Sunday, September 23, 2018

Craig’s A-Listers



We all have that one friend that leads us to the dark side.  Or if you're me, you have several of these friends. Either that or I AM that friend.  I haven’t figured that out yet.  Anyway, I learned the hard way that a combination of crazy friends, whiskey, curiosity, and a computer are a powerful yet dangerous combination.  
Not long ago I had a normal conversation with a girlfriend about laser hair removal. This is not an atypical subject for girls to talk about.  However, in my circle, conversations never seem to stay innocent for long.  In typical fashion, this conversation’s natural progression led to a much more disturbing one about bleaching one’s rear exit. No need to go back, you read that correctly. My ears perked up. "Sooooo, this is actually a thing?"  My friend: "Yes, all of the porn stars do it." Well, then I'm sold. Bunghole bleaching is the next big thing. I must learn more. But where to start....
I brought this news home to “that” friend or as I refer to her-my evil other half and we started to brainstorm. Who actually performs this service? What does it cost?  Will they throw in a free air freshener? I don't remember seeing this information in the flyer at my local salon.  By this time, we were slightly inebriated and the creative juices were starting to flow. 
It is worth noting that my friend and I have made a hobby out of frequenting the Craig’s List personal ads. If you haven’t done it, give it a shot. There is some seriously hilarious stuff on there. It is like watching a dating show that takes place in a Wal-Mart. Anyway, you've probably already guessed where this is headed and you are correct.  Ultimately in an “aha moment,” we decided Craig’s List would be the authority on anal bleaching. So as any other happily married women would do on a girls night, we created a fake email account, found a picture of some hot girl that we had never met, and came up with a clever personal ad to "turn our brown eye blonde." 
The responses were almost instantaneous. We received all kinds of generous offers to help us out in our time of need (interestingly, all frommen)What kind and giving souls Craig’s List attracts!  We also received pictures. And I don't mean one or two.  Lots and lots of pictures. Our fake inbox was flooded with enough close-up pictures of the male genitalia that we were able to closely study it, correct a few anatomy books, diagnose a few diseases, and stash the rest for safekeeping.  We were content in the knowledge that we would never have to pay for porn ever again.  While this was highly entertaining, I’m not 100% sure that any of these guys were legitimate authorities on the latest beauty trend.  No matter, I think I'd still prefer to spend my money on vajazzling anyway.  
Overall, I think the experience treated us well and we learned a lot about the alternate universe that exists on Craig’s List.  In fact, we had so much fun that we decided to take out a second ad.  We wanted a more sophisticated crowd this time around.  We chose to expand our horizons to a larger city and decided to attract culture and maturity (yep, still on Craig’s List).  Music seemed to be the obvious solution to our quest for a theme.  So, once again, out came the whiskey, down went our inhibitions, and another ad full of musical innuendos was born.  We felt we had graduated from the standard dirty pictures and requested that any responses play an instrument, sing us a song, or at least show some sort of creativity.  
They didn’t disappoint.  We got all kinds of creative responses this time around.  Many were actually willing to send us a clever response AND a questionable picture.  So generous!!  One guy actually sent us three videos of him playing the saxophone while naked.  Even my husband, who usually shows his support of our adventurous spirit by eye rolling, scolding, and general disgust, got a couple of chuckles this time around.  It was all fun and games until “the incident.”
I sat down with my morning cup of coffee the morning after the ad was placed and turned on my laptop to read some more responses.  I immediately spit my coffee onto said laptop upon opening that first response.  The emailcame from someone who I’m 99% sure has women chained up in his basement somewhere. He went into graphic detail as to what he wanted to do to us and then, to our ultimate horror, included pictures.  He then proceeded to ask what we would charge for these services.  Yup, he thought we were prostitutes who might be willing to indulge his darkest fantasies.  I marched to the bathroom to throw up, immediately followed by phoning my partner in crime who was equally traumatized.  Our husbands had a good laugh while asking us, “What the heck did you expect?!” and down came our ad, fake email account, and hopes for peaceful sleep any time in the near future.  This other Craig’s “A-Lister” is probably some random bored guy just like us, sitting at his computer laughing hysterically at the reaction he knows he caused.  And kudos to you, buddy. Traumatizing the two of us at the same time is quite the feat as we are not faint-hearted.  It appears that we have met our match.  
So, we haven’t given up on perusing the personals for those periodic golden posts that we have come to love and cherish.  But our posting days have been temporarily put on hold until we are finished paying for therapy.  However, we will be back eventually, Craig, with updated antivirus, spam protection, a bottle of whiskey, and the poor decision-making skillsthat we are so famous for.        

Sunday, October 22, 2017

One of the Lucky Ones

Four years ago I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I was 31 years old. It was just a normal day.  They found it by chance when I was trying to get cleared by my physician to go through fertility treatments again.  I was shocked and terrified. What shocked me even more was my doctor’s choice of words after telling me that my biopsy was positive and the mass in my neck was malignant.  He looked at me and said, "You're one of the lucky ones."  I couldn't understand how he could hand me a diagnosis of cancer in one sentence and tell me I was lucky in the next. I was 31 years old and had just heard the “C” word.  How in the hell was I lucky? This was just the beginning of a long line of people who would tell me that I was lucky that this was "only" thyroid cancer.  Everyone would say that this was the best type of cancer that you could have. I personally didn't think that any type of cancer was good. I also felt those were easy words to say when you weren’t the one who had unwanted killer cells churning around in your body.  I know intentions were good and people were trying to comfort me but, honestly, it just made me angry.  While it is true that my cancer was caught very early and was virtually curable with surgery and radiation, I still didn't feel "lucky". I was irritated with my doctor for using those words. I was terrified at the thought of cancer in my body, especially at such a young age, and I didn't appreciate those fears being diminished. While thyroid cancer may not be as aggressive as other types of cancer and you are given the time needed to fight it, it is still a life-threatening diagnosis and it did slap me in the face with the cruel reality of my own mortality.  It ignited a level of fear in me that I had never experienced.  I'd like to tell you I was strong. I wasn't. I was angry and sad. Just a year and a half earlier, our world had been turned upside down with the loss of our only son. And, here we were, not even two years later, just getting back on our feet and back to a normal sense of reality when our world was once again turned upside down. I had had enough.  I most certainly did not feel like one of the lucky ones.
I have always been the eternal optimist. I am usually the one who can find the light in a dark situation. The one to find a way to laugh when I want to cry. But I couldn't do that this time. I couldn't find that positivity.  I was tired of hearing that things happen for a reason and that God has a plan. To me, this felt like a sentence and not a diagnosis. I was angry and I was exhausted. I was tired of feeling like I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. So I didn't find the light or humor in the situation.  What I did do, was pretend. I would smile when I talked to my friends and family. I tried to pretend that it wasn't a big deal. I patiently nodded and smiled when I was told that I was one of the lucky ones.
Finally, I just checked out. I numbed myself on the outside when I was in public, agreeing with my supposed luck and hiding the deepening sense of grief and fear that I was feeling every day.  And then I went home to face my diagnosis by myself. Because the reality is that, no matter who stands with you, cancer is a road you walk alone.  No one else can face it for you. So after a day of pretending to be strong and positive, I went home and turned out the lights and I battled my demons in the dark. The demons that reminded me that one grandmother and an aunt had already died from cancer and my other grandmother was currently losing her battle. The demons that reminded me that my health had never been quite right and made me question my potential for more aggressive cancers in the future. The demons that will forever make me question the seriousness of every little symptom I have from anxiety to a headache. No matter how irrational my fears might be, I can't get rid of them. You see, all that cancer knows how to do is spread. And while mine didn't spread to my other organs or bones, it spread to my thoughts and dreams and turned them into fears and nightmares. But I'm alive and capable of having those fears and nightmares so I must be one of the lucky ones.
I went in to fight mode.  I put aside my fears and my sorrow to the best of my ability because I didn’t have time for them. I had surgery and radiation ahead of me and a lifetime of trying to manage my thyroid levels.  When my second grandmother died of cancer the day I went in for my surgery consultation, it didn’t even surprise me.  At this point, I was convinced I had done something terrible to piss off the universe and I was just going to get hit at every turn with some more difficult news. Faith was gone.  Hope was scarce.  Dreams were unreachable.  Nightmares were real.  And that was my personal reality at that moment in time.  A difficult one for someone who had always managed to find happiness.  But, hey, I was still one of the lucky ones.
I had never had surgery prior to this.  I went in terrified of being under general anesthesia and terrified that they would go in to find that the cancer had spread.  Hospitals were not new to me but now I had two departments that would forever bring me painful memories over the course of two short years.  Surgery went well.  Cancer had spread a bit into the surrounding tissues but they removed it with good margins and I smiled through gritted teeth when the surgeon, once again, told me that I was one of the lucky ones.
Radiation followed and was an experience all its own with fears of what I was putting into my body and the havoc that it could wreak in and of itself.  Exhaustion took on a new meaning when my thyroid hormones hit ridiculously low levels and I couldn’t get out of bed or really even function.  My muscles were sore and weak and even simple tasks like putting on clothes and drying my hair became burdens I simply couldn’t carry.  My mother in law had to come and stay with me to make sure I woke up for long enough to eat and get some fluids in me and didn’t miss my epilepsy medications.  Hey, did you know cancer, stress, low thyroid levels, and interrupted sleep can aggravate epilepsy?  I felt just, oh so “lucky” to have both of these diagnoses at once…
While, thankfully, my cancer is gone and has not returned, I still battle it every single day.  I battle it from the standpoint that my thyroid is gone and juggling medication on a daily basis results in a fatigue that most can’t understand unless they have experienced it.  I battle it from the standpoint that every time I go to the endocrinologist, I have to take a Xanax because the mere thought of sitting in that office gives me immeasurable anxiety even with the simplest and most routine of follow ups.  There is no complacency.  I am very aware every time I set foot in that office that my world can change yet again.  I battle it from the standpoint that I now have a mass they are watching in my neck yet again that “is probably nothing.”  My doctor is fairly certain it is scar tissue and my blood work is fine so, “it is probably nothing but we are just going to monitor it.”  Same words I heard the first time around.  And they are probably right.  This time it probably is nothing.  But try to tell your brain that when, for the past five years, every time it should have been nothing, it turned out to be something.  And something huge.  Live with that fear every single day of your life, and try to convince yourself that you are lucky this cancer didn’t take your life when, in so many ways, it did just that.  I promise you won’t feel like one of the lucky ones.
Eventually, I did see the positive in the situation, but it's not how you'd think. I still don't think I was lucky for having "only" thyroid cancer. I am still acutely aware of the seriousness of the diagnosis. I still fear what the future holds for me on an almost daily basis. But I think of a bigger picture. I think of my husband on the phone with me when I received my diagnosis, calming me down even when he was in the midst of intense and stressful training and I know this was scary for him too.  I think of my friend, Dan, sitting next to me in the hospital for my biopsy because my husband was out of town and he didn't want me to be alone. I think of my friend, Nicole, who is a physician and sat tirelessly on the phone and answered all of my questions 30 times a day and still talks me off of a ledge when paranoia sets in. I think of my sister-in-law who took time out of her busy schedule to spend the night in the hospital with me after my surgery and keep me company. I think of my mom who dropped everything and hopped on a plane the day after my diagnosis to stay with me and help me during my recovery. I think of my mother in law who stayed with me after my radiation when I couldn't function on my own and my husband had to work. I think of the love and support that surrounded me during one of the lowest points in my life and it was only then that I finally started to feel like one of the lucky ones. 
This diagnosis crippled me with fear in so many ways but it gave me strength to fight and face my other fears. It served me with a very serious dose of reality that my time on this planet is limited and I had better start living my life for myself.  I have since pushed my limits and my comfort zone and have experienced some amazing things and continue to do so on a daily basis.  My fear to face something new and scary has diminished because I have already survived my two worst nightmares.  I don’t feel anger with fellow human beings over petty things because life is too short to be angry.  I don’t feel hatred for this planet because I am just so happy to still be on it.  This gift of a love of life is something I feel many others on this amazing earth have not experienced.  Maybe that is what makes me one of the lucky ones. 

Every day will continue to be a battle.  It will be a choice to accept and face my struggles as they are handed to me.  I will have to decide to fight the demons that will continue to invade my thoughts and overwhelm me with fear.  I will have to choose to be happy and not let it beat me.  But at least I have that choice to make.  So I will walk this lonely and bumpy road for the rest of my life.  And I will walk it in fear because those are the cards that I was dealt. But I will also walk it with hope and happiness because that is the hand that I can choose to play. Because I am one of the lucky ones.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Odd Wo-Man Out

Yesterday, I was described as “different” because of my choice of hobbies and interests.  The individual came back to me later to apologize.  I was caught off guard because it never occurred to me that being “different” was a derogatory description of character.  In fact, I look at it as a high form of flattery. 
I suppose I’ve always been “different.”  My parents encouraged this of me.  I tried hobby after hobby and twirled around the living room in a pink tutu and cleats because I didn’t quite know if I was a “girly girl” or a tomboy.  I wore my hair long and then I chopped it short.  I wore dresses and jerseys and everything in between.  Boys didn’t interest me until later than most (and often they still don’t).  I was too busy learning who I was to care what the opposite sex thought of me, or the same sex for that matter.  Or at least not yet.   I didn’t even realize that I was odd.
I remember the first time I learned this fact about myself. I didn’t exactly don my tinfoil hat and lay in the middle of a crop circle to call my mother ship to me (though this does sound like a good time).  But I did jump into a muddy, disgusting lake while still in my cheerleading uniform because I liked the feel of the slimy mud between my toes and there were tadpoles I wanted to catch.  I was 10.  My “friends” looked at me (rather disgusted) and told me I was weird.  It hurt my feelings (yes, I do have those) and I went home and cried.  My mom did what moms do.  She dried my tears (after making me shower), lectured me about Florida lakes and these slightly risky animals called alligators that lurk in them, gave me some ice cream and said, “you just be you.”
And I did just that.  Other girls were described as “pretty,” “beautiful,” and “put together.”  I continued to be described as “different,” “quirky,” and “odd.”  I was fine with that.  Mom and Dad never said a word when I slept too late to do my hair for school.  They never compared me to other girls who came to high school flawless every day with their hair and makeup perfected at the age of 16.  They didn’t take any particular pride in me dressing up for picture day or even bothering to get out of the bathing suit that I lived in 7 days a week.  They were used to the permanent chlorine scent that set into my hair and clothes and they never missed a swim meet, a water polo match, or mocked me for the bad attempts at water ballet by myself in between practices that usually invoked stares and whispers from other parents. My actions frequently invoked stares and whispers in general.  My parents seemed immune to it.  If they were embarrassed, they never showed it.
No, what my parents noticed and took pride in was that I laughed.  A lot.  And loud.  I had fun no matter what I was doing.  I was adventurous and tried new things.  I hula hooped to no music in my own form of interpretive dance on the sand while the other kids played volleyball at the beach. I was a free spirit.  My parents didn’t constantly tell me I was “pretty.”  What they told me was that I was “kind.”  And that made me want to be kind.  I cared deeply for fellow human beings and I hurt when they hurt.  My parents were proud when I volunteered and showed compassion and empathy toward those who desperately needed kindness in their lives.  My mom smiled when I got dressed up for prom but she beamed when I came to the school where she was teaching to be a stand-in “mom” on parent day for a little girl whose mom couldn’t be bothered to show up (and no I didn’t do my makeup for the occasion).  I knew what it was like to feel like the odd one out and I didn’t want this little girl to feel that way.  I was “kind” because mom and dad told me I was and that is what my parents praised me for. 
I looked in the mirror today and realized that I have gained some crow’s feet by my eyes along with some wrinkles.  I’ve learned that gravity has doubled on the earth since my youth and is slowly pulling my once perky body parts down into the depths of hell.  Victoria’s Secret swallows up a good chunk of my paycheck to keep my nipples from dragging in my morning coffee and the body I had when I was 17 exists only in my memory and a few glorious pictures to remind me that everything once fit into place and that the only dimples I had in my cheeks were on my face.  Yes, looks are slowly fading and, like every other girl on the planet, it bothers me.  Every girl I know struggles as the reflection in the mirror slowly changes and we change our daily routines to try and turn back time.  But despite the unwelcome stretch marks, dimples, and extra layer of fat that I’ve gained just in time for bathing suit season, I’m still happy.  I’m still confident because my looks are not all there is to me.  I’ve watched those very friends who were described as “pretty” all their lives and they struggle with depression, anxiety, and finding their sense of self worth.  To them, their looks were the most important thing about them because that’s what they were told all of their lives.  And those looks are changing.  What’s left?  Well, there’s plenty but they struggle to see it because everyone else failed to see it in them.  Or, at least they failed to tell them what they saw beyond their pretty face.
This saddens me but it also makes me grateful that I had parents who taught me there was more to me than my appearance.  They let me be weird.  They let me be me.  They shaped my vision of who I strive to be.  I will hopefully live long enough to continue to watch my looks fade.  I hope to be wrinkled and gray like the rest of the elderly.  But when I relive the past for future generations, it won’t be to tell the story of a Homecoming Queen or Miss Florida.  I will tell the story of that one time my mom and I drove 12 hours round trip in the snow for a ghost hunt.  That time I dove with sharks.  The time I told a story about the refusal to fake orgasms in front of 300 plus people (many from a church crowd).  I climbed on stage at a Chippendale’s concert (still working on this one).  I played in the rain and sunbathed nude on the top of the Stratosphere. I placed Craig’s List personals just for entertainment.  I will tell youngsters to be kind and to get involved in the community and to make this sometimes disgusting world a better place, starting with their neighbors.  And then I will tell them to get off my lawn...  So for those parents out there with daughters, remember that your kids become what you tell them they are.  The next time you start to tell your daughter that she’s pretty, think again and tell her she’s smart, strong, and kind.  Tell her she’s “different.”


Monday, May 29, 2017

Quasi-Feminist

A friend of mine and I are participating in a 39 mile walk to raise awareness and money for breast cancer.  It is quite the feat.  You have to raise $1800 to even be allowed to participate.  Then you train extensively for an event which consists of 26 miles on the first day followed by camping overnight and then 13 miles the next day.  We have been so proud of ourselves for this.  We have been walking for hours on end every weekend and preparing our bodies for something that we probably should have done in our twenties.  But, look at us!  We are doing this in our thirties!  It has been the ultimate experience in girl power.  On our walks, we talk about books and politics and every subject in between.  There is really nothing that you don’t cover when you spend 6-8 hours a week with someone.  It’s been tough, but we’ve worked hard and we are ready. 
However, I realized something more about myself while training.  Something that I’m not sure I like.  And I have a feeling that it is something a lot of women can relate to.  I am excited about this walk.  My friend is excited about this walk.  We have thought about and planned for it for months.  My husband had some friends over one night and a good friend of ours was asking me questions about the event.  I was more than happy to rattle on about what we were doing when another one of their friends chimed in.  I should preface this by saying that I think this particular friend sees women as only put on this earth for his personal benefit.  He’s a nice guy, I think.  He means well, I think.  But after explaining this event that I was super excited about, his only comment was, “Wow, after all of that walking, you are going to have a sweet ass.”  I shut down immediately.  I know there will always be the argument from other men that, “Boys will be boys.”  But I’m not okay with that argument.  There are certain men that can get away with comments like that.  Men that I’m friends with.  Men that I know are teasing and respect me as a person.  Men that understand that there is more to me than a pair of tits and a set of legs that are meant only to spread for them at their request.  Whether or not this particular individual was kidding or not is really irrelevant to my story.  It’s not really what bothered me.  I can dismiss that.  In fact, it wouldn’t have bothered me at all if I didn’t feel that what we are doing is important and warrants a little more tact and respect.  But what REALLY irked me about the whole situation was that I really do want this walk to give me a sweet ass. 
Now, I’ve never really been a true “feminist,” whatever definition you might give that.  It seems like it has many meanings this day and age, with both positive and negative connotations.  However, I have always prided myself in believing in equal rights for both genders.  I have always cringed when my dad or husband is in a car and someone cuts them off and they make a comment such as “damn women drivers” or automatically assume it’s a “she.”  In fact, nothing gives me greater pleasure than listening to one of them cuss at a “woman driver,” only to pull up next to them and discover that the person causing them all of this distress by having the audacity to go only 5 miles over the speed limit is, in fact, a man.  And these are two men who are good people.  Neither one of them hates women and I don’t think either one looks at men as superior.  It’s just acceptable behavior in our society that I have always found unacceptable.  But I never really fight it.  Because why bother?  I am the definition of contradiction. 
I walk a line somewhere between feminist and damsel-in-distress.  I don’t understand why.  Maybe it’s hardwired into that annoying extra X chromosome of mine.  Maybe one was enough.  I want to be respected but I also want to be attractive.  I want to be able to do everything by myself!  Well except snow blow, mow my yard, or change a tire.  I want men to do that for me.  I want to have a career and pay for my own way in life!  But I want a man to open the door for me while I pay for dinner.  It infuriates me when men say that women wear certain outfits looking for attention but then I wear a low-cut shirt because I want to prove that I can defy gravity in my 30’s (shocking secret:  I can’t.  I can just find bargains on magical bras at Victoria’s Secret).  But, as I age, I become both more comfortable and less comfortable in my own skin.  I want to prove that I don’t care what you think of me but, please, pretty please, still find me attractive. 
Y oh y can’t I just have a Y chromosome?  I feel like life would be easier. I could stand to pee, say literally anything that I want, have gray hair and a beer belly without anyone worrying about whether or not I’m still attractive, and say that the opposite sex is full of hypocrisy and brings on all of their own problems.  I wouldn’t have to feel everything and yet hide what I feel.  I wouldn’t have to laugh when men make jokes about women’s bodies that make me want to cry while deep down wondering what they think of mine.  How disgusted are they really by the dimples on my ass and stretch marks on my thighs? And, more aggravating than that, why do I care? I know I’m worth more.  I’m not a victim.  I’m a confident, intelligent, successful woman.  But, damn it all, I really do want to be pretty. 
I want you to notice when I lose 10 pounds and wear a tight black dress that shows my curves.  But listen to me when I’m talking to you!!  I have important things to say!  Did you notice these heels that I’m wearing?  Don’t they make my legs look sexy?  “Hey, buddy, my eyes are up here.  I’m talking to you.”  I work out incessantly during bathing suit season but then I eat ice cream because, “screw you.  I don’t care what you think of my muffin top.”
I love that I’m complex, intricate, and complicated.  I love that I’m confident in most aspects of life.  I love that I’m emotional, empathetic, and a deep thinker.  I hate that I care what people think of my looks.  I hate that I crave attention.  I hate that I’m only a quasi-feminist.  But, man, oh man, I really do want to have a sweet ass. 


Sunday, April 9, 2017

I Won't Become My Mother

We all love to blame our moms for everything. Thanks a lot, mom- You are genetically responsible for the cellulite that makes my ass look like a bag full of golf balls.  And thanks for the anxiety and medical issues that you passed down to me as well.  I’m pretty sure everything that’s wrong with me and all of my negative qualities somehow trace back to you.  We take our moms for granted, exploit their weaknesses, and mock them as they age, or at least I do. When she is in town, I constantly rename my Wi-Fi network just to make my technology-challenged mother think she's going crazy. And I pretend like I’ve said something three times just so she thinks her hearing is going. I've threatened to put her in a home, buy her Depends, and endlessly taunt her about growing older. It’s all in fun, of course.  I love my mom.  But sitting around a table the other day with my girlfriends and reminiscing about younger days, I realized just how much my mom has had to put up with for me. 
Growing up, I was not exactly what you would call an "easy child". I was sneaky, manipulative, and had an "easier to ask for forgiveness than permission kind of mentality."  My friends’ parents called me trouble.  Mom called me "quirky" and would tell my dad I was simply trying to find myself.  My sweet mom, forever the optimist. I'm pretty sure she kept a breathalyzer, a pregnancy test, and a spare set of handcuff keys in the top drawer along with her Prozac and Xanax. I threw parties with underage drinking, smoked pot, and even met up with a guy I'd never met in a mall parking lot for a date (It didn’t work out.)  I'm not entirely sure how I'm still alive. Or how my parents are for that matter. 
My partying lasted well after high school. My mom even picked me up from a blind date where I drank too much, ditched my date, and hit on the bartender. Upon finding that my original date had left, the bartender lost my interest, and I had consumed my fifth Long Island iced tea, I called my savior to pick me up. And she did. And she patiently pulled over while I puked down the side of her car. "Sorry, mommy."  She just laughed and drove me home.  My brilliant ideas lasted well into my college days.  My parents were out of town and I invited a few (dozen) friends over to their place to “house sit.”  Upon finding a container of gasoline in the garage and watching a couple of action movies, a lightbulb went off in our heads… “Hey!  Do you think we can set the pool on fire?”  Turns out you can… Luckily, cops were never called, nobody died, and mom and dad didn’t find out about that incident until much, much later…
As an adult, I have not changed much, but she can no longer ground me.  My partying has slowed but I still love to shock and disgust my mom and drag her into any shenanigans I get into. And she gracefully follows with a sense of humor, a lot of skepticism, and a willingness to step out of her comfort zone just to make some memories with her not so little girl. I even dragged her into this blog post. I have not pre-cleared this with her. Sorry, mom. 
As I grew and dragged my mom into my world of mischief, it was my turn to laugh. Turns out my mom has a wild streak too. Hers just came out later in life. She proved this at an 80's party we threw. I couldn't find her anywhere. Imagine my surprise when I walked out of my back door to see my mom, on her knees, with my girlfriend spraying a can of whipped cream vodka into her mouth from between her legs. I'll never un-see that. The night ended with an Afro wig on her head, her trying to hold a wine glass between her toes, and my dad rolling his eyes, saying "I think I'm going to put mom to bed now."  Yes, I have pictures of all of this. They will accompany her throughout the remainder of her life. And I might even put them in her coffin just to have the final word. 
I feel like I’ve become even more relentless with time.  In fairness, I had to.  She just doesn’t shock as easily as she once did.  I don’t just try to push her outside of her comfort zone anymore, I shove her there, against her will.  For example, we invited her on a trip to Texas with us for her 60th birthday.  Instead of a nice dinner with a birthday cake, we made her ride a bull and took her to a bikini bar where we made her put on a bikini top and take a blowjob shot.  She did it, like a pro, and as the ultimate birthday gift, I filmed it and put it on Facebook for all to see…
I recently took her tailgating with me where we serve jello shots out of syringes and call them “flu shots.”  On questioning how good I might be at a blow job, a friend approached me and said, “I dare you to suck the jello out of this syringe without pushing the plunger.” Not feeling the need to flaunt my flawless fellatio skills at that particular moment, I said, "I can't... But I'll bet my mom can..." Not willing to be called out, she did just that, resulting in laughter and respect from my friends, and a little bit of pride from me. 
Forever the entertainer, I feel my friends should benefit from my mom’s discomfort as well.  So, in an effort to really try and shock her one day, we took her to a local adult toy store.  My mom laughed right along with the rest of us at the multiflavored lube and cleverly named battery operated devices.  And she even smirked when the lady behind the counter explained how the theater rooms worked.  In a moment of spontaneity, I decided, “Hey, will you give us a tour of the back rooms?”  My friends all looked immediately grossed out and I turned to my mom anxious to see the look of utter disgust I was sure would be on her face.  But instead there was a smile followed by, “I’d like to see too.”  I exchanged surprised glances with my friends.  “Well I guess we’re going!”  So we toured the back room and I was actually impressed with how clean it was.  My shoes didn’t stick to the floor and I don’t think I contracted any STD’s.  I turned to mom and said, “Well that wasn’t so bad…”  As though on cue, a man stumbled into the hall, private parts in hand, enjoying himself immensely as we all walked out.  Mom and I looked at each other and died laughing.  Another proud mother/daughter moment. 
My mom and I are alike in many ways but we are also very different.  Mom is content staying at home, reading books, scrapbooking, and playing games.  I want to get out and experience the world, do weird and unique things, and I like to drag her with me.  In particular, I like to do things that scare me.  Mom and I are alike in the respect that everything scares us.  We are different in that I actually like being scared.  I take this into consideration (or lack of consideration depending on how you look at it), when planning our excursions.  I like to take her to do things like spend the night in haunted asylums or spend an hour in an escape room.  Mom is scared of enclosed spaces.  And the Dark. And her shadow. Yet somehow locked in an escape room modeled after a jail cell in Alcatraz seemed like the perfect mother/daughter night out. I’m shocked she hasn’t started making me pay for her Xanax yet. Exploiting that fear further, I made her sit in a closet in my basement for an hour on a bright and sunny Thursday by convincing her there was a tornado when they were simply testing the sirens.
I’m not a total jerk.  I do things that she enjoys too.  In fact, we have a girls’ trip every year where we travel down to Florida with a group of our favorite girls for a Food and Wine Festival at Disney World.  However, we still have to make it at least a little uncomfortable for her.  After several alcohol-induced brainstorming sessions, we’ve started to theme our visits and dress the part.  I use that opportunity to once again mock and embarrass my poor mother.  This last year’s theme was Alice in Wino-Land.  When we were planning, I smiled at her (not unlike the Cheshire Cat) and said, “I’ll be the Queen of Hearts.  You can be Tweedledum…”  She laughed and went online and bought the appropriate hat without a single argument.  When we got there, we set her up to have an odd gentleman dressed in sequins show her some affection in the middle of Downtown Disney.  Those pictures have come back to haunt her at random intervals.  We took another exciting trip to New York City and got her so hammered that she couldn’t even remember that the Broadway Theater was actually on a street called “Broadway.”  Then I made her sit through The Lion King.
It has become a cliché, but my mom really has become my best friend over the years.  We experience things together, take trips together, and share memories that are serious, sad, frustrating, joyful, and hilarious.  She’ll travel 12 hours in a car with me wherever I want to go, shoot tequila with me, watch Harry Potter for the thousandth time, and hang out with my friends.  I can borrow her clothes without asking and use her lipstick without fear of getting herpes (I think…) She’s become my best friend because, for my whole life, she’s been my biggest advocate.  When everyone else had given up on me, she didn’t.  She loved my free spirit and carried me through the difficult stages and fought for me to hold onto that fun-loving attitude.  It was extremely important to her.  This became evident to me at a friend’s house one night when I was doing cartwheels while wearing a dress after several shots of Fireball.  I’d love to tell you I was 19.  I was 32…  My husband shook his head and apologized on my behalf.  Mom just laughed and said "that's my girl." You see, she’s kept her optimism and hopeful outlook for her high-spirited daughter, even after all these years of torment.  As she watched me cartwheel in all my glory without a care in the world, she didn’t care that everyone could see my bright white rear and my fancy underwear.  Again, forever the optimist, she was just grateful that I bothered to wear underwear at all.  She smiled that with everything I had been through in life, I was still the girl in the mismatched clothes and tutu twirling around the living room, lost in her own imagination.  Life has a way of stealing your innocence. Mom fought for me to keep my individuality, imagination, and sense of humor regardless of what life threw at me.
Girls grow up and go through a stage where they dread realizing they have become their mother.  I haven't had that moment. I am not my mother. My mother is more patient, kind, and tolerant than any other person I know. I'm not that selfless.  In fact, I think we've established by now that I'm kind of an asshole. And yet she still hangs around. 
I’ve tormented her and mocked her relentlessly and she follows with unlimited patience and humor.  We even convinced an entire country club that she used to be a Playboy bunny.  She just laughed and signed some autographs.  It doesn't matter what I put her through or how hard I’ve pushed her outside of her comfort zone. She somehow has still remained my biggest fan.  So, no, I won't be lucky enough to become my mother.  But she wouldn't want me to be. You see, I'm as unique as she is. And that's all she's ever wanted for me.



Monday, September 5, 2016

INCONCEIVABLE

A lot of couples struggle with infertility.  It’s frustrating, it’s hard on a marriage, and oftentimes, it’s humiliating.  The only saving grace is that sometimes you just have to laugh at the absolute absurdity of it all.  My husband and I have been relatively open about the fact that we have struggled with infertility.  We knew something wasn’t right after a year or two of trying to conceive without success.  Our first step was to our regular doctor who suggested a mild fertility medication and timed intercourse.  I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried timed intercourse but I can tell you from experience that there’s nothing sexier than a bottle of lube and an eggtimer.   Nothing turned my husband on more than an alarm going off and me snapping my fingers and throwing cheesy pickup lines at him to lighten the mood.  Turns out asking him if there’s a mirror in his pants because I can see myself in them doesn’t work after numerous years of marriage.  It became evident rather quickly that this avenue was not going to work for us.  You see, my husband is out of town a lot.  He was completely unreasonable and adamant that the timed intercourse had to be with him so that significantly limited my options.  It’s a shame too because my charming pickup lines were bound to work on someone. 

Since this was not going to be an option for us, the next step was to see a fertility doctor.  Living in a small city, our options were limited.  The closest specialist that our doctor endorsed was about three and a half hours away.  As a result, our first appointment was via Skype.  That is a surreal experience.  It’s not the first time I’ve discussed my genitals on a webcam but it was a lot more clinical this time around.  It was also a little odd that this guy knew my last name and we didn’t meet on Craig’s List.  But no matter, I guess it’s like riding a bike because, before I knew it, he had all of the information about my lady parts that I usually reserve for a second date. 

Next, we needed to meet our physician in person to go over options, budgets, procedures, and that sort of thing.  We got back into an exam room and the first thing Dr. Babymaker does is pull out an anatomy book and without any warning at all, starts showing us pictures.  I must’ve turned a little green and I looked at my husband in horror.  “What?” he asked me.  “Um… Is that what my vagina looks like?!?!?!?!”  Not fully understanding my disgust, he replies, “Well, yeah.”  “Oh my God!  That’s awful.  Why the fuck aren’t you a homosexual?!?!” Both men in the room seemed unaffected by the bald little alien with its tongue sticking out in the picture and gave me a “Can we please move on?” look.  Now I was frustrated, infertile, AND self conscious.  I crossed my legs a little bit tighter.  He used the picture books to explain to us that he thought I had something called polycystic ovarian syndrome.  “No way, dude. I’ve only had like 5 sexual partners and I always used a condom.”  The doctor looked at me, his patience draining…“It’s not an STD, Mrs. Carlson.”  “Oh.  Well then carry on.”  He told me they could do a quick ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis.  “Okay, that’s not so bad.”  I laid down on the table and pulled up my shirt a little bit, exposing my stomach, when I received another sigh of exasperation from our doctor.  “No, ma’am, it’s an internal ultrasound.  I’m going to need you to get undressed.”  I was very confused but I’ve never really shied away from taking off my clothes for hot doctors, so what the hell?  I took my pants off and laid down on the table.  He then put my feet up in stirrups and pulled out a large wand.  He didn’t seem to think it was funny at all when I asked if they had one with batteries.  The experience was not as enjoyable as I thought it might be but, in typical fashion, he probably just didn’t do it long enough.

The diagnosis was as expected.  I was left to get dressed and meet him back in his office.  I hung my head, a little sad knowing that there was something wrong with me but I pushed it aside, pulled my pants on (making a mental note to bedazzle my vagina before our next visit to make it slightly less hideous), and marched back into the office for my next dose of humiliation.  The first thing he told me was to change the way I eat and perhaps start exercising because weight played a big role in this particular disorder.  Whoa, whoa, whoa!  Way to kick a girl when she’s down, asshole.  “Don’t worry, honey, you could probably have babies if you were just a little less chubby.  A little more broccoli…A little less Ben and Jerry’s.”  I fought the urge to kick him in the shin. 

It was determined that in vitro would be our best option.  He went over the procedure in painstaking detail, again using that horrific anatomy book, and I was pretty sure that my husband was never going to touch me again.  After discussing the procedure, he brought up the subject of frozen embryos.  Basically, he wanted to know if we got pregnant but had remaining embryos left over, would we be interested in donating them?  Donating them??  Like to another couple in the area?  My mind jumped to the worst case scenario.  What if they end up in school together?  What if they fall in love?  What if they get married?  Am I condemning my children to possible incest without their knowledge?  My mind went through every Days of Our Lives episode that I have ever seen before I wrinkled my nose in disgust and asked, “What are our other options?” 

They sent us home with a folder full of information, a prescription for a bunch of hormones, and an empty wallet.  I was to start hormones in two weeks.  Injections proved to be slightly challenging.  The ones in my stomach were okay because I could reach that area easily and I have plenty of extra padding to soften the blow.  It was the hip injections that were interesting.  That is not an easy area to reach by yourself.  I am not overly flexible and, most mornings, this routine seemed to resemble a puppy chasing its tail.  And while I don’t have a fear of needles, it feels wrong to be injecting something into yourself that you know is going to make you crazy.  And crazy I was.  For those who have not experienced infertility hormones, I can safely compare it to pregnancy hormones on steroids.  I cried.  At everything.  And for no particular reason.  I wasn’t even sad!  In fact, I would start laughing at myself while crying because I was crying for no reason.  I’m pretty sure I resembled a clinically depressed villain straight out of Batman.  My husband would ask me…from a safe distance away…if I was going to be okay.  He would barely wait for an answer before rushing down to the basement to quietly plot how he was going to get me to the hospital for a psychological evaluation and fitted for a straight jacket.  I noticed he seemed to spend a little more time at work during this particular phase of treatment.

Luckily, the hormones were only extreme for about two weeks.  Then they leveled out a bit when it was time for my retrieval.  When they mentioned egg retrieval, I immediately thought of a fluffy little bunny going in and pulling brightly colored Easter eggs from my ovaries.   It turns out this was inaccurate.  I didn’t even get any chocolate which I still think is bullshit.  Instead, I got a world of pain from over- stimulated ovaries and a promise of nausea while recovering from anesthesia.  But I sucked it up and put on a brave face because I wasn’t the only one involved in this process.    

My devoted husband had stood by my side through every minute of this ordeal so I felt somewhat obligated to be supportive when it was time for his end of the bargain.  He looked at me, cup in hand, and said, “I’m not sure how I feel about this.”  I looked lovingly at him and then I looked at my feet up in stirrups…again… a shower cap on my head… the current needle in my arm that was going to be a portal to knock me unconscious… the even larger needle on the bedside table that was going to be used to stab at my ovaries… and the current small crowd that was forming between my legs with my vagina as the life of the party.  With every ounce of sympathy that I could muster, I looked up at him and said, “I’m sorry you have to watch porn and have an orgasm.  Seriously, honey, thanks for taking one for the team…” 

Before I knew it, the procedure was over and I was in the recovery room.  I apparently apologized to the doctor for falling asleep while he was talking to me and completely missed my head when trying to point to my big brain while telling everyone how smart I was.  I’m sure I was incredibly embarrassing and my husband couldn’t wait to get me out of there.  So he got me in the car and got to enjoy the three and a half hour ride home with a drugged up wife who thought she was a fantastic singer, impressionist, and comedian.  But my supportive, loving husband didn’t say a word.  Not that I would’ve let him get one in anyway.  He patiently drove me home to wait the agonizing two weeks until the pregnancy test.  Another two weeks of emotional fun for my hubby to deal with.  You will all be surprised to know that he never once threatened divorce.  We weren’t successful but we made it through the ordeal together and even managed to have some laughs along the way.    


Now that I have shared my story and some of the laughs that we have while looking back on it, I feel it’s only fair to address the women in the room who are currently fighting this battle.  I’m sure there are plenty of you out there thinking that there is nothing funny about infertility.  And you’re not wrong.  It’s extremely difficult to see the humor when you are in the situation.  I could have written an entirely different Mamalogue about the heartache and frustration associated with our struggle.  Finding the humor was the only thing that made it bearable for me.  And I had to make a conscious effort to see that humor.  So in fairness to the other hopeful mamas out there who are feeling the stress and frustration, I will offer you this.  I will address the most common question I get.  Was it worth it in the end to someone who was not ultimately successful?  Yes.  I didn’t see it at the time.  But I do now.  It was a journey worth taking.  It’s one more struggle in life that I’ve overcome.  It made me stronger and more comfortable in my own skin.  It helped me see who those true friends were who held me after yet another negative pregnancy test, regardless of the fact that the pee stick was still in dangerously close proximity.  My husband and I have yet another obstacle we have conquered together.  Infertility is stressful and exhausting and disheartening.  But, in the end, I have learned that it didn’t have to be the happy ending I had always dreamt of for me to still find my own happy ending.  But I needed to take this journey to see that.  

Sunday, June 12, 2016

He Was Still Born


I haven’t been back to “the scene of the crime” since Gabriel was born.  I’ve been to the hospital, of course, because I’m accident prone and unhealthy, but I have steered clear of the childbirth unit.  Not necessarily by choice but probably because something in my subconscious told me I wasn’t ready.  However, a friend of mine was hosting an event on Tuesday night and I offered to help.  I didn’t think much of it.  I have helped with plenty of infant and child loss events since our loss.  I was warned that going back to the childbirth unit was hard but, again, I didn’t really anticipate how hard it would be.  You see, I have found a way over the years to almost numb myself to certain things.  Is that the healthiest way to deal with my grief?  Probably not.  But it is self preserving and it makes my days bearable.  I built a tougher layer around my grief over the years, not curing the wound but creating a bit of a scab over the top.  I wasn’t healed but I was protected. 
Unfortunately, the minute I pulled into that parking lot, that scab was ripped open and I wasn’t prepared for the emotional bleeding that would take place over the rest of the week.  I wasn’t sure I’d be able to go inside.  I sat in my car and sobbed until I couldn’t breathe.  That overwhelming grief that I felt almost five years ago that I had worked so hard to overcome was back in an instant.  Anyone who knows me knows that I love life, I love to laugh, I love to make other people laugh, and I just want everyone to be happy, including myself.  It was a sobering feeling to sit in that parking lot and feel just like I did five years ago.  Like I’d never laugh, smile, or find happiness again. And perhaps scariest of all, I didn’t care if I lived.  Don’t misunderstand that.  I didn’t want to take my own life.  I just simply didn’t care if I was here or not.  I have felt that way a grand total of twice in my entire life.  It is a devastatingly awful way to feel. 
As I sat there in my car, trying to compose myself, every single feeling that I had on October 5, 2011, came back and I felt it intensely and painfully.  The memories I had tried to suppress for years came flooding back and I knew, at that moment, that this was never going to go away.  My grief is always going to come back in some form and haunt me for the rest of my life.  Those demons that appear in my nightmares are never going to go away.  I looked at the doors to the hospital and I remembered the feeling of my sweet child moving and kicking inside of me, yet knowing that when I walked through those doors, I was going to come out childless.  And, even worse, I remembered that we were forced to make that choice.  Although, if I was grateful for anything on Tuesday, I was grateful for the fact that we at least had the ability to make that choice.  Our governor has, since then, decided what is right for women, their bodies, and their families by outlawing the ability to induce early, even in situations like ours.  With the new law, our situation would have ended the same way.  I still would have left that hospital childless.  But I would have had to watch my son suffer in an unbearable way before I did.  I pray that he and his family are never faced with that situation. I pray that he never has a child on life support and has to make a decision on whether or not to take them off.  Our decision was no different.  I felt anger for this man that I don’t even know because I knew that so many other women would experience the trauma I was feeling now but it would be so much worse.  But I’ll leave my bitter feelings on that topic for another day, another problem, another battle, another blog.    
I composed myself, threw on some makeup and an artificial smile, and walked through the glass doors into the childbirth unit.  I must have been pale because the woman at the desk asked me if I was okay. I said “yes” but internally I was screaming “no.”  I looked at all of the signs for the child “birth” unit and remembered hearing that I would not receive a “birth” certificate for my son.  They don’t give out birth certificates for stillborn babies.  I didn’t understand.  I thought to myself, “But he was still born.”  I labored for 26 hours, gave birth, held him in my arms, and took pictures with him.  Yet, somehow, they still wouldn’t acknowledge his birth simply because he didn’t take a breath.  No wonder I have felt the intense need every single day since then to defend Gabriel’s existence and trying to make sure people acknowledged his life.  Because he was very much alive.  I felt it.  I saw it.  I lived it.  But I would never receive an acknowledgment of that birth for his baby book or memory box.  Just one more thing I felt robbed of. 
I looked down the hallway when the doors opened for a nurse to exit and the memory of the funeral home coming down that hall to take my son from my arms came back and I had to stop and steady myself for a second.  I felt dizzy and sick.  Like I was back in a nightmare that I thought I had finally escaped. 
I made it through the event without really letting anyone know about the turmoil that was taking place inside.  Looking back, I’m not sure why I felt the need to hide it.  If anyone understood, it was that group of people.  I’m sure they felt the same.  I know they would have held me and comforted me.  But emotions are hard for me sometimes and I’m much better at joking my way out of uncomfortable situations than I am at facing them.  I don’t like it when people see me cry.  I felt damaged and for some reason, I didn’t want anyone to know that.
In the ultimate moment of kicking me when I was down, I was scrolling through Facebook trying to cheer myself up when one of my memories popped up.  Guess what that memory was?  Naturally, it was the one where I announced my pregnancy on Facebook many years ago.  I don’t get angry often but my blood boiled at the cruelty of it and I thought, “Fuck you, universe.”  
I got back in my car and lost composure all over again. I was broken.   The girl who can always see the light sat in darkness.  The girl who can always laugh could do nothing but cry.  The girl who loves life realized that a piece of her would never be alive again.  And the grief, for that moment in time, consumed me.  I gave in.  I gave up. I felt like I had nothing else to give in this world. 

I knew enough to know that this feeling would pass eventually but, right then, I felt like my world was crumbling.  I was grateful that I had family who listened to me and an amazing friend who sat on the phone with me until 1:30 in the morning listening to me blow my nose and sob.  That was the only light I found that day but it was enough to pull me through.  I spent Thursday, Friday, and Saturday with my husband and with friends who can always make me laugh and that helped.  But at night I still went home and felt a sense of emptiness.  I know I will find my way through this once again and my grief will become bearable but now I truly know what they mean when they describe the grieving process as “one step forward, two steps back.”  So, I suppose, I will keep walking forward and focus on all of the good in my life while accepting that setbacks are just going to happen.  I just hope I can continue to keep them to once every five years.