleaning bill was outrageous.  When someone says this, I imagine them changing their clothes into a drinking costume of dirty jeans and a sweater.  That smells of vomit.

Humph.  Pollyanna can suck it. 

Suck it.  There's another one.  What are we sucking, exactly?

photo credit

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Falling Off


The trouble with falling off a horse is that you’ve got to get back on it.  And everybody knows that getting on a horse is the hardest thing in the world to do.

Unless you’re trying to write a blog and you’ve taken a few days off and want to start up again but Christmas is coming which freaks you out because everyone in your neighborhood is fully decorated for Christmas and even Hanukah and you aren’t and you realize that you threw out many of your old Christmas decorations last year because they were getting shabby and you swore you’d make time to buy new ones this year and you’re wondering why you make promises like that to yourself and you still have Christmas shopping to do which is OMG TORTURE and you need to spend every extra minute at the mall or online shopping or sending Christmas lists to grandmas and aunts and uncles or at the gym or cleaning your house or putting away Halloween decorations and you volunteered to help out at school and you should really get your hair cut and maybe do something about all that gray and EVERY SINGLE charity is sending you donation envelopes which leave you racked with guilt because you can’t give all your money away because you need to save some for the gifts for friends and family that you haven’t yet bought but somehow have to and then you have to wrap them all OMG YOU HAVE TO WRAP THEM ALL and you have to find at least six babysitters from now until January and you need to call those friends and change the date of your get-together because your husband’s work party is that night and you have to have that talk with your husband where you tell him that if he wants to send Christmas cards then it is all on him and you realize that your kids both have basketball practice and dentist appointments and band concerts and special assemblies and your husband’s work travel schedule goes until December 23 so it’s really all on you and you’d like to take some time to slow down and maybe make some Christmas cookies or at least a giant bowl of eggnog into which you’d like to drown yourself or at least somehow get into the Christmas spirit that you remember from your childhood or maybe even your twenties before you became that crazy Christmas lady who listens to Christmas music three weeks before Thanksgiving and talks about how stressful the holidays are.

Yes, getting back on that horse is a tricky, tricky thing.  Especially if you’re not a cowboy.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanks for Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving.

-Here's to the Bird!
-YAY, BIRD!
I've said before that I feel bad for turkeys on Thanksgiving not because we eat them, but because they don't know how delicious they are.

Today, instead of feeling bad for turkeys, I will try to focus on the things in life that I am thankful for: the blessings of home, loved ones, and the beautiful world that we live in, the laughter of my children, the health of my family and friends, the forgiving and wonderful God who made me.

And turkeys.  I can't help but love them. 

photo credit

Monday, November 21, 2011

Tell Me About My Life

NOW you tell me.
My mom and I were together recently, sharing anecdotes about the children in our family and circle of friends. It’s no secret that kids are wondrous forms of entertainment. They say silly things, do silly things, have powerful observational skills, and never edit themselves. Kids have a never-fail recipe for comedy.

My children were listening to us giggle over who said what, who did what, who learned a new word or gesture. We went on and on, and at a pause in the conversation, the kids piped, “Tell us some of the things we did that are funny.”

We hesitated. My mind went blank with the pressure of an on-the-spot demand for a story about their early shenanigans.

I’ve got hundreds of stories, thousands of memories. But most of them are fleeting, snippets of a time we went to an amusement park, the time one of them got a minor injury.

They know the story of when our son called his sister a “brave little soldier” when she was a baby getting a shot at the pediatrician, how our daughter painted herself with a dark burgundy lipstick. They have laughed at the stories we have told them in the past. This time, I had a hard time coming up with new material.

I don’t want to tell them about when mommy was so overwhelmed with taking care of two babies at home that she called daddy at work and demanded his presence IMMEDIATELY. They don’t want to hear about how she and daddy argued over whose turn it was to change the next diaper.

My Facebook wall testifies about the funny stuff my kids do and say. But those memories are recent. The memories of the kids when they were small and totally dependent are foggy, like they existed in a dream or only for a short time. I’d like to see those times again, but not many of these dream-state memory scraps are captured on video or film. The memories emerge when I’m in a familiar place, or when I find a long-lost photo in the back of a picture frame.

When new parents share stories about their kids, they are often encouraged to write them down, to preserve them. The smart ones who recognize that they may want to relive these precious moments – these people will record daily memories. They understand that memories come so fast that they will never be able to remember them all.

And when they hear, “tell a story about me,” they will have a memory to share that hasn’t been warmed up countless times, a new memory to be passed on to laugh about and to cherish.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Babe

I love babies.

This week, I got a new niece. 



Welcome, little sweetie



She is beautiful.  Plus, she is teeny, which makes her, to me, even all the more appealing.  Something about a perfect, tiny little being who is brand new to our world... sigh.

She doesn't know me yet.  She doesn't know that Aunt Andrea loves her and cannot wait to hold her and hear her cry and watch her little limbs jerk and kick and feel her little hand grasp around my finger.  She doesn't know that I can't wait to flip her upside down when she is three.

For each new life in my family and circle of friends, I have experienced the happy anticipation of their arrivals.  Each new person is wonderful to meet.  But we have been waiting for this baby for a long time.  She came at the end of a difficult pregnancy.  She is complete joy, a miracle beyond the miracle of life.

I can't wait to meet her.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Facebook is Good

It’s been well-documented about how Facebook has ruined relationships and lives: some people post terrible pictures of their loved ones and relationships are strained, others report how they did body shots off their boss’s girlfriend and relationships and careers end. 

I am careful about what I post online, and stay away from controversial issues upon which I have no business sharing or commenting.  Plus, I don’t think my boss even has a girlfriend.   For me, Facebook has served not to strain relationships, but to fill in the blanks of events in loved ones’ lives that I miss due to distance or laziness.  

I’m not the best keeper-in-toucher.  Months go by without giving people a call or a card to say hey, what’s up?  So many years have passed in some friends’ lives that I have to stop and think about how many kids they have.  This is not my best quality.  I care, but I am not good at connections.  Being better at this is a constant work in progress. 

Yesterday I was Facebooking with some loved ones who I see once a year, family members and people who I grew up with and love like family.  If Facebook didn’t exist, none of the closeness and sharing that occurred would have happened, and that would be sad.  Here’s a sampling of the important details of our lives that we shared, which would have gone unknown had Facebook not existed (names have been changed): 

Hector: Occupy(major US city) is planning to occupy the light rail to share stories of economic injustice and are encouraging commuters to do the same. Yes, the wage slaves who are already pissed off about a packed train at rush hour are going to stand in solidarity with you assholes while you make their commute even more unbearable. How does this help anyfuckingbody? The light rail is going to be awash with blood tomorrow morning. 

On a brighter note, if it's still going on tomorrow afternoon, I can't wait to verbally abuse some people! 

Me: Ewww. Wear your rubber boots. 

Hector: Can't wait to see you! I was fuming till I read your comment... brought a smile to my face :) 

Zo:  I wish I were riding this train tomorrow morning 

Jo:  At least they are occupying a huuuuge waste of tax dollars to prove the point instead of a shitty park no one cares about. 

Flo:  Jeeez that’s worse than puke on the light rail 

Me: I can't wait either! Yeee haw!!! 

Max: Yeee hawww is right!! Andrea, did your mom tell you about Sunday? 

Me: No. What's going on Sunday? 

Max: Bocci and bacon party at Dulcie’s house:)

Hector:  Please ignore the last 4 comments... back to Occupy: F those guys!

Max: If you get arrested for said blood bath, I know a good attorney ;) 


Hector: I’ll be at work long before then. I'm worried about the afternoon commute...

Me: Mmm bacon. 

Hector: Dammit Andrea!  It's about Occupy not Bacommm...bacon *drool* 

Me: On Sunday, Bacon will be occupying my mouth. 

Hector: Bwah haaahahahahahaaahahhaha!


Sigh.  I *heart* Facebook.  It brings us all closer.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Challenged

It’s close to Christmas, which means my annual resolution to get all the shopping done quickly is in full swing.   I’ve been shopping like a maniac, friends.  Maniacally.  I’m determined to get it done before December, to get it out of the way so I can enjoy the holidays for once.

The trouble with Christmas, for me, has always been the shopping.  Cold weather, never-ending social events, even the heightened baking expectations – stressful elements of the holiday season, all of them – pale in comparison to how I experience the shopping part of it.  

I am a terrible shopper.  I remember school shopping as a kid with my mother, idly sifting through racks of clothing that overwhelmed me with too many choices.  I’d choose one thing and pronounce my love for it just to buy something, only to get it home and never wear it. 

Shopping for me has always been a means to an end.  I need socks – I get socks. I want sneakers – I get sneakers.  I don’t go to five different stores to get the best deal.  I go, I see, I buy.  Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t – I’ve bought many things that didn't fit right, or were too expensive, or I didn’t really need, only to have them loom larger than life in the back of my closet and find themselves in the donate pile at season’s end.

Buying gifts for others – forget it.  Will they like it?  Will it fit?  Do they already have it?  Is it appropriate?  Did I pay too much?  Did I spend enough?  There are too many variables.  Who am I to know just what a person desires?  I’ve ruined many a birthday and Christmas present by asking “so, what should I get you?” 

I’m not sure what’s wrong with me.  I think I care too much.  What do I expect, the recipient to turn cartwheels after opening my gift? 

Well, why not?  That would be the best Christmas gift EVER. 

In fact, maybe I’ll give out cartwheels this year, and see what happens.

So, how do you like it?
 
photo credit

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Just Throwing It Out There

I was a graduate student, and hated speaking in front of crowds.  But I was appointed the task of database organizer for the pool of volunteers that our psychology department maintained to perform student research projects, and I had to do it.  And I had to make the idea of taking part in student research projects fun and interesting.

If you took psychology in college, you probably had to participate in one or more research studies run by student researchers, receiving credit in Psych 101 for performing often boring and meaningless tasks in student research projects.  Likely no one did a test on the effects of marijuana use on anything, which was probably why you took Psych 101 in the first place.  Yeah, I was disappointed too.

It was the first time I had to make the speech to a crowd of bored, judgmental undergrads.  I went to a pretty highbrow school for my graduate degree, and the undergrads there were privileged and smart.  As a graduate student, I was certainly not privileged.  I may have been smart, but there’s something about a roomful of National Merit Scholars that makes you doubt how to spell your own name.  Okay, that’s just me.

I practiced my speech dozens of times, memorized it a couple of different ways, and entered the large classroom with my classmate, who would be handing out information to the students and providing moral support for me.  I stood at the front of the auditorium, hands in pockets, silently willing the internal butterflies to leave.  The professor got the students’ attention, introduced me, and waited for the room to quiet down so I could speak.

I raised my hand to start speaking.  I regretted this decision immediately as the tampon that I had stashed in my pocket just moments before launched into the air in a high arc.  Time slowed as two hundred pairs of eyes focused on its trajectory, one pair in horror.  I recoiled as the offensive object landed with a light thud.  Time stopped, along with my heart.  I wanted to run, cry, vomit.  I wished for a natural disaster, a heart attack, a diversion other than the embarrassing feminine hygiene product that now gleamed, mocking, from its resting place at my feet.

My classmate, hero, savior, shot out a foot quick as lightning to cover the beast, discreetly dragging it away from my shocked form.  She gave me a little nudge, and I proceeded to give the quickest “please sign up for research projects” speech that school has seen before or since.  We tore out of there.

Once outside, we gaped, amazed at what had transpired: me, troubled and wide-eyed; her, proud and clearly tickled.  At once, we howled with laughter.  I mumbled what a stupid thing to happen, thank you for saving me.  We laughed again.

That semester marked the largest percentage of Psych 101 students ever to keep their appointments for student research projects at my school.*  Do research on THAT.


El Diablo



*totally made up

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Home Sweet Home

About every other November, I give in to the pressure of the “National Change Your Clock, Change Your Smoke Alarm Batteries” campaign and check my smoke alarm batteries to make sure they still work.  When performing this task, I am reminded that my smoke alarms are hard-wired and do not require batteries.  Instead, I do the monthly required test that happens only during this biennial chore.  Afterwards, the smoke alarms chirp for hours, because I don’t know how to properly operate them.  I should consult the manual, but who knows where that is, and besides, what kind of maroon needs a manual to test a smoke alarm?

I do, especially since I stupidly do my testing at night, when late-night smoke alarm chirping would earn a Tibetan monk a one-way ticket to the padded room in my basement.  Eventually I figure it out by wildly pressing the ONE button that our smoke alarms present and they stop chirping.  Did I mention that I do this every other year?  We’ve been in our house for 11 years.  This translates to me performing this progressive comedy show roughly five times.

The other week, I made an appointment for a check of our home heating system to make sure it’s up to speed, because everyone knows if you don’t get your heating system checked, it will quit on you the first day the outside temperature hits zero.  I warned the technician that I hadn’t changed the air filter on the system for a while, maybe about a year.  Actually, I have no recollection of changing it ever, but I’m sure someone did at some point.  After the service, the technician told me that my air filter was completely black, but he replaced it, and that it was all better now. 

I asked him to check the home humidifier filter.  I was all like “We have a Home Humidifier System.  Could you check the Flux Capacitor Filterage Element?  I’m sure it’s fine.”  I pretended not to notice when six inches of calcium dust (from years of neglecting to change said Flux Capacitor Filterage Element) blew in his face when he took the cover off the humidifier.

The friendly and tactful technician said that I shouldn’t be embarrassed at all about totally ignoring my home-ownership responsibilities.  Okay, he thought it.

You could say I’m not one for home maintenance.  The day that we “winterize” the yard is the one day of the year that my whining exceeds that of my kids’ on the days I make fish for dinner.  I feel that shoveling snow is man’s work.  If I could get someone to change light bulbs in our house, I would.  I would even love someone to just tell me what kinds of light bulbs are required for all the different light fixtures we have in our house. 

When we bought our house, my husband and I thought that it would be a stepping stone to a larger, grander affair.  These days, I watch House Hunters International and judge my favorite home as the one with the least square feet.   “Pick Apartment #1 – who cares if it backs up to a nuclear waste storage pond?  It’s only 500 square feet!  You can clean that sucker in twenty minutes!”

Despite all this, our home is where our kids were born, where we’ve made tons of memories, where our families meet for holidays, the comforting haven where I spend most of my time.  For that, I love it.  I will whine and cry and put off certain “important” services, but it is the place where my life is currently anchored.  Maybe I should think of that when I’m out spending a small fortune on light bulbs and smoke alarm batteries.

No, thank you. 
I have to catch up on my DVR.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ain't Nuthin' But a Number

My parents are young.  YOUNG.  When I tell people how young, they are stunned.  Sometimes I am offended when I mention my parents’ ages, because their reaction can be a little extreme, and I know it means that they think I’m much older than I really am.  And that just stinks. 

To give you an idea of how young my parents really are, here’s a picture of some contemporary people who are as old now as my parents were when they got married:

OK, the Biebs is only seventeen,
but Selena Gomez is nineteen. 
Dang, girl.

Scary, right?  What’s even scarier is that my parents had a house and children almost immediately after they got married at nineteen.  Let’s compare this to what my life was like at this age.  I was in college, and my roommates and I furnished and decorated our apartment with things like abandoned construction spools and stolen street signs.  One day, we found a baby turtle.  We let it loose in our apartment and it was gone forever in like, three hours.  A baby in my full-time care, at age nineteen?  That’s outlandish.  When I was nineteen, my biggest concern was if my fake ID was going to work in the bar that night, and which belly shirt I was going to wear as back-up in case the ID failed.  At nineteen, I was a stone cold fool.

I can’t imagine what life would have been like if I had had a child any younger than I did, let alone when I was nineteen.  Holy crap.  I still wonder who dropped the ball in the first place by deciding that I should be responsible for raising kids.  I won’t even go into how much of a nightmare marriage would have been if I had gotten married any younger than I did.  Marriage is hard.  Hard for me, hard for my husband, but mostly hard for me.  My parents, who got married virtually out of the womb, had it hard, too, though they make it seem easy.  They seem to be as in love today as the day they met.

Unlike me, my parents, at age nineteen, were grown-ups.  Whether or not they were much different than me at that age, they were of a generation from whom it was expected that at age nineteen, you are an adult, and you better darn well act like it.  Wanting to be an adult at nineteen, or even being expected to act as one, was not true for me. My husband and I got married when we were 26, not old by today’s standards at all, and I was barely functioning as an adult then.

What about my kids?  I'm not thrilled with the idea of them growing up.  YET.  My friends with teenagers tell me that will change.  My daughter says she will never leave home, that she will live in the house next door when she grows up, and if we move, she will find us and move into the house next door to THAT house.  She threatens me with this.  I tell her that she has to be 40 before she is married, and that I won’t watch her animals when she goes on vacation.

My children know that I don’t really want them to grow up.  I press down on their heads and tell them to stop growing.  I like them as children because they are fun and loving and smart, and they make me feel young.   I probably am doing something gravely wrong by telling them not to grow up until they are 40.  Whatever.  All I know is that when they are 40, my husband and I will be 70, and I hope that when they tell people our ages, they will be amazed at how young we are.

photo credit

Sunday, November 6, 2011

You Don't Know Who You're Dealing With Here

Some might consider me a little bit of a mean mom.

I don’t scrapbook, take hundreds of pictures, make homemade birthday cakes, or even volunteer much at school.  My kids do the chores that I hate to do; they vacuum and dust, and pack their own lunches.  I don’t leave them loving notes in their backpacks or brag about their latest bowel movements on Facebook.  If they want to buy something, they use their own money.  I don’t plan weekly educational excursions.  If they balk at something I plan on doing, I ignore their whining and tell them to get their shoes on RIGHT NOW.  I do not like crafts.  When they say, “I want to do a craft,” I direct them to the “craft cupboard,” where they can find some printer paper, a couple of stubby pencils, and a container half filled with dried-out markers.  I don’t let them play until they finish their homework.  I don’t make them separate meals at dinnertime - If they don’t like what we’re having, they can either eat it or there’s a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter in the pantry.

What I DO is make sure they have a clean home, healthy food to eat, and love and hugs and kisses and fun and jokes and a stern warning when I am about to laser-morph into Mommy Dearest.  I confide in them that I make a lot of mistakes and that sometimes, they know more than I do about things.  I let them sleep in on Saturdays.  I make them hold hands when they fight too much, because it makes them giggle. I make them read books and turn off the TV and their electronics and say “for the love of PETE, that’s enough candy!” even if it really isn’t enough candy.  There’s never enough candy.  But that’s another story. 

Do my kids appreciate all of this, despite the mistakes?  Do they know to?  I hope so.  I think I’ve taught them that.  The best way to know if I’ve taught them is if I model it for them.  Do they see me appreciate all that I have?  I hope so, but I can do better.

I love my kids.  Most parents do.  Sometimes we get confused about what that means – we think it means we need to “do” and “be” everything for them.  I have clear personal limits that dictate how much I can do and be for my children.  I have tried, and I have found that I cannot do or be all for them.  I hope I am teaching them how to do and be for themselves.  I hope they are happy with my role in their lives, and understand that even though I might be the Meanest Mom Ever at times, I have taught them mostly good stuff.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Spoiler Alert

My daughter lost a tooth this week, and put it under her pillow before she went to bed that night.  She wondered aloud how much money she thought the Tooth Fairy would leave her.  I tucked her in and kissed her goodnight.  Within five minutes she was asleep, dreaming of a flitting pixie dragging bags of bloody teeth and a wad of cash.

I made a mental note to put on my Tooth Fairy hat before I turned in, and retired to the living room to watch TV.  I woke up the next morning and realized with a sinking feeling that the Tooth Fairy had dropped the ball.

My daughter didn’t say a word that morning, no tearful lament about why the Tooth Fairy shunned her, how she failed at her one duty of trading cash for teeth.

Later that day, my daughter mentioned that the Tooth Fairy didn’t show.  I mumbled something lame, like maybe the Tooth Fairy didn’t see the tooth under the pillow.  My daughter suddenly asked, “Are you the Tooth Fairy?”
Give me a break with this.

For years I have regretted our choice of perpetuating childhood myths and weaving tangled webs of silly lies.  We’ve made fools of our kids, taking advantage of their innocence to tell tales about how Santa, Easter Bunny, and Tooth Fairy exist to make them happy.  It eats at my conscience.  Plus, it’s exhausting.  It’s one of those “I didn’t know it would be this much maintenance” decisions that I question, like coloring my hair, having a pet, buying dry clean only clothing.

This was my moment to come clean about the whole business.  I could at least put the Tooth Fairy to rest.  Maybe even the whole lot.

“What do you think?”

“I think that you are the Tooth Fairy.”  She held her breath.

“You are correct.”

My daughter exhaled, and a huge jack-o-lantern grin lit up her face.  “I knew it.  I knew you were the one.”  She giggled a little.

“Is it okay?”

“Yeah.  It’s okay.”

I said that we taught her about the Tooth Fairy because it’s what parents do - it’s just for fun. 

An hour later, my daughter came to me, her smile gone.

“I wish I didn’t know you are the Tooth Fairy.”

Uh-oh.  “Why?”

“It’s fun to believe.  I like to wake up and find my tooth missing and money under my pillow.”

I told her that I’d put the money under her pillow that very night.  She was okay with this, and seemed to be relieved that even if I knew she knew, that I was willing to continue the fantasy just for the fun of it.

That night, she put the tooth under her pillow again.  We played the game - I made a point to ask her how much money she thought the Tooth Fairy would bring her for the tooth, and that she better get to sleep so the Tooth Fairy could visit.  I tucked her in, kissed her goodnight, and went to watch TV. 

Through this experience, I learned that children do not see childhood myths as lies when they know the truth, that they intuitively feel our love through the myth.  The lies are secondary to the love we give them through Santa, the Tooth Fairy, even the stupidest myth of all, the Easter Bunny.  I also learned that if you’re a slacker like me, when you choose to tell your kids the truth about the Tooth Fairy, you better have hands quick as lightning to lift a tooth and slip cash under a pillow when you drop the ball again.

photo credit

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Candyland

When I was little, we lived in the country and only Trick-or-Treated at a few houses: our two neighbors, our grandparents, sometimes our parents' friends. It was a magical time, and we'd always come home with a small stash of something or other: cookies from Grandma, a couple of Snickers bars, sometimes a dollar.

Now, we live in the suburbs. We live in a big neighborhood with a hundred families, and on Halloween night, it's a huge block party. Half the parents walk the kids around while the other half stay home to hand out treats, play spooky music and keep costumed kids from going ablaze as they stumble by driveway firepits, their capes and princess dresses swinging in the wind. Halloween night is just as magical now as it was when my mom used to drive from our house to Grandma's and we'd giggle under our plastic masks as she would try to "guess" who we were before handing over the goods.

The only possible thing wrong with Trick-or-Treating is that it's only for kids. When teens get frowned on for going door-to-door and begging for candy, you can imagine the reaction that an adult trick-or-treater might have. I've only heard about this phenomenon - adult trick-or-treating - but never experienced it myself. I'm not sure that I would mind if I gave out candy to a grown-up or two on Halloween night. My thought is that a person must really have it bad for sugar if they dress up and go door-to-door for Tootsie Pops once a year, and that they shouldn't be judged.

I'm just saying.

I have a mild obsession with candy, and I stay home to hand it out to the neighborhood kids every year because I do not trust myself to keep from Trick-or-Treating along with the kids.   I do not eat any of the candy I am handing out, for I know that my time will come. My kids are compassionate, and when they come home from Trick-or-Treating on Halloween, they allow me to inspect their treat bags like a bomb-sniffing dog. I am a baboon mother looking for lice on her babies' heads, but instead of lice, I am picking treats. For later, for me. In the past, my kids would bring home a few things that I like, and we'd throw away the stuff that nobody will eat, like Gummy "severed" body parts, weird or broken lollipops, loose jellybeans, half-wrapped Hershey's kisses, questionably-aged hard candies, anything scarily sticky. This year, we threw nothing away - my kids got some pretty awesome candy, and a lot of it. Every piece is someone's favorite; my personal stash contains a full-size Butterfinger.  Full-size.  It was a Halloween miracle.

Thank you, neighborhood, for really pulling through this Halloween. You made this candy fanatic a happy lady.  Happy Fall, indeed.

Right after this picture was taken, I dove in.
About half is left.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It Happened to Me

When I was twenty-two, I moved across the country to work for some dear family friends.  They helped me set up my life, from where I was going to work out to how to get home from the grocery store without getting stuck on the freeway.  They also referred me to their own doctors, who were reputable and best of all, time-tested. 
 
When I was twenty-two, I cared nothing about who would be performing my professional health exams, including, but not limited to the fields of dentistry, dermatology, and gynecology.  I didn’t yet have a preference of male vs. female doctor or age of said doctor.  I didn't care about the kindness of office staff.  For me, the details were of no concern.

It was during one particular medical visit that I began to understand what going to the doctor really means.  You must have a rapport with your medical practitioner to feel comfortable divulging your health concerns.  He or she should not be crazy, or worse, a pervert.  You should always pay very close attention to what your doctor is telling you during an exam.  These lessons about being an informed patient culminated in one very important doctor visit when I was twenty-two: my annual gynecological exam.

It was during this first meeting with my gynecologist, who was highly regarded and recommended by our friends, that I found myself in a very awkward position, more awkward than lying naked on your back with feet resting in metal stirrups, with only a thin paper sheet for modesty while two other fully clothed people stared at and poked at your private parts.  Yeah.  More awkward than that.

So there I was, all laid out awaiting examination, and the doctor, nurse and I were chatting and getting to know each other.  I decided that in spite of the run-of-the-mill horrifying embarrassment of this kind of exam, I really liked this doctor.  I was glad that our friends had recommended him, relieved that I wouldn’t have to find another doctor.  He was good.  Plus, he was young and married, not bad looking, and not creepy in any way.

Then things started to get weird.

As he started to get down to the business of introducing my dramamama to the speculum, I inititated my mental defense mechanism of zoning out for the duration of the all-encompassing discomfort that is a Pap Test.  That’s when I heard the doctor ask,

“Now Andrea, tell me this:  Have you ever had an Oral Pap?”

Wha?

My mind snapped to attention and my heart thudded to the pit of my stomach as I wildly tried to grasp the meaning of his words.  Oral Pap?  Is that a thing?  Surely he means to swab the inside of my mouth.  Yes, that’s it.  Something in my mouth has something to do with my gynecological health.  Somehow, my saliva holds a clue about whether or not I am prone to yeast infections, or if I have uterine cancer. 

Or or or or or or or Oh My God, OR.  He means to swab me *orally*

Oh God, why did I move here, away from my safe, familiar, and conservative home state to a wild and foreign place where sexual vulgarity is the norm, orgies are expected everywhere, and even the GYNECOLOGISTS OFFER ORAL PAP TESTS?  Which one of them is going to do it?  And Where Are My Clothes?

I said nothing for about two seconds, or maybe 12 minutes.  Just as things started getting even MORE awkward, I did the most genius thing I could think of:  I giggled weakly.

The doctor and nurse sensed the strain in the room, and fell silent and businesslike.  I had tensed up so much that my fingers and toes were curled up into fists, and the doctor was starting to have trouble inserting the speculum into my lady parts.  No oral exams for this girl, Buster.

“So, have you?”

“Have I what?”  Depraved quack.  Please oh please oh please get me out of here.  Maybe my head will explode and end this nightmare.

“Uh, ever had an abnormal Pap?”

All the blood rushed out of my head.  “Did you say abnormal Pap?”   Abnormal.  Not Oral.

By now, the doctor is thinking that I am an idiot. “Yes.  Have you?”

“No.”  A minute passed as I relaxed and let the nice, good-looking, non-perverted, totally normal gynecologist do his job of swabbing my uterus the old-fashioned way.

As he was finishing up the exam, I had to come clean.  “By the way, do you know why I got so weird back there?  Because I thought you said ‘Oral Pap.’”

I can still hear them laughing.

Where's my Chapstick?

photo credit

Edit: You can also read this blog post at http://aiminglow.com/2012/01/it-happened-to-me/